Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Autistics Changing Over Generations
I was at Temple University this evening working with autistic children…working with the kids is something myself and select other GRASP folks do on occasion. As I like to perceive it, takes one to know one. Some are of a high-functioning diagnosis, some are PDD-NOS, and some are developmentally worse off within the spectrum…they all range from ages 9-13 in this group. I think some of them have really bright futures ahead when I hear them discuss their classwork. One of them recited all 50 states in ascending order of statehood from Delaware through Hawaii, which was incredible. My group played Clue during the last part of the session and three of us started quoting the movie and getting in depth with the characters. Unfortunately one of them had an outburst when a game rule wasn’t explained to him the correct way, and the yelling even made me, and the girl I worked alongside, uncomfortable like you would not believe. Otherwise it was one of my most fulfilling nights I’ve had this year, in part because it was my first CAADC visit this year.
These kids are enterprising and logical, yet also idealistic and self-interested. That would be typical of most children in that age range. What strikes me sometimes is that as much as our personalities change, I’m not sure if Aspies change their behaviors to the degrees that an NT might. In many ways, I’m still enterprising, logical, idealistic, and self-interested, and unfortunately it’s all I know. Doesn’t mean I didn’t go through the usual transformations. The person who walked across Seth Grove Stadium wearing a cap and gown is different than the person who first was moving into McCune Hall about 44 months prior. The person writing this note is certainly different than the person who first accepted his current job back in February 2008…or even the one who first decided to do ASD outreach in recognition of his own situation. It’s just that when a spectrum type goes through those changes, they are more likely to consider the change process itself rather than the actual personality change. We are very analytical types to that degree.
They will likely go through personality changes like most people, and their environment would be something they brought back with them regardless of where they go. The kids would be impressionable to their environment, which not all people on the spectrum are during adulthood. However, there is the extreme as to how impressionable one is, and Aspies are often about extremes. I know from my own experience that I bring my impressions with me in most of my environments, even if it does give me an appreciation of the part after I leave it (example being a likeness for the predominantly rural Central PA…there’s where you go for a Sunday drive). I had a tendency to blend in with the culture around me because of the impression it left, whether it was a period of regular church service or my recent beer snob transformation since relocating to Center City West. The changes allowed me, and others, to further understand the surroundings.
The behavior is what I’m unsure of, as adaptation seems to be an issue with any Aspies as they grow older. Each of the kids that I had in my group had some sort of twitch, interestingly enough, and I thought about how I still have my twitch, and a few of those in GRASP are the same way. There is still the muttering to oneself. There is generally the same outlook that sometimes keeps us from the world, which can hurt many of those on the autism spectrum and causes some folks to give up on these kids as they get older. However, it may just be due to the outlook that they cannot empathize or comprehend what others say in their own context. That’s the positive side; there are children with parents and professionals that have given them the coaching in order to help themselves succeed. Afterwards they become more masterful communicators and despite keeping their fixations, these types become more self-aware. It really just takes a little bit of help to get out of such an entrenched world, almost like the urban streets (side note: next on my Netflix queue is season four of The Wire, which should give me a comparison of institutions, however convoluted).
Seeing the youth again made me think about the autistic metamorphosis. These kids just need a chance to be understood, and know that someone has been through these rough patches where they are afraid other peers do not understand them. What they will pick up in high school and in college will be eye-opening to say the least, and it’s as if I want to tell them that next time. Better to leave the element of surprise and let them enjoy these years; let them be kids.