By Christian Damian
I have been selected as the lone female autistic to ski from Aspen to Vail at the end of January, in preparation to cross the polar ice cap in Spring, 2017. That’s Greenland, people – colder than Iceland – and we will be out there about a month! Pulling sleds! Sleeping under tarps!
(Did you know Iceland was named “Iceland” to make it less attractive to would be immigrants? Not sure if that’s true, but makes a good story. I do know Greenland is colder than Iceland and less people live there – not that Iceland is that densely populated. So many people there are related, it is often chosen for heredity studies.)
Read a synopsis of the trip here: http://expedition-autism.com/
We have an equipment list, and immediately I realized there are some “issues”; we cannot wear cotton, and I am upset by the feel and smell of synthetics on my body, only wearing, cotton, hemp, fur, cashmere and alpaca (other wools make me itch ). Wool ski hat recommended, but here I need synthetic, as it does not itch. Or cashmere, perhaps, but sometimes even it makes my forehead itch. Fur. I even have one of those Russian fur hats – from Russia.
My storage has many extreme cold weather items, and even I, who live in a very temperate clime, had to wonder at times what possessed me to acquire these clothes. Perhaps this is it; I have always wanted to be in the snow. I got a little snow in Rhode Island last year, and even got to shovel it – most people’s nightmare – joyful for me, who craves that heavy exertion to regulate my poor overloaded senses, another sensory diet activity.
I could get bitter here about the sensory diet mentality not existing when I grew up, but I can’t; I was blissfully unaware that my demand to participate in grueling sports was related to any “disability”, and my parents and schools acquiesced; I was just “precocious”. I rode a 2 wheeled bike at 4, was a long distance local cycling star at age 12, was skateboarding and ice skating since age 7, and a ‘tween track prodigy). Most recently, graduated Structure Firefighting Academy, tennis, skiing, squash, rugby, wrestling, serious weight training, riding and cricket – yes, cricket; I used to carry my bat around – Dr. Bryna Siegal, in my autism evaluation, even remarked on it. I carried the bat while wearing one of those black velvet covered riding hats. A helmet to protect my head, not from falls, but from myself (and maybe the blows from any of the numerous strangers I started fights with – men, usually; I was incredibly violent and angry). I was a mess, but a stylish one. I preferred to call myself “eccentric”, “interesting”.
I am graceful and strong and coordinated when engaged in sports – I don’t twiddle, twist, flap or rock; these motions are incorporated in the sport. Nobody can tell I am autistic. I am focused and determined. I have intense focus.
On the subject of headgear – my current Autistry Studios project is making a cashmere and faux fur beanie.
As I hate sewing, this is a good project to work on my self regulation in the face of frustration.
More on the expedition, and my preparation for it, to come.
Much more, as I devote my considerable energy, time and autistic obsessiveness to the project. Pretty good for someone who, just months ago, called herself “unfulfilled”, and spent most days, all day, in bed reading books and computing, not talking to anyone for days and rarely venturing out.
Here is Sara and me working on it. Notice the exercise bike for us to take breaks with.