Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Rays (Part 1)

[…] an autism diagnosis can be a tool for empowerment. It’s an answer and an explanation, it’s a way out of cycles of self-blame and guilt, it’s a passport to an entire community, and if we’re lucky, it’s a connection to the understanding, supports, and services we need in order to truly thrive, sometimes for the first time in our life.

Julia Bascom

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Looking back over my life through a different lens adds perspective and dimension to my experience.

It explains and validates.

It helps me to accept myself and changes my internal dialogue.

It is a raw process. It is taking this part from here and looking at it in detail, deciding if it helps or hurts, then grafting it where it belongs. It feels more comfortable over all to have things in their new places, but the edges sting where they were pulled at, and sometimes there is an empty space left where it was that I am not sure what to fill with yet.

Michelle Swan

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Speaking about past events using the present’s conception doesn’t necessarily aim to deny the perception that was dominant in the past. Nonetheless, there is often a pervasive subtext that the present speaker considers this past conception to be deeply wrong, and so uses the present’s language to describe the past in an attempt to say it right, according to the present time.

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Access to a collective autistic wisdom, absent for a lifetime, is a powerful force. Through it we can discover the language and concepts we need to ease our passage towards more congruent identities

Sonia Boue

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Having {frameworks} for experiences can be profound, the difference between mute suffering and solidarity and strength in the face of adversity.

Partial quote, Sarah K Reece

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It really helps to have a community who don’t react to my descriptions by saying “that’s weird” or “surely you mean you’re [insert different emotion/reaction]”, and also to have read so many other first-person accounts from other autistic people that chime with my own. Having the language to communicate my feelings with others who can relate is amazingly powerful, and it feels like every new revelation helps me to figure something new out, and describe it better. It makes me think a lot about how important community can be, how much we can learn by having people we can relate to in our lives, and how valuable it is for us to have ever more accurate and authentic representations of different ways of seeing and experiencing the world.

Sonny Hallett

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[…] Remind yourself that seeing your limits just means you’re seeing more of the parameters in the equation. Remind yourself that most people don’t know their own limits that well, and they can’t plan for it. They’ll hit the wall at full speed. So knowing this is a power that you have.

Kate

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[Diagnoses and/or labels] can often be adopted by people […] in order to structure and explain their experiences.

Some people find that having names for their [experiences] provides them with a sense of order and a way to reconstruct their lives.

Finding ways and new meaning in which they can participate in community and re-write their own personal and collective histories, enables a reclamation of voice; a re-naming that encourages re-positioning and the gaining of power and agency.

Monika Dos Santos, Jean-François Pelletier

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Even without an official diagnosis, many people [can] benefit from learning coping techniques with people who have similar life experiences.

Worst case scenario, someone who isn’t autistic learns how to function more easily from people who are autistic. [It’s] the curb cut effect: Disability accommodations can improve the lives of more than just their target audience.

Sara Luterman

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Streaks (Part 3)

When social communication fails, this does not mean the person we are trying to communicate with, trying to reach intersubjectivity with, trying to extend our own agency with… does not have a mind, does not have agency, is not human. What we think of as the ability to mentalise, to ‘read someone’s mind’ then, is perhaps the rather less impressive coincidence of happening to possess a similar mind, and what we think of as intimacy and a shared-humanity is nothing more than mirror-gazing.

Sophie Vivian

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If we start from the assumption that neurotypicals are ‘normal’, and Autistics are ‘disordered’, then poor connections between neurotypicals and Autistics inevitably get blamed on some ‘defect’ or ‘deficit’ in Autistics. If an Autistic can’t understand a neurotypical, it’s because Autistics have empathy deficits and impaired communication skills; if a neurotypical can’t understand an Autistic, it’s because Autistics have empathy deficits and poor communication skills. All the frictions and failures of connection between the two groups, and all the difficulties Autistics run into in neurotypical society, all get blamed on Autism.

Nick Walker

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But the way that things like this normally go? […] When nonautistic people can’t read autistic people, it’s either because nothing is there to read (we’re just assumed not to be giving off nonverbal cues because the cues we give off aren’t always the same as nonautistic people), or because autistic people have a global social skills deficit […] Even though it’s the exact same problem going in both directions: A difficulty reading people whose experience of the world fundamentally differs from your own, which may be a nearly universal social skills deficit in both autistic and nonautistic people.

Mel Baggs

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No one is born knowing the rules. Everyone has to learn the rules, and everyone has to learn some of the rules explicitly. […]

For neurotypical people, the need to learn social skills [e.g.: in business, in personal relationships, and in the area of disability] is treated as normal, expected, and honorable.

For autistic people, our need to learn social skills is treated as disgusting, defective, and in need of normalizing therapy.

Ruti Regan

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Stop romanticizing neurotypicality

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Learning to be good at social interactions isn’t a matter of Learning the Rules; it’s a matter of learning to develop your judgement.

Ruti Regan

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I don’t think social skills exist. Or, if I do, I think they exist like God exists – in everyone. They just may not always be apparent. […] Social skills are not contained in a person – they require the right other person.

With work, I think a lot of people can learn to develop their mindfulness and modulation skills so that they can have good social skills (i.e., capacity to connect) with more people – or, so that more people can have good social skills with them. It’s the same thing.

Some people – disabled or not – may not be able to learn how to do that, but they will still sometimes meet a person who is exactly like them, or who is very good at mindfulness and modulation, and they will have good social skills when they are with that person.

Other people will just not let other people in. […] Such people may have good social skills when interacting with people who aren’t different. But with people who are different, they [as well as the person who is different from them] will always have no social skills […]

Amanda Forest Vivian

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Snowflakes (Part 2)

[…] You describe introverts becoming rigid under stress.

Autistics who are under constant, intense pressure (as are many, by well-meaning parents and others who want them to function) become very rigid and black/white in their thinking, this is then taken as an inherent part of autism. If they are given less stress, their thinking ‘magically’ becomes more flexible.

Ettina

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[…] The closest analogy I can make is that what happens prior to initiation is like standing on the edge of a swimming pool with the intention of jumping in.

You know, that few minutes where you dip a toe in, check the temperature, adjust your suit and goggles, comment on how cold it looks, do a few arm windmills, bounce up and down, take a deep breath, then another. There’s no real point to all of those actions and the jumping in is inevitable. But not quite yet.

Cynthia Kim

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@neuroemergent_insurgent has an alternative perspective on EF (executive function).

She posits that EF is a set of values, not a set of skills.

Emmeline Tyler

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Autism parents often hear from the professionals that “kids with autism thrive on routine.” On the surface this appears to be true. Autism kids are drilled to comply with a certain routine and when the routine changes, they react loudly and sometimes physically. Ergo, they must need routine.

In my opinion, professionals like routine because it makes their jobs easier. I am not convinced that encouraging such rigidity is in a child’s best interest.

Amy Yardley

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To comply with a certain routine and needing to be prepared for something are not necessarily the same thing.

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is change a problem for autistic people?

They say Autistic people don’t cope well with change and unexpected events, insist on routine, and can be oppositional if they don’t get what they prefer.

It’s just not that simple.

Autistic people do struggle with change and unpredictability. But it’s not just because we don’t like change.

We struggle with change because of what it costs us in terms of increased demand on our sensory system, executive function resources and how it impacts on our energy budget.

If we are well supported during a change or unexpected event we find it much easier to navigate and to manage the increased demands the new situation places on our bodies, our processing and our emotional responses to all that.

Michelle Swan

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Self harm is complex and full of contradictions. Something I often remind people is that it is common in the animal kingdom. Animals and birds experiencing inescapable pain – loneliness, captivity in an unsuitable cage: too small, too stressful, too close to predator species, overcrowded, or physically ill and suffering, many will head bang, pluck their own feathers, chew or lick off their skin, tear out nails and claws. On one level, self harm is a nearly universal response to certain kinds of suffering. This is the context, the broad picture. We are mammals, part of the world, nervous systems wired this way.

Zooming right in, we get vast diversity in who, how, and why. Some find a single cause and many more a complex web of reasons, needs, struggles. […]

What it is not, and has never been, is the circle I hear so often. They self harm because they are mentally ill: we know they are mentally ill because they self harm.

We self harm because something is wrong, because of pain, because it is the best way we’ve found to meet a need we don’t understand or accept or can’t express.

Sarah K Reece

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In many instances, the discourse(s) of involuntarity governs autism as a condition. Most obviously, autism is not a voluntary condition – one doesn’t choose autism, per se.

Of course, framing autism as a neurological involuntarity is a false construct. After all, does anyone really choose their neurology? And yet, even though neurotypicality is as much an involuntarity as is mental disability or neurodivergence, the construct of involuntarity is culturally inscribed into autism as a condition. Autistics wrench and scream and rock their bodies, and they have no choice; they have no agency; they project little to no rhetorical or narrativistic purpose.

Within this passivity-centric framework, involuntarity might encompass shit smearing or body rocking; it likewise encompasses any act of communication, or what white-coat types might otherwise reduce to inappropriate behaviors; it encompasses embodiment; it encompasses how one dwells in the world. It signifies a lack of purpose, a lack of audience awareness, a lack of control over one’s own person – and under the banner of person, I’m including how we conceptualize mind, body, being, and self-determination. […]

Melanie Yergeau

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Snowflakes (Part 1)

Yes, I have social problems, but honestly I feel that the idea that autism is a ‘social disorder’ is putting the cart before the horse, and really missing the point. Autism is primarily a sensory and information processing and filtering difference, and the descriptions of autistics written by allistics are simply descriptions of the differences that allistics can see, and think are important.

Kirsten Lindsmith

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Differences in sensory processing do of course affect what might be called ‘social skills,’ for example many autistic people don’t integrate incoming visual information in a way that allows them to easily notice the tiny subtle differences in body position and facial expression that are used in neurotypical communication […]

Sensory integration also affects motor movements, and so many autistic people may not show the body language that non-autistic people expect for the way they are feeling. […]

Quincy Hansen

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In recent years the narrative has shifted from saying that autistic people feel too little – usually due to a purported empathy deficit – to saying we feel too much.

Perhaps the most worrying thing here regards how this new framing leads to autistic suffering being blamed on autistic oversensitivity.

In this regard it is worth drawing attention to a form of psychological domestic abuse sometimes called ‘gaslighting’. What this refers to is the systematic undermining of the victim’s sense of reality in order to make them think the abuse is their fault rather than the fault of the abuser. Very significantly, one of the core ways to do this is for the abuser to convince the victim that they are just too sensitive, meaning that any hurt they feel is not down to their abusive environment but rather due to their own inability to cope with the world. […]

With this in mind, I am wary of all accounts that frame autistic suffering and disablement stemming from us being hyper-sensitive. Far from reversing it, all this does is make the pathologisation of autism more subtle, more hegemonic.

In fact, the issue is that the sensory world is designed for the neurotypical, and so has by and large failed to accommodate the autistic sensory-style. That is, whilst it is true that we suffer from ‘too much information’, this stems from the neurotypical-centric way in which the world is organised – not due to how we process the world as such.

Robert Chapman

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So I’m sort of bad at figuring out how I feel about things, or just how things are, objectively. This is probably due to growing up with gaslighting although I also think that not being able to identify your feelings is supposed to be normal for people with ASD.

Although maybe it’s normal for people with ASD as a result of gaslighting.

Amanda Forest Vivian

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[…] But it is also a context where many of the things – such as eye contact and physical contact – often used by parents to show affection for their children either panic us or cause us physical pain, and where our ‘emotional growth’ might be measured by others in terms of how much we can deaden our bodies and emotions and allow ourselves to be subjected to terror and pain on a regular basis.

Imagine growing up somewhere where to be hit upside the head and locked in a room with a large predatory animal are the two highest forms of affection, and your emotional development is gauged on how well you learn to put up with those situations.

To people who experience certain kinds of touch as pain and eye contact as a predator-style threat, that is some part of our experience growing up. And that is an experience we can have in the most loving and caring of families, if our families don’t understand what those experiences feel like to us (and not all of us show pain and discomfort by pulling away, either, so it’s not always possible to gauge our reactions by that sort of thing).

Mel Baggs

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Neurotypical kids’ social development is fostered by feedback from their parents, who mirror their behavior and thus model reciprocal interactions from an early age. As Morton Ann Gernsbacher and her colleagues pointed out, autistic babies don’t give the usual cues their parents are expecting, and the parents don’t necessarily mirror them or give them the social feedback that helps neurotypical babies.

So how much of an autistic person’s social disabilities come from their own characteristics, and how much from early differences in their interactions with caretakers?

Emily Morson

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culture, class and disability play such a huge role in how we show emotions

Mel Baggs

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Many autistic traits are a result of being so in tune with other people’s energy that it literally hurts.

Shutting down to others emotions and taking them on without discrimination are two sides of the same coin.

Briannon Lee

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