Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Passionate employment = Seriously?

This evening we were watching Robert Irvine. You know, the Food Nework guy with the glasses, short hair and I think he is married to a professional female wrestler. He keeps talking about being passionate about something.....passionate about cooking,

Whenever I hear this I am reminded of some classes the cuter half insisted I take when I was unemployed. These direction classes - (soto voce)"What is your passion and what can you do with it." WTF.

It's work people, you go to work and you come home and if you are lucky you come home to people you want to be with. Passion is for the bedroom or when you are with someone like the cuter half who is FUN and enjoys doing things that aren't work related.

"Work's work." this is something my Dad used to say. When I was younger it drove me up a wall. I thought I wanted to do something great but  I never knew what it was.

I have never grasped the "passion at work thing."
Those classes? I would go to them (fortunately they were free so I wouldn't have to go back and demand a refund for wasting my time) and just get pissed off because I was either hearing total tripe about how I didn't know what I liked to do or I wasn't intelligent enough to figure it out.
OK that isn't true but damn it that is what it felt like.

Watching Robert is kind of like watching a freight train just steamroll over a bunch of people who really look like deer in the headlights kind of thing. I am certain he doesn't mean to....this is the character he is playing on the show. But really, the "I am in business and I don't know what I am doing" excuse is just annoying. How can anyone put a million dollars a year into something and not know what they are doing?  I understand that his role is to help but I don't think that a person with common sense is really going to get into a situation like that.

Which is back to the "passion" thing. Oddly enough we are tying to help the boy figure out what he wants to do. He had a passion for cooking, and since he was in this class with what I would compare to a squasher....well he hasn't really picked up a knife or a pan or made anything for anyone. He was told he can't do it and now he is thinking he can't. Sadly, he is at a loss right now. He is watching cartoons and history programs (it's History channel, so some of it is debateable)
To put this in perspective, an Aspie self esteem, largely, is so fragile it is likely to be squashed until the Aspie is feeling more confident and is able to defend themselves without messing up the social rules.
Or the counselor at school perspective of, "Oh it is too hard, just drop it and you can do it later." (?????) so when life gets hard you just drop it and come back to it later?

Which still gets me back to the "passion" for employment thing......this evades me like a million dollars would. -I am just missing the boat on this. I have taken the personality tests and the results are weird. The jobs are just not my thing....
Clergy / Religious Work (Nah....I am not the holy roller type)
Teachers (NO I am not crazy about my own kid at times working with other peoples kids - NOPE)
Medical Doctors / Dentists (EWWWW blood and poop and stuff)
Alternative Health Care Practitioners, i.e. Chiropractor, Reflexologist (touching people, NOPE)
Psychologists (NAH, I am not patient enough)
Psychiatrists (the drug part scares me)
Counselors and Social Workers (NO WAY)
Musicians and Artists (I know 3 talented people, no 10 talented people and I am not one of them)
Photographers (NO I call my own for the important pictues and she is one of the 10 talents)
Child Care / Early Childhood Development (again poop, diapers and people)

I know some people swear by doing their passion and hey that is great for them....But this whole thing, it doesn't work it for me. Not that finding something to do is hard I have always had that part is working just fine. It is just the "job passion" thing. To me it is like underwater basket weaving naked, blindfolded using chain mail."

Fortunately the cute one doesn't think I am nuts. He thinks that other people fake it a lot.
I am hoping the cuter half can help the boy figure it out. The boy drives me nuts right I am generally running the other way (not literally)...I just am too exhausted for the drama.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Square Pegs Round Holes- Behaviorism

A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.
B. F. Skinner
The boy is in a new class. He is a different kid right now. Teachers do make a difference and poor teachers are a real disservice to the profession. Over the years this is something that the cuter half and I have noticed.....the teachers make the classroom.
FOR example, the boy had a wonderful teacher in summer school before HS. This guy taught him HOW to read a book and write a paper about it. The boy was happy to take classes and although he got a C in the class his senior year this teacher TAUGHT him how to do what he needed to do. The boy did so well that he is now in another lit class that is really teaching him HOW to research and what to look for when doing so.
Same with math, the boy was taught his freshman year by a teacher (who I wasn't always on good terms with) was able to CATCH the boy up to grade level by the end of the year. This guy is a great teacher. He was able to teach this math class and help the boy learn. Later the boy got another great math teacher who was able to catch him up even more and now the boy is doing it on his own.....which is wonderful.

This sounds so easy and simple. It isn't. The cuter half and I are constantly reviewing, talking to and discussing the assignments with the boy. We have hired tutors, academic coaches and others to keep the boy going.....and to save our sanity.

We are finding that our sanity is kind of a big deal. Both the cuter half and I are really working hard at our grown-up jobs and then come home and work with the boy, play with the 'putens and then clean up the messes that somehow reproduce themselves when we aren't here. We are thinking that the clothing piles in the laundry room is having sex at night to make more clothes for us to wash never seems to end.

I have been reviewing a  new class with the boy this semester. This means I have refresh what I have already learned. It has been a while and frankly I am not really into the class  he is taking right now....there is a TON of information and put it this way the writer of the book is not a chronological writer....this guy and his co-hort jump all over the place with the terms, the studies and the other stuff. This is an Aspie nightmare book and the boy is trying to read it and assimilate what is going on and just getting frustrated. Which means I step in and try to put in all in one part.....reviewing what I went over years ago....and running into familiar names and theories that I had left behind in what I call another life.

BF Skinner was a behaviorist. Reading the basics of his theories made me think that they could be applied (simply, and not as technically as he probably would have appreciated) when dealing with the boy and having to study for classes that he is ready for academically but telling me that he feels like a square peg trying to force itself into a round hole.

(I have been doing this for years- and I STILL think I am a square peg)

Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.
B. F. Skinner
Wikipedia has a brief biography:
Burrhus Frederic (B. F.) Skinner (March 20, 1904 – August 18, 1990) was an American psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He was the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University from 1958 until his retirement in 1974.
Skinner invented the operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner Box. He was a firm believer of the idea that human free will was actually an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action. If the consequences were bad, there was a high chance that the action would not be repeated; however if the consequences were good, the actions that led to it would be reinforced. He called this the principle of reinforcement.
Skinner called his particular brand of behaviorism "Radical" behaviorism. Radical behaviorism is the philosophy of the science of behavior. It seeks to understand behavior as a function of environmental histories of reinforcing consequences. Such a functional analysis makes it capable of producing technologies of behavior (see Applied behavior analysis). This applied behaviorism lies on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum as the field of cognitive science. Unlike less austere behaviorism, it does not accept private events such as thinking, perceptions, and unobservable emotions in a causal account of an organism's behavior:
"The position can be stated as follows: what is felt or introspectively observed is not some nonphysical world of consciousness, mind, or mental life but the observer's own body. This does not mean, as I shall show later, that introspection is a kind of psychological research, nor does it mean (and this is the heart of the argument) that what are felt or introspectively observed are the causes of the behavior. An organism behaves as it does because of its current structure, but most of this is out of reach of introspection. At the moment we must content ourselves, as the methodological behaviorist insists, with a person's genetic and environment histories. What are introspectively observed are certain collateral products of those histories."
"In this way we repair the major damage wrought by mentalism. When what a person does [is] attributed to what is going on inside him, investigation is brought to an end. Why explain the explanation? For twenty five hundred years people have been preoccupied with feelings and mental life, but only recently has any interest been shown in a more precise analysis of the role of the environment. Ignorance of that role led in the first place to mental fictions, and it has been perpetuated by the explanatory practices to which they gave rise."

Most of the time our Aspie is reacting to what is happening around him. He is scared, unsure and frustrated with the gen world he is required to live in. He is adapting himself to a social environment that generally does not accept him and essentially is forcing him to live in a round hole and if he steps out of that (esoterically speaking) he will be "told in no uncertain terms" where his place is and where he belongs.

To me, this is a limitation of education.

The boy is very good with talking and participating in class and although things may not be perfect he is willing to try.  However, he is stepping out into areas where generally most Aspies do not go. He is taking classes and is doing well. He is driving. He is doing an internship he is living a life. He is telling us what he would like to do and how he would like to do it. He knows where he wants to be.
Internally the boy knows what he needs to do and is trying his best to do it. He recognizes he needs supports and although we have told him he will have the tools he needs by the time he graduates he is still worried and uncertain. He may change some of his environment but it is unlikely he will move or have much contact outside of what he is already doing. It would surprise me if he were to have additional contact with people who generally don't have a lot to do with him now....maybe I am wrong and maybe people who will give him a chance will change....who knows but for now we are working with what we can....and for some weird reason Skinner reasonates in my thought process.

Give me a child and I'll shape him into anything.
B. F. Skinner

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Making things accessible is becoming increasingly harder to do.  Trying to explain psychology to an overtherapatised kid.  This is a new one for us - we r using terms we haven't thought of in years.  
An aspies take on psychology- there r people who would pay $ for that I'd wager.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

“The Conversation” Newsletter by Brian R. King- When Will I Be Good Enough?

 “All I can tell you really is if you get to the point where someone is telling you that you are not great or not good enough, just follow your heart and don’t let anybody crush your dream.” – Patti LaBelle

While listening to others talk about their day do you frequently hear value judgments made toward others? Comments such as, “He’s not motivated enough”, “He doesn’t have enough discipline,” “She’s not applying herself enough,” “She’s not taking enough risks in life.”

Even more striking are the comments people make about themselves. “I’m not smart enough,” “I’m not pretty enough,” “I don’t win enough,” “I’m not good enough.”

One of my questions in response to these statements is, compared to who? We live in a society where we are at our best when working together though we seem to go out of our way to compete with one another. We are increasingly saturated with reality shows encouraging us to laugh at people in vulnerable moments.

Many people seem to get a rush out of blatant disrespect towards those on the losing end of any situation. Telling others how much they stink, they suck, they’re losers. I find this to be some of the most uncivilized of human behavior. I feel we’re capable of so much more. Improving the way we or those we care about are treated begins with holding ourselves to a higher standard without reserving the right to lower that standard on game day.

It’s a difficult mindset to unlearn this is true. But before it can be undone or at least modified, it must become something you’re aware of, and how it colors your thinking. This mindset is so prevalent in human beings as it pertains to those on the Autism Spectrum. Never more so than in the terms “high-functioning” and “low-functioning.” I’ve never had these terms adequately defined for me because as it turns out they are more often assigned according to the subjective standards of the observer.

I hear parents describe their child as having Asperger’s but “High-Functioning.” Which seems to be a statement of “my child is more normal than the other low-functioning children.” The problem with the terms “High-Functioning and Low-Functioning” is that they are based on the standard of “good enough.”

Well I’ll get to the point here as someone who was told my entire life that “You’re not athletic enough,” “You’re not tough enough,” “You’re not man enough,” “You’re not social enough,” “You don’t have enough friends” and the list goes on. It is so difficult to live a life with your primary sense of self-worth being based on the constant reminders of what’s missing.

As an adult I’ve had to be creative in my thinking in order to make sense of my unconventional way of being in a world full of “good enough” thinkers. When I discovered I’d helped bring three boys into this world who inherited the same tendency to walk to their own beat, I knew I needed to come up with something to enable them to withstand the “good enough” mindset they would encounter from others. Which would also make them susceptible to applying it to themselves.

I found my answer in the terms “High-Functioning and Low-Functioning.” I frequently hear these terms used along side comments such as “every child on the spectrum is unique,” and “when you’ve met one child with Asperger’s, you’ve met one child with Asperger’s.” So in the same statement people are saying we can compare them to each other in order to say one functions better than another, but at the same time they’re all individuals so we can’t.

Let me attempt to eliminate the contradiction and divest us of the terms “High-Functioning and Low-Functioning.” The fact of the matter is that we are all “functioning.” The Autism Spectrum is comprised of approximately 40 million or so people worldwide. Each with their own unique set of strengths and challenges. Gee sounds a lot like a description of any other human being on the planet.

We are each uniquely ourselves, with our own unique profile of strengths and challenges. Each human being, is a snowflake and each Autism Spectrumite can claim their own expression of the Spectrum as uniquely as their own fingerprint. Much like a member of an ethnic group may claim a group identity and an individual one as well.

As such, there cannot be a “High Functioning or a Low Functioning” snowflake. It has its characteristics, and makes its own unique contribution to the snow fort we call society. It need not be as big as the other flakes to make a meaningful contribution; it only needs to do its part.

As human beings we routinely judge the very people whose efforts we couldn’t do without because we have deemed them as settling for lesser professions or not doing their best. Try and live your life for one day without them and you’ll see just how valuable their contribution to your life is. Maybe then you’ll increase your contribution to theirs, or at least your gratitude.

The fact of the matter is that there is a rainbow that is the Autism Spectrum with 40 million waves of light that comprise it. Each wave with its own unique energy contributing to the whole. Which are the “High-Functioning and which the Low?” I can’t tell. I can’t tell until I decide that person’s contribution isn’t “good enough.”

You may think I’m missing the bigger picture of those on the spectrum who will be challenged to live a conventional life because of the significant disabilities that accompanies their autism. I’m not.

Instead I’m looking at their lives in the following way. In what ways can they contribute to life, add value? And in what ways can others add value to theirs? You see, it isn’t about being “good enough” it’s only about making your contribution, no matter how small. So that those who need what you have can benefit from it. As you benefit from being of service to them.

Thanks for being you.

...leave your questions and comments here...

About Brian R. King

Brian R. King LCSW (ADHD & ASD Life Coach) is a #1 Best Selling Author, 25-year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Asperger’s. He’s also the father of three sons on the autism spectrum. He is known worldwide for his books and highly engaging presentations that teach the power of connection and collaboration. His strategies empower others to overcome their differences so they can build powerful and lasting partnerships. His motto is: We’re all in this together.

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