Sunday, 24 April 2011

Autism File

I saw a programme called Autism File on a minority access channel so thought it was worth a watch. Oh dear. I really don't know where to begin. I'm not sure if every episode is like this, or if this was a themed special, but it seems female (mother) centric, and I always despair at anything that is mother-centric as you can guarantee it is merely playing on common guilt.

The segments were almost all diet-focused, with various mothers giving anecdotal evidence about how putting their child on various gluten-free, sugar-free, lactate-free, blah-free diets have improved things. It was basically saying that your child's issues are your fault because you are not buying the right things, you are not consuming the right things, you are not doing the right things. Needless to say there was no scientific evidence or explanation about anything that was said...but some things were very worrying indeed. Things like a mother saying their child was diagnosed as "severe Autistic", and since cutting gluten from his diet he as been reclassified as "mild Autistic". What is being implied here? That autism is caused by diet? Can be cured by diet? That if your child is not "getting better" it is because you aren't restricting their diet enough? Terrible, absolutely terrible.

Why can't people just accept that some things are how they are and not to do with consumption? Nothing to do with diet? That some things just can't be fixed?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Nerd Olympics

There was a documentary that followed the UK entrants to the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO). It followed their preparations, their lives and what it meant to them. That's what it was billed as turned out to be a documentary about Asperger's Syndrome (AS). It's a shame this wasn't reflected in the promotional material as a few people might have watched it where they otherwise didn't.

I'm sure this isn’t how it was intended, but of the key players some had AS diagnosis, some were undergoing diagnosis during the documentary, and for the rest AS wasn't even mentioned but they showed strong signs of it. The star of the show was a lad called Jos, who was so emotionally stunted that he functioned like a robot. Analysing family relationships on terms of material need. He said he was a rare thing; someone who was intelligent but not arrogant, yet he was the most arrogant person you've probably ever seen. However what I found quite interesting, was that he was also often wrong. His abilities didn't seem to match up to his boasts which isn't something I've ever associated with AS.

Another bit that amused me was the guy who was in the process of getting a diagnosis. For anyone who has done this you'll know that it's fairly drawn out, and sometimes almost impossible. Not when you're being filmed for a documentary though! The doctor doing the diagnosis was none other than Simon Baron-Cohen himself. After some scenes of discussion the Doctor then announces that the guy "clearly has Asperger's". It trivialised the whole process and made it look the easiest thing in the world to get a diagnosis. Anyone watching this documentary who then wishes to get a diagnosis themselves are going to be in for a shock.

The IMO is obviously open to many countries, with some doing better than others. China always puts in a strong team and always does exceptionally well. The question is, however, is this because their education system is much better than ours? Can the UK only compete in these things if we "use" people with Autism to bolster the ranks? Why can't we simply have intelligent, well-educated students like China does?

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Joy of Nothing

One thing that the analysis of my life has revealed is that I get pleasure from nothing. I simply exist. My life goes on from day to day. Today at work was a big company meeting that everyone laughed their way through and I sat there stony-faced. After work everyone hurried down to the pub, and I went and stood there stony-faced, on the peripheral. People must enjoy this stuff. They must get pleasure from the basic interaction they have with other people. It certainly can't be the conversation as that is functional and bland. Boring.

I can watch a mediocre show on Television and stay the distance, why can't I stand mediocre social gatherings? I guess it is because it is a constant slap in the face for me. A constant reminder of the normality that I will never know. The joys people get in such simple things that will forever elude me, making my life ultimately meaningless.

I stay for one drink (a "social" one...ha!) then head home. I stop by the alcohol shop on the way back because, truth be known, I don't even enjoy my own company. I hate being with other people and I hate being on my own, so drunken oblivion is my only realistic option.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Nothing to fear

I called it off with that girl I was seeing, so I am once more single and once more not getting any younger.

I think this is the first time I've ever really called off a relationship. I know I had only been seeing her about 4 months, but what is significant is that I didn't let the fear of being alone stop me. I looked at the relationship with honest eyes, and asked myself questions like "Are you happy?" "Does this person behave in a way you can tolerate?" I didn't go as far as making a "pro" and "con" list like they do on TV, but I weighed things up nonetheless and came to my decision.

Was it hard? Yes. Is it hard? Yes. Do I feel bad? Yes? Lonely? Yes. Do I have regrets? Sometimes...yes. Does part of me still wish I was in a relationship? Yes. Do I see hard times ahead? Yes. Do I think that maybe this was my last chance at having a relationship? Yes. Am I scared I will now be single forever? Yes. Am I happy now? No. Time heals all wounds though...and the most important thing in all of this is that for the first time I didn't let fear control me.

So where did this strength come from? I think it came from the fact that I am now finally comfortable with myself, my strengths and my weaknesses. And that has all come from my diagnosis.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Coming clean

One thing that I've always wondered about are the cleaning habits of other people. I've stated numerous times that I live in a pigsty, and visiting other people's homes always makes me feel self-conscious and a bit guilty.

There is a programme in the UK called "Who Does What?" that uses cameras in the home to analyse the division of labour in the household. After a few weeks the data is reported at quite a granular level of detail and the various inhabitants of the house are told what percentage of various tasks they do, and what percentage of tasks overall.

This show reported that the average person spends 30 minutes a day "cleaning and tidying" the house. Interesting. I do substantially less than that. I do essentials like laundry, but that's a fairly quick and easy job twice a week. I don't really do the "other half" though...the clothes come out of the machine and into the wash basket (or on a chair / door etc) and they get picked at and used as needed. I don't really put clothes away. I iron my work shirts too so that's maybe one or two shirts a day depending on what's on TV when I'm ironing (if I do two shirts I won't iron at all the next day). I do the dishes when there are no clean ones left, so maybe once a week, twice at most. Rubbish and recycling tends to lie where it falls and I gather it up once a week on the night before rubbish day, though sometimes I only do that every other week.

And that's about it really. It's no wonder I live in a pigsty.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Autistic brains "organised differently" say scientists

"People with autism use their brains differently from other people, which may explain why some have extraordinary abilities to remember and draw objects in detail, according to new research."

Read full article

Next month scientists are going to release their findings regarding the defecating habits of bears.