Asperger’s and Pain

So often I have read that people with Asperger’s Syndrome, and other ASDs do not respond correctly to pain. It is true that we do not respond typically to pain. It is often assumed that we must not feel pain at the same level that others feel it. We definitely do have a different way of integrating our senses than others. But the thought that we do not feel pain as strongly as others, I believe to be untrue.

Here is what is really going on (at least for me, my son and other biological relatives of mine who do  not think they have an ASD, but probably do). We sense the pain, but we do not want anyone else to know that we are sensing it. To let someone know means that they will start asking questions, and they may start pressuring us to treat our pain. We fear the treatment, because it may involve  even more pain, and there is often no 100% guarantee that the treatment will treat the pain. There is often a tiny percent possibility that the pain may actually become worse, or that even if the pain goes away, some other horrible side-effect will remain.

We have seen how life can work, we are generally not optimists, so we assume that the worst will happen to us. Therefore, we would rather stick with the current known pain and its familiar circumstances than trade it for a lot of unknown circumstances, that could include a lot of social interactions with a lot of unknown people in a lot of unknown places that could result in even more pain and unknown complications.

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.

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.

Back to the beginning: Being fearful of new things

In my first blog, titled, “Where to Begin,” there is a list that I said I would give insights into later. This is a bit later than I had intended, but here it goes.

Number 1 on that list was: Fearful of new things.

Because we are not good at processing new information quickly, a new thing can be very intimidating to us. We know that we may figure out how to deal with this new situation before we become overwhelmed. And once overwhelmed, all useful brain and motor function ceases, as it does with any individual. 

Another key part of being scared of new things, is that we know that we are not good at motor planning. Motor planning is the ability to get youir body to do what you want it to do. We know that if this new thing starts to do something that makes us uncomfortable, we probably are not going to be able to get our bodies to do what we want fast enough to keep us from being overwhelmed.

An example of this would be my son’s fear of learning how to pour his own cereal. He knew that there was a large risk of cereal spilling, and he knew that if that started to happen, he probably wouldn’t be able to take the necessary actions to stop the mess until it had become big and overwhelming.

Eventually, because he was tired out being outdone by his little sister, he decided that he would try and pour the cereal. Sure enough, as the bowl started to overflow, all he could do was watch the cereal pour all over the table and cry for help. 

He wasn’t able to decide quickly enough what to do about the spilling cereal. And even as he realized that he should stop pouring the cereal, he wasn’t sure how to make his body do that, and couldn’t tell his body to move because he felt so overwhelmed by the mess.

An example in my life as an adult will have to follow, as it is time to get the kids up for school.