Importance of Clear Instructions for an Autistic Person (Car Wash Example)

Here’s an example of why clear instructions can be important for an autistic person. I’m using car wash as an example because I’ve hand washed them before.

If I’m told to do a good job washing a car, I might spend too much time removing tough stains and cleaning hard to see or reach areas, spending unrealistic amounts of work and time to get the job done.

Instead of making sure that the wheels of the car look clean, I might make sure that the water from wringing out the used towel can’t look any cleaner.

Instead of just spraying the top of a tall vehicle, or a vehicle’s bottom edge or crevices with water and removing only the obvious stains, I might go as far as carefully wiping it with a towel, and wiping it dry until it’s hard to see the stains close up.

If there’s areas difficult to reach with a vacuum cleaner’s hose such as under car seats, I might adjust them for vacuuming rather than just remove objects underneath by hand even though I’ve already done it recently.

If I feel that I missed some areas, I might go back and carefully look for hard to find stains rather than see the whole car as a clean car.

You can see problems with this.

One of the reasons I feel the need to tell others that I’m autistic is that clear instructions are necessary, it’s easy to be distracted by irrelevant details, I take things literally, and have difficulties reading non-verbal social cues which may be used as feedback.

The earlier clear instructions are given, the better.

It’s a little clearer to say “make sure that the car looks clean” or say “you don’t need to clean where it’s hard to see” rather than saying “make sure that you do a very good job” because I have a better idea of where to focus. I’m more likely to see the car like their friends see it.

I can misinterpret “do a better job”, as pay even more attention to details rather than do what’s relevant.

If told to work faster, I might scrub even harder or faster.

Questions to ask might be “does the car look clean?” while standing at a distance from the car.

Things that I might try include: watch people do the work, read articles about it, watch videos about it, ask for feedback, and ask questions about what’s needed to be done.

To avoid repeating the same mistakes, I’ll have to remember not to thoroughly clean difficult to see areas for my next car wash.

It’s possible that other autistic people have more or less difficulty in this area. They can be affected in different ways.

Other areas that benefit from clear instructions may include:

  • Jobs
  • Homework
  • Lab work
  • Chores
  • Socializing
  • Social cues
  • How much is too much or too little when expressing emotions?
  • Gift giving
  • How much time to spend with friends
  • Conversations
  • How much details to give when telling others about yourself or your interests
  • How to have eye contact without staring because eye contact is considered important
  • Other rules for socializing

 

Developing My Interest in Electronics

It took at least 10 years for electronics to become my hobby.

During childhood, I had some experience with electronics. The components that I used include LEDs, light bulbs, batteries, and wires. I also built other projects on electronics project lab kits.

My difficulties include burning out LEDs, not getting a DIY thermocouple to work, and not understanding the circuits in the labs. I didn’t have much other experience for a while.

More than 10 years later, I got back into electronics by using LEDs. I’m interested in LEDs because they’re energy efficient, have high colour purities, mercury free, long lasting, and have lots of other applications such as road safety. I think they’re also attractive visually. I learned about their circuits, their drivers, and their applications from Google search. I shopped for components both online and locally.

I like designing circuits because you get to include the features you want, and learn about them. The projects I made include LED circuits, dimmers, bike lights, sunrise simulators, flashlights, and lamps. Some of them were documented on www.instructables.com.

From designing circuits, I learned about other components such as transistors, voltage regulators, and 555 timers.

Since I’m into electronics, I studied electronics courses at BCIT. The courses covered troubleshooting, AC, DC, electronics components, microcontrollers, IC’s, and electronic circuits. The circuits we’ve built include amplifiers, LED displays, and timers.

I think working with circuits and developing my interest was very important for my success in the courses. If I took them a few years earlier, I doubt that I would have done as well.

Over time, from doing more research, I’ve upgraded my circuits. The bike lights were upgraded from a single pattern to more features including different patterns, and buttons from using microcontrollers instead of 555 timers or an on/off switch. The LED circuits were more efficient. The products became more compact from using custom made circuit boards and SMT components instead of prototyping boards. The products became lighter and more powerful from using Li-ion batteries instead of NiMH batteries.

In the future, I might try the Raspberry Pi, making multi-layer circuit boards, e-bikes, drones, wireless connectivity for the Arduino, 3D printers, other battery chemistries, other tools, and other components.

Sensory Overload in an Autistic Person

Sometimes, I seem to get sensory overload, which is common in autistic people.

My symptoms may include:

  • Things seems unreal
  • Hands feel like they’re about to disapper
  • Sounds can seem faint
  • Reduced peripheral vision awareness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Being quiet

I think those are symptoms of sensory overload or shutdown. They don’t seem familiar to other people. From the outside, it may look similar to daydreaming, forgetfulness, zoning out, being withdrawn, or distracted.

With sensory overload, it can be much harder to function. More time is needed to concentrate, and memorizing things can be difficult.

The possible triggers include:

  • Traffic
  • Loud noise
  • Crowds
  • Stores
  • Sleeping too little
  • New commute route
  • New schedule
  • New routine
  • Visiting new places
  • Other surprises

To recover, you should remove the trigger if possible. Ear plugs and sunglasses may be helpful. Make sure that you have enough hearing and vision for safety.

Note that other people with sensory overload may have different triggers and symptoms.

What do you think? Please feel free to comment about your experience with sensory overload.

Why We Shouldn’t Skip Dental Check-Ups (My Experience)

I missed dental visits for a few years and I’ll share how it affected my dental health, and about my dental hygiene.

Please note that not everyone is affected equally. There’s only a small possibility of being to gum disease and cavities without dental hygiene. Diet, hygiene, stress levels, health conditions, medications, and hormonal balance may affect the risk of gum disease.

If you suspect a dental problem, you should see a dentist. I recommend dentists who’s also knowledgeable about health.

For a few years before 2010, I didn’t see a dentist and had days when I brushed only once a day or less.

In mid-2010, I noticed sensitive teeth and felt some pain possibly from a small cavity, I was concerned which was why I went to a dentist. My teeth were x-rayed. Surprisingly, the radiographs showed only decay at the margin of a filling, and between two teeth. I thought I would have a mouthful of cavities. From then on, I got dental cleanings and examinations regularly. A few small cavities were diagnosed years later.

In 2011, I got dental cleanings. Late 2011, when I flossed after a dental cleaning, most or all of my gum line was bleeding. Even after a few weeks of flossing, my gums were still tender. Months later, my gums felt sore when biting and my teeth felt a little loose after flossing.

At that stage, I didn’t let my dentist know about it yet because I thought there wasn’t a problem, and I must be too young. Healthy gums aren’t supposed to bleed.

In 2014, I noticed bleeding when brushing my upper molars. My gums also receded far enough that the space between two of the roots of my molars were visible, making cleaning more difficult. I had my gums examined. My teeth were also x-rayed which even revealed bone loss around my tooth sockets!

Here are my pocket depth readings in 2015:

  • 37 – 4mm
  • 9 – 5mm
  • 3 – 6mm

Since there were pockets, dental cleanings were recommended at least every four months instead of six months for those with healthy gums. With gum disease, it’s important to have more frequent cleanings to prevent our gum pockets from getting worse. Flossing only reaches 3mm, and 3mm or smaller pockets are healthy.

Interdental brushes and gum stimulator were also recommended. Adding more tools meant longer cleaning times which is one of the the good reasons for prevention.

I also had laser treatments which cleans our gums and helps them to reattach to the roots of our teeth. After the treatment, you’re instructed to wait for healing before flossing the treated areas. I had one quadrant treated per appointment.

Unfortunately, my gums didn’t improve in the long run so only two quadrants were treated. Maybe it was because I stopped using interdental brushes before the second treatment. I thought it wasn’t necessary.

Interdental brushes seemed to help but my gums were still inflamed. Even ozone wasn’t enough.

In late 2016, I started using the Water Pik after reading encouraging studies and reviews about it. It can actually penetrate 6mm! My gums became lighter and the pocket depths decreased.

waterpik penetrate.png

Tom Haws has articles about his experience with the Water Pik too. He claimed that his gum health improved as well.

I think once you have pockets and other difficult to reach areas, you need more than brushing and flossing. Now I rinse my mouth after eating, brush twice a day, and use an interdental brush, floss, and the Water Pik before going to bed.

I don’t recommend repeating my mistake. It’s better to prevent dental problems in the first place. Even if you already have gum disease, you may be able to prevent its progression and even reverse it.

Bike Light That may Improve Cycling (Features List)

I’m working on a bike light for improving cycling. Its features include:

  • Low beam brightness controlled by speed for longer battery life
  • Inactivity timer for improving battery life
  • Daytime running lights
  • Side visibility LEDs
  • Turn signal lights
  • Brake light with brake status LED
  • LED strips
  • Tip over alarm for alerting road users of a crash
  • Horn
  • Bell
  • Low power modes
  • Adjustable modes for different riding conditions and power levels
  • Easy to locate switches
  • Li-ion batteries

What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?

Social Cues List

As someone with autism, I understand that socializing can be difficult for those on the spectrum which is why I created a list of social cues.

most-communication
Only 7% of communication is spoken words.
  • Eye blinking
  • Eye contact
  • Movement of eyes
  • Pupil size
  • Tear production
  • Saliva production
  • Facial expression
  • Gesture
  • Fidgeting
  • Posture
  • Walking style
  • Travelling speed
  • Content of conversations
  • Framing in conversations
  • Volume of voice
  • Tone of voice
  • Rate of speech
  • Perspiration
  • Skin temperature
  • Changes in skin tone
  • Appetite
  • Thirst
  • Interests
  • Alertness
  • Respiratory rate
  • Respiratory depth
  • Swallowing
  • Distance
  • Personal space
  • Pace of work
  • Energy levels
  • Jewelries
  • Sunglasses
  • Headphones
  • Hair
  • Clothing

I tend to rely more on spoken words and overlook the social cues especially if they’re subtle.

It’s possible to learn the cues by studying them. Even then, socializing can still be challenging.

What do you think?

 

13 Interesting Facts about Autism

Here are 13 interesting facts about autism. Some of them may be contrary to what we thought.