Special Interests – Take 2

Not that long ago I wrote a blog post on my special interests throughout my childhood. I’m not sure what happened, but almost all of it ceased to exist. I couldn’t fix this and I didn’t have another copy, so I just deleted what remained. I wasn’t keen on the idea of rewriting it. However, I have since decided that I’ll provide the background once again, along with some of my new interests.

My first special interest started before I can remember and lasted until I was about 12 or 13ish. Canines, the different breeds of dogs and anything I could possibly know about them, that’s what my life revolved around. The books I chose to read were almost exclusively dog focussed. The librarian told me multiple time to try a different book when I would attempt to take out a specific dog breed book each week. When we were told to write an acrostic poem about ourselves 4 of the 8 letters in my name were just about my love of dogs (the others being my hatred of jeans, love of pizza, love of stuffed animals, and less than fondeness of cats). All of my stories were about dogs or wolves. Fortunately I had two dogs at home throughout my childhood, so I wasn’t constantly begging my parents for a dog. And when I was in a household that lacked a dog I would walk dogs at the SPCA.

Eventually this interest in dogs shifted to an interest in storytelling. At about 12 I read “A Dog’s Journey” by W. Bruce Cameron for the first time (I would reread it many more times). This book sparked a love of stories beyond just stories about dogs. Well, at first it was still just dogs, but it quickly evolved into reading and writing other stories. My love of storytelling continues to this this day.

I had a couple different interests when I was 13 and then 14 on top of the interest in storytelling. First I got really obsessed with menstrual cups for whatever reason. After a few months I lost this interest. Then it was rats and I was especially interested in them for about half a year. For a while after those interests ended it was just storytelling again.

At 16 I became interested in interactive fiction. Really it falls under my interest in storytelling, but it’s the most specific interest in that more general interest. I’m still interested in interactive fiction to this day, but the interest is on and off. I get hyper focussed on it sometimes and other times I forget about it almost entirely.

Now, to my current interests. Of course there’s storytelling as I’ve already mentioned, but I’ve got a couple very new interests as well.

Firstly I’ve been really into hand crank sewing machines lately. I already had an interest in historical clothing, but not quite as intense as with the sewing machines. I’ve been watching a lot of videos on hand crank sewing machines. They just make me so happy. And I’m sure my mum would say I’ve been talking about them excessively.

And my second new special interest is the TV show “Community”. The show makes me so extremely happy! Never before have I been so into a TV show. In fact if I were rating shows with movies, then I’d rate it above almost all of my favourite movies , which says a lot. I was only introduced to it recently, but I’ve already rewatched numerous episodes. I’m especially focussed on the character Abed. He’s the only character I’ve been so attached to and just about the only character I’ve related to to this extent (the only other one being Kenma from Haikyu). It’s hard to explain my love of the show because it’s pretty new for me to be so fond of one. I’ve been trying to avoid annoying my mum too much, but I haven’t managed to avoid such entirely. She’s gotten really good at telling when I’m thinking about the show because it makes me look really happy (as well as feel really happy). It’s really brightened my mood in this current situation.

You could also kind of label autism as a special interest. Since I realized that I’m autistic I’ve been consuming a lot of information. In the first few months I read countless articles and 20+ books, watching numerous videos, and thought about it the majority of the time. I still focus on it quite a bit, but not to that extent.

That is all of my special interests at the moment and all of the ones I remember having. Not sure exactly what my next blog post will be, but it probably won’t be long before it’s written.

Song on repeat: Hellfire from Hunchback of Notre Dame (this might become rather uninteresting if I just listen to the same song for a month like I did in April)

My History with Speech

 I’m hesitant to write this blog post. I find it….embarrassing, maybe. Sorry, I’m not all that great at labelling my emotions. Also I really don’t want to upset anyone. Therefore, I’ll start this post by making it clear that I know it’s far from ideal to not be able to speak vocally, even more so if you can’t really communicate with other methods either. I’m aware of this.

 Some background, I started speaking at about 3 years old, like stringing words together and having a fair number of them I mean. Previously I had maybe 10 or so words (7 recorded on the calendar), my first word being “Mama” at about 17 months. My mum was somewhat concerned by my late talking, but before she thought anything was especially unusual I started speaking, so she didn’t end up looking into autism or anything. My younger brother (who’s not autistic) didn’t start talking until he was 3 as well; however, he did have twice as many words as I did.

 Even though I was speaking at 3 it would be a number of years before I was really easily understandable. I was diagnosed with a mild phonological delay and a mild expressive language delay (anyone know what an expressive language delay even means?). From kindergarten to either grade 3 or 4 I was in speech therapy twice a week to work on this. My report from grade 2 listed 7 letter that I struggled with, S, L, Z, and F being the most troublesome.

 I don’t remember a whole lot from speech therapy. My mum’s pretty sure I did it for half an hour twice a week (with homework too). I remember playing snakes and ladders (My difficulty with S and L being targeted by that game). I also remember seemingly never-ending repetition. My tongue and the rest of my mouth were difficult, didn’t want to move in the proper ways to make the right sounds. It took a lot of practice (often with limited success) to get my mouth to move in a way that would produce those sounds.

 It was frustrating, really really frustrating. People wouldn’t understand me (generally those that didn’t know me well), and even if they did I’d often be corrected. It made me feel like I couldn’t get anything right no matter how hard I tried. It made me feel like people weren’t listening beyond the incorrect sounds.

 I’m really thankful for the speech therapist. She was a very kind lady and I wouldn’t be able to speak as well as I can without her efforts. She made a frustrating situation less so. Going to see her was, while hard work, a calming escape from the classroom. I’m also thankful for my mum who was very involved in helping my brother and me with speech.

 These days I can probably produce most sounds in the English language, but my speech still gets commented on. My voice isn’t quite as expressive as most people. Hannah Gadsby once said, “I meant warmth, my voice said cold.” I really relate to that. Often when I’m excited about something I’m questioned because the excitement doesn’t make it into my voice. I most naturally express myself through stimming (like flapping my hands when excited or happy), but I tend to avoid stimming in front of people. The emotion in my voice also gets commented on when I’m reading.

 I read aloud very quickly and often lacking in expression. Whenever I have to do a speech for school this is noted in the feedback. I try to put expression in my voice, but the increase only seems to be noticeable to me (often I think I sound overly dramatic). Back in elementary school this was much more noticeable. My mum says I would read like a robot and it could be very unappealing to listen to. This was generally noted on my report cards as well. In current times I try pretty hard to put emotion into my voice, but often I forget or it just doesn’t work properly. At some point I’d like to write more about my reading, but that’ll have to be another day.

 Now that we’ve got the background I’d like to talk about what’s been on my mind. Recently I remembered one of the things I would frequently think about as a kid. I wished desperately that I had never started speaking. This desire lasted from as long as I can remember until I was around 14 (sometimes reappearing even today). Speech seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth.

 People would focus on my failures in speech, the mispronunciations, words being put in the wrong order, and in between words (like you, get, from, the, et cetera) being left out. Even though I was speaking people didn’t seem to be paying attention. The difficulty explaining my thoughts and feelings probably didn’t help either. It was so frustrating to repeatedly attempt the same movements of my mouth. It didn’t feel like all the effort and critical feedback (not something I understood at the time) were worth being able to speak. As a child it seemed as though it would be much easier to not be able to speak at all (something I now know is not the case).

 On top of my difficulty with speech I also had difficulty socially. I always felt like I would say the wrong thing, and a fair bit of the time I did. It seemed like it would be very much preferable to not be expected to speak to people at all. Not being able to speak seemed like a solution.

 I actually tried this. I remember refusing to speak, but my younger brother’s annoyances typically prevented these attempts from lasting long. In grade 3 I decided I would learn sign language. I didn’t actually end up learning anything though, probably because of the difficulty I had getting my hands to move properly (something I’m still struggling with in my second attempt to learn ASL) as well as my learning being on my own from an old book.

 Although I don’t want to admit it, I still think this way sometimes. Mostly it’s to do with expectations I think. If people didn’t expect me to speak, then I don’t think I’d mind it so much. I could just silently go about my business and talk if I want to.

 I admit I can’t always speak as it is. When there’s pressure or stress I find myself unable to speak, which is rather horrible really. It’s especially frustrating when I have the words in my head but they don’t get to my mouth. Or when the words don’t come at all, even in my head. There I am with people staring at me, waiting, expecting me to say something, and I am utterly incapable of providing that speech. Sometimes this lasts a short a time, but other times it lasts far longer. I know based on these experiences and reading the experiences of others that not being able to speak isn’t the solution.

 So, I propose another solution. Work towards a world where differences in speech are more accepted. A world where it doesn’t matter if someone takes longer to speak, doesn’t put emotion in their voice, puts the words in the wrong order, leaves out words, et cetera. 

I’d like to note that I feel like I’m exaggerating. I know I’m not, but I feel like I am. Most people didn’t constantly correct my speech, but that’s not what it felt like, and most of the adults in my life definitely did correct me quite a bit. And it was undeniably very frustrating. I don’t know, I guess I feel like I shouldn’t have been so frustrated. I could still communicate well enough to be understood for the most part. And I could handle like ¾ of the alphabet. Also I still had friends despite my social struggles (another girl took me under her wing). I’m privileged in numerous ways; my difficulties are lesser, and I kind of feel like they should just be ignored (whether this is true or not). Just felt the need to bring up another reason for my hesitation in writing this blog post.

 This was not actually the next post I intended. I wanted to talk about new my new special interests and provide an update on self-isolation. But when something’s on my mind it’s what I end up writing about.

Song on repeat: Hellfire from Hunchback of Notre Dame

Qualities in TV Shows

I’ve been think about TV shows a lot lately. This all started a few weeks ago when I saw a tweet asking what everyone’s six favourite shows are. I didn’t really have a good answer, so I’ve been thinking about it since then.

I did participate, listing 6 TV shows, but even as I typed them I knew that the list wasn’t quite right. My preferences when it comes to TV shows result in me having some trouble picking favourites, especially multiple. Before we get to that let’s talk about the list I gave.

Top 6 favourite tv shows (in no particular order):

1. Anne with an E

2. Hunter x Hunter

3. Haikyu

4. Star Trek

5. Avatar the Last Airbender

6. Star Trek: The Next Generation

First of all not all of these shows are actually my favourites. I really enjoyed “Anne with an E”, but it’s not one of my favourites as I have no interest in watching it again. If I don’t want to rewatch a show, then it isn’t one of my favourites. Hunter x Hunter and Haikyu also fit in the category of enjoyed but not favourites.

So a more accurate list of favourites would be (in order):

  1. Community
  2. Star Trek
  3. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  4. Avatar the Last Airbender
  5. The Secret World of Benjamin Bear

Here’s a list of qualities I look for in TV shows:

  1. Repetition
  2. Consistency
  3. At least one relatable character
  4. Rewatch value
  5. Small plots per episode as opposed to a big focus on a overarching plot (character development is appealing though)

I don’t think my TV preferences match the majority’s (at the very least they don’t match my family’s). I guess people often like shows having big plots over multiple episodes and maybe even change. I just like little stories that keep the same structure. Sometimes multiple episode stories work, but they either have to be really good or silly enough that I don’t care.

Before I didn’t really have a favourite TV show, like an absolute favourite one I mean. I like Star Trek, but not to the degree that it could be my absolute favourite. Avatar the Last Airbender is great, but it’s not got the repetetive structure I like. And The Secret World of Benjamin Bear, while awesome, just isn’t the sort of show that’s my absolute favourite anymore (it was when I was a kid though). I’m picky with my shows, and there aren’t many that I really really like.

When Community came to Netflix that changed. It’s perfect. Well it’s not perfect. There’s definitely a lot of stuff I don’t like about it. And I don’t like a number of the characters. But it fits all the criteria. I love it so much!

The episodes are separate stories (with fairly consistent structure) for the most part (there are some overarching stories though). That’s what drew me to Supernatural and a number of crime shows, a different story for each episode. But Supernaturaal abandoned this structure pretty quickly and crime shows tend to drop if for their multi-episode finales. This change from consistency almost always drives me away from these shows (or at least results in me skipping a few episodes). Community tends to do the multi-episode finales, but I actually don’t mind them. I find the structure of Community just about ideal.

Then there’s the quality of the show having a relatable character. Community is perfect in this aspect. I relate a lot to Abed and I feel super attached to him (therefore, I’m invested in the show). Both of the Star Treks also fit this quality as I relate quite a bit to Spock and Data. Haikyu is a beloved show to me for a lot of reasons, but one of my favourite parts of the show is the character Kenma who I really relate to. It’s pretty clear what sort of characters I relate to. Anyway, I don’t get attached to characters often, but these characters are very important to me.

Rewatch value means to me that I’d enjoy watching a show again and again just as much as the first time. Overarching plot focussed shows almost never fit this quality for me. With Community I could watch it all again in order or out of order or whatever. And I’ve definitely rewatched quite a bit of Star Trek. There’s only a few shows with big overarching plots I think I’d enjoy rewatching, that being Avatar, Haikyu, and Anohana.

I don’t know if anyone cares at all about my TV preferences, but if I’m going to spend a month thinking hard about something, then I might as well write about it too.

I hadn’t really thought about favourite TV shows before, so it was weird to suddenly start thinking about. Movies on the other hand are easy. Rise of the Guardians, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Legend of Lobo, Wolf Children, Milo and Otis, Mist, Sorcerer’s Aprentice, and then Into the Woods. This list may change as I’m currently going through a number of movies, but it’s stayed mostly the same for a number of years. The Art of Racing in the Rain is really the only change in like half a decade.

What do you folks like in a show? What don’t you like? What are your favourite shows? What are your favourite movies?

Below is something fun and new I’m trying. I’ll now record whichever song I’m playing on repeat around the time when I make a post. Also I’m going to write another couple posts pretty soon. I’ve got a lot of ideas in my head right now, a new special interest has sprouted, there’s been some accomplishments, I’d like to talk about food (sensory sort of focus and some focus on routine), my history of speech language therapy (since I find that fascinating), and the sleep situation. Hope everyone is well and staying safe.

Current song on repeat: Infected from Repo! The Genetic Opera

Youtube and My History on the Platform

Yesterday I decided to make a trailer for “Days with Shaylin”. It was a very a random decision to make and it definitely shouldn’t have been my highest priority. I didn’t script it (I was afraid I’d sound robotic if I was reading a script) and the end result was my third time recording. I had a lot of minute long pauses to edit out.

This was a very interesting experience for one specific reason. Making this was extremely nostalgic. From the age of 11 to 14 I wanted to be a youtuber. I created a number of videos, some regarding my dogs, some of me playing video games, and probably a skit or two. Making this trailer felt like that all over again. I remember why I loved it. The happiness I experience at watching and uploading the end result. And the fun (also stress) of recoridng it. I remember why it frustrated me so much. Editing and I don’t have a good relationship. At that age I’d almost completely skipped editing. It was just like it was back then. Other then I’m a lot more mature now and my voice is different.

I wish I still had those videos. Both of my dogs in the videos have passed away now and I’d really like to see them in more than pictures. I’ll keep looking and maybe one day I’ll find the videos, but I wouldn’t be surpised if I deleted them entirely.

I’m not going to up and try to become a youtuber now, but maybe there’ll be another upload someday, perhaps even someday soon.

My Horrible Visit with a Pediatrician

 Since I first returned to my blog I knew I was going to write this post. I’ve taken my time writing it as I’ve tried to recall as many details as I can. It was an extremely frustrating occurrence, so it’s been emotionally tiring to return to what happened. Here goes.

 I’m currently seeking formal diagnosis for autism. I already know that I’m autistic, but I really want that to be formally recognized.

 At the beginning of this process I was referred to a pediatrician, supposedly this guy was an “expert on autism”. I was nervous, but I thought he’d listen; I thought he’d agree with me. At first it almost looked like I was right. He seemed nice. 

 He gave me a questionnaire and started asking my mum questions. I filled it out, going back to the trickier questions at the end. A couple of  times he seemed to be talking to me, but if I spoke he’d tell me I should be focussing on the questionnaire. He didn’t give me a chance to say anything. 

 Then he asked my mum a question that really put both of us off. “Did she hit her her head as a kid?” I was in the room, my presence being ignored by him entirely. He would ask my mum this same question two more times throughout the visit. 

We offered to show him my notes, but he refused them. And he didn’t seem to be listening much to my mum. 

 After some time he wanted to talk to me alone. He just asked me again whether I was depressed or suicidal. Still he hadn’t asked about any autistic traits. I knew by this point that none of this appointment was going right.

I was taken to another room to walk on my heels (among other things). And he decided all my bad coordination was due to tight achilles tendons (not just poor coordination in my feet and legs though). He decided this is why I actually do poorly at team sports (obviously my challenges socially play no role).

 Next he decided I must have ADHD because of my repetitive behaviours, despite my lacking nearly every ADHD trait. Then he questioned my mum’s ADHD, seemingly not believing her.

 At this point I wasn’t really processing what was going on anymore. The rest is what my mum recounted. 

 He decided my meltdown/shutdown was a panic attack. It wasn’t, I’ve had those before and this wasn’t like that. 

 I was no longer able to speak or listen, my mum was upset enough for both of us. He said, “you have to learn to control yourself,” and then, “you have good qualities too.” 

 Finally he had the audacity to say he didn’t think I’m autistic after refusing to talk about any autistic traits, refusing to read my notes, and grasping at endless straws for some other explanation. This I didn’t really process until a fair bit later. There was almost no coherency in my thoughts at all. 

We got home at 6pm and I was immediately in a dark room, with a blanket over my head, a pillow over my ears, in a pile of stuffed animals, no dinner. I didn’t move from this position for 18 hours. And my thoughts remained quiet and incoherent for several more hours after this.

A while later I got the rare opportunity to read the report he wrote, referring me. It was quite inaccurate to say the least. He said I have an autistic aunt, the autistic family member is actually my cousin not my aunt. He said I was planning on going to university but didn’t know what I want to do. We’d talked about my majoring in computer science for a good 5-10 minutes. He also wrote that I had great eye contact, at no point did I do eye contact. I guess I looked at his face enough otherwise that he thought it was eye contact. Regardless even if I had done eye contact it wouldn’t have made me non-autistic. He wrote that he didn’t think I’m autistic, but apparently I’m basically everything else. According to him I’ve got every sort of anxiety (I don’t) and probably ADHD (once again, not true). Instead of the truth he gave me a jumbled, inaccurate, alphabet soup of diagnoses.

This was a horrible and overwhelming experience, either the worst or second worst in my life (Pretty lucky that this was one of the worst, I know that). Needless to say I’m terrified for my formal assessment. I’d known autistic girls and women can have difficulty getting an accurate diagnosis, but for some reason I hadn’t thought that would apply to me. I was wrong.

Days with Shaylin

It would be an understatement to say I haven’t written in a while. I’ve never really used a blog before, so I tend to forget about it. Despite that I really like the idea of blogging, so today I’m going to try my hand at another entry.

As a grade 12 student I was recently tasked with completing an end of high school project, the capstone project. Basically it’s a rather vague and large project that’s supposed to show your abilities and interests, while challenging you. At first the idea of something so open ended was quite frightening.

Then I had the idea. I already knew I wanted to create an interactive fiction game, but I hadn’t been sure about the subject matter. It took a while for it to click that my excessive research on autism (having recently discovered that I’m autistic) could be put to use. My learning about myself could be part of my project.

So I brought the idea to my teacher, an interactive fiction game with an autistic protagonist. He said yes, so I was set to begin making this idea into something more.

First there was stage 1, the ideas and research stage. I’d already done a lot of research so that was covered for the most part. I wanted to do more than read articles though. I set about finding interviewees. I didn’t want the protagonist to be a carbon copy of me. In the end I found 10 people that were interested. The interviews turned out to be the best part of making the game. I’d never really talked to other autistic people before. It was the first time I realized that I’m not alone in how I think and the things I do. The feeling was incredible. Throughout November I also outlined the plot and characters.

It was slow going figuring out the characters. I had a fair idea about Shaylin, but not those around her. In the end I gave her younger brother (I can’t imagine not having one) and a mum that can be a bit much. Her friend came to me next, and I knew what she was like as soon as I imagined her (though I changed her name right before I sent the game out for testing). Then there was the not so great subsitute and awful Max. The only regrets I have character wise is how little her dad appeared and that Nathaniel didn’t appear at all. I’m not used to the idea of a two parent household, so I struggled with the inclusion of multiple adults in the same house. Fortunately Nathaniel will be very present in the sequel.

Once stage 1 was complete I moved on to 2, which was writing the game (and editing that writing). This ended up going past my end of December deadline and into Jauary. Mostly this was because I dropped an episode and then added a different one. Writing the story was emotional for me as I took a lot of inspiration from my own experiences. Also I’m still getting used to writing interactive fiction (this is only my second game). In the end all of the game ended up at about 12,000 words.

The final stage really shouldn’t just be one stage. It included inputting the writing into Twine, editing and recording audio, coding that audio into the game, coding the game’s visuals, getting feedback from beta-testers, and finally a lot more editing. It felt like numerous stages. Putting the writing into the game was slow going and could be rather tedious. I found the editing of the audio extremely overwhelming (I had not anticipated this issue). Coding in the audio and visuals was my second favourite part of the whole process; I loved the trial and error of it. Then there was the beta-testing, which also turned out great. I found some very helpful beta-testers. The editing was once again tedious, fortunately there wasn’t a crazy amount of that though.

That was it. The game was done. It took 3 months. I’d done it. I was actually really proud of the end result.

I submitted the game to my teacher and got…

wait for it…

100%

With the project done I shared it everywhere I could think of. I’ve shared it on Twitter, Amino, a number of Facebook groups, on the interactive fiction forums, and I even shared it with AutismBC. So far I haven’t gotten much feedback, but all of it that I have gotten has been wonderfully positive. I still haven’t shared the game with my immediate family, aside from my brother (who recorded music for the game). For whatever reason I find it easier to share this personal game with strangers. I intend to share the game with my family in March. I just have to work up to that.

If you’d like to learn more about the game, then here’s the link to the website: https://dayswithshaylin.wordpress.com/

Or you could play it online or download it at: https://ann-hugo.itch.io/days-with-shaylin

Eventually there’ll be sequel (who knows maybe even more than one). It’s still in the planning stage, but I’m already very hyped. I might even provide regular updates on the game’s developement if I feel like it.

I think you can expect more regular blog posts from me. I haven’t really written any since I was 12 (excluding the one about the white whale), but this has reminded me how much I enjoy writing blogs. I’ll probably keep it mostly relating to autism, writing, and programming (specifically Twine related at the moment). I might also review books and movies though (I recently watched a movie that turned out to be my second favourite movie of all of the ones I’ve seen).

-Ann