Poetry Packed Out: Whose power platform is this?

Greetings from the Spectrum Side!!

I was inspired to write this poem for two dear inspirational friends of mine, both of whom are artists (as well as people I’ve mentioned here before.) I wrote this piece for them because of a position that I (and perhaps many Spectrumites) shared with them, being “on stage”. By that, I mean being in social situations that can feel natural to nuerotypicals, but can be exhausting to shift from working to communicating seemingly at will.

At my job, I’m constantly saying the same things over and over again to the point where my speech becomes blurry, everything blends together, where I was almost considered “robotic” by a former co-worker. Even though his words hurt me, I know now how important that was for me, especially in light of a recent article from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the article is listed here: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/autism-spectrum-disorder-communication-problems-children. The article explains that:

Some children with ASD speak in a high-pitched or sing-song voice or use robot-like speech. Other children may use stock phrases to start a conversation. For example, a child may say, “My name is Tom,” even when he talks with friends or family. Still others may repeat what they hear on television programs or commercials.

The point I try to make is that socialization can be challenging for people on the Spectrum and artists alike, the demands it places can make it hard to be yourself and #takethemaskoff, whatever one you wear. My friend Carol always feels like she’s “on stage” at a recent Artists Studio Tour during this past summer and I felt this acrostic just come to me by our shared experience:

Stage

-for my dear friends, Carol Zaloom and Mik Horowitz-

Space may be final frontier, but sometimes Risa

Turns out to be better of two worlds, need for work,

Actively recharging batteries seems needed in

Grand stage; grace periods in life’s pressure cookers

Ever willing to better community, even Iron Horses need to relax from time to time.

This is just my hope for people to be sure to make others feel like they’re important to the community, that their voices matter and together we can make our lives and the world…

Shine On!!!

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#BeYourself and #Takethemaskoff

I know I mentioned the weight of my mask before, but I think it’s time for us to consider the positives of being on the Spectrum.

But first, thanks to Blogging Astrid, whose post about masking is: https://bloggingastrid.com/2018/07/23/takethemaskoff-what-is-masking, perhaps she could explain what masking means to the Spectrumite community better than I could, simply put:

Masking…is pretending to be something you’re not. This can be done either consciously or uncnsciously. Many autistic adults have learned to mask so well it’s almost second nature. We’re also encouraged to mask on a daily basis when people judge us about being autistic. Then when we mask successfully, we’re told we don’t look autistic.

Masking may seem natural to NTs, or neurotypicals, but they don’t really understand what a challenge it is for us to be “on stage” every day. It can be challenging enough to mask, without having to guess social cues that can vary from time to time, which leads us to script our responses meticulously, as the blogger describes further:

For example, I’m often told that I don’t appear autistic. After all, when I hold a conversation, I appear pretty “normal”. I am told I can hold down a reciprocal conversation that doesn’t sound stereotyped or like I’m scripting. I ask people about their interests, for example. Now that it’s been extremely hot here for a few weeks already, I have even mastered some smalltalk about the weather.

This obviously (to me) does not mean I’m not autistic. Autism, despite what many people think, is not about social niceties. Autism is not the same as a lack of interest in others. Besides, I have 32 years of experience being told how selfish I am for not appearing to show an interest in others. So instead of showing a genuine interest in the people and topics I’m genuinely interested in, I learned to appear to be interested in whatever and whoever I am supposed to be interested in. In other words, I learned to mask my autistic curiosity.

Speaking for myself, I like to be around people who understand my autism for what it is, a different way of thinking; those people whom see me as I am, autism and all. Disclosing to friends and co-workers is first and foremost to me, mostly because I want people to understand my quirks, my difficulties and my strengths, if for no other reason, to help me be myself, really myself and allow me to take my mask off,

To do so, I’ve had to look deep inside myself and find my positive traits (as do we all) and it’s easy to discount whom we are in the face of the neurotypical society we see, but if nothing else, know that you are strong, you are smart and you are enough. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and dare to take your mask off and let your true self…..

Shine On!!