Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The Story of the Can

In Finding Kansas I told the story of the soda can. I'll retell it now as I've got a story that's only relevant if you know the story.

The year was 1995 and I had a friend over. I didn't have many friends and this kid stayed with his dad, who lived behind me, on the weekends. We both enjoyed the same type of videogames, and we must've done at least 100 World Series on the Ken Griffey Jr. baseball game. Over the course of one of the weekend visits he placed a finished Minute Maid orange soda drink on my dresser, and it stayed there for a bit.

It wasn't until I started presenting in 2010 that I realized this was a thing as the PowerPoint I used for my police presentations stated that, "those on the autism spectrum may have an inappropriate attachment to objects". I knew I had this, although I will argue that it isn't inappropriate at all but was unaware so many share in this trait.

So that soda can stayed there for a while. A few days turned into a few weeks turned into a few years. Well, five years later when I went to the Derek Daly Academy racing school in Las Vegas my mom thought she would do me a favor and she cleaned my room. The room? Yes, it was a mess and perhaps borderline disaster area if the EPA were involved, but what I couldn't verbalize back then was what everything represented.

I have a tremendous memory, except when it comes to people. It's like an undercover news show where faces are blurred out. Because of this I have to remember people through other means and the number one way I recall people is through items. This soda can was my connection to my friend. I could almost see him in my memories through this can.

When I returned home from that most glorious week of driving race cars I was shattered when I walked into my nice, sparkling clean room. That can, in all of its 90's artwork glory, was gone. I tried to keep my emotions afloat, but I sank fast. I cried more over the loss of that soda can that I did over the loss of my two cats and dog, but they weren't a person and with the loss of that can it was as if my memories of having a friend vanished into the air like a fine mist dissipates.

It wasn't until 2010 and seeing the line about objects in the PowerPoint that I realized this struggle wasn't just my own. I did feel a bit ridiculous having such a reaction to an inanimate object, but as I spoke to more and more people, I learned this is a major thing people need to understand whether you're teacher, parent, or police officer; when entering the environment where a person on the autism spectrum lives or has items you must be aware of this. What may be an irrelevant trinket to you may mean the world to them. It may be a memory of their favorite day, or perhaps a sibling that is off to college, or perhaps to a parent that passed away and if they see the item moved, or thrown away, there may be a strong emotional reaction that may seem completely random. It isn't, though, and I'm thankful I went through this episode of the can so I could write about it and explain it. As I said, there's a second part to this story and that'll be the topic of tomorrow's blog.

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