Failure my old friend

Posted: June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

There is an excellent Ted talk about making failure your friend and why you shouldn’t be afraid of a failure by Aisha Alfa, and it’s absolutely true. Having Aspergers it often feels like there are few areas where I have as much success as I do in stand-up comedy. My friends sometimes seem to drift away from me based on what it is going on in their lives. In addition, I often feel unable to connect with women and I have been feeling extra lonely lately with one of my best friends getting married two weeks ago, one already married and another one getting married next month. Therefore, the success from stand-up comedy can sometimes go to my head. Sometimes as an Aspie I have a hard time being realistic and I live in my imagination thinking something is a lot worse or better than it is in reality. When it does I lose all sense of relativity and get upset when I don’t get put on shows someone is producing or when someone tries to cut my stage time for arriving late. Really, the only reason why a regular to an open mics time should be cut is if he or she is failing to connect with the audience. After doing well in a few shows I think I am a comedy God.

This head space is never a good place to be. No one should think they are a comedy God, NEVER, no exceptions.  Thinking you are a comedy god leads you to be lazy when it comes to writing and going up with half formed ideas because you think anything will work. You also lose all sense of humility. So what is the answer to stop success from going to your head? Failure. Failure makes you work harder, respect other comedians as well as the audience as well as the form of itself. Failure is your friend who tells you it tells you “I am glad you are making strides in your improvement, but you still have a long way to go. What do you think you’re Russell Peters. “You’re not ready to headline a comedy club, but you might be one day!” People shouldn’t fear failure they should embrace it because only be failing can you continue to grow.  Failure tests how serious you really are about comedy and separates the people who love it from those who will quit at the first sign of struggle.  Failure is also one friend who will never leave you or have less time for you just because it got married. Therefore, I say go out and fail and have a ball of it. It is going to happen whether you like it or not, may as well embrace it.

In other news I will be turning this blog over to David Perlmutter and Annette DimWitte as I focus first on my Fringe Festival show in Toronto July 2-12, (tell all your friends and family) and then on my book I hope to have finished before December (cross your fingers).

Out of Sink…

Posted: May 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

Out of Sync                                                                                          Annette DeWit

Some one asked, “How does my Aspergers affect me? What does it mean to me?

When I was a kid we had a set of Encyclopedias in which the ‘human body’ section had several layers of transparencies detailing the different body systems. As the sheets were layered onto each other a complete diagram of a person was revealed. I found that fascinating, and spent hours lifting and lowering the different sheets to compare the resulting pictures.                                               What I noticed then was that until the layers were flat and smoothly together the diagrams didn’t work. They would not come into focus and make a complete picture.

Do you remember setting the station on the car radio by turning a dial? And how sometimes you just couldn’t get it to tune right, and there was always just a little bit of static, no matter how you twiddled with it? The signal was always just a little bit fuzzy.

In hind sight, those two sensations, of blurred incompletion, and fuzzy partial communication, were fairly central to my perception of reality. I often quote “normal is what you live in/with” or “…what you are used to.” While both of those statements are in a way true, I was also always conscious of a sense of abnormal. I have always been aware of being different.

I would comment at times that I ‘didn’t get’ my classmates. Or that I wasn’t the same kind of person. That I wasn’t part of the group they made, ‘not one of the girls’. As I grew, I phrased it as ‘being tuned to a different wavelength, not speaking the same language,’ or ‘looking at [life] from the wrong angle.’

There were times when I embraced these differences. I could read faster, retain more, memorize more. I didn’t get into silly immature scrapes, didn’t have crushes that left me in tears over being “dumped”, didn’t get bored, wasn’t interested/obsessed with silly things like makeup.

I could build entire worlds in my imagination, populate them with characters drawn from any story I knew, and play with them in any way I chose. I told and wrote stories. Easily, even obsessively. I wrote and like poetry, and recited it on stage. I wasn’t chicken about being in front of an audience. I took care of animals, and gardened. And I looked things up.

But I hated parties, girl talk, very confusing boy talk, people whose minds didn’t match mine, teachers who “were dumber than me” (arrogant little me), rules for no reason, homework when I already knew the material, homework that was work, scheduled demands on me… Also, I was weird, and bullied. More than I understood at the time, actually, for which I am grateful. I wasn’t the nicest of kids either. A fast mind, large vocabulary and over-strong contempt leads to some very mean things said.

Mostly though, I just didn’t fit. And I knew it. And it hurt. I believed I would never have real friends, never understand people, what they say, what they mean, how they think and feel. I believed I would never be a whole person, that I was somehow lacking, or defective, because I didn’t really care most of the time. Most of the time, I didn’t even really want all the things I was ‘lacking’ in. I usually preferred to be left alone.

But I still said “I would trade ¾ of my brain power just to be normal.” My understanding of myself was profoundly negative, despite a superiority complex. I am edging on genius range after all. (In a few areas) [that’s mostly sarcastic]

No one knew I truly wasn’t normal. I was just weird. Finally, people, except for an amazing few, did leave me alone; they mostly ignored me, and I mostly ignored everyone else. It worked, after a fashion. Eventually, I got through. I got through several years of work, and then tried a year boarding and attending university. I crashed. It was disastrous. I was completely unprepared and totally convinced I was no good. I questioned my faith; accused God of screwing up my design. I begged Him to just let me die already, since I wasn’t any use or value.

With time and anti-depressants I recovered, (mostly). I worked more, attended college, gained a diploma… Then I couldn’t hold down a job since I couldn’t recognize poor work situations, and suffered repeated communication failures. I crashed again and more or less gave up.

Then, a profession development series about students with disabilities undertaken by my mother, who is teacher, led to some serious conversations around the table, and the Question.

“Have you ever considered you may have Aspergers?”

I was diagnosed at age 26. No one knew. No one saw. I was just normal enough that no one even thought to look. Not anyone’s fault, just the way it was.

It was a huge relief. I got some counseling, religious and secular and learned some coping strategies and better ways to think. I learned to be conscious of my mind, self aware in a way I had never been; to monitor my emotions and thoughts. It helped.

I still struggle. It’s only been four years. I take my pills. I have a steady job. Not my dream job, but I have worked there for three years and counting. I am good at it. And I can hope again. I dream. I can rest safely in the knowledge that God has a plan for me, just as I am. Because I am not broken, or defective, or uncaring or lazy, or even (especially?) wrongly made. Just a little out of sync with the others.

Sadly, my story isn’t all that atypical. Until very recently, no one had ever heard of Aspergers and Autism meant idiot’s savant, or screaming non-communicating savages. The sort-of-normal fell through the cracks, functioned just well enough in school that they never received extra help, and struggled horribly in the unscheduled, unprotected real world.

Thank God, things are looking up. Those diagnosed today look for a better tomorrow.

Be unfair to a woman that’s sexist, discriminate against someone of another colour and that’s racist, put people with Autism at a disadvantage… that is acceptable. Let’s be honest no one can discriminate against someone based on sexuality, gender, race, age or religion and still consider themselves a good person. Nevertheless, if two straight white males interview for a job the one who is more charismatic and likeable is going to get the job. Of course likeability in a job interview is based on picking up on non-verbal cues, as well as a bunch of other factors such as how you dress and present yourself, but you really wouldn’t be able to pick up on that if you aren’t reading what the people around you are telling you with their body language, and sending back the right ones yourself. An employer simply has to say that the, person without Autism has better “people skills” or “soft skills”.  People skills are something that a person can work on and improve dramatically. What people don’t tell you, however, is that no matter how much you improve or work your ass off at it, the people skills of a Neurotypical person are generally going to be a 100 times better even if they never make an effort. Just the way our brains are wired.  After all why wouldn’t you hire the person who is going to fit better in the work environment and you can see yourself being friends with. At least that is the way that the interviewer must see it.

Here is what is wrong with that. One could argue that, that life is unfair and there is no discrimination involved because they are unaware that one of the candidates is on the Autism spectrum, even if they were aware the other candidate is just better for the job. This is not always the case, however. If the job is sales or working in a tiny cramped room with someone else than of course take the person who is better able to make a first impression, however, the job being interviewed may have nothing to do with first impressions or even face-to-face interaction where body language comes into play.  Working in a library, archives or even as part of an auto mechanic team making great first impression shouldn’t be as important as other skills. People with Autism are loyal, hard-working, dedicated and honest to a point where you may have to ask them to keep their opinions to themselves. That honesty, however, can save a project that was doomed for failure if no one spoke up but had been more worried with currying favor with the superior.  I would much rather have a heart surgeon who was competent, hard-working and knowledgeable in their field which are characteristics people on the spectrum have in abundance,  but comes off awkward when I first meet him. Other jobs like telemarketing don’t require being able to read body language as all the work takes place over the phone and they may have little interaction with their co-workers.  Yet, in all of these jobs no one has taken out the bias towards people who are charismatic and make great first impressions but may turn out to be dishonest and lazy. Therefore, once again the person with Autism is going to go home without the job.

Though, there is really nothing you can do about this anymore than you can pass rules about who someone needs to be friends with or date. That is one of the really annoying parts is that there is no one to blame as the bias is deeply buried in the interview system. If a woman gets discriminated against when it comes to getting a job, she can tell everyone and they can agree that the guilty party is a misogynistic pig. People will actually join her in their hatred of that person and they will share her story with other people. There may even be an inquiry into the situation.  If someone with Autism gets passed up for a job, while what are we really going to do?

As a stand-up comedian it can be quite detrimental to my career. Let’s say I do as well as anyone else, which is very subjective and I am firmly on team Schwartz here, when it comes to open mics which is like the never-ending audition for who the more successful comedians take with them on the road when they get a paying gig. The thing is that I am still unlikely to get picked and given the opportunity, because the comedian who got the gig in the first place is likely to want to take someone that they feel like they really connect with, again with the nonverbal cues and reciprocity, as they are going to have to spend at least four hours in the car with them. It is not like there is any kind of appeal process it simply is what it is. It is not like I can even get upset with who gets the opportunities because they totally deserve them as they also work hard, spending the time writing and coming out to open mics and are very talented. I want the best for them as they are my friends. That is probably the most frustrating part because you really want an outside party to rally against and say all kinds of nasty things about, because it’s unfair, but what can you really say it’s nobody’s fault.

This discreet discrimination also impacts our social life. For example, if a group of co-workers are getting together after work for a pint if everyone is invited except for Tom, because he’s gay that’s homophobic. If everyone is getting together but they don’t invite the guy with Autism, while that’s fine he probably wouldn’t have had that nice of a time anyway because he wouldn’t have anyone to talk to so it’s for the best.  This is an experience that is common for many people on the Autism spectrum. Therefore, levelling the playing field for people Autism because we lack “soft skills” is going to be much harder struggle than it is for most other groups.

Cartoon_Vampire__Vector_by_paulh18                                                                                       1, 511 words

By David Perlmutter

Candace, the teenage vampire, was asleep in her coffin. This was not unusual for girls her age, especially this early in the night, since many her age could easily sleep until well after that. However, Candace was, as I said, a vampire, albeit one only recently bitten, and therefore her hair (flaming red) and face had not yet become pale, blanched and dark like that of other vampires. And, as a newbie vampy, she still hadn’t adjusted to some of the requirements of the job- such as being awake at night and sleeping during the day.

Thus, when her alarm clock rang, she considered, with profane thoughts, simply destroying it to begin her day- or night- later than usual. But she couldn’t do that. She had an internal schedule she had to abide by, so she turned off the clock and, with a blue heart, headed off to begin her vampire night shift.

The internal schedule was something that had become doubly reinforced after she had become a vampire. Because, even before then, she had been afflicted with a disorder just as demanding and debilitating as vampirism: Asperger’s Syndrome.

In case you don’t know about this disorder, let me explain it briefly. Discovered by the German scientist for which it was named in the 1940s, but not fully identified until the 1970s, Asperger’s is a syndrome that is entirely mental, with few physical symptoms. While those afflicted with it are often mentally gifted and able to function with some success in society, they have certain flaws in their makeup that get them characterized as “eccentrics” and “freaks”, especially in social and physical warfare settings- like high school. They cannot understand jokes unless it is obvious that they are jokes, so humor with a more cerebral component to it is often beyond them. They become easily obsessed with little things, things the average “normal” person can do without thinking about for long periods (like forever), and feel estranged from the rest of the community for what they see as their inability to understand why those things are so important to them. Most of all, many of them have a great deal of fear about talking and even approaching others for fear of being ridiculed for displaying their “eccentricities”. As a consequence, many “aspies” are incorrectly labeled as “shy” or “anti-social”, and are isolated from their peers even more than before for that reason.

As a consequence of her Asperger’s, diagnosed at the age of six, Candace was not exactly the most sociable of people, and was certainly classifiable as an “eccentric” for her obsessions. Chief of these, now that a supposedly “friendly” boy had turned her into a vampire with a bite on the neck only a few weeks ago, was the one and only thing vampires happened to be obsessed with:

Blood.

*

Jolted awake by the alarm, Candace got into her clothes in a mad rush of activity. She was asking herself a myriad number of questions at once, as is common among the more easily stressed out aspies. Naturally, they were things she and she alone was willing and able to obsess about in her condition:

Is my hair all right?

Are my clothes on straight?

Do I look UGLY?

Would anyone really care about me? EVER?

DOES anyone care about me? EVER?

Will I ever get a good job?

Will I ever own a good house?

Will anyone want to hire me for a good job? And pay me well for it?

Can I ever get my peers to like me? And what about the older people?

And last, but certainly not least:

Can I get somebody to let me suck their blood tonight? ANYONE?

This last question was a bit more of a concern for Candace, for she would be the first to admit that, through her lack of experience and other factors, she was totally incompetent at luring others to their doom the way vampires were supposed to do. She’d already brought shame and disgrace on herself by becoming a vamp in the first place! Was that not bad enough? Did she have to be the worst vampire in the history of vampires besides that?

“Focus, Candace!” she said as she saw her dressed self in the mirror, adopting the proper menacing vampire mask on her face, or, at least, what she imagined it was. “You can do this! What man, whatever his age, can resist a cutie like you? You just go out of here and down to the park and bag yourself a BOY! Then you’ll feel better!”

“I suppose so,” she said to herself out loud, reluctantly. “Nothing else to do here at night!” And so she walked, with the measured pace of a vampire and the impersonal mask of same on hers, down to the park to fetch herself some blood.

*

Happily, there were people hanging around the park, specifically boys, even at this late hour. Candace sighed with relief while maintaining her mask-like exterior. Now all she needed to do was find one.

Spotting a sizeable target, she zoomed in on him. For the kill.

“I want to suck your blood!” she purred in a Bela Lugosi accent to get his attention after forcing him to look at her by turning him around. He wasn’t buying it, though.

“TAKE OFF, bitch!” he shouted at her. “Ain’t got time for none of your mind games!”

“I’m not playing around here!” Candace warned him, or, at least, she tried to. “I really am a vampire! And I really need your blood! Give me some of your blood, please! PLEASE! I need it to LIVE!”

“You gonna die if you don’t back AWAY from me!” he said, hustling a switchblade out of his pocket to show her he meant business. She let him go, reluctantly and sadly.

Near a fountain, she found a whole parcel of boys lounging there. Surely, there would be enough blood in them to sustain her! Or would there be? Would any of them notice her enough to CARE about her and her predicament? She had to TRY, at least. And so she did.

“Hey, fellas,” she said flirtatiously. “Care to give up some BLOOD?”

They did-and said-nothing.

“You doofuses!” Candace retorted angrily to their indifference. “I’m a pretty girl– and a VAMPIRE, to boot! Don’t you even CARE about that? Can’t any of you give me blood?”

Silence. At least towards her.

“Look at me!” she finally commanded, in desperation. “LOOK AT ME, YOU ASSHOLES! Don’t you have any respect for a lady?” She began crying, tears running down her face and ruining her perfectly prepared makeup. “I need some blood here, and, if you don’t want to GIVE it to me, I’ll TAKE IT FROM YOU!”

Shut up!” said a Mexican guy in the darkness, who threw dirt at her. “You bitches is all alike! You got charnel breath anyway- putrid STINK! You a VAMPIRE, man- we don’t hang with no vampires! You get outta here!”

He and his friends threw more dirt at Candace, and she ran away. Sobbing hard, she collapsed under a tree.

“What the hell’s the use?” she bawled. “I’m not a damn VAMPIRE! I can’t even get a single guy to give me his blood! I might as well eat garlic or drive a stake through my heart or something, ‘cause I can’t….”

“Pardon me, miss,” a new voice said. “Did you say you’re a vampire?” This new voice was accompanied by a silhouette of a boy about her age. A handsome boy, yet. Candace took notice.

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m a vampire. Just been for a couple of weeks or so, though. What of it?”

“I’m a vampire, too,” he said. He proved it by stepping out of the shadows and into the moonlight, revealing blond haired, blue eyed good looks- and vampire fangs. “I got lots of experience at it, though. About two years worth. You think maybe I could help you out?”

“YES!” she said desperately. Then, checking herself, she added in a more subdued voice: “I mean: certainly you can.”

“You need blood,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet. “Let’s get you to the blood bank.”

“Wait a minute!” she said. “You can get blood from a BANK now? I was trying to do it the hard way!”

“Boy! You don’t seem to know a lot about being a vampire, do you?”

“Well, like I said, I’ve only been one for a couple of weeks now!”

“I should definitely help you out, then.”

“Sure. Only let’s go somewhere isolated where we can talk.”

“Definitely the blood bank, then.”

As they walked off together, Candace decided that maybe she could handle being both an aspie and a vampire. As long as she kept her ducks in a row, anyway. But she had help for that now, and because of that, she felt more secure. It was the kind of security that only people with Asperger’s-unlike vampires-need.

I read text-books and research books for entertainment and general, insatiable, curiosity. I also read incredible amounts of fiction, both popular and obscure. I’m weird like that.

My latest choice in educational material has been the “What to Expect” books, both “The First Years” and “The Toddler Years.” Why? A question in normal childhood development regarding one of my nephews. I didn’t know, so I decided to look it up. (The answer was extremely inconclusive. Precocity is purely a matter of opinion.)

Someone asked me, why would I read that? After all, there is no lack of great ‘fun’ stuff to read. Why look up how kids grow? Or any text book-y stuff?

The answer is simple. Unpredictable is scary. It is hard to deal with, impossible to fully prepare for, and leads to endless opportunities to screw things up. Reading about real life: science, nature, researching a project, any of those: leads to an increased understanding of the world around in all its glorious and amazing, ever changing, variety. It is also fun, with cool information and pictures.

Of all the things in real life, people are the hardest, and scariest, of all. Their emotions, motives, intentions, expressions; everything about them is often unclear even to themselves. What they think, intend, feel, say; all that changes from day to day or over more time. Even the relatively ‘simple’ progression of biological and social development varies so widely as to render ‘norms’ virtually irrelevant. This makes understanding people a really, really big challenge. Also, exhausting.

Fiction on the other hand, is comparatively simple. Not always easy; that’s no fun, but simple. I love complex fiction. I love Dr. Who, Tolkien, BBC’s Sherlock, S.M. Stirling’s Emberverse, and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. I love Tom Clancy and his doorstopper thrillers with their interwoven plots and schemes, and the (admittedly less familiar to me) Marvel Universe with its endless tangles of characters.

The thing is, they are all simple. There are rules. All the characters in all the worlds the story tellers create exist for a reason. Their motives are told, or left a mystery on purpose for suspense, but they have them. Their emotions are stated and their thoughts explained. Effect follows cause, and actions lead to results/consequences. The plot developments occur in sequence (or out of them, for Timelords) and make sense, eventually. There IS a plot; a consideration real life, from inside anyway, appears to be lacking in. God’s plan, while ever-present, seldom comes with maps or sticky-notes on the table.

There are story telling conventions, “Tropes,” that all authors and creators use that can be predicted, or cheerfully averted to further the story and effectively share it with the audience. It means you know that when the good guy goes down a dark hole and his light goes out (X-files) the bad guy is there. “Saw that coming!” Or maybe not, but some other surprise is, “Well, that was unexpected.” And at the end, the story is over. The plot comes to some satisfactory conclusion. Unless the author is cruel and has an unhealthy fondness for cliffhangers, but you can’t have everything. Even so, your own knowledge of the rules of stories makes splicing on your own ending imminently possible.

I like when a story –events, a character’s life- have rules. People should come with an operating manual. And a help line.

PACE

Posted: April 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

This week is a double feature. Not only are we posting a new article from Annette, but, I also decided that I would use this space to highlight a group who are doing great things for Autistic Families in Winnipeg.

Autism Winnipeg PACE (Parents of Autistic Children Everywhere) is dedicated to serving our community by providing a valuable service, for both parents and children whose lives are affected by autism or ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Children enjoy “gymboree time” every Tuesday evening, while parents have a cup of coffee and talk with parents who understand, don’t judge and embrace each other’s problems.  Teens have their own group, where they play cards or boards games and work on social skills facilitated by a parent.

Birthday parties are tough for children on the spectrum.  The children often don’t get invited to parties, and when they invite children from their class, parents often struggle with no shows.  Autism Winnipeg PACE recognizes this problem and has created a solution:  Monthly birthday parties!  Here’s how they’ve become a part of the solution:  Children with a birthday in a given month are thrown a birthday party, to which Arlene, owner and operator of Cakes by Arlene, donates a specialty cake for the kids. The parents of the birthday boy or girl purchase a $5 gift for their child to open to make them feel special, and the rest of the Autism Winnipeg PACE community comes and celebrates the birthdays as a family.

Every Friday night is time for Youth Group.  This group has been offered to our autism community by Reverend Mark Satterly at Kildonan United Church.  Mark has seen the struggles most parents face and wants to help by offering special services and supports to families living with autism.  One of these ways is by providing an all-inclusive Youth Group, with the help of parents.  This provides both parents and children the opportunity to learn together.

Monthly bowling for the group has become an incredible gift to both parents and children, as families get to play as part of a team.  Co-founder Lou Lovrin is a terrible bowler, but she doesn’t let that little fact stop her from having fun with the kids.  The guard rails at the bowling lanes were not put up for the kids; they’re up for the protection of those around Lou…  She’s thrown her ball in neighboring lanes around her, but now that danger has passed with the guard rails, and her hubby, Co-founder Mike Wilwand, has assured folks he is in complete control of her game.  Bowling may not seem like much to folks, but it is very therapeutic; it encourages and teaches turn taking, social skills, gross motor skills, math skills, communication and more.

With summer finally approaching, Lou and Mike will be organizing many fun events for the kids with the help of Events Coordinator Arlene Reid, Marketing Executive Michael Nurse, Graphics Designer Noreen Luptak and Teen Leaders Carollynne and Daniel Picton.  Some of the plans for the summer include a Family Day Camp and possibly three overnight Family Camping Trips.  Each camping trip would consist of a minimum two night stay, with lots of fun activities for families to enjoy.  Every kid should have a chance to go camping, and Autism Winnipeg PACE gives families the opportunity to not only go camping, but go as a large group to 1) ensure safety, 2) have fun and 3) not worry about being judged by the campers next door who “just don’t get it.”  Their first camping trip is in preparation as we speak, coming this May long weekend.  Three days and three nights at Bird’s Hill Park packed with memorable adventures for the whole family.

The biggest event of the year is their annual World Autism Awareness Day Walk, every April 2nd.  All of Winnipeg is invited to attend the walk, meeting at the Legislature Building.  The walk lasts about 20 minutes.  Every walk (three so far) is packed with 400 hand colored posters (compliments of the children attending kid gymboree) which people wear for the walk, 180 decoupage mason jar lanterns (made again by the children attending kid Gymboree and Youth Group) and always includes fun music, guest speakers, coffee and a quick snack.  This last walk consisted of approximately three hundred people, and featured comedian Adam Schwartz, artist Ryan Smoluk, Fred Penner, Winnipeg Blue Bomber’s Louie Richardson, Buzz and Boomer and Lionel from Boston Pizza.  The kids and parents had a great time, had coffee thanks to Starbucks and cupcakes thanks to Arlene of Cakes by Arlene.

For more information on Autism Winnipeg PACE, check out their website at www.autismwinnipegpace.com or find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/autismwinnipegpace/.

People with Autism have such narrow interest. Growing up I only played four different sports because I simply had no interest in cricket or Polo. I didn’t even compete in diving, talk about a narrow focus. This is probably to my detriment and I would be a more well-rounded person, if my interests were more diverse say La Vie. In addition, I only write creative non-fiction and stand-up comedy. All the other writers are like “Would it really hurt you to write a poem every once in a while or even a sketch, you are so boring!” Someone could argue that we don’t have narrow interests we have tastes and preferences, but that is merely a sign that we are denial of our Autism.

The DSM 5 list is also bang on when it says that we like engaging in repetitive behaviors. Fortunately, Society can be so accommodating to our need. Every day we wake up, go to work, come home, and go to bed. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like, if sometimes, I came home and didn’t go to bed, or if I only had a job to go to some of the time while the rest of the time I just got up and watched television all day. I mean would it kill me to dinner at 4pm or 4am instead of being so darn predictable? I mean PLEASE! I even catch the same bus to work and never really vary my routine by doing something different like, you know hang-gliding or dogsledding to work.

Another hilariously autistic characteristic is our poor-hand-eye-coordination. While it may be hilarious to us, it can be a real nuisance to the people around us. I am so glad that giant industries have been created surrounding us such as the Velcro industry. A heartfelt thank you goes out to the shoe industry for giving us so much choice. Phew I thought that we would be stuck with Velcro and slippers, but, boom out comes another kind of slip on shoe called Crocs I don’t know what we did to deserve all of this. I mean, they do realize that we probably make up less than a tenth of the shoe market, don’t they? Either way, I’m not going to complain. There are a million and one other products designed for us that if I had to handwrite a thank you card to each of the inventors or heads of industries it would take me years. Fortunately, someone anticipated how long it would take to write each card legibly with my poor-hand-coordination and designed first the type writer and then the computer and if that wasn’t enough Graham Bell designed the telephone so I could thank each of them personally.

One characteristic that I personally struggle with more than most, is social interactions and communications. I am constantly observing other people to know how to interact. I have been doing dating wrong every single time I go on one. I always put my cellphone in my pocket instead of just putting it on the table and answering texts all night. I have also been watching videos on Youtube wrong. Instead of trying to find videos that I will actually enjoy, I should be trolling around the internet to find videos that I can write hurtful messages about. Trolling and shaming don’t just happen naturally you constantly have to be working at it if you don’t want your skills to get rusty.  Another observation is that it’s almost rude not to slap your waitress on the ass. No matter how old you are, whether your wife or children are there or not, when she walks by your table midway through the meal you just need to reach out and touch her on the ass. Also it is super important to always let people know how busy or tired you are, or people will think you are slacking off and not getting the most out of your day. Thank goodness for my opportunities to observe these individuals, hopefully one day I will be as socially adept as they are.

A symptom of our poor social skills is our struggles with making sustained eye-contact. At the Autism games in a staring contest Kevin Willis once stared his opponent in the eye for a whopping ten seconds. Our plight, however, has received very little sympathy from women. They are constantly making snide comments like “My eyes are up here!” or asking if we are staring at their chests when it is obvious. Don’t they realize the person they are talking to has Autism? They just don’t just realize how prevalent it is and how sometimes every single guy at a party is on the spectrum. The most recent statistics, 1 in 57 people, totally underestimate how big a percentage of the population has Autism I think its closer to 1 out of every 2 people.

 

I.

Terry The Turtle, moving with considerably more grace and speed than the average member of his species, moved towards the door of the abandoned storage locker in the abandoned storage locker warehouse that he shared with his companion in endeavours.  On two legs rather than four, so that he resembled a bald, green-skinned human in a shell, he moved towards the closed, silver door of the locker and knocked on it with one of his “hands”.

“Bessie!” he shouted. “Open the door!”

Slowly, the mechanism of the door opened, revealing Terry’s companion, a white furred greyhound, on her hind legs like Terry, who had just pushed the button inside of the locker in order to open the door. He entered the locker, and then she cautiously pressed it so that it closed behind him.

“This better be good!” she warned him. “I had a hard time sleeping last night, after….”

“Never mind that!” he snapped. “You’re supposed to be my assistant, remember? The deal we made when we escaped…”

“I have a life outside of you!” she countered.

Terry and Bessie were both mutants, creatures with capabilities beyond those of the normal members of their species, capabilities that had emerged as a result of their exploitation as lab animals in a nearby university from which they had escaped. Terry had advanced strength, speed and intelligence, while Bessie possessed the speed of a supersonic jet and agility to match. As part of an informal pact that they had made upon escaping their confinement, they agreed to fight crime and other social ills together- though what they did with their off hours was their own business, as Bessie was now reminding Terry. He liked to think of himself as the senior partner, though Bessie was quick to remind him otherwise.

“Fine!” Terry resumed speaking. “We have an actual problem now, so I would appreciate your help here!”

“What is it?” Bessie asked.

“Hattie Malatti.”

“Her again?”

“’Fraid so.”

“What’ s she doing this time?”

“She’s got a watermelon on her, and….”

“A WATERMELON?”

“DON’T LAUGH! This is SERIOUS work, Bessie…”

“Okay, okay! But a watermelon?”

“It’s about as average a watermelon as we are an average turtle and dog!”

“How come?”

“She’s somehow managed to insert a bomb into the rind without disturbing the pulp or seeds.”

“Boy! For a meth head, she sure is smart!”

“Let’s not stand here indulging in personalities, Bessie! Let’s stop her before she actually tries to throw that watermelon at something!”

“Right.”

Bessie got down on all fours, and, after re-opening the locker door, Terry proceeded to get on her back, as if she were a racehorse and he were her jockey. Completing this illusion was the fact that Terry habitually used a branch on Bessie’s backside like a jockey’s whip, to make her go faster. As if going faster than the speed of sound, her top speed, was somehow possible.

As she often did, Bessie yelped painfully when Terry struck her with the branch, which she did now.

“MUSH!” he shouted, carried away with himself.

“I swear to God…” Bessie growled at him, “if you so much as even try that again…”

“Sorry!” he said, as he threw the stick away.

“Just hang on!” she told him. “You have enough trouble staying on me as it is, without bringing that damn branch into it!”

She floated away easily down the road, leaving a path of flaming tracks in the ground behind her.

II.

Hattie Malatti, a former sex worker who had somehow managed to survive the explosion of a nuclear power plant by becoming radioactive herself, stood angrily facing the increasing cowed police force of the city. Clad in black fishnets and red spandex, with her black hair hanging angrily over her white skin, she growled viciously at the assembled company, who  were afraid to approach her. If she so much as touched any of them- or did anything beyond that- she would obliterate them all. Both she and they knew that perfectly well, and the added factor of the watermelon-bomb she was cradling in her arms added an additional level of tension to the stalemate at hand.

“Try and stop me, pigs!” Hattie snapped, revealing a voice and a mouth decayed and rotting as the rest of her due to her addiction to both crystal methamphetamine and filter tip cigarettes. But the police, as much as they put up a brave front, knew that stopping her was an impossible. They knew full well that only Terry The Turtle and Bessie The Greyhound were made of stern enough stuff to approach Hattie Malatti without threat of severe injury or death to themselves.

Fortunately, our heroes, in a blast of fire and wind, promptly made their appearance directly in front of Hattie, and the police now found that they could relax, for once. Terry and Bessie would soon have things sorted out!

“Hah!” Hattie snorted. “If it ain’t my old reptile buddy- and his faithful steed!”

“You did not just call me that!” Bessie growled, but Terry waived her silent as he jumped off her back.

“Give me the watermelon, Hattie!” he demanded of that worthy.

“NEVER!” she shot back. “The thing’s MINE, Turtle, and you ain’t gettin’ NONE of it!”

“Don’t be difficult!” Terry said. “You know perfectly well that Bessie and I can kick your ass easily- even without touching you!”

“Why ya think I got the damn BOMB in the first place?” Hattie growled. “This is the only way I can stop you without you hurting me! THE ONLY DAMN WAY, hear?”

“No, it isn’t!” Terry countered. “You know perfectly well that there’s all sorts of counselling that you can get to deal with the abuse you suffered- and for all the OTHER addictions you seem to have!”

“I ain’t got no addictions!” Hattie said dismissively.

“That’s your problem- right there!” Terry responded pointedly. “DENIAL! If you could just get past that…”

“DAMN YOU!” Hattie Malatti growled defiantly.

And, before Terry, Bessie, or anyone else could do anything, Hattie Malatti gripped her watermelon-bomb like a football, and shot it directly at Terry’s head.

“NO!” Bessie shouted.

Moving quickly into action, the greyhound leaped into the increasingly narrowing breach that was coming to exist between Terry and the bomb. Within seconds, the watermelon smashed and spattered itself on her pristine white coat, and Bessie, with a yelp, landed painfully on the ground.

“BESSIE!” Terry shouted. “Are you hurt?”

“Never mind me!” she snapped. “The BOMB! Get the bomb and throw it away, idiot!”

“But isn’t the bomb…?”

“It’s OVER THERE!” Bessie pointed to a small black object, covered in watermelon seeds and pulp, that was lying kitty corner from where she lay. “Get rid of it before Malatti gets her paws on it again!” Even now, the villain was coming towards it, intending to gain back her advantage.

Terry knew what he had to do. He did not waste a second doing it, either. He ran towards the bomb, and picked it up, using his advanced mutant strength. Like a shot putter, he held it up, parallel to his head, and then let it go. It soared across the downtown corridor and into the riverfront nearby, displacing water from the river onto the land as it exploded harmlessly.

Terry now turned to a defeated Hattie Malatti, realizing her best efforts had now just been halted.

“It’s over, Hattie!” he said with finality. “You gonna give yourself up, or what?”

“WHAT!” she snapped, and, before he could make another move, she had disappeared down one of the labyrinthine alleys of the city, out of his grasp, again. He went to pursue her, but Bessie, recovering and knowing better, blocked his path.

“Never mind her, Terry!” she said. “We can get her next time!”

“What next time?” Terry said. “This is a one-shot story!”

“THIS IS A ONE –SHOT STORY?” one of the police suddenly realized. “That means that, now that we’ve reached the denouement, the world IS GOING TO COME TO AN END ANY MOMENT NOW!”

And, en masse, the police ran screaming down the opposite end of the street from where Hattie Malatti had just disappeared, leaving Terry and Bessie standing alone in the street.

“Was it something we said?” Terry asked.

Bessie just shrugged. And then the world ended.

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I  had a dream where an Aboriginal elder gave me a traditional Aboriginal name fitting for their culture “He who has the social skill of skunk”. At the time I asked him if it was because I was a hopeless romantic like Peppy le Pew from the Bugsy Bunny show, to which he replied “No, it’s because you are awkward and no one wants to be around you very long.” All jokes aside, however, at the World Autism Awareness day, Winnipeg event put on by Mike Williwand and PACE I was surprised to see how diverse the audience and members of the community are. Autism can affect people from all walks of life, which means that people on the spectrum often face challenges that I cannot even fathom. On top of being different and having to deal with any problems that may arise because of their Autism, they may also face Racism, Sexism, Transphobia, or any other kinds of discrimination. In addition, my parents were able to provide all kinds of additional supports for me because we were middle-class that I would not have had in place, otherwise. Other people are not so lucky. I am sure that people on the Autism spectrum are equally represented among homeless people. On the other hand, panhandling is the only job where it doesn’t discriminate against people on the spectrum, as everyone is awkward when they are asking for money. You can’t really be faulted for not remembering to shower if you don’t have access to one and no one looks at you strangely if you draw connections between conversational topics other people can’t see. I wonder if the homeless are more tolerant because so many of them are
dealing with mental illness or if the homeless individual with Autism has to sit at his own burning barrel. Although, it has to be hard when no one will snuggle so you can both keep warm. 
  I wonder if in indigenous tribes where chiefdom is passed down by hereditary lines, the chief’s son with Autism, behind his back is referred to as the tribe’s “chief embarrassment”? Or whether the position and title is ever passed down to someone else, instead.  There is so much that I don’t know about how different cultures and Autism have intertwined and can really only write this blog from my own personal experience. The Autism walk just struck this point home to me, more than ever before.

Since, it’s almost World Autism Awareness day I asked members of the Autism community if they could let society know one thing or change one thing what would that be. Here is what some people said.

Individuals with autism want and need the same as anyone else: want to be accepted, want to have paid employment, want to have relationships, want to live independently, want to be respected for who they are, want people to see them – not autism!
Carla Dayholos, mother,

Vice-president of Autism Society of Manitoba.

What I would say for this would be that I would like Neurotypical people to have the option to learn about Asperger’s on a more detailed basis, maybe at the level of a program at a community centre. Racism and discrimination against people chiefly come from a lack of knowledge on the accuser’s part, and something like this would help people have a better understanding of what people with Asperger’s have to deal with on a daily basis.

David Perlmutter  author of America Toons in: A history of Television Animation.

Please know that autism is a spectrum and like a rainbow it’s a long, often complicated journey to the pot of gold, with  each one of us hiking a different path, in a unique way but in the same direction.  Some of us  need a lot more help to get there than others.  However, none  of us, (A.S.D. or not) really arrive at that “pot of gold” unless we realize that “the gold” is actually “the journey” and the opportunity to walk it compassionately with the rest of the travellers.Applying this mindset to our lives would break down walls and create the pathways to arrive compassionately, as one at our destination.

Elaine Pelley
mom to Sarah Erenberg-
A colourful teen, living with A.S.D. on our journey!

I don’t think like you. I know I look a lot like most of you, but I am wired differently. I usually don’t see things the same way you do. I have been taught/trained to be polite, and I try very hard. When you call me rude, or yell at me, I don’t understand and I am hurt, but I just suck it up. I don’t yell at you! Don’t tell me I don’t have a real disability, and that I should just try harder to be your definition of normal. This is not something I can fix!

Annette Dim Witte

What I would want to change is the very common perception that parents of autistic kids are somehow “saints” or “Super Mom/Dad”, that they are uniquely capable of caring for an autistic child or that they should get a medal for raising their kids. We are like any parent and our children are just our children. I have three other kids–each has their own strengths and challenges. On some days, my youngest (who is neurotypical) is MUCH more of a challenge than my autistic son. Parents are parents, and if we’re decent people, then we love all our children, autistic or not.

Alicia Hendley, mother and Author.

If I could change one thing I would create some magic dust to sprinkle on people so that they would “NEVER GIVE UP” in working with individuals with autism. There is ALWAYS one more thing to try, another reinforcement that might work, a new creative idea that may move things along one more step.

Bennetta Benson

Head of OHEY

works with people with Autism

Runs OHEY

Works with people with Autism