“Finding Who We Are” Entry #6: Autism Plus

I can’t put into words how amazed I’ve been these last six weeks. The stories that I have read, presented, and the people I’ve had the blessing to interact with have left me speechless. While I’m sure this project has been encouraging for you, it has accomplished two-fold in my own heart.

It is with that said that I proudly present to you week six of our project. Allison, a blogger at Through 1 Filter, has patiently waited her turn for about a month now. Her day is finally here and I found great joy in the words she wrote to us. She actually spends a good amount of time discussing what she loves to do so I won’t waste any more writing space. Here is Allison’s story:

I once read a comment left on an autism article. The mother of an autistic child wrote: “My child has autism plus.” She didn’t explain what she meant. Others asked what she meant by “autism plus”, but I never did see a follow-up answer.

That phrase has stuck in my head for the last several years. In light of having to once again explain why I cannot fully advocate for myself to yet another person not well versed in autism, I have decided to compose this post.

The following explains why I cannot hold down long-term employment (in part or in full), operate machinery (such as driving a car), talk over the phone to people and their sensory environments in which I do not know, or go into a welfare agency (I am not on welfare, but the Department of Human Services building is basically the same thing).

The stability of my sensory functioning is constantly in flux. One day I am slightly above average, coping euphorically with lots of sensory input. Another day (usually the following day), I am barely able to get out of bed and deal with the sounds around my house. It takes me 24 hours to decompress from a day out.

Sometimes, the television is too loud, even if at its usual volume and certain shows are too painful to hear. Even incandescent and CFL light, while usually not a sensory issue with me, can become one when under stress.

I have chronic migraines. I experience poor coping skills before I ever feel pain. Sometimes I smell smells that aren’t there like the smell of my Micro Machines frying in the microwave-I killed them back in the 1990’s.

Low-pressure fronts that precede thunderstorms also compound my coping ability and trigger migraines.

I use Rx strength medication to deal with the horrific pain, but still often have to lie down in my darkened bedroom.

I have PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoria). While I am on Rx medication for this as well, I still experience migraines and fatigue before and during menstruation. My coping ability is diminished during this time.

I also have SAD (seasonal depression). Though I use light therapy and take vitamin D, I still experience extreme fatigue and irritability during the fall and winter months.

I sleep more than the 8-hour average. I am on psychotropic drugs for mood as well as an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. These meds work for me, but that does NOT mean anywhere close to autonomy. Each day I wake up is left up to chance. I have no guarantee that tomorrow will be as good or as bad as yesterday was.

What I do know is that I NEED supports just as bad as the non-verbal person with an I.Q. of below 70 (the gold standard for getting services in my state for autism). 

This is what “autism plus” means for me. A daily juggling act for someone who literally cannot juggle.

God works in mysterious ways. You’ve heard it said many times. Here is one of my experiences of God’s faithfulness in my life. Earlier this spring, my old (and first) DSLR died following an afternoon of shooting in a state park. Cyclops, my Fuji, had been a surprise from my aunt and uncle 2 years ago. It took some of the clearest and crisp images I’d taken to date. I was reviewing images when the viewfinder froze and eventually went black.

I have a point-and- shoot with a crack in the lens. It really shows up in low light and on cloudy days. I was thinking, "Oh no. One of my cameras is dead, and the other is singing (or shooting) its swan song. I’m a disabled person on a fixed income. How will I take pictures with a camera that challenges my skill level?

I prayed about the loss and my disappointment. I thanked God for Cyclops and the lessons he taught me. I prayed that one day I could own another DSLR, perhaps used and in good condition.

About two months passed. I follow some photography blogs, and I left a comment on one regarding the subject and quality of the particular image. This person knows a bit about my love of photography and disability.

Not long after, I got a notification my comment had a reply. I couldn’t believe what I was reading; this person had an old camera they wanted to send to me free of charge.

I thanked this person, but I insisted on paying something, even if it was only fifty dollars in monthly installments. They refused. I finally had to demand to pay half the shipping.

On June 21, 2016-the start of a new season- a Nikon D7100 arrived in the mail, inside a brand new carrying bag. This person said that they wanted to give back for all that photography has done for them.

They asked me to send a picture taken on their “Old Faithful”. That was his name out of the box-Old Faithful. Yes, I do assign gender to inanimate objects.

I can’t express enough gratitude to someone I’ve never met and who lives halfway across the country. I felt like a kid trying on adult shoes and hoping I could measure up" to this rock star of cameras.

The clarity of Old Faithful is astounding and I haven’t taken it out of auto mode yet. By God’s grace, the journey continues. Old Faithful arrived in the wake of a major depressive episode. When I have succumbed to neurological war and am about to wave the white flag, that is usually when a breakthrough happens.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God will not allow us to go through more than we can bear. He promises to provide a way out of the trials we go through, to a place of escape. Photographing in nature helps me escape. Having a help person to drive me to locations aids in that escape. I couldn’t do any of that and continue to do well if it weren’t for those who God uses to help me.

Jesus says He knows what we need before we ask Him (Matthew:7,8, Matthew 6:26,33), but He wants us to put forth the effort and ask. I have learned that sometimes the answer is no. Other times, it is silence and having the faith to wait and trust in Him.

May the kindness this person sewed in donating Old Faithful be repaid tenfold. There is a gift better than any camera. That’s the free gift of salvation God gave to us when His Son, Jesus, died nailed to a cross and rose to life again. May God help you to discover His hope, the kind that doesn’t disappoint. May He help you to wait and trust in Him. May He bless you and help you to be a blessing. Amen.


Once again, thank you, Allison, for taking the time to bless us with encouraging words and your story. If you’d like to contribute to our Finding Who We Are series, please email us at confessionsmalin@gmail.com.

You can find Allison’s blog here at this link: Through 1 Filter

You are loved.

You are valued.

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