Autism Crisis

Emergencies can happen any time!

As part of my passion to inform and support older autistic individuals I also participate in some online forums. These are for the most part closed to the public and are designed as support and advice for autistic individuals exclusively. As well, there are a few public autism forums where anybody seeking information and/or support can join in.

Something that seems to happen frequently is that individuals on these forums appear with very urgent requests,
PM me
, Message Me,
Help Help Help.
It is urgent and immediately concerning, heartbreaking to get such requests from others in far away situations and no be able to provide information or help in a crisis.
Many times those messages may not reach others or provide the immediate aid the distressed individual is seeking.
Forums are not crisis lines or emergency hotlines. They are not meant to deal with emergency or crisis situations.

Lack of response can be triggering and lead to even more upset.

I would like to suggest that everybody has emergencies, distressing things happening in their lives, emotional or physical crises at some point.

We all need to be prepared ahead of time to have resources available when these emergencies do happen.

There are all sorts of emergency hotlines and helplines available today.
We can summon an ambulance or a fire team, we can call suicide hotlines, domestic abuse hotlines, we can seek urgent help for financial support, housing, food, and much more.

It is not unreasonable to spend a little time compiling a list of local to you emergency numbers to keep in a place where these can be accessed quickly.
Police, Fire, Ambulance, help and service hotline numbers are easy to find today using the internet.
Please take the time to prepare for emergencies ahead of time.
Write a list of helpful emergency numbers before you need them and keep them handy where you can find them if the worst suddenly happens.
You never know when an emergency or crisis will happen.
Help yourself find support quickly before you need to make that call.

Autism in Motion

We all have proprioceptive struggles

Autism is being understood more and more as a neurological difference that causes our sensory input to give us different information than the way neurotypical individuals process such input. We are “wired differently” in our neurology from all of our senses, and each of us is different.

I went looking for more information about the way we move as compared to neurotypical individuals. Much has been made recently of “micro movements” that seem to be common in autistic individuals, and how these movements might interfere with NT intuitive interpretation of social interaction.
Instinctive rejection of differing neurology is done rapidly and unconsciously by others interacting with autistic individuals.
Much comment has been made regarding how this could possibly be the basis for autistic social struggles.

I have been reading about involuntary movements and also about autistic “gait”.

I wrote about this a bit in the early days of the blog. I had been surprised to discover just how odd my gait must appear to others.

Gait is being analyzed and understood today through the use of diagnostic tools unimaginable only a few years ago.

I am attaching a link to an older article that discusses gait analysis and diagnostic imaging of individuals with various neurological diagnoses.

Most fascinating to me was the included video showing these gait differences clearly. ( thank goodness it was a clear and slow moving image that I could actually process! )

I was astounded to see my own gait reflected in the image for autism in the video. I have always been clumsy and awkward and my mother constantly criticized my way of walking, forcing me to crawl on the floor moving my head from side to side (remember the “patterning” theory of development in the 1960s?) and walk for hours trying impossibly to balance a book on top of my head.
She hated my my posture, and my gait, even going so far as to take me to a podiatrist, wanting him to fix my funny way of walking.
I recognized even at the time that he thought she was causing my self conscious and timid, awkward movement to be worse through her constant criticism.
He ended up telling her I had an extra bone in my ankle and that I could not help the way I moved.

She left me alone after that, what a relief!

I don’t believe for a minute I have any extra bones, I was so grateful to him for helping to free me of the continual harassment and criticism.

I digress.

When staying overnight with a sick friend at a hospital for a couple of days just a few years ago, I had to continually walk down a hallway which had a huge plate glass window at the end of it. When it was dark outside, this acted as a mirror to reflect my image as I walked toward it down that long hallway.
I could not help but observe my gait and was amazed to see how very odd it was! I tend to plant one leg and to swing the other leg around it in a sort of semi circle. One leg (my left) is almost straight in flight, moving forward without almost any deviation, and I weave my right leg around this one removing it from almost directly behind the left and swinging it in a sort of arc, placing it in front of the left, Sort of a weaving motion.

I was stunned. No wonder people look at me when I walk!!! How odd! I knew my gait was “off” but I had not realized how it looked to others. WOW.

That recognition was a couple of years ago.
Today I was searching online for articles on proprioception and gait, as well as micro motor motions.

I found this article from a few years ago. https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/autism-in-motion/


Please watch it and look at the part where the motion of the autistic individual is shown.
Is there really a recognizable autistic gait?
That autistic individual portrays the exact same gait that I recognized in myself just a few years ago.
How interesting!
Are you aware of your gait?

What does it look like?

I am going to continue to search for more information about autism and our bodies in motion.


Misophonia and Autism

When little sounds drive you wild!

Misophonia is a common sensory processing struggle. It happens to individuals outside the autism spectrum too. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-misophonia

Recent studies, as quoted above show misophonia is a sensory processing disorder and most likely neurological in nature. No wonder Autistic individuals seem to experience this struggle more frequently.

The drip drip drip of water from the tap into the sink, the mouth breathing or open mouthed chewing of somebody across the room from you, the tapping of a branch on the window, or the clicking or tapping from toes, a constantly barking dog, anything can be the focus of this deeply frustrating processing disorder.
we can become anxious, furious, and even outraged at the percieved intrusiveness of the triggering sound or sound. This is not helpful to having good relationships with others, from co workers, peers in social situations, to members of a family. Misophonia can be very upsetting not only to the sufferer but to those around them who can become the focus of the rage and frustration involved in a triggered event.
There are things that can be done to address misophonia and to help sufferers cope.

One can use “white noise machines”, a safe space where the sufferer can retreat to avoid the input that upsets us, headphones with music or soothing sounds, some attempts have been made to de-sensitize through longer and longer exposures to the upsetting sounds, and using Biofeedback might help in some cases.
Occupational Therapists may be able to help, depending on their specialties.
Misophonia is rare enough in the general public that many Family Doctors have never heard of it.
If you struggle, you may ask for a referral to a neuro psychologist or other specialists. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to find ways to help and to make self accommodations to protect yourself and those you care about from the effects of misophonia.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547634/




Autism and Abuse

Abuse is reported at a much higher rate for autistic individuals.
This is a trusted web site. I don’t post many links here but the info in this page is too important to not share. Self care always first. Learn the signs of being abused and what to do about it.

https://embrace-autism.com/unhealthy-relationships/


we need to know we are more vulnerable due to our neurology and we need to learn to recognize unhealthy relationships in order to keep ourselves safe.

Like other parts of every day living, learning our diagnosis can give us new perspective on old problems and help us sort and find better ways to live our lives. It is never too late for self care, never too late to learn new ways to survive and even thrive.

I left an abusive relationship 40 years ago after learning to be abused at home and being a victim for years.
Learning healthy self assertive behavior saved my life and my sanity.
I first had to recognize that I had been abused, and I had to learn how to take responsibility for my own life and my own “complicity” or compliance in allowing the abuse to happen.
I had to learn new healthy behavior, how to make better decisions.
Reaching out for help saved my life . You do not have to do this alone!

Please take care of yourself, you are worthy of happiness, comfort, being loved, finding peace and self understanding. ❤

Motor Skills and Autism

Proprioceptive, Interoceptive struggles are a part of autism, not an incidental feature.

I was pleased and relieved to see this on my newsfeed page today.

https://www.spectrumnews.org/opinion/motor-skills-in-autism-a-missed-opportunity/?utm_source=Spectrum%20Newsletters&utm_campaign=861d6ef162-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_202

On many of the autistic forums I attend we have constant discussions about our struggles with coordination, eye hand difficulties, constant bruises and broken bones from mis judging distances, need to touch things (the walls, you neighbor, etc etc ) to keep your balance… the pages are full of struggles with motor skills of all sorts.

You know I do not often share blogs or pages from other sources, please read and understand what we have been saying all along. Now science is recognizing our physical struggles as well as our social struggles and our communication struggles.

DSM 5 does not include proprioceptive/interoceptive/motor struggles in the criteria for diagnosing autism. Yet the doctor who gave me diagnosis 2 years ago noted that in his 40 years of practice, he had never met an autistic person who did not have struggles with perception, balance, gait or other physical/motor symptoms of proprioceptive nature. Evidently this truth has been known to some practitioners for years.

Now studies are documenting this truth.

It is not too soon to add motor/proprioceptive struggles to criteria and known struggles of autism in the next DSM.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy, therapy for balance, gait, performance, can all help with these things. If you don’t have insurance or can’t afford to work with professionals, Look for information in books, videos, on the internet and other sources.

There are multiple exercises and ideas to incorporate healthy proprioceptive activities into our lives and those of our loved ones. If one doesn’t work for you, there are dozens of alternatives.

As we age, we are more susceptible to injury and falls due to our slowed responses and our less robust physical condition. Adding exercises for proprioceptive difficulties can improve our quality of life in so many ways. It is OK to ask for help in these areas, you don’t have to do this alone!




Autism bridges

building a bridge for better communication

One of autism’s primary struggles is with communication. Because of various struggles, visual, audio, and other processing weaknesses, we often need help to make connections in things we are being told, taught, participating in, observing or planning. Communication struggles generally don’t allow us to “get the idea” and then fill in the details. We need the details in order to understand the idea, or the “big picture”. This may not be true for all autistic folks but it surely is true for many of us! Neurotypical individuals have conversations using leaps of understanding, intended inferences, references and nuanced speech which often leave people like me with low percentile hearing and visual process functioning far behind. I simply “don’t get” hints, allusions, or vague references to metaphors, comparisons for contrast in sarcastic quips, etc.

I was talking with our daughter in a stressful situation a couple of weeks ago and I had to ask for her to clarify something she said. I often interrupt if I don’t understand, and some people find this extremely annoying, but daughter and I usually communicate very well and she is patient with me.

When I asked her about the context of her last comment, she said “OH, I forgot to build a bridge for you”. The meaning was clear, she had been intentionally making connections for me to follow in our conversation. The idea delighted me and moved me deeply. And I loved the easy description of the verbal practice she was using.

The comment endeared her even more to me. (and she is beloved!)

Knowing and understanding my communication weaknesses , she deliberately builds connections verbally so that my mind can follow her intent in communication.

How wonderful if others would do this too. I never recognized how she had been doing this intentionally, and I was struck forcefully with deep gratitude for the extra effort she has been taking since she learned of my autism to make communication easier for us together.

If you have an autistic loved one, perhaps give consideration to building communication bridges to help fill those gaps where we simply can not travel without the help of extra explanation of connections in thoughts, ideas, and intentions.

Autism and Visual Processing

Did you know there are many kinds of visual processing disorders?

Since autism is neurological in nature, it is not surprising to learn that autistic folks often have sensory disruptions of many sorts. Visual processing disorders can take many forms.

1 Problems with visual discrimination

2 Problems with discriminating the difference between a figure and the ground/background

3 Problems with visual sequencing

4 Visual motor processing troubles

5 Visual memory struggles , long or short term

6 visual-spatial difficulties

7 Visual closure struggles

8 Visual reversal of letters, symbols

We rely on vision every day and when our vision is not functioning correctly we can not trust what we see or think we understand, we can not perform reliably in expected ways.

Signs of struggles with visual processing include slow responses to visual input, trouble responding to questions regarding something we have just seen or been told to look at (reading, watching, doing any task in ‘real time’ after visual demonstrations).

We may confuse information, only absorb part to none of it, may not be able to recall something we just saw, or may reverse images of things when asked to write them, may see numbers and letters as reversed/disordered as we look at them.

We may frequently misjudge distances of objects near and far, so that we trip, fall, run into things, have accidents if we drive or ride bikes or other vehicles, have difficulty working at speed.

We can not rely on our visual input. We may use our hands to guide us in motion, touching things or others in a group to help us understand where we are in relation to others and items in our path.

My own visual processing is in the 25th percentile.
When I learned this at age 68, I was amazed that I have done as well in life as I have. Suddenly it was understandable that where I had been accused of carelessness and not listening or watching as things were explained to me, I was indeed paying attention but the things I saw demonstrated were not being processed.
Things like a team mate throwing a ball and its hitting me in the face every time.

Things like being shown how to operate a machine and failing to understand.
Things like cooking, sewing, or cleaning processes being demonstrated to me and my failure to perform them (all of which I was punished or penalized, criticized for all of my life).
Every one of those failures made perfect sense!

It has been such a relief to learn that my lack of coordination and my physical incompetence, my failure to perform in so many ways have an explainable neurological answer!

After a lifetime of self blame and being blamed by others, I can finally understand my own neurology and make accommodations in my life to help make things easier and safer, less frustrating and
more pleasant.

How does visual processing disorder play a part in your life???

It may require some thought and sorting of your life experiences, but for many of us, it will explain so much of our past struggles.

With new knowledge of our neurology we can make adjustments to live a better life.

Autism and Auditory Processing

Auditory processing disorders may be one of the most common to autism.

Struggles with communication are a hallmark of autism, and one of the diagnostic criteria that must be present for an autism diagnosis.


All my life I have been told I do not listen. I have been told and chastised over and over to “pay attention”.

I was punished in school and at home for not following directions, for not answering questions directed toward me, for asking questions for clarity and being told with frustration or anger,
” You should have listened when I was explaining that” or “I already covered that”.

I have been repeatedly tested for hearing and have a range of perception of sounds that is much higher and lower than average. I have really great hearing!

Here is the catch, though.
I may hear everything that goes on around me, I may hear every word spoken and my hearing may be acute with vivid clarity, but once I hear the sound, it may not be translated in my mind to information I can use.

I may only “get” the slightest idea of what the 10 minute lecture was about. I may only understand that somebody is very angry with me because I did not do, or did do something that they did not want me to do.

I may not know how to proceed with the next assignment, project, or workplace task because every sound I heard did not register in understandable form, if it registered at all.

I was told all through my childhood and young adulthood I had no excuse except laziness and deliberate insubordination for my failure to perform as expected.

If you find yourself being chastised over and over for not paying attention, for deliberately ignoring instructions or being lazy and undependable, consider being tested to see if you, too, might have disabilities surrounding auditory processing disorders.

Sensory processing disorders are proving to be hallmarks of autism.
Diagnosis is still through pinpointing certain behaviors, but more and more, science is seeing that our neurology and differences in the way we process sensory information is behind the “abnormal” clusters of behaviors that currently define autism in diagnostic tools.

Due to the fact that our neurology is unevenly developed, we may have processing disorders in any or all of the senses we use every day to bring us information about our world and help us understand how to act and react in any situation.

When we can not process the information our senses bring to us in “normal” ways, every thing we experience is affected.

More on sensory processing soon.

Autism Communication

Be specific! Open-ended questions are difficult!

“Struggles in communication” is one of the features used to diagnose autism. If you do not struggle with understanding and communicating, you can not be diagnosed as autistic.


We (Autistic individuals) may not speak, we may have a hard time finding the right words, we may freeze up when asked a sudden unexpected question. This is due to sensory processing difficulties in various parts of our unusual neurology.

It is frequently missed or misunderstood when asked vague questions like “how are you doing”, or “tell me about yourself”.
We also miss hints about everything: “this car needs washed”, “Those dishes are piling up”,
“it sure would be nice to go out today”, “I wish I had one of those” , are all taken literally and accepted without seeing the underlying “call to action” suggested in the comments.

I have been asked “do I have to paint you a picture” with great sarcasm. Well, yes, sometimes illustrations might help!

The less open-ended or vague your communication to me is, the better I can understand your agenda, the issue at hand, the expectation, the thing you may be subtly suggesting.
Subtle doesn’t work!! Calm, frank, open communication in a very direct and specific manner for the win!

Open-ended questions are so difficult. We struggle to understand what is wanted or expected of us. (autistic people)
Autistic neurology, (sensory processing neurology deficits) many of us have may cause difficulty picking up on nuances such as tone of voice, expression, body language, or context to determine intent.
Autistic folks are usually very direct and usually take no offense in others being direct in interacting with them.
We tend to love details and specific information because it makes it easier to decide how to respond safely.
Yes, safely!
Tremendous anxiety goes with almost any interaction with other humans. So many of us (especially older adults with lots of life experience) have learned that our responses to others can annoy, irritate, enrage others and most of the time we will not have a clue to why this is so.

If we are given very specific questions or requests, it helps us sort what is expected of us and helps us decide how to respond.

Knowing what is expected of us gives us a base to interact with others while feeling safe and less anxious about possible mistakes or misunderstandings.

Proprioception

Knowing where you are in relation to absolutely everything else.


Autism is based in our bodies’ uneven neurological development.

Proprioception is the sense (based on our neurology) that tells us about our bodies in relation to our physical world.

Proprioception tells our bodies we are going fast on our bicycle, when we run, or in a car.

Proprioception helps us navigate through a crowd of people or a room full of furniture, or driving our cars or bikes, through the traffic, or walking, running or moving our wheelchairs through the, hallways, rooms, navigating doorways, ramps, etc etc successfully.

Proprioception is what helps us stay upright in rough terrain or keeps us from crashing into things.

Proprioception is what tells us how hard to hit the nail with the hammer, how much force to use while trying to open the jar lid, how hard to pull the shoe strings when tying our shoes, how hard to pull or push to open the door, etc.

We use our sense of proprioception every day to inform ourselves about how to proceed in almost any situation.

If you have been given a diagnosis or dyspraxia or ataxia, your proprioception is definitely affected.

When our proprioception is “off” we can run into furniture or smack ourselves passing through doorways, fall off our bicycles (if we can ride them at all!).

Those of us with poor proprioception can stub our toes or smack our knees, elbows, or hands repeatedly when accidentally passing to near any object, including other people.

Poor proprioception means we may be the kid in gym class that can’t catch the ball and gets hit in the face every time, instead. We are the ones who are yelled at for being clumsy, for standing or following too closely, told “watch where you are going” and “hand’s off”. It is not something you “grow out of”, but I have learned that the right kind of therapy may help in some cases.

As we age, our bodies do not have as much strength or responsiveness and we are at risk of falls. To a certain extent, we can help ourselves by being aware of risks such as marking steps, removing throw rugs, providing hand rails, and other reasonable accommodations.

Proprioceptive therapy, whether self administered or through an occupational or physical therapist can be very helpful.

Do it yourself: there are loads of videos on the internet as well as charts, diagrams, pictures, etc which explain how to help your balance and how to strengthen yourself and train your body to be able to use it more safely. The thing is, it is something that needs to be done frequently. If you do a set of exercises one or 20 times, and then quit, you gain nothing. The body needs frequent input and practice for these new ways of moving to be effective.

Join a class: There are many classes these days for seniors, either online or in person, which teach yoga, Tai Chi, and other ways of using your body for best effectiveness.

Therapy: Ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist or occupational therapist who can help you learn new ways to use your body to prevent falls and injury.

There are loads of lists of proprioceptive activities for autistic children, and many of these may also be applied to adults of any age.

Join a group: you could even form your own with one or more others interested in meeting for practicing proprioceptive exercises and outings together.

Examples of proprioceptive activities : Hiking, Biking, pushing or pulling anything, playing catch or kickball, hackeysack, or dribbling or bouncing a ball against a wall and catching it repeatedly.

Standing on one foot for as long as possible ( of course use a grab bar or other support to catch yourself if need be).

Jump rope, bounce on a trampoline or an old mattress, or simply jump up and down, both feet or one foot at a time.

walk “one foot in front of the other” forward and backward. Use a line on the ground/floor to guide yourself, if you need to.

Walk between cones, then walk backward or sideways from each side, the combinations are endless. The idea is to carefully perform each of these things being aware of your body movements, your weight distribution, and your position as you perform each one.

Shovel, lift weights, do pushups on the floor or against a wall.

there are books written about this stuff! There are so many ways we can enhance our proprioception and help keep ourselves safer from accidents and falls.
Please be aware that we as a group (autistic elders) are more prone to falls and injury as we age due to our neurology. Know that you CAN do something about that!

Most of us have problems with proprioception, but we can take action to protect ourselves now that we know this.

If you don’t know how to proceed, ask for help from others.

There is no shame in reaching out for information and learning how to do something new.