An invitation to a gathering of any kind is a threat. A cancellation, last minute or not, is a relief like Tums is to my stomach.
It is difficult for me to talk even to just one person unless it is on a topic I can gab about. I am more confident talking about things I know my way around. In fact, anyone who asks me a question about something I have a heap on my mind about is in danger of receiving a monologue from someone they thought was so QUIET!
On a topic I am knowledgeable about, I don’t have to work so hard on when what the other person is saying because I can relate to their ideas. A panic alert is when the topic is switched and it is out of my topic interest or knowledge zone. It takes only a tiny bit to confuse or disinterest me when the topic is, more or less, Greek to me.
I prefer to chat with one person at a time. If another joins us, I go pretty much mute. I surprise folks turning into a chatterbox. Just give me an inch, I’ll go 90 to nothing while thinking in the back of my mind, “I better stop before I lose this friendly ear”. Delivering a monologue on a subject dear to my heart doesn’t happen often since I don’t know many people who share my interests and viewpoints. For the two or three I do, I am truly grateful for their interest and above all, patience.
My diet regimen is bizarre, I admit that. In living with my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I am a picky eater. I know from working in elementary school Autism units as a substitute teacher’s assistant, I am NOT alone in the Autism community of being picky with my food.
Sensory issues play a part in my pickiness. I could do without fruit and not shed a tear. But bread, rolls, cereal, crackers, etc.? Perish the thought! I will give in and eat cantaloupe if it is hard and crunchy; if soft, no way, no how! The same with apples. Although I like the taste of a banana’s flavor, I will not eat one because of its texture. Too soft for my taste buds.
One of my favorite “picky eater” school stories was told to me by the mother of a boy with Autism. Her son had a passion for chicken nuggets. But not just any nuggets. It had to be the McDonald’s brand! His mother made the mistake of thinking he would not know the difference between McDonald’s version vs. another. One day Mom decided she didn’t want to go to the trouble of a drive-thru every time her son had a nugget craving. She cooked a bag of them herself and disguised them in a McDonald’s bag. Her son took a bite of one and that’s all he took. Mom never tried that trick again!
My first inkling that I was on the Spectrum was observing a 12-year-old girl in her class leave her class without leaving it. Her behavior of pacing the floor in her own imaginary world was strange to her teacher even though she had seen her student do it many times. It wasn’t bizarre to me. I was a pro! I just don’t do it in front of witnesses; although, sometimes I get caught in the act. When I was sitting by this same student in the cafeteria watching her eat a hamburger, I realized we had more in common than I thought. She uses the same three-step method that I do: eat the bottom bun first, then the top bun, and save the best part, the beef, for last.
My Mom to this day still will try to get me to try this or try and it is on a rare occasion that I will take her up on her offer. It may be years before I add or delete to my list of daily must-have items. My meals are the same every day except for the main course. The main entree of the day is usually the same day of the week such as Cici’s pizza every Sunday evening.
I maintain the supply of my favorite foods in bulk! I grieve as if I lost my best friend when one of my favorite brands is banished from every food store in the neighborhood.
When I was a kid a half-century ago, more or less, there was no lock on my bedroom door. But my two younger brothers knew there was a “line” and they delighted in crossing it. I didn’t care if they crossed that line and entered my precious bedroom “SPACE”. On one condition though: that I was totally in the dark about it. They would usually tell me though as if their crossing the line wouldn’t count as a victory if they didn’t tell me. If I caught them in my space, it was sheer bedlam. My brothers seem to delight in my agony; that is if I didn’t have one on the floor, with me on top, asking for my mercy.
A common autism trait is being protective of one’s space I saw this trait played out many a time while subbing as a teacher’s aide in autism units. A child’s meltdown over another child merely touching their desk, chair, pencil, and dare I say, toy, reminded me of my reaction to my brothers’ trespassing of long ago.
Since moving in with my mother after retirement, my space has cramped considerably. I doubt you’d find many bedrooms like mine. I don’t mean lacking in open floor space; although, it certainly does. It is unusual by what resides in my space. I’d only have to take a picture of my space for one to know if more people were like me, the Best Buy electronic store chain would never go in the red.
I confess of having three desktop computers, one sitting pretty on my desk in front of me, one to the left of me roosting on a wooden stand, and another one behind me. I’m almost closed in! If this wasn’t enough, I have three voice-activated gadgets on my desk and another one across the room. They are a combination of Amazon Echo and Google Home products. I have three TV’s with one of them situated on a bedroom wall. Logically, I know I could get by with one computer, one Echo or one Google, and one TV. I know how this looks, but it’s MY tech-cramped space and that’s all there is to it!
I’m as protective of my space as I was when I was living in this bedroom as a child. My brother who is now in his mid-50s lives with us and is much better at not trespassing into my space. I have had close “meltdown” calls when my dear, sweet Mom comes in to log on her computer. She has more right than I have to go anywhere in the house since she owns it, including MY space. But those moments when she comes in while I am fully entrenched into whatever passion of mine I am pursuing, I fill anxiety running through my veins. Sometimes I just have to give up my space to her and find a place to stim to calm me down. There’s no space like my space. And sharing it doesn’t come easy to me.
My space is like a photograph of my ASD. The multiple items that are powered by a half a dozen power strips reflect my obsessive with technology. Recently, my 6-year-old grandnephew and 11-year-old grandniece came over to visit and immediately noticed my new computer…one of three in my space. Whenever they learn their great aunt has ASD and what ASD is, I imagine them thinking, “Now we know why she has all those computers.”
The words running through my mind are clearer than the words that actually come out of my mouth. It’s so frustrating, to say the least.
In-person, sometimes the more I say, the more I dig myself in a hole.
I have success in sharing my thoughts when I write them before sharing them in an e-mail or post on social media. I can draft my words, edit my words, and then spread my word to the receiver(s).
I am not comfortable in the slightest to be the one to initiate a conversation or bring up a topic. It’s a gamble and I have often been on the losing end. For example, a moment where I dug myself in a hole after bringing up a topic happened around 30 years ago. Yes, I still remember it like it was yesterday. It is one of the many memories I wish I could delete forever.
I was working for Uncle Sam in the Washington, D.C. area in one of Sam’s libraries. There were a few “walking encyclopedia” type folks who worked in the library. I admired their wealth of IQ, but my conversation with them was limited to library business.
My work desk neighbor was one of those who I thought looked more at home in a college classroom than a library with his long bear and wire-framed glasses. He was an avid book reader. How much so? When he proposed to his wife, he told her he would adopt her son if she took in his huge book collection. As well as being an academic, he could carry a tune. He was a member of one of Washington’s well-known and Emmy-winning choirs. As for our relationship other than being office desk neighbors, we seldom conversed beyond that of work conversation.
I don’t know what possessed me to converse with him about a band that had “Orchestra” its name. When I asked him if he had ever heard of them, he had not. I should have stopped then and there! But I continued talking about this group. At that time, I had bought one of this group’s Christmas music CD. I knew even while I was talking to him that I was like a player at bat who had struck out three times and was still on the plate not willing to go back to the dugout.
After the conversation, I whispered to a co-worker who was within earshot of the conversation, “I should have quit at the start.” She nodded with an empathetic glance and said, “Yeah!”
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is one of my favorite bands. They are terrific but I got the impression from my co-worker that they are not in the same league as his beloved Boston Symphony Orchestra.
I am a do-it-myself. If at all possible, I carry a task out without any assistance. I do not desire any witnesses either. If I ask for someone’s help with something, it only means one thing — sheer desperation!
Once upon a time, mid-February 2020, I was dogsitting for my brother and sister-in-law at their place in the hills of southeastern Oklahoma. They have three dogs and three donkeys too. My duties didn’t include donkey-care since they are self-sufficient stationed in the pasture.
I noticed that the donkeys were coming up close to the house instead of keeping their distance in the pasture. It was fun watching the doggies go after the donkeys to get them to go back from where they came from. The dogs eventually came back to the house with their heads hanging low at their lack of success.
The joke was on me!
I was talking to my Mom on the phone after she had seen the pictures I posted on Facebook of one of the donkeys up close to the porch. She asked, “If you don’t walk the donkeys up that close, why not close the gate?” My Aspie brain didn’t even visit the proposition of the donkeys being trespassers, much less of them escaping the pasture through an open gate. After the phone call, I checked and as my Mom guessed, the smaller gate near the barn was open. Even worse is that I was the guilty party of leaving it open when I went for a walk in the pasture. If the doggies could talk, they would have asked me, “Whose side in the doggies vs. donkeys game are you on?”
My brother commented on my Facebook picture that the donkeys would leave BIGGER deposits than the dogs ever would. Until my brother’s comment, the donkey’s version of hockey putts in a few piles in the yard had not gotten my attention. Since I was the guilty party in allowing the donkeys to trespass, I considered it my job to transplant the “putts” to the other side of the fence on the pasture side.
It was a first-time task for me to deal with donkey deposits. I figured the best tool of choice for this task was a shovel. My brother has more than one barn of tools. There were plenty of tools but none of them resembled a shovel. I tried a rake but that didn’t work well. When I saw I wasn’t being productive, I wracked my Aspie brain for another way. What method did I come up with? I can say unequivocally that I did NOT do it the easy way. The first putt was the hardest one to do. After that, it got easier to pick up by hand and throw each one over the fence. I wouldn’t recommend doing this chore without hand gloves. Oh, based on how many, the donkeys weren’t starving.
A few hours later after the disgusting donkey chore, I noticed my brother’s shovel sitting pretty next to a woodpile. It was just a few feet from the fence that I had been throwing “donkey putts” over. I laughed to myself. Since the chore was history at that point, there was no point in tears.
Other people in my situation would have picked up on the clue that the donkeys were getting out of the pasture and that was a bad thing. Other people might not have picked up on the clue but they would have called for help. My brother is a jack-of-all-trades. He can repair a tractor, tile a bathroom floor, and plant a garden without looking at a manual. He was just a phone call away, but it didn’t enter my mind to call him for help. I will not ask for help unless I am desperate. Despite the nauseating chore, I was pleased I had gotten the dunk back where it belonged all by MYSELF!
I wish it was a simple task to ask for help when I’m in unchartered waters. I feel too anxious to ask for help even from someone who is an expert in whatever those chartered waters are. I prefer to do everything I can by myself and if I have to learn the hard way, so be it!
I plead guilty to being as stubborn as an old mule. I don’t remember a specific time but I am pretty sure my Mom has informed me of this and probably more than once over the years dating back to childhood.
I moved in with my Mom after I moved back to my hometown after I retired. Since my Mom’s hip replacement surgery, my chore list has increased many times over. No complaints about that since I don’t like “idle” time. The thing is I don’t imitate my Mom’s way of doing chores. Such as the laundry. Unlike the way my Mom does it, and probably how most people do it, I carry in my arms the laundry to the washer and the dryer rather than toting the load in my Mom’s laundry basket. She did ask why not use the basket, but I refused to give in. So even though she scratches her head at me, I persist in doing it MY way!
I don’t mind amending MY way if I alone discover a different way of how to do whatever. It’s similar to a mistake not bothering me as much provided I am the one who discovers the mistake. If someone catches my goof and points it out to me, it feels every bit like a punch in the stomach. I will not soon forget not only the mistake but the humiliation I felt when it was pointed out to me.
I occasionally go on vacation when my brother and sister-in-law do. They go wherever and I have the privilege of hanging out at their home in another state where I am surrounded by hill country all to myself with their three lovely dogs. That’s what I call the ideal “Aspie” vacation. On some of my dogsitting trips, my brother asked me to pick vegetables from their small gardens. He always leaves a map and drawings knowing I might not know a zucchini from a pepper. Smart fellow, my brother.
I would pick what I thought was ripe enough to leave the vine and carry them by hand back to the house, wash them, leave them on the window sill to dry, and then later put in the fridge. After doing it this way during several dog-sitting visits, I figured out there was an easier way of doing it. I noticed a pail on the back porch area and that’s what got me to thinking of another way. Instead of carrying the veggies, I could take the pail with me when I went garden shopping and carry the veggies back in the pail. That way I might not drop any from the garden to the house and cut down on trips.
Oh, I did wonder why I hadn’t thought of using a pail sooner but oh, well, it gave me a good chuckle at myself. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure things out that to others comes natural-like. Since I had the luxury of being alone, there was no one around to suggest why not use the pail. If there had been, I would not have welcomed the suggestion. I might have reacted with stubbornly continuing to hand carry. Or, I would have relented and felt miserable than someone had to tell me to something I should have known in the first place.
If there is a hard way to do a task, the odds are better I’ll find it before I stumble onto the easiest. Whenever possible, I work alone in my own way. No backseat driver required unless I am desperate enough to ask for one! If my thinking cap comes up with an easier way, great. If not, well, I just took a longer highway to get the job done.
I don’t know if the signs for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are as numerous as the stars, but it seems that way. ASD is such a broad umbrella and each of us on the Spectrum is as unique as those who aren’t.
I run in place or pace the floor when I’m excited and when I’m just the opposite. I do it when I’m doing chores around the house. I do it to help me think. I do it to calm my anxiety. I do it every day. I used to do it “in the closet” so to speak outside the view of witnesses, but I have since come out of the closet at home with my stimming. I don’t bother hiding it from the two family members I live with. But beyond the house, I am on guard of where I stim and where I don’t.
When people come to visit my Mom’s house where I live, they’ll usually find me in my bedroom pursuing one of my interests if they care to find me. I’ll pop in and out if I think of something to say.
If I see someone I know at the store, I’ll go in the other direction because I can’t think of anything in common we have to talk about or fear they’ll ask questions I am not prepared or want to answer.
I am a “soloist”! I prefer to eat alone, I prefer to watch TV alone, I prefer to play video games alone, I prefer to go walking or bike riding at the park alone, I prefer to worship in a quiet place alone, and I prefer to do chores and errands alone. An exception would be shopping but only if someone would do the driving so I wouldn’t have to. There is no one I live with who will volunteer though.
An in-person conversation can be a delight or a booby trap. I treasure the few I know who I feel as comfortable with as my overworn faded jeans. However, most times I feel trapped in a conversation. Questions I didn’t see coming, for instance, can throw me for a loop. I tell a joke and the person doesn’t get the punch line. If the topic is about something I know little about or care nothing for, I am racking my brain for an excuse so I can get out of the trap.
My daily hobby is having a monologue with myself. I don’t just hold one in my own space, my bedroom. I’ll have a good talk with myself on a walk at the park or a ride on my bike. Back when I was a kid, I would do it at the side of the house while pacing back and forth. How often? I actually made a trail in the grass. When I retired and moved back in with my Mom, I am in the same backyard but instead of the side of the house, I take the whole backyard to walk and talk.
I am quiet as a mouse in group settings. My mind is a busy bee taking it all in. I will dwell on the topics of discussion long after the group chat was over. But on those rare occasions when I have the podium, my mask comes off and the extrovert in me takes over. The best compliment I ever received after giving a presentation was “I didn’t want you to sit down.”
I am a never-married. I guess I fall under the category of asexual. I admit the thought of homosexuality has crossed my mind. I crossed off the possibility though. I had a tremendous crush, on a male co-worker a decade or so ago. I had it hard for like two to three years. This was before I learned I had ASD. In hindsight, with the knowledge of my ASD, my “crush” was obsessive behavior. My attempts to get his attention were downright awkward. Poor guy! My not getting the hints that he didn’t have a crush on me was just one example of my being socially awkward. I will say this: It was as close as I ever came to this thing called love.
My signs are just mine. Some of my fellow travelers on the Spectrum share some of my signs and some do not. For instance, I have worked with ASD students who were quiet, like me, and I have met a few chatterboxes too.
I suspect there are a lot of adults out there who are living on the spectrum who don’t know they are. This is just my opinion that those adults who know they are on the Spectrum, and those adults who are but don’t know, have this in common: We know we are different. And that difference was agony for me until I learned the explanation of what was behind that difference. The agony of being different has eased tremendously since I have been in the “know” category.
It took me 58 years, the right job as a special education aide, and a 12-year-old to introduce me to what was behind the signs that were always there.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
I give credit to my being in a better place to my having learned I have ASD. It’s one thing to live with it in the dark; it’s quite another to live with ASD in the light.
What I lack in seeing the big picture I make up with my “attention to detail”. While others peer through a telescope, I eye through a microscope lens.
I am not a non-show at appointments; not a latecomer either. The appointment date, time, and details are on my mind from the date I made it to when the appointment is history. I lived the appointment in my imagination numerous times before the real one takes place. The appointment seldom, though, ever plays out as it did in my imagination. I say that is a good thing since I tend to go for the worst-case scenario in my dreams.
My elderly Mom never has to remind me the lawn needs mowing, edging, or shrubs need trimming. It is because I look forward to doing this yard chores. Really! It is only because of one of my ASD obsessions is electric or battery-powered gadgets. Mowers, edgers, and battery-operated clippers are members of my herd of gadgets. And when I use them, these gadgets get a work-out! The weeds are doomed when I rev up my gear. One would be hard-pressed to find a yard or alley more trimmed than the one under my thumbs.
I have strong attention to detail. This is the reason why the person who taught me library cataloging told me I was a “natural”. It was the job I held the longest and earned me the most awards and most of all, that awesome feeling of success!
I source my passion for writing as an ASD trait. My self-diagnosis came about through working as a substitute teacher’s aide with elementary students who have Autism. After I was introduced to my ASD, I began writing about living on the Spectrum and some of my blogs were about the students I had met. One of the blogs was about a student who not only had Autism, but other challenges that had so far denied him the ability to talk or to walk. But he could smile and I wrote about that. My blog got the attention of the special education teacher of the student I was writing about even though I didn’t reveal his identity or the school. She forwarded the blog to the students’ mother. I later had the privilege of meeting the mother in person who thanked me for writing about her son. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. If I had not had ASD, it never would have happened.
There is a bright side to my ASD. It is worth it to take the time to ponder over the bright side and appreciate its glow amidst the darkness ASD brings as well. Oh, yes, ASD is a thorn in my side, but I for one know it is a blessing to my soul.