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It’s 10:18 PM. Do you know where your Single-Sentence Saturday is? November 22, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in single sentence saturday, social.
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My biggest fear is that I’m doing things completely wrong and nobody’s telling me.

A lesson in terminology. November 10, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in advocacy, language, medical, sensory integration dysfunction.
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When a neurotypical (not just non-autistic, but completely neurotypical) person has asthma, he or she is asthmatic.

When an autistic person has asthma, it’s a comorbidity.

When a neurotypical person complains of pain, it’s probably a symptom of a disease.

When an autistic person complains of pain, it’s a because he or she is autistic, and nothing more.

When a neurotypical person wants to be left alone, he or she wants to be left alone.

When an autistic person wants to be left alone, he or she is antisocial.

What’s wrong with this picture?

(Disclaimer: I know these don’t hold 100% true, but this is an exercise in how profoundly a single diagnosis can change society’s view of a person, so bear with me.)

Me zero, big bad world one. November 6, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in advocacy, outside looking in.
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(Warning: foul language ahead. Not a lot of it, but it’s there.)

I have had it up to here with being forced to hide a vital part of myself in hopes of finding employment. Especially since it doesn’t work.

I am sick of continually being told how much people would love to hire me, except I’m “just not a good fit.” (At least I’m in good company; that’s the excuse companies use on anyone when they don’t have a legitimate, non-illegal reason for not hiring anyone who’s visibly different.)

Perhaps more importantly, I’m at the point where I’m mostly sure it is just me; that I’m just not going to get hired for anything full-time or permanent, no matter what I do; that even if I keep trying, I may as well never actually hope to amount to anything; that I may as well go from job to job to minimum-wage job like so many autistic spectrum people before me have done. I may as well accept that my best option for health care is “don’t get sick.” (One perk: I hear the monthly premiums are low on that plan.)

And you know why I’m not planning to give in? Why I’m going to cry myself out and then pull myself right back up?

I’m doing it for you.

I don’t want to sound like a martyr by saying this, because that’s certainly not how I see myself. But if — WHEN — I get my career started, it’ll be that much easier for the next autistic person to apply for a job there. People will get to know me and realize that I am just as much a human being as they are, and with luck and hope, they will carry that knowledge on in life.

The Law of Unintended Consequences applies here as well, but in a good way. If things change for autistic people, the world will be easier for other non-neurotypicals. I live for the day when neurodiversity in all its forms (infinite neurodiversity in infinite neurocombinations? Nah…) is so commonplace that when somebody asks “So, what about that Alice person? Isn’t she weird?” and the standard reply is “No, she’s not weird. She’s just Alice.”

It’s just not fucking fair that any group of people anywhere has to prove its humanity at all. Ever. I’m going to say this once, and I’m going to say it clearly: FUCK. THAT. SHIT.

My writing this likely isn’t going to change anyone’s attitudes, aside from my own (I feel better already), but with hope, my existence will.

Single-Sentence Saturday comes without warning or context. October 25, 2008

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Sometimes I wish I could read minds, but then I realize that it would just mean having one more sense to manage.

A chance encounter October 22, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in interaction, social.
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I think I met another autistic person on the way home from work.

I had just pressed the button to cross the street when I saw him. He was about halfway across the smaller cross street when I noticed something funny: this man was walking like I do. He was paying attention to each step he took, as if he’d lose his legs and feet if he lost awareness of them. For a moment I thought he might be drunk — I’ve been accosted before by security types who think I’m drunk because of the way I walk — but discounted that fairly quickly. He was too centered, too aware. Most people, when drunk, try to act sober, and I never felt that from him.

I might leave it at that — “Oh, he could have been autistic, but he’d probably just had a bit much to drink” — if not for what happened next.

He made it to my corner. Neither of us tried to make eye contact, but we both acknowledged the other in our own ways. (I smiled. He nodded.)

He stopped. It wasn’t a very fluid motion — more along the lines of “oh crap, I almost forgot my keys” than a premeditated stop — and spoke.

What exactly did he say?

Not “H’lo there.”

Not “Cold out tonight, isn’t it?”.

Not any of the small talk one might expect from a stranger on the street at 10:30 PM.

What did he say to me?

“Nice red coat.”

And then he started walking again. Didn’t even give me a chance to say “thank you.” (That would have been — was, since I said it anyway — the correct response, right?)

That’s what made it for me. The first ping on my aut-dar I’ve had in a long time.

Of course, we didn’t do the secret handshake, so I’ll never know for sure if he’s truly on the spectrum or if I’m just making stuff up.

(There really ought to be a secret handshake. That would make life so much easier.)

It’s listmaking season. October 7, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in outside looking in.
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Things that, according to people who taught me to do them, I don’t do correctly:

  • Walk
  • Hold a pencil
  • Vacuum the floor
  • Take out the trash
  • Change diapers
  • Crochet
  • Type

But:

  • I get around unassisted, and I can keep up with people a foot and a half taller than I am
  • My handwriting is perfectly legible as long as I’m paying attention
  • My floor is clean
  • My trash cans are empty
  • The diapers get on the babies a lot more easily than they would if I did it the “right” way
  • I have a number of completed projects that look exactly like “normal” crochet
  • …Well, I’m not copying and pasting each word into this entry, am I? No signs of repetitive stress injuries either.

So the question is, what exactly am I doing wrong?

(In all fairness, the “walking wrong” thing was a choreographer. Oh, and various and sundry security guards with nothing better to do.)

Single-Sentence Saturday’s glasses got slobbered on today. October 4, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in interaction, language, single sentence saturday.
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It’s no wonder I like little kids: everybody else calls me “antisocial” when I don’t talk and wishes I would shut up when I do talk.

Frustration. September 15, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in interaction, language, social.
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So, a bunch of people on another site are discussing autism right now, and there’s one person who, while through the rest of the discussion is being very sensitive and understanding in her attitudes, keeps talking about “real autistic people” versus people on the less classical end of the spectrum.

For several reasons — not the least of which being that I really don’t feel like defending the fact that I exist right now — I pointed out how condescending the phrase sounds and then I left. I know it’s most likely either a linguistics issue (where she doesn’t know the right term and is compensating) or a matter of not realizing the impact words can have, but it’s still bugging the crap out of me. And being the person I am, I’m going to have it bug me for the next few days unless I get it out of my system now. So:

AAAAARGH.

(In other, unrelated news, I have a cat scratch on my left hand such that it hurts to move my little and ring fingers on that hand. It makes typing fun!)

A somber Single-Sentence Saturday. September 13, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in media, single sentence saturday.
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I have nothing pithy, profound or even just bizarre to say today; instead, this sentence is for Jacob Grabe.

Social Stories and airplane trips September 11, 2008

Posted by speakingaut in interaction, medical, social.
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One of the blogs I follow regularly is called Parent Hacks. It’s full of parenting tips and shortcuts, and while I’m not a parent, there are enough children in my life that I can use the tips. A tip that was posted today caught my eye, since it’s geared toward parents of autistic children: “‘Social Stories’ coach kids through transitions and new situations.” There’s evidently a specific way to write them, but I’d tailor it to the needs of the child or children I’m writing for.

The post also links to a collection of examples.

I remember when I was little, I was really nervous about new situations. It really helped when people explained to me exactly what to expect when, what counted as “normal” and when I should ask for help, and addressed any other questions I had. I also remember asking many of these questions several times. Considering that I started reading when I was two, it might have been easier to have things written down. (Come to think of it, I think that did happen a few times.)

I’m still nervous about new situations, of course, but it’s less paralyzing now, and the good thing is, I can do my own research now. If I go in for a medical procedure, for instance, I read up on what exactly to expect. And one of the requests I make of any doctor who treats me is “please let me know what you’re going to do and what it’s for before you do it.” Nothing turns me off from a doctor faster than being surprised by something simple.

A different example: When I was six or seven, I went to Disneyland with a close family friend. While I’d been on airplanes before, it had been when I was a baby, and if I remembered, the memories were spotty at best. When it came time for me to leave, I was terrified. I had a basic idea of what would happen, but nothing measurable or specific. It certainly didn’t help that when the friends I was with showed me a map of the United States, they joked around by pretending our route took us on a looping course around the country, but I couldn’t have done anything about that.

(No social story could have prepared me for losing one of my favorite shoes in the Pacific or having the plastic toy sword I’d bought at the Pirates of the Carribean gift shop confiscated at airport security, either, but that’s another story.)

Of course, now I understand what’s going on and what to do in what situations, I am the family’s second most fearless flier. I’ve been in one of the world’s largest airports, in a country where I don’t speak the language (aside from a few choice words I can’t repeat here), on a flight that landed twenty minutes late, with only the vaguest of instructions on where to go next, and I’ve made it to the rendezvous point on time.

But the beautiful thing about liking to know what’s going to happen before it does is that I was able to pay it forward. One time, I was flying solo. The plane I was supposed to be on had just landed and its passengers were disembarking, and the little boy who was across from me at the gate kept asking his mother what was going on. His mother kept saying she didn’t know.

So I braved the whole “talking-to-strangers” thing, and once I got permission from his mother, I told the boy that the plane had been full of people who wanted to come here, and now that it was empty, we needed to wait for people to clean it. I told him that they were going to put the checked luggage on the plane and call the passengers up in groups, and that once he was in his seat, he should put his seatbelt on and listen to the instructions the cabin crew gave. I even told him he could wave at the pilot on the way out of the plane.

The kid’s response?

“Oh. That’s cool.”

So yeah. This works with (presumably) neurotypical kids, too. As a rule, knowledge reduces fear.

Even if you don’t have time to write stories yourself, there are books already existing that are extremely helpful. I remember reading a series of books by Fred Rogers that dealt with first experiences, and the Berenstain Bears are classics by now. (I have no knowledge of what the newest ones are like, but I have fond memories of the ones that were in print when I was a child.)

In conclusion: Man, that’s a longwinded way to say “ooh, these things are a great idea.”