By Angel Mindretrofit
Today I am participating in the Expressions of PosAutivity, I was not sure if I was going to be able to express what I had hoped to … I am still not sure I did, but I do believe I share my positive experiences with expression and how important it is to not only be flexible with other’s ways of expression, but for ourselves as well.
I had words,
but could not speak
my eyes misled,
my smile inappropriate,
this body danced,
it pounced and pranced — I spoke
I had many words without a useful mouth,
lips tied; double knotted, invisible string
eyes blinked immeasurable worlds
ears that sang colors for no one to feel
my hands stroked brushes in minglings,
emotions without voice — I spoke
my own personal meltdowns,
shutdowns raging in a stoic face,
masked and cradled in between scratching hands,
nails penetrating flesh,
scars coated in silenced words,
erupting to speak out,
words aggressively broke free,
these fingers glided letters in form — I spoke
I shared a poem first because many times, it is my only way I can express myself. With poetry, I find that words flow out easily – they are the parts of me that are stirring, but I have no understanding about them. I can write out in bursts of words, then it can take hours, days, weeks, and yes, even years to finally grasp what my mind and/or body were trying to tell me. When the words come, in that moment I feel deeply connected to myself and others who may be in my thoughts. I may not have the fullness of why, but I do know that in that moment the expression makes perfect sense and will manifest answers or connections to other things at some point in time — that brings me peace and comfort.
I think that the Autism Positivity flashblog has been an incredible source of enlightenment.
I personally have gained new insights about how people communicate and express themselves since it started. As I have experienced the various ways of expression within our Autism Community in general over the years, it has given me insights into my children, my husband, and myself. Reading from so many perspectives and personal journeys has opened my mind and heart even more each time people share. I have enjoyed reading the posts shared in our community from Autism Positivity and find such a comfort when reading the posts. This year, I am very excited to read what others have to share about expression and more from their unique points of view.
As I thought about the inspiration, my heart flowed with what I have been experiencing over the last few months.
I have been more observant and mindful of the different ways that people communicate. I have been studying how to read facial expressions, the environmental and emotional reasons for their responses, the purposes and motives for communicating, and gaining new understandings about how communication is expressed in such vast ways. I had an understanding of all of this, but I had not made many connections nor did I fully comprehend how powerful it was to accept, motivate, cultivate, and encourage each person’s means of expression. There is so much that affects the way we communicate. As an Autistic adult, I still struggle with finding ways to communicate, but in the years since blogging and creating/sharing my poetry blog, I continue to press through.
The more that I have been flexible with finding ways of expression for myself, the stronger my identity and voice has become.
As a child into adulthood, one means of communication was dance. However, I did not understand this and I know that others did not either. In the midst of feeling overwhelmed, feeling a meltdown or shutdown coming, I would turn on music and flow with the words and/or tune. I had no idea that I could actually use this to communicate to others. I only used it as a means to “get out” all of the emotions that felt trapped within my mind and body. Several years ago, I allowed myself to try new ways of expressing myself through art of various kinds. I never thought I could paint or draw anything — I did not allow myself to try because I had been labeled non-artistic based on my art grades in elementary school and from the discouragement of my teacher.
My form of expressing art was not traditional.
Since I learned to write as a child, I found that it was what came naturally to me and it was something that I could keep hidden from everyone. Though the physical act of handwriting hurt and still does (I have dysgraphia), it was something that I HAD to do. The pain was worth it to write out all of the things, worlds, ideas, thoughts, that I had in my mind. I ached to share, but I did not receive positive feedback. I was even told by loved ones that what I shared did not make sense to them or it wasn’t their thing. That is discouraging to hear, but it did not stop me from writing or creating poetry. After so many years of hiding my forms of expression, I decided to write openly to an invisible audience without any idea what would happen.
For me, there were several reasons for beginning my blog.
If I were to narrow it down to the most simplistic reason though it would be that I was seeking an outlet for expression. I was seeking some way to communicate and connect to others and myself. I longed to be heard, but my voice had been trapped for so long that it was a struggle to find my words through any means. I had long given up sharing the most hidden parts of my mind, feelings, thoughts, and views. I had learned to mimic and mask, though I have always been an outspoken person for others. That is one reason why David was so surprised by many of the things I wrote in the past, I was so good at not being me that for him to read my inner workings was a little bit of a shock — for the good, but it took him time to process. However, for me I felt I had no way to share without being corrected, judged, condemned, misunderstood, or worse yet not being heard, thus reiterating my fears and pains of feeling invisible.
I wanted to share about my journey and share about our Autistic life, but what transpired was more than, I could have ever imagined.
Thanks to our Autism journey, I have found many answers to my past. After Daniel receiving his ASD diagnosis, I chose a path of working toward helping him in whatever ways were best for him. I had no idea that seeking answers and helps for him would also help me. Through my parenting journey, I realized how important it is to me that my kids all have a way of communication so they can share what they feel and what they think with us and the world. I did not know that an Autism diagnosis would lead me to finding my voice (Aspergers/Autism Has Given Me a Voice) that I had long tried to suffocate in order to make it through another day, nor did I realize how many people had stifled me causing me to feel as though my way of communication was wrong or did not matter.
While Daniel was completely nonverbal, his main source of communication was a way of aggression.
He had no other way of expressing himself. He was not punished or forced into other responses. I am not saying that was or is an easy task, but I feel as a parent I can control my responses and be more understanding, so it is my responsibility to do what it takes to help him. Some may not see this, but for me I feel that exercise/working out is a way to express emotions or things stuck inside me, such as frustrations and anxieties that I cannot find words for, those I try to store them up in an imaginary box. I save them for the Saturdays at my Kravfit class then, I put on my boxing gloves, punch and kick it all out. I am usually screaming and yelling too as it is an appropriate environment to do it. So I knew Daniel was telling me something when he was physically aggressive.
However, it took many guesses and long periods of time to figure it out.
It was frustrating for both of us. I will be honest we still have these days. By seeking ways to help him express himself, such as creating books all about his likes, dislikes, days, events, and adding social stories, he gradually learned more ways to express himself. He has since been able to express himself more so through verbal communication and at times he will attempt art, but throughout his life one of his main forms of expression has been through music. He has always made a beat – thumping, tapping, pounding, whatever he could use to make a rhythm. It took a while to figure out, but what I recently discovered is that many times Daniel is expressing his mood through beats or rhythm.
Was he telling me these things when he was nonverbal?
I would say most likely and I missed it. I do not see this as a lost opportunity, but as a new positive that can manifest even more ways for Daniel to express himself. I wish I had known at the time, but I did not. Now that I do know it opens up new thoughts, ideas, and possibilities to explore. Music helped him learn words when he struggled with them in the conventional ways. Music is helping now in music therapy – he is gaining more confidence in his own thoughts and voicing them. We hope that on those days when he loses his words that using the keyboard or iPad to share his expressions will give him the outlet he needs to express himself. He could find that typing out his words is much better for him.
He may use that as his main means of communication — we are flexible with that.
If that will work best for him, so be it. It works best for me! Learning more about how others communicate has helped to bring healing to my marriage and to our relationship. Since David has become more flexible, he has gained more understanding in how to communicate with the kids and I. It has opened up a relationship between he and Daniel that is amazing to witness. David has his own ways that seem foreign to me and I to him, but being open and willing to learn has allowed us to find ways to communicate better, clearer, and with more empathy. Ariel expresses herself through drawings. She tends to shut down or if she is deep in thought, I find her drawing out elaborate illustrations and pictures of her thoughts.
Joshua builds his expressions or he uses objects like tape, metal items, cuts up paper, and empty boxes to share his thoughts, ideas, or feelings.
I see this in our Autism community as well. We all have our own voice, our ways of expressing ourselves, our individual creative outlets that are a spectrum of greatness. Not everyone can communicate or has found their way to communicate in our community. Some of our children do not have a way to express themselves and even our adults who are so quickly forgotten. As a community, it is vital that we are open to flexible ways of expression. We need to be on the cusp of seeking out inventive ways to make it possible for those who cannot speak traditionally to discover ways to express themselves and share. I believe the future does hold a lot of promise for the generations to come, but we also need to be focused on the here and now.
For the parents who long to know what their child wants, needs, and the thoughts that they have to share.
For the Autistics now who desperately want to be heard and understood, we need to be mindful and observant of what responses are truly speaking instead of assuming or expecting everyone to express themselves in the same ways. I am not sure what to look for, but being in such a multiplex of ideas, expression, perspectives, and talent has broadened my awareness and understanding of my own ways of communication. It has given me an appreciation for how and why people express themselves the way they do. It fuels my desire to want to see everyone find their own way of expression and feel accepted for it. I see such value and importance in being flexible because it could be the key to helping someone who felt as though they would never be heard or overcome with feeling invisible the opportunity to express themselves and let their communication be loud.
Who knows what sort of wonderful ideas, thoughts, person we could be missing out on simply because we have not been flexible and accepting of their way of expression.