Friday, July 20, 2007

8 Random Things About Myself

David Hingsburger was tagged for this thing - 8 random things about yourself. You're supposed to post the rules, which are to let people know who tagged you, say the 8 random things about yourself and tag 8 people and let them know they've been tagged. He modified the rules so that anyone who reads his blog can tag themselves if they want (and post a link to their blog). So I tagged myself. Same modified rule applies here, so tag yourself if you want to.
1. Whereas many survivors of sexual abuse have trouble saying 'no' to things, I have trouble saying 'yes' (only when I'm having flashbacks). I feel like by saying 'yes', I'm giving away my power and giving other people permission to hurt me.
2. I suggested people read First Contact by David Hingsburger on this one CBC call-in for people to suggest summer reading.
3. I absolutely hate jeans, and never wear them. Once I had a big fight with my Mom because the only pair of pants I had to wear was a pair of jeans. Incidentally, I will aklso 'hide' articles of clothing I can't wear so they aren't counted as clothes in my dresser.
4. I used to sneak entire handfuls of icing sugar. I'd grab a handful and lick it all off my hand, then wash my hands. My parents never realized until I admitted, several years later, that I used to do this.
5. My principal suggested I was an aspie when I was in grade 7. My father described Asperger Syndrome to me and I replied that I didn't believe there was such a condition - if there was, I'd have it! It was pretty ironic when, several years later, I read accounts by autistic people on the internet and started recognizing myself in their descriptions.
6. I like to read articles in medical journals. I have read almost every American Journal of Medical Genetics volume our local university has - volumes 32 to about 86 or so. I may have missed some of them, however.
7. I'm currently working on more than 10 different books, most of them fiction. I'm working on two nonfiction books, one about autism and an almost-finished one about school trauma.
8. I used to be fluent in French because I attended two french immersion schools, but after I left school I stopped speaking French and now I can understand it fairly well but have difficulty speaking it. I'm thinking of looking into some way to get more positive associations with French and relearn it.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Song About Abusive 'Therapy'

Here's a song I thought up today:

You, who are not good until I fix you
You, who are no one until I make you
I'll make a person, out of your empty shell
Hand over you self, and I'll make you someone

You, who are not fine until I fix you
You, who have no power until I give it
I'll make a person, out of your empty shell
Hand over your power, and I'll make you yourself

I think this expresses a lot of what my teachers thought about me.

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Who Can Speak for the Spectrum

Very often when an autistic person makes some statement about autism (contradicting what the autism establishment wants to believe) they are told that they 'don't speak for' X category of autistics. I would give a qualified agreement to that.
I know my own mind. I also know the behavior of people I interact with and what they say about themselves or the behavior of other people. I can make inferences from statements and behaviors about another person, but I am not capable of reading their mind. I can't know for certain if my inferences are correct, or if other people's statements are correct. I know intimately what my particular kind of autistic mind is like, but I don't know anyone else's mind, except what they tell me or I infer from their behavior, which is not infalible.
The same applies to everyone else. If you've decided somehow you know what someone else's mind is truly like, then without knowing any more information I can say you are wrong. You know what you observe or what they say. What they say may or may not be accurate, your interpretation of their behavior may or may not be accurate.
My inferences about other people, though fallible, can be useful. I infer from my autistic friend's smiling and flapping and tensing that he is excited, when I ask if he is he replies 'oui' (yes), so I assume he is excited at those times. I don't know that, the way I know if I'm excited or if he's flapping his hands or said yes when I asked if he was excited, but the assumption has so far been verified. People do this all the time - make inferences about other people's mental states from their behavior and what they communicate about their own mental state.
A complicating factor is differences in behavior patterns, mental states and the relationship between them in people with different kinds of minds. Every person is unique in these factors, but everyone has more in common with some people than other people. Some of the statistical outliers have been grouped into various diagnostic groups such as LD, ADHD, autism, OCD, etc, etc, based mostly on behavior with some diagnoses including self-report of mental states (eg OCD obsessions can only be determined by self-report). If these diagnostic categories have any validity at all, they indicate the individuals within one category have more in common, in some aspects, with each other than the general population. This is true even for broad categories like autism. I wrote a post awhile ago about this, called It Really is One Syndrome (scroll down a bit).
Considering all this, a person from a particular diagnostic group who provides information about their internal mental experience and their inferences about what aspects of this may be characteristic of that diagnostic group doesn't represent everyone within that group. But someone who only has observation of behavior or physical measurements to report, without any personal experience as an individual in that diagnostic group, is even less able to represent that diagnostic group. This latter group includes the vast majority of parents and professionals.
In addition, a person's opinion on controversial issues relating to that diagnostic group does not necessarily indicate how useful their statements about that group really are. We must not have the double-standard of accepting what certain people say about a diagnostic group while rejecting other people's statements on grounds that also would, if applied equally to all, reject those we accept. For example, it makes no sense to accept what Temple Grandin says about autism while rejecting what, to choose a random example, Frank Klein says, on the grounds that he is high functiopning and doesn't know what it's like to be low functioning autistic. Both of them are verbal autistics living independendantly and fairly successfully who had a history of speech delay and have, from early childhood, shown significant autistic behavior which continues into adulthood.
[Edit: Is anyone actually reading my blog? The past several posts have had no comments left on them.]

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Talking to yourself

I just made the following image. I'm thinking of making myself a T-shirt with it. Feel free to use this any way you want, and modify it to look better if you want, as long as you give me credit for the idea. I got this idea a long time ago when I noticed that even if I wanted to be myself without worrying about looking weird, it was really hard to stop myself from lowering my voice when I was talking to myself in earshot of other people.
I'm also thinking of making T-shirts of the advertisement for and a poster that says 'remember our friends still trapped inside walls, locked behind doors, lying in halls: institutions are not solutions! I found it at
I've applied to join fusion inclusion, a youth group run by the Saskatchewan Association for Community Living, and I'd like to wear the anti-institution shirt sometime at a meeting of theirs. Or one of the shirts from that website I'll beg my Dad to buy, such as the one saying 'mainstreaming is like visiting, inclusion is like home'. This shirt describes very well my experience with mainstreaming (in my case unintended mainstreaming - they didn't realize I was disabled).
By the way, my most common type of talking to myself is narrating my thoughts, though I sometimes play with sounds as well - singing to myself or reciting the dialogue of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy BBC radio play, which I used to have memorized but now only have partially memorized.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Internal Conflicts and Psychological Harm

I've been reading some stuff about internal conflicts. Basically, there are three kinds of internal conflicts - approach-approach, approach-avoid and avoid-avoid conflicts. All cause some stress, although approach-approach is much less stressful than the other two.
An example of an approach-approach conflict is being forced to choose between either one highly preferred treat or another highly preferred treat. Obviously, the result is pleasant no matter what.
An avoid-avoid conflict is the opposite - a forced choice between two unpleasant alternatives. This is quite stressful because either way, the result is bad.
Approach-avoid is a choice between either having or not having something which is both desired and unwanted. An example might be a hungry person who will get a severe punishment for stealing food choosing whether or not to steal the food.
Both avoid-avoid and approach-avoid involve something unpleasant regardless of what you choose, since approach-avoid results in deprivation if you choose not to take the option and something unpleasant if you take it. As a result, both are psychologically harmful. The effects are greater with greater frequency and severity of such choices.
Often, it seems like people assume an approach-avoid conflict is generally with the desire to approach being internal (as in the example of the hungry person). They seem to recognize that the avoid can be internal or external, but not so much the approach. This may be why people assume a behavioral treatment using only positive measures cannot be harmful. However, it can, because it is possible to have an external approach and internal avoid in such a program.
For example, some autistics are internally motivated to avoid eye contact because it is painful. If they are being rewarded for making eye contact, this can cause an approach-avoid conflict.