Bridging the communication gap between high functioning autistics and neurotypicals.

Posts tagged ‘aspergers’

Curing Autism? … We’ll See!

Getting It!

Okay, well, kind of… Let me explain. I’ve known I’ve been different since I was very small. I just didn’t know why. I started kindergarten in Michigan in 1974. I don’t remember anyone’s face or any of the kids. I didn’t play with anyone. I usually just sat and read books. It didn’t occur to me then that I was different. I thought life was going to be fun! You know, with all the reading and learning and being alone. To quote a Bible verse, I “was cut off out of the land of the living” and didn’t know it and didn’t care!

So, by my late thirties, I started noticing that I was feeling only two emotions, fear and anger, and only then when they were extreme. I heard other people talk about all of these other emotions that they were feeling but I had no clue where these emotions lived, died or had their being. All these humans I worked around positively gassed on about feeling this way and that way but I never really wondered about it. To me, this was some fictive reality that they conjured up for their sanity. Speaking of fictive, not being able to feel emotions is why I don’t like fiction. There’s just no draw for me in fiction. Even science fiction is drama-less unless it’s a movie. Enough about that now.

Okay, so, being in love and being married. I meet this woman who seems to have an instant attraction to me. The only reason I know there is an attraction is because she tells me, “Hey, I like you! You’re interesting!” I never had that happen to me before. Notice I didn’t say I felt anything. I said that I heard someone say, “I like you!” That’s all I had to go on. To keep this story from being longer, I’ll let you know the punchline now. We got married!

The cruel joke, however, was that Michelle spent the next few years realizing that she was married to a strange, eccentric brick wall of a human being. I had trouble figuring out why Michelle liked me so much. I would constantly ask her, “Why do you like me so much?” Her answer was usually something platitudinous like, “Because you’re interesting to me!” or “Because you’re you!” What I wasn’t realizing was that she was communicating through words her feelings about me to explain why she was attracted to me. I DID NOT understand that emotional attraction alone could be enough to hold someone’s attention. I would continually bug her with the query, “Are you going to leave me?” because I couldn’t and didn’t ‘feel’ her attraction.

In July of 2011, I started suspecting that something was wrong enough to explain my lack of success in life. After taking the Adult Autism Quotient test, I scored 37 out of 50 (74%). In July of 2012, I got diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Personality disorder. After getting a proper explanation from the psychologist of both of those things, life started to make a little more sense, past and present.

So, I think I’ve made my point clear here. I didn’t get any emotional cues, signals or messages across the course of my 45 years. I could see people acting emotionally but I never could ‘feel’ the necessary emotions that conveyed the rest of the message they were trying to get across to me!

ENTER (from stage left): JULY 2013….

In July of 2013 (too much happens in July, dang it!), Michelle reads about the GAPS diet. While I was initially skeptical, I read the pages she had been reading. I knew from all of the biology coursework I had taken that the intestinal lining was where 99% of all our nutrition was absorbed. So, I knew that fact was right. From Molecular and Cellular biology, I also knew that most any important chemical compound in cell-to-cell communication in our brains was made out of proteins. Finding out that if our intestines were damaged by what we had been eating or taking as medicine, then we weren’t getting the proper nutrition for our brain cells was a no-brainer, (Ha!). This diet’s theoretical principles made a lot of biological sense to me. Notice, here, that I was logical about my decision. I didn’t base my decision on emotional considerations at all. I just thought to myself, “Logically, this makes a lot of sense. If I’m not getting the proper nutrition because of a damaged intestinal epithelium then, of course, my central nervous system won’t be in optimal health either”. So, we started the diet.

Being a professional cook for most of my working life made putting together the required broths easy. No problems there. In fact, it was a piece of cake. I even made a pate of liver since organ meats are on the diet that was phenomenal! I even showed a handful of people how to make the broths themselves. They have discovered the benefits as well!

But, enough about that. Does this diet cure autism?

What I’m gonna ask is “Does this diet cure MY autism?”

If autism is a social communication disorder characterized by the inability to ‘read’ other people, the inability to initiate and maintain relationships, the inability to capitalize on social networks and interactions, then, YES!, I am autistic. If autism is also characterized by stereotypical repetitive behaviors such as rocking back and forth whether sitting or standing (like I always hear from people “Stop that, you’re making me seasick!) or compulsively arranging things in a certain order (like arranging books in order of color according to lowest to highest wavelength of the visible light spectrum like I used to do and still do) then YES!, I fit those traits as well.

Now, however, I have seen CHANGES! The most important one is this. Since about three weeks after starting the diet, I have been able to feel a transaction of energy between myself and other people. Usually, when this happens, it changes my own emotions about what just happened or about the person I just interacted with. When this exchange happens between me and Michelle, I usually am COMPELLED to smile! Even the thought of Michelle FORCES me to smile! Before, that thought was almost always a simple acceptance of Michelle existing. In other words, a fact. That’s all. When this exchange happens between me and another person, it all depends on how the interaction goes. For instance, when someone yells at me now, I immediately feel my own anger at the injustice (instead of two days later) and immediately respond in kind instead of overboard! That means I can defend myself now after 45 years of running and hiding! That’s awesome!

Michelle can now actually read me! Before, I was very unpredictable to her. She never could tell how I felt or thought about a particular subject. She had to ask me every time. Now, with just the slightest sensing on her part, she can immediately tell how I feel. And, I actually immediately put across enough emotion so that she can read me. That’s strange! Very strange!

But, there have been hitches in the git-along. At this stage of the diet, any deviation from the prescribed foods can send me into relapse. It can take three to four weeks to get back out of it. What’s frightening about it is that the autistic symptoms come back even stronger than before. They make my life very difficult when I have relapsed but the good thing is I can come back out of it with the right foods, probiotics and motivation (which I’ve rarely had before).

Will this cure my high-functioning autism? I have to wait another 18 months or so for the healing process to complete to know whether I can be well enough to say that I have been cured. However, the changes that I’ve seen in myself and the abilities I have in reading others on a very basic level have finally let me know that I’m not alone in this life and I can now tell that other people actually care a great deal about me.

I will keep posting about my progress as I go along. You will know how I’m doing. Michelle and I are here to serve the autism community in the ways that will benefit us all the most. Please look us up here at Happy Robot Coaching. We’re always happy to help!

Happy New 2014!

~Mark

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Curing Autism?

A diet that cures autism? Yeah, right. I heard about it on an obscure interview and then looked at the web page. I had never read anything like it before in my many searches for wellness through diet. It looked impossible to me. You have to cook. Restaurants are out of the question when doing the first few stages of the diet. For maximum healing, the diet has to be followed upwards of two years. Despite these supposed negatives, the diet kept coming to my mind.

Gaps stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome. The idea is that the gut is damaged by out of control pathogens. These pathogens create small holes in the lining. The holes keep food from being digested properly, nutrients from absorbing, and sends undigested foods into the bloodstream. In turn, the brain is affected in many ways: learning disabilities, autism, mental illness, etc. Dr Natasha Campbell claims that the “leaky gut” also creates problems such as arthritis and autoimmune diseases. She lists many health problems in her book.

The idea behind the GAPS Diet is to heal the intestinal lining. Consuming a diet low in simple and complex carbohydrates and high in proteins and fats is the crux of the diet. Appropriate probiotic and fatty acid supplementation, proper stress reduction, and a change in sleep habits is also required.

In July 2013, Mark and I decided to jump in and try it. So what’s the worst that can happen? We feel better? Mark will be a healthier Aspie?

It is a dramatic dietary change. The most important healing food in the diet is the bone broth which you drink as if it were water. How weird to suddenly be buying pig feet and beef bones. It’s pretty hard on the conscious when you see feet in your stew. The diet also includes organ meats. We have not yet acquired a taste for these. Of course, there are “normal” foods, but the afore mentioned are the staples.

The changes I began seeing in myself were remarkable. Relief from many pains, including the incessant jaw pain I had learned to live with, uncomfortably. But what Mark was experiencing was beyond comprehension. Miraculous to those with Auties in their lives.

For the first time in Mark’s 45 years of life, he started experiencing other’s feelings. He also started expressing his own feelings. It was as if he had awakened from a coma.

It has not been a mostly pleasant awakening. One bite of “wrong” food sent him back to autism worse than he had experienced before. In 10 minutes, all the good food was null and void and it would take weeks to get back to “feeling” again. This roller coaster ride led him to wanting to be “normal” so badly that he has been able to avoid “wrong” foods through a desire to be well. This is quite a feat since he works in a kitchen.

Imagine the overwhelm of feeling emotions suddenly at the ripe old age of 45. He had always SEEN that some people at work were grumpy, but now he was feeling their very down vibe. It made him feel so bad he thought they were mad at him. They were actually just grumpy people. We have talked about creating filters and only allowing energies in that you choose. A very difficult concept.

Imagine an emotionless, 19 year old marriage, suddenly awakening from a deep sleep. There were many walls I had put up to survive in an emotionless marriage. Walls I didn’t know were there until he awoke. Walls that affected my entire life, making me less than what I could have been. Walls I’m working on as soon as they are recognized.

The scariest part was wondering if the marriage would stay together. “What if he doesn’t really like me? What if he married me just because I offered and no one else had? What if he doesn’t like who I am emotionally? What if he starts feeling something for someone at work and decides I’m boring?”

Guess what! It turns out that even though I couldn’t feel him all these years and he couldn’t express all of these years, every choice he made was on purpose, meant something to him, and he has no regrets! In fact, I feel like I’m having an illicit love affair with my own husband.

This diet has changed our lives immeasurably. We hope to use this experience to even better help others within our sphere.

Happy 2014!

*For more information on the diet see http://www.gapsdiet.com. We are not Gaps practitioners, but if you would like support starting the diet or with recipes, we are available.

Michelle Hedges

Emotion as a Language

I saw my sister recently.  I had not been with her for a long time.  The first thing that struck me was her voice.  I heard myself talking.  The next thing I noticed, she didn’t say many words.  I got a lot of emotional messages though.  If I didn’t misinterpret them, they ranged from “I’m so happy to see you” to “Why did we wait so long” to “I missed you so much” and “I love you”.  I hadn’t experienced that language on that level for quite a long time.

This lead me to the contrast of my communication with Mark.  I use english for everything. I mean absolutely everything.  I can’t use emotion at all.  He has NO receptors for emotion.  NONE.  ZILCH.  ZERO.  NADA. Now I am paying attention to how much emotion I use. It still sneaks up on me though.  The emotional language is so natural to me that I don’t even know I’m using.

Here’s an example. Mark was massaging my foot.  It became too painful so I told him to quit.  The 3rd time I said “STOP!”.  Then I said, “I told you 3 times to stop!”  He said, “You only said ‘stop it’ once.”  Whoa.  He was right.  In my mind I had said it 3 times and was frustrated that he hadn’t stopped.  Apparently I had sent two very strong emotional messages to stop and the third time I resorted to english. All three times felt like legitimate ways to communicate.

We NTs with HFAs in our lives are most likely NOT communicating well.  First we have to understand that emotion is a language and we are using it naturally everyday.  Next we have to understand that HFAs do NOT have receptors to understand this language.  Whether you are disciplining your young HFA or talking to an older HFA employee.  You MUST be able to express every single emotion you have into english.  That goes for praising them too.  Every emotion you have has to have words to go with it.  How often has Mark asked me for praise or approval while I had been giving it emotionally.  Learn your emotions and then learn to put words to them.

I’m still learning.

Cesspool of Emotions

What I see that most gets in the way of communication between an NT and a HFA is the NT’s cesspool of emotions. We have so much crap emotion happening in our bodies.  Stuff that has been in there since we were 3 years old.  Junk emotions.  This creates hot buttons.  So when your HFA embarrasses you, it’s actually YOUR problem.  The action of your HFA has triggered an old emotion that resides in YOUR body.  It was something that YOU did and then experienced someone telling you that you were stupid or maybe you were even rejected.  In order to communicate with our HFAs, we have to clean out the cesspool.

I’m not just yelling at you.  I had my own cesspool to clean out.  OMG.  I had become paranoid and would see things that weren’t there.  I was making up stuff.  Literally.  I can with definitiveness say that I am no longer that person.  Using the following techniques gave me a completely different personality and life is so much more alive and fun.  Oh.  And there’s the clear communication with Mark, my HFA, that wasn’t there before.

In Eastern traditions we are not just a physical body, we are 5 bodies, 4 of which we can’t see with our physical eyes. (Quantum physics is confirming this insight.)  There is the physical, feeling, thought (lower mental), higher mental and bliss body.  (So if we think of ourselves as 5 bodies we can see how we are connected to the Divine.)  Because in our western culture we don’t believe in 5 bodies, we don’t realize that we can control them.  We take in experiences and beliefs as a child and think that that is the way we are supposed to believe and experience for the rest of our lives.  We don’t know that we have the capacity to choose differently.  We don’t know that our beliefs aren’t serving us.  We don’t even know that we can change them!   Beliefs are just thoughts that are thought over and over and they are located in a combination of the feelings and thought bodies.  This is where conditioning lives.  This is where the cesspool lives.  We need to examine every thought and belief we think we are.  Healing begins in the feeling and thought bodies. ( As a side effect, your physical body will heal.)

What comes first, the thought or the emotion?  When you have a cesspool, you think it’s the emotions, but since cleaning mine, I know it’s the thought.  Get a hold of your thoughts and you can have the emotions you want/choose to have.  This requires rebooting your mind and putting software in that YOU want to experience.  No easy task, but it is simple.  It involves affirmations.  I wrote thousands of sentences of thoughts that I would prefer to have.  It felt fake at first, but as I continued, I started believing what I was writing.  Mark uses prayer beads.  He has a row of 100 beads.  He touches each bead and says the affirmation.  For instance, if you constantly have the thought that you are unworthy, choose to say or write, “I am worthy and deserve happiness”.  If you have “I’m stupid” running constantly in your mind, choose to think, “I’m wonderful and perfect”.  Yeah.  I hear your pfffts. I’m telling you, I had the same soundtrack running in my mind.  It can be done.

This won’t work though if you don’t get the cesspool of feelings out of your body.  I used two energy techniques that actually release emotions from the body.   The  Emotional Freedom Techniques, which I still use it to this day, is a technique that actually takes feelings attached to traumas out of the body forever.  It took me out of the movie.  I became an observer of my past rather than an actor. This was and still is a miracle to me.  Check it out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0I54BRKQ2po&feature=related and learn how to do it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQp0kA5a5OI. Another feeling body healing technique is Psych-K.  It seemed to work on a broader range of emotions than EFT and I felt better faster, but you need a partner for this.  Learn about it here. http://psych-k.com/  There are practitioners of EFT and Psych-K in most states.

I cannot emphasize enough how important getting out of the muck of the cesspool is to better communication with all of humanity.  If you would like help getting out of your cesspool, we are here for you.

Religion from A HIgh Functioning Autistic’s Viewpoint, Part III: Winning the Game

Religion works on the emotions and heightens them. It makes people feel good temporarily and therefore amenable to what messages religion is sending their way. But, if emotions are being heightened while a message is being sent, then the message is being received subconsciously, but not actually rationally being thought about.  This process sounds like the method by which propaganda is disseminated. I only heard the words of the messages in church. I didn’t get the emotional effect. So, I sat and logically analyzed the message I was getting. The message was always incongruous with what I was told to believe. The message of religion seems to instill a belief that you are unworthy, unlovable and generally insignificant. So, after spending years examining my belief structure as it related to Christianity, I decided to dump it all in favor of an agnostic stance.

How does improving my ‘spiritual’ life actually benefit me, a person who has little understanding of emotions, and why couldn’t religion work for me?  A spiritual life is the internal life you live that is in relation to yourself. In other words, it is the relationship you have with yourself. If you have a bad relationship with yourself, then things don’t work out very well for you just like if you had a bad relationship with your spouse, friend or significant other. I needed something concrete, something methodical, something practical (a step by step guide), because the Bible is not practical to me. I needed something that I could use to improve my ‘inside’ life. If what I thought about myself made the difference in how my life worked, then the message that I was a sinner and unworthy of God made me think I was unworthy. If I was unworthy of God, and God was the source of love and happiness, then my life was only going to work if I figured out God. That wasn’t going to happen because I couldn’t talk to him nor hear him, So, my happiness had to come from somewhere else.

July 9, 2008. Michelle came home and told me that she had turned on the TV and watched an episode of Oprah. She said that Oprah interviewed a woman named Louise Hay. Louise Hay talked about healing your whole life by changing the way you think about yourself. Michelle explained it all while I listened a little skeptically. I thought it sounded like a good idea. Earlier in my life I had had a little counseling and had learned that how you think of yourself is important to self-esteem. I didn’t understand what self-esteem  was, then or in 2008, but I understood that having a good view of yourself was important to it. So, I watched Michelle ‘practice what she preached’ and I saw all of her physical pain go away. So, I thought, okay, let me try it. I wasn’t as disciplined as Michelle but my own attempts paid off a little. My self-esteem improved. I realized that I had a view of my self that was incongruous with liking me. This view consisted of beliefs that we all, Aspies and NTs alike, pick up as kids without examining further.

Now, I don’t remember any religious experience or service or counseling helping me improve my view of who I am. I specifically remember all the talk about sin and the need to be made right (because I was wrong?!) to have God interested in me. The talk about being separated from God because of inherent sin made it sound as if all people were born with a genetic birth defect that had no known cure. All the rules and regulations you had to follow just to have God love you seemed to say that God is conditional. I also understood that his love is based on doing his will. So, if I’m not doing his will, then I’m not worthy of his love? That’s what it sounded like to me. If I have no way of communicating with God, then how can I know his will? So, if I don’t know his will because I can’t communicate with him, then whose fault is that? Not mine. It really seems that I’m supposed to be there for God. I never got the idea that he was there for me.

Louise Hay, however, said that we are all important beings that are here to live a unique life of learning and success. As eternal souls, each life we live is an education. We have lessons to learn. She also said that if there are problems in our lives, they are there because of how we think about that aspect of our lives. She said that we all have beliefs that we live by. She said that some of the beliefs we hold are good for us and help us in our lives. Some of the other beliefs, however, are negative beliefs that limit us, contribute to our feeling bad about ourselves and otherwise are blocks to our successes in life. She emphasized that we are not victims because we don’t think very well about ourselves. We just picked up bad habits from our parents, peers and others that do not serve us well. Those habits don’t make us bad, just ineffective for ourselves. This philosophy was the most uplifting message I had experienced. I don’t remember anything this positive about my religious experiences. Religion seemed to locate the blame for my life’s inadequacies squarely on my shoulders and it didn’t seem to show any way out. Louise Hay’s philosophy had clear methods for healing. So, I ’empathized’ with her views.

Working with her methods, I quickly cleared up a lot of old beliefs that weren’t helpful. Why would I want to do this? Because I realized that I wanted to be productive for me. I wanted my life to ‘work’ on my own terms. I wanted to work towards doing the things that I loved but I realized that if I didn’t ‘love’ myself then there wasn’t any reason to ‘love’ something that I wanted to do. Louise Hay says that we make our own happiness. That happiness is a choice made me realize that I could make my own happiness. I had to  learn to think about my life and myself in a way that made me happy. By using Ms. Hay’s methods, I was able to change my thought patterns into something that I liked and that helped me ‘feel’ better about my life. In other words I became happier. And happiness is an emotion, right?

Weird…

What Religion Means To A High-Functioning Autistic Person, Part II

This installment of Religion from an HFA viewpoint concerns my path to a meaningful spiritual life without the aid of an emotional map.

To start with, my parents pastored churches, usually Pentecostal, throughout my life. So, I’ve had ample experience with most phases of conservative Protestantism in the Deep South and the Southern Plains states. Unlike the Southern Baptist tradition, Pentecostalism is a very emotionally expressive version of Christianity. Examples of emotional expression found in Pentecostal churches include: being slain in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, being filled with the Spirit, prophesying, crying, wailing, Spirit-filled dancing, shouting, lifting of the hands, praying aloud, the laying on of hands, faith-healing and other assorted demonstrations of a deeply rooted faith in a personal God. Well, at least I had a floor show to entertain me.

For an autistic person like me, I never could see the source of these behaviors. I was always told it was the Holy Spirit ‘moving’ an individual to do such things. I can honestly say that I never felt ‘moved’ to participate in these demonstrative expressions of God’s presence. In other words, I didn’t feel an internal motivation to be a part of the service’s experience. What motivation I felt was an external pressure to be a part of the group. In other words, it was peer pressure. So, for me, there was no internal reason to be associated with the church.

I’m not familiar with the theories behind Organizational Psychology but I have an idea that the existence of religion is probably best explained by a religion’s ability to generate empathy for its viewpoints. By extension, the members of any religion use empathy to persuade potential members to join their group. Any viewpoint expressed by a religion can only be effective in converting potential members by generating empathy from its audience. Empathy is the hook to gain further support from new members and to maintain the support of existing ones. After someone has joined a religion, empathy is still necessary to educate new members in the rules, regulations, customs and traditions of the religion. Interestingly enough, one of the classic symptoms or traits for Aspergers and other High Functioning Autisms is the inability to empathize with others. Without this empathy, there is little hope in forming the views of new or existing members or maintaining their obedience. To put this into simpler language, if you like what an organization has to say then you’ll buy into it. If you don’t, you won’t. But, even more importantly to my article here, if you don’t have the ability to empathize with a view, then you won’t even hear what’s being said. I didn’t hear what was being said emotionally, just literally.

Because I only heard the words, I missed out on the emotional content contained in the experience. I didn’t even know there was an emotional message be spoken. So, I couldn’t have heard it, I just sat there in a pew and watched what was going on with a mindset of “Yeah, ok….I don’t get it.” I missed the actual message of love because I couldn’t hear it. So, I didn’t see a need to take a further interest in something that had no meaning to me. But, I did make one last attempt.

Through prayer, I tried my best to contact God hoping he could give me some of the experiences I was observing in church. My desire came from wanting to experience something spiritual for myself. However, prayer was really a let-down for me. I never heard ‘the still small voice’ that I hoped was God. I went and got Dr. Charles Stanley’s book “How To Listen To God”. I read that book cover to cover and was just as lost as before. Dr. Stanley’s advice was ’emotional’ in form and content. Being frustrated in my search for religious spirituality and meaning just put me in a sour mood concerning church and God. Over the long run, my frustration with all things religious just made me turn towards a more agnostic stance. This event occurred in late 1987.

As time went by, my agnostic stance lacked more and more utility for me. At this point, about 2008, many of the mechanisms I used for personal improvement such as willpower and self-sufficiency were no longer giving me satisfactory results. My classes in college had become so difficult that I began to suspect that I had a disability of some type because I couldn’t keep up with the workload. I was a terror to work with, making life difficult for my coworkers, bosses and customers. I found that I was becoming more frustrated with my inability to be successful at whatever I did. I was hard on my wife and our pets. I had no motivation for personal projects but I would burn my self out for any job that I worked for. What I discovered was I had no sense of the importance of my own life and self. I was at such a low point, that at least a handful of times, I considered ending my life instead of continuing it. Logically, this alternative was correct. With so much frustration and seeing no way out, the next step was to quit the game and start over. Again, it didn’t work out the way I expected….

Don’t Change That Channel!

Welcome to Happy Robot Inc!

We specialize in communication between neurotypicals (emotional beings) and high functioning autistics (logical beings).

As a high functioning autistic/neurotypical couple, we have a lot of experience in communicating across neurological barriers. We have formed this organization in the hopes that we can help other NT/HFA people understand each other. We are available to answer any questions you might have about your NT or HFA.