Friday, April 29, 2011

I Don't Fidget

We sit expectantly, waiting for commercial block to end. We've all crowed into our tiny living room to watch the first broadcast of the interview and performance we recorded at the Rutgers last week, a college music show that highlights local bands. Joey says, "Can't wait to see you on camera, man. Bet you're all over the place."

"What do you mean, man, I was totally dialed in for this one, completely focused."

"Yeah, and all over the place. Dude you fidget like crazy. Can't help it. It's like genetic or something."

"I don't fidget."

"Just watch man. I'll bet you ten bucks."

"You're on."

The strains of elevator music that accompany the college announcements fades, displaced by a low and sultry female voice saying, "We're back. As you know, each week we spend time with one of our local Jersey bands, getting to know them and their music. This week..."

I'm so excited I can barely stand it. I hear myself exhaling loudly and realize that I've been holding my breath. "OK", I tell myself, "Just relax. This is going to be really good. I definitely wasn't fidgeting."

The camera zooms back, panning to the right, revealing the four of us slopped onto a long cornered couch.

"So, tell me about your band's name. Where did you get..."

I stop hearing anything she's saying, completely distracted by, well, me. I'm all over the friggin' couch, sliding back and forth, feet flat on the floor, then legs crossed, then legs curled up beneath me. My hands start out nicely folded in my lap but soon appear to be making origami of a napkin or is it a dollar bill. I don;'t know; I don't remember doing anything with my hands. Now I'm leaning back, stretching my arms across the back of the couch, then crossing them in front of me, then placing them flat on my thighs, then back to origami.

"Tell us some more about your music. Who writes the songs..."

My eyes follow the conversation like a five year-old soccer players, incapable of holding their positions. They're quickly joined by my head pivoting wildly on my neck, it movement resembling that of the robots in the first Terminator movie. When I speak, my voice modulates all over the frequency spectrum, my eyes open wide with enthusiasm, my hands swinging in and out of the frame; it's absolutely frightful.

Fidgeting? How about spasming? I can barely watch, but I do. I hear the guys laughing, fully enjoying my performance and notice that I'm now standing to the side of the couch, pacing back and forth in the three-foot-square area that separates it from the wall. This is awful.

"We'd love to hear..."

The scene fades from the couch to the soundstage. I hear Dave counting off Middle of My Heart and we're in. We sound good, really good. I breath a sigh of relief, replenish my lungs and then hold my breath; here comes the sax solo. The camera pans to me and zooms in. This is going to be awful, I'm sure.

The camera guy's learned from the interview. He doesn't zoom too closely as I draw my horn to my mouth and dig into the chords of the bridge. I watch, waiting to see what spastic actions my body has in store for me (origami with my toes perhaps), but there aren't any. I play with intensity, my body moving easily to the music like a deeply rooted, fifty-year-old pine swaying in high wind. I seem completely focused, consumed, no fidgeting, nothing frenetic, just easy confidence.

"Where'd he come from?", I hear Joey commenting as my solo rises to the occasion.

Where, indeed.

I woke up this morning with pain in the tip of my tongue. As I stared into the mirror wondering where it had come from (the pain, not my tongue), I noticed my tongue exploring the back of my lower teeth, apparently checking to see whether or not they needed brushing. My teeth had probably kept my tongue awake all night long.

Before typing, I read Faith's post from yesterday, Redefining Acceptance, Again! and it got me to thinking: about Jaedon scratching himself, about my unruly tongue, about fidgeting in general and about sensory regulation, which is what I believe Jaedon and I are both trying to accomplish through our apparently self-harmful activities.

Over the last couple of years, I've learned that people who experience ADD and people who experience autism are on the same spectrum, just at different ends of it. Whereas people with autism are often over-inundated with sensory input, people with ADD can't seem to get enough of it. The results are the same, great discomfort, and oftentimes, the responses are the same, excessive physical stimulation.

In the case of a person with autism, the excessive behaviors (scratching, head-banging, walking in circles) serve to block out and distract from sensory experiences that are causing the discomfort. By comparison, they're soothing.

In the case of a person with ADD, the excessive behaviors don't block out, but add to the mix of sensory stimuli, making them louder and bigger. The resultant cacophony of stimuli is soothing.

For one person, there's too much going on, for another, too little. Yet, each experiences discomfort; each responds by increasing their sensory load. Each is just trying to get comfortable by achieving sensory equilibrium.

Of course, the experience for those around us can be, well, umm... entertaining?

Happy Friday!


  1. Whahaha... I can so see the interview happen! That was great!

    I remember the recording that was made on our wedding day. When I watched it I saw that my face has the ability to change every half second. I was horrified and in awe of that unique face at the same time!

  2. Loved the description of the interview! I can see it so clearly, except i rhought you were describing Zach, who is only still when he is drawing.


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