The Smaller Slices of the Trait Pie

I think of my Autism traits as that of a pie chart.  Some traits make up smaller slices of the pie than others.

One such piece is abnormal/poor posture.  I relate to “poor” myself.  My Mom often said “Sit up” but I never got the hang of that.

Another autism trait that there isn’t as much chatter about is trouble with left/right/directions.  Now I know my left and right but I have to THINK about it when I am prompted to turn L or R.  I’m guessing my accuracy rate is in the 50% range.

I’m not quick on my feet.  So I go right when I meant left, I pull the door instead of push, I turn counter-clockwise instead of clockwise.  It is worse when I get a bruise or more when I accelerate instead of using the brake when riding my electric bike.

Then, there are the strange rituals.  Strange being what my neurotypical friends would call strange.  One that comes to mind is my ritual of when I eat my meals, of what I eat, and how I eat (like how I cut my sandwich) is far from the typical way most people do it.  Another is the odd sayings I’ll repeat to myself every day.  I know they are silly, but they pop out of my mouth anyway.

One of my favorite of the less talked about traits is a connection to animals.  I have a memorable picture in my mind of when I was a child in tears about whatever and sitting in the backyard being comforted by the family dog.  Since I had very few friends, the family dog was my no. 1 playmate.  I was awkward at being a friend to humans, but not to dogs.

Dogs are notorious for knowing when their human family member needs comfort.  I didn’t outgrow that connection.  My favorite post-retirement job is dog-sitting for my brother and sister-in-law at their farm in the remote hills of Oklahoma. I can freely talk to Bleu, Bailey, and Luna.  I can say those silliest things without fear of being overheard.  Although they can’t talk back, there’s no fear of them leaving me behind.

Don’t Underestimate the Quiet Ones

Alis Rowe, a well-known writer about Autism, “the girl with the curly hair”, posted the following statement:

‘Because I do not speak much and because I just get on with things quietly and independently, people can underestimate my abilities and not recognize my potential.’

I relate to many of her postings and this one took me back to a memory of over 40 years ago.  At the time, I was on my very first job working at a Sears catalog department in downtown Dallas.  It was part of my Vocation Education training in my senior high school year.  I went to school half a day and then to work the other half.  The supervisor’s first performance rating was the worst that I would ever receive for the next 40 years.  She gave me the lowest rating that could be given for behavior and productivity.  The worst, mind ya, to a student who was at school an honors student.  My high school vocational teacher was surprised too!  She did say this supervisor was notorious for giving low ratings to vocational students.  She instructed me to ask the supervisor the reason behind these low ratings.

This was the last thing I wanted to do – confront the person who hurt me terribly.  I still remember crying my heart out in my car after work on the day I received the grading.  But I was put on the spot by my teacher and I knew she’d ask me what the supervisor said.

I met with the supervisor and told her that my teacher instructed me to ask.  In other words, this was not my idea!  She said I was slower than she liked me to be with checking catalog orders which back then were done on microfiche.  As far as behavior, I was too quiet!  You’d think someone who got the WORST rating on behavior would be someone close to being tossed out of their job for rudeness, vulgarity, idleness, or other excessive bad behaviors.

I wouldn’t know until some 40 years later that I had Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  I understand looking back with my ASD pair of lenses as to why it was that I was quiet and still am.  I understand why my speed wasn’t top-notch but my accuracy, I was the TOP person on the catalog team. I still to this day don’t think I was slow as molasses and deserved the worst rating for such.  One of the bright sides of my ASD is I have a strong eye for the small details.  This explains why even back then on my first job, my accuracy rate was such that my working supervisor commented that she wished that the speediest person on the team had the same accuracy rate as I did.

Ya know, as a customer, as much as I like my order to be filled sooner rather than later, it’s far more trouble if the speedy order isn’t what I ordered, not the right color, and above all, the size doesn’t fit.  But, oh, well, accuracy wasn’t one of the things I was graded on at the time.

This life episode as sour as it was ended on a fine note.  When my senior year ended, so did my employment with Sears.  I did have a choice in staying.  The supervisor, who was hard on ratings, asked me to stay.  I give her credit for that.  She came to see potential in the quiet one.



Hitting my Head Against a Wall

Sometimes I feel like I’m hitting my head against the wall when I’m trying to do whatever and whatever isn’t happening.  Such as one morning when I hit my head against the wall LITERALLY-speaking.
I’m an avid bike rider.  Not the typical pedaling by body power alone.  My bikes are electric ones and yes, I do have more than one or two.  Okay, it’s one of my obsessions.
Now when a bike and a brick wall meet head-on, it isn’t the wall that is worse for wear.
I was riding on my town’s so-called Heritage 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, this one, a Swagtron, only goes one speed when I’m pedaling – 15 mph.  I lost balance as I was going around the circle.  I could see I was running into the brick wall but I wasn’t quick enough to turn my handlebar or hit the brake!
I put the blame squarely on Billy (my nickname for Asperger’s/Autism).  One of Billy’s traits is NOT being fine on either fine or gross motor skills and to add insult to injury, off-balanced too.  So I’m not quick on my feet.  Thus, a bruise comes as no surprise when I spot one on me.  Having both a lack of motor skills and an obsession with motor scooters/bikes presents a conflict!  It’s too bad I couldn’t have come up with another obsession, such as stamp collecting, that didn’t rely on motor skills so much.
It’s discouraging at times to know 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.  I can learn from each accident.  Hours after I had medicated and bandaged the scratches on the left side of my face, I took Swagtron for another ride.  This time at another place where I stayed riding on a BROAD sidewalk that didn’t go in a circle.  Billy and I had a blast!
A day or so later, there was a full house over here for lunch where I live with my Mom.  My grand-niece Sadie and nephew Parker wanted to go outside and ride members of my e-bike herd.  Sadie didn’t try riding Swagtron.  I guess it was the blue knot above my left eye that persuaded her to stick to one of my Segway scooters instead.  Smart girl, that Sadie!

Fantasy and Real World – Living in Both

It was a tough day, as I recall, subbing for one of my friends who is a Physical Education (P. E.) coach’s aide.  The school had grades from kindergarten to the fifth grade, from 5 year-olds to 11-year-olds.  It isn’t always the case, but that day it was the kinder who outperformed the other grades at not following instructions, successful at not paying attention, and sensational at tattle-telling on each other.
There were a few kids in each grade who were in their own world on the gym floor.   Their attention spam was near zero.  The coach’s instructions fell off their ears.  If she said to jog, they either ran as if their shoes were on fire or walked at snail’s pace.  I imagined going up to one of them, holding their sweet face in my hands, and asking, “Hey, is there someone in there?”  
Truth is, I am often in my own world too.  Sometimes I zone out when I’m supposedly watching the kids on the gym floor like a hawk. 
One of my fellow travelers on the Spectrum who attended this school’s autism unit reminded me of an escape artist.  Without any prior notice, he would break away from the classroom without leaving it.  A sure sign he was in his own world was when he in the middle of class do his imitation of a drummer.  His sweet compassionate teacher knew he needed to do his escapism now and then and within limits she did.
I was an escape artist at his age and still am!  I try not to do an “escape” demo for public consumption though, especially when I’m at school.  I know that escapism is just plain weird to the eye of the beholder.  Living between two worlds is just one of many things some of us autistics do.
I maintain a sense of humor about zoning out.  Such as one time when I was walking into my favorite electronics “toy” store, Best Buy.  When I first came inside the store, I was mentally off in my own world just as the school kids had been.  It wasn’t until after I walked into the store that I was awakened to the “real” world by the feel of chin straps.  Ought oh!  Other shoppers might have wondered “if someone was in there”.  Why?  I don’t normally shop with my bike helmet on.  

Stinging Revenge

I discovered a new hobby after I retired and moved back in with my Mom in the house I grew up in.  They call it “yardwork”, but it is yard play to me.  Since I had lived in apartments most of my adult life, it was new to me to have a yard.  I am obsessed with almost anything that has a power cord, battery, or motor.  Lawnmowers, weed eaters, and battery-operated clippers are my yard toys.  My Mom is delighted that she doesn’t have to nag my brother to mow and he’s almost as delighted as me that I look forward to engaging with the lawnmower.
This hobby does carry some risk though.  On a June day, I got stung after five decades of not having so much as one sting.  I was literally stunned that I got stung!  Then, two weeks later I got stung again.  This time I took a look around because it happened at the very same place at the side of the house right next to our wooden fence.  Low and behold, there were some wasps that built themselves a nest ON the fence.  Their own space was hanging midway between the top of the fence and bottom.
I was stung right under my chin.  It wasn’t so painful that I walked away to get it treated.  There was something I wanted more than relief.  What was that?  REVENGE!
Stung twice in two weeks!  I wasn’t letting them wasps off the hook.  The question wasn’t when but HOW I would get revenge relief.  I ruled out knocking their space with a stick or broom because I figured that would mean WAR and they had the upper hand since they can fly and fly fast and I can’t do either.
I took a look around the yard for any weapon that would work.  The water hose caught my eye.  Drowning!  I positioned myself at the corner of the back of the house.  I kept my distance staying on the other side while I aimed the hose at my target.  It didn’t take much hosin’ to knock off the nest.  If there were any wasps in the nest that survived and flew off, I didn’t see them.
I told my Mom afterward about the fence post drowning.  She said she had read in the newspaper that killing bees is a bad idea.  How’s that?  The bees kill so many insects that they are more of a help than a pain.  Now she tells me.
I wish this had been the end of the story.  Don’t I ever!
The story picks up after I went to bed that night.  To my utter dismay, I discovered I had been stung not just once, not twice, but THREE times!  All three bee bites were located from my chiny-chin-chin to the bottom of my neck.  It itched.  How much did it itch?  There are no words to fully answer that question and give it justice!
Although I had been stung in the early afternoon, the bites did not launch a full attack until after I went to bed.  That’s really lowdown if you ask me.
The only relief I had during the night was an ice pad I held under my chin.  When the pad was thawed out, I had to get up and switch out with another.  It was a long night thanks to the bee attack.  I thought I had gotten away with my revenge with only a slight sting.  It seemed in my misery that the execution backfired on me.
In defense of the stingers, I am protective of my own space.  My precious space is my bedroom in my Mom’s house where I live.  It is where my other electronic gadgets are kept.  If someone were to invade my space, move my stuff around, I would be burning mad.  Blowing steam!  May I say, “mad as a hornet’s nest!”
I’m still mad at them wasps, but I haven’t hosed any more of the bees that have unpacked their suitcases in the yard.  They can keep their space as far as I’m concerned.  The stings left a lasting impression.