There’s an organizational problem to solve in my fridge before my produce delivery today and when I tried to attack it my brain was flooded by incapacity and a kind of psychic claustrophobia.
The same damned judge has denied releasing Grace, the Black teenager with ADHD who was jailed for not doing her homework despite not having been getting the accommodations she was due. So now I am angry all over again. If you read the original Pro Publica story, you actually come across impressed at her progress absent those accommodations. Can we send a busload of Portland moms to this courthouse?
Jacob Stern’s harrowing look for The Atlantic at the mental health aftermath of California wildfires had me thinking again about autism and trauma, which came to mind a bit ago when I was being struck by all those realizations about having autobiographical memory deficiencies.
Psychologists sometimes say that trauma gets burned into the mind, like the imprint of a branding iron, and in a way it does. In truth, though, trauma is not so much a scorch mark as a flame, flaring up and dying down, inconstant. It burns in the mind. And just as some materials burn more readily than others, so too do some minds.
Part of this is genetic. Another part is cognitive. But a growing body of research has also linked vulnerability with prior exposure. “When traumas accumulate over time,” says the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, “they may be associated with more severe and complex psychological reactions.” For an alcoholic or a battered partner or a victim of sexual abuse, this means a heightened risk of serious mental-health problems. And if another disaster strikes—say, a pandemic—the risk rises higher still.
It got me thinking about how much worse would be the mini-traumas (I’m trying to find the language to describe what I try to get at when I talk about autism and trauma in a way that doesn’t seem like I’m trying to complete with what I keep wanting to call real trauma) my autistic brain experiences if I wasn’t memory deficient, aphantasically incapable of retrospective visualization.
What I mean is that the little traumas suffered by my particular autistic brain aren’t attached to actual stored memories of the traumatic stimuli themselves. Rather, it’s like my, for example, sensory pathways are ridden with potholes caused by such stimuli. When new stimuli has to travel those same pathways, well, it’s much like you don’t need ever before to have driven down a road in order to suffer the bumps and bruises of its potholes. For all intents and purposes, my not having any true experiential memory of things is akin to not having driven that road before (even though, technically and actually, I have).
So I can’t imagine having to suffer not just the potholes themselves but the sense-memory of the trauma that put them there in the first place.
It was in my mind mainly because I was trying to understand how these mini-traumas the autistic brain is beset by could really cause a kind of accumulation of bad feeling, and how new stimuli could “recall” earlier such traumas if the memory parts of that same brain can’t actually recall those earlier traumas.
For some reason this Atlantic piece, for entirely indirect and just sort of quasi-associational reasons, made me realize that trauma effectively causes stimulus pathway damage, whether or not you actually can remember that damage being done.
The terrifically open C. M. Condo has a good, incisive look at the mental bruisings actually-autistic people can take — if not inflict upon ourselves — from just trying to navigate the world, and how this can spiral into beating ourselves up.
This failure now looks utterly predictable and I am bouncing back and forth between berating myself for having the meltdown in front of the teenagers and berating myself for not seeing it coming. I could have leaned on my sister more and I didn’t. I saw myself running low and pretended that running low was not inevitably followed by running out. I figured I just needed to hang on through whatever happened and I would be OK.
I’d be lying if i said I didn’t fear this.
My post-diagnosis thoughts on communication, multitasking, and decision-making, written two years ago today, remain some of the most important things to read if you’re trying to understand me.
I’m so angry right now. I almost didn’t make it through Jodi S. Cohen’s profile of Grace, a Black 15-year-old with ADHD in Michigan who’s been jailed for not doing her homework. That’s literally not an exaggeration. Judge Mary Ellen Brennan needs to be recalled, and Grace’s caseworker, Rachel Giroux, needs to be disciplined or fired.
The initial days of remote school coincided with the start of Grace’s probation. Charisse was concerned that her daughter, who was a high school sophomore and had nearly perfect attendance, would have trouble without in-person support from teachers. Grace gets distracted easily and abandons her work, symptoms of her ADHD and a mood disorder, records show. Her Individualized Education Plan, which spelled out the school supports she should receive, required teachers to periodically check in to make sure she was on task and clarify the material, and it allowed her extra time to complete assignments and tests. When remote learning began, she did not get those supports, her mother said.
Emily Paige Ballou has a pretty terrific look at one of the obstacles autistic people can face that other people often simply don’t realize is a thing: transitions. It’s one of the first things I blogged about post-diagnosis, where I tried to simplify it into seeing that switching from one task to another isn’t two things, it’s more like at least five things — and each takes resources. Ballou offers several examples of ways in which an autistic person might try to adapt their environment to account for this task-switching obstacle. Transition challenges mostly fall under executive function issues, although I remember liking the reframing of it into autistic inertia, a term Ballou does use here. What’s interesting and somewhat new to me is the specific idea of motor transitions and the resources involved there; I’d been thinking of task switching purely from the standpoint of the mental inertia when you’d think with my fatigue issues I’d have thought about it at all from the standpoint of the physical question, too.
I almost deleted my LinkedIn outright recently, but instead I pulled everything off that wasn’t a job, and annotated each position with why and how it was an Unsuccessful Work Attempt (a term of art in the world of Social Security benefits) due to my then-undiagnosed autism, or with why and how it succeeded, for a time, due to coincidental accommodation or mitigation of my then-undiagnosed autism. I’d had those annotations sitting in a notes file for months, and only just realized that I could add them to my LinkedIn profile. Someday, I will need them when I make another attempt at obtaining benefits so I am not entirely dependent upon a family member’s fixed income until they’re not around anymore and I end up on the street or in a home. It’s complicated, but, even assuming another evaluation from the state’s Disability Determination Services were to make me eligible for benefits, I’d only be able to try for SSI — when it comes to SSDI, they consider me to have worked too little to be eligible on my own, and yet somehow at the exact same time too much to be eligible under a parent’s credits. In order for the latter to happen, I’d need to demonstrate that nearly the entirety of my job history consists of Unsuccessful Work Attempts, which, sure enough.
Before it was mentioned on Doctor Who, I’d never heard of dyspraxia. About a year and a half ago, I’d done some reading and tweeting, and I’ve been thinking some about it again lately and while I’ve mixed feelings about self-diagnosis, I feel like I could make a pretty convincing case to my primary care physician that we need to add some degree and fashion of dyspraxia to the list of things which explain me.
Somehow in the transition from Medium to Write.as to Micro.blog to WordPress, one thing that never made it across from the start of the chain was a post about the June 1974 evaluation I received from my Monteossori school when I would have been four-years-old.
I’d wondered how that 1974 evaluation related to my October 2016 diagnosis as autistic, professing that I’d no idea. I know that I’ve been confused about some of elements which I suspect some might read as evidence contradicting an autism diagnosis, and that’s been nagging at me — in the sense that I’m convinced that any tiny scrap of evidence which superficially suggests that I can “deal” will be used against me as in the second half fo my life I inevitably fight for support and assistance.
So, I guess AirPods lose their active noise cancellation when they hit around 18% battery charge remaining?