New tool I can use

what I learned while rock hunting


I have written about how useful it has been for me to use the internet to find connections with like minds. I joined a local forum group of rock hunters a few years ago, and have developed internet relationships with some of the members. Some of us like to find the same things, some of us like to research and share info, others seem more interested in other stuff. With a forum having thousands of members, there is a lot to sort.

I have discussed how as a branch-off from the internet group, local people gathered to follow our interests at local sites to hunt rocks, to share specimens, to explore our interest and activity together. I found others who wanted to skip the formal gatherings of large groups for meet and greet/dining etc… and just wanted a couple of buddies to look for similar kinds of rocks together.
Eventually it has filtered down to just a few local folks with similar interests and none of us drive more than a couple of hours to spend time together. Usually.

I have interacted with a teacher online for several months now and have admired his curiosity, his genuine interest in people, his desire to find certain specimens for his collections, his generosity in sharing with others, etc. He contacted me over one of my rock finds and said he was coming from several hours away to hunt for the same rocks. I expressed interest in meeting him to help him find what he was looking for.

This is the background story. Here is what he taught me, and I think it is valuable. I had not thought this out for myself, being autistic I sometimes need to have things explained to me which seem obvious to others. My internal thought and idea processing is not ‘standard equipment’ but relatively unique. I digress.

As we looked for rocks we talked, and he ( a teacher by trade) talked about other forum members and how he had sought them out to learn what they knew. He traveled long distances to meet people from the group to find out about the rocks and minerals/fossils etc that interested him and that he wanted for his collection. I suspect he was collecting people as well.
It dawned on me that he was teaching me how to make friends and showed me that I could take the initiative to reach out to others to find things in common. Light on in the attic!!!
I was grateful that he explained it, for I needed to know this badly. Others may have understood it intuitively, but I needed somebody else to point it out and explain it in order to understand.

Now I know I can find others of similar interests and ideas instead of waiting for random contacts
( or for them to reach out to me as my teacher did).

This is a tool I can use to move forward. I am so glad to know this, and so grateful for the explanation.

This is just one small example showing why parents need to explain absolutely everything to their autistic child.

No detail is too small, no action to simple to be ignored without explanation.

To me and to many other autistic folk, reasons behind other people’s behavior are hidden and complex, difficult to understand, or simply unknown and unseen… motivation is the most difficult thing for me to understand in any interaction with others.

Why does he ask that? what does she want me to do? What reaction is expected? What does that comment mean? Is it sarcastic, encouraging, meant to hurt, meant to be funny?
Help comes with detailed explanation. Knowing how to ask others to join me and ask them to teach me about what interests them will help me grow ideas, intellect, insights, and if I am lucky create a few new friendships as I go. How did I miss this??? ( autism)

What if somebody had explained this to me as a struggling teen 55 years ago (when the photo above was taken of me) ???

Thank you, my teacher, I am truly grateful for the insight!

Get READY now

What if there is an emergency?

Recent events have been on my mind lately. A good friend spent hours watching firefighters battle a huge blaze in an apartment complex across the street. An area the size of a city block was lost. All the people who lived there lost their homes and belongings. Certain surrounding areas had to be evacuated as well. Others were put on “standby” alerts.

People in the state where I live lost everything when an old dam burst and allowed water from the recreational lake it had created to inundate the subdivision and part of the large sized city just downstream from that location.
People who lived there lost their homes and belongings. Somebody I knew there was without utilities, including water and sewer for several days as the area began to recover.

There are chemical spills, forest and urban fires, floods, earthquakes, violent damaging storms, civil unrest, and many other reasons why people must suddenly leave their homes , evacuate certain areas, and try to begin new lives in places that are strange to them.

Do you have plans for such an emergency? Now is the best time to think about it, as terrifying as it might be.
Emergencies do happen in every part of the world, every day.

Our autistic inflexibility can be an extra problem for us in emergency situations. We can be so shocked by rapidly threatening events that we become ‘frozen’ and unable to act for ourselves. We may not be able to do the things that need to be done quickly in such an emergency if we have not planned and thought about what we would do and made certain things ready “just in case”.

The flood issue struck close to home. We live in an area close to one of the Great Lakes in the USA, and there is a river through the heart of town, much beloved, tamed by no less than 4 dams in regions above town and in the middle of town as well. If one of those dams broke, would/could the others follow? The government agency that inspects the dams says they are reaching the end of their span of usefulness and they are not completely stable. I have been thinking about what we would do here, if there was a flood situation and we had to be evacuated.
We have important papers we would need to take with us. We do not have a trailer or access to one to bring large items with us. By the time we got our files, our pets, our clothing and medications, food and water for 3 days, sleeping bags, etc. we still would have to find a safe place to go, figure out a safe route to get there, and figure out how to proceed to live our lives from there.
I am making a check list and gathering things we might need into one area of our home, and packing up what I can ahead of time.

Something that might help you think about emergency preparedness is the usa government website ready.gov What possible threats are most likely to cause emergency evacuations near you?

I began to prepare for emergencies even before I knew of my autism. I lived in an earthquake prone area in the south of my home state and there had been a lot of publicity about “the big one” – a huge earthquake being possible on a nearby extended-area fault zone which had been inactive for well over a hundred years. I had small children and the stories of possible damage worried me. So I began preparations.

I packed an emergency bag for each family member, one complete change of clothing plus a couple extra socks and underwear, and shoes. Shoes are so important in case of night time evacuations and possibilities of having to walk in areas with broken glass, damaged buildings, down trees, etc..

I remembered to pack clothing that could be used as night clothes in a public sleeping situation. I packed a towel, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc in the emergency bags (these were backpacks). I packed a comfort toy and non perishable snacks in the kids’ bags.

I packed a bag for the pets with collars/ harnesses/ leads, dishes, food enough for 3 days. I packed the contact number for the vet and included letters for “permission for emergency treatment” as well as all health records for the critters.

I packed food and water for 3 days for each family member as well.
I made sure we had copies of our birth certificates, our social security numbers, emergency phone numbers (family, friends, etc we would need to contact in case of emergencies , doctors numbers, health records, records of all the places we paid our household bills, so we could terminate service, ask for extensions or help restoring services, tax records, etc.
Insurance cards and copies of plans plus contact numbers went into the bags, as well as all the contact numbers and account numbers for the bank, credit cards, etc etc.
I got extra prescription drugs for family members and put those in the bags too. I had a little first aid kit and a small radio that ran on batteries, flashlights and extra batteries. I had sleeping bags and blankets and pillows stacked and ready to pick up and put in the car.

I began to be very conscious about the level of gas in my car’s tank.
If we had to evacuate I had seen the television and news articles showing long lines with waits for gas and people’s cars abandoned by the side of the road due to running out of fuel.

Especially if you live in areas that are prone to ‘weather events’ or known hazards, please consider giving yourself a huge advantage by insuring you are ready ahead of time as well as you can be.
Emergencies can happen at any time. They happen to everybody.
Being older and autistic does not mean we can not give ourselves the accommodation of being ready to react and save precious time and perhaps our own and /or our loved ones’ lives.
I do not dwell on scary thoughts surrounding these “what if” scenarios, but I have peace of mind knowing I will know what to do if the time ever comes that I am called on to act and react quickly for safety and well being of my household.
Do you need an emergency plan? How will you respond?

Who am I ???

Finding your authentic self after diagnosis


There has been much discussion lately, in the online forums I attend , about masking and finding one’s own identity.
How to drop the mask and be more authentic? How to know who I really am beneath all the adaptive and self protective behaviors I have learned over my lifetime? How do I know which parts are “real” and which parts are camouflage for self protection or ease of coping?

I was at a loss for a long time about these questions. For me a lot of these questions did not apply because as I had aged, I had adjusted my style of dress, my social behavior, my willingness to put up with discomfort, etc.
I had become more authentic to myself for the most part before I learned of my autism.

It might be a process of ageing that we become less willing to put up with social and physical discomfort or meaningless rituals or distressing social situations, or I might have been lucky to have sorted out sources of discomfort and to have allowed myself to discard those things that were most difficult and distressing to me.

I understand the need to sort it all out, and to self accommodate in order to have the best experiences that life has to offer and to eliminate pain and discomfort where we can.

May I suggest we start with the things that we find most difficult and distressing? By figuring out different ways to do things, we can eliminate at least some of the things that are hardest for us to tolerate.

I learned to avoid physical discomfort first. Stopped spending hours on clothing, hair, makeup, and worrying about being “in style” or if I looked right. Flat shoes, loose fitting clothing, easy hair cut, minimal makeup applied only for very special times. Works for me! Even within dress codes, unless a certain specific uniform is required, there is usually some leeway.



I got rid of the scratchy couch that I could not bear to sit on, the bright flickering fluorescent lights. When I lived alone I did not use TV or Radio. I now remove myself to my quiet zone if my husband wants to participate in things that drive me wild (TV and Radio for example).
I have bright clear lighting that doesn’t flicker in places where I need it for reading and close work.
I stopped forcing myself to go to concerts, listening to podcasts or videos, trying to interact in large groups (4 or more is a large group to me), stopped going to restaurants, shopping malls, and other places that caused my sensory struggles to make me anxious and put me in ‘stampede mode”. What was the point?
If things like wedding receptions, anniversary parties, retirement parties, etc send you into panic or meltdown, consider a congratulatory card, note, email, or phone call along with polite regrets.
( you don’t have to explain, just say you are sorry you missed their big day but wanted to send congratulations or whatever message you’d like to give).


I found new ways to get a lot of things done, adapting them to my sensory struggles so that I no longer suffered loud noises, chaotic surroundings, etc.

In replacing those old painful experiences I found joy in solitary walks in nature, taking photographs, doing crafts, listening to my choice of music (peaceful or upbeat and not dissonant, no lyrics since I can’t readily process spoken or sung words), I found the ‘real’ me.

I lost a lot of anxiety and anguish by simply declining invitations to loud parties, noisy social gatherings such as dinners in restaurants, classrooms, malls, etc and substituting meeting with one or 2 people for quiet shared activities.

It may require others in your life to make adjustments too, or you might need to compromise to keep peace, but I urge you to find your most distressing activities and find ways to eliminate them or change them to things that provide pleasure or at least reduce discomfort.

Change clothing, change shopping habits, change the way you socialize or interact with others, change decor or arrangements within your home to accommodate your worst struggles. Many of us have it in our power to make adjustments that can make life so much better. You do not have to do anything one certain way, or in many cases you might not have to do it at all.

Sometimes we need to just stop and consider alternatives. Change can be scary, but taken in little bites, and not all at once, sometimes changes can bring about a lot of relief and comfort in exchange for the pain, anxiety and frustration.

What can you do, one step at a time to remove painful experiences from your life and to substitute or build new and pleasant experiences for yourself?

What happened to all the autistic children?

They grew up to be adults!


Awareness is rising about autism and most people have heard of autism. Autism is primarily thought of as a children’s issue in the eye of the general public. What happens when these kids grow up? What happened to all the children who grew up before autism was commonly diagnosed in kids? They are now autistic adults!
If the CDC is right, there are well over 4 million autistic adults in the United States alone, and most of us have never suspected we are autistic.

How do we find autistic adults today?

Autistic people are more likely to be suicidal.

Autistic people are more likely to be victims of crime.


Autistic people have a higher rate of depression and anxiety.

Autistic people account for about 10 percent of admissions for treatment in rehab centers for alcohol and drugs ( compared to 1 percent of the general population admitted) This is truly stunning when you understand that autism is believed to affect 2.2 percent of the general population.

Autism may account for up to 10 percent or more of the homeless population.

Autism may be involved in those admitted to jails and prisons although very little or no research has been done specifically on autism. Intellectual disability in general has been studied as a factor in prison populations and shown to be present in higher than normal levels among the general population.

Autistic people tend to have poorer health and to die younger. Life expectancy in some studies is as low as 38 years. Other studies say around 58.

From these statements one can see how knowledge of autism would be particularly useful to certain groups. Doctors and health care workers of all types, law enforcement professionals, social workers, can you name others?

Diagnosis of autism as an adult can change lives. Self understanding is one of the keys to finding a new life amid common social struggles. Autistic people seem to have more than our share from a statistical reporting level at the very least. I can not tell you the huge difference my understanding of my own late diagnosis has made in my mundane and every day life. I can only imagine how useful such self knowledge can be to those struggling with such difficult issues in their lives, and how useful it would be to know and understand about how autism may have been involved in so many lives of pain and hardship.
I am reading of mandatory screening for autism in new hospital admissions for suicidal behaviors. I am reading of mandatory screening in clinical situations for care of those struggling with addictions.
I am grateful that professionals in some places are using today’s understanding of autism to help recognize and diagnose autistic adults. So much more needs to be done. Please help spread the word.

Autism executive function

Getting things done


Disorganized, lazy, procrastinator, negligent, sloppy, messy, always late,
late bills, late for appointments, late for work, cluttered, dirty, overwhelmed!

This is the life of many autistic adults. Although we love details, many of us need help with every day life due to struggles with executive function. Executive function is the part of us which is used to organize, start a project and follow it to completion, to do basic household chores in a regular and frequent manner, to follow up on paperwork , balancing a check book, paying bills, keeping files so that we can find important records when we need them ( or in case we need them). Executive function is getting work done in an orderly way and keeping up with due dates, project deadlines, keeping within guidelines or following directions.

There are many things that can contribute to our struggles with executive function. Like everything in a spectrum, there are some very vague areas of functioning from deep struggles with everything or not needing much help if any. Struggles with executive function are not diagnostic of autism, but many of us (autistic folk) need help sorting it out one one level or another.

Proprioceptive difficulties can add to our burdens… how do we know and recognize when to do any specific job? How far should I go with cleaning? Quick wipe down? Deep clean? How often?

The ability to even begin a project can be held back by several different issues. We could have Demand avoidance, performance anxiety, learned helplessness, troubles with memory either or, or both short or long term. There may be need to see an occupational therapist to help devise strategies that are useful to assist functioning levels. Psychologists or other therapists may be able to help with the anxiety, helplessness, and avoidant behaviors.

Some of us are great at finding details, but not at sorting them or ranking them in a way that can be useful. We might need help deciding which details are important and which are of less importance, and ranking them as priorities.


Struggles vary and each of us will need help with different things.
I might know I should do the dishes and clean the bathroom, vacuum, do laundry, change the sheets, etc. but how do I know when to do these things, and have I learned how? I needed to learn each of these tasks individually and was fortunate to have been taught much of it as a child. I had to get books on household administration and read them, advice on auto care, information on lawn care, household maintainence and how frequently to have things like the furnace serviced, etc. There are lots of informational resources on line! We can ask others to teach us or help us sort out the details of almost anything. We do not have to struggle along and make do, there are usually resources available.

With autism, we can break each individual job down to its smallest components.
Naming Tools needed for each job, and supplies needed. ( how do we choose them?) Then we learn how to go about doing each task. How to use the washing machine( what kinds of things go in the wash water, cleaners, brighteners, scent, softeners?) and hang clothing to dry, our use the dryer ( do I use dryer sheets?) How do we treat stubborn stains and spots? How do we fold the clothing and do we have a single certain place to put it every time ? It is more complicated than it may seem. If we missed those lessons as children, we need to find a way to learn them today. The same for every single thing we do to take care of ourselves and our possessions, and our households.



A project such as “housecleaning” can overwhelm us until we learn to break it down into small steps.. instead of “cleaning the kitchen” as a job, we can break it down to small tasks. Collect all the trash and take the garbage out. Wash the dishes. Put away food/spices and utensils. Do we have one specific place where each item belongs? clean the counters and cabinets, wash the floor. We learn individual things like cleaning the oven and cleaning the fridge as separate tasks and make sure they go on our list of things we don’t need to do daily, but less frequently. we can use lists, schedules, electronic devices, calendars, reminders in the form of post it notes or a cell phone that might call you back and remind you.

The same goes for individual paperwork tasks… do we know where we keep supplies, what supplies do we need? Where will we work (desk, kitchen table, ???) Do we have adequate light? What dates do we need to be aware of? Bills and other deadlines can not be ignored, but must be planned for and this is something that we can learn. Many management techniques are available, from credit, debit, electronic banking, using an accountant, etc. If you don’t feel you can do it yourself, please ask for help. We can get easily overwhelmed or frustrated, and letting these things go can cause such major problems.


If you are not able to sort executive function issues on your own, there is no shame in reaching out to get help from others or to rely on paying others to make sure some of this stuff gets done. I must point out that I do not know what resources are available in other countries, I am speaking from the perspcective of a person living in the USA in a small and relatively poor and rural community.

I suspect some places have nothing at all to help. In this case, talking to others and asking how they handle specific issues may get some guidance or insight.

Who do we go to for help? Talking to a friend, family member, therapist, social service agency, your doctor or minister, and explaining your struggles can get suggestions, help you find ideas the might work for you, and get referral to others who can help if they can not. Many areas have senior citizens agencies set up to help seniors with daily living struggles, senior centers usually have information services. government agencies, on city, county, state levels may have programs to help seniors with issues of daily living, including cleaning, keeping appointments, food plans/ meals or food programs, etc. If you need help, there is no shame in asking for it.

Millions of autistic adults

undiagnosed in the USA today.

Per the USA’s Center For Disease Control (CDC) there are 5,437,988 autistic adults as described by those being over age 18 upward in the USA today. CDC claims this statistic as 2 percent of today’s population in the USA. Census numbers after 2020 may drive that number still higher.

A notice posted April 27, 2020 claims the CDC has determined these numbers so that states can be aided in budgeting and planning funds, etc. regarding diagnosis and support (“treatment”) for autistic adults. All states now require insurance plans to cover diagnosis and supportive therapies for autistic adults. Children ageing out of the system, which used to close at the age limit of 18, are now going to be supported as adults as well.

The happy side effect of parents of today’s early diagnosed children’s and young adults’ activism ( this was entirely unintentional, I am sure within myself) is the new availability this could give older autistic adults in this country for access to diagnosis and support.
Support plans will soon be in place for adult autistic folks. Will elders once more be overlooked as focus is on the younger generations, with most Americans never suspecting the hidden millions of autistic adults struggling without diagnosis and support that many so desperately need?

Educators of those already practicing diagnosis and those now just learning how to diagnose and recognize autism must learn how autism displays differently in all adults and how diagnosis of adult females may be more complicated than today’s standard diagnostic criteria.


Statistics posted by the CDC show that males ( children) are still diagnosed at much higher rates than females.

There are no known statistics on how many adults have been diagnosed, or the proportion of males to females who have received late diagnosis.

I see the CDC’s post as a ” first light ” showing in the attempts to find diagnosis for all age and gender groups who have struggled lifetimes with autism and never knew, never had help, never suspected.

I have been feeling frustrated and discouraged lately. My personal plans to offer local talks and information to local groups likely to encounter un-diagnosed autistic elders has been completely shut down by Covid restrictions.
Now I am considering a different, possibly more effective approach to gaining more diagnostic and support structure for older adults with autism.
College classrooms are the places that need to offer more information about autism and how it presents in adults and the elderly. Professional groups for individual practices need to be alerted to the presence of adult autistic people. Political entities who plan and portion out those huge budgets need to know about adult autism. The list of places to raise awareness is practically limitless!

As a group, older autistic adults need to speak out about finding diagnosis, and need to bring attention to the need for support, to organize much as the parents of autistic children have.

If population statistics are correct, the adults in the USA who are autistic out number the children who have been diagnosed up to age 18 .

Time to speak up and ask for educated diagnostic and support systems.. Laws for insurance coverage have changed. Colleges and other schools need to be aware and make changes to provide for the future.

Baby boomers will all be over the age of 65 by the year 2030, just 10 short years from now. Will elderly autistic populations get the support they/we will need as they/we age and rely on others for our medical and physical decline as we grow older?

Will young adults “ageing” into the system get the support they need? CDC has taken the first step by providing numbers and an “authoritative” source of information on which individual states will be basing plans now required by law.

Many of us will be watching with interest.
If we are able, most of us ( ageing adults who are autistic, whether formally diagnosed or not) can help raise awareness and place social pressure by making lots of noise to legislators, planners, providers. Call, text, write letters, email, write letters to the editor of your local newspaper, contact local TV or radio outlets…. whatever you can do, we need each other right now.
The demand is there, we know it, but I am not sure that those in the places we need to reach are hearing us. Please do what you can!

Autism Anger

Shhhhhhh don’t talk about that!!!!!

Autism has a few “sore spots” that seem to be avoided as topics for discussion in the forums I participate in. When somebody does open up, there is a flood of responses, seemingly relief in finding that individuals are not alone in their struggles. I am talking about emotional regulation struggles this time.
Autism and anger, autism and emotional breakdowns due to anxiety, fears, frustration, and inability to cope displayed as meltdowns, shutdowns, violence, tantrums, and outbursts.
We all understand this happens frequently to many of us. But we are ashamed or afraid to talk about it.

Autism is all about our neurology. Many of the ways we experience the world are not the same for us as “neurotypical” or average, “normal” or non-autistic people. Struggles with emotional regulation are definitely not limited to autistic people, we see examples everywhere of people behaving with one or another form of problems with emotional regulation.

Emotions and responses to those emotions are things we generally learn about when we are very small (people in general).
We are taught to recognize our emotions and how to deal with them in socially acceptable ways, usually before we leave home for school days.
Learning to recognize emotions can be helped by explanations given through instruction person to person, videos, books, and role playing, role modeling and other ways.
Learning to recognize emotions and learning ways to express those emotions in healthy and socially acceptable ways takes practice. The good news is that for the most part, these are skills that can benefit from a coach or teacher, a therapist or a counselor.

Sorting and learning to recognize one’s emotions and how to deal with them in healthy ways is part of the sensory system ( remember I said emotions had a neurological basis?) called interoception.

Interoception used to be considered part of the proprioceptive group of neurology but more recently has been removed to its own special category.

Interoception has to do with what you feel physically inside you. It is the sense which tells you what you are feeling when your body gives you physical clues to your needs and wants. That empty feeling in your middle is telling you that you need to eat. The pressure you feel in your lower regions means you need to use the bathroom. The tenseness of your muscles in your stomach and legs can mean that you are afraid and ready to run. The tenseness of your muscles in your neck, your clenched jaw, your tight fists may mean you are getting ready to fight.

Autism often interferes with our ability to recognize the first physical signs of our emotions… so we end up surprised at our own emotional outbursts and our extreme reactions to emotions we did not recognize we were feeling until they reached crisis proportions. The body experiences emotions in a physical way and we can learn to recognize the signs.

Many of us have not been aware of or have not learned to notice the physical signs of emotion. Elevated heartbeat? Heavy breathing? Weak pulse, feeling faint, tight muscles in any part or parts of the body? Feeling sick to one’s stomach, clenched fists, gritting teeth or tight muscles in lips, jaws? Smiling, grimacing, frowning, head lowered or thrown back? What we are feeling physically and doing with our bodies is a huge clue to how we are feeling emotionally. Many autistic people might not recognize body language in others, and many might not recognize our own body’s signs as well. We can learn!

In the forum discussions I have participated in and observed, many autistic adults have remembered that as children they decided emotions were not useful and made deliberate choices to disregard them or to hide them. This seems generally to have been “early on” in the nursery or as a very small child. We can learn to recognize and make use of our emotions, but it does not come naturally to may of us. It is one more thing we might need help with to sort it out. Especially this might be true in older people who are set in their ways and less likely to realize or recognize alternatives.

It is never too late to learn about interoception and how to recognize our building needs and emotions before we reach the bursting point.

Occupational therapists might be able to help, and there are many anger management classes, biofeedback specialists and therapists who specialize in behavioral difficulties. There is much printed and online regarding how to recognize emotions early inside us and how to use that “early warning system” when we recognize it in order to work with our emotions in healthy ways instead of finding ourselves in a huge and surprising/ distressing/ destructive/embarrassing/ blow up situation.

If you struggle with overwhelming emotions of any sort, I want to encourage you that this can be changed, and new ways can be learned to recognize our emotions, to direct and control them into healthier behavior in distressing situations. We can learn to recognize and use our interoception skills as an ‘early warning system’ to detect and divert our physical reactions to emotional situations and make better choices in how to express ourselves or to deal with those emotions before we are overwhelmed and helpless in still another emotional blowout.

If this is an area of distress for you, please be encouraged, it is something that can be helped.
We can learn new ways, sometimes we need to reach out to others who can help us sort it all out.
Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to take action. Those folks are there because they want to help and they want us to live better lives. There is no shame in asking to learn new skills. And the benefits are beyond measure in terms of the quality of your life and your relationships to others as you move forward.


Adult children of Autistic Parents

Did you know ?

When I discovered my own autism, I discovered my mother, too, was autistic.

My mother passed away without knowing of her autism. But when I learned of my own,
I quickly recognized autistic traits in my mother’s inexplicable and incomprehensible view of the world.

I recognized her struggles, her personality quirks, her odd behaviors, her anxiety to please others and to impress them. I began to understand a lot of the “why” questions from my youth.

Diagnosis of my autism, for me was the key to living a healthy and fulfilled life. Lack of information about my autism and my mother’s kept me in a world of “should” and “ought”, a world where my failure to function as expected was the main feature and always behind it my self questioning doubts and self punishment, self hate, why could I not succeed where others had? Why was I such a miserable failure at life where most other people seem to do so much better?

Our mother had very rigid ideas of the rules of life. Everything in her life centered around becoming a socialite. Her home, her family, her clothing, the things she did all were directed toward her idea of what “upper class” people should be. She wanted desperately to be rich and famous, glamorous, idolized and admired. She lived a life of frustration and no doubt also saw herself as a failure if she ever gave herself over to introspection, but she never once admitted to having a personal flaw, that I can recall. ( and remember my perception was definitely skewed by my own fears anxieties and autistic lack of insights) Why couldn’t she achieve a social life? She never knew.


Everything in our mother’s life was moderated by “what will the neighbors think?”
You must understand, my perceptions are autistic perceptions and I had very little understanding of any of the others of my family, their motivations, their feelings, their struggles. I was busy being overwhelmed with my own, attempting to avoid physical and emotional punishments and constant criticism and scoldings, I was overwhelmed with every day survival, trying to please and most of all appease others in our family (as well as anybody I had contact outside the family) and had only my autistic mother’s perceptions to guide me and explain my world to to me. I stopped asking for her help and insights around 3rd grade (8 years old?) when I realized the futility of that, and recognized the fact that she was not interested in hearing about any of my problems or struggles. ( She had plenty of her own and her autism kept her from seeing mine) I understand that now.
I displeased my mother so often because she saw her own autism in me and wanted to correct it, punish it, wipe it out. My autistic failures reminded her too much of her own weaknesses, flaws and struggles and infuriated her because I seemingly willfully continued to annoy her by my struggles, with her seeing these as deliberate disobedience and lack of compliance through resistance of will rather than lack of understanding what she wanted of me at any time.
Her hidden and not really understood message to me was “don’t be autistic”… yeah, that was it.

No wonder I had a miserable childhood! At least I can make sense of it now.

I got my ideas of life’s ” should’s” and almost everything else in life really wrong! Nobody’s fault!!! Nobody knew about autism, either mine or my mother’s, nor that of anybody else in or out of the family in those days.

I was told by my mother’s sister and their own mother (my grandmother) that my mom was “simple”.

In truth, she was extremely dyslexic and probably had other struggles with sensory processing. She could barely read and write, had echolalia, used music she learned as a child to express her feelings ( singing some songs over and over and over for all of her life in certain situations).

I think of my own inability to visualize (aphantasia) and my fascination for taking photographs of things I see, and want to remember. I have thousands of images stored in my computer so that I can go back and look at the images which I can’t visualize or remember in a visual way by picturing it in my mind’s eye.

I was shocked ( oh no, I have become my mother!!), when I realized in remembering that our mother was obsessed with taking photographs and that she had amassed a huge collection of printed images, almost all of her family, taken over the course of the years.
Our mother’s photo obsession drove all of her kids and her spouse crazy. Every activity should have a photo, every event needed to stop while she posed us and took repeated photos. She was always excited to look at the photos when they returned from being developed.
I suspect her obsession with photo taking was because she could not visualize in her mind, either. In those days photo taking was very expensive, both to purchase the films and to have the photos developed. I remember my father complaining about the expense!
On top of our mother’s likely aphantasia, add that she was not able to read much at all because of her dyslexia. She struggled to write due to the dyslexia as well.
Her struggles were far worse than mine… I could read and write and had a gift for words, and I am amazed that she accomplished all that she did without these things.
Mother’s hearing processing and her visual processing may have been struggles for her as well, but I will never know. I know she loved movies and television, loved listening to soap operas on the radio, and enjoyed popular music from her childhood onward.

Now that I understand my mother’s autism and have a much better idea of how it must have affected her, I can only admire that she managed to raise 4 children, kept us clothed, washed and fed, kept the house clean and that we all survived and became independent citizens functioning in society.

I grew up in the 50’s and the 60’s and in those days, all failings of children were blamed on poor parenting.

I blamed my mother too, and for some things like her deliberate cruelty, I still do blame and resent her treatment of me. Deliberately causing pain is never appropriate, physically or emotionally.

I can not excuse that part of her behavior. But I can better comprehend it. She had so very few tools available for overcoming her own struggles. She had no insights, as I have been blessed to obtain through today’s knowledge of autism and of my own diagnosis. She had to struggle all her life and never knew about her own autism. She never had the opportunity to gain insights and self understanding, to see her world differently, to make adaptations that might have allowed her to grow and thrive. She never knew.
Today, knowing my own autism and knowing that she died never having the blessing of self understanding needed to adjust her life and her struggles, I am better able to forgive so many of the struggles of my own life which I had been taught to blame squarely on the parenting I had been given. And I can finally forgive her as well.
We survived, how we did it, I am not sure.

Knowing about the autism in our family has been a key to my understanding of my childhood, my youth, my struggles all my life.
Knowing about autism in my mother and possibly in other family members has allowed me to understand all those painful “why’ questions and helped in the healing.

Did you know????

Now I know of my own autism, I wonder how I did as a parent?
Nobody knew about my own autism all the time my kids were growing up.
I did not learn about my own autism until my offspring were born, and grew up to have homes of their own.
Nobody knew back then.
Diagnosis is life changing.

Shoulds

ought, supposed to, and other unhelpful or damaging words and phrases

This is about undefined expectations and non specific social pressure, guilt, shaming, and other undefined vague or incomprehensible negative communication.


Should sit up by age 6 months
Should walk by age 18 months
Should talk by age 24 months

Expectations for performance in our lives are set at a very early age. Before we go to day care we should be potty trained, before we go to school we should be able to dress ourselves, tie our own shoes, wash our hands and brush our teeth.

In school we should be able to sit still, listen to and obey the teacher, should be performing according to the parameters set in the guidelines for our average grade levels.

And so it goes. By the time we reach adulthood we have heard that word “should” at least a thousand different ways in a thousand different contexts allied with performance and expectations.

Somewhere in that, ” should “also is used to shame.
You should know that.
You should have….( done something)!
You should not ( have done something else)!.

“Should” becomes condemnation and guilt causing.
Added are variations of should: “ought to”, and “supposed to”.
You ought to know what you did wrong!
You ought to be able to figure it out!
You are supposed to (be like this, react like this, think like this).

I spent years in emotional chaos and despair over these words and this particular form of communication from others.
How was I supposed to know the things they said I “should”?
They never explained or defined their complaints or their criticisms so that I could avoid doing whatever it was they did not like me to do from then on.
I got responses such as “that was so mean” or “you hurt my feelings on purpose” or “You know very well what you did!”.
I could not understand how I was bad, wrong, thoughtless, improper, incorrect, etc without specific explanations of how I had offended or made mistakes that were so frequently interpreted as deliberate actions meant to cause emotional pain, to show defiance, or to deliberately thwart or frustrate others.

I was told constantly “you should know by now”, ” I should not have to tell you to” , “You ought to be able to figure it out”, and “you should not need help with that” .

I did not know, you did have to tell me, I was not able to figure it out on my own.
I was lost, confused, frightened and felt terrible because it was obviously “all my fault” but I did not understand how that could be so. I had absolutely no idea of how this had happened. I had absolutely no idea of what I could do to make sure it never happened again, but oh how I wanted to fix that!!!!

Add to this “you’re not supposed to be like that” ” You’re supposed to say (this)” or “You are supposed to ( do this)”.
I was often told I was supposed to want certain things, supposed to feel certain ways, supposed to like certain things, or to react in certain ways. I tried so hard to comply.

The world was just full of rules I tried so desperately to understand.
I did not know until years and years later that the words “should, ought, and supposed to” were subjective and dependent on the expectations of the person speaking rather than rules written in some unknown and hidden social code book to which I was for some reason not allowed access.

I did not know that the same “should”, “ought” , “supposed to” did not apply to everybody equally in any interaction. Nobody told me. I did not have a clue!

I wish somebody would have explained.

If you are the parent of a child with autism, it might be helpful to omit those few words and provide complete and detailed explanations of expectations and how they are to be met.
Adults with any kind of interactions or relationships to adult autistic persons, for these folks, I suggest the same.

Disappointing behavior, words spoken, actions taken, and expectations not met can be helped most by explicit and detailed explanations about why a certain action is preferred.
Please provide detailed description and explanation about how the expectations can be met in the future.

Your autistic partner in communications, child or adult will be much more likely to understand your expectations than by your telling them “you should know”.