Posted in Autistic Identity, Identity

But What if I HAVE to Remember: Random Thoughts From Aphantastic Autistic

I’ve written before how I can’t see pictures in my head.  It’s called Aphantasia, and some of us Autistics have it.  Others, think in pictures, and some of us think ONLY in words or ONLY in pictures.  It seems like the average person (thus, a neurotypical) can both visualize pictures and words, I guess?

At any rate, this break to relax I watched a lot of crime shows.  I like them a lot, and no, I don’t know why.  It probably has to do with trying to learn human nature, and my need to understand how the world of people works.

So, I was watching old Unsolved Mysteries shows and they were showing police working with a psychic.  It dawned on me then that I imagine part of why I don’t believe in that stuff is because I am incapable of picturing anything in my head, so the idea that someone can, is already foreign to me.  When I was a child, I assumed if I believed hard enough, I’d unlock my psychic abilities.  As I got older and more religious, I assumed they were all sinful.  Of course, there’s a middle path on this because the Bible does point out some ghosts and is full of prophecies so there’s room for some level of belief.

But heck, I couldn’t even be helpful if I were the victim of a crime.

Think of it!  The police always want to know what the perp or perps look like, and I’ve heard many a crime victim go, “I can’t ever forget that face!”  I do know, from law school, that false identification is common and it’s very common across racial lines, but people do have some idea of what someone looks like.

I can’t even describe people I know.

I don’t per-se know how I feel about this and in terms of disabilities one could have, not seeing pictures seems relatively minor.  But I envision situations when THINGS HAPPEN and it isn’t really that minor at all.

That reminded me how situationally-based disability really is, and for the most part, it doesn’t much matter whether I think in pictures or not.

But what if something happens?

Most people don’t even know not thinking in pictures is a “thing,” but increasingly, as we get to know the brain and what it can and can’t do it does trickle down sometimes into education.  We have these volunteers who come to read with the kids who had some training where they learned that not all kids make pictures in their heads when they read, so they shouldn’t assume it.  This gives me hope that other kids will figure out sooner than I did that teachers aren’t speaking metaphorically when they say “picture a sunny day.”  They literally do mean you should, in your head, make a picture of such a day because you can do that.

I can’t do that, and I guess the advantage of knowing that is that I can explain this to a police officer if I’m involved in a crime.

I just hope that he or she can understand that I’m not making this up.

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Identity

From the Archives: To Diagnose or Not To Diagnose

I was talking to a work friend about my son, when my husband and I were finally were coming to terms with the fact that my son might be Autistic.

She wrote me that she had heard from one of her Autistic son’s therapists that you just know.  You know when the other mothers have all moved on to worry about whether their kids are eating a healthy diet, and you’re stuck back on “will he talk?” or are just happy that he’s eating anything.  You know when the other parents have birthday parties and can drop their kids off without worry, and you’re frightened that if you don’t hover something will happen.  You know when your child is in a pre-school or Kindergarten class, and he or she has been reading since at least the age of 2 or 3 and is forced to learn “colors” and “the alphabet,” yet his or her favorite words to read are long ones, dealing with the mythology behind the current superhero, rock, or dinosaur interest.

There are many different things that could be signs, but you know when you’re not worried about the “right” things, the things the other parents seem to be concerned about.

But some of us don’t know until late.  You know in middle school, when your daughter doesn’t have any friends and can’t seem to navigate the social structures.  You know when she gets quieter, and withdraws more and more into her books and/or special interests.

But you’ll know.

Continue reading “From the Archives: To Diagnose or Not To Diagnose”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, writing

From the Archives: The Baggage of Autistic Literature

So I think I said at one point that I don’t get writer’s block.  And that’s true, strictly speaking.

However, as you can tell, I’m sitting here, spilling out words, but I’m using them to whine about writer’s block.  What gives?

Well, I had three pages of something I don’t much like that I gave up on writing and decided to come over here.  A lot has been going on, particularly regarding the authenticity of Autistic voices.   Far stronger bloggers than I are debating whether self-diagnosis is valid and other fun topics.  Since returning to working outside the house, though, there’s a limit to how much I can really get involved.

So instead, I do my advocacy through writing about things like education and neurodiversity advocacy “and stuff.”

But I haven’t even had time for that lately.  (By the way, hi, blogosphere.  I miss you guys.   Thanks for fighting the good fight on self-diagnosis and other demons!).

Tomorrow I’m due to write my second story for the fiction class (by the way, I’ve got a revised edition of the first story, but I’m thinking about “shopping it around for publication” so if the early draft disappears from the website, that’s why.

So, yeah, here I am, not writing the new story.

Continue reading “From the Archives: The Baggage of Autistic Literature”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, intersectionality

Disappointing John Warriner: Why it’s Hard for Me to Change

Autistic people like to be right.

We have a saying in my house, “technically correct is the best kind of correct.”  It’s what my husband and I say to each other about ourselves or about our son when we realize we’re arguing in circles and all of us are convinced we’re right.  Because I was more able to see the point of view of other people than my husband was, inevitably I’d say something that was right in terms of, if you looked at lived experiences, and my husband would say something that he’d internalized as a rule.  Once upon a time, I’d said, “Well, you’re technically correct…” at which point he replied, “Well, that’s the best kind of correct.”  Ever since we make that the family joke.

And it really does give you a handle on why we Autistics can be difficult to change.

One of the things I learned from going to public schools myself, is that embarrassment is the worst thing in the world.  See, if you do something embarrassing two things happen 1) people can randomly bring it up in the future and use it to color their future opinions of you and 2) your mind has this irritating habit of doing this thing where, if you’re sitting there, enjoying the day, it will decide to bring you down a peg or two and replay an incident that was horrifyingly embarrassing.  Objectively, I know now that brains playing bad memories over again is a typical thing.  In fact, I seem to remember learning it in high school when I read a Dave Barry column and he mentioned his brain doing that as if it’s what brains do all the time (thanks, Dave!  You really helped me out with that!), but at the same time, I still think I react more strongly to that embarrassment than the typical neurotypical.

Female Autistics in particular have a hard time being recognized because we tend to do this thing where we’re aware of how we’re perceived and can even (often) sense other people’s emotions and what they are thinking.  We’ve learned this from years of playing detective and trying to fit in, which we might have managed in elementary years, but when things start getting too intense around middle school, we often can’t make it anymore and just get lost at the “fitting in” game.  But some of us can still sense what other people are thinking and feeling, but we can’t do anything about it so we’re ostracized for being different.

That’s not, clearly, ideal.

Continue reading “Disappointing John Warriner: Why it’s Hard for Me to Change”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity

I Wish I Could Say I’m Aspergian: Why We Have to Join Up “For the Team”

Every so often, you’ll meet an Autistic who insists on saying that he or she has Asperger’s Syndrome.  That term has been removed from the diagnostic manual because people OTHER than us decided on Autistic being the blanket term.  While there’s good and bad in that, the gist of the reasoning was that those who got the Asperger’s label weren’t getting help, so it was better to call us all Autistic.

That was remarkably helpful of the medical establishment, which is sort of rare.

But had I been in the meeting, I would have said, “Can’t we both be Asperger’s Syndrome, instead?”

But since Asperger’s ONLY (to them) meant “high-functioning,” to ask that question would be tantamount to saying that I wanted to erase the “low-functioning” people from existence.  I don’t believe in functioning labels, but if I DID, I need to support my Neurosiblings who have been considered “low-functioning” first.  As such, I have to bury Asperger’s Syndrome.

Which is sad, I think.

Continue reading “I Wish I Could Say I’m Aspergian: Why We Have to Join Up “For the Team””

Posted in Autistic Identity, Parenting, School governance, School Leadership

Autistics Make GREAT Moms

This post should be about how much I am insightful about my child’s needs, judging from the title.  And I believe I am good at that sort of thing.  However, this post is not that.  Instead, because I was asked if I was another person’s mother multiple times yesterday, I thought this would be far more interesting to talk about, given the current Autistic community speaking out about being great parents in the wake of #BoycottToSiri.

As the setup to this story, I have a lone 8th grader.  He’s pretty amazing, if I do say so myself, and part of why he’s amazing is how much progress he’s made in the last year and a bit since I came to this school.  He used to be very silent, especially around adults, and took a very long time to read.  His work was adequate at best and he seemed to be behind grade level.

This year, he’s at grade level and can explain things better than most 8th graders in other schools (since we have no basis for comparison here, we have to look elsewhere; this is probably a good thing and less stressful for him anyway).

Because we have a large developmental gap between him and my next youngest student who fits in best with the 4th/5th graders, he likes to work in the office.  This works out fine because 1) we get another person to answer the doorbell, 2) I can teach him in between my work, if he needs it, which frees up the one-room schoolhouse, and 3) we can, when we’re both stressed play Uno or Yu-Gui-Oh, or what have you.  He’s seemed to move along even faster, academically, since now he can choose the order he does things in (being mindful about what time I have that’s free to teach), and he still joins the rest of the class for meals, gym, and art.  He even DIRECTS gym now, teaching the other kids games that country school kids used to play years ago like “Ghosts in the graveyard.”  He learned about this game online.

So, this is my 8th grader, and because there IS such a gap between him and the others, and because he’s going to have learned as much as he can, being in the office with us, he wants to go to another school next year, and we found a charter that is project-based and quite small, with lots of quirky students he should fit in great with.

SO…here’s the story.

Continue reading “Autistics Make GREAT Moms”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Catholic education, Catholic leadership, higher education, Identity, writing

Goodbye, Academia (Again)

[Image: A brick wall has been broken down and the foreground has some debris that’s difficult to make out. There is a large, green coniferous tree standing directly in front of the opening. It is sunny outside. A mist hides some of what is beyond, but the world outside seems welcoming.]
If you follow me regularly, you’ll know that I’ve recently been conflicted about whether to focus my non-school related energy on pursuing an Ed.D. or focusing on my writing.  You may also remember, I’ve got all the Ph.D. courses necessary for a Ph.D. in Education or Library and Information Science, but I left the path to the ivory tower because of a lack of support.

The little voice in me finally started to speak; actually, she screamed during this #BoycottToSiri saga that’s been going on lately.

The little voice that is me had already been complaining considerably while I was writing my paper to end the semester.  I knocked the thing out pretty quickly and it’s fine; it answered my questions, and I did okay.  But I hated every minute of writing that academic paper.

Here’s what I learned about myself.

Continue reading “Goodbye, Academia (Again)”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Parenting

To Push, or Not to Push: Figuring out How to Parent Autistics

One of the things that’s difficult about being an Autistic parent of an Autistic is knowing how to raise my own kid.

See, my husband and I are Autistics of the generation that, in general, few people knew they were Autistic.  We were the “do it and shut up” generation which meant that we were told to do things the same as our peers whether or not it “felt weird” or “hurt” or otherwise didn’t go as planned.

Obviously that only works so long, and our parents realized, over time, they had pretty weird kids.

[Image: A little blonde girl, aged around 7 or 8, holds her head against a chalkboard with writing on it, and looks down; she has a pink barrette in hair and wears braids. She looks stressed out.]
My husband used to read a lot; using his reading, which is something in white culture is considered an advantage, especially when the child reads books above grade level, to hide.  I used to do the same, but at recess, I’d swing a lot.  A LOT, as in, the whole recess, and use the time on the swings to imagine my fantasy kingdom.  Neither strategy makes a kid a lot of friends.

Side note: hiding to read or playing board games by yourself is considered anti-social in Black culture and you will be harassed and told by the adults to do something else if you use this common Autistic child trick as your escape method.

I got invited to birthday parties when we had to invite everyone, and my asthma and severe allergies meant that I was never going to have to stay overnight in a house with a dog, so I could cut my visits short.

Over time, though, they stopped inviting me, when it was an option not to invite the entire class.  Parties became subtle, and I just assumed no one had them anymore.

Oh, they had them.  They had them, and I wasn’t invited.

Continue reading “To Push, or Not to Push: Figuring out How to Parent Autistics”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity

Wisdom from the Professor: Learning Who Has Been to Narnia

[Image: an old wooden wardrobe sits on a floor under the rafters of an otherwise empty attic room. Nothing there!]
I was reading a children’s book yesterday.  I wish I could remember which, but I’ve been stimming through reading the last few days and I’ve devoured more than a dozen in the last three days, staying up late if I need to, and spending way-to-much time in bed falling asleep and waking up and reading more.

Last weekend was a major fundraiser for our school.  It was too much for me and it sent me to bed the whole weekend afterward, but with reading by my side, I readily got through our two-day week at school.

But I digress already from my main point.

The author of whatever book it was referenced the professor from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

If you have not yet read this series in its entirety (at least The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew, my two personal favorites, go and read them before I ruin things for you!

I’m serious!  Read them now before reading this blog post.

Did you read them?

Okay, if not, you’ve been warned.

Continue reading “Wisdom from the Professor: Learning Who Has Been to Narnia”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Identity, intersectionality, Parenting

I Can’t vs. I Don’t Want to: How the Expectations of Being Female Smother Autistic Women

In Western culture, as women, we are expected to do it all.  We are expected to work outside the home full-time because if we don’t, we’ve betrayed the feminist cause.  We’re also supposed to be perfect mothers, raising our children in perfectly clean homes being fed perfectly balanced meals or we’re a bad mother.  When we get tired about all this and ignore our husbands, we’re bad wives.

The rules also tell us we really ought to be going onto school to get a degree, then an advanced one.  This will not only empower us, but we will advance in our careers.

But if we advance in our careers, who will care for our homes, children, and husbands?

In this way, women in general are overwhelmed in our culture.

[Image: a white, middle-aged woman sits with her head in her hands. She wears a red shirt, and has brown hair. She looks overwhelmed.]
But let’s add Autism into the mix.

As an Autistic mother of an Autistic child, I had a lot of problems when I dragged my kid in public because that’s what you do.

I worried that he’d run around.  I worried he’d run away.  I’d worry people were judging me because of my kid and whatever it would be that he’d do.

And I’d get insanely pissed off at things like how the library has all these self-checkouts which are supposed to be “helpful” but unless you have a kid who wants to help you check out books, you cannot both mind a child AND do your own checking out.

Unless you let watching the child go.

That seems to be the path neurotypicals around me were taking.  They just figured, they were kids and they’d do what they did.

Of course, their kids running around doing whatever they want annoyed me, giving me sensory overload, while I was trying to manage my own son’s sensory overload because of their kids running around causing all the drama.

But for some reason they didn’t ever seem to worry about what people thought about their kids running around like little monsters.

They didn’t seem to, or have to, worry that someone might come to their home to take their child away because their child was being raised by a Disabled parent.

That is a thing, you know.  In some states simply being Disabled is enough for child welfare to take your kids from you.

And they could move on after the wretched experience at the library and not obsess over it, thinking and planning about how it would be better the next time if I only…

See, one of the gifts-that-can-be-a-curse about Autism in women is we’re super-empathetic.  Many of us can literally sense all the feelings around us and we cannot shut them out.  You know all the old people at the library by which I mean all of the adults who do not have kids with them?  They’re all judging you because you’re not minding your kids and letting them run around.

We feel that; neurotypicals shut it out.

Unfortunately we also obsess over things: we plan conversations for hours before we have them, and we mull over things that happen to us over and over again, trying to figure out what it was that we did wrong.

Because we learned a long time ago, that WE did wrong.  It’s always us.

Continue reading “I Can’t vs. I Don’t Want to: How the Expectations of Being Female Smother Autistic Women”