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Monday, June 3, 2013

Strength


I think Friday’s blog from last week was one of my finer posts. That’s odd as just a week ago I was contemplating whether or not I still had the ability to produce anything worthwhile. However, from the reviews I received on Amazon last week it fueled a writing explosion and I feel I’m back.

Anyway, I talked about anxiety on Friday and that is an often talked about topic as it can severely effect a good percentage of us on the autism spectrum. Today I want to talk about something that ties into anxiety but isn’t exactly. No, what I want to talk about today is strength.

Strength is not a word I use very much, but I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a person with Asperger’s. This can be hard, as I must use the line of, “If you’ve met one person with autism you’ve only met one person with autism.” What that means is each person is going to have his or her own challenges so there is no way I could cover every possible challenge so please don’t take this post as if I’m trying to speak for everyone.

With all that being said, once again, imagine being on the spectrum and all the potential challenges this world brings. For a person that has sensory issues to noises imagine the strength it takes to forge onward. In many of the schools I spoke to this year students opened up and stated their issues with the sounds of fluorescent lights. This is something that, if you’ve never noticed, would be 100% foreign, but right this second I want you to listen to your environment. If you are in an office I’m sure you’re hearing other employees, perhaps a printer, and maybe even the sound of overhead lighting. Now imagine being on the autism spectrum and having hyper-sensitive hearing. For many on the spectrum this is what daily life is like; a nonstop onslaught of sensory bombardment. While for some this can be too much and for others, often times, it can be overlooked on just how much inner strength it takes to simply go outside knowing that lights, sounds, or whatever the next unexpected sensory input could create the most uncomfortable of feelings.

Yes, I do firmly believe that our strength is something that is often overlooked. Strength is often measured in terms of physical prowess. Strength is often used in terms of horsepower for a car or bench pressing for an athlete. I mean, the athletic world is dominated by world records with the level of strength as the marker. With that being said, and in the world we live in, strength would most likely not be considered when doing something that, to most people, is simple, easy, and routine. But for us on the autism spectrum the seemingly simple experience of trying something new would be equal to making a run at a world record.

Strength is something that is hard to measure when it isn’t measureable. How can one measure something that isn’t in speed, weight, or height? I know I’ve gone on about that, but think about it. For us on the autism spectrum with all the sensory issues that may be there, and the anxiety that seems to follow us, I want you to try and measure the strength we may sometimes exhibit.

Fear is something that can follow us and sometimes strength can be a hard thing to come by. For some of us, including myself, the seemingly irrelevant fact of taking another route while in a car may create a level of alarming panic. After an event like this I may have the fear that every time thereafter the same situation (taking a different route) will happen. This is a feeling this is constant and can feel overwhelming. And yet, at least for myself, I will put myself out there without protest (okay… maybe a little protest.)

Why I hope I can convey here is that often times we lose track of not who or what we are but what we are not. I do this often. Lost in the whirlwind of life can be the simple fact that we have to be stronger to do what is easy for others. We have to be stronger to do something as simple as asking for assistance for something that may seem overly easy. We have to be stronger to get the strength to open up that front door and take on the wonderfully wild world we live in. Some of us are stronger than others and I firmly believe that the more we understand ourselves, and the more the world understands us, the greater our strength. One thing, going back to those world records I talked about, most world records are individual but for us on the autism spectrum we sometimes need a collective strength of those around us. It can be hard when things are going awry, but sometime, I hope, you can step back and see just how much strength we have.

2 comments:

  1. I actually see this as when Temple Grandin would consider it a "door." I don't visualize new challenges with a symbol, just because don't you think it would make out some kind of dislike effect between you and who is listening to you?

    Anyway, the biggest "strength" I'm trying to have right now, as under your definition, is being able to be in front of a large audience; they love me so much it's completely delicate to say something publicly. I only wish I can speak out loud myself and deliver what I want to do without being completely uncertain or making things up.

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  2. Everyone of us have different strengths. My biggest strength is my ability to speak 3 languages fluently. It gives me versatility to perform both of the roles that are meaningful to me- as an occupational therapist and an autism self-advocate. On the occupational therapist end, it allows me to build rapport with more clients and their caregivers because I don't necessary need a translator. On the autism self-advocate end, it means I can reach more potential audience- esp. in Chinese speaking countries.

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