As of 6/26/2021, a complete Chapter I is now published. That means ALL 10 chapters (Pre-A through I) show as complete. However, before the Adventures of Aspie Mouse is considered a fully finished draft …
- A slight expansion toward the end of Chapter I may add one more page (34), though not immediately.
- Chapters B & C are still mostly in a more primitive format, and thus are next to be re-sized and re-paneled to match the other eight chapters; as of 7/23/21, the first 12 revised pp. of Ch. B have been posted.
- Chapter B in particular will likely double in size (vs. the last update of Sept. 2020), mostly with new content, especially showing Aspie Mouse during his classes at “MIT.”
- Chapter Pre-A should be reworked to take into account Autism-related material added to later chapters.
- Chapter-end notes and questions will be made consistent from chapter-to-chapter, with more care taken as to which questions are repeated or re-framed elsewhere.
Set during the early months of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, Ch. I’s main focus is on Aspie Mouse’s interaction with a variety of the zoo animals he meets while accompanying his sister E-flat. At the end of this chapter — the last of this graphic novel — as the two gray mice walk home, E-flat’s “oh by the way” revelations (a) tie up some loose ends from prior chapters, and (b) open up new possibilities.
Those “new possibilities” will be explored in a sequel, Further Adventures of Aspie Mouse. The sequel will start with Ch. “J” (probably preceded by an introductory Ch. “Pre-J”) and then go K, L, M, etc. Meanwhile, the first 10 chapters in this blog (A-I) will remain complete on the blog until they’re published in print and e-book form. Even afterwards, the first page or pages of these first volume chapters will remain on the blog.
Still being considered: if this first volume (Adventures of Aspie Mouse) should be split into Part I (Ch’s. Pre-A – E) and Part II (Ch’s. F – I), in which case each Chapter’s notes and questions would likely be included in both print and online versions (vs. online only). Note that starting Part II with Ch. F only makes sense in terms of length; it’s not a very good breaking point (vs., say, after Ch. G). Ch’s. B – I really should be read in order (one COULD skip Chapter A as well as Pre-A, though a question in Ch. A only makes sense after it recurs in Ch. H, assuming Ch. B was read. The author would rather not publish Pre-A-G separately and then publish a separate volume starting with H & I which would mean adding another 4-5 chapters, as Ch’s B – I are meant to be read together.
Aspie Mouse’s sister E-flat — the other major character besides Aspie Mouse in this chapter — is first introduced briefly in Ch. B; she’s then the last of the “visitors” in Ch. G, and makes a cameo in Ch. H in preparation for her key role in this chapter.
Chapter I Notes:
Chapter I begins with Aspie Mouse learning about the pandemic from his sister E-flat. The time is likely mid-April of 2020, a good five months after Chapter H ends (a week before Veteran’s Day): this “gap” may raise questions from observant Aspie’s. The author tries to cover that long time gap in the first panel, but it’s an inconsistency that bothers the author, so it may bother readers as well. Ideas on how better to treat that gap would be welcomed!
Social interactions between Aspie Mouse and various animal species (including fellow rodents) is the main thrust of this chapter — and the misunderstandings that result from how different the experiences and perspectives of these other animals are from his.
AM becomes eager to join E-flat to the zoo when the opportunity to play with a variety of cats is proposed — for too long, he hasn’t been able to. But first he sees pandemonium (and no social distancing or mask wearing) at a feeding site for non-zoo animals suddenly deprived of their usual food source: zoo visitors! Then AM goes off on his own, first coming across bats — fellow rodents, but with completely different powers and problems. Their banter reminds him of the squabbles he had with his siblings growing up, so he leaves eagerly to find the promised cats. But first he decides to take a shortcut through Monkey Island. Turns out while it IS a shortcut, Monkey Island is not without its risks. And he learns that animals playing together with their own species play very differently with other species, something he still doesn’t quite understand with cats not named KK.
The heart of the chapter is AM’s journey through the four buildings in the cat quadrangle. He gets more than he bargained for, especially in the first three buildings, devoted to large, medium-large and medium-small wild cats. If this work is used in a class or other learning setting, you may want to ask your students what they learn about different species during these feline interactions, as well as what if anything AM seems to learn. The last part of Question Set I-5 about cat gender is answered by knowing something obvious about large yellow cats; then how a small-medium cat is addressed by another, how Aspie Mouse gets treated by the first small “house cat-sized” cat he meets, and what that small wild cat’s next-door neighbor tells AM.
The author took some time to research the various animals introduced in the feline, canine, reptile and rodent buildings as he wrote Chapter I, so having students do further research into the various cats, dogs, etc. mentioned while AM is in, for example, the feline quadrangle (Question I-6) — both those he interacts with and those he skips — might make for interesting science research projects. The question set about anxiety and depression (I-7), while only appearing in this chapter in conjunction with AM’s interactions with the Flatheaded Cat, could launch a course unto itself. Anxiety & depression are closely tied in with low self-esteem, negative self-talk and lack of trust of others and self. None of these is exclusive to those with Autism, but each of these negative behaviors is found much more often in those with Autism (nearly 100% for Anxiety).
Aspie Mouse gets a chance to be a hero at his next stop: the Birds of Prey outdoor exhibition, yet his first intention for the problem he solves — how a mouse can get into the exhibit — changes as he learns why fellow mice are part of the exhibit; instead, he helps first one mouse, then others, get out. Solving this “problem” also helps him cope with his anxiety at seeing fellow mice being killed and eaten. The word play — play vs. pray; and are pray and prey just the same word with different spellings as gray and grey are — will be quickly grasped by some Aspies and perhaps totally confusing to others. this section presents another opportunity for AM to interact with a “Neuro-typical” of his own species, with the usual misunderstandings resulting. Together, AM and the other mouse make more holes in the net and free some more mice.
Realizing it’s time to find his sister, Aspie Mouse is nevertheless distracted by hearing barking, howls and strange laughing sounds coming from the Canine Carousel down the hill. AM decides to see if these other dog-like creatures are like Emma in Chapter E — loving to chase sticks. But no, hyenas, dingoes and foxes aren’t as interested in chasing sticks as they are at chasing Aspie Mouse — with AM even able to read the clever foxes’ thoughts of wanting to eat him! So he leaves there without visiting wolves, jackals, etc. and finds a tree to climb to look for his sister (whose name he still can’t remember), but finds instead it’s a set-up by zookeepers putting out leaves on high branches to feed giraffes (prompting Question I-9.3), and in sliding down the giraffe’s back, begins a series of being passed from animal to animal — from the giraffe to a kangaroo, then to a two-humped camel and finally to an elephant, who sends AM to the reptile house.
Because he first mistakes the reptile house for a rodent house, he eagerly enters when two zoo guards open the door. When the guards take a break before feeding their mice to snakes and other reptiles, AM frees the mice, and gets some help finding the real rodent building, where he indeed meets up with his sister. As to the question Jose asks Tran while they’re feeding the reptiles — which house has the most species? — the answer should be rodents, hands-down: their 15,000 species account for about HALF of all mammals! And yes, there are a lot of reptiles, particularly at this zoo.
The “Rodents Rule” building is second only to the cat quadrangle in terms of focus for this chapter. And since it’s the only place in the entire graphic novel with actual music, and the only building AM visits featuring interplay between AM and his sister, for many it could be the highlight of the chapter. To learn the names of the other rodents, E-flat sings them a question, and they sing back. Just as the author did research on the animals to make them realistic and prompt science questions, in “Rodents Rule” all the music provided can actually be played — it was all created for this purpose (except for one “satirical” riff on a popular tune), so musically inclined students now have their own way to get more deeply involved. If you only have time to create one melody to use, try the Guinea Pigs’ song, because the same melody is used for 2-1/2 verses starting at the bottom of the large top panel on page 29 and continuing to the backwards L-shaped panel at the top of page 31.
Singing can be an effective way of recalling names or even ideas, especially if you put new words to familiar tunes and these words replace the original words as primary in your memory. For example, people with dementia who have trouble recalling events, facts or even who people they’ve known all their lives standing in front of them, can often recall the words to familiar songs, sometimes even multiple stanzas. Turns out it’s because remembering music uses a different part of the brain than remembering spoken words, names, etc. As for which rodents are mis-matched, the clue is that predatory (carnivore) rodents might eat a grain/ plant-eating rodent; another clue is that minks are related to ferrets.
The two zookeepers named — Jose and Tran (there’s also a female zookeeper feeding the small wild cats, but she’s not named) — are inserted to give some human Neurotypical perspectives and to further AM’s role as “hero.” While their names are Spanish and Southeast Asian, no cultural stereotypes were consciously used. The question asking if any Autistic traits are observed in either is in a sense a trick question: none are purposely put in, but readers might find some. If they do, it demonstrates a useful truth: many of the traits common to people on the Autism Spectrum can be found in non-Autistics (Neurotypicals and those with other types of differences or disorders), particularly traits such as anxiety, sensory sensitivity (maybe in one mode), and having a strong “special interest.” That’s especially true for those with ADHD — while 3/4 of those on the Autism Spectrum also have ADD or ADHD, ADHD is far more often diagnosed, so there are a lot of non-Aspie’s out there with overlapping traits that both “claim.” However, those on the Autism Spectrum tend to share several of these Spectrum traits, not just one or two.
The conversations Aspie Mouse and his sister E-flat have, especially at the end of the chapter, are particularly rich for discussions around how others characterize common Autistic behaviors — and are these behaviors rude, just quirks, or done with ignorance rather than intentional? Also — given that E-flat makes it clear (in Ch. G as well as Ch. I) she is drawn to him over any of their other siblings — is it possible she has Aspie traits herself and so when she sees traits in others that are close to traits she doesn’t like in herself, that she makes a bigger deal out of it than she would otherwise? Given AM’s “confusion” in the last panel, doesn’t that seem likely?
Chapter I Questions for Thought or Discussion:
I 1: Aspie Mouse finds out about the pandemic when his sister E-flat visits him.
- How did you react when you first heard about the pandemic? How did you react when everything got shut down in March of 2020?
- How did your world change when the shutdown came? How long did you believe the changes would last?
- When did you start wearing a mask? Was it before or after it became recommended for other than front-line workers? (One reason this chapter begins at least a month after the initial shutdown is to show widespread masking.)
- How did you cope as the pandemic dragged on past a year before things returned to something familiar? How long did it take for you to “go back” to before the pandemic? Or have you made permanent changes in your life even now?
- How did Aspie Mouse react to the pandemic? How much did he seem to be concerned for others?
- How did AM’s sister E-flat respond to the pandemic? How did that differ from AM’s response?
- Why was AM so upset at the response of other rodents and birds where E-flat was volunteering?
- What activities that you really cared about got interrupted by the pandemic? Did you get back to them? How did things change in your life from before the epidemic after things went “back to normal”?
I 2: Aspie Mouse first visits bats — fellow rodents.
- As in Chapter H, Aspie Mouse’s visit with the bats is like talking to peers. What about the bats make AM uncomfortable? What about AM makes the bats uncomfortable? What does the interaction remind you about in your own life?
- What did AM not seem to understand about how they spoke to each other and to him? Do you have situations where others laugh AT you (at your expense) because you don’t understand the underlying meaning of idioms (expressions that mean more than the words)?
- Do you understand why Aspie Mouse was confused as to what the bats meant by certain expressions? What’s the difference between how the bats meant the phrases and how AM heard them?
- A possible research project: why did one bat say “White Nose Syndrome” is their “Kryptonite?”
- Why was AM glad to get out of the bat house? What did it remind him of?
I 3: Aspie Mouse’s next interaction was with monkeys.
- How did AM’s decision to try a “shortcut” work out in the end?
- What did AM appreciate about the monkeys?
- What did AM not appreciate about the monkeys?
- Is your experience with play especially, but also with friendships in general, more like AM (more 1-to-1) or more like the monkeys (more often “part of a group”)?
- Does AM’s interaction with the monkeys remind you of any interactions with other people in your life? In your experience, do you identify more with the monkeys or more with Aspie Mouse?
I 4: Aspie Mouse’s whole reason for joining E-flat going to the zoo was to “play with the cats.” So he gets to the cat quadrangle and has a variety of experiences.
- What happens with the large cats that makes AM decide that when it comes to playing with cats, bigger isn’t necessarily better? In what situations in your life have “bigger” or “getting more” not worked out? When have they worked out?
- If you have a problem getting jokes that “play on words” (double meanings, puns, etc.), see if you can discover the “double meaning” of the phrase “… playing with me” that AM complains about when he visits the ocelot on Page I-11.
- Why does the Pallas’s Cat in Building 4 not mind at first when Aspie Mouse pretends to be a fellow cat?
- Assuming the Flathead cat does have Autism, what traits of Autism are shared by both AM and the Flathead? Which traits are “opposites” (it’s common for those with Autism to be “opposite” in many traits)?
- When AM tells the Flatheaded Cat that Autism is a condition of “opposites” — that two individuals may both have Autism and yet have “opposite” traits (one reads way above grade level, another struggles with reading), does that ring true for you? Which traits do you have for which you know another Autistic person who has the opposite trait(s)? If you don’t have Autism, how have you observed these “opposite” characteristics in those you know with Autism?
- Continuing from I 4.5, Are some such traits more often associated with Autism by society than its opposite? What may be the consequences of having more under-appreciated “opposite” traits — good and bad?
- How many of the cats Aspie Mouse meets in the Cat (Feline) Quadrangle can be identified by gender/ sex? Which one(s), which gender(s) — male, female, maybe even trans — and how do you know?
I 5: A useful science research project might be:
- Look up the various cats identified on the signs for the four different buildings in the Feline Quadrangle, and notice which of their unique characteristics are noted for the cats actually introduced in the chapter.
- Explain why other cats of the same size as ones listed for each building might not have been at this zoo: for example, there are nine known wild “small” cats (smaller than house cats!), but only eight are listed on the sign at the entrance to Building #4; why isn’t the ninth listed there too?
- What determines which cats are more likely to “roar” vs. more likely to “meow”?
- Similarly, animals in subsequent buildings also could be worth researching. See below.
I 6: Sometimes when Aspie Mouse acts as a “hero,” he seems to be doing it for someone else, not himself.
- However, when he rescues the mouse from the “Birds of Prey” outdoor net, he also has a selfish reason for doing so. What is it?
- What self-serving reasons may exist for AM’s other good deeds — freeing the mice from the snake house and finding treats for the Guinea pigs?
- How can someone be seen as caring for others while also doing something for oneself?
- Is this something you do — care for others while also serving yourself? Or do you have trouble being seen as caring for others vs. being labeled “selfish”?
- Those with autism are often anxious (a continual form of fear), as has been mentioned in many chapters. What are different ways characters in this book show anxiety? Are there ways you show anxiety that aren’t shown in this book?
I 7: While anxiety is mentioned in the panels and questions for other chapters, Aspie Mouse’s discussion about depression with the Flatheaded Cat (in Building 4 of Feline Quadrangle) is unique in this chapter.
- While depression and anxiety feel and look different, they’re usually treated with the same medications, because the body seems to respond as if depression is a more severe form of anxiety. Why do you believe this may be true? Why might it not be entirely (or generally) true?
- Are the symptoms the Flatheaded Cat describes when he gets “depressed” familiar to you? How do those symptoms differ from those for anxiety?
- Have you experienced depression? Is it something you have experienced that’s directly tied to a specific situation, or does it seem to be present a lot of the time? If you haven’t, are you familiar with the symptoms the Flatheaded Cat describes in someone else you know?
- What non-medical treatments are you aware of for treating the symptoms of depression? Are they the same as for anxiety (meditation, talk therapy, breath work, slowing things down) — or different?
- Suicidal thoughts are most often associated with depression (not so much anxiety). What should you do if you have suicidal thoughts or learn that someone you know admits to having them?
- When AM leaves, both he and the Flatheaded cat wonder if they should have made more of a big deal about his leaving after having a good dialog. How are “no big deal” departures related to autism? (Note: related questions are asked in prior chapters and when AM & E-flat separate at the end of this chapter.)
I 8: At the Birds of Prey net, Aspie Mouse interacts with Neurotypical brown mice rather than the birds.
- What was the “selfish” reason Aspie Mouse gave for finding a way to rescue a fellow mouse? Can you think of a time when you did something to calm yourself down that also had good results for someone else?
- How did AM show he was nervous when the birds swooped down to grab mice to eat? Is this a response you are familiar with, either personally or observing others with this response? How did he get past this initial anxiety (which AM shows less often than most Aspies)? Are there other ways you or others may display anxiety that may be mis-read as something other than anxiety (stomach bug, anger, aggression)?
- Why was AM relieved when Q731 called him “wonderful”? Do you have trouble accepting praise from others for doing something that just feels like an ordinary thing you’d do anyway?
- If I tell you that Jose has been working at the zoo for one year, which of the two zookeepers feeding mice to predatory animals, Jose or Tran, would you promote to supervisor based on what transpires in the chapter? Why? Is that the same as how you’d expect the zoo management to act? Why or why not?
- Is anything in your own work or school or job interview experience like either of their (Jose/ Tran) attitudes? What would tend to get you in trouble in a job interview or work or committee situation?
- Which of the two zookeepers — Jose or Tran — do you identify with more? Do either of them behave as you do at times? Which? How? Do either of them show Autistic traits you can identify?
I 9: After the Birds of Prey and before the Reptile House, Aspie Mouse visits Canine Carousel and then gets a series of “rides” from several large exotic animals.
- Why was Aspie Mouse’s visit to Canine Carousel relatively short? What had he hoped to do there?
- What domestic animals do you get along with best? Dogs? Cats? Another pet? Are you usually better understanding and getting along with animals … or people?
- This chapter takes place rather early in the spring (mid-to-late April), yet the giraffes are eating from trees full of leaves. How is this possible?
- Are you curious to learn why and when a kangaroo really uses her tongue to clean out her pouch?
- Are you learning new information about elephants and camels based on what’s posted on the signs in this section of the chapter? Are you interested in learning more?
- Is the elephant AM interacts with Asian or African? Is the camel AM interacts with Asian or African? Why do you think most camels you’ve seen — either live or in pictures — have one hump instead of two?
- When you visit the zoo, which animals do you most enjoy seeing? What animal do you think you most resemble?
I 10: The last building Aspie Mouse explores before reuniting with his sister E-flat is “Reptiles Reposing.”
- Why is Aspie Mouse eager to go in this building? Is he particularly interested in playing with snakes or other reptiles?
- Why does AM agree to rescue the mice in the Reptile building? What is the unexpected reward he gets for doing so? In your own life, do you believe it’s better to help other people you don’t know when given the chance … or would you not get involved? Why either way? Or are there situations where you would and others where you would not?
- When one of the captive brown mice (P-105) calls AM “Einstein,” is the term being used as praise or an insult? Have you been called “Einstein” or “genius”? When has it been meant as praise and when as an insult? Why is P-103 angry with her brother P-105 for calling AM “dense”?
- If the zoo has as many examples of reptiles as it does of cats, dogs and birds of prey, which of these four animal categories is likely to have the largest number of different species represented? Why?
- Are all reptiles amphibians? Are all amphibians reptiles? Which familiar animals are classified as amphibians? This information is not in the chapter; it requires outside research.
- Also requiring outside research: how are crocodiles and alligators the same and how are they different? How are toads and frogs the same and how are they different?
- When AM asks brown mouse P-80 how P-80 knows things he never witnessed, what emotion does P-80 show when his face turns red? Why do you think P-80 reacts this way to AM’s question? Why do you think P-76 thinks AM asked a good question?
- Continuing from I-11-8, have you ever been asked the question “How do you know … ?” What answer do you give? How about if you’re not sure where you got the information? How do you feel when someone doesn’t believe your answer, whether you’re sure where you got it or not?
- Do you have a special interest or two where you really do know an awful lot? How easy or hard is it for you only to mention it to the degree someone else is really interested in hearing it? How easy or hard is it for you to listen to someone else’s special interest that isn’t one of yours when they go on and on?
I 11: Aspie Mouse and his sister E-flat reunite outside the exhibit “Rodents Rule” and then go in.
- Is AM’s difficulty remembering his sister’s name, even though it’s scratched in mouse letters on her belly, familiar to you? Do you have trouble either recognizing other people by face or remembering their name or both? If you do — or know someone who does — what are the social consequences that result? In your experiences, are problems with facial recognition and/ or body language related to lack of trust/ a judgment the world is not fair and may be out to get me?
- If you have trouble remembering names — or other things — does the “mnemonic” P-80 suggests AM use work for you? What other strategies do you use to remember people’s names (or even faces)?
- Why do you think P-80, a brown mouse, says she “… almost wishes I were a gray mouse”?
- When E-flat suggests using songs to tell and hear the names of other species, why might it be more effective than just speaking them? Do you remember words better in music or when spoken?
- In the top panel on page I-27 (the first “singing” panel), two of the rodents placed together shouldn’t be together. Why? Which other cage or box on that same page would be better for each of the mis-placed rodents to be put in with (leaving their box empty)?
- No explanation is given for why the Guinea Pigs speak (Rodent) French, instead of the Spanish of their native Andes (South America: check an Atlas to see which countries border the Andes mountains). Use your knowledge and imagination to come up with at least two possible reasons why.
- What do you think of AM’s comment in the bottom right panel of p. 29, “I like to help others when I can”? Is that true for you? Have you had situations when you’ve tried to be helpful and it wasn’t appreciated?
- Have you had situations where you were helpful on your own (without being asked) and it was praised? Was your reaction positive? Were you embarrassed (As AM seems to be)? Did the response (positive or negative) make you want to be more helpful or less going forward?
I 12: At the end of Ch. I, on their way home, interactions between Aspie Mouse and his sister E-flat address two “complaints” those without Autism often say about those who are Autistic: (1) that Aspie’s when they speak don’t adjust their voice volume appropriately — they’re either too loud (such as AM) or too soft; (2) that “Aspie’s” don’t have good manners, such as doing what’s “expected” in greeting people and saying goodbye to them (also see end of Ch. B & Ch. G and above question I-7-6).
a. Do you think it’s right for E-flat to bring either of these issues up with Aspie Mouse as her brother? What if she were a friend or parent? Has anyone complained about either of these issues with you? Have you brought either up with anyone else? What’s your reaction when/ if a sibling or friend complains/ would complain about an Autism-related trait you have? Do you welcome the observation? Do you resent the observation? How about if it comes from a parent? A teacher?
b. What do you think of AM’s reply as to why he believes he might talk too loud? His explanation is what the author of this graphic novel thought was true about himself, until he realized he had Autism! If this is a problem that has been pointed out to you (either too loud or too soft), what might you do about it?
c. E-flat says AM doesn’t reply “appropriately” when they split because he is absorbed in his thoughts — already on to the next thing before finishing goodbye rituals (as noted, also in Ch’s B, G & Q. I-7-6). Does she have a point? Do you or someone you know immediately switch to thinking about/ doing other things when someone’s ready to leave? If you agree this is something that separates you from others in some of your interpersonal relationships, what techniques might you use to maintain your connection better? Why do you think it upsets most of those without Autism and doesn’t upset most of those with Autism?
d. What do you think of AM’s “confusion” in the very last panel — as to how E-flat could complain that AM lacks manners/ is too self-absorbed in his thoughts when they are departing, yet she claims to have been so busy with her volunteering that she “forgot” to give him crucial information that could completely change his life from that point on? Is this “… the pot calling the kettle black”?
I 13: The “rumors” E-flat reveals to AM on the last page create new possibilities for him if true.
- What reasons AM had for changing where he lived between Ch’s. G & H Chapter H may no longer be valid, given what happened at his new (current) home (Yessika Gonzalez’s) at the end of Ch. H? What reasons may no longer be valid at his prior home (the Coppola’s), given what E-flat tells him at the end of Ch. I?
- What are reasons, if any, for AM to remain in his new home despite what’s now rumored to have happened? What do you think Aspie Mouse will do based on E-flat’s new information?
- (When) have you made a decision that seemed to be a good one, but then information you got later made you question that decision? Were you able to “go back”? Do you still regret the decision made or have you moved on — treating it as a useful learning experience, and even seeing benefits for how it turned out?
- Do you find making decisions easy, a bit of a challenge, or quite difficult? Once you make a decision, do you let things go as to how they turn out or do you second-guess yourself a lot?
- Are you better at making decisions or solving problems? What are the differences in these two thought processes for you? Do you think (other) people with Autism are likely to answer this question in a similar way, or would they vary the same way people differ from each other in random ways?
I 14: As in prior chapters, here is a list of common Autism traits, followed by three questions related to them — with more explanation for the traits and three questions vs. two (more like Ch. A, vs. Ch’s B-H):
- No eye contact: varies in degree. Makes others uncomfortable; they judge you’re not paying attention, listening to them or caring about them. Over-staring instead also makes others uncomfortable, with the added risk of being seen as threatening.
- Sensory sensitivity: loud or persistent noises, fluorescent or flickering lights, specific smells (can cause gagging or throwing up), touch (clothing comfort/ discomfort; avoiding or craving others’ touch).
- Voice Volume, Repetition & Variability: speaking in a monotone, saying the same things over and over OR overly loud, overly dramatic, keeps talking & talking and asks a lot of questions or never asks any!
- Stimming: rocking back & forth or side-to-side, flapping of arms/ hands, rolling balls in pocket, cutting oneself, public touching of private parts.
- Anxiety (fear): during or thinking about social situations — don’t understand what others expect. Typical responses (also to shame): fight (do or say something hurtful); flight (run away/ retreat to cellphone, bedroom, imagination) or freeze (body’s still here, but “frozen,”). Depression is extreme freeze, self-shame.
- Over-sensitivity: older term for anxiety/ shame feelings and responses. Leads to over-reaction or no visible reaction. Either response attracts bullies. No reaction is mistaken as not caring.
- Pattern-seeking: Aspie’s seek patterns everywhere, often finding them where others don’t. Can be numbers, lines of computer code, grammar & spelling, subtle ripples in water, etc. Problem: putting people in “boxes.” Benefit: can lead to careers in computers, engineering, inventing & the arts.
- (Obsessive) Special Interest(s): Favored activities that Aspies focus on to the exclusion of all else when they can. Can lead to rewarding careers. Can also drive others crazy. Hard to transition to an important activity.
- Love routine/ dislike change: Aspies thrive with daily routines; frees their minds to focus on unusual problems, etc. Hard time with transitions and disruption of the routine. Aspies aren’t seen as “flexible.”
- Lack of Social Understanding: Aspie’s stand too close or too far away from others, interrupt others’ speaking without waiting for a pause, are considered “rude” for not noticing lines, blocking access to food. Accused of being “selfish” when they don’t react as “expected,” yet just don’t know the rules.
- Can’t remember names or faces, difficulty reading body language etc.: Considered by non-Autistic people as self-centered behavior, or even that one is “purposely” not obeying non-verbal signals. No, those on the Autism Spectrum are just bewildered by unwritten rules they can’t “read.” Adds to lack of trust both ways.
- Not Showing or Over-showing Feelings: Some Aspies may not experience certain feelings, or they may, but not understand or ignore them. A larger group of Aspies don’t SHOW their feelings, while inside they’re feeling so much they are “frozen” and can’t show it — much to the frustration of others who think they “don’t care.” And still other Aspie’s show such extreme reactions to feelings that they are accused of “acting”/ putting on a show.
- Don’t Understand Jokes: Common for those who take everything someone else says at face value. They don’t “get” irony, satire, etc. Maybe easily fooled and made the butt of jokes they don’t get. Other Aspies LOVE jokes — especially word puns! Positive: a high level of honesty. Aspies tell the truth, both good & bad!
- Difficulty getting & keeping friends, relationships & jobs: Most Aspies don’t “court” or interview well. They say too much, too little, or unexpected (rude) things — makes others feel uncomfortable.
- Difficulty feeling safe: Aspies feel “unsafe” a lot (anxiety) — not understanding social “rules,” make their own safety priorities. This often causes trouble with parents, partners or friends, angry with an Aspie’s “wrong” safety priority.
- Sharing one’s diagnosis: Aspies worry about when or with whom to admit having Autism. It’s a safety issue!
a. Which of these characteristics can you identify that Aspie Mouse or another Autistic character exhibits in this chapter — with negative or positive or mixed results?
b. Which animals in this chapter display Autistic traits? Explain. Which may have one or more other possible human diagnoses of “difference”?
c. DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CHAPTERS: For the 16 characteristics listed above, for those you have, how many POSITIVE aspects of it can you find in yourself? How about in others with Autism you know?