June 10, 2015
Originally posted on Unstrange Mind:
This is an entry for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The entire month of April (except for Sundays) I will be blogging through the alphabet on autism-related topics to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month.
O is for Overloaded, Overstimulated, and Overwhelmed
I couldn’t write this essay until now because, for the last several days, I have been too much of these three things to be able to write about them.
There are several types of experiences that tend to make Autistic folks overloaded, overstimulated, or overwhelmed. As with most things, it’s different from person to person. Some people might respond to one of these triggers; others respond to all of them. Some might seem pretty solid most of the time, others might be always living so close to the anxious edge that it does not take very much at all to push them over. Many of us are both…
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April 28, 2015
I used to cry on long car trips as an infant up until age 5. It wasn’t due to boredom. It was due to sensory processing disorder than accompanied my (undiagnosed back in the 1980’s) autism spectrum disorder.
Though I outgrew this, I do remember telling my mother later that it was due to the sound of the tires against the road that set me off.
While I am blessed to have outgrown some intolerable sounds, others intensified as my brain continued to develop.
Some experts have theorized that it was solely due to my dad’s sudden death in my teens, but if that were the case, how would one explain the extreme auditory sensitivity before he died? How would that theory stand up in the wake of the progress I have made in the 21 years since his death?
I should explain that I have long adjusted to my dad’s passing and the pain is no longer acute. I am now processing my mother’s death, which occurred 13 months ago. My brain has been finished growing for 13 years (I am 35). No new sound issues or intensification with problem sounds since. I think this disproves the psychological theory.
However, as a person on the autism spectrum, processing death has been much more difficult and in different ways since losing both parents. For example, the feeling of increased vulnerability, being alone for longer periods of time
There is a difference in how I have dealt with each passing. I am older and have had beneficial therapy that has helped me to cope better as an autistic person.
That said, I think the psychological and emotional only theory can be further disproved. Clearly, they factor in any person’s loss of a close person, but in the case of an autistic person, it isn’t the defining argument for or against brain development.
My autistic symptoms were evident when I was still a 6-month fetus. I didn’t experience any real trauma in my life until I was 11 and entered middle school. Even then, aside from acute anxiety, my symptoms didn’t change until about age 16, two years after my dad died.
P.S. I came long ago to enjoy long car trips. I look out the window rather than plugging in to some electronic device. I love the moving feeling and never have experienced carsickness.
Autism awareness may be commemorated in April, but it is a 12 month-long campaign. Please advocate if you can. Blog and/or use social media. You can find me on Google Plus (autisticaplanet).
Please consider donating money to UNICEF or Samaritan’s Purse (or another charity you trust) to help earthquake survivors in Nepal.
God bless you.
March 17, 2015
For followers (thank you for stopping by :-)) of this post, you know I have touched on some darker points of living with ASD lately. While I am sure the topics are unpleasant and unpopular, I do feel they are necessary to bring up.
With this post, I want to talk about a lighter topic: stretch cord jewelry making.
Since February 2015, I have decided to pursue an interest of mine: making jewelry. There was plenty of room for doubt. I have fine-motor skill issues. I wondered if a jewelry starter kit would be a waste of time and money, however, I decided to spend $10 at Michael’s and give it a try.
It turned out that while I couldn’t get the hang of bending metal or attaching clasps and jump-rings, I could string beads. I branched out to buying beads with larger hole openings (1 mm or more) and used stretch cord, which is flexible and perfect for my gross motor skills to handle.
There were the frustrating moments where I yelled and swore at the bracelet that snapped and sent beads all over the room. There was the nagging accusation of the devil saying “You can’t do it! You can’t do anything right!” While I was tempted to give up, I took breaks and kept coming back to beading.
The family member I live with helped me to acquire more material from Michael’s. Now I am obsessed with beading. At first, I beaded all day. Then, after running out of material too quickly, I began to pace myself.
I am selling the finished products locally with help from a local business owner as well as keeping a few (like the bracelet pictured) for myself and giving them as gifts. Most importantly, I am having FUN and keeping occupied.
There is something very soothing to creating patterns and stringing the beads.
You might wonder what the extra string on the bracelet is. That is the “umbilical cord” of extra stretch cord that I leave on until the glue on the final knot dries. Then, if it’s good to go, I snip the ends off.
I find it very important being anxious and limited by sensory issues and difficulty communicating in real time, to be able to lose myself in a special interest, especially during a inhospitable February where frigid temps made sledding and outdoor photography impossible.
The only hazard I think it is important to mention is pace. Don’t go at your special hobby too fast or for so long you forget or choose not to sleep or eat.
What is a special interest that you or someone with ASD you know you have that doesn’t cost a lot of money and you might find at a craft store such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby? Painting, scrap-booking, knitting or wood working? There is an ability level and price range for virtually everything.
I should add that the pursuit of profit shouldn’t be a driving motivator. Having fun, staying occupied and relaxing should be. Happy crafting!
March 13, 2015
What should have been a fun first outing in the first warm up of 2015 was a walk fraught with tension. First, a dog (on a leash, thank God), came by, growling at me and my family member as we minded our own business. The dog and his owner came by again, dog still growling, looking very angry at us.
I should state that I have had horrible experiences with dogs, as I freak out (screaming, crying and flailing my body wildly when exposed to their barking). I have been ambushed and attacked once by dogs as well as forced to sit in a chair while hospitalized and listen to dogs that were in training for therapy bark and bark and bark without the use of my hands (they were forced off my ears) until I bit the behavioral health counselor who restrained me and broke free.
Anyway, I began a conversation with my family member about how they felt about dog ownership. The response was absolutely dreadful to my autistic ears: They would not mind getting a dog someday. This panics me, as I absolutely cannot occupy the same dwelling as a dog. They bark whenever. There is no way to predict when the next one is coming. Barking sounds like loud scraping carving out my ear drums.
I have had all the sensory exposure my brain can process. I have had Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. I have earplugs and headphones (which get uncomfortable after 3 hours of continuous wear). The biology of my brain is made up. I can’t unmake it or re-wish it. I cannot pray autism away (though I keep trying).
Why do I always have to eventually lose out to the objects that impair *my* autistic life? Why do I have to be discriminated against? Why do I feel like I am the only spectrum person who struggles with this issue and kids? Why do I have to feel so all alone? Why is this isolation & discrimination even necessary in 2015?
Why, oh why, aren’t their safe living arrangements for autistic people *like me* so that my family member could have a whole kennel and I could live in peace (no dog or small child neighbors)?
Even though I am a Christian, I do believe that if it comes to living with a dog by force or face a nursing home or other facilitated horror house, I do think God would accept my suicide as I am sure He accepted the suicide of those who jumped from the twin towers to their deaths to avoid burning to death.
I am tired of insensitive and self-centered people persecuting me for both being autistic and Christian. The Christian part is inevitable (1 Peter affirms this). The autistic part, especially with all the *awareness* out there, I do not understand. If you hate me for being autistic, fine, but don’t try to deny my existence or force me to live by your NT or even ASD rules.
I am obviously a conundrum. This is a fact, NOT a crime. I am doing my very best under abnormally high anxiety each day not to melt down, cause violent behavior or be a burden. I don’t think it is asking too much for some *REASONABLE* accommodations from my family member and from special needs housing developers!
This isn’t a hyperbole, this is reality (the non-manufactured kind).
Finally, I realize and respect that there are those very slightly challenged on the spectrum who can live independently and are very happy with their unique gifts. I would HOPE that those more able on the spectrum would extend the same courtesy to me. You are so very and richly blessed in the midst of your trials.
I still long to hear from a severely auditory-impaired autistic person who faces similar challenges. A person needs to know they are not all alone, some freak of nature in order to have some sense of self-worth and compassion for humanity.
Post script: It turns out that, not surprising to me, that when very anxious and upset, I misinterpret the way a person says something and I say things in a way I do not mean. I have had an emergency talk with my family member regarding living with dogs, and they assured me that I had them all wrong, that the idea of a dog was hypothetical (autistic people don’t do well with abstracts), and they would not be getting one as long as I lived with them (I am not capable of being on my own given the limited options available at this time).
I think the content of the post underscores the issue of miscommunication, misrepresentation, fear and uncertainty that people with autism spectrum disorder face. For these reasons, I am leaving this post on my site.
I wish there was an easier way to avert the gaping mess that autism inevitably leaves in its bloody wake.
March 2, 2015
I need to look into lo-fi. I have seen photos with this effect & am interested.
Originally posted on Broken Light: A Photography Collective:
Photo taken by contributor Ty Fitzgerald, a man who has been diagnosed with Bipolar II. Ty has a fondness for Lo-fi and Lux filters because they intensify shadows, highlights and colors. Such photos visually represent the way he sees the world, a little brighter and darker than he imagines those without bipolar disorder see the world.
About this photo: “This photograph of a dilapidated building is another example of how I love to photograph beaten down and broken things. I think it shows the effects of time and is testament to the inevitability of our demise.”
Serene and surreal photo. I love variations on everyday things.
Originally posted on Broken Light: A Photography Collective:
Photo taken by contributor Leya, a single mother working in the mental health field. Leya has a child with multiple barriers, including severe anxiety. She also grew up in a highly anxious household with a family that experienced significant historical trauma. Leya believes that the key to our collective functioning is finding ways to calm our overactive minds. For her, that includes walks in nature, photography, poetry, painting, cooking, dance and yoga. She primarily photographs nature and historic sites that grab her and convey a story of emotion or sheer beauty.
About this photo: “This photo was taken on the Island of Hawaii. The volcano symbolizes destruction and rebirth, and this aftermath is strangely beautiful. The sky is still blue, the land will heal, and there is always hope for a new day.”
Find more from Leya at her blog.
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