When I learned I was on the Spectrum, I had my explanation for why I’m not quick on my feet. It also explained why I am physically awkward on my feet. If there’s something to stumble over, bump into, or trip over, one of my limbs will find it. Anyway, my brain doesn’t operate at the speed of a dime. But in its defense, with sufficient processing time, it can come up with a good answer that sometimes even surprises me.
Quickness on one’s feet is a nice attribute to possess. It’s a good quality to have for those whose jobs constantly put them in emergency situations where they do what needs to be done with little or no time to think. I can only wonder what it is like to be able to give a quick and accurate response to a question at the drop of a hat. Or be able to mouth off a “gotcha” answer silencing the asker.
Most folks can identify with being asked directions by a passer-by. I was recently put on the spot when a family driving by asked for directions. The location they were seeking was a place I knew like the back of my head. But they wouldn’t have known it by my hem-hawing. They patiently waited until my brain came up with the right answer. If I had given them an answer off the top of my head, odds would have been good they’d have to ask another stranger.
One of the many things I admire about my Lord and Savior is how He interacted with people when He walked upon this earth. Since social interaction is difficult at best living on the Spectrum, I appreciate how Jesus was a master of it. He interacted with His disciples who sought His teaching, the multitudes who sought Him for miracles, the outcasts who sought His attention, and His enemies who sought to silence Him.
Jesus got lots of questions. Some genuinely wanted His answer such as Nicodemus who grilled him into the night. Then, there were those who were deceptive. They were aiming to use the Lord’s own words against Him.
Such as in Luke 20:1-8 where we find Jesus teaching in the temple when a gang of chief priests, scribes, and elders came to Him posing a question: “Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?”
Jesus could have responded with a long answer. He could have gotten into a debate with the group. But instead, he answered with a question: “I will also ask you one thing, and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”
The scribes, priests, and elders weren’t expecting to be put on a spot by a question themselves. They got together and reasoned it among themselves before answering. I picture them in a huddle like they do on a football field. They thought if they said John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, Jesus’s comeback answer might be, “Why then believed ye him not?” If they said John’s authority came from men, the people would stone them for the crowd believed that John was truly a prophet of God.
So they came up with an answer that is still popular to this day. I often use this answer myself. It is a good one to use when it is a truthful answer. It was basically: “I don’t know”. That answer fell right into Jesus’s hands. In other words, the group walked right into that one. The Lord, quick on his feet, just stated: “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”
I never cease to be amazed by Jesus’s answer in this story. In this round, Jesus had the last word. He gave them an answer they couldn’t use against Him. This was just one of a number of times when Jesus put his enemies to shame by His words alone.
It is tempting when confronted about one’s religious beliefs to respond in anger. But doing so may just give the confronter exactly what they want. It is better to give no response than to get in the mud with someone. One doesn’t walk away from a mud fight without getting muddied up him or herself.
Jesus’s answer was short and to the point. Sometimes a few words are best. How does one know what to say on any given day? Pray daily for the words from the Master of right answers.
My first inclination when I see someone in public that I know is to scurry for a hiding place.
I go berserk inside when someone is following behind me or I sense someone’s eyes are feasting on me.
A tiny noise such as someone chewing, sipping, or humming makes me cringe.
Although I despise talking on the phone, have anxiety when the phone rings or a message is left, I bought the newest of a brand of cell phones because I’m obsessed with Android apps.
When a social function is canceled, I respond with “That’s too bad!” and then I CELEBRATE!!
I don’t have to listen to talk radio to hear a conversation. I have plenty of pretend conversation going on in my head.
I owe a debt of gratitude to whoever came up with the idea of the store SELF check-out.
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 am obsessed with raking or picking up leaves. I have a hard time finding a stopping point UNLESS the neighbor comes outside.
Most of the conversations I plan out in my head never take place.
I was such a jerk for saying that forty-nine and three months ago.
Quadruple check alarm before going to bed.
I’d like to make friends with someone who doesn’t like making new friends. Weird, I know.
Below are some of my challenges I have lived with but didn’t know what was behind them until learning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) wasn’t something only someone else had. I found out I was on the spectrum near the end of 2016. This challenging list doesn’t apply to all with ASD because when you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met only one.
Rules are not mere suggestions to me. I welcome and need them. In an unstructured environment, I feel as uneasy as a polar bear would on a beach.
Routine is almost as essential as air. I guess it has to do with feeling safe and secure in the world. I do change my routine occasionally, but if it is beyond my control, a change in routine can put me in meltdown country.
Stuck with no means of a graceful escape to hearing music that is pushing all my buttons. I don’t dare complain to the one playing the music, much less scream or cry because it would draw unwanted attention. I must, as I often have to do, pretend I’m just fine while boiling underneath.
It takes me longer to respond to someone. I need time to process what has been said in order to come up with a response. More often than not, I ask for a repeat to give me a few more seconds even though I may have heard them the first time.
I love hardball conversations about any one of my limited interests. Social chit-chat is hard for me to sit through. I often manage by drifting into daydream land if I can’t make a graceful exit.
It is stressful for me to be as busy as a bee or to be bored out of my skull. I love a schedule with the consistent rhythm of one thing after another instead of things happening all at once or nothing happening at all.
Physically and mentally, I’m years passed the half-century mark. Emotionally, though, I am about the same age as the elementary students I work with. I’m reminded of that when I’m behind the steering wheel stuck in traffic. Even though it isn’t the steering wheel’s fault, it is what I take it out on.
I don’t like it being pointed out in a group I am the quiet one. I’ve been a quiet person for more or less fifty years and so it isn’t news to me.
Timekeeping to me is crucial. If it is going to be around noon that someone will show up, I’d rather they say “noon-ish”; please not say noon if one won’t be there before or on the dot.
Highly sensitive! Such as when a check-out cashier says she’s not open. I will beat myself for not noticing the sign that she was closed.
Groups are my nightmares. I always seem to be the square peg in the group of round pegs. I don’t know if I’m more afraid of being spoken to or not at all.
I don’t write about my ASD to complain or seek sympathy; I write to offer empathy to those on the spectrum and to provide knowledge and understanding for those who aren’t.
I have a choice about reading about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or talking about it or writing about it. I don’t have a choice about living with it.
I was subbing for an elementary school P.E. coach’s sidekick. The first half of class was walking laps outside around the baseball diamond. While the coach watched sitting on an upside down bucket with his speaker phone, I walked the laps. I thought my walking might inspire the kids to walk or run and not hide behind a tree to get out of the exercise. With my gray hair, the kids think I’m the same age as Old Father Time.
A 1st-grade girl came up and took my hand. Unlike me, the girl didn’t have a problem starting and carrying on a conversation. We had an unspoken deal. She did most of the talking and I did most of the listening.
She had a good reason for wanting to talk. Her Grandpa passed away just 2 days earlier. It wasn’t so much sadness I heard in her voice but curiosity. Perhaps it was her first encounter with the death of a loved one. He had strokes and as she put it, “he just died”. She didn’t even know he was in the hospital until after he had passed away. She had observed that her Grandma still had his clothes. Other than telling her I was sorry about his passing, I just listened. She just needed someone to talk to and that someone that day was me.
She didn’t want to go off and play in the playground as the other kids did when finishing their last lap. She couldn’t hold up as long as some of the other kids because of her asthma. It does get in her way sometimes. It is routine for her to use the asthma inhaler as soon as she gets home from school. She said pretty much her whole family had asthma.
I told her I had Asperger’s. The word wasn’t familiar to her and I didn’t go into details about it. She said she can’t run as much as her friends without wearing out. I told her sometimes I am not up to being with people. She said sometimes asthma gets her out of doing stuff she doesn’t want to do such as strenuous activities. I told her Asperger’s sometimes gets me out of going to parties.
Due to an elementary school coach’s sidekick having to be out for two weeks, the six-foot-tall coach/former college football player had something a tad better than no sidekick at all – me. A substitute is at least an extra pair of eyes and someone to watch the kids when one has a nature call.
We had a few things in common. For one thing, we graduated from the same high school. I was in the class of 1977 and he was in a class that graduated in the following century. We both value exercise as a means to improve our health and mental well-being. He tosses a football and I hit a tennis ball for stress relief after a school day of spending time with pretty much the entire student body. It beats my having a meltdown and possibly tossing or tearing up my own stuff.
I did my best to help him out. I showed up at the school gym on time and wasn’t late coming back from lunch. He monitored the kids playing outside on the tennis/basketball courts on one side of the field and I monitored the playground on the opposite side. I helped maintain order for the indoor games. Most importantly, I left the toilet seat up in the coach’s office restroom.
An amusing story was my encountering an odd problem in the restroom. The light switch didn’t work. I had to use my “smart” watch’s flashlight application which was sufficient enough that I didn’t fall over the “john”. I noticed later the light was on but I didn’t dare ask what’s the deal with the light. The common sense thing would be to ask but it remained just a thought because a lack of common sense is a common trait for those on the autism spectrum like myself. Either I continued to go in the dark or I figured it out myself.
I did solve the mystery when I spotted another light switch that did the trick. I didn’t feel bad, though, about not asking the coach for enlightenment. I was just relieved the coach didn’t catch me coming out of the dark restroom and saying something like, “Wouldn’t it be easier with the light on?”
With the weather cooperating, most of the classes were held outdoors. The kids played various outdoor games such as basketball, football, soccer, or hung out on the playground. When I found a basketball that wasn’t being used, I commenced to dribbling it. The kids might have thought it strange for a gray-haired 58-year-old lady dribbling a basketball. In my humble opinion, they should view it as an encouraging sign. When I see an 80-or 90-something-year-old taking a stroll in the park on their own two feet, it gives me some hope that I might still be doing such if I should live so long.
Actually, when I dribbled, I wasn’t only dribbling. I was doing two things at once: dribbling for physical exercise and stimming for mental exercise. I had the advantage of having a job-related task that masked my stimming. Dribbling is as much a way to stim as rocking or pacing the floor since it is repetitive movement. For someone living on the autism spectrum, stimming is a way of keeping me cool, calm, and collected while the kids do what they are so successful at — noise and mischief making.
I knew the coach missed his “regular” sidekick and the kids missed her too. I never thought for a second I could replace her or for that matter, any aide I sub for. I do hope he’ll miss me some as I will him, the other staff members, and the kids. That assignment was a reminder to me that two people born decades apart can work together as if they weren’t.
I never in my teen years got grounded from using the phone. Taking away my TV would have been torture but the loss of phone privileges? It wouldn’t have hurt the least little bit.
Since I realized I was living on the spectrum, many truths about myself have seen the light of day. Past moments over the years from childhood to present now make sense in light of my diagnosis. I see myself and my actions through a different light.
I am anxious on the phone because I struggle with verbal communication. It is hard enough in person, but on the phone without the visual of the person’s face, it is even tougher. I am an “ace” when it comes to written communication (e-mail). People who are used to corresponding with me via email or via the post office might be surprised about this. On the phone and in person, the words don’t always come out right because I don’t have the luxury of time to process what I’m hearing and come up with an adequate response.
People are hard for me to hear over the phone. Since I have the habit of asking people to repeat themselves in person in order to process what they have said, it is no surprise that over the phone is a bigger challenge. At least with face-to-face communication, I have the visual of the person’s facial expressions and their hand gestures. I miss a lot of details because my brain can’t keep up and doesn’t hear all the words.
People tend to talk faster on the phone and don’t appreciate my pausing to process their words and respond. However, I need time to think before I speak; otherwise, my response will probably be one that I’ll kick myself over and over again, rehearsing what I should have said. The entire thing is phone madness!
So if someone wants my best response, e-mail is your best shot!
Words that light up my panic button: CHANGE OF PLANS
Need help finding something on the store shelf? Only if living without that something is a more frightening prospect than asking a total stranger for help.
Never a day without one too many cringing pop-ups of embarrassing or painful memories I would delete if only I could.
I keep something in my pocket to fidget with to keep my hands busy. Or, I bite my nails.
I’m open to spontaneity with just one condition: it has to be my idea. It is rather unthinkable to go along with someone else’s.
Sometimes I ask myself, “How am I feeling?”, and I don’t have a clue.
Frustrating when I think of a thought to share, people keep talking, and the time to share it has passed.
Little things such as calling for an appointment or asking a question isn’t little to me.
Wanting to disappear when someone brings it to the group’s attention that I am the quiet one.
I crave specifics; don’t cater to abstracts.
I will play games provided the other player(s) are under 10.
The fact that something bothers me bothers me too.
I edit in my mind my on-the-spot blurred response to a question I was asked days or weeks ago.
Just because my mouth isn’t at work doesn’t mean my brain is too.
People in my personal space feels like someone poking a needle in my back.
I wish people would ask me about my interests; on the other hand, I don’t because I’ll be a like a wound-up toy that everyone in the room wants to turn off.
I keep getting distracted with thoughts I am distracted while trying to read three sentences’ worth.
My routine is not up for debate!
I’m protective as a mother hen over my stuff! Sometimes I take the high road and share, but it doesn’t come easy.
I preferred the company of grown-ups when I was a kid; now I prefer the company of those under ten.
Being alone is as comfortable to me as wearing my favorite pair of sweats.
Knowing when to end a conversation is harder for me to pick up on than starting one.
Gripping the steering wheel on my way to a social gathering.
Sometimes I just need to stare out the window.
Keeping under control when someone interrupts me from pursuing my passion.
Communicating via e-mail is my strength; face-to-face is my weakness.
Losing all sense of direction when someone asks me on the spot for directions.
I call my constant companion “Autie” for short. Autie never sleeps.
I can be quite social with one person I feel comfortable with. At the max, two. But add another person, I go silent. Being with a group of people can be overwhelming.
I rehearse what I should have said in a situation that happened yesterday or decades ago.
Intense anxiety when my routine is interrupted.
I am far better at remembering my failures than my achievements; criticism than praise; awkward instead of my graceful moments.
I’m not fond of talking on the phone but I prefer it over talking to an answering machine. The machine isn’t accepting of my monologs and it doesn’t let me erase what didn’t come out right which is most of what I said.
It was a gorgeous day and the coach decided to take all the classes outside for P.E. class. I was the coach’s sidekick for the afternoon since the regular assistant had the day off. The coach told the students they could NOT play on the grass. It had rained hard the night before and the ground was still muddy. She emphatically repeated her instruction to “keep off the grass!”
She had me take a couple of the classes out and stayed behind with some students. No sooner had we arrived at the play area that some kids were in violation of the grass rule. I yelled for them to get off the grass and they obliged. I would continue repeating “keep off the grass” since one student after another opted for the grass instead of the sidewalk.
The coach and the rest of the kids joined us. I welcomed having the coach to help me enforce the grass rule. But I was disheartened instead. The kids walking out with the coach sidestepped the sidewalk too. I didn’t say a word! Why? Because the coach violated her own “Keep off the Grass” rule.
I thought of raising my hands in the air and yelling, “I give!” Just a thought in my head. I didn’t act it out. HA!
I think this was another case of my taking instructions LITERALLY! Shortly thereafter, a basketball went down the hill to where water was still standing on the grass. The coach only allowed one to go down and rescue the ball and she told the others who were aiming to head down the hill to stay back. Maybe the coach’s “keep off the grass” was keep off the grass where it was muddy. That’s just a guess, though.