Book Review: Demystifying the Autistic Experience: A Humanistic Introduction for Parents, Caregivers and Educators (2002)

Around the time this book was written the author’s name was brought up in conversation as “the one who got it.” Little did I know of 17 years of molding into the man I have become, and a unique 50 cent book in a thrift shop, I would discover that the book would make me get it more.

I was in an interdisciplinary meeting at the time, it was stressful we were about one year out of the RTF, about one year near the completion of High School, yet I was still in services that I now know were at thw time were excessive and not a proper fit given the age. However, in this meeting, a gentleman who was a represntative of the County Mental Health Office, and now serves in a more indirect role of my employment had mentioned the gentleman. Myself and my parents were skeptic and it even brought emotions in the meeting very deeply. However we would move on. By the way that county representative is acknowledged in the book.

Fast forward to two days ago, when I was reading the book, it tells of what we as individuals on the spectrum feel and how we want what we want, and how we express what we express it in the way we do, even if it may seem odd to others, however it is the way it is.

He explains several things that make sense to me. Like the adrediline and cortisol and the necesity to exert energy regularly to relive it as well as the stimming along with the person centered language and the importance of treating an individual on the spectrum for who they are although we are unique in our very own way, to see the entirity of the person as a whole and to have them feel as they feel in their own special way.

Many who have heard of Mr. Stillman have heard of his Wizard of Oz Obsession. As he got older it would be precarious to explain this to a friend, however he was allowed to keep his obsession, in a secluded private place in the home. This being said, any individual has the right to enjoy whatever it is to enjoy. For those who “age out” of that thing to the point where it may seem inappropriate, it is best to find a private place of the home and let that indivual visit that obsesion from time to time. We have to keep in mind this was before the internet came into play, which has made individuals on the spectrum grow their intellect by leaps and bounds. My parents had a conputer given to us by my late uncle in 1998, not many had a computer at the time, I cannot tell you how grateful I am to my uncle for donating that to us. Nonetheless, it has made me mold into my techonoligicla capable self that I am today.

Sometimes, we need to take a break from the Internet and social media and be thankful for the goof old pleasaure of life like the outdoors, friends, family, etc. We are grateful for the advances of technology, however it is important to get active and stay active in many activies that human involvemnt can provide.

Lastly in his biographical chapter of the book, he gingerly discusses his sexuality a bit. While 17 years after this book was published, this was a very heated are to discuss about individuals on the spectrum, i felt it was a necessary component to the whole picuture because sometimes you have no idea what that person feels until you ask them and heck, they may not even know. Yes, the LGBTQ community has come leaps in bounds as a whole, however discrimination still happens, as such I feel there needs to be openess to this subject in both sides of the Autism Spectrum Communities, both in the I/DD field and Mental Health field. Professionals are afraid to ask, training is needed for each and every professional and yes there are views that a person may have, but they have to put them aside to see what makes the person happy. Because once the persons close to them leave, they many not be happy with societal norms and want to believe what they want. We have made policies and statements about this in the governmental communities, however we need to “stick to our guns” in this effect.

The book was one of the best books on the spectrum I have read in a while.

Change is everywhere, we must be willing to accept sudden change and adapt as necessary.

I have been going to the same day program (Clubhouse) for 15 years this month and have had the same supported employment position for over nine years. Many know that individuals on the spectrum cannot accept sudden change and that it can come to the point of even a meltdown, however I gradually become more accepting of change. In our county the  clubhouse provides transportation to and from the facility as well as jobsites due to what is a severe downfall of public bus routes. However, since I moved last year, I am within  a few blocks away of a public fixed route that connects my city with the county seat 15 miles away. I have used other systems when living in other communities, but there’s a presumed stigma in our community about using it. However, me wanting to try new things and getting out more, feel the benefits of using it. I have used it a time around here and there, but today was a day that I had no choice but to use it to get to work.

Let’s rewind back two days to Sunday night, I was at my parents house working on fair entries when severe thunderstorm warnings came across my devices. I wasn’t worried because it has.been occurring aplenty over the past few years and especially in the county seat where the Clubhouse and Work are both located. In fact,.I have begun to ride the public bus back and forth to local destinations as needed and have been doing well, so again I didn’t worry. Later that night, flood warnings were issued. This too has happened before in the county seat, but has never affected the day program since the past five years we been at the downtown location. So when I came home for the night, I didn’t worry about it. I went to bed and didn’t care.

5:15 and the alarm went off, somehow I ignored it and I woke up a few minutes before 7, I usually get a call, but didn’t, which seemed odd, so I called. The van driver answered and told me the four Clubhouse vans were flooded and unusable. There would be no van services today and he asked me if I was scheduled today. I told him I was off, but I had to work tomorrow because we were getting audited and I was required to attend. However, I should make arrangements should transportation nor be available today.

First, I was thankful that I had the day off because I had things to do. But I had to get things in order should there  not be vans today. I got out the bus schedule and figured out the connections and necessary information and was ready for the call. Normally I would have had a meltdown because I would have to do something different, however I feel that something told me to put a bus pass in my monthly budget and to begin learning about riding the bus.

Anyway, I went about my business and as 2:00 came around, I received a call from the facility that I would have to follow through with my plan. Nonetheless I felt confident in doing so.

This morning I for up and got ready and began the three and a half blocks journey to the bus stop. It’s nice having app for the bus that says where it was. I have to admit that I got worried when the tracker didn’t move, however it was a minute late. The reason was because the drivers were training a new one. 40 minutes later and on time we arrived in the county seat. I had a 50 minutes layover, so I walked over to the clubhouse for about half an hour, then I went to the convenience store to get a drink and bagel. The headed to the next bus stop and headed on the last part of the journey made it to work 1 hours and 40 minutes later. My mom was picking me up anyway, but if usually ride the bus home at least once a.month when I need to buy my pass. 

To my fellow Aspies and Autistic community fans, change can come in many forms, including those we have no control of. This was one of the latter and we know change isn’t easy, but we must garner the bravery and tact to face it and overcome them.

Aspergers is not a reason for committing a crime

We see it at least one time or so a week. An autism spectrum disorder is related to.the crime an individual and for just a moment in time there is a negative connotation to those on the spectrum.

Often times this is not the case, but because it is immediately pointed out in criminal affidavits, then it is the nucleus of the story. However, having the diagnosis could contain many elements. Are they managed well with medication? Were they obsessed with something? Were there warning signs leading up to the event? The list goes on and on!

There are many individuals that committed major crimes like the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Suspect Adam Lanza, the Aurora Theater Shooter, the list goes on and on. However with proper services across the board and regular obedience to rules and regulations diminishes the opportunity for negative law enforcement activity and the possibility to be charged with a crime.

I want to make something clear, any individual on the spectrum who has the ability to understand right from wrong should be taught this as soon as they understand what is. Especially for individuals on the higher end of the spectrum who possess intellect and the ability to understand and communicate effectively should by no reason use their disorder as a crutch to get out of something that they were a cause or culprit of. The proper skills should be taught as soon as the opportunity arises to do so that there is no issue brought forth in a negative way.

I had a few experiences with law enforcement in my past that makes me afraid of law enforcement activity to a degree. While these were with my parents, one specific one when was when I didn’t get something that I wanted from the store. I almost ended up in the psych ward that day, but it was with the grace of God and my Dad showing up that helped me not ending up there. With that being said, I must instill that we as individuals must be taught with how to cope when things don’t go our way, to gracefully accept and grow from that denial and prove that you can manage your symptoms so you don’t have those negative effects of the judicial system in an individuals life.

As such, being in a different neighborhood for almost a year now have had to see some not so nice things at a local playground over the past year when walking by it. Last year, wheelchair accessible playground equipment, the first in our county was installed. One-day there were teenagers abusing and snubbing their cigarettes on it. Knowing this was inappropriate, i just ignored it, but told my co-worker the next day. She abruptly asked me “Did you call 911?” I replied “no, I was afraid to” She gave a reply ” well, then you have no right to complain about it if you don’t do something about it. ”

Another incident occurred at this park last month when there was graffiti in a disturbing manner and broken glass strewn across the swing. I thought about it and decided to call the local police station and report it, i was a little apprehensive when they asked for my contact information, however I was assured by the law enforcement official that it couldn’t be used in a negative way.

I am lucky to have a mayor in our community that is active on social media with how citizens. He outlined that graffiti was more common and that calling the police is the right thing to do. When I explained my experience anonymously on the thread, he and others commended me for my efforts. More so, we have had a rash of vandalism citywide and he again took to those afraid of calling the police saying that criminal activity is harder to solve when it goes unreported, however these same individuals will bash the mayor on social media for not addressing the issue at hand.
In closing, individuals on the spectrum should if possible be taught right from wrong and to not have a negative connotation of law enforcement activity or officers, it can help the individual become more successful in the community and in life

Don’t let your Autism keep you back from fun things, persevere!

Many say that having an autistic individual close to Fireworks could cause utter chaos! In fact, I have seen numerous suggestions and reminders to be sensitive to individuals on the spectrum by being considerate of their needs during this noisy holiday. I am learning slowly not to let my Autism define me in the life of me, but define what Autism is.

One time in my life, the small town I grew up in was having a firemen’s carnival. It had came to the point they couldn’t set off fireworks in the park for one reason or another so my grandfather decided to allow them to set them off on our property one year. I was of school age and all I can remember is screaming and crying. I hated it and wanted it to be over, while it was a very nice display, I ruined the evening for our family by what I now know is sensory overload.

Fast forward to 25 years later, I am more understanding of the triggers. Anyway, last night I had went to visit my mom and dad and we were scrolling our phones while I come across the Facebook page of our city’s mayor who said that fireworks would be on tonight.

Now ever since I was a kid I remember sitting on our front wall watching the fireworks from afar, about 3 miles away. However factors that have decreased the ability to view them have occurred over the years. First, trees have grown in the course of the 30 years ago and second, the site where the fireworks are displayed moved to a lower elevation.

Nonetheless, while the fireworks were scheduled to go on, It had begun to rain to the effect that we received weather warnings on our phones. So we didn’t talk about it and I worked on my ancestry on the phone until dark, then Mom asks me if I want to go in town to watch the fireworks? WHAT? NOISES, CROWDS AND PEOPLE! While I am apprehensive about going, I remember that I have my headphones for a coping mechanism and that I could get some really good video for my Facebook page. So I agree with my mom and we head into town.

We park in one of the city’s parking lots and head out on the bridge overlooking the river. We patiently wait while we are surrounded by several spectators, even while there is a festival going on there appears to be some sort of police activity because we see law enforcement and vehicles entering the area of the festival, nonetheless I am just coping by listening to my music, then the fireworks begin. I am not startled, but am enjoyed by the amazing display that is brought forth as well as the great playlist that I have selected earlier this week on Amazon. Anyway, I focused All 16 or so minutes on the videography of the fireworks.

After the fireworks, mom took me home and I go to bed. This morning I got up and the first thing in my mind was to edit the video, which I did and it was one of the best ever. My advice is this, don’t let Autism hold you back from your hobbies you enjoy. Adapt to the environment that is comfortable for you so you can maximize your potential to your fullest ability. Don’t let your autism define you nor dont let it keep you back from something in the end mission that may be a good idea to do, such as fireworks. Now would I have even done this 20 years ago! No WAY! But I have found a huge way to cope and sometimes daily.

PS: The video: https://youtu.be/pzjxSAfZQEQ