Acceptance, Not Awareness

This past Friday I had my mid-year review at work, the first such meeting since I was hired full-time a few months ago. It was a much more in-depth evaluation than the little “here’s a paper with all 10’s circled on it, let me know if you have questions, sign here” I had at my last job.  My manager was very positive and complimentary, gently providing “growth areas”  rather than “weaknesses” or criticism.  My peers also provided a few positive comments for him to share with me.  In a summary section, he wrote something like, “She is different, and that’s a good thing.”  He does not yet know that I am autistic, but since I work in IT now, I’ve been able to be a little more authentically me than at past positions.

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This weekend I was continuing my way through the book Neurotribes, which is excellent.  The problem is, it jumps between stories so cool that I excitedly read them aloud to unwilling victims, to parts so heartbreaking that I have to put it down for a while.  I was reading the section on Lovaas and the early days of ABA, and researchers’ use of punishment.  It was so upsetting that I was stimming (a lateral hand-flapping movement) and engaging in self-injurious behavior (biting my hand) – two of the very behaviors that were physically punished in these early studies.

I talked to a person about this right after setting the book aside (I will use “they” as a gender-neutral singular here). I was so worked up after talking to them that I was still doing a lot of the rapid hand-shaking while I was preparing some coffee.  They then said, “You’d better get that out of your system by Monday if you want them to still think you’re ‘different in a good way.'”

That bothered me.  But I didn’t have the words to express to them why it hurt so much.  First, it was just the latest in a long line of comments like that throughout my life – those, “I hope you don’t do that in public,” or, “Are you going to shower before you go out?” or, “You don’t say that at school/work, do you?” kind of comments.  The ones that insinuate I haven’t yet learned how to behave “properly” around normal people, out in public.

Second, and this is very much related to that category of comment, I only engaged in that behavior because I felt safe to do so.  In my own home, with people I trust, I’m going to feel freer to behave in ways that are not seen as “acceptable” in other settings.  I’m going to complain about tasks I’ve been assigned at work, but I’m NOT going to have a bad attitude about them around my manager and coworkers.  I’m going to skip a shower when I’m staying in, but I’m NOT going to go to class with greasy hair.  I’m going to release extreme emotion nonverbally through self-stimulatory behaviors, but I’m NOT going to be as obviously autistic in the behaviors I select when I’m around people I don’t trust with that.

Third, they used something that was an extremely positive, affirming, and accepting comment about me to shame me for my autistic behavior.

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I was recently talking to another Aspie-girl about how hard it can be, living with neurotypicals.   We talked about how sometimes we trust someone with an explanation for our behaviors, or explain how we feel about something, and they end up using it against us later – even if it’s just what they see as a friendly teasing comment, it still hurts, and makes us less likely to trust again.

So, if you love someone on the spectrum, please recognize that often those “socially-unacceptable behaviors” you see are indications that the person feels safe with you.  Especially if you only see the behaviors in a “safe” setting, like the person’s home.  And please, if we trust you with an explanation of how we think and feel, don’t use it against us.

And for you autistic people reading. . . what advice should I give?  Be more careful whom you trust?  Don’t let your guard down and be so “autistic” around people?  No.  On my drive home today, Jars of Clay’s song “Inland” came on my shuffle.  The song I named this blog after. I was thinking about how even though another song on the album is my favorite, I was glad I got an “Inland” lyric inscribed on the ring I wear every day.  The words “you keep walking inland” are a constant reminder to me that I must press on, I must engage in community and relationships, I must keep trying.  I must keep walking inland – “where no man is an island.”  And so must you.  Don’t give up explaining, expressing yourself, and teaching.  Learn to live among people who are not like you, learn to communicate with them, and treat everyone with the respect and kindness you want yourself.   Don’t hide.  Don’t retreat.

 

It’s the only way we will gain more acceptance. 

Inland Ring

 

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A Good Change

Hi blogging friends, I’m still here!  I’ve been quite busy, and though I’ve had many ideas for posts, I simply haven’t had the time/energy to sit and write.

To get things rolling again, I’d like to talk a little about some of the reasons I’ve been so busy.  I’ve mentioned before that I have been taking online classes.  This summer, I got a full-time internship while taking 2 classes.  Combine the stress of getting up early and working full days at a brand-new environment (with new norms and new responsibilities and new people) with taking two writing-intensive classes as a perfectionist (I take forever on writing assignments) and I was STRESSED.  I was really on the verge of a breakdown multiple times.  Mom told me she was ready to kill me once, and Dad had to talk her down.  I had no down-time for relaxing with a favorite show or working on a sewing project or visiting my best friend.  That isn’t healthy for me.

Lots of computers

IT intern life.

But. . . this internship is the one that a guy at church told me about a year before, and I had really hoped to get.  Not only was it an excellent learning experience, but it is leading to full-time employment.  I’m amazed at how much better this workplace and work are for me.  My confidence and self-esteem are slowly being built back up.  I’ve joked before that in making this career change, “I’ll still be working with autistic people – they’ll just be my coworkers instead of clients.”  It turns out, my years of hard work at practicing social skills and having to teach them to kids have paid off.  In this field, I actually stand out as having good social skills, instead of other fields where I’ve been surrounded by NTs and been the “weird” one in a bad way.  It’s all relative.

office box fort

A grown man (with grey hair) built a fort. A box fort. At his cubicle.

Not only am I surrounded by people who get my geeky references, quote the same kinds of shows/movies, and appreciate a good special interest. . . but I can bring sensory objects to work for myself, and instead of getting weird looks I get jealous ones!

office toys

Personalizing my cubicle – complete with a visual stim toy!

I brought in a little tin of Thinking Putty.  My best friend gave it to me years ago, but I didn’t use it much.  Then, I discovered that I needed a quiet fidget at work, and I fell in love with the putty.  So did my coworker, who kept asking me about it.  Finally, I just ordered a multi-pack of mini-tins from Amazon.  Three of the other interns and that one coworker signed up to buy it from me before it even came, and I sold/gave tins to three more coworkers shortly after that.

Thinking putty

Assorted putty

 

They joked about me being a “putty dealer”  . . . so when demand increased for more and firmer putty, I decided to order a pound to save everyone money.  I even bought little tins from Amazon for them to keep it in!  I’ve already sold a few ounces.  There are 9 or 10 of us playing with putty in the office now.

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“Breaking Putty”

 

But enough about the putty (which really is awesome.  Check out Crazy Aaron’s website).  I have a number of ideas for posts, which I will hopefully get to soon.  During last school year, I had the chance to talk to my client’s 4th grade class about autism, being different, and kindness.  I’d love to try to type up a recap of the conversation, because it was a really good one.  It gave me hope for the future.  I also have a rough draft of a post about favorite fictional Aspies.

Bullying

I have been wanting to share thoughts on this topic, but it’s just so massive and painful.

Today I saw this link shared on Facebook.

Aren’t You A Little Short To Be A Stormtrooper? The Passing of the Armor to A Bullied Little Girl

She writes, “Allison is eleven years old.  She loves Spiderman and Star Wars.  The other kids mock her for carrying a Spiderman lunch box.   Allison is taunted, ostracized, and even physically attacked by her peers.”

Seriously?  Seriously?  This is still happening? I mean, it was bad enough that the little boy was bullied for bringing a My Little Pony lunchbox to school, but that one didn’t surprise me (as much as it angered me).

*sigh*

I’ve heard people say these kids shouldn’t be allowed to have/do certain things because it makes them targets.  Because bullying is inevitable and they should be taught to fit in more.  “They’re just asking for trouble.”

NO.

Why can’t a boy use a “girly” lunchbox?  Why can’t a girl have a geeky lunchbox?  Why can’t an autistic child flap his hands in public?  Why can’t a girl walk down the street holding hands with another girl?

Because other people are going to laugh or think they’re weird or tease them or physically assault them?

HOW IS THIS THE VICTIMS’ FAULTS?

No.  I’ve had enough.  We need to be teaching the PERPETRATORS, not the victims.  We need to be changing THEIR behavior.  Making THEM act more appropriately to fit in with society.

Bullying is not okay.  I don’t care how “weird” a kid looks.  I don’t care how unique or unusual they are.  Because you know what?  We are all unique individuals.  And that should be celebrated, not squelched.

And you know what we call it when it happens outside of school? Hate crimes.   People are even killed.  This is serious stuff, people.

And you know what?  I’m sick of the nonsense coming out of my own “Christian camp.”  I’m all for respecting the fact that God created men and women to be different in some ways. But these “differences” the kids are being bullied for?  Those are cultural gender norms, not God’s.   Like Sunnie, the little girl who got kicked out of her Christian school for being a tomboy.  The school told her grandparents that they can refuse students who are, “Condoning sexual immorality, practicing a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity.”  Because she’s causing confusion amongst students as to whether she’s a girl or boy.  By the way, Sunnie says she knows she’s a girl.  We’re not even talking about a transgender child here.  Just one who was told that “her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity.” (Quotes and info from this Daily Mail article)  (OH, and the thing that really drove me mad?  I read that she originally cut off her long hair when she was three to donate it to cancer patients.)  I’ll tell you what, me and my two close friends are some of the biggest tomboys I’ve ever met.  And I can assure you that all three of us are very much heterosexual.  We respect that God made us women, but we don’t feel the need to be “girly” in the way our society expects of us.

No princess dresses for me.  I was Peter Venkman.

No princess dresses for me. I was Peter Venkman.

In my field, people talk a lot about getting autistic kids to have more “age-appropriate” interests.  They would say that my 10-year-old client shouldn’t be watching videos aimed at preschoolers and playing with his Thomas trains all afternoon.   I agree that developing “age-appropriate” interests makes it a heck of a lot easier to relate to peers and make friends.  But trying to take away these special interests is cruel.  This is a great time for you to go read this blog post, “The Obsessive Joy of Autism.”

So yeah, if I had a kid who was doing something that made him or her a target, I might even encourage them to tone it down if it was a matter of safety and the thing itself wasn’t huge to them.  But that’s like putting a  band-aid on a very huge, infected wound.  It’s only temporary.

We need to be teaching children to respect and love diversity.  To understand that not everyone is just like them, and to realize that this is what makes the world so darn cool.  To treat every human being they meet with respect.  I know it’s not easy.  It’s easier to try to make quirky kids fit in.

Recently I read this blog post and I wanted to share it here.  This should be required reading for all children:

A Bully’s Story: An Open Letter to the Middle Schoolers that Called my Son with Autism a “Faggot”

While you’re off reading that, I’ll be returning my attention to the feminine art of quilting.  I’m currently working on the Shredder, from the 80’s Ninja Turtles cartoon.

The Shredder quilt block

Crisis of Faith

For the last several months I’ve been experiencing a deep crisis of faith.  Not my Christian faith, but rather my faith in what I do as a TSS.  For those of you unfamiliar with the TSS position, it stands for Therapeutic Support Staff.  Most of the children served by my agency (and all the kids that I have worked with) are on the autism spectrum, though there are other diagnoses/issues that can cause a recommendation for services.  Here’s how it works: after an intake evaluation, a child may get a BSC, who is a master’s level clinician.  The BSC consults with the caregivers and school (if relevant) and develops a treatment plan full of objectives and interventions.  Then the TSS, a bachelor’s level therapist, implements the interventions (while teaching caregivers/teachers to use them) and collects data and documentation (the bane of my existence).

Some tools of the trade - computer for documentation, a variety of ear protection, visuals, fidget toys, a pencil for writing a flexible visual schedule, highlighter to color in a smiley chart.

Some tools of the trade – computer for documentation, a variety of ear protection, visuals, fidget toys, a pencil for writing a flexible visual schedule, highlighter to color in a smiley chart.

I worked for another agency for a year and nine months before reaching burnout point and moving home, and I have worked for this agency just as long.  I’ve always been really good at my job – at least, especially good at the working-with-the-kids part, because I *get* them and can tell what’s going on with them before most other adults in their lives.  I always figured it was because I have empathy for autistic kids because of my cousins, and because I’m a highly sensitive person myself, and because I’ve studied a lot about autism.  But last summer when I realized I have Asperger’s, I started to not only empathize with and understand the kids but also identify with them.  And in many ways that has made my job much harder.  One day I exclaimed in frustration, “I feel like I’m disguised, helping those adults to oppress my people!”  My mom chuckled, but it’s a real feeling.

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A big component in the development of my Crisis of Faith was reading a few blog posts as I was exploring my own self-diagnosis.

 

[Warning – this post is going to involve a lot of “recommended reading.”  I’ll try to summarize the key idea of each link I post, but they are all worth reading.]
One of the first was “Quiet Hands.”  As I read this post, my heart sank.  How many times have I, following the leads of the adults in charge at school, tried to suppress my clients’ stims?  Sure, I’ve suggested things like fidget toys as alternatives; and sure, most of my main client’s hand movements are accompanied by disruptive sound effects (think Angry Birds; that’s the game he’s usually playing in his head while stimming with his hands).  But I’ve also used this visual:

Which brings me to the next blog, which I think is actually where I saw the previous link.  “On Failing Kindergarten,” by Alyssa on Yes, That Too. I spent all last year, and most of this one, watching the staff in autism support rooms trying to make kids follow these rules.  I’ve felt frustrated with them making a kid sit with his feet on the floor in front of him, when the kid is trying to sit on his foot or sit cross-legged in the chair- like I do.  I’m so uncomfortable with conflict and speaking up. . . if I’m in a situation where I don’t think my advice will be heeded I am unlikely to offer it.  But I’ve tried to muster courage to be a sort of advocate when I can.  In that specific example I did finally say, “I have trouble sitting on these hard chairs; have you tried one of those squishy things they can sit on?”  (I’ve seen them at the school.)  The teacher shrugged it off with a, “We’ve tried everything” (not true) and resumed firmly demanding he sit “right” in the chair, threatening him with the weighted lap pad instead of offering it as a good thing.

Situations like that are difficult, because I am a guest in these classrooms and it is not my place to tell the teachers what they’re doing wrong. . . I’m there to explain interventions that work for my client and model them.   And like I said, I am uncomfortable.  I’m too afraid to say things that will cause discord or bad feelings, since I have to be around these people every day.  I was yelled at once at work while trying to implement an intervention and nearly cried; I was terrified of seeing the person again.  Although I tried to act normally around them I was also very wary.  So I have the internal conflict of watching treatment I strongly disagree with but being afraid of trying to change it.

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Here is an example of what it’s like to *see* what the people in charge do not see when an autistic student is acting out.  Her writing powerfully conveys the feeling of heartbreak and helplessness I often feel in such situations. – “What I Saw” by AutisticChick

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Alyssa
Alyssa
Alyssa
On Failing Kindergarten

I’ve only read a few of Matt Walsh’s posts and I don’t agree with everything he says. But I really liked most of what he says in, “Help, doc, I’m bored by boring things. I think I’ve got the ADHD!”  I agree that medication is over-prescribed, but I think he’s a little too strongly anti-meds (for an example of a family who dramatically benefits from meds, check out the BBC documentary Living with ADHD).
Here’s the main point of this post summed up in two quotes:

What if — this is a big IF — what if people are all, like, different?

Hold on.

Don’t stop reading yet. Seriously, think about it. What if there ISN’T actually some preordained mold of behavior and thought in which we’re all supposed to fit? What if it’s OK for some people to be a certain way, while others are another way, and still others are an entirely different way? What if some people are active, and some people aren’t; some people are creative, and some people aren’t; some people have a lot of energy, and some people don’t; some people are daydreamers, and some people aren’t? What if — again, HUGE if — but what if we tried to find a place for the unique qualities of all men and women, rather than attempting to chemically eradicate entire personality types simply because they don’t gel with our artificial societal constructs?

What if we stopped trying to make our kids “normal,” and instead encouraged them to be exceptional?

and:

Could it be that our kids are distracted because they’re surrounded by distractions? Could they be overstimulated because they’re surrounded by stimulation? Could they have trouble paying attention in school because school is tedious and boring?

I really loved that second quote.

I also read one of his rants about public schooling and homeschooling; again, I don’t agree with everything he says, but he made points that resonated and further weakened my already shaky faith in the public school system.  And let me tell you, I have had the privilege of working with some amazingly wonderful educators.  Ever since I was a child I have had respect and affection for good teachers, and it continues to this day.  From what I’ve seen, the school I mostly work in right now is a great school, at least by the standards of the schools I have seen or attended.  However. . . more and more I’m seeing how it really doesn’t work for everyone.  I see kids falling through the cracks, because even the best teachers are only human and have too much on their plates (crowded classes, heavy workloads, lack of parental involvement, etc).  I cannot emphasize enough how much I respect most of these teachers; I honestly cannot think of a single negative thing to say about my client’s second grade teacher, for example.  But when I’m sitting there trying to get this kid to stop his noisy stimming while the class is taking turns reading, I have to wonder, “Why are we here?”  He pretty much never gets anything out of the lessons in the gen-ed classroom; he learns and works much better one-on-one.  Most of our time in the gen-ed room is spent trying to keep him quiet and on task; if he doesn’t have a specific task in front of him like a worksheet it’s rough.  So why is he there?  To try to learn how to sit still and quiet and listen to group instruction?  That leads to the next question – Why?  Does he really need those skills?  I mean, what kind of additional education is he going to seek in the future, and what kind of job?  When I think about it, most jobs don’t involve the kind of “skills” he’s supposed to be learning in school.  I am all for him spending time with the gen-ed kids, not only for his benefit but for theirs.  We didn’t have any kids like him in my class growing up.  In fact, I have so little exposure to individuals who have labels like ID that when I first started going to a Life Skills classroom with another client I felt VERY uncomfortable around those kids, much to my shame.  But the kids in my younger client’s class – they accept him.  They are willing to help and prompt him and pester him for high-fives.  I’ve seen bright and social young boys give up doing something “normal” with their friends at recess to interact with my client and help him practice things like tossing and kicking a ball – and this without any adults suggesting they do so.  In those moments I feel hope for the future.

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So, what are the next steps?  Well, my first personal step is switching gears and going back to college to study Information Sciences and Technology.  After we discovered my place on the spectrum, my mom encouraged me to look at career fields that would be a better fit for someone with Asperger’s.  I start classes next month and will continue working as a TSS part-time for as long as I can manage doing both.  Another step has been slowly “coming out” at work.  I didn’t make a big formal announcement, but if I’m chatting with someone about a student’s specific behavior I will say something like, “I can really understand why he has a hard time with the noise in the cafeteria.  I started wearing earplugs in there!  I’ve come to realize that if there had been more awareness when I was a kid I would have been diagnosed, myself.  Loud noises like that are overstimulating to me and make me feel really anxious.  Do you think he’d tolerate some kind of ear protection for in there?”  I don’t make a big deal about it, but I want them to know I’m giving advice not just as a trained TSS but as an autistic person.  An also-autistic person speaking for and defending the rights of these autistic kids who don’t yet know how to speak up for themselves.  Which leads me to a third step – promoting true “Autism awareness” by encouraging autistics to raise their voices and NTs to start listening.

 

 

 

Ode to Organizing

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty. . .

And after he made the light, earth, and animals, he said, “Let us make man in our image.”

Being made in the image of God means we get a lot of his attributes, like the ability to love, and in my case, the desire to bring order out of chaos.

Babysitting a few years ago, I was sorting their cars... it was neater, but one of the kids drove through them.

Babysitting a few years ago, I was sorting their cars… it was neater, but one of the kids drove through them.

If you saw my bedroom floor or the room where I spend most of my free time at home, you would never think, “Wow, she has an OCD-style desire for order and organization.”  A few months ago I read a blog post that helped explain my seemingly-paradoxical messiness while loving order- a few quotes:

One thing about the autistic spectrum is that the brain doesn’t automatically prioritise the important things, and filter out the less important, which typically-developing brains do all the time to prevent overload.  . . .

Also, the autistic brain can have difficulty with sequencing (this is an aspect of dyspraxia, which commonly co-occurs with Aspergers). Sequencing involves both prioritising and being simultaneously aware of all the actions in the sequence while giving priority to one at any one time. This creates a sort of mental overload. It requires a good working memory – that is, the ability to keep several things in your mind at one time as you work with them – and people on the autistic spectrum often have difficulty with working memory.

Big tasks and projects always involve prioritising and sequencing. The advice people always give is ‘break it down into smaller chunks’, which makes sense in theory, but in reality involves deciding which chunks to break it down into – again, another prioritisation thing. Another aspect is that in deciding upon chunks, you often don’t know until you start on something what exactly it will require, and how much time will be needed. For me, this is a very overwhelming factor – it is about going into the unknown, and maybe getting lost there.

Some people on the autistic spectrum have a spotlessly tidy house, and diligently keep it this way. I would love a spotlessly tidy house, but I get frequently overwhelmed by ‘stuff’ in my house. I call it ‘stuff’ because most of the time I’m barely aware of it as it accumulates and creates mess. I will be doing something – and whatever I’m doing requires me to take things out. And I like to lay everything out so that I can see it – otherwise I forget it exists! I leave it out because I think I may continue doing it – and then forget about it and bring something else out. Before long, there is stuff everywhere – overwhelming stuff, and I don’t know where to start and I have forgotten where most things were kept, and perhaps where they were kept wasn’t a good place anyway and I need to find a better place, and there are some things which maybe I should throw away, but that’s a big decision, and I don’t know if I can make the correct decision.

“‘I just assumed she was lazy’” on the blog Aspects of Aspergers.

I also really appreciated her strategy of picking up ten things to take care of, rather than getting overwhelmed by the clutter and not knowing what to do with it all.

This blog post over at Musings of an Aspie was also very insightful and illuminating – “Procrastination or Executive Function Fail?

Another thing I struggle with:  “Context and non-transference of behavioral routines.”  I totally identified with this post – she basically says that if you think of something you need in the car, you’ll forget to get it when you’re in the house.  That reminds me of the study that shows that walking through doorways causes forgetting.  Yes, that was a real study, and I find it simultaneously amusing and validating.  Recently I’ve learned to set reminders on my phone for specific times, such as when I know I will be completely in the door and settled after arriving home (because, as we just discussed, if I’m reminded in the car or driveway I will forget by the time I reach the house and can do something about it!).  I got a new iPhone for Christmas and I’ve found that Siri is wonderfully handy for safely setting a reminder like this while driving.

Thanks, Siri

Thanks, Siri.

And now for today’s story.

A few times a day I go down to the basement to fill up my water bottle from the extra fridge and do other miscellaneous tasks.  Last week I reached my breaking point with the state of the shelves at the top of the stairs (icing and mustard and soup and jam all together on a shelf- chaos!).  I had organized it a long time ago, but the rest of my family doesn’t have the same compulsion to *put things in the proper place* that I do.  So I decided that Saturday morning I would tackle that pantry cupboard.  This happens every once in a while.  My mom’s fabric stash in the neglected sewing room, the children’s books on the living room shelf when I was a nanny, the spice rack, even my current client’s DVD collection – if there is a group of related objects that are in a designated area and there is no discernible pattern or rationale to their placement, I’m going to react badly.  It could be a quick  fix: “Why are those two Curious George movies not with the other 5?  I need to move that…”  It could be something I’m not allowed to tackle: “No, you can’t organize my fabric until you help with more important things around the house.”  (What on earth could be more important than sorting the fabric so all of the blues are together, and all of the flannels are in one spot. . . never mind the fact that nobody ever sees that room.  I still get a little anxious thinking about that. It was a weird experience when Mom told me I had to wait, like a psychic pain.)  Or it could be a job that takes all day.

I cleaned out the pantry shelves, organizing and tossing expired goods as I went.  I then reassessed the layout and made some practical adjustments.  When I was done, I was in the ZONE and moved on to the next cupboard.  And the next.  It was a great example of autistic inertia. . . though unexpectedly having to deal with a pantry moth infestation used up more spoons than I had expected to need for the task (inertia? spoons? read here if confused).  It was one of those times I was so focused and active that I forgot to eat and became shaky.

One topic that occurred to me while cleaning was stimming – while grossed out by the pantry moths I frequently shook my hands or rubbed them aggressively.  I’ve found that since recognizing my autism I’ve been more aware of my stims or desires to stim, and also more willing to embrace the movements.  So if I’m at home in my kitchen and really excited about how the organized cupboard looks, I’ll let myself jump up and down or flap my hands briefly.  Those are harmless and serve a purpose to my body and brain.  We see nothing wrong with an excited child jumping and clapping – when does it become unacceptable for adults?  Hey, it’s still acceptable for “big” excitements like being on a game show (Have you ever seen The Price is Right?  Those people are always clapping and jumping up and down).  So maybe it’s just NTs not understanding that sometimes little things can make us feel *that* excited.  I’ve also noticed times where I subconsciously redirect the desire to stim.  For example, in the noisy school cafeteria one day I became aware that my body had the urge to rock.  I recognized it and allowed it to be suppressed, and then noticed that my leg had immediately started bouncing.  I don’t ever recall consciously redirecting that desire to a more socially-acceptable stim, but there it was.  I’m a frequent leg-bouncer, and assumed it was restless-leg syndrome, but now I know that it’s actually a stim.

But anyway. . . I felt much better after the organizing, and my mom was thrilled.

Chaos ------> Order

Chaos                                                        —————————>                                                       Order

Change

Change, you say?  My dad and I respond this way:

We quote it often.  In fact, I got this text from my dad this morning while I was at work – “We fear change. But I think you’ll like it.”

Ominous, isn’t it?

By the time I got home to the empty house I had completely forgotten about his text.  I was heating up some food for dinner, and while it cooked I opened the cupboard to retrieve a small glass for my grape juice.

HORROR. 

Those are not glasses.  Those are mugs.  They belong on the left side of the sink.  This is the right side of the sink.

Cue a short spell of hyperventilating, hand-flapping, and pacing, all while processing  – “AHHH CHANGE.  It makes sense.  That’s above the coffee makers. BUT IT’S NOT THE SAME.  The other cups are now beside the cupboard that holds Mom’s tall glasses.  It makes sense.  IT’S NOT OKAY.  It’s logical.  It’s practical. BUT IT DOESN’T LOOK RIGHT.”

To be honest I was concurrently amused at my response.  I think if I had been more specifically forewarned I wouldn’t have had quite the same reaction.  And because it’s such a practical and logical change I’ll be cool with it soon.

Emotional Overload

Last night would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t been able to view it through the lens of having Aspergers.

         

I was having a good Sunday.  I had no problems running sound during the morning service, ordered a new lens to use during portrait sessions, started a sewing project after a month away from the machine, and began watching a favorite TV series over again in a very Edwardian fashion (if you haven’t read 600 Hours of Edward – go do it).  Then to top it all off, after I shared the link to my Inland post with the band through facebook, Charlie from Jars of Clay liked the post.  I always appreciate when they appreciate my appreciation, you know? 😉   It was time for dinner and I was excited to tell my family about the latest interaction with my favorite band.

But then my phone rang.

Fortunately I didn’t answer.  I don’t know if I would have responded well if I had.  The caller left a message and leveled a false accusation against me.

I’m not sure how to accurately describe the emotions I felt.  My heart raced and I felt like I was shaking (I don’t know if I was physically shaking, but it at least felt that way emotionally).  I felt like my temperature dropped. A lot of times I ask my autistic client, “How do/did you feel?”  And he almost always responds, “Upset,” instead of giving me a more specific word like “Sad” or “Mad” or “Scared.”  Last night I felt “upset.”

I was dumbfounded by the accusation and by the fact that the person actually called me.  I went downstairs and told my family.  Through my new lens of self-awareness I noticed a lot of things.  I noticed I was talking too loudly.  I noticed my family was going to be done eating by the time I finally took more than a single bite, because I was too upset and too busy venting to eat.  I noticed that I kept forcing myself to take big deep breaths, same as I prompt my client.  I noticed (and even commented aloud) that I felt like rocking.

I noticed that my mom kept reassuring me that I had acted above reproach in the situation the call seemed to be referring to, and I kept trying to explain that I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I was still upset.  I wasn’t upset because I thought I had done something wrong.  I was upset because I KNEW I hadn’t, and I was being thought of and talked of as if I had done something wrong.  And that’s NOT FAIR.  I have always had issues with “fairness.”  I was upset because I thought I wasn’t going to have to deal with any more drama from that specific part of my past, yet it kept coming up.  I was upset because I was under attack and there were just too many emotions (my own and the accuser’s) to process.

I managed to shove down my dinner through deep breaths and exhaled nonverbal sounds of frustration.  I had to eat so I could leave for Bible study.  I got out to my car and my mind was still churning over the situation, and I was spiraling downward.  I stopped my car before even leaving the driveway and switched the CD to Jars of Clay’s Self-Titled album.  It is my go-to record when I am desperately upset; it is the most effective medication available to soothe my soul.  I turned up the volume and sang along to reduce my ability to ruminate.  It’s a 20-minute drive, and during the last 5 I found it impossible to turn off my thoughts of what I wanted to say about what just happened.  Right before I turned into my pastor’s driveway I started crying – those unwanted tears of emotional overload that cause me so much frustration that I cry even more.  I hate those.  I took a few deep breaths and dried my eyes, then walked in.

I was still visibly shaken; my pastor’s wife immediately asked me what was wrong.  Before group began I was able to briefly discuss the situation with my pastor and his wife, who are two of my most trusted counselors.  My pastor advised me to ignore it; I nodded and said, “Yeah, I’m just feeling all. . . ” and waved my hands on either side of my head, unable to articulate what it was I was feeling.  Then instead of taking my normal seat on the floor I sat in the rocking chair.

And rocked for two hours straight.

I’m feeling much better today.