No Help Wanted

I am a do-it-myself. If at all possible, I carry a task out without any assistance.  I do not desire any witnesses either. If I ask for someone’s help with something, it only means one thing — sheer desperation!

Once upon a time, mid-February 2020, I was dogsitting for my brother and sister-in-law at their place in the hills of southeastern Oklahoma.  They have three dogs and three donkeys too.  My duties didn’t include donkey-care since they are self-sufficient stationed in the pasture.

I noticed that the donkeys were coming up close to the house instead of keeping their distance in the pasture.  It was fun watching the doggies go after the donkeys to get them to go back from where they came from.  The dogs eventually came back to the house with their heads hanging low at their lack of success.

The joke was on me!

I was talking to my Mom on the phone after she had seen the pictures I posted on Facebook of one of the donkeys up close to the porch. She asked, “If you don’t walk the donkeys up that close, why not close the gate?” My Aspie brain didn’t even visit the proposition of the donkeys being trespassers, much less of them escaping the pasture through an open gate. After the phone call, I checked and as my Mom guessed, the smaller gate near the barn was open. Even worse is that I was the guilty party of leaving it open when I went for a walk in the pasture. If the doggies could talk, they would have asked me, “Whose side in the doggies vs. donkeys game are you on?”

My brother commented on my Facebook picture that the donkeys would leave BIGGER deposits than the dogs ever would. Until my brother’s comment, the donkey’s version of hockey putts in a few piles in the yard had not gotten my attention. Since I was the guilty party in allowing the donkeys to trespass, I considered it my job to transplant the “putts” to the other side of the fence on the pasture side.

It was a first-time task for me to deal with donkey deposits.  I figured the best tool of choice for this task was a shovel.  My brother has more than one barn of tools.   There were plenty of tools but none of them resembled a shovel.  I tried a rake but that didn’t work well.  When I saw I wasn’t being productive, I wracked my Aspie brain for another way.   What method did I come up with? I can say unequivocally that I did NOT do it the easy way. The first putt was the hardest one to do. After that, it got easier to pick up by hand and throw each one over the fence. I wouldn’t recommend doing this chore without hand gloves.  Oh, based on how many, the donkeys weren’t starving.

A few hours later after the disgusting donkey chore, I noticed my brother’s shovel sitting pretty next to a woodpile.  It was just a few feet from the fence that I had been throwing “donkey putts” over.  I laughed to myself.  Since the chore was history at that point, there was no point in tears.

Other people in my situation would have picked up on the clue that the donkeys were getting out of the pasture and that was a bad thing.  Other people might not have picked up on the clue but they would have called for help.  My brother is a jack-of-all-trades.  He can repair a tractor, tile a bathroom floor, and plant a garden without looking at a manual. He was just a phone call away, but it didn’t enter my mind to call him for help.  I will not ask for help unless I am desperate.  Despite the nauseating chore, I was pleased I had gotten the dunk back where it belonged all by MYSELF!

I wish it was a simple task to ask for help when I’m in unchartered waters.  I feel too anxious to ask for help even from someone who is an expert in whatever those chartered waters are.  I prefer to do everything I can by myself and if I have to learn the hard way, so be it!

 

 

 

MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

I plead guilty to being as stubborn as an old mule.  I don’t remember a specific time but I am pretty sure my Mom has informed me of this and probably more than once over the years dating back to childhood.

 

I moved in with my Mom after I moved back to my hometown after I retired.  Since my Mom’s hip replacement surgery, my chore list has increased many times over.  No complaints about that since I don’t like “idle” time.  The thing is I don’t imitate my Mom’s way of doing chores.  Such as the laundry.  Unlike the way my Mom does it, and probably how most people do it, I carry in my arms the laundry to the washer and the dryer rather than toting the load in my Mom’s laundry basket. She did ask why not use the basket, but I refused to give in.  So even though she scratches her head at me, I persist in doing it MY way!

I don’t mind amending MY way if I alone discover a different way of how to do whatever.  It’s similar to a mistake not bothering me as much provided I am the one who discovers the mistake.  If someone catches my goof and points it out to me, it feels every bit like a punch in the stomach.  I will not soon forget not only the mistake but the humiliation I felt when it was pointed out to me.

I occasionally go on vacation when my brother and sister-in-law do.  They go wherever and I have the privilege of hanging out at their home in another state where I am surrounded by hill country all to myself with their three lovely dogs.  That’s what I call the ideal “Aspie” vacation.  On some of my dogsitting trips, my brother asked me to pick vegetables from their small gardens.  He always leaves a map and drawings knowing I might not know a zucchini from a pepper.  Smart fellow, my brother.

I would pick what I thought was ripe enough to leave the vine and carry them by hand back to the house, wash them, leave them on the window sill to dry, and then later put in the fridge.  After doing it this way during several dog-sitting visits, I figured out there was an easier way of doing it.  I noticed a pail on the back porch area and that’s what got me to thinking of another way.  Instead of carrying the veggies, I could take the pail with me when I went garden shopping and carry the veggies back in the pail.  That way I might not drop any from the garden to the house and cut down on trips.

Oh, I did wonder why I hadn’t thought of using a pail sooner but oh, well, it gave me a good chuckle at myself.  Sometimes it takes me a while to figure things out that to others comes natural-like.  Since I had the luxury of being alone, there was no one around to suggest why not use the pail.  If there had been, I would not have welcomed the suggestion.  I might have reacted with stubbornly continuing to hand carry.   Or, I would have relented and felt miserable than someone had to tell me to something I should have known in the first place.

If there is a hard way to do a task, the odds are better I’ll find it before I stumble onto the easiest. Whenever possible, I work alone in my own way.  No backseat driver required unless I am desperate enough to ask for one!  If my thinking cap comes up with an easier way, great.  If not, well, I just took a longer highway to get the job done.

 

 

 

 

The Signs Were Always There

I don’t know if the signs for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are as numerous as the stars, but it seems that way.  ASD is such a broad umbrella and each of us on the Spectrum is as unique as those who aren’t.

MY SIGNS

I run in place or pace the floor when I’m excited and when I’m just the opposite.  I do it when I’m doing chores around the house.  I do it to help me think.  I do it to calm my anxiety.  I do it every day.  I used to do it “in the closet” so to speak outside the view of witnesses, but I have since come out of the closet at home with my stimming.  I don’t bother hiding it from the two family members I live with.  But beyond the house, I am on guard of where I stim and where I don’t.

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When people come to visit my Mom’s house where I live, they’ll usually find me in my bedroom pursuing one of my interests if they care to find me. I’ll pop in and out if I think of something to say. 

If I see someone I know at the store, I’ll go in the other direction because I can’t think of anything in common we have to talk about or fear they’ll ask questions I am not prepared or want to answer.

I am a “soloist”!  I prefer to eat alone, I prefer to watch TV alone, I prefer to play video games alone, I prefer to go walking or bike riding at the park alone, I prefer to worship in a quiet place alone, and I prefer to do chores and errands alone.  An exception would be shopping but only if someone would do the driving so I wouldn’t have to.  There is no one I live with who will volunteer though.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'love to be left alone to get on with things. It is important to me that there are clear instructions, a clear project outline and a clear goal from the start, because it makes the process of working alone so much more efficient.' Alis Rowe facebook.com/thegirlwiththecurlyhai &'

 

An in-person conversation can be a delight or a booby trap.  I treasure the few I know who I feel as comfortable with as my overworn faded jeans.  However, most times I feel trapped in a conversation.  Questions I didn’t see coming, for instance, can throw me for a loop.  I tell a joke and the person doesn’t get the punch line.  If the topic is about something I know little about or care nothing for, I am racking my brain for an excuse so I can get out of the trap.  

 

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Crnde Jolkes A good way to get out of a conversation is to take off one of your socks and hand it to the person talking. Dirty Crade'

 

My daily hobby is having a monologue with myself.  I don’t just hold one in my own space, my bedroom.  I’ll have a good talk with myself on a walk at the park or a ride on my bike.  Back when I was a kid, I would do it at the side of the house while pacing back and forth.  How often?  I actually made a trail in the grass.  When I retired and moved back in with my Mom, I am in the same backyard but instead of the side of the house, I take the whole backyard to walk and talk.

Autistic Axolotl meme: I monologue more frequently than characters in a Shakespearean tragedy.

 

I am quiet as a mouse in group settings.  My mind is a busy bee taking it all in.  I will dwell on the topics of discussion long after the group chat was over.  But on those rare occasions when I have the podium, my mask comes off and the extrovert in me takes over.  The best compliment I ever received after giving a presentation was “I didn’t want you to sit down.” 

I am a never-married.  I guess I fall under the category of asexual.  I admit the thought of homosexuality has crossed my mind.  I crossed off the possibility though.  I had a tremendous crush, on a male co-worker a decade or so ago.  I had it hard for like two to three years.  This was before I learned I had ASD.  In hindsight, with the knowledge of my ASD, my “crush” was obsessive behavior.  My attempts to get his attention were downright awkward.  Poor guy!  My not getting the hints that he didn’t have a crush on me was just one example of my being socially awkward.  I will say this:  It was as close as I ever came to this thing called love.

My signs are just mine.  Some of my fellow travelers on the Spectrum share some of my signs and some do not.  For instance, I have worked with ASD students who were quiet, like me, and I have met a few chatterboxes too. 

I suspect there are a lot of adults out there who are living on the spectrum who don’t know they are. This is just my opinion that those adults who know they are on the Spectrum, and those adults who are but don’t know, have this in common:  We know we are different.  And that difference was agony for me until I learned the explanation of what was behind that difference.  The agony of being different has eased tremendously since I have been in the “know” category. 

It took me 58 years, the right job as a special education aide, and a 12-year-old to introduce me to what was behind the signs that were always there.

THE BRIGHT SIDE OF ASD

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

I give credit to my being in a better place to my having learned I have ASD. It’s one thing to live with it in the dark; it’s quite another to live with ASD in the light.

What I lack in seeing the big picture I make up with my “attention to detail”.  While others peer through a telescope, I eye through a microscope lens.

I am not a non-show at appointments; not a latecomer either.  The appointment date, time, and details are on my mind from the date I made it to when the appointment is history.  I lived the appointment in my imagination numerous times before the real one takes place.  The appointment seldom, though, ever plays out as it did in my imagination.  I say that is a good thing since I tend to go for the worst-case scenario in my dreams.

My elderly Mom never has to remind me the lawn needs mowing, edging, or shrubs need trimming.  It is because I look forward to doing this yard chores.  Really!  It is only because of one of my ASD obsessions is electric or battery-powered gadgets.  Mowers, edgers, and battery-operated clippers are members of my herd of gadgets.  And when I use them, these gadgets get a work-out!  The weeds are doomed when I rev up my gear.  One would be hard-pressed to find a yard or alley more trimmed than the one under my thumbs.

I have strong attention to detail.  This is the reason why the person who taught me library cataloging told me I was a “natural”.  It was the job I held the longest and earned me the most awards and most of all, that awesome feeling of success!

I source my passion for writing as an ASD trait.  My self-diagnosis came about through working as a substitute teacher’s aide with elementary students who have Autism.  After I was introduced to my ASD, I began writing about living on the Spectrum and some of my blogs were about the students I had met.  One of the blogs was about a student who not only had Autism, but other challenges that had so far denied him the ability to talk or to walk.  But he could smile and I wrote about that.  My blog got the attention of the special education teacher of the student I was writing about even though I didn’t reveal his identity or the school.  She forwarded the blog to the students’ mother.  I later had the privilege of meeting the mother in person who thanked me for writing about her son.  It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.  If I had not had ASD, it never would have happened.

There is a bright side to my ASD.  It is worth it to take the time to ponder over the bright side and appreciate its glow amidst the darkness ASD brings as well.  Oh, yes, ASD is a thorn in my side, but I for one know it is a blessing to my soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autism, Gaming, and a Pandemic

I am writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic.  One can usually find the bright side to even the darkest of tragedies.  As someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), when taking a walk, it isn’t unusual for me to change paths to avoid crossing paths with someone.  I am delighted when I have a trail to myself.  I continue in the midst of this pandemic of taking walks and am amused I have the excuse of a pandemic to dodge human beings on the path.  Seriously, I yearn for the day I can go back to social distancing on MY terms.

A coping mechanism for me during quarantine is to play games on-line.  I would have never thought I would become a video-gamer.  Not in a million years.  You see I have never wanted to play games with others. I didn’t as a kid and that has no changed with my aging.   I am a do-it-myself person.  I am content as I can be in entertaining myself in solitary.  Just one of my qualities living with ASD.

It was shortly before the pandemic, around Christmas of 2019, that I took up video-gaming.  It only takes one video game console to dive into video games.   Logically, I know that.  But one of my ASD traits is I go way, way overboard with anything I try and fall head over heels with.  I do mean overboard!  This explains why that Christmas I bought myself an Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and a virtual reality device.  The gaming was an offshoot to my long-held obsession with electronic gadgets.   After all, video consoles do have power cords attached to them.

The video-gaming hobby came at a good time though as COVID-19 became a household word.  My having to go into quarantine was not as much a challenge for me as other family members since social isolation is what I daily do on the Spectrum.  But I got bored and anxious like most people did and gaming was a coping mechanism.

I also did on-line surveys to pass the time.  It’s another “solo” activity and the extra plus is I am paid with a little bit of spending money and gift cards.  One of the surveys I took was on the topic of video-gaming.  No surprise that my answers proved to be a snapshot of my ASD.

Some of the survey questions asked the following:

Do I prefer games that focus on single-player vs. multi-player?

This was the easiest question to answer.  I don’t play solitaire, but I do play in solitary.

 

Do I play just for fun vs. being a serious gotta-win gamer?

Winning isn’t my motive for playing.  I don’t know what it is to be a serious winner.  Oh, I like to win, but I can have fun without winning.

There’s an old saying that practice makes perfect.  Well, I am happy to say that with more gaming practice, I have on occasion ended a game in  “first place”.

 

Do I care more about playing games to help me improve real-life skills such as fine and gross motor skills or more about games letting me live a different life than I really have?

The games exercise my gross and fine motor skills, both of which need plenty of fine-tuning.  So I care more about that.  However, I am entertained with getting to race cars and shoot targets that I have only done in my imagination.

 

Did I prefer games with realistic themes vs. fantasy or sci-fi?

I had a wild imagination as a child and I haven’t lost that in my senior years.  Delving into fantasy and sci-fi is a break from the business of living.

 

Did I enjoy playing game puzzles, such as jigsaw, or did I find such games boring?

I don’t find game puzzles boring.  I am a jigsaw fan and of other word and board games.  Puzzles have for several years been food for my ASD brain!

 

Did I tend to play games for action vs. games with a story?

Action is my favorite because it is quick.  A story requires focus and patience and I don’t have much of either.  That’s one reason why I’m not big on reading books or watching movies.  If I do watch a movie, it is at home by myself and where I can do something else, like a crossword puzzle, during the movie.

 

Did I prefer games that challenged my mind vs. games that offered a big reward?

I care nothing about the rewards.  I pay little attention to the game statistics and reward number.  The games are food for my mind and practice for my skills.  During the pandemic, video-gaming has been fun, a way to pass the time, and take my mind off of the dark headlines.

 

Did I schedule a time to play video games or only played during my free time?

Another easy question.  A schedule helps to keep me on a steady keel.  Most everything I do is on a schedule and gaming is not an exception.

 

Do I prefer games that are single-tasked or multi-tasked?

Single, please!  The fewer buttons on the remote that I have to push the better are my chances of a decent score.  One of my favorite single-tasked games is Ping-Pong, for example.  It’s a game on my virtual reality device.  I play with an alien-like figure instead of choosing to play with real-life humans on-line.  My focus is hitting the ball over the net.  I have more success at this game versus one where I have to use multiple buttons such as moving right to left or up and down, another button to perform some action, and so on.  I play multi-tasked games, but my strength is a game where my focus is only on one task.

 

Finally, my ASD is still at play when I have a game controller in hand.  My lack of balance, motor skills, and speed put me at a disadvantage but with practice, I am improving and that motivates me to keep at it.  My goal isn’t to finish third, second, or first.  It is primarily to have fun, especially during a pandemic!

My Thinking Cap

I am the quiet one.  When surrounded by people in a group setting, I seldom say a word unless called upon.  When I’m talking with one person and another joins us, it is as if I had a mute button that comes on automatically.  In groups where I am not a stranger, people usually don’t bother with me except with the “Hello, how are you?’s”  I’m fine with that.

What they see is a quiet one, but what they can’t see is my brain is a busy bee.  It is taking in what the others are saying along with their tones of voice and facial expressions. The analysis of it all will still be going on in my mind long after the group has disbanded.

That is just how it is for me living on the Spectrum.  Not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing; it’s just the way it is with me and my thinking cap.

 

My Precious Space

Image may contain: possible text that says ''I love to be left alone. I cope with life by withdrawing into my own head and thinking my own private thoughts Any interaction or disturbance to this private world is very upsetting.' Alis Rowe 6 a facebook.com/thegirlwiththecurlyhair'

The above picture hits me right where I live!

I cherish my space!

Space became an issue when I moved in with my dear, sweet Mom after retiring from the federal workforce in Washington, D.C.  My precious space was reduced to the size of a bedroom.  The bedroom is also occupied by my Mom’s mega-sized computer desk.  I have a passion for computers, laptops, tablets, etc.  My Mom doesn’t share that passion and does not use her computer near as much.  She does make almost a half-dozen stops in my room throughout the day to see what her FACEBOOK friends are up to.  I’ll just say sharing my space does NOT come naturally to me.

I feel trapped sometimes when someone else is around while I am in my precious space. I prefer to do most things by myself such as computer tasks, working on crossword puzzles, video-gaming, and doing household chores.  I like doing things with NO witnesses. It’s like driving with a back seat driver behind you second-guessing your driving performance.

I’m mostly okay when my Mom comes in and checks in on her FACEBOOK.  I try to be patient if she’s in a conversation mood even when I am not.  But it’s a whole different story when my Mom plays a video accompanied by SOUND!

Logically speaking, I know she has every right to do so.  It is her computer and furthermore, it is her house!  But with having Autism, my reaction to the sound is way out of bounds.  What comes over me I cannot fully describe in words.  I have tried to stay in the room and try to get my mind off of it.  I have as much success at getting my mind off of it as I would have ignoring a sliver of glass stuck in my foot.   I don’t tell her to turn it off since I have no right to dictate such.  Telling her to turn it down doesn’t work because I can hear it at high, medium, and low volumes.  The only coping mechanism is to get off my rear and leave far enough that the sound isn’t within earshot which usually entails going outside weather permitting; if not, there is the garage.  When the sound is gone, my meltdown is over.

I am not bothered if the sound is coming from my computer.  Easy fix!  Just turn it off if I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t write this off as simply a control thing.  Yes, if I am playing the sound, there is no meltdown.  However, my turning into a wild animal when hearing sound around, above, or below me is something I truly wish I could control.  Autism is what it is.  I have coping mechanisms, but just when I think I’m in control, my Autism rises up and slaps me in the face.

On the bright side, and there is one, there’s no space like my space.  Space where I can pursue my strengths and passions.  Space where I can stim to my delight.  My bedroom isn’t much space since my electronic gadgets do take up a lot of room.  But what space of my own there is, I feel blessed to have it and cherish the time I am in it.

Conversation Popper

Image result for aspergers and conversation

 

I am in the midst of family or friends who are having such a wonderful time of conversation on a topic(s) they are excited about.  The problem for me is I have no input on it.  My mind goes blank.  If by chance someone in the group brings up a topic right up my alley, I’ll come to life until the topic drops.

If this get-together is being held at home where I live with other family members, my bedroom is where they’ll find me if I cross their minds.  During their visit, I turn into a “popper”.  I’ll pop in if I think of something to say that might attract their attention.  Once I have my input, I retreat to my space.

Image result for aspergers and conversation

I  am not a total “no show” to houseguests.  I can even pretend to be engaged.  But enjoy it?  No.  I can’t make my inner self enjoy anything.  Either I do or don’t.

I’m not this way because I want to be the “mute” one in a group or the one who doesn’t join the others at the dinner table with the family.  I can’t make someone understand who wonders “why don’t you just do it?”  One would have to dwell in my brain and even if that were possible, I doubt I’d have any takers.

I wouldn’t ask someone with asthma “why don’t you just breathe normal-like?”  All I could give an asthmatic is empathy.  That’s all I ask too.

What might surprise folks around me is it does bring tears to my eyes sometimes when I’m amidst such joy and excitement and can only pretend that I feel it too.

“This Better Be Important!”

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The girl with the curly hair and I have a lot in common.  The above posting hits me where I live on a daily basis.  Compromise and adjustment are necessary pains.  A vacation day without taking one is when my day’s routine is not broken and filled with activities related to my special interests.  If I have to compromise or adjust my plans for the day, it’s like taking a dose of castor oil.

I have been living with a few family members since I retired from working for Uncle Sam (U.S. gov.) six years ago.  It was a big adjustment since I had lived by myself for a quarter of a century.  After moving in, I created a new routine as I would after any move, temporary or long-term.

One of the daily hurdles to jump over is handling interruptions to my routine.  Since sticking in my room most of the day is a necessary part of my daily routine, I get interrupted when someone needs my assistance or has a question or has some news to share.  It’s not a hurdle when one calls my name when I’m not doing much of anything.  However, it is when I’m in the middle of one of my interests such as writing a blog like this one or playing video games or eating at my desk.  It is a higher hurdle when my name is called multiple times within the same hour.  I am not proud to say I throw a good imitation of a childhood tantrum for someone in their early 60s.  I usually manage to remember to put on my mask by the time I get to whoever with a smile on my face and a polite-sounding voice as if I didn’t mind the interruption at all.

After all, it isn’t their fault.  It would be worst if my name was never called and so no one needed me or wanted to converse with me.  Yet, I confess, if I had a mirror to my face, I suspect sometimes my discontent when interrupted shows on my face like a neon sign.

 

 

 

 

 

GROPING FOR WORDS

I have moments when socializing I think to myself, “I wish someone would give me a script!”  With living on the Autism Spectrum, I could use one when undertaking the challenge of a conversation.  (I gave my Autism a nickname of Billy).

I recently was visited by a couple of family members.  As I typically do, I retreated to my bedroom where I continued hanging out on my computer.  I heard the chatter in the living room between my relatives and had no urge whatsoever to join them. Their conversation covered topics I had “0” input or interest in.  Billy isn’t a secret to them and they’ve come to expect me to stay in my room when they come over.

One of my nephews will pop into my room to say hello.  He’s one of my top favorite fellas in my life and that’s saying a lot coming from me who has had few males in my life. However, we don’t have many mutual topics of interest. Such as I am interested in politics and he’s sworn off voting ever again. I can understand why he feels that way though.

We do talk about my electronic gadget collection since he does seem infatuated by it or maybe he’s just infatuated with how many gadgets his eccentric Aunt has.  His visits are usually months apart and so by the time he visits, I’ve add another gadget or more to my ever-growing collection.  This keeps the conversation going for a while depending on what I am showing off and his interest in it. After the demo, I am GROPING for something to say to disrupt the deafening silence. If he isn’t wishing for an escape hatch, I know I am.

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On a shopping trip with my Mom, we ran into a lady we’ve known for around 40 years and hadn’t seen in like a decade.  I was glad to see her and even exchanged two hugs worth.  Her idea, not mine.  HA!  My Mom got more hugs but two was my limit.  My Mom and the family friend were more engaged in conversation than I was.  I felt more or less like a standing statue watching the other customers maneuver around us.  I would pop in the conversation if a topic came up I could contribute to.  I wish I could have enjoyed it as much as they did but it just doesn’t work that way in my brain where my Billy resides.  Billy is what he is.