About autisticaplanet

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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 autism spectrum disorder. I hope you will gain compassion as well as knowledge in your visit. Thank you.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Christmas Story: Who is this Jesus

The Christmas StoryThe Christmas Story:  Who is This Jesus?

Being a Christian, I want to share my faith during this Christmas season. It is my hope you will read it with an open mind. Blessed and Merry Christmas! ~autisticaplanet

It was nearly midnight. Johnny sat beside the fireplace with his chin in the palm of his hand. Silent night played low on the radio. He stared into it, watching the tubes glow orange. Mom and dad had gone to bed a few hours earlier along with his siblings.

He had solemnly held his candle during Christmas Eve service. About a hundred or so candles were all that lit the sanctuary as hymns were sung and the liturgy was spoken.

Everything seemed to warmly glow this Christmas Eve, but for Johnny, all he felt were shivers.

He thought about all the naughty things he had done this year. Mom had even told him that Santa wouldn’t bring him any gifts this year after she caught him smashing the neighbor’s large jack o’lantern. His mom saw him, running between the houses. She had made him apologize and give back the candy the following day.

The neighbor lady frowned and her eyes looked moist. She had said he was always such a sweet boy.

There was the toad he had placed in mom’s purse when the church held their summer picnic at the lake. She had reached in to get a tissue to wipe her little one’s nose. The startle she received had caused the ten-month-old to fall, fortunately dropping onto soft grass covered in daisies.

Johnny had never thought such a thing would happen. He cried, not because he got several spanks on his bottom, but at the fact, his little brother had a big bruise on the top of his head.

Surely, Santa’s elves, who had been spying all year had seen these things and taken a report for their boss.

There was the giant whoopee cushion Johnny had sent away for and when it came, he put it under his sister’s seat mat. Grandma and Grandpa had driven half a day up to see their daughter and her family and brought fried chicken.

That night, Johnny ate in his room while his older sister wept in her room next door. She had saved babysitting money to buy a gingham dress she wanted. She had hoped her Grandmother along with the rest of the family would approve.

It wasn’t that Johnny wanted anyone to get hurt, but the results of his folly always wound up getting people hurt and him in trouble somehow. It seemed only fair to him now that Santa wouldn’t be coming.

Johnny sighed and stood up. He walked toward the stairs and just before he began to climb, a yellow glow came from the nativity scene that sat on an end table beside.

So much glowing! He covered his eyes and moaned.

“Johnny.” a voice softly spoke.

“S-Santa?” Johnny answered, the hair at the nape of his neck beginning to stand up.

“Not close!” the voice spoke, a bit louder.

Johnny took his foot off the bottom stair. He turned to the side and there, beside the nativity stood a boy a few years older than he.

“Hi Johnny,” the boy said, holding out his hand.

“How did you...get inside?” Johnny asked.

“Shhh! you have to speak softly or you will wake up your family!” the boy said. “Do you know what this is?” the boy said, pointing to all the shepards, angel and baby in the manger.

“I think...it has something to do with...Christmas and Jesus and stuff,” he said, wishing now that he’d paid more attention in Sunday school over the past four weeks.

“You’re right,” the boy said. “You can call me Jacob.”

“Hi Jacob.” Johnny said, not afraid any longer, but intrigued.

“Jesus is what Christmas is about. The first Christmas began when Jesus was born- in a stable-for animals-over 2,000 years ago.” Jacob said.

“Why would anyone have a baby in a stable full of smelly animals?” Johnny asked, sucking on a candy cane.

“His parents had no choice.” Jacob went on to say, “The baby came while they were travelling by way of Bethlehem, because Caesar had made them travel far from home, so they could be counted.”

“Counted...for what?”

“To see how many people there were in all the towns and provinces of Israel. Everyone had to travel to the place they grew up to register for this thing called a census.” Jacob said.

“A census?”

“That’s right. Some people who work for the government count the people. When these people have counted them, they figure out how many people there are and decide on how much to tax them,” Jacob said.

“Do you have any more candy canes?”

Johnny went over to the tree and removed one from the back.

“Tell me more, won’t you?” Johnny said, returning to his place.

“All right,” Jacob went on, smiling now that he saw Johnny was interested in the story.

“Joseph, Mary’s husband, was from the town of Bethlehem. Jesus was born while they were travelling there,” Jacob said matter of factly.

“Mary was Jesus’ mother, and Joseph was her husband,” Jacob went on, pointing to each figure as he spoke.

Shepherds were in the nearby fields watching over the sheep when an angel appeared,” at this point, Jacob removed the angel hanging over the stable on a nail and held her over the shepherds.

“They were really scared to see an angel glowing and talking loudly, saying, ‘Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy! Unto you this day is born a Savior who is Christ the Lord;’”

“Who is this Christ?!” Johnny blurted out, immediately covering his mouth in shock.

“Don’t worry,” Jacob said, laughing softly. “They didn’t hear you.”

Christ is the baby. Sometimes he is called Jesus and others he is called Jesus Christ. His name means ‘He who saves, who is anointed.’” Jacob said, now holding up the baby Jesus.

“I annoy everyone,” Johnny said.

“No, anoint”, Jacob, said, pulling a small vial out of his coat pocket. In ancient times, priests would anoint a person’s head with olive oil,” Jacob said, “Here, see for yourself”.

“It’s kind of sticky!” Johnny exclaimed, but quieter this time.

The two boys shared a laugh.

“Jesus is anointed to save people from their sins and forgive them”

“I know what sin is!” Johnny exclaimed.

“I know you do, Johnny,” Jacob said, reverently, almost sounding like an adult.

“You were sitting over by the fireplace thinking about all of yours,” Jacob said, putting his hand on Johnny’s shoulder.

“Yeah. Wait! How did you know?”

“I’m an angel,” Jacob replied.

“No foolin’!” Johnny exclaimed, but under hushed breath.

“No foolin’,” Jacob said, “Now pay attention, Johnny. I don’t have much time left. The sun will be coming up soon.”

Johnny looked at the grandfather clock halfway up the stairs on the landing. It was now two o’clock.

“Jesus knew a long time ago that people would sin and mess up the beautiful world He made for them. You see, He lived before he was a baby, then boy and man.”

“Go on!” Johnny urged.

“The baby Jesus grew up to be an adult. He helped a lot of people who were sick and dying”.

“He taught people how to treat one another and talk about matters in this book,” Jacob said, holding a small, but thick book with a large lower case “t” on the cover.

“The Bible!” Johnny said. Mom’s always at me to read it. I do in Sunday school, a little bit. I can’t read real good.”

“Reading is hard for you, Johnny.” Jacob said, “But your Bible has lots of pictures and descriptions explaining what they are,” Jacob said. “You will learn to read better as you grow up, but you can learn about Jesus now.”

“You sound like a grown-up, kinda like my dad, heh-heh,” Johnny said, containing a laugh.

“Jesus had to die, Johnny.”

“Why?”

“Because of all the bad things you did. Because of all the bad things everyone ever had done or would do.”

“Did Jesus do any bad stuff?”

“No, Johnny. Do you remember when you got in trouble for breaking a vase your sister really broke?”

“Boy do I ever!” Johnny exclaimed, rubbing his backside in memoriam.

“You didn’t do anything wrong, but someone had to take the punishment.” It’s kind of like that,” Jacob said.

“How do you know so much stuff?” Johnny asked.

“Did the elves tell ya?”

“Elves? Oh! You mean Santa and all the stuff about naughty or nice.”

“It doesn’t work that way where I’m from. The good or bad stuff you do doesn’t determine whether you go to heaven or if God loves you. All God wants is for you to love and believe in His Son, Jesus.”

“I believe!” Johnny exclaimed.

Then he stared intently at Jacob. “Where do you come from? How did you get in my house?”

“I know this house well,” Jacob said. I’ve known it and you and your family for about nine years it would be now.”

“How?” Johnny asked. “You don’t go to my school or live in my neighborhood,” Johnny said, staring expectantly at Jacob.

“Do you remember your mom telling the story of how happy she was when you were born?”

“I guess so. Moms are always happy when a baby is born.”

“You already had a sister. You had a brother but he died 3 years earlier, not long after his birth.”

Johnny listened and stared at the manger where the baby Jesus laid sleeping.

“I was there when you were born, Johnny,” Jacob said, patting Johnny’s head. I stood on the steps leading up to the school on your first day of kindergarten. I was in the hospital standing next to your bed when you had tonsillitis. I stood beside your sister’s crib when you sang her to sleep when she had colic. I also there when you smashed that pumpkin. I don’t love you more when you do good or less when you mess up. Mom and dad are the same way, too.”

“Really?” Johnny asked, the burden in his heart beginning to lift.

“Jesus doesn’t keep tabs on our faults”, Jacob said, “and neither should we.”

“Whether or not you get anything in your stocking or under the tree in the morning, remember that Jesus loves you and not to do dumb stuff on purpose, but that He forgives you even when you do,” Jacob said, putting his arm around Johnny’s shoulder.

The two hugged.

“I sure wish you could stay and meet mom and dad and all,” Johnny said.

“You will all see me again,” Jacob, said, “Someday we’ll celebrate Christmas together.

With that, dawn was now breaking. Johnny was all curled up in bed asleep. How had he got upstairs? He wondered, as the light coming through the curtain beamed across his face.

For years to come, that Christmas Eve when Jacob visited remained as vivid as if it had happened only seconds before.

It didn’t matter to Johnny whether or not Santa would bring him anything, not as much as knowing who this Jesus was.

Through decades of love, loss, war, the tech-boom and numerous times when he had been naughty, Johnny would live rest assured of who his Savior was and is.

Jane, Johnny’s youngest sister remembers the Christmas night when everyone was asleep but them, trying not to wake their older sister with the skates she had received.

She would tell her kids and grandkids, who now tell it to theirs. Johnny had called her out into the hall and taken her downstairs by the manger and told the four- year -old all about Jesus and Jacob as they munched on candy canes.

“Santa still seemed like a big deal!” Jane said, “But Jesus’ was a bigger one!”

Merry Christmas, 2017



Monday, November 13, 2017

Stereotypes and assumptions about jobs for autistic people

I had my own assumption for my first job. My mom told me I didn't have to prove anything, but she would support my effort to get a job in the summer between my junior and senior year at Office Max.
I chose Office Max, because I enjoyed organizing things. I also loved the smell of office and school products so much so as to take a stroll down the school supply asile at the supermarket or hardware store. I loved picking out my supplies from the list the school sent. I even had a play office kit my mom got me from a catalog. I assumed that there wouldn't be the hecticness of a grocery store due to the nature of the products sold. Those assumptions were proven wrong my first day.
I started in July of 1996. Back to school shopping was already beginning. Office Max has the type of ceiling that amplifies sounds, so the screaming and crying of small children sounded like it was being played through speakers. There was a file I had to open with a combination lock that stuck. It worked for the impatient woman who was training me, but I could not get it to open and that wore her patience thin. She probably hated training anyway, not necessarily me.
Performing the feat of scanning bar codes and swiping credit cards (all while not being able to process the screaming and blinding white flourescent lights) in a quick manner was not something I could pull off. I sobbed on my 10 minute break. I got a migraine. On my third day, I had a self-harming meltdown as my mom drove me to work. My mom had to call the manager and explain why I could no longer work there as I was too upset to speak. I had to go to bed for the rest of the day with a cold pack on my head.
A few years later, I attended a workshop at the department of rehab. The job suggestions the instructors gave were based on my charicteristics than my capabilities. I was creative. Hobby Lobby HAD to be the right job. When I relayed the Office Max story, I was met with a few stares and pregnant pauses.
I stopped going to the weekly workshop, becuase it was clear they didn't know how to help me. The way the program was designed helped people with intellectual impairment and mentally illness find retail jobs. That was all there was to offer other than the sheltered workshop. My sensory processing made that impossible, too.
I did a little assembly work from home for a year (2000-2001) until the at-home work dried up. My next job wasn't until 2012 when I worked as a cat sitter for the summer. Those jobs were a good fit for me. No co-workers, no sensory overload, a reasonably flexable schedule and a mom to help with driving the work back and forth between the dept. of rehab for the one job and me for the other.
Now that I am into making beaded stretch bracelets, my aunt and sister (my mom died nearly four years ago and my dad nearly 24 before that) are helping me to find venues so I can sell them. This has proven tough. One person who owns a small botique did accept my bracelets. No one else is either interested, or mass production is cheaper and therefore a bigger draw.
The well-meant but latest misconception that is offered is to create an Etsy account.
I understand where folks are coming from. I know how to use a computer. I could work from the solitude of my own home. I would have greater exposure for my product (and greater threat of being attacked).
There are other obsticles. I would not have transportation back and forth to the post office. There is no public transportation and due to sensory issues I couldn't take it if it were offered. I have no family, friend or neighbor available to drive me. Just the thought of standing in line and having to flee, possibly in the middle of doing my business due to a child having a tantrum in another building with a ceiling that amplifies sounds makes my chest constrict.
Another thing is dealing with the "end user". What my body endures from verbal assult isn't normal or healthy. I have had to move my blog and leave social media due to cyberbullying. The shaking, dizziness, panic and rage that occurrs within me isn't something I can control well enough to perservere. I have a cat in the house, and I don't want her to accidentally get harmed or scared because I threw something or screamed.
Another idea that has been tossed around is- more retail. Rent a table at a Farmer's Market on a Saturday morning and sit out hawking bracelets. My aunt and sister, frustrated by the lack of outlet for financial opportunity, decided they would do this for me next summer, and I am looking forward to seeing what comes of it. I am very fortunate that I still have family that loves me.
In the meantime, I am taking a break from all those "How to get a job with Asperger's" type of articles. They are helpful if one is going out into the work world or interviewing someone on the spectrum. Working from home, when it is mentioned at all is targeted for those who love and excell at coding and creating software. I can use a computer, but we have a love-hate relationship. I had to beg my mom NOT to buy me one for my birthday or Christmas. Finally, she did buy me one, because she knew I coudln't do much without it. She was right. It was a tough learning process I did without much help.
My advice when trying to help an autistic person find a job is to LISTEN to them. Don't stereotype or judge before the person has communicated a single paragraph. Take notes if necessary.
Know lastly that not all autistic people will be capable of working full or part time. Co-morbids like chronic migraines, mental illness, anxiety and socialization/communication barriers can be and are, for some, TOO MUCH. Also, current work environments limits potential (bright lights, phones, office politics and forced socialization (think company parties, being expected to hang out with co-workers after work).
Our culture needs to get creative with creating jobs and workspaces-both remote and in house. This also goes for educating and housing autistic individuals-AND INCLUDING THEM IN THE CONVERSATION.