A week ago, I tripped and fell on my arm which broke the head of my radial bone near by elbow. I wasn’t sure at first that anything good would come from experiencing a fractured bone besides earning another point on those annoying Facebook “things I’ve done” statuses. However, week two of a long twelve week road to recovery has brought a new level of education that only freak accidents seem to bring about.
- Learning to navigate a doctor’s office and schedule your own appointments is a necessary life skill for becoming independent
- Knowing and using your learning strengths will help you process rapid fire information during stressful activities or in stressful environments
- Do NOT be afraid of asking questions and getting satisfactory answers
- Asking for help is OKAY. No one can do everything by themselves
- Invisible illness/mental health disorders are at a major disadvantage to physical disabilities
- It is okay to be anxious and worry about the future as long as those worries don’t consume your time and energy. Being prepared is a positive worry, but worrying about the impossible/the things you have no control over is not.
- Stay informed: do not let others make decisions for you but consider their advice and analyze your options
- Autism can impact spacial awareness and the “6th” sense known as proprioception–Am I clumsy because of my big feet, or am I clumsy because my brain isn’t always 100% sure where my feet are?
Most of the things I am learning through this process are fairly straight forward. Be prepared, stay informed, don’t worry about things outside your control, but a few things are things I think adults need to hear regardless of labels. It is okay to ask for help! It seems so simple, but how many of us are trying so hard to make everything work by ourselves and getting so overwhelmed in the process that we are doing damage to our own bodies and brains? I am stubbornly independent to the point I will hurt myself trying to do something rather than ask for assistance, but when I broke my arm I couldn’t do certain things no matter how badly I wanted to and didn’t have a choice but to ask for help. It is easier for me to ask for help with a physical disability. There is literally no way to put your hair in a ponytail with one hand, and it forced me to ask for help. There are also days when my clothes or certain noises or smells are so overwhelming that I have trouble even sitting still let alone process information or get things done, but there is a difference with invisible illness or mental disorders because if someone can’t see an obvious physical sign there isn’t a red flag in their brain to help you. If someone can see a cast or a sling they know something is wrong, but when a child stims because they are overstimulated or an adult needs extra time to process instructions or certain accommodations for their Autism, well, no one has the ability to read your mind to ask if you need help, or they might not understand what they are seeing in order to know what your needs are. That is why it is a priority to discuss your needs and advocate for accommodations when you need them. You are your own best advocate to help better your mental health in the same way perhaps you are the expert on your own physical health and knowing your limits. You wouldn’t try a back-flip for the first time without getting some mats, practicing the steps, and making sure you weren’t going to break your neck, would you?
I had heard of proprioception before, but I hadn’t really attributed my being clumsy and tripping all the time to my brain because I also have really big feet. It might be all their fault, but the coincidence is not lost on me that I also relate to other things commonly found to be a symptom of the brain being unable to get the appropriate spacial feedback attributed to proprioception. Clumsiness, odd body posture, tendency to fall, messy eating or other fine motor tasks or being aware of where the body is in space are all things associated with the body’s Proprioceptive System. I trip over things that aren’t there sometimes, and other times I trip over thing that are there and cause myself utter embarrassment as I flip over tables at public places. (Trust me it was a video moment.) I’ve been told I sit slouched over, I drive hunched up, and I fall asleep in strange uncomfortable looking positions. I don’t even realize I do those things until my muscles are burning and force me to move. I never wore white as a kid because I was a horribly messy eater and was always spilling things on me besides loving to play outside in the mud. The most obvious sign at least to me though is my lack of spacial awareness. I used to walk behind my mother in the store so close that I stepped on the heels of her shoes. I do the same thing now to my wife who patiently asks me to, “please give me space to breathe” as I follow her. I don’t purposely follow them that close, but the worse the over-stimulation is the less I realize where and what my own body is doing. I think of it like reverse meditation. My brain is hyper-focused on everything happening around me to the point I lose touch with my own body, but the opposite is true during meditation as you hyper-focus on your body to experience but tune out to the external world. I feel like I need to constantly move whether I am walking, bouncing a leg, using my hands and fingers to do a task, or just rocking side to side. I only seem to become like a statue if I am engrossed in a task using a large portion of my brain at once or doing something very thought-provoking or interesting. I have always known I am hyper-sensitive to certain sounds, smells, lights, and textures, but I hadn’t put the pieces together until lately that my clumsiness may be due to my other sensory processing issues.
It seems like many people are aware of the sensory processing difficulties in the five main senses which affect people with Autism, but there isn’t as much discussion which includes the proprioceptive systems as a whole. We are doing a disservice to people on the spectrum by not discussing that system more readily as it is responsible for such a vast range of skills and necessary functions. If nothing else it will highlight the need to be more cautious when navigating because one fall can end up causing major problems as I am unfortunately finding out.