The Life Autistic: You Can’t Make these Quirks Up

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If you haven’t seen Captain Marvel, go see that first, then come back.


 

Ok, since you’re squared up on that:

Early on, Carol quizzes Nick Fury about a personal quirk so obscure that it would be impossible to fabricate.

And this “autistic-flavored” quirk came to mind.

Which is rare, because so many other regular ones do.

I only use travel-sized toothpastes for brushing my teeth.

I drink water from a mason jar and milk from a coffee mug.

I literally shudder/cringe at someone rubbing bare skin on carpet

but none top this whopper:

I’ll itch and sniff my hair because it smells like Korean Ramen noodles

If that ain’t the most embarrassing thing ever.

But it’s become so common, leading to exchanges like:

Mo: Daddy, why do you itch and smell your hair?

Me: I —

My wife: Because it smells like ramen.

Mo: Does that smell good?

Me: OK, I — well, yeah, but I —

My sister took note of it once, saying that it’s actually some autistic soothing and smell fixation thing.

And with my poor sense of smell, look, I like when they stand out.

So yeah, it’s part-stim, part-soothe, part-fixation – whatever: I do have the hair to spare!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to boil some ramen ^_^

 

 

 

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The Life Autistic: Why People Don’t Love the Machines

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I had a compelling discussion with a data scientist on my team, where we touched upon things like chess notation, text analytics, and how we’re basically inventing things that will replace us one day.

“I’m trying to take the machine side now. So when they take over, maybe they’ll be nice to me.”

I believe that.

I think they’ll come to me and realize I’m not quite like the other humans.

Rigid. Inviolate. Predictable. Rote.

Just like them.

In The Life Autistic, I’ve discovered a thing or two about being a machine.

It’s too late for me now, but I hope discoveries are not too late for you. Or for your kids. Or for whoever you care about who’s living their own life autistic.

People don’t love the machines.

No one starts their car and thinks: “Wow, I love the fact that you started today. And pretty much every day. Almost without fail.”

Same with their iPhones, televisions, blenders, whatever.

Function without fail is not endearing.

It took me years upon years, decade upon decade – realizing just recently:

My unshakeable ability to remember things for people.

To drive things to a finish.

Never forgetting commitments. 

Always saying hello in our work chats.

And all else: the little chores, the steadfast deliveries, the items never failed.

They are not endearing traits.

They are machinery. 


 

The emptiness hit me a while back and quite recently.

“Why don’t people appreciate these things, these unfailing traits about me?”

And as I pressed the BREW button on Mr. Coffee, I almost heard him answer back:

“It’s the same reason you don’t love me, Hunter.

I am but a machine.

I do what is expected of machinery.

And there is nothing more.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Life Autistic: Puzzle Pieces?

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Google “autism puzzle piece”

I’ll wait.

That branding is EVERYWHERE?

How’d it get to be that way?

We’re talking about Autism Awareness Month – there’s a lot of work to do here.

One thing that will help.

Let’s do away with this whole ‘puzzle piece’ mentality.

We’re not incomplete.

We’re not missing anything.

We’re not something to be solved.

We don’t look any better when put together.

Of course we want to understand ourselves better, but we’re asking you to understand us!

We’re not puzzling; we’re different.

This round, let’s put down the puzzle pieces. The icons. The ribbons.

We get that it’s still common, and fine, we can work off that common ground.

We’re not something to ‘put together.’

We just want to work together.

 

The Life Autistic: The Right Kind of Autism Awareness

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Why is there pizza here? 

I was working on this post, and Mo came up and asked “Are you finding something for us to eat tonight?” Maybe that’s not a bad idea.

Before we get to pizza, let’s get to the context: we’ve been highlighting National Autism Awareness Month — a good start in need of a great finish.

People are already aware of autism and autistic people.

And I worry that their awareness isn’t always calibrated.

The other day, I heard about some lady commenting on someone else’s ‘attributes,’ saying that “they must be on the spectrum or something.”

Why?

Because they took things literally and didn’t always get jokes.

Is that the kind of awareness we need?

That if you don’t get jokes, you might be “an autistic?”

That if you have trouble with figures of speech, you might be “an autistic?”

Or if you have trouble empathizing? Or latch onto routines as more rigidly than a robot?

We are not all autistic in the same ways. 

We may share similar experiences, and neurotypical people may be similar to us too.

But it’s a spectrum.

Be aware of this, at least: we’re all different and autistic each in our own special ways.


 

The friend who relayed this story ended it by telling me something along the lines of:

“She seemed to make a lot of generalizations about autistic people; how they’re really literal, that they don’t always get jokes, and that they all have the same favorite pizza.”

“Wait, what — we have a favorite pizza?”

….

The Life Autistic: One Easy Step to Acceptance

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It’s National Autism Awareness Month, but let’s talk about something needed far more in our world:

Acceptance.

We face invisible challenges that don’t make sense, that get pre-judged the wrong way, that get us dismissed.

“Oh, don’t invite him. He’s an autistic and probably doesn’t like social functions.”

“You know, I don’t care that he’s autistic: what he said was meant to hurt — I just know it. There’s no way he could have meant that kindly.”

“She’s just using big words to show off and justify it with her having autism.”

Folks.

Autism isn’t anti-socialism. Autism is not “license to be a jerk.” Autism doesn’t mean we can’t understand jokes.

After 300 words, people stop reading, so let me use my word count to get to the ONE EASY STEP toward Autism Acceptance.

Ready?

Assume positive intent.

No really, that’s it.

Let’s revisit how it colors those three statements above.

“Oh, don’t invite him. He’s an autistic and probably doesn’t like social functions.”

Positive acceptance: Hey, let’s invite him. Even if he might not like these, let’s show some courtesy and understanding — I’m sure he’ll appreciate the gesture or even make an appearance.”

Folks, we love when others are kind enough to let us turn down invitations. It sucks more not being invited.

Oh, and please don’t say “an autistic.”

“You know, I don’t care that he’s autistic: what he said was meant to hurt — I just know it. There’s no way he could have meant that kindly.”

Positive acceptance: I was hurt by this, but there might be chance he didn’t mean to offend. He’s generally nice, and this might be out of character. Maybe we can revisit this.

I’ve said enough accidental hurtful things to vivisect a whale. We know this is a thing, and we work really hard on it. But we’re not perfect.

Just help us by accepting that we’re not perfect and that we fall short and that, unless we’re outright mean all the time, meanness is generally not our meaning.

“She’s just using big words to show off and justify it with her having autism.”

Positive acceptance: She definitely loves words. That’s pretty cool, and I guess it makes her unique.

Yeah, y’all, just please back off of this one, ok?

My extended autistic family and I have plenty of awareness to go around.

But beyond that, we’d love your acceptance.

That understanding that we’re different, not less, not alien, not mean, that we see and act in a different way that’s not your normal.

 

The Life Autistic: Going Beyond ‘Awareness’

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April is National Autism Awareness Month, and April 2nd is our designated Awareness Day (since April 1st might have been problematic).

You all are plenty aware, as are many.

“Hey, Hunter, since it’s Autistic Awareness Month, I wanted to say that I’m more aware of your autism.”

Ok, that’s great.

We need to start moving past this basic awareness and into action.

And, lo and behold, even the Autism Society says it:

[W]e want to go beyond simply promoting autism awareness to encouraging friends and collaborators to become partners in movement toward acceptance and appreciation.

Acceptance and Appreciation.

Dang, y’all.

Do you even know what you’re asking for?

Accepting things like me not functioning professionally in group working sessions and needing time to myself to work on things?

Appreciating my too-often clumsy bluntness that still cuts through inefficiency and into truth?

I’ll admit I still have a lot of rough edges, but in the end:

We need less awareness.

We need more acceptance and appreciation.

We work hard to meet you where you’re at, surely you can return the favor.

SO!

In the next few posts, I hope to tackle some of these tough topics of acceptance, appreciation, the “right kinds of awareness”, this puzzle piece thing (?), and maybe even why autism is a key element of inclusion and diversity (!)

Happy April, all!