Autism: A Love Story

It has been a long semester guys, the most writing-heavy one so far. And as you all can see, it has caused a huge disruption in my posting schedule. However, for my Feature Journalism class, I was given an opportunity to write a paper that ended up turning into a profile of my relationship with Jess, through the lens of autism. I’m really proud of the way it turned out, and my professor loved it! Disability advocacy and an A+ all in the same paper- sounds good to me.

anyway, this is long. Like 8 pages long, which is way long by blog post standards. I’m mostly just putting it up because I’m proud of it, and now that winter break is less than a week away, I’m hoping my writing time can be spent here.

P.s. The picture of Jess makes more sense if you read the Banana Story down below.

* * * * * * *

I would like to start this piece by telling you that even though this story is about me, it is not just my story. When I began this project, I assumed that I, as the storyteller would only exist as background noise, but as is the way of these things, I found my way forward. So, I stand by what I said. This is not my story. It’s not Jess’s story either. This is the story of our journey together, told through the lens of autism.  I hope that this snapshot gives you insight not just into who Jess and I are, but also as partners, teammates, and a couple of folks still crazy in love after all this time.

It is possible that there are more normal love stories, but the truth is you’d be hard-pressed to find two people more perfect for each other than my wife Jess and I. It would be easy to say that our love was foretold by Aphrodite or wished for on a magic lamp, but this is the real world, and we are nothing if not practical. Jess and I have become perfect for each other over the years through hard work, research, and communication. We’ve spent most of our relationship doing these things instinctually, as they’ve come up. It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that I received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which would both explain our past and change our future.

How do you describe your better half when they’re literally your better half? We like to say that Jess’s family prepared her for me without ever knowing it. Her parents raised a daughter that grew up to be kind, calm, and scientifically minded, with a sense of humor that can only be described as surreal. My life changed the day our paths crossed, even though I wouldn’t realize it until later. Simply put, she makes me better.

I’ve never interviewed someone while both of us are in our pajamas, sharing a blanket, with our feet tangled together, but how else was this supposed to happen? This interview was fated to be something decidedly un-interview-like from the beginning. There’s no way that two people who know each other the way that we do can do anything but tell stories, stories of our lives, and one of the major things that brought us to where we are now- autism.

* * * * * * *

Memory is a funny thing. Especially when two people’s lives have been intertwined for as long as ours have; long enough that it’s difficult to tease our almost fifteen years’ worth of experiences apart. Memory is not infallible, though. We should share the same memories, but the longer my interview with Jess went on, the more she made it clear that we remember the steps that it took for us to get to where we are now differently. The way I remember it, the first time that the word ‘autism’ was uttered was in December of 2015, but I’m wrong. Jess’s memory, which is far more reliable than mine, is full of times in which autism was mentioned in tv shows or movies, and we questioned if any of the symptoms might apply to me too. Jess remembers thinking that “even if any of that applied to you, we didn’t know how to get you tested. It might not have even been possible at the time.” She’s right. Unless you live in a fairly large city that just happens to have specialists who are willing to diagnose adults, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to these types of disabilities.

Jess had nearly twenty-one years of life before we became a we, and when asked, she admitted that she didn’t really remember much about our early interactions. Of course, she remembers yelling at me for smoking too close to the dorm entrances, and as a member of a group of underclassmen who screamed at PlayStation games and wept every Thursday night at medical dramas. At the time, she had no idea that I spent hours a day hiding under my dorm bed, which I’d put up on risers and hung blankets around to make my own personal Fortress of Solitude, a place to hide from the overstimulating nature inherent to dorm life. And when asked about the failing grade that I’d gotten in my first semester she didn’t even remember it, much less known that it hadn’t been because I didn’t do the work or that I blew off studying. No, I failed for the most autistic reason possible- even though I’d searched and searched, I couldn’t find the classroom. And it never occurred to me that the time I’d spent hunting for room 203 might be better spent asking for directions, or buying a map. When I told her this story her face went unreadable for a minute, which usually means that she’s processing, and when she was done, she sighed and said “that doesn’t surprise me at all now, but back then, it probably would have baffled me. How could someone lose a class?”

One overarching theme in our relationship is her trying to puzzle out how my brain works. Time and exposure have taught us that this is a universal experience when autism is the third wheel in a relationship. Over the years, Jess has been the one to teach me things that might seem automatic to you, but are radical ideas to me. Take the day that she introduced the crazy concept that other people’s brains worked differently than mine when led to me beginning to make a separation between how I felt and how others felt. She loves to tell the story about how I spent years struggling with the idea of people eating bananas, the one fruit whose mere mention would make me start to retch. One day it came up in conversation, and I began my general rant about odor and texture, and why on earth people would put up with eating a fruit that they hated. “Maybe it’s because bananas are cheap?” I guessed. She paused mid banana and informed me that she very much enjoyed the smell, taste, and texture of bananas, and was I implying that I thought that the whole world hated bananas but ate them anyway? I thought about it and admitted that while it sounded ridiculous when she said it like that, that yes, it was what I thought. Unpacking that lack of ability to separate myself from others, which is called Theory of Mind, has been an extensive discussion that continues to this day.

* * * * * * *

Jess is sitting on the floor surrounded by books. She isn’t sure how she knows it, but even though I haven’t been formally diagnosed yet, she’s painfully aware that it’s time for her to take her first steps into the role of advocate. The height of the book piles negatively corresponds to the amount of time she has to learn about autism before she needs to adopt her ‘official’ role of translator, from me to the world, and then back again. “I must have read ten books in two or three weeks looking for ways to explain things to people” she remembers. Luckily, she wasn’t trying to figure the whole thing out on her own. When Jess was in college, she had a side job babysitting the preteen children of our university’s president and his wife, who just happened to be a psychologist who specialized in diagnosing autism. So, when it became clear that an autism diagnosis was in my future, Jess did the only logical thing- she called Jane, who was the first person to actually provide useful information. “Jane is honestly the person to thank for me being told that I needed to do everything I could to find you people who actually knew how to work with autism.” Jane was right. If the specialists, like occupational and speech therapists, that people with developmental disabilities need don’t understand autism, then no amount of advocacy can make it work. After helping Jess make a reading list, Jane casually mentioned that it had surprised her that I was only now being diagnosed; she had mentally diagnosed me the first time that she’d met me more than a decade before.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined as a neurological and developmental disorder that appears early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. It affects how an individual acts, interacts with others, communicates, and learns. Neuroscientists still aren’t clear on the mechanisms that cause autism and other developmental disabilities, but what they do know is that it’s highly heritable, and my family tree supports that. Obviously, people that were born in 1918 like my grandfather never had the opportunity to be diagnosed with autism. Neither were people born in 1957 like my dad. But knowing what I know about autism now, it’s shockingly clear that my place on the spectrum was passed down to me by the men who came before me, so I’ve never thought of myself as particularly weird, just a part of the family tradition. When we talk about my family Jess often points out another reason none of my male relatives received a diagnosis is because autism often looks like other things. “One of the hardest things about identifying autism in your case was that symptoms that looked like anxiety were actually just manifestations of the autism,” Jess said. My highly anxious dad and his highly anxious dad weren’t blessed with a spouse that could be both love them and advocate for them.

* * * * * * *

There is no feeling like sitting under a pile of blankets with the love of your life, preparing to ask them to tell you about all the hardships that you’ve caused them. Just take a deep breath and jump.

* * * * * * *

Of course, when you were melting down every single day,” she starts off, “every night we were dealing with meltdowns, it was horrible. You couldn’t even tell when they were coming. I was the only one there pinpointing where it started and figuring out how to handle it.” Every autistic person melts down differently. For some, it is a violent act with self-harm and property damage, but for others, there are no visible indicators. When I meltdown, I rock my body, I cover my ears or my eyes, I lose the ability to communicate verbally, and if I’m not in control of my hands, sometimes I hurt myself. Jess is a master at reading the early signals. “I don’t even know how to describe it. I know by the way you’re standing or sitting or breathing or holding your hands. In fact, to most people, my powers of observation seem like magic.” One of the things that we’ve made a priority in our post-diagnosis world is communication. It’s probably the best decision that we could have made for our relationship, because it allows me to take control over my own life, and keeps her from feeling like she’s on-call all the time.

This realization that it wasn’t my job to change the way that I interacted with the world and that it also wasn’t Jess’s job to take charge all the time was revolutionary to both of us. It broke down a barrier that had been in our way for almost 15 years; I struggled to communicate my needs, and more importantly, I couldn’t even verbalize what my needs were. When she became a willing advocate, it gave us both power. I asked her what she thought was different about the communication part of our lives and she answered so quickly it seemed like she’d been waiting to give the answer all night “I don’t feel like I’m caretaking you all the time”, “because we’re more like a team now” I asked? “Yeah,” she said. “We’ve done really well with boundaries now that we understand autism better,” she said as she shoved her toes under my blanket.

* * * * * * *

It wouldn’t be fair to talk so much about the past without giving a picture of the present. Our approach to daily life has changed since the autism diagnosis. Learning to use coping skills like routines has let me make the most of my life. Up until I started college at 17, I had assumed that I was lazy and stubborn, the way almost every adult I’ve ever known had said, and after my eventual academic withdrawal, I was sure of it. Add burning out of multiple jobs, and I truly believed that I’d never be able to function in normal society. The autism diagnosis gave me a massive box of academic tools, coping skills, and access to accommodations to keep me on the same level as my classmates. And thanks to visual directions, I haven’t’ lost a class yet. Soon I’ll be heading into the workforce, and while earning a paycheck will be great, the best thing it will bring are the feelings of independence the knowledge that I have a purpose.

So, what does the future hold for us? Although autism makes me highly resistant to change, unfortunately, it doesn’t make me immune. Ask Jess, and she’ll tell you that her future career plans will make use of her magic powers of observation to help other people like me. She’s also committed to being an advocate while also supporting me advocating for myself. And me? Soon I’ll be out of college and using my hard-won writing skills to help people in the nonprofit world, as an advocate in my own right. Jess described our current and future relationship best when she said “we’re comfortable with we’re doing, and it’s wonderfully healthy, and the communication is good.” Maintaining all those things, that’s our future right there.

When it comes to the topic of autism and the journey that it took us to get to it, I have always been the dominant voice. I expected these interviews were scary for me because I knew they required a deliberate switching of roles, with me as the vessel, filled up by Jess’s experiences. But in writing this, it became clear that I had been wrong in assuming that a dominant voice ever existed. The way we each contribute to the story of our journey in serves the purpose of strengthening connections with each other, and with other people who are walking similar paths.

5 Things That Determine Your Professionalism (apparently)

It seems to be a torturous right of passage to make college students go to a job fair. It is my worst nightmare to have to talk to people who could affect my education while they judge me as a person and as an employee from a 3-minute discussion.

I’ve found that for the most part, my classmates don’t really agree with me. The anxious kids are generally on my side, and sometimes other non-traditional students like me, but in general, your neurotypical mentally stable average college student find the idea of dressing up and talking to people in their field and the possibility of internships or employment to be exciting.

I took a management course last semester, and I learned a lot about what employers expect, and a lot of them were brand new information to me, so since I have to go through this, you have to learn about it too.

1. How You Dress- What’s the difference between a golf shirt and a polo shirt? I’m still not sure, but I know that it’s important, because one of them is more business casual than the other. And in this situation, business casual is important, mostly because on one end, it’s a breath away from being casual, on the other end, it’s almost formal. Formal is what you need for a job interview; for me, that means a suit and tie. For this job fair though, business casual is fine, but not the lower end. I plan to wear purple dress pants and a button-down shirt. Apparently having something interesting about your dress can let employers remember you, so I aim to be the purple-pants-person. For some reason, people are really judgey about what you wear, don’t ask me why. But doing some research about dress can make a huge difference.

2. Your Body Language- People who are in the position to hire you want to know a lot about you very quickly, and that means that they rely on body language a lot. Like way more than normal people. From what I’ve heard, body language can tell how confident you are, if you’re outgoing or not, even if you’re trustworthy. Gut reactions rule when it comes to professionalism. I do know for a fact that my standard body language doesn’t show any of this, but luckily, it can be faked. Standing up straight is important, as is (at least the image of) eye contact. You want to shake with a firm-but-not-finger-breaking grip, and staying as calm as possible can make you seem more confident. Basically, the rule of body language is if you act like you know what you’re doing, then people will believe it.

3. Your Expectations in Life- Interviewers love asking questions, usually about what you want for your future. Being prepared to say why you’re majoring in your major, and what kind of job you see yourself in can go a long way. My Management Professor drilled into us that no one’s going to hire someone who doesn’t have at least some idea of what their future looks like when it comes to education or employment. So having some talking point memorized will definitely help, and while I’m not usually a fan of dishonesty, I think that in this situation, making up some details to talk about won’t hurt anybody; you can always change your mind later.

4. How Much Prep You Did- Apparently not extensively researching the companies you’re talking to is a massive faux pas these days. I have my doubts that an interviewer is really going to care if I know what their mission statement is verbatim, but then again, I find a lot of these professionalism requirements kind of ridiculous. What I can say, is that if you’re really interested in a company (or in my case, a nonprofit), knowing a few things about them can’t hurt. Especially if what they do is something you’re passionate about too. I always like knowing projects that some of my favorite nonprofits have been working on because it gives us something to talk about, plus you know if they’re the sort of people you’d want to be working for. So, research something you’re interested in, not just something that proves you can memorize stuff.

5. Things You Can’t Control- Thanks to autism/auditory processing/hearing loss/learning disabilities, there are things that advice from some random blog (thing one) can help with. I have a serious case of raptor hands that no amount of paying attention can stop me from doing. When I get stressed (for example at a job fair) my ability to communicate verbally drops drastically, plus my echolalia increases, which is always fun to explain. What I’m saying is that no one’s ever going to be perfect, regardless of if they’re neurotypical or neurodiverse, and being prepared is the best thing you can do. Whether it’s a job fair, an interview, or just a meeting, know where you’re going, know what you want to look like, and know what you want to say. The best you can do is your best.

I know I’m in for years of this process, I’m hoping by the end I’ll have a decent handle on it. And, as always, if you’ve got tips, I’d love to hear them!

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!