Friday, May 12, 2017

This Blog: Taking a Break

I have noticed that once again, just like last year, I haven't been able to update The Autistic Help blog as much as I feel like I should have. Aside from this blog I have another blog to take care of (a gaming blog) and my freelance writing work. I have a packed weekly schedule that involves me doing multiple things, either things that are just for fun such as learning new languages or more serious things such as getting in contact with people who could give me paid work.

I am sorry to report that The Autistic Help is officially taking a break, as in don't expect to receive any regular updates to this blog in the foreseeable future. 

This was not an easy decision for me to make, especially after I said at the end of 2016 that I promised to update this blog more frequently. Here we are in May 2017 and we still haven't gotten much material put up. Just a few posts and that's it. I take responsibility for not setting aside enough time during a week to type out a blog post for The Autistic Help. I'm sure there have been interesting news stories regarding people on the Autism Spectrum that have slipped through the cracks recently, and I haven't been able to find them.

I firmly believe this because I happen to have a love for the Word of God (Holy Bible), but I just think that God is taking me in a different direction in my life. What that direction has in store for me I don't know. I hope that new direction has something good waiting for me to discover. I won't know for sure until I pursue different things about my life. You know, life can be funny like that sometimes.

Have I enjoyed posting stuff on this blog about autistic-related topics? Of course I have. When it was really getting going I was enjoying the feedback I was getting. There's no doubt that this blog has helped me get the word out on what autism is and how people can properly deal with it. This ride has been fun for the most part.

However, there is also an ugly truth to things. Right now autistic people are being negatively shown in mainstream (or I should say "lamestream") media, and it's hard to get the word out on autism in a positive way if all you ever hear from both reporters and consumers of this kind of media is negativity. It's a sad fact of our society today that we're simply too focused on what's negative, and we don't take out enough time to focus on the positive things about a topic or situation.

Let me make this clear. The Autistic Help blog will not be going away for good. I'm only announcing that this blog is taking a break, and it will be back sometime down the road.

I need to take my focus off promoting Autism Awareness for now because it's becoming something that's anchoring me down, and not really helping me. I am still an advocate for Autism Awareness, but I feel that I can no longer be out in the open about it as much anymore, not with the way how society is treating autistic topics now. I have to be more of an "advocate in stealth". That's today's reality.

So for those of you reading this blog entry now, I encourage you all to stay tuned because I won't forget about this blog. I will find ways to (here and there) update it, but it just won't be frequent. I just can't promise that right now.

-Steven Timothy Vitte

Monday, March 20, 2017

Talking About Autism: What to Say

Here is the situation: You are a parent of a child whom you know has a form of Autism. You are well aware of the social challenges that your child faces. You know that direct communication is hard to come by with your child. You want to find a way to communicate properly with your child, but you're not quite sure how to go about it. You want to sit down and have an important chat about what Autism is and what you can do to help your child.

Where do you start? How do you start? What can you do to get a response from your child?

The link above takes you to an article where tips on talking to your autistic child, and I find these mentioned tips to be helpful. I especially like the "talk to your child sooner rather than later" tip because that highlights one of the most glaring problems parents have when addressing their child's condition. Parents choose to bottle up what they want to discuss with their children rather than just stepping forward and discussing what needs to be discussed.

Until your child can be made aware of it, he or she won't know that there are differences between that child and other children at school. Having your child be made aware of his or her condition, no matter what part of the Autism Spectrum it is, makes a difference. That difference is subtle, but as time goes on and reality sets in to your child that he or she really is different that other children, you will be thankful to let them know about those differences early on in their lives.

Let the truth be known as soon as possible to your child that he or she has Autism. If that is what the true diagnosis is, then let your child know. It's that simple. Having your child go through a part of his or her life not knowing what exactly made him or her different to begin with doesn't serve to help anyone. I would know this because I went through my entire childhood without knowing that I had Autism. I had no idea what Asperger's Syndrome even meant when I was a child. I never even heard of that diagnosis.

So what do you say exactly to your autistic child? How do you say it?

I'm not a parent myself, so I can't provide that specific perspective. However, from a casual and friendly point of view, I wouldn't do anything to make the situation alarming or dreadful for the child. You don't approach your child with a sour or grim look on your face. That's a red flag right away. Don't do that. You let your child know that there's nothing wrong, but do let your child know that you have something important to say.

When you finally spill the beans to your child and tell him or her that he or she has Autism, you never try to make it sound like your child has cancer. That's not what Autism is. Don't scare your child into thinking that Autism is something so harmful that they can't recover from. Autism is a gift in many ways, and not really a curse. Autism simply means that you are mentally rewired and you are capable of excelling in certain intellectual categories. Now that doesn't sound grim at all, does it?

Present Autism as an opportunity of sorts for your child. Make Autism sound like it's a badge of honor, as in "This is what you have, and you may be different than the others, but you are not worse off than them. You were meant to do something different, and that's what makes you... you."

Present Autism as a fun challenge of sorts for your child, as a motivational tool. Encourage your autistic child to go through life knowing that he or she will have a different set of obstacles waiting, but there you will be as a supporting parent to give your child that confidence to persevere and endure. Motivate your child and continue to motivate your child, through wins and losses. That's how you both succeed.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Assumptions: The Double-Edged Sword

Here is one topic I don't think I've really gone into on this blog. I most likely have discussed this in some form on The Autistic Help, but probably not as much as I should have. The topic is making assumptions. As autistic people we have to admit that we become prone to making assumptions where we feel okay with, but upon later examination we realize that sometimes we made the wrong assumptions. 

There are some things that we may have done where initially we believed that it was okay for us to do, but then after the dust clears we step back and think again. That's where we can get those gut-wrenching feelings of "Oh, what did I just do?" or "Why did I just do that?" These feelings occur often in us autistic people, and the challenge for us is how we deal with these feelings when we start experiencing them. Sometimes when we see the end result of an action we take, friends and family around us will remind us that we did nothing wrong and that everything will be okay. 

Making assumptions and how we deal with them is what I prefer to call a double-edged sword. Sometimes the sword swings in your favor, but other times it won't. Accidents happen and we need to learn how to sort out problems whenever they appear. 

For us autistic people it comes down to how we perceive an issue. How do we view a certain issue? Was it something that we felt we could fix? Would other people, who aren't autistic, view that issue the same way we viewed it, or at least view it in a similar light? It also comes down to the intent of a person, whether autistic or not. What did a person truly mean to do from the bottom of his or her heart? Were there good intentions? 

Mistakes are bound to happen in life. We all make mistakes. We are kidding ourselves if we believe that we'll never make any mistakes in our lives because mistakes are inevitable. We are only human. We can't really foresee how a certain issue is going to play out. We can process an issue in our minds (as in replay them) over and over again until the cows come home, but we'll never really know what effect an action will have until after everything settles.

I have been there, blog readers. I have made so many assumptions about actions I have took where I stepped back and went "Was that really the wise thing for me to do?", "Could I have done something better about that situation?" or "Did I do enough to fix that issue?" I won't lie. Some of the mistakes I've made in my life have truly bothered me, and to the point where I have felt regret and remorse. I'm just talking about accidentally breaking things or spilling a dinner meal, but I'm sure you get the point.

Be careful of this double-edged sword I'm talking about. Making assumptions can plant a seed of doubt, which leads to unnecessary stress and anxiety, and we don't need any of that in our lives.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Autistic Help Interview #2: Anonymous

Another interview I have lined up was with a friend of mine who shares the passion of being a gamer and particularly a fan of a certain video game series. To respect his privacy I will keep his identity a secret, but he was kind enough to share his thoughts on autism and topics related to the condition. It only takes a few people who have autism to speak out on autism, and then we can better understand what the autistic community is really thinking. My anonymous friend and I hope that you find this interview helpful!

Steven Vitte:
1) What are some of the benefits that you feel you have with autism?
Anonymous: I feel having a unique perspective at times can be my best strength. Sometimes I feel like I have a different way of doing things but in the end, sometimes it makes learning certain skills relatively easy for me than it is for most people.

I also feel happy to have passion about certain subjects I care about which make them more than just an investment of time and rather an investment in my life.
2) What are some of the difficulties you experience with autism?
Definitely feeling like I don't belong at times. Sometimes I also have trouble doing what others can easily. So many times have I felt like "This world is not going to work with people with autism like me". But you have to get these negative thoughts out of your head!
3) How well do you feel you interact with other people, knowing your condition?
In a way, I sometimes wish I never formally labeled myself as autistic. Labels lead to actions you start to take even more knowing that something is different.

For instance when I first figured out, when I felt more confused I had something tangible to point to and blame compared to just saying I am myself. 

However getting diagnosed is the first step towards treatment.
4) How different do you feel you are compared to people who don't have autism?
I feel like I have certain thoughts or unusual aspects of me that other people might not fully accept immediately . But then at the same time, I don't feel 100% different. But different enough to know I have to have a different way to manage through life.
5) When did you find out that you had autism? Your reaction?
Mid-Elementary school. At the time I don't think I realized what a major deal it is. I just saw it as being made different. Only later did I process more that I was more different than I thought.
6) What are you planning to do moving forward?
I plan on continuing with my goals in life no matter how much I have to go through to get there. That means trying to finish my education and be a leader. 

7) How do you feel about some heroes who have Asperger's Syndrome?
I feel really glad they exist. People like them remind me that there is hope. It is not what you can or can not do with limitations. It is about what you ultimately decide to do in life and own it to succeed.
8) What do people need to know about Asperger's Syndrome in particular?
Definitely my number one thing for people to know is that just because you have Asperger's does not mean that are weird or someone you would not want to associate with. That is why many people are embarrassed to have autism in general because in social environments such as school, saying you have autism can sometimes have stigmas where people will treat you different.
9) What advice would you give others who have autism?
No matter how hard it is please go through life. If you need help ask. So many people with Autism are successful or are even MORE successful than their peers without autism. You can do it.
10) What's your advice for people who don't have autism?
Please consider reaching out to a person with autism and try to learn more about them. Many of us want friends who do not autism and are open. But often we are so shy or have low self-esteem that sometimes if someone takes the first step, so much would be easier.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Autistic Help Interview #1: Josh Howell

Readers of The Autistic Help blog, I am pleased to announce the beginning of a new feature that I hope you will like. I am starting to offer interviews to other people who happen to be autistic, and also like me, they have Asperger's Syndrome. I would like to add as many interviews as I can to provide the depth that is needed to make readers understand what autism is and what Asperger's Syndrome is. With these interviews you get to read the opinions of those who actually have such conditions.

Now with my 1st interview, Josh Howell is a good friend of mine who is passionate about things that I am also passionate about. We both happen to be pro wrestling fans and we are both gamers. Here are Josh's responses to the questions I have asked. It was a pleasure to interview Josh, and I hope others with autism will step forward and be interviewed as well! 

Steven Vitte:
1) What are some of the benefits that you feel you have with autism?

Josh Howell: Some benefits that come to mind right away would be my will to survive. Dealing with the rough times in middle and high school was rough for me. Was some of those problems caused by my own hubris? Yeah, I believe that I didn't make things easier for myself at times but outside of that, it was rough. I felt myself going in between stages of violence and emotional flip-flopping. I came close many times towards attempting suicide but I never found the urge to finish it. I would fight it off and keeping fighting. My intelligence is another benefit and one that I will admit I wasted in the later part of college. I disappointed a lot of people that believed that I was not only capable of doing well in college but leaving with sense of pride. 

Sure, I may have the Associate's Degree in Electronics Engineering Technology but at times, I feel unworthy of it. I felt that I was vastly more intelligent than I let on and some people in high school even called me one of the smartest in our class. Now, let me say this. I didn't think nothing much of it at the time because I didn't see it. Sure, my peak in my class was number 17 but the people whom were above me were geniuses. They studied hard and did what was told which I failed to do at times. But as I thought about this more, I began to think a lot better of myself. I may not be able to match their intelligence in some ways but I know there are some ways where which I outclass a lot of the people above me. My will to survive and my intelligence are two things that I feel that my autism benefited.

2) What are some of the difficulties you experience with autism?

This is an interesting question for me because I have experienced a good portion of the difficulties associated with autism but for sake of keeping it short, I'm going to limit to two common issues with me. First is interpersonal relationships especially with girls, this is one of the toughest challenges for me without question. Due to some of the conditions that plague me, it's tough for me to form friendship with anyone let alone any girl. 

My social awkwardness and my inability to understand body language really didn't make things easier on me and sometimes, it's those things that make me either too over cautious or too obvious with my actions. There's one girl in particular that comes to mind when it comes to how I handle girls/woman now. For privacy reasons, I'm going to change her name but she knows who she is. Sidnay is that one particular girl that I have had some difficulty with and I attribute that to my own fault. I needed to know when to back off and when to approach a girl in the right way and I felt Sidnay did help with that. Do I still have trouble with girls? Yeah, but I have gotten better over time. I can deal with rejection much better, now, I'm just chilling till the right girl comes along. 

The 2nd issue is sleep problems. I have a hard time sleeping for the normal 7 hours that's required even tho I do believe that a human can function with 3-6 hours of sleep just as well as someone who has 7 or 8 hours of sleep. Bits of tossing and turning and lots of nocturnal/early morning awakening is common with me but I'm beginning to fight that much better. 

3) How well do you feel you interact with other people, knowing your condition?

Outside of my struggles with girls/woman, I feel that I'm doing very well when it comes to interacting with people. I have my circle of close friends that I can trust and respect. I have a circle of people who I can be cool with. I've talked about my condition a few times on social media but I'm certainly more than willing to discuss it in public without hesitation.

4) How different do you feel you are compared to people who don't have autism?

I don't feel any bit different compared to those whom don't have it. Maybe it's because I'm on the higher functioning end of the condition? Who knows? I feel more intelligent and more confident in myself for sure.

5) When did you find out that you had autism? Your reaction?

I was diagnosed when I was 4 years old. I didn't have a reaction at time because I was too young to understand that and I wasn't capable of speaking not for another full year. I believe I do remember my mother's reaction. It's was rough on her at first because she and no one else in the family had any history of the condition. I was the first one in the family with the mental disorder. 

Later on, one of my nephews was shown to have it and it look like the autism chain in our family starts me with me and him. She was then told a list of things that I would have never been able to do and it lit a fire under her. She became determined to mold me into the man that could do anything no matter what anyone said otherwise. I found out in the last 6 years and it's changed how I looked at the world for sure. 

6) What are you planning to do moving forward?

Well, Amazon recently offered me work so I will be working for them and hopefully, I can move from Part Time Seasonal Employee to Full Time Employee. Knowing me and how much I work, I feel that will happen soon.

7) What advice would you give others who have autism?

Never let anyone tell you that you can't accomplish nothing in your life. Do not be afraid to discuss your condition with people because you never know whose willing to help you or at least learn more about you. Never give up even when the times are rough and you feel that life isn't worth living. Keeping fighting and you will see that life is worth living in the end.

8) What do people need to know about Asperger's Syndrome in particular?

Asperger's Syndrome is an Autism Spectrum Disorder on the higher functioning end. The symptoms for this ASD are less severe compared to the others. Those whom have Asperger's tend to have weakened social skills, sleep problems, not be able to read body language, obsession with certain topics which can get unusual, and tend to have other conditions piled on.

9) How do you feel about some heroes who have Asperger's Syndrome?

Well, to express a feeling, I feel that I should name some people who inspire me that share being autistic or have been attached to the ASD train. Two particular individuals named Satoshi Tajiri and Stanley Kubrick. These two have been associated with autism and it speaks a lot to their lines of work. Tajiri being the founder of Game Freak which lead to the creation of Pokemon, one of the most dominate Nintendo franchises. Kubrick being one of the most iconic flim directors in history known for A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining. Those two men are figures that I can respect for making a name for themselves despite any short comings.

10) What's your advice for people who don't have autism?

Do research and try to understand what you are dealing with. Be patient, be honest and be willing to help whenever you are needed. Autistic people have gotten far in the world with the help of people willing to help them. We have tasted fame in movies and in the video game industry. We would love to see people not only support those who have autism but those whom have any mental disorder of any kind.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Positive Spin on Autism 3

Now here comes a 3rd positive spin on autism, and the base link that I want readers to focus on is a link that doesn't have such a positive tone. Here's where I can turn this linked article into a positive spin.

I'm just going to be blunt when I say this. You don't need to read very far into this linked article to find out what the higher ups of any country in the world think of you, the autistic person. It's painfully obvious that this article ties this "proposed plan" around this core belief that people who are autistic simply can't take care of themselves and that they need crutches for every single facet of their lives.

When you read articles like this one it becomes very clear that it's very easy for media know-it-alls; i.e. journalists who spin news to fit a specific agenda, to put a negative spin around almost every issue that involves autistic people.

For the record, Autism Speaks, that one famous organization that is mentioned at the end of this linked article, isn't an organization to be trusted. I'm sad to say that I've had a not so good experience communicating with Autism Speaks. It involved me seeking help to find work with the help of Autism Speaks, and let me just say that this organization is not one to have the backs of autistic people like you and me. In fact these kinds of organizations don't exist to cater to our best interests. These organizations only exist to make a quick dollar and put autistic people down in the process.

"Wait! Where's the positive spin in all this?" This is where I make that turn.

I hold the belief that we autistic people are creative in varying ways. We are wired differently, after all. We think differently compared to other people, so with that in mind, I think it would be best for me to suggest that we put our rewired minds to the test. We need to challenge ourselves mentally every day to do something productive, no matter what it is. We need to focus on what we do best mentally and put that part of us on center stage while we mask our weaknesses as best we can.

I also believe that we shouldn't let politicians, media personnel, business people, etc. speak for us as if they understand what we go through every day. Simply put, many of these people don't get it. We shouldn't let these kinds of people put words in our mouths and create ideas that won't truly benefit us autistic people. Many of the ideas that come from the mentioned people above are created to benefit themselves, if anything.

The Autistic Community is real. It's a community that matters. It's a community that needs to stay in tune with what the current perception of autism is in the eyes of people who aren't autistic. It's a community that needs to speak for itself. Autism speaks, but not in the way that Autism Speaks sees it, if you know what I mean. Autism is NOT a disease that we need to cure because quite frankly it's incurable. That's a fact. The best thing for us to do is to deal with the cards we have been dealt, so to speak, and bring out the best parts of ourselves while we blaze a trail for us to live decent enough lives.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Positive Spin on Autism 2

Here's another positive spin on autism. Reading this article in the link above you will realize just hos widespread the issue of parents having to deal with autistic children is. A father is asked about how he deals with his son who has autism. The answers that the father gives in this article are telling for all the right reasons. It is going to be a work in progress no matter how you tackle this issue.

Though there are challenges, the father has remained loyal to his son and sticks by his son. A father's love for his son is something so invaluable that it should never be taken away.  Charles Jones handles autistic related issues the right way. He has every right to worry about his son Malik, and he will have to teach Malik that there are some things he has to pull away from doing, such as the hard flapping of hands when he gets excited. However, it's the reassurance from both the father and the son that everything is going to be okay that makes this article stand out.

Simply put we need more positive stories like this one. We can't be all "doom and gloom" and assume that every autistic person's story is going to have a sad ending. That's not how we are supposed to live our lives. We can't live in fear. We can't keep expecting the worst case scenario to keep playing out in our lives. The bad days that autistic people have in their lives probably won't be as bad as the bad days that those who take care of them will be. It can be stressful for these caretakers and it is stressful.

If you are a parent of a child who has autism, it is in the best interest of the entire family not to get discouraged. Will you have your challenges in dealing with autistic topics such as sensory issues? Yes, you will. However, in the single life that you live you have to be willing to adapt. As they always say, "Roll with the punches". If you're not willing to roll with the punches and adjust your lifestyle to accommodate your autistic child, then you will be doing the whole family an injustice.

Don't see your relationship with your autistic child as a "badge of shame" that you're forced to wear every day. There is no shame involved when it comes to having an autistic family member. It is easy to get discouraged today in a world where many, many, many (I put emphasis on that word intentionally) people want to see you fail and fall flat on your face. Let your relationship with an autistic family member be a positive experience, and also a learning experience for others to observe and hopefully replicate.