A Conversation Out Loud
What I Wish I Could Talk To More People About, And End Up Blogging Instead
Do you believe that there are lessons to learn, and constant hints from the Universe until you figure it out, IF you figure it out?
I began to look for patterns as a test. What have I found? Without knowing a purpose — autism.
As a note, I am not stating this as a positive or a negative. It is a fact and I am investigating the trail.
For one, studying psychology at Western Michigan University (WMU) meant a lot of behavioral science classes with a HUGE emphasis on autism. Most of the focus was about children, and jobs specifically working with these children.
Children on the autism spectrum has not been a focus I am interested in, yet the topic has come up often.
Second, several friends with at least one child on the spectrum, and possibly the friend or the friend’s partner/child’s other parent on the spectrum.
The children on the spectrum had an official diagnosis. The diagnoses ranged from “high functioning” to needing full home care as an adult. I heard stories for years and had met the kids.
At least two of these friends filed for divorce and found new relationships. These relationships offered what their previous partners could not — communication, affection, and experiences.
Third, some have said that I am on the spectrum. Certain mannerisms or characteristics have prompted people to state this. It would take an official diagnosis to prove or disprove, and at this time I do not believe there is a reason to go that route.
Still, whether something to fix or a different reason, I believe this is important in the review of a pattern.
Fourth is environment. We absorb what is around us when we are constantly with the same people.
Without knowing why, one particular environment reminds me of being around my family. People who are a part of the group include those officially on the spectrum, and others who, like me, exhibit “stereo typical” characteristics without an official diagnosis.
According to this website, signs and symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) vary by person. In general, the signs and symptoms tend to fall in these three areas:
- Social impairment
- Communication difficulties
- Repetitive and stereotyped behaviors.
This website provides a shortened list of the criteria in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The DSM is used by a clinical psychologist in the evaluation of the person.
The Focus on Children
Diagnosis and services for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is mainly focused on children. Diagnosis didn’t become standard and regular until 1994.
Previously, many children were misdiagnosed. Boys, for example, would get diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The thought has been that autism spectrum disorders are new. Realistically, autism spectrum disorders have most likely been around for centuries, based on some of the characteristics of highly intelligent famous people.
In my opinion, computers and the internet are creating safety zones, making it more obvious that the spectrum exists. The safety zones to me mean that more jobs are available that fit or hide common ASD characteristics.
Plus, those who have enough intelligence and capabilities to be employed and live on their own may have ASD traits that are accepted because the person and skills are valued.
What these adults may not have are support services, since the system is behind.
In an effort to “fit in,” some ASD characteristics may be masked, instead of expressed, through the mirroring of examples. It is something many of us do — learn what is acceptable behavior in certain groups or situations, and keep to that role in those groups or situations.
Women, in particular, have been good at mirroring. Women have been so good at doing this, that doctors have missed or misdiagnosed. Anorexia, for example, could be related to being on the spectrum.
Why is this knowledge important?
In A Word — Stress.
You could’ve grown up not knowing. Maybe you felt like an outsider or have suspected ASD as a reason, without an official diagnosis. It’s a long process to go through if you or your practitioner do not see a reason.
You may also have grown-up as a child with a parent(s) or another caregiver who didn’t know s/he was on the spectrum.
When a partner or caregiver in your household is on the spectrum and no one knows, it can have an ongoing traumatic effect. The effect is called post-traumatic relationship syndrome (PTRS). It is an anxiety disorder similar to, or on the same spectrum as, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Post-traumatic relationship syndrome occurs over time and is ongoing, specifically in the context of an intimate relationship. Intimate, in this case, means someone who you see and interact with daily, including a partner or other family members.
The differences between the needs of a person who is “neuro-typical” (NT) versus someone on the autism spectrum is what tends to create the trauma. For example, someone on the spectrum might not engage and show interest in another person’s hobbies if it is not something that is already of interest.
It does not occur to the person on the spectrum to ask.
To the partner with the hobbies, it might seem like indifference. It may feel like s/he is being ignored. Add to the equation no information because of a diagnosis, which would at least make the non-interest understandable, whether or not acceptable.
This doesn’t mean anybody is a bad person. It is how each is wired. The “neurotypical” (NT) version is (usually) what society sees as “normal.” Neurotypical traits are what we’re “supposed to” aspire to have. Our role models tend to be people with these traits.
You can read more about it at this website.
Do you relate to any of that stress? I do — in my own experience and what I see and how I feel observing and interacting with others.
When I look at the patterns list, it is the fourth item, environment, that I think about the most.
What if many of us feel comfortable or are repelled because it is a “familiar” environment?
Maybe we were around people with similar characteristics while growing up. Familiar doesn’t have to equal “likable.”
It’s like a habit — we become so used to the surroundings that we are not conscious of the choices we make.
The topic keeps repeating.
I know it has made me want to work on changing the mannerisms that have been pointed out to me.
I am thankful, even to those who have been mean about it, because it is still awareness.
I want something to fix.
Is something to fix enough?
In the end, we are who we are. If we believe in patterns and signs from the Universe, and/or want to keep improving as a human, it seems a necessary reflection.
Do you have anything to add to this conversation?
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