Quick Pseudo-Update:

I’m going to have a much longer update out soon… I hope.

In the meantime, please take the time to read this VERY important shameless self-plug:

I’ve been nominated for the WEGO Health Awards for Hilarious Patient Leader!

I need you to go to THIS LINK and click on the ENDORSE button in order to send me to the finals. This is really important to me.

Thank you, if you did it! If you didn’t, was it the lack of new episodes of The Aspie Dialogues Show? Because that’s coming back in the near future. So, maybe you might want to click that ENDORSE button, after all… Just sayin’…

The longer update will have to wait until after my sister moves to Cincinnati this weekend. We’re looking after my toddler-aged niece this weekend while they get ready for the move… And their two cats… And our two cats… And I have a virus at the moment… And I’m slightly tired… Just like you guys are of this joke running too long…

My niece is stirring in her crib. Gotta go…

When Does Empathy Border on the Pathological?

When last I wrote on the blog, I mentioned there might be a couple months without content due to the process of moving. Well, now I’m knee-deep in the process of putting stuff away in my new home.

I’m so excited, I could just scream…

So during a recent, much-needed therapy session, I revealed an aspect of myself that leads into today’s Million-Dollar Question:

When does empathy border on the pathological?


For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a quirk about my imagination that I’ve never told anybody about before said therapy session, which I personally feel borders on that fine line between demonstrating empathy and some sort of twisted pathology.

Now to note what my therapist said, she feels that it demonstrates a form of empathic thinking, but it still bothers me that my imagination runs in this direction.

Hold up, Jon! What direction where? What exactly do you imagine about other people? Do we even want to know? Is it THAT kind of thing?

Relax, it’s nothing like THAT. For as long as I can remember, I could see a happy stranger… it could be a random person on the street or a person in a commercial… Whoever it is, this person is happy… But for some sick, demented reason, my mind’s eye goes out of its way to attempt to imagine what this person is like when he or she is angry or otherwise upset.

That’s where I feel it becomes pathological. It’s one thing to see a celebrity and wonder what his or her daily life is like, but it’s completely different, and I’d go as far as to say unnecessary, to imagine a random stranger getting upset.

Even after my therapist did her best to convince me that it’s just my mind trying to understand others’ emotions better, I’m not entirely convinced that it’s not a pathological behavior. So, I’m opening the conversation to you guys.

What’s your spin on this?


PSA: Words Defy Me…

Now I know how Mom felt when I was 15; I’m stunned speechless. But, because a former Scientologist saw the Tide Pod Challenge (DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN THAT, BY THE WAY) and said, “Hold my beer,” I don’t have that option anymore.

Apparently, some desperate parents out there have decided that The Great Schism of Autism is not worth resolving. This, dear readers, is why we cannot have nice things.

*sigh* Introducing… the new “PSA” category for The Aspie Dialogues blog posts.

I’ll cut to the end and show how I got there. Here goes…

PLEASE! DO NOT… I REPEAT…. DO NOT FORCE YOUR NEURODIVERSE CHILD TO CONSUME BLEACH AS A “MIRACLE CURE FOR AUTISM.”

You think I’m making this up. I can see the looks on your faces.

Jon, that’s horrifying! Who would ever…

Desperate parents trying to ‘cure’ autism by giving children bleach …

Parents are making their children drink bleach to ‘cure’ them of autism

Oh. Wow. I… Wow.

Stop the planet; I want to get off! Just drop me off at the nearest sun. I’ll take it from there.

Even IFLScience picked up the story:

Parents Are Forcing Children To Drink Bleach To “Cure” Autism …

I know IFLScience isn’t exactly the most credible source on the internet, but when they pick up a story like this, I listen.

The Autism Wikia page on the subject

Dear lord! There’s even one of those, too?!

I’m afraid it’s that much of a problem in the community.  Just read this excerpt from the Autism Wikia page:

Parents are urged not to use bleach on their children. Autism is better than death. As autism is lifelong, and parents should instead focus on therapies that will help their individual child grow into a happy, healthy autistic adult.

Let me highlight the most important sentence of that paragraph for you, in case you need to save it for later:

Autism is better than death.

One more time:

AUTISM IS BETTER THAN DEATH.

I used to think this was common sense, but apparently, the internet applies its logic wherever and whenever it wants.

So, thank you, Church of Scientology. It wasn’t enough you had to blur the lines between religion and hoax, now it seems you’ve moved onto more relevant lines to blur. Lines like health, science, and hoax should never be blurred. EVER. This is how we end up in situations like The Great Schism of Autism, in the first place.

When a Wikia page feels the to clarify that any atypical condition of life is better than death, that’s a huge problem. It’s one that requires our immediate attention to rectify NOW.

So, hold MY beer before I throw it at the next NT I see within range.

A picture is worth 1,000 words…

OH! And in case I didn’t make myself clear before, stop giving your kids bleach drinks and enemas. Kthxbye!

This has been an Aspie Dialogues Public Service Announcement.

When It Was ’17…

It was a very frustrating year. I don’t think many people have such fond memories of 2017, in general. Politics aside, it was just a year filled with unbridled negativity, no matter where you looked.

But I don’t have to recap everything that happened this year for you. Instead, why don’t we look to the future?

I think we all had such stress and fear going into 2017 that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy fueled by our worst, darkest pits of our own negativity. I don’t want to say that it surely can’t get any worse than 2017 (mostly because that’s folly to try to guess the future), but this past year was pretty negative from the get-go.

So, I’m going to issue a challenge to all of you, dear NDs:

Let’s make 2018 a much more positive year. Let’s fuel this new year with the best we have to offer ourselves and each other. We can do so much better than we did this past year.

2018 is a clean slate; let’s see what we can do with it.

In keeping with my one of my promises from the video, how about we ring in the new year with a poll?

Gut Reaction: Atypical

This is a new segment, in which I reveal my first impressions of a neurodiversity-related book, show, music, or video-game that I have just come across. For all intents and purposes, a “show” will be defined as a movie, TV series, or web series.

In order to qualify, I can only have seen no more than two episodes of a show, or in the event the show is a movie, this has to have been my first time having ever seen the show. I cannot have read more than 50 pages of a book, played more than one hour of a video-game, nor can I have listened to more than three songs on an album or have listened to a song more than ten times.


Today, we’re going to take a look at Netflix’s new series, Atypical.

Oh, boy! Here we go again…

Is it appropriate to point out at this point that I’ve only just watched the first episode? Because I feel it’s totally appropriate to point out at this point that I’ve only just watched the first episode.

The pilot episode. I’m only one episode in, and I’m already bracing myself for what I’m terrified this is:

Atypical: The Movie!

Now don’t get me wrong! I like Adam just as much as I want to like Atypical. I just don’t honestly believe for a second that we are all this robotic. Hell, I’d venture to say that a vast majority of us aren’t this robotic.

Sure, many of us do like things in a particular arrangement, and some of us can be what my family refers to as “stunad” at times (Why hello, Captain Clueless! When did you get here?), but that’s a far cry from saying things like, “I can see your bra. It’s purple.” That is a direct quote from very near the beginning of the entire series, and it came from our ND protagonist, Sam.

*slow clap* Well done, Sam. You’ve successfully set back everything NTs perceive about us by almost ten years.

No, really! Adam says something similar in the 2009 film, Adam.

Oh, Adam… I know social skills aren’t your thing, but holy damn, man!

The thing is…

I can’t tell what Netflix is going for with his characterization. It’s clear they wanted to hit us over the head with the “Sam has an ASD” card, and I’d be okay with that if the characteristics weren’t so overplayed in ways that we’ve already seen a million ways before.

That said, I saw in a YouTube clip that there will be a couple moments where we, the viewer, see what Sam experiences in the exact way he sees it.

Bright, blinding lights? Check. Loud voices drowned out by loud background noises? Check. Extreme focus on exactly what we presume to be Sam’s field of vision? Check. That’s what we need more of. It helps us personally connect with Sam on an experiential level as viewers.

What we don’t need are the awkward, creepy smiling cliché, the over-emphasis on his obsession with penguins and Antarctica (We get it: that’s your  focal topic of interest), and we certainly don’t need a Spectrumite love story that’s been done before in 2009 with Adam. In 2017, we’re craving something new with our portrayals of neurodiversity.

Like I said, it’s clear that Netflix wants us to know Sam has an ASD, but then all the other characters parade across the screen like caricatures of the people who exist and support him in his life.

Someday, I’ll be a REAL supporting cast member…

This leaves Sam in the odd position of being the only character in the show with any semblance of true personality. Which I find odd, considering how hard the show wants you to believe he doesn’t have one.

Can we make a directing decision and stick with it, please? If there’s one thing Spectrumites love, it’s consistency. I’m getting distracted just trying to pin this kid down. Watching this episode was exhausting! We’ll see how I feel after Episode 8, but from early reviews that I’ve read, the prognosis doesn’t seem too great. Like I said, we’ll see.

I could go on about Sam’s mother’s reticence to step back and give Sam the necessary room to grow, but I think I’ll save that for the actual review.

So everything said and considered (I’m going to address the Antarctic penguin in the room), did I enjoy this episode?

Yes, but I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Every time somebody tries to make a show about a Spectrumite, it rarely focuses on the ASD or the Spectrumite attempting to adapt to it. Here, it’s like they’re trying very hard to focus on Sam and his ASD, but they can’t think of an engaging enough premise to build the rest of the show around in order to keep the focus on these things.

You can expect the full review some time after I’ve finished watching the entire season.

Until then, I’m the Role Star. Because sometimes, a Role Model just doesn’t get the job done…

The Great Schism of Autism

Hello, Dear Spectrumites!

I want to take some time today to talk about something that’s been bothering me for quite some time…

The Great Schism of Autism.

Okay, so what exactly do I mean by this?

“Jon, are you getting political again?”

Well… Yes, and no.

Yes, in that the outcome of this Schism will most undoubtedly affect how the collective voices of the Autism community as a whole will be heard by our mainstream societies.

No, in that this issue goes a hell of a lot deeper than that.

“Uh-oh. Jon used a bad word. He’s getting serious…”

Yeah. I am. Because, really, the Great Schism of Autism is hurting us all, and it needs to stop. Like, years ago. It needed to stop years ago. It’s still happening, and probably will continue to happen long after this post, but it needs to stop. Have I made myself clear that this needs to stop? Because, if I haven’t, it needs to stop, and it’s hurting the Autism community by not stopping.

“Settle down, Jon.”

So, what exactly is the Great Schism of Autism, and how is it hurting the Autism community as a whole?

To understand the answer to this question, we first have to understand how the Autism Spectrum (Yes, it’s a Spectrum, folks! Let’s carry this lesson with us…) is currently thought of.

Most people, even us at times, tend to think of the Autism Spectrum as this:

A one-dimensional line segment. Point-A to Point B. Low-functioning to High-functioning.

Over time, this has perpetuated the idea that there’s nothing more to an individual diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) than where he or she is placed along this line segment. This is the root of the Great Schism of Autism.

Now, here’s what I mean by that term. the Low-functioning end of the line segment doesn’t accurately represent the folks at the other end of the line segment, and vice versa. People, families, and communities affected by ASD don’t even agree on what counts as “real Autism” half the time.

“Wait… What?”

Prior to the release of the DSM-V (That’s the manual of statistics and diagnostic criteria psychologists widely use for diagnosing ASD, by the way…) in May 2013, many psychologists — and advocates, even — couldn’t agree on whether or not Asperger’s Syndrome should be included in the High-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. Ultimately, Asperger’s Syndrome was lumped in under the Autism Spectrum Disorder umbrella in the DSM-V manual, but consider this:

What if it hadn’t been?

I wouldn’t have had my internship for the past 19 months without a diagnosis of ASD. I’d still be unemployed and living with my parents, right now, struggling to make a dent in my career.

To me, that’s a thought that’s going to keep me up at night, now that I’ve thought of it. And just when you think the DSM-V’s inclusion of Asperger’s Syndrome finally put the Schism to bed, we have our good ole’ pals, the Susan G. Komen of Autism, Autism Speaks to remind us that it’s so far from over…

https://www.autismspeaks.org/site-wide/cure-autism-now

Yeah, about that…

http://autisticadvocacy.org/tag/autism-speaks/

Guys! Hey! Take that outside!

I guess you can figure out what’s going on there, but beside quite possibly killing my taste for the color, “blue,” forever, let’s break this all-too-ignored, but public spat down and reflect on how this has impacted the Great Schism of Autism.

Autism Speaks stands accused of misusing donations that are supposed to be going toward helping the Autism community by funneling them into grandiose marketing campaigns for a “cure” and massive overhead costs.

This is problematic for an organization that wants to be the “voice of Autism” for the sole reason that by working toward a cure, they are marginalizing the audience they want to be the voice of in their marketing campaigns.

We’ll listen to your cries for help. Just as soon as we’re done wiping you off the face of the Earth!

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has responded by fighting against a cure, claiming that a cure is an unnecessary extreme that would ultimately be tantamount to eugenics (At least, that’s how I would put it…)

ASAN’s stance is that with proper accommodations and people just not being jerks, in general, anything is possible for a Spectrumite.

This has created two camps:

The families of the Low-functioning Spectrumites (the Point-As), and the self advocates at the High-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum (the Point-Bs).

This is the root of what I mean by “the Great Schism of Autism.” The Point-As feel that all the resources are going more toward the Point-Bs’ end of the Autism Spectrum. They feel that Point-B doesn’t even count as “real Autism.”

Before you call me out on this, I’ve seen these arguments on the comment threads of Autism Awareness posts on Facebook time and time again over the past 10 years that I’ve even had a Facebook account. So many, I can’t even find the best five to put here to give you examples. Maybe, you have, too. Or maybe not.

The Point-Bs, in turn, feel like everything that’s offered to the Autism community is unavailable to them because they’ve already “fallen off the cliff,” having aged out of any governmental resources that would have been available to them by the time they reach the point where they could think about becoming self-sufficient.

“So, how do we even begin to fix this?”

I’m glad you asked.

I stumbled across this post several months ago, and I believe Tumblr may actually hold the key to starting to turn this around:

http://theoraah.tumblr.com/post/142300214156/understanding-the-spectrum

TL;DR:

Tumblr user, theoraah, theorizes that, rather than a line-segment, the Autism Spectrum is more akin to a two-dimensional color wheel that charts our prevalence of certain symptoms of ASD.

It’s a great theory, but I think it could go further than it does in its current form.

Meet the Aspie Dialogues Model of the Autism Spectrum!

We are three-dimensional beings; shouldn’t the way we think about Autism reflect that fact?

Rather than a one-dimensional line or a two-dimensional circle, I propose that the Autism Spectrum be thought of as a three-dimensional globe, latitude and longitude and all.

Where the grid lines meet, that’s a data point. And because of its three-dimensional nature, these gridlines carry depth to them all the way to the core of our Selfhood, or what makes us who we are.

The resulting patterns of these gridlines form a map of our symptoms and will vary subjectively from person to person. Because let’s face it; ASD is a very subjective neurodevelopmental disorder, and how it affects each individual will vary subjectively from person to person.

And by understanding this simple fact that there’s diversity within neurodiversity, we can begin to heal as a community and finally end the Great Schism of Autism, once and for all.

Will that actually happen, though? Probably not for a long time. People are stubborn, especially when their loved ones are at stake. I’ll be the first to admit that Spectrumites can be some of the most stubborn folks out there. I’m one of them, after all.

But it still needs to happen. Because as Benjamin Franklin famously once said:

“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

We need to figure out what our priorities are as a community before we can expect anybody else to take us seriously.

Once we determine what our expectations of ourselves are, we can then determine what our expectations of our neurotypical peers are and hold them to those expectations.

Thank you for staying with me this long on your Memorial Day Weekend. I hope you enjoy it and make the most out of it!

Be sure to check out the Late 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Challenge, and may you find peace with yourselves, within yourselves. Rock on, Spectrumites!

Changing the Game: Late 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Challenge

So, I’m going to go out on a limb, here, and say that my prompt for the “Early 2017” Putting the Pieces Together Challenge may have been too polarized for what I wanted to accomplished.

That’s my boo-boo.

I know. Making this visual pun hurt me, too…

So, why don’t we adjust the rules of the game before we blow the final whistle?

Announcing:

The Late 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Challenge!

For all the updated dates and rules, please refer to the Campaign page.

Here’s the new prompt:

I want to know what drives you in this life. Is there a single motivating force you believe in or moral/ethical code you adhere to? When all else fails, how do you carry on? What gets you through your day and motivates you for tomorrow? Do you have any quotes, movies, books, etc. that inspire you to keep going?

I want this blog to be the source of a positive type of energy. By explaining what our “guiding lights” are, so to speak, there’s even the possibility that one of you can help another person out there who may be seeking guidance or a friendly voice to talk to.

Isn’t that what this life should be about in the first place? People helping each other, lifting them up instead of always putting each other down.

May we all help each other find peace with ourselves, within ourselves. Rock on.

The 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Challenge is On!

Hello, again, dear Spectrumites!

Yes, I know the Holidays were… hectic… for some.

Okay, maybe not THIS hectic…

But, seizure-warnings aside, (and by the way, WARNING! THE ABOVE IMAGE MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR READERS WITH EPILEPSY, CHILDHOOD FEARS OF THE NOSTALGIA CRITIC, OR GENERAL FAITH IN CHRISTIANITY, AND MAY CAUSE SEIZURES, ANXIETY, OR GENERAL OFFENSE AT THE ASPIE DIALOGUES AND THE NOSTALGIA CRITIC. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)

Any way, all seizure-warnings aside, the Aspie Dialogues has fully transitioned over to WordPress.org now and is ready to take on 2017 after a year that had many wondering…

What the HFIL was that?!

All right, so I guess we all haven’t seen that episode, now have we?

2016 was a year that many of us would much rather forget.

Except him. He’d like to savor it. He’d like to savor it and ride it for all it’s worth.

And there lies the Million-Dollar Question:

What can we do to help those who are going to be impacted the most by his policies?

…Or put into terms more approachable by The Aspie Dialogues

What can we do to help those Spectrumites who are going to be impacted the most by his policies, such as the Republican stance on repealing the Affordable Care Act? Adults on the Spectrum find it hard enough to find support and resources for their Autism! How can we fight back?

I’ve always been a proponent of telling it like it is. Right now, we need everyone, and I mean EVERYONE reading this to take a stand and tell it like it is.

That’s why I’m starting early with promoting the 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Campaign.

It will have the same deadline as last year’s and I hope to hear from more people than I did last year.

For this year’s challenge, (and parents, legal guardians, and caregivers, please jump in on this, too!), I want all the adults on the Autism Spectrum to weigh in on the debate by sharing their stories with the world with the following questions in mind:

What has been your experiences in trying to obtain support and resources for your Autism Spectrum Disorder since aging out of the system and “falling off the cliff?” Has it been an easy time or a hard time? What do you attribute to that?

Please consult the Challenge page for more information.

The world’s turning into a scary place, but we can start to make it better, one step at a time, when we stand together.

Let’s make 2017 better than 2016. By far.

May you find peace with yourselves, within yourselves. Rock on.