September 15, 2020

As a kid, I enjoyed different toys for different reasons. Some were fun because I could use them to act out my favorite stories. Others were fun for sensory reasons – I liked how they looked, or how they felt in my hand.

But I didn’t notice the difference. I only knew which toys were fun, and didn’t think much about why. Instead, for some reason, I believed that toys were only worth keeping if I could use them in a story.

For example, I had some squishy foam bricks that I used as beds for my Barbie dolls. When I no longer enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls, I got rid of the bricks… and now regret it.

No one told me that it’s fine to keep things just because they feel nice. No one told me that it’s perfectly acceptable, even as an adult, to line up a row of toy bricks and push down on each one, feeling it flatten and watching it rise again, as a calming break from a chaotic world.

No one told me, because I never asked. I just assumed it wasn’t okay, because it wasn’t what other people did.

I’ve grown better at accepting what I enjoy. First, though, I had to get better at noticing what I enjoy – and why.

Some sensory feelings are hard for me to handle, but others are extra enjoyable. I want the next generation of autistics to know that it’s okay to like things – and keep things – for sensory reasons alone.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.