Category Archives: #SheCantBeAutistic

Autistic Confessions – I Just Can’t Do People Today

Sometimes I have days where seeing another human being seems like the most draining and intimidating task in the entire world. These are the days when I just want to stay home and speak to nobody.

There are days when I need to recover from all the excitement and bustle of professional life, sitting in silence barely saying a word outside of typing on my keyboard. Days like this I spend at home – my dog and husband are the only creatures I want to see. Sometimes, as I conserve energy, even these interactions are at a minimal.

Every now and then there are times when I don’t feel like talking. I avoid conversations and crowded places. Please don’t take it personally when I conserve energy.

How Could the World Be More Autism Friendly

Those who know me, and the readers who’ve followed long enough, are well aware that I like to focus on the positive. My last post was not the happiest because life has been hard and it is wearing on me.

We’ve been having conversations in the comments on this site and on Twitter. Talking about all of the problems and hardships Autistic people face in the world. In general I feel like focusing on your problems all the time can be a very dangerous thing. Shifting our attention to solutions tends to be much more effective.

Today I would like to write about my dream world – a world that is more friendly to Autistic people. Maybe some day, long after I am gone, it will be a reality.

It is a beautiful place, where there are always quiet spaces to get away when you need a private moment.  Every light switch has control for the light level and temperature, because everyone’s brain needs different lighting. (I like red-ish light and can not handle bright white, blue, or green). Natural light is used whenever possible and working from home is always an option.

In the place of my dreams you are always aloud to carry a laptop for notes, people don’t mind sending instructions via email, or handing everything over in writing. People wouldn’t call last minute meetings and would stop insisting on phone calls when an email is a perfectly acceptable form of communication.

Work schedules would be more predictable and people would not ask you to stay late for extra tasks at the last minute. (I just need to know when something is over – so I can conserve the perfect amount of energy.) Shifts could start at the same time every day and end at the same time every day (when you have insomnia one night working till midnight can throw off your entire week when you normally wake up early.)

Job descriptions would be more accurate so it is easier for us to determine in advance if we are qualified for a task. Employees would have input when job descriptions change and would be able to turn down new tasks that don’t suit their natural abilities.

Multitasking is a word that would disappear in my new world. Focusing on one thing at a time and doing it perfectly is far more efficient than doing several things at a time half-assed and in a rush. People would stop rushing you, and asking “can you multitask” in interviews – since most people don’t truly multitask very well even without Autism (even when they THINK they do).

Windows in large buildings could actually be opened so fresh air could be allowed in. Offices would have space for people who get cold easy and people who get hot easy so everyone could be comfortable.

Regular breaks would be encouraged and standing desks and exercise ball chairs would be more widely available so people don’t have to sit stagnate all day. Employers would stop valuing their employees based on how many hours a week they work and would focus more on dedication the quality of work turned in.

Office politics would disappear and work ethic would have more value than who’s ass you kiss. “Optional” work functions would really be optional (meaning your boss would never make comments like – “You weren’t at the last 3 office happy hours.” If something is necessary for a job it would be explicit not implied. If the happy hours are mandatory they should just say so.

Most importantly in this perfect new world everyone understands and accepts Autistic people. We don’t have to depend on unhealthy coping mechanisms like “passing”. Nobody expects us to act like everyone else.

It is a dream I have, a magical world. Some day I hope the world becomes more Autism friendly.

Autism Level 1: “Requiring support” – What Support?

Doctors and medical professionals are trying to nail down and better categorize Autism. The latest grouping places the entire spectrum into three buckets, depending on the level of support required for the person to function normally in society.

I fall in to the Autism Level 1: “Requiring support” category.

Level 1: “Requiring support”

Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments. Difficulty initiating social interactions, and clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful responses to social overtures of others. May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions. For example, a person who is able to speak in full sentences and engages in communication but whose to-and-fro conversation with others fails, and whose attempts to make friends are odd and typically unsuccessful.

Inflexibility of behavior causes significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts. Difficulty switching between activities. Problems of organization and planning hamper independence.

Making Sense of the Three Levels of Autism – verywell

So they give me this label and throw me back out into the world, ironically without support. Now what? I am supposed to have this key that allows me to ask for things. My doctor tells me I have protected rights.

At first I am excited, finally I might be able to be more comfortable in my surroundings. I can ask for things and there is a reason besides me being difficult or high maintenance. Finally validated, yes those burning lights DO cause your migraines and avoiding them would be good for you.

What next? Asking for supports turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be.

This category does not do my life experiences justice. On many levels I can surpass my NT peers but on a social level I often fail. When I put on my masks I can play these amazing characters who are social and confident – but being this person, who they want me to be, kills me. I can do her I can “be normal” but summoning the strength leaves me empty and ill.

Holding up this mask is a necessary evil from time to time, she gets me through my work days and the hard times. She is a character, someone I wish I could be – someone I am forced to be when backed into a corner.

Because of my mask I have peers in both groups, but the NT’s have never felt like peers. Watching, and observing them, trying to memorize their pasterns and mannerisms. Hoping to decode their intentions and feelings. Even reading their faces is difficult for me.

People don’t want to give me support because “I CAN be normal.” I am capable of acting like there is “nothing wrong with me”. (Quotes representing their words NOT mine.)

I can hide my pain, panic, and discomfort, manage to hold myself together just long enough to flee from the public eye. I always do – but I still have sensory issues and meltdowns like many of my ASD peers.

I need regularity and a predictable schedule, I need natural light and calm conditions or my overactive amygdala goes crazy and I get anxiety related illnesses. In my mind I am strong enough to do anything but my body and nerves won’t let me push myself as hard as I used to.

As I get older my senses and sensitivities seem to be getting stronger, and my coping mechanisms and confidence grow. My Autism becomes more and more invisible, despite the disruptive symptoms, growing more intense.

I need help and supports more than ever but asking for them never goes well. Most people don’t believe I’m Autistic, and those who do say “but it’s  not that bad, you are normal.”

Employers don’t understand, they say things like “You only have to deal with florescent lighting three out of the five days a week you work – if you were here more maybe we could give you a window.” “You can’t wear earplugs today, we need you to answer the phones because nobody else is available.” For a job that was originally going to be FULLY REMOTE.

It always comes out like I am being unreasonable, picky, or difficult. At least that is how the opposition to my requests tend to spin things.

My accommodations are simple, let me type vs hand write, don’t give me spoken directions, let me sit in a quiet space (or wear earplugs) with natural light. Don’t ask me to stay late at the last minute if you can avoid it – if you know I may need to stay late tell me in advance. Most importantly please don’t make me go outside when it is cold. I have EXTREME cold sensitivity.

These are the accommodations that I’ve requested from my job – these are the supports that I would like to have because I feel like they are reasonable accommodations, and should be protected under the ADA.

The only support I get is a laptop – because it belongs to me and is essential to do my job (everyone at my work gets this so it’s not really a support). I can take notes on it, keep track of my schedule with it.

It is AMAZING that I get to work remote a couple of days a week. I am happy to have these things but the other items are important to me too and I haven’t been able to get any of them – not even the last one which always leads to meltdown.

Maybe I don’t complain enough. Nobody sees me on my worst days, when I am really struggling because I am PHYSICALLY ill from the stress of the environment and can not leave my house.

I “require supports” but it doesn’t mean I can get them. After all I’m (not always by choice) Anonymously Autistic.

Some days I feel like I am falling apart – if I stay in this world too long it may end me. Nobody can take care of me, I have to keep working.

#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism #AnonymouslyAutistic

Casting Call for Employable Me – American Documentary

This week I found an email from Liz Alderman, casting director for the documentary series “Employable Me“, looking for candidates for an American based documentary. Obviously, due to my anonymous status, I will not be appearing on TV any time soon.

However, this issue is one that is near and dear to my heart. Too many Autistic people who want to work are unemployed/underemployed. I hope this show will bring light to why companies SHOULD hire Autistic people.

Please contact Liz if you are interested and SHARE if you know someone who might be.

Employable Me SHOW GRAPHICS

ENGLAND’S CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARY TELEVISION SERIES “EMPLOYABLE ME” IS COMING TO AMERICA!

CASTING DIRECTORS ARE SEEKING PEOPLE WITH NEURO-DIVERSE CONDITIONS OR DISABILITIES WHO HAVE STRUGGLED TO FIND LONG TERM EMPLOYMENT WHO WOULD LIKE ASSISTANCE IN THEIR SEARCH FOR WORK.

Optomen Productions is looking for people with neuro-diverse conditions and disabilities who would like our assistance finding employment, and who are willing to share their job search journey with the American television viewing audience by being a part of our critically acclaimed documentary television series, EMPLOYABLE ME.

EMPLOYABLE ME seeks to prove that having a neurological condition or disability should be viewed as an ASSET rather than an obstacle in the workplace.

High profile, aspirational companies and brands are beginning to discover the benefits of recruiting from the ranks of the disabled and those whose “brains are wired differently.”

What if your “disabilities” turned out to be a strength?  What if your condition actually gave you skills that were a virtue rather than a hindrance?  What if they turned out to be invaluable qualities that put you AHEAD of rival candidates?

We all deserve a role in society and the opportunity to pay our way. The job-seekers selected to appear on our documentary series will be encouraged to unlock their hidden talents with the help of experts and specialists so they can at long last find the job that best suits their unique skill sets and strengths.

That’s what this show is about: the struggle to belong and play your part. The disabled just need a chance for people to see what they can do, rather than concentrating on what they can’t.

 

Take a look at these inspiring highlights from our hit series to date:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0755nyq/clips

 

And view a full episode of our courageous series here:

https://vimeo.com/162540081

PASSWORD: job123

The bottom line is, a diverse workforce can be great for a business and this series wants to dramatically shake up the system to prove it.

Please pass this casting call along!  Television producers and casting directors like myself rely heavily on personal recommendations and word-of-mouth referrals to find interested and qualified people.  We appreciate your help!

Contact Liz.Alderman@OptomenUSA.com for more information on how to be considered for this opportunity. 

Optomen Productions produces hundreds of hours of television each year for many of the major cable and broadcast networks including Food Network, Travel Channel, Nat Geo Wild, Animal Planet, Investigation Discovery and Bravo.  Our most successful series include Worst Cooks in America and Mysteries at the Museum.  Visit http://www.optomenproductions.com/ for more information about our company.

Oh the Ways We Love to Stim

People often ask about stimming. It is something that “normal people” have trouble understanding.

Most people stim. Have you ever clicked a pen while thinking, swished your tongue around in the roof of your mouth, strummed your fingers tapped your toes. Some stims are less noticeable and are considered “socially acceptable” and “normal”.

I stim more than “normal people” but less than some Autistics. Growing up undiagnosed forced me to learn to hide what was not socially acceptable. Thinks like rocking and making funny sounds, though soothing and helpful, will get you funny looks. These things I love are not typically welcome in the workplace.

Alone I am left to stim freely, I like to jump, rock, and bounce about, sometimes doing things that would make people question my sanity – but it feels good, oh so good. Releasing so much tension, taking a break, shake it off, reset.

In public I do thinks like rub my hands, fingertips and wrists. I play with my phone or a necklace or bracelet. I tap my toes under the table and stretch in my seat. Sitting still is hard work and eventually I have to release the pressure.

Fidget toys, scented oils, snacks, playing with my laptop mouse, or swirling the spoon in my tea so I can listen to the sounds of the cup. Even if people don’t notice I am stimming constantly, regulating, focusing, trying to keep from being overwhelmed.

Sometimes I stim when I am uncomfortable. Stimming helps me relax. Sometimes I stim when I need a break. Stimming helps me focus. Sometimes I stim if I am anxious. Stimming can help me think.

Stimming can take me to another place or help me deal with what is happening in front of me. When things get bad I can always stim.

 

What IS Autism – From An Autistic’s Perspective

A reader asked if I had a blog post that described what Autism is. I started to say that this entire blog gives great first hand information from Autistic people.

Our experience can not really be summed up in a one page post. There are a lot of things that make us different.

First I want to say that each and every Autistic person experiences the world in a very different way so what I state below may not be true for everyone. I am going to go over some generalizations that are true for me, also taking in mind what has been shared with my by my amazing readers.

We tend to struggle with spoken communication but many of us do VERY well behind a keyboard.  We can have tricky short-term / working memories but a LOT of us have long-term memories that are FOREVER. We need time to process and go over things but once we understand something it stays in our minds (or that is how it is for me). Time to organize and prepare thoughts is essential for me because of this.

Many of us have sensory sensitivities. Bright lighting can cause chronic migraines and other illnesses. I can hear everything which is unpleasant because I can’t tune individual things out. My hearing is essentially so sensitive that I can’t hear conversations in busy rooms. Not to mention the distraction of every small noise seeming VERY loud. Clothing can be itchy and irritating. Tags and socks are the worst and certain grooming activities can be extremely uncomfortable. Getting a mani-pedi is NOT relaxing for me. Even getting a massage is difficult because of another person touching me can make me want to jump up and run.

I have a hard time sitting still. Our bodies (and minds) crave constant motion. I am always playing with something rocking in my chair, humming or singing. This is called stimming. It is a regulatory behavior and helps with sensory input, relaxation, and focus. I also speak to myself out loud a lot. These things “normal people” don’t tend to accept but we REALLY need them to.

Many Autistic people have comorbid conditions – other illnesses with their Autism. Some examples are insomnia, epilepsy, IBS, OCD, anxiety, depression, migraines, apraxia, ataxia, sensory processing disorder, the list goes on. These, in my mind, are not Autism but rather Autism related conditions. They differ from person to person.

Autistic people can be extremely intelligent but learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities can also happen with Autism. Just like “normal people” our IQ’s are all over the place. People often assume Autistic people all have intellectual disabilities. I prefer to think of it as a difference. Also EVEN non-verbal (non-speaking) Autistic people can fall into the “high IQ” category. Never assume an Autistic person cant’ understand you.

I can speak but am not as good at it as most “normal people” but there are a lot of Autistic people who have apraxia of speech. This means they may have all the words and thoughts inside BUT the mouth pieces don’t move. For some reason the brain can’t tell the mouth and related parts how to work. Some children speak late and others never speak. I had no speech delay.

Dyslexia and Hyperlexia are also common in Autism. I am Hyperlexic.

Our brains tend to be spiky. We can be far above average in some pretty random areas, art, math, music, memorizing, writing, or not. At the same time our deficits in the areas that don’t develop as fully can be perplexing to the word’s general population.

For example – my conversational skills are so limited that I can NOT tell when my turn to talk is. My solution? Don’t talk. Before I stopped talking people kept calling me rude but I was doing my best. I never wanted to be rude. I’ve become more quiet and contemplative – more of an observer than I used to be. Actually this has been an improvement.

Autism is invisible. Unless I am stimming wildly in a chair or flapping my arms wildly you would not see my Autism – and these are things I do in private. Any time I try to share with someone that I am Autistic, a 34 year old woman who appears to have it together, I am dismissed.

I try to share mostly when I am looking for some understanding about an accommodation that I am about to ask for. I ask for little things – natural light, a quiet spot, to be able to take notes on a laptop.

Often people tell me I don’t “need” these things and that I am making excuses for myself. I just want to do my best. This is the hard part, when you ask for help and people say “nobody else will have that” or “it’s not fair to play favorites” even better “you already have it pretty good”.

Summing it up in a blog comment or post is impossible. Please dear readers, I ask that you provide your own experience in the comments so that the world may someday redefine wheat Autism is from OUR perspective.

 

With love,

Anonymously Autistic

“Anna”

 

#ActuallyAutistic #InvisibleAutism #AutismAwareness #SheCantBeAutistc #AnonymouslyAutistic

 

 

Autism is a Controversial Issue – People Fighting Online

I left Facebook a while ago because I kept getting sucked into the arguments between parents and Autistic people, Autistic people and the anti-VAX movement, and medical professionals and Autistic people. Today I logged back in and was quickly reminded why I left.

The first thing thing that upsets me is that all of these people think they know more about Autism than Autistic people, as if our first hand experiences are of little or no value. This is often parents but can also be medical professionals and organic health nuts (I eat organic but these people are extreme).

Cure culture fanatics telling us we are sick for wanting to stay Autistic – sick for wanting to stay the way we were born. Parents telling us we don’t understand because we are not like their child (some of us WERE at one point and have worked hard to improve as we grew up). Doctors telling us our claims don’t make sense to them , dismissing our complaints.

Next I am saddened for the children who’s parents are always telling everyone what a burden their child is. Many non verbal children can understand spoken language and may be able to read some day. Putting comments like this on the internet publicly doesn’t feel right to me. Telling everyone your child is broken doesn’t seem like loving acceptance either.

Brain damage and Autism do have similar traits but even if you have a brain damaged child – shouldn’t you love them? I am not a parent. All I know is how I would feel if my parents said those things about me.

If someone always talks about you with pity you will eventually begin to pity yourself. From a mental health standpoint this can cause a LOT of problems. Autistic people seem have more health problems and anxiety when they have low self-esteem.

There are a lot of unknowns with Autism. It seems there may be many contributing factors but my money is on genetics for most cases. Human brains are changing at a rapid rate, trying to keep up with the quickly changing world around us.

My brain is at ease with nature in the fresh air. The artificial world is unpleasant to me. Is this something primitive left over in my genetics, or am I a canary in the coal mine? Science may tell us some day.

Most upsetting are the people who want to cure and prevent Autism. I fear this could be a big problem for humanity if they succeed. All of the different brain types and thinkers make the world a better, more progressive, and interesting place.

I hate that this issue is tearing people apart. People get so heated and angry when someone disagrees with them on this topic, they say nasty things with little regard for the other person. It is nasty it is ugly and we really need to stop.

Stop telling Autistic people they are unwanted by society. That is what you are telling us when you say you want a cure for Autism or want to prevent Autistic people from being born. You are saying that being dead is better than being Autistic and I disagree.

I know you can’t reason with or speak to these people. They are close minded and the frustration, like Facebook, is a waste of my time – so I log back off and return to a happier place (my own blog).

The day this went live on Twitter someone took offense to my blog. Its crazy. You can not please everyone and my OCD would make sure I NEVER hit publish if I tried.

Autistic Confessions – Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts – I’ve had them since I was a child, although the older I get (due to continuing great effort on my part) the more manageable these things have become.

When I was a child, I remember being disturbed by some of the things that would randomly pop into my head. Very quickly my inner monologue would begin to obsess over what ever horror I had just seen or thought.

“Why I am I thinking about that? Is this going to happen? Do I want this to happen? What’s wrong with me? This is not normal.” 

As a child I was convinced I would grow up locked away. One day my mind would crack and all the crazy would fall out, people would know, and they would put me away. It sounds ridiculous but this fear was very real to me for many years. It never fully vanished until my Autism diagnosis.

I’ve learned to manage things. I’ve learned to recognize the patterns in my mind (most of the time). When I see myself slipping into that same old spiral it’s time to move my mind to something else – a distraction.

Turn on the radio and sing out loud. Blast your stereo and dance until the nagging fades away. Write a poem, make a sketch, go for a run, or a walk. Get out of your head – turn it off, make it stop. If you go there the trap will have you deep in the dark.

I’m at War With Myself – Parts of My Autism People Can’t See

Sometimes I feel as if I am constantly in a battle with myself. Fighting against irrational thoughts in my mind, and unpleasant sensations in my body.

Constant nagging in my mind – “You might have left the door unlocked.” When I know very well the door should be locked. “You forgot to water the dog.” Despite leaving them with a full bowl.

Social anxiety tells me I’m not good enough and I have to remind myself that I only feel that way when hanging around the wrong people or large groups.

It’s like my adrenal gland is extra jumpy. I feel the surge of chemicals flowing through my body, making my heart and mind race. It used to cause panic attacks, but now it happens so often that I’ve learned to recognize the feeling and breathe through it. The sensation is unpleasant and can also lead to sensory overload or meltdown if I don’t relax – so I ALWAYS relax.

My brain tells me the lights are too bright, so I squint all day until I have a headache and my head is throbbing. I can’t tune out the buzzing light bulbs and humming electronic noises coming from the walls – so I often wear headphones with soothing music.

I get dizzy when I stretch my arms high over my head – probably not related to Autism but really annoying because I am short. Just throwing it out there because my readers always surprise me with what we have in common.

The air outside is almost always either too hot or too cold because I cannot regulate body temperature well. I am only comfortable between about 75-90 degrees anything over or under that is really pushing it.

People’s voices stick better in my head then their faces. I often have a VERY hard time recognizing people especially out of context. It’s called face blindness and it can be a pain, especially in a corporate environment.

When I do socialize I prefer to stick to people I know, because I can’t read the faces of strangers unless someone laughing, crying, or making some other extremely obvious face. I study people I know so I can learn their faces better but still this takes a LOT of work on my part.

Sometimes I come off as rude. My body language and tone don’t always come out the way I want them to. Misunderstandings are a way of life for me. I’m used to this now and often don’t even bother trying to correct people because they don’t understand tone not matching feelings, etc.

I take things literally – but normally can figure things out if there are context clues.

Following spoken directions is difficult – but if you give me time to write down what you are saying so I can read it later (over and over) I can get things done. It’s not that I don’t understand, it’s that I understand in a different way.

My sort term memory is about half as good as most people. They say people can hold about 7 numbers in their working / short term memory – a phone number.  I’ve never been able to hold more than 3 numbers in my head at one time. If you say something to me when I am trying to hold those 3 numbers in my head the numbers will probably vanish.

Side note my long term memory is forever.

All of these invisible things. I am constantly battling myself, trying to fit into a world where people can’t imagine what you’re going thorough. When you try to tell them they look at you like you are crazy or dishonest – and honesty is important to me.

It hurts when you ask for help and nobody is willing to stick out their hand, so I keep these things to myself.

#ActuallyAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism

My Mind Plays Tricks On Me

Our minds are always playing tricks on us.

My mind plays tricks on me.

I get stuck cleaning the house.

Sometimes I can’t stop as I must reach every single corner.

I spend so much time cleaning

that I normally only have one or two clean rooms at a time.

My brain second (3rd and 4th) guesses everything I do.

Did I water the dog?

Did I lock the door?

Did I grab my phone (as I’m holding it my hand).

I constantly find myself turning off the inner monologue.

Sometimes I do forget things

because I refuse

to listen to the nagging.

It’s a trap waiting to suck me in and I can’t let it.

Always forcing myself to think about other things.

Sing along to the song on the radio.

Put on an audio book.

Do something.

Stop.

My brain is funny.

It can also play pleasant tricks on me.

I have joy when I am fortunate enough to have my lucky number.

Even if I know there is nothing special about numbers.

Technically they don’t even exist.

My brain craves perfection,

out of reach and

impossible.

My mind is extremely logical.

I call bull shit on myself all the time.

When I am careful and pay attention the patterns are obvious.

Some thoughts are irrational and silly.

With my little rituals,

I am safe.