Monday, 17 January 2011

An Aspie visits the occupational therapist

I don't really know what an occupational therapist does, even after spending two hours in a room with one today. Judging by the name I always thought they were something to do with work skills; rehabilitation after a workplace accident and things like that. But the one I went to does a lot of work with children - many with ASD - to do with body awareness.

two gymnasts in an upside-down pose
Incredible as it seems, neither of these are me
I went to get a sensory profile done, which will apparently be helpful for the physiotherapist I've been seeing. I actually went there because I hurt my foot without realising it and it wasn't getting better on its own. The joys of poor pain perception - it turned out to be an ankle's worth of torn ligaments, but the first I knew about it was when I realised it was badly swollen. But it turns out a physio can help with proprioception.  But first we needed the sensory profile.

The sensory profile identifies where my specific issues are. Some come as no surprise, while others were completely not what I was expecting. Auditory processing came out as a definite issue, which is no surprise given my history of sound-induced sensory overloads. Vestibular sense (body awareness and balance) was also pretty ordinary, particularly to do with body awareness and muscle tone.

This isn't muscle tone as in being ripped - if it were, I'd be so far off the dud end of the scale they'd need a posthole digger to retrieve my results. Muscle tone in this context relates to your muscles being aware of how contracted or relaxed they are, and what point of relaxation/contraction is the resting position. For instance, people with low muscle tone tend to slump with our elbows on the table, propping ourselves up, because our muscles identify the resting position as far more relaxed than is helpful. It also leads to trouble with dropping things, and my trouble with holding a cup straight so the contents don't slop out - the muscles are more relaxed than they should be to competently achieve the task.

This is all terribly interesting. I have some exercises, mainly little mini-pushups off the wall or tabletop, to do occasionally throughout the day to 'remind' my muscles to get their act together. The extra vestibular pressure helps perk up muscle tone, apparently.

Another interesting result was that I scored very highly for "emotionally reactive" and "behavioural outcomes of sensory processing". Even after hitting the Google I don't entirely know what that means. I'm particularly concerned about the emotion thing, because I know I don't come across the way I feel. I feel like a very emotional person and my perception of myself is that I go around emoting all over the place. But I've been told by various reliable sources that I come across as cold, aloof and fairly unemotional.

So, like most of my adventures, I come to the end with not so much answers, as more questions.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Ableism for beginners

At this point in my life, I'm still fairly new to the concept of ableism. That's not to say I've never experienced it, or don't think it's a big deal, it's just that I've only relatively recently started to realise it exists.

disability parking sign
Ableism: it's a thing
It does.  As the name suggests, it's about discrimination or prejudice against people with disabilities.  At its most overt, it's about people being murdered, abused, exploited and mistreated.  But it also wriggles through society in all sorts of insidious ways.

Take the use of 'retard', 'nong' or the like as insults.  (Actually, please do take it, put it in the bin, and never do it again.)  Yeah, we know you're not literally implying that the person or object you're insulting has an intellectual disability.  The problem is the underlying assumption that having such a disability makes a person less worthwhile.  As a rough litmus test, if it's not OK to use a racial term in that context, it's probably not OK to use one relating to disability either.

While some ableist actions come from the perpetrator being a genuine jackwagon, most don't.  Mostly it's people who mean well (or at least don't mean harm) but they're just genuinely clueless about interacting with disabled people.

Here are a few tips, based on my own experience:
  • Please don't say "oh, everyone has trouble with X sometimes!" I know you're probably trying to be helpful and show solidarity, but it comes across like you're trivialising our problems and telling us to get over ourselves.  To get an ASD diagnosis we need to have issues of a different order of magnitude from just being a bit shy or awkward around strangers. 
  • It is really rude to pass comment on other peoples' "functioning" levels, and whether or not you think they're "really" disabled or autistic.   It is none of your business.
  • If you've met one Aspie you've met... one Aspie. There's as much diversity among people on the spectrum as among the general population.  So don't assume because you've met an Aspie who is, for example, a clumsy male maths whizz visual thinker, that there don't exist Aspies who are female dyscalculaic verbal thinker gymnasts. We're a diverse bunch.
  • Save the "you're so inspirational!" talk for people who are doing genuinely inspirational things.  I've been called "inspirational" just for having a job under the influence of Aspergers.  That's just silly.  Save it for people who have actually done something remarkable.