Communication with Slightly Autistic People
#1
I decided to start a new thread with my full response to Herr Mannelig's question about communication with slightly autistic people.  I hope that "slightly" is an appropriate adjective here.  I understand that there is a whole spectrum of autistic disorders.  I consider that an autistic person who is able to communicate easily, with just some social difficulties, is slightly autistic, but I could be wrong.

Anyways, here's my full response.  I look forward to the discussion!

(07-01-2010, 10:20 AM)Herr_Mannelig Wrote:
(06-30-2010, 07:57 PM)miss_fluffy Wrote:
(06-29-2010, 10:12 PM)Herr_Mannelig Wrote: I lie down, and sleep.

A healthy body can perform its natural functions without problem.
I could be wrong about this, but when I see statements like this, it seems to imply that the speaker believes people who don't have healthy bodies are somehow at fault for their condition. 
I see. I am very careful with communication, yet, I am not sure I can see how this message was given. Could you, if you know how to explain it, generalise this phenomen so I may properly use it in later dealings with people? I am writing a book about communication with forms of autism and I am working on some of the trickier (ie, it concerns things I do not understand, but then again, no one else seems to either, so my approach is one of patterns and probability rather than good explanations) chapters.

Okay, I'll play... I'm curious about these subjects as well, but in retrospect, I can see where I was at fault here, not you.  I guess I was initially put off because I suffer so much from problems with sleeping.  The thread was going along with people giving advice, based on their own issues with insomnia.  A sort of camaraderie developed where people with a similar problem were supporting each other.  I'm sure you've heard that miserable people prefer miserable company.  Furthermore, the issue at hand, insomnia, is a little bit charged.  Insomnia is often related to mental health issues, such as anxiety disorders.  It's also frequently related to metabolic disorders, and can go hand in hand with obesity.  In my experience with insomnia, it has been suggested to me that it's cause is largely my own fault, for not taking care of myself properly, not eating properly, or not exercising properly, and allowing anxiety to get out of hand.  While this may or may not be true, it's often life circumstances which are beyond a person's control that lead them down the path of ill-health.  People generally don't engage in bad behaviors with the idea in mind that they want to destroy their health.  Sorry if I went off on a tangent a bit.. Basically, I believe that since insomnia can be a sensitive issue, and it can cause so much suffering, those of us who suffer were supporting each other, and someone suddenly popping in stating that they are healthy and fall asleep easily felt like an insult, even though you never intended it that way.  It's as if the insomniacs were opening up, exposing their tender bits, and you came in and poked at them with a stick.  But as you can see from my lengthy explanation, feeling poked was all about me.. not you.

I would say for educational purposes of communication... it can be seen as some kind of personal attack to jump in and exclaim how you don't have problem x, when a group of people are in the middle of commiserating that they do have problem x.  Especially when it comes to issues involving personal health, and most especially mental health.

Quote:I have a form of autism.

Does that statement seem to imply any fault?

Taken by itself, no, but there may be some circumstances where this statement would imply fault.  For example, if you are having trouble communicating with someone and then make this statement.  There could be an implication that the person you're talking to isn't being understanding or patient.  Or it could imply that you, the autistic person, is at fault for being difficult to communicate with.  Faults aren't necessarily "on purpose" but people often still feel bad about having them.

My husband also has a form of mild autism, so I'm always curious about communication with autistic people.  I often feel like my husband is not listening to me.  I think non-autistic people tend to take for granted an ability to read between the lines during communication.  There's a general awareness (subconscious even) that most people have about someone's circumstances and underlying thoughts that could be associated with what they're saying or writing.  This awareness is highly influenced by one's own experiences with the given subject, and can often be completely incorrect.  When this happens, it's called "projecting", that is, projecting your own experience on to someone else's.  I think the benefit of being autistic, is that perhaps an autistic person is less likely to project in this way.

Quote:
Quote:That they suffer from ill-health or lack of sleep due to their own actions, or sins.
I meant to give no medical or spiritual advice, only a small statement about my own health and health in general. Perhaps one person who is chronically tired after "sleeping" all night may look into it and realise they have sleep apnea, or that reading in bed is psychologically interfering with sleeping. (That is true. using one's bed for things other than sleeping and...marital functions I suppose, can lead the mind to associate it with productivity rather than rest).
I'm curious about your original intention in posting what you did.  Do you feel compelled to respond to nearly every thread in the forum?  If so, why is that?  Was it a desire to insert a bit of humor via irony?  Do you see how your comment was ironic?  Are you aware that the OP had an implication that the thread was meant to discuss problems with sleeping and not the complete lack of problems with sleeping?
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#2
I know a boy, now in college, who I helped tutor through middle and high school who had Aspergers Syndrome.  It is a form of Autism.  I can't speak from a professional point, but the limited experience I have had with him taught me a lot.  He was incredibly, incredibly smart.  In 9th grade, he was to write a paper on space and the planets.  I had him tell me, verbally, what he would like to write about.  Next thing I know he was talking about the physics and astrophysics of gravitational pull in black holes,...etc.  (he lost me!!!!)  However, he had great difficulty communicating with other people.  He struggled at normal social norms (ie. not interrupting, "small talk", etc.)  He would often say things that he thought were compliments but often rubbed people the wrong way, or he would just blurt something out when it didn't fit in.  For example, if his mother and I were talking about his homework, he would randomnly say something like "You don't look as sick as you did last week".  In other words, he was saying, "you look like you are feeling better" but it would kind of come out wrong and often at a bad time.  He hated to be around people and went to extremes to avoid social situations.  He did not know borderlines well.  For example, during one session (he was in 12th grade) we were studying history or something and he randomnly started telling me about trying to have sex with his girlfriend.  He just did not know what was appropriate to talk about and what was not.  But here is the thing... you meet him on the street and you would NEVER suspect any kind of disability at all.  He seems like a completely normal, smart, shy teenage boy.  And  I think this caused him the most problem.  People did not realize his struggles so when he would say something inappropriate, they were very offended - not realizing he meant good by it.  That's about it on my experience.
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#3
Has anyone here ever heard of Temple Grandin? She is a woman who was diagnosed with autism at a very young age (which was rare for the time period, especially because she's a female and autism disproportionately affects males). Anyway, she's well-known in the cattle industry for designing...something. Something to do with humanely slaughtering the cattle. Anyway, she wrote a book called Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism. (Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Pictures-Expanded-Tie-Vintage/dp/0307739589/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278004464&sr=8-5. It's also been made into a movie recently.) In it, she talks about her difficulties interacting and communicating with other people, her problems adapting to new scenarios, etc. Unlike most people, who think in a kind of internal monologue or voice inside their heads (at least, that's how I think, so I'm assuming most others do as well), Grandin thinks in visuals. She describes the whole thing in the book. She also notes that other folks with autism might think in mathematical or musical terms, instead of in words. This may give some insight as to why some people with autism are non-verbal. She also says that as a child, she was classified as severely autistic, but that she would now be classified as having Aspergers, showing how people can move along the spectrum throughout their lives.

I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in reading a first-hand account of some of the issues discussed in this thread. A warning: It's not the most fluid read. Grandin is certainly not linear in her thinking, and her unique experiences with language are reflected in the book. At the end of some of the newer editions of the book, however, she does give some great tips on how to communicate with people who are on the spectrum.

Also, did you know that some people in psychology, medicine, and related fields consider ADD/ADHD part of Autism Spectrum Disorder? I think the jury may still be out on this one, but it's certainly interesting to consider the possibility.

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#4
I went to college with a guy with Aspergers, and we always just though he was just weird and awkward before he told us.  He would say a lot of things that came off as conceited or rude, or he would simply talk at length about things that were inappropriate.  I have no idea how much he realized, but when, after knowing him for three years he finally told someone he had Aspergers, it all made more sense.  i think he realized he was awkward, but just didn't want to be thought of as "that kid with Aspergers" and be written off before people got to know him.  For that I really don't blame him.  Knowing a name for it didn't really change much, we had all realized he couldn't help it long before that.

Over the internet here at FE we often end up reading things by people we don't know, and without things like body language and tone of voice to go off of it is easy to be offended or take things the wrong way.  Expressions from other parts of the world make no sense (those darn Brits) and things will be misread no matter what we do.  Just give people the benefit of the doubt and don't be too thin-skinned, and we can all get along just fine.
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#5
(07-01-2010, 01:33 PM)Penelope Wrote: Also, did you know that some people in psychology, medicine, and related fields consider ADD/ADHD part of Autism Spectrum Disorder? I think the jury may still be out on this one, but it's certainly interesting to consider the possibility.
I think to a large extent, ADD and ADHD are very broad diagnoses that encompass many things, which have yet to be differentiated well.  Some of them likely are related to Autism. 

I've known quite a few people with various forms of these two diagnoses (as well as some with autism), and some seem totally unrelated.  There does seem to be a higher number of really smart people with  these conditions, which make me wonder why we keep trying to "fix" them...
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#6
(07-01-2010, 01:51 PM)Dust Wrote: I've known quite a few people with various forms of these two diagnoses (as well as some with autism), and some seem totally unrelated.  There does seem to be a higher number of really smart people with  these conditions, which make me wonder why we keep trying to "fix" them...

I know what you mean.  Some of these things that are being labeled as disorders are more like interesting and rarer personality types.  I think the main reason they are often classified as disorders is because modern society tries so hard to put people in boxes.  Everyone is supposed to have the same cookie-cutter childhood, the same education, the same circumstances etc.  Reality produces many variables and when those variables don't fit in the cookie-cutter, our culture/society tends to see it as a problem.
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#7
(07-01-2010, 02:15 PM)miss_fluffy Wrote:
(07-01-2010, 01:51 PM)Dust Wrote: I've known quite a few people with various forms of these two diagnoses (as well as some with autism), and some seem totally unrelated.  There does seem to be a higher number of really smart people with  these conditions, which make me wonder why we keep trying to "fix" them...

I know what you mean.  Some of these things that are being labeled as disorders are more like interesting and rarer personality types.  I think the main reason they are often classified as disorders is because modern society tries so hard to put people in boxes.  Everyone is supposed to have the same cookie-cutter childhood, the same education, the same circumstances etc.  Reality produces many variables and when those variables don't fit in the cookie-cutter, our culture/society tends to see it as a problem.

I tend to agree with you both, although I do think there can sometimes be a fine line between quirky and... disordered? That might not be the best word, but I can't think of another at the moment.

Dust Wrote:I think to a large extent, ADD and ADHD are very broad diagnoses that encompass many things, which have yet to be differentiated well.  Some of them likely are related to Autism.

They also seem to be incredibly over-diagnosed. It's as though every first-grader who can't sit still for an entire hour of math or reading has ADD. That's not to say that some people don't legitimately have it; some do. Rather, it's just that not every child who finds school boring needs to be medicated. But that's another thread for another time.

Meanwhile, here's a list of famous folks who some speculate may have had autism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_...d_autistic
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#8
(07-01-2010, 11:27 AM)miss_fluffy Wrote: I decided to start a new thread with my full response to Herr Mannelig's question about communication with slightly autistic people.  I hope that "slightly" is an appropriate adjective here.  I understand that there is a whole spectrum of autistic disorders.  I consider that an autistic person who is able to communicate easily, with just some social difficulties, is slightly autistic, but I could be wrong.
There is a continuous spectrum of Autism, then there are a few labels which stand out by their own self. Asperger's Syndrome is not normally considered "slightly", and it doesn't really fit next to Classical Autism, but one could say "slightly autistic" to give an informal description of one's outward expression. The normal term is "High functioning" though.

Quote:But as you can see from my lengthy explanation, feeling poked was all about me..
But it wasn't just you. It was everyone else who "saw" it. Communication goes both ways. Issues of communication always involve two people (unless it is a choice of one person, then it is that person's fault).

Quote:My husband also has a form of mild autism, so I'm always curious about communication with autistic people.  I often feel like my husband is not listening to me.
He often feels you are not listening to him either.

Quote: I think non-autistic people tend to take for granted an ability to read between the lines during communication. 
Yes, but the funny thing is, they do not realise it until they see someone different, and even then, they do not realise it well. Individuals are the worst person to explain their own psychology. That is why I hope my book is useful, because it is intended to help people with autistic communication styles and people with average personalities communicate with the simple idea that communication is mutual, and not the domain of one person (except in some cases).

Quote:There's a general awareness (subconscious even) that most people have about someone's circumstances and underlying thoughts that could be associated with what they're saying or writing.  This awareness is highly influenced by one's own experiences with the given subject, and can often be completely incorrect.  When this happens, it's called "projecting", that is, projecting your own experience on to someone else's.  I think the benefit of being autistic, is that perhaps an autistic person is less likely to project in this way.
No, we do the same thing, it is just simpler. A person with autism will, like normal people, expect others to be normal, like oneself (normal being oneself, as we all tend to base our observations of others against the perception of self).

Quote:I'm curious about your original intention in posting what you did.  Do you feel compelled to respond to nearly every thread in the forum?  If so, why is that?
I read most threads (although I sometimes avoid ones I do not think will interest me), and I respond to relatively few. For every post I make, there was one I didn't make or one I typed out and then decided not to post. I read, type and navigate the Internet really fast compared to most people. I really don't spend that much time on FE compared to my other activities.

Quote:  Was it a desire to insert a bit of humor via irony?  Do you see how your comment was ironic?
It wasn't a desire, but I see what you mean and yes, that was part of it.

I did think of it as diversity though. Sort of like the question:

"You have a bucket, a spoon and a long rubber hose. There is a bathtub full of water. How do you drain it?".

People will invariably discuss the given items until someone comes along and says "I"d pull the plug", which bathtubs have.

Quote:  Are you aware that the OP had an implication that the thread was meant to discuss problems with sleeping and not the complete lack of problems with sleeping?
Sure. It would be silly to have a thread discussing methods if one did not expect actual methods. But, my response was appropriate for the subject and it was different, therefore, it was worth posting. If someone sees a thread to which their reply would be unique, wouldn't most people post?
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#9
(07-01-2010, 01:07 PM)chiella Wrote: I know a boy, now in college, who I helped tutor through middle and high school who had Aspergers Syndrome.  It is a form of Autism.  I can't speak from a professional point, but the limited experience I have had with him taught me a lot.  He was incredibly, incredibly smart.  In 9th grade, he was to write a paper on space and the planets.  I had him tell me, verbally, what he would like to write about.  Next thing I know he was talking about the physics and astrophysics of gravitational pull in black holes,...etc.  (he lost me!!!!) 
This is common. However, I would like to point out those with Asperger's are not "smart", only usually educated. Their intelligence is average. Obviously, a person with high intelligence can have AS, but that is not connected to it. For every person with AS and high intelligence, you'll find clueless morons too.

Quote:However, he had great difficulty communicating with other people.
Yes, he did. You had even more difficulty communicating with him too. So, one could say other people are as much a problem as him, especially if these other people are more aware of it.

This is the purpose of my book: to help communication.

Quote:  He struggled at normal social norms (ie. not interrupting, "small talk", etc.) 
"normal social norms". That sounds like me. I often duplicate words like that. However, I would like to point out that he didn't struggle any more than you struggle at discussing a topic like him.

Quote: He would often say things that he thought were compliments but often rubbed people the wrong way, or he would just blurt something out when it didn't fit in.  For example, if his mother and I were talking about his homework, he would randomnly say something like "You don't look as sick as you did last week".  In other words, he was saying, "you look like you are feeling better" but it would kind of come out wrong and often at a bad time. 
With experience, we learn to use this thought process to help us (hopefully). A compliment, given as fact, it much less likely to be misinterpreted and you'd be surprised how referencing a person's beauty or other "positive" characteristic in a statement will cause that person to be very, very pleased. The time and quirks of normal people cannot be taught. It must be learned with experience and that takes time and mistakes.

In real life, I am quite skilled with other people (in RL, this means no talking most of the time so it is easier...as presence is part of communication and on the Internet, one must actively interact to be seen). At work, people know my characteristics, yet, do not know there is a name for it. They call me "professor" or "alien" (ET, actually) not knowing those are common labels for people with AS! Sometimes, when they call me that, I want to say "That is common for us", but when one is as skilled as myself, letting people know the label doesn't normally help.

Quote: He hated to be around people and went to extremes to avoid social situations. 
Considering how other people probably treated him, this makes sense. It is very stressful to be around people, especially for long periods of time.

Quote: He did not know borderlines well.
He probably did. He just didn't care or it took way too much effort to actually use it in actual communication. Imagine a bunch of weird rules which don't make sense that you should follow in communication. You may "know" them, but in practice, ignoring them is easier if the "punishment" for breaking them is not that great. In other words, taking a lot of effort to communicate is often not worth it.

Quote:  For example, during one session (he was in 12th grade) we were studying history or something and he randomnly started telling me about trying to have sex with his girlfriend.  He just did not know what was appropriate to talk about and what was not.
On the other hand, I've seen normal people discuss such things openly.

Quote:  But here is the thing... you meet him on the street and you would NEVER suspect any kind of disability at all.  He seems like a completely normal, smart, shy teenage boy.  And  I think this caused him the most problem. 
Of course. It is just a personality trait. Everything else IS normal. Plus, if he was particularly attractive, he'd get more problems. When I was 14, I made a decision to wear only black (and a certain style of clothing) and not cut my hairs. Being "different" externally makes it much easier to be different internally. I look different, therefore, my different personality is "normal". People tell me to cut my beard and that I'd be quite attractive (I am with it, but according to their norms, and I know my face when naked is attractive by some standards) and be able to get a girlfriend or job or whatever easier. I know though that the benefit of it outweighs that. While looking more normal would give more opportunities to start something, it would not go any further. When it comes to other people, those who can get past outward differences are more likely to accept other differences so I am not limiting myself, only saving myself the trouble.

Quote: People did not realize his struggles so when he would say something inappropriate, they were very offended - not realizing he meant good by it.  That's about it on my experience.
No, people usually don't realise it. He likely developed depression and anxiety and probably resentment because of it. People with AS are very likely to die from this.
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#10
(07-01-2010, 01:42 PM)Dust Wrote: I went to college with a guy with Aspergers, and we always just though he was just weird and awkward before he told us.  He would say a lot of things that came off as conceited or rude, or he would simply talk at length about things that were inappropriate.  I have no idea how much he realized, but when, after knowing him for three years he finally told someone he had Aspergers, it all made more sense.  i think he realized he was awkward, but just didn't want to be thought of as "that kid with Aspergers" and be written off before people got to know him.  For that I really don't blame him.  Knowing a name for it didn't really change much, we had all realized he couldn't help it long before that.
He realised it. He may not have known exactly how he appeared to you though. And having other people know makes a big difference. I know when other people know, and I do not reference it. I think it is funny how awkward normal people get when they know.

One of the problems with it is that people expect one to be a savant or to be highly intelligent or knowledgeable about many things. This can be annoying. I've learned to deny any knowledge of things and only claim to know what I know.

Quote:Over the internet here at FE we often end up reading things by people we don't know, and without things like body language and tone of voice to go off of it is easy to be offended or take things the wrong way.
On the other hand, it often removes that hurdle. So I can write something without worrying about eye contact, position or whether I happen to be in my underwear or not. The only problem is that the use of silence is lost, which is a very big part of communication in person. The advantage is that I can "talk" more.
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