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Frightened of elephants

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  • #16

    All this is starting to get interesting. I'm especially interested by what Gardener and cwoodgold said - I'd never really thought about it properly though I'd be lying if I said it wasn't on my radar.

    Let me explain. I have a 4 year old boy - he is the light of my life and has been diagnosed with autism. Now he has a moderate case - the largest concern was that he - at 4 and a half years old - is now only really beginning to talk in earnest - and even now we're only at one and two word phrases intermingled with sign language.

    Now I talked early and being born in a small village in the 70's I don't think anyone there knew what autism was. But as the pediatrician was talking us through her concerns for my son I sat there silently going "I do that.", "That sounds like me", etc. Not as severe - but the tendencies are there.

    I need to do more research but my over-simplistic view is that ADHD, ADD and autism are all in the same realm - they are most certainly not the same but for example with my little boy I know he is really really bright. BUT - and it's a big but - he's really bright only when you can get his attention and hold it. If you can motivate him (reward?) then he can learn things that I think he's struggled with for ages in a matter of minutes only having been shown once. It's not that he's deficient in his mental capacity - rather getting enough of his "brain time" for it to process what you need him to learn is the challenge.

    And so it is with me - if I go back to my school days - I could never handle subjects like history - to sit through and hour of listening to facts was impossible for me. I'd be lucky if I made it 5 minutes in before my brain switched off. I was constantly doodling to keep my brain going and to stave off the feeling of going out of my mind with boredom. However maths - that I could do - pay attention for 5 minutes and learn the formula and then apply it ad infinitum - easy peasy. I excelled in maths, science, computer studies. At university I trained to be an electronic engineer (applied maths).

    Now here I am in my mid thirties and in some ways I have grown hugely. In other ways little has changed.

    I am known at work for my lack of attention span. For me meetings are a death sentence unless I am actually involved in a lively debate or the centre of attention. But I work in IT. And it would be easy to sound conceited but I'm good at it. Very good. To the point where I'm viewed of as more or less indispensible (as was proved the other day when I talked to my superiors about leaving the company).

    But my level of skill is all based around my ability to work round my "condition" - I can store enough information in my head to attack most things - but I can't remember all the specifics. For that I use Evernote - it's like my brain stores the clues or crumbs and then I rely on something to store the detail.

    I am guilty of procrastination. And I do feel good when I let up a bit and give myself some play time.

    I do seem to work well under pressure and when the adrenalin is flowing - however as is the case with adrenalin sooner or later it burns out and then I'm left feeling listless, directionless, and back into procrastination mode.

    I feel like I'm really onto something here - haven't had time to do any reading yet but the next question in my mind if naturally "ok - if this is me then what do I do next?".


    • #17
      Originally posted by sparkyjf View Post

      I feel like I'm really onto something here - haven't had time to do any reading yet but the next question in my mind if naturally "ok - if this is me then what do I do next?".
      Diagnoses of autism and Asperger's syndrome are being deprecated in favor of autism spectrum disorder, which suggests a continuum of abilities and behaviors. My wife is a neurobiologist, and her position is that we simply don't know enough to have a good understanding of the origin(s) of autistic behavior, its diagnosis or treatment. Listen to experts who are smart, honest and compassionate.


      • #18
        Originally posted by mcogilvie View Post
        Listen to experts who are smart, honest and compassionate.
        Having worked in mental health for close to two decades, and married to a psychiatrist, I can assure you we know far less (at least with respect to causation and cures) than some claim. The smart, honest, compassionate and seasoned clinicians will admit this.


        • #19
          Oh I do believe that - that we know far less than some people would admit to. Between my ex-wife, my own son, and my own mental health during some of the stress I've been under I know full well that even most of the most considered approaches to these things seem to be based on best guesses and evaluating the progress and outcomes.

          Off to do some reading on ADD - I'm really curious now if that really is me. I don't want a label as such - but I'm a firm believe that if you know something is "wrong" - and I don't like that term because this is just how I am - and you acknowledge it, then you can address it. Perhaps instead of wrong I should say "something could be improved".


          • #20
            Originally posted by sparkyjf View Post
            Perhaps instead of wrong I should say "something could be improved".
            I think this is a much healthier approach to any emotional concern. Woody Allen would - by most estimates - seem to have a combination of OCD and/or anxiety. However he has learned (with psychoanalysis) to focus his attention, not on curing his anxiety, but channelling it in appropriate ways. The result: He releases approximately one film per year.

            His relationship history is another matter, and one that many artistic types share.


            • #21
              If you know that you can pay attention for 5 minutes easily, then make sure all your next actions can be done quickly, ideally 5-10 minutes but no more than 20. Then they will be less likely to repel you.
              I've done this, as I often will put off long tasks because I get bored easily and after 40 minutes want to change activity, so I've found that breaking tasks down into smaller chunks makes them less repulsive.
              At first I found having lots of projects and many next actions daunting, but when the NA are smaller and I get through more in a day, this also means I have more variety in my day and get bored less, and maintain focus better.
              I have a really poor memory too, and since using OneNote my life has changed for the better. Every thought goes in there, and whenever I've done a NA I'll put some note in there about what I did, so I can easily check on what I've done and what still needs to be done, so switching really regularly doesn't matter.


              • #22
                If your tap water is fluoridated, it might help to switch to drinking non-fluoridated water. I started drinking non-fluoridated water about a year and a half ago, and since then I've been able to sleep better and think more clearly. Here's a link with information about neurotoxicity of fluoridation:

                Give yourself little rewards for doing little tasks. You can plan to play with a toy for half a minute, physically pat yourself on the back, stand up, put your arms in the air and turn around, etc. Practice congratulating yourself and feeling good about getting small steps done.

                Lucy Palladino's book "Find Your Focus Zone" has some good techniques. I particularly liked how she pointed out that for each task, there's an ideal level of adrenaline (not too high, not too low), and that you can be aware of your current level of adrenaline and what the ideal level is for the task you want to do right now, and use specific techniques (like taking some deep breaths, walking around for a minute etc.) to raise or lower your adrenaline to just the right level.

                Being most productive the last couple of hours of the day because there's a deadline suggests that earlier in the day at least, raising the adrenaline level would help. A good exercise workout before work in the morning and/or at lunchtime can raise dopamine, helping you concentrate better for several hours.

                You can set deadlines for yourself: e.g. choose a small task, set a timer and decide you'll see if you can finish the task before the timer goes off. That's a way to make work more fun and raise adrenaline. You might try the Pomodoro technique.

                Saying things aloud, even if you're just talking to yourself, can also help raise your alertness level. "Now I'm going to ...[small step]"

                You might like books like "Time Management for Unmagageable People" by Anne McGee-Cooper and "Time Management for the Creative Person" by Lee Silber.