Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Autism Answer: Social and Silly!

My family and friends think I'm silly. Heck, I think I'm silly! 

I'll walk in the Dollar Store singing out loud. I'll wear my jeans with the small hole in the crotch and trust no one to look. They're comfortable! 

Lucky for me I'm not struggling with sensory issues or extreme difficulty with focus. So I'm unchallenged enough to notice when my singing is inappropriate or my jeans are too obviously torn and drawing attention.

For my brother, Dar, that's just asking way too much. He's already handling inflammation, communication challenges, and sensory overload. He's already attempting to calm himself by stimming intensely, and trying to tidy up his unclear world by shoving everything within view off to the side or tucking it under something, and flicking the dangling string on a stranger's coat to see if it's attached or if it also needs tidying. 

He's not anti-social at all, and when he is able to get it across to us that he'd like some music to focus on as a way of compensating for all the other stimulation, he happily joins our family for fun! He LOVES when my boys invite friends over (much more than I do!) and will laugh and clap and jump and turn the music up! In those moments we often join him and are silly together! 

Autism doesn't somehow magically make a desire to connect with others disappear, it just makes it different. And more challenging. 

When I am my usual silly self, the world very often encourages me. Because I'm able to understand social cues and am unencumbered by consistent negative feedback to my social silliness. But when my autistic loved ones try to be social and silly, they are often met with very different reactions. And in the end, often pull away and stop trying. They are not anti-social or uninterested in trying. They are just less supported--worse, they are surrounded by a world that is hypocritical and confusing. A world that pretends to want original thought, independent young people, and authentic sense of self, while simultaneously stepping back from such difference with uncomfortable looks and handshakes un-offered. 

I'm thinking about this now because I just gave my brother some lunch and then walked away to check if I had any emails to answer. He picked up his plate of fish and rice, grabbed the sunflower oil and salt, and sat down on the floor behind me. Every now and then he flicks my ponytail. 

Anti-social?? My butt! 
Social and Silly?? You bet!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!