My Ideal Vacation with my Constant Companion

I guess dog-sitting for family members does not sound like an ideal vacation, but that’s how I spent mine during the summer of ’18.  I enjoyed sweet solitude on a farm in the hills of Oklahoma with just me, two dogs, three donkeys, a herd of cows, and other assorted country critters.  Being alone out in the country was the ideal vacation for me whose constant companion is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The vacation covered two separate trips.  One was a preview of about a week before the two-full week trip a few weeks later.   I had a BLAST on both trips after I got over the initial ANXIETY of being in different surroundings and a change in routine.  It took about 24 hours after my arrival for the arrival of calm.  A change in routine, no matter how much preparation beforehand, even if the destination is a vacation spot, raises my anxiety level.  There’s not much I can do about that other than telling myself it will pass.  It always does.

As for the dogs, Blu and Bailey, they were jumping up and down, wiggling their tales; that is when their adult parents came home … or, maybe more so when I drove off.  Just kidding.

I was asked more than once by inquiring and concerned folks before I left, “Aren’t you going to get LONELY in the country all by YOURSELF?”  If you ask me, that’s one of those common neurotypicals (NT) questions.  You see, for me, someone with ASD, being by myself on a vacation is equivalent to someone else’s ideal vacation of being on a cruise ship surrounded by others engaging in social activities.  No, I have never been on a cruise, but the thought of being on the ocean with a host of strangers gives me the chills in a frightening sort of way.  Perish the thought!

I didn’t think of myself as alone the entire time.  I did venture into town and had interaction with store clerks.  That was sufficient social interaction.

I had the dogs but they weren’t much company.  I don’t want to give the impression I don’t like dogs.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have signed up for dog-sitting duty.  I have wonderful childhood memories of having a dog as I was growing up.  The pet was my playmate and comforter.  I would have a dog of my own but I live with my Mom who likes dogs but not enough to own one.  I got along just fine with the dogs, but I knew they missed my brother and sister-in-law.

I had for comfort in my change of environment and routine my electronic gadgets.  I consider them my “comfort” necessities:  my computer, my smartphone, my voice-activated gadget (Amazon Echo), my two Segway electronic scooters, and my hoverboard.

Scooter riding was one ingredient that added excitement during my dogsitting tour of duty.  I had plenty of acres to scoot over.  I could scoot to my utter delight without worry about pedestrians or traffic.  Scooter riding is part of my daily routine and unless it is pouring down rain, lightning striking, thunder rolling, snow falling, or temps in the teens, I will go for a scooter ride.

Back in my suburban home, I ride my scooters at the parks.  Along with the enjoyment I get from riding them, I get UNwanted attention.  Sometimes the stops and stares are too much for my nerves.  Well, even though I was out in the country, I got more stares than I ever had before while I was riding my Segway scooter on the gravel road to the mailbox.  There were so many pairs of eyes that I didn’t bother to count.  Maybe my being a stranger in the area was one reason, but I reckon, too, they had never seen a Seggie before.  It didn’t bother me though.  I just paid the cows no mind.

All in all, it was one of my BEST vacations.  The main ingredient was time to myself.  It recharged my batteries.  Even if I had been dog-sitting at a beach house, mountain cabin, or a house in suburbia, it would still have been the ideal vacation for me and my ASD.

Now it wasn’t totally perfect but then what vacations are?  In my case, there were a few things I didn’t care for during my time in the country.  Namely flies, grasshoppers, and spurs.  They were far more attached to me than I was to them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s the difference between a pastor talking to God and a mentally ill person talking to oneself?

This was a question posted by someone on a website I frequently visit.  I felt compelled to answer it and below is my answer.

I am not a pastor but I do talk to myself and I talk to God too. There’s a difference. Just like there’s a difference between talking to my Mom vs. talking to my brother. I don’t address my brother as Mom when talking to him, for instance.  When I talk to God, I address Him as such.  When I talk to myself, I don’t feel it necessary to address myself.

In early December 2016, a 12-year-old girl caught my attention in an autism unit class where I was subbing for one of the aides. She was talking to herself in the middle of the classroom.  Observing her was the light bulb that led me to my own Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. The difference between me and the child is I know there are places and times that I should not talk to myself. I try not to do it in public but it wouldn’t be unusual, for instance, to be caught talking to myself while taking a walk in the park. I pray, too, in the park. If there were a video camera in my bedroom or whenever I am by myself, one would see a lot of me doing the self-talk. If I saw myself on camera, I would be “weird” to me too.

I can’t prove that my prayers get beyond the ceiling. When I’ve prayed, I’ve yet to hear a voice answer back. I recall one time praying for something unusual and later thinking maybe I was silly asking for it. But I didn’t take back my prayer. I was high as a kite when before the day was over, the “silly” prayer was answered. Some would say it was just luck. Just a chance occurrence.  I have no visible proof that my prayer was heard and answered from Heaven. Or, that there is even such a place to begin with. It’s a matter of faith. I suppose that’s why the word “faith” isn’t a hard word to find in the Bible.

The Self-Talk

In early December 2016, a 12-year-old girl caught my attention in an autism unit class where I was subbing for one of the aides. The student was doing the “self-talk” in the middle of the classroom. She paced the floor while doing it and a few times skipped across the room.  Although I couldn’t make out what she was saying to herself, I knew it was possibly a story with a cast of characters and dialogue was unfolding in her mind.

Watching the child that day was a life-changing moment. It was the light bulb that led me to my own Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.  The difference between me and the child is I know there are places and times that I should not do the self-talk. I try not to do it in public but it wouldn’t be unusual, for instance, to be caught talking to myself while taking a walk in the park. If there were a video camera in my bedroom, one would see a lot of me doing the self-talk. I reckon if I saw myself on camera, I would be “weird” to me.

The following are some questions I’ve been asked and my answers.

Is talking to oneself stimming?

I don’t think talking to oneself is stimming since by definition stimming is repetitive movement. Sometimes when I am doing the self-talk, I am pacing back and forth. I especially did this as a child when I would go outside to the side of the house and pace; or do so in my bedroom. The pacing is repetitive movement or stimming. So I sometimes stim while doing the self-talk but not always.

How important is self-talk to me?

Well, to ask me to stop doing it would be like telling me not to breathe. It isn’t going to happen! Even if I made an effort to stop, I predict I would fail at every attempt. It’s not really a choice. It’s just something I do living on the Spectrum.

How do you deal with an autistic person who talks to themselves?

Respect what they do as being something they just do. If they are doing it in an unsafe place or situation, then that’s different. But if not, just leave them be. And above all, don’t think they are crazy. It is just what we do and more likely than not, it isn’t something we outgrow. If I should live to be 80 or more, I’ll still be a talker to myself. Some of my best conversations are with me, myself, and I.