5 Good Textures and 3 Bad Ones

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a satisfying texture. Whether it’s squishy, or plushy, or smooth, or nubbly, I want to touch it. My wife says that I see with my hands, in the sense that oftentimes looking at something isn’t enough, I have to touch it to get a good sense of it. There are hazards to touching everything that I see. Some textures are just bad, and sometimes I can’t tell they’re going to be bad, so I get surprised. Let me tell you, it’s a terrible sort of surprise.

So, as a bit of a Public Service Announcement of Textures, here are some of my favorites,  and a few that are sensory hell.

5 Good Textures

1. Smooth Rocks– If rock hunter were a profession, I’d definitely be at the top of the field, mostly because I’m on the lookout for good ones wherever I go because smooth rocks just feel so good. Whether I’m scoping out landscaping or taking a walk in the park, if I see a rock I like, I’m going to pick it up. I’m probably going to keep it as well. Their weight, plus their texture, plus how they always feel cool no matter how hot it is, makes them one of my favorite things. Very decent river rocks can also be obtained at the dollar store, but they’re slightly less satisfying without the hunt.

2. Soft (Flannel/Fleece/Minky) Fabric- I feel like fabric was everyone’s first stim toy. Even neurotypical kids love soft fabrics. They pet and rub them on their face and bring them everywhere. Granted, most kids grow out of that, and I didn’t, but that’s ok with me. Some of my favorite fabrics are flannel, fleece, and that silky soft minky fabrics that baby blankets are often made of. If I am at home, I am surrounded by my favorite fleece blanket, my corduroy elephant, and my flannel marble maze. All of these textures are so comforting and so stroke-able. And I definitely only rub my face on them at home.

3. Dry Rice/Beans- If the soft fabrics from above were comforting, dried beans and rice for me are energizing. There’s something about all the individual pieces being the same size, the fact that they’re smooth, and the noise they make when they’re played with that make them so satisfying. The only downside, for me at least, is that I have to have play only and eat only types because apparently, no one appreciates me using their food as my own personal rain stick.

4. Running Water- This one is full of contradictions because I hate being wet. But there is something about putting my hands, and only my hands, mind you, under moving water is an almost mind-blowing experience. It takes me outside of myself, my brain is quiet and everything kind of falls away. It is because of this that I love fountains. I have favorite fountains all over the city, which I make an effort to visit regularly. For some reason, tap water and washing my hands just isn’t the same.

5. Paintbrushes- Have you ever run a paintbrush over your hands? It’s heaven. The bristles are silky soft, and they give just enough pressure to hit all of my happy buttons. Makeup brushes work much of the same way, but holy crap are those expensive! Paintbrushes are fairly cheap, very portable, and a great sort of input that I haven’t found from anything else. Being able to “paint” myself before I paint makes the whole art experience even more enjoyable.

3 Bad Textures

1. Sand- For someone that loves the beach, I sure hate sand. It’s gritty, it gets everywhere, and you keep finding in the most random places (in my socks? I didn’t even wear socks!). One of the worst feelings in the world for me is getting sand under my fingernails. *Shudder* I don’t like it. Dry sand is terrible, but wet sand it tolerable, mostly I think because it doesn’t cling.

2. Tags- My Autistic peeps, do I really have to say anything about tags? For something so small, it causes so much discomfort, and sometimes even pain. An accidentally missed tag can keep me from concentrating until it’s gone. And while I appreciate that more tags are easy to rip out, but still, why are they even necessary! If I ever run for office, it will be on a No More Itchy Tags platform!

3. Anything Sticky- My hands being sticky is basically an automatic meltdown. To the point where I carry wipes with me everywhere I go, on the off chance that I might get something on my hands. When I’m making dinner, I usually have to wash my hands a half dozen or so times, which certainly makes things take longer than they should. Like how running water up in the “good textures” section took me takes me outside myself, my hands being sticky sends my brain into panic mode, and every section of my brain is just screaming “SOMETHING IS WRONG. WRONG WRONG WRONG”. And it is wrong. Sticky is wrong.

So those are the textures, good and bad. I bet you guys overlap with me on at least a few of them, but if you’ve got any sensory heaven or sensory hell textures, I’d love to hear about them!

All Hail the Mighty Toolbeast

Behold, the mighty Toolbeast, my faithful companion, my sensory savior, I would be lost without it. You may look at it and think to yourself “Self, that looks an awful lot like a monster shaped pencil case.” And you would be right. Its primary purpose may have been to hold school supplies, but it’s been elevated to so much more than that.

This is my AutistiKit, also known as a Toolbeast. It comes everywhere with me because I never know when I’ll need one of its components. And need them I do. Over the past year or so I’ve done tons of field research, figuring out what I need to keep myself comfortable and meltdown-free when I’m in unpredictable situations.

My collection at this point is almost entirely sensory-based, because that’s usually what can tip me over the edge and into meltdown territory. And even if I don’t have a meltdown, sensory overload isn’t exactly comfortable, is it? I’m at a point in my life now where I can recognize pretty early on when things are starting to go bad, and by intervening early, I keep myself well balanced, which in turn, lets me do things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

These are the essential contents of my Toolbeast, grouped by sense:

 Touch

*Wipes: I don’t tolerate my hands being sticky or messy, so unscented baby wipes are key if I’m going outside, or eating.

*Thinking Putty: I keep a tiny tin of putty with me because I can push it or rip it, which helps me not to unconsciously using Self Injurious Behaviors.

*Koosh Ball: The spiky hairs are satisfying to pull at, it’s my most active tool because it can be tossed around.

*Squishy Caterpillar: This was one of my first Stim Toys, and it’s still one of my favorites. I can’t describe why it’s so good, but I’m constantly reaching for it.

*Tangle: I can use this with one hand, and in my pocket, so it’s stealthy.

Smell

*Essential Oil Roller: I have had the awesome experience of blending my own scent, which is Sandalwood based. Smell keeps me grounds more than anything else, and I like that the roller means the oil won’t get on my hands.

Taste

*Pink Starbursts: Pink Starbursts are the only ones that I like, but the strong taste is grounding, and they also provide a little blood sugar bump, which I can always use.

Hearing

*Earplugs: Of all my senses, my hearing is the most sensitive, so something being too loud becomes a big problem really fast. Mine are rated up to 30 decibels, which even lets me go to concerts.

Sight

*Blue Light Glasses: These are generally made for people who spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, but they’re perfect for toning down fluorescent lights, which many stores are so fond of.

Miscellaneous

*Instant Cold Pack: I discovered these when I was in Treatment, and they are amazing. They’re shelf stable until you stomp on them, and then they get cold. Putting one on my neck or chest is like magic; they’re incredibly soothing.

*Chewy Toy: I wear chewelry whenever I leave the house, but it’s pretty soft, so I keep a heavy duty one in the Toolbeast in case I need to do some hardcore chewing.

So that’s my Toolbeast. It’s been a lifesaver, and I highly suggest that everyone give them a try. Just think of the things that help you the most, in as many sensory categories as you need, and if they’re not quite portable, if they come in a mini version, or can be easily replaced with something smaller. Pencil cases make great AutistiKits, and they come in lots of fun varieties. They’re small enough to fit in a purse or a backpack, and so easy to personalize. Why not give it a shot?

Cave of Wonder

My Cave is a magical place

It is a cozy nest

Filled with calming things

That sooth my autistic soul.

It is small and dark

Full of sensory friendly things

A beanbag chair to sink in to

The glow of fairy lights

Defused peppermint oil

Soft and calming music.

When the world is too much

And I am overloaded

Into my cave

I retreat.

 

 

 

 

6 Word Stories pt. 13

So if the stories referencing hats, scarves, sweaters, and heated cat beds weren’t enough of a clue, it’s been cold in St. Louis this week! My POTS has been pretty flair-y this week. I overdid it a couple of times, but it was so worth it! We saw a concert, and Jess won tickets to see a musical at our local theatre! So yeah, I’m spending most of my time with my legs propped up consuming unnatural amounts of sodium. And to add insult to injury, the cats would rather sleep in their heated bed than snuggle with me. Traitors!

  1. Sweaters, scarves, and hats, oh my!
  2. NaNoWriMo is great for stress! Not.
  3. Heated cat bed 1, me 0.
  4. Of course chronic illness exacerbates autism.
  5. Do big crowds know they’re loud?
  6. Trying board games for sensory distraction.

6 Word Stories pt. 12

It has been a celebration sort of week here! My wedding anniversary (9 years!) and a friend’s birthday (hence the sushi). The downside is, I had several unpleasant appointments, which I got through, but not without a lot of paperclip chewing. I know paperclips are dirty and bad for my teeth, I even have chewelry to use instead! But inadvertently, if there’s a paperclip to be had, it eventually winds up in my mouth. I figure one bad habit can’t hurt…right?

  • Happy Anniversary to my favorite person!!!
  • Dude. All you can eat sushi.
  • Cold rainy days need crock-pot dinners.
  • Paperclips are not to be chewed.
  • Why must stores use fluorescent lights?
  • Self-checkouts encourage minimal human interaction.
  • Sleepy me has a low bullshit tolerance.

P.S. (a couple of boneless skinless chicken breasts + a jar of salsa + 8 hours in a crock-pot on low = easy and delicious tex-mex chicken. Good in burritos, tacos, and quesadillas. Probably nachos too.)

6 Songs I Love to Stim To

I am one of those people who always need noise. Silence is painful for me, so I always have the TV, or music, or a podcast on. I like noise more than is in my control. What I don’t like is being in crowded areas with lots of people. I don’t like engines revving or thunder or alarms. I use music to drown these things out and hopefully avoid a meltdown. I also use stimmy music to gain energy, focus, and calmness. I usually gravitate toward songs with high BPMs, fast lyrics, and strong percussion. The lyrics are like my brain, black and white, they either don’t matter at all, or they matter greatly. I carry headphones with me everywhere, so I always have my music when I need it.

1.What’s My Age Again: This is my main stim song. 158 bpm of pop punk perfection, this is my go to for almost any occasion. The words are kind of weird if I listen to them, so for the most part, I don’t, except for the line ‘Why would you wish that on me, I’ll never want to act my age’, which I appreciate because no matter what my age is, I never manage to act it.

2. We Didn’t Start the Fire: This one is a classic and appeals to the history buff in me. I was also fascinated by the fact that someone could manage to write a song with so many events in it, in historical order. The lyrics are fast, they’re fun to research later, and the chorus is fun to sing and bounce around to.

3. It’s the End of the World as We Know It: R.E.M. is great. I think most people can agree on that one. I heard this song before it was easy to look lyrics up on the internet and it took me years to get it all down. It’s one of my greatest accomplishments. This is another song with fast lyrics, so fast that I can’t hear my brain think, which is really nice sometimes.

4. True Trans Rebel Soul: This song is by a band called Against Me!, and it’s hard to describe how I feel about it. The album it comes from, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is amazing, and to hear it done live squeezes my heart. This band was a favorite of mine from high school, and they while they already had tons of punk rock fans, they got tons of new ones when their front man (now woman!) came out as Trans, and released this album. This is a song I blast, that I can feel through my whole body, that I scream along to. It’s a good feeling, trust me.

5. I Bet My Life: I’m not sure why I like this song so much. To be entirely frank, I’m not really an Imagine Dragons fan, but for whatever reason, when this song comes up on a playlist, I end up turning the volume all the way up and listening to it a dozen times in a row. This is one where lyrics are important. Sometimes I find it easier to communicate through music than through words. I include this on an ‘I’m Sorry’ CD to my wife when I was in treatment. I still feel guilty about the way I acted when I was in my eating disorder, and when that guilt gets unbearable, this song lets me say sorry over and over again. It’s also in my tiny vocal range, which I don’t have to tell you is really satisfying.

6. Hallelujah: Everyone knows this song. It’s been covered dozens of times, so there’s a version for every mood. My favorites are the versions by KD Lang, Rufus Wainwright, and Jeff Buckley. This song makes me feel warm, and connected, and it’s really good when played loud. It’s one of my goals in life to master the finger-style version on my guitar. The song is mournful, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I like that if I choose to focus on the lyrics, they’re open to interpretation, and if I don’t, the 4th the 5th still sound good, feel good, are good.

As always, I’d love to hear your stim songs so I can expand my list! So if you’ve got one that means a lot to you, or you think is just perfect, leave it in the comments! If we get enough, we could make a Spotify playlist that everyone can enjoy!

6 Word Stories pt.9

So basically the biggest thing I learned about myself this week is that I am now officially Old™. We went to a concert (on a Wednesday night. What sort of concert is on a Wednesday?), and doors opened at 7, so I figure, opening act is done by 8 at the latest, it’s a small venue, so we’re probably out of there by 10:30, right? Not right. The main act didn’t come on until after 10. I am usually very sleepy by 10. Luckily, it was a punk show, so between the dancing and singing and screaming, I stayed awake. Also, the show was definitely worth it, but I still hold my ground that going to bed at a reasonable hour is totally Punk Rock!

  • They like my special interest project!!!
  • Relieved to find a useful doctor.
  • Seeing bands is worth the overload.
  • Getting enough sleep is totally punk
  • Rainbow sprinkles make all things better
  • I handled unexpected guests surprisingly well
  • Too bad solving puzzles isn’t employable

7 Easy Sensory Crafts

I am a crafter at heart. Knitting was my favorite stim before I even know what a stim was. Since finding out about how useful sensory projects are for me, I’ve tried lots! I have the absolute worst luck at making slime, but that’s ok, I’ve found lots of other things that satisfy the sensory seeking crafter inside. I’m providing links to the tutorials I’ve used, and suggest if you want more info, to check out Pinterest!

1. Travel Glitter Jar: This is more of an idea than an actual tutorial, but it’s too good not to include. This person takes the insides of a glitter jar and puts them into a travel hand sanitizer contain. I have one hooked onto my backpack and I love it!

2. Paper Beads: If you’re the sort of person who likes getting glue on your hands just so you can pull it off again, this is the craft for you! All it takes is paper products, PVA glue, and skewers. You can use newspaper, magazines, old comic books or sheet music, basically any paper that you can recycle, you can use! The beads make really fun and stimmy jewelry too, so it’s a win-win!

3. Infuser Necklaces: It can be weirdly hard to find olfactory crafts, especially since I’m really picky about smells. These necklaces are easy, customizable, and only take 3 ingredients! My favorite essential oils are Peppermint, Tea Tree, and a custom blend appropriately entitled: Calm Your Shit Down.

4. Model Magic Butter Slime: This is so simple that I’m not including a link. Mostly because I don’t remember what instructions I originally used, and all the ones I could find were more complicated than necessary. When I make it, I take 1 part ready-made slime (usually from the dollar section at Walgreen’s or Target) and one part Model Magic. Kneading these together makes a really satisfying butter slime that’s perfect for your favorite slime add-ins!

5. Water Bead Stress Balls: I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like Orbeez. They come like tiny hard beads and with some time and water, plump up into something awesome! This project has you put them into balloons, and it makes a great stress ball!

6. Marbled Paper: This project is stimmy on so many levels. From shooting the shaving cream, to the shaving cream texture, to squeezing the food coloring and swirling it all up, I never get bored of it! It also produces some really beautiful paper, which you can use in other art projects. With the endless color combinations you can make, the sky’s the limit!

7. Shrinky Dinks: I will fully admit that I am a child of the ’90s, and that means my devotion to Shrinky Dinks is strong. You can buy the paper, or if you have access to #6 plastic (the type you’d find from a salad bar container) you can use that too! I’m never too old to have fun coloring, and watching the plastic shrink is highly rewarding. The link I included shows you how to turn your designs into pins, but you can also use them as necklaces, bracelets, or even buttons!

Well, that’s that for crafts. I’m sure I’ve forgotten things, but luckily there’s a big wide world of internet crafts out there. If you’ve got favorite sensory crafts, feel free to leave them in the comments, I’m always looking for more hands-on activities to do!

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!