Scooteritis

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”. 

Image result for segway minilite

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.

Image result for hoverboard

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What is missing in an autistic person that a normal person has?

Someone asked this question on a website for asking/answering any number of questions on any number of topics.  I responded by first saying, “In my case, a social life.”

To put it simply, I have a social disability. Unlike those around me, family and friends, I don’t like to be around people much.  If I am with one person discussing a topic that’s right up my alley, I am talking that other person’s poor leg off.  But add another person or more to the conversation and I go into silent mode.

It is well-documented those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (my nickname for it is “Billy”) are not likely to be the social bufferflies in their community. I could manage better than those I know of going days in solitary confinement without going mad. Torture for me would be in the midst of people, strangers or not, around the clock with no break of lone time.

I shutter at the word “group”. It can be followed by the words “meeting” or “social” or “gathering” and I will have the same reaction of a frown. It is similar to the reaction I have at the smell of turnips cooking, or the bass sound of a loud stereo, or the glare of the bright lights. I’d rather be far away on another galaxy than sitting inside at a group session pretending to listen while hoping someone will volunteer to be the first to announce their departure.

Now if I am at the podium doing the speaking, it’s a whole different story.  Even better, if I am talking about one of my passions.  Now why I hate being in the audience but thrilled to be the speaker, well, I haven’t figured that one out yet.

The British writer, Alis Rowe, frequently writes about autism. One of her quotes that hit close to my heart: “I can be talkative and expressive when with a single person, but the more people there are around me, the less interactive and more introverted I become. Inside a group of people, I can’t contribute/function, and tend to ‘shut down’ because I find it all too overwhelming.”

My ASD is a constant companion and there are times when it slaps me right in the face. At family gatherings or other group settings, I can’t be like the others. I can’t join in on their chatter and laughter and enjoy it as they do. For me, such gatherings are draining and that isn’t going to change. The mute button will always come on.  I can ask why I have to struggle with this but everybody has something to deal with.  It isn’t so much what it is but how we cope with it.  The Lord is the One whom I turn to.  He knows all about my Billy.

I take heart in the bright side of living on the Spectrum. My passion for writing helps me to communicate with people in my own special way. It isn’t all dark on the Spectrum. Not at all. No one has it all after all. I try to remember that and appreciate what I do have going for me with Billy around.

Just a Little Talk

I have a relative who has to wear a heart monitor. She has to wear it until her heart’s beat gets back up to speed. Her sister suggested a nickname for the monitor that did its job but was a nuisance to put on, wear, and take off. She adopted the nickname and called her monitor “PITA”. It stands for pain in the … you know where. She is looking forward to the day when the doctor will relieve her of her “PITA”.
I understand giving a temporary or constant companion a nickname. I gave my car, a Toyota Prius, the nickname of “Pree”. I recall after buying a brand new Prius, a guy made fun of my giving my new set of wheels a nickname. I suspect he was just jealous of my Pree. Most of the time Pree is in my good graces. I particularly am grateful to her for correcting my mistakes when I am off in my own world. Such as she will beep when I try to lock her car door while she is still running.
Months after being formally introduced to my constant companion of my autism spectrum disorder (ASD), I gave it the name of Billy. It may sound strange but by giving it a name helped me feel as if I had just a tad more control of it. Whenever my ASD slaps me in the face with its sometimes overwhelming presence, I just say to myself, “It’s just Billy.”
One of those slaps was when I was in a small group gathering. What is small to me? Three or more people. I went off to my corner and did my own thing. Then, a few unexpected guests arrived, one of whom was a sight for sore eyes. I seldom get to see this young man who is a gentle soul. He’s one of the few men I know I gladly accept a hug from.
They all went to the table to another room to chat but he came back out and asked me how my job was going. That’s all it took to get me to talk. I entertained him with a couple of my school job’s “out of the mouth of babes” tales. I did what I seldom do and told him about my gadgets (home assistant speakers): Echo Dot, Echo Show, and Google Home. If he thought it was obsessive for having three, he didn’t show it. If he was bored with my monolog, he didn’t act like it with his questions. I just might have sold him on the idea of having one himself, but just one. I’m the one with the gadget obsession.
He was called back to join the gang. I had just a short one-on-one with him but those few minutes were precious. I had no desire whatsoever to join the group, but it was a pleasure for me to have just a little talk with one of the sweetest young men I know.

The Mute Button

The British writer, Alis Rowe, frequently writes about autism. One of her quotes that hit close to my heart: “I can be talkative and expressive when with a single person, but the more people there are around me, the less interactive and more introverted I become. Inside a group of people, I can’t contribute/function, and tend to ‘shut down’ because I find it all too overwhelming.”

I lived that quote during a recent episode where I was in a group setting in a hospital waiting room.  I had been in hospital waiting rooms before but it was the first time since learning I had an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One thing I did differently with the knowledge of my diagnosis was preparing for this gathering.  I had my fidget toys like my spinner and cube. I had my smart phone with its many apps. I had no idea how long I would be there and if it went longer than expected, I had my comfort toys with me.

The group consisted of mostly people I knew but there was a dozen of those I hadn’t met before. My typical role in gatherings of three or more is to be the “silent” one. It doesn’t matter if I have known them most of my life or it is my first time to meet them.  As soon as I arrived, there were almost a half a dozen people already there.  Although I knew them, I immediately went silent.  It is as if a mute button is attached to me and it always comes on by itself when I’m in a gathering of three or more.

As more came in, the social chatter and laughter picked up, but I wasn’t a happy camper. None of my topics of interests came up. Except for the one I came with, no one hardly spoke to me beyond the “hello, nice to meet you, or how you are doing, or nice to see you.” I guess maybe I send out “don’t speak to me” vibes without putting effort into it. On the other hand, I was fine with just the greetings. I secretly feared someone might ask me a question I couldn’t or didn’t want to answer.

That old lonely feeling of being an alien from another planet came back.  I wanted to “stim” to soothe and comfort myself since I felt like a tea kettle about to boil over.  I got out my smart phone and tuned into my favorite apps.  I was the only one with ear plugs in their ears.  I know it gave off the impression of aloofness but unknown to them, I was in survival mode.

The apps were not enough to soothe the “pain” I cannot describe.  I whispered to the one I came with that I was going to take a walk. I used the excuse I wanted to stretch and exercise. Well, that was partly true, but it was far less about exercise for my body and more for my mental state. When I walked outside, I took a deep breath. It was like I had been drowning and managed to come up for air.

I started off my walk with tears rolling down my eyes. If I had let myself, I could have cried like a baby. I didn’t know why at first. I just was overwhelmed with sadness. After a few laps, the tears dried up. My batteries were recharged as they always are after a walk by myself.

When I returned, I saw another person had joined the gathering. The person wasn’t someone I was close to, but he was a sight for sore eyes. I knew he had ASD too! I made a beeline to sit next to him. We exchanged few words and that was okay. It was just having someone else besides me on the Spectrum there. One in a crowd is tough, but two in a crowd is less so.

I think I know why the tears. My ASD is a constant companion and there are times when it slaps me right in the face. This was one of those times when it let me know it is there and it isn’t going to leave my side. There is no cure for ASD. I can’t be like the others. I can’t join in on their chatter and laughter and enjoy it as they do. For me, such gatherings are draining and that isn’t going to change. The mute button will always come on.

Not wanting to end on a sad note, there was a moment during the gathering of an example of how I copy others’ behavior in social gatherings.  It was an eye opener because I didn’t realize until after learning about my ASD and being in group settings that some social actions don’t come as natural to me as it does to others.

The room was big but low on chairs.  When others entered the room where we were, the one I came with stood up, shook hands, and offered her chair.  I first thought, “You mean I have to stand up?”  If I had been the only one there, I wouldn’t have stood up.  I would have thought, “Hello…” was sufficient.  Offer my chair?  I didn’t do that part at all.  It wasn’t until after I got back home that I thought maybe I goofed on that one.  You see, I was operating on the rule of “first come, first serve”.

Within Boundaries

A British writer who writes about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Alis Rowe, wrote “I gain a lot of comfort from people who do not expect more time/interaction/activity from me than I can give, i.e. they are able to understand and appreciate that there will be ‘boundaries’ in our relationship and are flexible to be OK with that.'” Those of us who have ASD and have such a flexible friend(s) are blessed indeed!

I was once asked in a psychological test what I picture myself as being in one word. I didn’t have to ponder long on that question. The word “observer” instantly popped up. I see myself looking out the window and just doing that — observing. Sometimes I do that at the shopping mall. Sit down to get a load off and to observe the passersby. Come to think of it, with what I see at the mall, it’s sort of like watching a reality TV show parade.

As an observer, I am mystified by those who socialize and enjoy it. The “enjoying” part is the mystery.  I wonder what’s so fun about it when I want to go off by myself and solve a jigsaw puzzle or something. I hear of planning get-together events and I shudder at the thought of an invitation. I know to a neurotypical (NT) that sounds so … what’s the word … I don’t know. But whatever the word, it’s not flattering.

Don’t get me wrong! I don’t secretly desire to live on a deserted island even though I may appear to behave like I do. Even I admit to a need to interact with people. I actually enjoy conversations ever now and then. But like Alis’s quote, on a limited scale. Such as I have a weekly conversation with someone who shares my interest in politics. With all that’s going on in Washington, we haven’t run out of gas yet on that topic. I get rather loud at times on my soapbox and repeat myself but the person doesn’t complain, not yet anyway.

My best way of interacting with my fellow man was, is, and will continue to be writing. I can write down my thoughts, edit them with countless drafts, and when ready to ship, I hit the SEND button. I can’t edit or delete what I say on the phone or in person. It is so frustrating and beyond my ability to stop replaying conversations of yesterday or 30 years ago with words I wish I had said or had not said at all.

Another Alis Rowe quote: What people don’t get is that, even if it doesn’t show, autism is a massive, massive part of me and it leaves me with a lot of reasons (not excuses) for almost everything I do, or do not experience.  Autism is the reason I am mostly content doing things that don’t involve other people. It’s not an excuse; it’s just an explanation.

Even within my boundaries, I still want to have a part in having an impact beyond my boundaries.  That’s why I blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, Mom, Do I Have to?

A seemingly simple errand can present speed bumps on the Autism Spectrum. The other day my Mom sent me on an errand to pick up some items at the grocery store. Her list was short but heavy. Three cartons of bottled water, 24 bottles each, is not for sissies to pick up. I didn’t mind since it fit into my “daily step” count on my “Fitbit”. It’s become an obsession to meet my daily goal. By just unloading the water, I got around 500 steps in.

Handling the heavy water load was a breeze compared to taking care of a mere pound of ground beef. Why? I had to go to the meat counter and request a pound from a total stranger known as a butcher. As soon as I walked into the store, I headed for the meat department to get it over with to relieve the tension I had since I left the house. When the butcher gave me the wrapped pound of beef with a “have a nice day” greeting, my anxiety took a hike and I could breathe easy-like.

When I lived by myself for over 20 years, I don’t recall ever making a grocery store trip that included a stop at where the butchers hang out. I didn’t have a desire to learn how to cook what the butcher had to offer but if I had, I still probably would have been reluctant because it would require social interaction.

This is just one example of a puddle in my daily life of living on the Spectrum.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Challenges of Living with my Constant Companion – Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Up on the Spectrum

It was sixth grade’s turn to do the fitness tests of curl-ups and push-ups.  I was subbing for the coach’s sidekick and monitoring the students who were waiting for their turn to curl and push.  It would have been impossible for me not to notice the skinny boy with long brown hair that hung down past his eyes.  He would every few minutes shake his head and then carefully go over his hair with his hand.  I was impressed with his performance of doing more curls and pushes than most of his peers.  I wondered if he was perhaps only shy or if he was somewhere on the spectrum too.

The kindergarten class was excited when the coach told them they would be going outside for P.E.  Not so much when they were told they would be walking laps around the cones on the field.  I walked with them thinking if they saw an “old” person do it, then surely they could do it too.  A “kinder” who is on the spectrum chose not to walk with the others but chose me instead.  Her talking up a storm relieved me of having to talk much.  I was briefed on her life story.  She lived with grandma during the week and with her parents only on weekends.  I asked if she liked living with grandma and she shook her head no.  She didn’t like the arrangement.  As she put it, it was “sad”.

The tax man cometh.  He had finished the paperwork and called Mom saying he’d be right over for her to sign so he could then file her taxes.  Her 58-year-old daughter made the excuse of going to her favorite store to do some window shopping.  She didn’t want to go through meeting a new person and do the introductions.  I’m still growing up on the spectrum.

Challenges of Living with my Constant Companion of ASD

I wish I could turn my thinking cap OFF!

When I talk to myself, I am dishing out advice or making a speech that I’ll probably never give.

My first instinct when I see someone walking towards me is to veer off the path.

I have no problem being alone with “me, myself, and I”.  It is not easy being amidst a group for a short spell, but it is much harder for me to adapt when having a lack of “alone” time.

A bad nightmare is when forced to participate in group activities

Letting go of things is hard for most people, but for those living on the spectrum, it is beyond words.  We tend to obsess about things and rehash in our mind painful past occurrences making it hard to let go.

I’d like to read an entire page without a distracting thought — better make that a short paragraph.

When I’m in a structured environment, I feel calm.  When I’m in a fuzzy environment, I feel anxious.

When three or more are talking at once, their words just become static noise and I’m wishing I had wings of a dove to fly away.

When a certain sound frequency or volume feels like a knife piercing my ears.

I prefer to figure out how to do things or put things together on my own even though there’s an expert nearby or a phone call away.  Sometimes I will only ask for help when I am utterly desperate.

Dwelling on social errors I think I made.

Responding in a conversation is hard because I don’t have the luxury of time to process it.  Thus, my responses and what I would have said if I had a chance to do it over again haunts me.

When in sensory overload and the feel of the wind blowing on my face makes me want to explode and strike out against the wind as if I could.

Sitting still is so hard to do.