The Spectrum and #MeToo

Seeing all the #MeToo statuses through my social media feeds, which took off after those revelations about Harvey Weinstein, has me in the midst of a two-fold thought. As a male, and as an individual on the spectrum, what would I know and what actions should I take?

A concern I have for those on the spectrum is the influences and the culture giving us impressions that are not correct, or can be rooted in our own issues with relationships (there are many autistics who haven’t had a girlfriend by my age, and not by choice). Some behaviors are expected to be figured out and not literally explained as proper etiquette, including not encroaching on the space of someone else. However, it is no secret that we struggle with what behaviors should be explained.

A man on the spectrum may get some of their knowledge from sex education classes and discussions with their guardians, but they also get a bulk of knowledge of behavior from the media (television/internet) or peers. The former groups may not be sure how to explain the topic, so then outside sources take over. A man may see a behavior and not know at first that there’s a problem with what he has done.

Here is a theoretical. A man on the spectrum sees a girl he wants to get to know; he probably wants to flirt. he goes up and makes some conversation. She finds him to be friendly, and the two hit it off pretty well. Knowing what he’s seen in the past around acquaintances and media, he pulls the leg touch maneuver. Conversation starts to break down slightly, but he’s unaware as she’s still acting friendly even if she pulled back slightly. She says she has to meet with friends, and will come back. However, his first instinct is that she actually does want to come back, and that he has no idea that he was violating her space and that she’s not actually coming back because he was a creep.

You likely figured out this is the part where that man…was me. It took going into unnecessary detail with another friend many months later to get an explanation. Even then I wasn’t sure I understood until, well, hearing more about behaviors via the internet. Oh, I felt terrible about it, as I always believed myself to be better than a creep, and then realized I had these moments for years. We never pay attention to staring and stalking as we’re trying to get around social awkwardness (especially in high school or college). However, I know I’ve done these, and I know others like me who have as well without understanding that it’s not an innocent behavior.

There are instances where I didn’t help when a friend was trying to do his thing and refrained to stop him from backing off, not considering the context of his actions. Let’s not forget instances of “locker room talk” where all I did was act silent and didn’t speak up to say “dude, that’s too far” to the people around. At some moments, I had no idea how bad it truly was based on what I was told. At other moments, I did know and was a coward.

All of this can be independent of the spectrum, but what if an impressionable Aspie believes this is acceptable behavior and does not see the red flags? Or, that the Aspie does see it as bad but thinks they should stay quiet since unrelated behaviors have been ridiculed? Someone worse off than myself may not catch on and will only be enabled, even if it comes to the point that you have to explicitly ask the yes/no question, and ensuring a partner that you’re okay stopping once they say so to make up for the inability to recognize cues (if she says no, then it’s no…if she even says maybe, then it’s not yes). I’m not trying to extend this analogy to say I would believe someone claiming to be autistic and not knowing gang rape is wrong (I call bull). However, even the more seemingly innocent flirtatious behaviors are actually wrong, and those of us on the high end can still learn with the right influences.

Let’s not forget that it goes the other way as well. People on the autism spectrum are 66% more likely to be victims of sexual assault. I recall speaking with two women I know from the spectrum who alluded to these experiences. Their descriptions of sexual harassment had graphic moments, and thinking back to the conversations now is pretty harrowing even as someone who believed them from the start. Some autistic girls claim the #MeToo hashtag for the same reasons an autistic man may let bad behaviors slide.

I can’t, and shouldn’t, claim the whole “as someone with a niece/sister/daughter” thing, as I grew up around mostly males. My concern is the gap when an impressionable person on the spectrum may be a victim or the perpetrator. When we hear “see something, say something” are we going to know what the “something” is in our literal minds? Will we be able to call our male friends out when in action? I don’t see it much, but I worry about being in my own world and not catching creepers in action, or being said creeper. Unwittingly and not, I have been both. I’m thankful for times I’ve been called out, even if I got overly sensitive at the start. That is something we need, and it’s why I am participating in and creating a few forums within autistic groups to talk about what behaviors are permissible, what mistakes we’ve all made, and how to feel comfortable with our behaviors and to ensure others are comfortable too. We can’t use the spectrum as an excuse for improper behavior, and hopefully the internet can be a positive form of sex education with this movement.

Sexual assault is not an easy topic, but it’s on me to talk with others, to teach, and to learn. Feel free to shoot me a message if there is a desire to talk further. Let’s make sure those of us with autistic peers or children set good examples, and that we on the high functioning end of the spectrum can be better men who put an end to this stuff.

Time to Task

Sometimes I need to schedule time for dedicated scheduling time. It may sound odd, but it relates to my issues with time management, which have been inherent for years. In terms of what I do during the day (employment) it is very apparent.

With any job, one has to juggle multiple tasks and deadlines. Earlier this week I found out that a recurring task (which unfortunately calls on me patching a bug manually) did not succeed. I had a calendar event set up but wasn’t in front of the task in time because I miscalculated the reminder. So the vendor caught it first and I was stuck in reactive mode. I don’t like being reactive with the work I do, yet it is difficult for me to figure out proactive ways to get around this without someone else’s advisement.

When you’re surrounded by workaholics, when the engineers you team with are workaholics, when your boss is a workaholic, then I figure you might want to own all your work to show them you’re as dedicated to the craft. Or at least that is my perception. So naturally I don’t want to hand tasks off to others as I see it as a sign of weakness that the Aspergian who can’t handle it. There’s a few tasks that have become actual deliverables, but others I could have delivered about three months ago, leaving stakeholders frustrated. My problem is knowing that I can do it, but I’m not always quick to the task because of a combination of 1) methodical approach to details and 2) various distractions in the open. How does the sensory overload spectrum person deal? Often with headphones. However, what I will also be trying is setting aside time at the start of the week and midweek to figure out what is on my plate, and then talking with my manager to ensure I have priorities right. For career purposes, I like to figure out the tasks myself as a way of understanding the pulse of the business. So my hope is that this will help my time management, which will in turn help me improve my technical chops and value as a senior member of my team.

The list? Has tasks from Team Services and random email requests, then categories of importance rank and completion rank, on a level of low-medium-high. This way I also have perspective on how long I think something will take. That last part will take time to figure out, but that’s also why as a unit we’re tracking the time to get tasks and large projects done.

I have often noticed that this sort of “soft skill” work, if you call it that, is tougher for the spectrum person. However, taking the time for the tasks will help, and I hope I stick with it for a long time.

Autistic Pride Day

This past Sunday, June 18, was marked Autistic Pride Day. While usually cognizant of these occasions, last month was the first I recalled such a day. The day is a celebration of neurodiversity, and the potential of all people to be contributors to society. As you can guess, we show that we’re proud of our identities, abilities, and communities. One thing I am thankful for as I’ve become older is that my idiosyncratic behaviors and quirks are now seen as second nature, versus when they were ridiculed during my school years. That is probably because our culture has encouraged inclusion recently, making it less of a fight to get others to understand.

At first, I questioned why there is a day for pride among us when we have a month dedicated to acceptance. I doubt that commentators and pundits will start complaining about “the autistic agenda” or something, but considering the amount of people who have revealed their diagnosis I can see why this could be viewed by some skeptics as a fad. However, my thought is that there is a small difference between the intent of each. Autism Awareness Acceptance Month is meant to reach out to others on how we can still be members of society with abilities more so than deficiencies. It’s a time to educate others. Autistic Pride Day, however, is our day; we show the world how we’re proud of how we were born. It’s a time to show off.

Both of these are relatively interchangeable, as we often have to make people aware of the differences between autistics and NTs while highlighting our own abilities in the process. What I reflected on when Sunday came and went was the achievements and the chance to focus on an optimistic view of autism. As I have written before, there is still a great stigma over how we are

In one of the online communities I browse on occasion, I encountered an excellent blog post from spectrum advocate Alyssa Huber about what Autistic Pride Day means, and what it does not mean, which can also apply to the month.

How I see it, it’s a way to humanize autism. It shows that we are not just a cluster of symptoms. It shows that we all have a place in this world. It shows that like everyone else, we have our own unique personalities, perspectives, strengths, and weaknesses, and we should accept each other as humans even if we are different.

As for what it does not mean, The post came up after a derogatory comment In various circles (particularly when it comes to politics), I hear a line from someone such as “everyone gets offended too easily.” Well, there are reasons why we get offended, as this meme on Huber’s post demonstrates.

Though I would argue that the media has rolled back its perpetuation of these talking points. Now the focus is more so on subsets like anti-vaxxers.

What offends me is the ignorance and the stigma.

So how I look at Autistic Pride Day is one where we highlight the accomplishments of those on the spectrum and how they have proven themselves to be just as capable as their NT neighbors. Yes, someone will consider it ‘just another movement,’ but it’s still my movement as a person who still sporadically fights to assimilate, and I want to be a proud part of the movement. I end with a comment from that post explaining what makes this important.

Autistic pride as a movement is very, very meaningful to me. [After the diagnosis] I initially felt so, so alone, almost as if I was now officially on the outside looking in at society. It felt like a label that said ‘I don’t belong here.’ When I started blogging about my autism, however, I discovered a huge community of fellow autistic adults, people like me who were seeking to be understood and accepted by society, and I realized that yes, I do belong here. I belong on this earth, in this society that may not be ready to accept me yet but someday will. I’m determined to insure that this society takes me as who I am, not who it wants me to. I am good, I am valid, I am autistic. And nobody can take that away from me.

Human Rights to Me

I mentioned in my introduction that I have involvement in the autism spectrum community, and we are in the midst of Autism Awareness Month, so I should address one thing briefly.

One of the things I do on the spectrum involves the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Human Rights Committee. I’m one of the two self-advocates on this committee, bringing my own perspectives to cases where assistance is needed. I get to visit homes in the area to check on how the residents are being handled and engaged with, so there are no concerns.

As you can guess, I’m not at liberty to discuss cases, but I will mention that the individuals I work with tend to not be high-functioning, which makes for an interesting challenge. At times I have to go back and think about when I was five or so, when I had more behavior issues. When I was presented with this opportunity, it stemmed back to my experiences in Philadelphia working with children who were higher on the spectrum, last going back to 2011. I think back to when I was 4 or 5, and there was concern that I would end up another Rain Man, if you will. I would be smart enough to potentially go for a college education, but my social and life skills dragged slightly. I had to go through two years in special education (kindergarten and first grade) before being mainstreamed into standard elementary school the next year. Eventually I stopped needing an IEP as well. Made it relatively far, all things considered.

This time it is mostly older individuals who are still working on their basic life skills. I get to ensure that they are not treated as “subhuman” and that all standards involving medication and restraints are within legal reason, or even needed at all. Sometimes we don’t need it, and as a self-advocate, I always think it’s in the methods of teaching social mores that we are helped. However, I’m allowed the chance to figure out what is best with all ranges of the spectrum.

This is the first time in about four years that I truly felt I was making a difference in the autism spectrum community. Our hope is that those who need care in North Carolina in any way will be taken care of as they should, and can grow as people. It’s also part of why I believe autism awareness can go a step further, as autism acceptance. That’s another post later this month 😉

The First Post (or as WordPress likes to say, “Hello world!”)

Everyone needs their introductory (or re-introductory) blog post when entering the sphere. So this one is no different. I see many great professionals and advocates on here with some well-developed websites, with some great advice and random musings for others to check out. I have asked myself many times, “what can I share with the world, and maybe use a blog to ask others their thoughts?” Plus, how do I brand myself?

Well, it was time to do something about it. I decided to start a full-blown website. I could discuss life on the autism spectrum and share my observations dealing with all things structured query language, and how I solved some problems in my professional dealings (along with hearing about even better solutions in the comments). So I hope to post regularly with some topics that will interest both of my key audiences and their subsets.

I’m still figuring out exactly how to combine a standard blog with a professional repository, and how to actually do a good website. So this will probably change over time, but I still hope that those of you database professionals (there is a natural SQL Server bias) or autism spectrum parents and self-advocates will get something from here.

Welcome to my part of this world.