Competition is one of those things I see people do and wonder why. To be the BEST? Beats me why. Whatever I like to do, such as bicycling, I just want to enjoy it by MYSELF! I don’t care to be in a race on a bike or in a game with a deck of cards. I don’t like to play games with others. I am content as I can be solving puzzles in solitary confinement.
Surprisingly, I fell head over heels with a new obsession last Christmas that affords myself many an opportunity to indulge in “competition”. It’s an offshoot to my long-held obsession with electronic gadgets. I have long held a strange attraction to items attached to power cords or have battery compartments. Anyway, I ventured into the world of video-games. After all, video consoles do have power cords attached to them.
My first bite into gaming was a cheap video game console. A small investment before going full hog. By Christmas, a few months later, I had purchased not one, not two, but three different video game consoles. I can’t speak for others with Autism, but with me, if I like something, I go way OVERBOARD! This explains, too, why I have so many boxes of Cheerios and packs of diet coke always on hand.
My favorite video games are one that provides “training sessions”. I stay “in training” instead of engaging in an online competition! Such as a ping-pong game in virtual reality where my opponent is an alien-like figure. The figure always wins just as the wall always wins when I practice hitting a tennis ball against a wall. My goal is to maintain a work-out of pinging back and forth rather than serving a ball that doesn’t make it over the net or lands off the table in out-of-boundary land.
My Autism has a part in just about everything I do. That includes when I have a game controller in my hand. My lack of balance, motor skills, and speed raise their ugly faces when I’m gaming. Racing games, in particular, are not a good match for me. I don’t know a lot about racing but I know enough to know that quick thinking on the fly is a valuable asset for a speedster. One doesn’t have time to think on a racing track of whether to speed up, slow down, veer to the right or to the left, etc. if they want to finish in a decent place. My goal isn’t to finish third, second, or first. But just to get to the finish line with the racing care in one piece.
There is always the option with many of the video games of playing them with others on-line. I’d only do that if a pistol was pointing at my head.
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!
My obsession with electronics has recently broadened to electric scooters. I used to have a thing for “vacuums” to the point that my apartment resembled a used vac store. Well, now it is scooters. Within a couple of months after coming down with this obsession, I have five scooters. Just call me a scooter-bug.
The first member of my scooter herd was a Segway mini-transporter that I nicknamed “Seggie”.
My second was a different breed than my Seggie. It belonged to the “glider” branch of electric scooters (a pink GoTrax scooter) that I appropriately nicknamed “Pinkie”. I wanted to have two that were different breeds.
My Pinkie broke down shortly after I bought her and the company was kind to send me a replacement. In the meantime, not knowing Pinkie would be replaced, I got a Razor scooter nicknamed “Raz”. So I didn’t intend to have three, but I quickly got used to the idea.
Then, Raz’s chain stopped me in my tracks. While it lay in the garage going nowhere, not knowing if it could be repaired, I went ahead and got Seggie’s little brother, a mini-Seggie, that I nicknamed “Lil’ Seggie”.
Then, Amazon Inc. had its annual BIG sale for its prime members. The sale was almost a full two days worth. I succumbed on the second day purchasing a hoverboard at a sale price I didn’t think I would see again until maybe next year.
The hoverboard (nicknamed Hovert) is the most challenging of them all to tame. On my first ride, I fell off of it within 60 seconds. Well, twice. I wondered at times if it would be UNtameable. My playmates, grandniece and nephew, avoided Hovert like the plague. I saw on Amazon it had an accessory that could turn Hovert into a go-cart. Although, I was slowly but surely taming Hovert, I purchased the accessory thinking I could get more use of Hovert by it being a go-cart instead of hoverboard only.
My riding around on a scooter grants me far more attention than I want. Most especially with Seggie and Lil’ Seggie since in a town of 43,000 people, I may be the only owner of one. If I traveled downtown, I’d probably run into a fellow Segway scooter at a tourist spot. If I do cross paths with a fellow scooter, it is someone far younger than me. Hey, I never acted my age anyway. When I was 10, I was going on 40. Now I’m near 60 and I’m heading back to 10.
Maybe it is wishful thinking but I think these scooters are helping to improve my balance skills. A lack of fine or gross motor skills is one of those ASD traits. I’m not absolutely sure about that. It took weeks before my swollen big toe looked like it did before Pinkie fell on it. One of my thumbs hasn’t been pain-free since Seggie fell for a curb and took me with him.
They have given my pride and joy, my four-set of wheels, “Toyota Prius”, some cosmetic changes (scratches in loading and unloading the scooters). So why in tarnation do I keep at scooting? There’s no middle ground with my ASD. When I become obsessed with something, the intensity can be stronger than even my long-held fear of the sensation of feeling the earth move under my feet.
I think I’ve completed my scooter family and plan no more family additions until…well, they start playing Christmas songs on the radio. But I wouldn’t place any bets on that.
Someone asked me what was it like having Asperger’s. I didn’t mind the question. Quite the contrary! I welcomed the question or any question related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). That’s one reason I write about living on the Spectrum. I can’t speak for my fellow ASD travelers since each one of us on the Spectrum is unique. I can describe my own life on the Spectrum, but don’t ask me to explain it. Those who don’t have ASD can’t understand it and those of us who do can’t explain it.
My anxiety goes up a notch or two when I am given the “PLEASE go get the…, find the…, bring me …, it’s in the…next to the…on the right…”. The longer the instruction string, the least likely the instructor will get positive results from me.
I was helping a friend the other day with an outdoor project and she gave me a few of those type requests in one sitting. The pressure to find what she wanted in record speed put me on panic alert. I did find them but not with record speed and not without my friend repeating or rephrasing the directions. If I were quick on my feet, I would have asked, “Am I getting warmer?” meaning am I getting closer or further from the target of the safari hunt. The items were within a short, I do mean SHORT, distance from me. EMBARRASSING! If there had been a hole, I would have climbed in it until my friend talked me out of it.
Sleeping with five pillows instead of one. A miserable night if I was reduced to sleeping with the standard number of 1 or even 2. It is just one of my long held rituals to be surrounded by pillows at bedtime. I call it, for lack of a better explanation, my comfort food at bedtime.
DIET ROUTINE – WRITTEN IN STONE
My list of what I eat on a regular basis could be counted on two hands. Most of those items are high in starches. Thus, I am a big fan of bread, bagels, dry cereals, crackers, chips, and popcorn. No salt shaker but what I eat has plenty in it. When I eat my meals is beyond my understanding but I stick to my peculiar eating routine like SUPER glue.
GOOGLE IMAGES WITHOUT WORDS
I am in a conversation and have the floor. I am telling a story and come to a point where for the life of me I can’t think of the name of the image in my head. I describe it in a haphazard way where I stutter all over myself. This is the part that frustrates me. A few minutes later, my brain pops the word up. Granted, this surely happens to most people, but in my life on the spectrum, it is the “norm” instead of the exception.
OH CLUMSY ME!
If there is something to trip over, stumble on, tumble over, then one of my toes, feet, or knees will find it. I don’t take daily inventory, but I don’t think I’ve lived a day that I didn’t have a bruise on my person. I’ll only remember how I got a bruise if it hurt so much that I saw lights flashing. It is frustrating to no end when I bump, fall, and trip but I try to take ’em as they come and keep going with bruises galore.
NOT SO FINE ON MOTOR!
Fine motor skills have to do with the small stuff when it comes to movement. This is why my handwriting bears a strong resemblance to chicken scratch. It is why picking up objects between my thumb and finger is no small feat. Such as putting on or off pierced earrings. As hard as I try to hang on to the earring or “back”, it happens without fail of one dropping. The earring is easier to find than the “back” to it. The backs are so small and blend in into the floor that finding one is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
I have come so close at times to give up earrings entirely and forget about my two tiny ear holes. I give in against my better judgment and buy a pack of cheap earrings at the dollar store just to replace the missing “backs”.
WHY DID I SAY ALL THAT?
I meet a total stranger who gives me an inch. I’ll tell the stranger way more than I want to about myself. It was as if I had provided a total perfect stranger a chapter or two of my audiobook autobiography. Shortly thereafter, I’m kicking myself as to what in the world was I thinking telling a stranger my life story.
Those are just some examples of what it is like to have Asperger’s Syndrome. Sometimes I have a no-meltdown kind of day. Other times my autism slaps me in the face and lets me know it’s around and is here to stay.
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.
While subbing for an elementary school’s P.E. coach’s sidekick, I was on the sidelines of watching students roller skate on the gym floor. The coach had his own pair of skates on as well as one of the teachers. Me? I was on the sidelines sitting on a stack of gym mats with some additional mat padding on the wall behind me. I wanted to have a soft landing if one of the skaters lost control and landed on me.
I don’t remember putting on a pair of skates when I was little. I think I must have tried it at least once and at some point decided my being a roller skater was only going to happen in my dreams. One of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits is a struggle with motor skills. Motor skills do come in handy in keeping a skater on their feet rather than landing on their rump. I do remember trying ice skating once in my teen years on one of those rare times I was on a date. The sweet guy could skate well since he was repeatedly able to get me up off the floor without falling himself.
My diagnosis of Asperger’s changed my life. It has filled in the reason of why I did whatever, why I felt whatever, and why I couldn’t do whatever. Roller skating is just one thing on my list of “don’t do’s” that I suspect ASD is the culprit. There is another list of things I can do but were harder for me as a child to learn such as tying my shoes, blowing my nose. or unlocking a combination school locker.
A common struggle on the Autism Spectrum is with social interaction. Some days I do fine interacting with my fellow man; whereas, other days I get frustrated and wish I had the wings of a dove so I could fly away to a deserted island (with nice living accommodations, of course). I have no doubt that my never-married status is tied to ASD. There are plenty of people living on the spectrum who have married and some have done well and some haven’t. Just as those who don’t have ASD. But dating was awkward at best for me. I’m not ruling out marriage because I shouldn’t say never, but I’m not looking for a gentleman caller.
I missed some experiences that my peers have had such as roller skating or walking down the aisle or getting a valentine card from one’s grandchild. But ASD has given me compensation as it has others with ASD. A special talent of my own – writing. It’s something I don’t have to struggle with doing as I do with social interaction or any activity heavy on motor skills.
I don’t aim to be a Shakespeare or a Dickinson. Just write from my heart. It is a treasured gift that I don’t believe I’d have if I didn’t have my constant companion (ASD). If there was some magic bottle that could take ASD away, I don’t think I’d take it. Not if I had to give up my compensation.