The Patterns of Affinity in the Autistic Mind

So my dad was channel surfing through the news stories and my ear catches a sound bite about a man who has an autistic son who learned to communicate through watching Disney movies. As I watched the story, I saw a lot of myself in the autistic child, who I learned is now 23 years old.

The news piece about Ron Suskind’s son mentioned something called “affinity therapy” in which role-playing is used to develop social skills. As I thought about all of the things that I obsessed over as a child and the things I obsess over now, I realized that I did something along those lines as a kid. And like Owen, I was drawn to a certain type of character as I grew up.

My first obsession was Sailor Moon. I had some episodes on VHS (that’s the thing they used before DVDs to watch things, millenial readers) that I would watch over and over. The episode that I remember most of all is the episode in which Usagi/Serena is revealed to be Princess Serenity. Up until that point, I had no idea of any sort of princess, but what really got my attention was Usagi/Serena didn’t want to be a princess after Mamoru/Darien was taken away from her. In the past, I watched heroes who went into danger unafraid of anything. This was the first time that I ever saw a hero who was afraid and expressed her fear. As a child, I would watch that particular tape over and over again and sometimes pretend that I was a Sailor Scout. I also pretended to be things from other anime shows, but Sailor Moon was basically the start of it.

Anime continued to be an obsession up until my high school days, when I discovered a novel that changed my life forever. Pride and Prejudice featured Elizabeth Bennet, a young woman who was a lot like myself at the time: outspoken, witty, and a bit presumptuous. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she was wrong and to change, which was very different from the chick lit and young adult novels I read that had a lot of self-centered characters. But what really drew me to her was that she had her vulnerable moments and admitted her fears out loud. This was later shown in the YouTube adaptation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which became my obsession during my last year of college.

Although I never pretended to be Elizabeth Bennet, I did some theatre in high school and college and the roles I liked most were the outspoken, talkative, young female characters. Theatre became a concentrated form of “affinity therapy” because I was always playing a part in some shape or form. The best role I ever had was when I got cast in my friend’s production of The Boys Next Door. I played the role of Shiela, the love interest of Norman. Like the most of the others, my character was someone with special needs who lived in a group home. In spite of her disability, she was able to find love. And although I am no longer acting, a good percentage of my brain space has memorized entire episodes from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which includes costume theatre segments that had me in stitches.

One particular experience of affinity therapy happened shortly after I started obsessing over Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The character I loved most was a super strong blonde character who had a vulnerable side that I could relate to, who hid that same vulnerability because it didn’t fit with the expectations others had of this particular character and yet he/she had such a dynamic personality that I rooted for him/her and wanted him/her to have a happy ending after all the heartbreak and pain he/she went through.

But wait, you ask, are you talking about Spike or Buffy? Yes.

My Buffy obsession eventually led to me cosplaying Buffy, meeting the guy who played Spike at a convention, and writing fanfiction, all of which I think fall under the affinity therapy umbrella.

All the characters I ended up loving had courage and showed their vulnerable side to the world, even when they didn’t know they were doing so. I haven’t really had the courage to do the same until now.

I want to post about my Asperger’s Syndrome more often and share my experiences of being on the autism spectrum. Lately it seems that poetry has been the best way for me to express that.

I wrote a poem back in middle school and my teacher, years later, shared that poem with some parents of autistic kids. These parents apparently saw their children’s mind in my poem, which was about feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere because my interests and ideals were different from everyone else’s. If a poem I wrote all those years ago could touch someone now, I have to keep going at it so that I can reach out and let other kids, teens, and young adults with autism and Asperger’s know that they’re not alone.

Tonight, when I was taking a walk, I watched a thunderstorm in the distance. It inspired me to write the following poem. I hope you enjoy it because there is probably going to be more to come.


Primal Instinct


Lightning dances across the sky

In a show of beauty and danger

It dances to the symphony of crickets and frogs

Mixed with the cacophony of dog barks and car horns

And in the middle of this song is the rhythm of a runner’s feet

Pounding the pavement as they run nearby

Close enough to the storm to watch,

But far enough to be safe from shock.

The primal instinct of running is fear,

And yet these feet do not run away from the storm

They dance a fine line between risk and safety

Knowing that home isn’t far away

Hold My Heart

I know that I have shared this quote from CS Lewis before, but it bears repeating as it is relevant to this post.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Today, I realized that I am scared at the idea of ever being in love with someone again. Even when I picture the best case scenario of me as a married woman, there’s this loud inner voice in my head that screams I DON’T WANT THIS!

I’m still not sure if that loud inner voice is God speaking or my fear getting to me. But I can say that it’s a huge change from how I was a few years ago, when I was desperate to be in love. Maybe I’m just swinging on a pendulum or maybe a relationship isn’t the best thing for me right now, but I realized today that I can’t be afraid of the idea of being in love with a person.

You might be wondering what in heck could’ve happened to me that would make me so scared of falling in love. To make a long story short, I have fallen in love multiple times in the past and every time I did, I ended up hurting and worse than before. While I can laugh it off right now, the laughter masks the vulnerability I still feel about the idea of being in love.

In the end, I decided that for today, I will trust my heart to God and pray that since He created my heart, He can keep my heart open for whatever love comes into my life. There’s a song for that, as always. Tenth Avenue North’s “Hold My Heart” has become one of my favorites lately and I feel like it describes what I go through sometimes when I’m confused or don’t understand what’s going on in my life.

I’ll end this blog post with a prayer about guarding one’s heart. I hope that this prayer can help anyone out there who’s as confused and scared of love as I am.

Most Precious Lord Jesus, Gentle And Wonderful God, Truly Awesome And Ever-present Holy Spirit,

Precious Lord Jesus, I love you.

May I always have your love in my heart.

May I always use your love to guard my heart against the evil one.

May your love protect my heart against the evil of temptation.

May your love protect my heart against the evil of ego.

May your love help me stand against feeling sorry for myself.

May your love help me build a wall against the attack of the darkness around me.

In your love and grace, help me fight against evil influences.

In your love and grace, help me engage in the spiritual war in which I am engaged so you shall win the victory.

May the living water of your being stay within me and may your spirit flow from my heart so others know how much you love them.

You are the source of my life.

May I always be ever mindful of how much you love me and look over me.

May I guard the love you place in my heart so I can humbly live in obedience to your will.

As a protection, whenever I have setbacks and disappointments please remind me the abundance of my life starts in my heart and through you I can find the infinite.

As a protection, whenever I have heartbreak, please inspire me to always come to you to soothe the ache.

As a protection, whenever I have sadness and grief, please inspire me to always come to you to find your comfort.

As a protection, whenever I feel spiritually poor, please remind me the source of my spiritual riches is in knowing how much you love me and how much you care for me.

All these things I humbly pray in the name of my most Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, my Mighty God, and my Ever-present Holy Spirit upon whom I can rely.


A Midsummer Afternoon's Blog Post

This summer has been surprisingly busy. I’ve been spending a lot of time writing a lot of different things. I am currently in Camp NaNoWriMo, editing my novel and putting another project together that I’m planning to announce at the end of the month.

I also made an attempt to pay more attention to what I eat and how often I exercise. And while making an effort to improve my health and fitness is all well and good, I learned that there’s a difference between being more aware of what I eat and counting calories obsessively.

I ultimately hope to lose a few pounds to get myself to a healthier weight, but I’m not gonna make it my end-all, be-all because it’s too stressful. I wish people were more flexible in health and fitness because a lot of programs assume that the person in mind has some kind of 9-5 job that can allow a routine workout. Life is a little more unpredictable than that.

Being healthy and losing weight to me comes down to moderation and adaptability. I found that although I didn’t take walks everyday last week, I had exercise throughout my volunteer work at a week-long day camp. Being on your feet chasing after kids can be a heck of a workout, after all. I also paid more attention to portion sizes and how often I eat certain things. Variety can be the spice of life when it comes to diets.

After all, what’s summer without indulging in a cold fruit slushie with tapioca?