by Eileen Parker on February 20, 2014

Autism Hyper Focus

Go The 2014 Olympic Autism Team!

The intense determination and discipline required for an Olympian is all so common in the autism world.  Intense is relaxing, beautiful, and soft.  It’s like reveling in the sweetness in the flower-scented avenues of our brains.

With Olympians, we see and hear about discipline and all the sweat and tears that are their lives.  If you’re autistic and hyper-focusing, determination isn’t necessary because for us, it’s our love; we don’t want to stop, we don’t want to go to bed quite yet, we don’t want to answer the phone, and we don’t want to talk.

Heck, Olympians are lauded for their intense focus and all accommodations are made for their training.  So, while we are focusing, can we receive accommodations for our endeavor?  Of course you will.

I have read here and there that autism is an evolutionary leap forward.  When it comes to focus, sure.  It’s a gold medal for us every day–one that isn’t on NBC Olympic coverage.

But “accommodations” and “need” is an attitude or a reality that I don’t care for because I don’t want to feel like I’m not good enough, that I need help because I’m not okay the way I am.  On the other hand, I don’t want to be painted in the stereotype of an “autistic prodigy.”  That feels condescending.

I’m okay just as I am–like the every day Olympian in your life.  I hope I can inspire you to find focus in your life, unless you are already an Olympian to be a role model for me.

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Autism and Pre-Christmas Hell

by Eileen Parker on December 7, 2013


I am feverishly writing to you while voluntarily locked in the sun room.


Hubby is getting ready for Christmas by vacuuming every possible cobweb on ceiling corners to dust bunnies behind furniture.  And the carpet too.

My back is tensing in on itself.  I am rocking.  I unplugged the phone because one more thing in my ears, my brain really, would hurt me–or so it feels.

Ah, the prep for Christmas.

Ringing Salvation Army bells.  Stressing out in packed stores.  People stressing out generally with Christmas plans.

If I were a child, I experience that too.  Just because I have autism, I can “sense” that something is wrong just by the extreme change in activity.  Yes, parents will be dripping with stressed sweat that falls on the children, but the change of the rest-of-the-year routine rocks my world.

What do we cook?  Do do we get for who?  Who is coming to town and staying with us?  Isn’t Auntie allergic to the feather pillows in the guest room?  We’ll have to run to Target to get some non-allergenic pillows.  Do they carry them?

Meanwhile I sit and rock through all the questions and plans.  I want to be in my corner and left alone!  My breathing is shallow.  I am clenching my teeth, which in turn has triggered a headache.  I feel immobilized with the fight or flight response.

If I were a kid again, I would scream or worse.

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Freaking out at the Uptown Art Fair & I can’t Wait!

by Eileen Parker on July 18, 2013

Uptown Art Fair

Hubby said, “You’re getting nervous just thinking about it aren’t you?  That was a bad experience last time.”

I said, “You don’t have to go.  I can go myself.”

He shook his head and said, “Nooo nooo nooo, if you flip out and have to drive home or get lost or whatever, you’d really be  in a world of hurt.”

I wonder if….

it’s because of a study done that shows that people with autism see movement twice as fast as others.  The article says, “Although previous studies have found that people with autism possess enhanced visual abilities with still images, this is the first research to discover a heightened awareness of motion.”

Amen to that, Jesus!

They could have not spent all those research dollars and just asked me.  I’d have charged five bucks.

Movement around me, not me moving, but everyone else makes me panic.  I start flapping my hands, and I find the first possible place to escape.  The last time at the Uptown Art Fair, I sat on the curb in an alley with my head pointed down the alley away from the mulling, ergonomically correct sandaled feet on Hennepin Ave.  And I rocked.

I say “I can’t wait” for the fair because I love art!  Hubby is taking me and we will go as early in the morning as possible when the artists are setting up.  Less movement, less noise, and cooler air.

Yes, the air.  With how I freak out about movement, then add in temperature, sound, and occasionally someone bumping into me, and it’s a recipe for the fight or flight response.

If I were a kid I would probably scream, hold my head, and possibly strike out.  I know I would sweat.  I know I would get very angry at being pulled through the morass, without the relief of tears.  I would just close my eyes and get pulled along.  I would be thinking, “Soon, soon, soon we can get in the car.”

At the fair, if you see an auburn, curly-haired, middle-aged woman banging her head against the wall, that’s me.  :-)

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4th of July and SPD

by Eileen Parker on July 4, 2013

‘Tis the season for fireworks!  Woo hoo hoo!

Since I have sensory processing disorder, a.k.a. SPD, I have a love-hate relationship with fireworks.  I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago, I got my inner redneck on at the Hennepin County Fair.  I bonded with farm animals, watched log rolling, checked out the 4H tent, and watched the demo derby.  Aaaand, after the demo derby was fireworks!

Normally, I’m a sensory avoider, but with big fireworks, I’m a sensory seeker.  I feel the big “boom” in my chest as the firework ejects from the shell, and feel the second boom as it explodes in the sky, then the sssss as the fireworks burn themselves out.  To channel Larry the Cable Guy, “that there’s sensory heaven, I’ll tell you that right now.”  And, oooh the sparkly lights.  I’m mesmerized.

So, hubby makes the fireworks run, some assortment of kids who don’t have to work come over, we eat bbq, and we light up the neighborhood.  We don’t forget the bug dope to keep those pesky mosquitoes away.  The last thing I need is the West Nile virus.

This is where I avoid the sensory input.  The kids like the loud firecrackers, and if I’m outside while they’re doing it, I can feel my shoulders pulling up to my ears as I hear it.  To be socially acceptable, I have to stay outside so I can wait for the quieter and brighter fireworks.  To be socially acceptable, I can’t ask them to do the noisy ones in a group so I can be inside while they’re doing them, then come outside while the bright, quiet foaming fireworks are happening.

Not socially acceptable to expect them to do it.  They already are expected to make so many accommodations that I don’t want to press more on them.

It’s one of those things where I can’t expect the world to adapt to me.  I have to do my part and learn to adapt to others.  But, I know they care and do their best to adapt situations for me so I can take part too.

As Gretchen Wilson would sing, “Hell yeah! good for a redneck girl like me!”

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