Monthly Archives: October 2011

Autism and Adolescence

Being a teenager is hard. Hormones cause mood swings and irritability. I guess it is worse in autism because our regulation of our emotions is weak. I often feel edgy and I know I am that way for nothing. It is the way I handle it though that makes a hormonal mood swing into a behavior problem. I believe I am feeling the same as all teens only I can’t control my actions as well as they do. Like them I am irritable and sort of moody and impulsive. Unlike them, I can’t cover it up so easily. I’m like a dog who snarls. They cuss and say rude things. I tense in my body. They bother others by teasing or bullying. It is a trying episode and I look forward to adulthood when I can feel calmer and more like a stable state than I do now. It is a thing we all get through so I guess I have a few more years of this.

The Lure of Stims

In the past I internally lived in stims. The stim was entertainment, escape, compulsion, and the easiest way to deal with the frustrations of autism. It is like an alcoholic who runs to a bottle whenever he is sad or tense. It is a way to avoid working on things. It really makes the situation worse though. It is also unfair to the rest of the people who interact with the stimming person because he puts his challenges on them. In my Health class we are learning about drug abuse and alcoholism. I can’t help but see a similarity in autistic stims.

In the first place, a stim is a sensory trip of enjoyable feelings. It may start small but it can take over your life- not so much life, but all you do is less important than the stim itself if it is compelling. So, it is an escapist drug and it is addictive. I used to stim a lot as a young boy, especially before I could communicate. Now I stim less because I am engaged in life at a normal level, so I stay in the world as much as I can. I am thrilled about that because I don’t want to live in Autismland flapping, tensing, and twirling my life away. It is hard but I am happy in school listening and learning. I may miss out on the social aspect of high school because I don’t have friends in high school- none of the disable kids really do, I’ve noticed- but I do have a normal day of regular classes and regular homework and exercise and so on.

But stims are there tempting me. I get stressed or bored so I return to my trusty alternative to reality. Stims are a necessary outlet at times but they have to be in moderation. If not we become drunk on them and it’s too hard to return to some self control. We need a lot of help in these times and lots of activity to keep our minds engaged.

Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan

Helen Keller was a great woman. Now she is a hero for showing the world that severe disability doesn’t mean a life of ignorance and institutionalization. In her time that was a radical concept. She was incredibly determined to live a normal life and she worked so hard to achieve her goals. She learned five languages in fingerspelling. She learned to speak though she couldn’t hear her own voice, the sounds of the words, or even lipreading the movements of speech. It is an incredible achievement in my opinion.

Her teacher, Annie Sullivan, was incredible too. She stayed with Helen for fifty years. I was amazed because my own aides last about two or three years before they move on to grad school, motherhood, or new jobs. Not only that, but Sullivan was also visually impaired. She still assisted Helen in school and out. So, Annie Sullivan was also a disabled hero.

What creates such motivation as both women had? Is it friendship, intelligence, or some divine talent? I work hard though Helen worked harder. She worked so hard to prove she deserved her place in the sun. She showed what hard work can do. Instead of a life in an institution, wild and locked in, completely cut off from communication, she became a star of the world, giving hope to millions, and giving herself the gift of freedom. She did this in spite of having a lonely disability that cut her off from conversation and sight. In fighting for herself, she fought for me and many others too. Maybe one day I will be a real leader like her.

Travelling Around the Sun

Pretty soon the weather will get cool. It is the cycle of life. Here we only have two seasons, hot and cool. In the northeast the four seasons are distinct. Each is a transition to the next. I envy those who enjoy the fall leaves and snow because these are beautiful parts of the seasons I don’t experience here. But I suppose I’d get sick of freezing every winter too just like I get sick of the heat.

In the seasons we get a new beginning, a new ending, on and on. The weather tells me to bid farewell to swimming. The ocean is too cold unless I have a wetsuit on. It’s going to be a new trip around the sun.

Electricity in Autismland

I noticed that I get really nervous before I give a speech. I suppose that’s normal but the truth is I felt so scared it kind of took over. I found old stims that were gone for years reappeared. My mom kept bringing this to my attention and kept saying, “Don’t bring back something you overcame just because you’re nervous.”

She is right. It is so easy to slip into bad habits. I bothered my mom and dad with remote, non-engaged laughter. They had to struggle to get me to focus. It was like a motor car rolling downhill with broken brakes. It was not pleasant for me either.

Autismland offers an escape from my stress, but it creates stress for everyone else. I’m overly stimmy if I’m nervous like over-charged electrical energy. How to deal with this is my life’s struggle. I did get it together for my big speech. I was calm the whole time, but leading up to it I was an electrical current that was out of whack. Really I feel much better now. It is very tiring to be stuck on a current of energy. I exercised and we walked. That helped, but it is like this: I will need help either from neuroscientists or electricians. Ha ha.