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Neuro diversity

Meeting up with an art friend.

I always come away from meeting my art friend high as a kite and my head exploding with ideas. And that is not just the effect of 2 full strength lattes!

[What was I thinking?? As I drink very little alcohol, strong coffee can have a powerful effect. I impulse bought a cardigan I really didn’t need on the way back to the train station, and I have a strict one in, one out policy for clothes so that is going to be tricky.]

My friend is always very challenging. She challenges my assumptions and ideas, my path forward. I have to defend my choices. I may not agree with her totally or feel obliged to follow what she suggests but it is all good as I am forced to view things from a different angle or perspective.

In fact we talked about quite a few different topics that I may have to put them into a couple of blog posts.

Starting with Autism, it’s traits and neuro diversity

My friend has a family that is full of neuro diverse people. (Dyslexia, autism, as well as highly creative) She is used to trying to help her family navigate the school system and find their place in mainstream life, roll with the quirks that get thrown up. She describes one of her daughters as “up to her waist” in autistic traits, another “just has her toes in the water”.

Talking about her family raised questions in my own mind.

In telling her about one of my offspring, she laughingly suggested that they were exhibiting autistic traits / markers. And I thought about other members of the family, through the generations who could equally have been described in this way.

Myself included!

When I got home I looked on various sites for diagnosing an adult female as autistic. I actually can tick a lot of boxes. I used to use an image of myself as a chameleon as my avatar on my online art course because of the years I spent trying to pass as a particular types and blend in (e.g school mum ). It has only been in recent years that I have been far more open about my “oddness” even to close family members and my mental health issues such as living with fluctuating moods of anxiety and lowness. I discovered I am very introverted and embraced it, having to flag it up to family. I am intolerant of too much noise, bright lights, too many people. I read a lot of blogs but never comment on them, I actively discourage friends from commenting on my own blog, I’d rather communicate on a one to one basis in small doses. I do get a bit fixated onto stuff and follow ideas in a rather obsessional way (my husband says I am like a dog with a bone). I only have a very small number of friends, all of whom are unusual in their own way and I don’t mix any of them with each other if I can help it. One thing against autism is empathy. I’m a very empathic person (maybe too much so!) but is lack of empathy more the stereotypical view skewed by studies of autistic males? And according to what I’ve read, there is cognitive empathy (accurately reading a situation) and affective empathy (feeling the emotion with the person). In fact I am sometimes slow to react appropriately to situations, but what I am very good at is a considered response, spending time reflecting on people’s issues and then “getting back to them”.

I can imagine some family members thinking in disbelief “what is she going on about NOW???” Maybe I am just a rather introverted, neurotic and obsessive personality? But I find it comforting to think of an explanation for my “oddness”, having “my toes dipped in the water”, giving myself a label of “on the spectrum of neuro diversity”. I don’t feel so out of step with the the world if I am a fringe member of a niche group. In some ways it feels easier to accept my quirks if there is a rational reason for them, rather than just being embarrassed and ashamed by them.

and that leads me onto……

my father.

I have had only very intermittent contact with him over the years so he is in many ways an unknown quantity. We have been estranged for 30 years. In the past I have toyed with various possible explanations for his behaviour, and nothing has fitted that convincingly. Could this be an explanation? A direct genetic link? Other family members are not estranged from him but they also have very little actual contact with him.

I remember him as very quiet, as far as I can remember he has NEVER asked me a question about myself. I remember an 8 hour car journey with him. It was a family emergency, out of the blue. I was 18 and sharing the driving. We didn’t speak the whole way. I thought it would be a chance to get to know him better but it didn’t work out that way.

Autistic traits would be a kinder explanation for his lack of empathy and absent emotional connection than other less generous labels I have considered.

I also remember an “odd” great uncle, silent and timid, on my father’s side who helped out in the family office.

I’m going to muse on this further……

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