Trials and Tribulations

Yesterday was the day of the second stage of my contribution to some research in to Asperger’s Syndrome and Oxytocin, and also of a meeting of the King’s Lynn Social and Support Group, of which I am group leader.

I woke up at 5:40AM, which enabled me to take the morning at a leisurely pace, consuming two cups of decaf (no caffinated products for 24 hours pre testing) coffee along the way.

I arrived at Learning Works for placement in good time, but the Centre Manager, the only person to have a key to the office, was delayed at the doctor’s surgery. Nonetheless, and in spite of two separate trips out of the office, one to collect the Centre Manager’s prescription, and the other to the job centre as it was my signing day, I had a productive morning, before heading off at 12:30 to be able to catch the appropriate train to Cambridge.

The journey down was suitably uneventful, and having learned from last week I made use of the (excellent) bus service between the station and Addenbrookes. The testing session itself started with a basic language task (researcher read out a list of words, and I had to come with a concise definition for each one), then a blood pressure test (118 over 70, pulse rate 79), then the nasal spray and a 45 minute break. Then I performed the same post spray tasks as last week (not surprisingly finding them easier as it was the seocnd time I was doing them). After some very routine paperwork, the session ended with another blood pressure test (133 over 71, pulse rate 71). After this measurement the medic, both younger and obviously fitter than I, said that it was like measuring his blood pressure!

After the (clinical) trial, the tribulations. First of all, there was a delay on the buses towards Cambridge, so I arrived at the station with a bare few minutes to locate the correct platform for the train to Lynn. Then this train was delayed, good because it meant I could catch my breath, but bad because it meant that I would not be arriving early for my meeting, and might well end up being late. A blood pressure test at this stage of proceedings would probably have given a very high reading!. The train arrived into Lynn at 6:56 giving me four minutes to get from the train to the meeting room to be on time. Austin Fields is very close to the station, but given the presence of ticket inspectors, and the elongated exit because barriers are being built, it was beyond even me to get there in time, though I was only a couple of minutes late.

The meeting itself was a fun event. Somebody who was attending for the seocnd time brought along his photo album to show us, and I had a letter outlinining preliminary findings from Natalie Cross’s research into Asperger’s Syndrome and Difficult decision making.

By the time I got home I was so tired that I went straight to bed, where I read for about an hour before going to sleep. It was, as anticipated quite a gruelling day, but alson an enjoyable one. As Richmal Crompton’s William said: “A busy day is a happy day, so long as it doesn’t include scule.”

I think I have found a View from the Rooftop that I have not previously displayed…

Guinea Pig (and a few other bits)

To start with, a nomination for stupidest piece of parking of the year: Somebody had parked right at the bottom corner of the Fakenham Fleapit (formally known as Hollywood Cinemas), where the buses have to turn on their way back out of Fakenham. This is a tight corner in any circumstance for a bus, but when a car has been parked right on said corner it becomes exceedingly tight as evidenced by the fact that the driver of the bus I was on took four attempts to get past said car without hitting it (I was not alone among the passengers in reckoning that anyone parking there deserved to have the car get hit). There was someone in uniform standing near the car by the time we got through, so maybe the driver will be somewhat poorer as punishment for their selfishness. The final point to emphasise how stupid this piece of parking was is that the places one wants to visit in Fakenham are all very close together, and one can park free for up the three hours in the Tesco car park (more than long enough to get everything done).

Now to the main body of the piece. Yesterday was the first of two successive Fridays on which I am taking part in some tests relating to Autistic Spectrum Conditions and a substance called Oxytocin. In preparation I was required to abstain from alcohol for 24 hours prior to the start of the session (no great difficulty) and also caffinated products (I bought a jar of decaf since I was not prepared to sacrifice my morning coffee altogether).

I arrived at the testing suite a mere ten minutes before my session was due to begin (it is tucked away in an obscure corner of the Addenbrookes complex and took me about 20 minutes to locate following a 45 minute walk from the station), but fortunately recovered quickly from the journey and was ready by the appointed time. The session began with some visual/spatial tasks which I had done twice before as part of other research and hence found easy, with my memory helping where native skill did not. Then came the nasal spray part of the session. Before the spray could be administered the medic had to take a blood pressure reading which came out at a satisfactory 127 over 64. I had to put the nozzle of the spray in one nostril while holding the other closed and press the spray once, then repeat for other nostril, and twice more for each nostril.

This done there followed a 45 minute break before the second part of the process took place. These were all computer tasks and ranged from fitting adjectives to facial expressions (toughest), through fitting adjectives to a combination of facial expressions and voices to locating a small, simple shape in a bigger complex shape (the easiest by far). This done, there were a few questions to answer, an expenses form to fill, a second blood pressure test to conclude the session (129 over 75) and then head for home.

I suspect next Friday will be tougher for two reasons. One is that I am pretty sure that I received the placebo yesterday and will therefore get the oxytocin active spray next week. The second reason is that whereas yesterday once the session was over I was able to head for home, next Friday I will have to go straight to the meeting of the King’s Lynn Social and Support Club for Adults with Aspergers Syndrome, and will therefore be out doing various things from 8:45 when I will set off to my placement until about 9:15PM when I will finally arrive home. Just how hard will I find such a day? Watch this space to find out.

We seem (at least in Norfolk) to have skipped spring this year and moved straight into summer – I sat out on my terrace on Tuesday, for Wednesday lunch (taking full advantage of having a placement a few minutes walk from home and a whole hour lunch break), and was outside for as much of Thursday as I could engineer (effectively all save the two bus trips between Lynn and Fakenham), wore short sleeves yesterday and did not utilise the jumper I had equipped myself with until steeping of the train at Lynn at 6:30. I will be moving outside as soon as the sun is over my terrace today which will probably be around 10:30. The view from the rooftop confirms this optimism, showing the top of the Granaries, a contrail (a word made by splicing condensation and trail, and a more accurate descriptor than the older vapour trail), and a hint of heat haze (yes – in an English March).

Placement and other bits and bobs

I am now settled in my placement, doing Monday mornings, Wednesday all day and Friday mornings. The computer I have been put on is very slow, but apparently it is going to be replaced soon, so this is only a temporary frustration.

On Tuesday night I had the good fortune to attend a talk by Patricia Fara, a well known historian of science. Having written a book which compresses 4,000 years of history into 400 pages (and which I recommend anyone to read – it si excellent), for this talk she was then compressing that into 40 minutes.

I decided that as there was little walking involved, I would use this to give a new pair of shoes some serious wearing. Unfortunately this proved a  misjudgement, and my heels are still padded with a double layer of plaster in consequence.

Todays view from the rooftop is a side on shot of King’s Lynn Minster.

Seetec 1 A4E 0

Tomorrow at 8:30AM I begin a placement which combines with a course at Learning Works. This has been found for me by Seetec, who even leaving aside everything else have thus done more to assist me in the space of three months than A4E managed in four times as long.

Given the draconian sanctions that A4E were allowed to use against people who failed to keep their side of the ‘bargain’, the lack of assistance I got in the time I was there was very unimpressive. I am thoroughly looking forward to being back in a working environment, and boosting my skill set.

At A4E I had to show up weekly to do jobsearch on their computers but was generally unsupervised, while at Seetec they see me only once a month and we keep in contact by email or phone otherwise, which I much prefer.

Today’s view from the rooftop features Clifton House Tower, with a bird perched atop the flagstick.