About autisticaplanet

My photo
Welcome to a blog written by an autistic adult woman in her late 30's using words and images to advocate acceptance as well as awareness of those with life-limiting sensory processing disorder and resulting social and behavioral challenges.Thank you for visiting.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Through My Filter

Camera lens with breaks in it. Light and sound amplification

This photo had some serious Photoshop performed on it. This is what the sensory filter in my brain looks like. 
I have autism and SPD (sensory processing disorder). That means my brain doesn't properly process some information, including certain auditory input. I was diagnosed with hyperacute hearing as a child and as having "autistic features" in 1998. In 2004, I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, now part of autism spectrum disorder.
I read an interesting article on Wikipedia that explains sensory gating. My brain cannot perform this properly with sound.
The "Cocktail Effect", a term used to describe how the brain filters out information it doesn't need, is pretty much absent in my brain. If I am around more than 4 people with 2 or more conversations, I feel like I am listening to 2 or more radio stations simultaneously.
I use passive earmuffs and sometimes earplugs in public. This helps me enough to be able to tolerate a child's scream or dog bark enough to run away from it.
I've noticed very loud sounds associated with chaos make me feel like someone is stabbing my ears with knives or holding my ear to a hot stove.
I can better write and illustrate my autism than I can talk it out. My brain and mouth don't always work in tandem, especially under stress.
After being dragged into the 21st Century by a well-meaning mother, who got me a computer in 2005, I found out that any adults that were talking about their autism experience weren't bringing up the same auditory triggers as me. I was told by adults with Asperger's that they thought I seemed pretty severe for having Asperger's.
So I began a blog-to raise awareness for autism in part, to raise awareness for MY autism in part.
"The Forgotten Child of Autism" was born back in 2009 on Blogger, then moved to Wordpress in 2010. My blog was the only autism blog on Blogger back then. Now, I see, there is a bounty of them. I moved my blog back here under a new name last year, after knowing reading comments was too much for me. Wordpress does allow disabling comments on the blog's site, but not on the sidebar when viewing the reader.
So TFCofA became autisticaplanet blogs, then autisticaplanet's autism. 
Finally, I chose the name "Through 1 Filter". I'm a photographer, so I used the metaphor of a camera lens covered by a filter. The filter will screen out what the photographer doesn't want seen, such as UV rays.
My "filter" or "filters" I should say, are damaged. They don't work properly to filter out what doesn't belong.
At the same time, I use my mental filter to compose before I take a shot, so my blog's name serves a dual purpose:
1. Autism awareness and acceptance
2. Photography

At times, it also explores Christianity, the faith and values it espouses.

My blog's name is now autisticaplanet's autism blog. Please click here to avoid further confusion.

Thank you for visiting. 

Ahead of the game

Yellow Daffodil
Since we are experiencing record-breaking warmth in the American Midwest, I thought I'd share this daffodil, that bloomed in March, 2012. Normally, they don't bloom until April. 
I thought this particular blossom looked quite sassy. It looks like a duck quacking, happily.
It's not always bad to be ahead of the game.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Including autistic adults in the FSR industry

I've read the plea of an autistic parent many times over- "I would just like to eat dinner with my family out in public."
The family cannot do so, because one or more of their children is autistic. The noise of clanking, clattering dishes, crying babies and bright lights incites a very physical and verbal meltdown. The child hits themselves. They scream. The judgemental stares and tongue clucks begin.
It is simply safer and less humiliating to eat in.
Now imagine the autistic child grown up. Perhaps they have learned to better manage sensory overload and get away from a situation before it leads to a meltdown. Maybe they always have a safe person with them (as I do) when they are away from home. Perhaps that person is the parent. They still would like to have a meal out with the entire family, but it won't happen.
It's not that the family never tried again. This time, the autistic person wore earplugs and sunglasses. They were older and did their best to cope, but coping was all they got out of the experience. They could barely speak due to the same sensory triggers as before, even though they were muted this time. They barely ate, because their guts were in knots from anxiety.
The best laid plans of mice and men did a little good, but not all the AIT, medication and psychiatric intervention could make a dent with the sensory barriers, so the family continued to eat together at home.
The young, autistic adult wants to be included. Just because they like spending more time alone than with others doesn't mean they don't desire that time with others. They wish they could just sit back and enjoy the smell of their favorite dish or have a conversation with mom, dad and siblings, but that often has to remain just that- a wish.
Unless: We rethink how to accommodate customers with special needs. People without autism who have anxiety and panic disorders could benefit immensely if restaurants had quiet areas for people who want the experience of dining out without having a panic attack or flashback. 
 If Disneyland can accommodate kids with "cognitive disabilities" who can't wait in long, noisey lines, why can't Olive Garden or Cracker Barrel do the same for the restaurant industry?
AMC has "sensory friendly films". This is also geared toward autistic kids.
Since kids with autism become adults with autism, incorporating people with neurological disabilities makes sense both financially and morally.
Autism is a lifelong condition. More people are being diagnosed at earlier ages.
In 1979, the year I was born, the autism rate was 1 in about 2500. Today, it is 1 in 68   (One out of every 68 8-year-olds-source-CDC).
Some autistic adults earn college degrees, have careers, get married and raise families. It isn't that they don't struggle with anxitey, sensory sensitivity or depression. I'm not being dismissive of others struggles when I say that I don't function as well as this more independent subset of autistic people. Quiet zones in restaurants (and most everyplace else) would help those of us who are lacking develop better autonomy.
I was the autistic child who turned on the vacuum and pleaded with my parents and the waitress to let me vacuum the floor in order to relieve my overwhelming need to stim (self-stimulate). I needed to break free of sitting still for a long time and the general commotion of the restaurant. I was four. Fortunately, my desire was fulfilled.
Eating out in public became impossible when I was 16. I am a living example of how autistic regression can happen in adolescence. Noises that were painful became unbearable. Pushing a vacuum wasn't going to alleviate my pain.
Having a quiet area, preferably walled off from the rest of the restaurant for a calmer dining experience would make eating out with the family I have left possible.
I have also written on the need for a varied approach to housing autistic adults. 
There is no such thing as "One size fits all". Anyone who has ever bought clothing with this label knows it.
Creating different autism friendly models that take into account the autistic people in a particular community. From sensory to dietary to whatever else factors in, I think it can be done. I think it must be done and now.
Me with my mom leaving early after attempting to eat at a family restaurant, 2012.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

To community developers wanting to make their communities more accessible for autistic people

4 people in different colors holding hands
Concept: community inclusion

I have autism, and sensory processing disorder. The latter is the big hurdle keeping me from making friends due to the fact I don’t get out of the house unless I am with my safe person, who is usually my older sister.

What I need is inclusion that takes into account my sensory processing issues.

Noisy places like coffee shops, bookstores, even libraries are unhealthy places for me to be. One of my sensory agonies, crying/screaming kids is like putting my hand on a hot stove. I cannot relax let alone contemplate socialization. Earplugs and earmuffs only take the edge off long enough for me to walk away.

This is a letter I have written to community developers everywhere.

To community developers who work to provide a more inclusive environment for those on the autism spectrum:

Firstly, thank you for the hard work you do in including autistic people.
That said, I cannot access any autism friendly activities in my community. This is most likely not your fault. You’re probably not aware of a verbal, intelligent autistic woman who cannot socially engage in public places due to sensory processing.

Children are everywhere. They are included in many everyday activities. Guide dogs are also becoming integrated into public places. Public transportation is already a non-issue for me due to my sensory issues. It also doesn’t help that I live in a service desert.

What I need is a child free zone in which to meet. Kids are unpredictable. They are quiet one minute and emitting uber decibels the next. Creating a childfree time zone, even if it is only once a month at a coffee shop, restaurant, recreation center (where you can isolate this activity to a room) would mean that I could participate in my community.

I understand and empathize with the person who needs a dog to alert them to danger or a health issue such as seizures. For me, a dog’s bark is like having my inner ears scraped out with metal. My psychiatrist nailed it when she said, “It’s not your fault. Your filters are damaged.”

I am nearing 40, and my parents are deceased. I am thinking beyond recreation. I will also need a place to live free of already stated sensory nightmares. Affordable housing and contributing by way of part time work and/or volunteerism are also needs that have to be met.

I will always need a safe person to go to when I am overwhelmed. Having people who can detect when I am in sensory overload and can help me process it is key to my safety and that of others. My meltdowns are verbally and physically violent, because my entire being is on fire, and that fire engulfs those around it.

I realize this isn’t a popular or convenient subject, but it is one that must be addressed if I am to do more than sit around the house.

I don’t want to wind up in a bad way when the time comes I am family-less. The precious few people who care about me are much older than I am.

I need sensory safe inclusion. I need it now.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I am a contributor on The Mighty

By God's grace, my autistic voice is now being accepted by the greater disability community.
Please click here to read my post about abuse in the ER.
Don't ignore abuse when you see it. Passivism is just as dangerous as physically or verbally assaulting someone.
May God bless you. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

 "Open your mouth for the mute,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
    defend the rights of the poor and needy." ~Proverbs 31:8 ESV