More thoughts on Church and other things

When I wrote my first post on this blog I was very surprised by how many people saw it, and how much positive response there was. Due to the responses I got, I am considering taking this blog in more of a religious direction than I was originally planning.

I want to clarify some things from my first blog post. I am not constantly miserable in church, every single week. The degree of my sensory issues varies. A few years ago my experience sometimes, but not always resembled a blog post entitled “When Church Hurts”. I was embarrassed that as a teenager, a parent often had to take me outside of church while I was having a meltdown, as if I were a child. Even though I was told I was only having sensory problems and not misbehaving, there was no way my mind could absorb that. I felt like a failure.

But those feelings, even then, were more on and off than anything else. Momemts of pain and struggle are interspersed with joy. Two days ago I went to Vespers and Confession Saturday night, and yesterday morning I went to Liturgy. I have an as-of-yet undiagnosed neurological condition which sometimes causes my arms to twitch and jerk around, and makes me fall down or have difficulty walking. I am thankful for the acceptance of my parish. We have a man with Down syndrome who serves in the altar and no one has ever said anything unkind to me in church about my twitching or autism. I enjoy prayer and there are moments when the sound of the choir chanting feels like audio stimming, or the words strike a chord in the depth of my soul. I am grateful for the Orthodox Church and how far it has brought me.

Book Review: I Love Being My Own Autistic Self by Landon Bryce

I have been thinking that if I had a blog, I would like to do book reviews – particularly of books about autism or with an autistic character. Since I have a book coming in the mail which I will *probably* review after I read, I thought I would take the time now to review a book I bought a couple months ago.

I Love Being My Own Autistic Self is a sort of cartoon/comic book. Technically, on the actual book underneath the title it says “A thAutoons Book by Landon Bryce”. Landon Bryce does (or did; I don’t know if he still posts) a blog called thAutcast. A few years ago I followed that site on Facebook and he often posted these little cartoons. I really don’t think that blog exists anymore, but at least there is the book!

The words in this book are very simple and the pictures are fun and creative, involving cartoon people with blue, purple, green and yellow skin and no hair. It basically explains autism, both the good and bad parts, and gives a basic introduction to person-first vs. identity-first language, autism acceptance, and how some sorts of autism awareness campaigns are harmful to autistic people. The book has a total of three autistic characters, one of whom is non-verbal, which is good because it helps guard against the idea that all autistic people are the same. There is also a neurotypical friend and a neurotypical sister who sometimes don’t understand everything, as well as a doctor who is trying to find a cure for autism (and being bigoted towards autistic people in the process).

I think this book is a good super-basic introduction to autism for all ages. It would be appropriate for an autistic child, I think, or even a neurotypical child to help understand their autistic sibling better. An adult would probably be able to read it in one sitting (or at least that is true for me!). When I first got it I was a tiny bit disappointed that it was so short. But it is a good book. I would give it five stars. If you would like to buy a copy, here is the link.

Church Survival Kit

So, today is Sunday and this morning I went to church. Although I usually enjoy going to church it can pose some difficulties for an autistic person. Specifically, in my Orthodox Christian faith the church has a lot of loud singing, bells on the censors, microphones and more. It is designed to be a multi-sensory experience, and is very nice, but can become overwhelming very easily. Sometimes I don’t feel well enough to go to every single service, but I seem to have been going more lately. I thought I would share some ways I have figured out to cope without having a meltdown in church, in the hopes that it would help other autistic people who are religious whether they are Orthodox or Christian or not.

Lately I have been carrying a fanny pack with me wherever I go. It is part of a strategy to have the things I need (stim toys, anti-anxiety essential oil remedies) with me wherever I go in order not to hit myself on the head (after I gave myself a concussion I realized I need to break that habit!) Currently I have in the pack: my asthma inhaler, a hairy Tangle toy (my favorite Tangle so far; it has rubber hair like a Koosh ball), a DNA ball (A stretchy, squishy clear ball with a bunch of squishy colored balls inside) and the gel stress ball from Stimtastic, (I wanted to post a link to where you could buy one, but they appear to not sell it anymore or else they are sold out.) and some earplugs meant for swimming which also block out noise pretty well. In  the other pocket I have chapstick and a bunch of different little rollerball bottles with different aromatherapy blends. One is for anxiety, another supposedly helps with sensory issues and meltdowns, etc.

In addition to the fanny pack I sometimes bring noise-blocking headphones in my purse. They are kind of big and bulky, but luckily I have a big purse. I use them because they are easier to use than the earplugs a lot of the time, even though sometimes they hurt if I use them too long. Today I was wearing a knit hat and I pulled it over my ears before putting the headphones on. This made them hurt less and seemed to block out noise better. For the most part I really like the way the hat feels. I found it at Goodwill and it has colored stripes on it, and fits quite snugly.

I also usually try to make sure I am wearing a chewable necklace which I have from Stimtastic. The one I have is the chewable chunky bead necklace, in the rainbow and cool spectrum. I wear the rainbow one more often; it is my favorite.

When I have all these things I am sure I look rather odd in church, but I have never heard anyone say anything rude about it. Probably everyone is used to me by now. I hope that if you are autistic and go to church or other religious event this might help you, or if you have an autistic child in the same situation. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments and I will try to get back to you!