Thursday, 2 March 2017

What is Autism?

I just found this description of autism. It's intended to describe autism in a factually accurate and non-pathologizing manner.

Autism is a genetically-based human neurological variant. The complex set of interrelated characteristics that distinguish autistic neurology from non-autistic neurology is not yet fully understood, but current evidence indicates that the central distinction is that autistic brains are characterized by particularly high levels of synaptic connectivity and responsiveness. This tends to make the autistic individual’s subjective experience more intense and chaotic than that of non-autistic individuals: on both the sensorimotor and cognitive levels, the autistic mind tends to register more information, and the impact of each bit of information tends to be both stronger and less predictable.
Autism is a developmental phenomenon, meaning that it begins in utero and has a pervasive influence on development, on multiple levels, throughout the lifespan. Autism produces distinctive, atypical ways of thinking, moving, interaction, and sensory and cognitive processing. One analogy that has often been made is that autistic individuals have a different neurological “operating system” than non-autistic individuals.
According to current estimates, somewhere between one percent and two percent of the world’s population is autistic. While the number of individuals diagnosed as autistic has increased continually over the past few decades, evidence suggests that this increase in diagnosis is the result of increased public and professional awareness, rather than an actual increase in the prevalence of autism.
Despite underlying neurological commonalities, autistic individuals are vastly different from one another. Some autistic individuals exhibit exceptional cognitive talents. However, in the context of a society designed around the sensory, cognitive, developmental, and social needs of non-autistic individuals, autistic individuals are almost always disabled to some degree – sometimes quite obviously, and sometimes more subtly.
The realm of social interaction is one context in which autistic individuals tend to consistently be disabled. An autistic child’s sensory experience of the world is more intense and chaotic than that of a non-autistic child, and the ongoing task of navigating and integrating that experience thus occupies more of the autistic child’s attention and energy. This means the autistic child has less attention and energy available to focus on the subtleties of social interaction. Difficulty meeting the social expectations of non-autistics often results in social rejection, which further compounds social difficulties and impedes social development. For this reason, autism has been frequently misconstrued as being essentially a set of “social and communication deficits,” by those who are unaware that the social challenges faced by autistic individuals are just by-products of the intense and chaotic nature of autistic sensory and cognitive experience.
Autism is still widely regarded as a “disorder,” but this view has been challenged in recent years by proponents of the neurodiversity model, which holds that autism and other neurocognitive variants are simply part of the natural spectrum of human biodiversity, like variations in ethnicity or sexual orientation (which have also been pathologized in the past). Ultimately, to describe autism as a disorder represents a value judgment rather than a scientific fact.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Sweet Autism Things

I just found this Tumblr page called Sweet Autism Things, which seems to have pretty much the same purpose as this blog does.

It features shout-outs to various types of autistic people, comments from readers saying what they like about their autisticness, and generally a lot of encouragement and positivity.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Aspie Strengths and Superpowers

I just came across this post on Musings of an Aspie, about strengths of Aspergers Syndrome. She has two lists - strengths (or "how Asperger's has made me awesome") and superpowers (or "how Asperger's has made me who I am").

She describes her Asperger's strengths as the following:

  • She's nonjudgmental
  • She has a strong attachment to the truth
  • She's curious 
  • She's loyal
  • She's sincere
  • She has well-defined values 
  • She's an unconventional problem solver 
  • She's an optimist 
And for her superpowers, she says:
  • She's perceptive 
  • She has a high IQ
  • She's calm in a crisis
  • She's dependable and disciplined 
  • She's determined 
So, now it's my turn. I'm not sure what the distinction between strengths and superpowers, so I'll just divide them the way that makes sense to me.

My superpowers (core things about me):
  • I'm caring and empathetic. I don't always know how someone else feels, but I care very deeply. I don't try to do right because my parents want me to or because God will punish me - I do it because I care about making the world better for the people around me.
  • I'm passionate about my beliefs. I don't let people use judgment or pressure to convince me to do something I believe is wrong.
  • I'm rational and logical - or at least I consistently try to be. I'm no android. I have feelings, and I act on them. But I challenge my beliefs and look for evidence. I check if the facts back up what I think, and when a piece of evidence makes me uncomfortable, I think about it rather than just dismissing it.
  • I'm creative. I can imagine strange ways of being and thinking. I like to write stories and always have tons of ideas. I also think up novel research hypotheses and ways of studying them, and novel ways to solve various problems I face.
My strengths (things I'm good at that aren't super essential to my identity):
  • I have a high IQ
  • I'm curious, with a high need for cognition
  • I'm good with animals 
  • I'm good with languages 
  • I can figure out how to use technology to meet my needs 
  • I'm a good sister and daughter 
  • I instinctively use good 'parenting' strategies with my dog
  • I'm a good writer 
  • I have a good memory for details 

Friday, 28 October 2016

Slice of Life conversations

The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism has a series of slice of life conversations with autistic people. Hend and Hamza, 7 and 5 year old siblings, had this to say (interviewed by their mother):

What is your name?
Do you have a website?
Yep, Little Miss Sunshine (
What would you like a one-sentence description of yourself to say?
I love Condors because they are cute.
Do you have any autistic superpowers? What are they?
Yes I do. My superpowers are noticing someone with autism, understanding how they feel. My super eyesight. My hurt power: I can't feel a thing. And many more.
What are some situations that make you happy, or satisfied?
Nice food and cake and when I turn 7 I'll be satisfied and happy.
What are some situations that make you sad, or anxious?
Sometimes when Andi, a kid from school that I like, is absent and she chooses me every time and then no one plays with me and I spend the time sitting on the step with no one to play with, everyone keeps playing with their stuff.
What are your preferred ways to be social?
Playing and eating together.
What traits do you prize in a friend, or companion?
Andi always plays with me. [Emma: Andi is her friend at school, she gets on well with the other kids as far as I've been told but I don't think she has any friends she plays with regularly besides Andi.]
Are there parts of your life you wish were easier?
I wish I got all the stuff I wanted. Eating everything I want playing with all the stuff I want. [Emma: Don't we all!.]
What's the next big goal you have for yourself?
Winning each game. [Emma: Not sure what games we're winning here, but there you go.]
What does bliss feel like to you?
It feels like laying on a cozy bed and playing with a friend and loving Allah more than anything else in the world -- which I do. [Emma: She's always has a strong attachment to and understanding of our Muslim beliefs and values.]
And now for her little brother Hamza:
What is your name?


Do you have a website?

Yeah I'm drawing a road.

What would you like a one-sentence description of yourself to say?

I play with a digger.

Do you have any autistic superpowers? What are they?

Yeah! My superpower is about the one I saw, a digger. A digger near the supermarket.

What are some situations that make you happy, or satisfied?


What are some situations that make you sad, or anxious?

Monsters, some stickers make me sad because I don't really want them.

What are your preferred ways to be social?

I like to play with the girls. I want to play with each other. [Emma: He's always following little girls at the park, boys make him nervous.]

What traits do you prize in a friend, or companion?

To play with each other. [Emma: Hamza is very interested in other kids but he doesn't know how to connect with them and they usually don't try to connect with him. I'm a bit concerned about bullying at the moment.]

Are there parts of your life you wish were easier?


What's the next big goal you have for yourself?

Play with diggers...

What does bliss feel like to you?

Diggers make me happy.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Autism and Cats

There's something about autistic people and cats. Maybe it's that we're similar in some ways - cats get overloaded easily, hate change and don't strongly crave interaction, just like many autistic people. I don't know, but I do know that autistic people seem to be more likely to have cats and to have a very strong bond with cats.

And on that note, here are some videos of autistic people with cats.

This little girl and her Maine Coon therapy cat are inseparable - the cat even goes swimming with her!
This Bengal follows around a playful stimmy little boy, especially when he goes outside in their backyard.

This man, diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome at 49 years old, has created an extensive network of catwalks in his home for his cats to enjoy.

And this boy regularly gets woken up by his very affectionate cat.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Special Books For Special Kids

I just found this website, Special Books for Special Kids. Although they originally planned on doing books, the project evolved into doing videos featuring neuroatypical children, such as children with brain injuries, lissencephaly, agenesis of the corpus callosum and so forth. The big focus seems to be on making the kids feel great about themselves.

My two favorite videos:

Marilee is an AAC user with physical disabilities and an infectious smile.

Kevin has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and his dream job is to be a massage therapist at the Ritz-Carlton. Upon hearing about this, the Ritz-Carlton offered him a day-long internship and advice on how to get into the career for real when he's older.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Positives of ADHD

I just came across this list of positive traits of ADHD.

Ability to find alternate paths to overcome obstacles
Able to take on large situations
Adventurous, courageous, lives outside of boundaries
Always finding alternate routes to any given location.
Always willing to help others
Ambitious – you want to be everything when “you grow up”
Attractive personality – magnetic due to high energy
Being able to see the big picture
Being able to see the patterns in the chaos.
Being intuitive towards others’ difficulties
Broad focus – can see more, notice things more
Can create order from chaos
Can do many projects at once
Can make people feel they are heard
Can see the big picture
Can talk about several things at one time
Can think on my feet
Career variety
Centre of attention
Comfortable talking in front of groups
Comfortable with change and chaos
Compassion for others and for themselves
Conceptualizes well
Constantly evolving
Creates connections easily
Creative writing
Creative – musical, artistic, “dramatic”
Good in a crisis 
Good at customer relations
Determined to gain more control
Eager to make friends
Eager to try new things
Empathetic, sensitive
Excellent organizers using journals and reminders (notes etc.)
Flexible – changes as the situation requires
Fun guy to be around
Good at conceptualizing
Good at motivating self and others
Good at multitasking
Good at problem solving
Good at public speaking
Good at understanding others/mind reading – empathetic
Good conversationalist
Good delegator and good at organizing others
Good in emergency situations
Good listener
Good looking and aware of it
Good people skills
Good self esteem, energetic
Great brain-stormer
Great multitasker
Great self-company
Great sense of humour
Great storyteller
Great with kids (central figure around kids)
Hands-on workers
Hard worker
Has friendly relations with their family
Has the gift of gab
Helps others who are also in trouble
High energy – go, go, go
Humour, very healthy, quick picking up ideas
Hyper focus !!
Hypersensitive – very empathetic and good at non-verbal communications
Idea generator
Impulsive (in a good way) not afraid to act
It’s ok to not finish everything
Learning as much as I can to help children and others with adhd
Less sleep is good (midnight to 6 am)
Like to talk a lot
Likes learning new things
Look at multidimensional sides to a situation
Lots of interests
Loves to cook and be creative
Master idea generator
Mentoring others/helpful
Mentoring people with low self esteem
Move on fast – never hold a grudge
Multitasks well
Never bored and rarely boring
Never intimidated to try new things
Non-linear, multi-dimensional/edge of chaos
Not afraid to speak mind
Not contained by boundaries.
On stage and ready
Holistic thinking
Problem solver
Quick thinking
Quick witted
Relates to people easily
Saves money in the short term by forgetting to file tax returns
See and remember details – recount them later
Sees the big picture
Socially adaptive and flexible.
Stabilizer during difficult situations
Takes initiative
Think outside the box 
Thinks 2 meters ahead of the world
Thinks big, dreams big
Unlimited energy
Very creative, able to generate a lot of ideas
Very hard working to compensate – workaholic
Very intuitive
Very resourceful
Very successful
Visual learner
Willing to explore
Willing to take risks
Willingness to help others
Won’t tolerate boredom
Works well under pressure