Museum Butterflies And NHL’s Little Fan

For the second year in a row, we went to the Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady, NY to see their butterfly exhibit.  As with last year, NHL didn’t want to go into the butterfly house for fear of hurting them.  Eventually, he did go in and look around, but he was clearly nervous about being in there and wanted to leave ASAP.  (I’m proud of him for trying, though.)  As for JSL…


I’m not sure what species of butterfly this is.

This one got friendly and spent some time on my finger.


After the butterflies, we walked around the museum for awhile.  Honestly, the exhibits are ones we’ve already seen and done, but it has been awhile and the kids loved seeing them again.  My favorite moment came when NHL went to the drums.  Now, he plays the drums in school and is pretty good.  He has a pretty good musical ear and descent talent.  This drum machine has headphones that you put on so you can hear your drumming while everyone else hears just the light tapping of your sticks on the pads.  (Side note: We need one of these at our house NOW!!!)

As he’s drumming along, this other family is looking at an exhibit nearby when their little girl (who looked about one year old) looks at NHL.  She instantly becomes mesmerized by him and was just staring at everything he was doing.  I let NHL know that he had an audience and he offered the little girl his headphones so she could hear his drumming.  The girl’s father helped put them on her and NHL started drumming again.  The girl’s eyes seemed to glaze over as if she were trying to tune everything out but the beat that NHL was playing for her.  She had this big smile on her face, enjoying the private concert.

Then, NHL offered her the drum sticks.  The father helped her into the seat and showed her how to hold the sticks.  She tapped the stick on the pad and quickly understood that it made that noise.  As she started regularly tapping the drum, I remarked to the girl’s dad (just before NHL dragged me off to another exhibit) that it looked like he had a drummer-in-training.

I just loved how NHL handled the entire thing.  That drum exhibit is probably one of his favorites – especially since he loves playing real drums so much.  He was not only willing to give it up, but recognized the enjoyment that the girl got from watching him and decided to forgo part of his own experience so that she could enjoy it more.  Then, he gave up his very seat behind the drums so that the little girl could drum away herself.

There are those that stereotype people with Asperger’s as always self-centered and never caring about others.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I just love it when NHL takes that stereotype and smashes it to pieces – especially when he keeps a pretty good beat as he drums the stereotype away.

My First Perler Bead Earrings

Soon after I started making Perler Bead creations, I wanted to do more than make simple geeky figures.  I wanted to make something that could be worn around.  I started off by making an Autism awareness puzzle piece tie clip.


With this done, I noticed that they could make good earrings as well.  All I needed to do was get some earring hooks from the craft store and hang one of the puzzle piece edges off of it.  I asked B if she wanted me to make her a pair of puzzle piece earrings.  While she liked the puzzle pieces, she was concerned that they would be too big.

After experimenting with some parrots (not-autism related – just a pair of small parrots that still might be turned into earrings), I decided to try making some Autism awareness puzzle piece hearts.  First, I "sketched" out a heart shape using black pieces.  Next, I slowly replaced the blacks with blue, red, yellow, and purple.  Then, I filled in the shape until I had a complete heart.  Finally, I moved pieces around until it looked more like puzzle pieces interlocking.

After ironing, it was ready to be made into earrings.  I was prepared to do this part myself, but a friend offered to help as she had all of the supplies, has made earrings before, and enjoyed doing this.  I believe she wound up doing a better job than I could have done.

And so, B now has a very nice pair of Autism awareness earrings to wear. 


Now comes the question: What should I make next for B?  Any suggestions?

Asperger’s and The Humor Struggle

comedytestWhen you have Asperger’s Syndrome, social situations can be tricky.  While neurotypical individuals understand social rules and norms instinctively, those of us with Asperger’s struggle to understand the complex situations.  Perhaps nowhere is this trickier than in the area of humor.  A sense of humor can be a great social tool.  Telling jokes can bring people together and understanding jokes can help people get along.  Unfortunately, humor is a thin line.  Too far one way and the joke isn’t funny at all.  Too far the other way and the joke can come off as just rude or even offensive.  If social situations in general are a confusing maze for Aspies, humor can often feel like a minefield.  Everyone else seems to stride across it without any problem but the instant we try to venture within, BOOM!

I’ve seen NHL in many situations attempt to tell jokes.  To be perfectly honest, it isn’t his strong suit.  He thinks what he is saying is funny, but at best he is referencing something other people don’t know about and at worst he is coming across as being mean.  He can also not know when to stop.  He might say or do something funny, but then he tries to get further laughs by either repeating the action or ramping it up.  This quickly turns from funny to disruptive, but he doesn’t see that.  On the flip side, NHL’s literal nature can mean that he takes a joke told to him seriously.  All too often, I’ll kid with him and he’ll think I’m being serious.  My joke backfires and he begins worrying that I’m going to be doing something really bad.

Of course, being an Aspie myself, humor isn’t my strong suit either.  Perhaps you’ve seen me online telling jokes.  Hopefully, you’ve found them funny.  Here’s my secret, though.  Most of the time, I write those jokes, erase them, re-write them, and slowly hone them from a barely humorous idea to something that might make people laugh.  When it comes to face-to-face conversation, humor is trickier.  If I’m with people I feel comfortable with, I might tell a joke or two if they pop in my head.  Otherwise, though, my joking is very limited.  I often feel like everyone else’s mind is moving quickly when it comes to humor while mine just plods along.  When it comes to getting jokes, I will get many of them.  I’ve spent years learning about the intricacies of humor.  Still, I sometimes find myself taking someone too literally when they were only joking around.

Social media has helped me in real life humorous situations, though.  Social media can often be like a training ground.  Since the jokes don’t need to come in real-time, I can try out various things to see what works and what doesn’t.  If a joke bombs, I’m presented with the usual assortment of screen names, not with faces showing disgust, rolling eyes, or anger.  On the flip side, verbal cues are lost when a joke is typed out.  This means that everyone get saddled with the same lack of ability to tell joke from seriousness that Aspies live with every day.  Many people might add a some non-verbal cues to their jokes – such as a emoticon – to help people understand that they aren’t being serious.  These cues can also help Aspies to spot the joke.  Even if these cues are absent, though, we can read and re-read the statement until we discern whether the intent was serious or not.  Again, lack of real-time helps us and this practice can be carried over to face-to-face situations.

I know that NHL will get better at humor.  He really wants to be funny, but given how often he wildly misses the mark, I find myself telling him not to attempt jokes.  I’m torn, though.  I don’t want him to grow up humorless, but I also don’t want him offending someone or getting in trouble because he told a joke badly.  In the end, he’ll need to walk the thin line of humor until he figures it out.  I’ll do everyone I can to help him across the humor minefield.

NOTE: The "Funny Glasses 2" image is by ghosthand and is available from

Fear of Change And the Unknown

Autism-Puzzle-PiecesOne of the things we’ve gotten used to as parents of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is schedules.  NHL will get very anxious if he doesn’t know what is coming up.  Ideally, he prefers to have a schedule that he can follow along with.  To a child with Asperger’s, there’s nothing more frightening than the unknown.  Except maybe change.  His routine is comforting.  It is predictable.  There is much about the world that makes no sense to him, but at least he knows that his routine won’t change.  If it is going to change, NHL requires presetting to let him know ahead of time and to prepare for the change.  Changing his schedule on the fly is a recipe for disaster.  It has only been a couple of weeks, but the fixed schedule of middle school seems to be helping NHL.  He knows exactly what classes he has on what days and at what times.  (Yes, he memorized his schedule just a short while after he received it.)

As a parent with Asperger’s Syndrome, I sympathize with NHL’s need for a plan.  I don’t necessarily need a schedule in front of me, or even a concrete sequence of events that will take place, but I like to have some "anchoring" points that I know will happen.  Given that plans can change in an instant, I tend to "anchor" around meals.  No matter what happens, chances are we’ll be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We might shift from a home cooked meal to eating out to taking food in, but it’s still a meal.  The time of the meal might change from noon to one to two thirty, but that meal will happen.

As far as change goes, I’m tolerant of it to some degree.  The more change that happens, though, the more anxious I get about it.  I try to stay positive and expect the best, but change is scary.  The more changes stack up, the more my brain starts filling in the blanks with worst case scenarios.   Of course, the more this happens, the more my stress levels rise.

It seems that recently my life is increasingly filled with uncertainty and change.  My stress levels have been climbing and I’ve been feeling on edge.  There are days when I just want to scream and run for a quiet corner to hide in.  Obviously, I don’t.  I find some way to cope for the moment.  I delay my melt down or distract myself from the big, scary changes.

Perhaps that is why I’ve gone a bit Perler bead crazy lately.  It’s a simple, structured activity.  Place this color bead here and then that colored bead there.  It ties into my geekiness – I’ve made Doctor Who, Harry Potter, superhero, and Star Wars related projects.  Best of all, it gives me a final product relatively quickly – I can take a small Perler bead project from start to completion in an hour.

Still, despite my escapes, change continues to loom large over me and threatens to push my coping skills past their breaking point.

Do you find change and the unknown to be exciting or scary?

Battling My Own Brain

brain-tank Over the years, I’ve fought long, protracted war.  This wasn’t a conventional battlefield, though.  This war took place entirely within my own mind.  I had to fight tooth and nail (synapse and neuron?) to overcome some challenges and get to where I am today.  Meanwhile, I still have many challenges to overcome in the future.

Back in high school, I found my brain getting stuck constantly.  By this, I don’t mean that I wouldn’t be able to come up with an idea.  Instead, I would pour over every detail of a social interaction that I had made.  I would critique it in every way possible, berate myself for missed opportunities or for saying/doing the wrong thing, and would take situations completely out of context.  These "hindsight reviews" could last for days and would completely cripple me socially.  After all, if I was completely wrong in my actions in one situation (as judged by me later on) then how could I possibly be sure that I’d be correct in another action.  Combine in fear of bullying and the paranoia that it caused and it isn’t hard to see how my social development was stunted.

This "stuck brain" phenomena would also manifest itself when I worried about something.  As I went over the topic over and over again, the worry would grow more and more unmanageable.  Even if there was nothing I could do at the moment, my brain would focus on the problem and wouldn’t stop.  Thankfully, I eventually learned to segment my worrying and put aside items when there wasn’t anything I could do about them at the moment.  This can often be misinterpreted as me not worrying about something, but it is more of a self-defense mechanism.  If I didn’t put some worries aside, I could easily revert back into my worry-obsession behavior.

In college, I vowed to force myself to be more social.  I joined an organization whose sole purpose was the throw big parties – exactly the kind of social situation I wasn’t comfortable in.  It was my way of confronting my comfort zone and breaking through it.  However, while I made strides in my general social development, another battle raged on.  This battled was complicated because it involved the opposite sex.

College Me was living away from home for the first time and I found myself surrounded by all kinds of people.  As will inevitably happen to college kids, I developed crushes on some of my fellow students.  However, whenever I thought about acting on the crush, I found myself paralyzed.  I would go over a plan to ask a girl out, but could only think of the horrible things that might result.  I had just escaped high school – where I was made fun of mercilessly – and the specter of being mocked by my peers again haunted me.  Inevitably, I would over-think so much that the girl I had a crush on would begin dating someone else.  I had gone from doubting my actions after the fact to doubting my actions before I took them.  I might have won the general battle, but I was clearly losing on this particular front.  After college, I got a job and, a few years later, met B.  Unlike with all the other women I had tried to ask out before, everything seemed to come naturally to me.  Part of this was definitely due to a greater maturity and self-confidence due to being successful in my job.  A big part, however, was just that I could sense right from the beginning that B was "the one."

With that battle won, you might think that the war in my head was over.  It wasn’t, though.  Even in the present day, I tend to have two main "brain battles."  The first deals with Asperger’s.  Often I’ll get fixated on something, such as reining in the chaos that two young boys playing can cause.  Meanwhile, NHL will fixate on something else and we’ll have an Aspie-Aspie clash with B caught in the middle.

As hard as that is to deal with, there’s something else I deal with on a regular basis.  "Bad thoughts."  This is what I call it when my brain seems to try to interpret others’ motives in the worst possible light.  A voice in my head might try telling me that some people don’t care about me or that they don’t need me.  I’ve learned not to listen to this voice.  Though it always attributes the negativity to others, it is really the voice of self doubt.  It is the ghosts of the battles I’ve fought over the years coming back and trying to take hold once more.  I hesitate to call it depression – mainly because it never gets that bad and I wouldn’t want to minimize someone else who deals with actual depression.  From what I’ve heard online from people who have depression, though, this "bad voice" shares many of the same characteristics.  It belittles my accomplishments, attempts to sabotage my relationships with my friends and family, and convinces me to bottle up my feelings instead of opening up about them.  (That last one is made worse by my Asperger’s "Emotional Cage.")  When the "bad voice" is active in my brain, I will often sulk and stew over even the smallest of slights.  I’ll find myself unable to focus on other topics.  This is the one instance where a form of my "worry obsession" still overtakes me easily.

I’ve seen NHL deal with this also.  If he is yelled at to stop doing something, he’ll often mutter to himself over and over.  When I listen to him, it frighteningly sounds like what my "bad voice" says to me.  Nobody loves me.  Nobody understands me.  The world is against me.  People are doing things to hurt me on purpose.

I’ve learned to suppress this "voice" so it doesn’t come out of my mouth – even when it is screaming in my brain.  NHL, meanwhile, hasn’t.  Perhaps this is a good thing, though.  Maybe I can use this as an opportunity to help him learn to deal with his own "bad voice" in his head so it doesn’t turn into a problem.

NOTE: The "brain tank" image above is a combination of "brain" by trubinial guru and "cartoon tank" by rg1024.  Both images are available via

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