Friday, September 28, 2012

The movie about a black man with Aspergers

Recently, I found out about a movie depicting a black man with Aspergers. I was very interested in finding this movie, so I could see just how authentic it was. Of course, it’s another love story; “If You Could Say it In Words.”  Well, minutes into the movie [viewed on] I thought to myself, if this guy has Aspergers, it must be the mildest form that will possibly go undetected by those of us who actually live with stereotypical Aspies. This guy was thoughtful, bringing his date (a.k.a. one-night-stand) coffee and pastries in bed, he was appropriately affectionate, and surprisingly perceptive. Plus, he was very sexually active. I was shocked. The only quirks that I picked up on was the male Aspies obvious shyness in social settings, his extended knowledge of certain topics, formal language, and aversion to loud music; and, toward the end of the movie the character had a mental break and began to self injure. The female protagonist seemed to really be the one with “issues”. After skipping through the first forty minutes, I was still trying to figure out when the real Asperger was going to come out. The female lead character, a white woman who was having an affair with her married boss, seemed too absorbed in her own arrested development and troubled past to realize that Nelson was supposedly “different”.  Her elaborate story-telling, lack of regard for professional boundaries, and tendency to talk to herself made her, "suspect," in my opinion. Some of the characters seemed out of place too, like the female lead’s obnoxious black female room-mate that frequently used profanity and slurs. Who was she supposed to represent? In my opinion, perhaps Nelson (the main character) had a few traits of Aspergers Syndrome, but I felt that he was way more neuro-typical than autistic.  Still, I enjoyed this vanguard film and totally appreciated the writer/directors attempt to put adult autism in a more realistic, less stereotypical geeky, light. As a black women, I saw Nelson as more of a nerd or what some blacks would consider, “really smart;” I think that some blacks are less likely to put a derogatory label on an individual that is socially awkward though academically gifted. Growing up, family members that excelled in school were praised in spite of their “differences’. Those cousins who failed in school were the “undesirables”. For example, my soon-to-be ex has several degrees: engineering, math. This is nothing to sneeze at in my family. Those credentials can get you lots of praise and bragging rights. Back to the movie, I find that depicting autism romance does not really provide much insight on how they love or how they feel about intimacy. Life is not all romance (especially for an individual with social challenges); many Aspies may find more happiness in simply having a lifelong companion: loyal pet, loving family member, or a kind friend; and plenty of opportunities to share their special interests. I don’t think sex, love, and relationships are high on their “to do” lists in life. I believe that many Aspies/Auties feel pressured by society, family members even, to adapt to what is considered a normal life: finding a mate and having children. I don’t know many Aspies that made their children a ‘special interest’ unless, of course, that child has a common special interest, like trains, for example. Aspies’ wives may be the ‘special interest’ or obsession during their courtships with an Aspie, but once “real life” takes place, the demands of emotional reciprocity and becoming a responsible husband and father are often too much to handle, and the Aspie retreats to their comfort zone of self absorption and restricted interests. In my relationship, I always felt more like a “possession” or a “trophy,” my mom used to often comment that she thought my soon-to-be ex was obsessed with me. Thus, my romantic experience with an individual on the spectrum has not been positive. And, for the most part I have felt like a caregiver for an individual that thought marriage was going to be more like carefree dating and less like having adult responsibilities and holding oneself accountable. I’ll refrain from getting on my soap box about how my relationship with an Aspie was filled with a lot of empty promises, unfinished projects, avoidance, defensiveness, and isolation. Thank God he is a “nice guy” because I’ve heard many stories of extreme verbal abuse from some of the Aspie Wives with aggressive and angry Aspie husbands. Any who, “If You Could Say it In Words” is an enjoyable movie and many an Aspie spouse or girlfriend will relate to the subtle quirks in Nelson’s character [like impulsively correcting grammatical errors of others]. I would probably follow it up with the documentary, “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which follows 2 Aspies on their quests to meet the objects of their obsessive love. I’ve seen many of the movies depicting autism/Aspergers. My favorites are: My name is Khan, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Temple Grandin biopic, and the clay-mation feature film, Mary and Max [love this one].

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test

I found the CAST or Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test to be very helpful in screening my son for a possible ASD.  He scored high - 25, well over the cutoff score of 15. This particular set of screening questions include the key [in the form of the underlined answer]. The assessor gives 1 point for all answers matching the underlined Yes or No. The maximum score is 31; any score below 15 is considered NT or typically developing.
Once a child has been screened [suspected] for an ASD, a comprehensive evaluation with a professional such as a developmental physician or a psychiatrist is required to further assess the child’s condition. In the US, a diagnosis from the DSM can only be made by a physician or a psychiatrist; in some cases, a psychologist specializing in autism spectrum disorders can diagnose this disorder.

ASD relevant responses are underlined and score ‘1’. Maximum score possible is 31, cut-off currently is 15 for possible ASD or related social-communication difficulties.  Questions that are not underlined are controls


Please read the following questions carefully, and circle the appropriate answer. All responses are confidential.
1. Does s/he join in playing games with other children easily?           Yes                  No

2. Does s/he come up to you spontaneously for a chat?                      Yes                  No

3. Was s/he speaking by 2 years old?                                                  Yes                  No

4. Does s/he enjoy sports?                                                                    Yes                  No

5. Is it important to him/her to fit in with the peer group?                   Yes                  No

6. Does s/he appear to notice unusual details that
          others miss?                                                                                Yes                  No

7. Does s/he tend to take things literally?                                             Yes                  No

8. When s/he was 3 years old, did s/he spend a lot of time

             pretending (e.g., play-acting being a superhero, or

             holding teddy’s tea parties)?                                                   Yes                  No

9. Does s/he like to do things over and over again,

            in the same way all the time?                                                   Yes                  No

10. Does s/he find it easy to interact with other

              children?                                                                                Yes                  No

11. Can s/he keep a two-way conversation going?                              Yes                  No

12. Can s/he read appropriately for his/her age?                                  Yes                  No

13. Does s/he mostly have the same interests as

      his/her peers?                                                                                Yes                  No

14. Does s/he have an interest which takes up so much

      time that s/he does little else?                                                       Yes                  No

15. Does s/he have friends, rather than just acquiantances?               Yes                  No

16. Does s/he often bring you things s/he is interested

              in to show you?                                                                     Yes                  No

17. Does s/he enjoy joking around?                                                    Yes                  No

18. Does s/he have difficulty understanding the rules

      for polite behaviour?                                                                     Yes                  No

19. Does s/he appear to have an unusual memory for

              details?                                                                                  Yes                  No

 20. Is his/her voice unusual (e.g., overly adult, flat, or

              very monotonous)?                                                               Yes                  No

 21. Are people important to him/her?                                                Yes                  No

22. Can s/he dress him/herself?                                                          Yes                  No

23. Is s/he good at turn-taking in conversation?                                 Yes                  No
24. Does s/he play imaginatively with other

              children, and engage in role-play?                                        Yes                  No

25. Does s/he often do or say things that are tactless

      or socially inappropriate?                                                              Yes                  No

26. Can s/he count to 50 without leaving out any

              numbers?                                                                               Yes                  No

27. Does s/he make normal eye-contact                                              Yes                  No

28. Does s/he have any unusual and repetitive

              movements?                                                                           Yes                  No

29. Is his/her social behaviour very one-sided and

              always on his/her own terms?                                               Yes                  No

30. Does s/he sometimes say “you” or “s/he” when

              s/he means “I”?                                                                     Yes                  No

31. Does s/he prefer imaginative activities such as

              play-acting or story-telling, rather than numbers

              or lists of facts?                                                                     Yes                  No

 32. Does s/he sometimes lose the listener because of

              not explaining what s/he is talking about?                            Yes                  No

 33. Can s/he ride a bicycle (even if with stabilisers)?                        Yes                  No

 34. Does s/he try to impose routines on him/herself,

              or on others, in such a way that it causes problems?              Yes                  No

35. Does s/he care how s/he is perceived by the rest of

              the group?                                                                               Yes                  No
36. Does s/he often turn conversations to his/her

              favourite subject rather than following what the other

              person wants to talk about?                                                  Yes                  No

37. Does s/he have odd or unusual phrases?                                      Yes                  No


38. Have teachers/health visitors ever expressed any

 concerns about his/her  development?                                               Yes                  No

 If Yes, please specify...................................................................................................

39. Has s/he ever been diagnosed with any of the following?          

Language delay                                                                                   Yes                  No

Hyperactivity/Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)                              Yes                  No

Hearing or Visual Difficulties                                                            Yes                  No

Autism Spectrum Condition, incl. Asperger’s Syndrome                  Yes                  No

A physical disability                                                                           Yes                  No

Other (please specify)                                                                         Yes                  No


Autism Spectrum Quotient AQ test

I paid my 7 ½ year old ten bucks to take this test (it is 50 questions and he needed some motivation to sit through it). He only needed help with a few questions, but overall he was able to understand and complete most of the scaled responses. I was very proud of his ability to read out loud and articulate the complex words. J Any who, I asked him to take the test so that I can have a clear measurement for his possible “aspie” traits. Come to find out, he is probably more normal then me. Lol. He scored a 10 on the Autism Spectrum Quotient AQ test on the I will locate a test [online screening] that is more suitable for younger kids like my 4 year old. I just wanted to test out this particular screening for those who might want to use it for their children aged 6-7 and over.

 Your AQ Test Score is: 10
In terms of the distribution of the scores of the general population it can be said that the getting a score of:
11 – 22 is Average for most of the population.
22 – 31 Indicates that one has slightly higher than average autistic traits.
32 + Shows a high degree of autistic tendencies
A score of 50 is the maximum that can be achieved with the AQ Test and indicates an extremely high degree of Autistic traits

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Laughing to keep from crying

I had the most confusing experience with Marty today. We were at the park and Marty became fixated on a little girl driving a Power Wheel. I couldn’t figure out if he wanted to be her friend or beat her up. He keep talking about how he didn’t like the ‘car’ but he also kept starring at the little girl as she rode in the Power Wheel. I asked him if the noise from the car’s motor bothered him; he said yes, but insisted on following the little girl as she drove on the walking trail surrounding the playground. Marty was borderline stalking the little girl; he couldn’t concentrate on doing anything else. I asked him if he wanted to meet the little girl to, perhaps, “play” with her. He agreed, but wanted me to come along with him. As we were walking, hand in hand, I did not notice that Marty had his eyes closed until he walked head first into a wooden post. Screaming and crying, Marty demanded to go home. Guess who got blamed for the shinny bump on Marty’s forehead? The cute little girl [minding her own business] driving her Disney Princess Power Wheel. Marty began pointing and yelling that the little girl was stupid. I quickly picked Marty up and escorted him off of the playground. Befuddled and stressed, I still don’t understand what Marty’s intentions were: Did he like the little girl and want to be her friend or was the noise from the Power Wheel nerve wreaking. I guess this is what it will be like going forward. This was one of those experiences that left me thinking, “Man, my child really is different.” I had to laugh to keep from crying.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Angry Marty

My Sweet Marty
A beautiful curious boy with a generous heart and a kind spirit
The Angry Marty
An impulsive and explosive preschooler with the strength of a line backer
Some of his favorite lines:
·         My face doesn’t have a smile on it anymore
·         I’m not doing anything anymore
·         I’m not happy
·         I’m angry
·         I don’t want to talk about this anymore
·         I need privacy
·         I don’t like you
·         I want that kid/baby to go back home
·         You’re stupid
·         You’re fired
·         I’m gonna make you dead
·         Die
·         Kill
·         Scared
·         Stop talking to me
·         Stop looking at me
·         This is dumb
·         You’re voice sounds weird
·         Nobody tells me what to do
·         If you don’t [insert whatever he wants at the moment], I am going to [hit, scream, kill, punch,   fire] you

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My story

I stumbled upon the book, Look Me In The Eyes, a memoir written by a man diagnosed with Aspergers when he was an adult. The book chronicles his life from the early memories of his problematic childhood to his surprising entrepreneurial success as an adult. I think this book gives great insight on the difficulties that people with Aspergers have trying to ‘fit in’ with a society that inadvertently misunderstands them and often labels them as deviant. The author talks about his family and how he and his brother had very different upbringing largely due to his parent’s abusive and failing marriage shortly after his younger brother was born. After doing research to find more about the author, I learned that his brother is also an author. He wrote the book, “Running with Scissors,” which is his own memoir about his life with the same parents. The Running with Scissors author is not as kind when describing his parents. In fact, his book focuses on his parent’s abandoning him, the sexual abuse he experienced while in the custody of his ‘adoptive’ parents, and his mother’s frequent psychological breaks. His tragic youth led me to feel compassion for the “Scissors’” author as well as a sense of sorrow for his mother. You see the Look Me In The Eyes’ author believed that his father had Aspergers, which may have contributed to the father's dysfunction as a parent and a husband. I am not certain what kind of mental illness the authors’ mother suffered from, but I do know and can relate to how difficult it is to be married to an individual that is in denial about their own mental issues. Then to have a child that is considered weird and intolerable by his peers and the community must have been very distressing for the authors’ mother. The Look Me In The Eyes author talks about how his mom took him to multiple psychiatrists, therapists, etc. in her effort to figure out what was wrong with him. I wonder how much courage it took for a mother in the late 60s to act on her instincts and attempt to get help for her child. I imagine she faced many emotions: guilt, shame, confusion, and incompetence. Her husband and her son were “different”. How did she cope with this revelation? Perhaps it is explained in the Running with Scissors’ author’s book. Was she so broken mentally that she was unable to care for her young son after the demise of her abusive marriage and the challenges she endured raising a child with special needs [who describes himself as a troublemaker].
I reflected on challenges in my own marriage and my own feelings of failure and depression. In my effort to free myself from some of the resentment that I’ve had being married to someone with cognitive differences, I have listed some of the issues that I have dealt with during my time with Marty’s dad. It is my way of acknowledging my pain, loneliness, and anger which, unfortunately, often manifest in various forms of physical illness and isolation.
When I realized that something was “not quite right” with Marty’s dad, I contemplated a divorce; but at the time I was very religious and feared God’s judgment. I even thought that the difficulties that I was having in my marriage were some sort of punishment for the sins of my youth. I struggled with feelings of loneliness, insecurity, sadness, and confusion. I wanted to be married, but I wasn’t getting my emotional, spiritual, or physical needs met. On top of that, Marty’s dad was not good with managing money, so we suffered financially. The expectations that I had for a partner were not evident in Marty’s dad; our values were different, and our spiritual views clashed; and I became a frustrated caregiver of a grown man and primary parent for 2 children [with their own special needs]. My friend’s concerns with their husband seemed trivial to my marital crisis. I was weary and angry, “Who, the hell, was this man that I married?” During our courtship, we seemed harmonious, he appeared to be “normal”; heck, his mother even promised me that he would make a “very good husband.” We had similar interests, or so I thought. He was nice, well-mannered, and highly educated. I must have mistaken his tendencies to obsess over the latest "special interest," which this time happened to be me, for affection and adoration. How did the man that I was friends with 2 years prior to marriage become this man that I now regretted ever meeting, much less, marrying? I guess the pressures of marriage proved to be too much for him. After years of faking it, it was very hard for Marty’s dad to adapt to living with individuals that he had to actually provide support and care for. This was a reality that he had no script or frame of reference for. And, I quickly grew very tired of being the ‘teacher’.

What I experienced in my relationship with an incompatible partner:
  • Emotional deprivation - being deprived of reciprocal love and affirmation
  • Feelings of knowing something is “not right” but fear of not being believed 
  • loss of 'self'' as priority shifts to "figuring him out"
  • Declining self esteem as marital issues were usually blamed on me
  • Lack of confidence in myself due to struggles with conception and intimacy
  • Feeling burdened by additional responsibilities and imbalance in division of labor
  • Grieving the husband that I thought he was be capable of being
  • Worry and anxiety about how his issues might affect our children
  • Fear of the possibility of having a child with an ASD 
  • Feeling trapped and worried about how to financially support children after divorce
Physical symptoms of my stress:
  • Numerous sinus infections and colds
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Carpel tunnel syndrome
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Pre and post partum depression
  • Caffeine addiction
  • Benign tumors
  • Migraine headaches

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Why I suspected that Marty's dad had Aspergers

Why I suspected Marty’s father of being “different”. I came up with a view bullet points. These points are based on my interactions with him as well as observations over the past ten years. After nagging and threatening divorce; I convinced him to see a specialist when my oldest son was a baby. Marty's dad was evaluated and told that he definitely has traits and markers for Aspergers Syndrome; though the testing was inconclusive as far as an official diagnosis. He was even referred to an Asperger support group as well as genetic testing. I asked him to get a second opinion as the psychologist also suggested that he had onset symptoms on a psychotic disorder. To this day, the man is in denial of his condition. In his opinion, I am the one with the 'problem'. I simply don't love him because he doesn't make enough money. WTH. As the years go by, I feel that he gets further and further from learning better strategies of coping with his anxiety and difficulties with communication. He had been coached by his parents on how he was supposed to act. He is good at imitating people. I often here him telling the kids not to do or act a certain way because people will think that they are weird. I imagine that he heard this a lot growing up. The following list describes why I strongly feel that Marty's dad is on the spectrum.
  • When I felt sad, angry, or in pain, he did not respond: he could not relate
  • Has aversion to textures, loud noises, light
  • Problems gauging distances, perceptions of depth
  • Akward gait, stance, takes long strides
  • Heighted fight or flight - hostile when approached with confrontation
  • Fascination with diapering sons’ soiled diapers
  • Does not understand child development; sometimes expects children to behave in ways beyond their developmental age
  • Conversations are imbalanced; conflict is more about defending himself with no resolution
  • Does not understand reciprocity in relationships
  • Spastic movements when dancing, walks very slow with unusual gait
  • Focuses more on 'reenacting' and imitation rather than envisioning or predicting his own future
  • Language often sounds scripted; issues with adjusting tone of voice
  • When expressing my own feelings, he becomes very defensive: can't comprehend how someone else feels
  • Difficulty remaining on topic and connecting supportive information to one topic
  • Perseverates or gets stuck on an idea/topic; difficulty moving on
  • Unable to evolve in topics related to spirituality, soul, afterlife, anything abstract
  • Does not “get” hints or subtleties or prompting
  •  Appears uncomfortable around my friends’ husbands: failure to connect with them
  • Often appears rude and arrogant: values academia and educational gains
  • Bound to his routine and what he believes is right in spite of consequences and end results
  • Prone to circular conversations with no objective
  • Passive, sometimes to the point of passive aggression
  • No sense of pride in ownership or motivation to have greater attainment in life
  • No sense of how to bond with family members, and why this is important
  • Obsessed with special interests; imposes these interest on others
  • Hyper focused on his own interest; rarely taking interest in what others like
  • No sense of current trends or values of society, standards: such as fashion, material goods, lifestyle
  • Difficulty excepting criticism, direction: will blame people, objects, things for his shortcomings
  • Shifts blame on others, including children: will lie to keep from holding himself accountable
  • Can not follow complex instructions even when they are written down
  • No sense of societal expectations of different gender roles: male and female
  • Seems confused with how to express different levels of anger
  • Unable to explore certain topics beyond surface or concrete facts
  • Trouble thinking deeply about a topic and self reflection
  • Fond of certain phrases heard; will repeat them in various contexts/situations
  • Verbalizes thoughts [talks to himself] while gesturing to himself
  • Difficulty asking for help or seeking an expert for assistance
  • No interest in learning or researching a topic to gain a better understanding [unless it is his special interest]
  • Unaware of when an apology is needed; unaware that he has offended someone
  • Likes to correct errors in grammar, facts, numbers, and historical events
  • Unconventional eating patterns and desired quantity of food for a male; eats less than most males, will repeatedly bite his fork when eating a food he dislikes
  • Unaware of how his appearance: style, grooming, may be inappropriate for context, i.e. wrinkled jeans in a business casual work setting
  • Requires detailed list in order to get things done
  • Disorganized and unaware of lazy or sloppy behaviors
  • Difficulty completing projects and organizing tasks
  • Cannot predict or anticipate needs of others [or needs for safety]
  • More introverted than social or extroverted 
  • Difficulty seeing another person’s point of view if he has not established a frame of reference for that particular occurrence
  • Appears more comfortable relating to and feeling emotions for objects and events [esp. tragedies like the Titanic] rather than people
  • Seemingly more A-sexual; compared to average men and their means for arousal
  • Difficulty with simple projects requiring fine motor skills
  •  Relies more on facts than use of common sense 
  •  Symptoms of ADD, easily distracted; complaints of racing thoughts 
  • Some behaviors, actions seemed more coached than inherit or exercised out of comprehension
  • Fascinated with certain movies and will memorize different scenes and scripts
  • Difficulty with boundaries and giving personal space and adapting to changes

My Aspie profile [Aspie-Quiz]

Your Aspie score: 13 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 195 of 200
You are very likely neurotypical