Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Streaks (Part 2)


Language was built mostly by non-autistic people […] and my biggest frustration is this:  the most important things about the way I perceive and interact with the world around me can only be expressed in terms that describe them as the absence of something important.

The absence of speech.  The absence of language.  The absence of thought.  The absence of movement.  The absence of comprehension.  The absence of feeling.  The absence of perception.

Focusing on absence is the easiest way to describe the presence of something much more important to me than what is absent. Many autistic people have even applied these words to themselves. Some of us do this knowing full well that there is so much more that we cannot say. Others are fooled by the language itself into a state of  “Nothing to see here; move along now.”


giving everything

Jim Sinclair (1987) […] wrote [in an] essay on xyr personal definition of sexuality,

Sexuality is when someone tells me that I’m not whole, that my personhood is incomplete, that a relationship in which I give everything I have is not “full.” It is hearing that because I have no sexual feelings, I have no feelings; that because I do not feel love in my groin, I cannot feel love at all. It is when someone who has not even bothered to look at my world dismisses it as a barren rock. It is being called inferior to “someone who is human.” It is the denigration of my experiences, my feelings, and my self. It is when my unique faculties are thrown back at me as hopeless inadequacies. Sexuality is reproach.

Substitute language for sexuality and you get closer than any other author I have read to how I feel when my deepest and most profound experiences are described purely as the lack of language, the lack of thought, even the lack of a soul.


nowhere but the sky


Not all of [my forms of communication] communicate everything that typical languages communicate, but I don’t see any reason they should have to.

They are rich and varied forms of communication in their own right, not inadequate substitutes for the more standard forms of communication,

and like all forms of communication, some parts of them came naturally to me and other parts I had to learn. Having to learn them doesn’t make them any less real or significant than someone’s native language, which they had to learn in childhood.

To me, typical language takes place in the clouds,

and I have to climb or fly up there just to use and understand it. This is exhausting no matter how fluent I sound or how easy I make it look.

The sky will always be a foreign country to me.

Sometimes it feels more like I am throwing words up into the clouds but am too wiped out to fly up or even look up with a telescope to figure out what is going on there.

To use my more natural means of communication, I don’t have to leave the ground at all.

What has come as a surprise to me

is that no matter how consistent I am on the ground, many people measure me by my ability to hurl myself into the sky, whether with respect to language or some other fleeting and insubstantial thing that my body does.

So, if I have a certain level of expressive language, then I am expected to comprehend things even if I don’t,

and if I lack a certain expressive language, then my entire world is supposed to be empty and meaningless.


about what is

I am telling you these things not to instruct you on the particulars of the mind of an autistic person, but rather to sketch out an image of how I perceive the world, and the richness and worthiness inherent in those ways of perceiving. It is anything but empty,

and it is so much more than a simple lack of something that other people have.

When I do scale the cliffs of language, people react to me strangely. They have lived on a mountain so long that they’ve forgotten the valley I come from even exists. They call

that valley

“not mountain”

and proclaim it dry, barren, and colorless, because that’s how it looks from a distance. The place I come from is envisioned as the world of real, valid people minus something. I know, of course, that the valley I live in is anything but desolate,

anything but a mountain minus the mountain itself. […]


richness and rhythm

Someone once saw a photograph of me and said that he felt sorry because I would never know the richness of life that he knows. But I wonder if he is capable of looking around and […] understanding my kind of beauty […]


Amanda Baggs


Definitions & Characteristics

Compass Sailing

What does it mean to be on the spectrum?


Pivotal words generally used in defining and presenting autism:


ability to
affinity with
difficulty with
disconnection of
easier to
find challenging to
hard to
have control of
have trouble to
need to
take longer to
unable to









affected by
comfortable with
content with
distressed when
overstimulated when
overwhelmed by
stressed by
tired by
uncomfortable with



failure to






Usually paired up with things falling in those categories:

body language
daily living
information processing
sensory experiences





Lines – Glass (Part 2)

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.”

Brianna Wiest


[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.

Emily Morson


[…] can we talk a little bit more about how much of autism therapy is about the therapist being rigid and controlling?

Alyssa Hillary


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.

Ruti Regan


(Under ‘Leadership/Management’)

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.

Christian Knutson


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.

Out of context, Mélanie Ouimet

(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.

Nicolas Geeraert


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.

Orana Velarde


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.

Alyssa Hillary


[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?

Restless Hands


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’.

Amy Sequenzia



Spectrums in Life

Extra section related to:

Life experiences, individual personality,
and choices and changes throughout life:

(A myriad of little and big things play complex roles in
an individual’s experiences and influence their life)

‘Autism’ is just one thing among many others.

  • Specific configuration of neurological differences (cognition, communication, sensory perception, movement, interaction)
  • The fact that the variation of abilities and inabilities is inconsistent


  • In which areas you choose to fuel your energy, maybe at the expense of other areas
  • How you (choose to) perform in each context


  • How others think of, view, judge and treat you; how they react to, respond to and what they believe about your actions
  • Social dynamics; discrepancy between reality and others’ misperceptions


  • How you change in response of others: your approach, response and reaction to situations
  • If and how you choose to show/hide your skills, your (internal) struggles, and your needs – which may differ from other people
  • How easy/hard it is for you to get/lose support; which types of support you get/need


  • Whether or not you know and/or disclose you are autistic; when you knew it (if you know it), and your life history before this; how you conceive the label of ‘autistic’
  • Whether or not you have, choose to have, or seek a diagnosis


  • Demographic characteristics, identities, experiences:
    • gender (gender roles, trans/non binary, etc.), race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, parenthood, cultural surroundings, socioeconomic status, physical disability, etc.
  • Stigma, discrimination, prejudice, underdiagnosis, expectations, portrayal, etc.
  • How different characteristics combine with being autistic


Based on an article by Elizabeth Bartmess