Tag Archives: autistic

Educating Resting Minds (The Documentary: Unspoken)

Educating resting minds means patient repetition of mobile thinking.   My mind is lightning fast in a body whose parts often do things that give people a different impression.

How best to sway doubting minds?

They say write what you know and what could be better than having a film crew follow you around to document the lightning and the thunder.

Mom will add some things about the documentary, Unspoken, here now:

While Emma just wandered off, confident in my ability to take the baton she’s handed me and run with it, I’m not as sure.  So be kind to me.  I’ll do my best, but first, a couple of things about the documentary, Unspoken.

Unspoken is the name of the documentary Emma is co-directing with the very talented Julia Ngeow, produced by the equally talented Geneva Peschka and executive producer Marquise Stillwell from Open Box.   This is Emma’s project.   Not mine.  And if you’ve never heard of any of these folks, please go to the links I’ve provided.  Emma is working with an exceptionally talented group of people!

When Emma recently had a meeting with Unspoken’s editor, Marco Perez, he asked Emma, “Why are you doing this documentary?”  

Emma typed in response, “This is my life.  Mostly the positive, but sprinkled with salt on tough beliefs thought by others who decide they know what it’s like to be me or worse, don’t care.   This is about prejudices, segregation, human rights and fear.”

I then went on an impassioned, okay more like enraged, rant about societal expectations and so-called norms, the way autism and Autistic people are typically spoken of and to, how the voices of Autistic people are continually silenced, how infuriating it is, not to mention insulting (to say the very least) to Autistics and when I stopped to catch my breath I became aware of how loud my voice had gotten.  I mumbled something about how I obviously felt strongly about all of this and would stop talking now, thank you very much.  

And then Emma typed, “Let’s change people’s perceptions with love.  Can Mom be angry?  Yes, because she loves intensely.”  

Yeah, because that’s the way Emma is.  And I gave birth to her.  And how she is, the way she is, astonishes and amazes and I could go on and on and on and on about how proud and grateful I am to know such a person as her, let alone be her mother, but then that just might fall into the whole ranting thing again and I promised I wouldn’t do that.  So I’ll just stop now.  Again.  Really.  Enough.  

 Unspoken is in the hands of the very capable and extremely gifted editor Marco Perez.  Everyone is hoping for a release date sometime in 2016.  

Unspoken has a Facebook page – Unspoken Documentary.  So go over to Facebook and show it some love.   Okay there is no “love” button on Facebook, but the “like” button works really well.  (Or/and you can leave some of that love here too.)

Ready?  Set,  

Emma - 2015

Emma in Santorini, Greece August, 2015 Photograph by Ariane Zurcher

Life and Expectations

Wading into the world takes achingly long when comparing the expectation with the reality.  Vibrant expectations swirl and dance a tempting flurry of ease and take no time to build the skills needed in real life.  Disappointment embraces ecstatic expectation when stories walk along a more difficult path.  Finding the wonder and natural tempo in working to achieve shimmers and eventually outlasts fleeting expectation.


When Awareness Harms

Let’s talk about needing green minds, eager thinking, waiting for butter to spread onto toast.  Let’s talk about excitable pink ideas, ah-ha moments of lovely surprise filling the cavernous space of other understanding.  Now we can behave differently.

None of wisdom’s stars ached for commonly held beliefs without questioning them all.

Have you asked yourself whether the awareness campaigns are helping?

What exactly have they made you aware of?

Does your newly found awareness help you understand an Autistic person?

How so?

What about Autistic neurology?

Do you believe you understand what the brightest minds in the world admit they are baffled by?

How about treating Autistic people the way you would hope to be treated?

I vote for love and laughter.

Laughing in Red

Laughing in Red

Don’t Be Blue

Mom prepares me,

but nothing can inoculate fear colored blue

masked in lights, shining brightly.

The terror seeps through.

Awareness disguised as tolerance is not the same as love.

An uneasy embrace may appear affectionate,

but can feel worse than a slap.

Words said with anger are not kind,

no matter what each word means by itself.

Look kindly

choose many feelings,

but please do not choose blue.



Beep. Leave a Message


Waiting for a message that cannot find its way

from brain to muscles

that connect to sounds we know to be

recognizable words with understood context.

They elude, slipping and sliding

they have no legs

slithering in the muck of misunderstanding

those words that manage to escape from my mouth are heard,

but baffle.


Battling it out for recognition are the silent thoughts that are not

“you need to take a turn to share

“you have to wait our turn

“you want to go fast?

“you have to share”

Words, words and more words.

She has language they say, but the language she shouts is not a language at all

buffering frustration, relieving anxiety, clouding meaning

I’d whisper if I could

but I can’t.


Hindering Progress

Digging through ghostly shards

pummeling the words that shout from within

understanding too much,

the vice grip of constant anxiety

offers the spoken words access that no one can fully know.


I fight to voice what I mean,

but “Mindy” and “Rebecca” crash through

and grab the microphone from my hand

that finds tenuous comfort in the string

I wrap around and around like a carousel.

August, 2014

August, 2014

Becoming Change

Change is upon us.

Look around.  What do you see?  Do you see changes in your life?

Backwards movement can be labeled bad, but sometimes it is not.  Maybe like human evolution, lasting change must be slow.

Meandering along with inevitable change benefits some, whose go-with-the-flow attitude is like starlings flying in formation, but if only a few break away, everything changes.

Have you ever watched starlings?


Aren’t they beautiful?

Oh, how I should like to be one of the starlings to lead a new way.



Mirror, Mirror, What do you See?

I have a piece of writing to share.

When your eyes are drawn to a mirror, what do you see?

Is it familiar or unfamiliar?

Do you like what you see?

There may be a struggle with recognition.  Stay with it.

Imagine something beautiful.

Make yourself smile and hold it.

Recite a favorite story or joke.  This can be done in silence or in speaking.

Repeat your name however you would like to.

Do you like what you see?

The End ~ By Emma Zurcher-Long

Mirror, Mirror, What do you See?

Mirror, Mirror, What do you See?

Cures, Fear, Freedom and Some Advice ~ By Emma

Freedom, Fear And Questions concerning Autism

Barking in the terrible terror that comes with being something so feared and hated.
Daring tremendous love for those who fear.
Healing tears for those who are in brutish pain.
Freedom from hurtful words about cures for being a part of the human race.

Help me so I can communicate.
Give me an education so I can learn.
Treat me as you want others to treat you.
Cheer me on.
Remind me of all I am capable of and focus on what hinders you, but don’t hurt me because I do not experience this world as you do.

We can learn from each other, but learning requires an open and willing mind.  Too many have given us fear instead of hope.

Which, when, why, who, where – we ask.

We matter.
We are all capable of being kinder, more compassionate, more loving to others and ourselves.

*A word from Ariane – Emma became very upset while writing this and began banging the table with her fists and then bit herself.  When I asked if she was able to continue, she typed, “No.  No more.  No more.” – I asked her if she was okay with me adding this here.  She typed, “yes.”

Emma ~ 2015

Emma ~ 2015

A Case for Merlin ~ By Emma

This is Merlin

This is Merlin

Nothing vanishes without questioning Merlin’s participation in the disappearance.  He never admits to wrong-doing, but instead greets the attention with purrs.  Even dog lovers fall under Merlin’s spell, charming the most biased minds to rethink what they had assumed true of all cats.

Merlin is unusual because he plays fetch and follows his favorite humans around with devotion.  If you don’t like cats it is because you have not yet met our Merlin.

But if you ever lose something, don’t blame Merlin.  He had nothing to do with it.

Merlin approved this post.  🐾

Where's Merlin?

Where’s Merlin?

Merlin among the cookie jars.

Merlin among the cookie jars

Calling All Autistic Teen Girls ~ By Emma

Emma typed this post yesterday and asked that I post it on the blog today.  Her typed words are in italics.   This post began with Emma writing, “How about a teen girl post on the blog where I see if I can find girls that want to participate in a chat?”  (She asked that I begin this post with the above sentence.)

Calling all teen girls.
Are you Autistic?
Are you a female?
Are you an Autistic female in your teens?

If so, I hope that I have your attention.
It is a time full of confusion with many unanswered questions.
You might be fearful, curious, and feeling alone.

Let’s find each other.

Now Mom helps.

My help will come in the form of setting up a private group, probably on Facebook, if one or more teenage Autistic girls show an interest.  This group has to be a place where everyone feels safe to say anything they want without fear of being quoted or spoken of outside the group.  If anyone knows a teenage Autistic girl who might like to be a part of this project, please reach out to Emma either here in the comments or privately through email: emmashopeblog@gmail.com or on Emma’s Hope Book FaceBook Page where you can send a direct message.

Emma posing for today's blog post ~ February 12, 2015

Emma posing for today’s blog post ~ February 2015

“Outside Looking In” ~ By Emma

Outside looking in on a world with a  different reality.

There is room for all.

Benign feelings contradict human thoughts about survival.

We treat others with care and feel the joy that comes with that.  We treat others harshly and then pain is felt by both.

Problems arise when people take pleasure in other’s pain.  Words cause joy, but also can cause pain.

Better to sing and dance!

This is what Emma wrote this morning in answer to my question, “What do you want to blog about this morning?”

We have been studying gene mutation, evolution, Darwin and how species adapt to their environment.  We have also just finished reading Romeo and Juliet.  I see the influence of all of these topics as well as Emma’s own unique and exquisitely compassionate take on this world and life.

Emma's Bowl made in ceramics

Emma’s Bowl made in ceramics with cookie cutters and then painted.

The Impact of Believing in Incapability

Ariane:  What should we start our day with?  German, a blog post, general writing, fiction, poetry or something else?

Emma:  Just start with blog post.

A:  What would you like to post about this morning?

Emma:  How about the topic:  Knowing many things, but having no one believe you are able to understand.

Ariane:  This is a great topic!  Do you want me to say anything or keep quiet so you can continue?

Emma:  I will continue.

For many years this was the title of my life.  It was long hours bloated with mindless screams of nonsensical searing memory words that no one understood the significance of.  The feeling of pleased joy when another believes, and then astounds the non believers by interacting with their knowing, is like beams of brilliant light shouting through the dreary darkness.  Diving heavy waters it cannot be described, but the word coming closest is love, and to all who cannot believe in what they do not understand, try to be silent for years without words meaning what you have been taught.  This might help the misunderstood.

Ariane:  Wow, Emma, that’s really beautiful.  What else?

Emma:  You can add commentary now.

Ariane here adding commentary, which is a little like being asked to perform after The Rolling Stones just rocked the house…

I am always struck by Emma’s words.  It is the force with which she writes and the compelling word choices she makes that convey a depth of emotion, an intensity and complexity of feelings, as well as insights that make me stop and reread her words over and over.  This paragraph took about forty-five minutes for her to write, not because she edited or had to go back and rewrite, but because that is how long it took for her finger to locate the correct key one letter at a time.

“Nonsensical searing memory words…”  I so want to know more about this.  Does she mean the often repeated sentences that are about the past, the words I once assumed were simply memories thrusting themselves front and center?  A kind of Möbius strip of thought, like an infinity symbol wrapping around and around itself?  I have learned to reside in the unknowing, the discomfort of being unsure, the scratchy realization that I cannot ever truly know, though I can make guesses and then ask if these are correct.  I no longer assume words spoken are meaningless or simply memories or are scripts that are being blurted out compulsively and without thought.  I’ve written about these bridges before ‘here‘.  Those words and sentences that are full of meaning, but whose meaning is not immediately apparent to me upon first hearing.

“… that no one understood the significance of.”  I will ask her about this later.  She used the past tense and that makes me hopeful that we are not continuing this kind of awful misunderstanding.  “…beams of brilliant light shouting through the dreary darkness.”  Who among us does not want that feeling for those we love?  Is this not what love is?  Connection with another?

“… to all who cannot believe in what they do not understand, try to be silent for years without words meaning what you have been taught.  This might help the misunderstood.”

Those who think being silent for an hour or two will give them any real insight into what it is like to not have words readily available, either by writing or speaking, cannot possibly understand.  We must shift our thinking beyond the hour or two, beyond the day, beyond a month, but instead try years.  Years of opening your mouth to speak, but having words tumble forth that are not what you intended, or saying something you intend only to have it misunderstood, or repeating a memory because it conveys so much that is relevant to the NOW only to be asked to discuss more about that particular memory and not what it signifies, it’s deeper meaning.  To say words, to write words only to be told you do not understand metaphor.  To reach out in vain to connect with a world that continually turns its back or mouths that smile with faces flooded with fear, or superiority or judgement or intolerance or disgust.

End of commentary.

Ariane:  What sort of image should we put with this post?

Emma:  How about a photo of the two of us.  Daddy can take it.

Ariane: I was thinking we could title this post: “Knowing Many Things” and the Impact of Disbelief From Others.  What do you think?

Emma:  No.

Ariane:  Okay.  What would you like the title to be?

Emma:  The Impact of Believing in Incapability

February 3, 2015

February 3, 2015

The Joys (and Terror) of Homeschooling

When we began homeschooling I was absolutely terrified.  I didn’t see how I could do it.  I closed my studio.  I set up a space in our home so that I could continue to run my business.  I told myself we would take each day as though it were one small baby step at a time.  I reminded myself when I began to hyperventilate from panic and fear that I just needed to concentrate on today and not the rest of our lives.  When my anxiety felt too difficult to manage I focused on the next moment.  I wrote lists, I purchased an old fashioned day calendar to write out subjects we would cover each day.  And then I sat down with Emma.  I asked her whether she thought homeschooling was a good idea.

Emma typed, “You believe in me and once creating versions of getting the truth, I am able to go far.”

I said, and I’m not exactly proud of my need for reassurance that she understood, but I said it anyway, “You realize it means you will not go back to school, right?”

Emma wrote, “Yes.  Taking my awesome nice teacher named mom what cabaret kind of life awaits me, I can only guess.”  A little later she wrote, “Know that love teaches more than doubt.”

I asked Emma how she wanted to do all of this.

She typed, “make a schedule mapping out lots of topics both written and spoken.”  Then she shocked me by writing, “sometime I want to learn another language, how about german?”

“Wow!  Seriously?” I asked.


So here we are some eight months in and we are still finding our footing.  Each day is slightly different.  I still rely heavily on that old fashioned calendar where I fill in what we are working on and for how long.  Every morning I ask Emma for her input as to what she wants to learn.  I still, occasionally, feel I’m not doing enough.  I still, though far less frequently, find myself panicking and wondering how we are going to do this.  I still, though rarely, wonder if what we are teaching is enough.  But through out these last eight months, I have never felt so sure of anything we’ve done as this decision to homeschool.

As many of you know I am no stranger to regret.  Homeschooling is not on that list.  In fact, the only regret I have about homeschooling is that we didn’t do this sooner.

We have been blessed with a couple of wonderful family members who volunteer their time via Skype and one non-family member who teaches Emma literacy.  At the moment Emma is ripping through Act 4 of Romeo and Juliet.  Her sessions with K. are a highlight of her week.  K. tirelessly and enthusiastically comes to our home with new ideas of how Emma can make notes on text so that she can later cite parts of the play to back up her answers to questions like:  “At the end of Act 3, Scene 2, Juliet is of two minds about what has happened.  What are some words that demonstrate her split thinking?”

Together K. and Emma are exploring “writing craft” and delving into language, tension, foreshadowing, story arc and character development.  We use Khan Academy, Brain Pop, books, lots and lots of books and the internet to research and learn, as well as Rosetta Stone for German.  I also am using Duolingo to supplement Rosetta Stone for German, but Emma is not yet able to use it as it relies too much on writing.  The beauty of Rosetta Stone is that it relies on pointing to images to match text primarily.  In addition, we have a Graduate Student who comes to work on art and Emma is taking ceramics, swimming/diving, gymnastics and piano and guitar lessons.

We have created a little nook devoted to various materials we use for lessons and while it’s usually in a state of complete disarray, there is some semblance of order, even if only to me and Emma.  The single most essential item other than the keyboard and stand for the iPad in the photograph below is the Timed Timer.  Without it we would be lost.  Emma explained to me that when I forget to put on the timer she is filled with rising panic and anxiety.  She told me that without a visual timer, “time can stand still, while anxiety pushes all out of its way.”  We now own three different sizes of the Timed Timer, though Emma’s preference is the largest one they have, twelve inches, for our home sessions.

A nook of one's own...

A nook of one’s own…

“The Mean Voice” – Facts vs Feelings

“You get to write about thinking feelings are facts,” Emma typed this morning.  Then she smiled at me, got up, and walked away.

Eight months into this whole homeschooling thing and I’m just now starting to figure out how I can work this blog into our busy schedule.  Emma wrote the other day that she would write a blog post once a week or, she thoughtfully added, “suggest topic for you to write about.”  Then last week she wondered if she might ask questions that she hoped readers would want to respond to.  The first of that series with all the wonderfully considerate, insightful and thoughtful comments and answers to her questions from readers, can be read ‘here.’

My goal is to carve out time Tuesday and Thursday to post something on this blog.  Only time will show how well I do with this goal.

But for today, Emma has given me an assignment.  “You get to write about thinking feelings are facts.”  When she typed this sentence I immediately thought of “the mean voice.” This is the voice in my head whose sole purpose seems to be to give a running critique of everything I’m doing and why it’s all wrong.  The Voice is harsh and can be very, very cruel.  It will say things to me that I would never say aloud to another human being, no matter how angry I might be.  The Voice feels real, it says things in a matter-of-fact way that makes me think the words it is saying are true.  When I believe The Voice all joy is deleted.  Any glimmer of hope is snuffed out.  The Voice tells me I suck and whatever I’m doing sucks.

But I’ve come to understand that The Voice is not to be listened to, which is easier thought than done.  It does not tell me the truth, it is mean and it says things that are not based in fact.  I call it “The Voice” but in fact, it is fear.  It is hopelessness.  It is anger.  It is a whole medley of emotions, some of which I cannot even identify or untangle to identify.  The Voice is feelings and it is most certainly not “fact”.

Feelings are not facts.  Feelings are not facts.  This is something someone said to me early on in my addiction recovery.   It was one of those “slogans” that at the time made no sense to me.  Well of course feelings aren’t facts, I remember thinking to myself.  Anyone knows that.   They’re feelings.  But what I didn’t know then and what I still forget now, is that when I’m upset or scared or angry, the conclusions I come to as a result of having those feelings are also not facts.  They are feelings and the two are very, very different.

So for example, if I’m afraid to do something that I really want to do, like write this book that Emma and I are working on together, I feel tremendous fear.   The Voice kicks in and will say things like, “What the hell are you doing?  Why are you even trying to do this?  The last thing the world needs is a book written, even co-written by you.  Who are you to write about your experience with this?  Who do you think you are?  No one wants to read what you think.  You think this will be helpful to someone else?  What kind of narcissistic, self-involved crap is that?  You can’t do this.  You suck.”  If that doesn’t stop me in my tracks The Voice amps it up a notch and gets even more vicious.

People have suggested imagining a volume control dial and mentally visualizing turning the volume down.  Others have suggested saying, Thank you for your thoughts and then doing the thing I’m terrified of doing anyway.  Others have said – just don’t listen to it or don’t believe it.  But none of that has had much impact or made a difference.  Logically I know this voice isn’t real.  It’s in my head.  I know it isn’t some divine, all-knowing voice.  I know it is mean.  I know all these things, but when the emotions come it is like being pulled under and the energy it takes to keep my head above the water, the energy it takes to just breathe is exhausting and sometimes, most of the time, I don’t feel able to fight it.

When I was an active addict The Voice told me to go and eat.  Go ahead it would say.  Oh go on, you deserve it, The Voice would encourage.  You’ve had a tough day, give yourself a treat, eat a dozen doughnuts.  If I fought it, it only got louder and more insistent.  Oh go on, GO ON!  And I would.  I couldn’t refuse.  I felt out of control and helpless.  I felt unable to stop.  Now, almost two decades later, I know to “out” that particular voice.  I know to tell on it.  The Voice doesn’t like that.  And saying to another human being who understands, who can identify, who can say – oh yeah…  wow, I so get that – is often all it takes now to give me that moment of grace so that I can pull away and not do that thing that will hurt me, the thing that it’s telling me to do.

While The Voice is usually no longer the boss of me when it comes to food and compulsive over-eating, it has never completely gone away.  It crops up when I least expect it.  It tells me things about myself that make me feel awful.  It makes me believe it’s telling me THE TRUTH.  I’m fifty four years old and I still find myself believing The Voice, not about food and eating, but about other things, healthy things I want to do or accomplish.  There’s another slogan used in addiction recovery – Progress not perfection.  And I am making progress, but it is very, very slow.  And to be honest, far slower than I’d like.  But then if I gauge myself from where I once was, the progress has been nothing short of miraculous, so maybe the next post will be about – progress, not perfection!  Unless Emma has another idea, that is…

I’m turning Emma’s topic over to all of you – “…write about thinking feelings are facts.”

The Mean Voice

The Mean Voice