Autism Spectrum Disorder Archives - Unhinged

Square Peg, Round Hole (or How Not to Have Friends and Alienate People)

Square Peg, Round Hole (or How Not to Have Friends and Alienate People)

Hi there! Let’s have a quick show of hands to indicate all the lost and lonely people out there. Don’t worry, this will stay just between us, okay?!? Anyway, one of my biggest personal obstacles is that I have a really hard time building fulfilling, long-lasting interpersonal relationships. At best I’ve only ever managed to sustain one friendship at a time, and that can lead to an excessive amount of introspection and self-condemnation. Having Asperger’s Syndrome has greatly hindered my ability to make these vital connections, in part because I’m not very good at successfully comprehending and interpreting non-verbal forms of communication, i.e., body language. So many of our daily interactions with other people are centred around these wordless transactions, and quite often I feel like a visitor from another world in this regard. Not for nothing, but Asperger’s is sometimes referred to as the “Oops, Wrong Planet Syndrome!!”

As a child I struggled endlessly to fit in and make friends with the other children, but usually this was to no avail. It didn’t help that I was at least 30 years away from a proper diagnosis at that point!! Healthy early socialization is very important in laying the groundwork for future success with one’s peers. As I did not enter the regular public school system until grade two, I was already at a most unfortunate disadvantage (one from which I’ve probably never fully recovered). What seemed to come so naturally to most of the other kids was an infinite crash course in humiliating futility for your not-so-humble author!! Endless social worker sessions, specialized play groups and the like only seemed to make matters worse. Looking back I guess it was a pretty good thing that I enjoyed reading in solitary so much, as I sure had a lot of spare time on my hands to freely indulge my unabashed bookworm ways!

I wish that I could inform you all that things took a turn for the better in my prime teenage/early adulthood years, but to do so would make me a bold-faced liar! The older I grew the more difficulties I had connecting with other people (and PLEASE, don’t get me started on my myriad of insecurities revolving around the FAIRER sex!) Not that I fared any better when it came to relating to everyone else!! The older you get the harder it is to meet new people, let alone to form long-lasting relationships with them as well. Plus, as a card-carrying, life-long social misfit living on the extreme outskirts of the downtrodden fringe, I don’t tend to find myself hobnobbing with the social elite!! All self-deprecating witticisms aside, due to a tragic series of unfortunate events largely beyond my control (yeah, fer sure, that’s what they all say!) I have never even come close to having a peer group of any sort. A lot of my so-called cohorts (in age, I mean) are simply too busy (and most rightfully so!!) pursuing their careers, raising families and enjoying a lot of the ‘normal’ activities’ that regular folks enjoy doing.

By the time I hit my mid-thirties, I decided to renew my previously feeble attempts at interacting with the hoi polloi (but hopefully with improved results!). So what did I do? I entered the conflicting/confusing world of group therapy. Ten years of on/off attendance later, I can’t honestly say that I’m any better for having done so! Yes, I did manage to meet the One True Love of My Life (Hi, Special K!!), and I have also become good friends with Doug (of Unhinged infamy, LOL!) but all other efforts to meet like-minded people have proven to be fruitless (to date, insert sigh here!!). Today I’m currently in the midst of a rather lengthy break from that whole scene, and trying to carefully figure out my next moves on the social scene front. Perhaps I will expand on this topic further in my as yet unwritten/unpublished door-stopper of a book entitled “Book Smart/People Stupid!!” (Trademark forthcoming, by the way. Not!)

P.S., I would strongly advise any lonely hearts from ever calling “867-5309”, no matter how disconnected you might find yourself. There’s not much chance that Jenny will answer, and even if she were to, she’d certainly be in late middle age by now (the song did originally come out way back in 1981, after all!!).

And now, here are five of my favourite songs based on the subject of friendship:

#1. “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” (War)
#2. “Bobby Jean” (Bruce Springsteen)
#3. “Whenever I Call You Friend” (Kenny Loggins and Stevie Nicks)
#4. “You’re My Best Friend” (Queen)
#5. “With A Little Help From My Friends” (Joe Cocker)

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This is My Brain on Music – ‘Broken Record Machine!’

This is My Brain on Music – ‘Broken Record Machine!’

For as long as I can remember music has been my most constant companion. In fact, several weeks before I was born, my parents went to see a horrible musical adaptation of the 1933 book “Lost Horizon.” Apparently I might have been the only one to enjoy this dog’s breakfast of a flick (whilst still in utero, LOL!!) Not that I can actually remember any of this from nearly 45 years ago, but my mother told me many times throughout her life that ‘I was really kicking up a storm on that fateful evening!’ Both of my parents were immense music lovers, although my father’s musical tastes oddly lent themselves more to his parents’ generation. As my mother’s musical leanings were slightly more hip, as a toddler we spent countless hours together listening to her records. We also spent an inordinate amount of time perfecting our very anachronistic versions of Elaine Benes’ classic dry heave-inducing dance moves!!

As I grew older and my various issues moved to the foreground, music quickly became the one thing that I could truly rely on. I received a transistor radio for my seventh birthday, and this is when I first began to build my unbreakable bond with Rock and Roll. Artists such as Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Queen and Elton John were some of my early favourites. As the years passed i gradually moved on to tape recorders, ghetto blasters, Walkmans, and Discmans; as the technology steadily evolved, so too did my musical evolution. As a teenager I became fascinated with Jazz-Fusion, Progressive Rock and Heavy Metal, all vastly UNDERRATED genres as far as I’m concerned!!! I think that I gravitated towards these genres the most because of their complexity and often interesting time signatures. Return To Forever, Jean-Luc Ponty, Allan Holdsworth and Herbie Hancock are among my preferences in this heady musical realm.

Throughout my twenties and thirties life presented me with a relentless series of difficult challenges (sick parents, stressful living conditions, unfulfilled self-expectations and an overall sense of general malaise.) During these emotionally-stressful times, building my musical collection became my primary goal/coping mechanism. While this might seem petty and pointless to many, FOR ME, it provided an essential reason to carry on living. To date my musical archive probably numbers close to 10,000 pieces, likely split evenly between cassettes and compact discs. As much as I enjoyed seeking out and collecting this TREASURE TROVE, the downside is the amount of physical space it takes up and the exorbitant storage fees which occur as a result!! Yes, I could perhaps make the switch to streaming and the like, but I am far too attached to the tactile physicality of my collection to ever even surrender an inch!! I guess we all have our own particular version of a sin tax! Mine won’t kill me, but I just might eventually be found one day under a towering pile of musty ‘n’ mouldy CD booklets!!!

It’s often said that people on the Spectrum can develop a very strong bond with music. I shudder to even think what my life would have been like if I had not gone down this melodic path. Sadly we seem to be living in a time in which popular music has basically been reduced to an endless AUTO-TUNED parade of Ikea-approved, FACELESS zeroes and ones!! Hopefully I will live long enough to see a return to a greater appreciation of/for legitimate musical talent, and that REAL/TRUE ARTISTS will receive both their Artistic and Commercial Due(s).

In closing, here are my 5 favorite songs about music:

  1. “I Love Music” by the O’Jays
  2. “Let There Be Rock” by AC/DC
  3. “Long Live Rock” by The Who
  4. “Magic Power” by Triumph
  5. “Keep Playin’ that Rock & Roll” by Edgar Winter’s White Trash

 

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Unhinged Episode #056: Spectrum With Attitude

by Ed 3 Comments
Unhinged Episode #056: Spectrum With Attitude

This week we welcome special guest Avery, a friend of the show’s, and to us. Avery and Doug share a connection through both being somewhere on the spectrum. Technically, Avery is toward the Asperger’s side. We discuss when and how each of them were first diagnosed, and how they have managed to overcome some of their challenges.

We also chat about the “gifts” that many people on the spectrum have and how it can sometimes be more of a curse. We’ve talked about Doug’s hyperfocusing abilities, and Avery has an eidetic memory and can recall facts with extreme accuracy. We did put Avery to the test trying to recall what year certain songs came out, and he was impressive!

Ultimately, people on the spectrum learn differently, so early and accurate diagnosis can help put them on the right path. Awareness is key!

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Unhinged Episode #030: Autism Spectrum Disorder with Matt Moloney

by Ed 0 Comments
Unhinged Episode #030: Autism Spectrum Disorder with Matt Moloney

In today’s episode, we welcome special guest Matt Moloney, an old co-worker and friend of Doug’s from years past. Matt talks to us about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Asperger’s Syndrome. Matt’s son Nathan was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and what Matt has learned is that raising a child who is socially challenged has made him a better person. He is an advocate for awareness and pushes for the acceptance of these children into “normal” society rather than being marginalized by a system that doesn’t understand them.

We also learn that people who fall within the autism spectrum do not consider themselves broken in any way. A term now being used is “neurodiverse”, which means that they simply lie on a part of humanity’s full spectrum where they are as not as well-equipped to handle social or emotional interactions. The majority of the world’s people would be classified as “neurotypical” by contrast. Just as one person may not have an affinity for, say, drawing, a neurodiverse person may not be good in social situations, but they usually do show very high intelligence and may hyperfocus on one or two talents and excel at them.

It’s a topic we have not yet covered, and we thank Matt for joining us to explain what it’s all about. Very interesting and eye-opening!

NOTE: We had some technical/network issues with Skype during the show, so the sound quality is not as good as usual. We apologize for that and did our best to clean up the audio during editing.

Matt and his son Nathan

Matt and his son Nathan

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