Monday, August 31, 2009

Service Animals: The Cat's Meow

Today is the end of an era. My textless era, that is.

Yes, at 2:27pm (EDT) today, I sent my first text message ever. Naturally, to Emily.

Meanwhile, Samuel, a 14-year-old Aspie, is training service cats for autists and Aspies. He's preparing them to, among other things, notice when the owner is slipping back into compulsive or repetitive behavior and interrupt it, soothe an owner feeling anxious or even starting to have a meltdown, help an owner navigate social situations and carry tags letting others know the owner's name and neurological situation (and in the case of a young owner perhaps the name and phone number of a parent).

Cats, being smaller than dogs, may be perceived as less threatening by their owners and others. Also, cats may be both physically and emotionally (especially for autists and Aspies who needs lots of alone time) lower-maintenance creatures than dogs.

These cats were strays before he found them, meaning that he (and their future owners) may also be saving their lives.

Keep up the good work, Samuel!

(I'm only sorry I wasn't able to talk with Samuel himself. I received no response to an email I sent to the address on his site.)

Hat-tip: Anne Reed, trial lawyer and jury consultant.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's New


22 years ago today - also on a Thursday, in fact - I went off to college full-time for the first time. As with most people, college certainly is a life-changer. In my case, experiences in college started to bring home to me the problems with the ways I was behaving toward others.

Back home, I was to some extent shielded from the social consequences of my actions because the teachers knew I was a "good kid" (albeit mouthy) and I wasn't committing any crimes. People may not have liked me, but I still did pretty well in class, was inducted into the National Honor Society and (eventually) got into and graduated from an Ivy League school.

To some extent during high school, more so during college and mainly during graduate/law/B-school (if you go that route) and beyond, subjective factors matter. You may have a "right" to be invited into your school's chapter of the National Honor Society if your GPA is at least a certain level and you have no felony convictions. But no one has to make your life halfway pleasant as a roommate, date you, invite you to join a club, rent a room in their house to you or hire you - or keep you or persuade others to take you once you've left.

For that matter, college admissions itself - particularly for selective schools - is quite subjective. Any college or university which turns down at least, say, one out of four applicants is sending away some who are qualified to go there and who can do the work. The school just can't take even every qualified person who applies. Choices have to be made on subjective, gut level matters of preference.

Welcome to the rest of your life. We all need to persuade people, every week if not every day, to do what we want. Often we're competing with others who want them to do things their way and not yours. Precisely because logic is universal, your competitors can use it just as well as you. You do need to appeal to others' reason, but what will put you over the top?

Getting them to personally like you and your ideas. Your competitors can imitate your logic, but they can't actually be you.

Here are some good ideas for persuading people, from Mark Bennett...a defense attorney who has to persuade juries on a regular basis. He has a good reputation as an effective defense lawyer, and that means he understands that just as the jurors didn't pick what to eat for last night's dinner just by looking at the nutrition label, they won't pick which side to favor in court just by listening to the logic and evidence. Mr. Bennett knows that whomever the jurors like more has a sizable edge. And that's in a court of law governed by objective rules dedicated to treating everyone as fairly as possible.

What do you think?

PS: I'm starting up a free email newsletter on communication skills, adapting as an Aspie in an NT world and recognizing and working with Aspies. You'll get special content beyond what's on here. (You'll also get access to special deals from me. Your contact information will never be given to others.) Go ahead and drop me a line to join!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

55 Alive


Today's our 55-month wedding anniversary. We spent it recovering from a car crash last night.

In short, we hit a dirt bank, our car overturned, then got back on its wheels (yes, a 360 degree flip) and ended up right up against a concrete barrier. A passing driver pulled over, called 911 and helped us out of the car. (It's not a good long-term path to depend on the kindness of strangers, but once in a while it's unavoidable.)

The fire department, ambulance and a state trooper came at the same time. The worst injury either of us suffered was a dirty gash on my arm, which the nice medics disinfected and then bound up with gauze.

Meanwhile, the car is quite likely a total loss.

The moral of the story - yes, this includes everyone heading off to college right now - please, please, please fasten your seat belts every single time you're in a moving car. Don't ride in a car without working seat belts any more than you would ride with a drunk driver.

Police officers like to say there's no such thing as a routine traffic stop. By that same token, there's really no such thing as a routine ride, for the same reason - you never know which one is going to be The One.