What 'Getting to First Base' Meant for Us as a Couple on the Autism Spectrum

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In the aftermath of World War II, baseball metaphors for sex were often used by American adolescents as euphemisms for the degree of physical intimacy achieved on dates. Most people are familiar with the terms “getting to first base, second base, third base, or scoring a home run.” First base is achieving a kiss, while scoring a home run is actually having sex with someone. Second and third base can be assumed as to the degrees of intimacy.

It might work well for the neurotypical world, but I have a much different view in my autistic world. Because for me, relationships with others are not so easily gained, least of all intimate ones. I treasure the relationships I do make and approach them with a very different perspective.

Dr. Tony Attwood commented why he felt our “all autistic” wedding was important to the autism community.  He states:

My thoughts are that this is a special occasion that I want to be witnessed and experienced by those who truly appreciate the exchange of vows, as well as the importance of the union between two people from the same community… Those in the autism community take such vows very seriously and from my experience, are very determined for the relationship to succeed and flourish. An autism-autism union is a very special occasion and an opportunity to celebrate the values,
determination and understanding of those within the same mind set who deeply love and value each other.

Congratulations on finding each other and finding love within and between each other.

Dr. Attwood’s word so deeply touched my heart. They are so very true. In today’s society people get married for many different reasons. Love isn’t always one of them. People marry for financial gain, for moving up the social ladder, for prestige.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 50.  Until that point I never even had a friend. If a fleeting thought of finding a mate to have a relationship with or marry would surface in my head I’d quickly dismiss the notion. After learning of Asperger’s and getting diagnosed, my entire life changed.

First I realized I was not the only person on earth like me. Second, I began meeting others on the spectrum, as well as people who work with us because they want to be around us.

The first thing I did was start an Asperger’s support group in my community. At one of the meetings came an autistic guy with his mother, who brought him there. He was extremely timid, and did not appear to have much confidence. We became friends and remained as such for the next year.

Our love story is extremely complicated and truly deserves to be made into a motion picture. Our first hug was under the stars in my driveway after he and his mother delivered a bunny hutch which Abraham had assembled for me. I’m not good with assembling things, and I’d purchased the hutch for my new bunny, but it had sat in the box for weeks. Abraham volunteered to put it together for me.

There, under a full moon, he initiated a hug. That is a moment neither of us shall ever forget. As our arms embraced each other, and we felt the warmth of each other’s body, a spark was ignited in both our souls. We couldn’t let go of each other. We became one, and neither of us could tell where one ended and the other began. The painting, “The Kiss,” by Austrian symbolist painter Gustov Klimt flashed into my mind.

The feeling was so intense, so delicious, so shocking.  Neither of us had ever expected to find anyone with whom to fall in love and have a relationship with or marry. It seemed like an impossible dream. Suddenly a fire was lit within each of us. It was far beyond a sexual fire. It was a spiritual fire, one extremely deep. It was on a level much higher than what most people ever experience or can understand.

Having autism surely has its challenges. They are not by any means limitations.  They are simply challenges. They force us to work harder at overcoming them. Yet those same challenges — specifically sensory issues –offer us the luxury to experience things on this higher level. They can also work positively for the individual.

That first hug far surpassed “getting to first base.” We both spent our lives “striking out” at simple relationships. Neither one of us ever had friends, yet now we realized the magical chemistry that drew us together.

Hitting one out of the park is every batter’s dream in a real baseball game. Abraham and I truly hit one out of the park. On September 26, 2015 we became husband and wife at the Love & Autism Conference. Now, having had a loving relationship for the past three years with extremely positive intervention, Abraham has turned out to be a diamond in the rough. He’s blossomed into a positive-thinking man who’s confident, has great self-esteem, and enjoys life to the fullest.

Awhile back we attended our first baseball game together, a semi-pro game at our hometown stadium. We decided to go all out, and upon arrival to the stadium we headed into the team’s merchandise store. There, we purchased baseball hats, flags to wave, and beads to hang around our necks. As we emerged from the store, we now looked like the other 5,000 people at the stadium. The music was loud but made us feel energetic. It was massive sensory overload, yet we were having a blast!

The next stop was one of the food establishments on the main concourse. We both ordered cheeseburgers and fries, a plastic baseball hat filled with popcorn, a big soft pretzel and drinks. Trying to maintain our new hats on despite the Gulf breeze blowing, we made our way over to a ledge with our hands laden with all the eats. There we stood, among the huge crowd, eating, cheering, and simply forgetting our challenges. We had a hilarious, marvelous, astonishing time. We even took selfies to create memories of our night at the game. Our home team won, and we joined right in with the roar of the crowd cheering them on.

Anita and Abraham at the baseball game

After the game we drove down the street to the pier to admire the full moon, enjoy the ocean mist on our faces, and savor the sound of waves lapping against the pilings. It was a perfect ending to a perfect night. We felt an overwhelming peace and comfort as we sat there on the bench because we won. I’m not referring to the baseball team. I’m talking about hitting the ball out of the park on love. It’s more like
we’ve won the World Series.

Our autistic baseball game is quite different than everyone else’s. As our very dear friend Eustacia Cutler says, we’re “different… not less.”

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Why I Tell People Dan Aykroyd Is on the Autism Spectrum

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Growing up, I didn’t have role models who were on the autism spectrum. Being diagnosed with autism in the early 90’s, the only one who was mentioned on a national level was the fictional character from “Rain Man.”

Because of this, I often talk about adults on the spectrum that other people with autism can look up to.

When I start listing off names, I mention leading autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin, the first nonverbal talk show host Carly Fleischmann, New York Times best-selling author John Elder Robison, international speaker and author Stephen M. Shore and “American Idol” finalist James Durbin. After that, I end my list with a name no one expects: Dan Aykroyd.

People are literally shocked to learn he’s on the autism spectrum. It goes to show you how wide the spectrum truly is.

Aykroyd, who is most well known for his stint on “Saturday Night Live,” spoke publicly about having Asperger’s syndrome several years ago. In an interview with The Daily Mail, he said he was able to develop some key interests due to his autism. One of those key interests was in ghosts and law enforcement. Specifically, he loved the ghost hunter Hans Holzer. Because of his interests in this area, “the idea of my film ‘Ghostbusters’ was born,’” Aykroyd  told The Daily Mail. “Ghostbusters” remains a popular movie to this day. Aykroyd’s name came up often in our community recently because of the “Ghostbusters” reboot that was released in July 2016.

For me, this has some amazing value for our community. Often families wonder what the future will look like for their child on the spectrum, and when that time comes, I love to bring up Aykroyd’s story. So many people on the spectrum have key interests just like Aykroyd. With the proper direction in that interest, it can open up opportunities for them.

Now, not every person with autism is going to have Aykroyd’s success, but with his story, we have someone in our community who others can look up to. I turned one of my key interests in theater as a child into a career as an adult in motivational speaking.

One of my old college professors often told me to “think with the end in mind,” which has reinforced my passion for sharing stories like Aykroyd’s. No matter where your child falls on our wide autism spectrum, have the self-motivation to know that we are learning more about autism every day. Every milestone, no matter how small, should be celebrated.

Hopefully one day we will be able to share about all of our kids living their dreams like Aykroyd has.

This post first appeared on KerryMagro.com.

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Image via Creative Commons/Rnunezart

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This Is the Face of a Mom Watching Her Autistic Son Meet His New Service Dog

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Mother crying and holding a hand to her mouth as her son lies against his new service dog

See this moment? I’ve never experienced a moment like this.

I thought about not sharing it out of embarrassment over my ugly-cry face, but I decided it’s too important not to share.

This picture was taken near the end of the day after my autistic 5-year-old was finally able to sit down with his new service dog, Tornado. He flew across the entire ocean, stopped in multiple states, and uprooted his entire routine to travel the globe for this. He was so overwhelmed through the day that he had to leave to take a break for a couple hours before he could come back.

This boy is the strongest child I have ever met. He has faced countless rude and ignorant adults and children who do not understand him, who have hurt him, and who have not valued him because he is different. This picture captures the face of a mother who saw her child lie on his new service dog of his own free will, with a purposeful unspoken attachment. This is the face of a mom who has seen her son have trouble making friends and connections. She has seen the hurt that this has caused him. And now she is sitting behind her son, silently watching this moment, with the air sucked from her lungs, and no words to say.

She is holding her mouth and silently crying because she doesn’t want to distract him from the moment. This is truly magic. Words cannot explain it.

This is the very first time I have cried for a reason like this. It’s new, it’s painful, it’s wonderful, and I am grateful. I will always stand behind this boy, but I am grateful he will have Tornado to stand beside him, too. The 4 Paws For Ability magic is real. The wait was long, but this moment makes it worth every moment of waiting. It’s worth every fight for services for my son, every diagnosis, every new provider, every dollar spent, every paper filled out, every school meeting, every tear shed, every step forward, every step back, and every wonder of the unknown future. With Tornado, I know everything will be OK.

After the initial outpouring of love from the viral story above, we have been getting another question from those touched by our story: What can we do to help you? To help Kai? This is an assistance fund page set up for autism-related therapies and expenses directly for Kai’s needs.

A version of this post originally appeared on the Paws 4 Ability Facebook page.

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Kids With Autism Turn 'Obsessions' Into Brilliant Halloween Costumes

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When I Realized My Daughter on the Spectrum May Mask How She's Feeling

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My daughter was diagnosed with autism when she was 9 years old. I’ve learned the way my daughter acts and the way she is feeling do not always match. She can be extremely good at hiding and concealing how she is feeling in public, often, I presume, in order to fit in.

Prior to my daughter’s diagnosis, I read many articles about girls on the spectrum masking their difficulties. In reading these articles, I could understand masking as a concept, but I didn’t really understand what it must be like for someone to continually hide how they feel.

I remember when I got my first glimpse of my daughter’s ability to mask. It was during an examination by the pediatrician when she was 9 years old. It was the first time I consciously witnessed my daughter clearly feeling differently from how she presented.

My daughter sat in the pediatrician’s room looking calm and compliant. The pediatrician lifted a stethoscope to her chest to give her an overall medical exam. As soon as she listened to my daughter’s heart rate for a couple of seconds, the pediatrician pulled her stethoscope away saying, “It’s OK. This is something used to listen to your heart. There is nothing to be afraid of.”

My daughter’s heart rate was elevated, but when asked how she was feeling, she replied with her stock response, “I’m fine.” What seemed unusual at the time was my daughter did look absolutely fine. If it wasn’t for her heart rate being taken, I would never have known she was experiencing anxiety.

This experience taught me so much about my daughter. It taught me she can be amazing at hiding her anxiety, and secondly, I cannot always trust her stock response of “I’m fine.” It led me to learn that sometimes her behavior may be coded and I have to look a little deeper in order to see how she is truly feeling.

Today, we grow and learn together. I can still see my daughter pretending to be OK when she isn’t feeling well. But we now work on ways to express our emotions together, and we talk about why it is important to let other people know when we are not feeling OK.

I think everyone can mask their true feelings on occasion, but for it to be part of your day to day must be exhausting. I know my daughter may find it difficult to express how she is feeling. But I hope with time, practice and support, she will be able to express herself to those she trusts and ask for help when she needs it.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Our Routine That Helps Socks Feel ‘Just Right’ for My Son With Sensory Sensitivities

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Stepping into the bedroom, I am hit by a tornado of socks, clothes, and shoes. The drawers pulled out, the chaos on the floor… “Kai, what’s wrong?” I ask my son. With clenched teeth, he replies, “None of my socks fit. I don’t know why we have to wear silly school socks!”

Taking a deep breath, I sit down next to him and start the sock stretching routine. This is one of many steps I need to take to help him find the perfect pair of socks. After a few stretches, I manage to get the socks to feel “just right” on his small feet. Relief washes over both of us as he fits his feet into his school shoes.

Most days, many people see my son as a happy-go-lucky child. He is kind, a great friend to have and a real hard worker! But what most people don’t know is that he struggles with sensory processing challenges. Some things need to be done in a certain way. Things need to feel and look just right for him.

Parenting my child is not always easy — parenting any child is not always easy. But it is rewarding— infinitely rewarding — and requires a wealth of creativity.

Fast forward two years, and I can happily say that our sock routine has been nailed down to 15 minutes max some mornings. Now we also have a pants routine, one that requires some wriggling and stretching in the silly pockets to sit just right.

Getting dressed in the morning is no easy feat, but we do find ways to work around it.

Doing the following things helps us:

When his socks cause him discomfort, I place my hand on the inside of the socks so the sock goes over my hand and does not scrape against his skin. I help stretch his socks, and I talk to his socks. Talking to the socks helps distracts my son from the discomfort he feels.

Once we find the perfect pair of socks, he wears them for two to three days. We also now try to find the perfect socks the night before, and then he sleeps with the socks on to minimize frustrations and anxiety the next morning.

When his uniform feels uncomfortable, I say to him, OK, let’s get moving. I ask him to run to the wall, sit on the floor, do five start jumps, touch his toes, etc. I also swing him around, get his body moving inside his clothes, etc.

These tips don’t always work for us, but this is what I call the evolution of my parenting. What works today may not work tomorrow, and so we constantly push our creativity.

Follow this journey on ChevsLife.

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