Advocacy and Questions
Autism advocacy is all about questions – either the ones people ask about their own kids or the issues nobody seems to realize they are getting all wrong. I have a lot of the answers memorized, so often, I can just spout it off verbally. If it’s something I haven’t worked through yet, I usually have to spend some time and then work it out on the keyboard. I might ask that person if I can get their email address and get back to them on it.
Why do you freeze in place and stare at the shelves in the grocery store?
Visual processing is another issue. In the grocery store, I could not tell you if I’m in the toilet paper aisle or the produce section. Every time I shift my eyes, I feel disoriented and overwhelmed all over again.
How could you ace calculus courses if you can’t balance your checkbook?
Because it’s not the math that trips me up. It’s visual processing. Way too much input, brain can’t make heads or tails. I just see a ton of scratches, not rows and columns.
Why won’t you eat so many foods?
My brain doesn’t see a lot of foods as something edible. I can no sooner choke down raw plants than you could choke down your muddiest shoe.
The ‘Other’ Questions
Then there’s the other kind of questions… the ones that ask me about something so very foundational to the way I see the world that I can’t back off long enough to think about what’s behind the way I see things.
Things like… pumpkins! I wait all year for October, when I finally get my pumpkins. For me, there are two kinds. I search for a larger, oblong pumpkin to make into a minion each year (then try to find someone or someplace new to keep it so different people get to share the fun). I also pick out a pie pumpkin very, very carefully. When I get home, it sits beside my computer. At night, it sits on my nightstand. I had a particular tiny one that may or may have come on a few outings in my bag.
Why do you love pumpkins so much?
Because I do.
I love other things, too – so deeply and so simply that there’s really nothing more to say other than to say that I really do love them one more time:
Cats are always number one, of course. I can pause and see myself from someone else’s perspective (gasp—yes, I can do that! Just not when I’m being flooded with sensory and verbal and cognitive and emotional input, AKA, in a conversation. Give me time and quiet and a keyboard, and I can do it!). When I look at me that way, I see the truly intense cat obsession. I hear myself ask my mom the same series of cat questions… daily… for 11 years. I remember how I ask the night nurse where Lu is sleeping every single time they pop in my room at night. I can look back in my memory and realize I walked into the ER wearing a cat shirt, holding a cat pillow and cat-themed weighted lap pad, with my cat tote bag on my shoulder and my cat tattoo on my hand and cat socks on my feet.
But then I see a cat or cat-themed item or something that reminds me of something about a cat, and it’s all over, and I’m too deep in my love for cats to care one bit about how it might look. I just feel sad for that person, because if the intensity of my loving something stands out as odd to them, it means they don’t know what it is to love something that much. How sad, because cats really deserve to be loved by everyone.
I also like new socks – worn once, they lose the charm and become nice for keeping feet warm, but nothing special.
I like stickers! Even when I don’t know what I would do with them.
Same with paper, which I love even more. I find more use for paper, as I make a lot of cards and other crafts. I have a ton, though… hey, I only buy when it’s really a good price and really really nice paper.
I really like charts, data, criteria, rubrics… maybe you could analyze me and say that these outside system for sorting the world into defined chunks of meaning is natural for an autistic person who finds a lot of things confusing. Sure, you could say that. If it helps to sort me into a group based on a construct you create so I make more sense to you, you can go right ahead. I’ll just be here having fun, enjoying my information.
I love, love, love new markers – fine tip kind, and I don’t like to color with them at all. I just like writing with them. And I love tablets of paper, so we do lots of pretty-fied lists around here.
I like characters a lot, but I’m rarely up for watching their movies. It used to create a little bit of a tug-of-war thing… I wanted to enjoy the character but didn’t want to watch them.
Because I mostly don’t feel happy when I watch movies.
But now it’s all good.
Because there are tons of figurines, pictures, stickers, etc. and I love those. I like quoting the characters, too. It can be a little repetitive, but I have friends who like characters and their figurines, pictures, stickers, etc. just like I do, and they like to quote. They re-watch movies a lot more than I do, and I just join in for what’s fun for me.
Happy – that’s why!
I love the things that make me happy.