December 18, 2015

Driving While Autistic

There are a lot of Autistic people who can't or don't drive. Then there are people like me, who just love it. For me, driving represents absolute freedom. Often when I'm driving all by myself, I think about the scene in Rain Man where he keeps repeating, "I'm an excellent driver."

I enjoy the sensation of speed when I'm in control of it. So while I don't like most rides or roller coasters, I am happy to drive myself. I also sometimes get car sick as a passenger, but not as a driver, so I much prefer driving myself. 

I practised a lot before getting my license and I really think my attitude and motivation had a lot to do with it. I convinced myself I was capable and I really wanted that sense of freedom. I firmly believe each autistic knows themselves and their limits, and if they feel like they can do it, they should give it a try (barring other possible health issues like epilepsy that could make it dangerous).

I also think driving actually benefits me in a few interesting ways:

I suffer from meralgia paresthetica in my left leg. I recently started driving a manual transmission car, so this is my clutch leg. One of the ways to prevent meralgia pain is to change positions or move frequently, so driving and using the clutch actually helps prevent my pain. 

Driving, especially a manual car, keeps me focused and in the present moment. I have much less anxiety because my brain is kept busy with what I am doing. Driving is a great way for me to clear my head and relax. 

I know my limits and stick within them. I think since many of us can be very rigid or rule-based, I would guess that those of us who do drive are very cautious drivers who stick to the rules. 

I don't want Autistic people to rule themselves out right off the bat, and certainly not after trying just a few times. Everything takes practise, so if it's really something you want to do, you should see it as a long term exercise that will get better with time and practise. 

December 16, 2015

Head Lice Prevention

Last school year started with an epic breakout of head lice at the school. I guess all the kids who went to summer camp brought it with them? Nevertheless, I went out and started arming myself just in case. I got head lice twice as a child, so I know what that itching and trouble is like. I really didn't want to see it come into our home, so I started looking into how I could possibly prevent it.

In addition to going to the pharmacy and getting a medical treatment shampoo and lice comb to have on hand just in case, I also found some products that might deter lice from ever setting up home.

eco.kid lice prevention shampoo and Fairy Tales Rosemary Repellent Conditioning Spray picture by
First I found Fairy Tales Repel Conditioning Spray. I had made my own essential oil blend originally, but it smelled kinda funky. I'm happy I bought this one because it smells really nice. I sprayed the boy's head every day before he left for school, as well as all his hats and hoods.

I use it on my own hair as well, and I like the level of conditioning. It makes my hair very soft (and I have course, frizzy hair).

I then switched all of us to Eco.Kid Prevent Shampoo. It smells like lemons, yet still seems very mild.
I like the fact both products are made with essential oils and not strong chemicals.

Do they work?

Well, we didn't get lice, so whether that was just luck or the products, I can't say, but it did give me peace of mind. I think for that it was worth it, as well as the fact they both smell really nice and the boy didn't have any problems with them.

December 13, 2015

Waiting to Adopt

This is a post I keep drafting and stopping and trying to write. If you follow me on Instagram, you know we finally got the call for a potential adoption. The mother is not due to give birth for another couple of weeks, and she can change her mind at any time. The waiting has been awful! We were told it would be tough, but it's hard to put into words what it actually feels like until you're dropped into it.

Getting the call was like being handed a positive pregnancy test, except I hadn't peed in a cup. It's like, "wha? huh?" Maybe this is how men feel?

A million thoughts ran through my head - about the present and the future.  Once I got over the "is this really happening?" feeling, I couldn't help but start to plan and wonder. One minute everything is the same as always and the next you know huge changes will be coming along, you just don't know when or for sure.

Picture of three sets of feet and an empty pair of shoes with orange text across saying, "our family is growing by two feet" by

I started going into nesting mode - cleaning and organizing clutter in the house. Luckily, my friends did with me as well, and started to bring me baby things we may need.

The feelings I have now are mixed with excitement and fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of heartbreak. Adoption takes an incredible amount of trust and bravery on both sides.

Because of all the emotions I am going through, I started looking online for ways others can help us through this time. I could not find very much info, so I'm starting a list I hope can help us and others also going through The Wait:

I know you have questions, but you're not the only one asking me questions. On top of that, we're asking ourselves questions. So maybe try to keep your own questions to a minimum? Some answers will be apparent to everyone in time.

Please also understand that I can't or won't answer certain things. Some things I honestly don't know and others are just no one else's business. My child's story is theirs alone to tell and again, if it's important for you to know, you will have your answers in time.

I need you to know that as excited as I am, it is tempered by worry things won't work out and sadness for the loss my child and his mother will experience.

I need you to help me prepare my home and mind, the same way I would if I were pregnant. At the same time, we can enjoy our last moments of "freedom" before my life gets taken over by bottles and diapers. Invite me out for coffee, take me for a spa day - distract and pamper me like any mother-to-be.
I may not be able to hold a baby shower like a pregnant woman would, but you can still help me feel special, or maybe offer to babysit the Little Man, so Hubby and I can process alone a bit.

Understand it is very stressful to live under this amount of uncertainty - I might not always be in the best mood or want to talk about it.

Please tell me you will be there for me no matter what happens. I will need you in good times and bad. I am scared of the unknown and whether or not I will have anyone by my side if everything doesn't go as planned. 

December 05, 2015

Surviving the Holiday Office Party for Autistics: Part 2

I wrote my original office party survival post two years ago, when I was at a completely different company.

I survived my new workplace's party last night and I have some things to update since then.

First off, having been at my previous employer for two and a half years, and they were a company that liked to throw parties, I had a lot more practice in that environment. I came to know what to expect of their parties and my co-workers knew me better as a person. Also, being a male-dominated IT company, it was a lot more accepting of people being social awkward/inept. That company was also 10 times bigger than my current company, so it was easier to blend in or just not have tons of focus on me.

My downfall this year was a whole bunch of factors: 1) I hadn't been to a company party in a year, making me out of practice. 2) This company is much smaller. 3) People don't know me very well, nor I them. 4) This was my first party with this company, so I didn't know what to expect.

woman sitting in red dress looking at her smartphone image on
A woman sitting alone on her smartphone. This is what I wish I could do instead.

Despite trying to take care of myself over the course of the week, I woke up with anxiety on Friday morning. Great! I did everything I could to keep it at bay all day long. I think I did a good job of this, with the help of medication. By evening, I was pretty tired (it's tiring fighting anxiety all day!).

Dressed up and got out there. Was also a nice change because for this party I could bring a guest, so I brought Hubby. Having my trusted companion around, I know I can always have someone to talk to and his presence helps calm me.

Again, upon arrival, I do not understand the need to kiss and hug co-workers you saw just two hours before, but I do what I have to do if I have to do it. Especially when we don't kiss and hug good-bye on normal days. Why do we have to do it for parties?

My next major faux-pas was I forgot to compliment people on their outfits. Fun Fact About Me: I do like dressing up. I do like looking good. I do like it when others dress up and look good. HOWEVER, I rarely put this into words in a way that feels natural to me. I have to actually think about looking at a particular outfit and then saying, "that looks nice." Because, and I'm going to be really frank here, I actually don't really care what people wear.  I'm very pragmatic about most things and clothing is one of them. We have to wear it (in this culture anyway) so what people chose to wear is really of no concern to me.
I think next time I need to write notes on my hand to remind me I must compliment people or fear committing an awful social faux-pas.

Now comes the issue of food. Eh, it did not go so well here. Unlike my previous employer's fancy variety buffet where I could easily pick and choose, this was a sit-down formal five-course meal. I also wasn't all that hungry (thanks anxiety), so it's a whole lot more noticeable when you pick at your plate in a group.
It was much easier at my previous employer's - the room was darker, first of all, and I could wander around with a few things in my plate, pretending to be looking for food and very rarely sit down and actually eat. That way no one can scrutinize what or how much I'm eating. I don't want to make people uncomfortable with how I'm eating and I don't want to be asked questions about what I am or am not eating.
Because people get really concerned when you don't eat what's on your plate (a thing I don't understand, but it's just a fact). This is all about blending in with the NTs and it feels like an act. It IS an act, for me at least.

Then there was my lack of appropriate facial expression. I can be very happy. I can smile and look genuinely happy and excited. However, I can't always translate my feelings into my facial expressions. I need to think about things like that, because again, it feels like an act I have to put on so NTs can understand me.
So I was dancing and having fun, but apparently I was not exuberant enough, so someone asked me, "what's wrong with you?!" on the dance floor. I was also not excited enough about a picture (we had a photo booth set up) so I think my co-worker was angry with me, but I'm really not sure. It was a confusing conversation and she was kind of drunk, so I think that's all it was. But it's really hard for me to know or understand really. Especially when I'm already tired, it is hard to put on the appropriate act for NTs and I frankly don't really bother since I can get it wrong whether I try or not.

I want to make it clear though, I'm not upset about any of it. Hubby and I had a nice time. I just want to put out these examples of the amount of effort it can take for someone like me to be social and just try to do it. It's hard, but some of us still try. A lot of us don't try and it should be easy to see why, because even when we do, we often get it wrong.

Really, my only barometer of success for any of these things is that I get home at the end of the night and don't have a raging migraine. I think that comes with not being hard on myself for my failures. That eliminates a whole pile of stress right there.

I guess this is not amazing advice. This is more an explanation of how I cope or get through things that do not come easy to me, and maybe it will help someone else. At the very least, know you are not alone and maybe an NT reading this can see how hard some things are from this side. 

November 23, 2015

The Emergency Chat App

The Emergency Chat app was created by an Autistic computer science student and it's seriously the best thing since sliced bread.

It's useful for any time you would prefer to use written communication over verbal. Open the app and a screen with a message you have customized appears. You can hand your phone to someone to have them read the message. Once they read it, they press "continue" and an internal chat applet opens up. Passing the phone back and forth you can chat within it.

You can find it on Facebook here:

It's available for free for Android and iOS!

Here's a screenshot of the text I wrote for my version:
screenshot of splash screen of Emergency Chat App message explaining I'm having a panic attack

You can customize it for any time you may be non-verbal - asthma, allergy attacks, seizures, anxiety - whatever your needs are. 

October 23, 2015

Not All Opinions Are Equal

In another form of tone policing lives the statement: we all need to come together, get along, and all opinions should be respected.

Actually no. All opinions do not need to be respected. Not all opinions are equal.

You might have the opinion that killing kittens on the weekend is totally acceptable. I am under absolutely no obligation to respect your opinion. Just as much as you have a right to kill kittens, I have a right to tell you I think you're wrong. I am under no obligation to "get along" with you just because we also both happen to like the colour red. I am under no obligation to respect the fact you do it in the privacy of your home. All I can do, is report it to law officials and let them decide, but other than that, I don't need to respect your actions.

Similarly, some opinions are just wrong. I do not have to respect opinions that don't make any scientific sense. I don't have to respect people who shove bleach up their kid's ass because they think it will cure autism. Actually, I think that's child abuse, so no, I will not respect that.

I'm not really sure where this idea of "respecting" opinions comes from. I can agree to disagree with you and move on, but I have no need or desire to respect you or your opinions. Of course, you are free to do the same with me.

When we're talking about a divided community, no, I will not unite with people I can't respect. Especially ones who do harm. I, quite frankly, don't want you on my team or trying to represent me. Because you don't. We have about as much in common as a snail and a car transmission.

When it comes to the autism community, the ones who get the biggest share of the voice pie are actually Autistic people. Then come allies. I don't have to listen to the input of allies, but allies should for sure listen to mine. It's not fair, you say? Well, life isn't fair, is it? I get to be in charge of my story and that narrative, and if you want to help, the best thing you can do is to listen and repeat it. That's it! Your job is complete!

You don't get to change the story or tell me to edit my tone or delivery of it. You also don't get to blame me for dividing the community because you hear something you don't like. Either you're an ally, you're or not. If you no longer agree with the story, you don't have to keep reading it or repeating it. And none of that is my fault. You're in charge of what you do and I'm in charge of what I do.

The autism community is not divided, you just don't happen to agree with some parts of it, but the vast majority of us agree on the major points and either you're with us, or you're not. 

October 19, 2015

Nice People Don't Deserve to be Called Out and Other Myths

I'm not sure if this qualifies as tone policing, but it tends to get trotted out shortly after the always popular and dismissive, "well, you're being too sensitive, so your opinion doesn't matter" part of an online discussion where I have pointed out something offensive that someone has said or posted.

The phrase is sometimes said by the person being called out, or by their friends and it's: "don't pick on me/them, I'm/they're a really good person! They didn't intend to offend and they have ______ friends/family members."

Louis C.K. quote from that says, "when a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't."

It's the old, "I can't be racist, I have a black friend" trope, mixed in with this bizarre idea that nice people can never mess up and accidentally offend anyone. Just like how a nice person could never accidentally get into a car crash because we all know, they didn't intend to! Sounds funny, doesn't it? That's because it makes no sense.

Even if, let's say, you are the nicest person in the world and you would never intend to hurt a fly - and even if, let's say, I'm really super amazingly sensitive, if I tell you I'm hurt/offended, the really super nice thing to do is sit with that fact for two seconds and rather than dismissing it. You can say such compassionate things, as: "I never thought of it that way" or "I hear what you're saying but I don't quite understand. Would you be able to explain more?" or even, "I see what you're saying, but I still disagree." That's what nice people do.

You don't need to call people over sensitive. You don't need to tell them they're too angry or loud or scary or stupid or ugly or wrong. You don't even always have to apologize, though a sincere one is welcome.

If I'm calling someone out, it has nothing to do with how nice a person you are. (Though how you handle it can say a lot about your character.) It doesn't matter if you're the Pope, when you say something bigoted, racist, homophobic, ableist, etc. you need to be told because it's not nice and most of the time, you're being called out because I thought more of you. I know you can do and be better and most of the time, you did it because you made a mistake.

We all have blind spots in our activism. We all have privileges we forget about or take for granted. I know if I goof up, I certainly want to be called out. Don't leave me in ignorance because you think I'm an otherwise nice person.

Also consider the amount of courage it may have taken for that person to tell you. Take a moment to honour that and stop defending how nice a person you think you are and how you are apparently exempt from causing harm.

As Maya Angelou said, "when you know better, you do better."