A Yard Toy to Me

Trimming the hedge has been added to my growing list of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) stimming methods to hopefully thwart meltdowns.  There is also the added benefit of exercise and being outdoors.  My backyard has become my ground to persevere by repeatedly picking up dead leaves, dead pecans, or giving the hedge a haircut.
Recently one of my brothers showed me how to operate the edger or weed eater.  It was a brand new one thanks to another brother who ordered it online.  He took the old one we had that was NOT user-friendly.  My brother sure knows how to pick ’em because the edger is easy to turn on, turn off, and operate.  There is a drawback.  I doubt there is an edge trimmer invented that doesn’t have this drawback.  It is not user-friendly to one’s ARMS.  Mine paid me back big time after I “played around” the sides of the yard with it.
My brother doesn’t care for edge trimming.  Me?  I took to it like a duck to water.  I used to think my attraction to gadgets, “gadgetitis”, was just quirky behavior.  After I learned I was on the Spectrum, I had a better understanding of what was behind my gadgetitis.
I don’t view the edger as a yard tool, but as a toy.  Give me a battery-operated or power-corded piece of work and just watch me go to work, no, rather, go play with it!

The Can Opener Challenge

It isn’t always the big battles on the Spectrum; it’s the little ones too.  The little ones are bigger at the time than they are in hindsight.  It is in hindsight I can write about them and have a chuckle or two.  If I can laugh about any battle, it hasn’t defeated me.

A little one started when my Mom interrupted my blog-writing asking me to open a can for her.  I’m not complaining about that.  It just throws me for a bit to pause when I’m creating a masterpiece.  Arthur (arthritis) makes opening a can with a manual can opener a painful proposition.  I figure I better have empathy since Arthur probably already has his eyes set on me in the near future.  I come from a long family tree of Arthur’s victims.

This made me think of a battery-operated can opener I had seen at a store having a 20% off sale the very same day.  Since I was planning on going anyway, barring a large crowd, I made note of it to look for one.  With a small showing of customers at the time I entered the store,  I went ahead and bought a red Handy-Dandy battery-operated can opener, one of those As See on TV products.  Besides my Mom needing one, I am attracted to a battery or electric gadget like a coin is to a magnet.

I took it out of the package in my bedroom to get the gadget up and running without my Mom knowing a thing.  I wanted to surprise her by doing a “show and tell”.  That was a good plan but that’s not how it went down.  After installing two “AA” batteries, I pushed the button and not a sound was heard.  I tried placing it on a can in case the opener wouldn’t work without having something to spin on.  That’ didn’t work.  I was so frustrated!  I don’t give in to defeat easily when it comes to gadgets.  I am the “gadget queen” in my clan.  After numerous efforts, this “queen” eventually came to the conclusion it was a “lemon” can opener.

I didn’t ask for this battle, but it fell in my lap and I saw it as having two choices.  I could toss it and try to forget it; or, I could take it back to the store for an exchange/refund.  My Mom would have taken it back to the store without any hesitation whatsoever.  Me?  Just the opposite.  I have a phobia of customer service desks.  My first inclination was to do to the malfunctioned opener what I do with party invitations:  toss out!

The price receipt, though, kept staring at me.   Guilt is another biggie of mine.  I came up with an idea to ease my guilty conscience.  I’d put it back in the store bag, go back to the store, and if there was a store clerk who seemed friendly enough, I would ask to exchange it.  I didn’t want a refund because I wasn’t ready to give up on presenting my Mom with a can opener that would defy her nemesis, Arthur.

I’m proud to say I got up the nerve to approach the customer service desk and asked for an exchange.  She took the lemon and dropped the exchange item in a bag with a “have a good day”.  I could breathe easy now as I walked out the store after my victory of facing the exchange challenge.  I know such transactions come easy for a lot of folks, but not for me.

It was back to the drawing board.  The only difference was it was black instead of red.  I wish I could say that after the battery installation, the handy-dandy opener came to life.  But that’s not how it went down.  It wasn’t making a sound either.  After repeating what I did hours earlier with the red “lemon” one, I re-dressed it back into its package.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to return to the store or not.  Two customer service interactions in one day — there’s only so much I can take!

It was aggravating I couldn’t get a gadget to work.  I can’t thread a needle, but I know my way around setting up a smart phone, smart watch, etc.  I had to try one more time to save my reputation for gadget-fixing.  I used a can of chili as my guinea pig.  Just as I was about to take my finger off the start button and give in to defeat, the opener came to life.  It started its journey around the can lid while I watched in amazement.

This was supposed to be the end of the story.  Nope!  A few weeks later, the black handy-dandy opener met its fate of a trash can after opening a can of green beans.  It did a spin around the lid of the can.  The problem was it wouldn’t let go of the lid.  They were inseparable!  I did manage to free the green beans but I had to toss the can opener with the can still in its mouth.

Now, most people would have given up by now.  But I don’t give up easily.  I wasn’t about to be outdone by any kind of gadget.  I received a 20% off e-mail from a store and I saw this as a sign to go ahead and purchase No. 3.  I’m thrilled to say the third one was the charm.  As for what my Mom does when she needs a can opener, she still hollers for me and I do the honors.

 

 

 

 

My Aspie Quirks

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Ancient in their Eyes

I was subbing for a special education aide at an elementary school.  I was somewhat a familiar face to the students since it was my sixth visit to the class.  I knew almost all the students by name which is no small thing for me.  I have a bad habit of names going in one ear and out the other instead of sticking between my ears.
Two of the boys, in particular, acted so enthused to see me again.  The entire school day they treated me as if I was some celebrity.  I am not used to male admiration.  The last male admirer I can recall was a fella named John who was in my first-grade class.  Now that was, give or take, a half-dollar’s worth of years ago.  I thought to myself that too bad both of these two boys were born in this century instead of the 1950’s.
They both asked me a ton of questions.  I felt like I was a guest on the Dr. Phil show.  One of them asked what year I came into this world.  I answered truthfully and was rewarded with them both informing me I was old.  I said, “Hey, guys, I’m not ancient.  I was subbing at the same elementary school I attended when I was your age just the other day and the building is still standing.”
The teacher got on to them for even asking the question as well as their not-so-tactful response.  They both apologized.  I couldn’t be mad at them.  I’m pretty much immune to it since they aren’t the first, and won’t be the last, of students to ask me the age-old question. I’ve come to expect I am ancient in their eyes.
A week later, I was at another school subbing in a school gym where I had a different experience.  Out of the blue, without any encouragement from me, a boy came up and said to me, “You look nice today”.  I asked him to repeat it since I wanted to be sure I heard him right.  His comment made my day.  Well, with kids and their observations and questions, I have to take the sour with the SWEET.

Motor Deficit

When I discovered I had Asperger’s, I got a lot of answers to the “Why” questions.    Such as why I had more than my fair share of childhood bruises and skinned up knees.  A common autism trait is a lack of motor skills.

I learned in my research that there are gross and fine motor skills.  I come up short on both.  Gross has to do with movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts and movements.  Actions such as such as running, crawling, swimming, etc.  I don’t know about crawling or when I learned to walk since I was way too young to remember and my Mom doesn’t remember either.  As for running, the P.E. coach could usually count on me to finish last.  I remember taking swimming lessons and I was not at the head of the class.  I did learn to swim but it took me longer.

Motor skills come in handy behind the wheel.  My learning to drive probably gave my Mom some of the gray hairs on her head before I finally got my driver’s license at 18.  My Dad wasn’t involved much since he lacked what I lack too:  patience.  I do remember him being in the car with me on my first time behind the wheel.  It was on a country road several miles safely away from the highway.  I was going so slow that the cows just watched and our dog didn’t bother chasing us.

Fine motor skills have to do with smaller movements that occur in the wrists, hands, fingers, and the feet and toes. They participate in smaller actions such as picking up objects between the thumb and finger, writing carefully, and even blinking.  In my elementary school years, I wore loafers with no strings attached to avoid tying my shoes.  I learned to tie my shoes before I learned how to master another challenge of blowing my nose.  My handwriting still reminds me of my doctor’s.  As for blinking, I don’t think about it until I am at the eye doctor when she tells me NOT to blink.  Then, I’ll commence to blinking like crazy.

Just recently while subbing for a special education class, I took a couple of the boys to lunch.  One of them asked me to peel his banana.  Bananas are on my “never eat” list and so I have limited experience of peeling them.  I could not crack that thing open with my fingers.  Believe me I tried!  One of the other boys volunteered and cracked it right open.  He had a certain kind of trick using one of his thumbs.  An 8-year-old teaching a 58-year-old how to peel a banana.  It’s a good thing I don’t have a deficit of a sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His Sidekick Sub

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep off the Grass!

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.

My 6000 Step Obsession

An obsession I have had for well over a decade is my collection of electronic devices.  I call them my toys and my toy store is Best Buy.  If most people shared this obsession, Best Buy profits would hit the roof.  Unlike Sears or JCPenny, they’d be opening stores instead of closing some store shutters.

When Uncle Sam’s tax refund recently arrived, I had an excuse to go to my toy store and buy what I had my eyes on and researched for weeks on the web: the Samsung GS-3 smart watch.  I was so excited when I brought it home!  Since it was a watch, this was one gadget I could keep with me around the clock.  I’m not a kid at heart.  No, I’m an “overboard” kid at heart.

The application (app) that perhaps is one of the most popular is the health one.  It displays a daily record of the steps I take.  I didn’t ask it to but it set a goal of 6000 steps per day. When I bought it, I didn’t think the number of steps I took each day would matter to me at all.  I forgot to consider the effect it might have on my constant companion – autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Since it is hard for me to sit still, another common ASD trait, I don’t struggle as much as perhaps other people in meeting that goal.  If during the week I am working a school P.E. substitute assignment, I don’t have to worry about hitting 6000.  But if it is more of a sit-down assignment of watching and working with youngsters in the classroom, I’ll have to step up to the plate before or after school to make up for lost time.

My “smart watch” is sometimes too smart for my liking.  If I have been sitting for an hour or so, it will vibrate displaying a message: “NEED TO MOVE” with a shoe icon underneath.  I may be at a place and time where I can’t do that, but if I can without breaking any social rules, I better get off my rear or my ASD guilt complex will kick in.

This isn’t a bad obsession as far as I can tell.  Exercise is good for my body and mind.  It is one of my best ways of avoiding or coping with ASD meltdowns.  It’s a rare day so far that my watch does not vibrate displaying the rewarding message of 6000 steps reached. The positive feedback from my know-it-all watch motivates me to step up to the challenge of 6000+.

It has been a couple of weeks since my GS-3 has been tied to my wrist (except when I have to give it juice for recharging).  I am going overboard but nothing new about my tendency to do that. I am jogging in place after I get up in the morning which is something I didn’t even think of doing pre-GS-3.  I even run in place while I’m waiting for the microwave to go off.  I now rack up around 13,000 steps per day.

I don’t dare change the default from 6000.  If I double that in a day’s time, that’s great.   But my motivation of reaching at least 6000 isn’t just desire or exercise.  My ASD won’t give me a break unless I walk 6000 steps by bedtime!  HA!

 

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I had the privilege of spending time with first graders while subbing as their P.E. coach’s sidekick.  They were a good group and I wish I could have been with them longer.  I couldn’t say that about the 3-6th grades.  HA!

It is a good thing I have gotten over my “age sensitivity” when it comes to what comes out of children’s mouths.  The first graders had a different perspective than mine of what “old” is.  I have no doubt I had the same perspective when I was their age.  Just like I did, they’ll change their perspective when they get older.  If memory serves me right, my perspective changed around the time when I started saying to folks I had reached middle age and no one blinked.

I was exercising with the 1st graders doing jumping jacks, jogging in place, etc.  One of them said to me, “I didn’t know Grandmas could walk fast.”  Instead of informing him that I wasn’t anybody’s grandma, I just told him a fact of life:  Grandmas can walk fast!  I have been an eyewitness such as way back when my Grandma chased after me when I was on the loose.

When we took the 1st graders outside to walk laps around the field, one of them asked me how old I was and I told him “30”.  He didn’t fall for it.  He told me his father is 42 and I sure looked older than his Dad.  I finally confessed my age of 58 and he said, “You are old!”  I wonder what he would think if he met my Aunt who is 88.  Ancient, I guess.

This child did not leave my side as we walked outside with his class.  I didn’t know at the time he and I had something in common:  autism.  I wasn’t surprised, though, because he showed some familiar traits.  He preferred spending time with me, the adult, rather than kids his own age.  I was the same way at his age.  If I could find an adult who would give me the time of day, I’d stick to them like glue.

In the course of thirty minutes, I got a synopsis of his life story.  He would be seven come June 6th.  He had an older brother whose height he described as being almost as high as the ceiling.  I learned he was afraid of lightning and mosquitoes.  He repeated that multiple times.  He’d jump whenever he saw a mosquito.  Well, either it was his imagination or my eyesight because I didn’t see one flying around.

I don’t know if he’ll remember our walk together.  I doubt it, but then again, I have childhood memories of folks who probably thought I’d have no memory of them.  I do know I’ll not soon forget the boy who feared a lightning strike and a mosquito bite.

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty-Something Pairs of Lungs

An autistic trait that gets me in hot water sometimes is difficulty with verbal instruction.  I think I would do better with a full page of step-by-step written instructions than a half minute of verbal.  Insert a diagram and I’m set to go!

Once upon a time, I was assigned to four kindergarten “kinder” classes.  I had a schedule where I spent some time in each class doing whatever the teacher needed help with.  One of the first things that morning was walking with one of the kinder teachers to another room in the building to pick up crayons.  She was explaining why I would need them for later.  I later learned my interpretation of that conversation was, in a word, OFF!

We stopped by a room that she said later would be where the kids would have art.  I assumed this was the art room and the teacher in the room she introduced me to was the art teacher. The kinder teacher told me the kids would have art in the afternoon and I would go with them and take the crayons with me.  I didn’t think at the time it was strange carrying crayons back to the class.  Why not leave them in the art room with the art teacher?

Well, art time came and I was escorting one of the kinder classes down to the room.  The problem was I forgot about the crayons until I was halfway down the hallway.  Common sense would have dictated my telling the teacher I had to go back and get the crayons.  But back when they handed out common sense, I must have been hiding under the bed.  HA!

My thinking was once the kids were settled in the art room, I would go back and pick up the crayons.  Well, that plan would have worked if there had been an art teacher.  The teacher I saw earlier that morning was NOT the art teacher.

That morning’s conversation with the kinder teacher was replaying in my head and I misinterpreted a few things.  The reason the teacher and I picked up the crayons was because the art teacher was absent that day.  We were not in the art room but occupying one of the general ed 6th grade rooms and it was their teacher who I met that morning.

For all intents and purposes, I was the art teacher!  And, I had 20-something kinder students with a picture for them to color with NO crayons.

Common sense would have dictated I use something called a “telephone” to call the kinder teacher or the office for HELP!  It didn’t occur to me to call until after the end of this unforgettable school day.

Instead, I asked the kinders if anyone knew where “Mrs….” room was since it wasn’t their teacher who had the crayons in her room.  I learned a lesson the hard way.  Don’t ask such a question to 5-year-olds.  Everyone volunteered by raising their hands and their voices with it.  Sheer pandemonium!

I was rescued by the teacher across the hallway who had an ample supply of crayons.  She brought them over and while there, used her “experienced” teaching voice to quieten the kinders down several notches.  Meanwhile, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she wondered what planet I came from.

We all learn some things the hard way.  I learned if I find myself in a jam in a classroom alone with students of whatever age, don’t forget there is such a thing as a telephone to call for HELP!  And, only under exceptional circumstances should I ask for volunteers in a kinder classroom.  This wonderful age group is not my top pick assignment since most kinder classes have 20 or so kids to a class and that’s 20-something pairs of lungs testing my low level of noise tolerance.