Mad Teddy's website - On the spectrum

Mad Teddy's web-pages

On the spectrum

This page completed on Tuesday, 7th April 2009
(and added on Friday, 10th July 2009)

Yeah - well, that could be the story of my life!

So what's this page all about?

Something to do with spectra, obviously (and yes, that's the correct plural form of the word). The rainbow in the picture above is one kind of spectrum - the visible light spectrum, which is part of the electromagnetic spectrum which extends from extremely low frequency radio waves right up to gamma rays, with the visible part just a small region in the "middle" - whatever that means, in a logarithmic scale! (The above rainbow, which occurred on Tuesday, 12th February 2008, has featured in this website once previously, in my "new millenium" page.)

Wavelength (m)
   103      102      101      100      10-1     10-2     10-3     10-4     10-5     10-6     10-7     10-8     10-9     10-10     10-11     10-12    
Radio waves                                    Microwaves             IR                UV                    X-rays              Gamma rays

  106      107      108      109      1010     1011     1012     1013     1014     1015     1016     1017     1018     1019     1020    
Frequency (Hz)

Then again, in the early 1970's there was an Aussie progressive rock band called Spectrum. (Remember when "progressive rock" wasn't a pejorative term? *Sigh*) They had a big hit in 1971 (their first, I think) with a song called "I'll Be Gone". The words appearing to come from the heavenly regions in the picture above are the first three lines of lyrics from the song. (I thought it was entirely appropriate, in these troubled economic times, to put them up there, "somewhere under the rainbow." )

I found this web-page which has information about the band (which still exists, and still does gigs - God bless 'em!) and links to YouTube videos of them performing at various times in their career, as well as a YouTube interview with Mike Rudd, singer and multi-instrumentalist with the band. Very interesting, and lovely to hear that old song again...

UPDATE, Tuesday, 31st May 2011: The link to the YouTube version of the original 1971 version of the song on that page doesn't work any more, but I've since found this one which does - although I don't remember the original having quite such a pronounced reverb as this one has! However, I could be wrong...

(I wonder how long that link will last...?   )

UPDATE, Friday, 11th March 2016: Well - it lasted for quite a while, but now it's gone "private", with the viewer needing to have "permission" to view it! Why do people find it necessary to do things like this?

Never mind - here's another one! Fingers crossed...

But there's another meaning of the word which seems to have entered common parlance over the last few years: "on the spectrum". The spectrum being referred to here is the autism spectrum.

Just what is autism?

The Concise Oxford Dictionary, eighth edition (1990), defines it as follows:

autism n. Psychol. a mental condition usu. present from childhood, characterized by complete self-absorption and a reduced ability to respond to or communicate with the outside world.

There's a stereotype, of course. You've probably seen, as I have, television dramas in which there's an autistic kid who sits in his/her bedroom and listens to the same music over and over again, staring fixedly at the floor or the wall and rocking back and forth with a blank facial expression - which erupts into fury if anyone else enters the room and tries to interact with him/her in any way.

No doubt that's real enough, in some cases. But the apparently recent use of the word "spectrum" in connection with the condition seems to suggest that other, less extreme personalites and behaviours have at least something in common with "classic" autism - and that may or may not be helpful in understanding and "dealing with" such people.

There are any number of websites which deal with autism, often using terms such as "autistic spectrum disorder". The idea seems to be that there is not just one kind of autism, but several, of varying degrees of severity - but that they are all in some way negative and require "treatment" of some kind, as implied by the use of the term "disorder". Is that necessarily true?

Please - allow me to share some of my own experiences with you, in attempting to deal with this question.

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At the outset, may I stress that I neither need nor want anyone's pity. What I do need is people's respect; and what I'd like is their understanding.

I served one year in kindergarten before starting at primary school. Within a very short time after commencing Standard One, a decision was made on my behalf by my elders and betters (with the best will in the world, I'm sure) that I should immediately be promoted (or "put up") to Standard Two. As a direct result of this, I was the youngest kid in the class, a situation that was to continue for many years.

To be sure, I had no problem with the "work", if such it can be called in the very junior classes. However, I didn't really fit in, and made few real friends.

When my family emigrated to Australia at the end of my Standard Three year, I was placed into Grade Four (in Australia the word "Grade" was used in place of the British "Standard"). I was still the baby of the class, and I still had few friends. There was one boy who had been the youngest in the class (I believe) until I came along, and we did become best mates for several years. I think I had a sense, even at that young age, that I'd struck lucky in that regard, because - again - I had difficulty in forming many other friendships, both then and later.

There were at least three obvious factors contributing to this: firstly, as mentioned, I was the baby of the class; secondly, I was the Pommy kid with the posh, snooty English accent (and the somewhat hoity-toity manners to match); and thirdly, to be blunt, I was "more academic" (as we'd say now, rather than "brighter" or "cleverer", as we'd probably have said back then) than most of my classmates, especially with regard to arithmetic (or "sums", as it was unofficially called).

In truth, there was also a fourth factor: my hopelessness at sport. (In Australia, if you're a kid who doesn't like sport, you've got a problem, mate - believe me.)

What I didn't know then - and neither did anybody else, apparently - was that there was a fifth factor (which we'll get to shortly).

As it turned out, I wasn't the only smartypants in the class. There were two other lads with whom I realized that I had something in common, in that regard. By Grade Five or Six, the three of us politely considered ourselves to be "the three geniuses" of the school! (But we had the good sense not to tell anyone else about it, lest they feel inferior. )

In Australia, primary school goes to Grade Six, then it's off to high school, which (for government schools) has four Grades (Seven to Ten). Until the mid-1960's, the high schools had gone right through to Grade 12; but by then the move was on to have Grades 11 and 12 in matriculation colleges. (The private high schools still went through to Grade 12, however.)

The year I went to high school was for me a year of change in several respects. My best mate - for reasons I never fully understood - repeated Grade Six, and my other good friend - one of the other two "geniuses" - went to a private school. So I was a lonely kid in a new environment, who - yet again - only made new friends to a certain extent and with considerable difficulty.

By high school, the hormones are starting to kick in as kids turn into adolescents. My classmates soon left me far behind; I had no idea what was going on. As part of that whole process, there was a certain bitchiness in high school which was absent in primary school; as a direct result, I became more and more an outsider, steering clear of my classmates for the most part just to avoid trouble.

By Grade Ten, I was completely unsocialized, and absolutely fed up. I had no difficulty doing well enough academically to go to Matric. the following year; but I persuaded my thoroughly bemused parents to allow me to repeat Grade Ten just to get into my own age-group, thinking that my problems would then immediately be over.

I was wrong. Having no social skills at all, I found that year to be the most agonizing of all my school years. But I learned quite fast; and by the end of that year I was looking forward to starting at Matric. (at Launceston Matriculation College, as it was then) and having a fresh start, with a bunch of bods from lots of other feeder schools who didn't know me - and that did indeed happen. (One really good thing was that I caught up again with my old best mate from primary school, who'd repeated Grade Six.) That was 1969 - and wasn't that a memorable year, in all sorts of ways!

I knew something still wasn't right, in spite of the very welcome fresh start. I endured some months of what is known as "anxiety depression". I was at my wit's end. What did I have to do just to be normal?

It was the following year, 1970, that I became involved with a local evangelical Christian group - some of whose members were fellow-students at Matric. - and became what is known by the now clichéd term "born-again Christian". As a direct result, and with the support of a new group of genuinely-caring friends, my life began to settle down into a certain normality, and some real healing took place.

I couldn't wait to start at university. After two years at Matric., with some stability in my life and a burning desire to understand everything I could find out about mathematics and the physical sciences, I began my life as a uni. student with sheer delight. I found that I absolutely adored the lifestyle, the freedom, the feeling of being a young adult setting out - at last - on life's great adventure. With my strong Christian connections and my burning desire to learn, life couldn't have been better.

But there was still a problem. Quite soon, I found that I was struggling with the academic content. Never having had to swot at school, and not much even at Matric., I found that I was in trouble - because I didn't know where to start. Whereas most of my friends would calmly settle down in the evenings for a few hours of study, I just couldn't do it, somehow! - and it became clear that to survive as a uni. student one just had to study. (I also found it extremely difficult to get organized in physics and chemistry practical classes, and would get dreadfully behind.)

I didn't do well at the end-of-year exams. I was going to have to repeat almost everything. I was devastated.

I did repeat the subjects, and although I still didn't know how to study, I somehow managed to gain - by some kind of osmosis - the understanding I needed to survive well enough to get into second year. But I was uneasy, because it was well-known that second-year subjects - especially in mathematics - were a huge hurdle.

I knew by the middle of the following year that I was in real trouble. I failed almost everything; I managed to salvage a terminating pass (which, I believe, meant 40 to 49 per cent) in organic chemistry.

It wasn't a happy time. It seemed that my dreams were in tatters. Now what?

I saw in the newspaper an advertisement in the "Positions Vacant" column for a Technical Operator in ABC Radio in Hobart. I applied for it - and was successful!

I started in my new job in early 1974, and found that I loved it. However, I was bitterly disappointed that my uni. career had stalled. I quietly re-enrolled in the second-year maths subjects, and went to lectures when I could (the job was shift-work). For the first time, I began to do some real study - and at the end of the year, I passed all three subjects. What a buzz!

Bear with me while I choke back a few tears...

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My job at the ABC was mostly as a control operator. In those days, in Hobart, there were two ABC radio stations: 7ZL and 7ZR. I was in each station for half the time; and in each case, half the time in a particular station was on morning shift (starting in the hours of darkness, getting the station on air for the day) and the other half on evening shift (starting around lunchtime and finishing soon after midnight by switching everything off).

7ZR was the station for light music and talk-shows. Every evening, there was a program called "Music to Midnight" which was full-on jazz (most of it of the cooool variety, man). I'd never liked it before I got the job, but I grew to love it, in a strange, detached way. In the evenings, when I was there by myself in my control room - in my little empire, basically in a night-watchman capacity - I could sit there and study for my uni. maths subjects, and the music set the mood so well.

7ZL was the classical music and documentaries station. I loved it in there. I already liked classical music anyway, but I heard things in there that I'd never heard, and it was mind-expanding. Again, in the evenings it was a night-watchman job, with the programs coming down the line from Sydney (mostly), just as in 7ZR - and, again, I could study. I just had to remember to keep an eye on the VU meter levels and make sure, every hour, that the Tasmanian state news (read by one of our own announcers in the Hobart news-room) went to air after the national news, before switching back to the feed from Sydney.

I took my camera with me to work one day when I was in 7ZL, and that evening asked my mate in 7ZR to take some pictures of me. Here are just four of them (click on them to see bigger versions):

Getting ready to roll a promo                     Lacing up a tape         

Filling in the log book                            "TA-DAAA..."     

Oh yeah - I was quite the dashing young lad back then!   How it all comes back...

On one occasion, the program coming down the line was Gustav Mahler's fourth symphony. I hadn't known anything about Mahler until then; and as I listened to this amazing, emotion-packed masterpiece, I was absolutely spellbound. The anguished beauty of it nearly broke my heart. It has remained my favourite classical piece ever since.

To view a YouTube video of that symphony's fourth and final movement - a song expressing a child's somewhat disturbing vision of life in heaven - visit this page, which also features an English translation of the lyrics, with commentary. (In addition, you'll find another YouTube link there, to a version of the very delightful and slightly quirky second movement.)

Sometimes at night, as a break from studying, I'd switch the light off, relying on the light coming in through three panes of glass from the empty studio, and enjoy the effect of the little coloured lights in the button-switches on my control desk, while listening to the gorgeous music. I could imagine myself at the controls of a spaceship. Sheer magic.

To most of the other guys who worked there, it was just a job. One of them once even described it as soul-destroying. I couldn't understand why; to me, it was anything but. Why, oh why, did I walk away from it...

But I did. In my later years, I've come to regret bitterly the fact that I left my lovely job after only one year to go back to uni. full-time in 1975, finally able to start the third-year mathematics subjects I'd been looking forward to for so long.

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1975 was a happy year. (Quite apart from my improving personal fortunes, looking back I think that the mid-1970's were the nearest that our society ever came to a "golden age". I've made a brief allusion to this previously in my It's never too late page.)

I'd earned enough money at the ABC to rent a shared flat and even buy myself a second-hand car. University was fee-free at the time, and food and petrol were cheap. After a year away from the uni. culture, which I'd grown to love over the previous few years, I was able to get back into the swing of things; most important in that regard was the ability to become fully involved again in the student Christian fellowship of which I was still an enthusiastic member.

Mad Teddy leads the singing (1975)

(Love the socks )

Although I didn't pass every unit that year, I passed most of them, and even managed a couple of credits (one of them in second-year organic chemistry, which I'd unsuccessfully attempted a couple of years earlier; and the other in a subject disarmingly called, simply, "Geometry", which was about projective geometry, and which I found utterly fascinating). I even got a high distinction for one other small mathematics unit! That felt really good - a huge boost to my self-confidence. I could do it, after all...

But I wasn't able to finish just yet. 1976 saw me poorer and back in the men's residential college in which I'd spent my first three uni. years. (That was the year that I first became known as "Teddy".)

By rights, I should have finally finished my B.Sc. degree by the end of 1977 (which, again, I spent at that men's college) - but it wasn't to be. I still needed three more points (one-twelfth of a full year's load).

In 1978, I stayed with a fellow with whom I'd made friends in organic chemistry lab sessions and who owned a cottage. I managed to get a job as a clerk in the Commonwealth Public Service (which I found to be a real grind), and finished off my last few points, earning a distinction. Whew - what a relief, finally, to finish my degree!

Of course, by now my original classmates had long since finished uni. and were working, while I was still plodding along. I wasn't the "baby of the class" any more, by any means - I'd become very much a "mature-age" student. Oh dear! - and I still had to do my Diploma of Education (Dip.Ed.) in order to become a teacher.

Around Easter, 1977, I'd met the girl who would later become my wife. We were married in February 1979; and I commenced my Dip.Ed.

Having finally learned "exam technique", I had no trouble passing the theory subjects. It was when I went prac-teaching that I began to realize that I might have made a huge mistake. Finally, that fifth problem from my school-days was going to come back to bite me after all.

I found that I was in real trouble in front of a class of kids. I'd always had a lack of ease about eye-contact even in my normal relationships with such friends as I'd had down the years; now, it was a serious problem. As a teacher, you have to be able to stare kids down, sometimes. I found it extremely hard to do that; and the "rattier" of the kids sensed my discomfiture immediately, of course - and I had severe discipline problems. I'm afraid I failed prac-teaching in 1979.

The eye-contact problem wasn't made any easier by the fact that, by then, my left eye was pretty much completely useless, and even "on-side" students would be regularly looking over their right shoulder to see whom I was really talking to - and that's a problem that only got worse, not better, as time went on.

If I'd known then what I know now, I think I'd have changed course right then and there. But I didn't know; and I'd always wanted to teach mathematics, and share my joy in knowledge. Silly naïve me - I honestly thought my enthusiasm would be infectious, and that school-kids would just pick it up from me and love the subject!

So - I had to repeat prac-teaching in 1980. By being crafty (and I honestly can't remember how I pulled this off, now!) I managed to wangle my way into doing it at matric. colleges; and somehow I survived. Finally, after ten years at uni., I was a trained teacher.

However, things had changed. Times were tougher, and I wasn't able to simply find a teaching job. Plus, there was competition from younger graduates who had finished while I was still being a "professional student" - and of course I didn't stand much of a chance. I was only able to get bits and pieces of relief teaching, at first.

I did learn to teach adequately, but I was only ever a borderline school-teacher. There were some very good experiences; some classes in some years were truly "on-side" and there really were some very happy times - but it was, to a large extent, hit-or-miss. The time eventually came when I absolutely kicked myself for having left the ABC. Regrets, I've had a few; and this is one I have to mention. If only I'd known...

In the mid-1980's, by which time I'd faced up to my error, I did a computing course at a tertiary institution, and landed a job putting together a piece of educational software at another tertiary institution. That job extended to three years, during which time I became involved in teaching again - adults, this time - which was often very satisfying. I was ultimately employed there for nearly nine years.

However, in 1993, "economic rationalism" became the new religion, and the madness which ultimately led to the economic disaster which the world is currently enduring began to occur. My workplace started to undergo ugly changes; many of my colleagues saw the writing on the wall, and had the good sense to get out before the...

Doubting my chances of finding another job, I stayed, as it all came unstuck. Having reached a point in my life where I was no longer willing or able to suffer fools gladly, I became angry enough to start getting involved in industrial action. I became very vocal, ultimately losing my temper completely. Big mistake - I learned my lesson too late. "Mr. Big" found a way to ease me out - and I've been unemployed ever since.

So - just what is this "fifth problem" or "fifth factor" to which I've been referring?

By way of introduction to the issue, may I invite you to click on this link and read carefully what you find there. (As mentioned elsewhere in my website, the term "geek" is not one which I like to apply to myself - but that aside, the article makes some very good points.)

Sound like someone you know?

I only heard about Asperger's syndrome for the first time around the middle of last year (2008), when someone close to me asked if I thought I might have a touch of it. When I did some research on it, the answer had to be an emphatic "yes".

So - how bad is it? Is it a "disease"? Does it need a "cure"?

As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of websites which mention "autistic spectrum disorder".

Now - what gives someone who doesn't have Asperger's syndrome the right to brand those who do as having a "disorder"?

Please - have a careful look at this web-page, which addresses the issue in a tongue-in-cheek manner but which makes some very telling points.

UPDATE, Tuesday, 31st May 2011: Bum - now that's disappeared!!! It was a very witty page put up by the "Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical". Please, if you know what's happened to it - if it's simply "dead", or if it perhaps just has a new URL - do me a favour and let me know, would you? Thanks!

UPDATE-WITHIN-AN-UPDATE, Tuesday, 31st May 2011: I've just found a page which has at least some of the original content of that ISNT page which has gone missing; click here. Fingers crossed...

=> Extra, extra... It's also here - in fact, to my delight I've found several pages with that content included, by Googling on "autistic outrage", which I remembered from the original. (Clearly, I'm far from the only person to have liked it and taken it to heart.)

UPDATE, Thursday, 19th May 2016: I'll admit to increasing exasperation when I notice that just about every news item about autism these days - whether in print or the electronic media - refers to the issue in terms of "autism spectrum disorder", or something very similar. It seems that the message is not getting through.

What can a fellow do? Well, I suppose I can add yet another update to my web-page about it, and hope that someone, somewhere, reads it, and "gets" it - and maybe passes the message on! Not much, perhaps; but one does what one can! So here goes:

I've just found a web-link which absolutely puts this matter in perspective. It's a Word document entitled "Is Autism a Disorder?" - and the answer given to that question is a very firm NO.

Here's an excerpt from the document:

People with autism are not disordered (the irony with the term being that so many people with autism are highly ordered in their thinking), nor should we automatically dismiss developmental differences as impairments. Certainly the neurological complexities can be baffling to the NT - as, equally, the NT world is baffling to the individual with autism. This does not make either or both populations disordered - simply, different. In order to support individuals with autism we must accept that differences do occur, but at the same time recognise and accept that difference is not synonymous with disorder.

(Note that "NT" is short for "neurologically typical", or simply "neurotypical".)

May I urge you to have a good, hard look at that document - which makes its point passionately, even though it is written by an NT person. Here's the link. To read more about the document's author, visit this page, and also click on some of the highly relevant links within that page.

Another web-page which deals with this issue is here. (Note, however, that even this page falls into the trap of using the disparaging term "autism spectrum disorders" at one point. ) The young gentleman with Asperger's who is the subject of this page has put together a short cartoon video which addresses the issue of how autistic people are often treated by society at large, as opposed to how they should be treated. That video is on YouTube here. Go on - have a look!

So what's the big deal about slapping a name (Asperger's syndrome) on a condition that affects some of us?

I'm reminded of a joke attributed to Mark Twain about how God asked Adam to name the animals. God organized a procession, and as the animals went past, Adam would point and say "cat", "millipede", "horse", "diprotodon", "daddy-long-legs", "Tyrannosaurus rex", "Tasmanian devil", or whatever. When an odd-looking creature with a long tube where its nose ought to have been trundled past, Adam said "elephant".

Later, when Adam went home to Eve after his exciting day's work, she enquired: "What did you call that big grey animal?" Adam told her, and she asked: "Why did you call it an elephant?" Adam replied: "Because it looked like an elephant!"

I suppose being able to give something a name allows us to organize it in our thoughts, to see it in some kind of perspective, to place it in context. To know that some of us extreme nerds (or geeks - ugh) have something in common that actually unites us, and tells that we are not just "misfits" after all, is very liberating. We are members of a club.

We don't need funny handshakes, or membership cards, or badges on our lapels - or even lapels at all, for that matter - to recognize each other. Let me tell you something that happened just a few weeks ago.

I mentioned earlier that, when I was at primary school, there were three of us who thought of ourselves as "the three geniuses". You may think that sounds cocky - even arrogant - and you may be right. But we knew there was something different about us, that set us apart from the other kids.

I also mentioned that one of the other two geniuses with whom I got on pretty well had gone to a different high school than the one I went to, and that we hardly ever saw each other after that, for various practical reasons. The last time we'd seen each other must have been in the mid-to-late 1970's. But we had a friend in common with whom we'd both kept in touch over the decades - the fellow mentioned earlier whom I'd come to know in organic chemistry prac. classes, who'd gone through the same high school as my genial primary-school friend (pun intended). Last Christmas I made a point of asking him if he could put me in touch with my old buddy. He did so, and we organized a meeting.

I was a bit nervous about how things would go. After all, it had been a long time, and people do change to some extent. (I suspect he probably felt the same way.) But from the moment we met, it was if thirty-something years had just dropped away.

All the memories were crystal-clear. We both recalled the good and bad things that had happened some forty-five years earlier. We spent an evening of great hilarity, as we tracked our respective careers over that long time, and found that we could easily affirm each other's experiences. Among other things, he told me that he'd been diagnosed with Asperger's, which didn't surprise me one little bit.

The most astonishing thing that emerged was that we'd both taken eight years to get our respective degrees! We were dumbfounded. He was the first to break the spell, saying "We could have been twins!"

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For my 56th birthday, just a few weeks ago, someone close to me gave me a book entitled "look me in the eye - my life with asperger's" (all lower case, just like that), by John Elder Robison. I'm about halfway through it as I type this.

It's a fascinating read; and again, it's liberating to know that there are others out there who understand, because they have personal experience. Have a look at Mr. Robison's website, where you can see photos of both the author and his book:

In the book, he tells of how he was diagnosed with Asperger's, and how he found the experience liberating, much as I've described in my own case. (Note: I haven't actually been diagnosed with it officially, but I know I have it without needing to have that happen, just as I know when I've got cramp in my leg or a toothache.)

He's a great storyteller, with a fabulous sense of humour. There are lots of alarming anecdotes about scrapes he got into and tricks he got up to during his young years. Again, it all rang true (and no, I'm not going to put all my own goings-on down here for you to read - not yet, at least! Maybe someday... )

There's a link on Mr. Robison's homepage (above) which presents reviews of his book. Here it is - check it out:

- and have a look around other pages on his site too.

As I've mentioned, I only became aware of Asperger's syndrome, and recognized that I had it, sometime in the middle of last year (2008). Then, shortly after that (28th August), ABC television's science program, "Catalyst", presented a story dealing with a new theory concerning the causes of Asperger's syndrome.

The programme focused largely on a young Englishman named Daniel Lightwing who has the syndrome. One of the main points which emerged was that Asperger's is not merely a "disability", or a "disorder", but has strong positive aspects: although people with the syndrome have difficulty in social interactions, they often have more ability to concentrate on details and understand systems than do most people. So it's a gift - albeit one that comes at a high personal cost for those that have it.

As I write this, the program is still available for viewing on the ABC's website. I urge you to visit the site and have a look; it's a moving and heart-warming story. Here's the URL:

The question arises: how has Asperger's impacted upon society? In particular, how many people who have had a major impact on history have the syndrome?

There are websites which list famous people who "fit the bill". Here's one:

Here's another:

That one I find particularly interesting, for a number of reasons:

It's interesting to note the presence of Nikola Tesla's name on the list. My own website has a lot to do with Tesla and his legacy. If I believed in reincarnation (which I don't, being a Christian), I'd be inclined to think that there may well be a large helping of Tesla's personality within my own.

Another feature of that page just quoted is a list (at the bottom) of characteristics exhibited by Asperger's people. One in particular stands out, in my personal view:

Greater empathy with animals and nature than other human beings - eg St Francis of Assissi. Concerned with the planet and environment, not the trivialities of the personal lives of their students.

Yep - been there, done that!

Tesla went there and did that, too. He had his pigeons, and I had my bunnies (and my toy whales, of course!) - and, again, Tesla was concerned with the condition of his world, just as I am, perhaps to the detriment of social relationships. (I'm sure you must have heard the old jibe often trotted out to mock self-styled "touchy-feely" people: "I love humanity - it's people I can't stand..." )

(There is at least one area in which I differ quite markedly from Tesla, however: he always dressed like a dude, whereas I almost always tend to dress like a slob.)

- And if I'm honest I'll have to admit that there's more than a grain of truth in the suggestion that, as a teacher, my love for my subject was greater than my concern for my students - although I did work on that later, and (I hope) redressed the balance, at least to some extent.

Another observation about Asperger's people from the second of those two sites whose links appear above:

Rough sense of humour - some of the Western occult school teachers such as Gurdjieff were known for playing tricks. Monty Python type humour which can be a little off-beat.

Again, amen to that. Get hold of a copy of John Robison's book "look me in the eye..." (mentioned above) and read it, to see what this is all about.

While on the subject: be grateful that, in my poetry and music pages, I've left out a great many of my other poems and songs. (Actually, before I launched this website in July 2006, I had some of those other items in the site for your edification - but I thought better of it and removed them before the big day. Will I ever reinstate them? Perhaps - but first there's a sick planet to sort out; maybe then, when it doesn't matter so much whether I annoy people, I'll put them back - but for now it's important to keep folks onside, rather than going out of my way to get them offside. First things first.)

Another of the observations about Asperger's people which rates a mention on that site is their tendency to be prone to sudden bursts of anger. I've already mentioned how that cost me dearly, some years ago. Self-control is difficult, but important. Enough said.

One other web-page which lists possible Aspergians is this Wikipedia page. Among the names there are many which are also on the two other sites mentioned above; but this one also has Gustav Mahler - the composer of my favourite symphony - on the list.

One final observation about Asperger's in history and society: all three of those websites whose links appear above mention Isaac Asimov as being on the list. Again, someone with whom I've felt a kinship over several decades. (Asimov was a great perpetrator of knockabout humour, too.)

There's a website called Adults With Autism Speak Out which has links to a number of YouTube videos made by Asperger people, basically telling their story. As you'd expect, they're a bit odd, in one way or another; but as you'd also expect (by now, I hope), there's plenty of self-deprecating humour in evidence. (Whether that's a part of the syndrome that simply "goes with the territory", or whether it's something we have to cultivate over time if we are going to survive at all, I don't know - but it's a good trait and it makes for a certain lightness of spirit.)

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Here's a link to one such video by a fellow who wants to tell his story:

"Asperger's Syndrome, I've got it."

He shares my interest (and John Robison's - and Tesla's, of course!) in electronics; and - here's a surprise for a "Generation Y" person - he seems to like Bob Dylan! How about that? (Some of those "list" websites place Bob Dylan on the Asperger's list - could this be significant?)

One amusing feature - which appears to be unrehearsed - is his mother interrupting the proceedings to tell him it's bed-time! God bless mothers - where would we be without 'em? (I suppose we wouldn't be anywhere, really, would we? )

At one point he says: "I am glad I've got it" ... "if I was asked, 'Hey - do you want to stop having Asperger's syndrome?', I'd say 'no'..."

- YAY!!! That's what Daniel Lightwing said, too. More power to both of them! We are what we are; and we should insist on the right to our own identity.

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Until recently, there were three videos on the web by a girl in her mid-twenties with Asperger's Syndrome who had something to say about it. The first of these was basically an introduction to the subject matter. In the second, she asked and addressed three questions:

"What is Asperger's?"
"What is autism?"
"What is normal?"

- and, quite clearly, these are difficult questions that cannot be answered glibly.

In the third video, her main purpose seemed to be to encourage people with any "syndrome", or "disorder" or "disability" - or whatever - to refuse to allow it to rule their lives:

"Be a whole person, who has a unique and
beautiful mind. That's what you should do."

- which I think is absolutely the best advice anybody could ever give on the matter. To put it in the Aussie vernacular: "Good on ya, Emily!"

She has recently taken those three videos down from the web for personal reasons. From my own perspective, I think it's a pity because they were so good, with loads of wry humour mixed in with the very serious message she was sending; but, as a fellow Aspergian, I can understand her point of view. I wish her well, and hope that she may re-post them at some stage - in which case, with her permission, I'll re-post the links to them here.

In the meantime, however, there are some things by Emily that are still on the web; one that she encourages people to have a look at is a graphic novel in which she addresses various issues including nuclear warfare and Asperger's Syndrome from a highly personal point of view. I was fascinated; do check it out.

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Here's another web-page by another person with Asperger's which I found extremely interesting. It may be somewhat off the beaten track, but - somewhat to my surprise - I found myself nodding in agreement. While I'm not sure that I necessarily follow all the preliminary discussion, many of the conclusions accord with my own experience; if you've had a look at some of my other pages, you may see what I mean. Here's the link; excuse the occasional typo (in particular, the misspelling of Freud's name! ) and just get the gist of what is being said.

Let's wrap this up. By now, hopefully you have a reasonable idea of what Asperger's syndrome is all about, along with the concept of being "on the spectrum".

As I said at the top of this page, Asperger's people don't want or need pity. If we've survived the nastiness of school bullying and teasing, we've developed a thick enough skin to survive reasonably well - and, as I've pointed out, we learn how to laugh. Things could be a whole lot worse.

To close, a personal anecdote about school bullying:

Kids are kids. Not all kids who get put through the grinder in school have Asperger's; and the bullies (hopefully) grow out of it over time and join the human race, eventually. It's a tough world all round, really, isn't it? But we muddle through, as we must.

In the 4th April 2009 edition of "New Scientist", there's an article entitled "The five ages of the brain". These are: 1. Gestation - Setting the stage; 2. Childhood: Soak it up; 3. Adolescence: Wired, and rewiring; 4. Adulthood: the slippery slope; and 5. Old age: Down but not out.

The one that concerns us here is 3. Adolescence: Wired, and rewiring. The opening sentence is:

"Teenagers are reckless, irrational and irritable, but given the cacophony of construction going on inside the adolescent brain, is it any wonder?"

The article mentions the traditional explanation for teenage behaviour, "raging sex hormones", and then goes on to discuss more recent research into profound structural changes occurring in the brain during those difficult, painful years.

No doubt, it's a combination of factors which make teens into highly-strung, emotional, somewhat bratty creatures. The part of the brain which (according to the article) settles down last is the part concerned with judgment and decision-making. So it's not too surprising that there's a certain nastiness in evidence at times.

In the late 1990's, a 30-years-on school anniversary was organized for my final year (i.e. Grade 10) high school class. I went along, somewhat nervously, wondering how I'd fit in. (This was the class I was in before I repeated Grade 10.)

As soon as I got to the hotel where the event was being held, I looked around the sea of forty-somethings, some with greying hair, some of the blokes completely bald, to see if I could recognize anybody. One woman sitting at a table saw me and gave me a smile. I may be Aspergy, but I could read a "welcome" sign in that smile. (This is breaking me up, writing this.)

I went over, sat down, and said hello. She seemed a bit shy and embarrassed. Before long she was apologizing for what had happened all those years ago. It had obviously been eating away at her for three decades.

I was deeply moved. I'd never expected anything like this. It was a real joy to be able to return her shy smile and offer my forgiveness. We'd all grown up - how wonderful!

It was a lovely evening. Sixties music was playing; there were other eyes glistening. I stayed for quite a while, but I left before most of the others did because they were starting to gather into little knots of old friends and catching up - and since I hadn't been part of that scene back then, there wasn't really a place for me. I didn't begrudge them; I was happy for them. I left with a song in my heart.

- And just a few days after that, I walked away from my job.

It's not easy having Asperger's. It never goes away - but neither should it. Those of us who are afflicted have our strong points. I believe we have at least some ability to see further than most people - to have "vision", if you will. (Consider the Beethovens, Teslas, Mahlers, Einsteins and Asimovs of this world.) It's the recognition of that vision within myself that has driven me to spend the last four years creating this website.

So don't waste pity on me. Give me some respect, and offer me some understanding - but most of all, I'd hope that you might look through this website, see what I'm trying to achieve for my children and grandchildren (and yours!), and get involved to help make it happen.

There's a lot to do; and time is of the essence.

UPDATE, Monday, 8th March 2010

I've just visited John Robison's site again, and thus found my way to a YouTube video of him speaking about his involvement with something called TMS. Absolutely fascinating; here's the link:

Check it out, and then follow some of the links within that YouTube page to other videos featuring Mr. Robison. In particular, watch this one:

- which features an interview with J.R. (about his book) by his brother, Augusten Burroughs (who has written some books himself), and which is full of cheeky humour.

Just one more - if you can spare an hour or so to listen to J.R. giving a talk to (and fielding questions from) an audience, you probably can't do better than to watch this YouTube video:

- in which he gives very practical hints to people affected by Asperger's Syndrome regarding how to empower themselves and improve the quality of their lives.

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Can you spare another few minutes to read some of J.R.'s thoughts about the state of play regarding research into Asperger's (including the phenomenon known as TMS)? It's well worth it! Here's the link:

Interesting times...

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