What my 11 year old Autistic Daughter would like you to know.

20190519_180630.jpg

Goofing off at a Park. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Author (Father’s) Note: I’ve been trying for the past couple of weeks to coax out of Alexis how she feels about being autistic. What she wants people to know about her. It hasn’t been easy, nor direct. But although this is not her direct language, it is my approximation of how she feels, and what she wants others to know.

 

First off, I don’t like the term ‘Autistic’. I don’t want to be seen as different than other children. But I am very aware I am. When I am called autistic, or told that I have autism, that is just another reminder that I am different, and who wants to be different? Not me.

 

I have emotions, plenty of them. Just like you. They are inside of me. But the difference is this. I have trouble expressing them, or when I do? I express them the wrong way. Most kids my age don’t really care. We are out to have fun. Adults however get lost by this, they don’t seem to want to take the time to let me ‘translate’ my emotions. Despite what society likes to think of me, or others like me, we are not ’emotionless robots’. We feel, but those feelings? They are like a whole other language for us, and we have to translate them in our mind. Speaking to me sometimes is like speaking to someone who has another native tongue, and they have to find the right English word to tell you what they want. Be patient please.

 

I lie. But not for the same reasons most kids lie. Well, not always. I lie to keep emotional stress away from me. When I spill something, I say it wasn’t me. It is not to avoid guilt, but to avoid the emotions connected to the guilt. We you do something bad, most people feel guilty about it, and there are a lot of emotions attached to it. For most kids, like my brother, he may tear up, apologize several time, and feel bad about it. Those emotions get lost in translation for me. It is just so hard to find a way to say ‘sorry’, so I deflect it by saying ‘wasn’t me’.

 

I have an excellent memory, better than yours I bet. However my memory is different is some ways. Recall can take a moment. I don’t want to be wrong. So, in school? I take time to answer questions, which for some teachers, it can be frustrating for them. Also, dealing with adults in general. One thing about my memory that may surprise you, I recall things from the past like they happened yesterday. Emotions are attached to memories, and when I remember good things? I smile and laugh about it. It’s the bad memories that are the problem. If someone is mean to me? Or upsets me? I remember that about them. They could have done the mean thing to me years ago, but when I see them? I remember it like yesterday. I tend to avoid people who have upset me in the past. I can forgive, but it takes me much longer than most.

 

Simple things bother me. I don’t like loud unexpected noises. I don’t like automatic flush toilets. Or air hand dryers. Loud music can bother me sometimes. Crowds too. Expecting a response from me is annoying. Like “Please and Thank You” Why do you use them? I really don’t see a need. If I give you half my donut, you don’t have to tell me Thanks. I know you are Thankful. You use a lot of frivolous words you know.

 

And about frivolous words, what is with that? My dad said to me one day to get dressed now, because we are going out later, that way I could Kill Two Birds with One Stone. I had to ask him why we needed to kill birds with a rock? He told me it was an expression. I’m not always fond of expressions. I like it when people say what they mean, not use confusing words that do not make sense. And why is Pink a girl color? And Blue a boy color? Society has a lot of rules that just don’t make sense to me.

 

I have issues with touch, hearing, sight. These senses are heighten in me. So, I wear comfy clothing, because clothes you expect me to wear? Okay fine, put on a burlap sack for a day and tell me how that feels, now do you understand my fondness for pajamas? My hair is mess a lot, because brushing it? It literally hurts. My digestive tract can cause me problems, and embarrassment, an emotion I dread just as much as guilt. I have avoided school in the past because I was worried I would have an accident at school. I am very aware of how that would have gone over.

 

About school. I don’t go anymore. I do schooling online, and will go to a smaller private school this coming Fall. Why? Well, think of it this way. When I would go to my school it would become too noisy, too busy for me. I would get anxious, and that would stress me out. If I get too stressed out? I have to shut down for a while. It is called an Autistic Cycle. I can literally forget everything for a while till my brain ‘reboots’. Emotional stress does this to me. School to me was like having someone in the background drag their nails down a chalkboard. This sound would be far away at first, but by the end of the day? Right next to me. Yet I like to think I am still go to my old school, because not going to my old school? Makes me different. I hate being different.

 

Most of all, the one thing I think you should know about me is this. I am me. I am an individual. Everyone is different…so my father keeps telling me…and as much as I hate being different? I am, I know I am. And I don’t like this about myself. I just want people to treat me like they treat everyone else. Yes, I may not behave as you expect me to behave. My emotions are hard for me to translate. Be patient, as you would with anyone else. I am working on adapting to societies expectations of me. I try, hard as it is, I try. But, could you for once, maybe adapt to my expectations? Give me the space I need to become the individual I was meant to be? Give me time to figure out this strange emotionally charged world you live in? This is a strange world for me, and I work at adapting to it everyday. My parents tells me I am on a spectrum, that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ with autism. That there are many on this spectrum, and each of us are an individual. And should be treated as such.

 

 

The Day I Became A Grandfather.

cropped-20170520_175623

Bentley found it funny that he stole my hat and I took the one he was wearing. / Photo by KidZond.

Six years ago, this very day, I became a grandfather for the first time. It has happen three more times since, but the one that broke the Father barrier, and tossed that Grand in front of it was Bentley Benjamin.

I wasn’t too sure about becoming a grandfather, actually, I am still not too sure about it all. It’s just weird for me. I was 49 years of age, and kind of always wanted to get that Grand label once I passed the 50 mark. But it doesn’t really work that way now, does it?

I mention this to my siblings, only to find out that, like being the baby of the family, I was the last in age to become a grandparent. They had all beat me long before they reached the 49 year mark. That made me feel a little better. It was still weird for me.

See, being a parent? I can do that. I’ve done it for 27 years now. Not an easy job, especially when I was a single parent raising two daughters. The frustrations, the pressures, the self-doubts were enormous. Those only became worse when I became a single parent.

But my two eldest survived to adulthood, and six years ago my eldest daughter Jenelle, became a parent herself. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best situation, she started off being a single parent. And, the poor kid, had to live at her parents house.

Which brings me to Bentley Benjamin. My grandson whom I was lucky enough to be around the first two years of his life. It was fun, crazy, and having two little children myself now, chaotic. As my daughter worked on establishing herself, she lived with us to help out with costs. Bentley learned to walk at my home, first spoke at my home, and terrorized my home with the help of his Aunt and Uncle.

With three adults, three children, a dog and a cat, life always had something mischievous planned. Yet the real fun started when Bentley moved out, and came to visit for the weekends so his mother could work.

Bentley is a precocious child. Although not the best speaker, he was adept at figuring things out. Like door locks.

While many children who awaken at night, and make their way to their parents bedroom, or in this case, grandparents bedroom. Bentley had other ideas. He wanted to explore the great outdoors. You know, at 3 am. Even in winter.

Probably because I raised his mother, and eldest aunt, I was pretty good at being a light sleeper. His first few attempts failed. With grandpa coming out to the living room to find him dressed in snow boots and a jacket.

“Hey Bentley, what are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m just going to go outside.” Bentley would respond in his four-year old voice.

“Bentley, it’s 3 am, it’s dark outside, and cold. You need to go back to bed.” I would say.

“I got a coat and boots on grandpa.” Bentley would point out. By god, the boy does plan.

 

But no, we went back to bed. Well at least he did. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. My grandson is a Night Walker. One of those children who think that going outside by themselves is perfectly fine. But no worries, he won’t get out on me.

I did say he was a precocious didn’t I? See, if you make too much noise at night? You wake up grandpa. And that will ruin all the fun. Of course the screen door makes a noise if you don’t close it by hand. It bangs. Been meaning to fix that, glad I procrastinate.

I found Bentley outside, wearing a coat and boots mind you, with the dog. The dog was very happy to be let out at 4 am. Grandpa was not happy to walk out in the snow barefoot to retrieve his wayward grandson.

The locks came, he outsmarted them. Obstacles came, he silently removed them. Chain Locks came, well on one door because I couldn’t get it to work on the other door. He used the other door.

An all out war of wits came. It was game on! Magnetic Alarm Buzzers! That we neglected to turn off and scared the living hell out of us when Bentley wasn’t here.

Of course when Bentley discovered this Magnetic Alarm Buzzer, it scared the living hell out of him. And the rest of the household at 2 am. Oh, they work by the way, very loud.

Yet it was the one door, that the Chain Lock wouldn’t work on, and yes, the Magnetic Alarm Buzzer also wouldn’t work, that became his objective. Moving the loveseat in front of it became our only option. Of course that meant I had to wake up at 5 am to move the loveseat for my wife so she could go to work on Saturday morning.

I did catch him trying to move it. When I did, he asked me for help. Touché grandson, touché.

Then it happened, he figured out how to move it enough. Probably because Grandpa became lazy and didn’t move it far enough over. Hey, the loveseat is heavy, and at 5 am? It is annoyingly heavy.

I heard it though, came out to see what was going on. Like a scene from a movie, I caught Bentley putting on a lightweight jacket (it was warm out, so his choice of jackets was appropriate) and standing there looking at me sheepishly. His shoes were on, he was dressed, out of his jammies, and just looked at me.

“Bentley? Where are you going?” I asked him.

“Take the dog out grandpa, Jess needs to go out to go potty.” Bentley replies logically.

Grandpa looks over at the couch on which the lazy lab now prefers over her own bed. The dog, Jess, is snoring. I look at Bentley and shake my head. With calm resignation, he takes the coat off, and follows me back to his bedroom.

That would be the last escape attempt Bentley would make. His mother’s job changed, she didn’t need us to watch him on the weekends. He comes back of course, is a wild child. Likes to figure things out. Mostly to his advantage.

And odd as it may seem, I miss those little games my grandson played on me. I marveled at his ability to problem solve, his little cons. The joy he had in trying to explore that great big world. I hope he never loses that joy. And I hope to have him over this summer.

He’s six now, getting big, full of attitude and defiance. He’s also a big brother of two. With a warm heart full of love and compassion for others. I would love to have him spend the night again. I miss the little monster, especially today of all days. He reminds me so much of his mother when she was his age. And that is the greatest part of being a grandfather. With the title, you see your family moving forward, carrying on, and knowing a new generation of you is here to make their mark on this Earth.

My grandchildren are always welcomed at my house, weird as it is to be a grandfather. And when Bentley comes over to stay the night the next time?

I will have that darn door secured.

 

This is Austin. He’s Autistic, not Broken.

20190328_162717

Who wouldn’t want a Rainbow cookie? / Photo by KidZond.

 

For Spring Break we took a family vacation to the Mall of America. It was nice to get out-of-town and walk around, seeing the sights, riding the roller coasters, and being conned into zip lining by my 8-year-old son.

It was on our first day at our hotel that we met Austin and his Mother. We would see them only once, and not for the rest of our trip. How we met during breakfast was simple. Austin, around my son’s age, was wearing the same pajamas as my son. A cute little red-haired boy who came up to our table to smile at my son, delighted they accidentally dressed as ‘twins’.

Austin did not speak to us, just smiled. His mother came up to us, put her hand on her son’s shoulder and spoke these words.

 

This is Austin. He’s Autistic, not broken.

 

I said hello, and then it hit me what she said. It was cute, catchy, and sounded like a mantra she had repeated often. And although I only met Austin and his Mother once on that trip, I have thought about what she said, that mantra. Autistic, not Broken.

I went though a lot emotions thinking about this mantra, from finding it mildly offensive. I never said your kid was broken lady! to inspired. What a great way to introduce autism to others! Yet I couldn’t get over the sadness of it all.

See my youngest daughter is High Functioning Autistic. I never told this to Austin’s mother. I didn’t have a chance. I have never thought my daughter was broken.

 

Then again, maybe I have.

 

As hard as it is to admit. There are many times I wish my daughter was not Autistic. Sometimes this wish is selfishness on my part, most it is for her. I absolutely HATE the fact the world will be a challenge for her. That people will look down at her, ignore her, and ultimately categorize her into a slot that they can ignore.

The endless explanations to family, friends, strangers, about why she behaves this way or that. Or choices we are forced to make on behalf of our daughter that people are confused by. The advice that is more condemnation than support. That you just have to smile through, and nod, while internally you are screaming.

The many private things we do not discuss. The bathroom issues, the sensitivity issues, the Autistic Cycles she gets caught in. All those things that are a challenge to my family, to her, and our choice not to broadcast it.  They don’t understand the why’s. Even when you have explained it a thousand times.

Because Autism is a Wicked Little Tailor that fashions a suit for each individual, those of us who are A-Neural Typical can easily get lost by autistic behavior. Is the kid rude? Is she dumb? Wow she’s smart! Is she top of her class? Why is her hair messy? It’s 3 pm, why is she in pajama’s?

The questions, looks, attitudes abound. You as a parent navigate these perilous conversations and hope the adult will not be an ass to your kid. It doesn’t always turn out that way.

Sometimes the world surprises you. I was surprised at the Mall of America, at the Sea Life exhibit. If you have the chance, this is a wonderful place to visit. You can see an array of marine life, and even touch some.

One part of this exhibit is an acrylic tunnel you walk through. It takes you though 300 feet of the exhibit showcasing the aquatic life native to Minnesota, the Amazon, Rainbow reef and mythical Atlantis. You literally walk under the water and see the wildlife swimming around and over you. My son loved it, was beyond thrilled to go through the tunnel.

My daughter on the other hand, stopped dead at the entrance. I tried to coax her to go in just a little bit, but she was not having it. I did my best to alleviate her fears, but still she would not go. I let her mother and brother walk on as I tried to decide what to do.

Then the wonderful happened. A Sea Life worker noticed my dilemma. She came up to us and asked if we needed help. I told her that my daughter was High Functioning Autistic and seemed to have an issue with the tunnel.

The day before I couldn’t get her off the roller coasters, so I was a bit shock at her balking at the tunnel. Plus she is an animal lover extraordinaire, why this bothered her? She still hasn’t told me why. But it did, and the Sea Life worker noticed, and knew what to do.

Opening a side door, the worker walked us a short distance to another door and we bypassed the tunnel. I got the impression the worker had done this before, and that she had done this before for Autistics.

I was incredibly thankful to the worker. To the whole of Mall of America, which is sensory / anxiety friendly place.

It was a moment like that one, that gave me hope that others do understand. That they do get what Austin’s mother said, and now I do too. That with awareness comes compassion, with awareness comes understanding, and ultimately, with awareness comes knowledge that we are all individuals, we are all human beings deserving of respect.

This is National Autistic Awareness Month. 

And my Daughter is Alexis, she’s Autistic, not Broken. 

 

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

20190316_154512

A sentiment that is popular in the United States. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Today I went to our local St. Patrick’s Day parade. My daughter is in Girl Scouts and they marched in the parade.

Actually I wasn’t too excited about going. Yes the sun is out today in the Midwest, but it was only in the mid-30’s and there was a little wind. Stand in the shadows? You are quickly reminded it is still Winter.

Then there was the 50 minute wait in the parking lot. See, my son and I dropped off my wife and daughter so they could march in the parade. We hung around a bit too long and well, the parking lot we parked in? It was also the line up for the parade route.

20190316_150550

Very Irish old Ford. / Photo by KidZond.

 

With my son bored, and complaining that we will miss the parade…and the candy…I patiently waited and started to take pictures with my phone. My son just whined and played with the radio. Can’t say I blame him.

Because, why were all these different groups gathering to celebrate an Irish Religious Holiday?

20190316_150533

I think that is a Sock Monkey Tree. My city is known for Sock Monkeys. / Photo by KidZond.

 

It was an eclectic group that marched in the parade. From Politian’s, Bikers (Motorcyclist and Bicyclist), Girl Scouts, our Fire Department and our Police Department. And so many more.

20190316_162113

Let’s be honest. If your poop emoji is green, this is place for it. / Photo by KidZond.

And that got me thinking. I live in a city that has a diverse ethnic background. People of different backgrounds came out today to celebrate what has become in the United States, a very secular unofficial Holiday.

We come together to celebrate those immigrants who came from Ireland over a 100 years ago, and gave us their traditions as they adopted ours. We have done the same with Cinco de Mayo, and other ‘borrowed’ holidays.

In the United States we have become the refuge and hope of the world. A place that people from all over the world can chase their dreams and aspire to be the best they can be. We don’t always reach those dreams. Yet we try. And we cheer the stories of those who do.

We are a nation of immigrants of course. The World in One Nation.

St. Patrick’s Day has been taken over by Americans. Turned from a solemn religious celebration into a celebration of who we are now, what we have become.

You don’t have to be Irish to apply for the right to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It has become a tradition for all Americans. One that today, stuck in a parking lot for 50 minutes, I was reminded of.

20190316_160901

Next year? I want to be this guy! / Photo by KidZond.

 

 

20190316_153918

Or at least this guy being carried by a Leprechaun. / Photo by KidZond.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Everyone.

 

 

 

 

Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch; marry, ’tis enough.

group of catsR1

Cats on a couch. / Photo by KidZond.

 

On March 5th, 1925 in  Ainsworth Iowa, a child was born. A baby girl, to Charles and Edith McDonald.

She was born premature, which in 1925 was almost a death sentence. To keep her warm she was put in a shoebox by a franklin pot belly stove.

Or so the story goes of my Mother’s birth.

Today would have been my Mother’s 94th birthday. She lived to be 80 years old. March 5th is always one of those days that make me grumpy. I really can’t help it.

My mother had a rough upbringing, her mother was taken away when she was only 4 years old. My grandmother had tuberculosis, at which time there was no known cure. My mother’s last memory of her mother was chasing the ambulance my grandmother was taken away in. She would hate the sound of sirens for the rest of her life, and they would always fill her with dread.

After my grandmother’s death, my grandfather placed my mother and my uncle in an orphanage. She would stay their most of her childhood, till she was returned to my grandfather when they couldn’t place her in an adoptive home. My mother always contended it had to do with her red hair and freckles.

She would be shuffled from family member to family member over the years. Finally arriving in Peoria Illinois, where she would meet my father.

As you would expect, my mother did not think much of my grandfather, and would have little to do with her family for the rest of her life except a sister and brother.

Mom was part of the greatest generation. Those who grew up during the depression and would later go on to fight in World War II. As my father headed off to war, my mother headed off to the factories.

Later in life, she would give birth to four baby boomers, be a stay at home mom, and raise us. She worked her butt off raising four children. Three of them boys.

Yet, she would have her quirks.

One, she had a passion for animals. Mostly those abandoned by others. My mother loved strays, and would take them in. Later in her life she would become the proverbial cat lady, growing her collection to the point of financial stress.

I have always wondered about her need to take care of cats. At first I thought it was because her kids were grown (since the cat lady phase happened after we were all grown and out of the house.) Yet as I have gotten older, I think it had more to do with her childhood. She was essentially a stray, abandon by her father to an orphanage. I think she couldn’t stand to see others abandoned. Even if those others were cats.

Oh, and my mother? She judged you on how you treated cats. Even dumping an old boyfriend because he didn’t like cats.

Another quirk of my mother was when she was injured. It didn’t matter to her, it was, just a scratch. This ’tis but a scratch mentality nearly cost my mother her life when she was in her 40’s. She had a tumor on her parathyroids and was deathly ill till she had it removed.

I remember my mother cutting her fingers on knives she would invariably leave in the soap foamed covered sink, and just band-aid her finger and keep washing. Even though the finger continued to bleed.

When I was a teenager, my mother was in a car accident. She sustain a pretty serious concussion. Yet she refused medical treatment. To her, it was just a scratch.

Then, in last year of her life, my mother fell and broke her hip. That can be fatal to many when they are in their later years of life. Not to mention she had other medical issues that complicated the matters. But mom rebounded, was able to walk again with the aid of a walker, and was on her way to a full recovery.

At the time, my mother lived with my sister and niece. All three of them living in a house together, enjoying life, and my sister was able to take care of mom. Something I am indebted to her, since she was the only one of us siblings who could at that point of mother’s children’s lives. Yet, as fate would have it, while my sister and niece suffered from the flu, my mother started to bleed internally. She never said a word to my sister. Kept it to herself. Because, after all, ’tis but a scratch. But it was more than that this time. And on January 20th 2006, my mother passed away.

Part of me will always have an anger toward my mother. I wished she would have paid more attention to herself, had less of a cavalier attitude about injuries. She missed out on my two youngest, did not see my oldest grow into the wonderful women they are. Yet she believed one shouldn’t dwell upon these minor hiccups of life. ‘Tis but a scratch after all.

It is hard sometimes to look at your parents objectively. To see them as human beings with baggage they carry with them. We tend to put our parents on a pedestal, or in sadder cases, put them in a hole and forget about them. My mother wasn’t perfect, she wasn’t a horror like other mothers I have heard about. She was a good ear, and gave sound, if not curt advice.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my parents, and yes, especially today, my Mother. Of course the pain doesn’t go away. How could it? You share a bond with your mother for 9 months, and for a lifetime afterwards. Whatever makes you think it would go away when they do? It doesn’t. They invade your dreams, and even your children’s facial expressions and voices. You see them in the legacy they have created. And you know, that life does go on, a little sadder, but still it goes on.

 

 

 

The Trash Talking Twins.

And my Son’s quick lesson on the Sticks and Stones rule of life.

20190216_180051

Nick with his new hair cut, same as the old cut. / Photo by KidZond.

 

I know my kids. So when my son Nick sat down next to me at the table, I could tell something was wrong. His facial expression was pained, his eyes red rimmed, but no tears. He looked at me and I stopped my conversation with my friend to turn my attention to him.

“What’s up buddy? You okay?” I asked. Of course he wasn’t okay. He was on the verge of tears. Did he get hurt? We were at a local trampoline park. A twisted ankle is fairly common here. But that wasn’t the case.

“Some little kids are being mean, in the dodgeball court.” He said blinking rapidly. I nodded.

“What are they doing?” I asked him.

“Saying mean things, calling us names, calling me names.” He said.

The trampoline park we were at has two dodgeball courts. My son and daughter take lessons at the park, along with a family friends oldest daughter (Their youngest daughter hangs out while the older three are in their lesson). We hang out after the lessons to let the kids play while we adults talk about what is going on in our lives. It’s a nice time for all of us, kids get to play together, we get to catch up.

Rarely is there ever an incident at the trampoline park. Everyone behaves, and the staff are excellent in monitoring kids. They do a great job at keeping teenagers and little kids from mixing so as to avoid possible injuries from kids getting too wild.

But this wasn’t the case, the kids trash talking my son were younger, a set of boys, twins.

Nick was upset, wasn’t sure what to do. He likes playing dodgeball, and has even joined tween games. To the credit of the tweens who usual play with younger kids, they pull their throws, so as not to hurt the younger players. Now he was the older kid, and the younger kids were calling him names. Making fun of his throws, calling him ugly and stupid.

I told him he could do one of two things. Either go play somewhere else, the trampoline park had many activities for him to do, or he could let the boys know he wouldn’t play if they continued to be rude to him. He went with the later.

It didn’t end well.

Ten minutes later my son came back angry, so were our friends two girls. The Trash Talking Twins at first accepted Nick’s peace offer to play, but then went right back to their talk. They became more aggressive and even started to use foul language. This shocked all four of our kids. My friend asked his daughters what happened, I talked to Nick. The story unfolded that the twins cared little about playing nice.

Because of the time, all of us were leaving for the night. Nick kept a look out for the twins, but couldn’t see them. He saw them in their car, but by then it was too late for me to talk to their parents.

Thoughts of Sticks and Stones. 

At home Nick was still talking about the twins. He was still upset at how they talked to him, and as he said “for no reason”, which bothered him most. He was upset, he was angry. I let him know those are normal emotions. I also asked him who else was there playing, he told me no one. And when the four of our kids left, the twins were left alone, no one wanted to play with the rude boys. I told him that is what happens when you are rude to others.

Then he shocked me.

Nick told me he thought about hitting them, about yelling at them, and calling them names. He wanted to hurt them like they had hurt him. But, he felt that was wrong, and it would just get himself into trouble.

I was surprised by this, it was very mature for an 8-year-old to have that restraint. That when twins insulted him, called him an F’er that he kept his cool. He did not lash out in anger, but simply walked away.

The Trash Talking Twins just used words. They didn’t assault him, didn’t hit or push him. Just used words that cut deep. Yet those words stirred an anger in Nick he hadn’t felt before. One that he wanted to solve with violence. Yet he didn’t.

It was a moment for me. My son acted like a Man that night. Not the little boy he is. He could have taken the low road, lashed out, but instead rose above it to walk away. He also confided in me his thoughts and feelings about the incident.

I told him I was proud of him, and that his actions were the correct ones. In this case, walking away was best. If he needed, he could defend himself from a physical assault, yet this wasn’t the case. Talking trash back to the twins would have also gotten him nowhere. It is doubtful they would have cared.

I don’t know the Trash Talking Twins story. I don’t know their upbringing or home life. They were younger, maybe a year younger, maybe a little more. To say that I wasn’t totally shocked by their behavior would be a lie. I’ve known kids like that, even in my day and age.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is walk away from a hostile situation. To turn the other cheek and leave. It is easier to get down in the gutter and slug it out.

Before School today, my son told me he was still upset about the Trash Talking Twins. That he even dreamt about them. This situation, and it’s repercussions, will be with him for a while I think. A life lesson that is a bitter pill to swallow. Like the comeback we all wish we said but didn’t, Nick will be haunted by what he could have done but didn’t. He may not know it now, but in reality he will be a better person for it. A wiser person.

And now the Moral of the Story. 

If you haven’t noticed, the world is full of Trash Talking Twins. Just go on Facebook, or Twitter to find them. Our political leaders do it all the time, as does those in the Media and even in our entertainment world. These days, we revel in Trash Talk.

Yet we ignore the repercussions of such talk. Although Names will never hurt me may seem true, it isn’t. Like my son, that name calling can lead to thoughts of anger, desires to commit violence. They leave just as much of a lasting impression as being hit.

Most of us will never cross that line, never lash out at someone physically just for something that is said to them. However, as we become more like the Trash Talking Twins, we risk escalating the violent reactions of those we offend. Even from those gentle souls like my son. The other day my son took the high road, but in a world that puts Trash Talking Twins on a pedestal will he always stay on that road? I don’t know. I can only hope so.

 

Take this stick and swallow your feelings.

20180724_084650

A diagram showing the difference in Male/Female arguments. / Illustration by KidZond – don’t laugh.

 

It was one of those conversations that stick with you. I was in my late twenties, over at a friends, who was in a rocky relationship with his spouse. We were discussing relationships and he drew a diagram like the one above. A very simply diagram.

The purpose of the diagram was to explain how men and women argue, or discuss issues that affect their relationship. Men tend to argue linear. They build on point A to point B, to point C and so on. Women do the same, yet point E may be vitally related to point B, and even point B may involve point Q. Women’s arguments tend to be interconnected.

I was amazed by this revelation, it made so much sense to me at the time. Of course, this diagram is a very broad generalization. Not all men argue in a linear fashion, nor do all women build their arguments like a spiderweb. I’ve often wondered what the marriage therapist was trying to tell my friend and his spouse.

I will say, that over the years, the idea that men and woman look at things differently has stuck with me. I have had discussions with women in my life that I saw the spiderweb, knew I was going to lose the argument and eventually be rolled up in a silken web only to be devoured later. I have also had these conversations with men, usually managers, who find ways to make sure it is your fault.

For the most part, I don’t take credence in the diagram anymore, it’s cute, a generalization, but not accurate.

 

Inside Out

 

Yet the other day the diagram popped back into my head. I had a different perspective on it. One I am still pondering about.

We were at home watching the movie Inside Out again. If you never have seen this 2015 Disney/Pixar movie it is a much watch film. The story revolves around a tween girl named Riley that is uprooted by her fathers new job. They move from Minnesota to San Francisco California. What makes this simple premise work is the little people inside Riley’s head. Her emotions that live inside her head and operate the control room.  For adults, there are a myriad of little gems in the story that will elicit guffaws. From the Train of Thought, to memory of a jingle that just won’t go away. An earworm from Hades.

But what really caught my eye were the Islands. Called the Islands of Personality in the film, these little places were meaningful things in Riley’s life that became so special they have their own place (island) in Riley’s mind. Each island is connected to Headquarters (control room) and the ‘little voices’ inside Riley’s head can look out on the Islands of Personalities. I noticed that the islands were connected by a straight line, like a conduit or synapse to headquarters.

Looking at those connections, and watching my autistic daughter giggle at the movie, made me think about something she has recently started to say. And I wondered, are those connections really a straight line of thought with her?

 

Swallow your feelings

 

About a week ago, my daughter handed me a small stick and told me to “take this stick and swallow your feelings”. She giggled, and so did my son. (I did not swallow the stick, just so you know.) I did asked where this phrase came from. Did it come from a cartoon? A video game? A friend. My son told me that Alexis just said it. She made it up he said. Honestly I am not sure that is true, but wherever it came from, she had taken a liking to the phrase.

She used this phrase most of the week, then on Friday we all sat down in the evening to watch a movie, Inside Out.

That is when the old diagram and the conduits to the Islands of Personalities started to merge in my mind.

What you will find often enough with young autistics, is that when you ask them a question, there is a delay in response. In school, this can sometimes be seen as not knowing the answer to a particular question, but in reality, it is processing time. Autistics seem to have a delayed response. This, I should note, is the appearance to us Neural Typical people. Not necessarily what is going on inside their heads.

With High Functioning Autism, I have found more and more there is scant research and information as to how they think. Most of the research is devoted to making them behave like us, conformity. While that isn’t wholly a bad concept, I personally think it’s a little off. Personally, I would rather they would work with Translation than Conformity.

Translation works like this. My daughter has emotions. She isn’t dead inside. In fact she is vibrant with emotions. She just can’t get them out for you to see. Or when she does, she selects the wrong one. Her islands of personality do not have straight paths, in fact, they are a spiderweb of paths. She has to sort through the tangle web to find the correct response. Sometimes, the paths get crossed, or intertwined. Yet while the character Riley from the movie had Emotions that controlled her from Headquarters via a console, in Alexis’ case, the console is a little glitchy. She may select one emotion, yet another comes up. Much to her chagrin.

These are the things I work on with her. Helping her learn what is the ‘normal’ response to a situation. How to deal with emotionally charged moments, and to seek out the proper response. I don’t force her, I guide her. I ask questions, and if the response is incorrect to what society expects, I do my best to explain. It is not a perfect method, it is time-consuming and well, frustrating at times for both of us.

The common method now is conformity. Basically taking away and giving, to make an autistic conform to societal rules. This method may work better for some, I’m not knocking it, have used it to a degree, yet I don’t feel the carrot and stick method works that well with HFA. They will outsmart you, and use it against you.

 

Spiderwebs

 

It was the combination of the movie, and my old friends diagram, and her new catchphrase that gave me a new insight into my daughters mind. What exactly the stick represents, I really am not sure. Yet swallowing one’s feelings? I have a hunch that is how she sees our world. That maybe, more often than not, she has to swallow her feelings rather than express them. Because expressing her feelings is hard, yet swallowing them? That is easy for her. Better to leave them inside rather than select the wrong emotion.

Yet, it comes with a price. Like the stick in the metaphor, to swallow a stick would be a hard thing to do, getting stuck in one’s throat, tasting nasty and dry. Leaving you with a bad taste, and a sore throat. Emotions, and our ability to express them correctly, is hard enough for those of us that do not fall into the Autistic Spectrum. For autistics, the wrong selection could be catastrophic. So, swallowing the stick is sometimes better than selecting the wrong emotion.