The Only Way You Learn about Anything – even Autism

Last summer, after the rains abated, it was time.

I searched for the same video I’d been using to turn my sprinkler system back on. This is one I watched only once a year, if lucky. I usually needed to reference it more than once. Not because I’m terrible with retention — which can be true — but because, inevitably, something would break.

I’ve learned a lot about my sprinkler system and sprinkler systems in general. It’s not a special interest. I’m not particular keen on it.

When things are broken, I learn more about them.

My sprinkler turn-on ended up being a summer school, with humiliating coursework. Things broke. Things I couldn’t name, with parts I couldn’t explain, with pieces that fired upward toward my brain. Literally.

I’d adjusted the test cocks, turned the screw heads to what I thought was perpendicular, parallel, or whichever — I’ve still yet to learn the difference, which is awkward when I end up perpendicular parking in crowded downtown confines — turned off the main shutoff valve, and sent the vacuum breaker skyrocketing into my frontal lobe. Thank you, skull, for taking a shame-inducing hit for me.

All those italicized terms — those were just thing A, thing B, doohickey C, and whatevertheheck D in my mind. But they all conspired to break.

And as they were broken, so I learned.

I did repair those things, after vain and errant hunts for parts. Off we went to find that video, re-open all the valves, ensuring my dome steered clear of the potential blast radius —

We were clear — until a sprinkler head rocketed off behind me, propelled by a spectacular geyser, cold arc of water gushing and glorious, unbound and unyielding to that former node.

And as this was broken, so I learned.

This was far less injurious to both my pride and forehead, so the endeavor of sprinkler head replacement came with far less shame, far more digging, much more dirt.

I’ve come to similar learnings in autism.

I’ve surveyed the things I found broken.


Relating to others.


Social graces.

Saying “the right thing.”


Sensory overload.

Devotion to routines.


It has been a year of learning.

This summer, after the rains abated, it was time.

I learned more about my sprinkler valve assembly. I’d learned to keep my bell from being rung. With a harsh whishhh, the vacuum breaker held.

And again, malady. My backyard sprinklers defied my clocks orders and sprayed without beckoning.

As more things were broken, so I learned.

My wife insisted I do a very unorthodox thing and read the manual. After sitting on that for days, I relented. And so I learned. I learned about resetting my sprinkler clock. I learned about how to adjust and test my valves manually.

Once my system ran, I noticed an errant head midday, laid shattered upon the dry grass.

Something must have broken.

But using what I’d learned, I’d made a key discovery. It wasn’t MY sprinkler head that broke this time. Sorry neighbor – this was yours.

Things weren’t broken, so I learned.

I discovered the same exact thing in my autism this past year.

Things break.

But I am not broken, so I have learned.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — and follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram as well.

Latest episode, enjoy.


Oh, so THIS is burnout — Autism and Emotional Soreness

After enduring a day in which I had to throw my bones ahead of my soul, nap in between meetings to recuperate, wrote way too much in musing poetic howling meter, and falling asleep cold whilst still daylight at 07:54 PM — the reflections converged.

Yes, Hunter, you can indeed burn out.

It wasn’t how I expected, nor did it come about like I expect this would for most autistic people.

You may know I do A LOT. It’s not a complaint: if anything it is a compulsion and pseudo-showcase of the insane autistic inertia I generate.

I can do and overdo a lot, but it doesn’t necessarily burn me out.

For me, my burnout appears to be emotional soreness.

Let us revisit the previous day:

This would not be a routine Wednesday, so already, my defenses were compromised.

My eldest daughter graduated Kindergarten, a first for us, in terms of experience as a parent, and in attending one of these ceremonies. I don’t remember my own Kindergarten graduation, but this carried some emotional heft — where it involved a mix of baby/toddler wrangling, event socializing, and a mix of finality. Our first official school year done.

My youngest daughter turned 1. She achieved this milestone in a year, so we’re proud of her in that. The day began with getting her cake shoot pics and just wrapping our hearts around little Jo — where we wanted to make the day special, knowing it would be a full day. Then again, she’s 1. She’s pretty happy with Goldfish crackers and being picked up.

We had an awards event that night too – I’ll leave the details scant, but we still had a major social obligation that night

AND THEN I was relayed some news (not bad, don’t worry) that packed a leveling blast-from-the-past punch, enough to where I basically tripped a fault wire and couldn’t process the enormity of it in the moment. I can’t wait to share that.

So the chain of events, plus a workday, just led to a lot of heavy emotional and practical lifting in the moment. And it was just that, lifting.

I didn’t feel it until the next day. I was hollowed. Vacant. Drained. Emptied and spent.

In the day I don’t think I could explain it.

But this must be my kind of autistic burnout.

Where some events are too much to process in the moment.

Where some enormities set in, but not all at once.

Where the emotional toll is felt as a booming echo that steals my strength.

I don’t remember the last time I collapsed into sleep before sunset — but the events of the previous day had taken my shell and plunged it into the blackened sand.

And that was that.

I was feeling it as emotionally sore.

It burned me out.

And now I know.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — and follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram as well.

Oh, you’ll like this, by the way:

Do Hard Things & Make Autistic Life Easier

You can hate me all you want for sharing these next bits of autistic truth.

Doing hard things will make many other things easy.

Fear of discomfort may hamper you more than actual discomfort.

You are probably underestimating your own power.

After getting past a more invective and anxiety inducing Autism ‘Appreciation’ Month this year, I found that it just did a number on so many people. I was not unaffected. It was an exhausting “ringer.”

But despite dipping both feet into social media and other public and far reaching ventures, I was exhausted, but not depleted.

Pausing my content creation? Nah. In fact, I’m still weeks ahead.

Taking a social media break? Not so much — I don’t really get ‘social media anxiety’ anymore.

Shutting down my advocacy world to take a mental health pause? I’m afraid that option is neither available, nor necessary.

Here’s why.

When you spend your life finding ways to carry and survive heavier weights, many other smaller weights get easy.

I’m not really going to get anxiety from hordes of strangers trying to eat me alive on the internet because 1) “don’t want none, don’t start none” and 2) my life simply has bigger, more immediate challenges.

But you really don’t need to hear, again, the regular challenge of WORK + HOUSE + FAMILY WITH KIDS PLURAL. Those are all doable, and autism shouldn’t be held up as this utterly disabling disqualifier. It’s not.

That’s why those things come to the forefront of what I share.

Because SOMEBODY needs to prove it can be done.

That autism advocacy isn’t just sharing the struggles of the everyday: some struggles are victory.

But it’s not the regular challenges.

It’s the irregular. The ones that I take on the manage the regular trials.

I choose to wake up ridiculously early. It’s not fun. Only Jocko Willink would embrace the kind of pre-5am life more willingly. But the more you master the hard actions, managing hard reactions becomes easier. Discipline is freeing.

I make time to work out and literally lift heavy things. This is exhausting. This is work. But it builds strength. Again, a no-brainer. There are times my body will have to carry where my mind cannot go. Also, I have kids. They need wrangling. And as a dad of daughters, I want them to have a STRONG dad, inside and out.

I finish my showers ice cold, because, well, it does help — but if you can handle the small discomforts, you dampen triggers.

I’ll take my kids grocery shopping. I’ll be the one to go outdoors and get roped into socializing. I’ll brave the crowds. I’ll take on the dirtiest diapers. I’ll make those phone calls to customer service. I’ll have guests over to—wait, no, I’m not a lunatic. I’ll leave my house to check my mail in broad daylight.

I do the hard things to make the rest of my life easy.

They’re still hard.

Before you choose to make a grave mistake by hitting me with that “ableist” label, some items are basically non-starters even to me. I don’t drive after dark if I can avoid it. I will fight tooth and nail to avoid specific social gatherings. Some events and situations are completely beyond my ability to manage and cope sanely. I have a max on how messy my office can get. If I go without showering for a day, I’m basically walking with my teeth clenched and stinking down to my soul.


I don’t freak out just because my dogs bark. I don’t panic when my kids fall and bleed their way to the hospital. I don’t (always) crumble under impossible work deadlines and tasks. I don’t cease functioning when my appliances cease to function. I’m not going to get worked up over the BIG MAD DU JOUR in the world. If my work routine airlocks burst, I grab my oxygen tank.

These things happen.

There are many hard things that should have broken an autistic chap like me.

They haven’t.

I do enough hard things to endure the harder things.

To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — and follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram as well.

Autism was neither my death sentence nor my life disqualifier — these episodes serve up some of the highlights, too: