An “autistic grinch” may be protecting a big heart by W.E.Powers

Originally posted here:

My brothers insisted on opening the presents before we took off for our Christmas out of state. Naturally, it was not Christmas morning, so I protested. In my opinion as an autistic twelve-year-old, opening a present before it was time to do so was unconscionable. But there were two of them and only one of me, so I was outvoted. We waited for dad to get home before the blizzard of paper could begin. We would be allowed to take our one favorite present with us, but we would have to wait until we got back before we could open anything from Santa because he hadn’t yet made his yearly rounds. As if.

With suitcases packed and stuffed to the core,
three children and mom wait by the door.
Dad with his horn honks to come in;
we open the gate and wait with a grin.

The day has arrived, we will drive through the night,
and find a hotel that has left on a light.
The cookies are baked, and Mom is well dressed,
but I notice dad’s face looks too depressed.

Unaware brothers unwrapping galore
fight with each other over which one has more.
I watch from my spot under the tree
as dad talks to mom without any glee.

In tones much too somber for ‘O Tannenbaum,
I barely make out the words of my mom.
Gathering children, she hugs every one;
the bad news is broken, not to spoil our fun.

It would appear dad’s job is now gone.
One month of pay should help carry-on.
And why haven’t I opened my Christmas gifts?
“Take them back to the store!” I say with a miff.

“We won’t let it stop us from this seasons fun.
Now off to the car, you children run!”
And on our lips, as we drove out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all…” Oh, wait a minute.

I don’t remember much else about that Christmas vacation. I know it was cold up north. And I remember the feeling of being sick every time my mom bought us a soda or a snack while we were on the road. I also remember that feeling of dread walking into the house after we got back. Santa had come as promised. I don’t remember the actual gifts, but I do remember fighting back my tears while unwrapping. I didn’t want the presents. I only wanted my mom to get her money back. I had to hide my tears because seeing them made my mom feel worse. Boy was I glad to see the tree came down that year. I never wanted to see another Christmas tree or Christmas present again for as long as I lived.

We made it through that next year thanks to the help of our church family who covered our tuition for school and brought us weekly boxes stuffed with food. My father found another job. And life continued.

Christmas came around again as it always does.

I was happy to discover my mom opted to make us each a special quilt for our present that next year. It was treasured a lot more than anything she ever bought us. Each square had been hand embroidered with our mother’s love. Mine is still in great condition as I keep it unused as my favorite present of all time. One brother also still has his and uses it, but his wife has had to patch it so many times I doubt any of the original stitching remains!

A common misconception is that people who have autism do not have empathy. This idea stumped me for the longest time. I have both autism and empathy, so I know this idea is a fallacy. When I think about my childhood response to my father’s job loss, I know what I felt was empathy. So why have I also been accused of being cold and non-empathetic? What is my problem?

Being autistic is not the same thing as being psychopathic. Autistic people have a conscience. We DO relate the pain of other people with our own pain. I even suspect some of us feel those emotions with a potency neurotypicals may never experience.

Because other senses are impacted by our neurological differences, it makes sense emotions may also suffer from overloaded circuits. I experience sound with a ferocious intensity that I have only ever seen portrayed correctly on S2 mid-season finale of my new favorite show “The Good Doctor.” Doctor Shaun Murphy’s meltdown triggered by the horrendous buzzing of a fluorescent light bulb is eerily reminiscent of my own final breaking point at my previous place of employment.

When our senses overwhelm us, we go into a state of hyper-defense and self-preservation. We have no choice in this response any more than a person has a choice about sneezing after inhaling pepper. Emotions can be powerful and overwhelming for anyone. In autism, emotional regulation is often a problem anyway. If we are afraid of becoming emotionally overwhelmed, it makes sense we would cover our emotional ears to keep ourselves from a meltdown.

Like most people, there have been many nights when I stayed awake worrying about things happening in the lives of family members and acquaintances. And, like most people, I have experienced my fair share of loss. It is not that I think my losses are in any way larger than those of other people. I can’t even say that I feel them any stronger than any other person because I do not know how other people experience emotions. But I have also cried myself to sleep after hours of replaying conversations with peers, only to later realize they were only teasing. After looking back, I realized my emotional regulation did not work as well as I needed it to work.

As I grew older, I discovered the best way to avoid agonizing nights was to be content with my own company. Like the Simon and Garfunkel song says, “And a rock feels no pain.” Because I already had a difficult time understanding the conversation and motives of those around me, I discovered ignoring them was a lot easier on all of us. Not only was I able to sleep better not worrying about their parents driving them around in a car that had stalled in the middle of an intersection one time, but I figured they were also sleeping better because they no longer had to worry about me or try to figure me out. I knew it must have been as hard for them to understand me as it was for me to understand them. The bottom line is I believed it was in the best interests of everyone concerned if I just stayed to myself. I did not understand that some people interpreted my behavior as snobbish or uncaring.

Fast-forward to every Christmas after the one I will never forget. It takes a lot of effort for me to smile and pretend to enjoy the season. The thing is, I enjoy the frivolity as much as the next person. Sure, glitter is something I find annoying, but so do many other folks. But I don’t like getting presents. I use the excuse that I am picky about what I like, and there is truth to the concept of it being difficult to buy presents for people with autism. I remember long before that fated holiday being disappointed with gifts of dolls and other girly toys. I wanted stamps, rocks, and anything to do with science because those were my areas of hyper-focus. But the emotion I felt after that day is different. It is one that comes back to visit every year like a Christmas ghost.

This dread is based on my hypersensitivity to the emotional stress the holiday may place on those around me who love me and are eager to buy me something they have finally figured out I may enjoy, autism and all. And I appreciate that action more than I will ever be able to express.

So if you have an autistic loved-one on your nice list this year, I hope this blog might make it a bit easier for you to understand the complexity of emotions we also experience…just in different ways.

On the outside, we may act like a Grinch; but there may be a huge heart under that green vest that is afraid of bursting with all the love and emotions we feel for you in return.


Wen of ZenBorn in Florida, I spent my childhood being bullied for reasons I did not understand. Autism spectrum disorders were unknown to my family or teachers. Taking everything literally, unable to read facial expressions, and emotional ruptures, resulted in being an outcast.

Today, art therapy provides me with a way to share my experiences and emotions with the outside world.

W.E. Powers


Blu-ray Review: Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

The Joy of Movies

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Based on a true story from World War I, Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero is a charming animated film that recounts the tale of the first dog to ever be given the rank of Sergeant by the United States Army, and the most decorated pooch in American history.

Stubby is a stray Staffordshire Bull Terrier who wanders into the army training camp on the parade grounds at Yale University in 1918, and almost instantly befriends the young soldier Robert Conroy (Logan Lerman), who takes him in and gives him his name.

While there is some reluctance to having an untrained dog join their ranks, Robert teaches him how to salute, which wins over the general. When the American soldiers are deployed in France to help fight the invading German forces, Stubby finds his way aboard the ship, and becomes both an invaluable part…

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An an autistic adult why the gift of ear muffs made me sob Guest Blog by Angie Ancuri

Originally posted here:

“I immediately felt a total sense of security as the muffs cupped my ears and hugged my head.”

This morning after we had woken up and were having our coffee, my wife received a couple packages in the mail. We new it must have been some things that she had ordered for me for Christmas. Since I had let her open a couple presents early, she did the same for me. I brought the packages up on the table. I opened the bigger box first.

My wife looked as I was opening the box and said, “this one is the boring one, but I think you might still like it.”

I opened up the box and in it was a brochure for kids toys, which I thought was strange. Lying on top was a nice pair of hearing reduction, ANSI S3.19 ear muffs. I knew that this is one of the things I might get for Christmas. I helped my wife pick them out on Amazon. I really liked the color, a nice shiny light blue. I have always wondered if these earmuffs might help me since I have some sensitivity to noise. I thought they would be a nice little aid to help whenever I wanted a bit of peace and quiet. No big deal. What happened next as I put the earmuffs on, however, was completely unexpected.

So many realizations came rushing at me when I wore those earmuffs for the first time.

I immediately felt a total sense of security as the muffs cupped my ears and hugged my head. As I looked around the room, all I could focus on was the sound. I was protected. The moment that really threw me off guard was when my eyes began to well up with tears. The tears gradually began to flow down my cheeks as I began to realize just how much all the sounds I have been hearing my whole life, have really affected me. The bombarding, pummeling and relentless noise continuously attacking my brain cells in complete, hellish torture was my norm. It was as if I was immune to it. Listening to the sound of my surroundings through the filter of the headphones was so serene and so comforting. I felt at ease, like the anxiety that I always knew would exist within me just melted away, just like that.

For the first time in my life, I could actually hear!

As I sat there looking around, my face in astonishment, taking in the new sound of my environment, I began to sob uncontrollably.

Is this how neurotypical people hear?

I could hear much better than I did without the ear muffs. I was no longer distracted by all the excess noises that try to bombard my ears with the same level of intensity as those that I was trying to focus on in any given moment. It was as if the ear muffs were focusing the noise to where it should go in my ears. My wife could speak to me and I could actually focus on what she was saying. I could participate in conversation and not get distracted by other things happening in my environment. For the first time, I realized why I would get stressed from 0 to 100 in any given moment. I hear too much, and my brain doesn’t know how to process or filter out noises.

It has always extremely bothered me when people talk to much or too loud. Being in a crowded place, such as the mall or a school cafeteria, has always been a hellish nightmare. I have never been proud of the fact that sound of people laughing of all things, makes my skin crawl. I often come home thoroughly exhausted from being in public places and just melt down. Driving or walking in or near traffic also puts me in a state of high stress and anxiety. After 36 years of experiencing my world as I know it, I finally know why. More than half the reason for my stress and anxiety is because of sound, my hearing and my sensory processing.

It seems silly that I cried. It may be unfathomable for some.

They are just ear muffs, and they are specifically designed for hearing protection and noise reduction. So why do I feel so special? Because being able to hear properly with these ear muffs, is going to change my life for the better. I finally have a support that I have never had before, nor that I knew I absolutely needed. I can experience the world in a much more ordered and comfortable way. I have never been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. It has never even crossed a health professionals mind that I could have it. All I know is that the headphones I got for Christmas this year, is the least boring gift I could have gotten!

When I was finally done blubbering at least an hour or more after donning the ear muffs, my wife said to me, “Are you going to wear those if we go out on a date?”

To which I replied, “Absolutely!”


My name is Angie Arcuri. I am a female who is autistic. I graduated from college in 2016 when I was 34 years old. I studied communications and media studies. I co-host a vlog series. I also have a blog at I am an aspiring filmmaker and am currently beginning work on a documentary about neurodiversity. Neurodiversity and autism rights, as well as acceptance is something that I am very passionate about. Awareness of women on the spectrum is a large part of my focus as well. This is a collaborative film project and I am always open to new people coming on board.

Christmas In My Own Words 

My Joyous Feature

Christmas truly is the best time of the year. It’s a time for peace and joy. A time for just about bonding and true gifts. It’s also to observe the birthday of Jesus. Christmas brings goodwill to that extra joy of bonding. Giving that peace everywhere on this exceptional holiday.

Christmas is not only just for presents it’s the time of gathering, peace and delight all around. Christmas feels so special and singular with the gorgeous colors of red and green, but sometimes silver and gold. Gathering with family and friends is a great thing to do on a holiday. It conveys that special moment all month long.

Christmas music has got that good moment in a holiday spirit. Relishing it and feeling that music go into that happy moment. It’s truly special about listening to Christmas music. Makes you want to rise into that holiday joy. I really enjoy…

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My Own Version On “The Night Before Christmas”

My Joyous Feature

As the night before Christmas

in all through the house

not a noise to hear with silence all about.

In that peaceful night

everyone is tucked in bed

ready for that tremendous day.

Children are ready to discover

what Santa Claus will give them.

They desired that the giftsare from their wish list.

They want to try their very best to be good this year

then they can impress Santa on their good behavior.

As Christmas Day will come up really soon

and everything was decorated so that day will come.

The family gathers from all around visiting for Christmas

it’s going to be the best Christmas so far.

There’s so many traditions that it gets to Christmas so amazing.

No matter what things going to happen

along this very special holiday,

it’s a great pleasure to wish everyone a

Merry Christmas.

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Why Do I Journal

My Joyous Feature

I began to journal when I was a teenager. Journaling is the way to cope and record your thoughts away. Journaling is one of my favorite things to serve. It makes me feel more like a writer. I write every single thought out of my mind and onto paper. Writing in my journal is like writing a letter or talking to someone. My journal is like a friend, who has to be on my side. It’s a privacy that is only for my eyes alone.

I journal my feelings away.

Whenever I start out in a bad mood, feeling upset, or anything I journal about it. It can relieve all the negative views out and onto paper. Subsequently it can make me feel better. Without journaling, the sentiments will be in my head or I’d sometimes do something else.

I journal like I mean it.

I journal at least two…

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Life Can Bring Some Refreshing Start

My Joyous Feature

A refreshing moment can feel reasonably good after meditation. When you meditate your body and mind will unwind after taking a few deep breaths. Then you’ll feel that soothing sensation while you meditate. After you done with meditation your body and mind will feel refreshed. It’s like feeling free from that negative side of life.

In the morning when you get up your body starting to refreshed. Shortly after your morning routine like washing your face, stretch, etc., then your body and mind will be totally refreshed. When your body and mind is refreshed for a day ahead, it’s like each day can be a brand new day. Kind of like building that confidence over and over again.

There’s that true center that shall rise into a refreshing start. Finding that peaceful moment against a totally different pattern of life. Life holds on a refreshing moment into that pleasure feeling…

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A Reflection for Thorlaksmessa by Guest Author Michael S. O’Connell

imageImage:  Icebergs lie in a deep blue ocean, under dark blue clouds.  A blue grey mountain on ice lays in the background.

Image and article originally posted here:

Thorlaksmessa, the feast of St. Thorlak, falls on 23 December.

While this post appears a few days early, Thorlaksmessa will arrive just before Christmas and our two -week holiday hiatus. Please enjoy the reflection here in anticipation of St. Thorlak’s special feast day, and we will be back in 2019!
As we mark the 4th weekend of Advent this year, we pass through the day with the least amount of daylight and move ever more gradually back to more light with each successive day. Very appropriate that, after lighting the 4th candle, the Advent season ushers in Christmas Day. The beloved disciple John reminds us that the Christ-child “… was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The day of the 4th Sunday of Advent this year, December 23rd, the 4th Sunday of Advent, marks the feast day of Saint Thorlak Thorhallson of Iceland. Long venerated by the people of Iceland and their Scandinavian neighbors, Thorlak was officially recognized on January 14, 1984 as Iceland’s patron saint by St. John Paul II. What does this quiet medieval bishop have to say to our own times? Perhaps we can see through the Beatitudes of Our Lord.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” St. Thorlak, you were blessed with a keen intellect, and rose within Mother Church to the heights of the bishopric; yet whatever office you held, you sought out the lowliest in your humility, and served with a truly grateful heart for God. Pray for us!

“Blessed are those who mourn, they will be comforted.” St. Thorlak, you lived in a time where life could not be taken for granted and was more often than not cut short through disease or starvation. You endured your own crosses, from the breakup of your family due to financial concern as a young boy, to separation from them as Divine Providence would have you finish your education overseas. Pray for us!

“Blessed are the meek, they will inherit the land.” St. Thorlak, you guided your flock with attentiveness and humility. Your benefactors would provide material support for your rise in the Church, yet at the pinnacle of your education and prestige, you would turn to your homeland as a humble priest to serve your fellow countrymen. Pray for us!

“Blessed are those hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” St. Thorlak, you strove with all your heart to help those in need, feeding and clothing those who could not pay you back, bestowing kindness on your parishioners by building up virtue from the bottom up, and realizing that even as bishop you provided the model of a humble servant. Pray for us!

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” St. Thorlak, in a time when mercy was not readily associated with the Catholic Church, you took it upon yourself to bear the burden of the penances of sinners who came to you in the sacrament of Confession. Even as you lay on your deathbed, you sought after those who by their own actions separated themselves from Holy Mother Church, showing Divine Mercy even then by providing a path back into the flock. Pray for us!

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” St. Thorlak, you ordered your life faithfully around prayer: conforming yourself to the rule of St. Augustine and affirming the virtue of priestly celibacy at a time when cultural norms encouraged the opposite. Pray for us!

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” St. Thorlak, you lived your life among rival chieftains who would seek to undercut the authority of the Church. You fought them through God’s gift of wisdom, using the power of reason and love to change men’s hearts. You appeared before a King to be consecrated at a time of active warfare between many in Norway and Iceland. You served the interests of peace with your disarming honesty and dialectical reasoning, assuring peaceful relations between the two countries for the balance of your bishopric. Pray for us!

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” St. Thorlak, you would serve the Church with holiness, but would be opposed by those in power. They called you the fool for adhering to the laws of Christ’s Church. They would even seek to end your life prematurely only to, as the Psalmist wrote, to fall in the pit themselves. Pray for us!
On December 23,1193, Thorlak Thorhallson entered into eternal rest.

We rejoice and are glad, as his reward in heaven is great; we ask his intercession for us as his mission continues. St. Thorlak, pray for us, now and always!

Autistic Gifts

Autistic Gifts

Autism and Expectations

Christmas, for me, is about showing the people I love how I feel about them. It’s a time when it’s okay to build routines, because we can call them traditions and that makes them indisputable.

One of the things I learnt when I found out I was autistic, is that when I get terribly run down, or migraines, or exhaustion, or pain, or all of the above, after too much social interaction, there is a reason for it.

I am overusing certain parts of my brain in order to communicate in non-autistic ways. I am watching my own performative-communication, whilst I watch yours, and I am analysing and responding as fast as my little brain can manage.

There’s a lot of social obligation that goes with the festive season, and this can mean burn out for autistic people. Alongside the social, there will be the sensory bombardment. I can find…

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