Tag Archives: autism calming activities

Autism: Tapestries

When I was a child my Aunt had a wall mural along one wall in her basement. It was framed like a window, and even had a curtain. Since her couch was against this wall, I didn’t spend as much time, maybe, as I would have liked looking at that mural.

I am not sure if she still has that mural on her wall as I moved across the country 17 years ago, and haven’t been in her house since.

When I was a teenager, there was one day when several of us were visiting at a friend’s house. For whatever reason, which I cannot now remember, we were visiting in her sister’s room (her sister wasn’t there, but in my memory I don’t have the impression that we shouldn’t have been in there.)

On one wall of her sister’s room, there was also a mural. Two of my friends were on the bed, which was along the wall with the mural. They were doing a hypnosis game, which we did a lot in those days. Another friend and I were sitting on the couch facing the mural.

As I was sitting there, I suddenly felt myself transported into that picture, which was of a forest, and for many minutes I was imagining that I was walking along one of the trails into the woods. As I was ‘walking along’ I felt a presence to my right, with an awareness that someone was walking along another trail to that side of me.

A few minutes later, the friend on the couch beside me (as I was sharing what I had been imagining) told us that she had, at the same time, been imagining that she was walking along that other trail to my right.


I can get lost in pictures, and in fact frequently do. Perhaps that is why I like Pinterest so much, and spend so much of my time perseverating on that site.

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A few days ago, as I was looking through my… I don’t know what it is called… feed??? Anyway, as I was looking through Pinterest, I came to a picture of Christmas tapestries. Immediately my interest was piqued, and I followed through to the site where they sold these tapestries.

They did have a lot of Christmas ones, and I really liked them – but they also had forests, and beaches, waterfalls, the night sky, cities… so many beautiful pictures. I spent hours looking through them, for even in these tiny representations of the much larger tapestries, I could see that they were realistic enough that in looking at them I could be transported in my mind to other places and experiences.

I think that if I were going to get a tapestry (and I can see what huge benefit this would bring to my life) I wouldn’t just want one. I would get several, and change them depending on my mood or what season it was.

And I would spend hours staring at my wall and imagining I was somewhere else.

How magnificent would that be?


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Autism: Hot Water

What was it I was trying to say?

An entire blog post to share that my husband had our hot water tank replaced, and I didn’t talk about that at all. So like me, I have to share all the small details to ensure that my story is 100% accurate with no room for misunderstanding (of course, it seems even with all that – or maybe because of all of that – I am frequently misunderstood anyway.)

So a post about my new hot water tank instead became a post about going swimming, and why (though I love it) I don’t do it very often.

We have lived in this house for 14 years (and nearly a month.) My husband bought it for us, with my input, when we were getting married. When we were looking for a house, houses were selling fast! This was the fall of 2003 just before prices jumped so much that we couldn’t have afforded to buy a house at all. We put our offer in for three other homes before we bought this one.


One of the issues in choosing a house was that I was running a daycare at the time. There were many regulations to running a licensed in home daycare, and most of the houses we looked at might not have met the rules. I suppose it didn’t help that I knew that if I had to worry about everything my husband was doing in the daycare/house we wouldn’t have had a good marriage, so I was insisting we have separate space for living and childcare – and I never even considered that we could use the main floor for my business, and the lower level for our home… and the daycare had to have two exits, so… it took a lot of houses to find one that suited.

Okay, so this blog isn’t about my daycare either…

When we bought the house, it had a really nice, all one piece, bathtub. It looked very inviting, but I quickly found out our hot water tank wasn’t large enough or strong enough to get enough hot water for a bath (for adults anyway.) It was fine for little children, even when we had three having baths one after the other and another having a shower after that.

For myself, though, I could only get a couple of inches of water warm enough in the bottom of the tub before it was cold coming out of the tap. So for fourteen years I stuck to showers in this house. Great for getting clean and conserving water, but not great for soaking – and I have had a lot of issues with back pain, foot pain, and general aches… I could have used a bath.

But the tank had been replaced only a few years before we bought the house, and it seemed selfish to me to ask for a new hot water tank just so I could have a bath. No one else cared, and we thought we had enough hot water for everything else.

Turns out we didn’t have enough for our dishwasher either. We always got our dishwashers from the thrift store, so when the dishes weren’t getting clean enough, I just thought it was because they were second hand. Then another of a long line of machines we tried broke. There was no way I was going to pay hundreds of dollars for a new one that might only last a few years, so I started washing by hand. That is when I realized we didn’t have enough hot water for that, either.

Plus, the tank we had was nearly 20 years old, and we found out we would have to replace it anyway due to insurance reasons. So my husband agreed.

Now I am able to have a very hot bath – so hot I have to turn on the cold water about halfway through just so I don’t burn myself getting in.

And it is so nice.

I might not get the exercise that I would get from swimming, but it provides for all other benefits without all of the effort.

  • No leaving home.
  • No crowds.
  • No wet clothes to deal with after.
  • No chlorine (well not nearly so much anyway.)
  • No extra shower after.
  • No pre-booking transportation
  • Very little pre-planning.
  • Lots of calm!

Besides, I can get my exercise in other ways without having to go so far from home.


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Autism: Too Much Effort

I meant to go swimming almost weekly this year. I wanted to do the same last year. My therapist (who is no longer working with me – something about being short term only…) said she could get a free weekly pass to the community centre both last year (but I had no transportation) and this year (but she hasn’t talked to me since she offered.)

I wanted the free pass, but I didn’t get it. I could go for the Toonie swim, and did for three weeks straight in September/October, but I would be more likely to go with the pass.

Swimming is a good activity for me.

Though I am allergic to the chlorine and get rashes, and though I prefer to swim alone (I wouldn’t say the pool was crowded when I went, but there were people I had to swim around, and children who jumped in and splashed into my ears causing earaches) being in the water is calming enough that I am able to get through those things.

When I go swimming I:

  • get out of the house
  • do exercise
  • quickly become calm
  • feel good after
  • am happy
  • often sleep well after

All things my therapist told me I should be doing when she was talking with me.

But there are a lot of barriers to this activity for me.

First of all, I have to contact the Handy Dart bus service three days in advance to book my ride. I don’t know three days in advance if I am going to be functioning well enough to leave the home, so that makes this type of transportation pretty unpractical for me. I understand why they need that notice, but… it would be better if I lived on the bus route so I could take the ‘normal’ bus, or if I lived close enough to walk (as I did when I first moved to this town 17 years ago.)

It also means that I have to leave home. Even when I have access to a vehicle that I could use whenever I want, I struggle so much to leave the house most days that it really isn’t worth the insurance or maintenance costs. It worked when my Mom was here, but not when I am alone (my son likes to leave the house much less than I do.)

Then I have to get changed into my swim suit and get in the water – the thought of which makes me cringe until I actually get in the water.

Afterwards it is awkward to change because I am wet, and I have to take a longish shower to get the chlorine off so I am not itchy for the next few days. Even so I can still smell chlorine (I guess it gets in my nose) for a day or two after.

And then I have to get home again – also which needs to be booked.

Then, too, I didn’t mention that although swimming calms me, the thought of all these steps brings me to panic up until the moment I get in the water.

So I would love to go swimming, but it seems there is just too much standing in the way of me actually following through with the activity – much like many other things in my life. It just takes too much to get there.

cold water


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Autism: Breaking the Dependence

Maybe my desire to live a simple life is being met in ways I never considered. My computer is dying; therefore I am spending more of my time writing on paper, reading books, and doing crafts like making my dog a sweater from the sleeve of an old knit shirt: forgotten skills.


Out of necessity, I rented my first computer for college in 1999. I never wanted a computer; didn’t like them; didn’t trust them. Most importantly I hated the way they made me feel (drained, dull, and trapped.) While my son, who had just turned three at the time, seemed to have been born for computers, that was not the case with me.

When did it change then that a necessary evil, which I used to serve a specific purpose, was suddenly something I depended on for constant entertainment? When did a machine I didn’t even want become something I couldn’t live without?

As I scream in frustration while my computer freezes up for the fifth time in about an hour, I contemplate the question: What do I need it for anyway? I know that for my son, his computer is his connection to a confusing world. I think that in my case, I would live better without it. We do have a library after all, and unlike most public spaces, I enjoy spending time in there.

Then, two days ago as I was standing in the kitchen making my lunch, I heard the sound of pouring water. I turned to my left to find the dishwasher spraying water all over the now flooded floor. As I mopped it up, I again thought, “Do I really need this?”

So I cleaned the floor, and I washed the dishes by hand, and set them back in the dishwasher to dry. My hands hurt after because putting them in water makes them sting – but the kitchen was clean, and I felt really good about that.

The next day I went into town and bought myself a couple pairs of good rubber gloves. We had the repair person in (at my husband’s request) but since the seal was gone, he was unable to fix it. When I was a kid, appliances were built to last 20+ years. I am told that these days, we are lucky to have them last for 5. That makes me angry, for it isn’t about whether they can make them to last so long, but about whether they choose to – and out of greed, they don’t. It makes me angry because I save for 5-10 years, using thrift store appliances that don’t work great, trying to get enough to buy new only to find they die shortly after.

In that case, I don’t think I need a dishwasher. A good pair of rubber gloves, and a few minutes of my time, and the result is a simple solution that calms my senses. That is what I need!

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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Experiences of an Autistic


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Autism: Handwriting

While I am desiring to write about positive experiences, growth, healing, and blessings, my reality is very different. It isn’t so much that really bad things are happening all of the time, but more that, in my own experience, I am near continuously in the midst of a strong internal battle that makes things seem, perhaps, worse than they appear from the outside.

I will write about this, but I wanted to make a really strong effort to share something positive about my life. Sometimes all I have is a brief moment in time, and in one of those moments, I took this picture.


When my son was young and homeschooling, I used these books with him to teach him cursive writing, or penmanship. He hated it. So many tears over such a small exercise, but the activity really did hurt him. His hands, it seems, just weren’t built for this. He struggled with fine motor control, was severely frustrated and bored with repetition, and overall, it was one of his most dreaded lessons. He quickly moved from these books to the computer, where he was much more comfortable. His typing speed is around 80 words/minute with high accuracy at this time, but the lessons served their purpose. When he has to he can write very well – but it still hurts, and still takes him a very long time.

For me, however, I prefer writing by hand. I can type well, and maybe have a speed between 40-50 words per minute. My accuracy is good, and it isn’t like it hurts me or anything. It just… doesn’t feel the same. When I need to think, I do best writing things down. When I write things down, I connect best with what I have written on paper. So the reason I prefer writing by hand, rather than typing has just about everything to do with the way my brain is wired.

I connect better with the written word than to the spoken work, and in fact for many things (especially praying) am still unable to connect well my thoughts to what is coming out of my mouth. So people talk to me, and I write back. If I speak, I am often tormented for days, even years after. I need to write my response. If people are praying in a group, I remain silent – praying in my head within the silences, but not out loud. It isn’t that I am against praying out loud, it is just that I can’t. I know that both of these issues look bad, but what can I say? How can I explain? I have Autism. My brain is just wired that way.

When my words are spoken out loud, it is always for the benefit of the people I am with. So then I am not actually praying to God in that moment, but almost to the people I am with. It feels wrong, but when I am silent (and this is likely not true, since I have explained to pretty much all of these people about my disability, and my struggle with the connections in praying out loud) I worry that others believe it says something about my faith. It doesn’t.

Not only do I only speak for the benefit of other people, but the connections are still not at all good. I have been working on this for 30-40 years, and still it isn’t a natural thing for me to talk. Words do come out, it is just that I am unable to think well – not nearly to the depth that I exist within my mind. So the words that come out are often not what I meant. The words come out wrong, and awkward, and I often fear they offend people when that is not what I meant at all.

What is more, people take these wrong words that I have spoken, and try to read into them, which kind of ends up like the game “telephone,” where the message received in the end is nowhere near what I started out saying. And then I end up in trouble for something I really wasn’t saying to begin with.

For all of these reasons, I prefer to write. Since it is not ‘normal’ it often isn’t received well, and since I write every detail of what I am thinking (so as not to be misunderstood, or dishonest) I am told that I overwhelm people with my writing – and at 40, communication – though others who know me seem to think I do okay now – is as difficult for me as it was when I was a child.

I love to write, and am often complimented on my handwriting. Even so, when I looked for a routine this fall, and came across these books, I decided that I would work on my handwriting. This has turned out to be one of the most soothing parts of my routine. It isn’t new. It is pretty much how I was taught to write, so long ago. It isn’t difficult. As I said, my handwriting was good to begin with. All I do is take the letter, and take the words, and copy them – over and over.

Much like my writing, I love this. I can do this. I am confident in this. And maybe I am not growing, much (though I have found I am more conscious in forming my letters when writing) with this activity, but mentally it calms me. Sometimes that is all I need.


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Autism: Colouring

Though we aren’t leaving for another four days, true to who I am, I have pretty much packed what I am planning on bringing on my camping trip… except food, of course. In fact, Clara and I are lying on a foamie in the tent I have set up in our front yard. I am an anxious person, and do all I can to be prepared. Plus, she hasn’t been camping before, and I think it is best to do a trial run.

It is raining. She doesn’t like the rain, but the tent is dry and comfortable, and she seems to be doing okay. I suppose I should have checked the forecast before I set up the tent – it is supposed to rain now until we leave. I said I like to prepare, but I didn’t say there weren’t flaws in my thinking!

Most… okay all of what I pack for entertainment are solitary activities. The only electricity where we go are the solar panels which provide light in one spot at night, and just enough power to charge a few small devices. There is no internet, no TV, no Netflix. So I bring:

  • paper, pens, pencils, rulers, eraser, sharpener… I am convinced that if I had a constant supply of these materials, I would never be bored.
  • Books… well, I might bring my tablet with e-books to save space. There is enough power to charge that.
  • Colouring books and crayons.

It seems strange to me that only now are ‘they’ starting to promote colouring for adults. For me, I always found it calming to colour, and one of my favourite Christmas gifts was a large set of crayola crayons in a plastic case with a built in sharpener. I think I was sixteen or seventeen when my brother bought that for me. It was well used in the following years.

I will never claim to be an artist – my older brother had that gift, but as in most things, I never really moved beyond a primary skill level. I did love colouring, however, and took pride in keeping my colouring books tidy.

Unfortunately, that never happened. No matter how I tried to hide it, or keep it from him, somehow my younger brother always managed to get a hold of my colouring books… and he scribbled.

Once that happened, the book was ruined for me. No one else seemed to understand. “It’s only a page,” they would tell me. He destroyed it! I thought – though it came out only in tears of anger and frustration as I ran to my room and slammed the door.

They would try tearing the page out, but then the book wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. How could they not understand? The book was ruined.

Perhaps that is where my fixation on colouring came from. Eventually he would be old enough to stop taking my colouring books, and I could finally finish my book the way it was supposed to be.

Well, I am now nearly forty, and am relatively confident that no one will scribble in my colouring books anymore. I am thankful for that, for it really is a very calming activity for me.

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