A blog advocating autism through my own personal experiences and insights.

Archive for October, 2012

My Love for Zumba

I keep my mental capacities well in check. I’m a graduate math student who has a hobby of writing novels. So I not only work one side of my brain, but both. This has never been a problem for me. I’ve always liked to exercise my mental capacities with such activities. They are, in fact, part of who I am. Yet to live a good life and keep yourself healthy, this isn’t good enough. You also have to exercise your physical capacities too, i.e. get physical exercise.

Trying to get in physical exercise has always been more difficult for me. I always seemed to have less natural interest in it than in exercising my mental capacities. As a childhood, I remember being encouraged to enter into those teamed sports to keep myself active. For me, they were something was certainly willing to try, but the truth was that such activities weren’t designed for me. I used to play in soccer games in elementary school, but soon got incredibly bored. For me, there was nothing inspiring about kicking a ball down a field and trying to get it passed a goalie and into a net. Ditto for basketball when I tried that. And the fact that they were teamed sports and not something I could do on my own made it even more difficult, especially given how I was (and still am, of course) autistic. Playing with others regardless of the activity was difficult in itself and so didn’t exactly help.

As a teenager, there were other activities I’ve tried, such as bicycling and downhill skiing. I’ve certainly done a fair share of bicycling, although it was never something I did every other day. Skiing was also something I enjoyed. I excelled at that activity at the end of elementary school and continued to ski for fun throughout my teenage years. Since entering university five years ago though, my skiing time has been diminished (although it is something I will go at again in the future).

At my undergrad university Acadia in Nova Scotia I got involved in yoga and in third year I tried my hand at Ultimate Frisbee (probably the only teamed sport I’ve enjoyed). During the second half of third year, though I decided to try something different. I went online and saw that for $50 I could sign up for a bunch of fitness classes such as aerobics, cycling, etc. and go as often as I liked. It was a bit of a struggle to fit something into my week from time to time and sometimes I didn’t go at all. Other times, I managed to get in three classes per week. I continued doing this throughout my fourth and final year at Acadia as well. And this was where I discovered something I really enjoyed: Zumba.

In case you don’t know, the best way to describe Zumba is fitness dancing. It’s where you dance to these random songs that can really get you worked up. If you want to see an example, just search zumba on youtube and you’ll see what I mean. For me, it certainly gets me going. I love the music and I certainly love following the instructor the moves that go with it. And at the end of it, I feel energised and prepared to go about the rest of my day.

But it’s more than just the physical exercise that attracts me to zumba. The music itself can make me feel really good and is not only good for my physical body, but my mental and emotional states as well. If I’m having a really down or bad day, for example, it can help get some excitement back into my mind and I leave in a happier state. It’s for this reason that I always make sure I go to zumba if my day is less than wonderful.

And since coming to the university of waterloo, it has been my choice of physical activity. Another thing I like about it is that the moves can be repetitive and there’s structure and routine to it all, which is an advantage give I’m autistic. It may be a bit eccentric with a lot of eccentric and sometimes sexy moves, but I’m an eccentric guy so as far as I’m concerned it’s a perfect fit (and the only guy in my zumba classes for that matter, the rest are all girls, although this doesn’t really bother me). It’s certainly something I wish I had been introduced to earlier in life. But now that I’ve been introduced to it, it will most probably be my first choice of physical exercise for years to come.

Gaining Power

So far I have to admit that my second year at the University of Waterloo has been a blast. It has been wonderful in several ways and I’d like to elaborate on one of the ways in this post. Basically, it’s been wonderful because I’ve been gaining control over my activities. I’m becoming more and more conscious about what I’m truly passionate about and following through on these passions.

What am I passionate about? Well, for anyone who knows me, my passions lie in math, philosophy, fiction writing, and autistic advocacy. Much of this blog will tell on this last passion with autistic advocacy. In the past several months I must admit that my passion for autistic advocacy has been rapidly growing. Why now of all time? Why has it been growing now in this time of my life?

I think part of the answer lies in finding other autistic advocates out there, autistics who have dealt with similar experiences to me. Before then I felt so alone and didn’t appreciate myself fully as being autistic. When I discovered autism blogs right after I graduated from Acadia University, I had an epiphany that I didn’t need to change myself as much as I thought I did. Thus I decided to go ahead and start my own blog this one.

When I entered my masters program in pure math, however, a lot of my interest in autistic advocacy left me temporarily due to the struggles that I had in my first term of my masters. That was a difficult time, but I have since improved and have been on my merry way ever since with hopes of graduating this spring and moving on to a PhD.

In the winter my passion for autism advocacy returned and I updated this blog more often. I was hoping that the disability office at Waterloo would open up a support group for students with autism. They said they had plans for one, but had gotten busy with other things. It all came to a head this summer when I became tired and frustrated and decided I had to do something about it. This wasn’t just the case for autism advocacy, but writing as well. I couldn’t find a writing group in Waterloo. The closest one I could find was in Guelph and while I succeeded in bicycling over there I became too tired to bicycle back and had to have my father’s cousin who lives there drive me back.

Thus I decided to take matters into my own hands and immediately emailed the disability office about starting the autism support group and told them that I was willing to take initiative and lead it. I can’t recall I’ve done something like this before. I was founding something that I was totally passionate in. I also contacted the Autism Waterloo Organisation and told them about my interest in getting involved. Neither of these things got developed any further over the summer.

Yet so far this fall, things have been developing. A writing group has formed. Not by me, but by someone else in Waterloo. We’ve had one meeting so far and it looks great. I’ve also met with the Autism Waterloo Organisation and have agreed to prepare for a day in November where I’ll be speaking to parents of autistic children my personal story along with one or two other autistic adults. I have also met with the disability office at the university and we have put in plans to start and autism support group that I would lead. I must admit it felt a bit weird. They really were treating me like a leader, asking me all these questions of how I wanted to run it like if there were going to be social outings (which I said yes to and we elaborated upon) and whether I wanted the disability staff there. I answered that I’d like to have them there some of the time, but not all of the time. It was great! I felt power like I never had before. For once I was beginning to make a difference in not only my life, but the lives of others with autism.

It’s certainly a wonderful feeling to behold.