Autism

Alleviating worldly suffering along the way.

Re: Autism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Fri Jan 27, 2012 4:17 pm

I'm happy to have found this forum, and to see there are actually people who think about autism in a buddhistic context. I have Asperger's, ADHD and a couple of other neuropsychiatric conditions. I suffer in ways that others may not, because my brain functions differently. But as much as I myself feel like I am different from others, it's still disheartening to encounter this "us and them"-mentality. I am still a person, not a concept.

I do have problems. I am overwhelmed by compassion to the point where I begin to deteriorate, but I cannot read from people's faces what they are feeling. I have problems understanding hidden motives and expressing sympathy. I tend to always look at things with an analytic mindset. Sometimes I become extremely repetitive, from being tired or anxious or physical sensations.

But when I think of myself as a child, before my oddities began bothering people and people in turn bothered me, I was closer to enlightenment than ever as an adult. I was acutely aware of my experiences and lived in adoration of all things. I would spend hours sitting or walking while simply breathing or dreaming. And for the most part, when I was either alone or in the company of animals, I remember having a strong experience of being one with the world. I rarely experience that anymore.

I think that my point is this: To a certain extent, my autistic features have in fact brought me closer to enlightenment. Many autistic people do not experience their "self" as strongly as normal people do and many of us have the ability to experience the small things in full blossom. But because I am impaired in my interaction with other people, my everyday life as a responsible adult is filled with worry, anxiety and stress, all states that promote the destructive sides of autism.

I often felt that if I was a recluse, I would no longer be autistic. The disability only exists when I have to interact with people on their terms, while they have no understanding for my terms.
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Re: Autism

Postby Willy » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:01 am

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:
I often felt that if I was a recluse, I would no longer be autistic. The disability only exists when I have to interact with people on their terms, while they have no understanding for my terms.


Thanks for sharing your perspective. I sometimes wonder if autism is a result of balancing out on behalf of others. Where our society may have too much convergent thinking, perhaps you had "too much divergent" thinking. This would be a healthy thing - play - if we didn't have to get some jobs done.
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Re: Autism

Postby randomseb » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:31 am

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:I often felt that if I was a recluse, I would no longer be autistic. The disability only exists when I have to interact with people on their terms, while they have no understanding for my terms.


I agree.. This considering AS to be some kind of deficiency is extremely negative and counter productive. So one may act and think differently.. that doesn't mean one does not have the right to be comfortable and happy being themselves as they are, and not as the majority are.
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Re: Autism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Thu Feb 02, 2012 11:46 am

Seb wrote:
Angelic Fruitcake wrote:I often felt that if I was a recluse, I would no longer be autistic. The disability only exists when I have to interact with people on their terms, while they have no understanding for my terms.


I agree.. This considering AS to be some kind of deficiency is extremely negative and counter productive. So one may act and think differently.. that doesn't mean one does not have the right to be comfortable and happy being themselves as they are, and not as the majority are.


I don't want to minimize the problems associated with AS though. Some of them would disappear in a more forgiving world, but others (like extreme sensitivity to sensory input) are difficult to handle. AS and autism does come with deficiencies of a particular kind, but then again, what human does not have deficiencies? It also often comes with strengths.

However, I would not go as far as some do and say it's just an odd personality. That would not be fair to me or the countless others who suffer directly from the consequences.
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Re: Autism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:19 pm

Willy wrote:
Thanks for sharing your perspective. I sometimes wonder if autism is a result of balancing out on behalf of others.

um....no, it isn't.
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Re: Autism

Postby Clarence » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:39 pm

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:I'm happy to have found this forum, and to see there are actually people who think about autism in a buddhistic context. I have Asperger's, ADHD and a couple of other neuropsychiatric conditions. I suffer in ways that others may not, because my brain functions differently. But as much as I myself feel like I am different from others, it's still disheartening to encounter this "us and them"-mentality. I am still a person, not a concept.

I do have problems. I am overwhelmed by compassion to the point where I begin to deteriorate, but I cannot read from people's faces what they are feeling. I have problems understanding hidden motives and expressing sympathy. I tend to always look at things with an analytic mindset. Sometimes I become extremely repetitive, from being tired or anxious or physical sensations.

But when I think of myself as a child, before my oddities began bothering people and people in turn bothered me, I was closer to enlightenment than ever as an adult. I was acutely aware of my experiences and lived in adoration of all things. I would spend hours sitting or walking while simply breathing or dreaming. And for the most part, when I was either alone or in the company of animals, I remember having a strong experience of being one with the world. I rarely experience that anymore.

I think that my point is this: To a certain extent, my autistic features have in fact brought me closer to enlightenment. Many autistic people do not experience their "self" as strongly as normal people do and many of us have the ability to experience the small things in full blossom. But because I am impaired in my interaction with other people, my everyday life as a responsible adult is filled with worry, anxiety and stress, all states that promote the destructive sides of autism.

I often felt that if I was a recluse, I would no longer be autistic. The disability only exists when I have to interact with people on their terms, while they have no understanding for my terms.


I have never met anyone with AS or autism, so please don't take offence, but wouldn't it be possible to explain to people your terms?
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Re: Autism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Thu Feb 02, 2012 8:51 pm

Clarence:

I'd be happy to explain my terms, though now it seems a poor choice of words. I struggle with group interaction. I can't keep track of multiple conversations at the same time. This becomes a pretty big problem since I constantly have to monitor and adapt my responses. All the little things people normally do subconsciously, like knowing when it's their turn to speak, understand tone of voice, know when someobody wants to drop a subject or even wants to leave, I have to do consciously. It's requires intense multi-tasking, and I don't multi-task well. One or two people is enough. More than that and I lose track of people and also of myself. In addition, I get a little panicky; too much noise, too much input. When I'm in public I always have music in my ears to block out people's conversations because it makes me very stressed out.

So, firstly, I need interaction in very small groups. No mingling.

Secondly, I don't like being touched. I cringe. It doesn't hurt. but I feel a little invaded. Even friendly touch feels like I'm being crowded.

Many of my issues have to do with acceptance though. If people don't take offense or interpret me as rude or strange, it works much better. My eye contact is off, I sometimes stare and sometimes can't meet people's gaze. I sometimes interrupt because I don't know when someone else wants to speak. When I start talking I often stick on subjects that are uncommon in average social interaction, like religion, psychology, philosophy - no weather-talk. I also tend to get tunnel vision and talk about the same topic until people are super-bored, because I can't really tell when they've had enough. Sometimes I inadvertedly say things that people are offended by because I don't realize how it sounds or that other people have different sensitivities. I mean, I know they do, but interaction is too fast, I don't have time to think.

So basically I need small groups, no touching unless you know me really really well and forgiveness for my lack of social skills. And space. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and have to take a break.
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Re: Autism

Postby Clarence » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:14 pm

Thanks AF for sharing. I had no idea about AS or autism besides the severe cases I have seen online. I guess internet has helped communication with more people in your own way. Online you seem normal. :smile: I hope you find a teacher you can relate to soon.
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Re: Autism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Thu Feb 02, 2012 9:30 pm

Clarence wrote:Thanks AF for sharing. I had no idea about AS or autism besides the severe cases I have seen online. I guess internet has helped communication with more people in your own way. Online you seem normal. :smile: I hope you find a teacher you can relate to soon.


I can pass for normal IRL, but it takes an effort. :)
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Re: Autism

Postby randomseb » Thu Feb 02, 2012 10:11 pm

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:However, I would not go as far as some do and say it's just an odd personality. That would not be fair to me or the countless others who suffer directly from the consequences.


My point of view is that a lot of it is due to society's reaction and it's impact on one's inner well being.. One is told: "you are different, you are broken, you need to be fixed"; and so eventually you start believing it and generating suffering.. I think instead one should be allowed to come to terms with what one is and be accepted and understand on the ground of those differences. but society has a problem with anything that deviates from the norm. This is how humans should be, this is how they should think, this is how they should act.. and if you don't fit the script.. oh well!

I am not saying it's an "odd personality", I am saying, here's one kind of people, and here's another kind of people, and both can coexist without one trying to assimilate the other.. Well, that would be nice, anyway :geek:

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:And space. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and have to take a break.


:?

Normal depends on the frame of reference of the observer :applause:
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Re: Autism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:13 am

Autism is a term used to refer to a broad range of both behaviors responses to stimuli, among other things. And the more we are finding out about it and about how the brain works, the more we are able to pinpoint differences in the needs of people with aspergers but who can still live independently, and those with autism that are literally dis-abled, meaning that they cannot tell you how having autism affects them.

Popular attitudes towards all people with handicaps and disabilities needs constant adjustment. But this is not a situation where there are one kind of people and another kind of people. There are people with autism, but, despite the common usage, there are no "autistics" (from a Buddhist point of view, such an assertion would require a 'self').

Autism and aspergers are deviations from typical brain activity. You can think of alcohol as an analogy. For some people, a little deviation is acceptable, and a few drinks may impair them somewhat, but they can still function. For others, alcohol creates a serious disability.

My son is bright and has a great sense of humor, and he has autism. he can't tell you if he has been injured or abused. His brain doesn't tell him when he's hungry or needs to use the bathroom. He loves to cook, but cannot talk on the phone or dial 911 in case of a fire. Unless some kind of gene therapy research produces a cure, he will always need somebody keeping an eye on him.

Some people can tell you "having autism makes me this way and that way" but my son and most people with severe to moderate autism cannot tell you this. I think this is where the difference lies.

I really enjoy reading these posts from Angelic Fruitcake. i would be interested in knowing how dharma connects with her (??) situation.
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Re: Autism

Postby randomseb » Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:35 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Autism is a term used to refer to a broad range of both behaviors responses to stimuli, among other things.


I agree, it's just that because of the problems associated with full on autism, asperger's is considered problematic (and it is if you are trying to cram yourself into the usual social behavior mold because you were taught that was what you were supposed to do)..

I think "autism" is too broad a spectrum of loosely associated behaviors

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I really enjoy reading these posts from Angelic Fruitcake. i would be interested in knowing how dharma connects with her (??) situation.
.


I agree.. I find it interesting that just when I decide to participate, that conversation occurs. It is interesting seeing the situation from a slightly different angle
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Feb 03, 2012 2:35 am

Hi all; glad to stumble upon a 'replacement' for e-sangha and interested to more or less pick up where (I think) I left off as an 'asperger' buddhist!

Seb, I take it you're also an 'aspie'. Asperger's is problematic if your personality traits -particularly your interests- clashes with your AS - If you're naturally drawn to knowledge and technical pursuits that don't depend on understanding others, then AS needn't be a problem once you learn how to avoid upsetting people. If you're a more of a self-contradictory personality whose natural focus is on people and their actions and/or feelings, then of course Asperger's presents a barrier, just as many other more 'normal' conditions such as bipolar depression do.We aspies do mature, which means feelings of "I'm supposed to (do x)" tend to have taken a back seat by my age (30s).

For me, autism has spiritual significance as a kind of inversion of enlightenment - solid/rigid nothingness (the 'poison of shunyata'?) as opposed to spacious emptiness; it can also be summed up by the concept of removing most subconscious parallel processing from a mind of human capacity. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche had a severly autistic son, Taggie (read about his progress at http://taggiemukpo.org), and although my ego is no longer overblown enough to imagine a connection beyond that family, Trungpa's descriptions of Vajra Hell sound remarkably like descriptions of autism, though (Daelm ;-)) there are many angles from which one could experience such a state, and many ways one could feel it. It also makes more sense to see the results of the karma of previous lives in such conditions than in any random events.

Ofcourse, autism also wouldn't be autism if it were typical. Whether or not that's conceivable, autistics in this world have to face their fundmental isolation and separation from the sentient beings around them in one way or another; whether or not they fully feel (and learn to love) the cold, harsh gale of this karmic condition is another matter.

I don't expect to find enlightenment in my giving up all effort to deal with my autism (along with my life in general) any more than I expect to find a solid moon in a pond, as the old image has it. My apologies, angelicfruitcake, if this is not what you meant.

The clincher seems to be:
"Normal" may be in the eye of the observer, but being without cognitive independence is not just a matter of opinion.

as you put it, PadmaVonSamba - We're led to understand that enlightenment involves freedom of thought (as well as freedom from thought!) whereas the thoughts of animals and so on depend on instinct alone; why is thought more free if it is inspired by brain structure than if inspired by other beings?

Let's not forget that in Western culture atleast, it's almost impossible to conceive of human beings who are NOT self-created, no matter how much (as buddhists or scientists) we know the reverse -that we are not identical with our conventional selves- to be true. Autistics are tacitly seen, especially by themselves, as choosing their condition -the 'path less travelled by'- because most people 'grow into' the mechanical self that old karmas have passed onto their mindstream, and then spend the rest of their lives convincing themselves and the world that they were in some vague sense already that way before they were substantially that way - We instinctively believe that we created ourselves out of ourselves!
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Re: Autism

Postby undefineable » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:01 am

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:I remember having a strong experience of being one with the world. I rarely experience that anymore.


I suppose I've felt a sense of abstract 'oneness', but any 'oneness with the world' quickly turned out to be (in my understanding) 'oneness of some parts of my mind with others'. Looking at it analytically, remember autistic brains have denser local connections and fewer long-distance 'white matter' neurons, so a mystical sense of 'wow, this all still pieces together' seems inevitable.

Angelic Fruitcake wrote:Many autistic people do not experience their "self" as strongly as normal people do


Well 'autos' is Greek for Self, and 'ego' is Latin for Self - The two words likely had slightly different meanings and cultural connotations, and autistics, in Freudian terms, are often pretty narrowly focussed on what Freud called the 'id' (the animal drives for sense pleasures) rather than having like minds confirm their 'goodness'; however, I don't see much compassion or insight in your picture.

If ego is normally concerned with gaining the feedback of Other to confirm the existence of Self, the spiritual nature of autism must surely be to begin with the existence of Self -the feeling that 'I exist'- already built up (somehow) to the point at which Other is no longer needed and any input can be left as it is and embraced as 'Self'_ _ _
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Re: Autism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Feb 03, 2012 4:19 am

undefineable wrote:autistic brains have denser local connections and fewer long-distance 'white matter' neurons

I would like to see your data on this.
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Re: Autism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Fri Feb 03, 2012 7:27 am

however, I don't see much compassion or insight in your picture.


Please explain? I don't understand. Maybe we mean different things by sense of self. For me it means not having clear boundaries between yourself and others. It's true for some aspies and not for others.
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Re: Autism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Fri Feb 03, 2012 7:31 am

Autistics are tacitly seen, especially by themselves, as choosing their condition -the 'path less travelled by'.


I have never heard this opinion expressed before. Of course some people question the validity of the problems and think it's a matter of will-power, but I have never encountered anyone who thinks autism is a choice. Some people with autism try to view their condition in a positive light and say that they would choose it if they started over, but I've never heard or read anything about it in fact being a choice.
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Re: Autism

Postby Angelic Fruitcake » Fri Feb 03, 2012 7:35 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I really enjoy reading these posts from Angelic Fruitcake. i would be interested in knowing how dharma connects with her (??) situation.
"Normal" may be in the eye of the observer, but being without cognitive independence is not just a matter of opinion.


I'm a "her" yes. I would like to know the relationship between my autism and dharma too. I have many more questions than answers. Or did you mean direct consequences for my practice?

I agree there is a difference between autism with cognitive disability and autism with average intelligence and learning abilities. Bt often there's much more going on inside than shows on the outside. Many people with autism who write very well and with great insight are incapable of expressing the same sentiments in person.
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Re: Autism

Postby Seishin » Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:32 pm

Going back to the OP's original question, the Pali scriptures say that it is not possible for one to know whether the condition we are born with is the result of previous karma (until we are enlightened). Furthermore, they state that not everything is the result of karma;

"If one says that in whatever way a person performs a kammic action, in that very same way he will experience the result — in that case there will be no (possibility for a) religious life and no opportunity would appear for the complete ending of suffering.
"But if one says that a person who performs a kammic action (with a result) that is variably experienceable, will reap its results accordingly — in that case there will be (a possibility for) a religious life and an opportunity for making a complete end of suffering."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... fruit.html

In otherwords, if everything is the result of previous karma, then there'd be no way to escape our karma and we'd be caught in a vicious circle.

However, I am aware that there are some Pali and Mahayana sutras that say that the conditions we are born with are the result of previous karma. I personally do not believe this is true and prefer the explanation in the above sutra. Though this is of course my humble unenlightened opinion and should not be taken as fact.

Lets remember that karma only ripens when the conditions are right.

Gassho,
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Re: Autism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Feb 03, 2012 2:56 pm

Seishin wrote:Going back to the OP's original question, the Pali scriptures say that it is not possible for one to know whether the condition we are born with is the result of previous karma (until we are enlightened). Furthermore, they state that not everything is the result of karma


I asked my teacher (a lama, not a roshi) about this recently. Specifically, I gave him three examples. My son has a disability, my wife is female, and I cannot ride a bike.

Some people would say it is because of negative karma that a person is born with a disability. In some cultures, it is considered unfortunate to be born as a female (I reminded him that I have never regarded the fact that my wife is female as being a problem!) and in some cultures, not being able to ride a bike might be considered as a disability. So, what I posed to him was the idea that how one sees something as a karmic result really depends on a biased point of view.

His reply was that it isn't the disability or gender or anything like that which is the result of karma. How a person deals with their situation is the karma they are working with. So, suppose two people are blind, one of them says, "this isn't going to stop me from becoming the governor of New York" and the other person says, "oh I can never accomplish anything because I can't see", that it is the past thoughts which makes the present situations in a person's life today either positive or negative, and also has an effect on how much they suffer mentally from their present condition and how much this perpetuates future karma.
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