Everything is to do with the eyes. And that’s not just me writing on a personal note.
There’s the saying “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. Derren Brown had a wonderful segment in one of his shows about how a liar gives themselves away. (It’s in the eyes!) Specsavers even had an advert featuring a giant eye.
As someone with Aspergers, I have a problem with eye contact. (On another ‘eye’ note-I also wear glasses.)
Eye contact is something that I have struggled with for a very long time. For instance, I NEVER understood why a teacher I had use to say “You clearly aren’t listening, because you aren’t looking at me!” (They would then gauge eye-contact, without blinking, and not letting your line of sight wonder away.)
Eye contact: I don’t make it well, and it’s one of my spectrum characteristics. I can make it, but not for very long. I also do not know when is the right time to look away, or wench is too long to look. It also feels, if someone is deliberately trying to hold my eye for longer, that it’s searing into the back of my skull. It is invasive if for too long.
Because.. eye contact is personal. And to keep eye contact has a whole host of social meaning I’m to privy to. (Are you being suggestive, intimate, trying to determine if I am guilty of some dirty trick, or trying to assert dominance?)
Whenever I am at an event, or even networking, I try to stand sideways to someone, on the pretence I can hear them better. (Well, it’s true. And I also don’t have to look them in the eye.) But if I do have to look them in the eye… I look at the top of the nose, a tactic I was taught at fifteen. Just between the eyebrows, before the eyes, near the forehead.
As a journalist, one thing I learnt to pick up on is the eyes. Are you interviewing someone? Maintaining excessive eye contact could suggest guilt that they are trying to cover up, or an air of arrogance/confidence. A lack of it could suggest nervous, a curiosity about the surrounding environment, or disinterest.
But if someone on spectrum is with you, please don’t try to force eye contact deliberately. Don’t try to pretend “they are ‘normal'” by doing it, or trying to gauge a response. It’s a trait that some people on spectrum have, after all. It’s not going away with a click of the fingers.

They are not your friend if..

Rumours are spread behind your back-sometimes with something privately said in them-that make you feel bad.
You are left out of social events.
If you are left out of gift exchanges.
You are made fun of for the way you dress. (Because, yeah, apparently I dress as if I’m going to a wedding.) This also applies if you are told explicitly to dress a certain way, or told to get rid of a particular garment.
The clique is unaccepting of you.
You are just talked to, in order to gain answers for a test, then mocked and/or ignored.
You are told that your work is bad, awful, or somebody doesn’t like it, when in fact they do.
You are order about, to do something that you do not wish to do.
Your career choice is deplored. (Because apparently being a journalist is “terrible”, and that you can never achieve it. Someone said this to me, long ago.)
You are told you’re ugly. Daily. For months, no years, on end.
If you are left out on social media, in reality, or in general.
You are told to continually change something that X does not like. (“You should wear contacts”, “Why don’t you get rid of your glasses?”)
For months on end, you are told that you are ugly.
You don’t conform, and x,y,or z has an issue with that. (Because individuality is originality, and that’s pretty cool if you ask me.)
You are used for financial gain.
You are continually embarrassed in front of other people.


But that’s the thing; I have learnt what a friend is, sort of. This list is mainly derived from experience from approximately age 8-18, although it may be in terms of negatives.  But, since I left mainstream education, I have met some of the kindest people I could ever hope to meet. And I am grateful that I have.
And as the Anastacia song says: “I am rising high/ I’m stronger than I’ve been before/ Not picking up sticks/ not picking up stones/One more but getting less/ Some may come and some may go
/ I’m done feeling like a mess” Dramatic, cliched, yes, but it illustrates my thoughts exactly.

Lydia xo

Note: this post is designed not to cause offence. It is designed to document my Aspergers in that I sometimes find social situations difficult. 
One of the main problems I found with being on spectrum is…. friendships. Enough so that I’ve now coined the phrase “The friendship problem”, the title of this post. (That could even be the title of my own auto-biography.)
You see, I find it difficult to ‘read’ people-if they are being genuine, sarcastic, sincere. As I get older, I have gotten better at it-but I do sometimes ‘fall down’ due to this trait. I even wrote about it last year with the post “Wanted: one friend.”  
This trait also does not always mean I can make a connection. The thing is, at schools/institutions, I was more than likely to talk to teachers, or ‘adults’, in comparison to the people my own age. I would rather be in a library, reading, than sat outside of the circle. I would rather be off, creating something like a magazine, than be mocked or ignored. I would be interviewing people like Anastacia, reviewing Queen Extravaganza, and still have completed my homework for the deadline. (Seems alright for a trainee journalist, right?)
(But it put me to an advantage, later on, such as at networking events, meeting interviewees, etc. Since the transition from leaving college, I often feel very lonely, having not going to University. )
So, my goal this year: make a friend, and know what “friend” means.
(And by friend: I would love to experience that one particular friendship, to have a best friend, to go out to films, shopping..)
When I was diagnosed with Aspergers, it was noted that I did not necessarily know what is or how to define, a friend-it was mainly a list of negatives that allowed me to describe what a friend is. “They are not someone who laughs at you, who mocks you”..
That inability to define did lead to a few incidents.
I know that I am also at fault-in that, from my inability to read a situation, and not conforming to standards seen as normal at certain ages lead to an accumulation of frustration. But, the thing is, I did learn; if someone is being horrible about “her, the one who is on spectrum”, then… they aren’t your friend.
So: I will be looking out for clubs, going to one of the city girl network meet ups, events, etc.

Lydia XO

 

Note: before you read this, I wrote this from my viewpoint of having Aspergers Syndrome. I did not take the potential impact on board, as this was intended as a creative piece.
At the end of last year, as I finally began to finish my daily posting challenge, I was researching how I could make this blog better. One of the suggested posts that was voted for was “A manifesto for Autism”.
You see, I think we are… misunderstood. So: what would you do, theoretically, if you could change the world?

Employment: 

First: interviews could change. Seriously.
I dread going to interviews, and would rather be one of the interviewers, in line with the industry I am currently training for. But, these are full of social cues, open ended questions (which I don’t understand), which may not necessarily trip up someone who is neurotypical.
And: traits that are attributed to being on spectrum could be so useful once employed. And I mean in the sense of tailoring these traits.
Why have someone on spectrum as a volunteer dog trainer, when they have a degree, and significant experience, in law? (Scenario that I saw on Television once.) The person in question was brilliant at law-and I cannot understand why he was not put into a relevant job. (The rejection letter said they could not support him, due to being on spectrum. *sighs*)
These skills could lead to great amounts of innovation. And besides, why would an employer wish not to gain that?

Education:

Better provisions need to be made. Teachers could do with more training, and questions could be better phrased in exams.
A teacher I had once said in front of my class “Have you met someone with Aspergers? They’re a bit cold and a bit weird”. I think that he could have been trained to understand my learning needs, and Aspergers-and although this remark was not directed at me, I still found it offensive.
As to exams: they need to be changed. In education, we wish for everyone to do their best, right? Well, the way an exam is phrased can be a brick against that-as questions are phrased for their to be a line of reasoning, rather than a ‘tick box’ style. My learning support tried to help me understand them better, but not all teachers understood, or tried to help. (Why disadvantage a whole demographic?)
The system is based on the majority passing, but why should it not be possible for everyone who works hard to pass?

Life:

I would like for Anti-Vaxxers to be challenged more openly. Oh, and the claim that “Autistic children just need to be disciplined properly” also.

Representation:

In popular media, people on Spectrum are sometimes portrayed negatively, inaccurately, or are the ‘butt of the joke’ in the script set up. Why can we not have a proper series, where Aspergers/Autism is portrayed as not being a bad thing, with accuracy?

Medical:

Diagnosis. Yeah, about that… I will probably devote another post to it, but some parts of the assessment I had to undergo I was not happy with. (Although it got me the label I obviously had, sometimes I was frustrated throughout the assessment. E.g being told to keep looking at a flip card of faces, to identify the emotions on the faces, when I had already said I can’t. ) I think that some changes could be made.
I have been privileged to work with people on spectrum-such as through my blog-and I am ultimately grateful to have met the people I have met. The large majority are some of the nicest, kindest people I could have hoped to meet.

Lydia XO

 

Over this year, I have collated a list; ranging from the ridiculous, to the insincere, and sometimes nasty, a lot has been said when I have said “I have Aspergers”. (And I also collected things said in mainstream media that were also along these lines.)
Some assertions are almost laughable; so, here is a list of the most offensive things said to me this year, courtesy of Twitter telling me that this is what you’d like to read. (Offensive meaning that they were said to be mean, or upset my routine, or made me feel uncomfortable.)

“You don’t look autistic”

Tell me: what does Autism, or even Aspergers for that matter, ‘look like’? Perhaps something a little more Rainman was expected? I think it’s the me being ‘high functioning’ that causes the confusion.
(Please note the sarcastic tone.)

“You’re putting it on”

Yep. Really. Tell me: how can something neurological be put on, having displayed hallmarks since I was very little? This is also a myth in the sense that it suggests that Aspergers can be switched on and off.

“Autistic kids just need disciplining properly”

There was a video that went viral a while ago; a severely autistic child was put in handcuffs during a meltdown, because it would ‘make him behave properly, like the other children’.
There was also a remark made by a particularly prominent individual who said the same thing, virtually.
Maybe, you know, people on spectrum should be left in their world, and not be forced to come into a world built by a largely neurotypical population? Better still: combine the two. On spectrum traits could be such an asset in employment, and more.

“You’re not like most autistic people”

What are ‘most people’ like, then? The spectrum means that we’re different, but with a shared common thread.

“But you’re female!”

I once read that females are often diagnosed later in life, because they can mask their spectrum traits better. (I think it was in a book by Dr Tony Attwood?)
My gender seems to surprise a lot of people, because the spectrum is ostensibly viewed as being a “male” thing.

“You’re not listening. Look at me!”

I’m not good at eye contact. Simple as that. However, it does not mean that I am not listening. Nine times out of ten I will be.

“People with Aspergers are a bit cold, and a bit weird.”

Said in front of me by a teacher unaware of my diagnosis. This plays int the “People with Aspergers show little empathy” type casting-which I have to rebut.
Although some mechanisms in this respect may be learnt-such as what’s socially expected-it does not mean that I have no empathy.

*Tries to force eye contact*

Please. Don’t. Do. This. It. Makes. Me. So. Uncomfortable. Especially. Without. Blinking. And. Not. Looking. Away.

“Give me a hug”

Newsflash: I’m not a very tactile person. I don’t really like touching-be it a brush past dash for the train, an insisted upon hug. or a nudge with an elbow. If you or I would like a hug, I will come to you. But do not be offended if I don’t “play ball”, so to speak.

Lydia XO