Max's shop of horrors

Warning: imagination testing site. Enter at own risk

Month: July, 2015

S.E.R.S.

You know what’d be really cool? If people had tails. Like dogs. You only have to look at a dog’s tail to know what mood it’s in. That’s one of the reasons I like dogs. Plus, I reckon I’d look pretty freakin’ groovy (more so than usual, even) with a long brushy tail. I’d get it dyed so that it looked like flames coming out of my bum.

Human body language is very peculiar. For instance, among other terrestrial mammals, baring one’s teeth and making eye contact is generally code for “I want to chew on the tube that connects your head to your body, so get outta my face”. With us, it means virtually the opposite.

Left to its own devices, my body tends to adopt poses that are at odds with how I actually feel. I could be quite cheerful, but I’ll be marching stiffly down the street like Frankenstein’s monster hooked up to a car battery.

To try to combat this, I invented an acronym to remind me of how to present myself: S.E.R.S. Stands for Straight (as in don’t slouch) Eye contact, Relax, Smile.

I often use acronyms to remind myself of things I have to do, because I find it hard to keep multiple things in mind at once. But when I only have to remember “SERS”, that makes things a lot easier.

It’s not that I’m faking the actual emotions, it’s just that I sometimes have to manually calibrate my body to accurately reflect how I feel.

Yeah, I know it sounds like a cross between SARS and MERS cobbled together by the villain of a Tom Clancy novel, but since viruses are a special interest of mine, I get a twisted kick out of that. Then again, the word “Asperger’s” makes me think of a vegan fast food chain specializing in burgers made from Asparagus.

Or maybe I’m just whacky word-wrangler with too much time on his hands. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Veterans of the Spectrum

I have it on good authority that prior to my birth, planet Earth was covered in salt mines, where the entire population worked 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. And they had to crawl to work because legs hadn’t been invented yet.

Okay, so it’s easy to take pot shots at my elders. Despite their claims to the contrary, I’m sure they did the same to the generations preceding them, all the way back to “in my day we didn’t have this newfangled fire business, we had to wear hollowed out woolly rhinoceroses”.

But without any hint of snarkiness, I whole heartedly doff my cap to those people on the spectrum who grew up before autism was a widely recognized condition.

Asperger’s Syndrome as we know it didn’t make its public debut until 1981, (as a frame of reference, that’s the same year The Empire Strikes Back came out) and wasn’t standardized until the 90s. Consequently, many people who grew up prior to this went undiagnosed until they reached adulthood, or even middle age. Some were never diagnosed at all. My grandpa turns 80 in a few weeks, and while I’m 95% sure he’s on the spectrum, he was never evaluated.

The support networks in place today simply didn’t exist thirty years ago. Spectrum folks had to go it alone, to navigate the minefield of neurotypical society without a map or a metal detector. That they managed to make it through unassisted is truly admirable.

There’s so much focus on young people with autism that I feel we often overlook our seasoned veterans, those who truly have overcome challenges beyond my experience.

To these remarkable warriors of the spectrum, I salute you.

The Technical Savant Myth

Oh Rainman, you have a lot to answer for! 27 years after its release, this film’s influence lingers like an onion-flavored fart in an elevator. Perhaps no other single piece of media has so informed the public perception of autism; that people on the spectrum have superhuman mathematical abilities, yet are hopeless at pretty much everything else. In more recent years, this has evolved to into the stereotype of the autistic computer wizard.

Now, I don’t mean to devalue those who do have these skills; I know people with autism who can calculate immense numbers, or who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than forty seconds, and that’s pretty freaking awesome.

But on the other hand, I also know plenty of others whose talents lie elsewhere. Me, I’m like a tiger shark out of water when it comes to  maths and infotech. Writing is what revs my engine. Similarly, my friends and acquaintances on the spectrum have strengths ranging from music, to dance, to drawing, to speaking multiple languages.

When I look a lot of the programs out there which aim to find employment for people on the spectrum, these less “technical” skills tend to be overlooked. The focus is usually on infotech and number-crunching, because it’s just assumed that this is what people with autism are good at.

Not only does this perpetuate a view that ignores the remarkable diversity of the autism spectrum, it also leaves those who don’t fit the archetypal pigeonhole out in the cold, their talents overlooked and untapped.

To bring it back to sharks, (yes, I like sharks) if you only look for the awesome ferocity found in Great Whites or Bull Sharks, you’ll miss the gentle dignity of the Whale Shark or the Basking Shark. Just as there’s more to sharks than being fearsome, there’s more to autism than being crash hot at numbers and computers. 😉

Greatful

I like to remind myself sometimes of just how lucky I am. I have a roof over my head, clean running water, enough food to eat, and a bed to sleep in. How great is that? I’m healthy, I have disposable income, I’ve had an education. I have awesome friends and family. Talk about hitting the jackpot.

Gratitude is a powerful thing. Too often we take the positives in our life for granted. Recognizing them fosters optimism and satisfaction, instead of the envy and discontent we feel when he focus primarily on what we don’t have. I know that might sound kind of airy-fairy, but even if you’re like me and you don’t believe in auras or any of that jazz, this holds true in terms of simple psychology.

What I’ve found is that taking a few minutes now and then to appreciate and be grateful for all the good in my life is a fantastic mood booster. Here’s a few prompts I’ve found helpful:

– Think of something you used today that you would usually take for granted.

– Think of a person you’re particularly glad to have in your life.

– What’s the best thing that happened to you this week/month/year?

– What’s something you have now that you didn’t have five years ago, which has made your life better?

You one thing I’m grateful for? You. Yes, you, the one reading this. Without readers, this blog would be a silent song. Thank you for making it heard.