Autism and Conversation

Below is a list of signs that I live with. They don’t apply to all with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because we are all unique who travel on the Spectrum.

Instructions: “It’s on the third shelf from the top on the left side of the closet next to the package of red, yellow, and green folders. You can’t miss it.” You wanna bet? Just watch me!

I love hardball conversations about any one of my limited interests. I can talk a monologue’s worth.

specialinterests

On the other hand, chit-chat is hard for me to sit through. If I can’t make a graceful exit, I retreat into my imaginary world.

Most of the conversations I have are planned out in my head and they never take place.

The best part of a party or get-together of three or more is when someone says, “We best be going.” That spells R-E-L-I-E-F.

I can be chatting away with one person I feel at home with, but if another person or more join in, it is like a mute button is attached to me and it comes on.

In the course of a conversation, I may be asked questions that I don’t have time to process. If have to give an answer right there on the spot, it probably won’t come out right and won’t be my best answer. I will for days, weeks, or even years later think of what I would have said if I had the chance to do it over again.

I came across something someone wrote: The older I get, the more I understand it’s okay to live a life others don’t understand. I relate to that quote. I’m working on being content with my companion that never sleeps — ASD. I might as well since it is here to stay.

Just What is Normal?

I was getting my eyes examined by an eye doctor I had never seen before. I immediately felt comfortable with her. When I meet someone who I feel comfortable enough to let my guard down, my mute button turns OFF. It really is a compliment to those I am able to do that with.

I don’t remember how the subject came up, but I told her I had Asperger’s. Her eyes got as big as saucers and she said, “You look so normal to me.” I have gotten that response before. It’s on my list of what NOT to say to someone with Asperger’s.

To be fair to the doctor, her specialty is eyes, not brain. And, too, because I had my guard down, I was completely at ease. My behavior is the opposite when I am with someone I am on guard with. If I don’t feel a “welcome mat” when meeting someone, my mute button is ON and stays on whenever I cross paths with that someone.

What I would want people to understand is that if you’ve met one person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, you’ve met one person. For example, some of us flap our hands or arms, some spin on the floor, some pace the floor, etc. Some do such with no thought of eyewitnesses. Others do their stimming in private.

My symptoms, for the most part, are invisible except to me. If one secretly video taped me at those times I am alone, I think watching the video would even astonish me. I’m one of a kind all right. Those who witnessed me as a child pacing in the backyard would agree with that.

Just what is normal? Beats me. Maybe normal is just a word on the washing machine cycle. But whatever, I’m okay with being unique.

Two Traits at War

According to Interactive Autism Network’s website, although poor motor skills and clumsiness are not currently part of official DSM-IV diagnostic criteria, such deficits figure heavily in clinical accounts and assessments.  Individuals with Asperger’s often display an odd or uneven gait when walking or running, trouble with ball skills, difficulty with balance, poor handwriting skills, and difficulty imitating or mirroring others’ postures, gestures, or movements. 

Poor motor skills and clumsiness are two of my challenges of living on the Spectrum. When I started writing this blog, I was nursing the left side of my face with an ice pack. When one’s face goes head-to-head with a brick wall, it is never the wall that cracks up.

Another common trait is restricted interests (obsessions) which are for me calming and assist in reducing my anxiety. One of my interests is electric scooters/bikes. As you might imagine, this “motor” interest can collide with my not being so fine with fine motor skills.

My newest bike at this writing was a Swagtron EB-5. It arrived on a Sunday and was almost fully assembled except for the seat.  And, wouldn’t you know, it was the seat that would be the thorn in my side, a burr in my saddle, and a pain in my neck.  My problem was the clamp that was not doing its job of adjusting/tightening the bike seat.  Seats are pretty important in order to have a safe, and comfy ride; well, not big on comfy since I haven’t yet ridden on a bike seat that was rear-friendly.  

I did try riding Swagtron inspite of riding it with its seat all the way DOWN.  The e-bike ZOOMED off like a rocket when I pedaled.  My reaction time is much less than the bike’s. “Swag” and I took a tumble.  I was relieved my new bike wasn’t hurt but “Swag” fell on my left foot.  No broken foot but I had a swollen one within an hour or so.  


My grand-nephew claims his Grandpa and my brother can repair anything.  Well, it didn’t take Grandpa long to put “Swag’s” seat in its place.  I was amazed watching my brother’s fix-it work.  He didn’t even need to glance at the instructions.  Repair and assembly work is not under my list of talents; although, I give it a good try when it is one amidst my herd of half-dozen bikes/scooters. I lack in fine motor skills as well as gross motor skills. In other words, my brother can handle screws, nuts, and bolts for better than I can.

When a bike and a brick wall meet head-on, it isn’t the wall that is worse for wear.   The same bike, Swagtron, that I fell off of a week prior hurting my foot was the bike I ran into a wall the following Friday.  At least, my foot had healed by then.


I was riding on the local city bike/walking trail.  All was well until I approached the area where there is a water fountain pit stop.  It’s a shaded area where there are places to sit and a  narrow, round sidewalk with four or so brick wall posts.  I should have stayed on the main trail where the sidewalk is wide, but I ventured off on the narrow sidewalk going in a circle.  Unlike my two other bikes, “Swag” only goes one speed, 15 mph, when I’m pedaling.  It will go slower if I just use the throttle and forget all about the pedals. I lost balance as I was going around the circle.  I could see for a few seconds I was running into the brick wall but I wasn’t quick enough to turn my handlebar or use the handbrake.


I put the blame squarely on Billy (my nickname for Asperger’s/Autism).  One of Billy’s traits is lack of motor skills and balanced.  I’m both socially and physically awkward.   Or, as I often say, I’m not quick on my feet with communicating with my fellow man, driving behind the wheel, and with my bikes’ handlebars.  Thus, bruises and scratches are almost as common to me as moles .


My balance and motor skills have not improved with almost 2 years of riding practice.  I’m not so bruised that I am putting my two-wheelers to rest though.  Just the cost of them alone is persuasive enough to keep pedaling.  The best I can do is to learn from each accident.  Hours after I had medicated and bandaged the scratches on the left side of my face, I took “Swag” for another ride.  This time at another place where I stayed riding on a BROAD sidewalk that didn’t go in a circle.  How did it go? Billy and I had a blast!

Some Hurdles for me to Jump on the Spectrum

Aspergers

Someone is telling me about one of their most memorable experiences. I understand they are proud as a peacock of their loved one’s accomplishment. Their loved one is one of mine too and I’m proud, too, but the someone isn’t a “cut to the chase” type storyteller. I am thinking while pretending to be hanging on every word that “Please, Lord, give me patience.”

Asperger's Issues                                                                                                                                                      More

I have heard and do buy into the fact that constructive criticism is a helpful thing if taken with the right attitude. However, I’m like some others with Asperger’s that criticism, justified or not, is an upper cut to my heart. It is as much as sting on me emotionally as a bee sting would be to me physically. I may take that criticism in and avoid doing whatever again, but I won’t get over it any time soon, if ever.

It happens to most people. A person gets your attention and asks, “Do you know where….?” It is difficult for me to answer questions on the spot. My brain needs a tad more processing time. I can give a good answer of where some place is if the person asking is willing to wait around for 2-3 minutes. It doesn’t matter if the directions are to a place like I know the back of my head. I’ll give an answer of “I don’t know” or I will take a shot at it. One too many times my “shot at it” was way off the mark and wondered if the person was able to figure out how to get back to where they were when they asked the wrong person for directions.

Did I say the wrong thing? Did I say too much in the phone call? Or, did I say too little? How do I get out of going to the party in honor of a dear friend when I can’t even consider the possibility of going? How long must I stay seated amidst those visiting our house before I can retreat to my room without insulting the guests? Should I bring up one of my favorite topics with this person or not? How do I shut it off when I detect boredom on their part? I need to get by in the store aisle, should I say “excuse me”, pretend I’m looking at something else until they move on, or come back later?

Despite the hurdles, the bright side of Autism outshines the dark.