From the category archives:


Working at a sheltered workplace: Becoming part of the problem

by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday February 15, 2012

in Personal

Have you ever been to jail? I haven’t. But being atmitted at Promen
feels a lot like I imagine jail would be like.
They have a very limiting structure and there is something else,
something that took me a few years to figure out, that makes you
highly dependable on the campony and it’s managers.
Going to jail is ussually only for a few years. But after being
commited for having a disability or being unemployed, atmittens at
Promen is for life.

But I didn’t notice this at first.
Promen seemed like every other company. Some rules and habbits
seemed a bit strange but… You do whatever pleases you…

Department 9 has four groups of tables aranged like an crouked “E”.
The group where the manager placed me consists of 6 tables and is
situated at the vertical bar of the “E”. The other three groups have
8 to 12 tables and are situated at the horizontal bars of the “E”.
Every employee has his own seat and people can only change seats
with permission of the manager. Except that he never gives anyone
In between the groups of table there are lines of pallets stacked
with large boxes containing pieces of clothing we have to tag.

The rules aren’t that stricked that we have to ask permission to go
to the bathroom. But we do need permission to go on a break or to go
Four times a day 20 minutes before break time or 20 minutes before
leaving for home, people stop working and line up at the invisible
line between the end of the fence and the corner of the door to
department 8.
Department 9 doesn’t have a door.
Complaining about the long time they have to wait, people wait.
Wait until the whistle blows and they can go to the breakroom or can
leave to go home.

Although working hours only start by 8 o’clock most people arrive a
little earlier then that. Some much earlier. Some a lot earlier; the
company opens it’s doors at 7 o’clock but some people are already
present before the doors are opened.
At 8 o’clock the whistle blows and people leave the breakroom and go
to department 9.
Tired and stressed out from the day before work starts very slowly.
By a quarter past 8 the manager and the foreman come running out of
the office to remind the employees that the orders they are working
on are urgent and should be rushed.

By nine o’clock the manager leaves for his daily meeting with his
two colleagues and the department explodes.
Almost at ones people start yelling and screaming against each
Most days there are two or three people, usually women, who get into
a fight. Usually about some small incident that happened years ago.
In most case the foreman or one of the colleagues tries to intervene
but usually that only servers to make the ladies even more angry.
And then after one and a half hour the manager comes back. Invites
the two ladies in his office and solves the problem.

Having autism I don’t always recognize my feelings, otherwise I’d
probably remember this time as very frightening. As it was I only
experienced a lot of stress. But that was bad enough.
After a few days of being yelled at I started yelling back. Just to
not have the feeling that everybody is out to get me.
I don’t remember much of the next three or four weeks. Except that I
yelled and screamed as much as the next guy.

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Working at a sheltered workplace: First day

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday February 14, 2012

in Personal

The Netherlands and the US have made very different choices as to
how wealth should be distributed. In the US people feel that
everybody is entitled to become rich. Even if it is at the cost of others.
In the Netherlands we feel that everybody should have equal
opportunities. Which means, among other things, that the unemployed
should have enough money to live and that people with disabilities
should get some kind of benifits or work that is especially suited
for them.
So in the 1950s we got ower first unemployed benefits and in 1970
payed sick leave was started.
Of course all of this costs a lot of money, so nowadays the Dutch
government is strugling to keep this system of social security
(But then in the US 1% of the population owns 80% of everything. So
you decide which is better.)

When the Dutch sheltered workplaces first started they where only
meant for people with developmental disabilities. But by the 1980s a
lot of people, mainly construction workers, had a high degree of sick
leave, which made them very expensive workers. So they where also
place at the sheltered workplaces.
By the late 1990s the Dutch government decided that since unemployed
also costs a lot of money, unemployed people should also work at the
sheltered workplaces.

I’ve been unemployed for a large part of my life.
I finished school in the early 80s when the Netherlands was going
through an economic downfall and a lot of people where unemployed.
By 1985 I got lucky. I could get a IT training that was for 90%
sponsored by the local unemployed agency. After going to school for
a year I found a job that lasted a few years.

By 1992 I lost my job but by that time I had decided that I wanted
to go back to my first love and work with people with developmental
disabilities. Which meant going back to school for four years and
getting a payed internship which had to start before the second year
of school.

The first year at school went very well. I enjoyed it immensely. I
learned a lot about different techniques to change the behavior of
children and adults with all sorts of problems.
Before I started the training I didn’t even know that was possible.
Thank to a classmate I found an internship a few months for the end
of the first year.

But the internship was an other story.
For some reason I didn’t fit in.
The staff treated me as though I was doing everything wrong. Without
taking in account that I was still doing my training. Without ever
telling me what I was doing wrong.
After a few months I decided that there was something wrong with me
which made it impossible for me to work with disabled children and I
quit my internship.
Which meant that I couldn’t start the second year of school.
(A few years later I found out that they where reorganizing the
whole field and that the institution I did my internship at was
destined for termination. Something they probably knew at the time.)

So by the middle of the nineties I was again unemployed.
I did some volunteers work. Worked as a cleaner at an institution
for people with disabilities. Worked as a janitor at a agency that
organized all kind of services for retired people. Worked at a
bicycle shop for a while.
But always short jobs.
In 2000 I was enrolled in Promen.

When I started at Promen, they had two sites. One site was at the
first floor of some other campony, the “Steenland location”. And
then there was the main building. But I didn’t get to see that for
an other year.

The “Steenland location” was a very large building that was split in
three large halls.
The main hall was about 60 meters squared and contained the
stockroom and department 9. Two side halls, each about 50 meter by
30 meters contained department 8 and department 10.
Department 9 was cornered of off the main hall using some fences and
walls that didn’t reach the ceiling and there where about 40 people
in this department. Department 8 also had 40 people and department
10 about 80.

The first thing you noticed when you entered each of these
departments was the level of noise.
Each department had a radio that was booming at a deafening volume
but you couldn’t hear it for the screaming and yelling of all the
people in the departments.

All the people of department 9 where up in arms. Fighting amongs
etc, etc…

The people of department 8 weren’t fighting. But everybody on that
department had the feeling that everybody else was talking about
them. And everybody was trying to control their colleagues.
1e person: “……..”
2e person: “YES YOU ARE!!!”
1e person: “NO I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU!!!”
1e person: “I WAS TALKING ABOUT ……..”
etc, etc…

Department 10 was kind of a mix of those two.

My first day at Promen a job coach took me to a little building
that was located in a corner of department 9. The building was used
as office space by the manager of department 9.
The manager asked me a few questions. Mainly whether I was able to
lift heavy boxes, which I was. And pointed me to an empty seat in
front of his office and told me to sit there.
And that was it. That was all the introduction I got.
From there I was left to fend for myself in one of the most hostel
of situations I’ve ever been in.

This is the first part of a story about my time at the sheltered
workplace Promen in the Netherlands. The problems Promen has and
it’s likely future.


Say NO to ACTA

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday January 22, 2012

in Blogging,Personal

It seems that the threads to the freedom of speech of ordinary people and there ability to earn an honest living is even bigger then the struggle against SOPA suggested.


Learn more and take action about ACTA at
(subtitles included : fr, en, es, de, it, nl, se, pt, ro, ca, hu, gr, …)

Here are few ways to act against ACTA, right now:

Ongoing translation and subtitling efforts:

Full script:

Can you imagine your Internet Service Provider policing everything you do online?
Can you imagine generic drugs that could save lives being banned?
Can you imagine seeds that could feed 1000’s being controlled and withheld in the name of patents?

This will become reality with ACTA.

ACTA is the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
Disguised as a Trade Agreement, ACTA goes much, much further than that.

For the past 3 years, ACTA has been negotiated in secret by 39 countries.
But the negotiators are not democratically elected representatives.
They don’t represent us, but they are deciding laws behind our backs.

Bypassing our democratic processes, they impose new criminal sanctions to stop online file sharing.

ACTA aims to make Internet Service & Access Providers legally responsible for what their users do online, turning them into Private Copyright Police & Judge, censoring their networks.
The chilling effects on free speech would be terrible.

In the name of patents, ACTA would give large corporations the power to stop generic drugs before they reach them people who need them, and stop the use of certain seeds for crops.

The European Parliament will soon vote on ACTA.
This vote will be the occasion to say no once and for all to this dangerous treaty.
As citizens, we must urge our representatives to reject ACTA.


Learn more, Take action

A film directed by
Benoît Musereau

Script by
La Quadrature du Net

Animated by
Morgan Dupuy

Designed by
Marion Leblanc

Voice by
Axel Simon

Music by

La Quadrature du Net
CC-By-SA 2011-10
News & Politics
ACTA Copyright Police Trade Agreement Sharing Internet seeds Generic Drugs Educational
Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)


Did you lose all your friends when you where 13?

by Henk ter Heide on Thursday January 19, 2012

in Personal

The strange thing is that lonely people with a lot of problems always think
that their problems are generally known.
They hate their family and colleagues for not helping them.
In actual fact no one knows about your problems.
Even people who have gone through the same kind of problems as you are
experiencing, can’t see the difference between people who choose to be on their
own and people who don’t know how to make friends.
So if you recognize yourself in this article.
Don’t worry.
Nobody knows it’s about you.

Going through puberty is a difficult time.
A lot changes.
Not only your body changes, but also the way you think, the way you deal with
problems, the way you deal with people. Even your behavior changes; you learn
how to behave as an adult male or female (by imitating the behavior of your
father or mother).

A lot can go wrong.
And since there are so many developments going on there are a lot of different
problems adolescents can run into.
And just like most people with problems adolescents with problems are selfish
and only feel at ease with people with the same kind of problems.

And that is where the trouble starts.
As adults we tend to forget how limited the world of children and young
adolescents is.
Children will only talk with children their own age or maybe one year older or
Except at the start of puberty.
Thirteen year olds feel that twelve year olds are childish.
So they’ll only talk to children who are older. But fifteen year olds feel that
thirteen year olds are childish and won’t talk to them.
So thirteen year olds can only talk to other thirteen year olds and fourteen
year olds.

And then there are the geographical boundaries.
Children and young adolescents only know children within a 50 meters radius of
their home and only talk to children within a 3 meters radius of their seat at
Children at the front of the class don’t talk with children at the back of the

So when you’re thirteen there are about 10 children with whome you could be
If your thirteen and your parents are divorced and none of those 10 children
have parents that are divorced, it’s very easy to feel an outcast.
If you’re gay or have autism or some other less frequent problem it’s even less
likely that you know anyone with the same problems. And more likely that you
feel an outcast.

If you felt an outcast as a child you probably also felt picked on.
You felt that (some) children where mean spirits that took great joy in hurting
But actually they weren’t.
They were just frightened children with their own problems that hurt what they
didn’t understand.
(How could they have understood, since you never told them what hurt you…)
So you got used to doing things all by your selves.


Everything changes when you turn eighteen.
You go out to work or to study.
You have a lot more money, join a club or go to a pub.
In some countries you’re considered an adult, in others almost an adult. And
all of a sudden you find that every one between 18 and 81 wants to talk to you.
You find that there are hundreds of people who want to talk with you, and
dozens with the same problems as you have.

The only thing is that you have gotten used to going it alone.
You shrug people off.
You’re still afraid that people will hurt you.

It took me till I was in my early thirties before I realized that something had
In my teens children enjoyed setting me up for jokes that I didn’t understand.
In my thirties I came to understand that being friends isn’t a zero sum game:
People will only talk to you when they enjoy talking to you.
So for those of us who where picked on in our teens it’s very easy to drive the
people away who want to befriend us.

It’s very easy to prove that nobody wants to befriend you.
But if you try it’s as easy to find people who do want to befriend you.
And with the much bigger choice you have, it’s very easy to avoid the few
people you don’t like.


Showing respect

by Henk ter Heide on Monday January 16, 2012

in Personal

I must be getting old.
The other day I found myself annoyed for not getting the kind of respect that
I’m due.
Isn’t that the age old cry of the elderly? Not being shown enough respect.

It had me wondering what respect actually is and in which circumstance I have
a right to be treated with respect. And in which circumstance I have a duty
to treat others with respect.

Listening to the way people around me talk about respect. It seems to me that
respect is a kind of reward. Awarded only to people who treat you nicely.
But that can’t be right.

Given how many reasons there are to treat people rudely.
If this was a tit for tat world where you would only treat people nice if
they treated you nice. You would never reach the situation where you could
reward any one.
Nobody would ever be nice to you.

I’m reminded of a saying we had in the Netherlands in the 60s and 70s.
“Better the world but start by bettering yourself” (verbeter de wereld, begin
met jezelf).
The reasoning being that you can’t influence how other people behave, but you
can influence your own behavior.
But in my experience that’s not true.
I can influence the way people behave by the way I treat them. If I treat
them nice they usually treat me nice.
The more respect I show people, the more respect they show me.
Which means that respect must be an investment in a future relationship.


The funny thing is that this definition explains why I feel that there used
to be so much more respect.

The young are far more whimsical, running from one relationship to the next.
They don’t feel the necessity to invest very much in those relationships.
But as we get older we get more steady in our relationships and invest more
in them.

So in my youth I dealt with a lot of people who where much older then me. My
parents, parents of friends, teachers, shopkeepers and so on. Who invested in
the relationship by virtue of showing me respect.
Nowadays most of the people I deal with are younger then me and don’t feel
the need to invest in the relationship. And of course some are older but they
feel we live in a tit for tat world and only have to show me respect if I
show them respect.

It would seem that if I feel that I don’t get the respect I’m due, I would be
best of by showing some respect.
That way I have the best changes of getting some back.


The disability paradox

by Henk ter Heide on Saturday January 14, 2012

in Personal

Don’t you hate it when disabled people use the disability card?
Drawing your pity by explaining how they can’t preform some mediocre
task because they’re disabled.
I do.
Having a disability I hate it even more when I act that way.

But things seem to have changed the last ten or fifteen years.
It used to be that when I told people that I can’t drive a car. They
felt sorry for me, because that meant having to use that nuisance called
public transport.
But nowadays I better have a good story to explain why I can’t.
Otherwise they’ll treat me as though I’m some kind of moron.

The big question here is.
How will I ever improve my working conditions if I keep pointing people
to the tasks I can’t preform. Instead of calling their attention to the
skills I excel at.


writing vs drawing

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday November 20, 2011

in Personal

A few days ago I said that I don’t like the kind of stories I tell now days. And in one sense I don’t.
Twenty years ago, for a short while, I wrote very happy stories. Stories about the things I saw. Like a game two little children thought up while waiting in a butcher’s shop.
These stories where fun.
But at the same time they where a little childish.

I started this blog because I thought that I could use drawings to tell my story.
I had just discovered that I have a photographic memory. And I thought that if I would show the pictures in my mind people would understand who I am.
Picture tell a 1000 words, don’t they?

Turns out they don’t.
A 1000 words are about 2 pages of text. Which take me about five minutes to type.
(Provided I know before hand what I want to tell.)
A picture on the other hand take hours to draw. And they takes a lot of skill. And there is no way you can work on your drawing except when your sitting at your desk.
But mostly drawing bores me.

Having thought a few day about why I mostly write about myself. I conclude that is because that’s what I’m thinking about.
Writing about funny things children do might be fun. But writing about the things that affect me is way more interesting.


Leading to friendship

by Henk ter Heide on Tuesday November 15, 2011

in Personal

Sometimes you have to marry two unrelated problems to solve them

First problem

I have no friends. At all.
I used to have them.

I remember from my childhood that I had 3 friends. Three boys that lived on the
same block, whom I called friend. But I don’t remember if I spend much time
doing things with them.
When I was almost 12 we moved house and I lost my friends.

In my late twenties early thirties I got a few friends again. Again three friend
but now in succession. Every one of those friendships lasted for about 2 years.
And every one of those friendships felt like a lot of work.

The first two guy visited me ones every 6 to 8 weeks. But only if I invited them.
In between visits we never talked to each other. It seemed as though it was up to
me to contact them and make the arrangements.
The third came every week. Although I liked it, it seemed a little too much.
I would have liked it better if he had come every two or three weeks.
After about 2 years he stopped visiting me and I was relieved.

It was only when I found out that I’m autistic that I learned that there is a
difference between the needs of people with autism and NT‘s.
I’ve been told that the relationships of people with autism is more shallow as
compared to NT’s.
Maybe that’s true. It’s not something I can check.
What I do know though is that I’m not interested in about 90% of what NT’s talk
about. And that I need far more “me” time then NT’s.

Two autistic friend of mine moved in together a few years ago.
To do so they bought a house containing a living room plus three bed rooms. Of
which they converted two to personal rooms.
They agreed that if one of them withdrew into his/her personal room. The other
would leave him/her alone.

In a relation I too need that amount of personal space. Which makes it difficult
to be in a relationship with an NT.
The only way I could ever get in a relationship is when I find a gay autistic guy
I like.
But what are the odds of that happening?

Second problem

In one of the episodes of Star Trek Generation Wesley Crusher is tasked with
learning to lead men. He isn’t very successful at it and the men go off and do
their own thing.
Trying to figure out how to command men he asks Commander Riker “What gives me
the right to tell people (twice my age) what they should do?”
And Riker answers “If you figure that out you’ll be able to lead men.”

I always found this kind of a strange episode because I have almost the
opposite problem.
I’ve been leading people for the last 15 years.
First in my volunteers work later in my job.
Most of the time I lead by example but some times I ask people to do something
and usually they do.

But I too don’t know the answer to the question “what gives me the right?”.
So it would seem that Riker (or the person who wrote the story) is wrong.
It is possible to lead people without knowing the answer to that question.
Or at least that’s what I’ve been thinking for years. But recently I’ve
found that isn’t entirely true.

I’ve always used my ability to lead people to reach goals that where clearly
in the best interest of everybody. Improving the way the work was organized.
Teaching people how to do their work more easily. Improving the mood at the
department. Etc.
I never used it for personal gain. Although it’s clear to me that you can
improve your own life by the way you lead people I’ve never done that.
I’ve never dared.

The marriage

A few weeks ago a colleague mentioned Paul and told a story about something
stupid he had done.
Paul is a colleague who visited me ones a few years ago. I liked the guy
and was dreaming about getting friends. But it didn’t happen.
Most of my colleagues have problems. But I was surprised and shocked by the
number of problems that he had. And the kind of problems. Stupid problems
that he should be able to fix himself. But apparently he wasn’t.
For a year I thought of inviting him for a second time. But I never did.

After hearing his name I found myself doubting my decision never to invite
him again.
He is a nice guy. Even if he needs a lot a care.

Around the same time I took a few days sick leave. My department was
planning a move. We had to leave the space we where in, but it wasn’t
clear were we where going.
I can’t deal with that kind of uncertainty. And, so I found, neither
can some of my colleagues.
One of them told me that he resented me leaving them in such a stressful

And so I found myself thinking about friendship and about leadership at
the same time. And a few things became clear.
The answer to the question “what gives me the right?” is responsibility.
People follow me because I improve their lives. I take care of them.
Which means that it is possible to lead people in a way that will improve
my life, but only if it also improves their lives.

The second thing I realized is that it is possible to get friends that
are not autistic. The only thing is that it’s up to me to make sure that
they behave in a way that I feel comfortable.
Which means that I will have to lead them and take responsibility for them.

So now I’m thinking about inviting Paul again. What kind of care does he
need. Something I can give him?
I think so.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }


by Henk ter Heide on Wednesday November 2, 2011

in Personal

Thinking about what I can do with this blog has me rethinking my carrier and one of my most annoying habbits

For most of my youth I had no idea of what I was going to do with my life.
My parents thought that I should study.
But they didn’t seem to care what I study.
Just as long as I studied something.

I had no ideas of what to do or what to study until I reach the MAVO (some what akin to the American High school).
There I first learned about chemistry. A very interesting study about what happens when you marry two chemical substances.
What kind of substance will you get and how much of that substance.
So I decided to study chemistry at HBO level (a 4 year study some what akin to the American College).

But I soon discovered that there was a big difference between MAVO chemistry and working as a chemist.
I don’t know what chemist do now days but 30 years ago they spend most of there days doing titration. Which is the process of adding one liquid to an other and wait until the color changes.
Which is almost as interesting as watching paint dry.

So I stopped that study and joined the army of the unemployed.
But I did get one thing from that study and that was a new interest.
The school had one of the first computers that was accessible for students. And we could play on it as much as we wanted.

Most of my school mates didn’t understand it though.
The computer had only one or two, boring, games.
But it offered something much more interesting.
With a few simple statements you could get it to do what ever you wanted.
As long as what you wanted had something to do with math.
(A little Ford: Any color you like as long as it is black 🙂 )
But I understood it.

It took me a few years to get into the IT business.
For reasons I still don’t understand the Dutch government used to think that employers where interested in people who didn’t do anything and didn’t know anything.
This meant that people who where unemployed couldn’t do a study or anything else that could increase there changes of getting a job.
After five years the government finally changed their minds and I was allowed to study.
In the end it took me eight years to find a job as a computer operator.

But it was a nice job.
At first.
I learned a lot about the operation of the computers I worked with. Learned a little about myself and really enjoyed the work.
But after a few years it became very clear that although I enjoyed the work, I really didn’t like the people.

They all had “square eyes” as it was called. Meaning that they were only interested in computers and programming.
Nothing else.
If it didn’t have anything to do with computer people didn’t talk about it.
One colleague told me that he had made a computer program for the school one of his children attended. And a computer program for the school the other child attended.
So maybe he had two children.
Or maybe the school of the third child didn’t need a computer program. I’ll never know.

Around my thirtieth I decide that IT wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life and that I would switch to working at a boarding house.
So I did the first year of a four year HBO training. And found a job.
First working with abused children for a few months and then working with mentally disabled adults.

I found that the job gave me mixed feelings.
On the one hand I had to figure out what kind of problems clients had and how best to help them.
That part I enjoyed very much.
But on the other hand I had to live with them. Which meant watching “Goede tijden slechte tijden” (the Dutch “As the world turns”) which I didn’t enjoy at all. And I had play board games with them. An other thing I didn’t enjoy.
But in the end it didn’t matter because I ran into a few problems and lost my job.

After a few years of unemployment I found a job at the sheltered work place Promen.
I didn’t know then that I was autistic. But towards the end of the nineties the Dutch government decided that giving unemployed people a subsidized job would improve there changes of finding a real job.
It didn’t work. But it did give me a steady income and something to fill my days.
So I’m not complaining.

But anyway. Soon after starting at Promen I found that most of my colleagues had problems that caused a lot of sick leave while, in most cases, it should be reasonably easy to solve the problems.
So I started telling members of staff that we should teach people how to control their problems.
I’m at it for 11 years now.
At first staff didn’t believe that it would be possible but the last few years the company is really changing…
I had hoped that it would also give me a change to get a more interesting job.
But that hasn’t happened. I’m still doing unskilled labor.

All in all not much of a carrier.
I have had a job for a little over half of my life.
But it surely wasn’t the kind of carrier my parents pictured for me.

As for the annoying habit. I talk to myself.
Out loud.
Sometimes I even yell at myself.
People must think I’m crazy.

The stupid thing is I’m actually not even speaking to myself.
In my mind I’m explaining every new situation I run into to the people around me.
Sometimes even to this blog.
I’m always explaining.
Always… telling stories…

Telling stories?
I’ve never thought about it in this way. But telling stories is exactly what I do.

Suddenly I understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

Up until I was about 10 yr I hardly spoke. Maybe 10 or 20 words in a week.
I have a visual thinking process. Which means that I have a movie in my mind that shows me how the world works.
Until I was about 10 I was mostly interested in how clocks and cars work.
I wasn’t interested in knowing and interacting with people. And so I didn’t speak.
When I did became interested in interacting with people I found that a visual thinking process isn’t always well suited to understand the situations I experienced.
So by telling and retelling stories I can figure out how things work.
Which is why I can’t break with the habit.
I need this.

Now I suddenly understand why I have had such a haphazard carrier.
In my teens I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Chemistry was just my highest grade.
Getting into the IT was a good choice. Working with computers is still one of my strength.
It just was a little limiting.
Getting part of the training needed to work at a boarding house was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
It gave me the skills needed to understand the people around me.

Although I have a severe case of autism. People often tell me that they don’t recognize that in me.
Which is for a large part thanks to this training.

The next step is to find a way to tell my stories on this blog.
But that should be a breeze.
While I’m still busy writing this story I’ve already thought up two other stories I want to write and a third is in the making.

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Learning to fear

by Henk ter Heide on Sunday October 30, 2011

in Personal

Twenty years ago I stopped looking around me.
I wonder what happened.

Twenty years ago I worked at boarding houses.

At one time we had four types of boarding houses in the Netherlands: Boarding houses for abused children, boarding houses for the mentally disabled, boarding houses for people with psychotic problems and boarding houses for the physically disabled.

I worked at the first two types.
Not very long though. About three months at the first type and about four and the second.
Especially the first boarding house caused a lot of problems.

People told me that that must mean that I was abused as a child and I believed them.
Why wouldn’t I.
In my youth I have lived in a boarding house for a few years and never got a straight answer as to why I had to live there.
So this was as good an explanation as any.

In hopes to solve the problems I found myself a shrink. Who told me that I had very severe problems that where caused by the fear that resulted from the child abuse I had experienced in my youth.
The fact that I did not actually experienced that fear seemed a measure the depth of my fear.
From the large amount of problems I had, he deduced that I must have been the victim of one of the worst cases of child abuse he ever witnessed.

The only way to solve my problems would be to learn to feel the fear.
To learn to live with the fear.
To learn which parts of the abuse caused the fear.
To go with the fear and to go against the fear.
To eat and drink fear.
And at some point I would survive the fear.

So that what I’ve been doing for the last twenty years.

Only this morning I realized that it was all wrong.
I was never abused. Autism was misdiagnosed forty years ago.
Which lead to my placement at a boarding house for abused children.

Which actually was a good thing.
Abused children need a lot of structure. Just like autistic children.
So at that boarding house life was much more structured that my parents ever could have managed.
I loved it there.
It was the one place where I always felt save.

So in my mid twenties not knowing what was wrong with me and not knowing what to do to feel save. I chose to go back to the one place I felt save and go and work at boarding houses.
The thing is. I wasn’t the only one making that decision.
A lot of the people who lived at boarding houses in their youth at some point decided that they wanted to work a boarding house.
But must of those people where actually abused as a child.

And of course almost nobody knew anything about autism twenty years ago…

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