My father nicknamed me "Dutchman" in honor of my grandmother, who was of Dutch ancestry. During my preschool years, I was not encouraged to play with other children. As a result, I truly did not realize there was anything unique about me other than my inability to speak. For all I knew, all children my age were just like me and lived in a private inner world too. I had little interest in the outside world, but felt compelled to keenly observe it anyway. I did not particularly care that other people spoke to each other. I was not drawn to those around me, so I had little interest in attempting to talk. Simply pointing at things served quite adequately to convey my wants and needs. Like most other autistic children, I had difficulty bonding with anyone at all, including those in my biological family. I felt no desire to leave the security of my private world.
My lack of interest and involvement in the outside world did not protect my mind from the flood of unwanted information that continually assaulted my senses. The unmodulated sensory input often overwhelmed me, causing me mental torture, and I would begin feeling mentally confused and sluggish. My head would feel fogged so that I could not think. My vision would blur, and the speech of those around me would become gibberish. My whole body buzzed. The slight tremor that always plagued me would worsen. My hands would feel detached from my body, as if they were foreign objects. I would be paralyzed, unable to comprehend my own movements unless I could see them. I could not tell where my hand started and the table ended, or what shape the table was, or even if it was rough or smooth. I felt like I was in a cartoon world. Indeed, I often felt more in common with the furniture around me than I did with other people. I felt lifeless, dazed, and had difficulty refocusing on anything.
At this point, I would feel compelled to make certain repetitious movements. I had a constant fascination with objects anyway, particularly sticks, and if any were around, I would pick them up and beat them together. If not, I would use my hands, flapping them rhythmically back and forth to a driving inward beat. My behavior mystified me as much as they did those around me. What strange urges I had, urges for which I had no explanation. I later learned that this behavior is called "self-stimulation" or "stimming." Perhaps a more accurate term would be "sensory-modulation."
Acting on my compulsion to "stim" brought relief. It allowed me to intently focus on an object of my choice. The noise in my head quieted; the fog cleared. Objects became real again. Speech became intelligible once more. My body relaxed as my anxiety level decreased and my own hands once more felt a part of me. My body felt whole again, and time to check the refrigerator for something to eat.
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