Bare Feet (Original Short Story)

My dad lost all of his tears when he was away in Afghanistan, so he couldn’t cry when we stopped by mom’s tomb to visit her.  I stay in my seat in the car while my dad kneels in front of the tomb.  Ashes fall from his shoulders as he sinks, and the ever shifting coal around his figure envelopes him like a black hole in space.  The sun’s light is bathing the cemetery but my dad is shivering like its winter.

When my dad is done, he gets up and turns to face me.  His eyes stare at me and I cringe.  Should I run away from him?  I feel like I should.  There’s no love or passion that I can see in his colors.

“The worst thing your mother ever did was leave me with you to take care of.  You’re impossible to look after, you know that?” He says as he drives us back home.

Mom is dead and my dad can’t understand why I’m not grieving with him.  It reminds me of a story that my mom told me shortly before she passed.  A real story about something that happened when I was only six years old.  My mom was attending a baby shower at a friend’s house, and I was outside in the front yard playing.  At one point, I went back into the house and startled everyone when they saw that I was holding a dead bird in my hands.  My mom fondly remembered the fact that as I held the bird, I wasn’t crying over it, nor did I seem the least bit sad.  My expression was completely neutral, and I held the bird up for my mom to see it.

“Look momma, look what I found,” I said.

“Alex, you have to take that back outside,” my mom replied, calling me by my middle name.

Later that same evening, my mom explained to me what death really meant.  Though I listened, my mom didn’t think I actually fully grasped what she was talking about or understood the finality and tragedy of death.  How when one dies, that’s it.  That person is no longer in your life anymore.

Like my mom now.  But somehow I feel like she’s just on some long trip and will be back soon.  Then I’ll be in her embrace again.  I’ll be happy again.

Several weeks after the visit to the cemetery, I’m throwing a tantrum after trying to draw.

“I don’t like it!  I just don’t like it!”  The papers with the drawings on them are whisked aside to drift towards the floor.  I pound my fist on the table.  Three times now.  Three times I’ve tried to draw colors that I see radiating around other people, and three times I’ve failed now.  They’re just not translating on paper the way I really see them.

I’m using crayons and colored pencils to try and mimic the colors I see on people, but they’re not doing any good.  Worthless things.  Worthless.

My therapist told me that if I’m seeing colors around people that no one else can see, maybe I should make a hobby out of it by writing them down in a notebook.  I did for a while, but I prefer drawing.  Dozens of drawings of churches and houses in a stack sit on my desk, some of them hastily scribbled and others more detailed because of the longer periods of time spent on them.  So far, I’ve had no luck capturing the same colors I see on paper.

Behind me, my boyfriend Mark clears his throat.  He’s sitting on my bed with an expression on his face that translates as uneasy to me.  He doesn’t feel comfortable around me when I act like this.  The color I see outlining his form is a vibrant sunflower which I would typically love to see on an actual flower, not on a person.

I’ve wondered and wondered how he tolerates me, which is pointless since he can’t talk anyway.  His lips don’t move as he looks at me.  His emerald eyes tell it all though.  He’s irritated with me.  Yes, that has to be it.  Why else would he…

On the day he asked me to be his girlfriend, he took me out to get ice cream at Oddfellows and we spent time finding as many of the same colors on cars as we could find.  Mark tried to beat me faster by picking out all the taxis but he did it all with a smile.  When I saw his room for the first time afterwards, I asked him if I could borrow some of his pairs of underwear so that I can write down what colors they were.  He seemed happy to oblige, but also seemed weirded out by the request.  Nevertheless, he let me take his multi-colored boxers.  That was a different Mark.  I don’t know the one sitting on my bed looking at me the way he is.

I gather up all the crayons and colored pencils and stuff them back inside the box that Mark brought for me.

“These don’t work.  I need different ones,” I say.  Mark takes the box and makes a few signals with his hands.  I don’t really understand what he’s trying to say with them, but I take a guess based on the way his body moves as he flies his hands around.

“Yeah.  I can use some time alone,” I say.

Something in Mark’s eyes droop.  The yellow slowly transitions into something like ash, as if he’s wearing it all over his shoulders.  Some looks like it’s falling off when he turns around and leaves.  He turns to hold his hand up to his ear to look like he’s on a phone.

“Yeah.  Later,” I tell him.

The vaguest hint of a smile passes through his freckly features but the ash doesn’t go away.  Then he’s gone, and I’m alone in my room with a mess of papers on the floor and a growling stomach.  I feel something wet crowding my eye when I sit back down at my desk.  I open its top drawer to see a lone cigarette sitting inside with a note next to it.

Smoke this before I’m back home.

“There are some things you just can’t recreate,” my therapist Jodi tells me the next morning.

I’m sitting in a chair across from her swinging my legs back and forth and I can’t bring myself to stop.  No matter what, I have to constantly be on the move.  No stillness for me as long as I have arms and legs.  My dad told me once after taking a swig of vodka that I should at least lose my legs so that I don’t wander off where I’m not supposed to.  The color on my dad never changes.  Black ashes always crowns his head and there are soot stains all over his hands and feet.  I’ve watched him wash his hands but the soot never comes off.

“Didn’t I tell you to write what you see?” Jodi asks.

“I want to draw,” I reply.

Jodi doesn’t back down.  “But if drawing isn’t working for you in this case, maybe it would be wise to continue writing.  You write very well and you’re very descriptive about the colors.”

“How long do I have to write?” I ask.

Jodi shrugs.  “As long as it still helps you.  Think of it this way.  Some things are just too beautiful in words to fully capture in a picture, even if you draw it yourself.”

My dad is waiting for me in the waiting room when I come out.  One hand of his is fingering the box of cigarettes in his breast pocket.

“Let’s go,” he says.  He takes me by the arm, squeezing to the point where it stings a little.  Feeling the pain causes something sharp and startling to shoot up my throat, as if something had leaped out and scared me.  As soon as we get in the car, my dad holds out his cigarettes for me to take one.

“Take it,” my dad says.  “If you smoked these more often, you wouldn’t have to go whining to your therapist.”

“I don’t want to,” I reply.

“I don’t give a damn what you don’t want.  Take the damn cigarette,” my dad says.

It’s only after I smoke that the black stains on my dad dissipate, and I feel something different about being around him.  I feel more relaxed.  I feel the urge to rest my head on his shoulder, and when I do, he doesn’t coil back.

When I first told my dad that I had a superpower, that I can see colors around people, I asked him if he had the same ability.

“What in the hell are you talking about?” He asked.

“Uh oh,” I said, “you have all this stuff on you.”

I reached over to dust the ashes off his shoulders and his head, but my hand passed straight through all of it as if it was a hologram from Star Wars.

My dad thought I was messing around with him and he demanded for me to stop.  This was when my mom was still around.  She began to suspect that something was up.  My dad on the other hand started to grow more and more impatient with me as I told him all the colors I saw drifting around other people when we took walks downtown.  My mom then finally began to realize that I wasn’t joking.  She came to the conclusion that I wasn’t—normal.  She’s right about that.  I have an ability that neither my mom or dad have.  I’ve wondered if my dad was jealous and that’s why he makes me smoke so that my power doesn’t work as well.  The cigarettes I smoke has ash that looks exactly like the kind I see on my dad when my power is working.

My mom took me to go see a doctor about it and after putting me through tests and asking me dozens and dozens of questions, he came to the conclusion that I had something with a complicated name.

Schizo—schizofreenia.  Something like that.  Nevertheless, I didn’t care what my doctor said it was called.  I had a gift.  I could finally see how other people were feeling without having to guess all the time.  If God gave me this power, then I must be one of His favorites.

At about six-thirty the next morning, I get a text from Mark.

I couldn’t sleep all night.  Can I come over?

Yes.

It’s Saturday morning.  My dad would be staying home from work, and I don’t feel comfortable with Mark being here when he is.  I’ll just meet him outside the door and I’ll take him somewhere else.  Yes, that should work.

I go into the kitchen to pour myself a bowl of cereal and find my dad sitting at the table gripping something in his hand.  Sitting on the table too is a gun.  He looks at me and his hand unfurls, revealing that he’s holding a pair of Mark’s boxers.  My heart sinks to the bottom of some metaphorical ocean when I realize my mistake.  I must have left it somewhere that would be easy to find.  I can see my dad’s misunderstanding coming from a mile away, and even though I know I’m in trouble, I can’t help but admire the color of the boxers again.  Dark red like cherries, my favorite fruit.

“Is this Mark’s?” He asks through his teeth.

My hand digs itself into my pocket and pinches my leg.  Sweat tingles on my brow and itches the skin under my armpits.

“It’s not what you think,” I say, but I know that dad won’t believe me.  Somehow, I just know.  His face doesn’t change, and the piles of ash on his shoulders magically grows, threatening to spill all over the floor.  Curiously enough too is that a new color I haven’t seen on my dad before begins to take shape around his form.  The same cherry-red on the boxers highlights my dad along with the soot and the ashes and the hate.  The hate and the anger rolling off him in waves.  It’s almost too frightening to keep looking at and I feel tempted to shield my eyes.  Something in the air suddenly tastes vile and sticks to my tongue like Pepsi feels on my throat.

“Please, dad!  He didn’t do anything to me!  I was borrowing it, I promise!” I plead.

The colors on my dad keeps changing frantically now from red to green to blue to black and then to red again and so on.

“You actually think I’m going to buy that crap, you pathetic slut?” He yells.

My dad leaps to his feet and takes a step towards me.  I step back, slightly bent over as I brace myself for whatever he’s going to do to me.

Then his voice breaks, as if it’s made of glass and an axe was taken to it.  “I already knew I failed—.”

My muscles relax for a second as I start to believe that he’s calming down.  All there is surrounding my dad now is complete static.  It looks like a TV channel that’s not coming in at all.  What’s going on inside his head?  It’s as if every burden in the world was tumbling down on top of him and he can’t think straight or escape from it all.

Then he moves his hand so fast I tense up again, waiting for him to strike me.

But instead of hitting me, my dad reaches for his gun, shoves the barrel in his mouth and pulls the trigger.

All the colors and the static around him vanishes like a lightbulb going out as instantly as one can be switched on.  My naked legs tremble in their spot for a few seconds before they carry me to the door and out the apartment.  I run barefoot into the busy, obnoxious world outside and keep running without stopping.

I can’t think straight.  My mind is numb.

All around me, colors flash and shift, and for the first time, I feel overwhelmed by them.  They frighten me and force me to look away.  I see too much black, not enough orange or yellow.  Some people see me running and their colors transition just ever so slightly as their emotions are disrupted by the sight of me.

Then something snags on my mind and I’m forced to stop.  The sun is still making its way up to light the whole day in the early morning, which means the colors that are typically more vibrant and alive at night still linger.

And they’re beautiful.  Gosh, are they beautiful.

What happened back in my apartment?  I don’t remember, because all I see are colors.  Car lights are shining pale imitations of the orange-yellow of the sun.  Street lights crown passersby and the concrete with the dirty, unattractive color of brown mustard, and the lights from people’s phones shine on their faces, giving them all a pale milky white glow.

I’m jolted out of the world I’ve made for myself by my phone buzzing in my pocket.  I pull it out and read the text from Mark.

Where r u?

My enemy Reality reaches in through my eyes and yanks tears out and jogs my memories.  My dad.  His broken head on the table with blood pooling on the wood.

I tell Mark where I am and he’s right by me within minutes.  The early morning cold rattles me from head to toe and Mark throws his coat around my shoulders.

Mark doesn’t speak.  Of course.  Because he can’t.  He can’t talk to me like I can and I’m sick of it.  I want someone to talk to me.  He tries to communicate with me by waving his hands and making signals again that I hardly understand any of.  Is he sad for me?  Frustrated?  Relieved?  I can’t tell.  His signals go everywhere and nowhere at the same time and I can’t keep up.  Around his head and shoulders, autumn colors vibrate like a massage chair.  Brown.  Brown can honestly mean a lot of different things.  He’s just trying to act calm but I don’t want him to act calm, I want him to be sad, like me.  That way I know he cares about me.

Maybe I’m seeing the wrong colors.  Maybe he’s practically drowning in blue and white and I don’t see it.  I don’t know, and I hate not knowing.

Mark finally realizes that nothing he’s saying is getting to me, so he pulls out his phone and taps something on it and hands it to me.  On the Notes app he wrote something.

I found your dad dead.  Did he do that to himself?

“Yes,” I respond aloud.

He takes the phone and types another note.

We need to tell the police.  You can’t live by yourself.

“I don’t want to go to the police.  What if they send me away?  I don’t want to leave these colors.”

If they take you somewhere else away from here, I’ll go with you.

“But you don’t love me.”

It takes an extra minute for Mark to even start typing his next response.  He looks lost, as if he had gotten out of a taxi on the wrong road.

What makes you think that?

“Your colors don’t say it.”

Mark stares at his phone unmoving now.  Now he definitely doesn’t know how to respond.  It’s as if I’ve trapped him in a corner and he doesn’t know his way out.

Let’s call the police and sort all this out.

It turned out that the police had already been called to the scene when one of the neighbors reported the sound of a gunshot.  My dad’s body was found and I was identified as his daughter.  A dark-skinned police detective with a shaved head named David sits me down at his desk and gives me a peanut butter cookie.  A soothing navy blue darker and thicker than his uniform embraces him.  He has a good vibe, I can feel it.  He asks me about my dad and why he killed himself, all of which I answer with as few words as possible.

“Where are your shoes?” He asks me.

“I don’t have any.”

“What about socks?”

“No.”

“So you don’t own any socks or shoes?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t need any.”

“Why do you think that?”

“My dad told me.”

David sits back in his seat and blows a long breath.  Is he irritated with me?  The color doesn’t change on him though, and I don’t see anything restless about him.  Good sign.  I smile.

“Why are you smiling?” David asks.

“You’re not upset with me.”

“Of course I’m not upset with you.  None of this was your fault.  Honestly, I’m surprised you’re acting as well as you are.”

I shrug, not sure how to react or respond.  What am I supposed to say?

“Brianna, did your dad allow you to smoke?” David asks.

“I never wanted to,” I say.

David nods.  “Okay.  We found used cigarette butts in your room.”

“My dad didn’t give me a choice.”

“It’s okay.  You’re not in trouble.  Thank you, Brianna.  We’ll figure out where you go next soon.”

That’s what I was afraid of.  I want to stay where I’m at.  I can take care of myself.  Surely I can.

When I go out into the lobby, I see Mark sitting on one of the chairs and I gasp.  He’s completely black and white from head to toe.  Any other discernible color I can think of isn’t present on him.  His skin is pasty and colorless—and there were the ashes, those stupid ashes, draped over his shoulders.

Something like a box cutter slices straight down the middle of my heart.

“Mark!” I shout.

Mark’s colors shift as he turns to look at me.  There’s just the slightest bit of his skin color back on his face.  His emerald eyes light up a little bit.  I run over to his side and sit down next to him.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

Mark’s head droops, and he picks up a notepad next to him to write something on it.

I don’t know if I should stay or go home.

“Why?”

I’m thinking about what you told me.  You told me that I don’t love you.

“That’s because I don’t know if you do.  Your colors don’t show it.”

What about what I’ve done for you and said to you?  Aren’t those things enough?

I don’t know how to respond to that.  I mean, he has always been nothing but kind to me, but when it comes to love—the kind of love  that’s romantic—I’ve always had certain expectations.  I want to see a particular color around him when he’s looking at me.  Something like that always gives me the strongest signals, because anyone can do anything for anybody and act like they really care for someone, but you never know how they’re actually feeling in their hearts.  Mark has always been difficult for me to read.  It’s as if he purposely holds back his emotions to keep from breaking open.

Or maybe those feelings just don’t come as naturally to him.

The thought makes me remember the story about me and the dead bird.  I didn’t understand that the bird being dead meant the bird was actually gone forever and wasn’t going to ever wake up again.  Just like my mom.

Just like my dad now.

Now I’m looking at Mark, the last person I know who seems to care about me.  I decide to try something, thinking that maybe just maybe I have to do something first before Mark can do what I want him to do.

“Mark.  Please don’t die,” I say.

Mark frowns.  Why do you say that?

“Just don’t die.  I don’t want you to,” I say.  I look down at his hand and take it with my own.  Mark fidgets but doesn’t pull away.  He stares at my hand intertwined with his.

“Did I upset you?” I ask.

Mark shakes his head to say ‘no’.

“Don’t die.  Okay?  If you do, you’ll be gone forever and I don’t want you to be gone.  Promise?” I ask.

Mark takes his pencil with his free hand and writes on his notepad.  I promise.  Then he adds something else.

Is this your way of telling me that you love me?

I smile and inch closer to him until my side is touching his.  “Yes.  And I believe you love me too.”

Something then changes while he writes I love you too on his notepad.  Something that looks like fresh red wine dribbles off his hair and forms these scarlet rings around his eyes.  All the color returns to his skin and the ashes reform into a vibrant purple streak that cloaks his shoulders.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen those colors on him, and the gorgeous picture it paints makes me feel more attracted to him.

I rest my head on his shoulder.  “I’m sorry I made those assumptions of you like that.”

An uncomfortable realization dawns on me and I release my hand from his.  “Sorry.  Your hand is sweaty.”

Unfettered, Mark reaches over and courses his other hand through my hair.  He doesn’t need to say anything.  His hand is telling it all.  Before sleep fully overtakes me, Mark plants a kiss on my head.

Wherever I go next, I hope that Mark is able to come with me.  Dead or alive, I don’t want him to be gone.

The Other Side Of the Conflict Coin

911-photo

There are many instances in life where I hear older people talk about ‘simpler times’ and compare them to the way things are in the world today, and it’s usually viewed through a rather negative lens.  Being that the world is the way it is today, who can really blame them?  Violent protests, constant acts of terrorism, racism, and division between different groups of people are only some of many things that plagues our world today, and a lot of these events are covered through stories told by deeply flawed news stations in America.  Most of the time we hear these stories, we either shrug them off, simply content with the fact that were weren’t directly affected by the events, or we absorb these stories and allow fear to take up space in our minds.  I’m not going to go very deep into the negative influence that the media has had on us in America as a society, but I will say that it absolutely has had a hand.

Growing up, I didn’t pay much attention to the news or politics or what else was going on around the world.  Most of my biggest concerns with life were usually strictly centered around my own life, as is usually the case with children growing up and becoming teenagers.  When I think back to the ‘problems’ I believed I had then, they’re laughable and even a little sad when I consider now how pointless most of them were.  At the same time though, it’s all still part of growing up and becoming the person you’re meant to become.  As I got older, my awareness for world events grew and I didn’t like what I saw.  Fear was usually my first reaction to a lot of the negative news, and I avoided it like the plague.  Now as a 21-year old Aspie coming onto 2017, I think more deeply about the kind of world that I was dropped in, and I ask myself more why I was put in this time of all times.  With this in mind, I have listed a few things that come from my own perspective about the world today.  I do hope that you will at least be able to appreciate the way that I choose to look at it.

1. Almost nothing that gets reported about stuff that has happened surprises me, nor do I see these things as unexpected.

Some people would call this ‘desensitization’ since people have the tendency to grow numb to bad news after a while since we get bombarded by it every day.  For me personally, I’m typically not surprised by any of this news because I have the basic knowledge that the acts of violence and hatred play a large part in human nature.  Given that we’re looking at the actions of humanity, it’s to be expected, whether we like it or not.  In no way do I accept the fact that it is what it is, but I’m not surprised by any of it either.  Humanity fails us every time, no matter how hard it may try.

2. The bad news makes the good feel more refreshing

In this world full of tragedy, violence, and division, there is still good, and that good makes itself stick out more amongst the bad things as long as people are willing to see it.  If we spend so much time dwelling on the tragedies that go on in the world, we lose sight of the good things that we have, and we don’t spend enough time ‘counting our blessings’.  When the bad news starts to overcrowd, remember that you always have something that you can be thankful for (it was just recently Thanksgiving Day after all).  There’s always something that shines a good light in your life.  Whatever that may be, dwell on that, and never take it for granted.

3. Some of the best things about humanity are made clearer in the midst of tragedy

It goes without saying that 9/11 was a tragic and terrifying event, but even in the wake of the tragedy, some of the best of humanity emerged in the form of people’s heroics.  Heroes like former Marine Jason Thomas and former Vietnam vet Rick Rescorla are only a select few of many people that were responsible for performing feats of true heroism during that horrifying morning.  When the worst of humanity rears its head, some of its best bites back, and I believe it will continue to be that way.

 

Autism And Depression: How Bullying Plays A Part

After a while of not writing any blog posts, I’m back with a new post about autism and how depression has had a history in coinciding with it.  Because there are many people that believe that a lot of those with autism don’t feel many emotions, not much thought is given to the fact that autistic people are capable of having depression.

Like any neurotypical people, autistic people are completely capable of experiencing depression too.  I’ve touched on my history of depression in previous articles not too long ago, so I can say that I’ve experienced it firsthand as one with Aspergers Syndrome, and I’ve known others with autism that struggled with depression.  To touch on one factor of depression in autistic people specifically, I will mention bullying.

Young people with autism are unfortunately the target of bullying in schools.  According to a 2012 national survey conducted by the Interactive Autism Network and Johns Hopkins University, children with autism are three times as likely as their neurotypical siblings to experience bullying, and according to the parents that took the survey, 61% of children with Aspergers, 28% of children with autism, and 37% of children with other autism disorders have been affected.  Being bullied by others simply for what makes them different absolutely has the potential to make a child with autism experience depression because of the feelings of loneliness and worthlessness that is provoked through being bullied.  Sometimes other children will do things on purpose that negatively affects an autistic child’s senses.

The issue with depression in an autistic child or even a little older is that it’s harder for the parents or other adults to recognize when an autistic child is depressed.  The symptoms practically ‘overlap’ when it comes to autism and depression.  If someone with autism is emotionally distant or socially withdrawn, people are quick to decide that the behavior is part of the child’s autism, rather than it being linked to something else since social withdrawal and emotional distance can be common in certain autistic people anyway.  This is why it’s all the more important that parents pay closer attention and make sure to have conversations with their child about how things are going at school so that they will know whether or not things are going well.

While it’s obviously sad that autistic children get bullied at school, particularly in different fashions than others at times, this is fixable.  It can be prevented.  What needs to happen is that the school boards need to have more motivation to handle serious matters like these, and it’s the parents’ role to see to it that these issues are recognized and fixed.  As someone who has heard dozens of stories about the treatment of autistic children in schools, I can say that this is something that saddens me and I hope so much that autistic children get better treatment in the future soon.

 

Recognizing World Autism Awareness Day

 

autism awareness

Sorry for not having a blog post up in a while guys, I’ve been very busy with school, work, and other projects I’ve been working on, so I’ve been dedicating a lot more time to those other projects.  Fortunately, today gives me perfect motivation to write a new blog post.  Today is National Autism Awareness Day.  Though the whole month of April is considered National Autism Awareness Month, April 2 is Awareness Day (which understandably falls on the second day instead of falling on April Fools Day, good call).  To be honest, even though I’ve been diagnosed to be on the spectrum myself, there was very little I knew about the month until I found out what today was and therefore looked into it a little more.

In this research, I found out that apparently people that follow autism awareness wears blue today.  I haven’t quite been able to figure out why of all colors it’s blue, but nevertheless, it warms my heart to know that efforts are made to be more aware of the people who are on the autism spectrum and efforts are made to pay better attention to the struggles autistic people go through in their day-to-day lives.  World Autism Awareness Day is primarily meant to be a day where people are encouraged to spread awareness of autism and motivate actions to be taken to make the lives of autistic people (children in particular) a little easier every day.

Creating a better understanding and awareness of autism is something I’ve been going for with this blog for the past couple months, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback where people have told me that thanks to my posts, they have a better understanding when it comes to autism and the people that have autism as a part of them.  Though culturally, today may be the official ‘awareness’ day, I want to continue writing blog posts that will help increase that awareness all year round, because I don’t believe there’s any point in time where one has to stop trying to help other people understand.

So for those of you who still have a lot to learn about autism, I’d encourage you to do a little more research.  Read past blog posts of mine or find other sources.  Our culture encourages us to have more awareness and understanding of different people groups, and the autism community is no exception.  Patience is key to being a blessing to those on the spectrum.  People with autism have the tendency to think and process things very differently than ‘neurotypical’ people, which is definitely one way when patience needs to be practiced, so start with that.

For more information about World Autism Awareness Day, click here.

Autism’s Role In… Social Interaction

I was homeschooled growing up, so most of the social settings I was involved in was church or youth group (which is more or less the same thing, just with different age demographics).  After getting my high school diploma, I had the opportunity to get involved in other different social settings like my first job, then eventually college, and get exposed to a lot of people from different walks of life and different cultures and mindsets.  While my exposure to others on the spectrum started before college, I had the opportunity by the time I went to college to meet a lot of other people on the spectrum.  I’m positive I’ve said this before in previous posts, not one autistic person is exactly the same as another.  All autistic people have different personalities, mindsets, and strengths and weaknesses.  There may be some similarities in terms of weaknesses and even strengths, but no two people are exactly the same, as is the case with pretty much anyone else in general for that matter.

So what can it typically be like for autistic people in a social setting?  If they’re different, what different kinds of scenarios are there for people on the spectrum in public?  There are many different kinds, but to keep this short, I’ll list several that I’ve observed, including my own personal experience:

1. There are autistic people who are completely anti-social.  They prefer the company of themselves instead of interacting with other people.  Interacting with other people can be considered intimidating to them and they feel more comfortable alone, staying within the borders of their minds to brainstorm and sometimes even talk to themselves.  If they have no choice but to be in public, they will stay away from large groups and stand to the side to keep to themselves and let their minds take them wherever they want to go.

2. There are autistic people who actually want to interact with others, be heard, and talk about things they are very interested in.  The third thing there is one of the truest of them all.  They want to talk to people about things they’re passionate about and interested in, but that’s about as far they’ll go.  They can sit with someone and have an almost one-sided conversation by continuing to talk about what they’re passionate about with very few breaks in between to allow the other person to talk.  As I’ve said in previous articles, autistic people hold their passions and obsessions very near and dear to them, and they want to share it with others, sometimes unaware that others are simply not interested.  I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to let the person talk and try to listen as best I can, and then when I’m ready to move on, I can politely inform the person that I’d like to talk to someone else or move on to a different subject.  If done politely and calmly, this usually works.

3. There are autistic people who want to be part of a group or talk to other people but they feel uncomfortable when placed in that setting because if no one is talking about something the person is familiar with, then it can be hard to be engaged in the conversation.  There’s also the possibility of the person feeling left out because very little attention is payed to him.  This can lead to the person feeling awkward and deciding to move on, feeling ignored and not valued.  While this can type of scenario can absolutely be relevant for other kinds of people, autistic people can tend to feel the weight of that much more significantly and will tend to think a lot afterwards about how much people may or may not value them.

So those are some concepts for you guys to think about.  One more thing to mention is that I’d say that when you meet autistic people in public, they can surprise you, intrigue you, maybe even wear you out a little bit (even have the tendency to do that), or maybe you won’t even notice them at all because they’d rather stand to the side.  Personally for me, when it comes to going out with friends, I’ve always preferred just going out with one friend because it feels good to give special attention to one friend without all the distractions of other people, even if I really like them too, and it’s easier to find my words and follow conversations.  In groups a lot of times, there’s the tendency for someone to get left out, and I don’t like the thought of being responsible for that nor do I like to find myself in that position myself.  I love to talk, and I love to meet new people and form relationships, but as you’ve learned a little bit of just a second ago, I’m pretty particular about how I go about it.  There’s no single way that all people on the spectrum approach people or conversations in public, and for people who are higher functioning, you probably won’t even realize that the person is autistic on some level until later, but regardless, I hope that listing these things helps increase  your awareness and helps you think of ways to manage these scenarios when they come.

Announcement For A New Series: Autism’s Role In…

For a few months now, I’ve written article upon article about what it’s like for me to live on the autism spectrum and how I relate to others on the spectrum that deals with some of the same issues.  Now I’m launching a new series called Autism’s Role In….  This series is meant to explain what it’s like for autistic people to interact or engage in different aspects of our culture and society and how culture and society affects them back based on my own research and my own personal experiences.

Politics, social settings, entertainment, religion, and social media are some of the topics I’ll be exploring in this series.  One of the challenges of creating a series like this though is the fact that autistic people are all different.  As I’m sure you already know, it’s not like people on the spectrum are all clones of one person with the same personalty, thought process, and mannerisms.  Most autistic people all have different ways of approaching certain aspects of our culture, but those ways are usually very unique and tend to make ‘neurotypical’ people do a double-take.  This is part of how it can be difficult and even frustrating for people not on the spectrum to relate and connect with those who are, so learning the perspective of autistic people in different areas such as politics, social media, etc is key for ‘neurotypical’ people to better grasp and understand where autistic people are coming from, even if they may not be able to understand fully or even agree.

Next week, I will post the first part of the series, starting with simple everyday encounters, then move on into more complex territory (yes, along the way you may get to learn a thing or two about my own political views).  My hope is that these articles can be read and understood by people with or without autism and that they will benefit from learning what I have to say.

Living With Autism Part 10: A New Hope

Pardon my nerd reference for the title, but I felt it was fitting for this article.  So this is the tenth part in the Living With Autism series and some might say at this point that I’m just trying really hard to milk the cow and squeeze as many drops out of this topic as possible.  With the tenth part now up, and the fact that I had written some other autism-related articles on the side, what more can I possibly talk about regarding the subject and how I relate to it?

The answer is: a lot.  More than you would probably be able to imagine.  That’s why I’m currently writing a book to chronicle what I’ve talked about on this blog so far as well as add whole new aspects so that other people who don’t read my blog can get a picture too.  So what can I talk about in this article?

Remember the movie Good Will Hunting?  A well-made, well-written story about a twenty-year old orphan boy named Will who’s incredibly intelligent and has wisdom beyond his years, but is held back from doing anything really significant to make a life for himself beyond hanging out with his friends at the bar and working as a janitor in a prestigious university.  He is sent by one of the university’s professors to visit a psychology professor named Sean (played by the late and brilliant Robin Williams) for counseling and to get help in order to defeat his fear and make something of his life.  Eventually, after several sessions, Sean asks Will what he wants to do with his life, but he doesn’t know, despite everything he’s capable of.

Lately I’ve been having issues with figuring out what I myself want to do.  I recently visited an advisor over at the community college I’m attending because I couldn’t make peace with the fact that I wanted to slowly back out of the college and just select classes that could benefit my writing career.  My advisor, having involvement in the disability services there, was well aware of my place on the spectrum and still believed that I can work towards a transfer degree to get involved in the English department in a university.  Despite my problems with math, my advisor believed I can do it if I seek out the help I need, I just need to work harder.

As someone on the autism spectrum with the inability to learn certain things the same way as others, I have to work harder than some other people to succeed in certain things like math.  The advisor picked up on the fact that I was overthinking things a lot.  I was afraid that if I consistently rely on tutors to help me through another math class, I would frustrate the tutors because they would feel like their help isn’t getting to me, which is something my advisor believed was unnecessary for me to worry about and wanted to meet with me again so that we can discuss further how I should move forward after this semester.

While I do plan on proceeding to meet with my advisor to discuss what I should do, I’ve been praying to see what God wants me to do, but I hope the point is made here.  While autistic people are all different in what their strengths and weaknesses are, one thing is for certain: there is always something that they can work towards to make a reality in their lives, even if that means they have to work harder or get as much assistance as they can from outside sources.  Right now in my life, I severely lack inward motivation.  It takes a lot of outward motivation to push me forward and get certain things done, and I realize that needs to change. Everyone needs some outward motivation from time to time, but in the end it comes down to me making the decisions with what I want for my life.  In order for me to have the life that I have vision for and have a beneficial career, it means doing things and taking classes that I don’t want to do, but being autistic is not a good excuse for me to explain why I won’t do what I need to do in order to go far in life.

In conclusion, it’s not easy for anyone who’s autistic.  People on the spectrum have a unique ability to learn things earlier and quicker than others, but there are also things that come much easier to others than they do to autistic people and that’s where things get a little tricky, but no matter what, there’s always something that autistic people are capable of, and if it means doing less-than-desirable things like math classes or other classes involving topics where there’s zero interest in order to achieve that goal, it just means having to work harder and get extra assistance.  There’s always hope for people on the spectrum to get the help they need and do great things.

Note: Over the next couple of weeks, I will be focusing on writing satirical posts in the same vein as my post Autistic Guy Goes To Sunday Morning Mass For the First Time until I can think of a new way to continue writing about autism in a new format that branches out into different aspects I haven’t covered yet.

 

Living With Autism Part 9: Why Autism?

Every writer that pursues a particular topic to write about has to answer the question: why do you write what you write?

As I’ve been writing these articles about my life with autism and about the knowledge I have about the autism spectrum, I’ve been commended for being very open, transparent, and honest in my views and where I come from and people have told me that my articles have helped them gain a better understanding of autism and the people on that spectrum, including people who have autistic children.  Combine the feedback, my personal experiences, and my passion for writing, and it’s looking pretty obvious that writing about autism is something I seem to have a talent at doing.  So why do I personally feel passionate for writing about autism?

Personal experience as a high-functioning autistic is obviously a factor.  I have that personal experience under my belt as someone with Aspergers, so my articles are about autism by someone who is autistic on a certain level, therefore I have a fair understanding of what I’m actually talking about when I write.

Beyond that, I think people who are on the autism spectrum are very fascinating people.  A lot of assumptions are made that all autistic people are the same, but I can tell you that that’s not true at all, and I’m sure you already know it.  The population that’s on the spectrum is very diverse in its own ways, and I think its very fascinating and intriguing to observe and interact with people on the spectrum and learn how they’re different from each other.  Autism represents a group of unique people that think and process things differently, and though they have their weaknesses in certain areas of everyday life that comes naturally to a lot of people, they also have some amazing strengths and tend to learn things earlier than expected.  They introduce a certain dynamic in our culture that makes it different.

What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool?  You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.”  – Temple Grandin

Because of this fascination in the lives of people on the spectrum, I feel passionate to take what I’ve learned from both my own personal experiences and the information I get from doing research and write articles so that people will have an increased awareness and understanding. I believe that the lives of autistic people can become easier and more fair if others understand better how they think, feel, and function so that they can interact with them and not expect from them the same norms that they expect from others.  People can also learn how to take better care of people on the spectrum if their children are autistic or if they’re associated with autistic people.  Whatever I can do to help make the world a better place for people on the spectrum and make them feel accepted and understood is a real pleasure to me, and I hope that by continuing to write these articles, I can help someone, whether it’s an autistic person or a person that’s associated with autistic people.