Yeah, he’s dating a crayon.

I’m in Denver.  M. is babysitting Amelia Bedelia in my absence.  She thinks he’s a heated cushion that dispenses treats, too, so she’ll be okay.  I have a pet cam near her climbing tree thingy.  I can talk to her through it using my phone.  She usually comes over to see how I’m doing that, then knocks it to the floor.  She’s on a lifelong mission to make sure all surfaces are clear of objects (not nailed down.)  She’s totally winning.

S. (M.’s sister) and I have been blasting Stevie Nicks music and dancing around.  I got too hot, so I’m taking a cool down break.  My body sucks at regulating my temperature.  If I get too hot and continue doing whatever activity has me overheating, I barf…  I can juggle, too.  🙃  The TV is 75″, which sounded awesome at the time.  Now I find it overwhelming, and I’m tripping over people’s skin in 4k.  It’s not as perfect as it looked in 1080P.  The actors are so real.  I mean I knew they were real, but apparently, I used to think they had fake skin.  I like reality better.

 

I’m trying to distract myself from acknowledging my anxiety.  Between the news and being away from home, I’m a bit rattled.  So I should totally stop writing about it.  S. has been noticing weird shit about me out loud.  I hope it doesn’t mean I’m getting on her nerves.  It’s making me laugh because it’s shit I never noticed.  Like putting my plate up high while it cools, then forgetting about it, then remembering when I realize I’m still hungry and it’s less appealing.

I helped her get to the this is why I don’t cook part.  (Nature knew there were going to be people like me, so she made fruit and nuts.)  S. is an excellent cook.  I’m going to put forth extra effort to eat dinner at the table with her while it’s still warm.  I think I probably fucked up, but I need to think about it some more.  I put my food up high because I have a cat, but she’s not here.  Ah well, I’ll do better at dinner.  S. is a lot of fun to hang out with, and she’s funny.

There are going to be two new Harry Potter books!!!  I didn’t expect it, and I’m so happy.  There are so many books I’m looking forward to right now.  I collect things to look forward to in the future.  They’re my little arsenal of guided anti-depression missiles.  When the Depression Monster has me in an illegal hold, and I can’t muster the energy to hold my head up, I can still think about joyful things to come.  I have notes to myself in my hallway to remind me it’s there when I need it.  (I pace a lot when I’m anxious, so I figured two birds.)

I miss M. and my cat (and would very much like to return home immediately.)  Sigh.  I met two of the kids who will be attending the camp earlier.  They’re so cute I can barely stand it.  We mostly talked about their missing teeth (twin 7-year-olds.)  I’m excited for it to begin on Monday.  I have a sponsorship prospect meeting next week, (S. is going with me, yay.)  The camp is going to be free if I have to pay for it out of my own pocket, but that’s not likely.  Frankly, it would be worth it to me to pay kids to attend.  Fortunately, I’m not the only one who understands how to invest in the future.

The best part is they’ll graduate with tools that apply to all aspects of life.  You want to be a ballerina?  Perfect!  I’ll teach you how to map your course, and troubleshoot obstacles along the way.  Hacking is about finding solutions to questions with the means at hand.  It’s generally considered to be a method of subverting computer security, but that’s an outdated interpretation, in my opinion.  To me, hacking is about critical thinking, perspective shifting, puzzle solving, brainstorming, and MacGuyver’ing.  It’s about thinking differently and optimizing.  (I did a better job of explaining in the handout, but I can’t reach it from here.)

I recognize my autistic acquaintances and friends may be thinking, “So hacking is like being autistic (aspie) on purpose.”  Yep.  What we do on a daily basis to fit in as best we can.  (Except it’s optional.)  I suppose I’m kind of giving ladders to already tall people in some ways.  However, I want today’s children to (figuratively) be able to reach everything on the highest shelves (of life) when they’re ready.  Even those that don’t exist yet.  Perhaps especially.  I’m cold now, so I’m off to dance.

 

I’ve always wanted to see the two of you get back together.

A friend I served with in the Army was in town this weekend, (S.)  We were inseparable before she got sent to Germany.  It was the first time I had a BFF.  I was eighteen when we met.  We were the self-appointed cut-ups in our unit.  (It may have been a factor in my extra time as a private.) For some reason, everything was hilarious to me back then.  (Except the times when I was bawling, which was often.)  It took me an embarrassingly long time to recognize the correlation.

S. used to hang out with me while I did whatever extra duty I acquired (for saying what I was thinking.)  When people would honk and laugh at me while I picked weeds, she would flip them off on my behalf.  We spent most of our free time noticing funny shit about the Army and laughing about it.    I didn’t watch TV when I was in the service.  We made our own entertainment.  We spent a lot of time singing harmonies in the latrine.  The acoustics were outstanding.  We had a woman Executive Officer, which meant we were automatically signed up for every women’s event.

We ran a 10K (in El Paso when it was 104° F.)  We played on the softball team, (I was benchwarmer/babysitter.)  I’ve never played softball in my life.  (But I did note the ball is not soft.  It’s not soft at all.)  I know this because the few times I was forced to go on the field, it was either left or right outfield, I forget.  All I did was pray the ball didn’t come to me.  The one time it did, it hit me in the forehead.  I’d like to say I was lined up under the ball, preparing to catch it, and the sun got in my eyes; but actually, I didn’t see it.  I was too busy thinking of what to offer God in trade for preventing the ball from coming to me.

I had a mild concussion, and I never had to go on the field again.  (Yay.)  S. still claims it’s the funniest thing she ever saw in her life, but she exaggerates sometimes.  She told me what it’s like to be a mom.  First, she thought about it for a while.  She has two kids, both adults now.  (She named her daughter, Heather!!)  Then she laughed and started telling me.  I have no idea how long we talked, but it was several hours.  It felt like watching over her shoulder while she grew into this remarkable woman.

I haven’t slept since she left, so I’m still processing what she shared.  I laughed when she told me it felt good to talk to someone who doesn’t interrupt.  It’s sort of an inside joke.  When we first started hanging out, she told me I listen like I’m memorizing everything she’s saying.  I told her it’s because in a way I was, but I couldn’t elaborate.  I got diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome not long after S., and I met.  It’s funny because I used to get in trouble for constantly interrupting as a kid before I figured out I got more information by just listening.

I decided to watch more of the Stevie Nicks documentary (instead of sleeping.)  I usually watch things in small segments when it’s my first viewing so I can process what I’m observing in between.  I love that Stevie made this album in her home.  It’s a big old house.  It has a dramatic staircase that curves and a massive crystal chandelier in the foyer.  She talks about her writing process, and how she’s been writing virtually her whole life.  I smiled when I saw her with a stack of handwritten notebooks.  I still have mine from ages six through eleven.  It shows the deterioration of my handwriting as I began using a computer.  I’m steadily devolving into just scratching an X for my signature.

I ordered all her live DVDs and music on CDs.  Whenever I come across an artist I would love to experience live, I do this.  It’s to make up for not being able to support them in person, (massive overstimulation.)  It’s hard to grasp the fact I can own a copy of their music for less than $20.  I struggle with this concept when it comes to authors and musicians.  I feel in debt to some fascinating people.  It doesn’t stress me out, though.  It makes me feel very fortunate.

I squeed when I found out Stevie likes Twilight.  She said she could relate to Bella when Edward abandoned her in the woods.  Now I have to do a Twilight marathon, again.  It’s been at least a year since I watched them.  Honestly, I’m baffled by the people who insist they didn’t love the films.  I usually suspect they’re lying, because who doesn’t want to watch beautiful vampires run around doing amazing shit like they have bionics and giant wolves and everyone is gorgeous?  It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone.

Ignorance is the enemy

There was an article published in the New York Times recently, reviewing another book about Autism written by someone who doesn’t have Autism.  The author of the article went beyond reviewing the book to make it’s harmful message even more ignorant.  It was pathetic.  I’m not even going to link to it, or mention the book title.  The world doesn’t need more ignorance being waved around like it’s truth.  I’m quite disappointed that in 2016, they’re still using the same old tired methods of highlighting ignorance for profit.  Yes, profit.  Why else would someone who is not an expert on Autism publish a book about Autism, and not bother to perform their own diligent research?  It’s a money grab.

It’s harmful because it’s spreading the same ignorance that in the past meant lifetime institutionalization of Autistic people.  Lock us up, throw away the key, and don’t put forth any actual effort toward understanding.  The thing about the article that raised my ire the most, was the implication that we so called high functioning Autistics are advocating without acknowledging the so called low functioning Autistics.  First of all, classifying us as high or low functioning is ignorant bunk.  It’s offensive.  It’s incredibly lazy.  It screams ignorance.  We are people, not machinery.  Secondly, Autism is not a psychological disorder.  By throwing it into the DSM, it opens Autism up to the travesty of reality that is psychology.  Psychology moves in many directions, but rarely forward.

Psychological research, assuming it still exists, is not done scientifically.  The leading diagnostic tool is still the MMPI, (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory).  That, in and of itself, makes me feel embarrassed for the profession.  It presumes everyone subjected to psychology is a middle aged Caucasian male from rural Minnesota, working in the agricultural industry.  It fails the logic test from jump.  It’s root is flawed.  Instead of conducting actual research, they allegedly tweak the existing bunk, and continue to do more harm than good.  The professionals are trained to use these antiquated tools to make decisions that can greatly effect a population that is voiceless.  Voiceless because the stigma of mental illness is so great that credibility is stolen from its populace automatically.

With a foundation of bullshit, theories can’t stand up to reality.  Enter psychiatry.  While many are unaware of this, psychology and psychiatry are not the same.  The important factor that distinguishes one from another is the fact that psychiatry treats mental illness with drugs.  These drugs come with warnings about their potential side effects, and sometimes, even long term effects of their use.  Psychotropic drugs have been the most effective tool in the mental health industry.  There is actual science going on in psychiatry.  While they also usually only test their drugs on Caucasians in small groups, physiology is far more consistent between human beings than is psyche.  The odds of a drug working differently between humans of differing races is much lower.  There are a lot of people living with mental illness.  Living with the knowledge that they have an illness, and living with the assistance of psychotropic drugs, or coping mechanisms derived from numerous successes.

It’s better than it once was for the mentally ill.  But it’s far from where it should be.  The stigma and ignorance running rampant in psychology is the most obvious hurdle.  But the efforts to overcome this stigma are mostly put forth by those with mental illness, not those working in the profession.  This is inevitable when you consider the fact that so much of psychology is based on bunk.  I don’t see psychology ever becoming an actual science.  My reasoning is sad.  Ignorance in the entire medical field is lucrative.  And here we are, back at money grabbing.  Real scientific research could lead to the elimination of some lucrative professions.  Where is the motivation in recognizing that decades of therapy and analysis is for naught?  Not from those profiting financially.  So the mentally ill people are left with the burden of exorcising their treatment options, and finding their own way through trial and error.

I won’t even go into the problems of huge numbers of mentally ill in prisons.  They closed down the asylums, and built more prisons.  Money grab.  One step forward and several steps back.  Naturally, objecting to Autism Spectrum Disorders landing in the middle of this shit pile is legitimate.  You don’t treat a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) with therapy.  It’s also a neurological disorder that got tossed into the DSM.  The most compassionate therapist cannot return a damaged brain to it’s original state.  Nor can he or she cure Autism.  But he or she can make a living pretending to do so.  It’s unethical, but that never stands in the way of a money grab.  These are capitalist problems.  When everything is set up on the altar of money worship, ethics and research get tossed out, because they interfere with the acquisition of the almighty dollar.  It leads to so called “normal” people writing books about things they don’t understand to make money.  It leads to the continuance of the cycle of ignorance.

The only reason for an adult with Autism to advocate and educate is for the benefit of Autistic people now, and in the future.  We aren’t grabbing for money.  We have a real interest in pushing the medical field to move forward and relinquish its horrific past.  Torture is still being used to treat Autistic people.  By advocating, we educate others who have been grossly misinformed, much to our detriment.  We don’t generally fall into the traps laid before us that try to separate us into neat little groups, and silence us.  We question the status quo.  We accept the responsibility of being the actual experts on Autism.  We don’t accept the stereotypes that Autism only means a boy who is obsessed with trains.  We are shouting from our rooftops that Autism effects people of color, and females, and exists in every group in society.  We are screaming that their is no cure, so stop wasting time and resources searching for one.  We don’t want a simple, pseudo-solution to a complex issue that we live with every day of our lives.  We’re not broken.  We aren’t asking to be “fixed”.

We are fighting for resources that include family support and effective treatment options that don’t include torture, or other harmful nonsense.  We are fighting for all of us, regardless of where we fall on the spectrum.  We all have needs that are going unmet because of ignorance, greed, and laziness.  We know we deserve better, so we are fighting for it using our voices that come in many forms.  We’ve been here all along, and we’ve put up with a lot of horrific treatment and outright murder in our history.  We are not satisfied with the status quo, so we are going to change it.  Gone are the days when we were locked up and silenced.  We walk forward with determination, alongside the mentally ill, and the other misplaced neurological disorders.  We’re all fighting for what is our right as human beings.  We’ll settle for nothing less.  And every time we see ignorance pop up in the media, we’re going to band together and point out it’s harmful attempt to sell more lies.

Autism Requires No Cure

I read a tweet yesterday about an organization called Autism One alleging “cures” for Autism through diet.  These “remedies” including forcing an Autistic child to ingest bleach.  It’s complete and total bullshit.  This is child abuse.  This is monstrous.  Any parent who is seeking a “cure” for their Autistic child is already on the wrong track.  Autism is a variety of human being.  If your child is Autistic, or has the diagnosis of PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder), your child requires you to become creative, not evil.  Your child is not broken.  Your child thinks differently, and experiences the world differently than the neurotypical variety of human being.

The desire for a “cure” is a selfish inclination.  The desire is to force their child to become something that they are not.  The desire does not lie in creating a better life for your child.  The root of the desire to “cure” Autism lies in the selfish desire of an ignorant parent who wishes their child to be what they consider normal in order to make their own lives easier, not that of their child.  It’s ignorant because normal is a setting on a washing machine, not a variety of human being.  An Autistic child requires love, patience, and a sincere desire to connect with them in their unique way of connecting.  There are lots of books and websites about Autism, but few are by people who are actually Autistic, and therefore an expert on the condition.

Trying to “cure” it is like trying to “cure” Down Syndrome.  It’s a ridiculous notion.  The time and energy wasted on this futile task could be better served by loving your child as they are, and discovering how your child communicates and learns.  This is the case with all children.  They are all beautiful beings that are new to this world, and need gentle guidance in a manner with which they can comprehend. But above all, they require your love.  If you are the parent of an Autistic child, seek advice from the true experts.  Adult Autists.  We understand better than anyone how to live with Autism.  We vary in many ways, but we are the true experts.  Many of us use alternative means of communicating, such as typing on a computer.  We are human beings who have the ability to feel joy and sorrow.  We feel empathy.  We have a sense of humor.  We love and desire to be loved.  We understand what it’s like to feel like we’ve been dropped off on an alien planet at birth, forced to struggle in order to connect with our families.  We know several creative ways to accomplish this task.  We are human beings with the full range of emotions, levels of intellect, and personalities.  We are part of humanity.

So stop seeking “cures” that don’t exist.  Stop falling for the misinformation that claims harming your child will help them.  And most of all, stop killing Autistic children.  This is monstrous behavior.  Nobody has the right to murder a child for being Autistic.  I hate that this happens.  I hate that one of my childhood neighbors murdered her daughter, and then took her own life with a shotgun in their basement.  There was no honor in this action.  It was a vile act of selfishness, ignorance, and evilness.  There are organizations that have the audacity to sympathize with parents who commit this atrocious crime, such as Autism $peaks.  They view Autistic people as burdens on their parents, and broken children who will never experience a joyful life.  They are not in the business of helping people who are Autistic.  They are in the business of collecting money from the ignorant, and using it to increase their personal wealth, and that of their friends.

Autism $peaks is the “charity” endorsed by Ed Asner.  They spend the majority of the money they gather from the unwitting people who intended their donations to help those with Autism for advertising.  Here is a link to their financial statement for 2013.  You will see that they are not only making a profit in excess of $1.5 million dollars, they spend the vast majority of their funds on advertising, and research to find the cause of Autism, potential “cures” for an incurable condition, and treatments for Autism.  I boycott this “charity”, because it’s clear to me that they are not in the business of helping people with Autism.  They are in the business of spreading misinformation, such as claims that vaccines cause Autism, which is scientifically proven to be untrue.  They are in the business of sympathizing with evil parents who murder their Autistic children.  They are in the business of ignoring the advice of Autistic people, which makes the name of this supposed charity ironic at best.

Any supposed charity that raises the ire of those it’s supposedly trying to help is a red flag.  When said organization deliberately refuses to heed the advice of the people they are supposedly trying to help, they instigate boycotts, and represent a fraudulent predatory organization in the eyes of those of us who are Autistic.  Among us, Autism $peaks is infamous, and only gives 4% of the money they collect to services and supports for Autistic people.  That’s not a typo.  4%.  This organization sees Autistic people as burdens, and promotes a center that is under investigation by the FDA for torturing Autistic people.  It’s despicable.  This link to Boycott Autism $peaks gives further and more detailed information.  Here is a link dispelling the misguided correlation between vaccines and Autism.

I’m Autistic.  I was born this way.  I’ve served in the US Army where I earned awards such as the Army Commendation Medal for excellent service.  I’ve earned a PhD in Software Engineering, and am currently a freelance programmer, as well as the CEO of an independent gaming company that hires Autistic programmers exclusively.  I’m a human being.  I am one example of an Autistic person.  I had loving parents who were patient with me.  They did not waste time seeking a cause or cure for my condition.  They loved me.  They figured out how to communicate with me.  They helped me learn and become a person who loves learning.  They accepted me as I am.  They never saw me as a burden, or considered murdering me.  They didn’t torture me, or force me to ingest vile potions in an effort to make me “normal”.  They were loving parents, and because of their willingness to be loving people, I am now an adult whose goal in life is to be joyful.  There is no better ambition, in my opinion.

Dancing with depression

It’s ridiculously cold.  Last night, it dipped down to -15F with a windchill of -34F.  You’d think this would deter college students from hitting the clubs and returning afterward to hold loud conversations in the parking lot at 2AM.  Between that, and listening to drunken stair climbing, followed by door slams, I was annoyed.  I did manage to fall back asleep, though.  Mostly thanks to the Advil PM I took due to leg pain.  I hate when my insomnia catches up to me, and my legs start to hurt.  It feels like bone deep pain, and it’s a dull ache that keeps me awake.  I think it’s my legs telling me that they’ve had enough, and they’re going to sleep regardless of what shenanigans I’m engaging in.

I’ve been paying attention to the weather in Denver.  It’s really mild there.  I’ll be able to run outside year round.  They have a lot more races there too.  While I have no desire to run a marathon ever, I do like 10K and 15K races.  In my case, I think running a marathon would have long term consequences.  It’s not something I’ll put my body through.  It would alter my body chemistry in a major way, and I can’t afford that with PTSD.  My body is too sensitive.  Surgery has this poor effect on me, too.  Fortunately, the only surgery I foresee in my future is implantation of some sort of device that aids in maintaining the ideal body chemistry.  Once it’s invented and made available, anyway.

I’ve avoided weighing myself for weeks now.  I can tell I’m too low by how much clothes fit, but I guess I’m running with denial for now.  My appetite is low to non-existent.  Every so often, I have intense protein cravings, though.  I hate that it’s such an interruption.  I just want to work on my projects without being interrupted.  I’ll have to think about this, and find a new plan.  I’m starting OT again next week.  I’ll be focusing on food prep and adding variety to my diet.  I was upset about it, but I talked to a friend, and now I recognize it’s for the best.  When I move, we’ll reassess if it’s necessary to continue there.  I can feel a steady, constant anxiety in relation to moving.  In my mind, I waiver on it every day.

I think I’ll start with visiting there, and increase the length of my stays until I’m there more than here.  I know if I move my cat there, it’ll get me to stay there.  That and the inconvenience of traveling.  I can tell it’s low level stressing me out already.  I’m not set to move until August.  I’m an overachiever when it comes to needless worry.  There is some intangible sense that accepts a new space as home.  When I was in the Army, I had a confident grip on that sense, and could resettle in a few days without feeling displaced.  I think I need to focus on getting rid of a lot of my stuff.  I hope that by August, I am rid of about 80% of my stuff.  I’ll photograph a lot of stuff I like, but don’t want the burden of owning.  That will help tremendously.  Owning too much stuff is stressful.  Especially when I know there are others who would treasure many of the things I neglect.

When I was a kid, my mom would have an annual purge of toys and clothes.  We would get to choose 2 things we wanted to keep, and the rest was given away.  It involved a lot of crying at first, but we always managed.  The Army reinforced this by teaching that you should never own more than you can carry.  As adults, it’s interesting to see how this affected us.  Heather became a hoarder who couldn’t part with anything, no matter it’s condition.  Steve used to move a lot, and leave most of his shit behind.  Guy is a minimalist who favors black and white decor.  My oldest brother is a nomad.  My oldest sister likes large, luxurious things.  And then there’s me.  I guess I focus on lots of open space so I can run around, pace, and play with my cat.

I’m most deliberate about my bed, because I’m always at war with sleep.  I make it as inviting as possible, choosing soft linens, etc.  I wish it worked.  The rest of my space is about my interests.  In Denver, it’ll be set up according to activity, with lots of cabinets and drawers to keep everything in it’s place.  One of the perks to having master cabinet builders for nephews.  The lighting will be soft, so that alone will make it more livable for me.  Lighting is so important to me.  I wish those buzzing fluorescent overhead lamps were outlawed.  I still have nightmares about them from primary school.  Whoever decided on the format for classrooms is an asshole.  It’s certainly not conducive to learning, regardless of neurodiversity.  The groups are too large, and the students aren’t even involved.  I’m hoping VR glasses are something I can tolerate.  I know I’ll be taking them apart and reverse engineering an alternative that will accommodate my glasses.  I’m off to clean.

Ten Perks Kids with Autism Get from Bullying: The Honest Version

We got enough bullying as children. We will not tolerate it as adults.

A Hell On Earth

So Autism Daily Newscast continues their trend of fucking up spectacularly.  This time they published an article by an ABA practitioner (aka professional bully) about all the benefits of Autistic kids being bullied.  I guess it makes sense that an ABA practitioner would write something like this, they do need to defend their livelihoods, right?

Anyway, here’s my more honest version of the article.

1. Promoting Autism Friendly Programs: Discrimination leads to social justice! Be thankful for Autistic peoples’ rights being violated because it gives them the experience of fighting for basic human respect and dignity. Similarly, black people should be thankful for slavery, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration and continuous violence from law enforcement. Without that good old discrimination they wouldn’t have a civil rights movement. GO BIGOTRY AND INTOLERANCE!
2. Team Work: Your child being abused will allow you, the parent, to build a better relationship with…

View original post 216 more words

How I Became Self Sufficient: Part 2

Serving in the Army was a nice soft landing when I left home at 17.  While most of my duties began with intense training and supervision by higher ranking individuals, as I progressed and began gaining rank, my responsibilities increased.  Once I figured out that asking why was detrimental to my career advancement, I learned to remain silent on the issue in real time, and research my questions later at the education center on post.  My frequent visits to this location resulted in my being in the right place at the right time for more training opportunities.

I took a test to determine my aptitude for learning languages first, then another testing for my ability to decipher code.  This led to my being sent to a few more schools, and a change of MOS (military occupational specialty).  By that point, I had volunteered for anything and everything offered, so leaving my unit for destinations unknown didn’t cause much anxiety.  I trusted that there would be people there who were going through the same new experiences, and others who were familiar and could help us along.

I was a private for longer than most, because I took the hard road.  I went from E-1 to E-2, and then E-3 on the same timetable as my peers.  Then I got busted back down to E-1, and started over.  The reason I got demoted in rank was because I hit the battalion commanders’ Cadillac with a 2 1/2 ton truck.  Let me explain.  A 2 1/2 ton truck has a manual transmission and no power steering.  It’s not something I should have been assigned to drive, ever.  I wasn’t strong enough to steer it properly.  I went up and down curbs and crossed the median line whenever I turned.  I had to stand up in my seat and lean in order to turn the wheel, but I couldn’t make a sharp turn.  When I tried to combat park (back in), I went in crooked, and didn’t know I had struck his car until I saw it bouncing in my side mirror.

In case it’s not obvious, this was an epic fuck up.  I was semi famous on our post because of this incident. It was the story of the month and spread like mad.  When I realized what I had done, I pulled forward (doing even more damage, oops).  Then I reached into the glove box and got the accident report form, and began filling it out.  I wasn’t upset or nervous.  It was over and done, and I couldn’t undo it.  So I suspect when the brigade commander came outside and saw his car, I must have looked perfectly calm. The fact is, I was.  I knew what to do, and I was doing it.

To me, if you know what you’re doing, and doing it, there is nothing to be upset about.  Apparently this is not the typical reaction.  The MP’s came and took my report.  The B.C. didn’t say a word to me.  He just kept staring at his crumpled mess of a Cadillac.  Then I was ordered to return to my unit and see my commander.  So I walked back.  It was about half a mile.  I went directly to his office, and knocked on the open door.  My commander lost his shit very loudly.

He was furious.  It took everything I had in me not to laugh.  He looked like the Pillsbury doughboy.  Bald, chubby, and pale white.  It was widely giggled about behind his back among us privates.  I managed to keep from laughing, but not smiling.  This made him even more angry.  He screamed at me that as long as he was in command I would never get another promotion.  Then he sent me out of his sight, and back to my office.

By then, his driver, who apparently overheard the phone call between my commander and my battalion commander, spread around what had happened.  When I walked into the office, the two guys I worked with started applauding and laughing.  It made me laugh too, until I saw SGT Charles’ face.  Then I started to cry.  She was scary when she was angry.  I respected her more than any officer by a long shot.  She started shaking her head slowly, and told me she couldn’t protect me from this mistake.

I had only just gotten my PFC (private first class) rank.  I didn’t even get a single paycheck with the new increase.  I got another company grade Article 15, with reduction of rank to E-1, 14 days of restriction and 14 days of extra duty.  The restriction part meant I could only go to work and my place of worship. Fortunately for me, that commander got relieved not too long after that.  He was an asshole who looked down on enlisted personnel in general.  He learned the hard way that NCO’s are the backbone of the Army, and if you treat them poorly, they will do nothing to help their superiors look good.

Things like recovering items that fell off trucks on the way to 29 Palms.  Things the commander signed for, and is responsible for.  Things that cost millions of dollars.  The commander who replaced him was so hot, he made Denzel Washington look ugly.  And he thought I was funny, much to my giddy delight.  He was good to our NCO’s, and everyone else.  He was good at motivating people, and increased the standards of pretty much everything.  When you support your commander, everything runs more smoothly, equipment is well cared for, and the soldiers are happy and motivated.  It makes a huge difference.

I regained my rank quickly, as I was super gung ho.  Not just because I had a crush on my commander, either.  I was a good soldier after that.  SGT Charles took me under her wing and started preparing me to become an NCO when I was still a private.  She encouraged me to do correspondence courses, and attend college at night.  I was young, and I could sleep anywhere.  I had a tight routine, and so much confidence I was almost cocky.  I won’t go into why I ended my Army career right now.  Suffice to say, I acquired PTSD and was no longer able to serve after several years.

When I got home, I lived with my mom again.  It took me a full year to regain my desire for independence. I started out slowly, attending one class the first semester, and increasing my class load as I went along.  I also resumed OT, and my mom pushed me a little to regain my confidence.  It felt a lot like starting over, but it was easier the second time around.  From then on, I took small steps, and progressed in my schooling.  I became even more obsessed with computers.  There was a lot of new software available, and I started doing animation, and other creative digital endeavors.  I also worked on my social skills online with a few friends after my mom passed.

Once I learned the basic skills required to maintain a home, I had an aide who helped me stay on track. She helped with errands and coping with unexpected things such as having a repair person enter my home, etc.  Improving my confidence in my own abilities was key throughout my transition to independence.

I realized my obsessive interest was the best way to begin a new career.  I did a lot of research, and visited some schools with my sister.  I won a scholarship, and was accepted at schools I only applied to as a joke. I was lucky to be able to pursue my interest at the school of my dreams.  I stayed with a military buddy while I attended.  I finished my schooling this year, and have since been thinking forward to my future.

I’m moving to Denver soon, where I’ll be teaching other kids on the spectrum who are interested in computers and programming.  I’ll also be working toward building a retreat for both children and adult autists and their families.  I think it’s important for us to network, and keep up the fight for our rights in this world.  I see a future where we help each other grow and gain independence.  And that’s basically how I became independent.  There are several alternate ways of achieving this, but this is what worked for me.

 

How I Became Self Sufficient: Part 1

Asperger’s Syndrome is part of who I am.  Not the main part.  Not the best part, even.  Just part. It’s a medical term that identifies a series of traits or quirks that are considered abnormal. Personally, I think that’s bunk, but I’m not a doctor.  Actually, I am a doctor, but a PhD, not a medical doctor.  I had a hard time accepting this diagnosis initially.  I felt it was formally labeling me as limited in my potential.  I’ve since been proving to myself that while everyone has limits, I can always strive to exceed my expectations.

In order to find my limits, I challenged myself.  I was a very shy, but also very gung ho and goal oriented teenager.  This was a direct result of how I was raised.  My mom was an incredible woman who was years ahead of her time regarding childhood developmental disorders.  She cared for severely disabled children by fostering them in our home.  She challenged pediatricians and specialists about their initial expectations with the children she cared for, including me and my brother, Steve.

Steve was born with a congenital heart defect.  He missed being diagnosed with Dwarfism by an inch.  He had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  His hands and feet were stubby, and not as agile as normal.  He walked on his tip-toes because the tendons in his ankles were too short.  He wasn’t expected to survive beyond age four.  He lived to be thirty-one.  He lived every day of his life as if it was his last.  He smoked, drank, and experimented with drugs.  He was a father to a child who looked like his clone, but didn’t have his challenges.  He was my favorite person on earth.

I was initially thought to be deaf, and then retarded.  My mom rejected both immediately, and was so disgusted by the lack of viable results that she didn’t take me back for further testing.  I didn’t speak until I was five.  I had a sister, Heather, who was exactly 1 year and 1 month younger than me. She was my self appointed voice.  When I began preschool, I started talking.  It was a traumatic experience for me.  I found out I was black, and that my Dad wasn’t actually Santa Claus.  We attended a private school until I was in second grade, (Steve got kicked out).

In second grade at public school, my teacher wanted me to repeat the year, because I couldn’t count to 200 out loud.  My mom told her to have me write it down.  I did.  My problem wasn’t with counting.  I just wouldn’t recite the numbers out loud.  In third grade, I basically lost it with my teacher regarding whole numbers.  I didn’t have the verbal skills to explain why I was so offended by what she was teaching.  I brought my orange from my lunchbox into the room, and tried to demonstrate my point.

I failed, and became so frustrated, I ran home.  It took me a long time to calm down enough to explain to my brother, Kevin, that my teacher was lying to us about numbers.  Kevin was my Dad’s son from his previous marriage.  He was several years older than me, and possibly mildly autistic himself.  He is who introduced to me the world of science fiction and fantasy novels.  He also trained me for my service in the Army.  He joined the Air Force.

Kevin understood, and taught me fractions, long division, and basic algebra.  To this day, I still have the numbers nightmare sometimes.  After he taught me, my mom said I didn’t have to listen to my teacher tell lies about numbers.  Instead, I practiced my handwriting, (it still sucks).  Kevin was a lot like a mentor to me.  He was very much into watching Star Trek and the Planet of the Apes.  I watched a few episodes of both, but they frightened me.

He taught me how to salute, recognize rank, military history, and long distance running.  I struggled with doing sit-ups throughout my entire Army career.  On every PT test, I passed sit-ups by a margin of 1.  My upper body strength retention is poor, but I got dropped for pushups so often, it never got a chance to deteriorate.  But I always did well with the 2 mile run, and our morning PT runs.  I’m thankful to Kevin for that.  Eventually, I became the PT instructor for remedial PT.  That basically meant I helped my fellow soldiers who failed their PT tests, or were overweight.  I loved it.  We would run around the quad behind our barracks and make up naughty cadences.

I happened to do well in school as far as grades were concerned for the most part.  There were two classes in which I received low grades.  Introduction To Computer Programming, and Home Economics.  I got an F in Intro to CP, and a D in Home Ec.  The rest of my grades were A’s or B’s prior to university.  I always got a B in gym.  I was a total spaz.  I could run fast and had an athletic body, but if someone threw a ball at me, I would try to move rather than catch it.  I couldn’t dribble a basketball and move at the same time.  I sucked at sports, but I was still enthusiastic about them, which is probably why I got a B rather than a C.

My Introduction to Computer Programming class was a disaster.  Not because I couldn’t learn the material, though.  It was because I already knew the material, and rather than doing my lessons, I used my skills to disrupt the class.  I thought my antics were hilarious.  At least until I got my grade.  It was the only failing grade I ever got in my life.  It shocked me, upset me, and helped me understand the meaning of irony.  My mom took away my computer for a week, and I had to sign a contract with her that I would never use a computer again to commit mayhem.

From age 8 until I went to basic training at 17, my Mom had us on a special diet.  No refined sugars, no red meat, no added salt, and no processed foods. I was a picky eater.  I wouldn’t drink milk, and would only eat peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, cooked carrots sliced like coins, and granola in a baggie.  My mom told us raisins were candy, and we believed her at first.  Now I hate them.  Not because of the taste, but because they represent a lie.

My mom made a deal with me that I could eat what I wanted, but I had to add one new food a month. It became a ritual with us.  I would experiment with all sorts of exotic fruits and vegetables that my mom would bring home for me.  Then I would write a report about the experience.  l had to take calcium, dolomite, papaya extract, and a multivitamin.  The papaya pills were chewable and delicious.  I think that was for my digestion.

My mom never treated me like I had a disability.  If I came across something that challenged me, or baffled me, she would often give me a book that helped me understand, or would tell me I needed to keep trying, because it was lack of effort, not lack of ability.  My mom gave me a lot of books over the years.  I kept a journal that she would read each night when I went to bed.  It was my most natural means of communicating with her.  Writing has always been my chosen method of communicating with others.  Before I could write, Heather was my voice, and Steve and Kevin understood me without words or with very few of them.

In basic training, being a picky eater was disregarded.  That’s the nicest way I can state it.  You went through the chow line after drinking a full glass of water.  The food was put on your tray, and you sat down to eat in silence.  You were given a carton of milk and another glass of water with your meal.  There were other drinks, like soda pop and juice, but they were off limits to us.

The diet in basic training is scrutinized by dieticians to meet the caloric and nutritional needs of a large group of people, while avoiding common allergens.  This meant bland.  Lots of casserole dishes, beans, and salad with only lettuce, tomato, and carrot.  No dressings, no salt and pepper, or other flavor enhancers were available to us.  You ate what was on your tray as quickly and quietly as possible, and then deposited your tray on a stack on your way out.

I’ve always been a slow, picky eater.  I didn’t suddenly overcome this in basic training.  I was always the last one to finish eating, and I always had food left on my tray that I refused to eat. This resulted in my having KP (kitchen patrol) pretty much every day of my basic training.  Having a drill sergeant put her face inches from mine and yell at me to eat some sort of chicken fried steak patty didn’t faze me in the least.  I was, and am stubborn.

I’ve stayed up all night sitting at our dining room table at home with a plate of spinach or brussel sprouts placed before me.  I never once ate whatever disgusting item my mom was trying to force me to eat by making me stay at the table until it was gone.  I could hear kids outside playing, but wouldn’t budge.  My mom would periodically check up on me, and catch me fidgeting or singing, and make me stop.  I was there to eat, not enjoy myself.

She never knew that after about 30 minutes, I would tune out the situation completely, and think about things I loved.  I would eventually fall asleep, and she would remove the plate in disgust, dump its contents in the trash, and send me to bed.  It didn’t bother me much.  I would have done better if I could have read during our epic battles of wills.  Food textures were more of a barrier to my diet than taste.  Whoever decided that brussel sprouts are edible is a jerk.

The exotic foods that I ended up liking were coconuts (whole so that I could split them outside with an axe), kiwi, cooked and then cooled broccoli, grapefruit, and turkey legs that reminded me of the Flintstones.  I would drink the coconut milk, and chew the meat, then spit it out.  Gross, I know.  But it would make me choke if I tried to swallow it.  I have issues around swallowing.  Until I was about twelve, I couldn’t drink out of a regular cup because I couldn’t gauge how far to tip it. I would end up tipping too far, and gulping huge amounts of air and liquid, resulting in stomach cramps, choking, and a mess.  I used bendy straws instead.  Eventually, I learned how to sip, but even to this day, I have accidents with drinking.  If I’m overtired, or distracted, choking and a mess ensues.

I don’t cook.  I will heat things up in the microwave.  I can also do ramen noodles with the tea kettle.  It has an auto shut-off feature.  I had a fire when I was in my early twenties.  It scared my Mom more than it did me.  New rules were written up.  I have a panini grill that I use to make my grilled cheese sandwiches.  It involves a routine that includes unplugging it, cleaning it when it cools, and putting it away.

I generally eat frozen Mac and Cheese by Michelina’s, grapefruit, bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, microwaveable soups, and broccoli.  I also eat bagged lettuce as a snack.  I’ve discovered I like watermelon, mango, and peas.  My grocery store sells the fruit already cut up in a container by weight, and I get frozen peas and nuke them.  I still take a multivitamin.  I tend to eat the same things every day for each meal.  I have chronic kidney stones, which is probably related to this.  I’m trying cranberries next month, and that should help if I like them.

I still don’t drink milk ever.  I don’t eat red meat.  I eat hard boiled eggs and drink ensure shakes.  I think I do fine with my diet and food prep.  My sister, Gayle, thinks my weight is too low, but I was recently told that it will level out on it’s own soon, so I’m not concerned about it.  I’ve always been hyperactive and I usually run daily.  The running isn’t negotiable.  It’s necessary for my overall health to exercise daily.  When I don’t do it, I tend to get sick a lot, and struggle with depression and panic attacks.

When I exercise daily, I can fight off depression with my coping skills, and my anxiety is tolerable for the most part.  I don’t put myself in situations that stress me out if I can help it.  Right now, grocery shopping is my biggest constant stressor.  I hate how grocery stores are set up.  I wish they were less of an assault on my senses.  It would be so easy to set up a grocery store for people on the spectrum.  Instead of having all the food out and creating competing, overwhelming odors, instead keep them in a back room.  Go up to the counter, and give them your iPad with your order, or tell them out loud what you want.

That way the produce people can wear gloves and only handle fruit or only vegetables, and you don’t have to worry about who has touched your stuff with their bare hands while shopping, and stuff like that.  The smells and bright lights could be eliminated, or at least minimized.  The sounds of people pushing carts about, and talking to people could be eliminated too by having them come by appointment instead of a bunch at the same time.  No more waiting in lines with people who stand too close and use too much perfume or cologne.

It would make my life so much easier.  I want to build an autism village eventually.  One where anyone can live, but everything is setup to make life better for people on the spectrum.  I liked living in the barracks when I was in the military a lot.  I liked having just my room and bathroom, and not needing to maintain an entire apartment.  I liked having a group dayroom where we could do activities and crafts.  I liked having other people about who didn’t talk to me for no reason beyond a head nod.  It was the perfect level of socializing for me.  Completely optional, non-intrusive, and still feeling like I was on an amazing team.

I liked how the Army assigned everyone a buddy.  You and your buddy got along.  It wasn’t optional.  You helped each other.  You looked out for each other.  You were only whole when together in basic training.  In permanent party, you had a roommate who fulfilled that role.  You always knew where your roommate was.  You knew what kind of music your roommate preferred, and you shared things.  You covered for each other.  I never gave country music a chance until I had a roommate who loved it.  It was my stereo, but since we were roommates, she got to play her music as often as I did mine.  I was into Whitney Houston at that time, and would play I Will Always Love You over and over while singing along.

I learned to like country music, and my roommate learned to tolerate my idiosyncrasies.  There was no other option.  I want to create dorms for people with disabilities and use the buddy system so that one’s strengths complement the deficiencies of the other.  In doing so, it would allow a lot of people who are currently living with their families beyond reaching adulthood to become independent.  Not in the same sense as is common, but in a way that works for them.  It would eliminate a lot of issues in my opinion.

I have very low tolerance for parents who speak negatively about their autistic child.  It’s very difficult for me to read that sort and not engage.  I have very strong views about autism, as do others, I’m sure.  However, being an autistic person who has advanced to independence in my adulthood is where my expertise comes into play.  My experiences are firsthand.  I don’t think autistic children are nothing but a burden, and pretty much despise anyone who thinks this.

When a parent takes on that attitude, then they are abusers, not parents.  If you see a child that is alive, and struggling to exist in this world, and you can only see how it affects you and your future, you need a serious attitude adjustment.  Autism is only tragic when the parent or parents don’t pursue a means of reaching their autistic child with the necessary fervor to successfully connect.

Nobody is better equipped than a loving parent is when it comes to connecting with their child. It’s a challenge, not a tragedy.  If you’re not up for the challenge, then adjust your attitude.  You chose to procreate.  For whatever reason, your child was born autistic.  This is reality.  You can’t run from this, and still be a parent.  As an adult human being who is capable of carrying a child to term, delivering him or her into this world, and keeping him or her alive long enough to obtain their diagnosis of autism, you are up for this challenge.

Nothing about being a parent is easy.  It’s always a challenge, regardless of the neurological variety of your child.  An autistic child is born to a world that doesn’t fit properly.  It’s like being dropped off on Mars as an infant, and trying to blend in with the aliens.  You are a species of one. Your loving parents are charged with the duty of finding a way to communicate with you.  You don’t share a common language at first.  As you grow, you pick up on theirs, always listening.  But they struggle to pick up on yours.  You are the only one on the planet who speaks your language.

You, as a child, try everything to teach them.  It’s so hard.  Everything is new.  So many distractions and sensations, it’s painful just being awake sometimes.  You take in everything, but don’t know how to zoom in on the things that are important to those around you.  Eventually, you form a rudimentary form of communication. It’s not concise or perfect by any stretch.  Lots of frustration results.  You start to feel anxious all the time, because holy shit you’re on the wrong planet.

Now tell me.  Who is being challenged here?  The answer is everyone who loves the child, but mostly the child.  Never forget that your autistic child loves you back, and wants you in their world, but has to first learn how to navigate your world, language, and signals.  This can take a lifetime, or it can take a childhood, or it can take until they are no longer a child, but still emotionally as vulnerable as a child.  There is no way to predict this.

You can’t fix your child.  You can’t cure autism.  You have to fight.  Parents need to be a team prepared to battle for their child.  There will be wars.  You can win all of them.  You can reach out to autistic adults online, and get information about what worked for them.  You can reach out to each other and keep your team strong.  You can reach out to other parents who have autistic children, but be careful.  If that parent has an attitude problem, and has nothing but negativity to share, keep looking.  Negativity and despair is contagious.  If you get too close, it’ll attack you.

Being a good soldier team for your autistic child can be fun, rewarding, energizing, and a huge boost to your whole family’s self esteem.  Train together.  Go for walks.  Set up an obstacle course in your backyard, and conquer it as a family.  Give pep talks, high fives, and do victory dances.  Talk about your battles as if they are something to be conquered.  Have strategy meetings as a family, and listen to your child or children, as they have valid input that will blow your mind if you allow them to share it.

Get matching t-shirts that identify your family as the team that conquers challenges left and right, and never gives up.  This is the attitude that will help you succeed.  By succeed, I mean by figuring out how to make your family work as a loving, healthy unit of people who fight hard when necessary, play hard to recover, and have an overall sense of joy in their lives because they know it’s something they face as a team.  No two families are alike, and having an autistic child can make the differences more obvious.  However, different that works is awesome.  Creativity is your friend.  Don’t fall for predators out to make a quick buck out of your family’s challenges.  If it sounds too good to be true, then keep walking.

Personally, I think it’s important for a family unit to keep a record of their lives in some way.  There are lots of ways that this can be achieved.  Photos, drawings, writings, vocal recordings, etc.  One thing I’ve learned as an autistic adult, is that my parents won’t always be around.  When mine died, I had these records to remember, and look back.  It was like a warm blanket on a very cold day to have these things.

I also think it’s important for parents to grieve the loss of the child they thought they were going to have, when their child turns out to be autistic.  It’s not about your actual child.  It’s about your expectations.  Anticipating a child is a big deal.  I’ve never had a kid, and even I know this.  The planning, the imagining, and preparing.  These are normal things to do when expecting.  When that child arrives, and it’s not what you were expecting, that can be traumatic.  It’s natural to put all of your hopes into what you want your child to be.  I think all parents do this.

It takes nothing away from your actual child when you acknowledge the unmet expectations.  It’s not as if you’re rejecting the child you actually got.  It’s saying, I thought I was going to have this life, and instead, I’m having this one.  I’m going to feel sad for a bit, over the life I won’t be having after all, and then I will embrace and live the life I was given instead.  The reason I think this is important, is because it will allow you to heal from the disappointment, and not bury it, where it can leak out as resentment toward your actual child.  It can leak out as blaming your spouse’s genes, or vaccinations, or other excuses to feel victimized and resentful.

Of course it’s a disappointment to have an autistic child.  Nobody says, I hope our baby turns out to be autistic.  So be honest, and let yourself grieve.  Your actual child will lose nothing by having parents who take care of their own emotional needs.  Instead, your child will eventually observe these healthy behaviors.  Your autistic child sees and hears everything within view and earshot.  Whether or not they react in any way matters not at all.  Don’t ever say something like, “I wish we didn’t have an autistic child” within several miles of your autistic child.

While he or she will most likely not react at all externally to such a horrific statement, it will wound deeply.  Never assume your child is dumb.  Think of them as an alien to this world, who is smart and sharp, and taking everything in, and remembering it all verbatim.  Thats a good way to empathize, and eventually find a common ground on which to communicate.

Lastly, don’t hide your childs autism from friends, relatives, or other siblings.  It’s not shameful. Educate them all, including your autistic child about your discoveries.  You get to be a scientific investigator who is allowed first contact with a new species with your autistic child.  While they are of course human, their are wired in a way that makes them alien.  Your discoveries will be victories, and the goal is joy.  Don’t worry about what will my autistic child do when I die.  We sense that.  It makes us super anxious.  Instead, develop a strategy with your autistic child.  Set goals.  Help each other learn new skills, and build on them over time.

My mom taught me how to do laundry when I was thirteen.  She taught me in my language.  I used measuring cups, and very accurately added the right amount of detergent.  I had a chart to know which settings on the machine to use with various loads.  I was the laundry person.  It was my chore, and I rocked at it.  I started with just measuring the detergent.  Then I learned to separate colors, darks, and whites, and put them in their respective piles on the floor.  Next, I learned how to turn the knob to the right setting, pull it out, and start the machine.  Small steps, and lots of victories gave me the confidence to move on to the next step.

My mom was big on charts.  She would use laminated cardboard and a grease pencil.  Charts hung all over our house.  I still use them.  I used them in the Army.  The Army uses manuals instead of charts, but they’re excellent at pictographically explaining a process step by step.  I would follow the steps on the chart, and put an X in the designated space when I completed each task.  I loved doing this.  I still love doing laundry now.

My mom was also big on making up songs that explained rules.  It helped immensely.  I was always a rule follower, but if I didn’t understand the rules, I became super anxious.  My mom had a low tolerance for hyperactivity, which meant Steve and I did a lot of laps around the block when we would drive her mad with fidgeting and touchy-itis, (the disease of feeling compelled to touch everything you shouldn’t).

I’ll share more about how my Mom taught me the necessary skills to be self sufficient as the week progresses.  Hopefully not in posts as long as this one.