Many aspies (an intimate term that people with Asperger’s Syndrome use to label themselves) would be fantastic event planners. We plan way ahead, ensuring everything is taken care of way before time. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages of advanced planning.
I had started planning to participate in the 3 days event – Master Classes for Adults with ASD Level 1 (Diagnostic, and Intervention) and Asperger’s Female Presentation – in late February when Minds & Hearts first sent out the newsletter on the event to be held in Perth. I was thrilled that the master classes were for adults. I booked for the 3 days event (that could be attended individually) immediately. The event was scheduled for late August.
I started planning for the 3 days event in Perth CBD, and decided promptly that I would stay in a hotel near the venue – Mantra by Murray. I was reluctant to stay at Mantra by Murray as there was no free wifi – key factor of consideration! I decided on Miss Maud Swedish hotel as it looks so adorable and cosy! I am so happy with the stay! My booking came with free daily breakfast and wifi.
Change of Plan
Somewhere between the booking and the event, I decided that I will take my undergraduate degree progression to Denmark, Europe (there is actually a suburb in Perth named Denmark) from the 2nd semester of 2016, and the semester starts on 01 September with a mandatory orientation attendance on 30-31 August.
With that decision, everything changed! I have to work out the academic components (application to the University in Denmark, current academic manuscripts, credit points calculation, academic units etc.), immigration components (residence permit, visa etc.), and accommodation arrangements (lease termination and vacate notice in Perth, accommodation application in Denmark), travel arrangements (flights, travel SIM card, telco data/voice plans in Denmark etc.) and financial planning (closing of bank accounts, paying bills etc.). Now my city staycation has become a transit point before flying out from Perth, so I have to consider baggage shipment, luggage packing etc. To make things more complicated (for me who is severely lacking in spatial rotation capability), I have to take a train service from Copenhagen Airport to the city that I will be relocated so I cannot be bringing everything or many things, or most of my things (yes, that has been one of the most distressing considerations!)
While all these planning were underway, I was still working super hard academically for 1st semester at Murdoch University, especially that one of the units was Statistics – I am also dyscalculic, so numeral modules do take a heavy toll on my mental and energy capacity. I did exceptionally well for 2 other units and unfortunately Stats unit did not match the academic performance profile of other units, alas, I managed to pass the Stats unit.
Advanced planning is an essential evil to manage surprises and acts as a coping mechanism to manage anxiety by predictability. People plan all the time, but we plan meticulously, down to checking the weather, meals, clothing, and other minute details.
Usually I become more ‘robotic’ when nearing to any planned events. Anxiety is usually very managed and I would have allowed more than enough free slots for some variables (aka surprises) to occur. When I was younger, this was not something I did well, as I failed to comprehend why things didn’t fall into places according to my plan when I had executed every small operations impeccably. I often fell into periods of frustration and depressive moods when that happened. With age, I have learnt that I do not have complete control over everything, and according to Pareto principle (80-20 rule), the 20% variable may determine the 80% effects that may change the outcome. It’s a long and trying journey to ‘condition’ my rigidly rational mind to grasp the (unreasonable) concept of life.
With meticulous planning, my mind started to ‘rehearse’ everything from packing to vacating to booking the Uber to hotel, to checking-in, to unpacking, to getting dinner, to orienting myself in the new environment, to walking to the venue from the hotel before the event on the following day, to getting dinner etc., I was on the ‘operation execution’ mode. There was a small level of anxiety as I couldn’t have rehearsed with visualisation of the hotel room location, but it was quickly overcome.
The Day of Event
I arrived at the venue on time, but sleepy. My physical (and probably mental) exhaustion was largely due to the days of packing and mental route rehearsals, and most importantly, I have been a noon-riser for quite a while now. My circadian rhythm needs to be reset to accommodate to waking early.
The Big Shots in Asperger’s Community
The event was jointly presented by Prof. Tony Attwood and Dr. Michelle Garnett, renowned experts in Asperger’s. I am usually not ‘star-struck’, I had worked in places that had celebrity clients, and I was unusually stoic. To be honest, I do recognize and acknowledge their social statuses and achievements; they are just people with different occupations.
I meant to blog and talk more about just the event, but it is hard to separate the event from my personal experiences, and the latter usually takes precedent – this is my blog, I talk about me, more. 😛
I enjoyed the event. The master classes are especially informative for professionals, and have had attracted psychologists, occupational therapists, counsellors, psychiatrists, educators and social workers etc. to attend the event. I could be the only psych major student, but make no mistake, I am quite an expert myself. One of my favorite benefits of being a Uni student is the unlimited access to latest scientific journals – it is my digital heaven!
Groundwork for Specialisations
I plan, remember? My undergrad learning (I don’t prefer ‘study’ as I genuinely want to learn and not just study) is when I start laying my groundwork for my areas of interests – possible specialisations – in developing effective coping strategies for people with autism and learning disability. Therefore, as much as possible, when allowed to, I would choose topics related to these areas, or somehow circle around these topics. It is easy to include these topics in most of the psychology units, such as social psych, biological bases, and even electives that involves society and self. Everything is relative. 😉
The drawbacks are that some educators are not exactly comfortable around such topics and may mark me down; of course, it is possible that I had in fact did poorly. So, I am quite packed with a lot of researches in my mental drawers on topic of autism spectrum disorders; being on the spectrum also exposes me to valuable experiential information when researching in these areas.
Invaluable Affirmations from the Event
Therefore, the event did not necessarily expand my knowledge base, but provided invaluable affirmations on some of my assumptions (some are controversial that got me marked down) made in my papers. Autism has been controversial, so I do know the academic risks when I choose to argue on this topic. I take my chances. Although I am earnestly building my foundations, the reality is that I may not take the academic qualification to as far as I wished, due to financial constraints.
On one hand, it is more ideal to work on ‘safe’ topics and get better grades that will qualify me for 4th year honours progression, on another, this may be my last shot, I want to make it count. 😉
Asperger’s Female Presentation
The last day of the event was to heighten awareness of Asperger’s female presentation. The asperger’s female community would certainly agree with Tony and Michelle on their differentiated assumptions about both asperger’s (in general) and asperger’s in female. Many areas are adequately and aptly addressed to illuminate the erroneous information made about people with asperger’s. One particular area is empathy capability – it has been inaccurately documented that aspies have deficits in empathy. If anything, aspies are more empathic than the neurotypicals, hence the sensory input overload.
This event has been very empowering for aspie females (and males, since many traits are shared between males and females except the difference in varying degrees in some traits, or response methods etc.). If I had not chosen to sit in the front row – it was a bigger crowd than the master classes, so I was getting more anxious, and would be too distracted by small movements if seated between rows of at the back – I might have cried my eyes out a few times over, as the points made were spot on and sometimes strung a sensitive chord for us.
Tony Attwood is a phenomenal hero to many aspies, worldwide. He gives a voice to us and the voice speaks clear.
He is the hero to my hero, rather, heroine, Liane Holliday Willey, the celebrated author of best seller books such as “Pretending to be Normal” and “Safety Skills for Asperger Women” etc.. Well, that makes him my grand-hero?
I will talk more about how profoundly Liane has impacted on my life and my current journey on a separate post (that I am hoping that I don’t forget as I may take a while to find my bearings in Denmark). She is my heroine because I find courage in her story, an undeterred force that puts me on this arduous course of major changes.
Meanwhile, I bid farewell to Perth and open my arms wide (and hopefully not hit anyone in the process) to welcome Denmark to my next chapter!