Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Streaks (Part 1)

When we describe autism in terms of binaries, discourse communities, or circles, we construct a very unreal, [very black and white,] very us/them reality. […]

The typical autism essay, ironically, often proclaims that autism cannot be placed in a box, all the while concurrently placing autistics in boxes – LFA, HFA, mild, severe, verbal, nonverbal, etc.

And, I would also posit that autism should not be (because it cannot be) contained within tidied-up circles, which, despite being round, are themselves boxlike.

Discourse community theories fail to account for how these circles get created, get named, get claimed, get dismantled. In effect, discourse communities largely render their users passive.

In “Hybrid,” Bizzell claims,

These elements [discourse conventions] are so powerful that the discourse could be said to take on a life of its own, independent of individual participants; it could be said, even, to ‘create’ the participants that suit its conventions by allowing individuals no other options if they wish to be counted as participants.

Per this logic, I have been passively constructed into autism – by discourse. I have been passively constructed into aspiedom – by discourse. My other autistic commonplaces – or identity markers – have also been shaped or spawned by discourses: stimdom, speechdom, lack-of-eye-contactdom, patterndom, take-everything-literally-and-then-somedom.

But discourse alone can’t name these things, can’t claim these things. These facets of me, the diverse facets of other autistic individuals, of human individuals – autistic cousins or not – only fit within these circles because someone has squished them there, has proclaimed generalization as the new world order.

Low-functioning autism exists because the people who write the typical autism essay say it does: they make the circles; the circles themselves don’t independently create themselves; the circles aren’t material objects that exist or breathe or birth or contain people, all neatly sorted; the circles have human help. While I like to objectify humans and categorize stuff [very much], circles alone just don’t do the trick.

Melanie Yergeau


There are many autistic people whose best method of communication is nonverbal. By which I mean, not speech, not writing. […]

Most people don’t know this because the current theories of autism all involve us being terrible at nonverbal communication. By which people mean, terrible at one specific kind of nonverbal communication that most nonautistic people are good at.

So for many of us – nonverbal communication, and the world of things outside of words, are our best way of communicating. Whether we can also use words or not. […]

It’s true that many people who are thought not to be able to use or understand language, actually are. And it’s terrible that they are overlooked. But in their desire not to overlook such people, many people claim that all disabled people who can’t communicate through speech fall under this umbrella. And that’s simply not true. In order to communicate with people who will never use words, you have to learn their language.

Mel Baggs


‘Autism steals their voices.’

The idea of “voicelessness” presents itself as a convenient vehicle to get from autism to (living) death.

Voicelessness, here, does not refer primarily to literal variations of mutism […]

To be a voiceless autistic person does not entail an incapability of using language, but rather, an all-encompassing credibility gap.

Are autistic people, after all, expressing themselves, or merely their symptoms? Are they themselves expressing, or is autism? […]

When autism speaks, autistic people do not.

Voices here are only reserved for native speakers of a particular kind of symbolic language.

This language assumes and creates a normative, human subject, one who both comprehends and is comprehensible to other humans.

The faith […] is put in a shared, normative language, as a tool to fathom oneself and other people […]

This mechanism, while steeped in hyperbolic doubt, is intertwined with an essentialist humanism.

If the symbolic connects all humans to a network of intelligibility, the subjects who fall outside of this network must not be fully human.

Anna N. de Hooge


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 1)


Why do some neurotypicals stim? Do they realize they are stimming?

They do. I don’t think they know they do, but they do. […]

Watch people overcome with emotion, an emotion that they can’t process, and they will stim.

Watch the news after a disaster or some horrible accident and you will see people holding their heads and rocking back in forth in grief.

Watch game shows when someone wins a big prize and look at their hands. Fingers extended, flat palms and shaking very fast in excitement.

Once you key into it, it is hard to miss.

Ben Rodda


Kids love repetitive stuff. I used to work as a teacher assistant with 1-4th grade. Trust me with younger kids, if they like a video, they’ll see it 200 times in a row without getting bored.



I know many adults without disabilities that enjoy child-like things like cartoons or toys. People with Intellectual and developmental disabilities are treated differently for liking the same things. It’s funny when I meet with non disabled people and they geek out over my little plushy wookies I carry as comfort items. It shows me that adults can enjoy things that children enjoy without people assuming that they are mental children.

Ivanova Smith


The sheer amount of people who look at me and view me as ‘unresponsive’ when I’m very responsive, is impressive. And the things they do when they view me as unresponsive, seem a lot more like unresponsiveness than anything I do to them.

It’s like they only see a tiny, tiny number of the possible human responses as ‘response’. When those responses are present, even if totally fake and out of context and plastered-on to someone who’s really not all that responsive to someone, they view it as ‘responsiveness’. When those responses are not present, even if every other possible signal of response is happening, they view that as ‘unresponsiveness’. And they call us oblivious?

Mel Baggs


I definitely know that lots of non-ASD people are terrible at judging how people with ASD are feeling.

If you just noodle around the Internet for a minute, you will find quite a lot of ASD people describing how someone thought they were nervous or sad when they were calm, bored when they were having a panic attack, uninterested in things they were actually very interested in, and so on.

In fact, sometimes police officers will harass or physically hurt people with ASD because they misinterpreted the person’s behavior.

Amanda Forest Vivian


Hacking emphasizes that the divide between autists and non-autists is ‘symmetric.’ He attributes this divide to the fact that autistic people cannot intuit non-autists’ feelings and intentions, and vice-versa. “We are fellow humans in that we grasp each other’s intentions, feelings, and wants,” he argues. Because autists and non-autists cannot immediately grasp each other’s interiority, they see each other as alien. They do not share the “bedrock” of a common humanity, nor do they “share a form of life,” Hacking claims, borrowing two turns of phrase from Wittgenstein.

Hacking does ultimately try to gesture toward inclusion, and I do think that is laudable. However, I disagree with many of the premises of his argument, and I wholeheartedly reject the idea that autists and non-autists must be fundamentally alien to each other.

Caroline Narby


(Why repeat lyrics?)

Seven time seven is 49. The pearl is in the river. Mr. Turkey is two times good for you. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck? I believe Fielding Melish is a traitor to his country. Badadada. Badadada.

Along with many many other stock phrases, these are integral parts of my thought process. Sometimes I say them out loud around people I am comfortable with. Each one indicates a type of thought and keeps me anchored enough in language to figure out what it is I need to say.

I suspect that NTs do this somewhat with songs, though they don’t usually respect or recognize these other forms. […]



when I am feeling very bad, usually I’ll latch onto some song extra hard.

Noelle Stevenson

Is she NT? I don’t know.  Should it matter? It’s up to you.


[…] folks will often assume the speech is meaningless if they know the speaker is autistic and they recognize that it’s an echo/reference. (As opposed to neurotypicals apparently being clever when they make references?)

Alyssa Hillary


Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.

Out of context, Theodore Dreiser



Outside of Stereotypes

Extra section related to:

[…] for every behaviour or response or trait that even we think of as being ‘typically’ autistic, we can find someone on the spectrum who doesn’t have it, or do it.

We come from both genders and the inter-gender, all races and nationalities and religions and sexualities, all classes and sub-sections of humanity, and all ages too […]

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There are autistics, for instance, who are fine with eye contact, extroverted autistics who enjoy other people’s company […] and autistics […] who are comfortable with change and variety […]

There are autistics who have never had a meltdown, who are hypo-sensitive to sensory input, especially pain, whose stims are non-existent […] or non-obvious, who have no particular ‘special interests’, or who are hopeless with maths and/or technology, preferring the social sciences or the arts or just about anything but computers.

There are whimsical autistics, and those who are totally serious. […] There are autistics who can handle and even do sarcasm and metaphor, and those who can understand and use abstract or figurative language and/or philosophical concepts just fine.

And while many autistics struggle with friendships and/or relationships, choose not to try for them, or truly don’t want them, many others are able to build long-lasting connections with others […] There are also many autistics who have no problem with physical or verbal affection […]

There are even autistics who can read facial expressions […] Some of us [are] actually quite socially savvy, and some are just naturally ‘social beings’ […]