Thursday, May 10, 2012

Primer in Understanding Autism

Since the most recent post by TBC has created a firestorm of comments, I thought it might be helpful for people to actually read some information regarding autism. Tony has publicly stated that he has been diagnosed as autistic.

Autism Speaks, a leading autism advocacy group, provides a wealth of information on many aspects of autism. I have included some easily understandable content here.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. However, symptoms and their severity vary widely across these three core areas. Taken together, they may result in relatively mild challenges for someone on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. For others, symptoms may be more severe, as when repetitive behaviors and lack of spoken language interfere with everyday life.

Research suggests that children with autism are attached to their parents. However the way they express this attachment can be unusual. To parents, it may seem as if their child is disconnected. Both children and adults with autism also tend to have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking and feeling. Subtle social cures such as a smile, wave or grimace may convey little meaning. To a person who misses these social cues, a statement like “Come here!” may mean the same thing, regardless of whether the speaker is smiling and extending her arms for a hug or frowning and planting her fists on her hips. Without the ability to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the social world can seem bewildering.

Many persons with autism have similar difficulty seeing things from another person's perspective. Most five year olds understand that other people have different thoughts, feelings and goals than they have. A person with autism may lack such understanding. This, in turn, can interfere with the ability to predict or understand another person’s actions.

It is common – but not universal – for those with autism to have difficulty regulating emotions. This can take the form of seemingly “immature” behavior such as crying or having outbursts in inappropriate situations. It can also lead to disruptive and physically aggressive behavior. The tendency to “lose control” may be particularly pronounced in unfamiliar, overwhelming or frustrating situations.

Some mildly affected children exhibit only slight delays in language or even develop precocious language and unusually large vocabularies – yet have difficulty sustaining a conversation. Some children and adults with autism tend to carry on monologues on a favorite subject, giving others little chance to comment. In other words, the ordinary “give and take” of conversation proves difficult. Some children with ASD with superior language skills tend to speak like little professors, failing to pick up on the “kid-speak” that’s common among their peers.

Another common difficulty is the inability to understand body language, tone of voice and expressions that aren’t meant to be taken literally. For example, even an adult with autism might interpret a sarcastic “Oh, that's just great!” as meaning it really is great.

Sleep problems are common among children and adolescents with autism and may likewise affect many adults.

Hmmm ... does any of this appear to describe anyone we know?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. However, the more you understand autism and its many complexities, the more you begin to see TBC in a different light.
M.S. in Clinical Psychology
Director -- Counseling and Advising Center
Some College in the U.S.A.


Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

I just read the post and comments you linked to. Wow.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous KenP said...

I sort of scanned it all. People! get a life. Realize the environment you've found yourself in. Do you go off on a guy in a wheelchair or special Olympian? Some disability aren't obvious but it shouldn't take this long to figure the one linked out. We all have problems some are obvious and some are worse than others.

The most I can embarrass myself is how I have done just what some there are doing. It called insensitive. Been there; done that; hate who I was. Join me.

6:11 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

It's great that you posted this. Sure Tony can be very frustrating sometimes but there's a reason why. NOT an excuse, but a reason.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Tatude said...

Nice link. You may take some heat from his haters. Ive know him a few years and his autism had a great effect on him. Not sure that it causes all his poor behavior but definately is a factor. I think most people who actually meet him in person get it. Hes an easy target to pick on and is sometimes his own worst enemy

7:53 PM  
Anonymous DaBlackPimp said...

People have been linking/posting the same autism info at Tony's blog for years (literally), ever since he started posting online around 2005-2006. If you go back through all of his old online haunts + his current blog people have posted that same info probably 50+ times, as well as links to autism resources and support groups in whatever area Tony was living in at the time.

I don't think anyone would argue that he absolutely wrestles with many of the issues outlined, especially emotional control and getting locked into repetitive, obsessive behaviors and thought patterns. Or argue that only Tony knows what that's like, as far as the demons he wrestles everyday.

I would argue that people who really care about Tony should be careful about chalking up his violent outbursts and asshole behavior to his autism. It's absolutely a contributing factor but a much larger factor is that Tony has learned over the years that he can act like an asshole whenever he wants (especially after a big loss) and face very few consequences.

Or, more simply: Tony was just as autistic a few days ago when he was winning big and on top of the world, claiming he couldn't be beat with his PLO short-stacking strategy. His autism didn't flare up and cause him to fly into a monkey rage -- he just lost a lot of money and didn't like it.

If people really want to help Tony I'd suggest they tackle some of the root issues. If you're going to meet up with him, take him to dinner at a nearby restaurant and get him out of the casino, if even for just a few hours.

Chime in when he's winning and running well at dem machines and on top of the world to remind him that he still needs to work to get out more, to read more, to do something other than gamble; don't just pat him on the head and say "Yep, he's autistic" when he goes on a TBC rampage.

Tatude will never be able to get this concept through the fat between his ears but I actually am rooting pretty had for TBC. I don't expect him to ever understand that but if you look past the stupid veneer of my site I'm saying nothing different than Grump and others who've tried to help Tony.

3:49 AM  
Blogger Tatude said...

Dude you have no idea what conversations I've had with Tony or what I've tried to help him with. All you do is stalk his every move and host a web site for people to harrass him.

Take a look at your own house. Do you really think having people mock him constantly does anything to help him. Don't try to play the role of a saint. It's pure bs. I' was sent links where people were mocking his dead father on your site and other garbage. I'm sure that does a lot to help him.

You are a phony. I could go further but I'm not gonna trash up someone else's blog. You can find the real me on Tony's blog.

6:40 AM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

@DaBlackPimp -- With Tony, it is what it is. And although it appears that some people who post on your blog would like to see Tony succeed, many of the comments appear to be fueled by hate.

I understand having some fun with Tony's idiosyncratic behavior. Yes -- the whole concept of having the blog and reading the tales of whether his roll goes up or down a few thousand is pretty absurd. But he is the real thing -- a guy with some limitations beyond his control, trying to make it as best he knows how.

I, and I am sure many of his supporters, have been blessed with many advantages that he never had. I shudder to only imagine some of the things he has had to deal with in his life. I want to help Tony, but sometimes knowing how to do that is a frustrating challenge. And to tell the truth, I don't know how much any of the assistance will untimately help anyway. I have not known Tony for very long, but I get the impression that he has come a long was over the past several years. I would expect that one has to be realistics in expectations for him. Slow, incremental change seems to be reasonable.

I guess I just wish the people who stalk and harass him would just let him be. Yes -- he creates one heck of a comedy show sometimes. But the way some people seem to be obsessing about him and wishing him harm is truly pathetic. At worst he has exhibited some d-bag behavior at times. And yeah -- shutting his piehole is the one skill he definitely needs to work on. But to think he is ready to go on some psycho rampage? Ha -- he is scared of his own shadow.

8:47 AM  
Anonymous DaBlackPimp said...

He's proven it time and time and time again: Tony's gonna Tony.

He absolutely knows the proper way to do any of the following: maintain his personal hygiene, treat women with respect, treat other players at the table with respect, treat employees of the casino with respect, and be kind to family and friends.

He's been told and shown how to act many, many times, often quite directly.

For a man that's surprisingly adept at learning how to navigate online personal ads and negotiate in-call GFEs (or analyzing comp payout tables) he suddenly and strangely turns completely incompetent when it comes to following simple advice that requires him to make an effort or, horror of horrors, do something he doesn't feel like doing.

You say autism, I say lazy. Six of one, half dozen of another. Tony's gonna Tony.

I'm absolutely not trying to say I'm helping Tony, because I'm definitely not; only someone as thick as Tatude would draw that conclusion.

I am rooting for him, though, and hope he gets the help he needs.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Tatude said...

Ps sorry lightning don't mean to bring this to your blog and I will not respond further. This fool and his followers spend too much time worrying about me for some reason. Maybe because I stick up for Tony, who knows. His blog and comment section speak for themselves. Peace out.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Missingflops said...

Lightning - Thanks for posting this information. As has been mentioned above, a lot of this, isn't really "new" to longtime followers of the TBC saga, but it's good to get a reminder and especially from someone who works in a field that strives for some deeper understanding of how we are wired.

A follow up comment that Tony made in his latest blog post caught my attention and I wanted to get your take on it. In response to a question of whether he had apologized to AlaskaGal Tony wrote:

"well according to twitter, akgals first comments to adam stein werent so nice about me, but the one yesterday later said id made a sincere effort to apologize, and for him and jasonsimon to drop the subject and she didnt want to talk about it anymore. im assuming that means she realized i never intended to offend or hurt her and just speak without thinking. so do u suppose maybe she read lightnings post?"

The reason the comment caught my attention is because it reads to me as somewhat inconsistent with the idea of a person who is so challenged at social interaction. It would seem to me that a person who is so limited wouldn't be trying to justify or excuse that behavior because, if they don't recognize the "right" way to interact with people than they wouldn't feel any need to justify anything. So, when the person then says they think someone they offended realizes that there was no intent to harm, well that suggests (to me as a layperson) that there is some analysis of the "victim's" thought process and if someone can do that analysis, then I'm seeing a disconnect with them not being able to go through the mental process to regulate their own behavior.

When he's pointing people to this blog post and suggesting that someone might have read it to increase their understanding, well that to me suggests a level of understanding that is inconsistent with the claim that he lacks the ability to relate to people. I'm leaving this comment here with the hopes that you can clarify these issues somewhat - thanks.

3:59 PM  
Blogger lightning36 said...

@Missingflops I can see where that can seem contradictory. This is not an all or nothing thing, however. I think that Tony just blurts out stuff without thinking many times. With a little reflection, he may understand that what he said or did was "wrong." He also seems to have this aversion to taking responsibility for almost anything. That being said, I did not observe him doing anything overt to harm anyone, but he does seem to keep score when people crap on him. And of course, when he gets angry at the table he acts impulsively.

Imagine yourself in his position. Can you imagine reading all the stuff everyone writes about him? And this is a guy who seems most motivated by fear.

I think that things are very complicated inside Tony's head. I mean, complaining about playing a blind and then dumping hundreds of dollars on blackjack and cabs? If you wrote a fictional story about a guy like this nobody would believe it.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous DaBlackPimp said...

I think Missingflops raises a really good point, and I think it'd be a mistake to chalk up his recent behavior to Alaskagal as keeping score when someone "crapped" on him.

If visiting someone in the hospital and bringing them a book and a milkshake is "crappping" on him, well, okay, I guess Alaskagal had it coming to her. If removing someone on Facebook after they incessantly spam you and bug you for rides to Laughlin or elsewhere is "crapping" on someone, then sure, by all means Tony, talk about how fat she is.

Did Josie crap on Tony, too, to justify the whole fake-suicidal-talk to test if you're a really good friend episode? Remember that one?

When Tony wants something, he's quite adept at understanding and recognizing social cues -- even to the point of fabricating behavior and lying in his blog, which he admitted to in the past to get staked or get other assorted handouts.

When Tony feels that someone no longer has anything to offer him (such as when Alaskagal unfriended him on Facebook) he ceases to care as to how what he says or does impacts them; he just says or does whatever he wants, regardless of consequences.

That's actually fairly sophisticated behavior and reasoning and not exactly the emotional infancy that Tony and others claim when he acts out and shows his ass.

Tony is absolutely missing the filter that many of us have, as far as some of the things he blurts out and his impulsive actions. And that's likely very, very much related to his autism and something he can't control and will never be able to control.

But I think he also absolutely understands how to act and the social interplay that goes into being "nice" to people and acting "right" around people.

He gets and processes all that (albeit in very strange ways sometimes) and once he moves you into the "can't-help-me-don't-care-about-you" file in his internal hard drive -- for whatever reason -- then he feels free to do and say anything and no longer cares about the impact he has on that person.

If you're in the "may-help-me-in-some-future-way" file (Grump is a great example, as you can see that Tony doesn't like many of the things Grump says in comments but he absolutely recognizes the potential future value of Grump to him) then Tony remains at least somewhat polite and civil to them.

His outbursts are definitely unfiltered but there's a lot of processing that precedes them.

As I keep saying, I hope those reaching out and trying to help Tony (which I'm 100% not doing, as I'm not helping the TBC in any way) can find more effective ways of doing it then continuing to let him play the autism card.

What does that look like? I really don't know. Maybe just trying harder to show him cause-effect, so that he has a more "generous" filter when he's filing people into folders on his TBC hard drive.

So instead of saying the way he treated Alaskagal is okay because he's autistic and can't understand social interactions, maybe point out that just because she unfriended him on Facebook doesn't mean she might regret it and friend him again (just like Tony did when he removed his mother and later re-added her), and as a friend she might visit him in the hospital again in the future and bring him things, etc.

I just think he needs a lot more help refining his filters than he needs pats on the head for being autistic. Consistent help, not just when he books a big loss and flies into a monkey rage, because he struggles with the same demons every day, not just on the losing ones.

(Tatude, you realize this post is about Tony and ways to help him, right? And not about you? Read slowly and sound out the words in your head. You'll get it eventually, big guy.)

1:38 AM  
Blogger Missingflops said...

Lightning - thanks for the follow up.

I've followed Tony for years as his story is compelling to me for some unfathomable reason. I try to understand and I am not someone who actively wishes for bad things for Tony. Whatever the reason though, the way Tony acts and the things he says make that very difficult. I do often remind myself that he is literally wired differently and that has to be accounted for.

Also, I don't think you missed a ton by not following this latest Survivor too closely. There was one person who was head and shoulders above the rest after about the mid-point of the game. It was fun to watch her, but generally it was kind of a boring season.

6:06 PM  

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