autism science comedy hour: third installment? i think?

Some choice titles from the latter half of this calendar year:

“Metabolomics as a Tool for Discovery of Biomarkers of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Blood Plasma of Children.”
My commentary: GO TO FAIL. Go directly to fail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. On a list of “places it makes sense to look for ‘markers’ of autism,” I believe “the blood plasma of children” only ever cracks the top five when the list is written by an actual vampire.

“Hyper-Theory-Of-Mind in Children with Psychotic Experiences.”
My commentary: I’m not laughing at you. I swear. Really. Not even laughing at all. Well. Maybe giggling. Just a little bit. Okay a lot. Maybe more than giggling? Yeah, okay, I’m laughing at you.

“Resveratrol prevents social deficits in animal model of autism induced by valproic acid.”
My commentary: The best part about this paper is its use of something called “The Three-Chamber Sociability Test.” The second best part about this paper is that its animal model is the rat. The sociability test involves three cages: a central, empty, neutral chamber, and two other adjacent chambers, one of which contains an empty cage, and the other of which contains a cage with a rat-stranger inside. The subject rats are determined to be typically sociable if they spend more time in the chamber with the rat-stranger’s cage than they do in the chamber with the empty cage. This does not make sense to me: 1. All the bitchy internet introvert discussion forums would like to collectively object to any test that labels rats “anti-social” simply because they don’t like hanging out with a male stranger more than they like hanging out by themselves. 2. When you’re a human in a system of enforced/monitored cages, and you’re given the choice between sharing a room with a strange dude, and having your own room, you want your own damn room.

Don’t ask me about my feelings about valproic acid. Don’t.

“Autism spectrum disorders: from genotypes to phenotypes.”
My commentary: There’s a saying about carts and horses that I could quote here, but I’ve decided not to.

Plus two titles from general neuroscience that I found briefly entertaining:

“Executive function and self-regulated exergaming adherence among older adults.”
My commentary: Whoever came up with the word “exergaming” needs to fucking cool it with the portmanteaus. What a deeply, deeply unnecessary word.

“Your body, my body, our coupling moves our bodies.”
My commentary: Another for my collection of “Sometimes scientists try and be creative, and the results are deeply disturbing.” Said collection also contains classics such as: “‘Some like it hot’: spectators who score high on the personality trait openness enjoy the excitement of hearing dancers breathing without music.”

Adieu, friends.

Dangerous Assumptions

Please read this. Please read this as many times as it takes. I’m not sure how many times it will take. So just…keep reading.

Just Stimming...

There is this thing that happens sometimes.

Parent has an autistic child. Autistic child doesn’t speak, or their speech isn’t an accurate window into what they are thinking. Autistic child is presumed to be very significantly intellectually disabled.

Years later, a method of communication is found that works for the child, and it turns out that they are in fact very smart. Very smart! The parents are overjoyed. They begin talking about presuming competence, the least dangerous assumption, that not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say.

They are so, so excited.

And they start talking about all the incorrect assumptions they had. If we’d known, they say, we wouldn’t have done X. If we had known they could read, think, hear us.

And it’s a big problem, because the way they talk…..they think the problem was that they treated their child like…

View original post 266 more words

so like…anxiety?

Sorry for dropping off the side of a cliff, folks. I’ve been up past my neck in this weird thing called “college,” or rather “going back to college after having been on medical leave.” If you’ll pardon my language–don’t you always–it’s kind of a fucking shitshow.

I am accustomed to getting compliments about my intelligence. I have been getting them for a long time. Something about not being able to like…do basic tasks necessary for maintaining my physical health and academic standing on a regular basis makes compliments like “You’re so smart!” lost a little bit of their lustre. That aside, though, I appreciate those compliments. But I want to be clear and honest here, because I feel like that’s how I can be most of use:

  • I get lots of compliments about my “smarts.”
  • I am considered extremely intelligent.
  • I am autistic.
  • I have severe ADHD.
  • I’m currently taking a 3/4 credit load of mid-level classes during what should be my (second) senior year in college.
  • I love the course material in the two courses that I’m currently taking that aren’t independent research.
  • I’m actually, or nearly, failing both of those courses at the moment.

I’m failing them not because I haven’t thought about the course. Not because I can’t understand the material. But because of two main issues: attendance and writing assignments. And both of those issues? They basically boil down to anxiety.

ANXIETY. anxiety. a.n.x.i.e.t.y. anxiety.

I almost hesitate to use the term in reference to my situation, because what I experience as anxiety is so much different from what most people experience as anxiety. My anxiety is much closer to what might, more broadly, be described as “dysphoria.” I don’t really have “panic attacks,” and when I do have things like panic attacks, I don’t feel like I’m going to die. I don’t really think about “dying” as a “thing” when I’m stressed or worried–that’s a bit too abstract for me (this is not true of all autistic people whatsoever, I have a friend who thinks like…way too much about how scared of dying she is). I just feel a sense of inner distress, or agitation (for another good example of how I often feel, see: akathisia). But in general, it prevents me from getting lots and lots of basic, everyday shit done. Not necessarily always because I am anxious about doing a specific task, and more often because the self-calming things that I need to do to deal with my anxiety take up time I would otherwise be using up doing other things.

When I was first going on anti-anxiety medication (in my case, SSRIs), and getting actual therapy and things, I had to keep reiterating to people that none of my other problems (with daily life skills, with writing, with planning) were going to be solvable if my anxiety wasn’t addressed…but that addressing my anxiety might solve a lot of my other problems in the first place. I was right. It took a long time for people to believe me, and understand what I was trying to say, but they eventually saw that I was right.

With writing, the problem goes like this: You know how like, when you’re writing, you often start out really anxious, and can get really anxious at pauses, or “blocks”? Assumedly, most people are able to deal with this anxiety because it’s interspersed with periods of being in “the zone,” or of feeling like you’re going in the right direction/getting shit done. But imagine that, no matter what you wrote, or how good it was, or how far you got, you always felt as anxious and unsure and uncomfortable as you do when you’re trying to start. That’s what it’s like for me. My internal compass, or gauge, that tells me when I’m being productive, or doing good work, or writing well? It’s broken. Completely fucking trashed. I don’t have the energy to narrate how this happened. But it did.

So like, every time I finish a sentence, I look at that sentence and have no idea whether or not it’s appropriate, or grammatical, or on-topic, or productive, or worth keeping. Every single sentence looks the same to me. And they all feel wrong, all the time.

I’m probably going to get people saying “Oh, honey. That’s how writing feels for everyone! Stop being so self-critical and just write.” I’m going to trust that these people are well-intentioned. I’m also going to preemptively tell them: “Seriously shut up.”

When it comes to my anxiety around going to class, that feels something like this: Should I go to class? Is it today? How much time do I have? Have I done the reading? Was I supposed to do a Moodle post? I still haven’t turned in any papers for this class…Will the professor be upset with me? Will they want to talk to me after class? Will the other students be staring at me because I’m so rarely there? What will I say if the professor wants to talk to me? I have no excuse. What if I’m failing? What if there’s no more extensions? What do I have to do afterwards? What about this thing I’m doing right now? Do I have time to get breakfast/lunch? Do I need to change my clothes? If I go change my clothes am I going to be able to get it together and actually leave my room afterwards? Should I just be working on my papers for the class instead? And so on. And so on.

On the whole, my tl;dr message for this post is: A solid 75% of the time, the cognitive/emotional is “anxiety,” and the most productive thing you can do for yourself (and/or your autistic child) is to figure out what the source of anxiety is, and take it out with a baseball bat, or sledgehammer, or what-have-you. Yes, even if you think the problem is “skills.” Or “language.” Or “oppositional behavior.” Or “doesn’t try hard enough.” I’m gonna bet you. Right now. Solid odds are on that it’s anxiety.

Hearts 4 now,

Emma

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This is a photo of my friend took of me, sitting on my bed in my dorm room, with my stuffed animal specklepuppy sitting on my head. I am making a really emotionally conflicted face because I’m listening/watching something called “Tiny Grey Cat Meme” which, like…just google it. It’s very much my aesthetic. And not just because everything I’m wearing, and all my bedsheets, are grey.