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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Permission to be Weird

I have begun to write a book, and since I love to share everything with you people, here is the current length of it. Please, tell me your thoughts... as I am truly baring my soul with this.

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I have always felt “different” from other people, even though that might sound strange to someone who doesn’t feel that way. I never felt like I fit in anywhere, even in groups whose members all seemed to like me. Always the odd man out, I was never good at sports and usually the last to be chosen for team sports in school. I never understood the point of forcing team sports on those who clearly aren’t cut out for them - perhaps in the future schools won’t do that any more. It is a dream of mine to see individuals treated individually, rather than clumping us all together and treating us as if we were identical. We’re not identical, and neither are our needs.

While I may have been good at word games, I never truly enjoyed any sort of games, so I just quit playing them sometime during my 20’s. There was no specific event which occurred after which I said “I will never again play games” or anything as dramatic as all that, I just came to a point in life where I decided “why bother, if I’m not enjoying myself”? I’ve since applied the same concept to most other things. I no longer attempt to “learn to enjoy” things just to spend time with someone. I’d much prefer that they go have fun and leave me out of it. I don’t enjoy competition.

To be honest, I’m not sure I ever really “enjoy” things much at all. I find that most of life is a series of choices: to enjoy, loathe or tolerate… and most of the time I simply tolerate the situation. When I do find myself actually enjoying something, such as a good movie, I’m pleasantly surprised. I savor the moment… and more often than not: will become so absorbed in that which I am doing that it would be difficult indeed to obtain my attention. However, when I sometimes come to the sudden realization that I am not only NOT enjoying myself, but that I am actually having a BAD time, my attitude may seem to change abruptly. I suppose it DOES change abruptly. This is often the case when I go somewhere and become overwhelmed by the sounds, bright lights, smells or closeness of other people.

It is equally true that no matter how hard I may try, I can not bring myself to maintain interest in something that bores or disinterests me. I’d rather be boiled in oil. Well… maybe not, but I would certainly rather live under a bridge as a derelict than do the “nine to five” thing like a robot. Yes, I’m peculiar. Strange. Odd. Bizarre at times. But I’m not the only one. The world is full of us, and we’re tired of being cast aside as unimportant. We deserve to be accepted as we are, just like we accept those who are “normal” and “sane.” Stop trying to convince us we should be like you… let us be who we are… and the world will be a much better place, for you as well as for us. If you don’t, if you insist on eradicating us through selective breeding by genetic testing and so forth, one day you may find the world sadly lacking in creativity or innovative new procedures and inventions.

From the beginning of time there have been individuals who “marched to the beat of a different drum” and who often seem to be in their own world. Those who are not a part of the spectrum may never understand that world, but for those of us who live within it, it’s a fragile and nebulous alternative reality. It is a retreat and an oasis. A safety zone which we can always have nearby, because it is no further away than our next thought. To zone out, unfocus our eyes and enter this apparently coma- or zombie-like state is preferable to what we are experiencing is a defense mechanism of the highest order. It harms no one, but it helps us, so it is important that people understand that “we’ll be back” when we feel no further threat.

Many of us are hypersensitive to the point of pain and must either retreat outwardly (as in leaving a room or situation) or inwardly to avoid disaster. When we can’t retreat, when we’re backed against the wall so to speak: we crumble. We melt down. We may even get violent. That is when those who do not understand need to accept that they do not and can not understand and just back off. Leave us alone. Let us chill out and recharge. We will be okay if you let us. It is usually a matter of over-stimulation of one or more senses and can be easily remedied by momentary calm (peace & quiet) and dim lighting. The further you press us the more damage you may ultimately do. Get over the idea that you can “fix” everything and realize that some matters require only time, patience and acceptance.

This inability to tolerate certain situations (or even certain people) is not conducive to working in some environments, but there are wonderfully fulfilling positions that we can hold without being triggered into a full-scale meltdown. Many of us are performers, artists, poets and other sorts of writers, inventors or creative people. Despite having difficulty with motor coordination, a number of people within the spectrum are excellent martial artists and dancers. Working with animals is also ideal, because we often identify better with creatures other than homo sapiens. Mankind has messed itself up a lot… name another creature on this planet you can say that about.

I have always loved horses. One of the true examples of evolution on this planet, the horse began as a small, unassuming creature with five toes, which somewhat resembled a dog. Over time this creature, eohippus, adapted and changed according to the environmental pressures surrounding it, to become the powerful and majestic beast we enjoy today.

I mention horses and evolution because I believe that those of us with hypersensitivities may be the precursor of a new type of homo sapiens. The next adaptation. It would be interesting to me to see if there is a subgroup of individuals whose sensitivities lie beyond the usual five senses in the realm of the paranormal… and whether those people could help piece together the next part of the puzzle of life. I read today a speculative article suggesting the opposite: that we are throwbacks to our Neanderthal roots, exhibiting traits that are easily explained by biological bygones.

Whatever be the case, surely mankind cannot continue to race headlong down the garden path expecting to one day arrive at “retirement” and some sort of Nirvana. Can they not see that racing headlong is not wise when there might be a cliff around the bend? Once caught up in a stampede it is impossible not to be swept over the edge along with the rest of the hapless sheep/buffalo/rats take your pick of illustrative creatures, but the result is the same. A serious dead-end of destructive massacre. Perhaps it is a survival instinct, that there are those of us who would rather die than join in that “group mentality.”

No, I don’t seek to join the “rat-race” and share the fate of those who are not willing or able to heed the signs. Nor am I anarchist, although I suppose that would be the closest in ally to my beliefs that exists in politics. I’m anti-society, but my antisocial tendencies all have sound reasoning behind them. They’re a reaction to the vulgar and base manner in which society chooses to conduct itself. If this is society, I have no reason to want any part of it. Society has shunned my kind, and we, in turn, happily shun them back.

As a child, I detested group activities, and still do. No one ever “socialized” me into enjoying them. I think it’s a ridiculous waste of time to force feed unwilling victims your own expectations. It is more important that people learn certain basics, and the rest should be left up to the individual. The educational system has so many gaps in it, it is not surprising that perfectly normal people barely have a clue how to live their lives. The world is dysfunctional for the most part, however few care to admit it. Without their servants, how many of the high-born of this world could cook, clean, do laundry and perform the duties required for childcare, etc.? Precious few, I’ll wager. So why should the middle and lower classes be much different? Necessity? Hardly. One can always find an excuse for that which we are deficient in.

I have ideas which I believe could revolutionize the educational system worldwide, if I ever make the time to finish getting them out of my head and online or on paper, etc. so that others can share my thoughts. I am absolutely convinced that our current educational system needs to be scrapped and restructured more appropriately and efficiently. It is not a question of if, but more a question of when… because it’s glaringly obvious that our country is falling further and further behind the rest of the world. There are good reasons for this.

May God help me as I attempt to set forth the basic premises here, along with my other lucid ramblings. And to present it coherently enough that the world can understand and utilize what it is that He has given me in concepts and clarity. There is so much that must be explained along the way, I pray to maintain focus for a moment or two on this path.

Education begins in the womb, believe it or not. So therefore I believe it is a good idea to start with the pregnant mother. We require premarital counseling in our state (Florida) in order to obtain a marriage license, and pre-divorce counseling in order to dissolve that same marriage license. Is it not conceivable, then, that we should be requiring some pre-parental classes during pregnancy?

Okay, require sounds harsh. But it has been speculated and in some cases proven that babies in the womb can learn languages, musical scores and other things. Therefore, to teach mothers FROM THE EARLIEST SIGN OF PREGNANCY ONWARD deep breathing, relaxation and other means of ensuring a healthy baby, it should be done. Nutrition is all a matter of taste, but it is equally important. The choices we make have long-lasting repercussions.

Currently, there are childbirth classes which begin in the latter stages of pregnancy. However, this may be “too little too late” because in some individuals it is a lifetime of breathing wrong that needs to be corrected and taught sufficiently to become habit. Yes: how you breathe is as important as what you eat, drink or otherwise ingest. I read a study which said that ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of heart attack victims were “chest breathers” which means that they did not practice deep breathing techniques. Tell me – are you breathing deeply or shallowly yourself as you read this? Do YOU know proper breathing techniques?

Breathing should continue to be taught and reinforced at all levels of education. Each day of learning should begin with deep-breathing and proper nutrition. The proper breathing oxygenates our tissues better, including our brains. The lack of proper nutrition can make it virtually impossible to learn, even for the most eager student.

After breathing, stretching and general physical fitness should be the order of the day. A little stretching and light aerobic activity gets the blood flowing and awakens the adrenal glands to release their precious energy-producing elixir into our systems. NOW we are ready to learn, and will soak up the material like a sponge. Oxygenated, nourished and adrenalated, we can focus more clearly on what is presented to us.

But, you may ask, at what age should education begin? At birth, of course. There are a number of things that can be shown to babies right from the start. Of course, this will vary greatly from one private home to another, but if we lived more tribally, as mankind should, that would be less of an issue. However, I digress.

Children should be tested annually, on or near their birthday for convenience sake, to ascertain what their aptitude and direction is. As that becomes more apparent, steps should be taken to initiate the path each individual needs to travel. While this differs from one person to another, there are certain basics we all need to learn, in order to be capable of continuing our own education.

Once a child shows the readiness for reading and writing, that is the time to begin. Not at a specified age, but rather, whenever their test scores indicate they have achieved the appropriate level of focus and interest. Trying to teach a child before they are ready is like trying to teach a pig to sing: it’s a waste of time and annoys the pig. Therefore a child may be three years old or ten years old when they begin their reading, writing, math with figuring, etc. but this does not mean they can’t be taught other important things in the meantime.

Without having learned to read a child can be taught the lifesaving skills of swimming, CPR and first aid. Prior to knowing how to read words and write them, many children excel at learning to read music and play beautifully. Dance, gymnastics and other physical activities all require no reading. But the confidence to be gained from these things will assist the children in their further quest for knowledge later as they DO learn to read, write, do math and build the strong foundation for the rest of their education.

In other words, I believe that traditional educational approaches often “put the cart before the horse” and in doing so, sell the world short. There is a better way, and if you read further I shall continue to expand upon this idea. Ultimately, as the old saying goes, “the proof of the puddin’ is in the eatin’” so until and unless someone, or rather LOTS of someones agree with me and put these methods into practice, no one can know what good will come of it. I’m fully convinced that it would transform and revitalize learning as the world knows it.

Age-centered learning should be thrown out like old bathwater. It is ludicrous to base education upon the age of the child. While it is true that we can expect most children to achieve certain milestones at certain ages, there are studies that have proven that it is detrimental to force a child to read when he is not yet ready. Interestingly enough, when those who are so inclined wait upon the child to express readiness, sometimes they are not really interested in reading until 8-12 years of age. Once they ARE ready, they learn it very quickly and rapidly catch up with classmates who have been reading for years.

The system I propose would center upon using diagnostic testing to find each individual’s proper learning style and needs, then group children with similarities together for instruction REGARDLESS OF THEIR AGES. When in life are we expected to sit with a bunch of people the same age we are? After school: never. That is not to say that we won’t be required to get up, go to work, perform certain duties, and maintain adequate levels of hygiene and so forth… but I am totally against grouping people together based on their age, once they have left diapers behind.

Speaking of hygiene, since there is no guarantee that a child is being properly taught such things at home, it is best to begin at the earliest possible age to teach the basic tenets to schoolchildren. For example, most people do not know that you need to wash your hands for a minimum of 15 seconds to remove bacteria. I see it all the time in public restrooms: ladies walk in, dampen their hands, soap them for about five seconds, rinse, dry and leave. Likewise, it is recommended that we brush our teeth for a minimum of five minutes, covering each surface carefully before rinsing, flossing and a final rinse with a mouthwash.

Daily life skills may seem to be things which parents should teach to their children, but in the hubbub of daily life, quite often these things are not passed along properly, and the result is another generation will pass along their bad habits (or lack of good ones, at least) completely ignorant of the fact that they are missing something.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Letter to Bellsouth

Does this make sense to you? Am I being unreasonably angry or should I send their stuff back and sign up with Vonage?

Hello,

Hopefully you care about your company and whether or not it keeps losing customers... because if certain policies are not changed, you will continue to lose them in record numbers.

I am writing to you today because my husband and I have had an account with you since 1984... but we are considering a change. This is why:
I purchased a telephone from your company, which has a defective handset... but the base unit, which has taken time and effort to program... is fine.
However, in order to replace the defective handset, I'm told I must return the base unit and live without a telephone until the replacement comes.

Is it your policy to inconvenience your customers? I didn't think so, until I was told that I could not just order the replacement first, and THEN return the other... which would inconvenience us LESS (the unnecessary new base unit will STILL have to be programmed, needlessly... as the handsets are interchangeable with these base units)

No. I was told that I must follow this inane procedure. Just because. Because that's the way it is.
Please give me credit for having more intelligence than that. I wouldn't even expect my four-year-old to accept a lame reason like that.
Your policies need to be reviewed and CHANGED.

Not only that, but when I told your supervisor that we could not be inconvenienced like that... without a phone... she told me to go borrow one from a neighbor!

This method only serves the manufacturer... and MAYBE Bellsouth. But in the long run, it will serve neither: as discontented customers leave in droves.
It's bad enough that our DSL service isn't worth HALF what we pay for it... since it only seems to work HALF the time... now you sell me overpriced equipment and inconvenience ME, the CUSTOMER when it's DEFECTIVE? Yeah... that's the way to keep customers. Sure. Whatever.

If this situation can not be resolved to my satisfaction, I will return ALL of the bellsouth equipment and expect a full refund: right before I close our 22 year old account and sign up with someone else. Yes, I will still have to purchase another telephone, but to be quite frank, the volume level on this "premium" phone system is pathetic anyway.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Another letter to the school board

I probably said too much, but I'd rather say too much than not speak up at all. Here is my letter:

Dear Sir,

This is the second year in a row I’ve found the need to write you about the situation regarding our schools.
Maybe it’s just this particular teacher… but the problem is this:

My son Timothy was put in a home economics class. His teacher expected the parents to go out and buy the materials necessary to create a doll, which they is to care for like children.

The teacher was not sympathetic when my son told him that we couldn’t afford the materials for this project, and told him if he can’t do it he fails.
Frankly, my son has a four year old sister and has had plenty of experience caring for babies. He could probably TEACH that segment of the class.
We could have easily given him a baby doll to use…

I am unemployed, and have been since the hurricanes last year, despite having looked for jobs in my field from south Miami to WPB.

We do not qualify for assistance, due to the fact that our 20 year old son lives with us, and his income is considered even though he does not support the family with his income.

There are seven of us in this family, three of which are in school this year and my husband has had fewer hours than usual this summer so it’s a struggle just to pay the basic bills and keep food on the table.
As a matter of fact, my van will be repossessed unless a miracle occurs in short order.

What I’m trying to say is, we are not starving… but we can ill afford extra school supplies, particularly at the outset of the school year when we have just had to purchase supplies for three kids. As it is, they are attending classes in LAST YEAR’S clothes, and my daughter has sewn her own bookbag to avoid the embarrassment of carrying the tattered remains of last year’s. Children whose families qualify for assistance get all of these things through those programs, but we seem to fall through the cracks.

I’m going to attempt to get my son transferred out of that class, but I believe this problem needs to be addressed. In my opinion, if the teacher wanted to assign a project like this, she should have spent her summer collecting the materials for her kids so that those with no money wouldn’t have to be embarrassed or feel like they might as well not even go to school any more. It’s very demoralizing on a kid, you know? There are lists such as Freecycle.org and Miami.craigslist.com where a “wanted” request for the necessary things could have been posted, but she gave the kids only a week to get the materials and complete the project. It was due today.

I’m going to be very upset if my son ever feels the need to lie to me and say he has a sore throat again, over something like this. He shouldn’t be ashamed to go to school because his parents are broke.
Respectfully yours,

Mrs. Lydia Shelley

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Linguistic Profile

I'm through with trying to figure out why this puts so much extra space in...














Your Linguistic Profile:


55% General American English
20% Dixie
15% Yankee
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

Monday, August 14, 2006

Jung Personality Test

INFP - "Questor". High capacity for caring. Emotional face to the world. High sense of honor derived from internal values. 4.4% of total population.
Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs/MBTI)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Astonishing, maybe... but true

Why I believe I have Asperger’s Syndrome,
a form of Autism…

and possibly Dyspraxia as well.

By Lydia Glider-Shelley Monday, August 07, 2006

I began to research adult autism accidentally. I followed a link, describing the humane treatment of livestock, and found information about Temple Grandin. This information did not exactly “sink in” at the time, but I began to think I had symptoms of autism, however I did not realize how many or what it meant if I put it all together.

I took a test on this British website: http://www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=128&a=6730 which said that:

“The sole purpose of this measure is to screen for the presence of indications of autistic spectrum conditions. It is not a diagnostic tool and The National Autistic Society takes no responsibility for any misuse of this measure other than its intended purpose.

This measure was developed through the Greater Manchester Consortium to develop local services for people with autism.

It is intended for use in any setting or service for adults, including Learning Disability, Mental Health, Probation and Employment Services or Further and Higher Education.”

Here are my explanations for the responses I gave to the test questions. Following are further puzzle pieces, added as they come to mind… enlightening now that I have a context to put them in.

1. I seek the company of other people conditionally, for example, if I need an opinion or a partner for musical performance… but seldom just to “hang out” or go much of anywhere.

2. No doubt about it, I like to share my interests, enjoyment and achievements with others. But I don’t like to “toot my own horn,” either.

3. While I often “feel” others’ pain, anger or other emotions, I don’t recognize it for what it is, and it just makes me uncomfortable and sometimes even panicky. I often misread their facial expressions and/or body language, too.

4. I’ve often been told to wait my turn, and have had a bad habit of interrupting. While I’ve learned to control this, it is with great difficulty. Sometimes I feel as though I’m going to burst while awaiting my turn.

5. It’s always been a prevalent speech pattern for me to repeat things, sometimes in a stuttering manner… but also I’ll often rephrase and say the same thing two or three times because I don’t quite know if I’m coming across to the listener.

6. I often repeat what others say to me, to make sure that I understood them clearly.

7. I’m often told to speak more quietly, that I tend to be inappropriately loud… or the opposite, that I’m not enunciating well enough and speak as though I’ve got rocks in my mouth.

8. I have often used words which mean something to me but others do not comprehend my meaning… sometimes because their vocabulary is not as extensive as mine, other times because it’s a word I made up, but which seems to work. For example, when talking about a black neighborhood, I’ll say “The Hood” but not everyone understands the reference so it often draws puzzled looks.

9. I said no to this one because of its ambiguous wording, but I do have repetitive physical habits that drive me mad, and which I would love to be free of. They are: a) picking at my head (scabs) until it bleeds, b) chewing my fingers until they bleed and c) chewing the inside of my cheeks ‘til they hurt… and this last habit has caused me to push on my face so often and so much that I’ve developed unattractive permanent lines in my lips.

10. My mother tried hard to break my intense attachment to objects early on, but I do remember having a habit of sniffing a diaper pad – and later the edges of bedspreads – while “clicking” my tongue. (I can demonstrate…) I still wake up sometimes and catch myself doing this with the edge of a pillowcase in my sleep.

11. I have problems filtering background noises if there are too many. For example, if the television AND radio are both on, and someone speaks to me, I can’t understand them nor process any thoughts. I “short-circuit” and must leave the room or turn off one of the audio sources. I also have great difficulty functioning within any kind of group… due to the fact that when there are several people speaking, it sets me off.

If the total score exceeds 4, particularly if it includes a score of 2 for questions 7 and/or 9, further assessment of whether the person has autism is necessary. My score was 12, and I had a 2 on question 7.

There are so many things that add up together and make me sure that this is why I’ve had the sort of problems I have, it’s hardly likely to be coincidental. Witness:

All of my life I’ve had digestive troubles, IBS as a child and young adult and gallstones now. I also have a swallowing problem that tends to be more prevalent when I’m upset.

From the earliest age, I never felt like I fit in or belonged anywhere. I always had an innate sense of “wrongness” although I had no idea what to do with that feeling, so naturally I always have felt uncomfortable around most people, especially larger groups.

As a child, I did anything I could to avoid “recess” where I was expected to mix & mingle with my peers, who tended to give me wide berth as they saw me as crazy. When given the chance, they taunted and teased me, saying “Lydia, pity ya” among other things. (The saddest part is that I didn’t “get it” and understand what they’d been saying all those years ago until just recently) I had no desire to expose myself to constant rejection from them… so I tried to find ways to avoid going outside with the other kids: taking my time and eating my lunch VERY slowly, asking for assignments from various people such as painting a barrel for the gymnasium, re-shelving books for the librarian, etc.

I’ve grown better at keeping my thoughts to myself, but for most of my life I stunned people by blurting out whatever was on my mind, regardless of consequence. In fact, at times I delighted in the astonished reactions my comments drew from people. This tendency sprang up in places such as church, the classroom and other places where it was not appropriate to just “say something” as well as in more informal situations.

While I’m very good at striking up conversation with strangers, I have a problem with knowing when to cut it off and end the conversation. This makes me feel incredibly awkward in social situations, even one-on-one.

Sometimes I talk on and on about something and don’t notice the other person is not the least bit interested in what I’m saying until they yawn or start looking desperate to get away from me… then I’m terribly embarrassed for having rambled on like that.

I quite often don’t “get it” when someone is teasing me or joking with me… taking them quite literally. The reverse is true as well: often my jokes don’t seem funny to anyone but me. In fact, quite often people don’t follow what I’m trying to say at all.

Speaking of awkward, I’ve always been clumsy… and often it’s because I just don’t “notice” that there’s something there to stumble over or run into. It does, however, relate to my inability to properly judge spatial distance. I always thought this was a quirk of my eyesight-related problems, but since it seemed to go beyond what that could explain, it’s a relief to have a reason for it. Perhaps this is why I never enjoyed games involving balls.

I quit playing all games some time during my 20’s. I don’t know if it’s related to this condition or not, but I don’t enjoy playing most games at all. If I am persuaded to play a game, however, it must be one that involves words and vocabulary. (I kinda like “Mad Libs” – does that qualify as a game?)

Sometimes I find it difficult to make eye contact, and people can misunderstand, thinking I am shifty or dishonest. I’ve often blamed it on my eyes, because when I don’t wear my glasses, my left eye will cross if I concentrate too much… but I find myself avoiding eye contact even when I DO have my glasses on. This is something I have tried to work on, with little success. It’s often made me feel inferior.

I’ve had a tendency toward Obsessive-Compulsive sorts of behavior, such as focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all else. This can be temporarily beneficial, but usually over time it turns out to be problematic.

I never have gotten into a proper rhythm with hygiene, housekeeping, meal preparation, etc. and for years have blamed this on my poor husband’s night shift schedule, but it’s really not his fault. It’s all me.

I have always wanted to be a spontaneous sort of person, but find it hard to just go do something “at the drop of a hat” so to speak, without prior warning and preparation. Until just recently, I never could quite grasp how long it should take me to prepare for things, which led to a lot of anxiety surrounding appointments and other obligations which require me to be somewhere at a specific date and time. I still struggle with time and how many things I can accomplish in a given time period, etc. such as cooking all the elements of a meal and having them ready to put on the table at the same time.

I get very upset if my belongings are moved or missing. But since I’m a packrat, and also busy, my “things” pile up and my family walks on eggshells, afraid that if they move any of it, I’ll freak out: and I will. I’m learning to be more accepting of changes, but still find massive changes to be extremely stressful. (Like if someone else is cleaning my house from top to bottom… although I am grateful for the help, I’m extremely anxious while they’re doing it)

Conversely, I detest routine and schedules… which is a shame, because all of my reading thus far regarding ASD and AS suggests that what I need MOST is to create and stick to a schedule somehow. Hopefully therapy will help me to do this.

I suffer from terrible claustrophobia, and can’t stand to be stuck in a crowd, particularly indoors. For some reason, I can tolerate elevators okay, but being in a small crowded room to work for more than a few short minutes is out of the question.

Another problem I have is “texture issues” with food, which is why I have an aversion to most fruit and many other foods. My mother used to just tell me I was peculiar. She’d make me stay at the table and finish what was served to me, even when I protested that it gagged me.

Although I prefer being barefoot, I wear socks to bed, especially when the temperature is my preferred 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I like my socks to be snug, and it bothers me if they slip down so that there’s loose space beyond my toes.

To a neurotypical person, all of the above MIGHT seem coincidental. But I’ll wager that there’s not a single Autie or Aspie out there who reads this that won’t say “welcome home.”