Normal Is Overrated

Musings and meanderings on the autistic spectrum

May 4, 2011

Ability: Not as simple as you think

A confession to make: I still have trouble with a lot of basic daily living activities.

No, it’s not that I can’t do them. I’ve proven without a doubt that I can, having lived in my own apartment for several years. It’s just that they’re significantly more stressful and overwhelming than they are for your average neurotypical person.

Take getting groceries, for instance. For most people, the steps are basically: Drive to the grocery store. Take as long as you need to get groceries. Get them. Cart them back out to the car. Drive home, and get them back out.

For me, it’s more like: Take sufficient downtime to make sure that I can process things when I actually get to the grocery store. Wait for bus. Keep waiting, because it’s invariably running late. Catch bus when it arrives. Hurry to get groceries before the next bus arrives, as there’s only one per hour, and the routes in either direction are staggered. Also hurry because the fluorescent lights and noises are overloading. Buy the groceries, making sure not to buy more than you can carry in one trip. Keep waiting at the bus stop, because it’s invariably running late in that direction as well. Ride the bus back, then cross the street back to the apartment with a bunch of heavy bags in tow.

Is it any surprise I need even more downtime after all that?

Similar issues hold for things like cleaning sinks, between the smell of the cleaning solution and tactile issues (I’ve found that I can’t clean at all without wearing gloves, and even then, stuff often ends up getting under the gloves). Or cooking—I need so much downtime to prepare, and need such a clear head to actually do the cooking, that after a busy day, I’d rather just microwave, eat something raw, or go out to eat. And let’s not even get started on laundry—washing and drying isn’t much of an issue, but I usually just leave my clothes wrinkly because ironing is so stressful, especially with my coordination problems.

In short: because it takes me so long to handle these daily living activities, and because they’re so stressful as to require more downtime, I end up getting less actual work done as a result. And my life would be greatly eased by services or accommodations to make these activities less stressful.

But that’s exactly the problem: that I can do these things. Assuming I even could get services to help out with such issues (which is already in question, since I’m over 21, “high-functioning”, and have an above-average IQ—but that’s something for another blog post entirely), the request might still be denied, since I’m obviously able to do the things I’m asking for help for. Completely ignoring, of course, how much more difficult they are for me than for an average non-autistic person—clearly I can do them, so I don’t need even the slightest bit of help, right?

(Oh, yeah, and in further irony, accessing a lot of these support services in the first place requires making a phone call. Yeah, immediate barrier right there for some people with disabilities, myself included!)

This is closely related to what several bloggers observed on Blogging Against Disablism Day, including Jennifer Fitz and Anne at The Trick Is To Keep Reading. The whole support system is designed with the assumption that because you can do something, you’re consistently able to do it, and it’s no harder for you than for anyone else who can do it. And if you reveal that you need support for something, but it’s later discovered that you can do it—no matter what difficulty is involved!—you’ll end up being called a faker.

(I actually have a bit of personal experience with this phenomenon myself. I can’t hear on the phone very well, but can communicate face-to-face without much issue because the sound is clearer and because I can fall back on reading lips. Suffice it to say: people get very confused when someone who called them via TTY relay can carry on a face-to-face conversation perfectly fine.)

And so, despite the fact that such services would make my life significantly easier and less stressful? I’m left to basically handle these things on my own. Yes, I can get help from friends and family—but that hardly solves the issue when they may not always be around to help. This, too, is an issue I’ve encountered many times; on several occasions, I’ve made plans with a friend to run errands together, which ended up not coming to fruition due to illness or schedule conflicts. (And of course, by the time I’ve found this out, there are often no more buses I can catch to run those errands.)

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 6:05 pm

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