More than Meets the Eye: the tip of the Autism Iceburg.

The study of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has brought to light there are many things I can relate to, and some that do not strike my internal bell. Although I do not have a diagnosis of ASD, I am also definitely Neurodivergent (ND) rather than Neurotypical (NT). [see end of post for definitions of these two words]. For years it has been obvious that I just don’t process things the same way as most people. I do have an Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) diagnosis and have been learning that the two (ASD & ADD or ADHD) are closely interrelated, possibly with the same roots. Someone described it as what appears to be two icebergs above the water, but they’re joined under the water into one. Perhaps then it’s not surprising I have been very intrigued by studying autism and finding the similarities and differences in myself.

One thing I’ve learned is that there is a worldwide autistic community that often writes eloquently as they describe autistic life from the inside. For example, on Twitter look up the hashtags

#ActuallyAutistic , #AskingAutistics , and #autistic .

These are just a few of the hashtags that can help you learn more. Many of these people are highly intelligent, incredibly brilliant, and capable. Some of them were considered low functioning and nonverbal when younger, but eventually grew out of that and became able to function in the world around them. Several diagnosed autistic people have become advocates and activists for better understanding of ASD. That functioning does take a lot of effort however. These people are giving us a new insight on autism that should be an inspiration for parents of autistic children as well as for newly diagnosed adults.

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On WordPress you can find Yinin’s Thoughts:

Aspergreatness- Liberty of Thinking:

And “Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism” which actually has several contributing authors.

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Reading some of the blogs above, I was fascinated by a discussion on autistic actors in TV series and movies. Specifically mentioned by Yinin was “Gray’s Anatomy”.

I really wish they would start using actually autistic people in TV series and in movies. Or at least seriously consult with the artistic community. For example, in Gray’s Anatomy; Dr. Dixon, an autistic surgeon, makes an appearance in season 5. As i read in a blogpost by “Yinin’s Thoughts” :

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“So I was already starting lose the rose-coloured nostalgia glasses when Dr Dixon showed up. She’s every bad autistic stereotype rolled into one, and characters like this are a huge part of why it took so long for me to even self-diagnose, let alone consider an official diagnosis.” ~Yinin 🙏

https://yininsthoughts.wordpress.com/2017/10/20/greys-anatomy-autistic-headcanon/

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Yinin’s blogpost led me to

Lynne Soraya on Psychology Today:

1. “People with Asperger’s are individuals.   The profile of skills and deficits vary with each person’s personality and makeup. Some may effect the person only slightly, others very strongly – and the same diagnostic criteria may manifest is a completely different way in two different individuals.

2. “Adults are different than kids.  While Asperger’s is classed as a pervasive development disorder, meaning it doesn’t go away, that doesn’t mean it remains exactly the same throughout the lifespan.  We learn and adapt. An adult, the age of Dr. Dixon, in this type of occupation, would have had to develop coping mechanisms to deal with her symptoms.   She would have learned, at least to some degree, to put a veneer of “normalcy” over her more off-putting traits in order to get along in the world.

3. “Gender makes a big difference in how Asperger’s manifests.   As Newsweek magazine notes, “…some specialists predict that as we diagnose more girls, our profile of the disorder as a whole will change. Anecdotally, they report that girls with Asperger’s seem to have less motor impairment, a broader range of obsessive interests, and a stronger desire to connect with others, despite their social impairment.”  Further, girls with Asperger’s “…are more adept at copying the behaviors, mannerisms and dress codes of those around them, than Aspie boys tend to be.” Dr. Dixon does not reflect any of this.

4. “People with Asperger’s are as capable to have a brilliant career as anyone else.   The Asperger’s “islets of talent” can actually give certain gifts that may make that person better at the job than a person without Asperger’s (think engineers, scientists, computer programmers, musicians, artists).   Wouldn’t doctors know this?  Isn’t this why they’d be courting her in the first place?

~Lynne Soraya

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One thing that has confused me in diagnosing, is the theory that most people who are autistic, on the spectrum somewhere, are very resistant to (or uncomfortable with) touch and contact. However Dr. Dixon from Gray’s Anatomy above wants her coworkers to hug her to calm her down. And yet it was a hug from the parents of her patient that freaked her out. Somehow this doesn’t match up in my mind. I myself am a hugger extraordinaire. In fact I’ve had to teach myself that it’s not always appropriate to just hug people; that some people are not comfortable with that especially in a spontaneous way. It is just something I grew up with, I would hug and kiss everyone in the house before going to bed at night.

Many people have the idea that autistic people do not feel emotions or understand them. From everything I understand this is absolutely not true in most cases. Many ND people are actually hyper empathic, and are so overwhelmed by the emotions they don’t know how to sort them all out; which is why they might appear to freeze up on the outside.

I myself am hyper empathic, but I suspect sometimes I’m picking up things so far below the surface that the person is not even aware of that emotion or thinks they’re hiding it. With someone very close to me, and their words and attitude are opposite from the emotion I’m sensing, it creates within me a conflict that might lead to fight, flight, or freeze. The situation and their words are not making sense to me at that point.

It usually ends up with me melting down into cathartic sort of ball on the floor, in convulsions.

This cathartic reaction, ( is that even the right word?) This convulsive fetal position reaction, renders me inable to speak for a while. When someone speaks to me, maybe trying to get me to come out of it, I hear it but it doesn’t register. At this point I would usually be sobbing in an uncontrollable panic.

This generally takes a day or two to recover from, in terms of energy. It could be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before I can speak coherently. Since I started taking an antidepressant about three years ago, I’ve only had a handful of these episodes. I’m able to take a hard look at myself, my reactions and emotions, without falling into the abyss. On the other hand, I often feel somewhat numb at times when I’m used to being extremely emotionally sensitive. I seldom even cry anymore when uncontrollable sobbing used to be a common reaction. It was all worst during menopause, so much worse. That is when I started having a long slow break down. At the same time I was living with my sister and being a caregiver for her as well as trying to run a photography business. Needless to say my sister was the most important at that point, and so I gave up my business and went to a doctor for the first time about my mental emotional problems. Since then I have been blessed to regularly see a counselor, actually a series of counselors. One thing that has come out of all of this is the thought that these life skills for coping should be taught in elementary school as a standard, for all children whether Neurodivergent (ND)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurodiversity

Or Neurotypical (NT)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurotypical

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All of this long post barely scratches the tip of the iceberg (whether the ASD iceberg or the ADHD tip). If you have family, friends, or acquaintances that are autistic (including Asperger’s syndrome), I encourage you to check out some of these links and learn more to help yourself better understand. If you wonder if maybe you are autistic, reading some of these blog posts and asking questions on Twitter are excellent ways to learn more.

Thank you to those who take time to actually read, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. If I am inaccurate in something I said, feel free to let me know.

~Darlisa

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Two sides to every story

Thoughts on Political Process, Social Media, and Polarization of the Masses… and about Fear of Change.     This has been boiling up inside as I read more about both “sides” of both the #noDPL Standing Rock protests against the oil pipeline as well as the occupation of the #Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon by the Bundy family and militia. Although I still don’t agree with the occupation of the Malheur wildlife refuge by the Bundys, reading some of the stories about the trial and things that have been said have made me a little more understanding than I used to be. It reminds me once again that the truth is often somewhere between the extremes we hear. I’m also blown away by the incompetence of the Oregon prosecutors who blew the case, regardless of my opinion on whether they’re guilty or not. It seems like the whole crazy experience does a lot to confirm some of the Bundys primary complaints of incompetent government. I personally think there’s a lot to learn from this whole situation. 

       I know I have many friends who will just immediately lash out that what the Bundys did was horrible and wrong and I have other friends who will immediately defend the Bundys regardless of their methods. That seems to be pretty much the mood of the country right now, lash out without thinking or reading or learning more. Lash out to defend what you wish to believe, because you don’t want things to be any different than what you’ve always believed. It’s uncomfortable to see things any differently than what you’re used to. There is actually a lot of fear involved, fear that maybe you weren’t as justifiably angry as you thought. Fear of change; of governmental control; of militia taking over the country. Fear that someone’s going to see you with egg on your face and then that makes you terribly angry.  

     20 or 100 years from now people will be studying what happened at this time., And they will be amazed at how quickly things got out of control and how bullheaded people were.   

    So, before you cry out with your explanations of why it was obviously one way or the other, stop and think. Facebook and social media have become so incredibly overreactive to what is in front of us. People have been encouraged to make quick short passionate comments, or derisive comments. The way Facebook operates is to reinforce what ever your apparent belief is based on the things you like and share. They stop showing you the other side of the coin. This process causes more and greater division and less common sense. This becomes incredibly apparent during a political process of any sort. 

     The other side of the coin here is that Facebook also allows us to show what’s really happening during events and anywhere in the country with our live videos and observations and photos; to show things the media never shows anymore because they’re owned by big corporations and have vested interests. So Facebook can also be a grassroots tool of great impact. News used to be non biased, with journalists searching out the truth. Now it is an entertainment circus aimed at increasing ratings. Levelheaded people on Social media have the ability to get real information out there to the world in ways that have never before possible. However that falls apart when all people do is attack each other. 

   So in the words of the immortal Youngbloods song, “Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together try to love one another right now”

Compassion for “Mormon and Gays”

This is a very emotionally charged subject for so many people. I have many well loved friends and family who are gay or lesbian, openly or in the closet so to speak. I also have many friends and maybe some family who are very close minded on the subject and feel very strongly against it. This has caused so much heartbreak and division for so many that I know. I grew up in the LDS church (The original one by the way, based in Salt Lake, not one of the reformed versions of the LDS Church). During a lot of adventurous crazy years of my life I left the church behind and explored many versions of spirituality. Back in 2000, after a great deal of heartbreak, I moved back home to help my mother and came back to the church. I found it comforting again. That rekindled faith was given a blow last year when the church announced its new policy regarding children of gay couples. I felt so divided. I had family on both sides of this issue hammering in my ear and splitting me into little shards in my mind. It broke my heart. I just always want people to love one another and get along and I get so stressed when they don’t. I never have been able to handle people arguing and fighting around me. Over the last year I have found more peace and feel comforted by the teachings from the Scriptures. I also feel comforted by the peace and beauty in nature. To me standing under the Aurora for example is a spiritual experience.  I am filled with Awe and Gratefulness at such times.  


  I’ve seldom publicly defined myself as specifically a Christian, or for that matter a pagan, a Buddhist, a Sufi, or Native American church member. And yet I’ve been a part of all of those at different points in my life and have learned so much along the way. These Faiths are all a part of who I am. I simply love people and I love spirit. I have felt loved ones leave their body behind with the rush of joy at the end of lives both short and long. I have seen them later, in far too brief visits from the spirit world, sharing that joy with me. I feel the spirit within nature around me, in every living thing including the oceans, rocks and mountains. 
     So what, do you ask, does this all have to do with gays and lesbians? I myself find it interesting that I wandered this way from that subject. 

This all started with a link I wanted to share from CNN regarding a website the Mormon church has developed called “Mormon and gay”. 

I see it as a baby step in a positive direction allowing the beginning of communication and shared stories on the subject that have been so painful for so many.  There are no easy fixes or quick answers, and hearing the stories from people’s experiences can teach us a lot about how we interact. This all comes back around to seeing the beauty in others, and loving one another from the heart and the way that Christ and Buddha and others have loved others. Agape. The love a parent has for a child, the love that is not tied by bonds of need or sexuality. Pure Compassion, with no judgment. None of us has room to judge another.   We do not know the steps another person walks unless we walk in those footprints ourselves.