So this author has spent the past two years working with developmentally disabled individuals in order to empower them to establish a sense of independence.
Down Syndrome (DS)
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Unknowns (there’s a point, don’t worry)
Asperger Syndrome (AS)
In that order.
Now granted most disabilities rest somewhere on a scale, so the author’s clients are not to be representations of the disability associated with each. Examples – nothing more and nothing less.
Each client varied in age and overall functionality, so no two experiences were the same.
I.e. this author has typically put his nose the the grindstone to learn, and these life experiences were no different.
It’s been a wild ride, although the work has been highly rewarding for this author.
Well let’s venture back in time…
DS was the author’s first and favorite client to work alongside. Why? Well both were drawn to Mother Nature’s beauty since they typically made a B-line for the animal book section in the local library. Not to mention the fact that Disney’s Nature films were a hit on the weekends.
Other times were spent wading through the lazy river before basking in the Jacuzzi at a gym in town. All before hitting up the nearest Taco Bell to reward themselves. Well DS mostly enjoyed the latter, but dinner nights were definitely a shared favorite.
Needless to say, the two were like peas in a pod. However, there were times DS triggered the author in question. How so? Well DS wasn’t always the most coordinated, and there were times he would do something just because he could. (sound familiar?)
This in turn would cause the author to experience mini-meltdowns in the form of emotional flashbacks, or he would find himself locked in a bare-knuckles battle with his inner/outer critics.
For those who don’t know, think of it like that cringe feeling you get – just amplified 1000x with the added benefit of having an inner dialogue telling you how pathetically worthless you are. Or how the offending party needs to be punished for falling short of perfected expectations.
But there was an even bigger problem the author faced – the fact he couldn’t show his discomfort without sacrificing his job security. So the author had to learn how to deal with his internal reactions while preventing his cheese from falling too far off his cracker.
Food would cake dishes as they fell in the sink without a second thought as to how another would be entrusted to clean the stains that coated them. Clean dishes may have fallen on the floor, but that didn’t stop them from accompanying the ones resting in the proper drawer.
Questionable stains would appear across the fabric of the car’s seats, while wonderful smells accompanied them. While visions of unwashed hands handling food really hit the nail on the head…
DS would also ask the author what he wanted to drink for dinner nights, and the typical response was water with no ice, please and thank you. Although, the author would always find his glass filled with ice – but he figured DS was just running that good ‘ole autopilot considering he normally added ice to his drink of choice.
That is until it kept happening. In fact, DS kept putting ice in that drink even though the author asked him not to. Eventually the author put his foot down and retrieved his own ice-less water. After all, room temperature water is easier for the body to absorb – both practical and preferred!
DS got really excited when the author purchased a new vehicle since this one had a CD player. Overtime, the author acquired tracks to share with his partner in crime. They enjoyed listening to the tunes, although DS really took a liking to The Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.
How so? Well he resorted to swapping whatever played for his favorite CD – Every. Single. Time. This really drove the author nuts (pun intended) because DS would typically ignore the reasonable request of allowing the author to enjoy one last song before making the undesired transition. DS would then bellow a laugh of victory. A triumph won over the individual who claimed to own the CDs and the sound system that played them.
The author finally put his foot down and gave the ultimatum we can either share music by swapping the tunes at designated times, or I can just take the CDs out and we’ll listen to whatever I happen to bring.
The author wasn’t about to play because his inner children were starting to develop boundaries. But the radio still worked, right? Shhh, that doesn’t matter.
Long story short – everything worked out. Boundaries were established, and space was shared without further issue. In fact, the author healed a TON during this time because he grew to silence the critics.
The inner was taken care of by meditating regularly to ensure the author’s inner children were taken care of properly – rescuing them from the darkened, lonely crevices they were left to suffer as long as their caretaker remained oblivious to their pain. Why so many? Well one can only carry so much, so an abuse victim will more than likely have numerous parts that have fractured to preserve the whole. (more on that later)
The outer? Well that was the loudest critic when hanging around DS because it was proficient at pointing out the perceived shortcomings of others. After all, how can one avoid abuse if the milk is constantly being spilled? So the author worked through the outer critic’s shenanigans with that good ‘ole self-sooth talk.
Oh gawd, are you kidding me? It’s okay Aaron, everything is going to be alright. But look at that!! It’s okay, the world is still turning. He needs to fix that ASAP!!! It’s okay, we just need to focus on breathing. Ugggh everything is so wrong!! We just need to relax because no harm is being done. How can you just sit there and let it happen? Everything is going to work out, even if it’s not the manner in which we’d prefer.
ASD was an interesting client to work with since his mother was more problematic than her son. Although, he was nothing like DS because his interests involved anything mechanical. Computers, elevators, trains, cars, planes – anything that moved, really.
Plus, he wasn’t as higher functioning as DS since communication was a lot harder for ASD. But man oh man could he focus! He also enjoyed surprising the author with his ability to sit down and strap himself with the buckle without assistance. ASD knew what was up, although he may not have known how to best approach situations.
That’s okay because we all have something to bring. In fact, ASD and the author would spend vast amounts of time laughing about what instrument Squidward played, or how Ducky gave the barber a close shave.
But there were times this author’s life was risked when ASD was upset and couldn’t cope with the stressful environmental stimulations his nervous system was picking up 1000x more so than the average person. I.e. nothing was dull.
ASD would scream, grab, pull, bite, hit, tear, kick, and anything he could do when he was upset – ya know, the most effective coping mechanisms to use when one is out and about in a crowded mall? This was especially true when both were locked in a moving vehicle traveling around 70 miles an hour on the interstate, but thankfully all turned out well.
ASD ultimately taught the author how to protect his body without bringing harm to the attacker in question, while simultaneously keeping his cool to encourage the upset party to chill. The author, in a sense, soon resembled the eye of a hurricane – the calm within a storm.
Plus, the author further learned how to take life in stride as his preferences could not always be met. Why? Well ASD could have gotten upset – understandably so considering everyone wants to enjoy their interest without having to be pulled away from the experience prematurely. Messes were also present, and eating was especially painful at times. But once again, the author learned to relax and focus on enjoying the opportunity to care for another in need.
His mother – unlike DS’s who was the very definition of a loving mother – was a different case altogether. Why? Well she was a lot like the author’s mother, who was highly narcissistic in that she subtly messed with everyone around her. How?
Deliberately parking in the attached garage large enough for multiple vehicles so the author couldn’t shield his car from the pouring rain, although he parked alongside the door so ASD could get in without getting soaked. This of course happened for days, just like the rain that fell during this time. She would then laugh as she fixed her hair while jokingly apologizing. Sure, you know what you’re doing is what the author thought.
She also enjoyed making people feel awkward by flashing her cleavage in their faces, even in front of her husband. Who, by the way, was a really great guy – caring, loving, considerate, and conscientious. The author would then turn his focus to the husband who sometimes put himself down by calling himself lazy for laying down after a hard day’s work in the office and on the yard.
You’re not lazy, far from it! In fact, you deserve to get a little rest considering all you do is what the author would tell him. After all, the author’s mother constantly told him he was lazy while attending school full-time and working 2-3 jobs on top of that. Doesn’t make sense looking back on it, but that only encouraged the author to empower others who felt the same critic’s sting.
Between the endless emoji’s, hair fixing, cleavage displays, saying things like I’m hot before any other greeting was mentioned upon meeting, asking where the author lived, telling the author when her husband would be out of town and for how long, and focusing on the fact that the author acquired a bedroom when he upgraded his apartment’s size, the author figured he should keep his distance and focus on ASD’s needs.
However, his needs couldn’t always be met since his mother took certain things like exotically flavored milkshakes away. Claiming he had issues when none were present for months before, yet he was allowed to eat prohibited toppings at home?
The Unknowns (perfect gif transition) were the archetypal renditions of Mario and Luigi. Literally. The author in question is not kidding because these two were the literal definition of peas in a pod. He doesn’t remember their diagnoses, although he was comfortable with special-needs clients by this point.
They bowled with the author, and sported their own personal attire that reflected their interests. A holiday was never missed as a result – in fact, all of the clients mentioned to this point taught the author how to appreciate the joys of the holidays. Even if it’s annoying to see Christmas supplies en mass while stores pump one’s ears with Santa’s playlist before Tofurkey Day. Maybe that’s just the US – sup, fellow veg heads?!
The Unknowns were great, and this author got along well with them because he was highly dysfunctional to the point it rubbed higher functioning persons the wrong way. Who could blame him! After all, he was raised in a dysfunctional home. But alas these clients helped satisfy the author’s need for isolation with minimal conversation since they had speech deficits, much like ASD and DS.
However, the author grew to socialize more and more as they ventured to the same community locals. The universe is funny like that since it’ll find a way to force one’s hand – especially if they ask for change.
The author also came to serve as a guardian of sorts to the Unknowns who were routinely chastised by their own mother. At first she struck them on the arm when she felt the need to rage about them not fulfilling a goal, although the author put a stop to that by bringing it to the family’s attention.
She would say things like you make me mad, or you turkey! Gee, what do people usually associate turkeys with? Not anything positive unless it involves Tofurkey Day. Or you look like a hobo! That was always pleasant. However, the author eventually stopped shutting down in reactionary defense to defend those who were being victimized.
He would counter with his own words of empowerment. Great job! You’re doing excellent! Please, thank you. You’re outfit looks great, is that a new hat? Good work with getting that pin because one is better than none! So on and so forth.
This in turn uplifted the Unknown’s disposition, which in turn facilitated a relationship built on rapport as opposed to one of fear and demands. After all, the brothers would shut down the more their mother harped on them. This was something the author couldn’t stand to see. So he advocated on their behalf the more he developed and grew.
Although the author should make mention of the brother’s true mother – a sister who never had children of her own, but always worked to achieve all that she could. She mothered the Unknowns because she was always there to ensure their needs were met. Even if they didn’t meet expectations, she’d remain patient and worked with where they were by using something called empathy.
Many blessings to her.
Crossing the Finish Line
AS was something along the lines of another word that has three letters which include the first two mentioned at the beginning of this sentence. Now the author unfortunately doesn’t have any good things to say about this client, so he’ll keep it short.
AS, for those who don’t know, is like a poorly mixed drink that fused psychopathy to autism in that an individual will have difficulty thinking abstractly (connecting actions to consequences), communicating (social deficits), and lack empathy altogether (no regret for actions but will use manipulation to obtain desired outcome).
Needless to say, this client was Triggerville x 1000 for the author because AS was entropic and abusive. How? He would consistently expose himself to things that were upsetting even though he lacked the proper coping skills to calm his rage-filled responses, so anything and everything would be damaged in his wake.
Even the dogs smaller than one of his feet, the younger siblings, or the stressed mother who was constantly doing something, somewhere, somehow. Boundary violations were something AS specialized in – even going so far as to arguing with a younger child to vacate the child’s room so AS could have a clean bed to text on while he laid back. After all, AS’s room had been trashed from his lack of upkeep.
So when the author came to defend those who were damaged by AS and his lack of conscientiousness, AS didn’t care for this one bit. How and why? Well the author would tell him directly – this is how your actions affect those around you, and you best shape up because the world beyond the walls of this house won’t accept excuses. You’re fully capable of achieving what you want in life, but you may need to work a little harder than others. I know it’s difficult being in your shoes when you’re constantly bombarded with information you may not easily recognize, although we can work together to develop coping skills. Let’s use the time we have to see that you succeed. Deal?
Long story short – AS was going to do things his way, and he eventually stopped working with the author altogether by holing himself in another room so he could call the first person who would listen to him complain about how awful the author was for being present in his life. So the author grew tired of being shorthanded and treated like a used condom.
After all, the author drove an hour to meet with a client who typically walked out to roam the streets as opposed to working with him. But when he was present, there was no connection that was made because it’s hard to build a bridge when only half is complete.
AS taught the author how to refuse abuse once and for all. No amount of money was worth the struggle or stress, much like the author’s decision of leaving his own family to escape Hell. Although it should be known that the author is Peter Parker because his Aunt and Uncle were awesome.
Okay, okay I’m done! The author learned much by working with his developmentally challenged companions, although he learned how disabled he was from having been raised by a malignant narcissistic mother and a depressed alcoholic father.
He didn’t know how to socialize, communicate, or just kick back and have a good time because his CPTSD prevented him from doing so. Although in time, thankfully so, he overcame the programming that was streamlined into his consciousness by working towards building a better life for himself.
Nowadays dishes, messes, failed expectations, and even major changes aren’t as upsetting as they used to be. Life goes on – thankfully so.
Ladies and gents, let’s have a food fight…
Featured Image: DizzyBoy