Not Flapping My Lips

(“Flapping one’s lips” is American slang meaning to stand around talking, usually about nothing important, or gossiping, e.g., the disdainful address, “Don’t you just be standing around there flappin’ your lips.” )

“All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”
~Edmund Burke

“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”
~Judith Herman
I’m planning ahead for a script to use sometime again soon, because like many people I suffer terribly from l’Esprit de l’escalier, and can never think of the bon mot or good retort or thought-provoking reply until the moment has long passed …
Sometimes when I get excited, I flap a bit. As in, my hands shake rapidly from side to side, causing my (long, limber) fingers to dually perform that single-handed clapping.  In the recent years, I have learned that “flapping” (done in many different ways) is one of those “stereotypies” associated with autism, or with Down’s, or with cognitive disabilities (mental retardation), or with any number of differences that are often socially ostracised.
Which to me does not make a whole lot of sense.  Seriously, WTF?  It does not harm anyone.  And if you have spent much time in North America and seen game shows like The Price Is Right, then you will have observed a lot of (ostensibly) neurotypical/normal people jumping up and down and flapping in their excitement at being called up to play.  But of course, someone will be sure to point out that is a “special circumstance” and that people who are chosen for the audience are selected because they are excited about the opportunity, and are outrageously dressed, and will generally perform in such highly exaggerated manner, and thus be good television fodder.  Well, perhaps.  But my point is that we all engage in stereotypies. (In a previous post, “Stimulating Topics of Conversation”, I noted that fiddling/stimming is another stereotypy that everyone does.)
Unfortunately, we also engage in stereotyping — it is almost impossible not to at some level, as creating such thought patterns is how the brain organises the world.  But we can be aware of and work against negative stereotypes that are socially harmful.
Of course, to deliver that reply effectively, I have to have a script that is not only thought-provoking and easy to remember (without tripping over the words), but is also SHORT.  And if you have read more than two of my posts, you know that brevity is not my strong suit!
But I know how to get around that in my brain. Continue reading Not Flapping My Lips

Hate crime spinning out of control

I spent many happy hours spinning around in circles as a child: on the front lawn with arms flung out, on the back yard swing, wheeling in circles on my bike at the end of the cul-de-sac, circling with one hand clinging to the post that held up the floor joist I-beam in the basement, and of course, on the small merry-go-round of the gradeschool playground. Spinning is fun!  (Especially so if you can do so for long periods without even getting vertigo.)
But none of our neighbors ever threatened to burn down our house because I was twirling around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around and around.  Not like this horrific man in Seattle, Mark Joe Levison, who apparently found the sight of a 13-year old boy, Anthony Engen, playing outside or (oh-my-gosh!) looking at his yard to be too antagonising.
The only redeeming features in such a news item is that the police took his threats seriously, as apparently the man has quite the record of charges for assault and felonies in two states.  Moreover, he has been charged with “malicious harassment”, which is Washington’s hate-crime law.
Yes, a news source is actually referring to such threats made against someone just because they are obviously autistic as a hate crime.  Sadly, I am noting this because it is not common.
(Where are we going, and what are we doing in this handbasket?!)

De-stressing with O.T.S.

Funny short story:

Hubby and I are at the local pub having a Guinness. Naturally, the big-screen televisions are on, and he asks me, “Are you watching the basketball game?”
Are you kidding?! I think to myself, and answer, “No.”
There’s a slight pause, then he asks, “Are you staring at the ceiling fan?”
Busted!
Well you know, I’m there to relax, right? Chatting with hubby about life, and enjoying my ale is only part of that.

A pal of mine is very stressed. Sadly, this is a common problem. But even worse, over the years the repertoire of natural coping methods have been so discouraged, extinguished or suppressed that my pal can hardly name what is helpful. Now that is really sad.
We all have ways of dealing with stresses. They can be roughly divided into three general categories: organisation [O], timing [T], and soothing activities [S]. I have denoted each with an initial because the text flow did not easily lend to listing these in categorical sections.
Prevention [O]: We avoid situations that we know will be stressful. Sometimes we can have someone else do a task for us, or set things up so the task does not actually have to be done.
For example, Continue reading De-stressing with O.T.S.

The Fine Art of Fidgeting

Most people think of children with Attention Deficit HYPERACTIVITY Disorder as being kids who bounce off the walls, sometimes literally so. Several years ago, there was some debate as to whether or not our kid had ADHD. All of the disorganised, inattentive, losing-things, forgetting-things details were there, as well as the bedroom floor that was invisible from clutter. Certainly the kid couldn’t sit through dinner without hopping up from the chair several times. But in school the kid behaved somewhat differently (as children often do), and remained appropriately seated. Because the kid is also rather reticent, there wasn’t the frequent class interruptions that one gets with the talkative sort of ADHD student.
The kid is now 16, and not surprisingly, has matured as well as gotten older. Years of developing support systems at home have paid off in some areas; Continue reading The Fine Art of Fidgeting

a-Tunes

So last night the aspie kid, dad and I were sitting around the kitchen table, playing card games. We made a dent in some of the leftover Halloween candy, consumed a couple pots of tea, and generally had fun. Later on that night I was thinking over the evening, and I realised that there were some marked differences compared to similar evenings of my own youth. Continue reading a-Tunes

Attendance Required

Earlier this week I had to sit still in one place and pay attention for a longer period of time than I’ve had to do in ages. Man, I’d forgotten how utterly difficult that is to do! I had to not just sit, but “sit appropriately” on a hard wooden pew, and stay seated for three hours solid, and also pay attention to what a bunch of people were saying. I was part of a panel of jurors that had been randomly selected to go through voir dire for jury selection. Of the 24 people who showed up, 8 were finally selected to be the jury. However, all of the extra panel members (including myself) had to pay attention to all the voir dire questions to have our own answers ready in case any of us were to replace a dropped juror.
Sitting there all that time made me aware of how frequently I had little shoulder or head tics. And how much I wished I had a “fidget widget” to have something to do with my hands. And how much I jiggled my foot, and repositioned myself. And how much I wanted to sit there and rock from side to side, but feel inhibited to do so in public (even though I probably do rock a bit when I’m not aware).
There were some expected bad parts and unexpected good parts to the experience. Continue reading Attendance Required

Accommodating the Normals

In your place of business, educational institution, or public service area, you will have to make certain accommodations for the “normal” (“Temporarily Able-Bodied”) patrons. (Please note that within Normal culture, it is considered appropriate to refer to them as “normal people” rather than as “people with normality”.) Normal people will usually succeed in schooling, and will apply for jobs that they can do, presuming that they are given accommodations. These needs are diverse, and such accommodations include, but are not limited to, the following items: Continue reading Accommodating the Normals

Uncommon Parallels: Gossiping And Stimming

In an article from the Social Issues Research Centre (out of Oxford), Kate Fox describes in her article, “Evolution, Alienation and Gossip” the functional rôle of mobile phones for promoting community by aiding gossiping. Apparently my text messages are rather humdrum and atypical, as they relate mostly to grocery expeditions, dinner attendance, and doctor appointments rather than gossip.
However, a particular paragraph caught my eye:

“Gossip is the human equivalent of ‘social grooming’ among primates, which has been shown to stimulate production of endorphins, relieving stress and boosting the immune system. Two-thirds of all human conversation is gossip, because this ‘vocal grooming’ is essential to our social, psychological and physical well-being.”

Grooming-talking (“phatic communion” for the psycholinguistics word buffs out there) is the verbal equivalent of grooming other apes.
Perhaps stimming fulfills many of the same functions, to “stimulate production of endorphins, relieving stress and boosting the immune system”?
I realise the comparison sounds really odd. Instead of being a social kind of functioning, it is a typically autistic kind of functioning. I mean, gossiping is a social activity of the highest sort. Rather than communicating in the sense of exchanging necessary data, it is passing along information as a means to promote peace and solidarity between people in the same “tribe”.
In contrast, stimming is an emblem attribute, the very archetypical sign of the autistic. It is pretty much a self-involved activity; one might stim upon something they’re seeing or hearing, but it’s not a social interaction per se.
Of course, nearly all people gossip to some extent, and nearly all people stim in some manner or another. People are people, whether autistic or neurotypical, and it would be erroneous to assert otherwise.
Nor am I asserting that gossiping and stimming are dichotomous states. Rather, that they are two activities that despite being other- or inner-directed, fulfill much the same psychosomatic benefits.
What is also interesting is that both gossiping and stimming are activities with negative connotations assigned to them. Fox brushes away some stereotypes by asserting that men gossip as much as women, about much the same subjects, and as often as women do (albeit more often with work colleagues). It’s not that men don’t gossip, but rather that they don’t like to own up to it because it seems trivial.
Fox says, “Whatever its moral status, there is certainly some evidence to suggest that gossip is a deep-seated human instinct … This would indicate that gossip, far from being a trivial pastime, actually performs a vital and socially therapeutic function.”
Stereotypical stimming activities like hand-flapping, rocking or finger-flicking have historically been actively discouraged and “trained out” because people don’t want to own up to the fact that they are or someone else is autistic. I am willing to bet that a lot of stimming actually still goes on under private cover, or has been translated into more socially-acceptable fidgets. It is too essential to the human condition to do what one can to reduce stress, one way or another. As a cautionary note, when people cannot use benign ways of dealing with stresses, they will sometimes end up using other stress-releasers that can sometimes be ultimately addictive or self-destructive.
In would be very interesting to run physiological testing to measure some of the state changes in stress levels that occur before, during and after someone engages in a bout of stimming. If we find that these activities do indeed aid people in reducing stress, we may then have further proof that attempting to stop or limit these behaviours is literally harmful to autistics (and others).
Just as people with Tourette’s should be able to function in everyday life without having to spend great amounts of energy trying to suppress their tics in order to pass for normal, autistics should likewise be able to function in everyday life without having to spend great amounts of energy trying to suppress their stims. (Of course, I’m not purporting that highly disruptive tics are going to be acceptable everywhere, nor that injurious stims are a good thing. Such blanket, extreme statements are merely strawman arguments.) As long as the tics or the stims are not going beyond someone else’s personal boundaries, then they ought to be considered acceptable.
Common, polite society needs to realise that not everyone moves, talks, interacts or waits in the same standardised manner. Spending enormous efforts to pretend that one is the same as everyone else does nothing to advocate for diversity and does nothing for one’s health. Disabilities and physical differences are a normal part of life, and so are neurological differences.

Recess: Fun With Words

 

Recess means we take a break and play. It’s important to do that once in a while.

DID YOU KNOW …
that there’s a German word for “that song stuck in your head”? Ohrwurm. Literally, an Ohrwurm is an earwig insect, and I have no idea how that bit of entomological etymology evolved. (Earwigs really don’t crawl into people’s ears, despite their names – they do happen to be beneficial predators of insect pests in greenhouses and orchards). I’ll be polite and refrain from mentioning which songs get stuck in my head – they’re usually the really obnoxious pop-music sort.

An Ohrwurm could also be That Word Stuck In Your Head. A lot of us have run into this perseverative phenomenon. You don’t have to be autistic or have OCD or Tourette’s, although it helps.

Repeating a word over and over is a called palilalia, which in an exquisite twist of cosmic irony, is a great word to repeat or play with as well: pali-lali-lali-lali-lalia! One of my favorite words to repeat over and over is “smock”. Say it several times quickly and it becomes quite silly sounding: smocksmocksmocksmocksmocksmocksmocksmock
Repeating that word very many times also tends to turn your lips to limp rubber, so be careful.

Smock is odd for being on my list. Usually the really good stim words have several syllables: Fescennine, balderdash, interlocutor, reticulated, knee breaches or isoflavinoid. I can play around with the syllable stresses on i-so-fla-vi-noid for a goodly number of blocks of rush-hour traffic driving. “Knee breaches” seems anomalous, but for reasons unknown odd clothing names will suction themselves to my consciousness. A couple of months ago, “dickey” was very sticky. (That’s a false blouse front, an absurd article if ever there was one.) This spring past, “galoshes” sloshed repeatedly around my cranium. The inside of my head can be a noisy place, tinnitus notwithstanding.

Instead of, or addition to engaging an autistic stim, you could have a Tourette’s phonic tic if you go blurting out some random word for no damn good reason at all. Although dramatically used in the media, it’s actually rather rare for Touretters to have coprolalia, where one unintentionally says taboo or cuss words. In real life, most of us really mean to when we say those words.

Speaking of stimming, one really has to wonder about chanting mantras …

Lexilalia is when you repeat words aloud after reading them. I run into this with scientific terms and names, many of which have such wonderfully theatrical sounds, like arcane incantations. (Turn on your mental Roll-of-Thunder and Great-Echoing-Chamber sound effects here.) My favorites are:

Cumulonimbus!

Paradichlorobenzene!

Chrysanthemum leucanthemum!

Gosh, isn’t that fun?
The first is a cloud form, the second refers to a common ingredient in mothballs, and the latter is the garden daisy. Horticultural pedants will note that the taxonomists (bless their wicked hearts) have renamed the daisy as Leucanthemum superbum, which isn’t quite as much fun, although I had a horticulture professor who instead of saying su-PER-bum pronounced the species as SUUP-er-bum.
For a while I would burst into uncontrollable laughter at one of my daughter’s Spanish vocabulary words, bufanda (boo-FAHN-da), which means “scarf”. My daughter then had a penchant for spontaneously hollering out the word just to watch me break into giggles. To her dismay and my relief I eventually became desensitised. I think.
Maybe.
(Special thanks to MOM-NOS for reminding me about this crazy topic.)