Thursday, October 06, 2022


I still think in the discarded category of Asperger's Syndrome, which seems gentler to me than anything that includes the word "autism." In my generation, getting a diagnosis in anything was suspect, even for such things as Severe Depression (you're just sad, you'll get over it) or Anxiety Disorder (you're just high-strung, you should get over it). I absorbed a good deal of this, and well into my career would still be trying to reason with psychotic people, believing that if I could just find a better analogy or more persuasive argument, the skies would clear and all would be well.

I wasted a lot of time in that way, and in the end, I was actually almost abusive to my patients doing that.  Yes, it is a positive that I treated them as a regular human being rather than some less-than-normal reasoner. That is weak tea. I was asking of them what they could not do. I find a tendency in myself to do the same to old friends with an unacknowledged autistic streak. I keep thinking that if I only present the idea winsomely and with solid persuasive examples...

Aspies is the colloquial, already old-fashioned after only becoming common in the 2000s, term. Asperger's Syndrome was the European term - an of course they were just wrong, not being American. OTOH, lots of Europeans are ignorant and abusive about the condition still. To me, it sounds more pleasant. But I have learned that it doesn't help people accept the idea, as such terms as "Ah, it's just my OCD nature," sort of like the even older and out-of-date Type A personality, have been accepted. You might as well go full out and say "autism," even if it conjures up images of Rain Man. Rip that band-aid off, apparently. I can seldom bring myself to do it.

There are objections, even beyond resistance to labeling that make acceptance difficult. There are times when the whole concept seems hopelessly vague, because it can include many different behaviors. While people can accept the idea of the histogram approach intellectually, when one does the hard work of trying to describe something to others there is a sense of "Am I talking about anything solid here? It seems to include all the vegetables in the garden." But the effect is temporary, a result of seldom discussing these behavioral traits generally and thus getting lazy about it, using the shortcuts rather than the longer, more precise, but therefore more tedious descriptions.  This is particularly ironic when discussing autism, as shortcuts, hints, nuances, and understood exceptions are what they often miss. Well, it's just there, as I have noted before. But worse, it is an area where psychologists have done damage - largely becaue they followed Bettelheim, who followed Freud. (Freud set psychology back a hundred years and is one of my nominees for most damaging intellectual ever).

Oh heck, I have written repeatedly about the topic.  Go and get lost there for a bit on a Sunday afternoon. I can't even keep track of everything I have said at this point.

So the symptoms can be highly variable, but that should not be surprising.  Among women who were molested as children, there is an increase in asexuality, lesbianism, and promiscuity, but that makes entire intuitive sense to people. Going to war can make men gung-ho or pacifist. Failure makes some folks bold and others cautious. I'll stop complaining about it now.

You can find lists of symptoms and brief explanations in many places. Socially

Cast: Anne, Mary Bea, Pat, Tina Byrd, Amy Kerc, Denise Richard, Carolyn White, Holly Wajenberg, Kathy Henry,

Less convincing, Cindy Frink, Eugenie Boutin, Linda Agresta, Carol Greenstreet, Evan Eyler,

Tracy, Bethany,  



WRT sex, women with Autistic Spectrum Disorder have, according to various studies less sexual interest, more homosexuality, higher sexual anxiety, lower sexual arousabiiity, lower sexual desire, less positive sexual cognition, higher rates of asexuality, less sexual consciousness, sexual assertiveness, and sex-appeal consciousness. They are more likely to report unpleasant sexual experiences, both lifetime and within a recent period, and fewer sexual experiences in general.

When one runs across a list like that you could be forgiven for despairing about your friend's, or daughter's, or partner's, or even own sexual future. Remember what you know about averages and variation. There are plenty of women who have high-functioning autism who report fulfilling sex lives.  It's just that many will have to develop abilities to ignore reticence or disinterest if they are in a relationship, recognising that they may be responsible for a bit more adjustment than their partner.

Autism - reduced ability to generalise, especially about emotional and social; reduced Theory of Mind, reciprocity; over-literal; could describe as not introspective;

repetitive and stereotyped (self-scripted, self-imposed) interest

the social interaction and communication deficits and difficulties in seeing the perspective of others and intuitively understanding nonverbal social cues constitute hidden barriers to the development of romantic and sexual relationships

 difficulties in understanding nonverbal or subtle interactional cues and with mentalization (meaning being able to understand one's own and others' mental states, eg, emotions, desires, cognitions experienced by such individuals

women with ASD seem to apply coping strategies, such as imitating the social skills of their non-ASD peers, therefore being more socially unobtrusive.

(Notice that this quote assumes environment entirely.  While imitation is likely the final piece, it may also be that women have other social skills installed - or activated during gestation. 

You also need to know that you should imitate other women, and employ a feedback mechanism to see if it is working.  This part is in fact one of the things that may be weakened or missing in autistic women. They may rely on a few rules or conventions of what women should be like and use those exclusively. I am thinking of Pat and politics/culture, where whe would be stereotypical feminist but unable to sustain that because other personal rules would interfere with it.  I think there is also a reluctance/inability to adapt to new politics once the rules are set. It is the opposite of "wokeness," attention to others, though new rules of fairness might be fairly easily installed?)

 restricted and repetitive interests, which may be nonsexual in childhood but can transform into and result in sexualized and sexual behaviors in adulthood. (Was this about men, or all autistics? I looked at this and my own sexual symptoms long and hard trying to recall pre-sexual equivalents)

 ASD women are more often in a romantic and sexual relationship (than ASD Men)., This could be due to the ASD women's ability to call on more advanced coping strategies (eg, imitating the social skills of their non-ASD peers), leading to less impairment in social functioning (see above)

 Claire Jack - has books (Women and Autism), writes for Psychology Today, seems good.

 However, autistic people may be slower in processing others’ emotions and may find it more challenging to do so under pressure.     ( This was interesting WRT Tracy, who freezes and does not take in info when she thinks I am angry. Trying to appear less angry doesn't seem to fix this (though it may help).  Writing to her may have been a better strategy than notetaking all along. Remember the discussion at Blakes after the conference where she tearfully said she could feel the thought ebbing away, disappearing, even as we spoke. Boy, that should have been a clue for me.  )

Claire: But I do know that there are certain stressful situations where I’ve missed how upset or nervous someone else was until later. And recent research bears this out, finding that autistic emotional awareness tends to be lower when tension is running high. 

 the longer processing time appeared due to the fact that autistic people tended to be more cautious in their interpretation of others' emotions, rather than to slower processing speed.

Need for routine (!) Executive functioning, communication problems, restricted interests, Anxiety, Stimming,* Meltdowns, Eye contact, Social issues, sensitivity to texture 

*Self-stim.  shooting hoops, repetitive performance of certain physical movements or vocalizations, as a form of behavior by persons with autism or other neurodevelopmental conditions; self-stimulation 

 I haven't really looked at self-stim activities across my lifetime in an ASD context. 

Auditory: humming, whistling, repeating words/phrases

Olfactory: sniffing or licking (doesn't sound familiar)

Tactile: Hand flapping, finger tapping, skin rubbing, hand movements - stretching, clenching/unclenching. (Drumming?)

Visual: Blinking, eye-roling, staring at lights, lining up objects

Movement: Rocking, spinning, twirling, pacing

  people with ASD had a larger total brain volume and cortical thickness, and smaller volumes of specific brain structures including the amygdala and parts of the basal ganglia (nucleus accumbens, putamen). The ASD group also showed increased thickness of the frontal cortex, and decreased thickness of the temporal cortex.

Silent Treatment - Anne, Mary, Pat. Amy K & Tina were more like withdrawal, but that is similar. The first three may have regarded their hostility as withdrawal.  "You think of it as withdrawal, of removing yourself from an unhealthy or upsetting situation or relationship.  But you should know that nearly everyone else will view it as hostil and insulting, not passive." (This is a great example of ASD imposing its impression of what is happening as a fact, which is hard to dislodge.  Such impressions trump new info coming in.)

No need to explain, even regarding it as an advancement.

It is the increase in power - you can get away with no explaining now, unlike children who are still held accountable by adults.

Not mean but oblivious

Flirting underdone

Separating from the person you used to be, even if close to family 

Self-examination a=in and of itself, no introspection, so they resent you doing it.. Push measurable accomplishments (degrees, papers, invitations) more than informal. It is a way to favor reliability over the fickleness of people's opinions, right?

Not the same as their childhood self - even when they are.  But what about overidentification with family of origin?  Real, accidental? Not taking serious boyfriend until father dies, favoring older partners, fewer children. Mistrust and avoidance of emotionality. Volatile mistrust and trust based on snap decisions.

Pat Darcy and rejecting general complaints, insisting on specific, which is good for precision, but creates an atomised relationship.  Hey!  Is their own sense of self atomised? Also divide and conquer against criticism. Find a shred to reject each individual complaint even if stil 80% justified.  Legalistic, thuys effective. Contrast if someone says I consistently do X I look at the reason and probably data.  If they don't do it, is that "Won't visit that emotional territory?" Poor Theory of Mind in general.Or is this just what everyone does to evade responsibility, no ASD required?  

Touch sensitivity, quick to politicise. (Or is this working the other way, trying to find politics in the concrete incidents or the known declared rules?)  Low bar for intrusiveness.

Pat was very openminded about some ideas about other people, though...


Me: I expect Reciprocal obligations and have resentment when people do not share them. Step family.  Skyview neighborhood.  8-12 grade church? Not so much. schools? Not so much. Maybe too many people? 50 in 8th, 424 HS.  Maybe it takes more than one connection.  Church plus school? Step family did have lots of semi-required events eating, presents. It seems evolutionary to build those.

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