Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dealing with touch sensitivity

((I'm taking a day off from posting about my story - the next part of it becomes rather emotional and I need time to sort it out before I share.  Thanks for your patience.))

Tactile sensitivity is one of those classic autism things.  The average person who knows very little about autism might know that those on the spectrum don't like to be touched and freak out at the smallest sensation.  Things that would never disturb someone without the disorder seem to come across like freight trains of overstimulation to an aspie or autist.

I'm pretty good with touch, at least better than I was as a young kid.  I still cut the tags out of a lot of clothing and am very particular about fit, but I can wear a much wider range of textures.  There are some of us that never get over textures and touch and it remains a major problem.  If you remain sensitive as you get older, it can present some unique challenges.

Some tips for adults dealing with tactile issues:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Life with Prosopagnosia

I'll admit up front that I'm not officially diagnosed, but I'm pretty sure I have prosopagnosia.  The symptoms of it are present throughout my life and I can't remember ever not having them.

Prosopagnosia is also known as face blindness.  It is the inability to see faces properly or recognize them at all and can range in severity from just not being able to recall most people to not recognizing your own face in the mirror.  I lay on the middle of the spectrum.  I can recognize a few people and remember a few faces vaguely, but the great majority are blurs and I usually can't find myself or anyone else in a picture.  I can see a picture of just me and know intellectually that the person in it is me, but I don't really recall myself or how I look.

I realized that I couldn't see faces when I was 17 and bored at work.  Walking through the aisles of the store I work in, I tried to remember the face of someone I worked with and kept trying for several minutes before realizing that as hard as I tried, the face of this person was a big blur and I could only see their hair and clothes.  This alarmed me - I had never really thought about my inability to see faces before, and the more I thought on it for the next year, the more I realized that there was something wrong.  I can't recall faces from my life except for still photographs of people, and even those are sketchy at best.

This has an interesting effect on school and classes.  As hard as I try, I don't recall any classmates from school.  Every day was and still is sitting in a classroom of strangers.  I'll remember where I sit and can often recognize that someone sits near me by their backpack or hair or a jacket they always wear, but I'd never know who they were outside of class.

Forming relationships is odd.  I've been told it takes more effort than someone who can properly see faces and that seems true, though I can't say for myself.  Last year I was waiting for my boyfriend at a park.  It's a pretty big area, but I told him what side of the building in the middle of it I would be on.  There were lots of people moving around near me and I didn't realize that he was standing right at the end of the road next to me until he finally came up to me and asked if I saw him.  I didn't.  I also walk right past my roommates in the hallway without knowing who they are, which insulted one of them before I explained to her why I didn't say hello.

An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today said that children with autism usually process faces with the part of the brain normally used to process objects.  I wonder if this is part of why I can't remember them and also wonder if more people on the autistic spectrum have this and have never reported it.  It took me 17 years to realize that I couldn't because not seeing faces was the norm for me and I didn't know that others could see them until I tried and talked to others.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

(Belated) Link Friday: Prosopagnosia

Later in the week I'll be posting about how having prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness) has effected me.  It's not uncommon for aspies to have problems recognizing others because so often we don't look at faces, but as I've gotten older and started learning to look near and at faces I still can't recognize others.  I have problems finding myself in group pictures, especially if everyone is wearing the same thing, and have gotten lost in crowded areas because I couldn't recognize my parents.

Wikipedia article on Prosopagnosia

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clothes shopping with Aspergers

Clothes shopping was one of those things that I despised doing as a kid.  It was boring, it was drawn out, it was uncomfortable and most of all it was frustrating.  I would have to dress and undress and tie and untie my shoes.  Mom would squeeze me into uncomfortable, itchy clothing which usually didn't fit correctly, or, if by some miracle it did, would look wrong.  Even though I knew tags would come out later I wouldn't want to buy anything that I felt them in.

Any form of ASD makes dressing a chore.  We don't like to wear anything that doesn't have just the right texture or fit.  A rough tag can send a kid with autism into a fit.  I maimed a few shirts trying to chop out tags which quite literally rubbed me the wrong way when I was a kid.

Where I once would get tired from only an hour of shopping, I can now go up to seven hours in a stretch, with breaks.  A lot of Aspies won't get up to that point - I'm not as sensitive to crowds as most are and enjoy looking around.  However, after that seven hour shopping experience I'll come away with maybe a shirt and a pair of pants or shoes.  The trying on isn't so much a problem for me as the actually liking it enough to buy is.

Here are some tips for those of you going shopping with your Aspie child/spouse/relative/friend:

Friday, September 17, 2010

What are the traits of a girl with Asperger's Syndrome?

I ran across this chart on a forum a few months back. It contains a fairly comprehensive list of traits for girls with AS. Many are different from those of boys with AS.  While this isn't comprehensive, it does ring true with me.

One part that sticks out to me is the statement that "9 out of 10 have mild to severe gastro-intestinal difficulties -- eg, ulcers, acid reflux, IBS, etc".  I've always had weird stomach issues but never thought to relate them to my also having AS, though it does make sense now - I had read about boys with autism having Irritable Bowel Syndrome more often than the general population.

Click here for the chart

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Journey, Part 1: Elementary school

I figured I'd start off this blog with my own history, how I was diagnosed and what I've come from.  Part one covers my life prior to diagnosis.  This will probably be familiar to any parents with young kids on the high end of the Autistic spectrum, male or female.

I was always an odd kid.  Maybe my parents should have seen the signs earlier, but for whatever reason, they didn't.  I grew up in a normal suburban neighborhood on a small cul de sac with my mom, dad and older brother.  From an early age I was obsessed with cooking and spent most of my time making "meals" in my kitchen set and trying to help out in the real kitchen, swearing that my life goal was to be a chef.  Family members gave me cookbooks and kitchen tools and invited me to help with making meals - they found the obsession cute and entirely normal for a little girl.

Maybe that's a factor which separates female aspies from males, that our obsessions are more often animals and cooking and dolls instead of vacuum cleaners and trains and organic chemistry.  Like most AS girls, my obsessions go through phases.  By fifth grade the cooking phase was gone and I was obsessed with wolves instead.  This has continued to shift throughout my life.

The first two years of school for me were more or less normal.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why blog about being a female Aspie?

This entire blog is based on an assumption.  I'm assuming that there aren't many blogs out there about the experiences of being a girl diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.

Google searches have backed up this assumption - there is Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist who blogs about business, life and being an Aspie, and there is aspieprincess of The Aspie Life who blogs for Psychology Today.  Others have come and gone and their blogs are now dead.

I'm assuming that no one else in the world will have exactly the same view on things as I do and that you'll be interested in what I have to say and enjoy my writing style.  I sure enjoy it, but that's probably because it comes naturally to me and usually sounds pretty good in my head.

So why blog about being a female with Asperger's Syndrome?  Because it's an unusual condition with a lot of challenges, frustrations and fun, and I want to share my experiences in hopes that someone might find them interesting, amusing or helpful.  I want to remind other girls with AS and parents with daughters on the Autistic Spectrum that they're not alone and there really is someone else out there who is just as obsessed and wild and affected as they are.

Two feet first, here goes nothing.

Full Disclosure: I'm writing this blog for my Introduction to Multimedia class at college.  We're required to write 3 time a week for 15 weeks.  If this is successful, I might continue on after that.