Asperger’s and Employment

The ability to hold a job gives a person’s life meaning. A job gives a person a sense of direction and a routine. Yet, for people with disabilities discrimination often exists in the workplace. It cannot be avoided as human beings we are discriminatory creatures. We label each other based upon where we live, our religions, our gender and various other things. Should it happen? No. Sadly it is something we all have to deal with at some point.  It is how we make decisions. It is how we estimate what people are capable of in life.

One of the most tragic and unjust things about dealing with Autism the shared notion that if you have a disability you are somehow less able to do something.

When it comes to people with autism it is different. Employers don’t have to offer anyone a job.  If they do it is because they believe you can do the work, but that does not mean their are not mean people that work some place. Having to deal with mean inconsiderate people is pretty much a fact of life for most people. Still, the way you deal with such situations and the attitude you have about your job are important. If you approach your work with a good attitude people will have less of a reason to be intolerant towards you.

There are a lot of misconceptions about autism and many people you may meet while in the working world may not know anyone who has autism except for you. It is important to remember that as you go about your job.

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Deconstructing the self-righteous – when parents try to kill their children

This was reposted with permission from Stuart Duncan.

I keep seeing some disturbing responses to the Kelli Stapleton case and I thought I’d address a couple of them today… a sort of, let’s clear the air, type of post.

Without wasting too much time, let’s get right into it.

Copycat Crimes

In a recent statement from ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network), they condemned Dr. Phil’s interviews with Kelli Stapleton stating “We see a pattern of copycat crimes whenever there is a well-publicized case of a parent murdering, or attempting to murder, their disabled child … Dr. Phil had an opportunity to shut down this cycle of violence, and instead he chose to perpetuate it, as loudly and widely as possible.

I have long seen many people get adamantly upset any time anything to do with autism is portrayed negatively in the media. Whether it’s adults that still behave as children, needing parenting for life or children behaving violently, no matter the situation, if it “makes us look bad”, the media is the bad guy.

I wonder though, where were these people when mothers were murdering their children that didn’t have autism? How come no one screamed about the risk of copycat crimes when these mothers killed their children?

I don’t know if you noticed or not but those stories are from 2014 alone and that’s not nearly all of them. Where’s the outrage? Why is there no one calling for the end of the journalists that reported these stories?

In our efforts to protect children with autism, do we now not care about any child that doesn’t?

There are more of these murders every year than there are months on the calendar but one murder attempt on a child with autism in the last year and suddenly we fear copycat crimes? No, we fear our own public image being damaged, nothing more.

The truth is that media attention is good. Whether your stance is that there should be more services (this will convince people of that) or if your stance is that she’s a monster for trying to kill her child (this will convince people of that too), media attention is not what leads to another tragedy like this, doing nothing is.

We must focus on figuring out how to prevent all of these stories from ever happening again. And crossing our fingers and hoping that no one becomes a copycat is simply not going to do it.

How can anyone sit there, in their big self righteous chair, and claim that a “copycat crime” is our biggest concern? How can anyone honestly sit there and try to tell me that the last mother to attempt to murder their own child did it only because they saw someone else do it on the news and thought “hey, I can do that!”

No, either

  • A – they are totally out of their minds, in which case, it was just going to happen no matter what or
  • B – they hit rock bottom and saw no other way out and don’t care in the slightest what any other mother has ever done. They just don’t.

Copycat crimes are not what this is about. It never was.

If you’re really worried about this happening again, let’s talk about real ways to prevent this from ever happening again.

Which leads me to…

Murder is never OK

I keep hearing this and as a statement on it’s own, I agree. However, this statement is a precursor to the rest of the intended message which is “now is not the time to discuss a lack of services or support or funding.”

I have one simple question then, when is the right time? During the lull between the last attempted murder and the next one? Or after the next one? Or the one after that? Do we look around and go “What? Too soon?”

Let me put it another way, if we never get around to discussing how we can lend help to the next parent that is reaching the end of their rope, for what ever reason, are we partially to blame? Well, no, I suppose not since “murder is never OK”, right? We can wash our hands of all blame.

I’ve seen it go even further than that. I’ve witnessed good people be verbally and brutally torn apart for so much as suggesting that they think events could have played out differently if the support had been there. I’ve seen people be accused of the most horrid and vile things simply for suggesting that they have it rough too and understand how someone could reach the point of murder/suicide.

Now, let me be clear, no one ever said they condone it or would ever do it themselves. They only said that they’ve been depressed and felt helpless and felt alone and felt abandoned and they understand what that murderous mother felt. Not that they’d do it too, but that they take the time for understanding… that they have shared a similar experience at least in leading up to the crime.

When a mother (or father) comes to you saying how hard they have it, how difficult their lives are, how no one is there to help, how no one seems to care, how there is no money, how there are no services… and when they say that they understand how hard it must have been for the last mother that was in the news, if you take that as an opportunity to beat that parent down with your words, to bully and chastise, to degrade and humiliate and to dehumanize that parent with all of your might…

What do you do when the parent you bully is the next parent you read about in the news? What do you do when you realize that you pushed them to it?

You do NOT get to throw your hands in the air and say “don’t blame me, murder is never OK.” No, you are not without guilt here. You are in fact a part of the problem. In fact, you’re worse than the lack of support, you’re the opposite of support. And if that mother that you’re beating on is the next one we read about in a headline, I will never ever forgive you. I will never ever let anyone forget what you had done and I will never ever stop reminding you of exactly who is to blame.

You know what? You’re right, murder is never OK. But that doesn’t mean we forsake our humanity and it certainly doesn’t give you a right to forsake yours.

Yes. A parent that tries to kill their child is a monster. And you’re right, murder is never OK. On that, we’ve never disagreed. It’s what comes next that you need to figure out with the rest of us.

Now, either learn to start helping people that need help or get the hell out of the way of the people that will.

Autism in the Media: Asperger’s Syndrome, Adam Lanza and the (Dis)association with Violence

Part one of a series looking at the ways the media represents autistic people.
Continue reading “Autism in the Media: Asperger’s Syndrome, Adam Lanza and the (Dis)association with Violence”

I am me.

Being honest and telling people that you are autistic is a lot like coming out of the closet. Its not an easy thing to do. People don’t always know what to make of it. It’s funny how when you do tell people some of them who you thought you were there friends shun you out of ignorance. Then there are the people who treat you as if you have a disease and claim they want to cure you. They don’t accept you for who you are. 
I have to choose how and when and if I tell a person that I am autistic merely out of self-preservation than by a desire to be understood. The truth is telling people is never easy and I never know how they’re going to react. Sometimes I get the oh my friend/child/neighbor has it response. When that happens I feel a lot more comfortable. Even those people may not understand Autism. I don’t expect them to understand it. I expect them to understand me. We are all different. I am not like your friend/son/neighbor who is autistic. I am me.

A Failure to Communicate Part 3: Autism and Intelligence

When I first read Emily Titon’s satirical post “A Person With Autism Manages To Do Something” I was drawn back to a post I wrote a while ago about Autism and relationships. While Emily’s post is satirical it is effective at pointing the general attitudes people have towards Joe Autie and the wonderful thing he did the one what I noticed the most was the surprise that Emily Expert had at Joe Auties ability to do something wonderful. I imagine if Joe Autie had been quoted in this satirical article his response to all the amazement would have been “Well duh! I have known I can do that my whole life.”
This got me thinking about how we perceive intelligence. So I posted a question on my Facebook to get an answer:

“I have often wondered why people associate interaction skills with any other skills or with intelligence? Autistics struggle with their interaction skills but that does not mean we are incapable of doing anything else. To assume otherwise is incorrect. We can be team players or a part of a group. We don’t interact because we don’t want to we don’t do it often because we struggle with it. Often people only have perceptions of what they see and hear to make assessments of what others are capable of based upon those factors. I was hoping a person who doesn’t have Autism could respond to this.”

Three of my friends answered. The first to answer was Matthew Gilbert. Gilbert is an adjunct professor of business at National University. Strayer University, and UCLA extension. His son is autistic.

“I think because it is hard to grasp someone’s intelligence until he/she communicates or applies it — otherwise it is really impossible to understand. Like the difference between potential energy vs. kinetic energy perhaps? My son, who is on the spectrum, is very intelligent but until he could talk (after lots of ABA) it was really hard to “see” that. Now, he is very sociable and uses wordplay to engage people as well as his love of bad jokes and math.”

I responded simply:  Seeing is believing then?

Gilbert responded:

“Then again, think about celebrated artists from hundreds of years ago who we can’t interact with (or there are no audio or video recordings of them). We make assumptions about their intelligence and abilities by their art, which I suppose is still communication (literally, as you wrote, seeing).”

What Gilbert said had a hollow ring of truth to it. Intelligence is not just a number or a score. It can’t be measured accurately in an exam. People cannot be quantified by numbers. Society in general makes assumptions about a person’s intelligence all the time. As Gilbert said what about those long dead composers where our only way to assess their intelligence is to listen to their music? Too much emphasis is placed on how a person sounds or the phrasing that they use. Their is a distinct difference between a person’s written and spoken vocabulary. As Louis Pugliese a lecturer in Educational Psychology at California, State University told VideoJug.com, “There are many ways to be smart and there are multiple intelligences.”

See link for Pugliese’s complete interview.  http://www.videojug.com/interview/types-of-intelligence-2

Still the idea of the societal value we place on good communication skills is problematic to me even though there are several types of intelligences and not just one general intelligence. As Pugliese points out Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence is only one type of intelligence.

Autistics are often discriminated against because of the confusion that exists in society as to the difference between Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence and general intelligence.

Cecily Arambula who was the second person to answer my question on Facebook had this to say about the difference between communication skills and intelligence.

“I think society tells us that anyone diagnosed with something is different from those NOT diagnosed with something. If you can’t interact with me, you must not be able to do anything correctly. Societal ignorance.”

Arambula is right. I have noticed that many people who are diagnosed with disorders that affect their speech communication skills such as stuttering are often ostracized for being stupid or incapable. Some autistics are nonverbal in other words they cannot talk. Because of this they are assumed to be retarded. Yet put a typewriter in front ot that person they can write very effectively. Written commiunication is one part of Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence. Carly Fleischmann is perhaps one of the most well known autistics that cannot speak but can write.

The type of discrimination that Fleischmann and other autistics such as myself have faced is something that is of great concern to Pia Prenevost whose son is autistic told me via Facebook that this type of discrimination is the greatest fear she has for her son.

“He struggles with communication (he also has apraxia of speech) and is far behind in his language skills. However, I know… and can see concrete evidence… that he is wicked smart. His problem solving skills are off the chart, and he demonstrates great ability to learn… even with the significant challenges he faces in communicating and socializing. I am so very afraid that he will be judged as being not able to learn because of his obvious difference instead of his actual ability.

He is 5 and is going to kindergarten this fall and I just don’t even know how to handle the school people, to be honest. They look at the ‘label’ and make assumptions and not really get to know his abilities and unique learning style…. Anyway, I guess I will work it out but I can say in no uncertain terms I dread it.”

Prenevost has a right to be concerned.  He will be judged. It’s what people do. We just have to teach our children to ignore the naysayers and keep living their lives and to do what they love to do. By doing that he can be happy and educate the ignorant.

Aspirations

I have a dream for myself. I will not give up on achieving my dreams. Everything I do is to achieve that dream.
Film school is a dream of mine and I will accomplish that dream no matter what it takes. I’ve already completed one dream now on to another.
If I get accepted to film school, I will complete the program for the MFA in documentary filmmaking while continuing to work at ABC News.
Once I am done I am going to apply for jobs with ABC News in New York and make documentaries about autism and LA history. It will happen!

Why I Write This Blog

When I first started writing this blog I wanted it to be a place to showcase my skills as a writer. I have written a lot over the course of my life from works of fiction like Ivory Requiem or poems like Be The Change the words of which have become the basic mantra of my life.

The change is you
Live it like it was tomorrow today and yesterday
Society drags down those who don’t resist
Resist the mediocrity and the hypocrisy
The change is within you
And lives through you
It shields the downtrodden from the fists of society
And builds up the weak to highest points
Be the change
And it will change you
Never look back
Keep your eyes on the future
Like the light that it is
It will guide you to the change you can be
Be the change and it will change you
The future seems bright if you live it
The future will be the change
And the change will be you

Still, as time grew, it became just a place where I should showcase myself. Where I could be honest and candid about life. Yet people have been cautioning me that it I should be mindful of what I post online because people might get the wrong. That is exactly why I write this blog so that people won’t get the wrong impression about me as a person. I may have autism but I am still a person. I feel pain, I laugh. I smile. I cry. I am human. Yet I know that people have misgivings about meeting or working with or being friends with a person that has autism. Out of lack of knowledge they can’t get past the “that has autism” part and often forget the “person” bit. That is what this blog has been about: dispelling that ignorance that still exists.

In my last post Why I Use Social Media, I described my need to express myself and connect with other people and how if I wasn’t on sites like Facebook and Twitter. people would not know anything about me. The same is true for this blog. Yet it is here for more than that. I realized over time that there was a lot of ignorance about autism still in the world. It exists despite all of the bloggers and vloggers who try to spread awareness of the disorder.

Ignorance is perhaps the most infuriating thing anyone has to deal with. It is like a disease that just doesn’t want to leave. I see a lot of ignorance everywhere. I sometimes feel that despite the number of people blogging or vlogging about Asperger’s that we are really just preaching to the choir. Either that or we are shouting really loudly and no one is listening. I am not certain which is more frustrating.

On the other hand the battle for awareness of autism has made great inroads among neurotypical people. There are now two types of neurotypical people I have met. Those who know people who know people with Autism and people who don’t. This blog is primarily for the people who don’t but sometimes it applies to the people who do. Ignorance and prejudice can be a fickle things many people may not be aware they even are prejudiced or ignorant. Others are more blatant about it. Even the nicest and most caring of people can be ignorant at times. Even people who know people who have autism can be ignorant. Even people who have autism can be ignorant. The worst is when people don’t realize that they are ignorant. It is for them that this blog is written to end their blindness. I write it to illuminate what they are not seeing that disability does not mean inability. If that were true, I would not be working where I do.

Also there are the people who want to learn more about the disorder that some call autism and I just call being human. For those people too, I write this blog so that they can learn more about it. I have many neurotypical friends who I want to teach more about autism, its causes and its effects on people lives because only through knowledge can ignorance and fear be brought to an end. And on that day I will stop writing this blog because there will no longer be the need. Until that time, I shall continue writing even if I am old and grey. I will not be silenced by ignorance and fear.

On Being Articulate (via Just Stimming…) via @octavianasr

@octavianasr shared this post with me and I identify with it alot. I am not very articulate and am often uncomfortable talking to people I don’t know. Said uncomfortability is a trait common to people with Asperger’s Syndrome.

They say I’m articulate. (I think about all the words that stay locked in my throat, and I give a small and terrified smile and look over their shoulder and into nothing at all.) I’m really quite lucky I have such a command of language. (There are maybe five people in the whole wide world I can talk to face-to-face without wanting to die, without having a panic attack, without needing to hurt myself or sleep for hours afterward. Two of them recei … Read More

via Just Stimming…

Stimming

For the non-autistic person this term may be unknown. Stimming is short for Self-Stiimulating Behavior. The primary reason an autistic stims is to cope with the environnment in which they live, much like a neurotypical person uses a stress ball to cope with stress. It produces the same effect as the stress ball because for some reason the movement of the body and the stimulation of the nerves distracts the brain from the dealing with emotions such as anxiety or joy or even sadness.

I made this video to show how I stim.