Continuing my constant blogging on discovering my Au-some nature, I wanted to explore the exciting that autistics (and adhders too) appear to have a greater and deeper connection with animals. Especially since I saw my son really take to an online game within seconds of where you can care and feed an animal. He’s 3, has been very involved in caring for our pets (dogs and rabbits), and here he is having a virtual one (actually two–he won enough “tickets” to adopt a black little chick along with his grey kitten) of his own. Also, he has tried to learn communicating like our dog, which has been both amazing and adorable.
My love of animals started when I was little. I wish I could explain but I feel because I had a dog, I was connected to dogs as my family from day one. Or at least from my earliest memory. I have several pictures of our family dog “Lucky” (the black lab with the white spot) and me playing (or hiding from the mischeif we got into) and actually a few photos of me trying to interact with neighbors’ dogs. As I grew older, neighbors and friends asked me to pet sit for them, including watching little and big dogs, cats (i hate liter boxes with a passion) and even hamsters and birds. In high school, I adopted a large white rabbit from a neighbor because I wanted a pet and before I graduated, I managed to give him to a preschool to keep as a pet of their own. When I graduated college in 2005– I made it my sole goal (kinda probably a hyper focus really) to adopt a dog from the local shelter. My first dog, April, was the one I put down in February… living to be 14.5 years old. I also have adopted hamsters, another rabbit, rats (I adore rats) and another dog Scout (my kiddo’s best friend really.)
Having begun my interactions with autistic adults online, I have discovered I am not alone in my love for animals. I am part of a group where someone’s own beliefs follow the trail and path of wolves. I know SEVERAL autistic who love cats (don’t get me wrong, i probably act like a cat more than a dog but i just LOVE dogs.) Agony Autie (autism advocate) just adopted two rats and has worked up a whole beautiful caring system for them including different environments and places to learn to feel safe and cared for (did i mention i love rats!?). It’s beautiful. While I haven’t read anything by her, one of the more famous autistics ia Temple Grandin, who has several books on the deep connections humans and animals can form ( she works with horses and dogs specifically I believe.)
I wonder if if having a different type of brain allows for this inner connection with animals. As autistics, we are typically more aware of the nuances , the little things. So we notice when pets are off balance, when they are communicating something atypical of humans. And considering several of us love animals and can hyper focus on learning things about them, especially if we desire to care for them as our own, we take this on very seriously.
If you’re autistic, what animals do you love? Do you have pets? If you’re non-autistic, have you seen this too? Tell me in the comments!
I was originally going to postpone this post due to COVID-19 and the triggers anxiety discussions cause. But we only end the stigma by talking about it. Openly. And we all need support during these twilight zone times
As an autistic ADHD adult-my life is filled with fighting the ever-present feeling of anxiety. Whether it be fear from being left alone (yeah COVID-19 did NOT help) to general fear of my child running towards things or jumping off furniture. I constantly worry about what people think and how to deal with their reactions. It can keep me non-verbal some days. Or other days I struggle through pushing back the anxiety of living life.
The reason I wanted to talk about this is because Society doesn’t want to. We tell people to “get over it” or push it down. To ignore it and it will eventually go away. But true anxiety (versus basic nervousness) can be debilitating, brain blocking and some times what pushes an Autistic or ADHD person into shutdown mode. Its not worth it to push it away. Even more so with a global pandemic, we need to see anxiety, acknowledge it and even learn to use it in a positive way (someone mentioned this ins. Group chat today-i thought it both confusing and significant at the same time—typical of a mused afterthought.)
So here are windows into what goes thru my mind and what having anxiety looks like. The first window is my thought process. When I get to this anxious circle, the first thing I know is that I need help. My negative thoughts (I’ll leave details out for protection) typically give off this feeling of circling and circling and I cannot get out of the spiral it is spinning in my head. Typically I will slightly cry, freeze for a moment. Definitely do not ask me a question or ask me to remember things. The image below is pretty accurate to what it feels
The second window is the actual panic attack. For a while-I thought I had never had panic attacks. (yes-you can have anxiety and not have panic attacks.) But two specific attacks stick in my mind and they are very different. The first: I had an attack when attempting to drive a go-kart. And not just a simple go kart but one of the K1 racing places. I was already nervous doing something I didn’t want to. Add on i was not given proper time to digest how everything works and functions. So my brain went into pure shutdown mode and my nerves went into hyperdrive. Result: true panic attack.
The second event was a dentist appointment. Again, it was something I didn’t want to do and no explanation or time was given for me to digest how everything was going to work. the result was that I had to reschedule the procedure. What made this matter worse is the dentist didn’t do anything to help with my anxiety, just worked thru my procedure and i woke up from the surgery in a panic attack. Again-this is why society needs to talk about it. I refuse to go back to that dentist but it has now put me in a very scared situations even to go to a dentist.
So please feel free to talk about anxiety and how it affects your life. Please be kind in the comments. Also-not a doctor here-if you need help, call someone. I see a therapist-a great tool. I also must self-stimulate or regulate my feelings—another tool. You definitely need tools to help thru something like this.
So until recently, I was really good At taking my meds. I woke up, did my morning routine and at the end of my routine was getting my meds. I kept them in a high in a cardboard so my kid was nowhere near them. It worked. Routine. Steady.
Then the weekend hit. I don’t have a routine for my weekends. I wake up when I awake, I go to sleep when I’m tired. So when my psychiatrist told me i have to take my Addarell, she told me that I needed to take my medicine early in the day so that I would experience more insomnia. And of course, in typical Sara fashion, I ignored her on the weekend doses because I thought it wouldn’t make much difference. Until I was up on sunday night until 3am wondering maybe taking that medicine late was not such a good idea.
The problem is some days, I need to sleep late. To enjoy that feeling of not setting an alarm. Other days (mostly work) are the days I need to be up by a certain time to work or meet a deadline. I haven’t decided yet– but the idea of waking up and taking a medicine only to maybe (not likely considering the medicine) go back to sleep just seems…so… annoying.
So far, that is the only puzzle I am trying to work out so that I can take medicine and function without staying up too late or not being able to focus so often. Anyone got any insights/other things I should keep an eye out? I know its hard with COVID-19 issues–something already rising my anxiety–but starting a new drug and monitoring it is also important too.
UPDATE: when all else fails, ask the doctor. I actually sent a message and it was made clear to me that I can go on and off this medication if need be. Thats helpful but also frustrating because while today i didn’t want to be on the meds, I took my dose around 8:30-9am resulting in it now being 1:30am and Im still awake. Because my brain is still working. Im still working on a balance. Its only a few weeks since i started this drug (3/6/20) and so much has happened since then.
While my last post was about the difficulties of this month now here; this post will mostly be resources and people you can look into to really help the autistic (and especially adult) autistic community.
I will say the first thing i would do is read Nuerotribes by Steve Silberman. I wrote about the book last year in my readings records. It has already places to start. Then i would look at direct people:
People : here is a list of several poeple I follow on multiple school networks. Neurodivergent rebel, agony autie, save the neurotypicals, Aspie world, everyday Aspergers, odd girl out, Neurodivergent people, yo samdy sam, Jamie (on break right now but has several videos), spectrumy, neurodivergent teacher, Aut-ish, the neurodiverse women, Greta Thunberg, “i Am autistic”, Autistic grandma and others. This is definiteliy NOT a comprehensive list and if you are an autistic advocate and would like to comment for adding your name, please do so. (some of these are twitters/youtubers/facebook)
Sites: these are so many sites to look into. I also recommend joining patreon, ko-fi and thru those the countless discord channels where discussions around these blogs happen with others in this community and some people make a living doing advocacy and artwork. It is also good to follow Neuroclastic on WordPress too who has several articles by mostly autistic people. Here is their main site: https://neuroclastic.com
Honestly, this video by Yo Samdy Sam pretty much explains the whole movement and my generic opinion on it. And sam’s excellent at explaining things : https://youtu.be/RHVLCeeOuPs
I also asked for some assistance from a friend for some of her recommendations (who has been doing the advocating for a little bit longer than me… Thanks to N—! I have some links to people above
Lastly, I would not seek out Autism $peaks or think blue (boo boo!). They not only have a history of discriminating against autistics (originally thought of as only a male disorder) but do not actually support the community. Kinda like the goodwill, they are in it for profit and that autism is a disease that needs curing. Otherwise, I would help educate those companies and communities who only see autism speaks and recommend people from this list. Perfect example?—I reached to Pieology corporate last year about them working with A$ and as a result i received a written email from a marketing manager how they will look into using more local groups for the 2020 fundraising. Now, i have no idea if that will hold up due to COVId-19, but I feel better 1) saying my 2cents and 2) that it may have made a difference. All it takes is people speaking. Being Autistic is a different brain processing, not an illness.
For many autistics, April is both the beginning of a month of overwhelming support and overwhelming fear. For while people start off the month as a joke in April Fools Day, it is also known as Autism Awareness Month. Take on April 2nd is typically held as the start date (to not confuse the joke holiday and according to the UN) and is currently known as “World Autism Day” (see wiki here )
April brings a lot of mixed emotions for autistics. First there are support networks coming from multiple angles trying to sponsor events, have dinners, and even encourage the wearing of Blue or the colored puzzle pieces above. (Well—until a world wide pandemic started sweeping the globe, but more on that one later.) Society as a whole is trying to show love and support for a community of people that specifically struggle with communication. These things can induce meltdowns or even be major triggers for autistics, even if intent is in the right place.
Second- April gives the wrong impression. It is not one month of support that many autistics need. They need full acceptance. They need full support networks for their struggling skills and encouragement all the time in their areas to shine for their super skills. In fact- autism $peaks collects thousands of dollars for research that neither supports the families and has a history of being derogatory or even offensive. (Even a few commercials I will not link.) It was not until this year they changed their blue logo (a color used because autism was originally thought of as a boy-only disorder) and many adult autistics do not like the puzzle pieces because it represents negativity, exclusion and even abuse.
I will say, what you should do this April, if you really want to help, is to find out the autistic adults and families and find out what they really need. (Well waiting until May is also a good idea.). And look carefully into “trend charity.”
I have been interested in language all my life. Well-the study of language. I enjoy seeing where words come from, how they have traveled through cultures and histories and what different languages look like and how they are all interconnected. Maybe its because it helped me remember words and their meaning better if i knew a word’s story or maybe its because just always had problems learning words and needed all the details.
So of course when I went to college and decided I wanted to be a theology major– I wanted to incorporate my love of language into my theology for my undergraduate thesis. Not only was it suggested I change my focus (no one in our faculty had a huge speciality in it and we did not have a linguistic program at school and therefore there was very little support), but I was told their just wasn’t that much material out there to do a research topic.
So since then I have made it my life’s goal to try and work together the idea of theology and linguistics (or the study of language-yes, those things can be different.) I spent most of my undergrad and seminary years not only in classes but understanding God, Jesus and the Biblical text with commentary, but also taking multiple language courses in hopes to find the right path towards discovering something new in the language/theological world. After I graduated, I worked on studying linguistics directly (almost got a second masters I was so interested) to try and find a way.
Let me tell you: when you tell a Sara she cannot do it-9 times out of 10 she will find a way to do just that thing. Thank you hyper focusing and my internal drive to find that one totally unique thing. See “nth” reason why I have a hunch I’m autistic.
So the other day I was thinking about how all of this works in with my autistic self. Sorry if this part is a little random but I was thinking that how and what we say in our theology is very important. Don’t get me wrong, our actions are equally important. More important sometimes. But the right words can have a lot of power. But How we communicate with people, especially those who may not use words or pictures in their minds, reflects on how we envelope them into the church. I also realized liturgy can have a crucial play in our linguistic theology. Think of chanting monks versus the rock n’ roll praise band.
So maybe we can start and inquiry here…who is with me?! comment below!
Being new to the autistic community online-I have sat thru countless fact filled hours of YouTube videos and social media posts. They are really informative for a newly self-identified autistic and can be a great place for finding support. Just this morning, I watched a video on audio sensory sensitivities and ear plugs. Wow-what an amazing tidbit of information it was. And while I personally don’t have a major sensitivity to sound (some times I do, depends on my processing level)– I did want to talk about a legitimate sensory sensitivity I do have that I believe shows a little of my autistic side: light sensitivity.
When I was a kid- I always wanted to wear sunglasses. in class, outside, you name it. Even my high school sophomore year softball team I was known as “Meeko” because I always wore the sunglasses outside at practice. However, I didn’t think much of my eyes because I could still see really well. Unlike my mom who had classes at 8 years old– I only needed to have my eyes checked every once & a while to make sure they were still 20/20. However, one year (I think after I got real vision insurance)–I went to the eye doctor preparing to have my eyes examined. I remember being confused when I didn’t need to bring another person with me. Don’t all adults bring someone because you’re eyes get dilated? Come to find out-my pupils are larger than the average person resulting in not only my eyes never having to be dilated, but also having a increased sensitivity to light. (And also cops thinking I am always drunk and shinning bright flashlights in my face-not cool cops, not cool at all.) I never really noticed the light sensitivity until I began to lose focus while working on my computer. I would get tired a lot more easily than expected. Then lights got “too bright” or I was always reaching for my sunglasses when walking outside. It was described to me once that my eyes were trying to take in too much information. I was thinking “yep, just like my brain.”
My light sensitivity increased as I got older and changed eye doctors–I started to inherit my father’s far sightedness. This means that I can see things better when they are at a distance. It creates trouble focusing , headaches for long periods on the computer and having to squint to see things up close. Ironically it relates to my ADHD and autism. If my own eyes have trouble focusing and my brain gets distracted or bored and I am a complete mess at processing people talking to me. The eye doctor finally recommended I get a brown or black tint in my glasses to help in the office. Let me tell you–those glasses were life-changing. Not only did I not have to squint–but the world got softer with less light.
Today I wear black tinted glasses in the office. I have to constantly tell people they are not transition lenses but at least they are super comforting for my sight. For outside-i pretty much need my sunglasses all the time. In bright sun, today in cloudy overcast. Hey I’ve even worn them in the office when I forget my standard glasses.
Other light sensitivities that have come to the surface are my annoyance with too many lights on in the house, having lights turned off above my desk and returning my glasses to Costco because I needed the tint (they do not offer it by the way.)
What sensitivities do you have? Audio/Vision/Smell ( I have a little bit of this but that’s for another time.) Leave a comment below–maybe those with sensitivities can help others see all parts of the world.