Extra section related to:
What does it mean to be on the spectrum?
Pivotal words generally used in defining and presenting autism:
find challenging to
have control of
have trouble to
take longer to
Usually paired up with things falling in those categories:
Typically developing babies are reducing their attention to faces and increasing their attention to objects, [and] their social development […] soars. Moreover, rather than distracting babies from social engagement, objects and the hands that manipulate them offer new ways to share attention with others.
It is a lot of work to look non-autistic, and yet, looking non-autistic is the ticket to sit at many tables. It is not right, and yet, I choose to expend a great deal of energy inhibiting my autistic ways for the sake of sitting at some of society’s tables. Employment is one such table. […]
Many argue that all people have to do this ‘sucking it up’ to some extent. After all, we cannot just act however we wish when we are in public. I agree.
However, autistics have to do this to such a greater extent that it prohibits many of us from being employed because we simply cannot ‘suck it up’ long enough each day to be gainfully employed.
It’s Stressful to be Someone You’re Not
Faking it ‘til you make it may work in the short-term, but trying to sustain it in the long-term is unbelievably stressful. We all have our preferred ways of doing things. And because those ways are normal for us, they require the least amount of energy. We can do them without burning out or disappearing from ourselves in the process.
Faking it is supposed to magically smooth away our feelings of self-doubt and low confidence, but in reality it puts extra stress on the body. People who continuously act a pretense, outside their natural personality preferences, at some point will start to feel anxious, exhausted, angry and plain-old frustrated. It’s a bit like pulling the plug in a bathtub; you won’t notice much difference in the water level at first, but eventually everything will just drain out.
We are all, every day, engaged in mind-blindness against people we do not agree with or comprehend. We are all unempathic about some people and some groups, […] toward people who are not like us.
How many ‘normal’ people have enough human feeling to befriend and understand non-normative people? How many ‘normal’ people are trapped in their own ‘normal’ worlds, without any consciousness of what it means to be non-normative? The accusations of lack of caring and lack of engagement adhere to the ones who are different. Those in the majority are simply acting ‘normally’ by doing all the things that, when non-normative people do them, are considered evidence of pathology.
What’s it like to be neurotypical? […]
It’s being able to fidget without it being called some specialized term which sounds like a euphemism for fidgeting with one’s own unmentionables, have a passionate interest without it being called a ‘perseveration,’ participate in classes and activities without them being called ‘therapies,’ and appreciate the small beautiful things in life without being accused of being unable to see the big picture. […]
It’s living in your own little world just as much as any autistic does, without people making a big deal out of it.
Some people get labeled because of their disability.
- Sheila does not have a disability. Sheila has a bad day. She yells at her sister. People say, “Sheila was being mean today.”
- Renee has a disability. Renee has a bad day. She yells at her sister. People say, “Renee is aggressive.”
Both satire and very serious
Managing Challenging Behaviors in Neurotypicals
Many neurotypical adults have behaviors that the rest of us find difficult to handle. These people are generally unaware of the stress their challenging behaviors cause for autistic friends and family members. Even the most patient autistic people whose loved ones have challenging behaviors may become frustrated and find their time and energy greatly taxed by the demands of dealing with these behaviors regularly. […]
How do we respond to discomfort? To fear?
Let’s look first to film and literary clichés for examples…
We grit our teeth and bear it. We ball our fists and dig our nails into our palms. We bite our tongues to keep from screaming. We pinch ourselves. […]
What do all these methods have in common? They all involve the distraction of pain as a coping mechanism. […]
There’s a reason pain is the universal distractor. Pain is the only form of stimulation that our nervous systems will not acclimate to.
Sometimes, all of us have meltdowns. Not slight upsets, or moments of rage. Full blown, life sucks meltdowns. If you don’t carry an autism label and you don’t harm yourself or others while having them, they remain private moments of vented frustration one may or may not be ashamed of.
We must accept that it is a normal behavioural response to having our needs unacknowledged and unmet to lash out aggressively, to engage in attention seeking, and to do things others find annoying. Any of us would do that (and do) if put under enough pressure and if we feel unvalued and unheard.
[…] The most dangerous assumption, meanwhile, is that they don’t understand. Their eyes are not windows to any sort of soul. They are people in form but not in substance. Their communications are disregarded as meaningless or rudimentary. Imagine if, all along, a person treated this way understood absolutely everything they were told, understood that people underestimated not only their cognitive abilities but their very humanity, understood that they were seen as less than, damaged, or not even there. Imagine the danger to a soul viewed as soulless.
Imagine how you would feel in that person’s place. Would you feel angry? Would you want to scream? Would you lash out sometimes? Can you imagine something like an inner struggle to express rage without hurting other people that might lead you to self-harm?
The desire to be seen is perhaps the strongest craving in a human being. […] I don’t mean seen literally with the eyes, or heard with the ears, but to be beheld by a fellow human by any means available. To know that you have managed to convey something of your unique self to another person both roots you to the world and frees you.
Followed by the series:
There are two definitions for inertia: 1) indisposition to motion, exertion, or change (“I don’t like or fear change.”) and 2) a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force.
Generally speaking, people tend to be inert. We develop habits, and we stick to them. It doesn’t matter if the habits are good or bad. We like predictability (“I like my car and would like to keep it.”). We don’t want to be confronted on how we do things, what we think, or how we interact with others. If it’s always been done a certain way, then most people will continue in this customary fashion from the smallest habit to the grandest cultural traditions. In terms of inertia, this is called uniform motion. For the most part, we like to remain in a state of uniform motion and/or rest, and this is not necessarily bad. Society needs structure and uniformity to function from the nuclear family all the way to level of government.
In terms of health, this is called homeostasis. The human body requires a certain amount of sleep. We require vital nutrients, daylight, human interaction, physical touch, exercise, and clean air and water in order to maintain homeostasis. All of this is part of uniform motion. When an outside force acts upon this homeostatic inertia, that usually means a stressor has occurred like a virus, toxin, physical injury, genetic mutation, car accident, or the like, and homeostasis has been disrupted. We are no longer inert.
4. When you regulate your daily actions, you deactivate your ‘fight or flight’ instincts because you’re no longer confronting the unknown.
This is why people have such a difficult time with change, and why people who are constant in their habits experience so much joy: simply, their fear instincts are turned off long enough for them to actually enjoy something.
5. As children, routine gives us a feeling of safety. As adults, it gives us a feeling of purpose.
Interestingly enough, those two feelings are more similar than you’d think (at least, their origin is the same). It’s the same thing as the fear of the unknown: as children, we don’t know which way is left, let alone why we’re alive or whether or not a particular activity we’ve never done before is going to be scary or harmful. When we’re adults engaging with routineness, we can comfort ourselves with the simple idea of “I know how to do this, I’ve done it before.”
[T]here is something very different about how autistics react to novel and familiar things. There is something very different about their preference for, and reliance on, repetition and routines. But it’s not that they’re rigid while everyone else is flexible. Neurotypicals are so inflexible that they insist on their social rituals even when it would jeopardize others’ safety.
Neurotypicals misunderstand other people, and inadvertently treat each other badly all the time – often in more damaging ways than autistics do. Neurotypicals can be more rigid than any autistic about the rituals that matter to them.
The difference is that autistics and neurotypicals misunderstand other people in different ways and are inflexible about different things.
Because autistics are in the minority and sometimes lack the ability to explain or advocate for themselves, their way of misunderstanding and being rigid has been pathologized, while neurotypicals’ has been ignored.
[…] can we talk a little bit more about how much of autism therapy is about the therapist being rigid and controlling?
Autistic people don’t all have a convenient love of tedious tasks everyone else hates. Some of us have the audacity to want jobs others want.
How many times have you heard that you need to get the big picture? Or that you feel like you didn’t have the big picture? I’ve heard this phrase repeated too many times to count and each time I do the thought that runs through my mind is this: what exactly is the big picture and how can I get big picture thinking?
The fact is that the big picture depends on your point of view. I don’t believe anyone can truly have the big picture (serious emphasis on ‘big’) because it’s not possible to see the infinite number of influence points involved. In fact, the bigger the project, program or issue the more difficult it is for anyone – even the leader at the top – to have the big picture.
They are fully aware of their entire environment. We are talking about a multifocalized attention.
Whilst the attention of a neurotypical individual only focuses on one point at a time.
People with this multifocalized attention are hypersensitive and perceptual. Thus, they have the ability to perceive the overall picture of a situation including all of the details, even those that usually go unnoticed for the majority of people. Therefore, it is extremely difficult for them to perceive only one thing at a time and to concentrate on it, if there is no relevant interest in doing so. […] These people perceive the global nature of their environment in a very complex way. They are sensitive to ambient noise, light, people’s movements, etc. They see and feel everything, constantly.
(translated by Tanya Izquierdo Prindle)
Consider which two of these objects go together: a panda, a monkey and a banana. Respondents from Western countries routinely select the monkey and the panda, because both objects are animals. This is indicative of an analytic thinking style, in which objects are largely perceived independently from their context.
In contrast, participants from Eastern countries will often select the monkey and the banana, because these objects belong in the same environment and share a relationship (monkeys eat bananas). This is a holistic thinking style, in which object and context are perceived to be interrelated.
There is a set of powerful visual learning tools used in schools, universities and workplaces all over the world that can help us better organize our ideas. […] thinking maps are a rich resource when it comes to creative analytical thinking processes. They help us visualize even the most complex ideas and make them tangible.
I’d like to ask if we’re really more vulnerable to everyday emotional and physiological challenges or if we’re tired because we’re dealing with more of them. While I ask, I’d like to see how many neurotypical people can function while walking on an untreated broken foot. I’d also like to ask how many neurotypical people who unexpectedly found themselves unable to speak 10 minutes before they were scheduled to present at a conference would still present. Not more vulnerable than y’all, just dealing with more nonsense.
I think saying we are unusually poorly equipped to deal with certain challenges (lower threshold) and have fewer innate coping strategies is a simplification at best and wrong in places. We wind up getting into trouble more, that’s definitely true, but how would you cope in an environment designed for how I work? It’s often about mismatches.
Also, we have plenty of coping strategies. Noping out of bad environments (avoiding them) is an effective strategy when we’re allowed to use it, but it often gets called eloping because for some reason y’all want us there anyways. Covering our ears is a semi-effective way to deal with loud. Those things that get taken as signs that we’re getting dysregulated […] are often actually ways that we stay regulated, and that realization could (but only partially did) lead to the conclusion that we’re not so much short on coping methods as disallowed from using them.
[P]lenty of people make choices that others would find terribly limiting – not teaching their children multiple language, not having children at all, working in a career that is emotionally rewarding but not financially so, or the reverse, codes of dress or diet restrictions imposed by religious belief. What right, then, do we have to criticize someone’s preference for the comfort of repetitive activities?
Some people might be better at certain things, we even call some of those people ‘geniuses’. But their ‘intelligence’ is the product of a concept of the time and place they live in. It is possible that, in another time, in another place, their ‘intelligence’ would not be ‘superior’.