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September 2016

Q&A, Volume 2

Q&A, Vol 2

900 600 Paul Louden

Q: If I ask my child to help me with some chores, sometimes he says okay but doesn’t stop what he’s doing. How can I handle this, as it can be very frustrating?


Paul: Again, that’s one of those instances where I don’t know the exact situation. It sounds like if you said, “I want you to help me take out the trash,” you didn’t say you want it done right now. Maybe they’re thinking, “Okay, I’ll come to you and say in an hour when I am done with whatever I am doing, hey, let’s take out the trash now.” Part of it could very well be that there’s an actual literal misunderstanding of what’s going on. That’s a very real thing that can happen.

Another part of it is, again; he could just not be paying attention. That’s very possible. The problem with dealing with a child on the autism spectrum is that it’s sometimes hard to tell what is or isn’t’ autism. If you’ve got a 12 year old who’s like, “Okay, Mom, whatever.” You still get that from those on and off the Autism spectrum. It’s a tough mix to figure out what’s going on. That’s why you go back to that concept of “pay attention to the why’s of everything,” and help them understand why you do things and try to understand why they do things. Never be afraid to ask.


Q: What would be the best way? If I wanted you to take out the trash right now, do I have to explain why, or just I want you to take out the trash right now?


Paul: It depends on whether you want them to do it sullenly and irritated or happily. If you say, “I want you to take out the trash right now,” and it’s interrupting something they’re doing, neurotypical or autistic, they’re going to be annoyed with it being interrupted. I think if you say, “I want you to take out the trash right now because the garbage truck could be coming in five minutes,” then that may help alleviate some of it. This isn’t necessarily an autism thing at all. Them not doing it right away because of communication issues, that’s more likely with autism, but being frustrated about it, that’s going to be any kid.


Q: What I think I am picking up from a lot of these questions is that apparently children with autism have a tendency to appear to be a little bit more stubborn.


Paul: They often do. That’s one thing that you get. Kids on the autism spectrum, they often ask “why” a lot more. A lot of times, they may have a hard time understanding authority. And doing it just because someone says to do it is really an emotional thing. It’s a cultural thing — parents having a specific authority over the child, a teacher having a specific authority over the child — those are all sort of cultural institutions. Doing something because your parents do it, the autistic child may be just thinking, “Well, you’re standing there right now. You’re closer to the garbage can than me. Why don’t you just take it out? It would take you less time to take it out, rather than it would to come upstairs to ask me about it.” Overall, there can be challenges understanding that dynamic between parents, child and authority.

Q&A, Volume 1

Q&A, Vol 1

900 600 Paul Louden

Q: What causes stress for a person with Autism?


Paul: My immediate response was … everything. And it’s probably true in one way or another. The world is just very stressful to me because uncertainty is stressful.


Q: What helps you relieve the stress?


Paul: Doing things I can control. That’s one of the reasons I got into video games in the first place. They take place in a controlled environment, they have rules, and they’re structured in a way where you can’t really break the rules. The game enforces the rules. When you play Monopoly with someone, they can slip money from the bank when you’re not looking, but if you’re playing the Monopoly video game with someone, they can’t do that — the game does not allow that to happen.

Video games gave me a controlled and predictable environment, that’s also why I like passive entertainment like books, movies, and things like that because they may have unpredictability, but I know that a movie can’t do anything, it’s just there on the screen. It’s a chance for me to avoid that unpredictability.

I get an anxiety spike every single time I hear the text message sound on my phone, every single time, no matter what. Just because … and it’s frustrating. I actually just get just a little bit angry every time I hear it, because no matter what it’s sort of interrupting my peace. But I also can’t just turn it off for the day because I will be anxious if I don’t know that there’s text messages waiting for me. It’s just one of those things where unpredictability is bad, but you can’t get rid of it. So, in short, it’s extremely difficult to relax.


Q: Why would a text message stress you? Afraid it might be bad news or something?


Paul: Oh, no, it’s not the content of the message; it’s just the interruption. It’s just that it was not predicted, it just happened randomly.


Q: How do you feel when you’re standing in line at the grocery store and it says ten items or less and a person in front of you has twelve items?


Paul: Drives me absolutely crazy.


Q: Why?


Paul: It says ten items or less. For example, I fly Southwest a lot, and they just give you a number to line up. So I’ll be number A-18 and in front of me is supposed to be A-17, behind me is supposed A-19, and you hear someone say, “Well close enough,” or whatever. I’m like, I know that you’re going to get upset with me if I say, “Well, I’m supposed to be in front of you,” but at the same time it’s clear that it matters to you too, because if it didn’t matter to you, you’d just say, “Okay,” and move behind me.

It’s the same at the 12 items or less line in the grocery store. It’s clear they want to take advantage of it being the express lane, but they also want to get around that. If you said something to them, they’d likely say, “Well, why is this a big deal?” I would say, “Well, if it’s not a big deal to you, why don’t you go stand in the other line?” It’s clear that in some way there’s a little bit of hypocrisy there no matter what happens.


Q: Do you say anything?


Paul: Usually, no.


Q: Would you have when you were a child?


Paul: Almost certainly. Probably the main reason I don’t say anything today is I fear for my safety.


Q: But you’d like to say something?


Paul: Absolutely.

Was I Hesitant to Tell People I Had Autism?

Was I hesitant to tell people I had Autism?

900 600 Paul Louden

I didn’t really have that many people to tell, so it didn’t really become a major question until far enough along. One thing is, I am Autistic. I didn’t make a lot of friends. I didn’t have large social circles. So I really didn’t have to ask myself that question, “Should I tell this person?” for quite awhile. I didn’t tell a lot of people at first, but once I finally sat down and asked myself, “Well, should I tell people or should I not tell people?” I think I pretty much decided that I should.


With most of the people I’ve told, I typically try to not immediately tell them, but instead I try to get to know them a little bit first, so that they know me as Paul and then they know me as “Paul who happens to be Autistic,” rather than “that Autistic guy Paul.”


I don’t want, “Hi, I’m Autistic,” to be the first thing I tell someone, because then you get caught up in whatever preconceptions they have about it. Overall, there’s a savant issue. A lot of that comes from people who’ve seen Rainman. They remember how he acted in that movie and they have expectations, so I’m afraid if I tell someone right up front that they might think, “Well, if there’s a loud noise or a fire alarm goes off he’s going to start freaking out.” I don’t want people to have that expectation of me, so I’d like them to get to know me a little bit first.


In most cases, when I tell people I’m Autistic, they simply say, “Oh, okay.” There are a few people who will then go on to ask me about it or tell me that they don’t really believe it’s a real thing. Or some people might share their opinions about it one way or another and those can always be challenging but, typically, it’s just an, “Oh, okay.”


I’m hoping that when and/or if there is a misunderstanding, it provides them the thought to take a step back and say, “Maybe he didn’t mean what I thought he meant,” and that it gives them that little bit of extra thought. Perhaps something like, “maybe he’s not reacting in the way I would normally expect a person to react.” Then, that gives us an opportunity to work through misunderstandings more easily than we would otherwise.