Friday, April 20, 2012

Rina and Autism Acceptance Month

We're featuring "Slice of Life" conversations with Autistics of all ages -- kids through adults -- throughout April's Autism Acceptance Month

Our goal is to help TPGA readers understand that autistic people are people who have interesting, complicated lives and who are as diverse and varied as any other population united by a label.

We are the people in each other's neighborhoods, and the more we know about each other -- the more visible autistic people and children are -- the more common autism acceptance will be. That is our hope.

Today we're talking with Rina, who realized she was autistic after she read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time -- without knowing the subject matter -- in December of 2006. Says Rina, "I had a major epiphany while reading the book, especially the realization of why I was bullied so badly in junior high. It was while reading reviews of the book, after I had finished it, that I first encountered the word 'Asperger's.' Many months of research followed: I self-diagnosed, then had my diagnosis confirmed and made 'official' by a Clinical Psychologist in 2008."

What is your name? 


Do you have a website?

Not yet. :-)

What would you like a one-sentence description of yourself to say?

My autism presents challenges and benefits, like all the other facets of me -- my femaleness, my Jewishness, my Hoosierness, my American-ness -- but now that I know I'm autistic, I can harness the benefits and meet the challenges in the most effective way; I would not, for all the money in the world, be other than I am.

Do you have any autistic superpowers? What are they?

Hmmm. I am not crazy about this question as we're nearing media trope territory (see the TV series Touch. :-) ) However, if you mean what are the best parts of my personal flavor of autism, then I'll say: deep empathy and a sense of fairness; incredibly awesome organization skills as well as the ability to quickly understand processes and find a way to make them more efficient; the ability to be thoroughly dazzled and thrilled by details of the world around me that others may never notice -- i.e., a child-like sense of wonder that I doubt I'll ever outgrow (thankfully!); a penchant for puns (which is good or bad, depending on your point of view). :-)

What are some situations that make you happy, or satisfied?

Talking and laughing with a good friend who thoroughly gets me; cuddling with my kitty; hiking or just exploring a beautiful new place, solving a problem and/or meeting a need -- in my own life or at my job -- especially if I do it in a novel, creative way; planning an overseas trip; getting lost in a good novel; designing my home; watching a favorite television show or movie, looking at vintage clothes online -- or certain interiors, or textile designs (I am currently obsessed with William Morris, William de Morgan, and other designers from Morris & Co.). I love Pinterest for all its beautiful images!

What are some situations that make you sad, or anxious?

Being misunderstood; trying to interact with many people at once, especially if all or most of them are not people I know well; being in a situation which is (all or mostly) not under my control, especially when several aspects of it change quickly and unexpectedly -- doubly bad if there is no way for me to leave the situation. It is imperative for me to have an exit strategy. Also, too many sources of noise overload me -- and if I sense that a situation would be easier for me if others (neighbors, for instance) would be more considerate and have awareness of whom their noise may be affecting, then I feel anxiety and irritation in addition to sensory overload.

Are there specific topics you find particularly compelling?

Many, and the list changes all the time! As many autistic bloggers have noted, being uber-geeky about things is one of the best parts of being autistic! Here's an incomplete list of the current interests that bring me joy: William Morris and Morris & Co., vintage clothing and textiles, zombie movies and shows; author Laurie Colwin, Broadway actor and singer Wesley Taylor.

What are your preferred ways to be social?

One-on-one time with a friend who really gets me is wonderful -- if I'm comfortable with people, then even socializing in a small group is very pleasant. The familiarity really has to be there, though. Then, it really doesn't matter what we do. I enjoy having dinner or a drink with friends, somewhere quiet, or hanging out at their houses (I don't like to host, to be honest), or hiking, or seeing a movie or a play (as more and more noise is "tolerated" in movie theaters, though, I find that I really can't handle them). With friends, I like a mix of lots of talk and laughter, with some quiet time just enjoying each other's company. My good friends know, and even enjoy, my verbal tangent-taking and monologuing. :-) My friends know, too, that I may reach my limit for company at a certain point, and leave or just need to take a break, and that's okay!

What traits do you prize in a friend, or companion?

Compassion, warmth, generosity (the emotional kind), insightfulness, fairness, open-mindedness, a love of animals, curiosity about the world, intelligence, geekiness, and silliness!

Are there parts of your life you wish were easier?

Sure, but isn't that true of everyone? I wish I didn't get overwhelmed and overloaded by sudden changes, I wish had I more confidence in myself. I wish I could tell when a man is interested in me!

What's the next big goal you have for yourself?

I am not sure. My last big goal was to save for, plan, and enjoy a trip around the world by myself, and I accomplished that one ten years ago. I am more proud of that than I am of anything in my life. No, really, my last goal was to get a good job where I could work comfortably and to disclose my autism before starting the job. After a lot of job setbacks in the last two years, I've accomplished that one, too. My boss is wonderful and very insightful about my disability, even though he had never met an autistic person before. Even though things are going well, I still feel anxious that things will suddenly go kaboom at this job as has happened so many times before. I enlisted the aid of a job coach -- well, a couple of job coaches, and they were both awful! So, the next big goal is up in the air.

For real goal-planning, I am waiting until I have passed the milestone of being at my current job for a year (it's been five months). At that time, I should have less anxiety, which saps my energy, and also have an emergency savings fund to tide me over -- in case the job goes bust!

What does bliss feel like to you?

Bliss happens when I am utterly comfortable, from the surface of my skin to my innermost thoughts. So, when my environment is gentle and I am content and doing something that brings me joy, then, I am blissful. It happens a lot, actually!