Friday, April 27, 2012

Vicky 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 intuitive music enthusiast and autistic autism parent Vicky.

What is your name and age?

My real name is Vicky and I'm 33. Online, I use the pen name "TG."

Do you have a website? 

twitter.com/outoutout

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

American-Australian queer Autistic Pethead record-collecting parent. (Note: a Pethead is a 'hardcore' Pet Shop Boys fan.)

Do you have any autistic superpowers? What are they?
  1. I can play piano by ear. Pretty much any tune I hear, I can replicate, but it only works when I'm not trying to read music. For some reason, I can't read notes on a page and translate them into sound in my head.
  2. I'm pretty good at reading maps. There's an old family story about me helping my grandparents find their way back to their campground after we got lost in Gettysberg. I think I was 12 or 13 at that time. 
What are some situations that make you happy, or satisfied?
  1. Being totally alone -- no spouse, no kids, no time constraints, absolutely nothing at all that I'm required to do.
  2. Listening to music. It's hard to describe, but I've got an entire universe in my mind, built around the music I hear. And if I hear a song that fits so perfectly into that universe, it generates all kinds of images, and I can't help but ... dance!
  3. Record stores. Looking through stacks and stacks of vinyl for a hidden gem. Or, finding a rarity on eBay and getting it at a really good price!
  4. Having an epiphany about something that I've misunderstood for years. I truly feel that I don't completely lack the ability to understand social cues, it just takes a whole lot longer to figure things out.
What are some situations that make you sad, or anxious?
  1.  Meeting people for the first time, or seeing someone I haven't seen in a very long time. I don't know why this makes me anxious. It's only the anticipation, though; once the person arrives, the anxiety goes away. 
  2. Public speaking, singing, or praying. 
  3. Going to 'Autism'-related events. As the parent of two autistic children (ages 6 and 5), I'm expected to attend meetings, socials, and support groups for other parents of children on the spectrum. I'm expected to look, behave, and believe all the same things as the other Autism parents in my community. But I'm not like them, I don't believe my children or I are broken/damaged/in need of a cure, and I'm always having to bite my lip or escape to the bathroom in case I have a meltdown of my own.
  4. Posting comments on websites. I usually don't go back to read responses. Not only am I afraid to read how people will react, I'm also afraid that I will fall into the trap of arguing with people ad infinitum. I don't want to do that.
  5. Hearing about abuse or death of a child.
Are there specific topics you find particularly compelling? 
  1. Pet Shop Boys. To relate 'why' would take at least another five pages! I guess I'm fascinated by their entire ethos. I'm 99% sure one of them is an Aspie himself, and that's been sort-of comforting to me.
  2. Bullying - of adults and children alike. 
  3. Rules of etiquette, and how they differ between cultures.
  4. Music chart performance of albums and singles, particularly in "the rock era."
What are your preferred ways to be social?

Either online or 1:1. Talking to more than one person risks becoming complicated unless I'm already comfortable with everyone involved.

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

I've always looked for someone who can be the Yin to my Yang. Someone who is loyal, forgiving, kind to children and animals, and authentic. It's sad, but I can count on one hand the number of times I've found true intimacy with another person. More often than not, I will feel a connection while the other person sees me as (at best) just another acquaintance with whom to make small talk, or (at worse) someone to be used and then tossed aside.

Are there parts of your life you wish were easier? 

I wish I didn't have crippling anxiety in average situations. I wish I could "pass" better than I do. Actually, I wish I didn't have to "pass" at all. I wish people wouldn't look at me and assume that I must be soooo high-functioning because I can write a coherent sentence, or because I managed to have a love life and reproduce. You have absolutely no idea what it took to get me where I am today. Sometimes, I wish I could actually believe all the nonsense about cures and disease, because then maybe I could tolerate all of the Autism functions in my community, and maybe the other ladies would want to be friends with me. Or not. sigh

I wish it was easier to be myself.

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

Well, both of my kids will be in full-time school by July (I live in Australia), so my next big goal is to find out what I really want to be when I grow up! I have a degree in Business Administration, but I haven't used it in seven years, and I don't think I want to be part of that world anymore.

What does bliss feel like to you? 

Unconditional love and acceptance.