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

Guest Blog by Annette

Posted: March 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

The things I see.

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I often say that I live in a way cooler world than other, “normal” people. I know that is poor grammar, but the sentiment holds. For me the world is a place of constant wonder and amazement. I am often stunned by how much of what goes on around them other people simply don’t see happening.

Just a few days ago, the construction crew working on the barn I work in was cutting metal piping and welding it at the same time. The play of the intense white welding light and the sparks from the grinder made a disco-ball-like display swirl and glow on the ceiling. I looked, enjoyed, and laughed aloud. They were puzzled at what I was watching until they looked up as well, and I was pleased to receive answering grins from two of them. But my thought was, “how did you miss this? Light, colour, motion, contrast, all at once!” I literally can’t NOT see.

Honestly, it gets a bit embarrassing sometimes. There have been too many occasions to list when I have drawn the attention of people around me to some detail that they have apparently overlooked. Even when I am supposed to be concentrating on something else. Then they think you aren’t paying attention. Well, I was, but that doesn’t mean that I turn off!

When I had a visit with the mental health lady from the clinic we sat and talked for a while, like you are supposed to with a mental health person. (I am on anti-depressants, boring story.) While I was paying close attention to the conversation I also observed everything around me in the office. The clock ticked unevenly, with an occasional double tick, ti-chick, when the minute hand moved. Someone with perfume had been in there before me, a fairly light scent of lilac. The posters on the wall were a triage of possible cardiac patients and chest pain complaints. And so on.

I also paid close attention to the conversation. She called this ‘mindfulness’, and ‘improved situational awareness.’ She said it was really a good thing, and something everyone should try. My friends say “Squirrel!” from the movie UP by Disney.

Mostly it’s pretty cool. Like the light show from the welder, and the tiny tracks I see on the sidewalk in the snow before my clumsy feet shuffle through them. They tell me that a squirrel, a mouse and some sparrows and juncos have visited the bird feeder. Or the hint of wrong line that shows me where a deer is standing oh-so-quiet to not be noticed when I walk along the trail. Or the laugh I get from seeing some cows at my job lying down in order of colour gradient in their stalls.

Other times though, it kind of sucks, not having filters. In a group, when several people are talking I can’t follow any conversations because I hear both at once and can’t separate them. It makes driving in the city both terrifying and exhausting. There are so many things moving, brightly coloured signs, smells from things I drive past, the overload is incredible, and has at least on one occasion gotten me into an accident. And I get lost ridiculously often since I can’t really drive and navigate at the same time.

On that note, Google Earth and Street View are your friends. Pick a landmark close to your turn off and don’t worry about finding stuff till you see it. It makes not having to read every street sign and building number you pass a possibility, and reduces the catastrophic effect of a semi or bus blocking your clear view.

Concerts, fairs, busy malls, a midway or amusement park, a full restaurant…                               Any of those are enough to send me into either a panting bug-eyed panic or a hyperactive mind-blown spin, just from sheer sensory overstimulation. It is both a joke and a painful truth when I quip that I don’t need alcohol or drugs to get high. A bag of cotton candy, a bottle of coke, and some loud music is plenty enough. A person gets too familiar with that sort of vague “I was being an idiot in public again, wasn’t I?” feeling when the excitement wears off, and total, very grumpy, exhaustion kicks in.

On the other hand, it is possible to make sensitivity work for you. I work on a dairy, milking and tending the cows. Often I notice subtle differences in individual animals that tell of possible disease or sore feet long before obvious clinical signs make the problem critical and a lot harder to treat. I can remember and notice changes in condition, milk weights and attitudes, all without even thinking much about it. I see all these things every day. And by ‘see’ I mean consciously observe. A change in the smell of an animal’s breath or (nastily) wastes, tells me a lot about their inner health, which I can then pass on to my boss and later discuss treatment and recovery. And that is good for the farm, and helps ensure my continued employment.

And I notice everything.

Long and short of it… What do you see? Do your “super senses” make your world awesome? Or sometimes really scary? Or even, hopefully, give you just that little better edge?

I hope so. Even if your friends think you have the attention span of a “Squirrel!”

Dude

But Seriously.. Dude

We have had are ups and downs. Like the way how you took away my life ambition’s of becoming an elementary school teacher. Granted, who really wants to work with those little brats. I mean seriously, parents these days suck. Also I wanted to be a teacher so I could make a difference and you probably have given me that opportunity. I mean I do the same thing as everyone else and I get way more credit for it. I mean you are essentially the only reason why I won that future 40 award. You also provide me most of my comedy material, and I gotta say I am a pretty kickass stand-up comedian. If I ever get enough paying gigs I will thank you in my Oscars speech. So what if I don’t get an Oscar speech just for being a stand-up comedian. I could always pull a Kanye West.

You also have done a good job making it so I am not overly concerned about material posessions like some kind of douchebag, or have the same hangups as Neurotypical people on unimportant things like tidiness.

You also made backpacking through Europe or Australia on my own impossible. Not cool dude, not cool at all. So what if a lot of people don’t backpack through Europe, you took away that possibility.

It’s also not cool how you made it so I’ve never even touched a naked boobie. I mean seriously, all of the other guys are getting married and I still haven’t touched a naked boobie. TOTALLY UNFAIR. Offside, not cool. I seriously should be a lot more pissed with you for that, than I am. Haha boobie. KNOCKERs. There are so many funny words for them. I mean are they really as soft and as cushy as they look. I mean I would love to use one of those as a pillow. Mmm sleep. Stop distracting me DUDE. What I am trying to say is TOTALLY OFFSIDE.

We have definitely had some kick ass times. Your like that guy who crashes on someone’s couch because you can’t be bothered to get a job and move out on your own. Yes you make me laugh. I should really be more mad at you than I am. But in the end what I can I say, you’re not going to get your own place anytime soon so I may as well make the best of the situation. Errrg. But seriously dude you can be so bloody annoying. Tisk tisk.

Also the thing with the poor hand-eye-coordination. Okay, so high school sports don’t really matter in the end. Yes it defines the pecking order and I would have been so much cooler and more respected but whateves. This thing about not even letting me cut out a straight line. Wow that’s going a little too far.

I would totally give you the boot, but since I can’t. It is what it is.

PS. Please do not write back. In fact if you could try to make your presence as scarce as possible for the next while that would be great.

Sincerely

Adam

A man of ritual

Posted: February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

People with Asperger are known for being very ritualistic or obsessed with our routines to a point some people could say is almost OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). As an educated male, who is well aware of my patterns and how they could be considered a waste of time, I nevertheless am not immune  horrible at fighting my natural instincts. People with Asperger, however are not alone in our strict adherence to our routines, I am looking at you black hat religious community and how you pray three times a day always at the exact same times. In addition, you could also say that most successful people keep to a pretty strict routine that doesn’t vary very much. They call making sure that your pee breaks don’t last any longer than three minutes or your breakfast doesn’t take longer than ten minutes good time management skills. Therefore, you could even say some of the skills to be successful in any and all endeavours come naturally to us.

My particular routine is that whenever I sit down to a computer the first thing I have to do is check my Facebook and Gmail accounts to see if I have any messages. Not that I am ever expecting important messages I mean, who sends important messages on Facebook. If the only way that you have to get hold of the other person is to send them a Facebook message, no matter how important the message is to you, it really isn’t that important to the other person after all you’re just a Facebook friend. All of my closest kith and kin have my phone number and can reach me on it whenever they want. I will never get a message that one of my friends locked themselves out of their car and they need me to go and pick them up on Facebook. My workplace is never going to try and reach me to over me extra hours on my Facebook account. Yet every single time I sit down to a computer the first thing I do is check my Facebook and then my gmail account for messages.

I can hardly be faulted for wasting my time in this way, however, I mean who doesn’t check their Facebook messages at least thirty times a day, just religious, old people and those who are successful and effective, but that really makes up a small percentage of all the people I know. Heck, being a comedian is all about seeing how people are wasting their time in order to make topical jokes. That and letting our brains wander because the subconscious bored mind is much better at noticing funny idiosyncratic behaviour than someone consciously looking for it. I mean good luck at coming up with a good joke when your mind is occupied with trying to write an essay about the history of the American constitutional system for a paper or when you have other deadlines looming over your head and occupying your thoughts. Therefore, good comedians or artists or philosophers in general are likely to take routine jobs which allow them the time and freedom to let their mind wander wherever it wants to go. Yet somehow I still need get the nagging feeling that I am not making the best use of my time.

Following patterns in our routines makes people feel comfortable because it allows us to know what will happen next. We hate having our routine messed with, but, so do lots of people. I doubt if you drove a business executive into the middle of the woods and took away all of his communicating devices he would be very happy either. He would especially be unhappy when you hit him over the head multiple times so you could put a black mask over his face and not let him see where he was going. It would take him a long time to get his life back in order, emotionally and physically as he tried to figure out a way of getting out of there and making his way back home or his routine activities. In addition, his brain would take some time to adjust back to his old routine. Therefore, routine things like driving that used to be relaxing and allow your mind to drift while you problem solved obstacles that occurred in your week or day take longer to return to old habits.

That is sort of how we feel when we miss our favourite television shows or someone sits in our seat in front of the television while watching a sporting event. It leaves us wondering what would have happened if we were sitting in our seat. Would the result be any different? Would our team be winning instead of losing the game? Would our favourite player made a good play instead of turning the ball/puck over? This can keep us awake at night thinking about how different things would have gone if our routine hadn’t been changed. Then we started thinking that we were overdramatic and question if we made too big of a deal over nothing. Maybe the results would have been the exact same and therefore we owe everyone an apology for throwing a tantrum and a plate against the wall. Maybe we should have cleaned up the mess we made. Then we convince ourselves that we were in the right and were justified in our actions. After all fate is not something that should be trifled with lightly. All the meanwhile, you are distracted from what you should have been thinking about which was what to do about the school bully, or the girl who you have a crush on and totally froze and became tongue-tied when trying to ask her out.

It is also hard to establish, change or break routines. I mean if I could create a better routine every time I sat down at a computer than checking Facebook, like writing a few new jokes or an article I would. I just am obsessed that someone is going to write me a message telling me something I need to know or invite me to something and that it will be time sensitive so they’ll need me to get back to them right away. That or check how many people liked my last Facebook status because I am egotistical like that. Generally there has been no change and that nothing in my world has really changed. You just never know. However, after you have started doing something routinely it is pretty hard to break and then start a new routine. Just ask all the people with weight problems about that. Smoking is the same principal once you become addicted to a way of doing something or doing it at all it is pretty hard to break. I mean I tried to quit using Facebook a million times, but, have simply been unable to cut down or break the filthy habit. It just makes me feel so dirty about myself afterwards. Knowing that everyone else is having a better time than me or seeing the stupid motivational quotes that mean nothing like. Like believe in yourself, or you will never know how great you really are. Boring. I mean there are a million diets out there to help you break your food habits but very little out there about how to break your technological habits. The only options that seem to be offered are to cut down gradually or to quit visiting social media sites cold turkey. Two options compared to the millions for changing your eating habits.

Another one of my routines is eating a banana every morning before I do anything else. Turns out bananas are very good for your mood and help explain why I am less grouchy afterwards. This is no different than anyone else who needs to start their morning off with pop tarts coffee or meth. Okay, well, it’s very different than the last one. I mean people who start their morning off with meth generally have a hard time getting to their jobs on time or paying any of their bills. Other than that the three are all the exact same, while, except for the fact that bananas are the only one that is actually good for you.

My point in all this is that I really don’t understand when people complain that people on the Autism spectrum are obsessed with routines as if it’s a bad thing.

I would like to say a few words in acknowledgement of a noble profession, one that does not get nearly as much respect as it deserves.

There have been people involved in this profession as long as films began to talk, which was exactly when their services began to be needed. And they haven’t stop talking since.

I am talking specifically about animation voice actors.

What, you say? What is that? Allow me to explain….

Voice actors are responsible for giving animated cartoon characters their voices. But their role does not simply end there. Writers may create their dialogue, and artists their physical appearance, but voice actors are responsible for filling in all of the blank spots within. They give the characters their hearts, their souls, their personalities and everything else which makes them appealing and sympathetic to an audience. In few other forms of acting is the actor so responsible for so totally immersing themselves into creating a personality for a personage that would not be functional or likeable without their input. Animation may have existed before sound, but its appeal was substantially enhanced by a number of amazing talented performers who did- and still- invest these mere drawings and sketches with the ability- for a while, anyway, to be true and understandable people in the eyes of the audience.

Okay, David, you say, if they are so important, why don’t I know who they are?

Well, that has a lot to do with the fact that animation itself has been considered a marginal art form until fairly recently. Consequently, the idea of actual “acting” existing in it beyond the odd shout, war whoop or cowbell on the soundtrack has been something that has taken even longer to be accepted. Because these people only used their voices, and not their bodies, to act, somehow they are not considered “real” actors and their work has been neglected.

I know better, though.

I have been an animation junkie from my earliest days, and, early on, I learned first hand about the importance of quality acting to the complete effect of the total animation immersion experience. It was the characters’ voices that gave me the essentials of their personality, in ways their outward appearance alone could only suggest. It was the characters’ voices that allowed me to distinguish heroes from villains, and cheer and hiss them respectively. It was also the characters’ voices that made me aware of the way their worlds worked- matters of gender, politics etc. as they existed in the narratives- and by extension, how they worked in the wider world as well. The voice of the cartoon character is equal to the eyes of the human being- the metaphorical window of the soul. And many of those souls are well worth knowing.

When I learned about acting and the theater in high school and college, I began holding the animation voice actor in higher regard. Totally immersing yourself into a role on stage and screen is one thing. But simultaneously playing as many as five or more roles at once in one series, as so many of the greats can handle, is something else entirely. Especially when this role-crossing behavior obliterates seemingly firm categorical differences like gender, race and ethnicity in the process!

I admired the voice actors of the world when I was younger, and I admire them still. They have the advantage of being involved in Hollywood while still having normal lives. We hear nothing about them signing multi-million dollar deals (though I’m sure they’d like them), nor anything about them being pursued relentlessly by the paparazzi. They are private people who happen to be involved in a very public profession, that’s all. But they perform that profession brilliantly and fans like me take their work directly to their hearts. And I’m sure that’s what they want, too.

The greatest tribute I can provide them, though, is the fact that, as a writer, I use their voices regularly as a recognition thumbprint to help me create my characters on a regular basis. A lot of my characters were inspired directly by listening to their performances, and the voices continue following me as I write my little attempts to equal their great achievements in sound. No matter how much I try to make them sound differently, when I write dialogue for my characters, they always end up sounding like my particular favorite voice actors in the end. If that’s not some kind recognition of how indelible animation voice acting can be on one person’s psyche, I don’t know what is.

It’s with these sentiments that I metaphorically raise my glass to my real life heroes, the animation voice actors, the once and future unknown stars of Hollywood.

David Perlmutter is a freelance writer living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, where he has lived his whole life. His passions are American television animation (the subject of his MA thesis and a projected historical monograph), literature (especially science fiction and fantasy) and music (rhythm& blues, soul, funk and jazz.) This explains why much of his writing is as nonconventional and defiant as it is. He is challenged with Asperger’s Syndrome, but considers it an asset more than a disability.

Annette is one of the runner up for the writing contest the Manitoba Writer’s Guild and Free Press had. I met her at the award ceremony.

Having Friends                                                                                                        Annette DeWit

It is normal and healthy for people to want to have friends. Sadly, for some of us, making friends seems to be an almost insurmountable obstacle. After all, if you aren’t even sure if you like people, why would anyone else want to like you? Besides, other people aren’t always all that interesting. They make jokes you don’t understand, talk about boring things that don’t matter, say one thing and mean something else entirely different… People are hard. Being alone is safe, and much, much easier. And less tiring.

And in this way we convince ourselves, and so pursue our interests and hobbies; sharing them on the internet in fine anonymity, or with our families, who are used to us and only half listen.

Nobody wants to be alone. Even if a person wants to be left alone, most of the time, no one really wants to be all alone all the time.

I am a thirty year old woman with Aspergers Syndrome. Now, as an adult, I have the privilege of sharing my life with a handful of very good, even a few very close, friends. I would say they didn’t come easily, but mostly, they came purely by accident, on my part at least. I have never set out to deliberately make friends. I don’t know how; I don’t even really understand what constitutes a friend. But I do know what friends are.

I know the friends I have are valuable and indispensible to my life.

As a child, I had a few friends in school, a neighbor/cousin whom I grew up with, and a couple of classmates who shared one interest with me, and tolerated my oddities for the sake of that commonality. Since then, most of those relationships have faded to a sort of distant, “hey, glad we are both still alive,” sort of benign interest, and not much more. That’s okay.

My friends now are those, mostly older than me, who knew and liked my siblings, and knew and tolerated me in the sort of distant way older sibling’s friends view little sisters, amicably, but not with any particularly strong affection most of the time. However they tolerated my oddly adult way of speaking, and endless fountaining of bits of information, and even showed a considerate interest from time to time.

Now, those shared interests and past gentle tolerance have grown into a genuine respect and affection for each other, growing from common interests, rooted in really caring, and embracing the differences previously mildly accepted.

From each of my friends I receive open-handed acceptance and even welcoming of my assorted eccentricities. My friends like me, not in-spite of, or because I am Aspergers, but simply for all of me. The way my mind works is just a character trait, occasionally to be laughed with, sometimes requiring gentle guidance. I love it when they ask me “What do you know about?… Have you seen?… What is there? What have we missed?” or especially, What do you see?” in the sure knowledge that there will be an answer.

I love it that I can bring a unique and colorful new view to their world as well.

My friends know and understand my limits, and challenge me to grow beyond them without scaring me or making me feel pressured. I don’t feel I will lose their respect or love if I fail, or if I can’t try something.

We talk. Not about random gossipy things that mean little and matter less, but about real things, about anything under the sun, and when the conversation gets de-railed, they go with it, and laugh. Wonderfully, we can start back from where we got off track and carry on the original point without any of us losing a beat. It’s like “red1, red2, red3, (-purple/green/orangish,-) red4, … and no-one minds.

I was discussing school and a struggling daughter of my friend with her one day, when a butterfly flew between us.

Me, “Look! Butterfly!”

My friend, laughing so hard she staggered, “Really?!”

Me, “What?” a pause, “For real! It’s right there,” pointing.

She, “Pretty. I honestly didn’t see it at first, sorry”

And we carried on. Later, we laughed a lot. I know I am a bit (read extremely) distractible. Hey, easily amused, never bored. I often joke that I live in a way cooler world than ordinary people. My friends count on me to point out the fascinating bits that they miss. In return, they explain bits that I miss. Especially answering things like “What does that mean? Why did they do that? Is he mad or scared?”

Have you ever watched ‘How to Train Your Dragon’? In the movie, Gobber, the blacksmith guy is explaining to Hiccup, our hero, how to be better accepted by the Viking tribe. He gestures to Hiccup and says something like “You just have to be less, this,” to which Hiccup replies, “You just gestured to all of me!” Gobber answers, “Exactly.”

Much later, and after many trials and adventures, Gobber says to Hiccup, “It turns out we just needed more,” a sweeping gesture, “this.”

Hiccup, “You just gestured to all of me!”

To me, a big part of the movie is Gobber learning to be a good friend. Friends don’t say to each other, you need to be someone else. They say, “YOU are my friend.”