Does Asperger’s Define Me?

It is very common for people who have autism spectrum disorders to state that “Autism does not define them.” For a long time I have struggled to understand what is meant by this, and have recently decided that what these people mean to say is that autism does not run their lives and that they are made of many other attributes besides those prescribed by their condition. Usually this phrase is used to indicate that people with autism spectrum disorders are able to do many good things despite their disabilities. What many do not consider is that while many of our struggles and downfalls come from the disabilities which do not define us, many of our faults are faults because in addition to being autistic, we actually are human beings.
It can be difficult to distinguish the faults posed by our human condition from those from our autistic condition, though it is easy to prove the fact that we have human faults simply by the fact that if we did not, then we would be perfect humans if not for our conditions. By this logic, everybody would have to have a mental disorder, and if everybody had a disability, then there would be no such thing as a disability. For those of us who are disabled, it is important to be able to determine the faults which do define us as opposed to those which are of the condition which does not. By being able to tell which social mistakes come from AS and which come from our human condition we are able to treat our autistic condition more effectively.
The main difference between our human and autistic faults is the intention of the action in question. If somebody tries to get my attention and I do not turn around it could be either because my autistic condition caused me to be distracted and I did not hear them, or it could be because my human condition caused me to resent them for some reason and therefore consciously ignore them. In the first scenario, it would be wrong to place blame on me for not responding, but in the second scenario I would have deserved blame because I made the decision to not turn around.
That being said, I have found that those with autistic conditions work more carefully to shape their human conditions because the impact of our human faults on our autistic faults tend to bear much larger consequences for us than for those who do not have autistic faults. If I were to decide one night that instead of adhering to my autistic routine of eating dinner, studying, showering, and sleeping, I would instead go out and stay up late instead of doing work, I would be demonstrating a human fault. However, this human decision would result in the breaking of my autistic routine, and my autistic condition would cause me to become overwhelmed by the break in the schedule and it could take a week or two to readjust to my routine, causing anxiety and a build-up of work. Somebody who does not live with an autistic condition may go out every night without studying but not become overwhelmed, and will only realize the consequences when they find they have failed their courses. Because those who do have autistic conditions take this into consideration, we are less likely to make poor human choices because we are more aware of their consequences.
It is necessary for us, then, to find the perfect balance between our human condition and our autistic condition. Autism may not define me, but it definitely does help me to live better as a human being.

Aspervlog #1: Introduction

I’m starting a new Internet series called Aspervlogs where I will discuss how I am affected by Asperger’s Syndrome. I decided to make these videos A) because I am trying to get over my fear of cameras, and B) because I think it will help others to understand what AS is like if they can hear me and see me talk about it rather than just reading about it. Please leave comments here or on the video letting me know what you would like me to talk about, because I am going to be making a video every week. Thanks for watching!

Bassoon Concerto

Von Weber’s Bassoon Concerto (Mvmt 1), performed by Nicole D’Angelo on Monday, October 3rd on bass clarinet. This was for my performance practicum class and afterwards I received feedback from peers and from the professor (who was, YIKES, a bassoon teacher). Enjoy!

Does Sugar Motta Have Asperger’s?

No. Absolutely not.

Sugar Motta, the latest character on “Glee,” has made herself known as having “self-diagnosed Asperger’s,” which, according to her, allows her to say “pretty much anything she wants.” Here are three reasons that I can assure you that the character absolutely positively does not have AS.

1. People with Asperger’s usually don’t realize that they are being offensive. When Sugar spoke negatively about the Glee club she apologized immediately, attributing the comments to her condition. When I realize that I am being disrespectful or rude I feel nothing more than sheer embarrassment and depression because I feel misunderstood.

2. Though Aspies are notorious for being brutally honest, we are not purposefully mean. Many Aspies have problems with “blurting,” which occurs when they are unable to regulate what comes out of their mouth. Sometimes, yes, we blurt out insults, but never intentionally. When Sugar insults people around her she is being rude, not autistic.

3. Aspies spend hours studying and picking apart their obsessions and interests. We are very good at recognizing our strengths and weaknesses in such an area as a result. We tend to shy away from insecurities, and it is more clear to us than to anybody when we are insecure. In fact we dwell upon our insecurities to the point that sometimes the insecurities themselves become obsessions. That being said, if an Aspie is tone deaf, they probably know it. Even if they don’t, somebody who spent hours on obsessive singing would at least be able to work up to sounding halfway decent and not like this:

Now, I am still trying to decipher why Glee would create such a confusing situation which causes so much misunderstanding about Asperger’s Syndrome, and I can do nothing but hope that the writers have a vision in mind and everything will be resolved by the end of the season. However, for anybody who is confused by Sugar’s character and behaviors (and that would most likely encompass anybody who watched the show) please note that “self-diagnosed Asperger’s” is very very different from the real thing. And, let it be known for the record again that Sugar Motta absolutely, positively, does not have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Surprise! I’m Autistic!

Oftentimes the struggles of high-functioning autistic individuals are overlooked by the general population as we are not only considered to be “lucky” enough to be able to go to college, drive, and have jobs, but also because the general population does not realize even that we are autistic. This is true in the cases of most people I meet, as most people will never know that I am autistic without me telling them.
The brunt of my problems are a result of the fact that there is not a sufficient amount of Asperger’s Syndrome awareness. Some might argue that shows such as “Parenthood” (and let me make it clear right now, the character Sugar Motta on Glee is an egotistical idiot, not autistic) are advancing the exposure of AS to the general public. However, characters portrayed in the media as having Asperger’s usually follow one certain typecast of the condition: First of all, they are almost always male (Again, girl-on-Glee is far from being autistic), and they only display symptoms which one would think to attribute with AS such as severe social awkwardness, friendlessness, tantrums, and obsessive tendencies. In other words, autistic people in the media are clearly autistic because the media tells you to look out for their condition.
My form of Asperger’s is very much out-of-context. Because I am a girl most people would not think to consider that I may have AS, as boys are overwhelmingly more likely to be diagnosed. Thanks to years of social conditioning I have taught myself, my symptoms are very subtle. This is not to say, however, that I am cured of my condition. Every day I continue to struggle to interpret social cues and rules, especially now, at the beginning of my college career, when I am meeting many new people whose tendencies are unfamiliar to me. Sometimes I even make a social slip.
When entering a new world such as the college world, where I am faced daily with hundreds of new faces, my condition becomes painfully more obvious to me as I am more vulnerable to stress. This does not mean, though, that I am more clearly autistic to anybody else. Social slips that I suffer, which include (but are not limited to) involuntary interruptions, blurting, averting eye contact, and general social awkwardness, occur more often than I would like and are frequently misinterpreted by others to be signs that I am annoying or rude. When rapidly forming new relationships, which occurs notably in situations such as, well, college, I have found that people are very quick to judge and decide on whom they will choose to be friends with, and the slightest social missteps are enough to eliminate me from the qualifying rounds of friendship. Patience is a virtue indeed, but I recognize that I cannot expect people, especially strangers, to adapt to my deficiencies. All I can do is hope that perhaps they will value my strengths enough to do so.

Easing Storm Relief for Children with Autism

The time during and after a serious storm such as Hurricane Irene can be an overwhelming time for anybody. However, having a disorder on the autism spectrum can make the experience even more harrowing as the uncertain nature of storm relief can trigger serious anxiety attacks attributed to the condition. A common and widely-accepted method of preventing anxiety is to form a rigid routine for the affected child. When faced with power outages and the chaos of a storm, though, it is nearly impossible to maintain a normal schedule. Here are some tips for parents and caregivers for children with autism spectrum disorders to help make relief efforts as smooth as possible:

1. Keep calm and collected: Children with autism are prone to attacks of sensory overload, which can occur when too much excitement is happening at one time. To prevent these attacks, try to reduce the sense of urgency or tenseness that occurs when evacuating due to floods or power outages by maintaining a feeling of control. Make the emergency seem like less of an emergency. Try to answer any questions asked by the child in a relaxed manner, even if they are questions that have been asked before. When an autistic child is stressed, she may be calmed by the repetition of certain questions.

2. Keep the child informed: As the child’s routine has been disrupted, he or she will be scrambling to quickly form a new one. Explain to the child why it is necessary to leave the house or why he or she cannot stick to his or her routine. This significantly reduces the anxiety that comes with such a situation. Provide details and updates as they become available. If evacuation is necessary, help the child plan by giving him any details about the evacuation site so that he can form a picture in his head. If you are able to, evacuate to a location that the child finds familiar, such as a certain hotel or a relative’s house.

3. Be aware of sensory issues: Extended power outages can be very difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders as many face hypersensitivity to light contrast. When night begins to fall, hypersensitive children may face trouble seeing due to a decreased ability to adjust to light changes. This low vision level can be dangerous as it greatly affects the child’s depth perception and his or her ability to put his or her body into surrounding space. At this point the child will be very susceptible to tripping and stumbling over furniture. Giving an extra-bright flashlight to the child can be helpful, and clearing a wide path throughout the home can prevent injuries.

If you are traveling away from home, be sure to pack a pillow and blanket that are familiar to the child, as they may find those at hotels or other sites to be itchy or aggravating. Attach headphones to any electronic devices to block out hectic background noise, and ensure access to familiar snacks for picky or special-needs eaters.

4. Keep the child entertained: Occupy the child with familiar activities such as hand-held video games, books, or movies played on a portable DVD player. This restores a sense of normalcy in the face of uncertainty and can prevent sensory overload in an evacuation situation. When planning for a storm, ensure means of providing these activities to the child. Find a DVD player that is powered by batteries rather than one that needs to be recharged. If this is not possible, make the storm interesting for the child. When conditions allow, take the child for a walk and show them how the storm affected your area. Draw for them the path of the hurricane and explain how the storm works.

Maintaining a sense of normalcy by keeping a child with autism calm will help to prevent any additional difficulties during a storm for both the child and those around him.

William Tell Overture–Clarinet Ensemble

I made this arrangement after galloping around my house for days having it stuck in my head. After I realized that the key of E major transposed to keys of F# and C# Major on my instruments, I took the creative liberty to raise my arrangement a half-step in order to avoid painful fingering combinations.
My arrangement is written for:
-Eb Soprano Clarinet
-4 Bb Soprano Clarinets
-Eb Alto Clarinet
-Bb Bass Clarinet
-Eb Contralto Clarinet

I own all of my clarinets, which include a Venus Eb Clarinet, Selmer Recital Bb (I also have a Selmer student model and a 1960’s Bundy), a Selmer (I think) Alto, a Kessler Custom Model Bass, and a Selmer intermediate level Contra.

Quick note about the score—Though all parts (except for Contra) are notated with the melodic rhythm in the score, I cut down all parts to the rhythm played by the contra. This was only because I had to multitrack eight parts and it would have been exceedingly difficult to synchronize all that double-tonguing. If you want to perform this live, I recommend playing the score as written.

Enjoy!

Here is the score: William Tell Overture Clarinet Ensemble Score

(If you would like individual parts or a different instrumentation or file type, please send me an e-mail at nicole.m.dangelo@gmail.com)