Back to the Beginning #3 – Easily Frustrated

People with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) are easily frustrated. It comes from our black and white view of the world.

If things aren’t going well, then they are going badly. If things are going badly, there is no guarantee that they will go well again, so we get very frustrated, because this bad situation is what we may be stuck with from now on.

Our black and white thinking is reinforced by (or is it created by – I do not know) our poor muscle planning. We know that if we get into a bad situation, it is not going to be easy for us to quickly get out of it. Our body does not naturally know how to jump out of the way of a ball flying at our head, or a hammer coming down on our finger.

Also, we know that it is going to be harder to learn a new physical skill. And if it is a physical skill that has many parts that are all performed quickly, such as a golf swing, we feel overwhelmed.

In neurotypical people, mirror neurons in the brain allow one person to watch someone else do an action. The person watching is then able to copy that action immediately, and is able to practise that action in his or her head. It has been shown that for neurotypical people, practising the motion in their head is just as effective is practising the motion physically.

This is not so for people with ASD. The mirror neurons do not function properly in an ASD person. An ASD person must consciously train his or her body to do everything (except, of course to jerk in surprise at loud noises!).

Because everything is so difficult to learn, this makes learning new things more frustrating for the ASD person.

Also, it has been found that people with ASD do not have a natural continuum of emotions. They go from being fine, to extremely frustrated instantly, with no gradiation. With training, they can learn to control the external manifestations of those instant emotions, but those emotions will always threaten to come.

Thankfully, with prayer and leaning on God’s love, people with ASD can learn to give their extreme emotions to God, and let Him show appropriate Christian self-control through them.

God can use these intense emotions for His purposes, too, when the person has learned to respond to them properly. For instance, God abhors many things in our current culture. People with ASD feel this same abhorrence so intensely that they cannot ignore it, as can so many others who are able to feel at a lesser intensity.

This intense emotion can then keep someone with ASD consistently working against these abhorrent things, while others just go along with them, not realizing the harm. The key for the person with ASD is to let God channel that intensity into a loving, merciful response, rather than the natural rude, hurtful response.

Lord, I need more help in speaking the truth in love.

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The Good News about Autism Spectrum Disorders

Once we (people with Autism Spectrum disorders) believe something, it is very hard for us to change our mind, no matter the information put in front of us. So if we believe what is right, we won’t be easily swayed from it.

 The things that are important to us are always on our minds. We are driven to focus on those things and are not easily distracted by what we consider to be trivial. So if the things of God become important to us, everyone around us will know.

 We have heightened senses and are not easily able to block out the input that we receive. So if God is talking to us, we have a hard time not listening.

We are very literal. So if the Bible commands that we do something, we are not at rest until we are at least trying to fulfill that command.

We have an excellent memory. So we are good at knowing what to pray for by recalling what God has said and what others have shared with us.

As with all strengths, when not used for God, these very strengths are also our greatest weaknesses. So, quite frankly, the only thing I have found to consistently work when parenting my son, and encouraging myself, is prayer for God’s strength.

I pray for strength and courage for all of you to follow God today – loving the unlovable, caring for those who would be orphans if it weren’t for you, and may He provide joy in places where there couldn’t be without His miraculous power.

Are there really more kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders today?

I do not know anyone with a severely austic child, and I don’t know anyone personally who has a child that seemed 100% neurotypical until 2 years old and then lost language skills, so maybe those sorts of ASD cases are on the rise.

But I have found that among the “almost normal” kids on the Autism Spectrum there seems to be at least one parent that also exhibits Asperger’s symptoms, and often there is a grandparent. 

In my child’s case there is a parent (me), a grandparent, two great-grandparents, at least one great-great-grandparent, an uncle, a great uncle, several great-great aunts, and some cousins both in his generation, as well as several generations older.

So is it on the rise, or is the speed of our society such that it is just more obvious that people have a hard time with transitions?

Also, when I was a child, school was very orderly and eveyone did their own work. Now that the focus is on group work, people who have a hard time working in groups are going to be more obvious.

I think it is excellent that students are required to learn in groups, as that is required to survive as an adult. It just makes kids with ASD more obvious, which is good so that they can get the help that their older relatives didn’t.

Socially Isolated

Because our brains don’t process the world in the same way as most everyone else, we don’t understand other peoples’ points of view, and they don’t understand ours. This leads to frustration on both sides. No one wants to be in a continually frustrating, draining social setting, so each party draws away from the other.

Because we don’t handle transitions and unfamiliar situations well, we have  a hard time getting along with anyone, because no person is going to be completely predictable, consistent, dependable, understandable. The panic or frustration we feel when we encounter new situations makes it difficult to relate to others. This is why we usually talk about ourselves. Not because we don’t want to know about you, but because, we don’t know what to ask, or are afraid we won’t know how to properly respond when you say something we didn’t expect.

The only thing that has helped me get through social situations is a lot of prayer – Go God!

“We all did really well, because we are all friends.”

The title of this blog comes from a statement made by my neurotypical daughter after her dance recital dress rehearsal several weeks ago.

She and her class of 11 6-7-year-olds had just finished rehearsing and she wanted to know how I thought they had done. I have learned how to be bit neurotypical with her, i.e., I have learned to not tell everything I am thinking, but to put a positive spin on most things, unless hearing the absolute truth is necessary for her long-term success in life.

So I replied, truthfully, that I thought it was the best they had ever done, and that, almost truthfully, I noticed that she only seemed to be confused at one section towards the end of the dance (really, there were a few other places – but she seemed to get back on track faster in those places, so I decided to just keep my mouth shut).

I wanted to go into a typically-Aspergian detailed description of every good and bad point of the routine, but knew that would not be helpful at this late hour, so I just said that I thought everyone seemed to do really well, and something about only a few getting lost at a few places, just like her (I just can’t blatantly lie all of the time, and wanted to make her feel like she had done just as well as everyone else – which she pretty much had), so it was really good.

Her response to my assessment was the title statement. From what I have learned from observation and anecdote, I guess that is a very typical attitude among neurotypical girls of that age (maybe of all age? – anyone with insight into this can let me know…).

For me, that is the strangest statement in the world. How does being friends have anything to with how well you all did? I mean, if they had gotten together and drilled each other on the routine, OK, then I could understand. But they didn’t. They worked hard in class for 45 minutes once a week, and very seldom did I see them help each other out. The helping was pretty much left to the teachers.

Also, my daughter never even saw the other girls outside of dance class. So to say that they were all friends seemed a stretch. Aquaintances and classmates? Yes. But friends? 

I found her assessment incomprehensible, but very touching.

I think I should try to find ways to try to think a bit like that. It would  make life sweeter, I think. Though I don’t think it will be easy for me to do: )