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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Contradictions and Corrections

"It's not a house; it's a condo."

With these words, directed at my dad, I displayed my natural tendency to correct and contradict those who make errors, be they glaring or miniscule. I got in trouble for it. I was turning eight years old that summer, and we were staying at a friend's condo. I was excited to learn the new word condo, short for condominium, and to discover that the condo was attached to many other condos in the same building, unlike the house I lived in during the school year. My dad's remark, "It's time to go back to the house," seemed like an appropriate opportunity for expressing my superior knowledge - but it really wasn't.

This incident was the first time I can remember feeling chagrined after contradicting someone. Another time, when I was a teenager, I contradicted a lady whom I admired very much, and she laughed it off, but I could tell I had embarrassed her. I felt ashamed of myself and wondered why I had blurted out the correction to what she had said, without considered how that might make her feel.

Fellow Aspies, do you have this same drive to make sure no mistakes are left uncorrected? Does it sometimes get you in trouble?

It got Jack Lack into trouble. In a book I recently read, Out to Get Jack, by James Williams (not to be confused with James Patrick Williams, my husband), the main character Jack is eleven years old and has autism. Here is an excerpt from the book:

" 'We got here at noon,' [said Jack's mother.]
"Jack suddenly found his voice. That was because his mother had just committed hypocrisy. His mother had told a lie in front of her aunt. And for years he had been told never to tell a lie. They did not get there at noon - they got there at 12:05. So why didn't his mother say so? Jack was so angry, he decided that if she wouldn't say so, he would.
" 'No, we got here at 12:05, not at noon,' Jack corrected her.
Everyone looked at Jack disapprovingly."

Jack's motivation for correcting his parent was different from mine, but I still identify with the desire for the truth to be told - with precision!

Since I was an English major in college, people sometimes joked about having to mind their grammar around me. I reassured them that I didn't mind grammar being butchered while people around me were talking, but I was a stickler for correct grammar in writing. Still, I took mental note every time grammar was butchered in the conversations and speeches I listened to - especially when fake words were coined!

Yes, when tired, I myself have said "fighted" when I meant "fought," and other similar bloopers, but I corrected myself as fast as I could. . . . And that's another strange Aspie characteristic I have - correcting myself out loud, no matter how socially awkward I appear by doing so.

At a birthday party I went to with high school friends, the birthday girl opened my present and before she had a chance to thank me, I blurted out, "Oh! I forgot to take the price tag off!" thereby immediately directing her eye to the price tag. My mom had drilled into me that price tags must be removed before wrapping a present. So while my friends at the party chatted and laughed, I sneaked the opened present into a corner and peeled off the price tag.

What was I thinking??? Um, simply, "Price tags must be removed from presents." Not, "It's too late. She already saw the price. She knows how much I spent for her present. It's not the end of the world. I'm here to have a good time, not to worry about protocol." But somehow, while following my mistake-correcting impulses, I had the sinking feeling that I was acting in a strange way, and that I was being thought of as a strange person. Hmm.

I have made an effort to overcome these impulses. Recently, a friend from college visIted my home, and twice, I resisted the urge to make corrections. At one point, my friend was in the kitchen, holding my baby, and she grabbed a toy off the kitchen counter and handed it to the baby. I wanted to blurt out, "Oh, that toy has been on the dirty floor. It's on the counter waiting to be washed in the sink." However, my mental restraining order read: "It's too late. The baby already has the toy in her mouth. It wasn't that dirty after all. What can your friend do but apologize and feel bad? Keep it to yourself."

Then, the next morning, as we were getting up for the day, I realized that although I had brought the comforter out to the couch for my friend to sleep on, I had forgotten to provide sheets. She had brought her own blanket and pillow, and that threw me off my original plan to provide pillows, sheets, and the comforter to double as mattress and blanket. So she didn't have sheets. I wanted to say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot to put sheets out for you!" But instead, I kept it to myself. She slept well, after all, and I didn't want her to think I considered my comforter contaminated by her presence. Automatic correction mechanism outwitted once again!

Naturally, there are times when corrections and even contradictions need to be made. As Aspies, we can often, with lightning speed, zoom in on details that we know to be incorrect, and this can be an asset. However, we need to take a moment (or a day) to think of a polite way to contribute our corrections . . . or screen them out altogether when appropriate. Are you up to the challenge?


Monday, July 29, 2013

Guilty Conscience

Give this post a look-see on youtube, where I read it aloud:
Guilty Conscience Video

I had a request from a reader to address the topic of guilt. As Aspies, we sometimes get the guilty feeling that someone is mad at us, but either we can't figure out what we did wrong socially, or we are misreading cues and our friends are not mad at all.

Alternately, our friends get mad at us, and their nonverbal cues go right over our heads. Or possibly, our friends ask us if we are mad, and we are simply being quiet and concentrating hard, and the "serious" look gets interpreted as a "mad" look. Or one Aspie leaves abruptly, forgetting to say good-bye, and a sensitive Aspie friend assumes the other is mad at her.

These are examples I have heard or observed among my friends. In my own case, my biggest problem is in using words to express my own feelings of being mad. I tend to let a dirty look say it all, or become sarcastic, which does not accomplish the goal of communicating my hurt feelings to the person I'm mad at. When I get mad at someone with just cause, my goal would be to produce guilty feelings in that person without hurting their feelings back automatically . . . but I'm not very good at it.

If you think a certain person is mad at you, it's okay to ask. If you ask frequently, and especially if they are your friends, you are likely to get a lot of "no" answers. Believe them.

If you get a "yes" answer, then follow it up by asking, "How did I hurt your feelings? How can I do better next time?" You don't necessarily have to explain your Asperger's traits, unless you think it would help your friends be more patient with you. You may want to say, "I'm not using my Asperger's syndrome as an excuse, but it's an explanation for why I can't tell whether or not you're mad at me and how to fix it if you are."

My own ongoing sense of guilt could be interpreted more as regret, or a sense of failure. This ties in with the Aspie trait of perfectionism as well as the experience of being raised in a Christian home - in my case, in a missionary family. What I try to remember is that I don't have to be perfect, because Jesus was perfect FOR ME. He died in my place for all the wrong things I have done and the poor choices I have made, while He was completely free from guilt Himself. So even though I want to do my best, make good choices, and avoid mistakes, my motivation is meant to be my love for Jesus - not my own pride.

One way to find freedom from guilt and regret is to replace should thinking with could thinking. When you catch yourself thinking, "I should do things this way," you can rephrase the thought to read, "I could do things this way. I would like to do things this way. I choose to do things this way."

The could-for-should substitution idea is not original to me; I read it in a book by Timothy L. Sanford, whom I met when he gave me a few counseling sessions back in 1999. The book, titled I Have to Be Perfect (And Other Parsonage Heresies), is written specifically to preacher's kids and missionary kids (I'm a missionary kid). I believe much of the content was helpful to address my Asperger's way of thinking as well, specifically: perfectionism, struggling with emotions, and rule-bound behavior.

Here is a quote from I Have to Be Perfect that explains why you would want to replace should thinking with could thinking:

"It's not just a word game. When you exchange the shoulds for the coulds, you give yourself options. When you have options, real options, you have real choice. When you have choice, you have freedom. When you have freedom, you have the responsiblity that comes with choosing. Sometimes that responsibility comes down to choosing between wisdom and foolishness. Most of the time though, it's a matter of choosing from several options that all have positive and negative elements to them. You are free to engage the brain God gave you to choose freely" (Sanford 104).

If you're interested, here is a summary of I Have to Be Perfect from the blog "Thoughts of a Third Culture Kid": The Perfect Lie  (I have not read the entire blog, but I read this specific post and recommend it. It includes a link to purchase the book.)


Justice Oriented

I have drawn many of my blog posts from my experiences in elementary school, when my Aspie traits were the strongest. Here is a story from my fourth-grade year, prompted by the following quote. The quote was posted in the Facebook group Asperger's Syndrome ASD by my Facebook friend MJBH, with his comment:

"He or she will not accept a particular school rule if it appears to be illogical, and will pursue a point or argument as a matter of principle. This can lead to a history of significant conflict with teachers and school authorities" (Dr. Tony Attwood, The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome).

"MJBH: It's not that Aspies are rebellious; it's just that they are attempting to behave or act out behavior that reflects what is logical or makes sense. Aspies, in fact, are very justice oriented."

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher was very strict and very fun. She gave us plenty of movie time and extra recess time as motivation to get our work done quickly. She took us on lots of field trips. She also required us to hide our answers to discourage cheating. And one time I got in big trouble with her. 

It was very unusual for me to get in big trouble, even though I attended a strict, conservative Christian school, where kids got in trouble as a matter of course, for fairly minor infractions. As mentioned in Emotional Meltdowns Part Two, I liked following instructions. Rule-bound behavior is a common trait for Asperger's syndrome. However, knowing the reason for the rule can be essential to the Aspie's obedience to the rule. Since I was an only child, my parents had the available time to explain the reasons behind their directions, and I was typically compliant, even what you might call a people-pleaser.

So when I repeatedly forgot to return my parent's signature on papers that had been sent home from school, I didn't feel that guilty, because it was the result of simple carelessness and not defiance. But it did mean I had to stay in from recess. Another girl who was my classmate had to stay in from recess for the same length of time - and it was pretty long - 15 minutes, if my memory serves me. Our teacher then left the classroom to do an errand, telling the two of us to come out to the playground when the timer dinged.

I knew that recess typically lasted only 20 minutes, so when the timer went off, I looked at my classmate and said, "They'll be back in 5 minutes. We might as well wait here." She agreed, and so we waited and watched the clock. But after 9 minutes had gone by, the room was still empty except for us two. "Maybe we'd better go outside," I said, and again the other student followed my lead.

Just as we were exiting the building, our teacher came striding across the playground and scolded us sharply for not coming out exactly at the time she specified. Then, when we were shepherded back to our classroom, she continued to scold us in front of the rest of our class. The words she used over and over were: "Direct disobedience!"

Frankly, I was dumbfounded, even amused, at my teacher's reaction. Here I had voluntarily extended the length of my own punishment, and I was judged as being defiant to my teacher's explicit directions. 

For years, I wondered what was so wrong about what I did. Just as I was preparing to write this blog, the answer suddenly occurred to me. My teacher needed to know exactly where to find each of the students she was responsible for at any given moment. If she could not rely on us to be where she thought we were, she could get in serious trouble herself for not making sure we were okay. Maybe it took becoming a mom (which happened to me four months ago) for me to finally see my teacher's perspective and realize that her response was not an overreaction after all.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Emotional Meltdowns Part Two

    The topic of publicly having an emotional meltdown brings in some experiences that happened strictly because I was a missionary kid (M.K.), though others with Asperger's traits may react the same way to experiences that seem terrible to them.

    While I was ages 6-9 (and again while I was 16), I was enrolled in a Christian school in Pennsylvania, and my father was raising financial support from Christian churches so that our family would have the funds to return to Japan and continue teaching the Bible to Japanese people. Raising support involved a lot of travel to churches all up and down the east coast of the United States. During the summers, my mom and I went along with my dad. We had many adventures, and made a lot of new friends, whom we promptly said good-bye to in a week or less, moving on to another church for the next Sunday meeting.

    Looking back, it surprises me that this incident occurred only twice! I went to Sunday school at a church we were visiting, and between Sunday school and church, I got lost in the shuffle and couldn't find my parents. The first time this happened, the pastor himself found me - a little girl with tears running down her cheeks - and he seated me up on the platform of the church and gave me the job of holding his Bible. When my parents appeared, do you think I jumped up and ran to them? Oh, no. I was doing my job till the pastor came back and claimed his Bible from my lap!

    The second time I misplaced my parents at an unfamiliar church, I improved on my social abilities and specifically asked the teacher where I should go when Sunday school was over. She answered distractedly, "Follow Andrea." Andrea had not an inkling that I was sticking to her like glue. She joined her parents and her brother, and - gasp - they all strolled out of the church building and down the sidewalk! I didn't know what was going on, but I didn't think this was the way to wherever my parents were.

    As I explained in an earlier post, my feelings again did an Override to my logic. Logic told me it would be a good idea to speak up and get help, but I couldn't imagine what would be the best thing to say. These people were not even aware that I was trailing behind them, and we were getting farther from the church building every minute!

    So I began to cry - very quietly, so I wouldn't disturb these people. I didn't want to inconvenience them. After all, I was doing my best to follow the instructions to "follow Andrea" - just like the time I held the pastor's Bible because those were my instructions. I was an A student because I was so good at following instructions, and I was good at following instructions because I was an Aspie. Often described as "rule-bound behavior," this Asperger's trait usually worked in my favor - but not that day!

    Eventually, the family turned and saw me and took me to find my parents, who were not even looking for me, but happily teaching a children's church class.

    I guess if I had to give my parents advice about what would have helped me during those times, I would say: Please take some time to talk with me about my feelings, giving names to those feelings - upset, worried, nervous, confused. And please teach me how to approach people when they are ignoring me and I need their help. It's not so hard to get help when you have someone's attention, but when they are oblivious to your need, that's when the Aspie is more likely to panic than to keep cool.


    Thursday, May 30, 2013

    Emotional Meltdowns Part One

    I recently received a question from a reader about temper tantrums. She asked, "Is it common while growing up with Aspergers to 'act out', and do you think it is helpful to the child to allow it in a public environment?"

    First, let's not get the yelling and kicking of a temper tantrum mixed up with "stimming," such as rocking, flapping hands, and pacing, that can be associated with autistic behavior. I have heard stimming explained as a way to reduce stress and block out sensory input, and in that case, many believe it is kinder to allow the child to continue.

    Speaking as an Aspie, I have hardly ever lost my temper my whole life, as far as pitching a fit, yelling, or lashing out in violence. But I have had emotional meltdowns in public as a child or teenager, bursting into tears and not being able to explain what the matter is because I'm too upset. Those meltdowns often had to do with some social situation where I didn't know how to ask for help, or felt overwhelmed by the stress of "dealing with people." So I do think they were brought on by some of my Aspie limitations.

    Speaking as a mom, I know what I plan to do, but since my daughter is only two months old, I may end up revising my plans when the time comes. Here's the plan: I would choose to deal firmly with a tantrum that was a defiance of my authority, such as if I told my daughter to stop doing something or that she couldn't have something she asked for, and it made her mad. That is not the time to give in to what she wants to get her to be happy. Children need to learn to accept the answer no.

    If a temper tantrum happens in a public place, it may be best to leave and go home so that other people are not bothered, and the child will miss out on having the outing continue. In discussing this topic with my mom, she adds that leaving a public place when a tantrum occurs can soothe a child who finds new or unfamiliar situations to be stressful, as Aspies tend to.

    When I was little, my mom did not allow me to point at things in the store and say I wanted them. She quoted, "The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not WANT," (Psalm 23:1) and left the store. After that, I stopped "wanting," and I eventually realized that "I would like," or "May I please have . . .?" were polite alternatives.

    Sometimes, though, it is not so easy to figure out why the child is having a meltdown. It could be a cry for attention, or feeling overtired, or misunderstanding the situation, or feeling anxiety and fear. In these cases, I think I would try to comfort and calm the child and see if she can calm down enough to answer questions as to what is wrong. This is where a child with Asperger's may have a harder time controlling her emotions and communicating what the problem is.

    On the other hand, children with Asperger's are often quite bright and may be able to reason through situations that would upset other children. For example, when I was in third grade, I was called a wimp and called ugly. Instead of getting angry or upset, I objectively considered whether I really was a wimp (I decided I was) or whether I really was ugly (I decided I wasn't). In that case, my desire to discover the truth (an Aspie trait) trumped any emotional reaction which the bully probably wanted to see.

    When a child is upset or angry, I would suggest what might be wrong or how the child might feel and look for a yes or no answer. Even as a teenager, I found it hard to describe my negative emotions clearly and link them up to the circumstances that caused the emotions. Hey, maybe that's STILL hard for me! But if a parent or friend is sincerely trying to find out what's wrong and how to help, it is very soothing.

    Listening is even more important than doling out advice. For example, when I was seven years old and crying my eyes out, my mom tried to console me by saying, "Everybody has to practice and learn how to play kickball one step at a time." She didn't realize that although I WAS scared to play kickball, the real reason I was bawling was that a little boy (whom I didn't even like) had suddenly given me a kiss!

    The reader who brought up this topic has made it a practice to send her children to their rooms according to the rule "no crying in public areas." She explains, "They were not to bother others while they let out their emotions." I think her rule is reasonable, and particularly helpful when children are trying to manipulate adults into giving them their own way. However, I can't really identify, because whenever I had a meltdown at home, I preferred to run to my room, or even hide behind my bed. So becoming emotional in public was actually highly embarrassing for me, and was not intended to draw attention or manipulate.

    I believe that people with Asperger's sometimes cannot control their emotional reactions, but they can certainly benefit from a parent's training in how to deal with their feelings appropriately.



    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    Thoughts on Prayer

    Give this post a look-see on youtube, where I read it aloud:
    Thoughts on Prayer

    I like to pray. I really do. While prayer is challenging for many Christians, it may be particularly so for those with Asperger's traits. Let's start by considering praying out loud.

    When I was six years old, I ended up one Wednesday night in a classroom full of children at a Bible-teaching church, and we all had our heads bowed and (supposedly) our eyes closed. I definitely was staring at the desk. Is is safe for me to admit on a public blog that I have scarcely ever kept my eyes closed for an entire prayer? Wow, I don't know what my excuse is for that, except that I have also read the Bible through completely and never found the verse that said, "Thou shalt close thine eyes while rendering prayer unto the Lord."

    Anyway, back to my story. These children were all praying in turn, down the rows of the desks, and my turn came late in the game. I was nervous. The problem was not just that I had to think of something appropriate to say, but also that all these children seemed to start their prayers with "Dear Heavenly Father." At home, I always prayed, "Dear Jesus." What should I do? I finally made up my mind to cave to peer pressure and begin, "Dear Heavenly Father."

    One of my friends - and only one - always begins his prayer with "Righteous Father." I thought that was odd until I read the term "righteous Father" in my Bible and saw that it was how Jesus Himself addressed God the Father in prayer. See?


    Sometimes it's good to go against the flow.

    However, whether you choose to be different or follow the crowd when you pray, I really recommend picking some patterns, or "scripts," to recite when it's your turn to pray out loud. These scripts are frequently used phrases or sentences that can be handy to have in your head, especially if you have to start praying immediately when called upon to pray. This preparation is important for Aspies, since we tend to get nervous when a social situation takes an unexpected turn. I have heard testimony from a male Aspie who froze up when called on to pray and from a female Aspie who specifically asked her small-group Sunday school class to give her the opportunity to "practice" praying out loud.

    In Baptist circles, preachers emphasize that we are not to be reciting rote prayers, but praying from our hearts. I agree. What I'm saying here is that just as we follow scripts in social situations, such as saying, "Good luck!" when a friend is going to take a test, or "How was your day?" when we sit down to dinner, we can draw from our memory banks of scripted phrases when it's time to pray.

    Examples would be: "Thank you for this food and for the hands that prepared it," "Please protect us as we drive and help us safely reach our destination," "Thank you for the beautiful weather we've been experiencing," and "Please give us a good night's sleep and help us to be ready for the day ahead."

    The advantage of having scripted phrases prepared is that you can say them while you're thinking about what the rest of your prayer is going to sound like - the part that is individually tailored to the prayer requests you have heard or the thoughts that are on your heart at that specific time. Now that you know the purpose, do you see why I made my examples wordy, even though that's a no-no for serious writers?

    Please see my very first blog post for another example of how scripts can help: What Comes After Hello?

    Moving on, I'd like to share my personal experience with silent prayers. When I was a teenager, I went around organizing my belongings for fun. The more organized my life was, the better I enjoyed it. So for my devotional prayer life, I devised a system. I cut up tiny squares of scrap paper and labeled them with the names of all the people I knew, grouped by families, and made another set of paper squares labeled with all the things I was thankful for. I put these scraps into two envelopes labeled, "REQUESTS TO PRAY" and "THANKSGIVING TO PRAY." Then I would pray for two scraps drawn from each envelope during my daily devotions and move them to the envelopes labeld, "HAVE PRAYED." Ha, ha! I love it! Maybe I'll do this again. Anyway, the advantage of being systematic about your prayer life is that you don't overlook anything. The disadvantage is that you may feel your prayers are a little forced or contrived, as I eventually did.

    Prayer can be an excellent way to regulate emotions, and many Aspies need help with managing their emotions. Nowadays, my silent prayers are heavy on the thanksgiving side, a little weak on the requests, since I have been under more stress than usual as a new mom. I need to keep my spirits up so I don't get discouraged, and counting my blessings helps with that. The problem with requests is that they haven't been met yet!

    I also have chosen to avoid the kind of prayer meetings where a list of names and problems is handed out. That just depresses me. I prefer to hear the whole story from the individual when I receive prayer requests. It is more meaningful that way.

    Another way to boost the spirits is to listen to Christian music or sing it yourself, and that is my favorite way to express my praise to the Lord. Praise counts as prayer, you know. Just think about how good you feel when a friend spends time talking with you, and as a bonus, throws in a compliment for you. I expect God feels the same way about our prayers and praises.

    Dear Lord,
    Please be with my readers as they think through this important topic with me. If there's anyone reading who does not know You personally as Savior, I pray that they would choose to believe on Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. May we all search God's Word and believe it to be true and act on it for Your glory.
    In Jesus' name,

    Sunday, April 21, 2013

    Book Chapter Review: Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

    Fans of Little Women will enjoy this peek into Rose in Bloom, another book by Louisa May Alcott. Mac Campbell is the best characterization of an Aspie that I have come across. If this character resembled anyone the author knew in life, then here is evidence that people with Asperger's traits existed long before Hans Asperger described their personalities as a syndrome. Rose in Bloom was written in 1876, and Dr. Asperger lived from 1906 to 1980. I like this chapter especially because it shows how the influence of a friend who really cares can help an Aspie change.

    POLISHING MAC by Louisa May Alcott

    "Please could I say one word?" was the question three times repeated before a rough head bobbed out from the grotto of books in which Mac usually sat when he studied.
    "Did anyone speak?" he asked, blinking in the flood of sunshine that entered with Rose.
    "Only three times, thank you. Don't disturb yourself, I beg, for I merely want to say a word," answered Rose as she prevented him from offering the easy chair in which he sat.
    "I was rather deep in a compound fracture and didn't hear. What can I do for you, Cousin?" And Mac shoved a stack of pamphlets off the chair near him with a hospitable wave of the hand that sent his papers flying in all directions.
    Rose sat down, but did not seem to find her "word" an easy one to utter, for she twisted her handkerchief about her fingers in embarrassed silence till Mac put on his glasses and, after a keen look, asked soberly: "Is it a splinter, a cut, or a whitlow, ma'am?"
    "It is neither. Do forget your tiresome surgery for a minute, and be the kindest cousin that ever was," answered Rose, beginning rather sharply and ending with her most engaging smile.
    "Can't promise in the dark," said the wary youth.
    "It is a favor, a great favor, and one I don't choose to ask any of the other boys," answered the artful damsel.
    Mac looked pleased and leaned forward, saying more affably, "Name it, and be sure I'll grant it if I can."
    "Go with me to Mrs. Hope's party tomorrow night."
    "What!" And Mac recoiled as if she had put a pistol to his head.
    "I've left you in peace a long time, but it is your turn now, so do your duty like a man and a cousin."
    "But I never go to parties!" cried the unhappy victim in great dismay.
    "High time you began, sir."
    "But I don't dance fit to be seen."
    "I'll teach you."
    "My dress coat isn't decent, I know."
    "Archie will lend you one; he isn't going."
    "I'm afraid there's a lecture that I ought not to cut."
    "No, there isn't I asked Uncle."
    "I'm always so tired and dull in the evening."
    "This sort of thing is just what you want to rest and freshen up your spirits."
    Mac gave a groan and fell back vanquished, for it was evident that escape was impossible.
    "What put such a perfectly wild idea into your head?" he demanded, rather roughly, for hitherto he had been left in peace, and this sudden attack decidedly amazed him.
    "Sheer necessity, but don't do it if it is so very dreadful to you. I must go to several more parties, because they are made for me, but after that I'll refuse, and then no one need be troubled with me."
    Something in Rose's voice made Mac answer penitently, even while he knit his brows in perplexity. "I don't mean to be rude, and of course I'll go anywhere if I'm really needed. But I don't understand where the sudden necessity is, with three other fellows at command, all better dancers and beaus than I am."
    "I don't want them, and I do want you, for I haven't the heart to drag Uncle out anymore, and you know I never go with any gentleman but those of my own family."
    . . .
    "What's amiss with Charlie? I thought he was the prince of cavaliers. Annabel says he dances 'like an angel,' and I know a dozen mothers couldn't keep him at home of an evening. Have you had a tiff with Adonis and so fall back on poor me?" asked Mac, coming last to the person of whom he thought first but did not mention, feeling shy about alluding to a subject often discussed behind her back.
    "Yes, I have, and I don't intend to go with him any more for some time. His ways do not suit me, and mine do not suit him, so I want to be quite independent, and you can help me if you will," said Rose, rather nervously spinning the big globe close by.
    . . .
    "If you will kindly play escort a few times, it will show Charlie that I am in earnest without more words and put a stop to the gossip," said Rose, coloring like a poppy at the recollection of what she heard one young man whisper to another as Charlie led her through a crowded supper room with his most devoted air, "Lucky dog! He is sure to get the heiress, and we are nowhere."
    "There's no danger of people gossiping about us, is there?" And Mac looked up with the oddest of all his odd expressions.
    "Of course not; you're only a boy."
    "I'm twenty-one, thank you, and Prince is but a couple of years older," said Mac, promptly resenting the slight put upon his manhood.
    "Yes, but he is like other young men, while you are a dear old bookworm. No one would ever mind what you did, so you may go to parties with me every night, and not a word would be said or, if there was, I shouldn't mind since it is 'only Mac,'" answered Rose, smiling as she quoted a household phrase often used to excuse his vagaries.
    "Then I am nobody?" he said, lifting his brows as if the discovery surprised and rather nettled him.
    "Nobody in society as yet, but my very best cousin in private, and I've just proved my regard by making you my confidant and choosing you for my knight," said Rose, hastening to soothe the feelings her careless words seemed to have ruffled slightly.
    "Much good that is likely to do me," grumbled Mac.
    "You ungrateful boy, not to appreciate the honor I've conferred upon you! I know a dozen who would be proud of the place, but you only care for compound fractures, so I won't detain you any longer, except to ask if I may consider myself provided with an escort for tomorrow night?" said Rose, a trifle hurt at his indifference, for she was not used to refusals.
    "If I may hope for the honor." And, rising, he made her a bow which was such a capital imitation of Charlie's grand manner that she forgave him at once, exclaiming with amused surprise: "Why, Mac! I didn't know you could be so elegant!"
    "A fellow can be almost anything he likes if he tries hard enough," he answered, standing very straight and looking so tall and dignified that Rose was quite impressed, and with a stately courtesy she retired, saying graciously: "I accept with thanks. Good morning, Dr. Alexander Mackenzie Campbell."
    When Friday evening came and word was sent up that her escort had arrived, Rose ran down, devoutly hoping that he had not come in a velveteen jacket, top-boots, black gloves, or made any trifling mistake of that sort. A young gentleman was standing before the long mirror, apparently intent upon the arrangement of his hair, and Rose paused suddenly as her eye went from the glossy broadcloth to the white-gloved hands, busy with an unruly lock that would not stay in place.
    "Why, Charlie, I thought--" she began with an accent of surprise in her voice, but got no further, for the gentleman turned and she beheld Mac in immaculate evening costume, with his hair parted sweetly on his brow, a superior posy at his buttonhole, and the expression of a martyr on his face.
    "Ah, don't you wish it was? No one but yourself to thank that it isn't he. Am I right? Dandy got me up, and he ought to know what is what," demanded Mac, folding his hands and standing as stiff as a ramrod.
    "You are so regularly splendid that I don't know you."
    "Neither do I."
    "I really had no idea you could look so like a gentleman," added Rose, surveying him with great approval.
    "Nor that I could feel so like a fool."
    "Poor boy! He does look rather miserable. What can I do to cheer him up in return for the sacrifice he is making?"
    "Stop calling me a boy. It will soothe my agony immensely and give me courage to appear in a low-necked coat and curl on my forehead, for I'm not used to such elegancies and I find them no end of a trial."
    Mac spoke in such a pathetic tone, and gave such a gloomy glare at the aforesaid curl, that Rose laughed in his face and added to his woe by handing him her cloak. He surveyed it gravely for a minute, then carefully put it on wrong side out and gave the swan's-down hood a good pull over the head, to the utter destruction of all smoothness to the curls inside.
    Rose uttered a cry and cast off the cloak, bidding him learn to do it properly, which he meekly did and then led her down the hall without walking on her skirts more than three times on the way. But at the door she discovered that she had forgotten her furred overshoes and bade Mac get them.
    "Never mind; it's not wet," he said, pulling his cap over his eyes and plunging into his coat, regardless of the "elegancies" that afflicted him.
    "But I can't walk on cold stones with thin slippers, can I?" began Rose, showing him a little white foot.
    "You needn't, for there you are, my lady." And, unceremoniously picking her up, Mac landed her in the carriage before she could say a word.
    "What an escort!" she exclaimed in comic dismay, as she rescued her delicate dress from a rug in which he was about to tuck her up like a mummy.
    "It's 'only Mac,' so don't mind," and he cast himself into an opposite corner with the air of a man who had nerved himself to the accomplishment of many painful duties and was bound to do them or die.
    "But gentlemen don't catch up ladies like bags of meal and poke them into carriages in this way. It is evident that you need looking after, and it is high time I undertook your society manners. Now, do mind what you are about and don't get yourself or me into a scrape if you can help it," besought Rose, feeling that on many accounts she had gone further and fared worse.
    "I'll behave like a Turveydrop see if I don't."
    Mac's idea of the immortal Turveydrop's behavior seemed to be a peculiar one; for, after dancing once with his cousin, he left her to her own devices and soon forgot all about her in a long conversation with Professor Stumph, the learned geologist. Rose did not care, for one dance proved to her that that branch of Mac's education had been sadly neglected, and she was glad to glide smoothly about with Steve, though he was only an inch or two taller than herself. She had plenty of partners, however, and plenty of chaperons, for all the young men were her most devoted, and all the matrons beamed upon her with maternal benignity.
    Charlie was not there, for when he found that Rose stood firm, and had moreover engaged Mac as a permanency, he would not go at all and retired in high dudgeon to console himself with more dangerous pastimes. Rose feared it would be so, and even in the midst of the gaiety about her an anxious mood came over her now and then and made her thoughtful for a moment. She felt her power and wanted to use it wisely, but did not know how to be kind to Charlie without being untrue to herself and giving him false hopes.
    "I wish we were all children again, with no hearts to perplex us and no great temptations to try us," she said to herself as she rested a minute in a quiet nook while her partner went to get a glass of water. Right in the midst of this half-sad, half-sentimental reverie, she heard a familiar voice behind her say earnestly: "And allophite is the new hydrous silicate of alumina and magnesia, much resembling pseudophite, which Websky found in Silesia."
    "What is Mac talking about!" she thought, and, peeping behind a great azalea in full bloom, she saw her cousin in deep conversation with the professor, evidently having a capital time, for his face had lost its melancholy expression and was all alive with interest, while the elder man was listening as if his remarks were both intelligent and agreeable.
    "What is it?" asked Steve, coming up with the water and seeing a smile on Rose's face.
    She pointed out the scientific tete-a-tete going on behind the azalea, and Steve grinned as he peeped, then grew sober and said in a tone of despair: "If you had seen the pains I took with that fellow, the patience with which I brushed his wig, the time I spent trying to convince him that he must wear thin boots, and the fight I had to get him into that coat, you'd understand my feelings when I see him now."
    "Why, what's the matter with him?" asked Rose.
    "Will you take a look and see what a spectacle he has made of himself. He'd better be sent home at once or he will disgrace the family by looking as if he'd been in a row."
    Steve spoke in such a tragic tone that Rose took another peep and did sympathize with Dandy, for Mac's elegance was quite gone. His tie was under one ear, his posy hung upside down, his gloves were rolled into a ball, which he absently squeezed and pounded as he talked, and his hair looked as if a whirlwind had passed over it, for his ten fingers set it on end now and then, as they had a habit of doing when he studied or talked earnestly. But he looked so happy and wide awake, in spite of his dishevelment, that Rose gave an approving nod and said behind her fan: "It is a trying spectacle, Steve yet, on the whole, I think his own odd ways suit him best and I fancy we shall be proud of him, for he knows more than all the rest of us put together. Hear that now." And Rose paused that they might listen to the following burst of eloquence from Mac's lips: "You know Frenzal has shown that the globular forms of silicate of bismuth at Schneeburg and Johanngeorgenstadt are not isometric, but monoclinic in crystalline form, and consequently he separates them from the old eulytite and gives them the new name Agricolite."
    "Isn't it awful? Let us get out of this before there's another avalanche or we shall be globular silicates and isometric crystals in spite of ourselves," whispered Steve with a panic-stricken air, and they fled from the hailstorm of hard words that rattled about their ears, leaving Mac to enjoy himself in his own way.
    But when Rose was ready to go home and looked about for her escort, he was nowhere to be seen, for the professor had departed, and Mac with him, so absorbed in some new topic that he entirely forgot his cousin and went placidly home, still pondering on the charms of geology. When this pleasing fact dawned upon Rose her feelings may be imagined. She was both angry and amused. It was so like Mac to go mooning off and leave her to her fate. Not a hard one, however; for, though Steve was gone with Kitty before her plight was discovered, Mrs. Bliss was only too glad to take the deserted damsel under her wing and bear her safely home.
    . . .
    A day or two later Rose went to call upon Aunt Jane, as she dutifully did once or twice a week. On her way upstairs she heard a singular sound in the drawing room and involuntarily stopped to listen.
    "One, two, three, slide! One, two, three, turn! Now, then, come on!" said one voice impatiently.
    "It's very easy to say 'come on,' but what the dickens do I do with my left leg while I'm turning and sliding with my right?" demanded another voice in a breathless and mournful tone.
    Then the whistling and thumping went on more vigorously than before, and Rose, recognizing the voices, peeped through the half-open door to behold a sight which made her shake with suppressed laughter. Steve, with a red tablecloth tied around his waist, languished upon Mac's shoulder, dancing in perfect time to the air he whistled, for Dandy was proficient in the graceful art and plumed himself upon his skill. Mac, with a flushed face and dizzy eye, clutched his brother by the small of his back, vainly endeavoring to steer him down the long room without entangling his own legs in the tablecloth, treading on his partner's toes, or colliding with the furniture. It was very droll, and Rose enjoyed the spectacle till Mac, in a frantic attempt to swing around, dashed himself against the wall and landed Steve upon the floor. Then it was impossible to restrain her laughter any longer and she walked in upon them, saying merrily: "It was splendid! Do it again, and I'll play for you."
    Steve sprang up and tore off the tablecloth in great confusion, while Mac, still rubbing his head, dropped into a chair, trying to look quite calm and cheerful as he gasped out: "How are you, Cousin? When did you come? John should have told us."
    "I'm glad he didn't, for then I should have missed this touching tableau of cousinly devotion and brotherly love. Getting ready for our next party, I see."
    "Trying to, but there are so many things to remember all at once keep time, steer straight, dodge the petticoats, and manage my confounded legs that it isn't easy to get on at first," answered Mac with a sigh of exhaustion, wiping his hot forehead.
    "Hardest job I ever undertook and, as I'm not a battering ram, I decline to be knocked round any longer," growled Steve, dusting his knees and ruefully surveying the feet that had been trampled on till they tingled, for his boots and broadcloth were dear to the heart of the dapper youth.
    "Very good of you, and I'm much obliged. I've got the pace, I think, and can practice with a chair to keep my hand in," said Mac with such a comic mixture of gratitude and resignation that Rose went off again so irresistibly that her cousins joined her with a hearty roar.
    "As you are making a martyr of yourself in my service, the least I can do is lend a hand. Play for us, Steve, and I'll give Mac a lesson, unless he prefers the chair." And, throwing off her hat and cloak, Rose beckoned so invitingly that the gravest philosopher would have yielded.
    "A thousand thanks, but I'm afraid I shall hurt you," began Mac, much gratified, but mindful of past mishaps.
    "I'm not. Steve didn't manage his train well, for good dancers always loop theirs up. I have none at all, so that trouble is gone and the music will make it much easier to keep step. Just do as I tell you, and you'll go beautifully after a few turns."
    "I will, I will! Pipe up, Steve! Now, Rose!" And, brushing his hair out of his eyes with an air of stern determination, Mac grasped Rose and returned to the charge bent on distinguishing himself if he died in the attempt.
    The second lesson prospered, for Steve marked the time by a series of emphatic bangs; Mac obeyed orders as promptly as if his life depended on it; and, after several narrow escapes at exciting moments, Rose had the satisfaction of being steered safely down the room and landed with a grand pirouette at the bottom. Steve applauded, and Mac, much elated, exclaimed with artless candor: "There really is a sort of inspiration about you, Rose. I always detested dancing before, but now, do you know, I rather like it."
    "I knew you would, only you mustn't stand with your arm round your partner in this way when you are done. You must seat and fan her, if she likes it," said Rose, anxious to perfect a pupil who seemed so lamentably in need of a teacher.
    "Yes, of course, I know how they do it." And, releasing his cousin, Mac raised a small whirlwind around her with a folded newspaper, so full of zeal that she had not the heart to chide him again.
    "Well done, old fellow. I begin to have hopes of you and will order you a new dress coat at once, since you are really going in for the proprieties of life," said Steve from the music stool, with the approving nod of one who was a judge of said proprieties. "Now, Rose, if you will just coach him a little in his small talk, he won't make a laughingstock of himself as he did the other night," added Steve. "I don't mean his geological gabble that was bad enough, but his chat with Emma Curtis was much worse. Tell her, Mac, and see if she doesn't think poor Emma had a right to think you a first-class bore."
    "I don't see why, when I merely tried to have a little sensible conversation," began Mac with reluctance, for he had been unmercifully chaffed by his cousins, to whom his brother had betrayed him.
    "What did you say? I won't laugh if I can help it," said Rose, curious to hear, for Steve's eyes were twinkling with fun.
    "Well, I knew she was fond of theaters, so I tried that first and got on pretty well till I began to tell her how they managed those things in Greece. Most interesting subject, you know?"
    "Very. Did you give her one of the choruses or a bit of Agamemnon, as you did when you described it to me?" asked Rose, keeping sober with difficulty as she recalled that serio-comic scene.
    "Of course not, but I was advising her to read Prometheus when she gaped behind her fan and began to talk about Phebe. What a 'nice creature' she was, 'kept her place,' dressed according to her station, and that sort of twaddle. I suppose it was rather rude, but being pulled up so short confused me a bit, and I said the first thing that came into my head, which was that I thought Phebe the best-dressed woman in the room because she wasn't all fuss and feathers like most of the girls."
    "Oh, Mac! That to Emma, who makes it the labor of her life to be always in the height of fashion and was particularly splendid that night. What did she say?" cried Rose, full of sympathy for both parties.
    "She bridled and looked daggers at me."
    "And what did you do?"
    "I bit my tongue and tumbled out of one scrape into another. Following her example, I changed the subject by talking about the charity concert for the orphans, and when she gushed about the 'little darlings,' I advised her to adopt one and wondered why young ladies didn't do that sort of thing, instead of cuddling cats and lapdogs."
    "Unhappy boy! Her pug is the idol of her life, and she hates babies," said Rose.
    "More fool she! Well, she got my opinion on the subject, anyway, and she's very welcome, for I went on to say that I thought it would not only be a lovely charity, but excellent training for the time when they had little darlings of their own. No end of poor things die through the ignorance of mothers, you know," added Mac, so seriously that Rose dared not smile at what went before.
    "Imagine Emma trotting round with a pauper baby under her arm instead of her cherished Toto," said Steve with an ecstatic twirl on the stool.
    "Did she seem to like your advice, Monsieur Malapropos?" asked Rose, wishing she had been there.
    "No, she gave a little shriek and said, 'Good gracious, Mr. Campbell, how droll you are! Take me to Mama, please,' which I did with a thankful heart. Catch me setting her pug's leg again," ended Mac with a grim shake of the head.
    "Never mind. You were unfortunate in your listener that time. Don't think all girls are so foolish. I can show you a dozen sensible ones who would discuss dress reform and charity with you and enjoy Greek tragedy if you did the chorus for them as you did for me," said Rose consolingly, for Steve would only jeer.
    "Give me a list of them, please, and I'll cultivate their acquaintance. A fellow must have some reward for making a teetotum of himself."
    "I will with pleasure; and if you dance well they will make it very pleasant for you, and you'll enjoy parties in spite of yourself."
    "I cannot be a 'glass of fashion and a mold of form' like Dandy here, but I'll do my best: only, if I had my choice, I'd much rather go round the streets with an organ and a monkey," answered Mac despondently.
    "Thank you kindly for the compliment," and Rose made him a low courtesy, while Steve cried, "Now you have done it!" in a tone of reproach which reminded the culprit, all too late, that he was Rose's chosen escort.
    "By the gods, so I have!" And casting away the newspaper with a gesture of comic despair, Mac strode from the room, chanting tragically the words of Cassandra, "'Woe! woe! O Earth! O Apollo! I will dare to die; I will accost the gates of Hades, and make my prayer that I may receive a mortal blow!'"


    Monday, March 4, 2013

    My Asperger's Identity

    One of the fun things about discovering my identity as a person with Asperger's syndrome has been not just working to improve my weak points, but thinking back over my life and seeing how "what makes me tick" can often be tied back to Asperger's syndrome. Each person with Asperger's syndrome will fit some of the descriptions - but not all of them - which may simply be because people are individuals. There is overlap in similar descriptions and symptoms, but I doubt if any one autistic person fits every description the experts name.

    When I was a child, my parents had never heard of Asperger's syndrome, and yet when they did begin to learn about it, when I was 18, they pegged me for an Aspie more based on my childhood idiosyncrasies than on my current personality. Children are less inhibited; they don't know when they're being socially awkward or strange until it is reinforced by the reactions of their peers and authority figures. That may be why many undiagnosed Asperger's kids simply grow out of their most revealing symptoms. Remember, I firmly believe that Aspies can change, grow, and adapt, whether we go to therapy or not.

    So what are some of the characteristics of my childhood that could have tipped off someone who was educated about Asperger's syndrome? Let me count the ways . . .

    1. I loved to pace in circles, usually talking to myself at the same time.
    2. I liked watching ants on the ground, even during recess with other kids playing tag nearby.
    3. I did not tell lies.
    4. One of my favorite things to do was to cut the white borders off of stickers - detail, detail!
    5. I was a stubbornly picky eater. Oddly enough, I enjoyed broccoli, lima beans, and mushrooms, but refused lettuce, salad dressing, lunch meat, and mayonnaise.
    6. I had to be taught to smile for my picture and to look a person in the eye when he or she was speaking to me.
    7. I was quiet, and never liked approaching another person to begin a conversation, except for my family and closest friends.
    8. In talking and writing, I used words from vocabulary lists and idioms from British children's books.
    9. Between ages 5 and 9, I had anxiety that would cause me to cry or tremble when separated from my parents at a time when it was unplanned or when asked to participate in sports games that I did not understand.
    10. I had an obsession with children's literature, particularly fantasy, and even more particularly, the story of Peter Pan.
    11. I thought 100% was an average grade.

    If you don't understand how these personality traits can be connected to Asperger's syndrome, please take a look at My Top Twenty List of Asperger's Traits

    Please feel free to comment with your interpretation of how my specific characteristics in childhood are examples of the general Asperger's traits. Thank you for reading!