Ready, Set, Goals!

For most of my life, “goals” has been a 4 letter word. Now, I am fully aware that “goals” has 5 letters, but it might as well have been “fuck” or “shit” or “twat-waffle” (which also doesn’t have 4 letters) because goal setting is not something that I have the ability to do.

I don’t know about you, but in every grade from middle school up, the school provided a planner, which we were just magically supposed to be able to use effectively. And most kids did (at least as well as a 12-year-old can organize their life). This was one of those things that made me feel like I was lazy and stupid and a whole bunch of other words that ruled my life in childhood. Teachers said I was ‘smart but insert word here‘. Lazy, unmotivated, not willing to change, inflexible.

I believed all of these things about myself, until 2016, and then again in 2019, when I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and 2 Specific Learning Disabilities (Reading and Writing).

This is how education changes live, folks. I believed that I was lazy and stupid and all those other things negative identities that got gotten lodged in my self-identity for 28 years. That’s a seriously long time to think those sorts of things about yourself. that’s a whole childhood. Especially since all it took was a handful of hours and a bunch of tests to show that I’m not, in fact, lazy. I’m autistic. I have learning disabilities. I have Auditory Processing Disorder, and I’m Hard of Hearing.

Turns out, with hearing aids, aural therapy, and occupational therapy to help me, I’m actually pretty great at organization!

I’m not going to proselytize about Bullet Journals again, but I did want to show how I set goals and using my Bullet Journal has led to my success, both in organization and in goal setting.

I’ve never been able to make a pre-made planner work for me, and oh how I’ve tried. This makes sense if you’ve really think about it. Journal, planners, and calendars are made for the neurotypical majority, and autistic minds simply don’t think that way. This led me to the realization that if I wanted something that was going to work for me, I would have to be the one to design it.

I’ve been Bullet Journaling for more than 2 years now, and I’ve gone through a lot of changes because I started out knowing that I needed something, but not knowing how to do it. I did a lot of trials. I tracked a lot of things that didn’t actually need tracking, and I set goals with no support or follow up. None of this was effective. I’ve spent years tinkering and I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve got, especially with this new goal system I’m trying out for this semester.

I begin the month by setting 3 or 4 goals. These are monthlong things that I want to work on. I also have a to-do list that has single things that I want to get done before the end of the month. I have daily trackers for things that I’m aiming to do every day. These used to be located on my weekly page, but they cluttered it up, and I’ve found that being able to see trends monthly instead of weekly is better anyway. This is what I fill out out the beginning of the month- it has a follow up at the end of the month, and that’s what makes this so effective.

The end of the month goal page lets me analyze how the month went. Thinking about what worked and what didn’t work not only helps me change to how I make future goals but lets me figure out how to make changes for the next month. Next month changes can either be solutions to the ‘didn’t work’ stuff, or it can help guide goals for the coming month.

There are also less analytical parts that aim to be positive and fun. I love reading and I read a lot of books a month, so picking just one can be a satisfying challenge. It’s also really interesting to be able to see what songs have been stuck in my head over time (does anyone else have an earworm at all times?). Successes is a feel-good after analyzing what went wrong. Successes can be related to the goals, or they can just be stuff that I’m proud of and want a record of.

I’m totally okay with saying that the numbers cloud was borrowed from a bullet journal Instagrammer because it’s awesome. Like the earworm list, it’s fun to track over time, plus, it can be a catch-all for little things I want to remember, and is the place for humor (like the ‘doing nothing as self-care’).

So there we are. This is how I set goals. Is it always perfect? No, but that’s the point of goals, at least for me. I need to work through what I actually want and how I’m going to get it, and this set up allows me to do that.

I never would have thought before that organization could be so individualized, and  Occupational Therapy definitely taught me how to figure out what I want from being organized and how to set goals, and most importantly, techniques for figuring a system out on my own.

If any of you folks have a goal system, an organization system, a bullet journal, or anything that you feel inspires you, I would love love love to hear about it!

5 things I learned from ACT therapy

Once upon a time, there was a human named Meesh, who didn’t know that ignoring their mental health could end in disaster. They hid their worsening issues from everyone, including themselves.

The details aren’t important, but needless to say, they ended up in a place that was so unstable, they couldn’t fix it themselves, and ended up in something called Higher Level Care, which involved spending 10 hours a day in therapy.

But the therapy wasn’t as effective as everyone hoped, and they were stumped. It was only after Meesh was diagnosed with autism that a different type of therapy was tried. That therapy was called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and it made a difference like no therapy before had.

I’m sure you figured out that that story was about me (given that I used my name and all). ACT was the only therapy I’ve ever really connected with, but because I’m me, I like a lot of it and hate a bit of it.

But I like enough about it to share some of what I know with you, so here we go!

1. That I have values- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy teaches that everyone has values. Whether it’s family or education, humor or empathy, we all have things that important enough to keep fighting for. This seems a little bit obvious at first. Of course, I care about things, I’m not a robot. But at least for me, learning to lean on my values when I was having a hard time with something became comforting. It gave me a clear, on paper reason to keep going. Here is an example of a values list

2. That sucky stuff is going to happen and that’s ok- Many ABC Therapies, especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) drive me nuts. They are all about changing the way your brain thinks. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent my whole life trying to do that, and it’s never worked. ACT teaches the opposite, in that you can’t always control what your brain does, but you can be prepared for it, so it’s less scary and overwhelming. I’ve always felt like this is a more realistic point of view.

3. How to make a good plan- Another tool that ACT gives you is the ability to make a plan for when things go bad. It figures, if you have a plan full of positive coping skills sitting in front of you, you’ll be less likely to use the negative coping skills. This had a surprising effect on the rest of my life as well. Executive Dysfunction shows its head for me in the inability to plan efficiently or make lists. Having someone who was trained to teach these things and go over it step by step with me (multiple times) made me significantly better at it.

4. That I hate visualization– “Imagine you are on a beach”, “Picture your thoughts floating down a river”, “Visualize your life in 5 years”. Instructions like this are my nemesis because I can’t actually make pictures in my brain. If I close my eyes and tell myself that I’m on a beach, I can imagine the smell of salt, I can imagine the sounds of the waves, but I can’t picture anything but a blank wall. It’s frustrating, especially when you’re being asked to do it multiple times a day. I’m telling you this because in any therapy there will be stuff that doesn’t work for you, and this doesn’t mean that the therapy isn’t a good fit. It’s perfectly valid to use the parts that work, and leave the ones that don’t work behind.

5. Grounding is stim-friendly- Grounding is awesome. It is using your senses to help keep you in the present, and to help you calm yourself. It is made for us autistic folks. To ground, I use weighted blankets, essential oil rollers, sour candies, sensory toys like putty and beads, and I play counting games with myself. Grounding works differently for everyone. I’ve met people who like to color, people who like to talk to friends, people who like to put smelly lotion on their hands. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as keeps anxiety or meltdowns or dissociative episodes from escalating. Grounding isn’t necessarily unique to ACT. CBT and especially DBT use it too. Here’s a list of grounding suggestions 

When I talk about stuff like this, I’m never trying to sell you on anything, I just figure if I which I’d known about something sooner, someone else might too.

As always, friend, I wish upon all of you good mental health and lots of self-care!

Dogs Don’t Generalize and Neither Do I

generalize, verb

gen· er· al· ize

an extension of a concept (or behavior) from a familiar situation to a less familiar situation

Training with Winnie has been an amazing experience so far. As a cat person, I’ve never really trained any animal to do anything. Granted, the cats will sit for food, but I think that they mostly figured that out on their own. But man oh man are dogs a whole different story.

When we adopted Winnie, I did what any new puppy parent would do- I searched out books by the best animal behaviorists out there. My favorites ended up being Patricia Mcconnell and Sophia Yin. I learned a lot from both of them about not only how to train a dog, but why I’m doing what I’m doing. Dogs brains work really differently than human brains, although I was to discover that Winnie’s dog brain is very much like my autistic brain in one major way.

We don’t generalize.

Here’s an example- I’ve spent most of my life in New York, which has made me intimately familiar with the MTA transportation system. But when I was a smaller human, a teenage size human, the subway was a big problem. The train line that my friends and I usually took was the Green Line, which is composed of the 4, 5, and 6 trains. Something important to note- sometimes these trains overlap. A 4 train and a 6 train can both stop at the same station. In this example, that station will be the 14th St/Union Sq. station. We usually took the 6 train to get there, but it was running behind, and the 4 train would be a lot faster. This is where the trouble begins.

Any New Yorker worth their salt will tell you that in this situation, the 4 train and the 6 train are exactly the same. Even my teenage friends would tell you that. They certainly told me. Multiple times. And time and time again, I’d tell them that they were crazy, then they’d say I was bad at directions, and eventually, we’d miss the 4 train and end up taking the 6 train anyway, and I’d spend the whole train ride trying to figure out they thought that taking the 4 train was the same thing as taking the 6 train.

I’m sure I don’t have to prove to you guys about how these things are different, but just in case, I made a list:

Things that are unknown about the 4 train:

  • If they have the old seats or the new seats
  • How many stops are between where I am and where I want to be
  • If they have the new digital maps
  • If the next stop announcement will be easy to hear
  • How to get out of the subway at the other side

Your average human being doesn’t think about these things. Their brains are able to generalize a familiar situation into an unfamiliar situation.

Now, dogs don’t ride subways, they do have the same issues generalizing that I do.

The way that people help dogs learn how to generalize is to provide them with variety and repetition. When we taught Winnie to sit, we didn’t just have her do it in our living room. We did it in the kitchen and in the bathroom, on our front porch and in the car. In Petsmart, Petco, Pet Supplies Plus, and every place we could find that had ‘pet’ in the name. She learned that ‘sit’ can happen anywhere, and now she’s prepared to do it.

When Winnie came home, I expected cuddles and belly rubs and a lot of picking up poop. I definitely wasn’t mentally prepared for the fact that she and I would share similar learning struggles. I like to think that it makes me more conscious of my own brain processes, and maybe even makes me a better trainer. Now, if only Winnie would give me as many people treats as I give her dog treats!

 

I’m a Quitter

It’s official. As of Saturday, I will officially be a non-smoker.

I’ve been smoking on and off since I was 16, and while I’ve quit before, it’s never lasted more than a few years. I think a big reason for that is because smoking becomes such a satisfying routine.

And goodness knows that I thrive on routines.

So I’ve been thinking about quitting for a while now, but I’ve been having trouble doing the actual, you know, quitting part. I’ve been slowly decreasing the number of cigarettes that I smoke a day, but I’ve hit a bit of a wall. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to quit, but I was having what I think of as motivation issues.

Until last Saturday, that is. Since then, I’ve had tons of motivation.

I’m having surgery in July, and since it involves grafts, the surgeon requires me to not smoke. Fun fact: smokers have a 20% more chance of graft rejection than nonsmokers, which is good enough motivation for me to push through the discomfort and just quit.

Back to the routines. I smoke at specific times of day, every day. The act of smoking is so closely tied with things like eating meals and leaving the house that I have trouble separating the two. These sorts of activities are transitional, and that’s an Executive Dysfunction thing that I really struggle with.

So, the struggle begins to find replacement activities! After much consulting and debating, I’ve got a plan that I think will work. I’m going to use both distraction and sensory replacement to keep myself honest. Enter my Gameboy and coffee flavored hard candy. Instead of smoking before meals, I’ll take 5-10 minutes and play a game (Mario-kart and Mario party, mostly) and suck on hard candies to fulfill the oral fixation.

I’m not sure how this is all going to go. It looks good on paper, but goodness knows that changing routines is far more difficult than it should be, at least for me.

Wish me luck, and please excuse any rant-y posts while I adjust to all the changes!

P.S. If you’ve ever quit smoking and you have any tips, please let me know!

A Desk Garden

My desk is a mess. I cannot even see its 2×3 surface.

It is not enough to hold me.

On a good day, its piles and cups are contained, like organized chaos.

Today is not one of those days.

The piles slide and the cups vomit out pens without my permission.

I ignore it for now.

The landslides begin, I can no longer ignore the journals and index cards and paperclips.

It’s time to tend my garden.

Everything has a place and must return to it.

But it can’t be too clean.

I operate well in a space that is messy-but-organized

So the architecture of my paper towers must be sound.

But nothing lasts forever, and soon I know that the inevitable will happen.

It will be time to tend my garden again.

 

 

5 of My Essential Apps

Technology is amazing, and it’s so hard to believe that in the last twenty years, we’ve got from cell phones the size of bricks to tiny computers you can hold in your hands. Out of the millions of apps out there, there are a great deal that I’ve found incredibly useful for not only Autism but Mental Health as well.

They’re not all Autism specific, but even so, I’d like to share some of the ones I find essential.

1. Habitica- I’ve mentioned here more than once that I struggle with Executive Dysfunction. And on top of that, I’m not the best at transitioning between activities. Habitica helps with both of these tremendously. It’s like a To-Do list on steroids, and it fills in the gaps in my brain. All you have to do is enter tasks you need to complete, whether it be daily, weekly, or monthly, and it helps you track them, and will even send you reminders. And to encourage you, it takes the theme of a Role-Playing Game, so the more tasks you complete, the higher your level, the more powerful your weapons, and the cooler your pets! I definitely get more done using this app.

2. Emergency Chat App- This app is designed specifically for Autistic people. It fills an incredible need- communication when you’re not able to communicate verbally. One of my biggest fears about going places by myself is that I’ll get overwhelmed and lose my words. This app calms my nerves. When opened, it pops up a message, telling the reader that I’m not currently able to speak, and that I’m very sensitive, so I shouldn’t be touched. It then provides a text chat service, where the other person and I can text back and forth. Although I rarely need it, the fact that it’s there makes me feel safer.

3. Community Apps- One of the best things about my Autism diagnosis is that it came with a huge and wonderful community. As someone who would be considered a life-long lurker, it took me a while to dip my toes in, but now I’m liking and posting and commenting all over the place! I love having access to my people wherever I go, and to be honest, sometimes the apps are better than the websites (I’m looking at you Instagram!) The ones I rely on most are Tumblr, Instagram, WordPress, and Reddit. They all have amazing Autistic communities, whether you have a question, have something to share, or just want to feel understood.

4. Distraction Apps– Sometimes all I need is a distraction, and my number one favorite distraction is board games. They force me to focus on one thing and let me tune out the many things in this world that overwhelms me. Now, I prefer to play games sitting around a table with real people, but let me honest, that’s not always possible. Luckily, as board gaming gets more popular, the app versions of many games are getting better. All of my favorites have single player options, where you play against an AI, and even better, some let you play with friends. My favorite distraction-worthy board game apps are OnirimAscensionTsuro, and Lattice. I especially like that I can play Lattice with my wife over a period of days. The heated battle of tile laying is definitely a distraction!

5. Spotify– Music is great because it can serve a number of purposes. It can block out unpleasant noises, it can transport you to a different place and time, it can be a source of entertainment, and it can calm your mood. I’m including it here for the first and the last reasons. Oftentimes music and my headphones are the only way I can tolerate crowded spaces. And once I’ve survived said crowds, music also helps to calm me back down. Now I know that all phones give you access to your music library, but I chose Spotify because it provides you with community made playlists. So you can just search ‘calm’ or ‘anxiety’ and up pop playlists that work for other people, so there’s a good chance it might work for you. And as a personal note, if you use Spotify a lot- the premium version is totally worth it. I promise they haven’t paid me to say that.

Well, there we are, my essential apps! At the time of this posting, all the apps I’ve mentioned are free and available in the iTunes store. For Android users, you’ve got access to most of them, and from a quick search, it seems like there are comparable options.

Are there any apps that you can’t live without? Let me know while I’ve still got some memory left on my phone!

 

Executive Dysfunction: Bullet Journal

Executive Dysfunction has plagued me for my entire school life. I was terrible at taking notes because I couldn’t discern what was important, so I spent all my time trying to write down everything, and I constantly missed deadlines because even though I had a planner, I got overwhelmed when I tried to organize it. In college, I relied heavily on my wife to help me make schedules, check my notes, proofread my assignments, and to be my tech guru, because I’m awful at navigating anything electronic. Even though I’ve finish school, I still struggle with Executive Dysfunction type things. We usually have three calendars running at any given time, and I need constant poking and prompting to get me to transition between activities. This bothers me. I want to be productive. I want to be independent. This year, I think I got lucky, in the most sideways of ways. I’ll give you a hint. Instagram.

One day a post came across my feed, a picture of something I’d never seen before, a planner that was anything but a planner. Thank god for tags. I found out that this thing I’d seen was called a Bullet Journal, and so began the week of inhaling any and all things Bullet Journal related. It turns out that the Bullet system had been set up a few years before as a productivity system, but, over time, people had started using the basic framework to create custom planners/trackers/calendars/art pages. I thought well, I like stationary, I like doodling, and I want so badly to be organized, why not give it a shot? It took some trial and error for me to come up with a system that worked. That wasn’t a surprise but was what a surprise was that I actually enjoyed the process of trying, as I’m usually hesitant to try something that I’m not sure will work.

I’d like to show you some of the things that work for me, and provide you with some resources for if you’d like try it for yourself. This post is going to be a bit picture heavy, but in this case, a picture is worth at least 100 words.

This is an example of my weekly spread. I use the same basic structure and decorate according to the Theme Week topic. Each day is divided into three, the bottom section is for appointments and such, the middle strip gets colored in according to my mood, and the top one, the most important one, is my priorities box. When I have a lot of things to do, I get very stressed, because I feel like I need to do them ALL, right now! And that’s not doable, no matter how much sleep I sacrifice. So, to combat this, every day, I get to prioritize 3 things. Those are the ones that I’m allowed to stress about. Once those are done, anything else I get done is a bonus. This system works surprisingly well for me, and has definitely lowered my stress levels!

My BINGO card is something that my Occupational Therapist and I came up with. In an effort to help me move between tasks, and to do more with my days, we decided to make things a little more fun. And also, with a bit of a monetary incentive. The activities are split between fun stuff, like reading and playing guitar, things that I enjoy, but sometimes need an incentive to do, and household chores. It works beautifully because when I’m lying on the couch playing with my phone, I don’t always want to move, but the idea of getting to mark things off on my BINGO cards can get me moving!

One of the cooler things I think I’ve done is my self-care Mind Map. I don’t know about you, but for me, self-care doesn’t come naturally, and if figuring out what to do takes any effort whatsoever, it’s probably not going to happen. So here, I have a number of different categories, with a few suggestions for each, in an effort to take any work out of the process. I know I’m happier and less stressed when I’m practicing self-care, so making a shortcut page was totally worth it!

Trackers are one of the coolest things about Bullet Journals! At least in my opinion. I really like getting to see data trends over time, and knowing that I won’t get to color in my tracker is a good incentive for doing things. Are you seeing a trend here? Getting me to do anything requires extensive bribery. Trackers are great because you can track anything you want, and they can be weekly, monthly, or even yearly!

I’ll leave you with some resources, in case any of this seems interesting. I’m always around to answer questions if you’ve got them, and I’d love to see anything you create!

My Bullet Journal Instagram

How To Bullet Journal

http://bulletjournal.com

Bullet Journal Supplies

Is Bullet Journaling Right For Me?

Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Bullet Journal

Instagram Tags: bulletjournal, bujo, bulletjournaljunkies

Executive Dysfunction: Theme Weeks

Once upon a time, nine months ago, when my little blog was littler and newer, I put up a page called Theme Week Outlines. At the time, I was transitioning out of an Eating Disorder Intensive Outpatient Program, which kept me busy 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. I don’t do well with transitions in general, and especially ones that leave me with a sudden lack of structure. So my team and I started brainstorming ways that I could keep some semblance of structure while I moved to outpatient care. We discussed volunteering, which at that time wasn’t really doable, seeing that I wasn’t handling new situations very well at the time. We tried to plan out a very structured hour by hour schedule, sort of like what I was used to in Residential care, but it didn’t really work well with my home life. Finally, we hit on something that worked. The idea of giving each week a Theme.

And so Theme Weeks were born. After assigned the theme, I had the very enjoyable challenge of finding four activities that fit within it. An outing (which forced me to leave the house), a food (which challenged me to cook, and to try to things), a craft (which was just plain enjoyable, honestly) , and a sensory project (which can really hard, once you get past slimes and doughs and water beads. Also, most sensory tutorials out there are aimed at toddlers).

It was a little rough at the beginning. I over-planned. I overestimated my abilities. I picked recipes that were too hard or ones that were impossible to succeed at. Remind me to tell you about my Vampire Teeth cookie debacle some time. I did eventually get into a good flow.

Very cool Theme Weeks have included Inside Out Week, Weather Week, Lego Week, Batman Week, and Knitting Week. Batman and Weather Weeks produced some very cool art, during Inside out and Knitting week we had very cool Cake Ball based recipes, and during Lego Week I put together an awesome AT-AT that now lives on my desk.

What makes Theme Weeks work for me is kind of threefold. I’ve come to find the planning really enjoyable, even if it’s turned me into a Pinterest fiend. Interestingly my Theme Weeks board gets a lot of hits! It gives structure to my week, without forcing me to plan out every single thing that I do. So some structure, but not too much structure. It’s a delicate balance for me. Lastly, I get to spend time with my wife (because she likes these activities as much as I do) and I get to produce things that I’m proud of! Sometimes being unemployed can eat at your self-esteem, but when I successfully make art that can hang on our walls, food I can share with friends, and crafts that fulfill my sensory needs, it makes me feel really good.

I would highly suggest some version of theme weeks for Executive Dysfunction. Having a small pool of activities to choose from means that I’m a lot more likely to be able to pick one. Also, after a few successful weeks, getting myself to get started on an activity is a lot easier, because I know I’ll feel good after doing it. I’ve also found that after using the Theme Weeks as training wheels for planning, I’ve been able to expand my new skills to be more successful at trying non-theme week situations.

So give it a try! The Theme Week page is up at the top, with some descriptions, along with a PDF of the planning page I use. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, and if you end up with any interesting Themes or Activities, I’d leave to hear!

P.S. Is it just me, or does Theme Week not look like words anymore?

Executive Dysfunction

If you were to ask me to pick the most autistic thing about myself, it would probably be a tie between sensory issues and executive dysfunction. Unlike the sensory stuff, which I’ve always known I experienced differently than other people, I had never heard of executive dysfunction until about two years ago, when I was pursuing a formal diagnosis. I had always thought I was lazy and unorganized, and an A+ procrastinator until the psychologist interviewing me started asking me all of these questions about how I learned, and how I retained information, and how I motivated myself, and after about 20 more minutes worth of questions, she informed me that I exhibited signs of Executive Dysfunction. Which I promptly went home and googled, because those aren’t two words you hear together very often. After inhaling everything the Internet had to offer, I was immediately relieved. I wasn’t lazy. ‘Smart but lazy’ had basically been my go-to identity for most of my life, but I had no reservations setting it aside. After a week of basking in my new ‘not lazy’ personality, I realized that not being lazy was great, but now that I had a word for what was wrong with me, I should probably figure out what to do about it.

Oh, and do something I did. Many somethings, in fact. More than would be humane to tell you about in one post. So my plan is to break it down into a few posts. The first one, you may have seen on the blog already, it’s a page called Theme Week Outlines, and it was one of the first things we tried, and it’s still going strong! I also plan to include a post of Executive Dysfunction Hacks, a post showing how I use my Bullet Journal to keep myself calm and organized and post talking about how having 3 whiteboards for calendars, lists, and reminders is definitely not too many. I’m slowly learning how to do executive dysfunction things on my own, but I’ve got to give credit to my wife, Jess, for enduring years of questions about how she breaks things down into steps, and how she makes lists, and what do you mean she can decide she wants to do something and just do it?!

I’m hoping to spread these posts out over the next month or two, so as not to inundate you with all executive dysfunction all the time. If there is any interest, I may host an Ask An Executive Dysfunction Superstar type thing where Jess can answer all your weird and random questions. Because I swear, I have never met anyone (not even my occupational therapist!) who is more creative about this sort of problem-solving. So please, come pick her brain!

5 Things I Wish I Knew Were Autism Things

So I’ve been getting the urge to branch out from my twice a week posting schedule. Not that I don’t enjoy writing essays or putting together my 6 Word Stories from the week, but I guess I’ve been wanted something a little more…fun. I always enjoy when people make lists. It’s kind of a cool way to get to know them. And I think I’m going to give it a try. So going forward, I declare Wednesdays List Days! I’m aiming for a mix of Autism and non-Autism stuff, although to be honest, most of the things I write end up with a tinge of Autism anyway. I plan on opening the comments up so people can add their own stuff to the list. It seems like it’ll be more fun if it’s not just me talking out into the void. But please don’t feel any pressure! Also, if you have ideas for topics, bring ’em! I figure I’ll run out of topics eventually anyway. So here they are:

5 Things I Wish I Knew Were Autism Things

1. Getting Lost: I am terrible with directions. I once managed to get myself lost in the monkey house at the zoo for 45 minutes. Not even GPS can help me. My first semester of college, I had to drop a class because I couldn’t reliably find it. From what I can tell, no one’s really sure why Autistic people have a tendency to get lost, but it’s very common in our community.

2. Not Being Able to Make Lists: My wife has a superpower. She can take any situation, any task, any problem, and make a plan to solve it. No matter how big, no matter how steps it takes, give her a pen, paper, and 10 minutes, and she’s ready to approach it. I, however, cannot figure out how to make cereal. The process of breaking a task down into steps is so foreign, that I don’t even know where to start. This is a common experience with Executive Dysfunction, and for me, it involves post-it notes all of the place in hopes that one day they’ll be useful.

3. Being a Picky Eater: I fought this for a very long time. ‘I love Indian food!’ I thought. ‘But I put hot sauce on everything!’, I can’t be a picky eater! But looking deep into my heart, I know that I’m incredibly texture-sensitive, I make other people taste new dishes so they can describe them to me, and I will argue to the death that real Cheerios are NOT the same as the store brand ones. There is a word for this: ARFID. It’s listed as a type of eating disorder. And my therapist is ok with not pushing me as long as my diet stays varied and healthy.

4. Touching EVERYTHING: I am very slow when shopping. It’s partially because of medical issues, partially because I’m slightly overwhelmed, and partially because I have to touch all the new and exciting things. I love walking through the towel section at Target, and the yarn aisle at Michael’s. This makes sense, as I am hypo-sensitive to touch. I crave spiky pine cones and microfiber cloths and pulling dried glue off my fingers.

5. Repeating Things: I am not the best communicator. If I don’t have a script for it, I’m usually anxious about what to say. I am also a pop culture junkie. This totally works for me, because between movies and tv shows, I have a wealth of scripts! On bad communication days, I can go hours only reciting lines from various sources of media. Besides using these things as scripts, it’s also a form of echolalia. So not only is the repeating satisfying- it also helps me connect. I’d call that a win-win!

So that’s it! I’d love to hear if anyone else has any of these too!