Can an Autistic Person Change a Tire?

Why, yes, Karen, they can. While it’s not necessary for an autistic person to prove themselves this way, it’s a good skill to know.

I did not know if I could change a tire without help. Sure, I would start, but somebody (usually a man) would always help. While I appreciate the chivalry, it does not help in the knowledge department. Anyway, as of 6:15 this evening, I learned I could. From fixing the jack (took 2 tries), unscrewing the lug nuts, taking off the flat tire, putting the spare tire on, and reapplying the lug nuts… it was not too hard.  

You want to know what the hardest part was? Not the lug nuts. It was aligning the spare on the axle. But of course, it was getting dark, so maybe it is usually not as hard as it would have been in the daytime.  

Sometimes you’ve got to toot your own horn.

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Weighted Blankets at Target: Is it Cultural Appropriation???

I recently came across an argument – people getting weighted blankets to help them with sleep was a form of cultural appropriation. I was wondering: is this true?

I’ve never really considered this argument. But you can make a case for both sides.

First, that weighted blankets at Target is disability cultural appropriation. I can see the argument simply because disability aids and fidget toys, such as fidget spinners, became a fad. (Remember those? I still have mine.) They only became popular when abled people took them up. You could make the case for weighted blankets undergoing the same abled person pickup. It literally took the abled people taking up weighted blanket for them to even show up at Target – and they still do not come in queen size for my bed! What a shame that it takes the abled people to pick something up to become available for people who cannot make the something. That’s the textbook definition of ableism.

The argument against abled people taking up weighted blankets as cultural appropriation is another side. Basically, that something once used for autism, anxiety, and other disabling conditions is now used by abled people might just be natural because abled people see the aid can help them, too.

I see nothing beyond the above for these arguments, but I am disturbed by that fact that disabled people are not allowed to take control of their narrative the way other marginalized cultures do. We still need to pitch our disability aids to abled people to be able to even get them. Fidget spinners, fidget toys and weighted blankets are prime examples of this. Most abled people cannot see past the ends of their noses when it comes to us.

The sad thing is, my mother does not even know about the weighted blanket, so I do not have one.

Christmas Prep Part 4: Christmas Dinner Shopping

Well, this is mostly a report for what I did yesterday morning: Christmas dinner shopping. This year, we’re having prime rib. We’re also having rice, vegetables and rolls. (Honestly, I’m tempted to try Yorkshire Pudding if we have everything, and the recipe goes right.) I know for a fact that many of us autistics are not called on to make Christmas Dinner, and that’s okay. I’m putting a no pressure vibe into the day; my mother and me, laid-back and easy. Besides, just about everything in the dinner is easy, even cooking the Prime Rib. (Honestly, it is.)

Maybe that’s not the whole story. I was very nervous about cooking the Prime Rib, especially since I have failed by making it too rare before.
I looked up the recipes long before I even got the rib, looked them up just after I got the roast, and I was looking them up a few minutes before writing. I get very nervous, but I soon realize it’s much easier than my mind is making it. I guess I get anxiety, and need to calm down. 

But back to the big shopping trip. Of course, we got some other things too. We do need to eat between Christmas and New Year’s Day. (We had most of that dinner already bought, too.) Besides, once Christmas Dinner is done, we’ll be alright. There really is little to it.  

I’m not trying to be arrogant. The dinners we make are very simple, including for Christmas. I’ve looked at the cooking instructions for the most complicated things, and they’re entirely doable.

I guess the point of this is, make it as easy as possible. If you’re up to the challenge of making a Charles Dickens style Christmas, by all means, go for it. I think most of us, however, are not up to the task, autistic or neurotypical.

Why Self Diagnosis is Valid to Me


Now, a lot of people in the autistic community are self-diagnosed. In this, they check their symptoms, and realize there is a central theme behind their symptoms.  

What I have noticed among the self-diagnosed is another central theme: a theme of being women and persons of color. It seems that people in these categories are routinely denied their proper autism diagnosis simply because they are not white and/or male. In other words, if you do not look like this: 


Sheldon Cooper, of course. 

Or this: 

*This “Rain Man” Babbitt in meltdown.*

You are simply not autistic. And that is a crying shame.  

This is boiling down to one thing. Prejudice. And that is the reason self-diagnosis is valid to me.

An Open Letter to the Newly Minted Parent of the Autistic Child


Dear Parent of the Autistic Child, 

I know you are somewhat scared for your son. What will he be able to do in his life? Will he need constant care? Will he be able to take care of himself? Is there hope for him? Autism is a big pill to swallow. But there is hope, and there is hope for your child. 

I need to tell you a few things about myself. I am an autistic adult. Which means, I was one of those autistic kids. It’s not that hard a jump to make. I have held down a job for six years. I currently take care of my mother full time, and maintain a small home. I talk like a non-autistic. I even do the cooking at home, too. It’s a little hard for me to make friends, but I would not judge your son by my yardstick.  

I’m not exactly sure if you have a proper yardstick to measure your son’s abilities by. Nobody really knows the potential a person has, even an autistic one.  

I have a few things for you to consider. 

  1. I believe in vaccines. I believe vaccines did not cause your child’s autism. I don’t know where you stand on this issue. Many people do believe this, though, even many celebrities. This fear has caused many outbreaks of once-eradicated diseases. Be careful who you trust. 
  2. Autistic Adults are not morons. Actually, most autistic adults have a perspective that many parents of autistic children do not consider: the perspective of the autistic person themselves. Who better to help a person with a trait or condition that someone with the same trait or condition who has been down the road a bit? There is a reason certain conditions run in families! 
  3. Be Wary of Applied Behavior Analysis claims. Applied Behavior Analysis – ABA – was formulated to make the autistic child “indistinguishable from their peers,” or to make them seem non-autistic again. The truth is, your child is not a potential non-autistic. They were always autistic. They were born that way. I was born that way. Be careful how ABA is taught to your child. He might be taught how to behave in public, but make the boy non-autistic again? Not going to happen.  
  4. Listen to your child. Every bit of behavior is communication. They may experience the world in a completely different way from you, due to sensory processing issues. Almost all autistics have them. If he starts to stim, then consider the surroundings. Is he uncomfortable?  
  5. Do not be afraid of stimming. Stimming is a comfort behavior. As long as he is not hurting himself or anyone else, self-comfort is a good thing. If his stim is harmful, I would suggest getting a small toy or game to stim with. Any autistic adult can have a suggestion that helps.
  6. Delays in growth are not denials. I was older than five when I finally asked my first question. I was delayed in almost everything social and acceptable throughout my childhood and early adulthood. But keep going. Most of us autistic people are verbal by adulthood. Many of us work jobs.  
  7. When he gets a Special Interest, let him study it. It might be something like buses or trains, or airplanes…it might even drive you and yours crazy. But hang in there. He might be going toward his ultimate career choice in the end, and he’ll possibly outdo others in the field. Is his special interest the airplane? He might be a pilot or mechanic. Is it music? A great musician. You never know.
  8. Be Wary of Autism Speaks and Other Cure Crusaders. The  notion of cure in autistic circles is akin to eradication of autistic people themselves. They see autistic people as a big scourge that must be destroyed. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. My email is: cambriaj1977@hotmail.com.  

With Warmest Regards,

Cambria Jenkins

The “Happy Pills” Myth


WHY do people think antidepressants will make you into someone like, I don’t know, Dee Dee from “Dexter’s Laboratory”? It does not make sense to me at all. Do they really think a small chemical reaction can change a personality that much?  

I’ve been taking an antidepressant for years. I can tell you that I am not a prancing unicorn type that smiles weirdly in all the photos, even when it’s inappropriate.  

Here’s a short dossier about me before I had antidepressants: I liked theater, I have a lot of black in my closet, and I like rock and some metal, like Pearl Jam and Bon Jovi. (Just before I was prescribed them the first time, I started losing interest in theater, and I was not getting the cool pleasure out of the music I liked.) Here I am after taking an antidepressant for years: I still like theater, I still wear a lot of black, and I still like rock and metal. So, do you think my personality was changed that much? Come on. I may have a brighter outlook on life, but not all the time. I can still get depressed – though the medicine I take is another weapon to tame that depression.  

I can even draw on other people’s experiences I come across on social media and say, definitively, that those who take their antidepressants properly do not have their personalities changed.  

So, what do antidepressants actually do?  

I’d like to describe depression this way: ever listen to a song played too slow? It sounds just terrible. I have accidentally had the displeasure of hearing this. You might be able to come across this if you have a vinyl record player. Anyway, a depressed brain kind of works like that. Even getting out of bed can be a major achievement under this strain. Basically, an antidepressant helps give the record player “juice” to play the record at normal speed and give you the song you deserve to hear.  

Anyway, I hope this helps to dispel the “Happy Pills” myth. Because antidepressants are not happy pills. Happy pills do not exist.

Did you hear about the mental health clinic in the Walmart?


Don’t expect a punchline. I think it’s wonderful. 

While I know most people are expecting a punchline to a joke, I think the area in Texas (a rural one) needed a clinic, no matter where it popped up. People in rural areas do not get a lot of mental health care, much less the quality health care many get in the cities. For me personally, therapy is out of reach financially due to copays – and I live in a suburb of Lexington, Kentucky.  

But back to why therapy at Walmart is wonderful. Sure, stigma might make it necessary for a secret entrance, but to have the clinic there where there would be none is a step up. Hopefully, it normalizes mental health care and reduces stigma. That there is stigma to mental health care is the biggest aid that the Walmart location can hopefully provide. Besides, why not learn if there is a reason you’re acting that way (and you know what it is), and get some help for it?  

I tend to question harmful social norms, like mental health stigma. Maybe it’s due to me being me, but I find if something is harmful, it needs to end. I hope Walmart can normalize therapy and getting help. It needs to happen.