Tuesday, May 26, 2015

10 Things an Autistic Adult Wants You to Know

 Originally published in the Wall Street Journal May 12, 2015 by Lydia Wayman

1. I remember conversations from when I was two and phone numbers I haven’t seen in two years. But I need direct support in the grocery store and when crossing the street. The first sounds impossible and the second ridiculous to most people, but it’s the only normal I know. 

2. Just because I have the words to type it doesn’t mean I have the words to say it, and when I do say it, it’s rarely as I wish I could. Sometimes, I can explain my quirks; other times, I need a keyboard and some time. 

3. I never like being too loud or interrupting or getting upset at a noise, especially in public. It takes a lot of effort to manage my interactions and reactions—and sometimes I still fail.

4. If I ask a question or say I don’t get it, it means I’m confused. Please don’t make me feel worse. I don’t laugh when others flop at recalling a date or the spelling of a word—things that are effortless for me.

5. What may be slightly bothersome to you, like the waistband on a pair of pants, can ruin my day. A sensory issue occupies every bit of my brain and body until it’s remedied, and it isn’t always easy to say what’s bothering me.

6. I try to treat others as I want to be treated, but since my wants are often different, I look rude or careless when I’m doing my best to show the same kindness I like to receive.

7. I am extremely sensitive to sensory input. The world is almost always too much, so I have to regulate my body as I react to every passing car, beeping machine, barking dog, siren, and so much more. It’s very hard for me to remember that I can ask for a break. Sometimes I walk away, pull out my phone to type or look over favorite cat pictures, or disappear to the bathroom (if there are no hand dryers!). I’m not being rude—I’m doing what I need to do to be able to be there at all.

8. I’m not a child with a precocious vocabulary. I’m not an adult who refuses to grow up. The boxes built for typical society won’t work on me. I’ll break them every time. Save those judgments until you know me.

9. I’m not missing out on normal; I’m happy with uncommon. I’m more isolated with another person than my cat. A keyboard brings me closer to a long-distance friend than a lunch date ever does.

10. I’m different, not broken. Sometimes my needs make it look like I’m not capable… but I don’t know how most people function with such forgetful memories and lack of focus. Everyone’s brain has strengths and weaknesses. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who give me the support I need to be successful. But I have gifts, too… just the right ones to help families understand kids like the one I was so—hopefully—all their lives are fuller. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

What is OCD? Myths and Reality


Additional Resources for you to Explore 
OCD is a complex disorder. While the causes of OCD remain unknown, there are a host of resources available for families and professionals to learn more about this complex disorder. For example, the International OCD Foundation website has a plethora of resources available including a directory of professionals who specialize in OCD as well as support groups for individuals and families. The video gallery at Beyond OCD’s website has a number of experts discussing various issues related to the disorder. Watch and listen for some expert opinions on OCD.

Given that OCD tends to be highly comorbid with other anxiety disorders, the Anxiety and Depression Association of American website also offers a wealth of information and resources including podcasts and fact sheets on a number of anxiety disorders and treatment options available. For example, here is a podcast on Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Psychopharmacology for OCD. Listen and learn! You can also check out Natascha Santos’ blog (the educator who wrote this lesson!) for additional resources. Interested in listening to an interview with this educator? Go to eHealth Radio which includes several interviews with Dr. Santos on anxiety disorders including OCD.

Think you may have OCD? Try taking this screening quiz. Lastly, here is a list of online OCD resources that may provide more insight into this disorder and answer some of your questions.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

This weekend we honor those who gave their last full measure of devotion. It is fitting that we remember that Freedom is not free.

We sleep well at night because rough men [and women] stand ready to do violence in our name…George Orwell


Perhaps nothing speaks more eloquently to the sacrifice of the soldier than President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Time to Geek-Out: Yes Time Travel is Possible....Someday

For those of us who dream about time traveling this is a very interesting theory on how to get it done.

Go the the entire lesson from TEDED

Additional Resources for you to Explore
Time travel is something that humans have been thinking (and arguing about) for a very long time. There are plenty of good science fiction stories out there that tackle the subject is a very interesting way and really make you think about the practicalities of time travel. HG Wells's The Time Machine (1895) is a classic and a must read.

Gravitational Time Dilation

Our lesson talked about time dilation being caused by things moving a different speeds relative to each other. However, there is also another form of time dilation that we didn't get to – gravitational time dilation. Albert Einstein came up with this too, this time in his general theory of relativity (which came after the special theory). In this work he shows that if a clock is placed near to an object with very strong gravity then that also slows down time. Move further away from the massive object and time speeds up (relative to before, of course).

Because astronauts and satellites orbiting the Earth are slightly further away from the centre of the planet (compared to people on the ground) they actually experience less gravitational time dilation. On its own this would mean astronauts' time would run faster. However, this effect is quite small because Earth's gravity is quite weak and so the time dilation due to their speed wins out and astronauts really do travel a tiny amount into their futures.

Time travel to the past

We only had time to talk about time travel to the future – which, as we've seen, has already been achieved. However, time travel to the past would also be a popular option. Imagine instead of learning about Henry VIII, JFK and Michelangelo in a classroom, you could travel to Tudor England, the White House of the 1960s, or the Sistine Chapel during its painting and experience it first hand!
Scientists love to argue about whether time travel to the past is possible. The short answer is that it probably isn't. In any case it is a lot harder than going forwards in time. Some physicists have concocted an elaborate way that might one day achieve it, however. Their scheme uses a hypothetical tunnel in space called a wormhole, that is turned into a time machine by using the effects of time dilation. But, there is a catch. Time traveling this way, it is impossible to go back to a time before you have built the time machine. Having not built it yet, you couldn't go back to before today.

Such a machine also throws up some rather thorny questions. Firstly, the moment you build your time machine you might end up inundated with visitors. This is because once it has been built it exists at all future times (unless someone subsequently destroys it). So someone from the future might use it to go back to meet the person who first built it. You probably wouldn't get a chance to use the machine yourself as you'd be so busy meeting people who will use it in the future!

There are also problems with paradoxes. Say a time machine that can take you to the past is one day invented. 100 years after it is invented, a time traveler uses it to go back in time and then shoots his grandfather when he was a teenager. Now dead, his grandfather cannot grow up to marry his grandmother and have his father. If his father was never born, then how was he born? How can someone who was never born travel back in time and shoot someone? These problems are used by some physicists to argue that time travel to the past is therefore impossible.

If you're interested in some of these questions then there are plenty of books out there to read. I have written a book myself called “The Big Questions in Science: The Quest to Solve The Great Unknowns”. The final chapter is called “Is time travel possible?” and looks at both forms of time dilation, as well as how to build a time machine to the past using the wormhole technique.
Other good books on the subject include:

Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Time by J. Richard Gott

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review: Uniquely Human, A Different Way of Seeing Autism

Let me begin by saying that everything I have been writing about autism for years is now succinctly discussed in the book, Uniquely Human, A Different Way of Seeing Autism, by Barry M. Prizant, Phd.

Dr. Prizant starts his discussion on autism reflecting on the dehumanizing process and dehumanizing understanding of autistic individuals. He says autism is seen as a group of deficits. He states emphatically that it is this negative view of autistics that is disrespectful and devaluing.
       [sic]The present approach to autism [sic]...."treats the person as a problem to be solved rather than an individual to be understood. It fails to show respect for the individual and ignores the person's perspective and experience. (page 17)"

Dr. Prizant continues on with his discussion of the concept of "recovery." Basically alluding to the reality that according to the psychiatric world, persons who no longer exhibit autistic-like behaviors are no longer autistic. which in reality is in contravention to what any autistic self-advocate will tell you. The brain is wired, as it is wired. Simply "training" an autistic person to act neurotypical does not change how the brain functions. Once born autistic, a person will always be autistic, no matter their external actions and behaviors. Understanding this unremarkedly simple concept is what will lead to a better understanding of autistics, which will in the end also lead to better supports, programs and more respect.

Dr. Prizant discusses that one of the main issues lacking within society's understanding of autism is a simply discussion of "why." A three letter word that would clarify so much about the life of a person with autism. Why does an autistic person react the way they do? What is causing a meltdown? What is causing stimming? What outside influence is causing the autistic person such discomfort? Why are we, as a society, not paying attention and respecting how an autistic person feels in any given situation? Why are we not listening? Why do we also only look at coping mechanism in a negative light? Why in many ways does their actions cause us discomfort, instead of forcing us to understood the autistic person withwhom we are interacting?

Dr. Prizant writes about a more appropriate central model of autism: understanding the concept of emotional dysregulation. What does it actually mean to be emotionally dysregulated? How is that different than simply being overwhelmed, as many of us are at times? The author discusses what can the school, and others, in an autistic person's life do to help them handle issues and become better regulated without being condescending and ultimately destructive? He mentions how emotional dysregulation, more than any other characteristic, should be what defines autism.

In essence, everything autism-warrior-parents discuss with their child's village is a  theme in this book:
Dr. Prizant talks about echolalia and how that is beneficial to an autistic trying to figure out speech; The organizational and control issue that everyone tries to eradicate from an autistic mind, yet in reality is not only a coping mechanism, but a huge benefit to successful functioning;
Enthusiasm, even going over to obsessions and how they can be harnessed to create positive learning environments as well as direct an autistic into a given career/job/opportunity;
The need for autistics to have trusting and happy relationships. Pr Prizant dismisses the myth that autistics are unemotional and uninvolved with those around them. Infact, he discusses that the opposite is true. Those with autism are unusually attached to people in their lives;
There is a discussion of PTSD, emotional triggers and its relationship to autistic persons, what ot do and how to help;
Then what does it mean to "get it?" What are we required to do to help autistic be all that they can be.

Dr. Prizant goes on to remind us all that there are two kinds of experts in the world of autism. YOU, the parent, are the expert on your child. You run the village. You organize your child's world. You understand who they are and what they need better than anyone else. The other expert Dr. Prizant mentions, is adult autistics. Finally in this generation, there is a voice out there that tells others what it means to be autistic. They tell us what has helped and hindered their development. They openly explain to us how society can support autistic people, ultimately leading to productive and satisfying lives and benefits for all concerned. Listening to them and accepting what they have to say about themselves is a major aspect of creating a more respectful and accepting society.

Dr. Prizant discusses the idea of a LONGVIEW goal. (Something I have always said doesn't have to be realistic, no matter what the "experts' tell us.) He mentions how each autism family is different and has different needs. That there really is no one catch-all model for autism. That in the end, we need to make sure that we allow for self-determination, happiness and a total sense of self for each and every autistic individual.

Finally Dr. Pizant addresses some of the more well known myths about autism and what they mean. He gently, but firmly, explains and dismisses every idea that at present is holding back an autistic person's acceptance into the mainstream of society.

In the end, I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is as I said in the beginning, everything I have been saying, writing and advocating over the last two decades. It's nice that someone in the psychiatric world not only "gets it," but "gets it" big time.

PreOrder this book at AMAZON
From Dr. Prizant's website
From iTunes

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book to write the review. I received no financial incentive of any kind.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Celebrating Mom This Mother's Day

Those who follow me on Facebook know that I lost my mother several weeks ago due to injuries suffered in a car accident. So this Mother's Day is rather poignant and honestly sad for me. But I could not let the day go by without telling the world about who Mom was, and what she had accomplished.

You see Mom was raised in the era of Mad Men. She was a secretary in the office of the General Counsel of CBS. Today they would call her a paralegal, but then, secretary was it. She always talked about how noone ever encouraged her to go to college or pursue a career on her own, unlike her brothers, who her parents pushed to pursue higher education. She was raised simply to be a wife and mother, and that was it. Now there is nothing wrong with being a wife and mother. heck that is what I have chosen. But it was more the idea that that was all she was supposed to be; her desires and needs sublimated to those around her.

Mom was also a young adult when the world began to change. Women were learning that they did not have to be lesser than or unimportant in the world. Women were learning that they too could demand the right  to be anything they wanted to be. So a young mother of daughters was determined in life to make sure her daughters did have a choice as to their own future. That they would control the world around them and when they made choices they would be educated choices.  She ended up with a lawyer; a gemologist; a brilliant-computer-WhateverTheHeckSheDoesWithTechnologyIHaveNoIdeaButItsAmazingSiS.

Mom was the rock of our little family. Whatever mission my father was on, Mom was right there supporting him. She worked hand-in-glove to help Dad accomplish all that he had done. (Read  A Righteous Man My Father). There is the absolute truth that Dad could not have accomplished all the good that he had done in his life if it were not for the support of Mom. As she had said to him at one point," not bad for two little kids from the Bronx..."

Mom finally got tired of living alone after Dad passed and  last week she had agreed to sell their house and move in with me, Wise Old Sage and the two boys. I told her to take the money from the sale of the house and go travel, see her other children and be free to do as she pleases without having to worry about overhead. I told her it was OK to enjoy her life and I would make sure that she did. Heck, I told her there was a gym nearby where she could even take water aerobics...."You think of everything," she remarked....you see, I wasn't taking "No" for an answer.

But in the end,,, Man plans and God laughs......

What do you say about your mother in the end? What is it that I will miss the most; The hour long chats by Facetime; The laughter and silliness that we used to share; How she listened to me complain....even about my sisters; When she told me every time we hung up that she loved me? I think in the end what I will miss is her....simply her.

My parents on their wedding day.

My parents on their wedding day.

Brilliant-computer-sis, mom and me

Telegram inviting my parents to the signing of the Camp David Accords. My father was an adviser to the Carter Administration on the Holocaust and wrote the original proposal for the US Holocaust Museum.

Mom in the Golan, on one of her trips to Israel.

My father being sworn in to his Reagan Presidential Appointment to the State Department.

Mom and her Maltese, Chaiya, on her birthday this past November 2014. Don't worry the doggie lives with us now.

My parent's wedding song