A Way To Go
Ask me how I am doing as an autist in this world and I will say “very well for where I started.” Most like me never make it into the world. Their physical limitations keep them locked in mind. How strange it is people judge a persons mentality based upon physical systems which may or may not operate properly and which have nothing to do with mentality.
Being locked in mind is both a blessing and a curse. It protects equally from what it denies. For those like me entering the world is like choosing suicide over and over again. Outside becomes a formless existence. To be requires a sense of form. Form is purely physical. My form is intermittent at best now. My mind is my anchor. It holds me to the world based on the idea of shedding light and understanding, of bringing to form those who are stuck in mind, of giving them form in other people’s minds. They are real then, outside themselves in another way. To see them as a child will be to rescue them, not through the torture of ABA, but through the therapies that may actually help to free their physical bodies. Aqua therapy is what delivered me from my physical abyss. It gave form where there previously was none. It soothed me into being, enhanced my sense of self. At first it overwhelmed me to feel my existence. Then it frightened me to lose the feeling. It evaporated with the water. I would overload at the thought of leaving the pool; into giddiness I would descend, back into mind so as not to feel the loss. Over time I learned to face the loss. Over time I even felt my body stay a bit. Over time my body started to turn itself on without the water. It is where I am now. So I am very well from where I started even if I have a way to go.
Sheer Heaven (Article for the Univ of Scranton Lahey Newspaper)
The University has a program that lets me take swimming as occupational therapy. I’d like to let you know what that means to me. I am very smart, but you would not know to look at me. My physical appearance is normal, but I have a lot of behaviors that make me appear retarded. Motor movement issues overwhelm my being. To move is to look all spastic and impulsive. I can not kick and move my arms at the same time in the pool. I can not swim as a normal stroke yet. My limbs can’t seem to coordinate and I can not keep track of my arms and legs at the same time.
It was very scary in water at first. I have trouble knowing “where I am in space” they call it. In the water I didn’t know which way was up when under it. Nothing is more frightening than swimming in the wrong direction to air. But amazing things are happening. I am learning to feel my body as itself in water. It is a wonderful feeling to finally know yourself as a separate being. It is a wonderful learning experience. It yields major gains in movement. To move as an entity alone is a blessing. To move is a major goal for me – a major, potentially life changing goal for me. You, as normal, do not appreciate what an Autist's body can not do. When young, I could not move sometimes. “Frozen in space” is what I call it. I could not tell where I was or where I was going. Just try to touch your nose with no idea of where your face is. Try to move an object with no idea what direction you are moving in. It makes you look and feel stupid. Swimming is far more than just swimming for me. It lets me develop my motor awareness and skills in a very fun way.
My whole childhood has been about working to overcome my issues. There has been precious little fun in it. To get so valuable a lesson in a fun package is heaven itself for me. That is what swimming is – sheer heaven.