Friday, July 25, 2014

Apathy Towards Autism

The title of this article alone is interesting and I am about to explain my reasoning for wanting to post an article like this. There is indeed a harsh truth to face in times like these where people are very much in a rush to get things done and they won't care about what other people are going through in their everyday lives. I have witnessed unpleasant events over the years in my life that have triggered a realization on my part, a revelation that in part I hoped I had never wanted to see, but knew deep down that I would have to face it.

It's no secret that if you are a part of the Autism Spectrum, no matter what form of Autism you have, you are going to have it rough in more ways than one. You are going to experience things that just don't feel right to you, and when you see things that truly bother you just the same as it would bother a person who is normal by comparison, you are left speechless, thinking to yourself "Why are these things happening around me? Why are these people treating me differently? Why do they prefer to treat me like this?"

I get those feelings quite a bit. Simply because I look the other way because of the condition I have, Asperger's Syndrome, does it set off negative feelings from the people I talk to. Simply because of how I view a task that needs to get done and how I proceed to perform that task does it seemingly offend the person who ordered me to perform that task the way that he or she wanted it to be done. Simply because of how I sometimes flounder about, looking confused and forgetting what I needed to do at a critical point in time, does it make others roll their eyes right in front of me.

After the fact is the most painful experience that one with a form of Autism can endure. After the fact that you have revealed to the other person, who didn't know up until that point, that you had a form of Autism does reality sink in with you and hit you hard. Even after you have explained your condition with other people and explained to them what you are going through on a daily basis, it can become all the more difficult for some people to ever take you seriously.

You explain it to other people that "Hey... I have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and this is why I sometimes act the way I act..." and you go into great depth as to why you take certain actions, and yet, it feels like you have separated yourself all the more from these other people. It feels like no matter what you do to tell people that you are indeed different compared to them, you will always get this sense of an invisible brick wall being planted down in between you and other people.

Especially when you are in the unfortunate situation where you are in desperate need of help and you try your best and hardest to reach out for help does it feel like the ones you reach out to for help won't truly receive your message nor truly understand what you are dealing with. There almost always feels like some sort of angle or loophole that other people will use to keep you, the one with Autism, down and tell you that this is the way things are, so either you deal with it or get out of their business.

I will just be blunt and say that I don't appreciate this mentality that I just mentioned, the mentality that other people will use in an attempt to keep me down, as if they can take advantage of me because of the fact that I told them I have Asperger's Syndrome. That is one thing I will never stand for, and that is to be taken advantage of and tossed around like a rag doll in the metaphoric sense. Asperger's Syndrome, and by extension Autism in general, are mental conditions that do separate us from other people who are normal by comparison, and it must be understood by others that this isn't something to take lightly, nor to laugh it off and take it as a joke.

One good example of this would be the case of one with Autism contacting representatives of a big corporate business and asking them for help. Let's say that this person with Autism is one who is looking for a small internship of some sort, just trying to get his or her foot in the door in this business. This Autistic person wants to have his or her first opportunity at securing a job that could lead him or her to something more important down the road.

Now the catch is that this more important job this person is seeking requires experience in doing the job, which is something this person doesn't have. The willingness to take on the responsibilities of the job is there on the part of the Autistic person, as well as the desire, the drive and the passion for whatever job field this person is wanting to be a part of.

The problem? There is a lack of understanding on the part of the big corporate business representatives. The amounts of lacking the understanding of the Autistic person can go through the roof in cases like these, especially when the visions of big corporate businesses can get so clouded and jaded and only reflect on one or two aspects of how the people in positions of power want their businesses to be run. The message of the Autistic person easily gets lost in the shuffle, gets pushed aside because of the normal protocol that is used by the business, and is eventually forgotten about altogether. A simple plead for help shunned in just a short amount of time.

What's another example of having your message ignored by the business without them actually telling you that your message has been ignored? They will respond to you and dangle an invisible carrot over you in the form of donating to charity. The business will reply to you by saying that they have constantly donated to charities that promoted Autism Awareness and they will try to redirect you to these charities so that you can get involved with whatever these programs are doing. What these businesses ultimately do, though, is dance around the bush and never truly address the issue that you want brought to light, which would be for you to be given an opportunity at that internship and platform to more important jobs.

This is basically the company's way of telling you "We acknowledge that you have Autism, but we don't really care about your condition nor really respect it" without actually telling you that. In their own view, this is their own cute PR way of handling a serious issue that you want addressed, and by handling, I mean sidestepping the issue completely and blowing you off. That's business for you. That's how these representatives view business sense. That's how they handle protocol without taking into account all of the variables that go into the situations of some people's lives.

Is this fair? No. Of course not. I don't advocate these kinds of business practices nor do I support the attitudes that are used when handling important issues such as potential future employees wanting to get in but are held back in some way, such as dealing with the Autism Spectrum. It just shows me how easily corrupt, stagnant, vanilla, cold-hearted and apathetic "The System" in this world really is.

Apathy. This is what businesses mainly use when they need to get out of a sticky situation. This is how businesses mainly feel about someone who is looking for help and will do anything to get help. There is a certain darkness that covers the world of corporate business and I'm sure some of you know what I mean by that. It's one thing for you as a company to acknowledge what condition one has and what a person is going through, but it's another story altogether for a company to not show any care or respect towards that condition.

Companies are only looking at a few aspects of the big picture today. They are only viewing the economic and political sides of issues, which is a bad combination for further clouding up the views of these companies. These companies will put so much focus on how much money they can make and how strong the bottom line is for a product's profit, and they will put so much focus on how legal, questionably legal, somewhat legal or illegal some policies and practices are that they will miss the main point of what someone is trying to make.

A person with Autism is looking for an opportunity, a job, an opening to be created in some form so that he or she will be able to perform on grounds that are reasonable for all parties involved, but many companies and businesses will turn away from this lightning quick, as if it's a non-issue. It has been made clear by the inquiring person what he or she needs, so it's not rocket science. We should also be in business to create open doors and excel with those open doors. Sadly, many companies have forgotten about this.

In closing, I will say that there will be many people you will encounter in life that truly won't care what you are going through, and these are the kinds of people who are so stuck on themselves and so mindful of their own bottom line and fame that they will do anything to protect their own standing in life. This world is a Dog Eat Dog World, a term many of us are familiar with, and many people just won't give you an opportunity, no matter how sincere you are in wanting to help a company out.

You will probably know it when you read it in an email response or if you hear it from other people on the phone, or see it up close in-person. You will probably know when a person doesn't care about Autism in general, what it's about and how impactful it is on one who is diagnosed with it. Throwing money at a charity for Autism Awareness doesn't solve everything, so it shouldn't be portrayed that it does. Taking action and addressing the issue will always speak louder. With The Autistic Help, it's my business to bring this to the light.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Making Eye Contact

Making eye contact... It's pretty much one of the staples that indicate a person has Asperger's Syndrome. It's one of the defining traits of a person with the condition. Is this trait hard to deal with and comprehend? At times, it may feel that way but there is a reason why we as Autists don't make eye contact with other people.

Even with the easier and more understandable questions that we are asked, we sometimes fold under these circumstances simply because of the fact that there is some sort of intimidation factor at play. We assume that the people who are asking us any kind of questions are being strict and forceful in their tones, but that isn't always the case. Perception isn't always reality in the case of one who has Asperger's Syndrome. Failure to make eye contact with another person may lead to more interesting questions from the other person, particularly addressing the eye contact issue.

How do we respond? How do we answer such questions knowing that the other person has caught on to the fact that we have taken the unusual (to them) route of not looking directly at them? Do we continue to not make eye contact with them? Well, that's easy to answer. No. We should do our best to make direct eye contact with them at this point because they have noticed something that we thought wouldn't be noticed. Now do we dodge these questions? No. We answer truthfully to our friends, even if we don't want to admit that we have a form of Autism.

Making eye contact is a basic task and it is a symbol of paying attention to what another person tells you. Keeping your eyes directly on your conversation partner means that you are taking whatever your partner is saying seriously. If we turn away from our conversation partner and look at everything and everyone but him or her, then our partner might start thinking that something is truly wrong with us. Eye contact is one form of a universal language and it helps people identify with you as a person. Making eye contact or not isn't a deal maker or a deal breaker, but one's perception of you will surely change regardless.

Considering what we with Asperger's Syndrome experience, this comes across as being very difficult. We need to be aware of this form of universal language and accept the fact that this is how the rest of world see the act of making eye contact. We may not think that the results of making eye contact or not apply to us, but in reality they do. Especially when you have someone like a boss at a job occupation who is giving you direct, strict orders, telling you what to do, you had better pay attention to what your boss is saying. You don't want to give him or her the wrong impression when it comes to eye contact! Believe me, I have been there.

Whenever I look away from a conversation partner, I never intend for it to be an act of disrespect. I never intend for my lack of eye contact to be portrayed as something rebellious. What is the main reason for why I don't make eye contact with others in a conversation? Well, it is simply because of the fact that I look ahead of where the conversation currently is. I view the conversation as something that might spiral into something of a jumbled mess if things go wrong. I get nervous when I get into a very serious conversation with someone else. I'm not in fear of the other person, but it's just that I get the feeling that I will be choked up and I won't know what to tell the other person. Having a lack of information or having no information at all has a negative effect on me in a variety of ways.

The windows to the soul are the eyes and perhaps even looking at someone who doesn't make eye contact in the way that one with Asperger's Syndrome does it would be telling enough. I don't know how it feels to be the other one, the conversation partner. I don't know it would feel for me to be in that pair of shoes, to be normal in comparison, and see someone with Autism or Asperger's Syndrome react by not making eye contact with me. Considering how God created me, I probably am not supposed to know, and that's alright.

My advice for you on the subject of eye contact is to try motivating yourself to make eye contact. Sometimes our minds wander and our eyes follow our minds to wherever we look, and that might be fine for us, but for others it might not be fine. Motivate yourself to make eye contact when you are listening in on the conversation. Understand what your conversation partner is telling you and go from there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Not Knowing Where To Go

Have you ever had that feeling that when you were so prepared to do something positive that there was a possibility that something negative could all of sudden develop out of nowhere?

What I mean is we initially had plans to do something that comforted us and we really wanted to go to a certain place and do that one thing we wanted to do, but then something just got in the way. Something just didn't seem to resonate or click with us mentally and it redirected us into doing something we didn't want to be doing. For example, we have a hobby that we want to settle down with and utilize and there's a special event dedicated to the hobby we're interested in. We go to that place and at first everything appears to be alright. We wait for something to materialize in this hobby on this big day, but then... nothing does materialize.

Living life with a form of Autism, we can get it in our minds that whatever we initially plan will go according to what we think will happen. We want the best case scenario to happen, something that will make us happy. However, the hobbies we have have a tendency of turning against us due to unforeseen circumstances. With Autism, many of us are free to admit that we have a tendency of wandering off and doing something that will relieve us of something that may be potentially stressful on the big day of a hobby. We assume that the rest of the party will get around to us, wherever we are, and those people will treat us just the same as everybody else.

It turns out that after the fact we did something wrong. We were in error the whole time in what we were thinking simply because of the assumptions we went on. Sadly, these kinds of events happen to us Autists plenty of times.

Let me explain this topic. "Not Knowing Where To Go"... That perfectly describes how I felt when I went to an event that I really wanted to go to. I went to an event containing something that comforted me and made me feel happy because it was something that I knew I was good at. As a teenager, I was once enrolled as a member of a youth Chess federation and I loved to play the game of Chess with anyone, whether Autistic or normal.

As my childhood years progressed, I grew to love the game of Chess because of the strategy that was involved in the game. There was a time (and it feels like ancient history talking about it now) when I was really good at playing Chess, and so good that I was the last kid to be eliminated by a Chess Grandmaster in a Simul competition. There I was, the last kid at a table playing a Chess Grandmaster, holding my own with all the knowledge that I had on Chess, and I didn't even know that I had Asperger's Syndrome back then.

Anyway, I went to an event, a youth Chess tournament that was intricately organized by a tightly knit group of Chess tournament conductors. They ran down the rules and guidelines of what was expected of us kids, what we should do, how we should conduct ourselves, and where to be when Chess play began. Unfortunately for me, I lost focus on the last part. My mind wandered off to think about a variety of things, not to mess around on purpose and definitely not to intentionally miss out on a big Chess opportunity since I loved playing the game, but that's what happened to me here. I went to a certain area outside of the main building where the Chess tournament was being held and... I just stayed there. I sat there on a bench and waited. What was I waiting for? Anyone's guess, really.

The main thing was that I didn't know where exactly to go to play my Chess tournament matches and this was where I made my mistake. I didn't get up and move. I should have suspected that something was amiss when I started waiting. I went on my assumptions as a kid with Asperger's Syndrome, thinking the tournament directors would get back to me.

Long story short, I ended up playing at least 1 Chess match against a kid, but I could have played 3 had I not went on my assumptions, but there again, we as Autists have our comfort zones that we establish for ourselves and it can be hard for us to step out of those zones. This event that I attended contained a majority of kids that were normal in comparison, and perhaps because I knew in the back of my mind that I was different than these other kids in one way was one reason why I felt nervous enough to wander about. I really don't have a full explanation as to why I missed out on this Chess tournament opportunity. There are some puzzling Autistic moments about my life that I probably may never be able to explain. Only the Lord my God can be able to explain why my mind functioned the way it did back then.

There have been a few similar events involving me when I got so excited that I ended up forgetting where I was supposed to go. I assume I need to go left to reach my destination, but I'll need to be corrected and be told to go right. Do I go up a few rows? No. I need to go down a few rows in a stadium. Take a turn early in the path? No. I take a turn later on in the path. I have been reminded by my family that my navigational skills haven't been real good overall.

My advice to those reading this blog post would be simply to speak up. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask for directions to go to where you need to go. Don't just assume that the people running the show will eventually get back to you and let you know when a certain event will begin or resume. There are other people involved and not just you, so be aware of what the other people involved are doing and where they are going. Just refer back to my Chess tournament experience.

I hope people will find this helpful as a reminder of knowing where you are going.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bullied and Ignored

Socializing with other people comes very easy for some. In fact, socializing can be the #1 thing for the kinds of people who want to express their feelings in great detail. The more bubbly, cheerful personalities that are outgoing and very much present in the lives of other people have no problem socializing no matter what the occasion is.

There are some people, though, who find it difficult and perplexing to socialize with others. Truth be told, people who don't understand the various forms of Autism will make light of what we're actually going through. The kinds of stress that we as Autists endure may not be considered as stress for the common person. Those who don't understand the Autism Spectrum, and more so those who don't want to understand, will almost immediately give us a label of shame, telling us that we're not allowed to have the opportunities that they receive. They think of us as people who aren't just mentally rewired, but also unstable and unfit to put up with.

I can't begin to tell stories of times when I check on message boards on the internet that contain things that interest me, I will notice "cheap shot" comments from some message board members poking fun at people who have any form of Autism. The tones of these posts take on the form of "I really don't care what this condition is about even though I hear about it often", and undoubtedly, the feeling of me reading such posts does hurt. Sometimes people will just downplay Autism like it's no big deal in a playful manner, not really meaning what they say, but other times people will get really stuck up and cold about it.

Socializing in the outside world has its difficulties, so why did I mention something about insults on the internet? I mention this because the blunt apathy towards the Autism Spectrum carries over from the internet to the outside world. What people type down on a message board doesn't change how they view something when they speak in the outside world. If a person says something like "Why are people with Autism so weird and crazy? They act like creepy freaks, don't you think?" on a message board, that is what they are thinking and that is how they will view an Autist if they bump into one in the real world.

What an Autist does is different to a person who isn't part of the Autism Spectrum comes across as awkward, and in some cases, sadly, an Autist's actions doesn't resonate with this person in a positive way at all. For whatever reason, some of the things that we as Autists do absolutely annoy these kinds of people, and to the point where they have to arrogantly stick their chins out and tell us what they think is normal. They develop some sort of superiority complex against us and they will antagonize us and let us know who's boss in their eyes.

It is sad for me to tell you that bullying has a strong presence in the world today, with people being ugly, mean, rude and ruthless to each other. You see it all the time, reading about it in newspapers, watching news reports of it on TV, or you may just see it up close as you pass by a place. It is sad for me to tell fellow Autists that we are targets to bullies as well. We are bullied in some form or fashion every day. We are picked on for not just what we believe in, but we are picked on because of the fact that we do have Autism. Once a person, or Mr. Know It All, catches wind of the fact that one has Asperger's Syndrome, he will pounce on that subject and he will try to paint a negative picture of that one Autist.

As a kid, I was bullied by school classmates. Big time. Of course, back then they had no idea that I had Autism but just the simple fact that I viewed things differently and that I went about my life differently was more than enough to get these classmates to take notice of me, and not in a good way. They looked at me funny back in the days of elementary school. They laughed at me, called me stupid, made jokes about me... The whole 9 yards. They even roughed me up once at the bus stop on one morning while getting ready for school.

This crowd mentality, or mob mindset, of them focusing on just me and picking me apart felt okay to them, never considering how I felt about it. Of course, I had a brawl with these kids at the wrong time, just before the school bus arrived, and yeah, the bus driver saw what was happening as she pulled up. My classmates and I were called to the principal's office and we had to explain ourselves. Some of us have clearly been there.

My point? Had all of us known that I had Asperger's Syndrome, I highly doubt that incident would have played out any differently.

When a crowd mentality develops, no matter what the reasoning for it is, it's nearly impossible to break that mentality and scatter the sheep. To some people, it's simply the cool thing to do to gang up on a person they know is different than them, even if they don't know why that person is different, and they will bully and harass that person because it comforts them and their egos.

Some of you who are part of the Autism Spectrum who are reading this have probably endured bullying quite often. I know how hard it can be. I know how much harder it can be made when I consider the fact that I have a form of Autism and I need to find a way to socialize with people in a positive way. Being bullied and messed with in general can get me down, and it does. It has an impact on how I feel about socializing. At the end of the day, though, I know that all people are bullies. Some people truly want to help, and I believe that we as Autists tend to forget that part of the equation. We only see the emotional side of socializing and we dwell on those emotions a bit too much.

Feeling ignored is similar to being bullied in some ways. We won't always interact with people who become bullies. We will just interact with people who are indeed nice to us, but they will have no clue as to what our mental conditions are. Autists have a way with hiding their conditions very well. People don't know it until it is said that we have a form of Autism. They would not have known it otherwise because we sound normal to them. When these people turn away from us and include a 3rd or 4th person in the conversation, we will more than likely be pushed aside in the socializing department.

That 3rd or 4th person will have plenty to say, and much of what they say will fly over our heads, and then we will back away from the conversation completely because we don't know what else to say. Eventually we will get the feeling that we are being ignored by the other people in the conversation. We try to chime in and say that we're not familiar with what they are saying, but they keep talking. Our body language won't relate to the body languages of the other 3 people, and then the socializing ends.

This is a hard topic for me to address because I know that not all Autists' stories are the same. Other Autists encountered their moments of being bullied or feeling ignored differently than how I did, and while I may not know how bad it was for the rest of you, I do know this. You can't let these experiences defeat you. You can't dwell on what a bully did to you. You can't dwell in a conversation that pushed you away from the pack. You can't beat yourself up over what a bully thinks about you. So what if 3 other people are taking control of the conversation? Be bold enough to chime in when the time is right and don't feel bad about it.

People with Autism have a tendency to become morbidly depressed about their dire situations, but really, it's not healthy for you to act that way. I'm guilty of being morbidly depressed and I am called out on it. I understand why things can go wrong but my emotions just take over and I will focus on the one thing that went terribly wrong. I can't stop thinking about it at times. Get away from the negative and focus on the positive things that you have done. You have to try to black out the negative as much as you can.

You just have to be bold and walk by faith that you will move forward.

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