Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pictures Not Words

Sorry, you missed the spirited three rounds of Name Your Disaster, an imaginative interactive game focusing on car related emergencies. It covered the benign to fateful and was a good catalyst to a rousing discussion filled with excerpts of personal experiences of past emergencies that highlighted supplies and some basic skills that would downsize the severity of the event. We left better educated, empowered, and motivated to take an active role in preparing for future vehicle emergencies whether we happened upon an accident or stranded motorist or the mishap was our own.

What's left from my role as guidance councilor mediating the flow and direction of the discussion is a pile of miscellaneous supplies from the home-made Sterno can activity I taught after the Emergency Car Supply class and an over stimulated brain. Not as severe as yesterday when I had to spend most of my time escaping inside a book reading all 385 pages as I separated myself from a world I couldn't deal with at that moment. A day spent in Sheridan, a day in Gillette, several hours spent directing music at church, along with three grand daughters who stayed the day, left me shut down and nearly immobile. This morning, I've spent several hours researching soil amendments amerced in academia a secondary form of escape. Then I'll wind down to spinning and sewing on a basic quilt -both repetitive tasks that relax my brain. Finally in a day or two if life doesn't crowd in to hard, I'll be fully functional again - as functional as a mildly Autistic person can be.

While I struggled on Monday I forced myself to watched a brief film about a girl named Susie who has a IQ similar to mine but is far less functional in the hopes of finding understanding and ways to fight off the effects of Autism. Susie echoed many of my own thoughts, her frustrations, her triumph over autistic behaviors that mellow with hours spent learning to control them until new mannerism become more natural.

Thanks to thirty years of struggling to learn to communicate through writing I've made great strides. Especially the last six months when through your encouragement by visiting my blog and interacting with me, I for the first time am naturally writing adjectives before nouns. Every sentences doesn't have to be rewritten over and over again. Sentences flow where fragmented phrases once ruled and fragments which transformed next into complex sentences are now simplified into clearer words.

My repetitiveness is tamed as words become a more familiar language in which to express myself. Words are not an Autistic persons first language - pictures are. Yet, how can you convey that image to others without words? Our own children are victims of this mind altering misdirection also. Thankfully, their cases are far less severe than my own. But the struggle moves forward as we frequently remind one of our grand daughters throughout the day to, "Use your words." as she breaks down in frustration, biting, hitting, or dissolving into a puddle of emotional tears become she can not communicate her mental pictures to others.

How can you convey a picture without words or drawings? It is a lonely language. Hence, for the past thirty years I've struggled to try and learn to write, communicate with words that I might escape my isolated world. It's hard. My mind races ahead of my fingers, moving so fast that I'm left with fragmented sentences. Just as I repetitively speak the same thoughts over and over, twisting them around and rearranging the words in a different order trying to accurately translate the mental pictures into words, I do the same with writing. In public, I curb this repetitive tendency. I pause in my speech, forcing my brain to slow down while I seek out words in this foreign language. The effort is exhausting emotionally and physically. At the same time, I'm stifling the physical mannerism that makes me appear odd.

At fifty, I've become a good actress. But, only for short periods of time and then I grow too tired to guard against the escape of my demon. He slips out embarrassing me. Later, those inappropriate behaviors are played like a broken record over and over in my mind as I search for betters ways to cage my Autism. Slowly over many years I've developed the ability to appear normal for longer periods of time. I even hide myself as much as I can from my husband. He is a Saint and does not deserve to suffer in this world I live in. So on days like Monday, I crawl in a corner and just read holding on to myself tightly, trying to keep my Autism caged lest it burst forth hurting those whom I love so dearly.

My brain does not function like yours. When I read words in a book they are transformed into a movie that plays in my head. I don't fill in the blanks if an author does not describe a women's face - she simply has none much like an Amish doll. When an author delves too heavily into someones mind leaving their physical frame to be created by the readers I'm left with a frustratingly sketchy film.This does not mean I need all the details, just enough to give my mental movies form.

On the other hand, this handicap is a plus for I can glance quickly at a small herd of deer and because it becomes an instant replay in my mind where I can freeze play the scene, I can count the deer as you would from a painting on the wall. Unfortunately, my extreme short term memory does not hold the image for long before it dissolves into the present view before me. I also can't count a group of over 12 or 15 accurately and groups over 30 totally overwhelms me with information and my mind shuts down.

Think of how you quickly count a herd. It becomes a mathematical equation doesn't it? My husband breaks the herd into clustered groups and tallies the numbers in his head. Unlike many Autistic people, my brain won't hold numbers - not even in a picture form. As fast as I put the numbers up on my imaginary paper, my mind erases them spouting overload and a mild panic attack sets in.

Often when I'm relaxed with my family, I speak in severely fragmented sentences with much information left out. They fluently fill in the blanks as if we're playing a verbal game of charades. It leaves outsiders lost and unable to follow the conversation. For us it's normal, relaxing and stimulating for it allows our brains to flow at nearly full speed. Spelling is a real challenge for me and though mine has greatly improved spell check is a dear friend. You've no doubt noticed mistakes galore in that area.

Once again, thank you for this opportunity to learn to communicate with you and for your warm support.

Tomorrow, I'll relay some of the gardening tips I've gleaned as I've traveled down the information highway in an escape from the world.

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