Stimming and other “quirky” behaviours

First, stimming is repetitive behaviour that results in burning off excess energy and helps calm the stimming person. Examples would be body rocking, hand waving, chewing and a host of other behaviours. There is a list somewhere on the internet that lists over 1400 stims. When I was a small boy, my stims were suppressed by my parents and in school. As I began my exploration of my autism three years ago, I rediscovered the different forms of stimming that I used as a child. Body rocking is a big one. However, I have learned to not body rock in public as people stare. It is my hang up, not theirs. I purchased a stim ring which has a ring inside another ring, from Stimtastic.com and it is very effective unless I am very upset. However, the stim that’s always been there, and the one that I use at home is finger chewing. I did not know it’s a stim!

Another “quirk” of mine is my difficulty with “common sense”. A recent example would be walking 200 meters to get water in the winter while camping instead of melting snow for water. Then there is reacting to part of a sentence as opposed to waiting for the entire statement. And of course, walking away from a conversation because I was “finished” talking and has no idea the other person was still engaged in the conversation.

Autistics have all kinds of so-called quirks. The real issue for me is that stimming is normal for Autistics as are other quirks. It does not matter what NTs think. We focus on how to be more comfortable with ourselves. We should be proud of our autism!

Labels

When I received my diagnosis I was initially relieved. Finally, I knew why I was “different”. That feeling did not last. As the reality that I am autistic sank in, my core identity began to crumble. Meltdowns replaced my angry outbursts. I became very confused. I felt bombarded by stimuli such as bright lights, which have always been difficult for me, now became paralyzing. This slowly became easier once I understood what was happening.

The initial label I was given was Asperger Syndrome. Everything I had read was accurate. Then, I began to become uncomfortable as it registered with me that the label Asperger Syndrome was for a disorder described in DSMV. Since I do not have a disorder, but am a different neurotype, I chose instead to use the term HFA or high functioning autistic. This label was comfortable until I watched an Ask An Autistic video that focused on the label issue. It was then that I realized the HFA label has an implied judgment “I am higher than you”. Higher in what? Now I am a 74 year old autistic man and I am comfortable!

Things best left unsaid and other irritants.

One thing I have noticed is what people say when they find out that I am HFA. Most are people that I love and respect. However, some of what they say is inappropriate to ask. For example, “You don’t look autistic “. What does an autistic look like? Or, “You don’t act autistic “. Or, “You have been such a success. You can’t be autistic “. I have a good friend who, when she heard my diagnosis, said “It must be wrong. You aren’t autistic!”.

The website Ask An Autistic, with Amythest Schaber has a show about what not to say. This includes the dreaded “Look at me when I am talking to you ” and all the ways autistics are verbally punished for stimming behaviours. Ignorance fuels this type of behaviour. People mean well but they seem to operate on stereotypes. Most older HFAs “pass” as NTs. I am not comfortable passing. I passed as an NT for decades without knowing about my autism. My autism is as much a part of me as are my toes. I celebrate my autism and no longer find passing acceptable. I try to be tolerant of others, something I didn’t do very well before my diagnosis. I now understand the need for tolerance of everyone, including well meaning friends.

Here is a link to Ask An Autistic.  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAoYMFsyj_k1ApNj_QUkNgKC1R5F9bVHs . I have not received permission to post this but I don’t think there would be a problem.

My Story

My name is James Becker. I am a 74 year old HFA (High Functioning Autistic). I was not diagnosed until I was 70. Like so many other older autistics, much of my life has been a challenge. I have worked in many different jobs. I am a retired university level Psychology teacher. My favourite job was driving a tractor-trailer over the road. It figures since I worked alone, driving all night with no interactions anyone. A perfect job for an isolating autistic! I have had run-ins with the law. I have had numerous marital relationships. I have had addiction issues. Lots of issues!

Because autism was unknown when I was born, my parents were not sure what was wrong with me. Both of my older sisters were born with congenital issues (club foot and epilepsy).  My father was what we used to call “a stern father”. That translates into intolerance and physical punishment. I was punished and prevented from stimming. Stimming is a form of repetitive behaviour that reduces excess energy and is a coping mechanism. I view stimming as a normal behaviour while most professionals view stimming as “maladaptive”.  Of course, NTs (neurotypicals or “normal” brain structure) stim, they just don’t see it that way. In addition, I talked at a very early age (6 months) and did not walk until I was 2 years old , so I must have presented a “mixed picture” to the doctor, who saw me as a bright, small child. Much later in life when I saw a psychiatrist, he didn’t know if he should label me a sociopath or something else. He finally shared that my very high level of fear, guilt and shame ruled out the sociopath label. No Kidding! A high school student could have told me that!

it has taken me about three years to fully accept my autism. What used to disturb me about my autism now makes me smile. One example would be tying my shoes. It is a difficult task for me. Also, I have been told numerous times that I have no common sense, but that I am really smart. That’s kind of like “Look at me when I am talking to you”. It’s one of those sayings that irritate a lot of autistics. I seem to be a bit clumsy and seem to have a lot of bad luck. I break stuff accidentally. I am just now learning how to plan and organize.

 

I believe that older autistics like myself will want to have a place to vent, seek support or just know that they are not alone. Thanks and 😊

THE AGEING AUTISTIC – WELCOME!

I am starting this blog because I believe there are not enough resources or places for the older autistic to use. The older autistic phenomenon is fairly new, as the focus has been, and should continue to be on autistic children. However, I have found, since my diagnosis in 2013, little or no support for adult autistics within the community (Vancouver Island) and very little online, with the exception of Ask An Autistic. The number of adults with the diagnosis of autism continues to rise. I am a HFA or high functioning autistic. I don’t use the label of Asperger, as it is classed as a subtype of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (DSM5). As I do not view Autism as a disorder, but rather as one neurotype, different from what are called NTs (“normal” neurotypes).

The purpose of this blog is to provide a place for older autistics to express themselves in a safe environment. There are almost no rules.

NO POLITICS!

NO RELIGIOUS DISCUSSIONS!

There are no language rules. I ask that folks remain as polite as possible. We are all autistic!

Thank you and welcome!