Your Aspie Loved One Wants You Near

I read Asperger’s Syndrome and Difficult Moments to learn respectful methods of helping my overwhelmed son. One of the most helpful interventions was “proximity control.” This formal sounding action is simply being next to an Asperger child without engaging with them. Your presence is felt, but does not require specific interaction for either of you..

Adult Aspies benefit from proximity control. I feel agitated and restless when I am alone. Having the kitty for company is soothing, but having my husband blinging away on the guitar is best. Many women married to Aspies struggle to understand why their husband wants to have them nearby.

My grandmother was married to a man who had both Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. She spent her life trying to understand his “nervous spells.” Yet, in her letters, she realized Grandpa felt organized and strengthened by her quiet presence:

My father likes the same quiet company. Before he retired, he faithfully earned a living for his family. The anxiety he coped with on a daily basis would give the most courageous pause. After work, my mother’s companionship settled his nerves so he could sleep and go to work the next day.

As a child, my mother emphasized how much of a Southern Gentleman Dad was. He would not touch his food till she sat by his side at the table and picked up her fork. Despite father’s impeccable cordiality, I know his behavior runs deeper than upbringing. Dinner is simply more delicious with Mom beside him for company.

Aspies and neurotypical people both crave company. But we preffer differnt types of company. An Aspie’s ideal companion is subliminal. We don’t need words to maintain companionable peace, being is enough—as if radiated body heat bears secret messages only we comprehend. Too much talking clutters our minds and disturbs our mental symmetry.

My husband and I share a tacit harmony. We don’t make small talk or ask polite questions. We address relevant issues; make plans, and express affection. Goofy interludes persist. We sense each other’s presence across the household. Each knows the other is close by—this is a comfort.

Understanding this helps me to appreciate my son’s most frequent request: “Be with me, Mama.” So, I sit on the couch with my doodle pad and just “be.”

Murder By Numbers

murder by numbers

Over the summer, Tyoma frequently played online computer games. Excited and fidgety, he would bounce around and explore the computer room. One day he found the remote to Papa’s stereo and pressed play. The Police’s Synchronicity filled the room. He cocked his head to one side and smiled. He liked it!

Continue reading

The Haircut

Today we went from this:
To this:

We adore my stylist Sharika. She is one of those conscientious, sensitive, and trustworthy people that you can tell any secret. She is also one of those artistic perfectionists who will give you perfect highlights and precise cut. Plus, she has mad skillz with autistic kids.

My fidgety, everything-needs-to-be-just right son loves her. She sprays the comb, not his hair. She and warns him of new sounds and funny sensations. And best of all, she lets him play with her timer. Shakira’s brother has Asperger’s. I don’t need to explain much of anything to her, she knows.

I drive Tyoma almost 40 minutes to see her. We make a day of it. Picnic in the car. Haircut. Trip to Chuck E. Cheese. Even the long ride is celebratory. I tell animated stories and jazz the two of us up. Tyoma is a bit overexcited when we arrive. No worries. Ms. Shakira’s got it under control.

Afterward, Tyoma sucks on a ring pop, looking older as we walk back to the car. Chattering, we ride the elevator in the parking garage for twenty minutes. As we leave, we discover that you can see the first floor pavement through a chink in the elevator floor. This merits another ten minutes of rides and squeals.

When we arrive at Chuck E. Cheese’s, I am glad it is deserted. Nevertheless, everything dings, boops or wails. We buy an obsecene number of tokens and burn through them in an hour. Both of us leave vibrating in synchrony with the arcade. Tyoma walks to the car in his socks, complaining about his shoes being too tight.

As long as we are walking away from the noise, I am okay with that.

Reflections on Socializing

I plan to make 2011 the year of the friend.  I made a promise to myself to keep in touch with the people I love most and to do something social at least once every six weeks. Whoo! Let’s see if my lame self can do this with any consistency.

Today, I went to breakfast with Ashleigh, a mother on one of Tyoma’s classmates.  Two weeks ago on our first breakfast, I spazzed out, not knowing what to talk about.  I have a terrible habit of bombarding people with questions in social situations.   Part of it is not knowing what to say. The rest is a quiz to find something entertaining to talk about. I’m pragmatic about conversations and particular about what I find interesting in a person. I interrogate people at parties to find a mutual link, so I can relax and chat authentically.

This strategy flatters some, especially folks who have a grand passion lurking.  I feed off the positive energy of an eager speaker, and if we like the same thing, nothing else matters. Unfortunately, many are put off my intensity, give me the “Bitch, please” look and edge away. At a recent Twilight party, a girl physically scooted her chair from me, as if she feared I would grab her by the shoulders and shake her, asking, “Do you like rocks? Plants? How about zombies? Everybody likes zombies!” I think she needed more wine.

I don’t do well with small talk, except for the memorized pleasantries I exchange with cashiers and people I’m stuck in line with.  I remain intentionally uninformed on politics and sports, probably because the topics intimidate me.  I prefer conversations about odd or specific hobbies.  I relish strange details and vivid discussions. When I go home after my 90 social minutes, I want to ponder curious pursuits and why people crave them.

I avoid well-liked fiction like Twilight and Harry Potter, perhaps out of reactive stubbornness to their popularity. Instead,  I  prefer morbid horror and literature dealing with death, anxiety and depression.  Since my own strange ruminations focused on these topics for years, it is a logical preference.  I do like other fiction–magical realism and any odd writing open to interpretation.  I seek out descriptive and atmospheric pieces that create an internal visual trip. I feel so alien in this world that visiting a tense, ambiguous world validates my experiences in this one.

Anyway, I had breakfast with Ashleigh, a Twilight  and TV fan. We met last year dropping off our autistic sons for preschool. She is instantly likeable, the sort of person who dresses for comfort and loves to read books. Her loving and genuine acceptance of her son, just as he is, wins my respect and affection. I’ve been to her Twilight parties and cracked inappropriate jokes during screenings and met other girls who dress comfortably and like to read.

We had our first breakfast get together a few weeks ago.  I probably have made her uncomfortable with my intense interrogation and overall twitchiness.  Today, I managed to find just the right questions to ask, and we had a pleasant conversation. I suspect that we both construct worlds in our heads–I went through my vampire phase in 1991 (thank you Francis Ford Coppola!).

An interesting note.  I had posted on Facebook that I had not read any Harry Potter books in response to a list of books Ashleigh had posted. For my birthday, she bought the first Harry Potter book for me. It was unthinkable to her that a civilized person had not read one. I was touched by her  sweet and thoughtful gesture. She also packed up her  collection of sequels for me to borrow, since I was sure to love Potter.  Awwww.

I was gracious, but anxious. How on earth am I to read fantasy? Magic, prophecies, and Deus ex machina  bore me in a deep existential way. I couldn’t make it through one novel of Lord of the Rings, let alone seven volumes of popular fantasy. I will give it a try, maybe I will like it. After all, Allan Rickman is in those Potter movies, right?