dedication

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This blog is dedicated to:

My beautiful, big-hearted baby sister and her valiant, generous hubby, and my most loyal and supportive friend YS – thank you for helping me eat better, look beyond my feet, reach out, live my dreams and keep on keeping on, knowing always that I am loved.

My canine angel, Lucy Like a Charm, who shares this wonderful journey.

What Is Empathy?

Reblogging a very clear and concise perspective on the empathy conundrum, by Alex Forshaw.

Married, With Aspergers

Empathy. Everyone knows what it is, right? It’s that sixth sense, a kind of ESP that picks up the vibes of what somebody else is feeling. Except that telepathy doesn’t exist, and given the lack of Betazoids on Earth there is nobody who can genuinely “hear” emotions broadcast by your brain.

So what is empathy and how does it work? It turns out that it’s based on observation. Minutiae of expression–body language–signal emotions at a subconscious level.

Humans being social animals, we have evolved to be sensitive to these signals from others around us. They provide hints for how we should approach others, how we should adapt our behavior to their moods so that they will be more receptive to our interactions.

But since we cannot actually read the thoughts of another, cannot infallibly know what they are thinking, we rely on projecting what we can observe onto our own…

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Tribe meets tribe: Autism and friendship

Simply beautiful.

The other side

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Meeting other autistic people is a rarity. Being openly autistic it’s happening more. You have to be out to be seen, and be seen to find others. Online brings a richer crop of tribe members, but in so-called real time, not so much.

Yesterday brought a glorious exception, and an hour and a half of utter joy.

There’s a special regard and tenderness between autistic friends, I’ve noticed. Often we meet first online. “Real time” meetings follow on from something no less real but somehow 2-dimensional in comparison.

As a newbie autistic I’m learning so much. Each day I wake up and quite literally pinch myself. As I gain more direct exposure to my culture I continue to peel the layers of that onion, I’ve spoken about in previous posts.

I see my life retrospectively with new eyes. I see it autistically. I see it as autism. I see…

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painting on the sky

Four years ago, on this day… the cosmos sent me a beautiful painterly sky… Now, four years later, I have handed in my PhD dissertation, I have a beautiful Canine Angel by my side, and I am responsible for her until her last breath… Amazing what happens when one reaches for that small piece of sky! I think of my father every day, and today, I wonder again, “Papa, can you hear me?”

bunnyhopscotch

Sunset Over Paddington (20120527)

sunset over Paddinton 20120527

I never get tired of looking at my little piece of sky from the window as I work. It is a sensory smorgasbord every time I look, it changes and transforms, even on a rainy, grey day, there are subtle hues and stroke-like washes that the eye can see but my little camera just cannot capture.

And the mental association, the memory recall, is always the song from the Barbra Streisand movie, Yentl, “A Piece of Sky”. Yes, I do know that Streisand altered the original story quite a bit (to suit her), but in my mind, it was one of the most impact-ful movies in my life. I was a young person at the time, grappling with my (undiagnosed) neurodiversity, daring to dream and paying a price for it. The song and theme inspired me, I was captivated by the idea of Yentl as the…

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How we Communicate – A Podcast

Rich, multi-textured and… just amazing!

Emma's Hope Book

*This was an assignment for English Composition to create a podcast about something you care about.  This is mine after many revisions and incorporating notes from my teacher.  A written transcript of the podcast is below, but if you can, listen first!

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 4.19.00 PM Emma – 2016  Photograph by Pete Thompson

This voice?  The one that you’re hearing read these words?  Yeah, that one.  It isn’t my voice.  It’s my mom’s.  You’re probably wondering why a teenage girl would want her mom to read what she’s written.  In my case, it’s because I can’t read what I write out loud.  There’s not a direct line between my brain and my mouth.  It’s more like an elaborate maze.  I can’t speak so people understand what I mean.  If asked a question, my mouth says things that do not answer the question.  My brain doesn’t think in words the way most people’s do.  Names…

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hide inside

Too much to process. Assaulted on all sides at multiple dimensions. Sensory attacks from the environment. Confusing shenanigans from certain quarters that even my non-autistic, neurotypical friends shake their heads at. Discombobulation. Distress. Chaos. Disorganisation. Changes, one following another, tripping over in clumsy stretto. Fever. Smarting eyes. Ringing ears. Inflammation everywhere. Tired, tired, exhaustion. Continue reading

mindDog needs help!

For many people with invisible disabilities, an assistance dog makes the difference between living a richer life or one shut inside fear and terror. Without Lucy, I would not have had the amazing inspiration trajectories for my professional work, and I would not have the courage to keep going when overwhelmed by the cosmic maelstrom that I have found myself hurled into over and over again during this incredible PhD journey. I can honestly say that on more than one occasion, Lucy has saved my life in very concrete, palpable ways. An assistance dog is not only a beloved companion animal, but one trained to address specific disabilities in practical and essential ways. Continue reading

hugging the hug

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Photo from “Your Dog Hates Hugs.”

I made an FB rant in response to handsome TV celebrity vet Chris Brown’s post refuting the recent news going around that dogs actually do not like being hugged.

A hug is not the same as soft cuddling, stroking, snuggling.

A handsome TV celebrity vet may be attractive but he is not always right.

It is dangerous and yes, even harmful, to push personal agenda over that of our animals and indeed even the neurologically differently wired.

Chris Brown says very wisely, “If you see wide eyes, ears that are down… etc…” Yes, agree… but when you are hugging (remember hugging is not the same as cuddling, stroking, snuggling) how can you see any accurate signs of these? Besides, you will be too emotionally centred to want to be observing, wouldn’t you? Isn’t that the whole basis of hugging?

Is it not time to consider – yes, just merely stop a moment and consider – the paradigm of the other Being that we say we so adore and love, to find out whether their modalities for affection are being properly recognised, alongside our own?

I hate hugging humans, but they make me hug them anyway – they even have ABA ‘scientifically proven methods’ that make people like me learn to appear normal and like hugging etc, and we comply because why? We wish to please and we don’t want to be beaten down anymore, that is all. BUT… I would LOVE for this so-called ‘non-scientific’ observation to be wrong, because I love to hug my Lucy, she’s the only one I want to hug. But I know there is grave truth in the concept that dogs do not really like being hugged. Because I can feel her muscles. And I have hugged many of my family dogs. Enough to know that I have made a practice of ignoring them since age 5. Luckily, I was not bitten. Just because one celebrity vet tells you it is ok, then it is science? What about the many many non-celebrity vets who tell you otherwise, from their own experiences?

How does your dog like to show affection, without prompting? Lucy likes to lick me. I do not like it much, but there is some comfortable compromise to be made. Lucy likes to paw at me, and ask me to stroke her ears, while looking at me intently. I am not keen on looking in the eye much, so I look away after some time. I want to hug her, and she endures it for my sake, but I now minimise it because I can feel her muscles subtly tightening, even though I cannot literally see those things that Chris Brown says to look out for – because when you are hugging someone/dog/cat you just cannot see those things, can you? Anyway…. long rant…

All I am saying is, please, people, try to look at those you profess to love from their native modality. Try. Just try. I still get it wrong. Lucy is a patient teacher. I am not a very good learner. But I want to keep trying with an open mind. That is ALL I am saying. That there are possible paradigms that are not our own, and I just want to explore those from within Otherness, rather than insisting on my own needs and my own concepts. If that is pushing my own agenda, then it is true. My agenda is to try and learn from the modalities of the neurologically differently wired from myself, while at the same time persuading the normative social community to try and step into my different paradigm.

This was on my own FB space. But the Bunny had previously offered a frank opinion on a friend’s repost, and got promptly accused of pushing my own barrow, and then the thread was deleted. I respect my friend’s right to do so. It is, after all, a personal FB wall and he is entitled to his opinion. I actually thought we were having a nice intellectual debate, I failed to see how intensely he disliked it, and I guess I was being insensitive in that instance.

No, I will not stop being honest with my thoughts, but I will from henceforth try to be more sensitive about dishing my thoughts out in this way to this particular friend’s personal FB space. The lesson I learned (and continue to learn with each new experience) is exactly the same lesson that I am trying to convey: let’s make effort to empathise with Other from their native framework, instead of our own. So, now I realise my friend does not like this kind of disagreement and does not see my intellectual discourse as what it is intended to be, I am responsible for putting a lid on it, after all, it is his space. I will refrain – cease and desist – henceforth. (Different scenario if it were my space.)

We do need to keep wanting to learn. Empathy is an Endeavour. That was my whole point where it came to my comments re. the dog-hugging argument anyway – but people who are too emotionally heated up tend not to perceive logic in a … well… logical way. And yes, fact is, in this framework of emotionality or emotion-focusing, the babbling autistic does indeed come across as irritating, annoying and “pushing our own barrows” (steamrolling really). How do we strike a good compromise? I do not know for sure, but I am learning from Lucy. She is a patient teacher. Maybe I will learn enough to apply it better to my human interactions? Go, Lucy Angel!

tired sausages

 

Literally. Exhausted. And the pain… but nobody wants to hear about the aches and pains of a middle aged autistic woman. Come to think of it, nobody ever wanted to hear about aches and pains at any stage of life. I know that, because mine began from as far back as I can remember, and probably even further back to pre-memory and pre-verbal stages, judging from reports and anecdotes about my behaviour as an infant. “Psychosomatic!” “Pull up your socks!” (where are my socks, by the way?) “All in your head!” (it’s bursting, just sayin’)… Since the age of five. Amazing stuff, adults tell suffering children, yeah. Continue reading

a name I call myself

There does not seem to be an equally heated (and ferociously foolish) argument in any other context within the normative social sphere about what people wish to call themselves, so why is identity-first vs. person-first preference in autism such a ridiculously aggrandised and dramatic squabble among non-autistic persons?

All in the name of political correctness, which is such an irony that the non-autistic PC (politically correct) police do not seem to understand – or just stubbornly do not wish to acknowledge. (The latter is far more sinister than the former.) Surely it is more politically incorrect to insist on calling someone by a name they DO NOT wish to be called by? Is this a conspiracy of the deficits-focused overground social colonialists fearing an eventual autistic world domination (should they as much as acknowledge us for what we wish to be recognised for), or is it just plain and simple flabbergasting ludicrousness?

Right… why the rant? Well, it sort of builds up every now and then, like those giant cyst-like pimples that come and go, as nature’s way of blighting your life, you know those? Usually the culprit is my terrible penchant for reading comments on FB or blogposts, and getting caught up in the horrific pompous ignorance displayed by the general non-autistic populace about autism. Sometimes I do try to put in my two cents’ worth of advocacy / education, but mostly, I just become upset and do this babble-rant thing.

Here’s my most recent one (rant, that is):

Hear ye! Hear ye!!!! People! People! People! EDUCATED people! Educated people who work in the disabilities field! Educated people who work with autistic people! HEED THIS PLEASE!!!

We are autistic. We are not ‘persons-with-autism.’ Unless the individual specifically tells you they do not wish to identify as autistic (and I do have a view on this but it’s not part of my rant), then PLEASE do try your very best not to impose your preconceived notions of what is respectful or politically correct on us. Give us that amount of respect to know what we wish to be referred to, please, please very kindly.

If you really wish to be politically correct, then PLEASE go do some research on current political correctness!!! The internet is available to you, the information is free and readily accessible! From ASAN, autism advocates’ webpages, to (yes, gasp!) recent research studies in neuroscience (check out Michelle Dawson – an actually autistic researcher – gasp gasp gasp!!!) !!!!!!

Non-autistic people claiming to be experts/professionals working in the field of autism can often (not always but often) be the MOST annoying know-it-alls. Next up are the self-styled ‘educated’ folk who try to tell me, an autistic person and researcher in the field of autism with an almost PhD, what I should want to be called!!!

AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!!!

—- Rant brought to you courtesy of the wonderful internet and my silly tendency to even bother to read the comments that people vomit out as a by-way-of reflex activity (not unlike burping and belching) underneath some really wonderful FB posts about autistic persons —-

Oh hey, here too is my own take on the grand circus that should not be: Identity First by Dawn-joy Leong.

The video clip? Well, that’s just a stim that stuck in my head, added here for whimsical weird effect, ala Bunnyhopscotch twisty humour. Enjoy!:)

familiar space

It’s not ‘nostalgia’ really… just… an elemental empathy with familiar and clement space. We returned twice to our old neighbourhood last week. Once in the middle of the week, with our special guests Misty and Colin, and then on Saturday for breakfast with Rick. Not Just Coffee has to be our very favourite place in Paddington!

Life is in a state of unstable flux … I don’t know where the cosmos will lead us next, and how clement it will be to one Bunny and one Greyhound called Lucy. For now, we will do our best to treasure and savour the important things…