Having a conversation about Autism, with folks who are genuinely interested about the subject, is always rewarding.
My ex-wife and I recently had an opportunity to talk with the hosts of the Dicks n' Cider Show about Autism. This was something we had talked about, with Erv, a while back. I got a message last Friday asking if Ex and I would be interested in doing the ‘Autism episode’ on Sunday at 3pm. I was in.
I’m no stranger to podcasting. In fact, I do two of them. These are done over the internet. None of us are in the same room when doing our shows. For the first time I would be doing a show and having a conversation in the same room with people. In all honesty, I prefer it. Talking to someone through a camera and headset removes most body language from a conversation and it makes me a bit anxious. I have to read body language to have a good conversation with someone. It gives me insight into the person I’m talking to and where boundaries are based on how they move and their hand gestures.
Photo taken by Erv
Ironically, most Autistics are unaware of body language or the movements of others. Most find it incredibly distracting and hard to follow. Focusing on the words and how someone presents the words they are speaking can be incredibly distracting.
In order to do the show, I needed to bring Alex along to Erv’s house. Erv and his family have dogs. Alex is afraid of animals. Best we can figure, Alex doesn’t like the unpredictability of animals. They are completely foreign to him and he’s unsure of how they will act or interact with him. We met their tiny dog, Django. An adorable dust mop of a dog that was interested in checking out Alex. Alex was having none of it. It was actually kind of funny to watch this tiny bundle of love look for love from Alex. Alex was wide eyed and slowly backing away from Django. They had another dog that I’ll mention later in this post.
Ex and I met the other hosts, Six and Ice. After a bit of ‘getting to know you’ conversation, we proceeded to the basement where Erv has the podcasting room. I want this room in my basement. It’s amazing! As you can see, it’s purple. Also, they have a table that you might find in anyones dining room. Comfortable dinner table chairs. What you don’t find on dining room tables are the microphone stands and headset stations that were available for everyone to use to record the show. They also have a LCD projector to everyone can look at what is on Erv’s computer.
Erv, Six and Ice are all related so that seems to add another level to the familiarity in their conversations. Good natured ribbing and a comfortable sense atmosphere that only comes from family. Alex joined us and sat between Ex and I, with his iPad to keep him entertained.
We began the show and you can hear it here so I won’t bore you with details. What I will do is enlighten you to some behind the scenes stuff and finish the tale I started earlier about Alex and the other dog.
By MizDeath at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
Alex uses bits of sign language to communicate. During the podcast, Alex made the sign for potty. I left the conversation to join him and help him get to his destination. We went up the stairs and I saw the hallway where the bathroom is located. As we got closer, Alex in front of me, their other large dog showed up. He was behind a child security gate. His forelegs gently resting on top like an old neighbor leaning into your yard to talk to you. He was just checking stuff out and the only sound he made was sniffing the air. Otherwise, he was calm as could be. Alex froze and shook his head no, hard. “Buddy, it’s okay. He’s just checking us out.” Alex was having none of it. The bad news was the gate was at the end of the hallway. It was perpendicular to the bathroom door. I strode ahead of Alex and stood in front of the dog behind the gate. This obstructed the dog from Alex’s view. Alex visibly relaxed and cautiously moved forward.
A side note. While Alex is frightened of animals, he has an intense curiosity about them. As Alex was walking past me and into the bathroom, he leaned over to look past me to see the dog. The dog tilted his head to the side a gently puffed out some air from his wet nose in reply. We were in and did our business.
Alex dried his hands really fast and was reaching for the door handle while placing his whole body behind the door. Seemingly to facilitate a quick peek and sudden slam if necessary. I intervened once more and stood to block the dog from view.
Once we passed that hurdle, I asked Alex if he wanted to go back downstairs. I got the headshake. He wasn’t interested. I leaned into the living room and asked Erv’s wife if it was okay to leave Alex upstairs with her. It was. So I returned to the conversation.
Then next time I left the conversation, it was due to Alex cranking the upstairs computer volume to ‘eleven’ while playing a foreign language counting video. Ice could hear the audio through his headphones and it was getting a bit disruptive. I went upstairs and Alex was in the hallway, looking at the dog, while the blaring comfort of a foreign language video was echoing through the house. Like I said, Alex is curious but needs a mental lifeline to comfortably explore. Either that or the loud foreign language video had scared off the bigger dog and Alex was making sure it was staying hidden. I was unclear on that point.
I got him back to the computer and loudly asked if he could turn it down, please. He complied. I felt bad for Erv’s wife and son who were in the living room, trying to enjoy The Lorax on TV.
I rejoined again. I too learned some things. Six has a family friend who has Autism. Ice also knows someone who has Autism. We spoke of myths, science and Carly Fleischmann’s video Carly’s Cafe. While not 100% accurate is a close approximation of what a particular situation is like for her as a non-verbal Autistic who sometimes feel trapped in her own body. We spoke of savants and it’s rarity, the Autism Genome 10K project and Alex’s wandering.
I encourage you to listen to the show. There is some language. Alex wandered a few hours before the podcast was recorded and the fear was kind of fresh on my mind, so I did a bit of cursing during that segment. Like I said, that bit a comfortableness that can only be experienced by family can lead to very frank discussions and they did make us feel like family.
Thanks to Erv, Ice and Six from the Dicks n' Cider Show for the opportunity to help inform, educate and enlighten others about Autism and what it’s like living in ‘the spectrum’.