by Aidan Dunn, SkillCorps® Assistant, July 2018
Hello readers! It’s been a while. The Global Autism Project has been busy lately which is why you haven’t heard from me in some time. I’ve been running around setting things up for parties and putting things away after parties and helping everyone out so there hasn’t been as much time for me to write blog posts. This month we sent out another group of our splendid SkillCorps volunteers around the globe to train educators in how to work with autistic individuals. This is of course, a major event for us and we’d like to thank all of you who both read this blog and donate to our cause. For those among this rare percentile- thank you. Anyway, besides giving you readers a recap of what we’ve been doing, I figure it’s been long overdue for me to talk a bit about something regarding autistic life. Today, I’m going to talk about hobbies.
A hobby is… I’m kidding- you know what a hobby is. As with most of these blog posts, this post is motivated by something that happened to me in my day to day life- a sudden onset of loneliness and boredom. As such, I set out to find a new hobby that I could use to fill my time with. Everyone needs a hobby but it can be especially important for those of us on the spectrum. I speak from personal experience when I say that it can be difficult for us Autistics to get out and meet new people. While we suffer from loneliness just the same as other people, a lot of us find going to the trouble of meeting new people to not be the effort. When we talk to other people we can feel awkward or judged. The best way I can describe it is similar to the feelings of anxiety that one can feel when they have to make a speech or act in a play- just applied to everyday conversations. If we know the people we are with (say, our family) then talking is a bit like rehearsal- still awkward and embarrassing- but less so. It gets even worse if we can’t find anything in common to talk about. It’s like going to make a speech without a script. As a result we aren’t particularly apt to go out and meet others especially if we feel like we are being forced to leave our comfort zones. One of the hardest experiences for me when I was little was being sent away from a family reunion to go to a summer camp. I didn’t want to go, I wasn’t good at any athletic activity, and sharing space with strangers was traumatizing for me. Not fun. This is where hobbies come in. If autistics have a hobby- especially a hobby that requires more than one person- then we have an incentive to go out and meet new people. The most frequent social event that I attend is the Wednesday evening chess club with the people from my old middle through high school Summit (shameless plug here). There I can meet up with people who I know have a similar interest and who I know I will feel comfortable around- even if there are newcomers to the club. Still, chess alone isn’t enough to keep me occupied 24/7 so I now enter the brave (and expensive) new world of tabletop wargaming. Maybe I’ll start a blog on that too (Not as part of the Global AutismProject though). I hope my recollections and thoughts have given you all some new insights on what it means to be autistic. Until the next blog post, please continue to support the Global Autism Project.