The Perils of Theoretical Basketball

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The Perils of Theoretical Basketball
Life on Earth

By Vern Nicholson

I would like to reflect on my experiences in childhood, adolescence and adulthood and share a few modest insights that I have gained in light of my newfound awareness of myself as a person on the autism spectrum. I hope that my perspective enables the reader to further appreciate some of the challenges and strengths inherent in the autistic experience.

I have trouble remembering much from my childhood. Having said that, I knew that I was different early on, but life was relatively serene. I had no major problems until adolescence. No one knew or suspected that I was on the autism spectrum, including me.

I can share a few memories with you. I began reading newspapers at the age of two. At about the same age I was attracted to drawing car and gas station logos. To this day, I have a fascination with logos, typefaces and design in general: on CD and book covers, billboards, and especially street.

I had trouble differentiating between literal and implied meanings. My parents had asked me "do you want a cookie" enough times that I must have concluded that my new name was "you." So when the hunger pangs struck, I would insistently declaim, "You want a cookie!" My parents would ask if "you" wanted to "go down the street" to play with friends and were most puzzled to find me walking straight down the middle of the road. Here's another one: when I started baking oatmeal cookies, the directions on the box insisted that I butter the bottom of the pan. Though I didn't quite understand how that would help the cookies bake, I obediently flipped the pan over and generously layered the underside with butter. These and other such misunderstandings were innocent enough, but when asked at twelve if I was gay and, assuming that word meant happy, I said yes, my peers were not so forgiving. Their laughter meant something quite different than the laughter of my parents over my baking escapades.

In school I was quiet, studious, and had little interest in athletic activities, childhood games, or having friends. I was not completely socially isolated-that would come soon enough-but I didn't really care whether I had friends or not. I was introspective and drawn far more to my inner world than the outer world. In grade school, my teachers reported that I was bright but prone to daydreaming.

I also had problems with my physical coordination. I recall having a tough time learning to tie my shoelaces. Only after relentless prodding from my parents did I learn how to swim and ride a bicycle. I was awkward and unskilled in gym class. Even my gait was considered rather odd. These days, though my coordination is smoother, I still have trouble with certain aspects of the physical world, such as spatial perception.