…here is the secret; I learned not all change is bad. And I started understanding how wonderful a thing change can be in your life.
By Austin John Jones
I’m just gonna be honest. Change sucks. A lot. It’s actually really scary; especially for people on the Autism Spectrum. I’m not entirely used to change yet; but I have most certainly gotten better at adapting to it. Change to me means to make or become different. For the most part, I don’t want to change or become different; but all through my life I’ve been asked to because people aren’t always comfortable with how people on the spectrum act.
Probably the first biggest change in my life was going to school. That’s the first big change I recall from my childhood. All this freedom, all this hyper activity, all this awesome stuff I was doing, BAM taken away from me and now suddenly I have order in my life. Was I okay with it? No. I hid under my desk. I chewed on string. I ran out to the playground during class. I didn’t really know what to do and I just kept having to change: from kindergarten to a new elementary school to a middle school to a high school and then to college. On one hand, I was excited, but I was also scared.
And those weren’t even the big changes. Probably over the past 4 years, my life has changed the most dramatically. Once I got out of college, I had my resume; I had my website; I had my business cards. I was ready to seek out job opportunities, but it’s not easy being on the spectrum and trying to find a job. I didn’t know how to look people in the eye when talking to them or how to answer their questions so they would want to hire me. It was really hard to find a job. I had to volunteer at several schools around San Diego teaching art, co-teaching with other teachers from the high school I went to. All that stuff, it was cool but it didn’t last and I wasn’t making money. Not gonna lie, it felt pretty bad.
It wasn’t until about a year later that I finally started getting job opportunities. I went through a lot of things to get there. I had a job coach through the Department of Rehabilitation. I tried working at the YMCA but didn’t like it and wasn’t good at telling the little kids what to do. I walked out one day because I felt so bad that the kids were crying. And I never went back. I tried to get a teaching credential because I wanted to teach art, but I have no rote memory and so I couldn’t pass the test. I thought I would never be able to do anything I wanted to do.
This was…A LOT OF CHANGE FOR ME and it was freaking me out!
How did I deal with it? Sometimes, I would cry. Sometimes I would put myself down. Sometimes I would throw fits of anger. I would talk about it with my friends. Sometimes I would be so depressed that I would just sit in a chair in fetal position and just stare at my computer screen wondering if life would ever get better.
But…here is the secret; I learned not all change is bad. And I started understanding how wonderful a thing change can be in your life. Starting last year, all of my torment started paying off. I started to find things I could do. I found people who could help me achieve my goals. I learned from other people on the spectrum.
Now, I am displaying my art in galleries around San Diego. I am working at Arts for Learning teaching art at San Diego schools and I am working also at my local San Diego Game Empire, AND LOVING IT. And I got a lot of other things lined up too. AND IT FEELS GREAT!
I tried to understand why things started to be different for me. I think it’s based on how I started to prepare myself for change. What I think is going on is that when something new happens, I’m never ready for it. So, my brain says: WAIT OH MY GOD PLEASE I AM NOT READY FOR THIS. GO AWAY!!! And that sucks a lot. How did I deal with it? Well, I used some methods I learned from various people, but I found one in particular that I learned on a spectrum retreat with a guy I know named Danny. One of his staff members taught us a method called:
So here is how this works. If you are ever in a situation, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT IT IS, it doesn’t matter WHERE YOU ARE, that makes you feel uncomfortable, just STOP everything you are doing, your feelings, your thoughts, your actions, JUST LET GO OF IT, and let your body relax.
That is stopping.
Then just close your eyes, DROP the sensations in your body, your anxiety, your sadness, any feeling you have…and just let it go…let it wander away…and just feel all the tingling sensations in your body and just understand you are okay…
This is dropping.
Then…when you feel comfortable, just open your eyes…look around you. CHECK your surroundings. And make sure you are safe.
IF YOU ARE SAFE, then you are fine. You can relax.
If for some reason…you DO NOT FEEL SAFE and the feeling is STILL THERE…remove yourself from that situation. As awkward as it may feel.
This is a powerful tool for dealing with change. Sometimes with change, we don’t feel safe. It’s actually, really scary. A lot of people like to have a sense of control over their lives. It’s a natural feeling. But sometimes you are put into situations where you have no control. And in those situations, you need to be calm and content so you can be ready for whatever you are up against, so you can handle the change and move on.
My Name is Austin. I am an artist. I am an art teacher. I am a gamer. I am a storyteller and a writer. I love my community, I love my friends and family, and I am on the Autism Spectrum. My favorite game to play with my friends is Magic the Gathering. My favorite video game to play is Spiral Knights. I am a Guild Master of my Spiral Knights Guild: Altosk. I am an avid Hearthstone player.My favorite food to eat is Mexican Food. Specifically Carne Asada Fries and California Burritos. I went to Art Center College of Design for college and graduated with a degree in Illustration.
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