Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Holiday Traditions

Autistics are creatures of habit. To a rather psychotic degree. If anything changes, what proof do we have that this is the same place we were yesterday? Reality isn't steady enough to handle changes!

Tradition, though, is the basis of holidays.

According to, tradition is: the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come down to us by popular tradition.

There are a few other definitions but this is the one to do with holidays. Holiday traditions seem to be steeped in emotion. Because grandma did it, I remember her when I do it and feel nostalgic and sad because she's gone and glad because I'm passing on something of hers. I'm sure this is very important in human culture.

So what is an autistic to do? We often - to a foolish extent - imbue meaning into objects. We imbue meaning into rituals. We ought to be very good at traditions. Yet it seems to be missing something. Some deeper emotional connection. They aren't doing these habits because to break them would be painful in their heads. They are doing it for a group connection, a family mind set, some weird borg-like assimilation of action that creates a common bond.

We don't bond like that. We are not, by any stretch of the imagination, incapable of bonding. We are just particular. We are much less likely to assume a bond for no other reason than genetics. We are also less likely to accept someone else's compulsion or habit as our own. We are perfectly capable of making up our own, thank you! And when we do manage to make a habit out of what the family does, we don't have an emotional "i belong" feeling about it. It becomes like any of our other obsessions. It must be done. It must be done correctly. It's lack brings about panic because our world is no longer our own.

It seems to me that the doing matters to most people. They feel a connection and a sense of continuity by doing it. They remember happy times and sad times and they enjoy reveling in all those emotions. They aren't just doing it because once something is done three times, it is a tradition, and we don't even know why.

So, again... what are autistics to do? Even when we make these traditions our habits, we don't do them "right". We are too rigid, too lacking in connection, too emotional about all the wrong spots. You put great grandma's figurine in a place of prominence to honor her this year, we freak out because that is not where it goes. We aren't going to care about the prominence or silly emotional components you are trying to confuse our order with. You are simply doing it wrong. And we are simply doing it wrong. And it doesn't match. And things that don't match cannot live in calm or perfection. And so it's all ruined.

And now the autistic is flapping, mom is crying, the cousins are giggling at the scene, the grandparents are wondering why mom can't control the autistic, and the dad is surreptitiously removing the figurine with a hammer.

So traditions are just confusing.

If anyone has them, and has an autistic, they have my sympathy. Or what passes for it, coming from me. I shall at least giggle at you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

They're shooting at me!

I was thinking about one of my favorite books, Catch 22. It is full of life lessons.

Yossarian: Those bastards are trying to kill me.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: No one is trying to kill you sweetheart. Now eat your dessert like a good boy.
Yossarian: Oh yeah? Then why are they shooting at me Milo?
Dobbs: They're shooting at everyone Yossarian.
Yossarian: And what difference does that make?

This is what I've learned so far about autistics. Everyone is shooting at them. They are all picked on and harassed. It's apparently beside the point if this is true of nearly everyone, auties are special because they are being shot at.

How do you explain to the socially inept that they aren't being picked on. They are ignoring all the information given to them to help them and so people feel hurt and ignored and fight back. How do you explain that the problems probably often start with them and the way they interact? How do you explain that anyone being rude or acting like they want to be bullied are going to be treated the way that so many auties are? Abuse "victims" have the same problem. They act like a victim, so they get treated like one. That's life.

I have replied to many posts written by autistics stating that this isn't an NT versus autie issue. It is just the way people treat people. It probably isn't nice or fair, but they aren't being singled out. This has so far resulted almost unanymously in shouts of "Then why are they shooting at me?"

*throws hands up* I give up. Yes, they're shooting at you. They all hate you and are out to get you. It's a very good reason to hide in your house and not deal with being autistic. Very clever of you.

I was asked to join a small task force to write some politicians about autism rights. But I'm not sure about it. I don't think it's a rights issue. I think it is an education issue. I also think it is something that is going to require more money than any sane politician would be willing to deal with. Socialization classes for all adults with this diagnosis? Clinics to help undiagnosed adults GET the diagnosis?

We would have to have separate concepts for all the varieties of autism. What I need in order to work has nothing in common with what a low functioning autistic would need. And an asperger would need something else, all together.

Autism comprises of too many variables. The spectrum is huge. I wouldn't be surprised if they start separating the spectrum into specific categories like they did when "neurosis" used to cover most mental illness.

I like the idea of educating people. I would love it if a diagnosis of autism made a person eligible for socialization classes and special help on a job. It could mean someone goes to work with you who knows the job so that they can teach it to you at your own pace. It could mean someone goes in with you to interviews to help you give the right impression. I don't know. Those are all things that aspergers or high functioning autistics would need.

What about someone who needs a very specific type of job? A lower functioning person who would be able to sort paperwork, but wouldn't be able to do more interacting than that? What diagnosis gets what help?

And how do these people get diagnosed? So far, it is only understood in children. Teens are a great mystery and teachers and parents are at their wits end dealing with them. Soon the kids will be adults and the same parents will start realizing that this is an adult problem, as well. Then money might start pouring into adult programs like it is in childhood programs.

I am going to stay on the committee just to help throw ideas around. If they can get something workable, I'd be quite interested in trying to push it through. I just don't think people understand why autistics are so "picked on". We are socially inept. That is reason enough right there. Add to it that we tend towards gullible and over earnest and there's not much to stop people from taking advantage. That's not something that any law is going to help. It isn't like people are feeling a prejudice due to skin color or gender. It isn't prejudice at all.

There is a lot education could do. Teach people about all the various ways of interacting and communicating. Teach it to NTs and spectrum. Hope the NTs can learn more patience with spectrum folk and that the spectrums can learn some communication and social skills.

In the meantime, I'll just try to ignore the cries of "they're shooting at me."

They're shooting at everyone.

Yes, but they're shooting at ME...