6 Ways I’m Getting Through The Semester

I have been in college for 5 weeks now, and as usual, it has been a serious adjustment. My longest previous experience of being on a campus, I was a tiny baby autistic me, only 18 years old! At the time I knew nothing about autism, and I especially didn’t know that I was, in fact, autistic, so I moved through the college world overwhelmed and confused.

I failed a class, not because I was lazy, but because I couldn’t find it. No matter how hard I tried, I got lost, and eventually, I just stopped trying. Little me also didn’t know that you could drop a class, which could have been really useful.

I was also so sensory overwhelmed that I spent most of my time hiding under my bed. Some days I wish I could still do that now, but my bed isn’t tall enough. #adultproblems

Because I knew how hard college was last time, I made sure to have a plan going in, and that really helped. Did all of it work? No, of course not, but it gave me a great foundation for tweaking it so it can be better for the coming semesters.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s worked for me so far.

  1. Visual Directions

This one requires a buddy, but if you can visit your campus before the semester starts and have someone with an excellent sense of direction to help you make visual directions, it can significantly cut down on the amount of time you spend lost.

2. Hybrid Classes

I’m not sure hybrid is the word that all schools use, but a hybrid class is partially in person, partially online, and all autism-friendly. Spending 1 day a week in class instead of 3 has left me with less stressful social issues, and less sensory overload. Even just one hybrid class has made my traditional on-campus classes more doable. Now, online classes aren’t for everyone- it usually requires you to be more independent, but I love the flexibility, and to be honest, the fact that I can communicate on emails and message boards instead of face to face. Also, as a bit of a hangover from all that homeschooling, I prefer to teach myself things. If this is sounding good to you, I highly suggest seeing if your college or university offers hybrid courses as an option.

3. Color Coding

There are several ways that people learn, some people learn visually, some are better with Auditory, and others are kinesthetic learners-they learn using their bodies. Now me? I’m a hands-on learner for sure, but most of the time it’s not very convenient for me to touch everything I’m trying to learn. Luckily I’ve got visual learning as a back-up. Even though I can’t make pictures in my head like most people, visual information is fairly accessible to me. Hence, color coding. Each class of mine has a color, and I use colored pens and markers on my planner, my calendar, my to-do lists- all that organizational stuff. For me, it makes tasks and appointments pop out, so I’m more likely to process and complete them.

 

4. Built-in Self Care

I’m pretty sure that one of these days, I’m going to bring up self-care, and you’ll all revolt, and leave me here talking to myself. But until that day, we can talk about self-care! I find it extra important during the semester, because all of my brainpower is going towards learning and being social and trying to be flexible, so I’ve got no brain power to take care of myself. And I’m not talking overly complicated. You don’t have to book a spa day or get a massage. I go to my favorite used bookstore and browse for a while and buy a book (or two). On my long days, I treat myself to coffee. I bake cookies with Jess. I take time to snuggle with the cats. I think the best self-care is little, focused things. You know what you like best, so let yourself have it sometimes.

5. Quizlet

Hands up if you were that kid in school who always had a stack of note cards to study with. My hand isn’t up, because although I admired to organizational abilities of people who could study, I could never figure out how to make it work for me. Enter technology. I found the Quizlet app when I was looking for a way to put digital post-it’s on my phone. I still haven’t figured that out. Hm. Anyway, it’s a free app, where you can make your own decks, but you can also use other peoples. I can guarantee you that most low-level courses already have decks of information made. This, and the fact that Quizlet offers not only quizzes but games to help you learn information, made me a studying convert. Having all my decks on my phone means them when I can run through while I’m waiting in line, or in the car. Convenience, people, I’m all about convenience.

6. Habitica

The apps that I find most successful are the ones that give you a streak if you use it every day, and if you miss, you lose your streak. I’m talking about apps like Duolingo, or Memrise, or in this case, Habitica. Habitica used to be called Habit RPG, which I think gives you a better idea of what the point of it it is, but whatever. The concept is pretty simple, you put in things you’d like to make a habit, like brushing your teeth twice a day, or playing with the dog, or remembering to pack your lunch. If you do these things, you get points. You can level up, buy cool gear for your character, and hatch pet eggs. If you don’t, you break the streak and get noting. I find it a nice push to do things that are important, but not that important. (And if you’re worried that keeping your streak is TOO stressful, there’s a tavern where your character can rest without consequence.)

So here we are, everything that’s keeping me going this semester. I’m sure I’ll figure out new stuff, so look out for a part 2 of this post in Fall 2019!

Graphic

One of the very cool things about being in school with a bunch of folks who were born a decade before me is that it means that I get a chance to stay caught up with things.

I get book suggestions, and learn about apps that I need to try, and find out that there’s a website for something that I’ve spent many frustrating hours trying to figure out on my own.

Today, for example, a website called Canva was brought up, because my group project needs a logo. “It basically does the graphic design for you” was the gist that I got. And of course, I had to check it out, mostly because that’s who I am as a person.

Anyway, I’ll have to admit, this thing is pretty cool. It offers you the ability to tweak pre-made templates, or offers up the tools to build something from scratch. And by something I mean logos, posters, resumes, and even my big interest right now, infographics.

I can admit, I’m a sucker for a good infographic, and I’ve always wanted to make my own. I learn great through visual means, and I like offering it up as a learning tool.

So I spent the day futzing around with the program. I’m still learning, but it a pretty pain-free experience, plus, it’s a really fun challenge to communicate this way.

So, I present to you, my very first, not too shabby but definitely needs more work, infographic!

Et voila! It is kind of simplistic? Sure. But I put it together from scratch because I can’t start the easy way, can I?

I promise I won’t spam you guys until you’re all infographiced out. Who even knows what my next post will be about? Will it be about the upcoming career fair? Will it be about how my body is on the fritz once again? Even I don’t know!

 

The Winnie Project

I think most of us have every intention of posting regularly, and if you’re anything like me, posting on a schedule (oh Monday and Wednesday posts how I miss you!) However, we also all know that life always finds a way to intervene. Life in this case for me is school and the puppy. But this semester you and me and this blog are in luck! I’m taking an English course that calls for a blog project. I was given the option to make a new blog or the use this one, and I thought I’d use the project do a series of posts involving media, which is something that I don’t do often.

Media, you say? What on earth could you use media for that has anything to do with autism. Or mental health. Or disability? Or anything? That brings us to my previously mentioned other life distraction: Winnie the Service dog.

It’s been 3 months since I talked about her, which seems crazy, given how she smushed herself into every corner of my life. And I’m going to be honest, this isn’t always a good thing.

I’m a cat person. I’ve always liked dogs, and while that’s still true, I think I can say with confidence that I. Don’t. Like. Puppies. Are they cute? Yes! Are they fluffy? Usually! Are they often biting little jerks? YES.

Luckily, the internet came through for me. There is a subreddit (r/puppy101, for anyone who’s interested), that introduced Jess and I to the concept of Puppy Blues, which is essentially post-puppy depression that leads you to hide from your puppy in the kitchen, crying about poop. Most new puppy parents get puppy blues, and they do eventually fade. Now, for us, eventually meant weeks and weeks, but we’re at the point where I finally like the puppy. Most of the time, anyway.

I credit training to be a huge part of the improvement in her…pleasantness.

Training has also exposed her to a lot of really important things, like having to focus around other dogs, about having to be quiet even when she doesn’t want to, and how to listen, no matter where she is or what she’s doing. She also learned enough to get her first American Kennel Club (yes, the dog show people) training certification. Guys, as of last week, Winnie is a S.T.A.R. Puppy!

And that’s not all! Breaking news reports that after an intense evaluation by a trainer, our own little Winnie-poo (and by extension, me, of course) was accepted into a local program that helps owners who are self-training service dogs. They do all sorts of training events, and gives us access to trainers who have tons of experience with service tasks, let us network with other owners and their service dogs, lets us go places where we wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

So that’s where we are right now. Thanks to this blog project, you’re going to get to hear from me a lot more, and therefore more about Winnie! Coming up will be a List Day about what people might not know about service dogs and after that a post full of pics and videos showing what Winnie’s learned so far, and how she’ll build on it in the future!

Lastly, I know I always open it up to you guys if you have any questions, or want to share your experiences, but I’d also like to ask if you’ve got any experience about being a blogger or a writer (or both!) that you’d like to share to do so!

P.S. For the duration of the Winnie Series I will be including a puppy tax- the most adorable of photos of Winnie, in hopes that the cuteness will make reading about her so much worth it.

Online Communities Project Results!

So I won’t keep you guys in suspense for a second longer than necessary:

I got an A on my final presentation!

It was terrifying. Earlier this semester I had to do a presentation, and the morning of I got so stressed out that I found myself with a case of the non-verbals. So understandably, I was pretty nervous about this presentation. For one, I was supposed to talk for 6-8 minutes and to be entirely honest, I can go for whole days not spending 8 minutes talking! I also respond to public speaking situations by completely abandoning whatever I was going to say, and substituting it with whatever I’m thinking. I accidentally came out as Non-Binary to a room full of people once. That was…interesting. Mostly though I was nervous that my audience (which consisted of about 10 freshmen students and 8 middle-aged adults, plus a professor) wouldn’t connect with the information. I mean, does the average person care about Online Communities?

It turns out, yes!

It was like the end of a sports movie. I was in the public eye, sweating a lot, and Eye of the Tiger was playing (in my head, at least). I get to the end zone and people started to clap! Students gave me a hug, and a handshake, and all of a sudden it was time for the interviews.

Guys, these people were actually listening! They asked intelligent questions, and the conversations moved from Online Communities to Communities in general, to urban sprawl and gentrification. They. Stay. After. Class. I felt like a goddamn superhero.

But, I couldn’t have done it without everyone from all of my Online Communities stepping up and providing me with some truly personal and insightful answers. So, while I wish I could send everyone Christmas cookies, I think the postage would be through the roof, so I’ve got the next best thing.

Here are the results of the survey.

You can see the raw numbers and the short answer questions, plus charts from all of the multiple choice. I found it fascinating, and I hope you do too!

P.S. The image up top is a word cloud made from all of the individual answers from the question “what communities do you identify as a member of?” I love the effect that the visual has!

Online Communities Project

Hello Friends!

I’ve been more absent than I’d like over the past few months, but it’s been for a good reason- I’ve been back in college!

Now it’s finals time, and I have a favor to ask.

I’m taking an Interpersonal Communication class this semester (and let me tell you how bizarre that’s been as an Autistic Person), and I have to do a final project on types of communications. Since I already spend a large amount of my time online, I realized that I had a built-in interest sitting right in front of me, and I’ve chosen to examine how people Create and Maintain Online Communities, totally appropriate, right?

Now, here is what I’m asking from you, my favorite online community-

I need ‘original research’ as part of my project, so I’ve created a survey, and I need participants! It’s only 10 questions, and about 5 minutes long, so if you’d be open to taking the time, I’d really appreciate it!

I can’t offer you much except the results of the survey if you’re interested, but I promise either way it’ll be a totally painless experience.

Thanks again, and wish me luck on finals week!

Online Communities Survey Link

An Educational Miracle

Jess and I have always joked that me getting through high school was a God damn miracle. Mostly because I don’t talk to people and I have trouble following directions and I don’t tend to participate.

When we began to prep for me being back on a college campus for the first time in 12 years, it started to become less of a joke, as we struggled with accommodations and my inability to follow written directions (aka, I get lost a lot), and yet again, the fact that I don’t talk to people. Even important people, like the ones at Disability Services, or my professors.

Now that school has started, there are no jokes to be made- the fact that I even made it out of middle school was the miracle, and there are no words to describe how unlikely it was that I graduated high school, much less that I graduated in 3 years.

Smart, but lazy, my teachers said. And those were the ones that like me.

I am started my third week of school, and some things have become very clear. 1: I can’t understand professors when they talk. I can hear them, but it’s all garbled. 2: I can’t read most of my textbooks. The words are too closed together and I can’t make my eyes move between lines. The words just won’t cooperate. 3: I was not built for group work. I struggle to communicate and to figure out what people want from me. And worst of all, there is constant talking and texting and emails- way more than I can handle.

I have some accommodations through the University, thank goodness, but only ones that apply to Autism. To get help hearing my professors, I’d need an Auditory Processing Disorder diagnosis (I have an appointment with an Audiologist in October). In order to get software that would help me read my textbooks, I’d need a Dyslexia diagnosis (which I’m not certain I even have). And no amount of diagnosis’s could get me out of group work.

So I’m not here to complain, I’m just really frustrated. On one hand, it’s nice to know why I had so much trouble the first time I tried college. On the other hand, I did everything right this time (registered with the Disability Office, took classes I had a good chance at succeeding in, etc), but things are Still. So. Hard.

Going back to school was a big decision for me. It would be so easy to stay home all day and only talk to Jess and my therapist and my OT. But I think I want more.

I’m just so afraid that I won’t be one of those Inspirational Autistic Success Stories (IASS’s for short). Instead of pushing through adversity and finding my special wings to fly off into the sunset with, I might *gasp* fail.

Sometimes no amount of trying can make you succeed. Sometimes instead of rising up, you burn out. Sometimes thing don’t get better, they only get worse.

So, either I will find help and get my shit together, or in a few months, you might be reading a post here about what to do when your plans fail, and how to set realistic expectations.

I hope it’s the first one, don’t you?

6 Word Stories pt. 19

Hey there, I hope you all had great Christmases, and that you’re ready for the New Year. We have a low key night planned, mostly focused on snacks and board games. I’m still working on handling the surgeries. After a lot of discussions, it was decided that since I’m going to have 2 surgeries in the first month of classes, it wouldn’t be a very good idea to try, since I wouldn’t be able to drive myself to class, I’d be on painkillers through  them, and I’d likely be sleeping too much to do homework. In happier news, my in-laws got me a heated blanket for Christmas! I’m a heating pad addict and had been wanting a blanket, and they got me one without even asking! It’s so soft and so warm, the only downside is that the little bastards love the blanket too, so I’m constantly covered in cats.

  • I won’t need my cane soon!
  • Upset I had to drop classes.
  • Maybe I should be more upset.
  • Changes are coming soon- stay calm.
  • Special Interest gifts are the best!
  • Thanks heated blanket, I’m so warm!
  • A new year, new bullet journal.

Have a very nice rest of  2017, and I’ll see you next year!

6 Word Stories pt. 16

We are full-swing of the holiday season here at the La Casa de Stimtheline. Besides making eggnog cake and pumpkin cake, we’ve also made Gluten-Free Gingerbread People! We’ve haven’t tried them since Jess went Gluten Free, but they turned out really well! I also registered for college classes, which is both exciting and terrifying. I got my AS  6 years ago, and figured I was done with school, yet, here I am. Now that I have an on-paper diagnosis, I can utilize their accessibility student services, which I’m hoping makes a big difference! Because of this, and of how huge my laptop is, I downsized to a Surface Pro 3, it’s so cool! But oh boy, are all the changes hard to get used to.

  • Being both exhausted and bored sucks.
  • Rolling out cookies is so satisfying.
  • What if salespeople just didn’t talk?
  • Adjusting to new technology feels hopeless.
  • I beat elementary schoolers at Dreidel!
  • Back to school after six years…
  • Dear brain, shut up, love Me.

Coming up this week: Dungeons and Dragons night! My character is venturing into the forest to investigate a suspicious cave. Wish me luck!