Saturday, 11 October 2014

We pay attention to what is actually said

My work is getting very keen on Health and Safety.  I read a notice saying:

"If you see a fire extinguisher propping open a fire door, remove yourself".

I read this as telling me to remove myself from the building!  

It took me some considerable seconds to figure out that the intended meaning is "remove the fire extinguisher".

Apparently NTs would have understood the real meaning instantly - their first impression is the coherent meaning.  Whereas ours is what is actually said.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

So, can you actually feel sadness then?

I recently got asked in an assessment situation if I was capable of feeling sadness?

I said that I felt extremely sad that the questioner was not sure if I was, emotionally-speaking, a human being or a toaster!  

PLEASE, if you don't know something as basic as that, couldn't you google it before attempting to assess me?
All autistic people HAVE emotions.  We just may not express them in the way that others may expect.  I wrote about 6 pages of feedback to the questioner, which was not at all what they expected!

Who is the trampoline for?

A visitor calls, to install my boiler:

"Who is the trampoline for then?" 

"That would be for me".

Entering HR

Entering HR, I find looks of deep concern and enquiries as to if I'm alright and could I wait for a minute. 

I say I'm fine and I've just come to say how much I'm enjoying my job. 

Look of incredulous relief and surprise. I then go on to tell HR to treat my new boss fairly, with justice and to give her help if she needs it. HR woman smiles and assures me she will carry out justice.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The sound of a carrot

An aspie friend phones me whilst I’m cooking dinner.  I set the phone down in my kitchen and put it on speaker phone.  I make dinner whilst chatting (hey, I'm multi-tasking!).  

My friend not only figures out that I’m cooking, but identifies the vegetable is carrots (by the sound of the chop) and also when my stir fry is ready to eat (by the sizzle)!  He tells me that carrots have a particular sound being chopped, which is different to onions, parsnips etc.   

He advises me to sharpen my knife as it is obvious I’m putting too much force into the chopping.

Some conversations could only be had between aspies!

The perils of dressing correctly

Friend: "I'm getting confused because Debi has different clothing standards than my support worker, and I don't like two bits of different information. Is it just the case that Debi is a scruff-bag and I should ignore her?". 

Support worker: "Yes."

Art critique class

At work:

Me:  "Can I sit in on an art critique class?" 

My boss:  "Yes, that would be fine, but you would probably find it hilarious the nuances that we read into what a photograph is intending to express, and I'd have to ask you to be very quiet at the back and try not to talk too much or burst out laughing".

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A child's definition of Aspergers...

Today, I met up with my friend and her children.  Her oldest child, M, is around 7, and she has been asking me a lot of questions about Aspergers lately, and I've been trying to explain what it is.

My friend told me that M has now begun explaining Aspergers to other people.  This is her definition:

"When most children grow up, they lose their creativity, but Debi hasn't because she's got Aspergers!"

This must be the loveliest definition I've ever heard and I'm certainly gonna adopt it!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The real meaning of "It's been so lovely to see you"

On Thursday night, some friends gave me a lift home.  We were chatting away in the car.  One of them then said: "Well, it's been so lovely to see you", which I took, correctly, to mean: "Please get out of our car now, we want to drive home and then go to bed"!

It struck me as so bizarre that people don't just say what they really mean!

The unexpected ambulance

Last night, a fuse blew in my house whilst I was on the phone to a friend.  All the lights went out.  Whilst still on the phone, I was looking at the fuse box and my friend was explaining to me what to do.  Some writing next to a switch told me to put the switch to "off" before handling any fuses.  I did this, not knowing what it would do.  It cut all the power to my house so the phone went dead.   

I didn't understand the fuse box and couldn't figure out what to do, so I went across the road to my neighbour's.  He came in and looked at it and then went back to his house for some fuse wire.  On leaving my house, there was what I took to be a police car parked outside.  On second glance, it turned out to be an ambulance.  I thought it was for one of my neighbours and wondered if their children were okay.  I went out of my house to see what was going on.

The ambulance driver asked if I was the householder.  I said yes.  She said my friend that I'd been talking to on the phone had thought I'd been electrocuted and had called for an ambulance!  I explained how the switch on the fuse box had just cut the power to my whole house unexpectedly, and that I hadn't been electrocuted.  She put her head back and roared with laughter and drove off. 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Debi Brown, Individual on the Autism Spectrum

I've just been chuckling my head off because I've figured out why the description:  
"Debi Brown, Individual on the Autism Spectrum" sounded weird to me.

It's because the alternative option would be:

"Debi Brown, Group on the Autism Spectrum".

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The interesting way to meet your neighbours

I was at my volunteering club, talking to a mother and her 7-year old child.

I recounted the story of me yelling across the street mid-bounce from my trampoline, by way of meeting my new neighbour S (see a few posts ago), and how the neighbour had said she'd already read my website so wasn't in the least bit surprised about the trampoline.

The 7-year old looks at me in horror. 

"Debi, that's not how you introduce yourself to a new neighbour!" 


"No!"  The child imitates knocking on a door, smiling and saying "hello", to teach me how it's done.

Great, I'm now learning normal social interaction from an NT 7-year old! 

"Oh, darling, you're very boring" says tactful Mum to child. "Debi's way was more interesting".

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Autistic gifts

You know how they say some autistic people have special gifts - some special skill that is extremely rare?  Well, I wasn't sure if I had any.  But I recently discovered mine.  This was how.

I was in the car with my friend, going ice-skating.  She told me that her daughter was ill, but that she herself wasn't.  But I could smell illness in the car all around her.  I figured, oh, this is just very strong because it's an enclosed space.  Later, at the ice rink, I skated up to her and got a really big whiff of ill-smell - in a massive ice-rink with lots of air and other people around to dissipate it.  So I said, "excuse me, you're definitely ill, who are you kidding on - it's not just your daughter".

My friend (who's a GP) looked surprised and asked me how I knew.  I said because I can smell it.  She told me that it wasn't normal to be able to smell illness.  I was completely surprised - I thought everyone could do it.  I smelled the same smell that I used to when my sister was off sick from school and spent the day lying on the couch, so I'd learned that was the smell of illness.

Last weekend, at a party, my friend told me she had the lurgy.  I got a whiff of her breath and knew that she was telling the truth - she smelled pretty ill.  I told another friend that I could smell her illness and it became a big topic of amusement, with lots of people reacting in a pretty astonished way.

Well, pretty cool, eh? I never knew it was a special gift because I assumed everyone could smell illnesses!  I can't smell every illness - e.g. I can't smell colds or cancer.  I don't know what it is that I'm smelling - a virus, a bacteria, a body's reaction to these, or some sort of substance produced in response?

But, of all the possible gifts and amazing autistic talents out there, I did wonder - could I not have got something a little more useful or spectacular?!? 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The escalating child!

Shortly after my diagnosis, I was at an autism teacher training event, being run by an autism professional I knew.  I was there to contribute my tuppence worth. 

We were having lunch and we were joined at our table by one of the teachers receiving the training.  The conversation went along the lines of how difficult it was to tell I'm autistic.  So, I told this little story as an example:

I'm in the ground floor of a clothing store, walking towards an escalator.  I'm quite close to the foot of the escalator.  I see a small child get onto the bottom of the escalator by mistake.  Her mother, who is looking at clothes, doesn't notice.  The child tries to walk back off the escalator, but doesn't quite manage it.  I watch in fascination as I see the rate of travel of the escalator upwards is just a bit faster than the rate of travel of the child, trying to get off the escalator.  The child stumbles a bit, and starts to get carried up the escalator.  I feel sorry for the child, who is starting to get distressed.  The thought enters my mind (clunk, click) that maybe I should do something, but I don't know what. 

At that moment, another woman runs up from behind me, leaps onto the bottom of the escalator, grabs the now-wailing child by the hand, walks down the up-escalator faster than the escalator is going up, dragging the child.  The child goes back to her mother, still crying.  Suddenly, there is a swarm of women around, and a lot of high pitched cooing noises.  Everyone, including me, feels happy and relieved that the child is rescued.  But someone is feeling something other than purely happy.  A woman's voice, from just behind me declares in an acid tone of voice:  "And some people were just standing there, not doing anything!".  I know that's directed at me.  My happiness vanishes and I go up the escalator, feeling guilty, crushed and criticised.  I start to think that I must be a horrible person.
After some time feeling yuck, I figure it out.  I wasn't delighting in the child's predicament.  I felt sorry for the child.  But I didn't know what to do.  I never grab strangers' children who I don't know in a public place.  I have no experience of going down an upwards escalator, and I'm not sure if I'd be quick enough to manage it.  If I had been quick enough at thinking to get on and grab the child, perhaps both of us would be swept up to the top, with me then looking like I'm kidnapping the child!  Okay, so I was unjustly criticised and I don't need to feel guilty.  But I still did feel pretty terrible and I felt upset for quite some time afterwards. 

The autism professional that I'm with then turns to the teacher and says something explanatory about how my (lack of) response was different than what non-autistic people would expect.

The teacher then asks me:  "How old was the child?"

I reply:  "Maybe about 3 years old".

The teacher then says:  "Oh, well, if it was 3 years old, then I wouldn't have bothered about that child at all.  Children don't really get interesting until they're about 5 or 6, so I would have been quite happy to ignore the child."

My eyebrows promptly shot up to my forehead. Well!  I at least did care about the child - I just didn't know what to do!  But here is someone stating the quite controversial view that she didn't care and wouldn't have bothered about the child at all, without seeming to be aware that (a) her not caring was unusual, and (b) stating to us that she didn't care was controversial and socially unusual because people would be likely to condemn her for lack of compassion.  I suddenly felt a lot less guilty.

I respond to the teacher with interest and curiosity as I start to suspect that the teacher is also an aspie.  I restrain myself, with some difficulty, from saying what I'm thinking.  The autism professional later told me (after the woman had left) that she was thinking the same thing and was really hoping that I wasn't going to blurt it out and tell the teacher how she is at least as autistic as I am!

Lesson 1 for the world - aspies are everywhere!!!  Even in the audience of professionals that are learning about autism!

Lesson 2 for the world - please stop being judgemental!  Judgement is wrong (yes, I know, that's also a judgement!)

Friday, 31 January 2014

Already famous in my new neighberhood

Shortly after moving into my house, I'm bouncing on my trampoline after work, as you do, enjoying a nice summer's afternoon, and I notice a woman coming out of the house facing mine.  I remember the sellers of my house pointing out her house and telling me that someone nice lives there.  

I yell "Hello!" at the top of my voice and wave energetically, whilst still continuing to bounce.

My neighbour crosses the street and talks to me over the hedge and through the trampoline netting.  The conversation goes like this:

"Hello, I'm S."

"Hello, I'm Debi."

"Yes, I know, I've read your website, so I wasn't at all surprised when the trampoline arrived and I knew it wasn't because you had tons of kids!"

I was deeply amused!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Are you a paramedic?

Today, on leaving work, I got on the underground as usual.  A man further up the carriage was asking me something.  Due to a combination of his speaking style and my own auditory processing issues, I couldn't understand what he was saying, so I went to sit opposite him to be able to hear more clearly.

On about the 4th or 5th repetition, I heard him properly, asking me:

"Are you a paramedic?"

Well, that was certainly a new one on me!  A few seconds of confusion later, I realised he may have thought that because of my fluorescent yellow jacket, so I replied:

"No, this is my cycling jacket."  This didn't seem to quite be enough information, so I added: "it helps me be visible to cars when I'm on my bike." 

The man then proceeded to tell me that he was having some lower back pain.  I recommended an emergency section of one of the hospitals if he really needed to see someone about it.

A few more interactions later, I was seriously wondering if I'd just met a fellow aspie.  He told me that he was 40 years old, and wasn't it good that he didn't have any grey hairs.  He also leaned right towards me so the side of his face and his neck was quite near my face, which I wasn't expecting.  I perceived a threat and jumped.  But then, I figured out he wasn't threatening, and just asked him: "so, what am I looking at here?" and he asked me if I could smell his aftershave.  So, I said, "yes, very nice".

He also told me that his back was sore because he had been beaten up by three men with an iron bar and he'd just spent the last 4 months in hospital.  He then got off the underground train (we only travelled together for two stops) and I wished him good luck.

This is the second time in two months I've heard about aspies (or in this case, someone I suspect to be an aspie) being violently attacked and beaten up by strangers.
I cycled home thinking, "gee, it's already bad enough when I lose friends because of my communication style, but being beaten up is even worse".

This is supposed to be a funny blog, but the serious message is could the public please stop attacking people who are different?  Hate crime is never acceptable.