Vidéo – la communication assistée

La communication, c’est génial. Voici une belle vidéo pour illustrer.

Dillan est un jeune homme autiste qui a appris à communiquer au moyen de la communication assistée.

Je vous recopie le français ci-dessous (il y a moyen de mettre les sous-titres en français dans la vidéo).

À noter que l’iPad ou autre tablette n’est pas une condition absolue. Il y a aussi d’autres méthodes, comme RPM, qui dépendent moins de la technologie.

 

«Mon nom est Dillan et je suis autiste.

Toute ma vie, je voulais tellement établir des liens avec les gens.

Mais ils ne pouvaient pas comprendre, parce que je n’avais aucun moyen de communiquer.

J’ai la chance de percevoir le monde d’une manière tout à fait unique.

Je peux voir le vent, entendre les fleurs.

Je peux ressentir des émotions incroyables venant de ceux que j’aime.

Tant de gens ne peuvent pas comprendre que j’ai un esprit.

Tout ce qu’ils voient est une personne qui ne se contrôle pas.

Mais maintenant, vous pouvez m’entendre.

L’iPad me permet de voir non seulement mes mots, mais aussi de retenir mes pensées.

Avoir une voix a tout changé dans ma vie.

Fini l’isolement.

Je peux enfin parler avec les gens qui m’aiment.

Je peux dire ce que je pense et leur faire savoir que je les aime aussi.

[Sur le podium de graduation]

Allo!

Bonjour, mon nom est Dillan Barmache.

Nous sommes la réalité de notre vie intérieure.

Et nous sommes capables de beaucoup de choses, si nous ouvrons simplement nos esprits.»

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Stimmy: My Hair

I had long hair throughout my childhood. Then, as a teenager, I decided to be Punk and thought I should have short hair, so I cut it.

Some time later, I had a dream. In it, I was turning my head from side to side and feeling the soft caress of my shoulder-length hair brushing against my neck and the top of my shoulders. It was a beautiful feeling, and the dream was very vivid.

When I awoke, and realized that my hair was short, and that the beautiful feeling was to be no more, I cried in despair.

But I let the feeling go and got over it, and remained true to my punker decision – long hair was not in line with the way I wanted to apprehend the world, and the identity I wanted to have in it.

Then, I had the dream again as a young adult. It was the same, very vivid dream, where every sensation was so real that when I awoke, and found that my hair was short and I could not sway my head to have it caress the nape of my neck… I cried this time too, with an infinite sadness that this feeling was not real in the waking world.

By that time however, I made my own decisions, appearances of social rebellion notwithstanding. I decided to let my hair grow, and to never wear it short again.

This might seem silly to most people, that a physical sensation so inconsequential as having your hair caress the nape of your neck would become something of an important life decision. But it isn’t, it isn’t…

As I started to write this, I untied my hair. It’s usually up in a bun, so that it doesn’t distract me. But sometimes, when I want to recall that feeling, the bliss of the caress, I let my hair down. It’s a beautiful feeling, and exactly as it was in my dream, and my longing. My neck thanks me. My soul thanks me. Such is the beauty of the stim.

I’m Autistic – Holiday tip list for friends and family

A friend jotted down these great tips in anticipation of an office party. The list is useful for the Holiday season, but also, well… any time!

Autistics are both sensitive and straightforward. We take things literally and tend to be uncomfortable looking in the eye consistently, and with loud noises, uninvited touch, strong smells and intense or flashing lights. Socializing takes effort for these reasons, and accommodations are welcome.

So pass it along! Actually, quite a few of these will be agreeable to most people, autistic or not. These don’t apply to every autistic person, of course. But they cover the basics. Please feel free to contribute corrections or additional points.
1. Relax with the perfume

Tone it down. Better yet, don’t wear any.

2. Stop laughing so loud
… or shouting across the room. Really. Ouch.

3. Avoid cross-talking
Don’t expect me to follow a conversation if there’s more than one person talking at once.

4. No paparazzi or strobes
Don’t use flashing lights or a flash camera. Many autistics are also epileptic: a flashing light can trigger a seizure.

5. Respect the bubble
Don’t touch me if you can avoid it. In fact, try to avoid any sudden movements or encroaching on personal space.

6. No force-feeding

If I decline a certain food, it’s with good reason; don’t guilt me into eating it. Just don’t. Same goes for drinks.

7. Be sincere

Don’t ask ‘how are you’ unless you want the truth.

8. I’m not interested in your gossip
It’s not personal. I’m just not interested.

9. Processing…
Just because I don’t react visibly, doesn’t mean I didn’t hear/understand/care. It may take me time to answer a question. I may also freeze, and not answer. If I do this, don’t push the envelope  – that just puts me on the spot.

10. Don’t judge
Not looking you in the eye says nothing about someone’s character. And… don’t talk to us like we’re five years old.

11. Respect the overwhelm
If I go mute or start flapping my hands or bashing my head, back off. Don’t insist or pile on more stimulation. If I go and hide to be alone for a while to regroup, let me be.

12. Go ahead and say it
Say what you mean, it makes everything easier. And if you’re not sure about something, just ask. Quietly.

I have a voice – Autistics Speaking Day 2015

“… if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.” — Junot Diaz

Autistics Speaking Day 2015I have a voice.

Before last year, I could talk. I made all sorts of sounds that were words and these words went together and produced sentences and meaning. The meanings worked and allowed me to communicate, or so I thought. I made a lot of sounds. A lot of words.

Though I could talk, for most of my life I was not able to speak my mind.

There is this knowledge that came to me last year that I am Autistic. And this meant that for the first time, I was able to understand who I am, and care about myself.

Now I speak for myself.

The reason I can now truly communicate isn’t just that I found out I’m neurodivergent and can now understand a lot better who I am in relation to the world. That’s only a small part of it.

There are two more fantastic, beautiful reasons I can now speak my mind: the first is reading other Autistics expressing themselves, their joys, their fears, their fights to have our rights respected.

Autistics speaking all over the Internets, saying I am, we are, we matter, we rock! Solidarity, exploring knowledge, beauty in sharing and empathy. This is what makes me not a monster – being able to relate with others, a reflection of myself, in multiple variations and nuances.

The second reason I can now speak my mind is being with Autistic friends. Sharing their presence, our mutual acceptance, all of us discovering our values and our caring, our shared experiences and our discoveries. Just being together, and understanding what human relating is really about. I see you.

So yes, Autistics speaking, through talk, presence, typed words, gestures, glances, Autistics speaking to each other, with each other and to the world, being able to truly be who we are, becoming, valuing and protecting each other, and the young ones. To me, this is our common treasure, and it should be protected with all our fierceness and love.

(Genderless)

Gender assumptions and the definition of self, beyond compliance

By all accounts and observations, I present as a woman biologically, and I am attracted to males, mostly.

I am, in theory, cisgender. That is, I feel no dissonance in my identity from the fact that my physical body presents as female in its physiology. I really don’t care, and just go with what I have.

I am also, in theory and consequently, heterosexual.

These facts all mesh. The standard, socially normative model is present on the surface. I also have full cisgender privilege, because I look like a woman and I function mainly as a woman, for practical purposes.

But this is all circumstantial.

Beyond pragmatics about bodily functions, there is this thing: socially-defined gender. And this binary template means nothing to me as relates to identity, outside of a subjective, semantic designation. Indeed, it has been a lifelong enigma for me that one must be defined according to binary gender groups.

Judging from the power divides between males and females, which I’ve come to learn and battle, gender seems to be an artificial construct that does far more harm than good.

I have repeatedly expressed, when I was younger, that I was a man in a woman’s body. Now, I see things differently – I am me, in a female body. Neither man or woman, perhaps both, and especially all in between and outside of that.

Let me remember, before…

+++

As a child, I did not identify with one gender or another.

My mother was a modern feminist, but obsessed with social image – I now believe she may have been autistic like me, and stuck in compensating with the overarching obligation of femininity and attractiveness for self-worth, as many women are. Whatever the reasons behind it, she had a very rigid and well-defined idea of what I should look like as a kid, and she applied it, stuffing me into cute and respectable girl clothes and shoes, and pulling my hair into submission and ponytails. But this was only relevant to social situations – school, family events, and so on. When we were at home or I went out to play, I wore my brothers’ old polyester pants and cotton t-shirts, and my hair was wild.

So, as a child, I existed in two realms, the public and the private. In public, I was a girl, which was whatever my mother saw as appropriate. I played along by accepting the clothes and the hair, and thought nothing of it, because she was the boss. In private, I was genderless – I did not have an opinion or indeed a conscious idea of gender. I preferred to play with boys because they made sense, toy cars, the woods, action. I liked to play with some girls because they were fascinating, with all their pinks and cutenesses and fuzzy things. But I didn’t identify with them, quite the opposite, they seemed other. With boys, and non-binary girls that I met later on, we just were. Action was the goal, not identity.

Growing up and as puberty was coming along, discovering binary sexual gender interactions was another story entirely. Pop culture was rife with sexual freedom and affirmation, and I gobbled it up. The Love Boat and Grease, The Blue Lagoon and Fantasy Island, Endless Love and Star Wars. Being a woman was portrayed as joyful and empowering. Being a woman meant being pursued and beautiful. Being a woman meant sexual attractiveness. I wanted to be attractive, and pursued, and loved. So it was awesome that I was a woman. Lucky for me.

It also meant that social interactions became a whole lot easier. As I discovered sexual attraction, words became supercilious, glances and proximity and touch were clear and significant communication, and kissing and groping a realization of human connection, in a pleasurable and easy way. The body was leading.

I had always felt more comfortable around males, so there was no clear gap for me between childhood and puberty; sexuality was added on and meant more self-realization, significant connection, intensity.

In early adolescence, I started to feel out preferences for body adornment.* The New Wave and Disco trends were fun! Much color, and sexiness with leggings, tight pants and shiny fabrics. But fashion had its limits, and I started to copy less and imitate more to create my own style, with masculine clothes that were also sensual and sexy: a man’s dress shirt with top buttons undone, rough checkered hunting jacket, oversize t-shirts, and cutoff jeans quickly became my favorites. I borrowed my father’s clothes far more often than I did my mother’s… and those only when they were masculine or gender-neutral, like her man’s fishing hat worn tipped backward (hello, Boy George) or a pale yellow jacket that felt like I had become a soft baby chicken.

Clothes were about functionality, sensuality, and expression. When I entered high school and my new best friend introduced me to the world of punk, I was taken. More digging into my father’s closet brought out vintage items from the 50’s and 60’s. I tie-dyed and snugged the bottom of my jeans, wore a kilt over them, cut off the sleeves of my t-shirts and wore my hair short. Gender wasn’t a factor for my choices. Whatever was streamlined, looked good and felt right was the way to go. I started borrowing my mom’s jewelry because she had some metal chokers and kilt pins in there…

Eventually, I gave up wearing punk attire because one boyfriend told me this: “You’re a nice person, but the way you dress keeps people from wanting to get to know you, it scares them.” I thought that made a lot of sense.

And then there was late adolescence, and the Relationship thing. I did not fit the model image of what a Girlfriend should be like. I was not kept around for the long term. And this jarred me, because to me, a relationship was a given; it existed because it was already happening, it was not a work-in-progress that had to fit into a specific social template. To me we were, already, in a relationship. But for most people, the need to fit into the template is very strong.

We were kissing in a tent. It was a big party, his birthday. We were all sleeping over. The kiss was passionate. We had been friends for a long time. It was wonderful. And then he pulled away and said “What am I doing?” and stormed out. Dawn was breaking, and it was cold.

I remember many instances like this. I was not Girlfriend material, I know that now. Back then, I didn’t understand what this meant. I did have boyfriends. But they didn’t know what love was, or commitment. A relationship to them was a pastime. Yet to me each encounter of closeness meant full commitment, there was no gap between what the relationship was and what the relationship should be according to these social templates.

So, I present as cisgender, and I am heteroromantic as far as I know, and all-out heterosexual.

But I don’t know what gender means, from the inside. The body loves heterosexual sex. It meshes with hormones and stuff, and hetero love ensues. But somehow this feels circumstantial, and that somehow, I am a slave to the body.

Does this make sense? The gender binary means nothing to me personally. I can’t relate with people who actively and purposely identify with one specific, socially-delimited binary gender, either biologically given or the one they were not born into. Gender is not a binary variable in my cognition. And so I just gape in wonder, and cannot connect.

It feels like we don’t speak the same language, or think in the same way.

My friends and lovers have always been fluid across the gender divide. When they didn’t know or accept it, and the divide hit them, because of social circumstances or the social pressure to fit the expected template, this often pulled us apart. My lack of gender boundaries was not welcome. For that matter, the fact that I don’t adhere to superficial social templates, whatever they may be, was always a factor in relationships.

Gender is often said to be a social thing, in its binary form. On the inside, I am neither man nor woman, I am both, and thrive in this. I do now.

But for a dozen years or so, from my late twenties to my early thirties, I tried desperately to fit the “woman” social template. The body called me to motherhood, and it was a sweet call. I wanted a life-long relationship, and was tired of being the outcast. So I tried.

I enjoyed my new interest in being feminine, and part of it was that I felt I could be pretty, which was nice. I discovered I could be gentle, and graceful. I think the female body is beautiful, so I enjoyed making mine pleasing in dress and gestures. It was a creative process, and my body was the canvas where I could practice this art. I took dancing lessons, I groomed my hair. I accepted the standard courtship rituals, which had always seemed senseless to me. I played along and followed the template. I was conciliatory. I accepted the feminine traits society said I should have, within reason. I molded myself as best I could to fit into this template, as I understood it, and for the first time in my life, accepted outside influence without truly owning it. I wanted to own it. It seemed the right path to follow. I would try.

But then, I also started to be subjected to the oppression and social violence that the patriarchal model involves. I was berated for “not being nice, after all” by controlling, dominating males. I was gaslighted because I expressed my disagreement when subjected to demeaning or humiliating behaviors, including by my family. I fought back, but I wanted to be nice. I asked why, and pleaded, but I wanted to be loved as I thought society defined it. I thought if I complied, I would find collaboration, and support, and self-realization. But no. Instead I became self-conscious, started to doubt myself, and lost self-esteem.

Little by little, by wanting to play along, and as I gradually tolerated being treated as inferior and inadequate, I was crushed. And then I crashed. I found myself lost in this empty, made-up shell, not knowing who I was. It took a long time to figure it out.

+++

Now I am back where I started, a genderless being in a body that is a tool, an object of interface with the world, and that happens to present as female, which is just fine, but means nothing more to me than a female-identified appearance, female organs, and the hormones and cycles that go with them. These just are, and mean nothing to me outside their factual form, function and semantics.

I also now actively reject stereotyped models of gender identification, because through them I experienced oppression, and trauma; because of knowing the evil that lurks in being forced into templates by self or others.

And still as ever, I like sex, in the form that my body prefers. In fact, being liberated from expectations of compliance means more bodily freedom, and more fulfillment. I respect the body, and mostly, though it is a nuisance sometimes, it respects me back.

To this day, I still have that one pair of high heels I ever owned, that I keep because they’re pretty, and who knows, I might want to play with them, for fun. The thongs and other restrictive and uncomfortable clothes I threw out and gave away. I keep the makeup to hide blemishes and the bras to keep my appendages from swinging. Because it feels right. I dress as a woman, because the clothes suit me (I cannot rave enough about the blessings of wearing dresses and skirts), and because it’s easy, and for aesthetics.

But anytime someone points to me and says woman, I flinch. It’s not me they are referring to. And their assumption always comes with oppression about what and how a woman should be.

+++

*Footnote: About clothes

The original version of this text didn’t contain a section about exploring clothing and adornment in adolescence. Since to me as a youth, this felt entirely unrelated to gender identity, it didn’t come to mind during the first draft.

Aside from illustrating the development of self-image outside of gender, which is rather relevant after all, the reason I added the section on clothes is this: a male friend, after reading the original version, told me he related strongly, and that he never understood all those “Act like a man” or “That stuff is for girls” comments he received as a boy.

He also wrote:

“I select my clothes according to several essential criteria: color, comfort, and tactile qualities. As for the rest… As a boy, I put on my sister’s clothes, and went for a stroll. The reaction from many people, including my aunt, was to say that I was deranged, and should see a specialist…”

The injustice and stigma in this experience made me realize how lucky I was to grow up in my family, where my identity as a youth wasn’t forced into gender stereotypes. I never had to think twice about wearing men’s clothes – and this is privilege.

If I had been a boy in my liberal, human-rights-loving family, and wanted to wear feminine-looking clothes, would I have been free to make my own choices? Would I have been coached out of the “habit” and into proper dress?

What is it about our societies that pathologizes gender identification when it falls outside the normative construct?

While enforced stereotypes relating to gender impact on the well-being, self-worth and self-determination of all children and adults, youth exploring gender identity face injustice, judgment and social violence generally. And this needs to stop.

Beyond

Don’t smile
There’s no performance
required

Don’t smile
Your lips are full
And curl just so

Don’t smile
You don’t need
to mimic or plaster

Don’t smile
I can tell you’re happy
Your bliss in repose

Don’t
The conditioned response
hides you away

Feel
your lips
and beauty

This moment
We forget
and learn
everything

Your breath and mine
Our lips
curl just so

Forget
Don’t smile
and look up to my eyes
as you’ve been told

Just be
with me
with you
eager and still

Feel me
behind the mask
I will not mimic
Help me

Don’t smile
let your face go
and feel

You don’t need to know
The color of my eyes
Or to follow protocol

When we are close
your lips curl just so
I feel you close, and know you

Our souls tender
the bliss

There is no man, woman
In this moment, eternal
we kiss

And you and I,
interchangeable
mesh

We are beyond

Autism, mental illness and intellectual disability

Sadly, many uneducated people equate Asperger’s or autism with mental illness. And even some educated ones.

Others associate autism with intellectual disability.

And what about the infamous “Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism without intellectual disability”? That phrase is everywhere on educational sites! What gives?

OK, so… let’s make some *real* generalizations.

  • Autism
    (includes Asperger’s syndrome, for speech talkative autistics)
  • Intellectual disability
  • Mental illness

Three. Different. Things.

Now, because we are human beings, some autistics have an intellectual disability , and some autistics have mental illness. But…

  • most autistics have normal intelligence (high or low or in the middle), and
  • aside from depression and anxiety which are rather common for us, mental illness is unrelated with autism.

The need of people to categorize things into boxes of stuff they think they know, even by professionals who should know better, is detrimental in so many ways. Just because many autistic people act in ways some find odd, or may be unable to speak to communicate, or have trouble processing information, or demonstrate any other difference which the average person may not immediately understand, doesn’t make them anything else but autistic.

So people, get your facts straight.

Autism does not equate with intellectual disability, nor is it in any way a type of mental illness. This is useful to remember especially in making educational choices and avoiding the prescription of drugs until it’s certain they are needed.

But on the whole, what really matters? Remembering that everyone deserves respect and to have their rights protected.

Here’s a link to a vlog published yesterday by Amythest, who is awesome (please watch her other videos if you haven’t!): https://youtu.be/zhNksSReaQk. She writes in the video description:

“We, the a/Autistic community, need to stop equating ‘intelligence’ with worth. Intellectually/cognitively disabled a/Autistics exist. Intellectually/cognitively disabled people are just as worthy of respect as anyone else. All disabled people deserve the same dignity that non-disabled people do.”

My point:

Too often, presumptions linked to low intelligence or mental illness are used as an excuse to exclude people (including autistics) and treat them poorly, take away their rights and generally dismiss them from society. This should not happen. Not for education, not for freedom and self-determination, not for proper support, not for any kind of inclusion that yes, should be taken for granted and insisted upon for everyone, whatever their level of intelligence, mental health status or neurology.


Misophonia, or why my dad wasn’t allowed to hum

“Daaaaaaaad, stop humming! Waaaaaah!”

I remember these distressing episodes very well, which also happened with whistling, and various other sounds. Coming from a kid, this can be dismissed as being capricious, or controlling, whatever. My parents were all right and indulged me… especially after my doctor, bless the man, said my weird outbursts should be tolerated and allowed to peter out on their own.

But as an adult, when you have no idea why benign sounds are driving you up the wall, it can be guilt-inducing and cause a lot of tense situations. Who wants to feel angry for no apparent good reason? Was I evil or a friggin’ princess!? Well, no. It’s misophonia.

So, what is this misophonia I speak of?

Wikipedia is ever helpful, describing it as a “rarely diagnosed disorder, commonly thought to be of neurological origin, in which negative emotions (anger, flight, hatred, disgust) are triggered by specific sounds. The sounds can be loud or soft. The term was coined by American neuroscientists Pawel Jastreboff and Margaret Jastreboff and is sometimes referred to as selective sound sensitivity syndrome.”

Okay. But what I found even more helpful was the Symptoms section, which reads:

“People who have misophonia are most commonly angered by specific sounds, such as slurping, throat-clearing, nail-clipping, chewing, drinking, tooth-brushing, breathing, sniffing, talking, sneezing, yawning, walking, gum-chewing or popping, laughing, snoring, swallowing, gulping, typing, coughing, humming, whistling, singing, certain consonants, or repetitive sounds. Sufferers experience fight/flight symptoms such as sweating, muscle tension, and quickened heartbeat. There have been some anecdotal reports of unwanted sexual arousal. Some are also affected by visual stimuli, such as repetitive foot or body movements, fidgeting, or movement they observe out of the corners of their eyes. Intense anxiety and avoidance behaviour often develops, which can lead to decreased socialization. Some people feel the compulsion to mimic what they hear or see. Mimicry is an automatic, non-conscious, and social phenomenon. It has a palliative aspect, making the sufferer feel better. The act of mimicry can elicit compassion and empathy, which ameliorates and lessens hostility, competition, and opposition. There is also a biological basis for how mimicry reduces the suffering from a trigger.”

Echolalia, anyone? On the mimicry front, I’ve found that imitating the irritating stimuli can indeed help make it less overwhelming. For example, I’ll imitate the sound someone is making, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes intentionally. Or, if someone is tapping their foot at the dinner table, I’ll tap my foot at the same rhythm. Mimicry helps me cope; it feels a bit like cancelling out the effect.

Also, I encourage you to read the following article from the New York Times, which is quite well-written, and contains a number of real-life examples (and a few tips for the misophonic!): Misophonia: When a Chomp or a Slurp Is a Trigger for Outrage.

Judging from numerous online conversations on the subject over this past year, it seems misophonia is common for autistic people (and often combined with hyperacousis).

It’s quite a relief to know that it’s physiological and that so many people have a similar reaction. Knowing why it happens helps to deal with it much better – I can ask for accommodation, or echo the noise, make a matching sound to cancel it out, put in my earplugs, or walk away for a break, whatever helps.

It’s much healthier than getting all angry or panicky, without knowing why (because really, until you know, who wants to explain their anger with how annoying a sound is, it’s ridiculous, right?).

Asking for accommodation is risky. Before I knew the issue was neurological, I received a lot of negative reactions from insulted people who just didn’t get why they should stop chewing gum or making another repetitive sound “just because it annoyed me”, and I get that. Sometimes explaining weirdness just doesn’t work. But with people who know and understand, it can be worth taking a chance. Case in point:

One day in the beginning of our relationship, my partner was kissing me noisily, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Kiss, nervous giggle. Kiss, nervous giggle. After a while, I explained that the high-pitched kissing sound he made was driving me crazy! Love the kissing, strong reaction to the “smack” sound.

Because he’s lovely, he understood and we have a great time kissing now – quietly.

I wouldn’t have known how to explain this before, or to ask for accommodation, all the more because misophonia can seem so ridiculous when you don’t know any better. It was one of those “knowledge is power, and sometimes, knowledge is love” moments, when learning about the way your body works makes for better understanding all around.

Any comments welcome, I do special requests, too. Just please don’t hum the song 😉

We shall be of one mind

IMAG1679_BURST004Some say

Art is
spirituality
and so with mathematics

Eternity was shown to me
in nothingness and infinity

At this, a preacher girl said I
was confused

In distance I blessed
I was not angry
How could I be?
But pity
and fear
for the judgment

Currents flow
joy, sadness
elation and suffering
not contrary
beautiful tragedy

and then if we can see

We shall be of one mind
grow together in spiritual strength
and together outrun
this mortal confine

in a moment
the refrain
of mystery grazed
shimmering
remains

entranced
reverence
gratitude

love

Bev’s What’s Your Squawkers McCaw?

Autism April isn’t all fun and games… but sometimes fun and games get us out of the gloom and on the path to sharing our common humanity. Autism is about a lot of things… and acceptance goes in all directions.

But enough with the sappy stuff. I’m going to tell you about my orange-atennaed Squawkers McCaws.

It’s a mysterious breed. To have an idea of what I’m talking about, first please take a detour here on Bev’s blog, and watch the video! Then I’m going to tell you about my Squawkers McCaw.

Here’s the link if you need to copy-paste: http://aspergersquare8.blogspot.ca/2015/04/autism-acceptance-challenge-15-whats.html. While you’re there, why not take up a few challenges to learn, and get some empowerment and community love along the way?

nest

A pair of orange-atennaed Squawkers McCaws nesting, ready for migration.

The rare orange-atennaed Squawkers McCaw

My fabulous orange antennas are my Squawkers McCaw!

They’re much too long, and stick out from my ears, like orange construction worker antennas.

They were my first really effective earplugs – blocking out mainly high frequencies, which to me are the most distressing. They’re also made from fabulously soft and malleable foam, a pleasure to squeeze and roll between my fingers before I put them in.

squishy1

This animal is squishy… oh so squishy!

I bought them at an airport, because I’d forgotten my noise-canceling earphones at home.

Since then, I’ve bought more discreet earplugs, some of which work almost as well.

But I missed the Squawkers McCaw effect, which I like a lot. The orange antennas tell people I have something different about me, and that it’s related to my hearing…

Most of the time, I don’t care if people know I’m autistic or not. I may tell them. Or just ask them to speak more slowly, or excuse me while a walk away for a break, or raise my hand to ask them to wait. And somehow the orange antennas make that less complicated. Like a construction sign on a busy road, it’s saying “Mind your driving!”

The orange-atennaed Squawkers McCaw in its natural environment. (This image vaguely reminds me of something...)

The orange-atennaed Squawkers McCaw in its natural environment. (This image vaguely reminds me of something…)

It makes me not invisible in that way, and it’s nice. Disability is sticking out, bright orange, and when people stare I smile back. Sometimes if I’m in a good mood, I’ll say “Hey! Do you like my antennas?” and giggle. Is that age appropriate? I don’t know, but it sure is fun! And it’s a good way to sort out friends and allies from the rest.

orange-atennaed Squawkers McCaw_ONE_EAR

An orange-atennaed Squawkers McCaw in the social environment of its host. “Do you like my orange antennas?”

I’m really thankful to Bev for talking about Squawkers McCaw. Not everyone can or wants to be visible, I’m sure. But for me, it makes a lot of sense.

And I know that now, more often than not I’ll choose my Squawkers McCaw orange antenna earplugs when I go out in public. Squawk!