Friday, March 25, 2011

And off the ivory pedestal she goes!

Wednesday and Thursday were Katie's Nerdfest days haha! I went to the Transition and Transformation symposium at CSU that was on students with ASD and their needs in a university setting. It was definitely very interesting! 

What I regret was that I saw Dr. Temple Grandin 3 times and never once did I have the nerve to even say hi :( It wasn't as much "Aw, bummer, I didn't get to tell her she did a great job." as much it was "Oh bummer, this whole having her on a pedestal in my mind has affected me much much more than I had ever imagined." I'm sure my friends would say, "Yes, Katie. SURPRISE! We knew that... for a long long long long (long) time." Well... SURPRISE!!!!!!! You guys were right (if you are reading this). 

God used that morning to show me that this whole putting her on a pedestal thing was becoming maladaptive. I realize that a lot of people would get shy around celeberties or highly regarded people in their field or in a prominent position (like politics). The reason it was maladaptive for me is because it hindered otherwise normal interactions that should've happened that God could've used. 

Well, after a day or so of examining it, I have come to realize this: I believed for so long that her life existed on a completely different level and reality than the average spectrumite (me included) experienced that there was no possible way that we could really sincerely connect other than on a distant way where she was on a stage behind a lecturn against the backdrop of a power-point presentation. 

Yes, she should definitely be respected for her expertise in her field and her contributions to autism research :) But I would be mistaken if her renowned professor /author / researcher was her sole identity and experience in life. In reality, she wakes up every morning and gets breakfast and decides what to wear (though her closet contents are definitely DEFINITELY unique) and then thinks about her workday or travel assignment or whatever she has to do that day. She's probably had awkward moments with her co-workers like all of us spectrumites have and when she's bored, she looks at stuff in her special interest. On Wednesday she said that she looked at how the nuclear power plant issue in Japan could've been solved when she couldn't sleep. When I'm bored, sometimes I read or go for a walk, but sometimes I do stuff in my own special interests just like she does :) Work can probably get overwhelming, especially at book signings for her, probably. Work can get overwhemling for me, especially when multiple clients struggle with their behaviors simultaneously. 

Each day for both of us has its challenges and successes, and each day, we are given grace to function and interact with the NT (neurotypical) world that sees things differently than us. 

So what's the conclusion? She's not on an ivory pedestal telling us spectrumites what to do from this whole other dimension of functioning.  To use an analogy close to her world, she's like an equine trail guide who's on the similar type of horse we are. We can go up to her and ask questions and she can ride back to others in the line and help them along. Yes she has experience and training to serve as our guide, but we must remember that  she's riding along with us also. 

With this newfound and much more realistic picture, I hope that one day if we meet again, we can interact as fellow people on the journey and through that, God can reveal that He is available to guide all of us :)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

If I owned a website...

So, just for fun, I thought I'd do a Google search to see if existed. Well, it does.... sort of :D EEEEEEEEK - Anyway.... if I really did have a webpage that was made up of things that made me eek, I would have to incorporate: God as Creator, Flowers, cute fluffy animals, cute little people, soft things, HDFS related things, God and how He fits into HDFS research, Temple Grandin, ice-cream, candy, random sparkly things, fun /exciting announcements in friends' lives, um... Summitview stuff, and probably other randomness.

It's funny just to see how many things make me eek aka get me excited :) I'm glad that even though parts of my life might be hard, God allows me to feel joy in seemingly random stuff :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An eternal perspective on the earthquake in Japan

Our Summitview pastor Mitch has done a really great job of posting summary, Biblical response, and resources for us to help the people of Japan in his blog. He is a much better writer than I as well :) 

Anyway, once again, God taught me things that I at first thought were random but then realized were actually connected. I realize I'm a pattern thinker - not necessarily a visual pattern thinker the way Dr. Grandin sometimes implies when she shows a complicated Oragami folding pattern when she talks about pattern thinking. I get more conceptual maps - anyway... when I think about the earthquake in Japan on a personal or global level, I must have an eternal perspective. 

For two days I wondered how one of my HDFS friends who was from Japan was doing. We worked on a end of semester project together. Unlike two other girls I know from Japan, she had not posted anything on her Facebook page about the earthquake. Also, people had written on her wall and she had not responded. I started to get worried. I didn't want to think about the worst happening, but I knew I had to at some point. It was easier for me to imagine her doing double-overtime at a hospital as a child-life specialist or being stuck at home with no internet or TV than it was to imagine her stuck under rubble or stuck out at sea or something worse. I wrote her an email and asked friends if they had heard from her. 

This afternoon, I finally had to settle with the reality that she might have been gone. That hurt. A lot. I felt a crushing feeling in my heart and in my head. I had memories in my head of us working on that paper together and sitting in class together. I also had memories of her graduation. I had to contend with how I would cope if she was indeed gone forever. The first thing that came to my head was the complicated grief literature. There are different issues and more of a chance of unresolved or complicated grief that come with family or friends who cope with a missing person. I was trying to remember where I put my grief / loss textbook so I could look that information up. Then I felt God prodding around in my intellectual corner of my brain. "Katie, you need more than that textbook." I knew God wanted me to come to Him with my feelings and with my fears of, "God, how will I handle it if my friend was lost in the earthquake?" Tears came to my eyes. I could call Summitview and see if one of the pastors is around. But first God wanted to hear it from me. God, I know You have been good to my friend - bringing her to the US and letting her get her degree here. I know You have given her every chance to know You. You are glorified in her life no matter what, and I know You will help me deal with things if she's not here. God, I need Your help to deal with any grief issues. 

As I had that settled in my head and wondered what was going to happen, I got an email from our mutual friend: SHE'S OK! SHE WORKS IN THE SOUTH PART OF THE COUNTRY! She just doesn't have electricity with the craziness that's going on. I was most DEFINITELY  RELIEVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) I could've asked God why He couldn't have allowed me to know that SOONER, but I think He wanted me to go through that whole process of trusting Him and believing He is good even while preparing for potentially bad news. He wanted me to keep an eternal perspective - an eternal hope for me to hold onto in case I had a physically real loss. 

Later tonight, my roommate shared that her friend had posted Luke 21:10 - 11 with a note that the World Trade Center / Pentagon attacks were on September 11, the Haiti earthquake was on January 11, and this latest earthquake in Japan was March 11. Odd and definitely getting into the realm of it being less probable that it was random, but I'm guessing there's still some wiggle room for randomness. Yet even here I go imagining plugging data into SPSS and somehow generating a printout that shows, "Well, it's ALMOST p>.05 that this came out that way, but you know, you can't reject the null hypothesis of randomness completely." I'd like that, though. I'd like somehow a nice little statistical table showing whether these things truly are 'chance' or whether God is deliberately creating a pattern or not. 

Well, why do I get unsettled when I ponder if God IS setting all this up and when I think about "What if the end times ARE coming soon?" Part of it is a carry-over from my childhood where I was terrified of God coming back because I wasn't ready for heaven because I didn't know Jesus. Another part of it is that it shatters my notion of life as I know it. There's a comfort in a waking up and going to work / church / activities and even a comfort in dealing with 'normal' daily hassles. It's just part of life. Yes, the end - the FINAL end of the world would mean no more sickness/disease/death/suffering/hardship and mean an eternal party with Jesus, but unfortunately we have to go through super hard probably unpredictable stuff here first. 

Ok so... what if the earthquake in Japan is a sign that God is up to something? How should I pray? Well, first of all, I should pray for the nations so that more people know Jesus :) He's invited TONS of people from EVERY NATION to His eternal party so, might as well tell people :) Second of all, I should pray that believers' faith is strengthened. This is something I've been praying for people in Japan - that they have an understanding of God as their secure anchor even though the earth literally gave way. Wow, that will be an intense testimony from those people!!!! Second of all, I should pray that myself and others maintain the eternal perspective of  'possible pending doom aka end of the world chaos' that God is good, He is in control, and He has our best as Believers and He has given others who don't know Him yet every opportunity to come to know Him. This eternal perspective can be my anchor through potentially huge nation/societal shifts just like it would've been my anchor had I found out bad news about my friend. 

Having God as an anchor to all of our souls can get us through physical earthquakes, potential personal losses, and larger upheavals in life. It is definitely a relief and I have seen it slowly replace fear I have had with a sure hope. I pray that many people in Japan and around the world come to this same hope in Christ as well! 

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Super Nerds!


For a while, I've been referring to people on the spectrum including me (in my head and sometimes out loud) as super-nerds. I'll say, "And that's because I'm a super-nerd." I also refer to SUPER-NERD (Dum dum da DUM DA DUM!!!!! [Superman theme song]) who is a specific person ;) 

There is method to Katie's madness :) Those of us with an ASD could be called super-nerds within our area of special-interest because one of the key diagnostic features of an ASD is the ability to and history of learning about and talking about one particular topic to death. Many people call it having a special interest or a fixation. People who have leveraged their special interest into a career generally do well. Many people become experts within their special interest and are called on for advice. For example, Bill Gates is like the master Microsoft dude. Donna Williams is a special-education consultant. I'm sort of the attachment person hehe :) People at Summitview also ask me about Creationism since that's another special interest of mine. If one of our pastors was on the spectrum, his special interest would definitely be Creationism hehe!!! :) In that regard, he's a lot more nerdy than me on it :) 

When I say 'super-nerd' especially in regard to myself, I try to say it in a positive light to think of myself using the strengths-based perspective: I'm a nerd, but God can use my nerdy-powers-of-fixation to help others :) :) :) :) :) :) Ditto for others on the spectrum :) Seeing the ability to fixate and learn how to leverage it appropriately as a strength has helped me deal with living life on the autism spectrum, and remembering to see others on the spectrum in that light is obviously a good thing :) 

I'll give readers 100 POINTS if they can guess the person who has exemplified this trait so well as to deserve the name SUPER-NERD!!!!!!! 







Ok, haha, I bet half of you (who know me and/or read this blog regularly) guessed Temple Grandin :) Well, yeah (blushing) :) :) HEHEHEHEHEHE!!!!! :) She cares for cows!!! She rides on planes..... she's - SUPER-NERD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  :D 

She's the go-to person in her field as an animal behavior researcher and she's the go-to person for autism too. She's leveraged her fixation on cows and animal behavior into her livestock handling business, and she's leveraged her fixation on sensory thinking into broader animal science and allowed researchers to gain insight into the autistic brain. 

This is how much of the world sees her as THE Super-nerd and thus the most prominent voice from 'inside the Autistic brain.' Note, she's not the ONLY representative from inside the Autism Spectrum, but she's the one the world has chosen to be the rock star of the Autism community. She's also proud to be a CSU Ram as a professor, so she gets cool points from my end because of that too! Anyway, she was the first example I looked to when I realized that I needed to allow God to heal my shame around having fixations and not being normal. She was also an example God used of why He allowed certain people  - me included - to be a super-nerd in a specific area to work His purposes :) 

Spiritual Mentoring from the Great Interventionist

According to the HDFS literature, mentors serve as alternate attachment figures to at-risk youth. A mentor can teach a child skills that he or she didn't learn in the home environment, provide emotional support that can increase the child's confidence, and help the child cope with difficult circumstances. A mentor ideally knows how to structure the environment and activities that help build a child's skills and provide emotional support. Good mentors know when to just be there and when to teach skills. They are well trained by someone who knows the research and understands child and adolescent development.

Spiritual mentors are very much the same :) I've come from a spiritual 'at-risk' environment where I was taught that God exists, but He is distant and not as reliable. We can do good to try and get into heaven, but we can't really connect with Him. This is what I believed when I became a part of Summitview. These beliefs had to be demolished and replaced with Truth after I became a believer. I also had very real attachment issues and other developmental issues that I had to deal with on top of growing as a new believer. One could say that I was at  high risk for maladaptive spiritual development because I had added risk-factors that could hinder my spiritual growth.

Luckily God is the GREAT INTERVENTIONIST :) :)  He knows my development better than even I do :) He put me in the best church environment for me to grow. Specifically, He provided older sisters in Christ that both served as actual and spiritual mentorship. I remember calling them and talking to them whenever I had issues. They served as my examples, and helped me work through a lot of my past and helped me grow in my spiritual development. They would 'structure' my environment by checking on me to make sure I had regular quiet-times and help me have conversations about the Bible. They also helped 'structure' fun things like Ultimate Frisbee. An older sister and Aaron Ritter coached me about how to play Ultimate Frisbee with much patience since I told them that I couldn't see well and was terrible at playing sports. It really was rewarding when they cheered me on when I threw the frisbee in the right general direction, even if my teammate didn't catch it. Through the love of my older brothers and sisters, I had alternate attachment figures and spiritual mentors in Christ that really helped those first few years of my development.

It's really uncanny - but not surprising that God actually did help me achieve developmental milestones that I missed. While playing on the playground with my Ritter teammates, we joked that we were going back to our childhoods. Suddenly I got really excited and I remember jumping up and down squealing: "Oh my gosh!!!! I'm really back in middle-childhood learning peer-peer interactions and receiving peer-group acceptance!! God's re-doing my middle childhood!" I'm pretty sure those were close to my exact words. Yes, I should've realized I was a super-nerd beyond most of the 1st year HDFS students. :) yet even in that nerdy realization on the playground, I had the first glimmer of hope that God would begin healing things in my past and work to grow me into a spiritually mature person :)

I'm in the stage now where I see younger sisters-in-Christ being mentored in much this same way and I have been able to serve as a mentor to some girls. That part is startling to me because I think "Can I really do this?" Then I realize, "God, the Great Interventionist placed me in this role to help this other person develop :)" That also means He helps me, and really He does the real work :) Seeing my younger sisters grow with their mentors and looking back on how God used my own mentors  reminds me that He will complete the work He started in all His children and He is the solution to their spiritual and developmental needs :)