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Autism: This I Don’t Understand

People look at me funny, but it works for us.

Not everything I do fits in with the ‘norm.’ In fact, a lot of things I do look strange to other people.

Why is it that society says they value individualism, while (at best) giving people strange looks for doing things different?

That is at best. Some people get angry, look at you (me) in disapproval, even react in negative ways over things that have no effect on them personally at all (and don’t cause harm to anyone else.) Why is that?

What does it matter to them if I wear a toque in an arena when most people aren’t that cold?

What does it matter to them if I am working on my garden in April when it is too cold to plant?

What does it matter to them if I put shirts on my dogs?

What does it matter to them if I ‘walk’ my girls in a stroller?

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I wore the toque because I was feeling chilled.

I worked on my garden early because there was much to do before I could plant.

My dogs wear shirts to confuse the eagles that live a few houses down the street and want to eat my dogs.

My girls don’t like walking on the street – they are afraid of other people, and other dogs, and don’t like the feel of the pavement on their feet.

When I walked them without a stroller, we rarely got out of our yard before they refused to walk any more, and needed to be carried. They still got bored being at home all the time. And then as is true now, they got their exercise running around our yard.

So I walk them in a stroller, and we often get 1-2km every walk, twice a day. It is good for us. We get out of the house for a while, without a lot of the pressures of going somewhere.

It works for us.

These things work for us.

And some people think it is cute. But other people get angry.

This I don’t understand.

 

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Autism: My Sharp Cat

My son and I spent most of the morning, and part of the afternoon trying to cut Finn’s nails. They have to be done – but we have had no luck in convincing her of that.

I got Finn 5 years and 5 days ago. She was brought home to fill a hole left in my life after my 16 year old cat, Chiku, died. Finn was advertised `free to good home` on Craigslist. My husband and I went to pick her up at night, at the house with the wagon wheel out front. It wasn’t difficult to find.

She lived with a couple that seemed really nice. They had had her since she was a kitten, and at that point she was 5 or 6 years old. The couple was getting transferred out of town for work, and they bought into a strata with a huge book (52 pages, I think they said) of rules. They had already bought the place when they found that pets weren’t allowed, and so they had to give her up.

The couple lived in a nice home with nice leather furniture. Within that home, Finn (called Muffin at the time) was allowed to sit on one specific chair, and no other furniture. She had a large plush blanket with a picture of a horse on it, which she had claimed shortly after arriving in their home. The horse blanket came with her.

When we brought her home, Finn was understandably nervous. Upon getting her out of her crate, she ran down the hallway to one of our bedrooms, and hid inside. I brought her horse blanket, crate, food, water, and litter box into the room for her while she settled. It was a year before she came out of that room, which ever since has been known as `Finn’s Room.` An entire year!

Finn

During that year, my son and I would try to visit Finn in her room. For a while I had my computer in there, and Finn would tolerate me sitting at my computer, while she sat on `her` bed. If I got too close, or tried to pet her, she was really fast, and would lash out. She was kind of like a shark – sharp, dangerous, unpredictable… Siamese.

It took me by surprise the first several times she actually ventured out of that room. She decided it was time to come and visit, and would walk down the hallway to the kitchen to visit while we were in making or getting supper. It was not only surprising, but also quite scary, for she would still lash out if we got too close – though she would permit, and actually encourage, several seconds of petting.

Shortly after our second anniversary with her, she started to visit more, and even spent some time outside on our back deck that summer. She would weave between our legs while we were in the kitchen, purring all the while – but we still had to watch closely, or she would swat at or bite our feet if we were there a moment too long (or she got slightly too excited.)

By the third year she was coming out into the living room, and at three and a half years I brought `her` chair into the living room, where she relocated herself. I am glad that she moved with her chair, though it wasn’t quite expected – she had a bed in the room, and I was bringing the chair out to have more places for people to sit when they visited; but this way Finn spends way more time with us, and that has to be a good thing.

Five years later, I can quietly sit by Finn and pet her for a short time without her attacking me. She loves to get attention, and will loudly purr while I am playing with her, or petting her. I still have to watch very closely as in a moment she will go from purring to swatting – and she is very quick, and very sharp.

Only since I haven’t been able to get close to her enough to cut her nails (or even get her into a crate to take her to the vet) her nails are now very sharp. So sharp that she has been cutting herself scratching her belly, and her neck, and her eye… so somehow, I have to cut her nails.

I am guessing we will have to invest in full body armour to succeed at this task… hawking gloves perhaps?

My son and I spent most of our morning trying to cut her nails. I got one cut, and the very tip of another. Obviously we weren’t too successful. I wish I could make her understand that we are trying to do this to protect her from herself – but that might take another 5 years.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: Vehicle Trouble

I woke up this morning to the sound of my husband calling into work. The van wouldn’t start, and he had been out there for about 20 minutes already trying to get it to go. He has had trouble with the starter for a few weeks now, but this is the longest it has taken so far to get it working. I say ‘he’ because when the vehicle is acting up, I won’t use it.

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Yet even when it was his issue to deal with, I could feel my heart start to race. When I was working, the van was mine to use. He took the car, which was standard… I can drive standard. He taught me before we were married, when he wanted to give me his car. But I don’t like it.

I get nervous driving to begin with. It more has to do with other drivers, and detours, than fear over my own driving – but when it comes to standard, it just makes everything worse. The biggest challenge for me in driving standard is stopping on hills. For the first vehicle my husband gave me, it would hold on hills. Still I was scared. People stop too close behind. It was like the feeling of when people stand too close, but so much worse. All of the standard vehicles we have had since, have rolled on hills before moving forward.

Oh, I know! Use the parking break… but then I have to think of having my foot on the clutch, my foot on the brake, my hand on the gear, and moving over to the gas, and removing the brake – all the while, watching what everyone else was doing (and still worrying about how close the person was behind me.) I could do it, but it was all too much for my anxious heart.

So I drove the van, and he drove the car, and as long as everything went according to plan, all was fine.

We always get used vehicles. Not just used, but old. I am okay with that – I am a very… thrifty person, and the thought of spending $30,000 on a new vehicle – or even $10,000 on a sort of new vehicle, is well beyond what my economical mind can agree to. We bought this van for $3500 8 years ago, and it has been good to us.

However, on a day like today, where the van wouldn’t start… while he sat trying to turn the engine for twenty minutes, my heart would have been racing at an increasing pace, and I would have been in tears by the time he called into work. And there would have been another struggle – the phone. I hate phones. I don’t think I can emphasize that enough.

Calling in to work to say I would be late – even if it wasn’t my fault… it would have been like failure to me, who was always at least 15 minutes early, and often 30. When I did get to work, I would have gone in shame, and it would have made it that much harder to go back each day.

If the vehicle then didn’t start, I would have had to call for help, or for a ride, or something. If my husband wasn’t there to help, I would have frozen up – and probably told work I couldn’t come in at all (though I never missed, even for sickness, except that week my back was out and I couldn’t even stand up no matter how hard I tried.)

It isn’t that I wouldn’t know what to do – but like driving a standard vehicle, it would have been too much for me. Too much.

So once again this morning, as I listened to my husband trying to start the van, I was thankful. Thankful that at this time in my life I rarely have to leave home – for out there, there are too many things I can’t predict, and I can’t control, and that is all too much for me.

 

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Autism: Cold and Lost

It was two days before my thirteenth birthday. A friend and I had decided to spend the day at the mall. Since we lived in a smaller city, the first and last bus that we had to catch had very limited service – and we were not at that point used to taking the bus alone very often.

RMC

We made it to the mall, and I don’t remember much of that trip. It went much like any other, I suppose. I rarely had any money, so likely I just looked around. If we ate in the food court, I would have gotten fries and gravy from Harvey’s. I always got fries and gravy from Harvey’s. I would have gotten a drink, too, as I could never eat without drinking – it was necessary for me to keep the food down, and water never worked for that reason.

I do, however, remember the trip home. We had to catch one bus, and then transfer to another – a very anxiety causing activity in itself. But not only did we have to transfer to another bus, it was a specific transfer. That bus didn’t always go near to my home, and we had to get on the one that did.

It was cold that day. Very cold for September, and there was even hail at times. We weren’t dressed quite right for the weather – but then, we didn’t expect to be out all that long, and the bus shelters were, well… sheltered.

Soon after we arrived at that second bus stop, our bus came by – only it wasn’t going far enough, so we waited maybe 20 minutes for the next one. That one, also, wasn’t going near my home, so we waited again. By the third bus, we started asking the driver when “our bus” was going by. “It will be the next one,” he said.

The driver after that said the same, as did the one after that. We sat in that bus shelter for hours, not knowing what to do. I had an idea that my uncle lived close by, but I didn’t know which house was his, or exactly in what neighbourhood, so we didn’t attempt to find him.

This was before cell phones, and knowing me, I wouldn’t have had one even if they did exist. I don’t like phones.

It was a very uncomfortable wait, and became quite frightening as the night began to fall.

The first drivers that we had seen began coming past us again, on their rounds. Finally, after what must have been three to four hours sitting at that bus stop, a driver (hearing where we were going – as if we hadn’t been asking for that stop all along) told us that we were on the wrong side of the street.

My sense of direction was not good at that time… really, it still isn’t. It was enough to try and get the correct bus. Could I then be expected, too, to know what side of the street to catch it on?

For all of that time, we were standing directly in front of the fire station – but never thought of going in. After all, the drivers kept telling us the next bus would take us home. We were two streets away from my uncle’s house – but as I said, I wasn’t completely sure which house was his.

So we waited, until we were told to go to the other side of the street. By then, the bus that went closest to my home had stopped running – as had the bus that ran to the next stop up (about a half hour walk) – so we caught the bus that went as close as we could (which was about a 45-60 minute walk from my house.)

It was cold, and we – two young girls walking in the dark – were very frightened. I would have thought that would have been enough of a punishment – after all, it was a mistake. We certainly didn’t wait there, or go through all of that, on purpose!

When we got to my house, we found that our parents had called the police, and had even gone through the theatre in that mall with a flashlight looking for us. My friend’s parents came and got her, while I got yelled at, and grounded. So unfair!

But anyway, I was home, and I was warm. Happy 13th birthday to me.

 
 

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