The Grass Doesn’t Grow Under My Watch

The above picture is that of my backyard.  Although I have no fear of being cited by the City for the grass being too high, I also am in no danger of receiving glowing compliments of having the greenest lawn in my neck of the woods.

It actually is my Mom’s backyard.  She has relinquished custodial care of it to me; however, the front yard is under my younger brother’s care.  His idea of when a yard needs mowing is absolutely counter to mine.  My Mom has to “edge” my brother to mow when it has reached a height beyond her comfort level.  He uses a lawn mower to do the job.  I would, too, but I don’t have the arm strength to turn the mower on, but the weedeater has a push button and off it goes.

I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) more commonly known as Asperger’s Syndrome (AS).  My explanation for the backyard not having a chance to sprout its blades is an ASD obsession.  I’m obsessed with gadgets and my weedeater falls under that category.

I am writing this while on summer break from school while the kids are out.  I’m on vacation but my weedeater is not!  The backyard has gotten a daily haircut since school let out.  Even before school let out, I often had a weed-eating date to recharge my batteries after a school day.  Giving the weeds a whack is therapeutic in a very odd sort of way.  The above picture is proof of that.

There is also the alley behind our house.  It is under my jurisdiction too.  My weedeater and I visit the alley once a week.  My section of the alley way looks like a piece of desert in the midst of the Everglades.  I’m just saying some of my neighbors seem content with tall weeds behind their backyard fences.

 

 

 

 

 

What is missing in an autistic person that a normal person has?

Someone asked this question on a website for asking/answering any number of questions on any number of topics.  I responded by first saying, “In my case, a social life.”

To put it simply, I have a social disability. Unlike those around me, family and friends, I don’t like to be around people much.  If I am with one person discussing a topic that’s right up my alley, I am talking that other person’s poor leg off.  But add another person or more to the conversation and I go into silent mode.

It is well-documented those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (my nickname for it is “Billy”) are not likely to be the social bufferflies in their community. I could manage better than those I know of going days in solitary confinement without going mad. Torture for me would be in the midst of people, strangers or not, around the clock with no break of lone time.

I shutter at the word “group”. It can be followed by the words “meeting” or “social” or “gathering” and I will have the same reaction of a frown. It is similar to the reaction I have at the smell of turnips cooking, or the bass sound of a loud stereo, or the glare of the bright lights. I’d rather be far away on another galaxy than sitting inside at a group session pretending to listen while hoping someone will volunteer to be the first to announce their departure.

Now if I am at the podium doing the speaking, it’s a whole different story.  Even better, if I am talking about one of my passions.  Now why I hate being in the audience but thrilled to be the speaker, well, I haven’t figured that one out yet.

The British writer, Alis Rowe, frequently writes about autism. One of her quotes that hit close to my heart: “I can be talkative and expressive when with a single person, but the more people there are around me, the less interactive and more introverted I become. Inside a group of people, I can’t contribute/function, and tend to ‘shut down’ because I find it all too overwhelming.”

My ASD is a constant companion and there are times when it slaps me right in the face. At family gatherings or other group settings, I can’t be like the others. I can’t join in on their chatter and laughter and enjoy it as they do. For me, such gatherings are draining and that isn’t going to change. The mute button will always come on.  I can ask why I have to struggle with this but everybody has something to deal with.  It isn’t so much what it is but how we cope with it.  The Lord is the One whom I turn to.  He knows all about my Billy.

I take heart in the bright side of living on the Spectrum. My passion for writing helps me to communicate with people in my own special way. It isn’t all dark on the Spectrum. Not at all. No one has it all after all. I try to remember that and appreciate what I do have going for me with Billy around.

It is so Hard

A visit from want-to-see relatives should not be a hard thing.  But strangely it is to me and perhaps to others who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
When I was told a couple of relatives were coming to visit for only a few hours, I said the appropriate things, “that nice…”.  But the inner expression was a big frown.  I can’t fully explain why since I don’t quite get it myself.  I fretted about it from the time I knew they were coming to when their arrival.
Immediately when they pulled into the driveway, my mute button came on as it usually does when I have more than one person to interact with.  My Mom and relatives did most of the talking.  What was running through my mind?  An image of being in a strait-jacket trying to squirm out of it.  I wanted to exit but that would have been too rude, even for me.  I wanted to “stim” like crazy!  Knobble my knees, or shake a leg, or pace the floor, but that would attract unwanted attention.
I did finally perk up!  I know exactly when I did too!  The very moment one of the relatives said, “We need to get on the road!”  My mute button turned off!  It took about 15 more minutes before they hit the road, but that was okay because I knew there was an end in sight!
They each gave me a big hug.  One said, “I love you…”  I whispered to her that I loved her too.   I meant that with my whole heart too!   The torment I had felt from the time they arrived was not their fault.   It had nothing to do with any ill feeling towards them because I felt no such thing.  It’s just Billy (my nickname for my ASD).
After they left, I got a little teary-eyed.  I did what I often do when my ASD slaps me in the face reminding me of its existence.  I prayed and had a talk with the Lord.  I said,”Oh, Lord, I wish a family visit didn’t have to be so hard for me!”
After my talk, I went out and had a date with my weed eater.  Yardwork is one of my ways of coping with such occasions.  Work sometimes helps!  After I had seen to the destruction of weeds, I then took a walk in a nearby park by myself.  The park is my recharging place and the walk did recharge me.
I’ll close with this scripture from Psalm 22:19:

“But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.”

Amen!

All in a Sub Day’s Work

I have the pleasure of being a substitute teacher’s aide in the school district where I was taught to read, write, add, subtract, and other such things.  I was writing this at the end of another school year.  It was hard to tell just who was more ready for the bell to ring for the last time of the school year – the grown-ups or the pint-sized ones.
Play Day is held by the schools around Memorial Day holiday.  It is usually an all-day event unless there’s interference such as rainfall or three-digit temperatures.
Several schools had their Play Day on the Friday after Memorial Day.  One of the schools did not have their best Play Day compared to years past.  The bounce houses were a no-show.  That’s like all the roller coasters at a park like Six Flags or Disney being out of order.  The company couldn’t deliver them on time since they overbooked and didn’t have enough workers to carry out all their obligations that day.  Just an example of the supply not equaling the demand.
I was at another Play Day that Friday.  I was subbing in a special ed class for a teacher who I consider one of my dearest friends.  She had a story to tell on one of her students who has a “stubborn streak”.  You won’t find this term in a medical dictionary, but I’ve heard teachers use that term.  Now stubbornness is a trait that anyone on the planet can have.  It’s just this youngster has maximum strength stubbornness.  Maybe it is worse of late because he’s approaching the pre-teen age.
The teacher escorted her student to the water slide.  He made it to the top and what did he do?  He just sat at the top and wouldn’t budge so much as an inch!  His teacher shouted and pleaded for him to slide down.  NOPE!  She told the other kids to go around him and slide down.  Before she lost her voice, she told the high school boys who were helping out to grab his legs and pull him down.  This took more than one boy since the student is a growing boy big-sized for his age.
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In the back of her mind, she was hoping there wasn’t a parent videotaping this on their cellphone commanding teenagers to pull a kid down by his legs.  Finally, he came sliding face down all the way.  He looks up with a smile on his face, spitting water right in his teacher’s face.
I did not witness this myself.  The teacher told me and one of her two aides about it later.  She was laughing as she told it.  I doubt it was funny at the time it happened though, especially the spit part.
The following week, the last week of school for me, I was subbing for a P.E. aide.  When one of the older classes was lined up to leave the gym and head back to their classroom, a boy raised his hand and I went over to see what in tarnation he wanted.  I had him repeat it four times since I couldn’t understand what in tarnation he was asking me.  (One of my autism traits is verbal communication.  It isn’t so much hearing that I ask someone to repeat something, but more about giving me time to process what I am hearing).  He finally spelled the word “r-i-g-h-t” before I realized he was asking me, “You are a girl, RIGHT?”  I found out he and a female classmate had been debating about whether I was a boy or girl.  I told the girl, making direct eye contact which I don’t often do, that she guessed wrong.
I have been asked this before and it won’t be the last time.  I assume my short haircut is responsible for this question.  I like my hair short so I can spend less time with the hairbrush that I am sensitive to.  This does make me wonder what else the students say about me in their chit-chats.  Some things I am better off being in the dark about and this is definitely one of them.

Watch Out for the Gray-Haired Lady on the Scooter

On a list of female Asperger Syndrome (AS) traits, I highlighted in yellow those that pertained to me.  It would have been faster if I had just marked those that didn’t.  One of the traits was “Is youthful for her age in looks, dress, behavior, and tastes.”  Maybe that explains why I at 59 1/2, I am spending a good bit of my leisure at the park or on a bike trail taking one of my brand new electric scooters for a spin.  

When I was growing up, I sometimes acted as if I had not gotten the memo that childhood comes before adulthood.  I had strong opinions on grown-up issues pertaining to religion, politics, and social issues.  This was when kids my age were riding bicycles, skates, and playing with hula hoops.  I preferred hanging out with the grown-ups listening to their adult conversations.  That is until the adults shooed me out of the room.  Now I prefer hanging out with the kids at family gatherings.

Another trait is obsessions and I have a long list of those.  Some have come and gone and some have not.  When I like something, I really, really like it.  There is no middle ground.  The same can be said of when I don’t like something such as green peas or merry-go-rounds.

Well, my latest craze began innocent enough.   I was subbing for a P.E. aide and was helping the coach set up for the first class of the day.  He put out some scooters which are a highly popular piece of equipment with the students.  They looked like fun to me just as skateboards and roller skates.   These were things I tried and fell for back in my younger days.  I mean “fell” as in landing on the floor in a painful sort of way.  My lack of gross motor skills is a common ASD trait I can lay claim too.

Image result for floor scooters for kids

On a dare, I got on one since it was just me and the coach and I knew he wouldn’t laugh at me.  How come?  His Mom is one of my dearest friends.  He knows I’d tell on him.  It only took a minute, if that, that I fell in love with the scooter.  I wanted one!  I immediately got on my cellphone and searched on Amazon.  After so many days of research, I decided that this was strictly a “kid” thing and is more tailored for the gym floor than outside at a park or on the sidewalk.  And, most importantly, it isn’t as easy as it used to be to get up from the floor.

But in my research, I discovered electric scooters.  Oh, my goodness!!!  After about a month’s worth of research, I bought not one, but two.  One is a folding electric scooter and the other is a Segway brand scooter, also called transporter.

It was an awkward beginning with both of them.  After all, I still lack in the gross motor skills department.  My big toe got the worst end of my first date with Pinkie (nicknamed cause its pink).  It took a couple of weeks before my big toe looked like it did before the fall.  Seggie did damage on my right hip and elbow.  I took the falls like a champ though.  NO FEAR!  I hopped right back on.  Piggie and Seggie weren’t gonna knock me down and get to sit in a corner taking it easy.

The scooters were my additions to my ever-growing obsessive collection of electronic gadgets. That’s why I had no interest in a scooter board that is moved by manual labor.  This over the board attraction to scooters reminds me of an obsession I had years ago that has since gone.  I once possessed a herd of “vacuum cleaners”.  They are electronic after all.  My apartment back then resembled a vac used store outlet.  At least, scooter riding is more fun than vacuuming ever was.

I also used to have a robot collection back in my mid-40’s.  I once took one I called “Billy” to work and the “adults” in the room were fascinated; however, I might have misunderstood their expressions and they might have been thinking, “what is a middle-aged woman doing living with toy robots?”  I have since given up custody of them to my nephews. 

Below are pictures of my two new toys.  In a town of one forty-three thousand something, I haven’t seen anyone on one of these toys or something similar.  When I take either to the park or trail, I suspect all pairs of eyes within viewing distance are pinned on me.  Most especially when I’m cruising on Seggie.  I do not make eye contact with those I pass by.  That comes fairly natural to me anyway.  I don’t care to see the expression that suggests “what is a gray-haired lady think she’s doing on that thing?”  However, I did appreciate overhearing a small boy who was wise beyond his years say, “That’s a nice scooter you have, Maam.”

 

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