An Aspie In Iowa

An Aspie In Iowa #2: Stimming and Eye Contact

For last weeks article, click here.

1.) Stimming

This weeks article will address stimming but not specifically what it is. If you are interested in finding out more you can find information on stimming here.

So as a brief synopsis of what Stimming is, it’s repetitive motions or sounds that folks on the spectrum do that can appear as odd or annoying to the outside world. However to people like myself, they are therapeutic, calming, they can also help us focus on and process the information that we are taking in.

When i was a child I would constantly tap on my desk, stand up and spin, rock back and forth as well as flap my hands. All of these things were considered distractions and incredibly frowned on when I was in school. I can remember several times when a teacher might say something along the lines of, “We will continue with the lesson once Matthew sits down and is quiet.” Not being able to continue the lesson meant that recess might be delayed or eliminated altogether. This led to mob justice in the form of my peers and even more bullying than I already experienced.

So through time I forced myself to stop stimming outside of wiggling my toes in my shoes. I would learn later in life that this wasn’t enough and I was actually causing myself a lot of mental harm by not calming and processing in the way that my mind wanted me to. Nothing was more apparent than my hands.

For as long as I can remember my hands have shaken horribly. I’ve actually been checked for Parkinson’s in the past and it was one of the first things that people would point out and question when they met me. The more stressed I would become the worse my hands would shake. It was horribly annoying to me because as the shaking would worsen my ability to type would become nearly impossible, being an accountant, typing is something I have to be able to do.

When I began researching Autism, I came across an article dealing with stimming. It reminded me of all the things I did as a child to calm myself down. So I decided to  do a simple experiment. The next time I noticed the shaking in my hands begin to worsen, I got up from my desk at work, walked to the bathroom, locked the door and flapped them to my heart’s content. The result was immediate. The second I began flapping the shaking began to subside. After a few moments, my hands were as still as anyone else’s. Stimming fixed an issue that I had just lived with and had accepted as incurable for nearly 25 years. Now, anytime they begin to shake a bit, I stim and the shaking goes away.

Some of the other ways that I stim is through certain words. I really don’t know how this works so if someone in the comments could explain it, I would be greatly appreciative. Saying certain words or making certain sounds has a great calming effect on me. One such word is “panda.” I’m a large, 6 foot 2 inch man, with a beard, but if I get stressed and you get close to me, you might hear me repeating the word panda under my breath. I also sometimes get this feeling that I have to say a word or make a noise, when I explained it to my psychiatrist she thought I might be talking about tourettes but eventually that was not a part of my diagnosis.  One of the main noises that i make is a slight clicking noise in the back of my throat. I do this when I am really interested or focused on something.

Other ways I stim is through sensory information. When I am stressed, I love the feel of metal on my face. I have a metal stapler at work that I will press to my cheek if I am really stressed out. I also constantly crack my knuckles, run my fingers through my hair and tap on stuff. Each one of these things helps me in a certain way.

So to parents, please don’t force your children to not stim. If their stimming is something dangerous, such as self biting or hitting, or is interfering with their ability to focus on school work or anything like that, maybe suggest some alternate forms of stimming. Please don’t force them to stop stimming altogether. If they are like me and high enough functioning to do that, it can lead to even more issues with their mental health and even physical symptoms.

2.) Eye Contact

Eye Contact for me is incredibly difficult. I describe it as if I am having the noise of fingernails on chalkboard going through my brain when I am making eye contact. Over time I’ve learned to look at foreheads and teeth in an effort to avoid eye contact and this works for the most part.

However eye contact still bothers me and it’s more in the way that it is seen as normal for the rest of the world. Why is eye contact even seen as a good thing. Look at our primate cousins, eye contact is a sign of agression and something that you avoid unless you are attempting to challenge someone in the group for a higher position. Watch some chimpanzees or gorillas interact and one will be looking down while the more powerful one is standing over. They don’t like eye contact yet we do.

The second thing that makes this so strange is that we are taught not to stare from the earliest age. Staring is considered rude and invasive, but When in a conversation you are supposed to stare at the person directly in the eyes. How does that make any fucking sense?

Here’s the deal, if you are having a conversation with me and you force me to make eye contact, then I won’t be paying attention to anything that is coming out of your mouth. The only thought that will be running through my mind will be, “When is this going to be over, I’m uncomfortable, I want to look away, I hate this!” If you want me to do something correctly, allow me to look away while you speak. I will hear you far better, process what you are saying far better, and get the task done far better if I am just allowed to be myself.

Anyway, i hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Thank you for reading.

The Diary Of My Mind

Discouragement and Self-Doubt

Do you ever get discouraged writing your blog? I had a pretty major set back this week that I don’t want to go into but it really made me question if I should even keep writing anymore? I really enjoy writing but at the same time I constantly fight with self doubt. What do you do when these doubts hit you?

Personally when I have an issue I can’t get it off my mind. It constantly swims around poking it’s head up from time to time. In the past I would have simply given up, but part of this blog is about challenging myself to keep going. Part of growing up not knowing I was autistic, was being told by many people that I was simply dumb or lazy. Understanding myself has helped a lot with this but still these same old doubts pop up from time to time. As i said in another post, sometimes I love how my brain works, other times I hate it.

So what are some of the things that you do when you hit these walls?

Fiction and Stories

Super Tim Goes to School (An ASD Children’s Story)

These stories are based on my own, my nephew, and several friends children. That said they are all based on an ounce of truth. I hope you will enjoy them.


 

Tim Brentwood sat on his porch swing feeling the sun and the wind on his skin. He saw a butterfly pass by and noticed the pretty pattern on the butterfly’s wings. It was a warm summer day and Tim though to himself that it couldn’t get much better than this. However, Tim was scared, at 6 years old Tim’s mother had told him it was time to go to school.

She had told him of all the people he would meet, all the friends he would make, and all the new and cool things that he would learn. A few days earlier, Tim and his mother had visited the school to meet his teacher. Tim’s mom assured him that she was a sweet old lady but Tim saw her as a monster. She seemed too nice, far too sweet to actually be a real person.

As the days grew closer Tim began to get more and more worried. He begged with his mom, “Please don’t make me go to school! I don’t want friends and I already know all I need to!” At night he lay awake scared of all the new things he would be forced to do.  School was a bad idea and if only he could come up with some plan he could save himself the awful experience.

The first day of school came and when his mother went to wake him up, Tim was nowhere to be found. She called out to him and didn’t hear a peep. It took almost ten minutes for her to realize that the pile of blankets in the corner of Tim’s room was a bit too lumpy and that blankets don’t generally breathe.

Tim cried and begged his mom not to make him go, but she bathed him, dressed him, put his backpack on him and then together they waited for the bus to arrive. The bus arrived and Tim’s mother walked him to the door. She kissed him on the head and told him that she would be there when he got home. Tim didn’t believe her, he thought that this was going to be the last day of his life. Nothing had prepared him for something as awful and as overwhelming as school.

He took his seat and almost instantly felt something wet on his neck.

“Bullseye!” Shouted a voice behind him.

Tim felt his neck and came back with a small ball of wet paper, a spit wad.

“Well….aren’t you going to say anything?” The voice from behind him shouted.

Tim turned with tears still in his eyes, “Don’t!’ He shouted as another spit wad hit him between the eyes.

“QUIET DOWN BACK THERE!” Yelled the bus driver.

At the next stop a short round boy got on, he asked Tim if it was ok if he sat there. Tim was far too upset to respond and so the boy sat down.

“My name is George, I like video games!” The short round boy said.

“No point talking to that kid,” shouted the voice from the back “he’s weird or something. Hit em with two spit wads and all he did was cry.”

“Shut up, Maggie.” Said George. “Don’t mind her, she had her braids attached too tight and it just makes her mean.”

That made Tim laugh. The idea of Maggie having her braids attached to her head like some sort of antenna was very funny to Tim.

So do you like video games? Have you ever played Blaster Zone? It’s the best!

“No.” Replied Tim

“Well, some time maybe you can come over and play it with me, I’ll show you all the secrets. I’ve been to the 10th level, even my brother can’t make it to the 10th level.”

Tim wasn’t really interested in games but the fact that George had been able to stop Maggie meant something to him. Before they got off the bus George asked him if they could be friends and Tim agreed. He wasn’t sure that he liked George but protection was something he thought might come in handy at school.

Tim got off the bus and walked through the doors. The bright lights and the sounds of lockers being opened and closed overwhelmed him. He started to cry again but George motioned for him to follow.

“What teacher do you got?” George asked

“Miss Marble” Tim managed to reply.

“Oh, her class is right there. I have Miss Samson, she’s across the hall. Want to sit together at lunch?” George asked

“Ok…” Tim replied

As Tim walked through the door to his classroom, Maggie shoved him.

“Out of my way weirdo!” She said.

Tim didn’t like being called weird. He didn’t think it was very nice and probably something his mom would be very mad about if she knew. Tim decided that he didn’t like Maggie and was going to try his best to stay as far away from her as possible.

Class began and the teacher began talking about something called a roll call. She began saying everyone’s last name and each student said “Here” when she got to their name. Tim’s mind began to wander to a book he had at home that he couldn’t wait to read again. It was all about Dinosaurs, his favorite subject.

“Brentwood.” The teacher said. “Brentwood, Timothy Brentwood.”

Tim was lost in thought, he was thinking about all the teeth that a T-Rex had. How they were used to eat their prey. A few summers back Tim’s dad had brought him home a tooth that was supposed to be from a T-Rex but it was really just plastic. Tim still liked it and it sat on his dresser at home.

“Brentwood,” the teacher once again called out “Tim Brentwood….”TIM!”

This brought Tim out of his thoughts and he replied, “What?”

“Are you here?” The teacher asked.

“I guess…” Replied Tim. The other students began to laugh but Tim didn’t understand why what he had said was funny. He simply went back to his thoughts. A few moments later an absolutely awful thing occurred. A noise, louder than anything Tim had ever heard rang out. It was the school bell but to Tim it was a nightmare. He grabbed his ears and shrieked.

This brought about another series of laughs from his peers and caused the teacher to yell out, “Quiet down everyone!”

“Tim, please come with me.” Miss Marble said “Everyone else, stay quiet.”

“Not even here a day and the weirdo gets taken to the office.” Maggie spoke up.

“That will be quite enough.” Miss Marble said.

Outside the class, Miss Marble asked him if he was ok.

“That noise was really loud, these lights are too bright, and everyone is mean!” Tim said.

“It will be alright…you just come sit by my desk and I will tell you when the bell is about to ring. Ok?” Miss Marble said. So when Tim entered the class he sat down next to Miss Marble and for the rest of the day, before the bell rang, Miss Marble told Tim to cover his ears. She wasn’t the monster that Tim thought, she was actually really nice.

Lunch was loud and Tim had trouble concentrating. George sat down beside him and talked about Blaster Zone the entire time. Soon it was time to head home. He got back on the bus and in a few minutes he was home. His Mom was waiting for him and they walked back into the house.

“Your teacher called me today. She said you had some problems with the noise at school.” His mother said.

“It was awful, but Miss Marble was really nice and she helped me.” Tim told his mother.

His mother took a deep breath and said, “Tim there is something I need to talk to you about.”

“What? Tim asked.

“Tim, we haven’t told you this before, but you have super powers.” His mother said.

“I do?” Tim asked.

“Yes, we didn’t want to tell you until you were old enough that you would only use these powers for good. Would you like to know what they are?

“YES!” Tim yelled

His mother took out a notebook and wrote…

Tim’s Super Powers
1.) Super Hearing
2.) Super Sight
3.) Super Touch
4.) Super Memory
5.) Super Sweet

Tim didn’t like the last one but he guessed it was possible to be super sweet. His mother told him that this is why the lights and the sounds had hurt him today. It also explained why he hated the sweaters that his grandma tried to make him wear at Christmas.

“Now you can only use these powers for good. You promise?” His mom said.

“I promise.” Tim replied.

“Now head up to your room there is a surprise on your bed.” His mother said.

“Tim ran up the stairs and into his room. On the bed there was a cape, the same kind that a super hero would wear and beside them a pair of shaded glasses. Also sitting on the bed was a pair of headphones with a T-Rex on both sides. Tim’s mother walked into the room.

“Every super hero needs a cape.” She said. “And the headphones and glasses will help you control your powers. I’ve talked to your school and they said it is fine for you to wear them while you are there. The cape has to stay home, you must keep your super hero identity a secret.

“I understand! Every hero has a secret identity.” Tim said. “Mom, this mean girl at school called me weird and she shot spit wads at me on the bus.”

“Every hero has villains, it sounds like she might be yours.” “I’ll call and speak to her mother about it. You aren’t weird son, you are super, my super little boy.”

Tim went to bed that night thinking about school. It was bad but not as bad as he had thought it would be. He didn’t like the noise or the lights but George and Miss Marble were nice. He even liked some of the stuff they had taught him. Maybe he would survive school, and with his super powers he knew that he would be far more ready than he was before. He fell asleep looking at his dinosaur book and wearing his T-Rex headphones. The note that Tim’s mother had written was pinned to the wall above his head.  Super heroes, it turns out, need sleep just as much as everyone else.

To continue on to Super Tim’s Next story, click here.

 

Fiction and Stories

Super Tim and the Lost Keys (An ASD Children’s Story)

I’ve often heard that writing a children’s story is one of the hardest things to do. So I thought I might try my hand at it.  I’ll admit that there is a bit of truth to this story. Though some of the details have been changed.


Tim couldn’t wait for the weekend. Saturday was his 8th birthday and his parents had promised him something special. His mother and father had asked him what he wanted to do for his birthday?

Did he want a party with all the kids at school? No.
Did he want the newest video game, the one his friend George couldn’t stop talking about? No.
Did he want a new bike to ride around town on, the one his father had pointed out the last time they had been at the mall? No

What Tim wanted more than anything else was to see the Dinosaurs at the museum. Tim didn’t like to go much of anywhere but he had read about the exhibit a few weeks ago and the thought of all of those dinosaurs in one place thrilled him to no end. There would be a Pterodactyl, a life size model of an Oviraptor,  and all kinds of things from the Cambrian explosion. Those thing were cool but the thing Tim really wanted to see was the T-Rex.

Tim could tell you practically anything you would ever want to know about the T-Rex. He could tell you that their name means “Tyrant Lizard.” He could quote their top speed, 20 miles per hour. It was nothing for people to get into a conversation with Tim about whether or not the T-Rex had feathers, it didn’t. His favorite facts dealt with how even though the T-Rex was big and mean looking it was actually a very good parent, maybe almost as good as his own mommy. So it goes without saying that this exhibit was a must see for the young boy.

Saturday morning arrived and Tim got up, he walked downstairs thinking about the T-Rex he would soon be seeing.  Tim knew that his father had told him they would be leaving at 8:30am on the dot but that didn’t stop him from being extra excited. Looking at the clock in the living room he saw that it was only 7am. So much time to wait before they left that Tim almost thought he wasn’t going to be able to take it.

He grabbed his favorite bowl from the cabinet and poured himself a bowl of cereal.  His mother had marked a line on this bowl to let Tim know exactly how much milk he needed for his bowl, so after adding the milk, Tim sat down and started munching. Soon his father walked into the room and patted Tim on the head, he hated when his Dad did that but his mother had told him it was his Dad’s way of letting him know he loved him, so Tim had decided to let his Dad get away with it from time to time. This morning he barely felt it because the only thing on Tim’s mind was dinosaurs.

“Hey, Goodmorning Timmy,” his dad said, “did you sleep well?”

“Uh huh” was all Tim could say between bites.

Tim’s mother soon walked into the room. “Who is ready for dinosaurs?” She asked.

“Me!” Timmy yelled nearly spitting half a bite of cereal all over the table causing Tim’s mother and father to laugh hysterically. Tim didn’t quite realize why this was so funny but he didn’t care. Today was going to be awesome!

“Honey?” Tim’s father said in a strange way. “Have you seen my keys?”

“Did you check your pants from yesterday?” Tim’s mother responded.

“Yeah, they weren’t there. I was sure I left them in the key cup yesterday but they aren’t there either.”

Tim hadn’t heard this but he did go on red alert when his father said, “If I don’t find them quick we may be late to the museum.”

“LATE!” Tim yelled. Tim hated being late to anything. He believed that if you said you were going to do something at a certain time, you better do it at that time.

“I’m sure the keys will turn up soon. Try not to worry, Tim” His mother tried to reassure him.

Tim was worried though. He remembered a few years back when the keys had gotten lost the last time. It had taken nearly 3 hours to locate them. If it took that long, then they were definitely going to be late. He looked at the clock, 7:30, only one hour before they were supposed to leave. Tim decided that his parents were going to need some help.

See, Tim had super powers. Most of the people around him didn’t know this but he had been born equipped with certain skills. Some of the people that Tim knew didn’t think he had super powers and instead thought he was just weird. Maggie, the mean girl at school had called him weird and he hadn’t liked it, but his mother had assured him that one day his super powers would lead him to do great things.

He ran upstairs and put on his cape. Why? A super hero has to have a cape. He then looked at the checklist on the wall that his mother had made him after Maggie had been mean to him. It said:

Tim’s Super Powers
1.) Super Hearing
2.) Super Sight
3.) Super Touch
4.) Super Memory
5.) Super Sweet

Tim didn’t think the last one should be on there, it was such a mom thing to write, but he accepted it because his father had told him that this was one of the ways his mother showed him she loved him.

He looked at the list and thought to himself. I won’t need the first 3 on that list for this heroic feat but number 4 on the list was just what he needed. He sat and thought about all the places his father had been when he got home. Quickly he began searching the house.

His dad had gotten home at his usual time and had put some stuff down on the table. The keys though, were not there.
He then had sat down in his chair and watched the news. Tim didn’t like the idea of putting his hands into the seat where his dad farted all the time, but dire times call for dire measures. He checked every nook and cranny. Not there…
His dad had then gone out to the garage where he goes to swear and hit the car with his hammer. Mom said he did other stuff but it was loud and Tim never went in there so he wasn’t sure that she was right. No keys were there.
The same thing was said for the backyard where his father had mowed the lawn, The fridge where his father had gotten a soda, and he even looked in the planter that his father killed plants. Really his father had tried to grow many thing but every time he either watered them too much or too little. Anyway no keys were in the planter.

Tim was beginning to get really worried. When he got worried his mind would start to get stormy. That’s how he explained it. Everything would get real bright, the sounds would get really loud and he would feel his body begin to get really hard. Sometimes his mother said he looked like a stick. That made Tim laugh and would help calm him down but at the moment nothing was going to calm him down.

Then something clicked and Tim ran upstairs. He slammed through his parents door causing his father to yell, “No running in the house!”  His mom was putting on make-up. She called it putting on her face, which Tim found very strange since she already had a face to begin with.

“What’s the matter, Tim?” She said.

He didn’t stop to give an answer, he ran past her into his parents bathroom. Tim let out an excited shriek. His mother ran into the bathroom hoping everything was ok and his fathers footsteps could be heard running up the stairs.

“What’s wrong, Honey?” His mother said.

“KEYS!” Tim yelled, holding them up in his hands.

Tim had remembered that his mother often times referred to the master bathroom as his father’s favorite place. Tim didn’t understand this but his mother would always laugh when she said this. All Tim knew was his dad would go in there with a book sometimes and not come back for what seemed like hours. There, beside the toilet, he had found the keys.

“They must have fallen out of my pocket yesterday.” His father said as he entered the room.

“Our little hero.” Tim’s mother said.

They went back downstairs and Tim looked at the clock, 8:25am. He had saved the day. Soon they were in the car and on their way to the museum. He saw the Pterodactyl, the Oviraptor, all of the things from the Cambrian explosion, and best yet. His parents let him spend extra long looking at the T-Rex exhibit. He sat in wonder looking at all of the things they had there. Someone walked past and said, “I thought they had feathers.” Usually Tim would correct them but this time he was just too enthralled by the exhibit.

On the way home, Tim fell asleep. He woke up right as they got home. His mother let him pick the TV show they watched that night, and he got to pick what they ate for dinner. They finished out the day with cake and ice cream.

Tim’s mom tucked him in. She kissed him on the forehead and told him good night. “I always told you that you had super powers. You’re our families super hero.” Tim went to sleep that night and dreamed about dinosaurs. He rode a T-Rex around while wearing his super hero cape. Today had been awesome, but this dream made it even better.

The Diary Of My Mind

Atypical Partial Review

So I haven’t finished the entire first season but I have for the most part enjoyed the show. I do have a couple of criticisms.

First off, the mother is completely unlikable, every other character on the show has some redeeming quality but her. Seriously, could they have made the mother less likable? It seems almost as though this is the purpose of her character. Any time we seem to get a moment that she seems like a decent human being, the next scene is her doing something that absolutely destroys that image. It’s really unnerving.

Secondly, the main character is autistic but they portray him far too often as simply clueless. For example:

In one scene his friend from work says he is going to “get down.” Sam looks down confused. His friend constantly talks about sex, it is completely illogical to me that Sam would not know what get down means having a friend like that. Basically, I understand that they are trying to portray that Sam has trouble with social situations and cues but being in high school he would have picked up on some of these things while growing up.

There have been times where I have really enjoyed the show, and have associated a lot with Sam’s experience. I think though that they have tried to overemphasize the autism to make the mental struggle more easy to understand for neurotypical people that watch it, but it just seems that they have created a show that provides a stereotype of autism and not necessarily a show that provides real information on what it is like to live with Autism.

All in all it’s still a decent show but I can understand why there is such a pushback from the Autism community. I think it will give people an idea that they know what it is like to have autism or what autism is, simply by watching this show. In those respects I believe that the show could be harmful in the long run.

If you are really interested in what life is like with autism. Check out Neurotypical, available on Amazon Prime. There are also some great books on the topic.

For my own personal type of autism, you could read “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s.” It was available on Kindle Unlimited, though I am not sure if that is true now.

Thanks for reading.

Matt

The Diary Of My Mind

The Internet and Communication

I honestly don’t know what I would do without the internet. I remember the very first time I got online. I was around twelve years old and the school had just gotten hooked up with it. A new and wonderful world was opened to me. I could research absolutely any topic that I wanted and learn absolutely anything.  For someone who had read my grandmother’s entire encyclopedia collection, it was quite the experience to find out all that was still out there that I could learn.

However it wasn’t until we got the internet at home that my world was actually completely opened. Chat rooms and message boards opened up a way for me to communicate that was nearly impossible for me in a face to face fashion. To this day I am still far better at expressing myself on-line than I am in any fashion off-line.

This is a point that I want to make. Since starting this blog, I’ve had numerous people tell me how much better I communicate and express my feelings than other people on the spectrum that they personally know.  I appreciate their enjoyment of my writing but at the same time I feel like maybe they are getting the wrong picture. Maybe some day I will make a video of myself speaking and then it will be far easier to understand.

I speak in a very monotone voice, my mannerisms and ways of speaking are broken and when stressed I have a stutter that bothers me greatly. People have called me emotionless and cold my entire life, I don’t tend to get excited in my speaking and many times I have been called boring.

I write this to let you know that the internet has provided me with an ability to speak and communicate that I wouldn’t otherwise have in the outside world. I met the love of my life on-line and most of the friends that I have come through the internet. Conversations on-line are far easier to keep track of, if I ever misunderstand something I can simply go back and read it again. Writing on-line also comes with the wonderful ability to edit what I have said, fix issues that may exist, and re-word things in a way that is far more acceptable for conversation.

So thank you for complimenting my writing skill, it is something that I have worked on a great deal over the years. I love to write and I love to read your comments and e-mails. My only hope is that you don’t see my ease of writing and think that I am far more advanced than those people on the spectrum that you know in the outside world, your friends and your family. I believe if you ask many people who are on the spectrum they will say the same thing as I have about communication and writing on-line versus communication and speaking off-line.

I look forward to your comments and questions. Thank you so much for reading!

 

The Diary Of My Mind

Sometimes I Wonder….

I often wonder if I would be different today if i had been diagnosed as a child. I wonder this for several reasons…

I have talked with many people over the last few years, some with an early diagnosis and others with a late diagnosis.  From this I gather more questions about myself.  I wonder how my parents would have been? Would they have treated me differently? I assume my father would have been relatively the same but I think my mother would have been far different. She was already a helicopter mom but would have been ten times worse if she had known I had autism as a child.

Something else that I’ve considered is that fact that not knowing that I had autism forced me throughout life to come up with my own strategies at coping with life. Would I have used my autism as an excuse for not challenging myself to the fullest? I really don’t know the answer to that question.

At this point I also wonder about why there is such a huge deal about labels. I seem to notice from the many blogs I read that people with ASD will call themself an autistic person, while the blogs written by parents prefer to say child with autism. It seems to me that there is almost a sense of shame in the people who prefer the “child with autism” label. I don’t know if this is true or not but it seems to add even more stigma to the word than it attempts to take away.

Life is confusing at times. Maybe it would have been less confusing if I had known about my diagnosis at an earlier age, but maybe not. Would I have been as upset about being different if I had known why I was so different? To these questions I also have no answers, because I can’t put myself in that state of mind.

This brings me to my next item, I hate not being able to figure out the answer to things. I want to be able to just google or pick up a book and understand everything I need to know, but matters of my own mind are far more complicated. Sometimes I love the way my brain works and sometimes I hate the way my brain works. I hate how I get overwhelmed and shut down, but I love the peaceful calm that I feel when a shut down occurs. I love that I can remain silent for hours on end without ever feeling the need to break the silence.

Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts. I’m always told to tell people I am sorry if I offend them, even though I’m not really sorry…once again something I just don’t understand. Is it better to tell someone a lie than for them to be hurt by something I said, isn’t lying hurtful too? Maybe some things I will never understand and I guess that is supposed to be ok, even though it bugs the hell out of me.

 

The Diary Of My Mind

A note to my readers…

I’ve decided to keep a personal diary on here. This will mostly be for those folks in the autism community who I have met and cherish. These short or long posts may be at times difficult to understand is you are not on the spectrum. I don’t apologize for that but I think maybe it will help understand just how differently my mind works.
The first beautiful thing for me today was holding my hand over the exhaust fan on the AC at work. Feeling the air pass through my fingers, warm to the touch but stimulating and calming. I desperately needed it at that moment.

The second most beautiful thing was the cool metal sheeting surrounding the building. Touching it, placing my face against it and simply leaning against it brought me a great deal of joy.

A cloud passed over head and blocked the sun for a moment. The lowering of light helped my eyes adjust and I saw a caterpillar crawling in the grass nearby.  I watched it for just a few moments as it nibbled at some grass. This was the third beautiful thing I saw today.

The most beautiful thing though for me, was coming home from work. Having a woman that loves me, who is also on the spectrum, understanding my need for calm and quiet. We sat on the couch, she knitted while I played video games. She then gave me a foot rub and we watched Star Trek together.

The last beautiful thing today is getting to share all of this with you people. It is a joy to write and have you read it. Getting to read your blogs as well is a supreme joy of mine. Thank you all so much!

Live long and prosper.

Matt

The Diary Of My Mind

Quiet Times

People often times wonder if I’m angry, simply because I go quiet. What’s actually happened is I have become overwhelmed by something. Today for example, stress at work mounted a great deal and I had all these people asking me different things. I went dead quiet for about 30 minutes, not responding to my co-workers as they joked around and did their thing. 

Several people asked if I was mad, the only thing I could say was no. This did nothing to make them believe me. 
Sometimes when I go quiet it’s as if I actually cannot talk, the words are there, my mouth can move but nothing comes out. My body just shuts off my ability to communicate verbally. I think it’s my body trying to help me narrow down and focus on what needs done but at times it can be embarrassing.

Generally when I am able to begin speaking again, the words come out all wrong and I look dumb but in reality it’s just how my brain works. 
People think I am emotionless, but my emotions run through my mind like a wildfire. I see the colors of my pain, anger, sadness and joy. Even though my outside appearance might not show it, sometimes I’m hurting desperately inside.
Imagine, experiencing an emotion but not just that one situation, remembering and experiencing every time you’ve felt that emotion. When I am sad, I feel all the times I have been sad before remembering just what caused that emotion. When I am happy, I feel all the times I have been happy before. Each emotion is like a million smaller emotions built up.

This is why I go quiet. My brain must process and get me to the other side of it. Sometimes it feels like the quiet is an immense ocean where I am dropped in the middle. Swimming to shore seems futile at first but must be done if I am ever to reach the other side.

People think I’m just angry…

But this is why I go quiet.

An Aspie In Iowa

An Aspie In Iowa #1: Small Talk, Gossip, and Directions

First off, I want to say that my experience with Autism is going to be different from another person’s experience. It has been said, “If you meet one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism. Due to being a spectrum disorder, people with autism can display many different traits.

I have been diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism, what used to be known as Asperger’s Syndrome. What this means is that most of my autistic traits are unseen, at least for the most part, having more to do with the way I think and perceive the world. So while this is the story of my own experience, I won’t be able to give much information on other forms of Autism, such at low or mid functioning. My nephew is mid-functioning and while we share certain traits, much of our own personal experiences will be different throughout life.

Anyway….

I wanted to start this series out right with something that has caused me a huge amount of stress and exhaustion over the years. Small Talk is something that makes absolutely no sense to me and so I am absolutely awful at it. It has always seemed that small talk is simply a means to eliminate silence and in that it seems really weird. Is silence horrific to neurotypical people?

If you were to engage me in small talk I will spend the majority of the time trying to get out of the conversation. This is for multiple reasons but mainly the following three points:

1.) It annoys me
2.) I see no point in it
3.) I fear saying the wrong thing in these moments.

This might come as a shock but I could not care less about the weather, that new recipe for chicken tacos, or the pro’s and con’s of the various types of butter you can use to make cookies. Part of this comes from the fact that I have no idea where this style of conversation is supposed to go. Usually my response will be something along the lines of, “yep…”

Seriously though, think about it. You’re sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting for your appointment. Someone walks in and sees you sitting there. They sit down and you both are silent. Then after a few minutes they speak up and say, “Boy it’s hot out there isn’t it?”

My response…”Yep…”

Is this conversation supposed to go somewhere? Am I supposed to then tell you that I’m there to have an infected toenail looked at? Should I show you the toenail? Do I ask you if you are there to be checked into psychiatric care due to fearing silence so badly that you engaged me in this conversation?

Chris Pratt

I have found that my initial response almost always leads to them looking at me like I am supposed to continue and ask them something back but who the fuck knows what. The only thing going on in my mind is this…

“Please shut up, please shut up, please shut up….I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to talk to you…”

Another horrible experience for me is when checking out at a store. When I go to the store, I get what I need and I try to get out as quickly as possible. Over time I learn which cashiers are the fastest and I attempt to go through their aisles. Sometimes though this option is not available and I am placed in a checkout with someone who wants to make comments about everything I am trying to purchase.

“Oh, is this butter good?” They might ask.

“It’s butter.” I would reply

“I usually use this brand, have you tried it?” They ask.

“No, this is cheaper and it’s the same butter I have bought for the last 10 years.”

“You ought to try this brand.” They reply

“I’m good.” I say

“Ok….OH! Is this brand of bread good?”

By the end of experiences like this my brain is swimming in stress and I am completely exhausted. The reason being is that my mind is pushing me to an outburst. As the stress level rises, the lights around me get brighter, the noises become louder, and the voices around me become less distinct. My skin might begin to itch and I often break out in hives simply from the fact that I am stressed out. I will begin to notice the temperature in the room as it seems to rise and I feel a need to scream build up in my body.

At one point in life I would have just blown up. Emotional outbursts were a regular occurrence for me growing up and even though they might initially make me feel better, I would do or say things that I would regret later. During sensory overload I can say some of the most wicked and awful things without ever realizing that they have exited my mouth. So holding back these urges is absolutely exhausting.

By the time I get home from the store I sit down and often times don’t move for several hours after that. Letting my mind calm and slow down the sensory information that I am receiving. It should come as no surprise then that I attempt to the best of my ability to keep away from small talk.

Gossip on the other hand is both interesting and annoying. When I was younger I would have people tell me things about other people and then moments later I’d watch as those people acted as if they were the best of friends. You would never see me do anything like this. In fact I got in a lot of trouble as a kid for saying things like, “I thought you just said she was a bitch?”

Gossip is interesting because people seem to think that since I am quiet they can just come up to me and tell me anything and no one will ever hear about it. The problem is my perception of people is often times shaped by how other people speak about them. My mind is incredibly literal and so if I am told that someone is  crook, I will think, “oh, this person might try to rob me, and act strangely around that person.

The other thing about gossip is that it is almost never actually true. Many times throughout life I have had person A come up to me and say one thing about person B , then have person B come up and say the exact same thing about person A. Now obviously they both can’t be right but why does this type of accusatory talk feel so good to neurotypical people? It makes no sense to me.

The last thing that I want to talk about today is directions. If you are ever told to get directions from me, or to give directions to me, we are both going to end up confused. The way I plan things out is totally different from the way that others plan things out. Both of us might be headed toward the same goal but my mind often times goes about it in a very different way.

Example of giving me instructions:

When I was in high school the teacher gave us a writing assignment. She stated that the essay was to be 10 pages long, double spaced. I had absolutely no idea what double spaced meant at the time yet my brain interpreted this to mean a 10 page paper with two spaces in between each word. I remember turning in my paper thinking I had done a decent job only to have the teacher laugh at me. When you think about it though, I had probably written about twice as much as any other student there but instead I was ridiculed and made to feel inferior for the simple mistake I had made.

Directions

Example of me giving someone else instructions:

So in my job I used a lot of computer programs. I am able to use this with a lot of speed and navigate through the menus without any difficulty. So when I am told to explain to another person how to do something, I often leave out a lot of information that the person might need to know.

Say I am told to explain how to make certain reports. I might explain it by saying, click reports, enter in dates, and pull the report you want it to create. When they come back to me and wonder why they can’t pull a certain report, I realize there are maybe 5-10 steps that you have to do before being able to even access the reports. By that time they are upset because they think I think they are stupid, or that I am trying to make them fail by explaining it badly. Nothing could be further from the truth, I literally just don’t consider those small steps that must be done since I am so used to just doing those, its second nature to me and in my mind it should be to them as well.

Anyway, I hope I have done these things justice and maybe you understand a bit more about me than you did before. There is much more topics that I will go into during coming weeks, months and years. Thank you for reading!