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My Autism… And My Life With Horses.

            “Do you need to go to the bathroom?” My mother asked, staring at me with an eyebrow raised. I glance down at my leg. It was bouncing up and down, and I had not noticed it until now. “Oh, no. It’s just habit, Mom,” I replied. “I do it all the time.” She looked at me unsure of my reply. I sighed. “I’m all good, Mom.” She looked away, accepting my answer.

            This was repeated over the years, until I got my diagnosis of Autism as an adult. It explained a lot of things. I discovered this to be stimming. Stimming was a way for me to let out energy, and keep my mind busy. Bouncing my leg is my go-to movement of stimming, but I have noticed a few other kinds I’ve done: tapping my fingers and feet, picking at my nails, swaying while standing, among other things. I’ve tried staying still to look normal, but that is an exercise in futility. I need to keep my hands busy, too.

            Autism comes out in different ways for many people. Plenty of people look and act normal with minimal signs of Autism. For others, its more obvious. I was diagnosed as high functioning autistic, which meant that I have the signs of being autistic but with the functions of being a normal person who doesn’t have this diagnosis.

            Before my diagnosis, I had to learn how to act appropriately around my peers. I had my moments, of course, and I still do. I was a quiet kid, and still is even as an adult, though I’ve learned to open up some. I knew I was different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was strange to me how everyone around me could talk, easily make friends, and can keep up a normal conversation. I had to learn how to do that, but it was difficult. I liked being in my own world, and do the things I enjoyed, but very few people came to me wanting to be my friend. It was also difficult to be interested in what other people were interested in. But I tried. I really tried.

            Being around horses opened my world outside of interacting with people. Yes, I earned the reputation of being the “horse girl”, but I didn’t care. Even my Deaf friends joked to change my sign name to look like a horse’s ear. I learned to ignore them and moved on. It wasn’t easy. Horses allowed me to give them silent communication, so I didn’t have to speak out of turn like I do occasionally, which is another sign of my Autism. I learned how to be patient and be an effective rider, as well as communicate. I often wished that I took lessons when I was much younger, but that didn’t happen until I entered my teen years. But until then, of course, I had my dog, Punkie, to contend with, and still did until he passed.

            Horses allowed me to forget my autistic issues, like sensory or auditory. I loved touching their soft noses and fur. I felt like I could talk to them without saying a word. I’ve learned to recognize their emotions and their needs and wants. A loud neigh would make me smile, but it would not hurt my ears. The smell of the barn is the best smell when I arrived each day to ride. Touching horse blankets of different textures whether dirty or not did not bother me. I always chose the treats that were not smelly or sticky like a peppermint, which was an exception. For some reason or another, I refuse to touch them. It’s hard to explain why, but it is what it is, as others say.

              My sensory issues due to touch are not much of a problem, it’s mainly what I have to deal with around me. For example, it might be a room full of people. It drains me, as I like my quiet moments. Sure, it can be my introversion, but it can feel overwhelming to me. It’s not something that’s easily avoidable, but I have my ways of coping with it.

              Rusty crawled over to me on the couch. His shining eyes stared at me. It’s like he’s asking, “What about me?” I have to smile, and pat him on the head. Yes, he is one of my coping mechanisms in overwhelming environments. Such a loyal dog, who stays close and yet is kind to other people. He is overprotective sometimes, but he won’t hurt anyone unless he had to. “Want a treat?” He jumped in joy at the mention of a favorite snack, and hopped off the couch in anticipation. I giggle, and walk away.



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