Ch. B: Leaving the Nest for “MIT” (posted 6/26/19, 4 pp. revised 8/25/20, full revision begun 7/10/21: pp. 1-15 & 3 old pages of 24? as of 7/27)

A brand new chapter for this volume (no prior version of this chapter existed for AM’s forebear), Ch. B explains where Aspie Mouse comes from, as we meet his mother and four siblings; he leaves home, finds the mouse version of MIT (university), gets his present name, impresses everyone with his abilities, and leaves ready to find his place in the world, armed with new maturity and tools (literal & figurative).

As the oldest chapter not yet fully expanded and updated (adding panel separations, making balloon text more uniform in size, and resizing to better fit a 5-1/2″ x 8″ trim size), Ch. B is currently getting a major overhaul — after which only Chapter C will need and get fully upgraded in trim size, panel separation & text uniformity. Four pages of Ch. B were updated and redone last August, raising the total page count from 10 to 12. Now pages five to twelve replace what was (since 8/25/20) pages five to nine, and in the original 10-page version, three to seven. Given this trend, and considering new material the author has decided should be added to this chapter, the fully revised Ch. B is now expected to be around 24 pages — just as Ch. D expanded from eight to 24 pages in four stages. This should be accomplished soon! Right now, it’s 18 pages, but the current 16-18 (listed as B10-B12) should expand greatly, as more details about AM’s classes at “M.I.T.” are shown (similar to what new pages B13-15 show for one such class).

Temporary page B10
Temporary Page B11
Temporary Page B16, only last 3 panels are relevant; first 3 are expanded above.
Temporary Page B17
Temporary Page B18

Notes for Chapter B, “Leaving the Nest for ‘M.I.T.‘”

This chapter is brand new for this volume. It explains where Aspie Mouse came from (we meet his mother and siblings), how he got the name Aspie Mouse, and how he got his education. It’s therefore first in this work’s sequence, despite Ch. A coming first (see Ch. A for an explanation). Only one line (“Oh boy! Two cats! Double fun!”) in Ch. B is directly borrowed from a comic book the author wrote for Aspie Mouse’s forebear decades ago; no plot elements came from the earlier comic book version.

Expansion to this chapter from its original 10-page version of June, 2019 — to 12 in September, 2020 — started by doubling the first two pages to four (changed to the revised format now used for all later chapters) by adding a section on saying goodbye to his siblings (and meeting an outdoor cat). This goodbye helps set up the return of his brother D and sister E in Ch. G. Sister E will then continue to appear in Chapters H & I. Other planned additions for Ch. B include breaking down AM’s “interview” into smaller chunks and showing more of what AM experiences in his classes at “M.I.T.,” especially a course on “Translating Human Words to Rodent Understanding,” that is related to something that happens in Chapter H (and Ch. A).

Ch. B’s topic expansions also open doors to asking more end-of-chapter questions on living situations and family (including siblings) — for mice; later (Ch’s C &D), the sibling questions will refer to humans. Ch’s. A, C & H also deal with a specific “home” issue: moving to a new one.

The answer to Question B4c (last part) is any variation of “You wouldn’t be happy here” or “You probably wouldn’t fit here,” or in the extreme, “Why don’t you go back where you came from?” All of which is unfair of course and hurts — a lot (though the author, unaware that it was his Autism-induced anxiety that prompted someone to say that to HIM (“Why don’t you go back where you came from?) laughed at the time, figuring he “deserved” to see what it felt like as a mostly Northern European-descended cis-gendered young white man! Toe/ Hashtag isn’t saying this to AM out of prejudice or to hurt him, but out of genuine concern for him. That still doesn’t reduce the potential hurt, or its possible effect of limiting AM’s choices if he listens to her instead of what his heart is telling him he should do. Yet in all likelihood, he’d come to the same conclusion as Hashtag whatever she said.

The author had a cousin who was pushed toward vocational high school because he wasn’t “smart enough” for an academic high school. He made a good living as a tool & die-maker, eventually starting his own business. His eldest son became an accountant (a profession known for high intelligence scores), then Chief Financial Officer, then bought & ran a manufacturing business! His dad was not smart enough??

The “you wouldn’t be happy here” argument was (& is) used to discourage women & minorities from entering certain high-paying “white male” professions, or moving to certain towns or neighborhoods. Might it be at least part of the reason people diagnosed with falling on the Autism Spectrum average 70-80% unemployment/ underemployment rates?

Stranger than fiction #1: On the last page of the chapter, Phil laments that when students graduate from the mouse MIT, they scatter without saying goodbye, hugging, etc. When this chapter is revised, the asterisk will likely be removed, with the comment moving HERE in the notes: The author was with a group of MIT alumni friends ending a celebration for an out-of-town friend’s visit. They just left, with no ceremony, no goodbye’s — much to the consternation of a Neurotypical woman present who couldn’t understand how they could just leave like that when they might not see each other again for months or even years. The author figured out later that Autistic people usually don’t see any need for long goodbyes. They’re glad to see their friends, and will be glad to see them again, but when it’s time to leave, they’re ready to move on to the next thing – alone. Get-togethers aren’t all that big a deal! Other places that show Aspie Mouse exhibiting this “ho-hum, OK, bye” behavior: Chapters D, G, F & I.

Questions for Thought/ Discussion: Ch. B, “Leaving the Nest for ‘M.I.T.‘”

B 1: (Similar to Q. D1) Aspie Mouse likes where he lives, but Momma wants him out.

a. What do you like about where you live? Dislike?

b. When do you prefer being alone? When would prefer being around other people? c. Which specific person or people (if any) would you rather be around most or all the time?

d. Are you (or if younger, Do you plan to be) living on your own or staying with your parents after you finish your school work? Which would your parents prefer that you do? If these wants are different, does it cause stress, and how do you handle stress?

e. Do you judge your parents understand your needs in terms of having Autism? Or if you don’t have Autism, answer this question generally (do your parents understand what do you need)? Do you think you have tools to increase understanding of you if they initially didn’t “get” you?

f. How did you react when AM’s mom literally “kicked him out” of the house? What feelings came up for you? What do you wish AM could do or would do instead of “taking it” — or are you glad for him, seeing how he ended up after being kicked out?

g. Do you have pets at home? If more than one, do you have a favorite? Do pets respond well to you? Why do you think a pet may prefer one member of the household to another if that appears to be true?

B 2: (Similar to Q. D 2) Aspie Mouse lives with four siblings: brother D, sisters B, C & E.

a. If you live or lived with one or more other children growing up, especially if one or more are non-Autistic (Neurotypical), how do/ did you and they get along?

b. Same situation (grew up with other kids, Autistic or not): Was there jealousy — complaints about fairness — about parents’ treatment about achievement, abilities, success, attention, and how rules were applied to you vs. them? Do/ did such complaints go both ways, or did you or another child complain a lot more, at least in your memory? Would the other child(ren) likely agree on who complained more?

c. If you’re an only child, did you wish you had a brother or sister or both? How might life have been different? If you grew up with other kids at home, did you often wish you were an only child? How might life have been different? If you’re in a group to share these responses with, are you surprised to hear how the situation different from what you experienced was for those other(s) growing up?

d. Did you experience comments like Mama makes to all the siblings, that she’s glad to get rid of them because they fight so much, etc.? Have your parents made such comments about you? If so, how has it affected you? If not, are you now grateful they didn’t? How might comments like that have a lasting effect on someone’s self-esteem (how they feel about themself)? What might be a better way for Mama to handle her frustrations than insulting her “grown-up” offspring as to how they were as youngsters?

e. (Will go into further depth with this subject in Question D 3, 2 chapters later and again after Ch. H): How do you think Aspie Mouse feels when 3 of his 4 siblings call him “names” and say they’d rather he be gone? Has this been an issue between you and your siblings (if you have) and/ or schoolmates (name-calling)? How have you handled it?

f. Do you believe sibling issues are different (better? worse? the same?) in homes where none of the children have Autism or other situation where some of their brains operate differently from most people’s?

B 3: In this chapter, Aspie Mouse shows a number of Autistic traits in the first chapter chronologically (the prior Ch. A is like a preview — the events in Ch. A actually come later, where Ch. H is.

  1. Aspie Mouse has trouble remembering names, as shown with both his sister E and “Head Mouster Phil.’ Is this a problem you have? Is that all the time or only at certain times? Do you mix people up or not recognize faces (often, seldom, never)? What ways do you try to make up for these, if problems?
  2.  Aspie Mouse also has low self-esteem (doesn’t feel good about himself), based on how his mother and three siblings treat him when he’s leaving; AM admits to Head Mouster Phil that his family thought AM was a “moustake.” Can you relate to AM in your own life? Who’s told you, either obviously or by deeds if not words, that you aren’t “good enough” as you are? Has it made you a better person or made it harder for you to gain confidence?
  3. What do you think of the idea — popular with many adult “self-help programs” — that when other people complain about “who you are” — not how you behave (which is fair to complain about) — IT’S ABOUT THEM. It’s something they don’t like about THEMSELVES, but they blame it on you because they don’t want to see it in themselves?
  4. (Continuing from 3): The result of being told “you ARE a mistake” is very damaging. What’s the key difference between believing that “I AM a mistake,” instead of “I MADE a mistake”? The shame coming from “I made a mistake” is appropriate; the shame that comes from “I am a mistake” is toxic/ deadly and NOT TRUE!
  5. Have you had something good happen — as when Aspie Mouse is admitted to “M.I.T.” — that shows you are very much wanted in this world and do something well? Whether you’ve had that experience or not, how may you overcome others’ negative opinions of you, or decide not to let them rule your life?
  6. Do you have a special interest that isn’t always appreciated by others who know you well, such as Aspie Mouse has in making language translation apps?
  7. Aspie Mouse takes Head Mouster Phil’s words “I’m pulling your leg” literally, not seeing it as an idiomatic expression. Have you had that problem? What other problems have you faced in not recognizing when someone says something, they’re being ironic or just using an expression?
  8. Aspie Mouse is quite smart and good with spoken words, but has trouble reading letters, especially if they’re not being used in words, but just initials. Do you have any reading issues or word usage issues? What techniques do you use to make up for your confusion?

B 4:  At the bottom of p. B XXX and top of p. B XXX, Aspie Mouse and Toe/ Hashtag disagree as to the reason(s) AM can’t or shouldn’t be a “lab mouse.”

a.  How did you react when Aspie Mouse said he couldn’t be a lab mouse because he’s gray, whereas lab mice are all white? Does he have a point? Does his complaint remind you of anything in the human world?

b.  What reasons do Toe/ Hashtag give for why AM is not a suitable lab mouse? Does she have a point?

c.  Summarize the final reason/ argument Toe/ Hashtag gives for discouraging AM for wanting to be a human lab mouse (in first panel on p. B XXX following “besides …”) in a simple sentence of 10 words or fewer (even better if as few as 5 words).

d. How might someone in power deny a person buying a house, renting an apartment, applying for a job, etc., by “creating” such an argument/ story as per B4c? How might creating such a story take attention away from or justify (make seem reasonable; help disguise) a person in power’s possible discomfort/ prejudice about something superficial in the applicant — race, gender, ethnicity, age or disability? Then how might the person in power use that story to discourage an applicant (for the house, apartment, job) from moving forward?

e. Building on B4abc, if you’re given the argument that Toe/ Hashtag gives Aspie Mouse, and you believe it should be challenged (whether you agree with it or not), how might you do so?

B 5: Per Question A 7: a list of common Autism traits, followed by two questions related to them:

  1. No eye contact
  2. Sensory sensitivity: noise, certain lights, smells & touch
  3. Voice Volume, Repetition & Variability
  4. Stimming
  5. Anxiety (fear) of social situations: responses of fight, flight or freeze
  6. Over-sensitivity: over-reaction or no visible reaction (mistaken as not caring)
  7. Pattern-seeking
  8. Special Interest(s)
  9. Love routine/ dislike change
  10. Lack of Social Understanding
  11. Can’t remember names or faces, read body language etc.
  12. Not Showing or Over-showing Feelings
  13. Don’t Understand Jokes
  14. Difficulty getting & keeping friends, relationships & jobs
  15. Difficulty feeling safe
  16. Sharing one’s diagnosis — should I or not?

a. Which of these characteristics can you identify that Aspie Mouse or another Autistic character exhibits in this chapter — either negative or positive? How about other mouse characters?

b. Do you see examples in this chapter of cats acting Autistic (or not)?

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