Child Genius Documentary 2013

Child Genius - Channel 4I watched Child Genius on Channel 4 last night and last week’s first episode too. I always find Genius documentaries interesting because all geniuses are autistic savants. But the word ‘Autism’ was not mentioned once throughout the documentary, because to most people, Autism is something WRONG with the brain; not something RIGHT with it.

So why is it important to mention that a child is autistic, as well as a genuis? Because many of the characteristics, such as bossiness, disruptiveness and arrogance are mistakenly thought to be either due to their genius, or because they have had a privileged life – due to their genius. But these characteristics are in fact due to high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorders such as Aspergers Syndrome. These misconceptions are damaging to these kids, because they are resented by many people who think they are being deliberately difficult.

So the makers of the program choose to tell their own story. Incidentally there is no such thing as an impartial documentary. All documentary filmmakers make judgements about their subjects, and if you are able to read between the lines you will see their message. One of the ways these judgements are indicated, are by use of the comedy-style plink-plonk music that they always have to accompany social documentaries these days (yawn). The music is telling the audience: “Now THIS person thinks he is normal, but he’s really odd – you just watch!” Even when the audience is not consciously aware, they will pay attention when they hear this music, in anticipation of what they will learn about the person on screen.

Clearly, one of their messages in this case is that usual old chestnut; that all parents of gifted children are pushy parents. In the introduction of every episode so far, the narrator states “…but behind the child genius, there’s often a determined parent.”

The program makers want to tell us what is RIGHT with the children’s brains and what is WRONG with their parents’ brains. This is something that I think is very British. In the same narrow-minded way that Hollywood and the media want us to have a generalized view that poor people are good, and rich people are bad; so too do the British media believe that if a parent supports their gifted child and attempts to utilize their abilities as much as possible, then they must be making the child suffer in some way.

Another way the filmmakers get their point across is to show a father explaining why he has a strict routine of activities for his son, then they follow this explanation with a glum expression on his son’s face. As the father’s explanation is filmed when playing ping-pong with his son, and the son’s glum expression is filmed during a piano lesson, they have edited the two clips out of sequence to portray their particular biased opinion.

Only one parent came across as pushy, and she said “He doesn’t care if he doesn’t win… I do!” This sentence was used in isolation in the introduction, so she could even have been joking, but the filmmakers don’t want us to think that.

I believe the psychology behind this is to make the filmmakers (and therefore the viewers) feel satsfied that they are “normal”. They are compensating themselves for not being geniuses! It’s like when they do stories on lottery winners who go on to have a run of bad luck, or the marriage breakups of movie stars.

But once I got past the plink-plonk music and the promotion of pushy parents, I was able to enjoy watching the children’s quirks. The gifted children were contestants of the prestigious competition that High IQ Society MENSA held to find the most intelligent child in the UK.

For some, the competitive mindset was perfect and they loved to rise to the challenge, but for others, it produced too much anxiety. One of the most affected by nerves was 8 year old Chess Champion, Joshua Altman, and you could tell from his eyes that he had had very little sleep before his big day.

In contrast, 10 year old Hugo Goodwill was so headstrong and determined to only study for his favorite subjects, he didn’t seem to care how well he did in the competition. Although he came across as the most arrogant, he also seemed relaxed. He had a strong obsession with trains, and was not able to tolerate people less bright than him – so nearly everyone then.

His parents could certainly not be accused of being pushy, as trainspotter Hugo clearly ran that household. He had his parents wrapped around his little finger, and they seemed very lenient and unwilling to discipline him into studying harder for the competition. They did try to have a No-Laptop rule on study days, but were not able to enforce it properly. I didn’t judge them harshly though, as I could see they loved him a lot. But he did always get his own way, and that might produce a few problems for him in the real world as an adult.

Another child that caught my eye was Leo Buckley who was described as very theatrical. He made a joke to the judge about 13,000 GBP being deposited into a Swiss bank account, but it only produced awkward grimaces instead of smiles, as it seemed the wrong time to make a joke about bribery. He also got very emotional at the end when he was out of the competition, and didn’t appear to try and hide his pain. Leo loves history and has read thousands of books. His dad says he is very intense, and hungry for knowledge.

Both he and Hugo regularly got into trouble for disrupting the class. Their disruptiveness was put down to being bored because they were so clever. But it is not just that. Many people on the autistic spectrum need constant attention. They cannot just sit there quiet, even if they have extra stuff to do.

Longyin follows a strict timetable of activities set by his dad, but he seems to enjoy them all. Most of these activities involve input from his dad, so he is getting the attention and quality time he requires. He plays the piano at a very high level and is currently learning Chinese.

Shrinidhi loves literature and books. In facts she loves books a LOT. She always smells them, and obsessively loves the smell of old books. Her mother said she even licked one book she particularly liked. Now if this sensory behavior does not give you a major clue that autism is present, then nothing will.

Not only did the filmmakers fail to acknowledge that child geniuses are autistic but they managed to convince the nation that Hugo is the most annoying kid in the country. Yes, his mum did say he was in the top 5% of most irritating kids, but they isolated this quote and put it in each episode’s introduction. If you go to Twitter or a site like WhoTalking.com and type in #childgenius, you will currently see an army of sheeple tweeters who have been conned into believing Hugo is the rudest person in the world, and that his mum despises him. If either of those were true, he would be very unhappy above all, and he is certainly not unhappy.

The program has put the idea in the public’s minds that highly intelligent people are rude, when actually they have Aspergers syndrome.

To give you an idea of what Joshua has to contend with, for example, here is part of the text he has pinned on his wall, that I managed to jot down from pausing my recording of the first episode:

Joshua Altman

How My Brain and Body Work

My brain works differently
My thoughts get stuck
I feel pressure to shout or scream
Bad words come out that I don’t mean to say
I have to repeat phrases over and over
I have to do the opposite of what I’m told
I say “No!” before I say “Yes”

I spend more time worrying about what I need to do, than doing it
I especially worry about how to transition from one thing to the next
I get anxious when I don’t know exactly what to expect
I become angry or rigid when I am uncertain
I cannot understand people’s expressions or emotions
I cannot always express appropriate emotions
I cannot easily filter thru overlapping voices or instructions
I find it hard to navigate thru the day
It’s very hard to do my work…

…Playing chess helps me to be steady and redirects my brain

Notice how none of the statements refer to how bright he is. They all highlight his difficulty in making sense of the world.

Statements such as:

  • I feel pressure to shout or scream
  • Bad words come out that I don’t mean to say
  • I have to do the opposite of what I’m told

…should be a clear indication that Joshua cannot control his behavior, and that is what most people don’t understand.

In addition to this, Tourettes Syndrome is also an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and the well-known swearing version of Tourettes is actually the least common type of the condition. Having ticks and making involuntary noises and actions is much more common. There is increasingly more evidence to suggest there might be an overlap between Aspergers Syndrome and Tourettes Syndrome.

This means the message of the program is very unfair on these kids and their parents. They already have an extremely hard time every minute of every day, and now as a result of this documentary, the nation thinks that the kids are obnoxious brats and that the parents are pushy, evil tyrants.

But hey, documentary makers have to have “an angle”, so as long as the nation is entertained, their job is done.

All four episodes of Child Genius are available at Channel 4.

 

JULY UPDATE:

Well done to all the finalists, and Congratulations to Shrinidhi Prakash who was a deserving winner.

How ironic that Andy Murray should become the first British Men’s Singles Champion in 77 years, only days after Child Genius last aired. Because he was one of the children who was believed to have a “Pushy Mum” in the 1990s. And now the whole of Britain is delighted with him, no matter how he achieved his goal.

Not only did Andy Murray love tennis as a child (it was also he who begged his mother to give him better resources; not her who forced him to do anything), but it’s nigh on impossible to force a child to do anything they don’t want to do, over a long period of time, without certain abuse.

So c’mon Britain; make your minds up.

Do you want parents to stop actively encouraging their talented kids?

Or do you want champions?

Because you can’t have it both ways.

 

logo #ChildGenius Channel 4 and Nelmes Design

 

 

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Disregard for Authority – ASD Symptom

Appearing to having a disregard for people in authority is a major clue that someone is on the autistic spectrum. If you think that must include all individuals who regularly misbehave, then yes, those are the numbers we are talking about, that potentially have ASD.

This symptom also inlcudes resenting being told what to do. It is related to being pragmatic. If the person affected is unable to see the point in doing something, it won’t matter how high up on the food chain you are; they won’t want to do it.

It is nearly always categorized as being disrespectful of others. But that’s simply not the case; people on the Autistic Spectrum can and do respect people immensely. But there has to be a good reason for that respect, and not just because you say so!

Autistic Spectrum kids are actually very fair. They have a strong sense of justice, and are very sensitive to injustice. So if you are a parent or teacher for example, and you want them to do something, all you have to do is explain to them why you want them to do it. This might sound over-simplified, but the number of times I have been asked to do something without an explanation, is huge. Not only do you often not get an explanation, but you are expected to read people’s minds as well. This happens a lot in the workplace as well as school.

Let’s use new website software as an example in a classroom. If a teacher says “Click here”, then “select Slick019 here”, and so on, unless it is apparent why they have to do that, the child will not be able to remember for next time, and so will end up back at the beginning in the next lesson. So they don’t see the point of following the steps. But if the teacher explains “Click here to get the Template box up, that allows you to choose the style of your website”, then “Now select the template you want to work with; let’s choose Slick019 for now”, the child will be less likely to forget what they have been shown, and they will see the value in doing each step. This will make them want to do it for themselves, rather than watch someone else do it, or worse; be told to do each step without understanding why.

You can’t fob them off with a half-hearted explanation such as; “Because I want you to!”

It has to be a thorough explanation, that gives them information they did not know prior to you telling them.

And you can’t lie. High functioning autistic kids and adults are human lie-detectors.  Despite many having limited social skills, they can spot a liar nine times out of ten. Not only will they refuse to do what you asked them, but they will refuse to trust you again. So don’t insult them by lying.

With the autistic child, they have to be shown respect before they can give it. But once they are shown it, they will not only be respectful, but very loyal – providing you prove not to ultimately have feet of clay.

Giving a full explanation also sometimes works for when you want the child to stop doing something too. And getting into the habit of giving full explanations makes you better at giving instruction over time. It makes you a better teacher.

But some more stubborn kids will hate being told what to do, no matter what. This is related to ego and pride. They are happy to do anything, just as long as it was their idea to begin with. The trick is to let them believe it was their idea.

So you have to use clever wording in a roundabout way to make them think that. This is not the same as lying. It is Copywriting. Advertisers do it to us all every day -  every 10 minutes if you watch a lot of TV!

But the result will be that they won’t see the situation as being told what to do. So their pride will remain intact. In fact if you can get them to think it was their idea, without lying, it might be so effective that they end up becomeing obsessed with it!

In the case of the website software, you have to tell them about the ultimate benefits of using the software (NOT the features, unless they ask about them). You glorify the end result and pile on the benefits so it sounds like the most amazing thing to have, and actually makes them feel left out if they don’t have it. Then you just wait for them to think about it, and if you made it sound awesome, they will tell you they want to use it.

Then you can use the full explanation method, or you might not need to. In some cases, they will run ahead and teach themselves the software, they’ll be so eager to get started!

So a child (or adult) having a Disregard for Authority is often simply due to poor communication. Sadly, because people on the autistic spectrum often get into trouble for being defiant or disruptive, the people around them who are in authority grow to disrespect them, and in turn they are also disrespected by the person with ASD.

As the autistic person is likely to be less emotionally intelligent, it is they that need to be shown respect first in order to correct the imbalance, but it will be worth the sacrifice and gritted teeth in the end!

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Autistic Kids Don’t Copy Pointless Actions

A new study of children with autism, finds that they miss out actions they deem to be pointless, when copying adults. Rachael Rettner, writes of the study at MyHealthNewsDaily.

While children without an autism diagnosis copied every step of a task that an adult showed them, the autistic children only did the steps they thought were absolutely necessary.

“Autistic children only do the actions they really need to do” says study researcher Antonia Hamilton of the University of Nottingham, UK.

The researchers believe that non-autistic children might copy the unnecessary steps because they have a strong need to fit in or be like others, and this social motivation might be reduced in autistic children. Previous studies have suggested that autistic children will imitate adult behaviors less than typically developing children. The findings of the study were published yesterday in the Current Biology journal.

This news might be, as they say, that the autistic children are not bothered with socially fitting in like the other children are. But I also think this demonstrates the initiative and pragmatic common sense that the autistic children show. I blogged about this previously, and it is why the autistic children are less likely to be hassled by tedious, time consuming actions.

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Jodie Marsh: Bullied – Channel 5

Jodie Marsh Bullied

I watched Jodie Marsh’s new 2 part TV program Jodie Marsh: Bullied on Channel 5 in the UK last night. We saw the subject of bullying from the victim’s point of view – as you would expect. But towards the end of the first episode, Jodie also talks to a reformed bully and addresses why bullying happens in the first place.

Former glamor model Jodie meets several victims of bullying including Sawyer, who was punched so hard in the stomach, he became permanently paralyzed as a result. He says he doesn’t know why he was bullied. But he also said he would skip down the corridor, because he was so happy to go to school, and that he got called gay because he had more female friends than male friends. What teenage boys would not want to be friends with girls? Sounds like they were extremely jealous. And now Sawyer has to be in a wheelchair for life. It is no wonder he refused his bully’s eventual apology.

Jodie meets the parents of Jamie, a teenager who suffered bullying in silence until he could take it no longer and committed suicide. To add to the tragedy, after his death nothing legally could be done because Jamie wasn’t around to testify against his bullies.

Ms Marsh then takes a trip to White Pine Middle School, Ely, Nevada where Principle Aaron Hanson, since 2006, has managed to turn around the bad reputation of the school. There is now an initiative program in place to give bullies and would-be bullies a sense of purpose and responsibility. Thirty students in the top year are given “Defender” status. The Defenders are encouraged to look out for other students that might need help, and give them that help. This creates a more compassionate environment by making former bullies feel important without resorting to intimidating or attacking people. Aaron says that all children want to be cool, and “it’s cool to be kind in this school”.

He wants Jodie to meet former student, Jonathan Simmonds, who had been a bully in 6th and 7th Grade, but started to change his beahavior in 8th Grade. Jonathan says he wasn’t at all nice and he would walk down the corridor “and kids would spread”. He tells Jodie that his parents had got divorced and his sister and his neice both died and it was soon after these incidents happened that he became a bully. But he became reformed after becoming a Defender on the The Leadership program.

Jodie was bullied when she was young, and wants to do something to help others who are bullied. She wants to bring some of the American bullying initiative programs over to the UK to stamp out bullying, beause she has seen for herself that it can be done. After talking to Jonathan, Jodie says “We shouldn’t be punishing bullies; we should be helping them” and that she never thought she would think such a thing, because she hated her bullies from school.

I believe all bullies and most victims of bullying are on the Autistic Spectrum. Many bullies are, or have been themselves, bullied. The Bullied program last night stated that in the US, nearly 70% of the individuals who carried out school massacres were former victims of bullying, and that one day they had simply “snapped”. As a child I was mentally abused at home, and was a bully at school until the age of 13 (when my victim who I’d beaten in a fight a year earlier had now had a growth spurt, and flattened me – Good for him!)

One thing I know for sure is that bullies are all nervous people. They might think they’re tough and try to portray a hard, cool image, but they are only trying to hide their nerves. Sometimes in an attempt to act tough, they go too far and hurt someone. This “snapping” that happens in the case of the massacres, is a nervous breakdown. They want to kill themselves, but they are so bitter, they want to cause as much destruction as they can on their way out.

 

Jodie being Bullied on Celebrity Big Brother

I don’t know if Jodie remembers but I have never forgotten a particular incident on Celebrity Big Brother from 2006, where Jodie herself was bullied on TV by Michael Barrymore and Pete Burns. It was obvious to me then that all three of them displayed character traits of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. (Jodie I believed might have had ADHD, as she often knew what she was trying to say, but could not make herself understood, and would lose her train of thought). The incident wasn’t the only one where she was ganged up on, but it was one of the worst. In the end both guys managed to make her forget what her original point was, and she ended up not able to defend herself properly because they so cleverly directed the conversation.

The original topic of conversation was the order of housemates in a line-up task Big Brother gave them of Most to Least Famous People. (Number 1 being the most famous). Jodie had thought the two Americans in the house should be in Position 1 and 2, and gives a perfectly plausible explanation as to why she thought so. But other housemates had said Michael should be in the number 1 position. Jodie’s only fault in the whole matter was that she was a bit bossy when suggesting who should be 1 and 2 in the line-up. Watch below from 39:00 when Michael’s ego prevents him from believing Jodie’s explanation.

He has identified Jodie as being inconfident and a bit of a pushover, and what is more distrubing is that he forcibly prevents her from speaking. Although he doesn’t raise his voice until near the end, he cleverly speaks over her the whole time and invalidates everything that she says. He tries to appear on camera as though he is giving her friendly advice but most people (and defintely any psychologist) will see he is being deliberately intimidating.

Pete Burns seems quite harmless in the beginning, but don’t be fooled. He has also noticed earlier on in the show how poorly Jodie defends herself. Bullies are experts at this. He  deftly watches how the confrontation is going between Jodie and Michael, and when Michael appears to be winning the argument, he makes his move. After all, these two guys only want to appear good to the public, so they are building allies the whole time.

And when Jodie gets genuinely upset, Pete says “Oh here we go” and accuses her of faking her tears. Then Michael joins in this new argument. I honestly believe both guys knew for certain that she was genuinely upset, but the way they are being perceived by the public is more important to them than showing compassion, and they spot the opportunity to make an ally in each other, so they gang up on her and accuse her of being fake. Notice how the original topic of conversation is very quickly forgotten once they find this common ground. The two of them keep following each other’s lead on different topics to create a majority vote. The fact that they accuse her of playing up to the cameras, reveals more of how they themselves are hard-wired, not Jodie .

Both guys had nominated Jodie earlier and Big Brother always give housemates alcohol after nominations, knowing full well things will kick off in the wee hours, once the liquid “truth-drug” takes effect. Pete and George Galloway had also argued with Jodie the previous night too. Some of these guys certainly felt threatened by Jodie being so opinionated and headstrong. After all, the most outspoken people tend not to like competition. And it’s easier to work together and pick on the weakest member than it is to compete against each other (the stronger opponents).

There is always a reason that people bully others, and it is usually to feel important, because they wouldn’t feel so otherwise. You expect many teenagers not to have discovered how to treat others well, but when people are Michael and Pete’s age, the lucky ones will have discovered that actually you can learn to be happy by being nice to others. But they are not two of the lucky ones, and for whatever reasons they continue to feel inherently insecure and unhappy. They’ll tell everyone they’re happy; they’ll even tell themselves they are happy. But its impossible to be genuinely happy and be a bully at the same time.

Jodie might not realize it, but I think she continues to be bullied. I am not getting involved in the endless Twitter feuds she has with people like Katie Price (who I believe also has ASD), but I do think that what she has to say would carry more weight if she rose above these petty squabbles. But when Being argumentative and Speaking out whenever you witness injustices are part of ASD, it can be hard to stay quiet.

I’m hoping Jodie is successful in stamping out bullying in UK schools. I’ll certainly be watching Part 2 of Bullied next week.

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Abused Women Have Autistic Kids

I blogged the other day about a scientific experiment where the findings resulted in researchers making some assumptions.

Today I’ve found another example of such assumptions. This time it’s the scientists and doctors of the Harvard School of Public Health that are jumping to conclusions.

They say that abused women have autistic kids. More specifically that women who were abused as children are three and a half times more likely to have an autistic child than women who were not abused.

It has not occured to these experts that the most likely reason those children are autistic is because their mothers are autistic – or on the Autistic Spectrum at least. This is more about genetics than anything else.

The reason there is a connection between their autism and their mothers’ abuse is because many autistic people get bullied and abused. Even the high functioning ones. The characteristics that most people on the Autistic Spectrum have means that many of them will suffer some form of abuse. And abusers are no different from other bullies. They are cowards, and the easiest prey are children on the autistic spectrum. Kids who are easy to manipulate because they are often sensitive, inconfident, suggestible and scared.

So when these kids grow up to be women and end up having autistic kids of their own, the experts just put 2 and 2 together and come up with 9.

The irony as well is that people on the autistic spectrum can be bullies themselves, so an autistic kid can have a whole family-tree full of ASD and abuse.

If you have read anything else on this site, you will know it is all about how not everyone on the autistic spectrum has obvious signs of autism. Most people who have it are of the High Functioning variety. Many of those mothers in this study will be in that category of High Functioning ASD.

I’m not saying that the prolonged stress put upon an abused person cannot manifest itself later to produce autism in the offspring. Of course that is a possiblility. I’m saying the fact that a lot of these women will themselves be on the autistic spectrum, kind of scews the results of the experiment – a lot.

My natural mother, I believe smoked when I was in the womb. She hasn’t said so, but she also never batted an eyelid when other pregnant members of the family smoked. But then again I had malnutrition at eight months old too. Could one of these be the cause of my ASD?

Was it my infant vaccinations? Was I dropped on my head? Was my mother on the spectrum? Was she abused? Who knows?

It could be one or all of the above. But whatever the cause of mine or everyone else’s autistic spectrum disorder, it will be many years before anyone can agree on what factors cause autism for sure. And it’s only going to take longer when they make these sort of assumptions based on only half the facts.

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Watching TV Being Blamed For Anti-Social Behavior

Over at ScienceWorldReport they report that 5 year olds who watch more than 3 hours of TV a day are more than likely to be involved in anti-social behavior. After reading the reporth though, it seems that the people in charge of the experiment did not get a number of various children to be split into groups and then dictate which group watch less or more TV than usual. THAT would have made too much sense. No, they took the data from families who already fit into these TV viewing habits.

So how can they know for sure that the potentially anti-social kids are not predisposed to WANT to watch more TV than the potentially non-anti-social kids?

This is what drives me crazy whenever violent TV and video games are blamed for violent behavior. Only a small minority of people who watch this stuff go out and commit crimes, yet because they are compared with people who don’t watch this material and who don’t commit crimes, they jump to the assumption that the two are connected.

And they could be connected!  – But not necessarily for that reason.

The anti-social tendency contained within Autistic Spectrum Disorder (but that does not mean everyone with ASD has it), could exist first, and that could be what makes these kids want to sit and watch TV and play video games all day long – because ASD produces obsessive (repetitive) behavior. Kids with ADHD and dyslexia (part of ASD) will always turn to the easist activities than the more difficult ones, so avid TV audiences are full of kids (and adults for that matter) with such conditions; the very conditions that are also present in many people with anti-social behavior problems.

If only it could be a legal requirement that people who dream up these experiments have to actually follow a common-sense route, that does not allow them to jump to possibly incorrect conclusions. In this case, to change the habits of the subjects during the experiment; NOT to lazily collect data from already existing habits. Sheesh.

Photo by James Emery on Flickr

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Doctors Link 5 Psychiatric Disorders

A recent study written about in The New York Times has found that five different disorders share several “genetic glitches” that eventually cause mental illness.

The study that was published in The Lancet this week, includes the following five disorders: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism, major depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

They first discovered a connection when studying twins. They found that one would have one of the “five disorders” and the other would have another. There are many cases of someone with ASD and one or more of their family members have Depression or Bipolar.

The experts are still a long way off from seeing the wood for the trees, and working out that these five disorders cover all known mental illnesses, depending on which human diagnoses the individual. The NYT article includes the information that years ago, Autism was known as Childhood Schizophrenia. OK, so with tongue firmly in cheek, let’s say those two disorders are the same thing; that makes four disorders.

Then there’s Bipolar and Major Depression. If you have the inclination to look into the various forms of Bipolar Disorder, specifically of Type 2 Bipolar, one of which consists of many more depressive episodes than hypomania, even including hardly any mania at all. Wouldn’t that also be considered Major Depression, depending on who’s doing the diagnosing?

So we’re down to three disorders.

Then, as I have been at pains to point out, Bipolar and Aspergers (autism) have identical symptoms, if people would bother to look.

Down to two disorders.

Then there’s the common acceptance that ADHD is part of the autistic spectrum. Helloo? ADHD = ASD.

So there you go. One disorder: Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder is the one huge umbrella: The Big Daddy, and all other “mental illnesses” fall under it like a huge family tree.

And I take the word “illnesses” lightly, as for many high functioning people, it doesn’t make them ill and is not that much of a hindrance to them or the people around them. But the study is not concerned with high functioning people. (Although I do find it ironic that they used “33,332 people with psychiatric illnesses and 27,888 people free of the illnesses for comparison”. Good luck finding 27,888 people free of mental illness – anywhere!)

Obviously I have over-simplified everything. But that is the point of this blog. The world of mental health over-complicates everything, by giving individual names for tiny differences in signs and symptoms. And doctors can only guess the diagnosis at best, often only based on what the patient tells them.

Thanks to Jared for sharing this link on the home page comments.

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Aggressive Outbursts: ASD Symptom

Not everyone with high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder has aggressive outbursts or anger issues, but many do. And it is to do with nervousness and the inability to cope well with stress. The characteristics such as anger, being argumentative and confrontational are inherent, but they lie dormant under normal circumstances. It is when the individual is tired or emotions are running particularly high that the slightest little thing can set them off.

Often an outburts like the one below  can be after a person has tried to remain calm and patient, but feels that the other person is not being fair despite their efforts to remain civil.

Below is a video of actress Lily Tomlin being… um “directed” by I Heart Huckabees director David O Russell. He tells her he has been patient with her, but it seems her complaint of him is that he keeps changing his mind about what he wants, and she is sick of being confused by his inconsistent directing.

The video for this post is not at the top, so that I can put a Language warning before it.

WARNING: There is rather colorful language in this video!

These types of aggressive outbursts are consistent with Asperger syndrome in creative and artistic people. Indecision is a different topic but it is also present in many people with ASD, and the inability to explain things to others in consistent with Aspergers and ADHD, even when the sufferer is very clear in their own mind about what they want.

Of course, it is also about ego. The director is obviously embarrassed in front of his team by Tomlin’s criticism of his direction, and as the boss, he feels the need to assert his authority, and to try and prevent anyone else getting the idea that it’s ok to criticize him. This happens a lot in insecure people when they feel threatened.

I am ashamed to say I have had outbursts, though not as bad as this one. And they are fewer and fewer as I get older, thank heavens. But I have managed to scare a few people off in the past. And they are so preventable, once you know how to recognize the early warning signs.

So David O Russell gets an ISAP award, but as always “this does not mean he has ASD…” yada yada… (see disclaimer).

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The Growing Pains of a Teenage Genius

The Growing Pains of a Teenage Genius: Aspergers

This week I was lucky to catch a TV documentary from last year on BBC iPlayer while it was still available; The Growing Pains of a Teenage Genius, about a 13-year-old autistic savant, Cameron Thompson, who was doing an Open University degree course in mathematics.

He has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and he doesn’t find the level of maths at his own school challenging enough, so he is studying for his Open University degree alongside his school work.

Cameron severely lacks social skills, has very few friends and he has obsessions for Dr Who and World of Warcraft. (I know I’m not going to get away with adding those last two onto the list of Symptoms for ASD, but I really WANT TO because I’ve yet to find a human-being NOT on the spectrum, who was obsessed by either of these!)

Although he is exceptionally gifted in Maths, he has poor communication skills which result in difficulty explaining his answers, and explanations are strongly required for his OU degree course. One upsetting part of the film is seeing him struggle with the communication part of his degree course work – after a full day at school, no less. It is obvious that at this point he is behind on his sleep and is overdoing his studies. Even geniuses need breaks. I was shouting at the TV: “Take a break!” Then his Dad suggested he take a break. Oh good, he heard me!

At his new school, he is lucky that they have a center for autistic children and he is even paired up with another boy, Tim, who also has Asperger’s and shares some of his interests, and an intense dislike of Justin Beiber. (Although from what I can make out, all teenage boys dislike him; I think they must all be jealous).

While Tim appears highly opinionated, Cameron fails to notice other people’s points of view, and in true asperger’s style, he has an inability to be diplomatic or tactful. One example is where he is shown introducing himself to a bunch of other kids his own age, who live in his new neighborhood. The first things he tells them are his amazing maths abilities and how posh his last house was. Most kids would know that’s not the way to endear yourself to a new group of your peers, but it’s amazing how forgiving people are when there’s a documentary film crew around.

The accompanying Radio Times article describes his parents as “kooky” – which of course is a trigger word to me, to mean “has ASD”! Kooky, whacky, eccentric, weird, strange, geeky – yup, to me, they all mean that the poor sod is on the spectrum somewhere.

It is not his parents though, who are pushing him to get a degree early. That is his own decision. In fact his dad thinks Cameron is being way too hard on himself by studying so much and always expecting top grades. Cameron states several times throughout the film that “I’m desperate to achieve”.

This is very common in people on the autistic spectrum. And for many it is because they feel they need to prove themselves because they have always had trouble making friends because of poor communication and lack of social skills.

One of the reasons Cameron feels he HAS to get his degree in Applied Mathematics and then gain a Master’s degree straight afterwards, is that he has already imagined his life with no qualifications, and believes he will end up in a low paid job that will not stimulate him and he will become depressed as a result.

So he is under the common misconception that university is the only way to get a decent job. That might have been the case in the UK a few decades ago, but now the only thing it guarantees most people, is debt. Having gone through a terrible time at university, socially (long before my Aspergers diagnosis – or even the previous Bipolar diagnosis), I believe having a formal qualification is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Clearly, Cameron has not paid much attention to his parents’ careers. They are successfully self-employed Karate instructors. People on the autistic spectrum are born to be self-employed, as they can choose exactly what they do for a living, and custom-build their working day to their liking.

A maths genius would make an excellent software developer, for example. If Cameron were to learn both computer programming and online marketing, he could do very well with his own company. Cameron has strong views on the subject of art. “What’s the point?” asks the pragmatic teenager. Well, if functionality is what he’s after, then art has a function in web design, does it not?

He could build websites about daleks and WOW for a living and all the other computer games and sci-fi he’s into. Imagine how happy he’d be, doing something like that. And he probably wouldn’t even need WISIWIG editors either; he could do the whole design in HTML and CSS, and at lightning speed too.

Often, highly gifted people like Cameron are only known for their genius, hence the title of the documentary. But apart from his amazing ability with numbers, he is just like any other kid of his age with Aspergers.

He does funny voices and sings during speech. He struggles with communication and yearns to make friends like a “normal person”. He is very self-critical. He is highly ambitious, obsessive and a perfectionist. He is pragmatic and pedantic. He is naïve and often sees the world like a much younger child would. He is often oblivious to the objective of the other person during a conversation. He is impatient and gets easily stressed out. He must have had depression in the past, or he would not fear getting it as an adult, potentially in a boring job.

The film concluded with Cameron accepting that it would be better to do his maths degree at the same age everyone else does a degree, after a Cambridge professor told him he’ll be better able to cope when he is older, as he will be able to explain his answers more clearly.

I do hope his parents are as loving as they came across in the film. And it was great to see his teachers appear so understanding of his condition. I was terribly jealous because I was just branded a naughty kid and hated by almost all adults, so watching this documentary was very refreshing. But I think that Cameron is one of the lucky ones, and I can’t help thinking about all the kids out there (and adults with ASD), who have not had a diagnosis, but who struggle to interact on a daily basis because their brains are different to other people’s.

But I wish Cameron well. He is a good person, and I’m certain he will excel in whatever he ends up doing.

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Big Brother

autistic big brother ASDI have a love/hate relationship with Big Brother, the TV show. Sometimes I hate the pettiness of some of the small-minded people, and an awful lot of the people attracted to applying for a show like this are very insecure, egotistical, selfish, argumentative, intolerant…

…hang on a minute…? ;)  – which brings me to why I LOVE it:

There is always lots of ASD fodder for me whenever BB is on TV!

I have a bet with myself every series how many of the unsuspecting lambs to the slaughter will be on the autustic spectrum this time. And it’s always more than 50%.

In the final Ultimate Big Brother (UK) on Channel 4, Brian Dowling was only one of three housemates not on the autistic spectrum IMHO.

Last year’s BB was around the usual 65% and the worst affected was the eventual winner Aaron, one of the cleverest high functioning aspies I’ve ever seen on Big Brother.

This year it is WAAY beyond 65% – nearly all of the ‘orrible little rapscallions appear to be afflicted with the brain damage that is Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

My unofficial ASD diagnoses for Big Brother UK 2012 are:

Benedict – acts as though he is always right, arrogant, smug.

Lydia – acts as though she is always right, arrogant, argumentative.

Caroline – impressionable, over-emotional, self loathing.

Luke A – self loathing, inconfidence, over-emotional, negative.

Adam – former addict, former criminal.

Ashleigh – ADHD only, from what I can tell.

Scott – impressionable, lateral thinker, sensitive.

Connor – bully, aggression, anger, selfish, can’t take criticism.

Lauren – tomboy (nonconformist), inconfidence, over-emotional.

Shievonne - can’t take criticism, over sensitive, Jekyl & Hyde (either fun or scary)

Chris – aggression, anger, intolerance, can’t take criticism.

Arron -  aggression, selfish, like a stubborn child.

Deana – ADHD galore! Very ditzy girl always in a daydream, childish.

so yeah – nearly all of them, then!

There are only three people I did not mention, and even Sara is borderline as she only “goes off on one” after she’s had a drink!

The worst affected with Aspergers in particular I believe, are Benedict and Lydia, and up until they were evicted, they were the most vocal people in the house. At one point I thought the show was called The Lydia Show, as she demanded so much screen time. This type of over-dominance is a common form of unconscious bullying that goes on every year in the Big Brother house, as well as many workplaces and households the world over.

People with high functioning Aspergers for example will often take over their surroundings until everything is how they want it. This can be seen as selfish, but the person could still have a well meaning heart; they just cannot function without things in a particular way (think “Sheldon Cooper” – for an exaggerated example).

Providing that the people around them do not mind being ordered about, then peace will remain, but if you have several people on the autistic spectrum – (and you always will, if it’s Big Brother!) then those people will not like to be bossed about by others, and that’s when friction begins.

This year my most favorite housemate is the very camp Scott. I actually thought he was a wet lettuce in the beginnning and couldn’t stand him, but I was happy to be proven wrong about him. He is funny without even trying because of his long and winding diary room chats. The fact that he talks “posh” even though everyone else from his home town talks with a broad Northern accent, I find hilarious.

I think he is only just on the spectrum, because emotionally he is quite sensitive, and he is a lateral thinker, and a natural born poet. He’s very articulate when describing things. I envy that about him.

Luke A, I believe is on the spectrum too, because of his inconfidence and his inherent belief that everything he does goes wrong. This is linked very closely linked to depression (and you all know my thoughts on the relationship between depression and ASD).

I also think he is actually trying to milk the sympathy vote too, especially now he has heared people cheering for him, so he knows the public are on his side and dislike the people who bullied his gang previously. If he wins, it will be out of sympathy, and I don’t think that is a reason someone should win, especially as he has been so miserable lately.

Having said that, I would rather he win than any of the cliquey popular group. But I think Adam could win too. The reason I think he could be on the autistic spectrum, is he has been an addict, and has been in prison. And a staggering majority of criminals are on the autistic spectrum. But luckily he is now a survivor who has turned his life around. I think he brings a positive energy to the house and I am glad he does not follow the sheep and belong to the main popular group. Although his alliance with Luke A and Lauren could all have happened by accident, as they all smoked, and that’s what brought them together initially.

I loved Lauren too and was sorry  to see her unfairly evicted. But she was bullied and it would have continued if she had stayed.

UPDATE:

Well Luke A has just won, as I thought he would. He was my favorite to begin with, but he’s been so miserable and playing the sympathy card. I wanted Adam or Scott to win, but it could have been worse. Luke S could have won (shivers).

I liked Deana before as she seemed a proper lady when she was a victim of Connor’s bullying, but once he left and we saw the real Deana, she was a bit over the top and kept goading Luke S, so I have added childish to her list of traits. This reminded me of Arron’s childish, unrelenting and annoying pranks.

I’m not even going to talk about him or the others because I couldn’t stand any of them. If it were not for Adam and Scott I think I would stopped watching.

 

Posted in ADHD, ASD, Asperger Syndrome, Autism, High Functioning Autism | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments