Escape Rooms in Autism

My friends visited here in Denver about two years back. For fun, we tried out an ‘Escape Room’ downtown.

In we went. Two indolent teens were already in there, so I felt the need to assert command, precision, direction — y’know, all those extroverted hyperfocused mission-oriented skills that we autistic people have. I coordinated comms, got everyone thinking out loud, delegated explorers, logically ruling out possibilities, navigating clue by clue.

We did not escape.

I had to leave, but my friends went back afterward to try the rest of the rooms. They escaped from each one and set records along the way.

The lessons for me:

  • I am a part of success when I am apart from it.
  • I’m the rare friend whose absence is appreciated more than my presence.

It is the life autistic. And that is what I am.

Anyway. That’s the snarky angle, a little more scathing than true.

Aside from that, ‘escape rooms’ are essential for us.

I appreciate this fast-closing baby phase with Jo, my youngest. As a veritable scamp, I often whisk her away from the action, as it doubles as an excuse for us to just “find quiet space.”

And I need that.

No, not to escape forever. To pause. To ruminate. To unplug.

I can endure manifold stressors, torrential downpours of noise pestilence, and cavalcades of chaos — as long as there’s an “escape room” to escape to. It resets and benefits, lets the distress seep out, and balances back the unbalanced quiet. It’s why I’ll sooner agree to host than to be a guest or selectively opt into segmented loud and awkward places, as long as I can find a way to tunnel away.

It’ll be nice when we build more “sensory friendly” corners and spaces by design — I don’t think people realize that we need places to pause without it being seen retreating.

We’re normalizing this, turning riot into quiet, making space to rest overspaced minds — and this is good. This is beyond an autism thing, but I’m glad we can lead the way on the why and the where.

For now, I’m at least glad I can take a fussy baby out and find that solace.

With the renewed focus on mindfulness, mental peace, what’s to say that “sensory friendly” can’t be the new “friendly?” Maybe we should be leading the way here? To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram.

Hey, if you’re still here, would you consider subscribing to my YouTube channel? It’s quickly becoming one of my more impactful vehicles for autism advocacy. It’s unique, fun, and it’s going a little way to help people better understand the ‘different normal’ of autism. Thanks so much!


The Best Birthdays in Autism

My birthday was last week. Very little ado was made of it. Mission accomplished.

Surprises aren’t my thing, nor are extravaganzas. Since I had neither the impetus, nor the friends, nor the general energy for birthday parties after age 8, I found the absence of celebration sad, but liberating.

Maybe you’re the “birthday celebrator extraordinaire” type of person.

As an autistic fellow with a recurring birthday, I am not.

Here’s why:

We (generally) don’t like changes in routine. I like when my birthday falls on a weekday, because then I go to work, get things done, and make it a mostly normal day. Predictability is a fine present. Sure, I wouldn’t mind an Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Co-Axial Day Date either, but barring that, I’m most at ease and happy when things go “according to prescription.”

Were not fond of misaligned expectations. There’s a great phrase I borrow from The Patriot: “Aim small, miss small.” With hypervivid imaginative capacity and keen abilities to construct what amazing events look like, it’s only dooming us to failure when those things can’t come to pass, due to scale, complexity, meltdowns, whatever. I asked for three things on the day: for me not to have to make the bed, an empty sink, and $10 worth of tacos from El Michoacano — a taqueria in a part of town where I’m the only person who orders in English. I got all three, as expected, totally perfect.

People. Well, it’s nice having people around, but I like keeping my energy reserves stored. My wife and three daughters made sweet and special company, and they let me be me at my most “me.”

Normal people are quick to claim an entire “birthday month,” paint the town red (whatever that means), and get a pass on their vanity for bending the world to their whims on the one day they can afford to do so.

Me? I’m not normal.

Yet I had a great and happy birthday in my own autistic way.

I’m 3# years into my life autistic, and I hope it won’t take all too many more for our differences to pass from ‘misunderstood’ to ‘tolerated’ to ‘accepted’ and maybe even ‘celebrated.’ Even if I don’t have much by way of birthday celebrations, right?  To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.

Speaking of celebrations, check out my latest video for something I actually celebrated perhaps even more than my own birthday:

Autistic People are Cat People?

People often assume I’m a cat person. They’re wrong, but not in the way they expect. They’re also right, but not how they expect.

The other night, I was invited to meet and catch up with some out-of-town acquaintances at the Denver Cat Company, which was less about feline manufacturing and more about keeping company with cats. There were around 14, darting, slinking, and enjoying cuddles and play from others.

It was a great catch-up and meet as well, one of the first and few in which I could engage with and listen to other resplendent, neurodivergent people. I cracked open my tin of Fancy Feast™ and enjoyed about 75 minutes of late-evening conversation. It’s nice when, within my tribe, I can almost finish someone’s sentences with the word ‘anathema‘ and not be thought strange or odd, but perfectly welcome.

But back to cats, when I saw the sign, I asked to snap a pic and muse on my own enduring question:

Are autistic people cat people?

A lot of those feline guidelines sure apply to me:

  • Touch at your own risk
  • Watch for claws
  • Leave me to my refuge
  • Leave me be
  • Don’t chase me
  • Don’t pick me up off the ground

I see why we get that reputation. We’re cuddly, but only on our own terms. We’re social, but we opt into that and need to be able to bail at a moment’s notice. We’re not declawed, and if we scratch, it’s not because we hate you. We don’t want people invading our bubble, unless we somehow faintly signal that we want you to.

But we’re not all nor always cat people.

We get a puppy-like exuberance about our special interests. Sometimes we’ll follow a scent or a thing without breaking focus. We can be intractably loyal and fixed to a single person as their aggressive defenders and faithful friends. Sometimes we’re distracted by squirrels.

And that’s the autism spectrum for you: variety within variety, difference within difference.

Fun fact: Despite my cattiness, I’ve only ever owned dogs.

Cats, dogs, reptiles, fish — whatever: every time I try to fit autism into a stereotype, I fail spectacularly. Word to the wise there.  To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks.

Unrelated, but my two dogs cameo in my latest video. It’s far more entertaining to see it vs. read about it. Check it out: