Thursday, 7 June 2012

You Can Tell You Are In An Autistic's Home When....

We live in a nice home on the edge of town. From the curb, you would never guess that inside the bricks and mortar is a family of three Autistics.  But as you walk a little closer toward the front door, the clues begin to surface.  Once you’re inside, there’s no doubt!  So what are those clues?

You can tell you are about to walk into an autistic's home when you see the autism sticker on the front porch window proclaiming that the person inside may be non-verbal.   You may hear loud voices, screaming, or running and jumping but that is just a normal day in our home.  My husband, daughter, and I are all on the autism spectrum and therefore we can have total chaos. While this can be common in busy families, their times of chaos could be compared to a storm; on the other hand, ours are more like a hurricane. 

You can tell you are in an autistic's home when you see a menagerie of animals.   Our family enjoys our little friends.  Those friends include two Cardigan Welsh Corgi dogs, two cats, three birds, a Russian tortoise, and several fish. The appeal of animals to people on the spectrum makes perfect sense:  we don’t have to worry about what they think of us and they put up with our unusual behaviours and verbal stims.   I guess you could say that our animals are a joint family interest.

Jade and Buddy


You can tell you are in an autistic's home when you see the disorder that comes from executive dysfunction.  This means a disability in those neurological functions related to planning, organizing, prioritizing, initiating, and remembering. There are the piles of treasures, piles of papers, and other bits and pieces that may actually have a home on a shelf somewhere but someone has to be able to actually start the job (preferably with the assistance of the rest of the family) which is hard. 

We have to be able to analyze what we have to do, put a plan in place, organize the steps we will take, develop a timeline to complete our task, be able to adjust the steps if necessary, and then complete it on time.  Tidying the house may come naturally to many people and I had no problem keeping my own bedroom tidy when I lived at home but now I have a two-story, three bedroom house with two other people to work with. 

Even if I manage to start and complete one area, by the time I am part way through the next area, the original area is piling up again.  I read a great book, “Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults” by Zosia Zaks and the author recommended putting up sticky notes around the house for reminders of where things go.  Unfortunately that executive dysfunction has gotten in the way again and I haven’t done it yet!

You can tell you are in an autistic's home when you see one person tapping away, another verbally stimming, and yet another deeply involved in pursuing their obsession.  Stimming is a repetitive movement that self stimulates one or more senses in a regulated manner. The three of us have various stims and since we are all autistic, you would think we would be understanding of each other’s stims.  Not so!  We all get on each other’s nerves regularly.

You can tell you are in an autistic's home when you see a swing hanging in the living room, a mini trampoline nearby and various sizes of exercise balls and ride on bouncy toys scattered around.  On top of all that, there are the bins of fidget and sensory toys, games for fine motor practice and large collections of horse toys (an important  interest of my daughter).

As you can imagine our home is anything but typical.  From the autism sticker to the menagerie of animals, the stims to various objects of special interest, Autism is a big part of my family’s environment. And you know what?  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Our home may be a bit unusual and may not be a tidy showpiece but we are all very comfortable in it and I think our visitors are too.