Autism Rigid Thinking

When we get stuck on an idea

One of the triad of features needed to diagnose us as autistic is “rigid thinking” and or rigid behaviors.

I had to laugh at myself a day ago, I got caught in a classic example of this behavioral pattern. Here is the story and a little more info about rigid thinking as part of our autistic experience.

Every day things can sometimes make me frustrated. I use a brand of toothpaste that has a flip top cap and which is very wide with a small nozzle like opening in the very middle.

Stuff collects between the hinge and the nozzle, when the tube is almost empty I must manipulate the thing with both hands to get a glob of tooth paste to emerge. ( I always use all the tooth paste, my parents taught me to be frugal, so throwing the tube away at that point is not going to happen).

I have spent the last week fighting to get increments of that last tablespoon of stuff onto my toothbrush, and cursing whoever designed that flip top roundly.

I am a compulsive tooth -brusher so this has happened up to 5 or 6 times a day for the past several days.

My husband happened to come into the room yesterday when I was struggling with the tube cap and I complained heartily about the design and the difficulties I was having.
No sympathy there : his response was “why don’t you just unscrew it?”
It had never crossed my mind that these flip top tubes were installed as screw on caps.
I was so focused on the design flaw and the struggle I was having I never explored other options. Of course I felt such a fool. Why had I not thought of that?

This sort of thing has happened to me all my life.

My intense focus and intent do not allow me to step back and explore other options. I have been ridiculed and mocked for not understanding things that seem simple and obvious to others.

My autistic rigid thinking does not seem to allow me to see that there are options in the way I address almost everything.

Once I learn a behavior or a thought pattern, it rarely occurs to me to change it. You can understand how limiting this can be. I continue to gain understanding of how profoundly my autism affects all facets of my life.

I had no idea why I have struggled in so many situations, and felt so stupid and humiliated, was shamed and embarrassed when I finally understood what seemed obvious to everybody else all along. But it happened over and over, from the time I was very small until just yesterday, and I am positive I will experience this again and again all the rest of my life.

I remember long ago having a discussion with a friend about how he recognized some of the sick behavior patterns he had developed in his unhealthy home situation as a child and how he was able to understand that and overcome it.
I remember distinctly, thinking that he must be brilliant to do this on his own, that any individual capable of figuring out such a thing and being able to self understand, self motivate, self learn/teach healthier and better ways of life must be a genius.

I had recently finished a year of therapy in which I learned the same things through my counselor, who had to point out that I could make choices in my behavior in the way I did almost everything in my life. I had to be taught healthier communication, and how to recognize my emotions and how to choose healthier ways to behave in almost all of my life situations.

I had not been capable of seeing these options, but had to have them spelled out, explained, and the new means of choosing, communicating, and behaving carefully taught to me.

Not only autistic individuals but others, too, can get caught in rigid thinking, especially if trauma and abuse are involved. Autistic people tend to have a natural inclination toward this behavior pattern due to our neurology.
We are so consistent in applying rigid thought and behaviors to our lives that this is used to sort the autistic individual and identify them. We must have rigid thought and behaviors to be diagnosed today as autistic. (see references to Autism’s pioneer Lorna Wing and the diagnostic triad of behaviors)

Use the internet to learn the many ways rigid thinking can apply to our thoughts and behaviors. Most all of the articles you find will be based on children’s behavior, since there is very little research having been done on older autistic adults, or even younger date.

As the kids diagnosed in the 1980s and later are in early adulthood there is more interest in learning how autism ages. I hope you are finding the information you need for self understanding as you explore all the ways in which autism works in us even in our very old age. I am 71 as I type this, diagnosed at 68 and discovered my own autism and began to learn about it around age 65. Diagnosis helps so much with self understanding, I will be sorting information and having “aha” moments like the one I described above until I die.

I am so grateful that I finally have the opportunity to heal and understand all those painful “whys” of a lifetime lived before I ever discovered autism was the answer.

Autism Diagnosis

What is changing today?

Changes are coming with science’s new understanding of autism.

No longer is autism simply about how individuals behave. No longer do all doctors and professionals believe autism is something that can be “trained” out of us!

Science and recent studies have continued to describe not only behavioral traits, but scope of intelligence, ability to process sensory information, physical traits, genetic backgrounds and specifics, gait, and science finally hit the jackpot when studies and scientists began to see that autism can be described as being a condition of uneven neurological development. Autism will be different for every single individual because each of our neurologies developed or failed to develop in different ways. Think about it! No longer will autism studies be based on finding key behaviors ( all autistic people use self stimulating behavior) ( all autistics struggle to communicate) “all autistic people think in pictures” No more assigning traits to all autistic individuals or looking for shared characteristics outside of unusual neurological development.

No longer is autism a mental illness which causes us to behave in odd or difficult ways.

Autism is now seen first as something we are born with, and not due to the way our parents treated us, not due to our traumas or our early childhood experiences.

The day is coming soon when those learning to diagnose autism will look for neurological signs… they will seek out sensory processing differences and difficulties and take a second look at those of us who continually or consistently out perform others in certain areas. There will be neurological tests for perception, sensitivities, sensory testing of all sorts (because all senses are based in our neurology).

Coming soon will be the removal of assigning of certain behavioral traits to all autistic people.

“Autistic people don’t look you in the eye” “autistic people can’t do things like have relationships, have friends, marry or raise a family” “autistic people all do this, or don’t do that” as signs of autism will be discarded in favor of testing sensory processing. Scientists or diagnosing professionals will be looking for signs of neurological struggles including any neurological conditions now recognized, such as epilepsy, dyspraxia, ataxia, struggles with balance and coordination, struggles with any sensory input and unusual presentation of sensitivity to sensory input or lack of sensitivity. We already know this varies greatly with each autistic individual.

Individuals will be assessed on their neurology and not their troublesome behavior.

I have recently learned that a few teaching schools (universities, colleges) around the USA have begun to have classes about adult autism instead of devoting only a page or two in a general medical text in specific studies.

I see this as signs of good things happening for many autistic older adults.

These are just stirrings and first movement… something I had never thought I would see in the very limited years left of my lifetime.

I find this very encouraging.

Learning about Autism

Where do I start?

What if you have just started thinking you might be autistic? How do you go about finding out?

Lots of us muse and speculate, remember, sort and mull ideas, emotions and information we already know, or think we know before we decide to take a closer look to gain deeper understanding. Some of us never get beyond the “what if” stage. That is OK.

For those of us who want to know more there are thousands of pages of information and thousands of hours of podcasts and videos or other visual media available. There are at least a few hundred books, articles, blogs and pages about adult autism available today.

I just jumped in and began looking for information from all of them. Since I am most comfortable with books, I started there, looking for “training wheels” sort of “beginner” books with simple basic information about autism.

I soon learned autism is a heavily divided and contested topic, with many very strong opinions “out there” trying to shout each other down and to claim their way to address autism is the best or only way and to attempt to erase other ideas or positions, opinions or outlooks.

Each of us must form our own opinions about the politics surrounding autism.

I looked first for very basic information. I quickly learned about false information and controversial “cures”.

Be skeptical when you start learning, question everything and see if claims hold up in the light of other’s input.
Look at all possible sides of claims and opinions expressed and use your own judgement.
I did not suspect all the surrounding political and unscientific hooey that I would find.
Being aware it is “out there” can help sort fact from fallacy. Don’t take anything at face value. Look for studies, documentation, references, links that agree and back up claims.

Start by gathering basic information about the nature of autism, how it works and expresses itself in individuals, watch for ways which you might have experienced some of the autistic struggles and differences described.

Most of what is written about autism is aimed at children and at parents. With this in mind, I found it very useful to look at my own childhood/growing up and to compare my experiences with descriptions made on articles addressing childhood autism.

You may find many of these before you find the 400 times as rare articles on older adults and autism.

There simply has not been interest in older adults having autism until very recently. There are a few on line forums for autistic adults. There are articles addressing “late diagnosis” of autism. These articles are generally by 15 to 30 year old individuals! The information and insights in them may be helpful to you none the less.

The pages here are intended to help those older adults new to the idea of autism find basic information all in one place. There are online forums like this and also several other blog pages which have insights and information as well.

If you prefer to view information or listen to it, there are podcasts and videos available too.

Once you have basic information you will have loads of questions. Getting more input will usually answer most of these, but I found that joining a group page where I could ask specific questions about autism helped me tremendously.

I got a lot of “whys” answered by others who shared their experience and insights of being older autistic adults and having been diagnosed or self identified for much longer than I was.

Getting input and building an information base and a foundation for understanding was the first step. I think it is good to continue to seek out new information and more insights as you grow in self understanding and begin to sort your past with new perspective. If you are like me, you will be so interested as you go through the process, that you will keep seeking more understanding. So many “whys” of the past answered, finding “how to” is so helpful!

I am about 6 years in from my first “I wonder” thoughts through diagnosis 3 years ago. I am still having “aha” moments as I learn more about autism and remember things from my past experiences.

Things keep getting better. I’m here cheering you on as you begin your journey, knowing the information you obtain now will be useful for the rest of your life. You are definitely not alone!

Care of elderly autistic

warehousing older adults with autism in the name of “elder care”

I have been reading articles on “care of geriatric individuals who are autistic” .
I am filled with dread!

I have seen only a few studies and articles which seem to “get it” regarding how individual needs of autistic folks can be. One may need extra bright light, one may crave shadows for comfort to keep from being over stimulated. One may need background music of certain sorts and others may prefer silence. The list is endless, our triggers and processing distresses and overwhelms are many and varied.

Most of us are disturbed by sudden noises or lots of talk/sound from various sources happening at one time. Many of us crave solitude and find it healing and peaceful, rather than lonely. Many of us hate sudden touch or have other sensory struggles. All of us have difficulty interacting with other humans or we would not have got our autistic diagnosis.

My autistic mother (never diagnosed in her life time but obvious to me after I got my own diagnosis) was in a series of nursing homes/ sheltered care/ dementia units as her Parkinson’s and her dementia became too much to manage in a private setting. I have years of experience observing management of care homes through out the 8 years I had responsibility for my mother’s care. I don’t like what I saw then , and what I have been reading is beyond distressing.

The majority of the articles I am finding were written as part of out-reach for gerontology groups and care homes, independent service providers with geriatric specialties, and other professionals trying to convince you that they know best how to take care of your ageing loved one when you can no longer do that. PR and marketing tools! In most of these there is very little actual understanding of autism shown! ( are we surprised??? nooooo)

Nursing homes of today are built to care for large numbers of people simultaneously.
They are perpetually and distressingly under staffed by low paid individuals who are asked to work long and stressful hours with little relief, and who are not equipped/ trained/ emotionally able to deal with constant demands that so many hugely varied clients’ needs call for.

People are gathered several times a day in the large rooms utilized for feeding, “social activities” and other purposes. These areas usually have one or more wide screen TVs tuned to the favorite channel of the care worker/s in charge and turned very loud so it can be heard over the constant noise of so many people interacting or calling in distress . Piped in music can be different in different areas of the place, sometimes PA systems are also used, sounds from one area layer upon each other. Some patients cry, scream, call for help continually day and night, walk and wander perpetually and intrude in private rooms, ransack each others possessions, some sleep in each other’s beds, touch, accost, hug, kiss, or slap/shake or otherwise invade personal space and property.
People are usually placed in these holding pens ( the big utility rooms) as they are for feeding, their companions are not always of their choice, often people must crowd past others, be moved or removed and replaced for others to pass in specialized wheel chairs or using walkers, etc. People touch, push, talk, scream, wail, with piped in background music and the TV tuned in and blaring over it all.

Articles emphasize how important it is to have social contact as an older autistic person. Articles talk about keeping old autistic adults “socializing “by making ( they never use that word though!) them attend exercise classes, support groups, or other planned activities. ( All for their own good) Sometimes groups are loaded on a bus to participate in some off campus activity, even just to “go for a drive” . Many are not given choice to participate in these “activities” .
Aids and care workers whisk patients off to be bathed, changed, have physical therapy or other individual needs met. I have seen care takers repeatedly just come up behind individuals in wheelchairs, grab the handles and start moving. No greetings, no explanations, no warning or time for the person in the chair to orient themselves or consent/acknowledge. No time, too much to do, gotta hurry , here we go! No wonder my mother began to bite people!!!

I can think of no greater sensory hell. I can think of no greater emotional hell, I can think of no more stressful way to spend my last years on earth.

I had to take tranquilizers to force myself to visit my mother. She had to be put on tranquilizers to keep her calm and manageable. No wonder care workers are so hard to find!

People wanting to eat their meals in their rooms or to spend quiet time alone were not allowed to do so. Leaving individuals in their rooms was unsafe due to needs to monitor against falls and other accidents, and difficult for aides who cleaned, changed the linens, etc. to work around.

Feeding/ eating in the rooms was messy and much more work for the staff.
In any of these care situations please realize and recognize that the first priority is managing a huge number of helpless individuals , feeding them and cleaning up after them, keeping them clothed and bodily at least minimally clean. Realize the minimum in most cases is hard to achieve under current circumstances and realities.

Recognize that many autistic individuals have very difficult behaviors/preferences/ thought processes and that only the most basic physical care will be seen to in the very best of circumstances.

The saddest part of all is that we often have no other options or choices available to us. We are not able to care for ourselves or those we love and cope safely at home, and these are the alternatives we face and must choose from. Only the very wealthy have other options.

My father often said “getting old is hell but it beats the alternative”. Today I might argue with that. By 2030 adults born in the baby boom generation will all be over the age of 65. There is now and will be even more need for elder care of all sorts than ever before, and demands placed on an ageing society will be many.

Will society be be able to meet the demand for more than even the most minimal care and basic needs? I see no signs of change, perhaps even already a lack of medical care and service persons to fill the caretakers slots.

This is not a cheerful or up-beat , optimistic post, but a realistic look at our futures.

Plan now for future needs, take care of yourself to the very best of your ability. Do that now!!!
Have long and detailed discussions with loved ones about your needs and desires if at all possible, Think about possibilities and plan for them now.
Don’t assume the worst may not happen, instead plan for it and be glad if it doesn’t. Statistics show that 80 to 90 percent of adults today will spend at least 3 months in some sort of nursing home or other care situation, either for rehab or to live out their last days.

If there is a light at the end of this tunnel, it is surely an oncoming train.
This is a call to action for society and for each of us as individuals to speak up and seek new ways to care for the “happening now no longer impending” demand for services for the elderly.
Is anybody listening?

Autism proprioception

Every day struggles with proprioception

I just sat down to type a few paragraphs and looking for a moment at the keyboard, I noticed my shirt was wet! I had just had a drink from a sports drink bottle and dribbled/spilled down the front of my shirt. This is an every day “thing” when I drink from a cup, glass, or bottle. Every day! Imagine how good I am at using a spoon with liquids such as soup? Many older adults were constantly in trouble for spilling, dropping, misjudging distances when sitting something on the counter or tabletop, etc., etc., etc.
Sometimes I just get tired of it all!!!!

I was constantly being scolded as a child for “not paying attention” to what I was doing and making a mess or breaking things, knocking things over or dropping them.

Even more than that, I was constantly running into things, furniture, people, walls, falling downstairs or up them.
I always had food down my front or my skirt. At least when I drank water the spills would dry without leaving a mark. I loved the water fountains at school.

I learned to leave milk, soup, and other messy things alone if I was wearing my “good clothes”.

It was not until I learned of my autism in my late 60’s that I learned that this experience is very common for autistic people. Clumsy! Inept! Uncoordinated! Careless!!!!
What a relief to learn that my physical struggles all my life were not “all my fault” and thoughtless, careless, stupid or worse!

I have talked about how uneven neurological development is the hallmark of autism. This also goes for the sense of proprioception, the lesser known (not one of the 5 familiar ones we were all taught about in school so many years ago). of the senses. Uneven development of one’s senses can lead to poor proprioception, giving struggles with depth perception, balance, poor coordination and much, much more.

Proprioception is the sense that tells us if we are right side up, sideways, or upside down. It is what tells us how much muscle we need to turn a door knob, push in a chair at the table, how much power to use to turn a key in a lock or pick up an egg without crushing the shell.

Proprioception tells us where we are in space, how close we are to any object or person/thing, how fast we are going, how fast something else is going whether approaching or leaving, etc, or if we are standing still, and proprioception helps us judge distances as we go there.

Same for things like brushing your hair or teeth, shaking hands, walking around furniture or a door frame without running into it. Catch a ball? Ride a Bike? use a skateboard, roller skates, jump rope??? Proprioception tells you how far to lift your feet and how hard to put them down, how much power to use to keep yourself going up the stairs or how much brake power to apply to keep yourself from going down the stairs too fast. If your proprioception is off, you will end up not being able to successfully do many “normal” things that most people take for granted.

Most of us have seen very small babies learning how to use a spoon. Most of us have witnessed children’s early attempts to walk or to negotiate steps.

For some of us, it is not a “learning how to do it” or a “being careful” or “watching what you are doing” thing, but a “my neurology fails me at times” issue.

For most people with standard neurology, these things are learned successfully and never much question about performance of most daily acts of living. Not so for people like me, who at age 68 generally prefers to use a straw with any liquid, who often must change clothing after a meal, who is constantly covered with bruises and constantly who often has sore toes from hitting the legs of furniture as I try to negotiate my own living room, bed rooms, kitchen, etc.

Uneven development of our neurology can result in day to day struggles and frustrations.
If you have been clumsy all your life, were scolded for it as a child and mocked or teased as a teen through old age, maybe this is one more sign that you may have an autism diagnosis, even if you never suspected.

Autism Stims

hidden stims revealed

We know stims are self comforting devices we use to help regulate our behavior and to provide good feedback when we are feeling stressed, distressed, or simply need comfort or more ( or different) sensory input than our current status. It is a device of self input that helps us feel able to cope with whatever demands life is making at any time.

Older adults have spent a lifetime trying to change their stims.
They have been told to keep themselves quiet, stop that, don’t do that, and frequently not only chastised but sometimes punished or physically controlled by others through touch or application of physical restraints, etc.

As an example, I used to suck my thumb when I was little . Approaching age 4 I was pressured in many ways to stop sucking my thumb. I was scheduled to go to kindergarten and there was fear I’d be mocked or ridiculed for thumb sucking. The campaign of many adults pressuring me to stop sucking my thumb was eventually irresistible and I stopped sucking my thumb. Instead I began picking fuzz from my favorite blanket when the scent of the blanket and its softness did not comfort me enough. I like the way it smelled and soon began putting the fuzz in my nostrils to smell the “blanket smell” better. That became inconvenient because I was not able to carry the blanket with me wherever I went to comfort myself. that comfort behavior was switched to my chewing my finger nails. I kept that habit for about 7 years, when social pressure made me self conscious about my grubby hands and nails (public shaming every day by one of my teachers in middle school). I began to chew gum and got scolded in school, so I switched to chewing toothpicks, then sunflower seeds, and finally discovered jawbreaker candy which I could sneak into my mouth in the change between classes and which would give sweet comfort all through class without anybody ever suspecting, if I was very careful! I had to give up jawbreakers after suffering bad and broken teeth, and for the past 40 years have been over-eating instead.

This took a lot of mental sorting to find the pattern of the hidden stim in the past, from its origins to today.

How many evolutions have stims passed through in your lifetime? Do you substitute alcohol, drugs, super intense hobbies or activities of any sort for what was once an innocent childhood stim?

If your current stims are hidden it may be a bit of difficult emotional homework to dig deep and discover the links to attempts to find self comfort and self regulation and still be “socially acceptable”.

I was re-reading info about adult stims the other day, and laughed out loud with a sense of “aha” discovery. Explanation following :
Stims can be had from arranging and re-arranging things, From moving things about, from changing visual patterns or even concentrating on various images or things that move and create pattern, such as watching a ceiling fan or the motion of a spoked wheel, or looking at op-art or other strong visual patterns. Since my stims are direct and physical, I had not thought very long about this form of stimming.

I want to relate something from my sometimes very exasperating and frustrating childhood.

Our mother was perpetually obsessed with trying to make our poor, low income, tired and shabby little home look elegant and sophisticated.
In this quest she continually decorated with new details, dyed the furniture covers, throw pillows, Bolsters, or other items she sewed.
Mother made elaborate arrangements of fruit, flowers and other displays on the table or in other places.
She used us ( me and my sibling) as “moving crew” and perpetually had us dragging furniture from place to place in our living room. “put it there” “oh no that doesn’t look right, move it over there” “no that’s not right either, try here”. This could go on for an entire afternoon.

My poor father came home to a different house many days of the week. He never knew where his favorite chair would be, never could appreciate the “new look” which was always clever, creative and satisfying to our mother, and exhausting to us as her furniture movers, cleaners and physical laborers.

I laughed out loud when I realized that all of that had been our mother’s stims!

Think long and hard about some of the things you do that are very characteristic of yourself. Are you practicing a moderated version of a stim???

Autism Self Regulation

Self control,

Lately the autism “buzz word” is “self regulation”. I see constant reference to self regulation in articles, in comments, on blogs, and in discussions in groups. Time to update my autism vocabulary. What is self regulation???

When we talk about self regulation, we are talking about self control. This is not as simple as it might seem.

In order to have self control we must recognize our emotions, acknowledge them, and decide on an action to take or decide to do nothing.
This is actually a form of executive function where one must know one is angry, sad, upset, unhappy, jealous, insulted, afraid, etc. We first must learn to recognize our own feelings. This is very difficult for many autistic individuals for many reasons!

When we have our most powerful emotions, those that overwhelm us, our reactions often come in the form of response to trauma. Fight, Flight, Freeze, and sometimes those of us with long term adaption to trauma also fawn or appease.

In order to avoid disruptive interactions, melt downs, or confrontations, it is good to be able to recognize our emotions first, before they overwhelm us.

In many cases this is a skill we can learn.

We can learn to overcome poor interoception through counseling, therapy, and perhaps through self examination and becoming aware of our neurology.

We can also control our physical surroundings by changing them, by leaving them, by doing something different within those surroundings in times of stress or distress. (listening to music, wearing headphones, meditating, exercising, etc).

All of these things are part of self regulation.

We regulate our responses our own bodies have to our emotions… when we get angry, we don’t have to beat ourselves or somebody else up, we can go for a walk, take a hot shower, remove ourselves from the company of those who are upsetting us, choose to ignore the upsetting thing or confront it in a healthy manner instead of allowing ourselves to get overwhelmed, have a melt down or a shut down. WE can change our environment, we can change the way we do things. First we have to recognize that we are upset.

If meltdowns are common, or shutdowns, if we have rages or self injure while we are upset or over stimulated, we can many times learn to recognize that we are in distress before we reach that point of absolute overwhelm. This might require professional help.

When we recognize the very first signs of upset or overwhelm, a change in breathing patterns, general anxiety, tension in the body, agitation, restlessness, we can take steps to acknowledge we are becoming upset or over stimulated, and we can take steps to prevent losing control.
That is self regulation.
If you have struggles with meltdown and overwhelm, read up on how to recognize your own emotions, learn your body’s response to distress and stress. Talk to a counselor or therapist (some occupational therapists specialize in emotional recognition and self control techniques). Some people report that the use of biofeedback helps!

We can learn to recognize our emotions and we can find ways to help ourselves regulate emotions.
We can avoid outbursts of physical responses and change our environment to avoid rages, meltdowns, shut downs, or similar behavior/trauma response struggles.

If you have trouble recognizing your emotions before they build to being overwhelmed, ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone!

Autism Autodidact

autistic autodidact as well

yes I am! An autodidact is a person who is self taught. I wanted to talk about the relationship between being an autodidact and being autistic.

Many of the traits used to diagnose autism are ones that are found in many autodidacts. We use hyper focus and passion for study of things that interest us intensely. We can be rigid in seeking information, discarding opportunities to interact with other topics, perform activities not related to the things that keep us studying and learning about our favorite subject/ subjects. Many to most autistic folks with “special interests” ( I hate that term) or intense consuming interests in any topics, want to learn as much as possible about those interests.

Some of us specialize in collecting items related to our interests, some of us specialize in learning skill sets surrounding our passions, others seek information surrounding and related to our intense focus subjects. When we do these things without professional teaching or guidance, we have become autodidacts, or self taught and many, many of us become experts in our field of interest.

Do you know anybody who is intensely interested in any subject and whose passion it is to seek to learn all about that subject, collect items having to do with that subject, or to gain skills surrounding that interest?

I have been trying to find studies regarding this topic, and the closest I can find is when people’s interests become defined as “savant syndrome”. (but of course interest in only certain topics where one has gained such insights, accomplishment, and success will qualify for such a label.) More study is needed!

I do suspect than many autistic individuals could be identified by their level of interest and their acquired, self taught expertise in any subject. Are you a self taught individual with a great deal of information to share on one or more subjects? It might be yet another clue that autism is present!

Autism vs Neurotypical

“us vs them ” thinking

This gets into autism politics. So much of life is surrounded by politics, arguments, anger and division.
It is inevitable this will happen with issues surrounding autism too. There is already a tendency for those “on the spectrum” to have rigid thinking. Many times its is good or bad, one thing right, the other automatically wrong, “black and white and no shades of gray” thinking.

I spend a lot of time on line participating one way or another with groups of autistic individuals. I am a blogger, a forum pages moderator, and administrator of one page with many members. I spend a lot of time searching for autism information in other forums, on autism discussion pages, websites, studies, papers and presentations, etc.

I am noticing a trend to more and more autistic anger and to thinking of non autistic others as “the enemy”. It leaves me distressed and sad that so many people are choosing to fight rather than try to understand from other points of view, but autism inflexibility may be behind some of this behavior too.

I am turning down posts that are all about how “they” are wrong, bad, unhelpful, trying to keep us down by imposing labels or describing and defining behaviors, gait, speech patterns, or other autistic traits.

I am being attacked and accused of “supporting the enemy” because I use certain words or phrases, refuse to post hate posts against “them”, etc.

I think it takes far less energy and effort to decide to hate and to blame others than it does to work out the differences, understand the struggles behind the work going on in understanding, defining, and yes, helping autism and autistic individuals.

It seems to take far less energy and effort to attack than it does to search for solid information and do your own emotional homework to actually understand oneself and one’s past than it does to blame others and to place oneself as a victim , a hero, and not have to take any personal responsibility for one’s trials, tribulations, history or even one’s future.

We are not responsible for our given neurology, or for any other thing we have had since birth, our physical functions, our appearance, but to hold others responsible and blame them for our problems is ridiculous.
Some autistic people expect and demand accommodations and support while on the other hand trashing the motives, thoughts and ideas, attempts by other individuals to define, describe, and to help others. The things some autistic individuals are active in promoting are destructive and definitely not helpful.

Calling for and feeding/breeding/promoting hatred and anger is not constructive or necessary.

Blaming and attacking those whose ideas are in any way different from one’s own never solved a thing.
The old saying about “being a part of the problem or being part of the solution” has some merit. Which side is the healthiest and most useful to be on? Choosing to attack and destroy, or choosing to search for answers to build knowledge, promote compassion, and to find healthy solutions “should be” a clear and obvious difference.

I have a very hard time emotionally with hatred and can not understand those who make “us versus them” choices. How does causing more pain and destruction help you feel better about yourself or contribute to a solution? (rhetorical question)
I hope that more people will choose to try to work together to make every struggle surrounding autism easier.
If we are not “all in this together”, we surely need to be!

Autism Sensory

Seeking or Avoidant? Or both???

As autism is becoming better understood, we are beginning to make sense of autistic behavior and its relation to sensory processing.

Because autism can be described as uneven development of one’s neurological system, we are finding ways to sort and define these neurological “styles” of sensory processing.

Since each of us has differently developed neurology, we will have different struggles.

Roughly, these struggles and resulting behavior fall into two categories.
For some of us, our senses may get easily overloaded or overwhelmed. We may find that lights are too bright or that flickering patterns cause distress. We may find that things we hear become painful or distressing, annoying or anger producing when we can’t stop them or control them as they happen.

We may find the way things feel against our skin becomes distressing, too light of touch, too prickly, too stimulating in situations where we are in a breeze, cold or hot water, using lotions, being scrubbed with brushes or rough cloths, etc. We may hate the way something feels in our mouth, be overwhelmed by tastes, smells, or other sensory input. When we are overwhelmed by our sensory input, we become avoidant… try to avoid these experiences at all costs and when we can not escape to our own comfort level, we may flee, shut down, or melt down.

Those of us who need to escape our sensory input frequently and who do so in many ways, from refusing to go places, refusing to try new things, refusing to wear certain clothing or eat certain foods, hiding our eyes , covering our ears, turning our backs or running away…are called sensory avoidant. We must avoid sensory overwhelm and struggle to maintain performance of daily living while coping with and trying to avoid “too much input”.

The other broad category of sensory struggles falls in the opposite direction. Those of us who are sensory seeking require sensory stimulation and more sensory “input” than what our senses process in daily living.
We may enjoy jumping, in all forms, bumping into walls or furniture or other people, running, swimming, spinning, pounding, rolling, and any other physical experience .
We may smell, touch, or taste all sorts of things, in fact it is almost impossible to resist the impulse in many cases, even when doing so may be considered highly inappropriate.
Sensory seekers are more likely to hit or bite themselves, to deliberately seek sensations of hot or cold, bright and flickering lights, seek sounds of all sorts frequently at volume. Sensory seekers may want to be held or stroked, cuddled, may like deep tissue massage, the use of sensory tools such as mitts and brushes that provide different “feels” upon the skin, and may enjoy tight clothing or weighted vests or backpacks.

In some individuals, processing may be mixed, with certain experiences being overwhelming and others being sought.
Each of us is very different, each of our sensory systems are unique, so one must work to sort which sensory forms of input are appropriate or must be changed or carefully adjusted to prevent either overwhelm or to help satisfy the need for more stimulation .

Once we recognize the way we process input from all of our senses we can make adjustments to our lives to make every day living less struggle and more satisfying, safer, and easier overall.

Most articles on the internet, and most studies about sensory processing and autism are , of course, aimed at children. Very little information is available about adult sensory processing. Thinking back to your childhood, perhaps you will recognize patterns of behavior that will help you figure out what sensory experiences you try to avoid and what sensory experiences you might seek and enjoy, and wish to experience more frequently.

Are you sensory avoidant, sensory seeking, or do your both avoid and seek sensory input ?