Making Fog—And Other Connections

While other theories of autism explain it as a disability, the Intense World Theory of autism explains it as an intensification of the neurological processing. This approach also explains how it is that many people with autism have strong abilities as well.

Daniel’s strength certainly lies in his ability to make strong causal connection. For example, one morning, as I was taking Daniel and Dylan to the babysitter’s, Daniel noticed his breath in the cold air.

“I’m making fog.”

I told him that he was right. I also told him that fog was water in the air and that fog and clouds were the same thing.

“And when clouds come together, they make rain?” And he brought his hands together and intertwined his fingers.

He was, of course, right. When clouds become dense enough, rain drops form and fall. These are the kinds of observations Daniel makes all the time. He was able to make that leap of logic that most 5 year olds –- heck, far too many adults, let alone children –- cannot make.

Around that time,  Daniel also asked me, “What is air?” I told him that it’s what we breathe. He then asked me, “How do lungs work?” After I told him, he asked if the lungs looked like the heart. I want you to think about the implications of that connection he made.

Perhaps the most astounding one he ever made involved magnetism and electricity. Daniel had a fascination with power plants there for a while, and I showed him online about how generators work–that the water or steam produced by heating water with coal, wood, or fission spun a generator that produced electricity–and where the electricity went. I didn’t go into details about exactly how the generator produces electricity, only that spinning was involved. Later, when Daniel asked me how magnets work, I told him. I explained about how electrons are flowing through and around the magnet. He then said, “So, if you spin it, it will produce electricity?” And that is, of course, what is being spun in a generator to produce electricity. He was six at the time.

I wish I could remember them all.

A Report on an Experiment with Glutamine

After writing about the connection of glutamine to both leaky gut and autism, I decided to experiment upon myself and start taking glutamine supplements. I have been taking them since shortly after I posted that article, and when I was taking them more regularly, I must say that psychologically I did feel a bit different. By definition I could not tell you what feeling neurotypical feels like, so I can’t say I feel that way, but I did feel a bit calmer, more relaxed.

Now, as for the gut issues, after testing the effects of the glutamine one week:

Wednesday I had one cinnamon roll. No gut problems. Thursday, I tried two cinnamon rolls. Again, no gut problems. When I told my wife, she suggested we go eat at CiCi’s Pizza.

Now, the last time I had eaten at CiCi’s, I had a horrendous reaction. I had gut problems for three days. Acid reflux, the whole works. It was one of the worst reactions I’d ever had against gluten. But after taking glutamine for two weeks, I did not have near the reaction. I felt uncomfortable, with a little gas, but it was not a full-blown allergic reaction.

What glutamine does is reduce the diameter of the pores in the small intestines. Leaky gut occurs when the pores in the intestines open up too wide, allowing things like whole proteins through. This can trigger an allergic reaction. But glutamine causes the pores to tighten up. Food then has to be broken down more before it can cross over into the bloodstream. Gluten broken down into its constituent amino acids is no different from any other protein, so if you can prevent it from crossing over as a whole protein, you can eliminate the immunological response to it.

I have continued taking glutamine, for several years now. I mostly try to avoid eating anything with gluten in it, of course, but because I can now take a few gluten tablets before I know I’ll eat wheat, it’s nice to know I don’t have to continue obsessively avoiding it as I once had to do.

Asperger’s or Introversion?

When I first came to understand I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I had many people tell me that I am merely introverted Well, I am certainly introverted. But let us consider the Asperger’s Fact Sheet and the criteria. Do I meet them?

  • Do I have an “all-consuming interest and a one-sided, self-focused social approach”?

As a child I was obsessively interested in dinosaurs, then sharks, then orchids.  I would make lists of dinosaurs or sharks or orchids; sometimes those “lists” would be drawing after drawing after drawing — in a list-like fashion. They would be labeled with data about the dinosaur or shark or orchid. Length or location or some sort of objective fact.

I am still obsessively focused, but the focus has become self-organizing network processes. I can sit and talk about that for hours and hours. And I promise you that the conversation will be quite one-sided and self-focused. Most of my conversations have been and continue to be. As a result, I work well with others on projects in which I am interested, but I don’t socialize well.

  • Is it true that because I “cannot read social or emotional cues well, they come off as insensitive, pushy or strange, yet have very little insight into how they are perceived”?

I cannot tell you how many times I have been accused of being arrogant. Even when I am insisting we need to have humility in our ignorance. I have been told I am “insensitive” when I try to solve problems. I’ve been told more than once I seem “strange.” And my wife constantly reassures me that I have very little insight as to how I am perceived by others and that I cannot read social or emotional cues well.

  • Do I engage in “taking turns speaking, staying on a topic for a polite number of turns, and showing interest in someone else’s comments. People living with Asperger’s tend to talk at people instead of with them, and will often talk about their favorite topics long after the other person has become tired of the subject.”

I can definitely dominate a conversation. I have a tendency to interrupt when I have a thought. I stay on topics for a long, long time (or, if I’m not interested, not very long at all), and I have a hard time feigning interest. I do tend to talk at people instead of with them — I use language to communicate information rather than to create relationships — and I most definitely talk abut my favorite topics long after the other person has become tired of the subject. I am sure I am tiring even at conferences.

  • “Having a normal or higher IQ allows a person to learn and know, to push the envelope in intellectual ability, and to rejoice in the pursuit of some realm of knowledge, but there can also be negative effects. When someone is aware he is different, when, for all his intelligence, he cannot successfully make a friend, or get a date, or keep a job, he may end up far more prone to depression and despair than a person with a lower IQ. It has been found that children with both high-functioning autism and Asperger’s suffer from depression and anxiety more than their typical peers.”

I have always had a hard time making friends. I typically just “befriend” the friends of friends. I got by with my brother’s friends for a long time. I made exactly one friend during my Master’s in English, and I lost track of him immediately after we graduated. That was two years in Mississippi. I made one friend during my Ph.D., and was mostly friends with his friends. I got my first girlfriend when I was 25. I was, in fact, quite depressed for most of the 1990s because of these kinds of relationship problems. And I continue to have problems keeping a job.

  • Meltdowns.

I used to have meltdowns. When I was interrupted at a task, especially. When things just became too much. I have had two nervous breakdowns. But I have, over the years, learned how to deal with the stressors in my life. Yet, I do have to fight off blowing up when I am interrupted at my obsession/work.

  • Clumsiness.

I walked on my tiptoes as a child — something quite common in people with Asperger’s/autism. I was a disaster at trying to play any kind of sports. Teachers complained about my handwriting skills.
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There are other aspects to Asperger’s, which includes thinking style. Bottom-up thinking, analytical thinking, being able to see patterns extremely well, strongly visual thinking — are all typical of those with Asperger’s and autism. I am equally very bad at top-down and strategic thinking typical of neurotypicals. Strategic thinking is extremely exhausting, and I’m not very good at it.

I suppose it is entirely possible to have every trait of Asperger’s and not have it, to only be introverted. But you should probably bet on Asperger’s being the most likely diagnosis. And my own positive diagnosis certainly confirmed that bet, at least for me.