defocused of shelf in supermarket

The car pulls up, you seem in a delighted mood to go shopping and get all the things you need for the week to come, but you know your limits. The car park is suspiciously busy. You think to yourself, “Is this for the shop or just for town parking?” You hope for the latter as the big bold title of the supermarket approaches you with every step you make. Your chosen battle weapons: a handheld scanner, a shopping trolly, an over-enthusiastic parent, sister and grandad and your handheld secret weapon… your smartphone with earphone armor.

The doors open, and you enter cautiously and come facing the fruit and veg section full of colors and bright, peppers, tomatoes and bananas. The sounds are blaring. Beep. “Thanks for shopping with us.” “I haven’t seen you in ages, we should get coffee sometime.” It hits you. You feel like a mouse in a cat’s home, but you are resilient and you keep moving. An army of shoppers march in off-beat time and sound, handheld scanners look for their prey, you attempt to block out the sound with some conversation of your own. “What’s next on the list?” But the armed shoppers progress and your parent seems little disturbed by the war zone taking place.

Your mission is simple: get party food and booze. Every step, though blasting your senses, is a step further to victory. Bleep. Bleep. Bleep. Blurp. Blurp. Ping. Mission accepted. Mission in progress.

You turn to the quiet aisle: canned food, preservatives and dried food. It is unlikely you’ll need anything but best check. The row is mainly browns and oranges, less diverse. This is a sweet relief after the horror show of vibrant vegetables… but good things rarely last. In this game, “the calm before the storm” is applied to the next level: dairy products, cold meats and ready meals.

This row is flooded, a dynamic, chill factor of icy winds and unsolicited smells. Many shoppers find their way here in quick time; the milk, the cheese, the yogurt and pastry can all be found here. You are bubbling up inside. You seem like a snail with a broken shell. Your defenses are weakening. Time to get out the secret weapon: the headphones. You open your handbag and scramble through… a panic comes over you. Your parent looks at you. “You can put your earphones in if you like…” You shake your head. “I don’t know where they are!” You are being attacked with no armor. You retreat to a safe place — the toilets, a huge reduction in sensory exposure, and plonk yourself inside a cubical.

You get out your other secret weapon: your phone. An anchor. You look at cat pictures. You try and control your breathing. No success at first… but slowly and surely, you prepare yourself again to join the battlefield. Though without a shield, you are recharged and live to fight again. Remember:

“Your mission is simple: get party food and booze. Every step, though blasting your senses, is a step further to victory. Bleep. Bleep. Bleep. Blurp. Blurp. Ping. Mission accepted. Mission in progress.”

You come from your hideout and journey to the frozen food section. There you find your crew scanning the area for cheese sticks and pizza. You are breaking stride, determined, undefeated and ready to continue the fight. Nothing can stop you now. You complete this mission, picking up garlic bread, pizza, chicken, spring rolls, ice cream and chips with efficiency and accuracy. You are unstoppable, the best in your rank.

Suddenly, a siren screams at a high pitch, its atomic blast knocking you backwards. It echoes loudly in your ear drums. Nothing else exists except the wailing, a horrendous sounding screeching creature from the bottom of the row, looking down at you from its high chair. The battle has begun.

The creature is between you and the drinks. It seems to care little for your comrades but picks you as its enemy. Its wheels move closer, the wicked shriek coming to you… faster and faster and faster. You leg it. The sound is its weapon. Your team commands you to move out of the location. You made it… here, at last. It can’t hurt you… but something else can: a final shot of the laser handgun, and you are down.

Your comrades surround you. The army gives you odd looks. You fall into your parent’s arms, unable to stand, to think, to process. You feel defeated, crying, clutching your ears, your body shaking violently. You fought your hardest but feel like you’ve failed…

Then, at your weakest moment, your parent gives you their hand. “Come on, let’s get some drinks for Sunday.” You take their hand and though you struggle, you make it. The drinks are loaded into the convoy. You are ever nearer to your checkpoint as you all come closer and closer to the checkout.

You reach the checkpoint. The game is saved, and the final transaction is made. You walk out, though you are being attacked from all ends. Your confidence and determination to leave make you bulletproof.

Your mission is simple: get party food and booze. Every step, though blasting your senses, is a step further to victory. Bleep. Bleep. Bleep. Blurp. Blurp. Ping. Mission accepted. Mission in progress.

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Have you ever had a problem, or perhaps a question, that you really wanted answers and solutions to? Maybe the question was so mystifying and vague that you never thought an answer existed. Perhaps you figured, after years or even decades of searching, that the problem would always be present.

This is how I felt until about one month ago, when I received my autism diagnosis at age 21.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. An early diagnosis certainly would have helped me overall, especially through school. However, I still have plenty of time to adjust my daily life and thinking processes so I can improve the quality of my present.

I wasn’t surprised by my diagnosis. I had been considering the disorder as a possible reason for my struggles in life since I was 18, and a college counselor had suggested it as well. So, when I received my official diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder from a psychologist in mid-March, I just nodded and said something like, “Yeah. I kinda figured.”

Basic day-to-day living comes quite easily for me. But you see, all my life I have felt separated from the rest of the world. I have never been able to relate to the human population and humans as individuals. Since I started school, since the very first day, I realized I was far different from everyone else. I went through 13 years of education wondering why the noisy, bright, smelly classrooms and hallways made me upset and angry (sensory deficiency) and why socializing was near impossible.

I became an angry person. I was upset nearly all the time because I didn’t have my answer, my solution. I just wanted to know what was wrong with me. I attempted suicide twice and was in psychiatric hospitals at least five times. I was diagnosed with psychosis, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other conditions that rolled through my life and were treated without success.

But I wasn’t experiencing psychosis. I see the world in a vastly different way than neurotypical people, and the only way I knew how to make friends in childhood and adolescence was through imaginary characters in my head. I don’t have OCD; I just like to organize junk, silverware, clutter and knick-knacks for no other reason than it’s satisfying. I bounce my legs, touch my ears and nose, and wring my hands because it’s comforting.

I do have unspecified anxiety disorder and unspecified depressive disorder, likely because of not being able to cope with aspects that can come with my autism — because I didn’t even know I was on the spectrum.

We as humans have learned a lot more about autism since I was born and while I grew up, and for that I am thankful, for otherwise I may have struggled a lot longer. By implementing a routine in my life and working with a counselor at the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, I have already made leaps and bounds.

I’m still fully accepting my diagnosis, but for the most part, I have made peace with it. I finally have my answer.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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As part of Autism Awareness Month, Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, Massachusetts will host a sensory-friendly weekend for visitors on the autism spectrum.

The weekend’s festivities include educational and informational events as well as a “Touch a Truck” event featuring emergency vehicles. During the event, music will be turned down and the park’s trains will feature a softer blast. (Trains are required to sound their horns by law.)

Edaville, which features a railroad, has transformed one of the train cars into a quiet space for people on the autism spectrum. The car includes weighted blankets and fidget toys, which visitors can use while waiting in line. Edaville’s bathrooms are also designed to be sensory-friendly, eliminating noisy automatic toilets and hand dryers. These features are available year-round.

To make the park more accessible to those with sensory sensitivities, Cherie Daly, Edaville’s group sales director and special needs specialist, whose son is on the autism spectrum, spoke with educators, teachers, physical therapists and occupational therapists. Daly also hosted a discussion panel allowing families with autism to share ways the park could be adapted to suit the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum.

“Sensory Friendly Awareness Weekend, where everyone is welcome, is focused on inclusion, celebrating and having family fun,” Daly said. “We are very proud of the sensory friendly initiatives we put into place in 2016 that are available throughout the year. Our goal is to address the needs of all children, in the hope that all families will join us in creating lasting family memories.”

Edaville is not the only sensory-friendly theme park. Earlier this month, Legoland Florida announced a number of sensory-friendly initiative for visitors on the autism spectrum.

Edaville’s “Sensory Friendly Awareness Weekend” takes place from April 22 to April 23. Tickets are $27.00 and can be purchased online.


I was always told that honesty is important. So I was truthful, always. Well, apparently people don’t appreciate it when you’re honest. When you tell someone who’s being dishonest that they are, they might get angry. Especially teachers, or so I’ve learned. I would always get in trouble, but I never understood why. I was always polite as I’d learned and I was always honest as I’d learned. For a long time I just thought the problem was with me — I’m not likable, people just instantly hate me, I’m worthless. I struggled with these feelings from an early age. I changed schools, I got older, I tried new “tricks” to get in line. I did anything I could think of to please everybody. But people, both children and adults, seemed to take an instant disliking to me.

I didn’t understand other kids. I didn’t understand why they would be so loud or move so much. I hated games like “tag”; the touching made me feel uncomfortable. They’d say I was a sore loser but it wasn’t the being “tagged” that I disliked, it was the touch that came along with it. And I didn’t like the way everybody would move in an unpredictable way. I hated the shouting and the yelling that came along with it. In every way, other children were like aliens to me. I didn’t understand what they liked to talk about, how they liked to play, why they moved so much, the kind of toys they wanted for Christmas. Why they wouldn’t listen to their parents and our teachers. Because I always did what I was told, literally. Which in my experience got me in more trouble, with peers as well as adults. And that’s even more confusing.

I have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). After having quite a bumpy ride in my youth, I finally got the diagnosis that made everything come together at age 21. Now I’m 25 and it might sound weird to some, but I’m happy with my diagnosis. For such a long time there have been so many things that confused me or enraged me or made me feel uncomfortable in any other way. But I never understood those feelings, I couldn’t handle them, couldn’t channel them. So I got in trouble. I got in trouble a lot. That’s why, at an early age, I began struggling with the feeling that I didn’t want to live anymore. I told my mother for the first time when I was about 5, but when I saw her reaction, I decided not to mention it again. My parents are very important to me; for a very long time they have felt like the only true friends I had. I could say anything to them and they would understand. But she didn’t understand this, so I shut it away.

But it never left me. Even now I struggle with suicidal thoughts sometimes. I’ve had an eating disorder in my early 20s. I’ve struggled with anxiety attacks. There was a period that I’d self-harm as a way of coping, as a way of stimming. But with my diagnosis came understanding. Now I know who I am, why I do the things I do. And I have learned so much in these last couple of years. I always like to describe it as a “playbook” I have in my brain. I need this especially for social situations. “If A, then B. If not A, then C.” It may take me a while, but I’ll get you an appropriate response eventually. Most of the time. And when I don’t, I don’t. At least I won’t beat myself up over it.

It can be hard being an adult with ASD. People don’t believe me when I tell them. They think people with ASD are aggressive or anti-social. They think a lot. But they don’t think I could have it. That’s why I don’t like to tell people. Dealing with the comments of disbelief. I don’t want to have to validate my ASD. So I shut my mouth and deal with life the way I do. Even though I feel this might help keep the stigma, the misunderstanding, the disbelief in place. So yes, I’m sorry for not breaking through the ignorance. I’m sorry for not speaking up.

People will have to accept me the way I am, with or without knowing about my ASD.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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