Autism, A Digital Brain in an Analogue World

What if a few aspects of Autism were evolutionary leaps and trials? How cool would that be?!

Hypothesis:  Some aspects from various forms of Autism Spectrum Disorders might be humanity’s attempt at an evolutionary leap. 

In my family we hold the opinion that this might be a possibility.  We’ve been mulling the theory round in our minds for a few years and looking for examples to support or refute the suggestion.

 In evolution, Mother Nature for wont of a better description, throws out a variation, a new thing, a “let’s see what happens if I …” in an attempt to gain advantage for subsequent generations and adapt to the environment.  If the adaptation is useful, and if the adaptee can find a mate and let their offspring inherit this new adaptation, it is determined to be a successful adaptation.   

We are familiar with the monkey to man with spear pictogram explaining evolution.  

The monkey adapted, found a mate, the adaptation became widespread and with many proto-human evolutionary lines dying out but others succeeding here we stand today before you as ancestors of that creature who thought to themselves:

“hang on a minute, I can stand up and I think I’ve just invented indoor fire, that’s going to make proteins more palatable and easier to digest which will speed up the incremental development of my brain compared to these other forest and savannah dwelling animals thus giving me advantage in the food chain, I think I’ll invent a spear now, hold my fruit”. 

In our small group, we are collecting examples to see if the quirks and idiosyncrasies of people we meet, some of whom are blessed to be on the spectrum, help or hinder them in this new digital era.  

A person close to me who is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome describes their situation like having a digital brain in an analogue world.

In the digital world there are absolutes, yes no, on off, right wrong.  Modern Computers are digital.

In the analogue world there are variations, perhaps maybe, gradients instead of absolutes.  Long wave radios are analogue.

 The person I was speaking with explained that they can cope with absolutes but ambiguity drives them to distraction even though they pass for Neuro-Typical on any given day.

This same person can be listening to music, reading a book and watching a show on their device while simultaneously taking a walk outside with no aspect of confusion evident.

This person is a “data in” person, craving more and more information, faster and faster and at a more and more complex level until their need to master an understanding of a topic is sated.

It is fascinating to watch. 

I am more of a feelings and gut instinct person.  I gather a few bits of information until I start to see a picture, test the water with an idea then make a decision. 

The two ways of being are not very compatible to say the least!

 Each time we come across someone who might be blessed to be on the spectrum we notice what they are good at, what are their talents, how do they prefer to communicate.

The idea that portions or parts of ASD might be an attempt at an evolutionary leap is gaining traction in our thought process.  We see so many people with natural talents beyond non-spectrum folks natural abilities. 

It is difficult to gauge how many people as a percentage of the population have had ASD’s through the generations of humanity so comparing numbers is ineffective as the opportunity to receive a diagnosis is more prevalent nowadays.  Viewing some aspects of ASD as a positive puts a new perspective in to the frame.  It gives us an opportunity to see the good rather than the difficulty.  It gives us an opportunity to count our blessings and be pleased that we might be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Suddenly, digital is cool.

 

DEBT FREE AT LAST!

Debt, significant debt, followed me for decades but I just made the final payment! *Pulls kilt over head and screams FREEDOM!*

Only gone and blinking done it! Decades of debt finally all gone, all paid down, every penny. I await a bill for some car repairs but otherwise and aside from a mortgage and regular bills, I owe nobody anything. The money in the bank is mine to do with as I please. I cannot remember back when this was the case previously. It has been my constant companion, my lullaby at night, my alarm call in the morning, it has been my travelling companion and as close to me as my own heartbeat. It has been a motivation to focus on what matters. We had a good life none the less but this is a legacy I didn’t want to pass to the next generation. I wanted the next generation to be free to take chances and be bold if they choose to be. It would have been easy to pay off minimums for the rest of my life and ignore the freedoms afforded to those who are not thus shackled. Easy. The hard decision was to live up to what I though was right for us. To actually decide that my life work until it was completed was to be free of things which erode my freedom to choose, and debt was right up there at the top. Each month it would eat away at my disposable income. It was a constant reminder of mistakes made. It annoyed me.

If you are minded to make the same decision and become debt free, hats off to you.

If you are minded to make a different decision and stick with minimum payments, more power to your elbow.

Shakespeare in Hamlet wrote:

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine ownself be true,”

The whole phrase resonated with me but it’s the “This above all: to thine ownself be true” part which always rang in my ears since my days at the Provo Missionary Training Centre (MTC) and our District Leader, David Muntinga would repeat this phrase out loud to himself frequently. It stuck like an earworm and shaped my personal philosophy. So, thanks Dave!

My philosophy is based on strength of character, freedom to choose, kindness where possible, resilience to weather the storms, and a passion to embrace opportunities.

I think the experiences we have gone through as a family, particularly in the last 4.5 years should act as a cautionary tale to young people making life choices!

At any point we can make a different decision and choose a different path. The principle is called Agency. We all have it and it is like a muscle in the body, we either use it and it strengthens or we don’t and it weakens. Making a different decision feels awkward, clumsy and ungainly. It is not a pretty sight at first but I liken it to watching a class of 4 year old children learning ballet who look like cats on roller-skates at first vs that same group 5 or 10 years later with a gracefulness which is inspiring. Work through the kittens on roller-skates phase, it doesn’t last forever.

If I had my time over, these are some of the things I wish I’d adopted earlier.

  • Choose your path of study – does it get you where you need to be for your next life steps? Does it open or close doors?
  • Choose your career well – will it provide for you and your dependents. The higher qualified you are, the more freedom there is to make your own schedule. Qualify young, qualify highly.
  • Choose your partner well – if you choose to have a partner do they have complimentary goals and philosophies, are they equally carrying the load, are they easy to be around, can you talk about the specifics of budgeting without fighting or someone becoming moody?
  • Choose your financial strategy early in life – are you a spender, are you a saver, what did your parents do and did it work for them, if you don’t know about money, learn! There are endless resources available online or in your library. How many hours can you put in to your career. Do you have other priorities which draw away your attention. Is your strategy working for you?
  • Choose to budget – know what is coming in and what is going out. Know the dates of payments. Write it down.
  • Choose to recognise the true cost – I mentally add the time away from my family to earn the money and the tax already taken by the government into the cost of the product and think to myself “is it still worth it?” Conversely, if you have financial woes and plenty of possessions, know their value and sell them! Generate revenue, get back some of the cash and pay down expenses.
  • Choose to find the best deals for you – as contracts come to an end, shop around. As birthdays come up, buy early and allow time for shipping at a reduced rate. As utility prices fluctuate, move deals or suppliers. As tools become needed for a DIY project check the internet vs the high street prices and make good choices.
  • Choose to cancel duff subscriptions – FREE MONEY! Who doesn’t love free money. That’s what it feels like when you find a subscription you’d forgotten about on your statement and cancel it down.
  • Choose to continue learning and growing – there will be wise people around you in your life, listen as they chat, ask questions when appropriate, learn from them, use them as a mentor.
  • Choose to ask for help – if you are in over your head, ask for help. Call the companies and tell them. Tell a friend. Approach organisations who manage these situations daily. You are in it on your own, your choices got you here and your choices are going to get you out of it, but if it all gets too much and you need expert help, ask.
  • Choose to build a reserve – if you are debt free, build a slush fund, a reserve, a cushion, whatever you want to call it, to fall back upon in tough times. Tough times always come. It’s prudent to have done what you can to make those times a little easier.

My experience has reached the Build A Reserve phase. It is quite exciting to build rather than be repairing. Feels completely different and it is actually a little scary which is silly. What if I do the next phase wrong! Anything new can be daunting so I choose to push through, carry on learning, carry on listening and carry on trying to make good choices. I may never rival the likes of a billionaire, people who I do not envy at all, they worked hard for what they have and I am pleased for them, but I can build from this point forth and can be pleased that I got my little family this far in the journey. It is hard. Oh so difficult in ways that I cannot find words to articulate. It is possibly one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I’m hoping that the effort one day feels worth it. Right now it is all a little raw and a little new so I have to let it settle in to the new normal before I can speak on that with any degree of confidence. This is my new Kittens On Roller-skates phase!

Now hopefully you’ve had a charmed life and never have to consider much of the above. You people who are adulting successfully have been a quiet inspiration over the past few years so thank you.

Terminal illness.

Londoners and Essex people become colourfully indignant when we have feelings going on. It’s a culture thing.

My friend from works wife just let us know that our dear, funny as heck, tall, handsome and intelligent, honourable, caring, kind, micky taking, irreverent and a little politically incorrect, world travelling, close to retiring friend is terminally ill.

That bastard.

How dare he leave this world a little dimmer through lack of his presence.  How dare he not regale us again with the same tale over and over again on “when I was in Ireland”.  How dare he not tease me for coming from the wrong side of the tracks.  How dare he not be around to share his immense wisdom.  How dare he not tell me “Chin up, girl, you got this”.

How bastarding dare he.

 

 

Mark Thomas – The Red Shed Tour

Things sure do change quickly.  After a difficult weekend (someone reversed in to my car on Friday, feelings happened on Sunday… the less said the better!) we used the front row tickets we’d bought to watch a show by Mark Thomas, Comedian and Political Activist, at the Corby Cube Theatre on Tuesday night.  Me, Missy and Mel yomped off to the next town over to see one of my favourite broadcasters.  Credit to Mel and Missy, I pretty much coerced them into it but they were willing wingmen and had a great night in their own right.

The show was a delight, moving, funny as heck, and a tad inspirational.  It was a telling of how Mr Thomas went from being a student at a Uni oop norf to witnessing working folks who were under extreme duress during his student years and how that had a defining impact on his life which fuelled his passion for justice.

Phenomenal story telling – loved it.  We need to tell each other our stories, write them down, pass them along.  They’re important.

I was totally fan-girling through the show, I was excited before the show to see the show, I was happy during the show, and I was delighted after the show to meet the man himself in the bar during the book signing.  I tried to be cool.  I was not cool.  I smiled through the whole thing.  Uncool but I was happy.

I was seven kinds of happy that he stopped to chat with Missy, a poker faced teen, who stood by herself after the show waiting for us. He apparently talked about how happy he was she was there and they shared a little time together with him earnestly encouraging her in her pursuits, which he did just because he wanted to and not because there was anything in it for him. She hadn’t made a purchase, she was just waiting for the adults across the way and he stopped what he was doing to take time for her.  If I didn’t love his work before, I sure as heck do now.  It takes a village to raise a teen with a conscience and gumption and Mr Thomas just helped me raise my very tall kid for a few minutes.  How cool is that?!  A star chatting with my kid about how happy they were for her to be there!

Great night out.  If you love brilliant storytelling and laughter check out his tour which is coming to major UK cities over the Spring and Summer, Cardiff, London, Oop Norf, everywhere.  Go see it.  It’s great. (Mark Thomas Webpage)  and his twitter @markthomasinfo

(Photo credit to The Chester Chronicle)

 

 

Yesterdays Court Date

Financial Application day came and went and we have a great piece of news, Missy and I.

The handsome and charming Mr Staff Sergeant Pollyanna and I had the opportunity to visit with each other for a while yesterday from across different sides of the court house building. We were scheduled to be at court for between 1 and 2 hours and ended up being there for over 8 hours.  It was put to us that this needed resolving “today” – halleluiah!!! – by a very formidable and knowledgeable judge.  She was not messing around.  “I have most of the day available, I fully intend to see this matter resolved, Mr Pollyanna’s offer – although now rejected and put to one side – was never going to fly, [she actually said never going to fly!], Mrs Pollyanna’s offer is very reasonable and I encourage you to work within that framework, to come back to court would double your costs on what you have paid so far and the return you would gain from coming back to court again may well not warrant the investment”.

So, after much to and fro, and after a few fibs from the other party which were quickly put to rest by the legal representatives, and after much consternation and bluster but no death threats from the other party to this one, which was a refreshing change let me tell you, we appear to have reached a mutually dissatisfactory agreement which to me is a good sign that we both got out of it as much as we could and were required to compromise.

We won!  If I can arrange a mortgage – knock on wood – Missy and I get to move home, back to the matrimonial home, on or around the 2nd of April 2017.

There are reasons for the completion date which are very valid.  The original date was going to be 1st of April but I asked them to amend it so that it wouldn’t sound like a prank.

When I shared the news with Missy, who did not know about the Clash of the Titans battle scheduled for December 5th, she became very tender hearted and emotional that we get to go home.

We have felt somewhat homeless.  My rental contract is on a periodic renewal, there is a lot of pressure to change nothing and care vigilantly for everything, we cannot put up pictures or make an accidental smudge.  Plus, even if we did everything correctly they could at any point give us two months notice to vacate so although being together is home enough we have always been aware that this is not a long term solution.  We’ve never been able to fully relax in to our temporary homes.

So, fingers crossed for the mortgage application process.  There is a plan b but we prefer plan a.  Here’s to Spring in our new home.

Nasty Woman

Being Nasty, although uncomfortable, is kind of liberating. I never was Nasty before. I was somewhat compliant, mostly using Gandhi-eque passive resistance when I didn’t want to do something. Nowadays I have to stand on a table and say that forbidden word……

I am a Nasty Woman and I claim my title and all it’s associated crowns, sceptres, ermine robes and sleep-in’s afforded me.

Yesterday I had to be bold in declaring what my requirements were on some legal paperwork.  I’m not in trouble, don’t fret.  I had to get over myself feeling awkward about being seen as “not nice” or “selfish” and just put my big girl knickers on and just do it.  I had to know my worth and declare it.  Now it is for other people to judge but we have a starting place of how I think this should play out.

Being Nasty, although uncomfortable, is kind of liberating.  I never was Nasty before.  I was somewhat compliant, mostly using Gandhi-eque passive resistance when I didn’t want to do something.  Nowadays I have to stand on a table and say that forbidden word……

No.

See, I just used it.  It is forbidden to be used boldly within polite female society.  We are required to make the message softer, more palatable, more easily received and frou-froued with lacy and frilly language.  In meetings we often hear women saying “I don’t know if you have considered this and it is probably not a good fit but…. ” rather than declaring they have a brilliant idea and everyone should get on board for the benefit of all humankind.

No.

It’s pretty out there.  It is rebellious.  It is daring and bold.  It requires no follow up.  It is a statement of fact.

I think NO might be my new favourite word.  My mum will be pleased.  My previously favourite word makes Victorian ladies faint.

 

Letting a 16 year old decide

Boy oh Boy, Why did I have to get the clever kid? This is tricky and challenging stuff.

In the UK, children take their exams aged 16, and then have to move on to higher education or apprenticeships or employment.  So at 16, they can stay in their own school or move schools if another tickles their fancy and they meet the criteria. This necessitates lots of driving on dark and wintery nights to campuses all over the region for a lecture and a look around.We started the looking around process last night and were surprised at the calibre of opportunities that were available.  However, I am easily swayed by passionate staff and a few statistics, so I will try to hold back the “Sign Her UP!”

On the way home from Young Women’s (Mormon youth club on Tuesday nights) afterward, Missy was talking to me about the choices she wanted to opt for but then added

“You’ve got that face on, what’s wrong?”

I did not know that I had “a face” or countenance of disagreement.  It was a surprise.  However, letting teens make their own (good) choices while keeping the (good) communication open is a balancing act, a difficult thing.  I did not want her taking maths and a course of further maths which then meant that Chemistry was in jeopardy.

I want a Scientist, darn it!  She is talented in the sciences and loves them, she finds it easy, and surely one set of higher maths would be enough to prove she can add up and subtract!

Her career choices are currently open at Economist, International Banker, Law or STEM.  She doesn’t fancy Medicine anymore (insert parental sad face here).

At her age, I was hoping to secure “a job”.  That’s it, that was the full extent of my hopes and plans so this is all new territory to me.  We’ll take it one step at a time, be led by those who have experience in these matters, and aim high.  She’s more than capable, I just have to have faith in the process.  Here’s to hoping.