Reading as Stimming?

On Twitter, someone made a comment that many autists don’t think they stim. You can read the thread here.

When I look up definitions of stimming, it talks about making sounds or repetitive actions. So many of those habits I had as a child, were things I was made to stop (I used to blow on my fingers & was made to stop doing that).

One person in the thread commented suggesting that compulsive reading was a form of stimming, describing it as a way to shut out external distraction and provides emotional comfort. That made a lot of sense to me, and it wasn’t something I had ever thought about.

When I was in high school, I always had a book with me. I would read on the crowded school bus, catching an earlier bus so I could get a seat. I would finish my work in class and pick up my book to read to pass the time and close out distractions of the noisy classroom. I would take books wherever I could. This includes large family gatherings where everyone is so noisy, I would retreat into a book when I’d had enough.

Reading, and being a bookworm, was considered an acceptable past time. Much more acceptable than blowing on my fingers or doing anything else. I could read whatever books I chose as a way to escape and feel good.

Even now, I’m surrounded by books. I’m not always reading, there are times when I have multiple books on the go. It’s just something I do.

Until that Twitter thread, I had never thought of it as part of autism, as a way to help me cope with the world around me. It was just something I did. Knowing it’s actually helping my brain in more ways than one is actually quite comforting and helping me enjoy something I love even more.

Hair on my face

I don’t like hair on my face. I never have.

When my hair is long, I usually have it up in a pony tail or a plait. When it’s short, it has to be able to go behind my ears or up in hair clips.

If hair is touching my face, especially my cheeks, then I find it really distracting. It’s worse when my hair is clean and soft.

I only realised how much recently when I was reading about sensory issues with autism. I mentioned this in a group I’m in for women with ADHD, and found that I wasn’t alone. I hadn’t realised this was so common.

I have a steady supply of hair clips and hair elastics to keep my hair back from my face as I find hair bands too tight on my head, even though they do keep my hair back off my face.

Some days, I think I should just shave it all off, but I don’t think it’d look very good… plus I don’t like the sound or the feel of the hair clippers!

Whenever I read about sensory issues, it often seems to relate to clothes, noise, or light. I haven’t seen much about hair or the feel of hair on skin.

I also struggle to find the sorts of hair clips I like, ones that stay in my hair and are easy to use. The ones I want just aren’t in fashion right now… I’m sure I’ll find some one day, I just have to keep my eyes open.

Until then, I’ll just keep going with the clips I have and do what I can to keep my hair off my face.

Consistency…

I do this all the time – I start something, full of promise, then forget about it for a while before picking it up again with enthusiasm, then forget… rinse and repeat.

For years, this is something I struggled with. Everyone told me that to be successful, I had to be consistent. In marketing my business, I had to be consistent with posting on social media, or whatever. I would start out with good intentions, then things would fall away for various reasons. It seemed that the only thing I was being consistent about was my lack of consistency!!

I felt like a failure. I felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough or wasn’t good enough. That it was all my fault that I couldn’t seem to be consistent in the way that everyone else was. That I was doing everything wrong, from the housework to running my business to anything else I was doing.

Recently I discovered this is common among people with ADHD. I also read an interesting thread on Twitter about habits and that they aren’t that easy if your neuro-divergent. That a ‘habit’ is still hard work, it’s not as mindless as it is for those who are neuro-typical. Somehow, this made me feel a lot better.

Even with this blog.

I started with good intentions, then fatigue and life took over and I didn’t think I had anything to say… then I realised that this would be a good thing to talk about.

As much as I want to be posting every day, my consistency is more likely to be patchy.

I am learning there are tools to help with consistency, I already schedule posts in advance when I can, I’m learning about new tools and strategies all the time, as well as just coming to terms with my neuro-diversity and what it means in my life and how I can embrace it to create the sort of life I want.

So, welcome to my inconsistent blog about my journey of being an adult newly diagnosed with autism & ADHD.

Review: Paws

Author: Kate Foster

Category: Middle Grade

Publisher: Walker Books

Publication date: 7 April 2021

Blurb: At home, Alex’s best friend is Kevin the cockapoo, although what he wants most of all is a friend at school. But that is harder than he ever expected. A touching story about learning that friendship isn’t one size fits all and is often found where you least expect it.

Everything is changing for 11-year-old Alex and, as an autistic person, change can be terrifying. With the first day of high school only a couple of months away, Alex is sure that having a friend by his side will help. So, he’s devised a plan – impress the kids at school by winning a trophy at the PAWS Dog Show with his trusty sidekick, Kevin. This should be a walk in the park . . . right?

Review: There is also a lot of talk about diversity in kids books and how important that kids see themselves in literature. Usually, they’re talking about race, however I realised that I didn’t see myself in many books. Then I read Paws by Kate Foster! This book had me in tears so many times and I’ve never felt so seen. So many of the feelings Alex has around friendships are the same as what I felt (and still feel).

One of the stand out thing about Paws is that it features an autistic character who is just navigating life. He has the same hopes and dreams of any other child. He just wants a friend, and to compete in the local dog show with his cockapoo, Kevin.

While this book features an autistic character, it’s not a story about autism. It’s a story about a kid in Grade Six trying to navigate life. He has the same worries about finishing primary school and moving to high school that almost every other kid in Grade Six has, as well as hopes and dreams for his future.

This is a book that should be in every school library and read widely as it’s a great story and goes a long way into breaking the stigma around autism.

I wanted to read this book so much that I ordered it from two different libraries! I’m currently reading it a second time.

Website: kfosterbooks.com

As is…

A few months ago, I discovered a YouTube channel called How to ADHD, and the videos have been quite helpful in understanding ADHD, especially as a first step.

Someone in a Facebook group shared a video today that had me in tears. Click here to view it.

It’s talking about how we are enough ‘as is’, we don’t have to overcome to be ‘normal’, we are OK as we are. We are awesome.

One thing I’ve found over my life is that everyone expects me to do certain things, act a certain way, achieve certain goals. This could be anything from getting married and having kids (which I did), having a career, a piece of paper to show I know what I know, a clean house, or whatever. It often feels that no matter what I do or how I act, I’m not good enough. Being ‘as is’ isn’t enough.

Some days, I wonder if I even know who I am as I’ve spent my whole life trying to fit in and being someone that others expect me to be.

One of the reasons the video had me in tears as it talks about being ‘as is’. Just being me. It’s one of the first times I’ve heard someone say that my crazy, creative, weird brain is ok as it is.

And this made me cry.

I know I’m still going through my assessment process. I know I have a long way to go. One day, I’m hoping that I will be able to accept myself ‘as is’, and get to know the amazing person I know who is in there, waiting to meet me under all those masks.

Review: The Me You Don’t See

Author: Sam Matthews

Illustrator: Shaz Kennington

Category: Picture Book

Publisher: Lilly Pilly Publishing

Publication date: 14 November 2020

Blurb: Some people say I am oppositional, disrespectful and uncooperative. That’s the me you see. What you don’t see is WHY I act the way I do.

Have you ever wondered what autism feels like, on the inside?

This is my story

Review: The Me You Don’t See is written by Sam Matthews, a young autistic person. Sam shares his story of the things we don’t see about why he does the things he does. He explains that kisses feel like snails and his mind is like a fast car. He also explains things like why he doesn’t complete jobs when they are not fully explained, and many more everyday aspects of life.

The thing that makes this book so powerful is that it is Sam’s story told in his own voice, not someone else telling his story. Sam first wrote this when he was 10 and published it when he was 11!

This is a powerful story that acknowledges that this is just one person’s experience of living with autism, and a book that should be in libraries everywhere to give those of us without autism a glimpse of what life is like. It will help with understanding and empathy.

The illustrations by Shez Kennington are bright and fun, and are a wonderful addition to the story.

A book I highly recommend.

Website: themeyoudontsee.com.au

Impressions of Autism Growing Up

When I was younger, my first exposure to autism was a book. The October Child by Eleanor Spence was the CBCA winner in 1977, the year I was born. My birthday was in October. So I picked it up to read. This featured a family with a child with autism.

The view I had of autism was that it was awful for the family. Kids with autism were non verbal and had no manners. They made life difficult for their parents and their siblings. I knew nothing about a spectrum, or anything else. This was also one of my favourite books and I read it numerous times.

I was told about Aspergers Syndrome, and even that was presented as something difficult and something you didn’t want to have. I heard all the (false) arguments about how vaccines cause autism, and other negative things about autism.

I never once thought that I might have autism… until a few months ago when it was mentioned by my neuropsych that I may be autistic!

Over the years, I have learned more about autism and how it’s a spectrum. I’ve also learned more about autistic people are trained to be ‘normal’. The impression being that autism is still ‘bad’.

This view is starting to change, although there are still books out there that show autism as something in children, and something that is hard on families. Autistic characters are often portrayed as secondary characters and the impact of their autism is shown on the family…

Recently, I read Paws by Kate Foster. This was an amazing story, told from the point of view of an autistic kid living his life. He has the same yearning for friends and worries about moving from primary school to high school that every other kid has. It was wonderful to see a story from the point of view of an autistic character that didn’t show autism as something bad. It also didn’t show it as a superpower. It just was.

Another great book is The Me You Don’t See by Sam Matthews. This book is from the point of view of an autistic kid, telling the world about himself.

There needs to be more stories like Paws and The Me You Don’t See around to give a different impression of autism and show the spectrum of experiences of autistic people. Representation matters and having strong stories that feature autistic characters living their lives are important.

I know there are more books out there, I’m keen to discover more books. If you have any books you’d like to recommend, please let me know.

Oh, and I recently realised that I wrote an autistic character without even realising it… but that’s a whole other post.

Who am I?

Welcome to my blog.

My name is Melissa. I’m 44 years old, and a bit over a month ago, I was told that I am autistic and have ADHD. I am still going through the assessment process, but even having an indication that this is what’s going on in my brain is leading me to reevaluate my whole life and how I understand myself.

I’m a writer, and putting things into words and sharing my story is a way I process things. Given that I tend to overshare on occasion, a blog is the way I feel most comfortable sharing my story.

Looking at life, I’ve realised how much I’ve done to cope and get through life. This includes tools to help with dinner, or organising the house, or whatever.

I’m planning to use this blog to share my journey as well as the tools and things I use to get through life.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me. I hope you find these posts helpful.

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