Stuffed animals. Blankies. A favorite toy.
When we’re young these are all objects we may have enjoyed, and even dragged around with us wherever we went. They bring us comfort, security, and familiarity.
For kids on the spectrum these items also fulfill a sense of routine, and order that we have a natural craving and need for. But I’m going to let you in on a secret. Come closer because I don’t want this getting out to the masses. Are you ready for it?
It’s not just kids that have objects in their life that represent security and peace. Some adults on the spectrum have an object that meets these same needs.
Or, at least, this adult on the spectrum does. You see, I have a Black Panther teddy bear, and yes, I sleep with him at night. His name is T’Challa.
Nearly four years ago I moved away from family, lifelong friends, as well as the tremendous sensory overload that is Los Angeles and Orange County. I left it all behind to move to a log cabin in a town of 4,000 in the Missouri Ozarks.
I needed order and routine as I was building my new life, and so one Saturday, shortly after I arrived, I made the 45-minute journey to the closest Build-A-Bear. Just inside the entrance to the store I found a Marvel display that had a black bear with T’Challa’s necklace embroidered onto it. I immediately knew that I had found what I was seeking.
Being the complete dork that I can be, I grabbed an unstuffed bear, went to the stuffing machine, picked out a heart to put inside him, and created my new friend. Then I went and created a birth certificate, which I have hidden away somewhere in my house.
I’ve slept with my Black Panther almost every night since.
As I crawl into my bed, I grab the King of Wakanda off the pillow, and get comfortable. He relaxes me and when I have him at my side a feeling of calm comes over me, and it’s easier for me to fall asleep. He even goes with me when I travel.
As I write this, I realize how weird all this must sound, but I don’t call it weird. I prefer quirky. Or eccentric.
Over the course of my fifty-five years, I’ve learned that I really don’t care what others think of the things I do that they may find strange. I’m me, and I’m generally happy with who I am, so that’s really all that matters.
So, here’s my question to all the autistic adults and family members of adults on the spectrum. Do you have something that brings a sense of normalcy and peace to your life? I’m sure I’m not the only one, but maybe I am.
If you do, share with us what that is and what that object does for you. I’d like to know, and I’m sure others would as well.