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#1 mojicanpuertorican

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Posted 22 October 2015 - 06:55 PM

I have a character in the upcoming novel I'm writing who's autistic. He's the main character's brother. From what I understand there are different degrees of how "bad" it can be. Some I've seen aren't too bad, others quite severe. The character I'm envisioning is quite severe but capable of having conversations, at least very simple conversations. I would like to know some big facts of autism and some key points of it. What's the difference between it and Asperger's syndrome? Can they work? Go to college? Do they take medication? habits or mannerisms? Any info is appreciated, especially first hand experience to the subject. Thanks!  



#2 Ireth

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Posted 22 October 2015 - 07:32 PM

Aspberger's Syndrome is a form of autism, a milder "high-functioning" one. I have it, so I can tell you a lot about it from personal experience. I don't know too much about the more severe forms of it, unfortunately.

 

As an "Aspie", I can tell you my life has been pretty much normal. I graduated high school, went to college, found work. I don't take any medication for it, nor do I feel the need to. As far as mannerisms go, I tend to be very emotional, often crying at the drop of a hat. I have a hard time expressing myself verbally, especially when I'm upset; writing out my thoughts and feelings is much more effective. I tend to fidget absentmindedly with my hands a lot, and I tend to "zone out" unless I'm concentrating hard on something. 


There's too much blood in my tea system. Time to put the kettle on.

 

~~~

 

All projects except WINTER'S QUEEN are currently on hiatus until further notice. Thank you!

 

Queries:

Winter's Queen: http://agentquerycon...een-ya-fantasy/

Tenth Realm: http://agentquerycon...e-epic-fantasy/

Low Road: http://agentquerycon...orical-fantasy/

Moonhunter: http://agentquerycon...ya-xenofiction/

Song of the Sea: http://agentquerycon...sea-ya-fantasy/

My Soul to Keep: http://agentquerycon...porary-fantasy/

Dancing On Edges: http://agentquerycon...porary-fantasy/

Bellringer: http://agentquerycon...ringer-fantasy/

 

Hooks:

Winter's Queen: http://agentquerycon...tasy-hook-help/

Tenth Realm: http://agentquerycon...k-epic-fantasy/

Low Road: http://agentquerycon...fantasyvampire/

Moonhunter: http://agentquerycon...ya-xenofiction/

Song of the Sea: http://agentquerycon...ong-of-the-sea/

My Soul to Keep: http://agentquerycon...porary-fantasy/

Dancing on Edges: http://agentquerycon...asy-query-hook/

 

Synopses:

Winter's Queen: http://agentquerycon...een-ya-fantasy/

Tenth Realm: http://agentquerycon...ntasy-synopsis/

Low Road: http://agentquerycon...fantasyvampire/

My Soul to Keep: http://agentquerycon...porary-fantasy/


#3 LucidDreamer

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 07:04 AM

My son has high-functioning autism. My brother-in-law has a more severe type of autism.  They are quite different.  My son is in community college and functions quite well. He has a car, works part-time, etc.  If you didn't know he was on the spectrum, you couldn't tell (unless you are around him a lot, and some of the quirks become apparent).

 

My brother-in-law cannot be left on his own. He is very smart, and can hold a conversation with you (especially once he knows you well). He loves music and can actually tell you the name, performer, album, year of release, etc. for almost any popular song from the 1960s on.  (I mean, he knows this stuff and he is always right). He loves those "find-a-word" puzzles and certain TV shows.  He is independent in terms of taking care of himself (even does laundry) although he could not function in a job setting. But he does chores at home. He's in his early 50s, but still prefers TV shows on children's TV networks to "adult" TV shows.  He taught himself to read and do basic math (because when he was growing up they didn't have special services at his school system, so he didn't actually go to school). He MUST have routine -- he gets very upset if his routine is disturbed.  He will have what he calls a "fit" -- starts rocking back and forth and babbling or shouting -- when he is upset.

 

When my son was diagnosed, the doctors at the specialized autism center told me something that I've always kept in mind -- with high-functioning autism, often the main difference is that the person's social skills are about 3 years behind their chronological age.  (It's actually a brain development thing).  This doesn't matter so much when someone is an adult, but growing up, I had to remind myself that although may son -- who is very intelligent -- was 14 chronologically, I shouldn't expect him to act older than an 11 year-old.  This really helped put things in perspective for me. Now that he's twenty, it's not so obvious, but when he was younger, there was a definite difference in his social skills, likes and dislikes, etc.

 

Hope that gives some perspective.  May I just say -- you really do want to research and present such a character correctly.  There have been far too many bad portrayals of individuals on the autism spectrum in books and in the media. 



#4 mojicanpuertorican

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 08:18 AM

Thank you both for your feedback! It will come in handy. @Pragmatic Dreamer I definitely want to get the facts straight. Many authors, and I mean very well known and successful ones, have been criticized for portraying characters with autism poorly or inaccurately which is why I'd rather have first hand experiences from people who have family members with the syndrome. I very much appreciate the input! 



#5 mwsinclair

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 09:08 AM

One of my daughters is autistic. She speaks but does not articulate well. We can count the number of conversations of at least three sentences each that we've shared with her on one hand. She often "scripts" from some of her favorite videos and television shows, (e.g., Sesame Street -- Elmo in particular -- and fixates on certain shows.) There is no medication for her situation at this time. She is in two schools to maximize her therapy opportunities (ABA, OT, Speech). At this point, I have no idea whether she'll be able to hold down a job; there's at least a decade before we can get a more certain sense of that. But my sense is that she'll need to show much more advancement for that to happen.

 

In the meantime, I delight in the joy she has in life, and there is much. I relish the bliss she reveals in feeling a light breeze across her face.

 

My point in sharing this is that your character could be much different from my daughter and still be accurate to a person with autism. Continue to research, but pay some attention to what is meant by a "spectrum" disorder. It's a big umbrella under which many children and adults exist.



#6 LucidDreamer

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Posted 23 October 2015 - 11:40 AM

One very common trait across the spectrum is needing routine -- and the individual getting very frustrated or anxious if that routine is disrupted. Also, both my son and my brother-in-law tend to repeat phrases (esp. ones they've heard on TV, radio, etc.).  My son does not do this as much as he did when he was younger, because he is more aware of it now. However, he does exhibit OCD-type behavior and is medicated for that. (It may be unrelated to the autism, not sure).  The medication helps with his OCD behavior, but there really is no medication for autism. (At least none I know about).

 

As mwsinclair said, the spectrum is vast and there are major differences across it.  For instance, instead of being less verbal, my son has always been hyper-verbal. But, again, (and esp. when he was younger) some of his "talking" was more like echolalia. https://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Echolalia

 

I recommend checking out this site. (They are some of the leaders in the field of autism research and treatment): http://teacch.com/



#7 Thrash

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 03:13 PM

I work with children on the spectrum and it's important to remember that it is very much a spectrum, and Asperger's, as mentioned above, is one point on the spectrum.  One of the frustrating things I see authors do when developing autistic spectrum characters is to attach their disorder to a sort of savantism. Those with autism can be savants, but they are not savants because they have autism. Those on the spectrum can be brilliant with very high intelligence, or very a rudimentary intelligence. What really matters is that those on the spectrum connect and communicate differently so their intelligence may be difficult to truly calculate. 

 

What made you choose to have an autistic character?  If you explain what you hoped to accomplish, we might have more specific ideas for you on how to achieve that without being inauthentic. 



#8 Zaarin

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 03:29 PM

I'm also Aspergers. You can find my comments on my experience (as well as others') in this thread.



#9 mojicanpuertorican

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 05:25 PM

@mwsinclair Thank you for the input. You describing how much you enjoy your daughter brought me on the verge of tears. I know she couldn't ask for a better parent to love her as much as you do. @Lucid Dreamer thank you for info as well! @Thrash Interesting point you brought up. I looked at other authors that have written about autism and seem to fall into savantism as you describe. From what I understand it means you have a genius level skill in something, while are below average in other subjects. I'd love to know the the definitive differences between them, as to not fall into that category. The kind of character I'm creating doesn't necessarily exceed in genius level skills at a particular thing, but is very good in minor accomplishments. Puzzles, remembering song lyrics etc. I'm using him more as a tool for the main character who is very bitter and near unlikable to become empathetic over time. The main character feels his older brother (the one who has autism) has made their mother's life difficult. Their father ran out on them when they were young, and their mother was the only one struggling on keeping them afloat, supporting both children. It's a sort of rivalry between brothers, but due to certain events, he becomes closer to his brother over time. The story is not so much the brother that has autism excels at something, rather what it's like living with someone with such a condition. I want to make it raw and real. And that's why I want to have people with personal insight in the matter, to present it in an accurate and respectful way. @Zaarin I will take the time to look at it. Thank you!



#10 Jemi

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 09:12 PM

So many great comments! (Love this AQC community!!!)

As a teacher, I've interacted with lots of kids on the spectrum and would echo all of the comments above. None of the kids I've worked with have presented in the same manner - after all, everyone is unique. Some of the things that seem to hold true for many (but not all) of these kids:

  • consistent routines help a lot
  • visual reminders help - step by step pics of routines (getting dressed to go outside, bathroom routines, calming routines, lunch routines...). These change from kid to kid and definitely change as kids grow. Sometimes a generic pic from a program like Boardmaker work best, other times actual pics of the person themselves successfully completing each step in the routine
  • in keeping with that - having routines for emergencies (fire drill, lock down drill, change in routine when the gym is in use...) are pretty vital too as sometimes kids are so in tune with the routine, they can't change it & it becomes the priority over the emergency
  • humour (especially sarcasm) can be difficult to understand. A lot of kids on the spectrum are very literal. this can make it hard interacting with others
  • they are good at reading people and know which adults & kids are 'safe' for them - people who are calm and kind
  • socializing with younger students isn't uncommon - as some of the kids are several emotional years behind their chronological age
  • a lot of the kids see moral issues as black & white, not a lot of grey
  • verbalizing emotions is tough - and sorting through emotions as well
  • most of the kids are very determined and work their butts off at what interests them 

Keep in mind, these are mostly school oriented, (& they echo some of the above comments) but thought they might help out a bit!

Good luck



#11 Zaarin

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Posted 24 October 2015 - 10:17 PM

None of the kids I've worked with have presented in the same manner - after all, everyone is unique.

I think this is really important to remember and easy to forget. Every one of us on the spectrum may have some things in common, but our experiences will also be totally different. My biggest criticism of media portrayals of autism is that so many of them are stereotyped and homogeneous. For example, I loved Three Fourths Home, a visual novel about a young woman dealing with the frustration of growing up, but I felt like her autistic younger brother was a horrible stereotype. For a positive counter-example, I think River Wyles from To The Moon was a very well-thought out character who happened to be autistic. And I guess that's the point with any character: they should be a character who happens to be autistic, not "an autistic character."

 

humour (especially sarcasm) can be difficult to understand. A lot of kids on the spectrum are very literal. this can make it hard interacting with others

This is funny, because I'm usually really good with humor--but every now and then I'll miss the joke and take it literally, leaving everyone confused. :P



#12 mwsinclair

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 10:54 AM

Your point about a parent running out is actually fairly common, I've been told. Not necessarily the "running out," but a lot of marriages crumble due to the pressures of dealing with a child with a challenge. I'll keep my opinions on this to myself; I'm thankful that my marriage remains together.



#13 Ireth

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Posted 25 October 2015 - 01:52 PM

I'll chime in again and say that I absolutely suck at reading people, whether it be facial expression or tone of voice. Sarcasm especially flies over my head most times, but I feel like I'm good with metaphors and such, especially being a writer.


There's too much blood in my tea system. Time to put the kettle on.

 

~~~

 

All projects except WINTER'S QUEEN are currently on hiatus until further notice. Thank you!

 

Queries:

Winter's Queen: http://agentquerycon...een-ya-fantasy/

Tenth Realm: http://agentquerycon...e-epic-fantasy/

Low Road: http://agentquerycon...orical-fantasy/

Moonhunter: http://agentquerycon...ya-xenofiction/

Song of the Sea: http://agentquerycon...sea-ya-fantasy/

My Soul to Keep: http://agentquerycon...porary-fantasy/

Dancing On Edges: http://agentquerycon...porary-fantasy/

Bellringer: http://agentquerycon...ringer-fantasy/

 

Hooks:

Winter's Queen: http://agentquerycon...tasy-hook-help/

Tenth Realm: http://agentquerycon...k-epic-fantasy/

Low Road: http://agentquerycon...fantasyvampire/

Moonhunter: http://agentquerycon...ya-xenofiction/

Song of the Sea: http://agentquerycon...ong-of-the-sea/

My Soul to Keep: http://agentquerycon...porary-fantasy/

Dancing on Edges: http://agentquerycon...asy-query-hook/

 

Synopses:

Winter's Queen: http://agentquerycon...een-ya-fantasy/

Tenth Realm: http://agentquerycon...ntasy-synopsis/

Low Road: http://agentquerycon...fantasyvampire/

My Soul to Keep: http://agentquerycon...porary-fantasy/


#14 ah_522

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 01:34 AM

I'm on the very mild end of the spectrum, but the one thing I absolutely am awful at is reading people. I don't understand social cues or subtext, so unless someone explicitly tells me something, I won't even know if what I'm doing is okay or offends people. I've committed multiple social faux pas in situations, and most people assume I'm being rude by being blunt or pushing an issue. 



#15 Zaarin

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Posted 26 October 2015 - 02:16 PM

I'm actually kind of weird for people on the spectrum in that I'm actually pretty good at reading people--I just don't always know what to do with that information.  :blush:



#16 S.H. Marr

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Posted 18 January 2016 - 02:50 PM

My older brother has Asperger's. How "functional" he is depends very heavily on the situation. He hasn't had a job in a while that has him communicate with anyone, so the only people he speaks to are the people living in our house and his communication skills have completely devolved (which makes it harder for him to get a job). But when he has to interact with other people regularly, he's been quite proficient at it. It's a skill that requires a lot more practice for him than others, and he's not inclined to seek out opportunities to try.

 

He also leans into having very strong pet subjects. He doesn't really interact during any conversation not about them, but if you argue with him about the minutia of Star Wars or BSG or something, he gets extremely bull-headed about it.

 

In my experience, both interacting with people on the spectrum and writing them (the book I'm querying right now has a protag with autism that seems to have gotten many comments from people on the spectrum that he's accurate), neurotypical people seem to have a very hard time relating to and understanding them. It can be very frustrating above all else.



#17 S.H. Marr

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Posted 18 January 2016 - 02:54 PM

Oh! A few months ago when I was working on the book I'm querying now, I started this thread: http://agentquerycon...autism-and-sid/.

 

Might be of some help to you?

 

EDIT: Saw someone already gave you this link. Oops.



#18 Zaarin

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Posted 23 January 2016 - 03:10 PM

In my experience, both interacting with people on the spectrum and writing them (the book I'm querying right now has a protag with autism that seems to have gotten many comments from people on the spectrum that he's accurate), neurotypical people seem to have a very hard time relating to and understanding them. It can be very frustrating above all else.

I'll verify this is the case. I'm extremely prone to misunderstandings because I struggle to say what I mean clearly and often misinterpret what other people mean. Sometimes it's like speaking a completely different language.



#19 Tom Preece

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Posted 25 January 2016 - 04:26 AM

I am awestruck about our communities ability to share ourselves.  Thank you all.



#20 Zaarin

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Posted 28 February 2016 - 12:05 PM

An experience the other day leads me to another useful tip: sensory over-stimulation affects all senses. Because touch is the most obvious and the most easily overwhelmed, it's easy to forget that sight, hearing, smell, and taste are also subject to this. And, of course, it's also easy to forget about the non-traditional senses--in particular, kinesthesis (motion sense) and spatial awareness are as easily overwhelmed (for me) as touch. Regarding spatial awareness, I actually tend more towards the agoraphobic than claustrophobic, but I have trouble with crowded spaces (i.e., spaces full of clutter or people).






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