Life with AS & SPD from a woman's perspective

Art of Communication


Photography, for some on the autism spectrum, helps them better to communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Originally posted on Broken Light: A Photography Collective:

Please say a warm hello to first-time contributor toki, a poet and hobbyist photographer from the Pacific Northwest, who struggles with depression, anxiety, and life on the autism spectrum. toki finds photography to be not only a calming pastime but also a way to share a particular view of the world and to express what is sometimes difficult to put into words.

About this photo: “As if depression and anxiety don’t make it difficult enough to communicate with others at times, being on the autism spectrum takes it to another level. Even when I work up the courage to talk to others, I often find myself stumbling over what to say and how to say it, or falling back on clichés, idioms, stock phrases, and jargon. Even worse than trying to put my thoughts into words is trying to decipher what other people’s words mean. Depression and anxiety lead…

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Just Duckie!

Just Duckie!_cropped version+wm

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Fun Side of the Moon

Fun Side of the Moon

Red and green vines on white wall.

Red and green vines on white wall.

Water droplets on the backside of a leaf following a severe September storm.

Water droplets on the backside of a leaf following a severe September storm.

Placed October 5, 2014 in the Daily Herald “Neighbor” section in “Your Snapshots”.
Photo of the Day,September 15, 2014 StudentStock G+ page.

Gray thinking allows one to understand all the beauty and complexity of life.

Gray thinking allows one to understand all the beauty and complexity of life.

If you are like me, you have great difficulty gauging how to relate to others; on the spectrum or not.
Trying to gauge things like a person’s tone of voice, context and motive while my mind is bombarding me with the pictures and videos of my vivid imagination makes for exhaustion and displeasure. I soon find myself giving up on the person and situation, especially the instant they grow impatient with me.
Knowing when to communicate and when to listen are essentials for any kind of relating to another human. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I can’t live life remaining solitary, apart from the rest of humanity. I don’t want to be a social butterfly; I want a few trustworthy people who care about me. Achieving this means putting into practice a few things like prayer, therapy and supportive relations to help model what I call “gray” thinking.
Gray Thinking vs. Black and White Thinking
“Gray” thinking is the opposite of “black and white” thinking. Thinking this way reduces a legalistic mindset. Legalistic thinking is a wrong mindset that says, “If someone doesn’t like the same things or believe the same things as me, then they are all wrong and I don’t want to know them”. Gray thinking means having an open mind. It means that one person can disagree with another without harsh words and hurt feelings!
I have a dear friend who is in her 70’s. We share some things in common such as a love of nature as well as our Christian faith. We don’t agree on some things like Climate change and politics, but we can still hear each other out and remain true to our convictions as well as enjoying a close friendship.
This friendship was not born overnight. It evolved over the course of a decade. A big bonus was that this woman worked with special needs individuals. She had many years of invaluable experience, some of it she has taught me. As a general rule (true of a lot of people, not all) I relate better to those older than myself. They tend to be more patient and forgiving than those my age or younger. Remember, I said “a lot”. That doesn’t mean “all”. Making broad sweeping statements about a person or a group of people is a part of black and white thinking. Gray thinking allows for the possibility of a minority view (not just a majority).
Treat others as you would like to be treated, regardless
Don’t Judge. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.” Matthew 7:1-2 NLT We aren’t to pass judgment on another person’s character. I don’t treat another person badly even if they treat me badly. The Bible teaches that if I treat another person badly, passing judgment on them, then the same thing will be done to me at one time or another. As hard as this sounds, we are to treat others (especially those that hurt us) the way we would like to be treated. One way to treat people kindly (as well as preserve my sanity) is to acknowledge that I cannot know what’s going on inside them to make them act as they do. This has been a huge revelation in my life (very recently). There could be any number of medical or sociological reasons causing whatever the negative behavior might be (sarcasm, short-temperateness, etc…) They could have been abused by their parents as children, bullied or so spoiled that they view anyone other than themselves as subservient. They could have recently found out they have less than 6 months to live.
While it isn’t my job to speculate on why a particular person treats me negatively (e.g. with sarcasm, hostility, impatience) it is up to me to treat them with civility and pray for God to help them.
This does not mean I have to tolerate being abused by anyone. It means that I apply gray thinking rather than viewing them as bad, horrible people that deserve to die and go to hell. I will say again, for emphasis, that gray thinking is a newer practice for me. I hope that the next time I act rudely (by accident) that the someone I hurt prays for me.
Killing them with kindness
Let your foot seldom be in your neighbor’s house, lest he become tired of you and hate you. Proverbs 25:17
I have always had the tendency to “flood” anyone showing the slightest bit of interest in me with constant contact and overdoing kindness like constantly buying, making, or giving them things. This often caused embarrassment and soon led to isolation. This flooding doesn’t work as I have learned that everyone (not just autistic people) need time to be alone or with other people. In childhood, I was prone to jealousy as any kid showing kindness to me was soon corrupted by the others who didn’t like me. Now I understand that a grown up mind should not be so gullible that it can be readily changed by another. . Gray thinking is having an open, not passive mind.
Stealth Mode
“Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.” James 1:19
I honestly don’t know much about initiating a friendship. I haven’t learned how to yet. When I do come across someone I think is worthwhile and desire a relationship, I need to learn how to operate in what I call stealth mode. Stealth means “Secret or unobtrusive procedure.” (Merriam Webster Dictionary)
On the first day of school, my parents told me to “get the lay of the land.” This meant listening and looking more than talking. This was no small task for an autistic (then undiagnosed) child constantly overwhelmed by the loud banter of other children and slamming locker doors. In my earlier years I talked so much to myself that anyone else could barely get a word in edgewise! This made distinguishing who was safe and who was out to harm me as well as what was going on in the classroom I needed to be participating in extremely difficult. It leads to no friends, lots of enemies and removal of some privileges.
As a 35 year-old I am learning to really listen when a person speaks. What is the context of their conversation? Do they seem happy, sad or angry? What can I say when I do talk to show that I care and am interested? It isn’t always about having the right words. Sometimes just saying something like “I’m so happy for you” or “I’m so sorry that happened to you, I will pray for you” is enough. This is a learning process. There is no one right way to socialize, but I hope I have included some wrong ways to avoid. Learning to listen benefits not only the other person, but me as well.
Here is one thing to avoid at all costs: gossip. Engaging in conversation with people who gossip is disgusting. It is dishonest as gossipers often distort the truth and tell secrets others have specifically asked them to keep just so they can seem important. Saying something to a gossiper like “Oh really? That’s interesting” followed by a bunch of nods or a shake of the head (depending on context) usually breaks up the conversation followed by departing from the gossiper as soon as possible e.g. “I have to get back to work.”
No Guru
I don’t profess to know all the answers to effectively being social. I am passing on some lessons learned as well as still learning. I am a person, not a perfect.

Allison M. Kramer blogs at WordPress regarding adult life with autism as well as photographing nature for personal pleasure and charity. Visit her G+ page:

From Darkness to Light (Fountain Gallery NYC – Summer 2014).


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