Thoughts and illustrations on living on the autism spectrum.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

That Guy You Know

That guy you know, we all know someone like him.

He’s a loner, they say. He keeps to himself.

He's a bit odd and remote, with a very flat affect.

Intelligent, but nervous and fidgety. Bright, but painfully awkward. 

He has “episodes” that involve total withdrawal from whatever he’s supposed to be doing.

Somebody heard he has a disorder, and maybe it is Asperger’s syndrome. 

You don’t know who his friends are. He scares you a little, doesn’t he?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tiny Island

Today is the 3rd Annual Autistics Speaking Day. It also marks my third year of writing about autism. I have much to be thankful for this past year: the chance to create an animated short, to travel with the Juniper Hill crew, and to publish my second book. I am glad many of you continue to come here for laughs and insight. But often, when living with autism, there are no laughs or insight. The reality is that my daily life remains dominated by my inability to understand and coexist with other people.

I prefer to feel in control of my environment, and other people introduce chaos into it. They disrupt my equilibrium. They pop in and out, as it meets their needs and not mine. They are too fast, and too loud. Other autistic people are no easier for me to deal with than NT's. People irritate me. Or perhaps I irritate myself through my own discomfort and inability to articulate myself. Regardless, I find I deal best with others at a safe distance.

Most of my time is spent at the office or at home. I’m good at my job, and autism is a big reason for that. My work requires perfect accuracy, and perfection is what I deliver. I have a purpose in the workplace. I’ve learned the structure and I excel within it. It’s a foreign tongue sometimes, one that speaks with Important Words, like pursuant, and execute, and the delta, but I’ve become conversant in the language. I assimilate to ensure my survival.

Autistic people have no choice but to assimilate. Yet, we also desire to withdraw to our comfort zone, where we feel in control. This internal conflict threatens to drive us out of our minds, as Adam Bailey describes in a piece called Islands.
Our islands are awesome, but only to us. An island cannot simply fit into a school or workplace setting. Most others cannot feel comfortable on our islands, because it is so odd there. We cannot feel comfortable leaving our islands for very long, because it is so odd outside them.

It takes a perfect balance all the time in order to get by, and as soon as we stop working as hard, things get really difficult really quick.
Maybe in the workplace, assimilation is easier, because I have a clearly defined role. Maybe those of you who share a household also find it a comfortable fit, within easily definable parameters. But outside of familiar environments, there are simply too many unknowns. At times, sanity demands avoiding such uncertainty.

Leo Kottke sings in his song, “Tiny Island,”
I wish I had a tiny island floating in the sea.
Palm trees sway, don't get in the way, it's a tropical ease.
And everywhere that I keep my silence, no sound returns to me.
Just endless waves at the end of our days, the sighing of the seas.
Given the option, I believe I would cast off the civilized life for my own tiny island. I find solitude the most comfortable state, and increasingly, my lifestyle leaves no room for others.

I’ve grown less hopeful about autism acceptance by the greater community. I know the world will not change for me. So I have fewer laughs and insights to share with you in this space. A few successes doesn't make it easier to navigate a daily existence that drifts from mundane to chaotic. As Adam says, this is how I am, the real-life me. Man wasn’t meant to live on his own tiny island. So why does it seem so enticing?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Maledicam de Spectro

In the chill of the night, as dark as can be, 
A haunted spirit wells up within me...
When that ol’ spotlight shines a little too bright,
When my sensory supper plate overflows with weight,
Spooks a-poppin’! In my face, no stoppin’.
And I feel I begin to change...

My fingers, they twitch. My speech, it garbles. My frenzied brain ‘bout to lose its marbles.
Can’t hide my confusion, gotta let out a growl,
What had been invisible, now announced with a howl!

Behold the cacodemon! Raw exposed nerves,
Provoked by a world that intrudes and swerves. 
I must scream, must jabber, must flap, must curse!
Must throw, must blather, must sputter, and worse!
And all I encounter will flee with fright,
Till I’ve time to recover, like daybreak from night.
So beware overwhelming my atypical mind,
Lest I flip like a switch from Jekyll to Hyde.

Though my curse brings me secret delight, you see:
For one fleeting moment, ‘tis they who fear me!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Making of "We’re Invited to a Party"

By now, I hope you've all watched the Flummox & Friends pilot! If not, then go see it here. Today, we'll go behind the scenes of how my animated short got made. 

I was approached by Executive Producer Christa Dahlstrom around the end of last year about being involved, and I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of it. First, I needed to write a script. The idea came from the theme of the episode, which is a party. I decided to use Fuzzy and Dinky Doughnuts, and simply show two very different reactions to receiving a party invitation. 

The most challenging part was the ending. I had to answer the question, what actually works in overcoming a child’s resistance once they’ve put their foot down? This was where I had to do research. I ended up going to message boards to hear how actual parents had dealt with such a situation successfully. The strategies I found made it into the script. So when Dinky understands Fuzzy is uncomfortable about the party, he can first tell him, "That's okay." Then, he can offer him reasons for going without any pressure, so Fuzzy ultimately agrees to go.

After the script was approved, the next step was the drawings. Having never done animation before, I didn’t know how many drawings were needed, so I just did as many as I thought were necessary to show the level of detail. This ended up being 50 drawings. You can see some of them here, including a few that didn't make the final cut!

Around the same time, we started to talk about voices. I told Christa I had a strong interest in doing the voice of Fuzzy, since some of my favorite cartoons are voiced by their creators. It wasn't clear how we might do this, with our being on two different coasts. However, Christa found a way to make it happen! As with many other aspects of this project, she understood I had a vision for the final product and allowed me to follow that, for which I am very grateful.

So what we did was record my part in a studio local to me, and actor Perry Whittle recorded Dinky's part in California. I had also tape-recorded a “scratch track” with a friend reading Dinky’s part to demonstrate how it should sound. Some amusing discussions arose as we worked on the final takes. At one point I was giving very specific directions on the pronunciation of “Wooff.” It was not to be an actual dog bark, but a more literal, John Elder Robinson-esque utterance. That was a detail we had to get right.

From there, the drawings and audio went to animator Jed Bell to morph into action using Adobe After Effects. We went through a couple rounds of reviews to iron out the details like timing. Then sound effects were added, and we had our finished cartoon. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. 

People have asked what it’s like to see my characters animated. Keep in mind that Fuzzy and Dinky go back over 25 years to notebook paper doodles. (Have you read their origins? If not check them out here.) So for people to see them on the screen is mind-blowing, all the more so in the context of an important show like "Flummox and Friends."

Is there the possibility of more cartoons? I'd love to see "Flummox" get picked up and seen widely, and if so, I absolutely hope to do more animated shorts. The success of Flummox & Friends really depends on all of you demonstrating a demand. So if you want to see more, take this survey to share your feedback with the producers, and share the pilot with everyone you know. The first time was certainly a learning process, so given the opportunity, there's the potential for many more adventures of Fuzzy and friends!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012


P.S. - Flummox and Friends is coming Monday, September 17th. Visit to watch the pilot for free. You can watch it online, or download a copy to watch anytime on your computer or iPad! 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Waiting Period

PS - Flummox and Friends is coming in just a few weeks! This offbeat, live-action comedy is the first TV show for kids with autism or other social or emotional struggles to promote acceptance, rather than expectations to change. The pilot episode includes a Dude, I'm An Aspie short! More details soon. Until then, enjoy this teaser.