The Hidden Village of Aspergers

September 21, 2014

Autism and Girls:

This has got nothing to do with the Space miniblogs, but 1) I need a distraction from the despair of my beloved Everton getting totalled by Crystal Palace, and 2) I found this on Facebook and it interests me.

Flyer found on Facebook

Flyer found on Facebook

In case the text is a bit hard to read, I’m going to reproduce it here and add my comments:

Unlike stereotypical autistic boys, autistic girls may have:

– No language delay problems This is true, I learned to talk quite young – I was about two, I think.

– NO interest in technical things (like spinning wheels) I don’t remember having any interest in ‘technical things’.

Autistic girls often:

– Are very shy Yes, I was pretty shy. Still am.

– Are less prone to aggressive outbursts (especially away from home) I don’t remember having any aggressive outbursts as a kid. Those came later, as a teenager and an adult woman.

– Want to make friends Yes, but it was very hard for me, which goes without saying.

– Copy social behaviour I still do. I have a rather large complex about what is and isn’t the ‘right’ way to do things. I should probably not take behavioural cues from Tumblr, though.

– Only have one mother hen friend at a time I’m not sure what a ‘mother hen friend’ is, but I was the sort of kid who’d have one best mate rather than a large crowd of friends like my brother did.

– Are highly intelligent and academically gifted Yes. I wasn’t a savant, but I did get good grades.

– Have very good memories (such as for facts or events) Yes, and not much has changed there. To quote my brother, “Lotte is an encyclopaedia of family history. She remembers everything.” This actually came in handy recently, regarding my mother, in an event which I am not prepared to talk about right now.

– Say NO a lot I might have. I don’t know. 

– Have poor eye contact, especially with strangers Yes, and I still do. If I don’t look you in the eye, I’m either nervous, or I don’t like you. Generally, it’s the former!

– Enjoy arranging toys into groups or sets Yes. Definitely. And later, CDs and books.

– Are very creative and imaginative Yes. I loved writing stories and I read like the clappers. 

– Create elaborate fantasy worlds Yes. Mum used to get angry with me for living in ‘my own little world’, and I got upset because I felt like she was attacking the fantasy world in my head where all my characters lived. This wasn’t a DID thing, incidentally. It was more like an imaginary friends thing. I used to play with toys and dolls and make up stories for them, often based on things I’d seen on TV.

– Have obsessive interests (such as in animals, songs or books) Yes. Abba, Asterix books, Sylvanian families, certain TV programmes. When I got older, it was Space, Naruto, Everton FC, the Chalet School series, and many other things.

– Are hypersensitive to stimuli (such as sunlight or sudden noises) Yes. I hated people shouting or loud crowds, and would put my hands over my ears or cry. I’m still the same. The partner in the Manchester office kept shouting at me when I was having a meltdown, and that made it even worse. People ask me how I listen to metal. It’s expected noise, basically. You know the singer’s going to start screaming, plus it often has a nice tune or beat to accompany it. I draw the line at drone, though. Friends of mine love Sunn O))), but I could never get into them for this reason.

– Have over-the-top seeming emotional reactions Yes. At one point, Mum said she was going to take me to a doctor because there was clearly something wrong with me, because I cried very easily. 

By age 7 or 8:

– Social alienation increases as peers use more complex nuances Yes. I felt left out a lot of the time, and some girls did take advantage of the fact that I was quite naive and took things literally. 

– Stress increases at home, whilst being model pupils at school Yes. Admittedly, a large part of it was my father’s illness, but there was also the fact that my mum was frustrated at my weird behaviour and my brother and I didn’t get on very well a lot of the time.

Credit for this flyer, by the way, goes to L Style, an autistic mother. At the bottom, she has provided a link to the National Autistic Society’s section on gender.

April 2, 2014

The English Language Let Me Down

All my words done failed me
Every line derails me
This is the day that the English language let me down

Words. Language. Etymology, definitions, wordplay, translation, stories and poems, word puzzles, word games. English, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew. Language is both my friend and my enemy. In I Am Unlike A Lifeform You’ve Ever Met, I talked about books and the imagination. This post covers speech and language.

Somewhere, there is a tape of me reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, aged about two. My first word was ‘duck’. I’m not sure when I learned to talk, though I wasn’t a late developer or non-verbal. I do remember, however, that I spoke in a monotone, and that efforts were made to correct this and have me intone words like ‘normal’ people. Mum also told me my speaking voice was too high-pitched and that I should try and make it a bit deeper, and that I was too loud. “Turn the volume down,” was a comment often directed at me. Years later, in synagogue, the rabbi took me aside and asked me not to sing so loudly at Friday night services as I was drowning other people out. This upset me a lot; I was just enjoying the service and had no idea that what I was doing was wrong, and as it was not an Orthodox synagogue, the principle of kol isha did not apply. Was it because of my Aspergers? How the fuck should I know? Maybe it was. I have no idea how I sound to other people. When I hear my own voice played back to me, it sounds horrible, like a cross between Morrissey and Henry’s Cat. I hate my singing voice as well, possibly because Jack always used to tell me to shut up whenever I sang along to music in my bedroom. I have a bit of a complex about it. How it could turn any nice Jewish boy on, I do not know.

Anyway. Tangents aside, I apparently went to see a speech therapist at some point when I was younger. In terms of writing, I was doing OK – I got team points for stories and essays I’d written at school (I even wrote the script for our class’s production of the story of Pandora’s box), I was in the top group for spelling, and when we had to write sentences using words on coloured cards. It was also at primary school that I discovered an aptitude for languages. OK, I’m not a polyglot and I’m not fluent in any language besides English, though I can speak German pretty well, but I got interested in languages after going to French Club in Year 3, having French lessons off a friend of Mum’s in Year 5, and doing French lessons in Year 6. Even when I was little, the way people said things in other languages fascinated me. When we went on holiday to the Algarve, I pored over the Portuguese phrase book we had. I was fascinated by an old English/French picture dictionary and the conjugations of irregular verbs. How could ‘avoir’ become ‘aurons’ and ‘aurez’, and what the hell was the deal with ‘être’? When Dad went on a work trip to Germany, he brought back comics in German. I didn’t have a bloody clue what any of the words meant, though they did come in handy when I started doing German in Year 9. I found the German language even cooler than French, with its complicated word order and Modalverben and ever-changing masculine definite article. I also liked the way it sounded, and was made up when a friend gave me a Rammstein tape. (Till Lindemann’s voice helped. That guy could sing the contents of the Dusseldorf phonebook and make it sound sexy.)

When I got into Sixth Form, I decided I wanted to read languages at university, since languages were my thing; I was doing A-Level French, German and English Language (and my transcripts of Space interviews came in handy when we were studying accent and dialect!) I wanted to read Chinese or Spanish alongside German. Cambridge turned me down, and I got offers from Durham and Leeds, but went with Manchester, which didn’t do Chinese at the time but did offer Spanish. I took night classes in my gap year to give me a bit of a grounding in Spanish. I find it harder than German, I have to admit. Maybe it’s because German is closer to English. When we were studying the evolution of the English language, I noticed a lot of similarities between Old English and German. The fact it was phonetic, for instance.

On the subject of accents, Rudy Simone writes in Aspergirls that she has a tendency to pick up accents; she recalls being mistaken for an immigrant after speaking in a ‘Hispanic’ accent that she’d picked up from a colleague. The same thing happens to me. The one time I did consciously put on an accent was in high school, because I was being bullied for talking ‘posh’, but after moving to Manchester, something bizarre happened where I was out with mates and I started talking in a sort of weird half-Manc half-Yorkshire accent. Everyone thought I was putting it on, but it was real. I’ve toned it down a bit, but it changes depending on who I’m with and where I am. Expose me to Everton matches or members of Space, and my accent gets a Scouse tinge. In London, it goes a bit cockney. I’m not putting it on to make fun of people; it just happens. It’s a kind of osmosis. G-d help me if this ever happens in Scotland. Perhaps it’s some kind of instinct to imitate sounds, like a baby learning to talk.

As I’ve said before, I find writing easier than talking. Writing helps me organise my thoughts better, and I can rewrite what I’ve written, whereas when I say things, that’s it, the cat is out of the bag. Sometimes I can’t find the right words to express myself when I speak, or I say stupid or horrible things without thinking. At least, sitting at a keyboard, I have a bit more control over what comes out.

August 7, 2011

Arguing on the internet is never a good idea

Filed under: fuckwittage — kankurette @ 7:46 pm
Tags: , ,

For the past year or so, I’ve been posting in a Facebook group that monitors the activities of a certain right-wing group. Members of said right-wing group would come on the group to troll us and post the same tired misconceptions: that we hate Britain; that we are apologists for rape, paedophilia, Islamic fundamentalism etc.; that Jewish members are modern-day kapos; that we do not wash, live in our mothers’ basements and never, ever leave the house; that we are anti-Semites and Nazis, which is kind of ironic, really. Sometimes, there would be neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, and then it got ugly. Many times, I found myself extremely upset at some of the comments posted. I remember being quite badly triggered by some comments posted about Jews who oppose the group in question, and had to be calmed down.

I met up with friends for food a few days ago, and I got talking about the apologism for Ratko Mladic and Anders Breivik that I’d seen from some members, and one of my friends asked me why I still post there when it’s clearly upsetting me, and why I bother trying to engage with these people.

And you know what? She’s right.

Arguing on the internet has never worked out well for me. Oh, sure, sometimes making fun of idiots is fun, but in the long term, you just get angry and frustrated that some people are so ridiculously ignorant. This is nothing new. Way back in 2005, I co-moderated the political forum on the old Hole site, Kittyradio, and was constantly arguing with trolls who didn’t like the band at all and were just there to convert the liberals or something. It came to a head when American users were telling British users we deserved the 7/7 attacks for ‘letting jihadis into Britain’. I left and never came back. I’d had enough.

Some people love arguing. I don’t. It’s not a case of being a coward so much as not seeing the point. When I change opinions, I change them of my own accord; being shouted at and insulted is not going to make me go, “Why yes, I am wrong.” I do wonder if my hatred of confrontation is something to do with the fact that my mother and father rarely argued, if ever, and on the occasions they did, it never got nasty. Unlike my stepfather, my dad never made my mum cry. When my mother remarried, she and my stepfather could get quite heated, and it upset me a lot, because it was something I wasn’t used to. If I was in the room when they were arguing, I’d go up to my room and hide and wait until it was over. At least it never got violent, but hearing raised voices when you’re trying to sleep and someone storming out to sleep in the spare room is pretty disconcerting when, as a kid, your biological parents never did that.

The main problem is that when someone insults me, calls me unwashed or a kapo traitor or a fat ugly Jew or disgusting, or says my mother is a disease-ridden whore, I take it personally and literally. I know I am not dirty or unwashed. I am very conscious about cleanliness, I regularly change my bedsheets and do my laundry and try not to fall into the trap of wearing the same stuff all the time, I shower and bathe and brush my teeth. I will not run away screaming if you throw soap at me, although I would be somewhat pissed off if it smacked me in the head. I know my mother is not a disease-ridden whore and that she has not been having it off with some bored troll on Facebook who’s never met her anyway, any more that my cousin Alfie is a gorilla who rides around on a tiny pink tricycle. With a horn that plays La Cucaracha.

I have to remember that the person who is calling me these names does not see me, know me or care about me. They just see my beliefs or my membership of the group, and make assumptions. I am not really a person to them; I am just some words on a screen with a goofy picture attached. I am a concept. When they refer to women or Jews or queers or disabled people, they think of those groups as a homogenous mass rather than a group of individuals, the same way that some Americans see Europe as one big homogenous landmass rather than a continent made up of different countries, with different politics and religions and laws and cultures. It’s easier to hate the enemy when they are a nameless, faceless, shapeless crowd with no names and no histories. It’s easier to dehumanise the enemy when the enemy has a vague identity and becomes a mass, a ball of Play-Doh, a walking Portguese man o’war, a sentient jigsaw puzzle.

They do not see someone who plays the piano or sings in a choir or watches stupid videos of animals on Youtube or goes to rock clubs and gigs or reads Discworld or whatever. They just see the group, and a piece that has broken off the main part of the puzzle, without looking at the picture on the piece.

And I can’t be bothered with them anymore. I will not change their minds and they will not change mine. They will not listen to opposing opinions or account for their behaviour, blaming it on infiltrators. They are not worth my time or my energy. I could be putting it to better uses, like practising the solo from Kevin Carter or arranging a new referral (and I will remember this time, dammit!)

That day, I sat on the steps in Piccadilly Gardens with my friends, and then we went to Wetherspoons and ate curry and talked about whether George Clooney and Bryan Adams were an item, Tori Amos’ increasing nuttiness, and Whoopi Goldberg’s lack of hair. I left feeling happy that I’d got out and spent time with people, as being ill, I don’t go out as much as I would like. And it was all entirely more fulfilling than arguing with idiots and getting upset over it.

October 19, 2010

A cross between Alan Partridge and Eeyore

Filed under: fuckwittage,language,stuff what i have read — kankurette @ 7:52 pm
Tags: , ,

When I went to the Latitude festival with the family earlier this year, I met up with my brother and his girlfriend after Belle & Sebastian’s set, and amongst other things, he told me to go and check out a young female poet-cum-rapper he’d seen performing around London. Her name was Kate Tempest, and she was performing in the Poetry Tent. She also, it turned out, is from Brockley, the same area I lived in when I was a baby.

Kate Tempest looked pretty innucuous; she had long, curly blonde hair and was wearing jeans and a sweater, and looked more like a first-year student than a rapping poet, but then she opened her mouth, and I was hooked. She spoke of south London, of teenagers growing up on dismal grey estates where she and her friends would ‘paint rainbows’, of troubled youth, of self-destruction and getting drunk and having a fag and saying and doing regrettable things and then writing poems about said regrettable things on wine-stained paper. Watching her in action was incredible; it wasn’t a poetry reading so much as a tornado of language and sound, and I wished fervently that I could articulate myself so well when I opened my own mouth. I can write poetry, sure, but I totally fail at reading it.

One of the reasons why I blog, and why I am writing this, is because I find it immensely hard to articulate myself when I speak. Some people tell me I’m articulate, but I open my mouth and I hear this sound that’s half Alan Partridge’s daughter and half Eeyore, and I stumble over words and sound like some mouthbreathing Baldrick. I hate speaking to people I don’t know and speaking in front of big groups of people, and although I dream of doing a talk for the NAS, or being an advocate like Chris Mitchell, I worry that I’ll start speaking and utter bollocks will come out, but give me a pen or a computer and I’m fine.

So you can imagine how pissed off I was to hear that – and yes, I know this article is a couple of weeks old – Andrew Marr thinks most bloggers are, and I quote, ‘socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting’. Aside from the fact that Marr actually seemed like a decent guy and one who would surely be above such juvenile crap, I actually disagree with his statement. For one thing, it smacks of the whole ‘hurr hurr there are no girls on the internet’ argument so beloved of trolls. The feminist blogosphere say hi, Andy, as do I. Yes, I am blogging and I am a GURL.  (Also, my mum doesn’t have a basement, and I moved out of her house four years ago, so nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. Ahem.)

Yes, the internet does attract people with rather…unique views on life. Yes, there are a lot of angry bloggers out there who spew nothing but hate and paranoia. Yes, there are bloggers who are sexist, racist, misogynist, homophobic, eliminationist, and just plain disturbing. But please don’t lump all of us in with them. For those of us who find it hard to speak, blogs help us. They are a way out, particularly when they can be used to help others – for instance, the Mutual Madness blog, where people will post their worries and queries, and Mental Nurse regulars will do their best to answer them. Mental Nurse itself has done its bit to (to paraphrase Zarathustra, the evil enabler / mod) expose all kinds of liars in the medical profession, and also gaps in psychotherapy egulation that jeopardise mental patients’ welfare. Net result: Mental Nurse has been in the papers. People are sitting up and taking notice. It all smacks of the kind of work my dad did in the early days of nuclear power in the UK, and long may they continue.

Blogs are also a great way to learn about other issues, through the eyes of the people they affect, and not all bloggers of this ilk are the kind who insist Barack Obama is some kind of magical space Muslim Communist Jew ninja pirate. I have an American online friend, for instance, who often blogs about reproductive rights, healthcare, fundamentalist Christianity and general politics in the US, and her blog makes for very educational reading at times. Certainly, she links to news, but also to sites such as Sadly, No! and PZ Myers, whose comments are as worthwhile as the articles themselves. As well as the above mentioned friend, I also read the blogs of queer people who blog about their experiences of homophobia, institutionalised or otherwise; of transfolk and genderqueers who discuss transphobia and gender identity; of people struggling with mental illnesses and physical conditions; and so on. Through the internet, I’ve found a good few people who share the same interests and values as me, and corny though it is, it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone. One of them became one of my best friends. (Hi, Chloe, if you’re reading this.) For those of us who struggle with talking to people in real life, the internet is a valuable tool.

I also find it a great form of release. Some say venting is counterproductive, but not always; I feel better when I’ve picked up the phone and ranted to my mum or a friend, but sometimes I don’t want to dump my problems on other people and force them to listen to my incessant whining. So I write them down. If it’s on a public-ish space, I may get comments, and that’s nice if I do, but the main reason is just to get it out of me. It’s certainly more healthy than picking up a razor blade and slashing my arm. It doesn’t always deter me from doing that, but sometimes it does.

In conclusion: please don’t judge all bloggers by a few idiots. Many bloggers are good people doing good work and talking about things that need to be discussed, and which the media doesn’t always touch – and many of us see our blogs as a lifeline. We can’t say it with sound, but we can say it with writing.

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