Showing posts from May, 2019

I'm Not Who You Think I Am Part II: Stony-Faced Grief

The only one not having a good time at my own party--or am I? No, I'm not. The question was rhetorical. If you guessed I wasn't enjoying myself, you guessed right--but you had an equal chance of guessing wrong. As I've been pointing out in my recents posts, it can be very hard to know what I'm thinking or feeling from the stoic expression on my face. I don't wear my feelings on my sleeve, or anywhere else on my body. That doesn't make them any less real, though. In fact, in this photo, it's not that I was having a bad time, despite the best efforts of my parents and brothers. (That cake would've been my favorite, angel food with seven-minute frosting, and there's a good chance those candles were the joke candles that were hard to blow out--my parents had a thing for them in the early 1980s.) The truth is--and I remember this very well--that I was grieving a relationship that was never going to be what I wanted it to be. Just a few days

I'm Not Who You Think I Am Part I: I Like People

March 24, 1982: my 21st birthday party, and everyone else was having a better time than I appeared to be having. I occupy an extremely particular nook of the spectrum. Fifteen years and approximately 4000 students into my career as a music teacher, I've met and taught students from across the spectrum, from those so high functioning their autism presents as only a mild quirkiness to nonverbal children who express themselves through screams. In that time, I've rarely met any child who more than superficially reminded me of myself. Occasionally, there's an exception. There's a fifth grade boy at my current school whose single-minded enthusiasm for Harry Potter comes across as slightly obsessive, and who becomes deeply upset with his misbehaving classmates. I feel a real kinship with this well-meaning, nerdy kid, and imagine I probably came across the same way to my teachers when I was his age. However disturbed he feels at his peers' disrespectful attitu

Have You Tried Not Being on the Spectrum?

Even at 2, I didn't know how to smile for a camera--unlike my 6-month-old little brother. If the concept of an "autism spectrum" had existed in 1961, I would've been tagged with it then. Wait a minute--weren't you born in 1961? Why yes, I was. And from the beginning, I was different. To be clear, there are plenty of baby pictures of me smiling, even laughing. Although first-born child photography of the 1960s was limited by the cost of buying and processing film, there are still plenty of stills, slides, and even some 8mm movies of my tender years. It's what young parents do. And there are occasional candid smiles coming from my little face. In posed pictures, though, from the moment I became aware that cameras existed, my teeth stopped showing. The corners of my mouth might turn up a bit, but that was it. More significant were the silent tears. When I was hurt, frustrated, angry, sad, I wouldn't wail. Tears would roll down my cheeks

Notes from the Spectrum: Flat

Take a look at this guy. I see a face that is fully engaged with the person I'm facing: empathy, compassion, active listening, everything I want my face to convey when I'm in a conversation. Chances are you don't see any of that. Of course, it's just a still photo. But suppose you were across the table from this face, with this expression, for 45 minutes, and it never changed. You'd see the lips move, you'd hear the voice speaking earnestly about whatever topic was on the table, and it wouldn't be a robot voice. In fact, if you were just listening, without any visual cues, you'd feel like you were talking with a human being who was sincerely interested in everything you had to say, and who was going to great lengths to answer any questions you asked, as well as to respond appropriately to everything you said. But that face, that calm, still, face. Ten days ago, I had a job interview. I thought it went very well, and left believing I&