One Faith, Many Paths: Sue Abramowski

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For this edition of “One Faith, Many Paths”, I am interviewing my Facebook friend Sue Abramowski. When I started joining autism groups, she was the first person to friend me. I always enjoy seeing her posts on my feed. She always has a positive outlook on life, and I thought she would be a great person to interview.

1. How did you first discover the possibility that you were on the spectrum?

I’ve always known I was a little different. I was diagnosed with ADHD, OCD and anxiety at 25. I don’t remember how, but one day I stumbled upon a blog titled Aspie From Maine. As I read the author’s story, it stuck a chord with me: I could relate to her on such a level that a light bulb went off. Could I have Asperger’s, too? I did a lot of online research and took quizzes, and they all pointed to me being autistic. My psychiatrist at the time wasn’t convinced, simply because I gave eye contact and “engaged” while talking to her, so I got a second opinion. I also realized that the same psychologist who had diagnosed me with ADHD conducted autism assessments! I got an appointment, and three sessions and a few questionnaires later, it was confirmed. On March 19, 2014, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (or ASD Level I on paper).

2. What was your childhood like?

I had a fairly typical childhood, despite not being a very typical child! It was suspected that something was up back in preschool. While the rest of my class was paying attention to the teacher and doing as they were told, I was off in another direction, doing whatever I pleased. I’d often go to the Little Tykes playhouse, or just do cartwheels on the circle time rug. I went to a psychologist at that time, too, and remember playing with toys as he spoke to my parents. He dropped the ball, though, when his wife had a baby and he took a leave of absence, as he never got back in touch with my parents. Something tells me that had I actually had some kind of assessment, something may have been discovered from the get go. Through the years, I was always a bit different from the other kids. I remember trying to play along, yet something just didn’t click. As I approached middle school and later, high school, the differences became more apparent. The other girls started becoming interested in things like boys, makeup, their appearance, and fitting in. None of those things mattered to me. I wasn’t interested in the least bit (and still am not, at 33!). As I got to college, I continued to do well academically as I had all along, and changed my major from Biology Education to Social Work after I realized where my niche lay. I received a Bachelor’s in Social Work in 2006, and have been working in mental health and developmental disabilities ever since.

3. How does your autism manifest? Do you stim? What about things like synesthesia?

My autism flew under the radar. While it’s definitely there, one may not recognize it until they really get to know me. I interpret things literally, see things in black and white, have sensory sensitivities, and notice the fine details. I do stim. For me, it entails fidgeting with my fingers and examining them, wiggling my legs, looking from side to side, and playing with fun stimmy toys! I also have to feel every fabric I pass by in the clothing store. I’m a sensory-seeker, and a very tactile person. I also have synesthesia! For as long as I can remember, letters and numbers have colors. It carries over into days of the week, months, and street names. Friday has always been orange, for example.

4. What evidence can you give for God’s existence?

The evidence I can give for God’s existence is that everything happens for a reason. He created me different, because He has a special purpose for me. I feel that this is to help others, especially those on the spectrum and with mental health issues, since I live with both. I’ve also had dreams in which I feel God has given me a “heads-up” for what’s to come. I feel that it’s the gift of prophecy, in a sense.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Sue Abramowski”

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More Autistic Websites

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Last year, I gave you a list of autism-themed websites and blogs. I’ve decided to make a sequel of sorts. Not only will this be blogs, but also a couple web-based magazines and another YouTube vlogger.

  1. Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism–Probably the best web magazine for autism. Lots of great articles here.
  2. Proud Autistic Living- I’m Facebook friends with the blogger of this site, Richard Johnson, a native of Australia. He’s the founder of a Christian group called AU Christians, which I co-admin with him.
  3. Hannah Riedel- A vlogger I met in a Facebook group called Autistic Allistic Alliance. She has videos on a variety of autism-related topics.
  4. Respectfully Connected –A great autism-related blog. No complaints here.
  5. ASAN (Autism Self-Advocacy Network) –The home page for the Autism Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN)

Continue reading “More Autistic Websites”

The Fictional Spectrum: Spock (Star Trek: TOS)

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Fifty years ago, a TV series changed TV forever. That series was Star Trek, and one of its most endearing characters was Spock, a Vulcan who served on the Enterprise as its First Officer.

What made Spock stand out from the others was he was alien in both appearance and demeanor. He had pointed ears. He had a telepathic mind he could use to communicate with others to determine their true intentions. He had a superior intellect, but was humble about it. He favored science and reason over emotion, like the rest of his race.

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But Spock was also partially human. He had little control when his emotions did give way. In a few episodes, they did. In “The Naked Time”, Spock succumbed to the disease that was plaguing the crew, causing him to lose his inhibitions and revealing his own anxiety and loneliness. He could not endanger others, so he sought solitude in his private quarters and cried until his emotions were finally spent. In “This Side of Paradise”, the plant-induced euphoria caused him to forego his duties as First Officer and he almost wanted to live on the planet, despite the fact that it was going to no longer exist.

To some, Spock appeared aloof and cold. But those who really knew him, Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy, saw through the cold nature to the human underneath.  They saw someone intrigued by humanity, who wanted to be friends with them. In a way, Spock is similar to Aspies. Our intellect and inability to properly control our emotions makes it difficult to socialize with others and form friendships. We are like strangers in our own land. We don’t often understand cultural norms, proper methods of behavior, or even gestures. Sarcasm and idioms are difficult to comprehend because some of us see them in their literal context.

Continue reading “The Fictional Spectrum: Spock (Star Trek: TOS)”

Jason’s Jukebox: Talking Heads

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Well we know where we’re goin’
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowin’
But we can’t say what we’ve seen
And we’re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out”

–“Road to Nowhere”

David Byrne is a true visionary on the autism spectrum.  His band, Talking Heads, created a new form of rock as one of the first “alternative” bands.  In this edition of Jason’s Jukebox, I will be ranking each of the Talking Heads’ studio albums. First, let’s look at the line-up:

  • David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar)
  • Chris Frantz (drums)
  • Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitar)
  • Tina Weymouth (bass)

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Talking Heads 77 (1977)

Singles: “Uh-oh, Love Comes to Town”, “Psycho Killer”, “Pulled Up”

Rating: ****

The debut showcases the promise the band had in their days as one of the premiere bands at CBGB’s, a New York City bar that was a venue for such acts as The Ramones, Sonic Youth, Blondie, and the Pretenders. Tina Weymouth shows off her bass skills well on “Psycho Killer”, while Byrne’s guitar work caused Rolling Stone to call them one of the most promising acts of 1977.

Best tracks: “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town”, “Don’t Worry About the Government”, “Psycho Killer”

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More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)

Single: “Take Me to the River”

Rating: ****1/2

This album begins Brian Eno’s relationship with the band. Brian Eno, who also worked with Roxy Music and David Bowie, produced three albums for the Talking Heads. This “trilogy” is the band at its best. The album gave the band its first top 40 single, a cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River”.

Best tracks: “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel”, “Artists Only”, Take Me to the River”

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Singles: “Life During Wartime”, “I Zimbra”, “Cities”

Rating: *****

I think this is David Byrne at his most vulnerable. He once said “I’m not an entirely comfortable person…but that isn’t necessarily neurotic.” This album captures Byrne’s darkest and experimental side, making it their best album. It’s almost like a commentary on fear itself, as the title suggests. He even immortalized CBGB’s in the song “Life During Wartime”.

Best tracks: “Life During Wartime”, “I Zimbra”, “Heaven”

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Remain in Light (1980)

Singles: “Once in a Lifetime”, Houses in Motion”

Rating: ****

The creative tension between the members began with this album, so much so that Tina and Chris began their side project, Tom Tom Club. Songs like “The Great Curve” and “Once in a Lifetime” were influenced by African musicians. (The expanded CD has an outtake called “Fela’s Riff”, named after the revolutionary founder of Afrobeat Fela Kuti, which later became “Once in a Lifetime”)

Best tracks: “Cross-eyed and Painless”, “Once in a Lifetime”, “Houses In Motion”

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Speaking in Tongues (1983)

Singles: “Burning Down the House”, “Girlfriend is Better”, “This Must Be the Place”

Rating: ***1/2

By this time, the band was becoming a sensation, having just released their live album The Name of This Band is Talking Heads. They even scored one of their most loved music videos for “Burning Down the House”. This began the band’s most commercially successful period (the album’s tour resulted in the movie Stop Making Sense).

Best tracks: “Burning Down the House”, “Girlfriend is Better”

Continue reading “Jason’s Jukebox: Talking Heads”

Bookworm: Neurotribes by Steve Silberman

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I recently read Neurotribes by Steve Silberman. In my opinion, it is one of the best books about autism you will ever read. It tells the history of the research of autism, beginning in the 1940’s with Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger (where we get the “Asperger’s Syndrome”).

The book starts with two historical cases of autistic geniuses, Henry Cavendish (the “wizard of Clapham Common”) and Paul Dirac, who is famous for the “Dirac equation” and an early quantum physicist.

Autism’s earliest researchers were Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. Both had differing views on the condition. Leo Kanner is the man who actually coined the term autism. He viewed it as a disease, caused by “bad parenting”. His model persists to this day and is sadly adopted even by Autism $peaks. It should be noted that he only focused on early childhood and overlooked differences in the children he studied.

Hans Asperger was different. He studied autistic children in Nazi Germany. Unlike Kanner, Asperger saw it as a positive, saying it was essential to creativity. He called his subjects “little professors” because of their wealth of knowledge. He risked his life to protect them from the Nazism ideal of “perfection”, as mentally disabled people were often sent to the camps, just like the Jews and everybody else who didn’t fit the mold of Hitler’s “dream.”

Continue reading “Bookworm: Neurotribes by Steve Silberman”