Today is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Though I wasn’t alive to see the historic moment I know how much of an achievement it was. What does autism have to do with this? Well for people who have little to no experience in autism like Asperger’s and other areas like it I’ll explain. Have you noticed that not just in moon landing missions but space missions in general involve near perfection from everyone involved. Not just the astronauts and mission control have to be right on point all the time with coordinations, when they should use their boosters, turn on the right switches and all that under pressure of being in space. Their bodies must be willing to combat the pressure so they exercise hard every day. Also the engineers, scientists, mathematicians and manufacturers of the spacesuits must be perfect and not leave any room for error or the mission will be a failure. Everything must be coordinated perfectly like an orchestra. THAT is how people will autism live their lives. Almost every aspect of their lives, whether it’s big things like paying your taxes on time, finishing your job application or making it to a friends wedding on time or smaller things like where to put your favorite clothes, if you want teacups and glasses separated or not at the dishwasher or making your mind up over which flat screen tv you want. Our lives are an endless space mission and our minds are the astronauts in the spaceship working around the clock against the pressures of society and our personal activities which would be space. Like the astronauts in a space mission with the void of outer space outside their spacecraft, someone with autism will also be filled with a lot of curiosity and concentration!
When I am in a public area and I try to be nice or social to people I realize that even though I Act a bit so that people might not catch my awkwardness or hidden shyness I try a little too hard to fit in. Often when I am talking to people I unknowingly speed up a conversation when after one subject I start talking about another one and even though we have a good conversation I might say something that is not rude or weird but perhaps something that was unnecessary to the discussion, it could be my own personal opinion about the subject we are talking about and my overreacting praise or criticism. Then I notice the people getting confused or uncomfortable. I ask myself “why are they looking at me like that” or “they simply don’t understand”. When you get people that don’t get your point of view of things you assume they are misguided or can’t think for themselves, that they always have to hear the same kind of pattern in a conversation. I like to be different and have unpopular opinions as I believe it makes a conversation more interesting. It seems people simply are too sensitive and unwilling to see a change in script when it comes to talking. Perhaps that is why I prefer being alone or talking to one person, since there is no room for popular opinion which I think is boring. Perhaps to have a decent conversation is to have both a degree of curiosity and concentration!
A lot of times I like to get away from not just people but society in general. Popular opinions and the stress of so many people living and working in urban areas (especially cities) quickly make the place a noisy and dirty area with cars, construction and constant talking about things that may or may not be useful. Supposed get together events seen in bars, universities and nightclubs are such a turnoff for me I almost consider them to be a personal hell that I never want to go anywhere near. Being in a city pits you within walking distance within these kinds of insufferable places. Yes there my be parks, zoos and yoga classes but you feel packed as if you are in your room in a house during a party. The peace isn’t there. That’s why I love driving into the countryside whether it is seeing farms, forests, mountains or plains the sense of quiet and fresh air is something that I feel in this time of technology, fast transport and instant information is something that has no equal. Nature and rural life gives me peace, happiness and allows me to think more about the real world I live in, that most of it is like the land I am looking at not the clustered concrete jungles full of ignorance and selfishness. As an aspie I feel that we all should take constant drives to the countryside to find inner peace in our very curious minds. People including aspies can decide for themselves to do this or not and agree with me or not. Freedom of choice is a god given right and a gift that allows us to make the best decisions for ourselves in this world.
We aspies tend to attract attention from other people by doing something we usually can’t help ourselves in. That is when we pick something up from the floor, whether it’s trash or a decoration, we have an urge to pick up anything that ruins our vision of what is neat and tidy. Like the wedding organizers that want everything for the event to be perfect if we aspies see dust on the shelves or a sock on the floor we have to pick it up and actually put where it belongs ( the shelves or the washer depending on its condition). If we try to ignore the object laying about we get a feeling that an invisible force is restraint us trying to get us back to the object and that it won’t stop until we do the task. When we clean an area we can get a little too dedicated to sweeping and vacuuming every last particle of dust, wrapping or little ripped off pieces of paper. That happens in both the workplace and at home. The drive to make sure that we are not satisfied until every last bit of dust is cleaned is a part of our very dedicated concentration that sometimes we might not realize someone calling us when we are doing the task. This cleaning/organizing action we take first takes curiosity of how to get it done and then takes a lot of concentration!
I have realized in my conversations both in public and private that at times I have a bit of a disconnection in my conversations with people. When we start talking about a subject I get into a part of the discussion that has a large interest to me but not to the other person. For example if we talk about African safaris we would have similar interests in wildlife and geography but then I talk about what countries host those safaris and I compare different safari parks, the other person then loses an interest and the conversation sort of clicks off. I have had people tell me that it’s good that I know stuff like that but it is not a part of the conversation that interests them, others act like they are interested but they aren’t but don’t want to make me feel bad so they don’t say anything. The point is we aspies sometimes shift from a central view of the conversation and start talking about something that interests us but not the person we’re talking to. I try to talk slower but still at a good rate and I don’t shift the discussion so much. Every aspie has his or her own way of dealing with people especially those they don’t know.
Maybe it’s me but I often believe it has more to do with my autism in that we “Aspies” often go the extra mile to get a task done, whether it’s unloading boxes at work, designing a prototype model for a building, doing paper work or even simple, less stressful things like drawing, jogging or finishing up today’s entry on a diary. We seem to have a brain that is constantly telling us “keep going, just a little further” as if you ARE going to finish your task whether it’s important or not to anyone else but it is to you and no one is going to prevent you from finishing. You might make a mistake and start over, you may take a little breather but you will not stop until it is done. This is a misunderstood action to “non aspies” who don’t understand when we are doing a task and we want to complete it no matter how people around us judge us and we like to complete our tasks our way. Whether we are children or adults this way of planning and organizing is a misunderstood but remarkable way among aspies to get things done through curiosity and concentration.
When I was a child I used to do a lot of repetitions, doing the same thing over and over again, (going around a table, play the same way with certain toys.) My parents saw it as something normal with little kids and that I would grow out of it. For a while it seemed like I would but around the time I was 8 years old my curiosity sometimes led to me doing things more than twice and not stopping until I do it perfectly. This kind of behavior occurred mostly when I was bored or doing something challenging, two different extremes if you ask me but the main problem was whether or not I was seen doing it. When I was in school while living in Africa and surrounded by kids my age I found it increasingly difficult to suppress my obsession of repeating doing things whether I wanted to or not, students and teachers alike would think I am acting weird or that I has some kind of illness. I did a lot of different sports back then so I would kick a ball into a net or shoot a ball through the rim, sometimes I missed, so I would try to get it right at least twice before I stopped as I believed I didn’t deserve to stop until I get the job done. It was also at this time that my social skills declined around the point that I was both shy and not bothered about making friends. I eventually (at least partially) got out of extreme repetitions by fighting back or debating against my mind that would sometimes order me to do things that I didn’t want to do but felt like I had no choice. Another was to calm down and do some meditation something I learned in martial arts classes. Also taking acting classes and pretending to have another personality taps in to having a non autistic feeling and giving people the impression that you are a “normal” person or even a genius! These are just my suggestions but if you have similar problems with repetitions and you want to limit that behavior then concentrate on what you like that may distract you from repeating yourself and be curious to learn new and unexpected things that end up helping you. There is a lot to learn out there!