Does Autism Make Me A Bad Person?

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

So today I’m going to share with you something that I’ve been musing on a lot lately:

Does autism make me a bad person?

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When it comes to autism, there is a very fine line between bad behaviour and autistic behaviour.

To an outsider, meltdowns appear like temper tantrums. Inappropriate statements and behaviours seem to hint at a naughty child.

It can be very hard to discern the difference.

As a child, I spent much of my time being branded as naughty. Growing up in an Irish household, I was no stranger to the dreaded wooden spoon…

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I was notorious for my “temper tantrums”, I always seemed to say and do the wrong things, and I consistently found myself fighting with those around me. In short, I was a nightmare!

Worse still was the nightmare I lived on the inside.

I never could understand why I said or did bad things back then. My sisters never seemed to find themselves in the trouble that I always did. Something simple would just set me off like a rocket and there would be no turning back. After the smoke had cleared, sitting in a pool of tears surrounded by the wreckage of a meltdown, I felt like the worst person in the world.

“Why did I say that?”

“Why did I throw lego at my parents?”

“Why was I so violent?”

I was always left shocked and appalled my behaviour, crying for hours afterwards at the consequences I faced.

Oftentimes I felt as though I were little more than a criminal. My parents even threatened my bad behaviour with the police on a number of occasions- once going so far as to put my PJs in a plastic bag after telling me that they were coming to take me away! 😛

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I tried so hard to behave, but I never could seem to keep it up for more than a few weeks. As I’ve told you before, I even tried running away because I couldn’t be good and felt obliged to leave.

But none of this behaviour was ever intentional.

Autists have no control over meltdowns; the brain is completely overwhelmed. In this state, literally anything can happen. Like Elvis, any trace of rationality has left the building. I’ll explore meltdowns next week in greater detail.

My tendency towards mimicry and my twisted sense of logic also impacted my bad behaviour.

I graffiti-ed a desk in school after perceiving previous samples around me to be the norm, I practiced swearing like a sailor and flipping the bird (I struggled with the dexterity of it) before secondary school to blend in – I even forced the habit of chewing pens as I thought that I needed a “bad” or “cool” habit when I went there!!!! Don’t ask me how I rationalized that one! 😛

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Not good for your teeth kids!

Over the years I’ve better learned to control and prevent public meltdowns and restrict my social faux pas’, but on occasion I will wind up in a spot of bother just like everybody else.

Autism has huge influence over my behaviour, but do my actions make me a bad person?

This is a tricky one.

I’m not perfect. I often say or do things that can rub people up the wrong way, but for the most part, I don’t intend to do people wrong. Having been wronged many times in my own life, the thought of hurting another person greatly upsets me. When I unintentionally put my foot in it, I’ll torture myself for hours, weeks, even years afterwards for my missteps.

But I’ll always try my hardest to make amends and be better.

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Even before I received my diagnosis I made serious efforts to try to modify my negative social behaviours. I oftentimes find that I overcompensate with my friends for fear of being perceived as bad like my childhood all over again. I’ll proofread your project at 2 in the morning, I’m always baking and making gifts, I even overcompensate with emojis for fear of the wrong sentiments coming across. I forever spend my days worrying how others may take me up wrong.

I’m constantly in a state of high alert that I’ll do something bad. In many ways I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to be the sort of person that I couldn’t seem to be as a child, as if by being good now somehow undoes the wrongs, or acts as a safety net in case I meltdown or lodge my foot in my mouth.

Yes, there are times in my life when I can be bad, say or do the wrong things or lose control; but that doesn’t make me bad. Autism can make me act badly sometimes, but it doesn’t mean that the person is bad.

I’m by no means Mother Teresa, but I’d like to think that I’m a good person 🙂

That being said, just because a person is autistic, does not mean that they are entirely blameless if they act badly. Indeed, much of my poor behaviour as a child can be attributed to autism, but there were also times where I knowingly chose to be bad, just like any other child.

Autism can’t always be used as an excuse for my actions.

Some psychologists for example, have theorized that Hitler likely had Asperger’s syndrome, but we couldn’t give him a free pass now could we?

Autism is a spectrum– there are both good and bad among us. We are human, we make mistakes- we just tend to make a few more of them than others 😉

Having autism doesn’t make a person bad, it merely makes us human 🙂

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Aoife

 

 

Impulsivity and Autism

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

In continuation from the previous post exploring curiosity and autism, today we’re going to take a look at impulse control in autists.

Many people with autism report issues with impulsivity.

All my life I’ve struggled with this issue. Too often I’ve felt like Didi in ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’, dying to know what the button will do and being unable to keep myself from pushing it! 😛

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As a child I was highly impulsive. I never knew when to stop eating, would impulsively give up on a book halfway through in favour of another (at one point I had 9 books on the go!)  and when overwhelmed I would often try to run away.

During one particularly interesting meltdown I began to impulsively throw all items that my mother had given me out of my bedroom window (which is a storey high I might add), whilst my sisters in the room below gleefully retrieved them, each determined to claim ownership…Clear example of black logic at work! 😛

So why do we struggle with impulsiveness?

Impulsivity in autism can be explained by deficits in what is known as executive functioning.

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Don’t worry- it’s not as complicated as it sounds! 😛

Executive functioning is simply a broad umbrella term referring to the mental processes involved in cognitive, physical and emotional self control. Examples of executive functions include planning, memory, cognitive flexibility (the ability to adapt thinking to new and unexpected situations) and most importantly response inhibition– aka the ability to suppress unnecessary or inappropriate actions.

But what causes these deficits in executive functioning?

Many autists also suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), both of which have an effect on executive functioning and impulsivity. I’ll explore these disorders at a later stage 🙂

Experts believe that ASD’s share a common genetic basis with ADD and ADHD, indicating that genetic mutation may be at the heart of these deficits in executive functioning.

Impulse control can be quite challenging at times (it’s a real struggle not to run squealing to every single puppy I encounter for a cuddle! 😛 😉 ) but as I always say, it is by no means a cause for despair. You will eventually learn control with time 🙂

Granted I can still be quite impulsive at times- feeling the urge to curl up asleep on the floor like a dog in company (an urge I feel quite a lot! 😛 ), wondering what it would feel like to step on hot ash/coals or wanting to draw designs all over my face with makeup; the difference being that now I am able to choose whether to ignore or act upon an impulse 🙂

Well…for the most part! Still haven’t fully cracked compulsive eating…or maybe I just don’t want to! 😛 😉

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Enjoy the weekend everyone! 🙂

Aoife

Discussion-Black Logic

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

It had been my intention to discuss another topic today, however, after reading this article in the Irish Independent yesterday, I felt the need to postpone:

http://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/britain/why-didnt-you-just-kill-me-when-i-was-born-eu-legal-campaigner-reveals-request-from-daughter-with-autism-35369028.html

In the article, EU legal campaigner Gina Miller discusses a recent interaction with her autistic daughter-Lucy Ann. Having watched her siblings grow up differently to her, Lucy-Ann grew depressed, angry and frustrated.

One day, she asked her mother “Why didn’t you just kill me when I was born?”

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Whilst this broke my heart to read, this reaction is not entirely a surprising one. This reaction is one that I know well- a logical one.

The autistic mind is highly logical. Black and white thinkers, we struggle to understand the rainbow world surrounding us. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we will never understand it, but it can take time to upgrade to a technicolor lens.

In a confusing world of complex emotions and social contradictions, logic provides a safe haven. Logic is structured, formulaic and rational, guiding us through the unfathomable. When everything gets too much, it is our default setting.

Whilst it would be unusual for me to propose a viewpoint this extreme, I am no stranger to such statements.

Growing up un-diagnosed was a struggle for both me and my family. I would frequently meltdown, throw tantrums, lash out with my tongue…Without knowing the true cause for my behavior, I was regularly punished by my parents. One night when I was 6, I put on my shoes and coat and tried to run away! Luckily my mother was working in the office by the front door.

When asked why I was trying to leave, I told her that I had to go because I couldn’t be good!!

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Funny as this incident was, to me, my actions were the logical solution to my behavior!

When we find ourselves in the midst of a storm of emotion, it can be difficult to process what we are feeling. We can become so overwhelmed that the rational parts of our brain can biologically shut down.

From here,  what I like to call ‘black logic’ is born.

Overwrought and emotionally confused, we attempt to logically make sense of the situation. However, in my experience, the emotional storm clouds these attempts, tainting my logical conclusions and staining them black.

My response to the situation is logical, but a twisted logic.

Logical but equally illogical!

On another such occasion, this black logic led me to conclude that my mother did not love me as much as my younger sister as she used to tuck her in before me! I was so confused by my emotions that I failed to see the true logic in that my sisters bed was the closest to the door!

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Sometimes my emotional investment in love stories in television and film also twists my thinking, wherein I morbidly conclude that the death of a romantic rival may be the logical way to ensure the union of star crossed lovers! 😛

Black logic generally comes from a place of emotional turmoil- but there is ultimately method in the madness.

It is not my intention to be deliberately morbid, but sometimes my brain inadvertently leads me down some twisted paths! Over the years I’ve gradually learned to reign in these outbursts of black logic, but the odd one creeps through my filter. With so many thoughts travelling through my head at once, it’s bound to get clogged and let rubbish through occasionally 😉

After reading that article, I felt compelled to give you a little bit of context into how things can get processed in the autistic mind. Journalists oftentimes seek the sensational when reporting about autism, giving false impressions and promoting stereotypes.

When it comes to autism, what we really need is understanding- something which I hope that I can provide with this blog.

Growing up with autism is a challenge, yes, but it is by no means the end of the world.

To think that would be black logic indeed! 😉

Aoife

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