Slideshows, Images, and Infographics from NeuroClastic - Free PDF Downloads

Table of Contents

Slideshows

On Guardrailing Disabled People

NOTICE: Please read this caption before reading the slideshow. The slideshow contains an activity that needs context.

Autistic and other disabled people— whether or not others even realize they’re Autistic— are guardrailed.

They receive far more direction, unsolicited advice, and correction than everyone around them.

The reason for this is that people are uncomfortable with difference.

When it’s a child who is different, parents and professionals try to protect the child from abuse and social isolation caused by other people’s discomfort with difference.

Autistic adults will almost unanimously tell you that this kind of guardrailing has traumatized us. It has left us unsure of even the smallest decision because we’re so used to being shamed and redirected that we lose confidence in our autonomy. This also happens to non-disabled people, who have overly strict caregivers and professionals (often in fundamentalist religious environments).

The same phenomenon can also happen to people from minoritized races, religions, genders, ethnic groups, etc.

Basically, if you’re different from the majority, you’ll be “unpredictable.” That scares others and makes them uncomfortable.

ACTIVITY:

The last five slides contain scenarios that portray guardrailing as it might happen to an adult.

We are asking that you imagine yourself experiencing being guardrailed like this for one day. What would it do to you? How would it make you feel?

What would people around you think if you tried to complain about it?

How would you feel after a week? Two weeks? Twenty years? What would it do to your relationships, sense of worth, and emotional health?

Please sit for a moment with your feelings and imagine these scenarios and how they would impact you— and your Behavior— over time and post your reflections in the comments.

This is why autistic people often caution against over-enrolling disabled kids in intervention therapies and to be discerning about what is necessary for quality of physical and emotional health compared to what is for the comfort of others.

Thanks to Andi James Sanchez for image descriptions

Activism and Building Communities

This slideshow is to address an undercurrent of opposition that stalls change on every front. This isn’t meant to be confrontational, but to use as a tool for self-examination.

Every time an activist brings up how something in the status quo— meaning something that is the “norm”— is harmful, the mainstream goes through an adjustment period before changing their minds.

If you’re feeling like an activist is divisive, you may be reacting to a divide that has existed for a long time that you didn’t have to think about.

This is not a challenge to uncritically accept everything someone else suggests. This is a challenge to examine your own reactions to see where their origins are and to help you work out if you’re being fair.

Cognitive dissonance is not a moral failure. It is a result of being so grounded in your own reality that you struggle to understand, acknowledge, accept, and see the nuance of other people’s reality.

Or, you may have rejection sensitivity or trauma associated with being imperfect, so anything that seems to suggest you could be making mistakes, causing harm, or acting against your values may feel like a threat you have to silence.

You may actually be triggered, jarred, and experiencing extreme discomfort as a genuine reaction of trauma and a lifetime of being invalidated and under-appreciated. And, you might be wrong.

The internet is full of people from every intersection and demographic who are difficult, awful, mean, explosive, selfish, etc.

It is a tool of colonialism to make it seem like there are two opposing sides to every issue, as if someone can only be one way or another, or there can only be two possible outcomes.

When you feel yourself having animosity towards an advocate or activist, you can use these questions to confront the feelings you’re experiencing.

Building community begins with healthy boundaries for everyone. Is your frustration really that someone is asking you to stop doing something that harms them?

Building Community, Not Colonies

This April, we’re focusing on engaging in community with our NeuroKin and our allies and accomplices.

The autistic community is very young. It’s got growing pains. What most of us have in common is that we’ve never been allowed to celebrate our existence or being ourselves.

When we come into community, we hope to be free of the shame, exclusion, and control of broader society, so we become protective of our spaces.

What can happen, though, is that in trying to keep harmful things out of our communities, we instead keep people out who are victims of those social harms who can’t risk living in protest. Sometimes, access to safety depends on us complying with harm. And unlearning decades of ableism and healing from abuse is a long process.

We can both advocate for better ways AND accept that not everyone in our community can access better ways. Not everyone in our community can immediately change. Not everyone in our community wants to change.

We don’t have to police and condemn individuals for their personal choices— even if they’re harmful or wrong.

One maxim that is universally true is that when people trust you, know you, believe you, and feel like you genuinely care about them, they are much more willing to receive what you have to offer, including your advice.

We can let people know why we do what we do, and if they agree, if it does not harm their safety, and they don’t feel forced, they can choose to join in. That will lead to authentic commitment, not performative compliance.

We focus on building community because we all need community.

Written by Jude Afolake Olubodun and Terra Vance.

Autism and IQ

Many people assume that there are two kinds of autism: high functioning and low functioning.

Stereotypes for “high functioning” autism include being very good at math or science but being quirky and socially inept.

Stereotypes for “low functioning” autism are that a person is severely intellectually disabled and has the mind of a toddler.

Usually, what people see as “severe” or “profound” or “low-functioning” autism is really Motor Disinhibition (movements a person can’t control) and Apraxia (not being able to execute purposeful motor movements for things like speech). Those skills are unrelated to intelligence.

IQ tests are not adequate for truly understanding an autistic person’s abilities or limitations. They’re not great, period, and have been used irresponsibly to perpetuate inequalities for many marginalized populations.

When standardized tests are used, there should always be explicit exploration of how those tests may be inadequate for an individual and why. But there rarely is anything shared outside of the numbers.

But an autistic person’s IQ score has very little to do with their support needs. It cannot demonstrate an autistic person’s capacity as it was not developed for autistic minds.

Each autistic mind is different from other autistic people, too— so every autistic person would need individualized supports.

So why don’t we start there? By getting to know each individual?

Because society is increasingly geared towards mass-production.

The more we standardize, the more we marginalize everyone who can’t change themselves to fit in the “comfortable center.”

ActuallyAutistic cognition is very unique to the individual, and our approach should be as well.

While the analogy in this slideshow is an oversimplification of the #neuroscience, it’s a good way to understand that autistic hardware is different and how that impacts performance.

Here is an article that explores the language of disability rights when talking about IQ.

Here’s one about measuring autistic intelligence.

On Functioning Labels

Part 1

If you really want to see what the mainstream has so wrong about autism, notice how many ways the ability to produce and “function” is referenced compared to how many times emotional health or self-esteem get mentioned.

Just keep your pattern-recognition radar on alert for language that summarizes autistic people related to their utility or ability to produce. Then look around for the language that prioritizes seeing the whole person in all their nuance.

Discussions almost always center independence, which as a concept is a myth.

Independence really means being able to rely on structural supports to be able to get by. For most people, their environments, educational settings, careers, and even recreation are structured to be optimized for them. If someone appears independent, it is only because other people have structured the world around them to suit their needs. That’s called community.

Instead of being anxious that systems and structures won’t be accommodating, we are anxious about if autistics can at least blend in without complaining about having no accommodations.

Is that fair?

We therapize autistics to accept responsibility for not being accommodated— to not protest, to not complain, to remember to show gratitude that people even interacted at all, to be automatically respectful and deferent to authority…

We then treat autistic children as if everyone else is an authority on everything else. We socialize autistic people to believe they need to trust everyone else but themselves.

Is that wise?!

Function labels are typically used to describe tools and machines. When applied to people, it’s dehumanizing. It frames a person, often as their introduction and first impression, as an object.

“My child/student/client has autism but is high functioning.”

Our next post will give you examples of more humanizing language to talk about autistic people. Happy World Autistic Community today!!! Thank you for being in community with us!

Part 2

Functioning labels are often used to describe autistic people. These labels can be obvious (“low-functioning,” “high-functioning,” “severe autism,” etc.) or can be more subtle euphemisms.

Describing people in terms of support needs is more respectful but saying they have “high support needs” still tells us nothing about the individual.

Information about being autistic needs to serve a purpose other than simply minimizing non-autistic people’s anxiety or maximizing their sympathy.

If you only want to describe an autistic person as “high functioning” to let others know “they won’t cause you problems” or to ask them, “please don’t immediately project all your negative stereotypes onto my child,” then you’re setting the norm that other people’s prejudice deserves being validated and it’s the autistic person’s responsibility for being able to keep others comfortable by not taking up space or needing support.

If you say “low functioning” or “severely autistic” in the hope that others will have sympathy, you probably sense they’re not safe.

Better ways to characterize autistic people always consider the context and should help others to understand and accommodate them.

“Raya has hyperacusis which means she is very sensitive to loud noise. It actually hurts her. Could we turn down this music?”

“Stevie is nonspeaking and has apraxia and motor disinhibition. That means he can’t coordinate his body for purposeful movement, even for speech, and other times he has behaviors he can’t prevent, similar to tics. He is not misbehaving if he gets up, makes noises, or repeats phrases.”

“Jesse has a lot of anxiety about unexpected changes. When possible, can you help them know in advance of any changes in plans and what to expect?”

If you don’t yet have the language to describe these differences, that’s okay. You’re in the right place! Just hang around, and we will help equip you with the language and framework you need to better understand and talk about autism, autistic people, and accessibility.

Autism Awareness Campaigns

Many adult autistics have strained or non-existent relationships with their parents and/or siblings. At NeuroClastic, we try to help parents, educators , and service providers find healthier ways to relate to autistics so that there is less avoidable pain for the next generations.

We have an ever-growing body of evidence about what practices promote healthy development, and we know exactly what type of relational behaviors lead to codependence.

So it’s curious that most “autism interventions” seem to be designed to cause demand compliance and codependency. It’s as if some intervention approaches specifically are built to foster codependency.

Because autistic people can be more vulnerable to predatory relationships, it would be expected that there would be an urgency to prevent codependence.

Yet there are therapeutic practices and mainstream autism organizations that encourage and enable codependence, validating toxic relationship dynamics.

But why?

Because if a therapy depends on measurable progress to keep funding, then the progress has to be measured in behaviors— for any intervention.

This means that it is the therapists’ required duty to change behaviors. Often, those behaviors are indicators of pain and trauma from trying to survive the high-impact, fast-paced, too-loud world around us.

Changing those behaviors without changing the source of the pain just conditions your child to ignore their own needs and to accept distress in silence and without protest.

Asking providers of any autism therapy: what practice have you seen in your field that encourages co-dependence? What should happen instead?

Asking parents: what have you been encouraged to do that felt like it would be harmful to your child?

Asking Autistics: have you had difficulty in your adult life with relationships because you grew up having your boundaries disrespected and your autonomy violated?

Red Instead for Autistic Acceptance

Some of you probably know all about this already, but many are new to the community. Some readers have recently asked us why autistic people are using #RedInstead.

Hopefully, you can save yourself some emotional labor by sharing this (with your comments) in April instead of having to make the same case over and over. ❤️🖤♾

April is really hard for us. We didn’t ask for a month and certainly don’t like what gets done “for autism” without our input.

Red Instead is a counter-response to “Light It Up Blue,” an advertising jingle that brings people to Autism Speaks. #RedInstead is asking the world to pay attention to Autistic people instead of corporations that speak for us.

Every April, well-meaning people want to support autistic folk but know nothing about autism. They only know Autism Speaks. We go #RedInstead to prevent an org (and affiliated orgs and initiatives) that doesn’t need to be the “voice of Autism” from using our reality and neurotype as land they own all the real estate on.

Autism Speaks uses their extreme social, celebrity, and financial privilege to keep us from belonging— even in the discussion about our own lives.

This works because they validate neurotypical emotions, welcome non-autistics, and center them as people who “deal with” an autistic person.

They create a sense of saviorism in you, giving you only positive roles to play as the people destined to save us with your boundless empathy, money, popularity, and compassion as the “default” way to exist.

Autistic people don’t want to live at the bottom corner margin of everyone else’s hierarchies, especially not one constructed around autism.

Going #RedInstead in April is a way to show you respect autistic self-sovereignty and self-determination. It shows you believe autistic people should be centered in conversations about autism.

Read an article about Autism Speaks here.

On Looking Autistic

Part 1

We do often “look autistic,” which really translates to either experiencing #BigMood or focusing so hard we can’t be bothered to perform “normality.”

We can understand the bizarre facial expressions and movements of a guitarist playing a badass solo or an arm wrestler trying to win a match.

There are other times our faces look really weird because we’re so focused on making our bodies perform that we stop thinking about our face.

If we zoomed in on “guitar faces” and cropped out the guitar and background, then these faces look like people in the middle of intimate acts. 🥵

That’s because when we’re that focused on performing multi-sensory tasks, we can’t invest the energy to control our faces.

87% of autistics experience apraxia, or motor planning disability. Unlike autism, apraxia does exist on a severity scale from mild to severe.

If other people knew how difficult it can be to make an autistic mind and body perform like a non-autistic— if they could see how much work was being invested— then the facial expressions and movements would make as much sense as a guitar player’s during a solo.

Imagine judging Jimi Hendrix’s capability or intelligence or how seriously he should be taken by the faces he made during a solo.

Yes, purposeful motor planning and movement— plus the added brain battle of preventing motor disinhibition— can require as much concentration as a killer instrumental solo, depending on the degree of apraxia.

And if you’re awed by that guitar solo, and your jaw drops, do you “look autistic” standing there in awe?

You can understand autistic people if you realize you’re on easy mode and they’re on “legendary” difficulty. You’re playing the same game, but you’re not playing the same difficulty level.

Slides written by Terra Vance.

Part 2

As we unpack what it means to “look autistic,” it becomes clear that it’s more about what the spectators CAN’T see than what they do see.

The same thing that “looks autistic” in one context makes total sense to non-autistic people and is relatable in another context.

When anyone experiences BIG MOOD, they lose the composure to perform normality.

People understand and empathize with BIG MOOD only when they can see what causes it. It’s treated like insanity or a moral failing to experience things intensely.

Autistic people have very responsive nervous systems that can be hypersensitive to certain stimuli.

Anyone jumping and flapping their arms in joy feels extreme happiness. We expect that from lottery winners, but not from someone who just saw a really cool bird or heard the ice cream truck.

So what “looks” autistic is often just someone experiencing a bigger reaction than most people would given the externally-viewed circumstances.

Of course, there are other reasons a person can “look autistic,” and will cover those next.

Part 3

We recently had a few slideshows about “looking” autistic, and this is to go along with the theme of “looking” autistic.

We don’t really have a dress code, but autistic people may wear clues about their neurotype.

This slideshow is meant to be fun, not serious. Autistic people may have amazing fashion sense, may not care at all what they wear, or may use their bodies as signposts or rebellions.

Are you on this? What did we miss?

*Noting an auto-correct. Avant garde became avant guard 😫

April is Coming

April is very hard on Autistic people. Non-autistic people and people who have no connection to our community or even awareness that it exists will suddenly care for a few days. 

They show up with very outdated stereotypes and harmful information, share a few tragedy-narrative posts created by non-Autistic people, and spend money on “experts” selling bad products and information. 

This year, please center autistic people in April. Share posts from Autistic creators, and not just the 101, intro-level posts. Encourage your audience to have discussions and think deeply. 

Be thoughtful in your shares. Make sure you’re centering nonspeakers and multiply-marginalized Autistic voices. Don’t curate what will make people most comfortable. Choose what will challenge them to do better, to know deeper, and to keep learning. 

Donate to autistic orgs, like NeuroClastic and Divergent Minds. Buy from autistic-led businesses. Hire autistic consultants and speakers. Host Autistic guests in CEUs and Podcasts (pay them for this). 

Follow us during April. We’re shooting for 30 days of community engagement, but that’s only if we don’t all burn out early 😬😅. April is really hard, y’all!

Let’s focus on building our community of autistics and accomplices this year. ♥️♾🎧🖤

What Is Colonialism And How Do We Decolonize

NeuroClastic is excited to announce to you the newest member of our leadership team, Jude Afolake Olubodun (he/him).

Jude joins NeuroClastic as the first Chief Decolonizing Officer, a title we hope many more organizations and businesses adopt as a part of their leadership structure. Decolonizing benefits everyone and helps us all move towards a healthier society.

Colonialism is a pillar of white supremacy that harms everyone. It is a belief in a hierarchy of worth and value that gives power to a dominant culture to erase, remove, disenfranchise, appropriate, exploit, monetize, and destroy indigenous people and those deemed as less worthy in capitalism.

Jude has a passion for building community that is safe and inclusive of everyone, especially those most often erased and forgotten. In the autistic community, this means finding a way to ensure that nonspeakers, Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and others often forgotten are not left behind.

Stay tuned as Jude facilitates many community-building discussions. Our #ActuallyAutistic community has a culture that is unhealthy. We have been stuck in a loop of defending against oppression since autism was named, never having the time and space to know ourselves and each other so we could begin to build community. Now is the time for us to build mutual support and liberation.

Even though disabled people are harmed by colonialism, we still engage in perpetuating those harms and tearing down community because we’ve been socialized into colonialism, assimilation, competition, and behaviorism. We can unpack all of that together and learn how to support each other without erasing anyone.

The first two slides feature pictures of Jude, a Black trans man with natural hair and glasses. The third slide features a colonial plantation home in the American South. The 4-8 slides features Jude’s and other NeuroClastic members’ Black, Romani, Native American, Taino, and Guyanese ancestors. The final slide features stock images of people from various cultures and racial or ethnic backgrounds.

Circumlocution

Circumlocution is a communication disorder [or symptom of a disorder] that happens primarily to people with traumatic brain injury. People with this condition have a form of aphasia and tend to use a lot more words than most people or say things in an unexpected way. They may struggle to make clear points.
 
In conversation, this may look like, “There are four adults present who have a valid driver’s license & are unobliged” instead of saying, “One of us can pick up dinner if they’re not delivering.” People with circumlocution often give others a sense of “red flags” or being “off.”
 
A person with circumlocution often gets accused of making excuses or being a coward because they don’t always have the ability to directly state a point. Not stating the point can be seen as evasive and not taking a firm stance.
 
Like many communication disorders, dysregulation can exacerbate circumlocution and cause it to be much worse. Being “flustered” can lead to even more lengthy, atypical, round-about language. Please consider if someone’s communication is “off,” they may need patience and time.

Is The Neurodiversity Paradigm Compatible With Evidence Based Practice?

This post is written to address a trend in the mainstream of articles and narratives that portray neurodiversity as an opposite side of any debate regarding autism (even though all brains are under the neurodiversity umbrella). The intended audience is anyone in any professional or personal role who works with or interacts with autistic people.
 
Neurodiversity is often brought up in professional spaces as if it is an alternative to science. This is called a “false binary” where something very complex gets reduced to two “sides” and oversimplified to the point that no meaningful understanding can be reached.
 
It’s the old, “Us vs them” paradigm, no matter how many “Of course diversity matters” disclaimers one uses trying to avoid accountability for stereotyping whole groups.
 
Most disabled activists don’t really talk about Neurodiversity. It was the doorway many people entered on their way to finding community and self-knowledge.
 
Many advocates have negative feelings about Neurodiversity as a concept because it is too often a celebration of difference that avoids looking at oppression.
 
If you’re using the word “Neurodiversity” as if it means “a consensus from disabled people,” you’re just way off.
 
If you’re trying to prevent disabled people from speaking on what’s important to them, or what their experiences are like— even if you ARE disabled people— then you’re leaving people out of the conversation.
 
There is no neurodiversity club. There’s just a bunch of people with insights based on their own experiences and the information they’ve consumed from the silos they inhabit.
 
The autistic community does have a few ideas that are near-consensus, like that stimming should not be stigmatized and forcing eye contact is harmful, but we needed to move past those issues and get into the meat of intersectional and social issues and neuroscience a long time ago.
 
Continuing to debate from a false binary, setting up “allies” and “abusers” when 99% of people are both, or creating social “teams” to join and show loyalty to is reducing people’s complicated lives to shallow soundbites. It’s bad advocacy.
 
Those with the least structural privilege face the most consequence and erasure from this kind of surface-layer framing.
 
Your evidence base is a reflection of institutional privilege and is grossly inadequate. Listening to advocates is not an alternative to evidence. It is a supplement to an evidence base built on monetizing their oppression and exclusion.
 
Edited to clarify: On the last page, the last page, the last quote is meant to reference when people say not to listen to autistic adults because “they can self advocate,” as if only people who can type or speak are capable of self advocacy.

Not All Behavior Is Communication

Disinhibition Part 1 | Overview

This slideshow may be triggering to people who have used “all behavior is communication” as a slogan for understanding the root causes of behaviors.
 
Mostly, this phrase is applied to young children and disabled people who have complex communication barriers or have not yet been supported to have reliable communication access.
 
This population can have much more pronounced disinhibition, and they suffer profoundly because nonsensical, meaningless movements and speech are interpreted as communication.
 
Yes, some behaviors are absolutely nonsense and in no way what the person wants to do. They may yell “PRINGLES” when what the want to say is, “I’m tired of doing kindergarten work every day.”
 
Sometimes, behaviors are caused by underlying medical conditions support and education staff cannot identify or treat.
 
Most people understand communication as a social exchange, and not all behaviors are social or “for you.”
 
Behaviors may be indicators but not communication. Wheezing can be an indicator of asthma, but it’s not intended as a message for you. It’s not intended. Period.
 
Autistic and other neurodivergent people are often gaslighted, accused of attention seeking, accused of dishonesty, or dramatically underestimated.
 
Our culture of “experts” need to admit their limitations in understanding autism and learn what it is that they are entirely not qualified to treat.
 
Lack of knowledge about disinhibition:
  • keeps nonspeakers from having access to age-appropriate education
  • leads to shock torture at JRC
  • leads to serious medical emergencies being dismissed as “autistic regression”
  • echolalia and tics that are meaningless being criminally prosecuted
  • worsens debilitating OCD/disinhibition
 
We will explore disinhibition in depth in the next parts of this series. Disinhibition can be mild or severe and may vary in severity depending on complex factors.
 
The wrong treatment for disinhibition can increase shame and make symptoms far worse— even life threatening.
 
Stay tuned as we unpack this complex topic.
 
Sources can be found here.

Disinhibition Part 2 | Apraxic NonSpeakers And Communication Rights

GREAT NEWS!
 
In all our years of being active in this community, we have never seen such authentic investment and allyship from people in professional fields as we’ve seen in the last few months.
 
Thank you for joining us. Welcome! Bring your friends!
 
Let’s build on that momentum together, as a community.
 
Getting things wrong is inevitable. We live in a world where so many things are wrong, wrong is the standard. It’s the most human behavior to be wrong.
 
Disinhibition is a wrong society has always gotten wrong. We’ve always treated most behavior as volitional.
 
Instead of asking the world to adapt your atypical definition of “communication” and making autistic and other disabled people pay for the consequences, please make the decision to change your language.
 
All behavior is an *indicator.* Breathing is an indicator of being alive. It’s not usually communication. Sneezing a lot can be an indicator of allergies. It’s not communication. Seizures, meltdowns, tics, motor loops, and many behaviors disabled people engage in are not communication.
 
Nonspeaking apraxic people with motor disinhibition often do not do well with traditional forms of AAC because they touch the wrong buttons or get distracted or can’t focus their eyes (yes, motor disinhibition can affect the behavior of eyes).
 
Executive functioning deficits are related to disinhibition.
 
Disinhibition and executive functioning can be mild or severe.
 
We need to listen to people who figured out that motor disinhibition is why many students are nonspeaking (yes, motor planning impacts speech) because of disinhibition. Their “challenging behaviors” are because of disinhibition.
 
We are on phase 1 together right now: understanding the neurological and chemical underpinnings of behaviors.
 
Thank you for joining us on this journey to a better future for everyone.
 
Sources can be found here.

Disinhibition Part 3 | Finding Reliable Communication For People With Motor Disinhibition

It wasn’t until entering and participating in the Spellerverse that many people truly began to understand the nuanced ways that motor planning, apraxia, OCD, & motor disinhibition impact MOST autistic people, even those with fluent speech.
 
Did you know that recent studies show that 87% of autistic people have clinically-significant motor planning disability?
 
Did you know that 86% of autistic people experience clinically-significant OCD at some point in their lives?
 
Did you know that disinhibition is a facet of executive functioning?
 
Those numbers are so similar because OCD, disinhibition, and motor planning are neurologically rooted in the same parts of the brain.
 
There are also implications for pain-seeking, shame-driven, & many other behaviors related to these neurological differences.
 
Therapies that focus on “hard work” (by increasing demands on already-dysregulated systems) can exacerbate negative and challenging aspects of behavior.
 
Intrusive thoughts or motor disinhibition that is treated as reflections of a person’s true self will cause that person extreme harm.
 
We empower people with disinhibition and treat them with respect when we understand that a person is NOT their disinhibition or intrusive thoughts.
 
If you feel that the Spellerverse is not relevant to you or your child’s/student’s/client’s lives, you’re missing out on critical knowledge about autism almost no one is talking about.
 
What is called “severe autism” is often severe disinhibition, motor planning deficits/apraxia, and/or severe OCD.
 
What is called “mild autism” means that people internalize the same difficulties and get well-intentioned-but-harmful or absolutely zero help to understand their own brains.

Disinhibition Part 4 | Types of Intrusive Thoughts And Compulsions

Content notice: this slideshow describes disturbing intrusive thoughts many people experience.
 
Hopefully, we are all beyond the harmful idea that all behavior is communication and are beginning to understand what disinhibition is.
 
Inhibition is an executive function. That’s why you see “impulsivity” as a trait in so many diagnoses. But disinhibition is about much more than just being impulsive.
 
Tourette’s, OCD, tics, impulsivity, and several other conditions related to unwanted/compulsive behavior have origins in the same parts of the brain.
 
And the brain is different from the mind. Intrusive thoughts are like tics, but they’re internal. They are not communication any more than a sneeze, a hiccup, or a tic.
 
Therapists, teachers, parents, and peers are often shocked and horrified by intrusive thoughts. Many people who try to talk about their intrusive thoughts get criminalized or treated as a threat. They get told their intrusive thoughts are real or come from some buried trauma or deviance.
 
Folks, not everyone’s brain is evenly distributed. Sometimes there’s traffic jams, some parts work faster and are more connected than others. Sometimes signals get mixed up. Sometimes wires are crossed. Sometimes inflammation complicates the flow of consciousness.
 
Those things are from the brain, the organ, and not the self.
 
Teaching people how to process their intrusive thoughts— like having an internal junk mail and spam folder— is going to save them a lot of trauma.
 
On Thursday, March 10 2022 at 4 pm EST, 9 pm GMT, we will be welcoming India Haylor, head therapist at OCDexcellence, for a live Q and A.
 
Text-based pdf for screenreaders may be accessed here. 
 
Slideshow and post written by Terra Vance (@ahabinspace on Instagram)

An Open Call To Intervention Therapy Providers

Dear therapy providers,
 
One reason your field continues to be behind and to cause harm to autistic and other marginalized populations is because of a self-perpetuating engine of toxic supremacy endemic in all of academia.
 
If you are accepting that this problem is just a problem with behavior therapy, you are relying on your field’s privilege and not being honest with yourself or others. These toxic dynamics built on prejudice are in all of your fields.
 
They are all operating on the same foundational beliefs of supremacy and inheritable “rightness.” These practices are borne in the prejudices and beliefs that native cultures and disabled ways of being are wrong, uncivilized, unevolved, and “entitlements.”
 
You are indoctrinated in academia to see yourself as a benevolent colonizer doing your clients a favor. You feel pride based on how much your kids appear to thrive in the standards and goals you have been taught are ideal ways of performing. Society reinforces your beliefs.
 
Your identity becomes one of savior, not of accomplice.
 
Can you provide CEUs? If so, you can host autistic advocates who can help to decolonize your field’s practices.
 
Yes, this applies to OT and speech therapy. This even applies to less accepted forms of therapy.
 
Did you get a modern understanding of neuroscience and how having a brain that is structurally different feels from the inside? No?
 
If you’re afraid of professional backlash, then your field is a toxic silo of supremacy. If you’re not trying to fix it, you’re the problem. Be the change.
 
Please use the comments section to tag professionals, ask questions, offer advice to others in your field about how to do this within your field’s ethics requirements for CEUs, offer your services and areas of expertise (if you’re an autistic professional), etc.
 
Let’s work together to build the community we need.

Parenting Autistic Kids | On Healthy Touch

Parents of autistic children often worry when advice that works for most children isn’t a fit for their autistic child.
 
From professionals to other parents at the playground, parents of autistic kids are often judged as “bad” or neglectful if their children don’t enjoy the same things or behave like non-autistic kids.
 
This can leave parents with a lot of insecurity about if they are failing their children; plus, providers push parents to override the consent of their autistic children.
 
It is as if emotional safety and autonomy are privileges many feel only non-autistic children are entitled to.
 
Written by Terra Vance, a psychology professional, former teacher, and autistic parent of an autistic child, this slideshow can help parents understand and navigate the sensory differences that can lead to children having different touch needs.
 
The swuddle, ruddle, fluddle, and buddito were invented by Vance’s autistic five-year-old. When kids know their needs are valid, they naturally become great at self-advocating and communicating their own needs.
 
It’s okay, parents, if you have to tell people to stop parent-shaming. The more we normalize giving individuals the customized approach to touch, learning, communicating, eating, etc. they need, the healthier everyone’s approach to parenting will become.
 
A great parent is a parent who adapts their approach to honor their children’s specific needs.

On Executive Functioning

Part 1 | Decision Anxiety, Executive Functioning, OCD, Autism & ADHD

Executive functioning is related to structural and chemical differences in the brain. Basically, it relates to how efficiently signals can get to where they’re trying to go to signal the brain to perform tasks.

We almost always discuss executive functioning in terms of productivity, not in terms of how it impacts a person’s social interactions and emotional health.

If a person has a lifetime of painful social, emotional, and practical consequences due to invisible disability, then every decision feels so critical because the chance of disaster feels imminent.

If you’re unable to rank things in your mind, to determine risk levels and organize your thoughts, everything can feel like the chances of disaster are 50/50.

The ability to be “responsible” and “thoughtful” is associated with morality, passion, and care. If a person has profound executive functioning disability, then they begin to see every decision and action in terms of risk.

This can lead to a sort of paralysis that prevents a person from being able to even force themselves to do anything, even the simplest task.

On the flip side, they may impulsively do things not well planned because they know they do not have the executive functioning and time to manually sort those thought processes that are so automatic for most people. This, plus neurological predisposition, can develop into debilitating clinical OCD.

This slideshow is part 1 of a series on the social and emotional impact of executive dysfunction. It is intended to help readers see how it feels from the inside to live with this invisible disability.

Have you said these things to a disabled loved one? Have you internalized these messages and said them to yourself? Does this help you to better understand yourself or others?

Part 2 will focus on how to be emotionally supportive to someone with executive dysfunction.

Written by Terra Vance.

Part 2 | Emotional Support For Executive Functioning

The most important point to remember with this slideshow is that this is not a formula that will help with every person in every circumstance. These are ideas that are meant to help you begin to adjust how you understand people with executive functioning disability and see your role in supporting them.

Some of these things may work for an individual, some may not, and others may depend on your relationship.

It is possible that you have unintentionally gaslighted the person you want to support, and that may require long and steady repair now that you better understand executive dysfunction.

Simply showing a person this slideshow and asking them what would work for them is a great way to begin establishing that you are willing to learn and try better ways. They may be totally unaware of EF and be so relieved to see that others have their struggles, it’s not a moral failure, and they are not thoughtless, inconsiderate, or lazy.

If you have benefited from these posts, then that alone is a testament to how powerful being metacognition— or thinking out loud about how your brain is processing— can be to start bridging communication between people whose brains work differently. These posts are metacognitive.

Part 3 will focus more on the nuances of communicating about emotions and mental health when someone takes a lot longer to process and identify their feelings.

The following mental and neurodevelopmental diagnoses are highly correlated with executive functioning deficits:

  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • OCD
  • BPD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • TBI
  • Lupus
  • Fibromyalgia
  • PTSD

Executive functioning does fluctuate, to a degree, with health, diet, fitness, medication, and emotional safety, but some people are wired in ways that limits how much improvement can be made. People with profound EF disability need supports in order to be able to thrive.

As an org, we try to respond to the needs of our community. Based on your feedback, we see this is an important topic. We will continue to create more resources about EF. 🧠♾💚

Written by Terra Vance.

On Autistic Masking

Part 1

Dear Non-Autistic Friends,

People believe that #ActuallyAutistic masking is acting neurotypical, but that’s a gross over-simplification of what is actually happening.

Autistic masking is largely trying to adapt in real time in various social situations in order to avoid being misinterpreted or wrongfully accused of lying, passive aggression, selfishness, backtracking, egotism, and the list goes on…

We have differences that are very real but very complex and hard to describe. It’s like learning a whole language and culture. The vast majority of non-autistic communication is non-verbal, with meaning being implied or conveyed in tone or body language.

Autistics are calculating the norms for the context, then trying to predict for what the other person would like to hear in response, what tone they need to hear it in, how much they want us to look at them, what gestures and facial expressions they want to hear, etc.

We are not pretending to care or playing a role. We are adjusting to what goes against our neurology so you don’t mistake what comes naturally to us for apathy or rejection or something other than what we really feel or believe.

Masking hurts everyone. It’s not sustainable. We are not masking to trick you into thinking we’re neurotypical. We’re responding to the native language with our often-broken second language. We are working against our instincts, constantly. It’s exhausting.

Part 2

Dear Non-Autistic Friends,

If you ever wonder what it is that you can do to help #ActuallyAutistic people unmask, you will have to take a journey of humble curiosity with us.

We are the one taking the risk. Opening ourselves up and showing vulnerability has caused us a lifetime of pain.

First of all, we hate hierarchies. If we sense that you perceive us as inferior—socially, emotionally, genetically, intellectually, or in relation to communication, empathy, being a human, “mental age,” etc.— we will feel that difference with every strained interaction.

Not only will you never get to know us, truly, because unmasking in your presence is too dangerous, but you will never get to see us at our best. You’ll never experience the good in us. You’ll never see us in a well-regulated state.

You can’t know us until you acknowledge that your empathic instincts, hard-wired into your neurology, only work for relating to other non-autistic people.

You will have to stop seeing us as just as neurotypical with deficits. You’ll have to stop seeing us as deficient. You’re not the default, just the majority. We’re not a broken version of you.

So, to start unmasking, we will need to believe that you aren’t seeing us through the lens of a power differential.

On the flip side, if you romanticize us as superior, put us on a pedestal like we are enlightened by default, and treat us like we have a direct connection to universal wisdom or superpowers, then that’s still a hierarchy that dehumanizes us.

We are your equal. Not better. Not worse. Not inherently right or wrong. We just need to trust that you get we’re different and will interpret us differently.

For real, though. We might be a bit clumsy Jedi or dyslexic Vulcan… 😅🖖 😎👽🛸

But you can still sit with us. We wear tagless shirts on Wednesdays. ⛔️🏷

Part 3

How to support autistic unmasking:

Be curious: To know an autistic person, you’re going to need to *want* to understand how they are different from you. It’s okay to ask honest questions.

Be metacognitive: Metacognition refers to thinking about how you think. It might be out of your conversational norm, but narrating your thought process about how you arrive at conclusions or what things mean to you will help autistic people to better understand how you think and give them an opportunity to describe what they were thinking. This is vital to clearing up miscommunications.

Be honest: Most people probably don’t want you to be so honest, but we really need to hear your truth.

Be direct: This will go against your instincts, but we need you to be direct. Very. We are likely to misinterpret your hints, and that can lead to unnecessary conflict. Also, remember being direct is respectful to us. We are not trying to be aggressive if we’re very direct.

Be trusting: We are not likely to be manipulative or gaslighting. Trust us with good faith that we mean well and are trying to connect with you. Remember, we are the ones taking the biggest risk when we unmask.

Be proactive: Instead of requiring an autistic person to do all the educating on autism, learn from other autistics. Follow diverse content creators so you can learn how being autistic and otherwise marginalized adds complexity to how we have to navigate the world. Follow Deaf, Blind, Trans, Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Nonspeaking autistic creators.

Be relaxed: You may feel insecure about trying to interact with us, but you can relax. We will feel your tension but not understand why that barrier is there unless you tell us with words. Once we are both relaxed, we can build a relationship.

Reading Body Language | What Are Autistics Seeing Compared to Non-Autistics?

We posted a tweet that is included in this slideshow. People asked for examples, and this post is intended to get feedback from autistic and non-autistic people – and #NeuroLurkers, if you’re not sure or still exploring. Please forgive the lack of image descriptions as we try to provide this post in a timely manner. Also, as this is about interpretation of visual cues, I’m having a hard time figuring out how to do image descriptions and keep this post meaningful or how to modify it for Blind readers or readers with visual processing differences.

And yes, autistic frens, these are stock images. Instead of the staged photos, imagine what your perception might be if you witnessed a similar (non-staged) instance.

Autonomous Over Independent | Part 5

ASHA’s position statement against RPM has dropped the values of #autonomy and #interdependence.

Almost 100% of our community’s apraxic nonspeaking advocates have achieved reliable communication through RPM, S2C, or FC. Representation is critical to the health & wellness of any marginalized community.

By making wild conjecture that reads more like the plot driver of a low budget sci-fi film than a credible evidence base, using citations from the work of Twitter trolls and AAC inventors whose technology has proven ineffective to help this population, ASHA ignored conflicts of interest & basic common sense. ASHA literally used one (poorly designed) study as a reference in their position statement that compares autistic apraxic communication to Ouija boards.

Instead of valuing autistic autonomy, the emphasis is now placed on independence— if it’s not done without support, it’s shameful, not valid, too expensive…

ASHA is working against autistic human rights, engaging in hate crimes equivalent to cutting out the tongues of speaking people.

Apraxic nonspeakers need sensory supports and rigorous motor planning therapy, as is provided in RPM, in order to work with bodies that often work against them.

The alternative is often placement in care facilities that keep them mechanically & chemically restrained most of their lives.

Where is the position statement against electroshock torture on this same population at Judge Rotenberg Center? Denying the reality of motor disinhibition and apraxia paves the way for movement disabilities to be punished as intentional behavior.

It is time that your professional organizations stop working against our community to preserve the financial and political interests of an-all white, non-autistic group of belligerent bullies who all passed around an article mocking every autistic presenter at the #ActuallyAutistic conference at Penn State last month.

We call on all allied professionals to stand in solidarity with us in demanding your professional organizations prioritize autistic communication rights.

Autonomous Over Independent | Part 4

One of the most important and least discussed needs of our community is for autistic people with severe apraxia to have access to reliable communication.

Approximately 1/3 of the autistic community is nonspeaking, & very few of those individuals have access to reliable, robust communication.

This is in part the fault of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (#ASHA) & the Speech Pathology SIG (special interest group @spabasig ) of the Association of Behavior Analysis International (#ABAI).
Most nonspeaking autistics are nonspeaking due to #apraxia, which is often referenced as the “brain-body disconnect.”

This means that apraxic nonspeakers are nonspeaking due to deficits in *motor planning,* NOT due to intellectual disability, & traditional forms of AAC rarely empower apraxic nonspeakers to communicate beyond basic needs.

Apraxic reliable communication depends on supporting the development of motor planning skills— NOT behavior or language.

This means a primary customer of speech language services & of ABA therapy— those they attempt to label as “severely autistic”— need more services in the vein of physical and occupational therapy.

#RapidPromptingMethod (#RPM) and #Spelling2Communicate (#S2C) are wildly successful methods that help #nonspeaking autistics with apraxia manage their sensory systems and gain motor planning support to spell by first pointing to letters on a stencil board and gradually moving to a computer keyboard. They need the support of a communication and regulation partner (CRP) to do this.

This slideshow and the next will focus on how ASHA moved from an inclusive perspective that embraced the needs of #Nonspeaking autistic people to a capitalist model of #independence.

This slideshow contains quotes from a position statement on the rights of people with complex communication disabilities. This was written in 2002.

They focused on #autonomy over independence. Then, in 2018, they went through a merger with the behavior industry and issued a statement that would cause RPM and similar methods to be inaccessible to schools and would prevent access to needed supports for people who use these forms of communication.

Autonomous Over Independent | Part 3

Parents and professionals usually have the best interest of autistic children at heart, but that’s often because they can’t see the broader implications or what life is really like for autistic adults.

A major fear is that autistic people will not be able to work or go to college.

And we’re trying to say that the problems autistic people face are often completely unrelated to any deficits or failures on the part of the autistic person.

Many of us face the most antagonism from subtle social dynamics and the prejudices of people in power.

This slideshow has one story from an autistic man who did everything “by the book” to be a great employee, but promotions come with more nuanced social dynamics. #AskingAutistics is this story relatable?

Research on employment retention is clear– working at a place that allows a person to be challenged and use their skills in a meaningful way is the highest predictor of job satisfaction and employee retention.

But autistic people often work far below their potential, expertise, and skill level because of social exclusion.

We are natural specialists. We are wired to deeply invest in an area of passion, but from a young age our passions are treated like a pathology and shamed.

The opportunities available in society are often designed for neurotypical employees. They don’t leave room for the tremendous potential autistic people could invest if given access to work the way they need to work.

Independence is not the problem. Lack of autonomy is. One accommodation most people can access that is often not available to autistic people is good faith, or being believed as honest, capable, and a valued contributor to a work environment. The efforts to intervene on autistic development is structural gaslighting. Autistic existence isn’t the problem. Nothing autistic people can do will situate them to “win” in an environment designed without their input and with policies, procedures, and workplace norms designed in ways that tacitly exclude them.

You can view the full video presentation here.

Autonomous Over Independent | Part 2

The language of invisible disability is becoming increasingly more about the highly American, capitalist value (myth) of Independence (see part 1 slideshow).

When we only address observable behavior, we ignore the internal processes that drive those behaviors.

Autistic behaviors cannot be measured or understood according to the understanding of what those behaviors mean for the neurological majority.

The result is ten thousand microaggressions– the proverbial death of a thousand paper cuts.

Having processing differences or deficits mean that performing in a way that is unnatural to a person’s neurology takes up much more energy than performing naturally.

So supports need to work towards allowing the person to function authentically, and/or reducing the demands so the autistic (or otherwise neurodivergent) person is not putting in much more effort than their peers.

What we do to autistic people is condition them that with enough effort, they can be “normally functioning,” leaving them to feel as if they are a moral failure if they need supports or can’t perform like someone with typical neurology. This is cruel and abusive.

This slideshow features several quotes from googling “autism treatment” and they’re followed b quotes that are edited to be more autonomy-focused.

You can view the full video presentation here. Stay tuned for more slideshows on this topic.

Autonomous Over Independent | Part 1

Mid-late October, NeuroClastic’s Kate Jones and Terra Vance presented on shifting the language of disability discourse from having “independence” as the primary goal to building more “autonomy.”

Independence is a myth and a value judgement. It is a cultural value that feeds into hierarchies. We posit that the value of independence prevents autistic people from knowing themselves (and their families from knowing them) and puts tremendous MORAL pressure on disabled people or people from any marginalized group to assimilate into the dominant culture without the structural supports and privileges that the majority enjoy as the “default” way to exist.

Instead of teaching autistic people about themselves so they can make informed decisions and seek the accommodations they need to thrive, autistic children are therapized to believe they can do anything if they only have the will power.

This sets autistic people up to fail in perpetuity because they will need accommodations and supports.

For example, autistic kids are always discussed as “Will they be able to drive one day?” It’s never, “let’s evaluate for executive functioning, motor coordination, spatial awareness, and visual processing to determine if driving is safe and with what accommodations so they can make an informed decision.” Then, if they have an accident, it’s “Irresponsible” or “not paying attention” or “being reckless.”

What is reckless is never letting autistic kids learn about their neurological differences and what accommodations they may need so they aren’t forever positioned to see themselves as a moral failure for having an invisible disability/multiple disabilities.

Autonomy means having the supports one chooses to lead the best life possible. Freedom is in knowing ourselves deeply and what we need to accommodate for disability so that we don’t place all our value in the mythical Independence paradigm that doesn’t serve anyone except those with the most privilege.

Click here to watch the full presentation and another breakdown of how independence as a value harms nonspeakers’ access to communication choice.

A Response to @lo.devalera's Post About Judgement

Lo has been posting about the importance of using social media to create content that inspires community-building through conversational collaboration. Inspired by that, this post is a response to a post made by Lo about how we all make judgments about everyone and everything every day. Thank you, Lo, for this #FoodForThought.

The Social Model of Disability

ArtsAflame collected information from so many autistic people to create these spectrum critters. Their original illustrations are an example of autistic creativity. 

Learn more from the Spectrum Critters here!

Love to feel that I have goals that use my mind. Love to feel that I have goals that are lofty. Hard to work on goals that are lower. Autistics try to levitate on their dreams. When they question their goals they come crashing down.

Working on the easy goals in our Lifeplans and IEPs try our feelings. Working on those goals that get us to keep our bodies in check please only those who write our goals for us.

The use of very tried and trusted worlds on the autistic’s goals gives the question – give in or lead the world to a newer place.

The autistic question goes as follows…..Give in to autistics’ far going quest to be leaders in our own future or give in to a future lead by ableists giving them a future.

Can I teach myself to have a goal that is less than myself? When to lower your goals is the autistic’s question. Questioning myself is the way I live. Plan to lower my goals to help the ableist love me? Lower my goals so I can have some life? Questioning myself is the way I live. Giving in, to lower my life, to fit in.

The forbidden track is too lofty, going to a place autistics have not learnt to travel. The forbidden to use opportunities of the world track towards morning in the nonspeakers’ world. Morning to plan our own lives. Morning to listen to our own goals. Morning to let us go places we have only gotten to in our depressed desert land of dreams.

You can read the article and Tejas’s bio on our website here.

You can leave Tejas a tip on his Ko-Fi account here.

Autism, Religion and ABA

Many autistic people have experienced religious trauma when their non-autistic peers or siblings with a similar life didn’t. This is not meant to disparage religion but to show how autistic people can be impacted much differently by conditioning.

When autistic people advocate against ABA and call it abuse, a lot of people believe they mean the therapists are being mean to the children, beating them, or yelling at them. While that does sometimes happen, we are generally talking about the conditioning aspect that is subtle and gradual.

Most autistics know what it is like to have society send us daily messages that we’re wrong and less and even sinful. Many autistic people have experienced having people believe they were demon possessed.

People misread our stimming, atypical eye contact, and different communication forms and styles as suspicious or indicating that we’re dangerous or not trustworthy. They think our sensory issues are us just being willfully picky. They think we need harsh discipline for our own good.

People bully us because we are different. They shun and exclude us. We don’t know how to talk about ourselves and self advocate and recognize our feelings because others don’t understand them and tell us they’re not real. When we focus on behaviors, we risk changing them without addressing the underlying needs that drive those behaviors.

There is no perfect formula or replacement for intensive interventions. There’s just radical acceptance. Accept your child and do your best to understand them. Believe they are not trying to be difficult. They have needs for a different kind of life than most people can lead, and it is hard as a parent to provide that life.

This is shared not to shame anyone. It’s shared because many parents wouldn’t naturally catch or see this, and seeing it now can help prepare for a better future with better relationships with your autistic child. It’s shared with the good faith that parents want help to understand the future consequences of their parenting approach.

(Written by Terra Vance)

The words we use influence our own and other people’s perceptions. Non-verbal communication is something we all do — sighs, eye rolls, smiles, stomps, laughs, blinks — but what does it mean when we label a whole person as “non-verbal”?

Let’s challenge ourselves to use the language preferences of the communities we reference.

As always, respect the individual person’s choice, but when referencing a group, go with the preference of the majority.

On Autistic Advocacy and Masking

In order to be seen, heard, and platformed as autistic advocates, we have to mask and make ourselves seem less autistic.

We have to mask to communicate that masking destroys our mental health and contributes to high rates of autistic suicide.

Thank you to the allies who accept our raw communication, even when it’s uncomfortable– even when it implies you need to change your mind or behavior.

NeuroClastic Link Dump

Slide 1: Articles from ABA survivors, psych experts, dog trainers, parents, and ABA employees. All of these articles are written by survivors of ABA, parents, former or current ABA providers, psychology experts, or dog trainers. Links are all in this Linktree.

Please don’t tell us we just don’t understand ABA. Please don’t separate yourself from the harms of ABA. Please don’t summarily dismiss us like we’re just ignorant ideologues. This is about 20% of the articles we have on the topic.

Slide 2: Alex, a teen ABA survivor, made three suicide attempts on the way to ABA therapy, including jumping out a window, jumping out of a car on the highway, and running from the ABA clinic into oncoming traffic. 

On Hurling Myself Into Traffic to Get out of ABA Therapy

Slide 3: Terra Vance, NeuroClastic founder and former RBT, talks about how toilet training by behaviorists is abusive and why autistic children often have toileting and dressing delays.

On Autism, Getting Dressed, and Toileting

Slide 4: A career BCBA talks about how autistic people are right about ABA.

I am a disillusioned BCBA: Autistics are right about ABA

Slide 5: A former RBT talks about how she abused autistic children at work.

I Worked at an ABA Clinic. It was Abuse.

Slide 6: Cheyenne Thornton talks about how many behaviorists push that ABA is necessary for BIPOC autistics because they have to comply with police demands, and why that is not a valid argument for traumatizing children.

ABA for Creating Masking Black Autistics

Slide 7: Before knowing what ABA therapy is, NeuroClastic founder Terra Vance took a job (briefly) as a registered behavior tech. Her experience with the restraint training left her severely traumatized while her coworkers laughed and joked.

Becoming an ABA Registered Behavior Technician Before Knowing I Was Autistic: Part 1 – Restraint Training

Slide 8: Terra Vance talks about her experience with training to be a registered behavior therapist and Relias, the most common training program for RBTs.

Becoming an ABA RBT When I Thought I Was Neurotypical: Part 2 – The Certification Course

Slide 9: CL Lynch discusses how ABA is invisible abuse only autistic people can see (with videos)

Invisible Abuse: ABA and the things only autistic people can see

Slide 10: Part 1 of a series from Not an Autism Mom detailing the strategies used to coerce parents into believing they should enroll their kids in intensive interventions.

Not an Autism Mom’s Thoughts on ABA: Part One

Linktree for easy access.

The Judge Rotenberg Center Versus Communication Rights - #StopTheShock

Slide 1 Context: This slideshow is a short version of this longer article that discusses rapid prompting method (RPM) and spelling to communicate (S2C), two forms of communication access that are helpful for apraxic autistics and people with similar movement disorders.

If not electroshock at the Judge Rotenberg Center, then what? Try access to communication

Slide 2 Context: When nonspeakers previously believed to be intellectually disabled gain access to reliable communication, they are able to communicate their needs and how they can best be supported. It is never about torture.

#StopTheShock

Autistic Life Stages

While this trajectory doesn’t fit every autistic person exactly, most autistic people will find that they relate to much of this.

When autistic kids are young, they often delight adults with their memory, formal vocabulary, or some other skill that is ahead of peers. This skill, known as a “splinter skill,” often causes adults to see the child as having high potential.

Adults translate this high potential as pressure to remediate what skills develop more slowly compared to peers. Young autistic kids are often corrected and criticized and shaped more than their peers. The result is that autistic kids may internalize they are not smart. Others will believe they’re smart but lazy or spoiled.

By middle grades, autistic kids often start to catch up academically. They have learned to respond to pressure from peers to be more “normal” and to

At university, autistic people often seem to be thriving. Having the ability to set their own schedule, take classes that appeal to their intense passions, and more autonomy often means that, on paper, they are successful— unless they hit burnout.

If they don’t burn out in university, they get through feeling the intense trauma of trying to outrun burnout, a feeling akin to outrunning an avalanche while smiling and making eye contact and appearing fine.

Once an autistic person is an adult in the highly competitive job market, they often struggle to meet the highly social demands of their careers and are misunderstood. Their needs for accommodations are seen as dramatic or inconvenient, and they go on suffering under a mountain of invisible anxiety.

The ongoing trauma of trying so hard for so long with so many obstacles prevents autistic adults from being able to cope with the demands of a workplace. Their nervous systems have been overtaxed for decades, and they often have debilitating medical conditions caused by or exacerbated by stress.

Thanks to Dissent By Design for the rad art.

What Is The Difference Between ADHD And Autistic Focus?

This is just for fun. The differences between being autistic and/or ADHD are hard to map out. Many of us are both.

A tardigrade (affectionately known as a water bear) can survive in volcanoes and glaciers. They can survive in space, and theoretically even in a black hole.

This makes for the perfect analogy for autistic + ADHD focus. We won’t be coming up for air, water, sunlight, or food. Nothing can escape the warp of autistic + ADHDer passion.

•••••••••••••••

Tardigrade, rabbit, and rabbit hole donated by Kate Jones Illustration for world #apraxia month. 100% of tips or donations on this post will go to hiring #nonspeakers and apraxic autistics to create content for increasing acceptance and awareness.

Tips or donate to NeuroClastic here.

On Autistic Masking

Growing up #Autistic, maybe especially for those not diagnosed or self-identified until adulthood, is a life of constantly being sent the message that “you’re doing it wrong.”

Doing what wrong? Just about everything. You’re too loud, or too quiet. Your posture is wrong. You express joy with too much enthusiasm. You have an “attitude” or are “talking back” if you try to understand. You’re too “sensitive.”

Gender stereotypes, which most autistic people reject, are used to shame autistic children: man up, drama queen, grow a pair, that’s not lady-like, etc.

#Masking happens as a survival tactic. Autistic people are left with an eternal struggle to find themselves under layers and layers of masks.

These masks, in time, become emotional scar tissue that leaves us with an infinite struggle to find ourselves beneath the injuries sustained daily to our identity as society remediates and normalizes the individuality out of us and conditions us to live in masked silence and compliance, afraid to advocate for ourselves for fear of the social repercussions.

Cheyenne Thornton discusses ABA therapy and tackles the claim that Black and Brown autistic children need compliance training because they are at increased risk of police violence. Read the article here.

Special thanks to autistic illustrator Kate Jones Illustration/Dissent By Design for this amazing artwork and to Matthew Rushin and The Autistic OT for creative input on the messages society sends autistics from early childhood.

On Autistic Unmasking

The first graphic is a silhouette made of the phrases autistic people hear all the time — from therapists, teachers, parents, friends, employers, and partners — that push autistic people into a life of #Masking and living inauthentically.

The second graphic depicts which phrases and words are more conducive to a life lived with authenticity and emotional resilience.

Yes, there will always be people who will reject what is different, who believe children should be seen and not heard, who think that “normal” means superior– and that is why we will always have traumatized people trying to push the status quo into a more accepting and inclusive way of existing.

Accommodating for #autistics, #ADHDers, and all marginalized groups makes the world a safer, healthier, more vibrant place for ALL people. All people would benefit from an existence that is more concerned with what works and what is True over what is “popular” or “normal.”

This is what acceptance looks like.

Collaboration over Competition in the Classroom - Supporting NeuroDiversity Inclusion

Competitive games and strategies are a source of inequity in school culture. Students with the most privilege– either innate, economic, financial, or social– are the ones who keep winning. When someone without privilege would win, like that autistic student who was not accepted by their peers who could read five novels in a day, then they became a target socially. Many children learn to survive socially by hiding their needs for support, cheating, or downplaying their strengths in a competitive environment.

Kids who can afford the coolest supplies or who had the most involved parents– or the parents who didn’t have to work three jobs– win art contests and science fairs. Kids with disability or without the “right” body type are excluded from athletics. Kids with accommodation needs are either inherently excluded or singled out as a target.

Competition as a culture becomes a way to maintain inequity. This is not to say that competition is always harmful, but to say that when it is the way the entire culture functions, children are trained to “know their place” in a hierarchy and to value the end result over the process of learning.

Competitions have rules. Those rules are structured to be accommodating to the majority. Those with advantages they didn’t earn continue to “win.”

Further, when we build hierarchies into our structures, we concrete the inequities already present in society: racism, classism, sexism, ableism, gender bias, and other social marginalization that already exists. It is subconscious maintenance of a social pecking order that in a school environment, most of the faculty have never experienced being at the bottom rung.

Collaboration as a cultural norm can foster a spirit of inclusion that is anti-bigotry and that prevents the shame, inequity, cheating, and even violence that can arise from competition. Western societies use “competitive advantage” like a buzzword that is innovative, but we need to ask ourselves what value competition has in increasing meaningful learning.

Special thanks to Kate Jones Illustration for doing the amazing graphic design work!

Supporting NeuroDivergent Self-Determination

#ActuallyAutistic and otherwise #Neurodivergent children deserve #Inclusion, and that means making adjustments to meet the needs that are accommodated in most children because society is structured to accommodate the neurological majority.

But because neurodivergent children often develop on a different timeline from most children, their access needs are often overridden by intrusive therapies and by an education that does not support their individual needs.

Self-determination is the ability to have reasonable control over one’s life without intrusive, aggressive, controlling, or oppressive forces inserting too much dominance over someone’s developmental trajectory.

Almost all information about healthy development is based on what works for the neurological majority. Even the pop-psychology graphics with feel-good messaging contain subtle traps for neurodivergent children because they are written with the perception that being neurodivergent is unhealthy.

This is where we diverge from #AutismAwareness and move into #AutisticAcceptance. To accept neurodivergent children, we must accept that their needs are different. Neurodivergent children need to have their access to self-determination, autonomy, and dignity reinforced and protected according to their developmental needs and not the needs of the majority.

HUGE shout out to Kate Jones Illustration for the artwork!!

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is not hearing loss, but it is hearing impairment. People with APD may be able to hear extremely well with regards to volume, but their brains have difficulty processing sound.

Many people go for years or decades not realizing they have APD, and they have self-accommodated by reading lips, using captions, and managing their soundscape to avoid background noise. They may socially isolate or pass on activities that take place in noisy environments because the background sound makes staying present in conversations nearly impossible.

Auditory processing disorder is common in people with NeuroDivergence, like Autistic people, ADHDers, and dyslexics. It’s also common in acquired neurodivergence, like traumatic brain injury.

People with APD are working extremely hard to keep up in classrooms and social settings and can be overwhelmed or distressed by the difficulty of keeping up with noise. They are often mistaken as learning disabled and underestimated in the classroom because their needs aren’t met. Humming fluorescent lights, air conditioners, lawn mowers in the distance, and similar sounds that most people filter can make it impossible for people with APD to stay in the conversation. Like all sensory processing, APD affects people more when they are overwhelmed, overstimulated, and tired. This slideshow is an introduction to APD that is intended to introduce APD for people who are unfamiliar with it.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is a phenomenon that can be associated with #neurodivergence, especially #ADHD, but also can be associated with several mental health diagnoses, trauma, or a history of being invalidated.

RSD builds over time, making the experience one of accumulated rejections. It’s not a disorder or diagnosis, but a phenomenon that happens to people with a neurological predisposition or a long (complex) history of painful rejections.

RSD can be experienced when someone has been rejected or even when they fear that a rejection is likely— like after making a request or sending an email.

#RSD is more than just experiencing sadness over a rejection, but can be a visceral, full-body trauma response that can lead to meltdowns, panic attacks, chest tightness, increased heart rate, impulsive decisions, and difficulty breathing.

When people experience #RejectionSensitivity, it can seem to be over minor negative feedback, like that a delicious appetizer needed a pinch more salt, or a wildy-positive performance review that had one minor “area of improvement,” like recommending filing reports alphabetically instead of chronologically.

People who experience #RSD may withdraw or isolate themselves out of fear of rejection or may cut ties after a minor rejection.

Some people prefer the phrase Rejection Sensitivity. Be sure to read the article for more information.

These graphics were created by autistic graphic designer and illustrator Kate Jones Illustration or Dissent by Design

Take 5 Approach For Safe Communication

Introducing the Take 5 approach to accommodating and empowering neurodivergent clients in a therapeutic setting.

If you’re a therapist, physician, guidance counselor, social worker, support service worker, or you serve #autistic or otherwise #neurodivergent clients, the Take 5 approach can help your clients who may be unreliably speaking or have difficulty with expressing themselves with verbal or written communication.

People who have experienced trauma, even if they are not autistic, may also find the Take 5 system helpful.

If you’re autistic, you can print this and share it with your providers. You can find this as a printable PDF document at the button below.

Parents, friends, teachers, and loved ones can adapt the Take 5 approach for classrooms, home settings, or when out enjoying the world.

You may share, print, adapt, or reproduce this resource and use it however you find helpful as long as it remains free for use. Please leave the site links intact so that others can access this and other free resources on our site.

Here's Why Most Autistic People Hate The Puzzle Piece Symbol

People often are surprised to find out why the majority of the Autistic community absolutely hate the puzzle piece and many even feel it is a hate symbol.

While the puzzle may be significant and have special meaning for some individuals, using it as an organization or “brand recognition” for autism causes harm to our community, especially adult Autistics who fail to see themselves in the kindergarten imagery.

No one should be shamed for having a personal connection to the puzzle piece, but when you’re claiming to want to spread awareness and acceptance for the Autistic comUNITY, then best practice is to follow the community’s wishes and listen to what they need from allies.

You do not want your children to experience what we experience as adults. We’re trying to help you (and them) avoid the pain and the needless suffering we experience.

Why the Autistic Community Needs You to Use Identity-First Language

Words matter and language has meaning with real life consequences. Being autistic is how we exist. We are not a whole person plus autism (or minus autism).

Autistic is our neurotype. It is how we exist, as a neurological minority. Person-first language is respectful when a condition does not define someone’s core self, like asthma or diabetes. But when a term is an inseparable part of someone’s identity, then it should be embraced as an adjective describing that person instead of an afterthought.

We say “Jewish person” instead of “Person with Judaism,” Black person instead of “person with Blackness,” and “gay person” instead of “person with gayness.” These identities are not negative or shameful, and being a minority is not an inherently negative trait. Autistic people, like other minority identities, need to be accepted as existing in harmony with our identity and not separating ourselves from it.

Of course, use the preferences of individuals if they differ from the majority, but most of us (93%) prefer that you use “autistic” instead of “with autism.” Using respectful language is more than just semantics. We need you to have these #UncomfortableConversations with people to help us change the status quo and claim the narrative about our way of existing.

On Why Autistic People Don't Like It When Parents Call Themselves Autism Parents​

By request: why autistic people do not like the phrase “autism parents.”

Note: these are not the positions of every autistic, but they do represent the majority of the community, especially of advocates who the bar of progress.

We don’t hate you for using that language, and you are free to identify however you want, but there’s a good reason to consider changing your words.

One day, your child will be an adult, and it’s likely they will not appreciate that you called yourself an autism parent. It seems as if you parent a condition, not a human. It seems as if you built an identity around the ways your child is different from other kids and how that makes your life different as a parent.

Your life will be different. All lives are. You may have extra support needs as a parent because your child has high support needs. But can you imagine if your child made an identity out of your vulnerabilities? “I’m a divorce son.” “I’m a high functioning alcoholism daughter.” “I love someone with irritable bowel syndrome.”

At one point in recent history, the stigma around autism was so extreme, parents who were proud “autism parents” were progressive and courageous, boldly rejecting the shame associated with autism. Thankfully, progress has been made.

We are at a new stage of acceptance, and we NEED YOU. We can’t get very far without parent allies. We want to push progress to the next level.

You could try these:

  1. Parent of an Autistic child (if your child consents and wants that to be public)
  2. This family embraces Neurodiversity
  3. Neurodiverse family
  4. Autistic acceptance
  5. Autistic rights are human rights
  6. Empower Autistic self-advocacy
  7. Listen to Autistic people
  8. Support Autistic-led Organizations
  9. Aspiring Autistic Ally
  10. Black Autistic lives matter

 

All of the above messages imply that Autistic is a neurotype, not a disease or burden. They all center Autistic autonomy and self-determination.

You want to work with Autistic advocates to build a world where your children are accepted & not seen as charity, a burden, or adult children. This can help us get there faster.

The World of Actually Autistic Culture​

Autism and Addiction​

#Addiction is a serious issue that can be deadly for #Autistic people. Emergent Divergence confronts the issue and asks why no one is talking about it.

The Autistic Community and the Autism Community. What's the Difference?

A slideshow presentation explaining the difference between the “autistic community” and the “autism community,” and why language and messaging matter to affirm the rights, dignity, autonomy, and self-determination of autistic people. Autistic advocates have to fight to be heard. They are often silenced, ignored, and erased, then stereotyped as aggressive or rude when they ask to be heard. Using respectful language and centering autistic voices helps ALL people in society and makes for a safer, healthier, and more human perspective of autistic individuals. While we have preferences as a community about language used to talk about autistic people, we want to emphasize that every individual has the right to choose how they are referenced. No autistic person should be shamed for their choices, but autistic advocates ask that those who want to learn and be allies use the language preferences of the majority for the reasons specified. We know that you were taught that person-first language was more respectful, but we are asking you– like the deaf community– to use identity first language. Thank you to everyone out there who is listening and learning. We cannot make progress without you.

Valentines: Autistic Edition!

What Does It Mean to Be Autistic?

Taking from C.L. Lynch’s article about what “the spectrum” means and adding a simple analogy from the neuroscience, we look at what it means to be #ActuallyAutistic.

10 Facts About Bullying

Let’s talk about bullying.

Bullying in the moment is difficult to address. Bullies in one situation are often bullied in another. Sometimes people aren’t aware of their own role in participating in bullying.

Whenever someone attempts to stop bullying by punishing the bully, this gesture usually backfires. It often leads to more bullying, sometimes from the authority figure trying to intervene, and sometimes in the form of retaliation.

The most effective way to stop bullying and the safest way for everyone is to change the culture. Big picture, Greater Good visionary change.

In a culture of competition, bullying will always happen and will always be rewarded.

In a culture of cooperation, wherein members of a social ecosystem look out for each other and value the success of each person, then bullying rarely happens.

The reason that bullying campaigns fail is because bullying is only addressed after it’s happened. Bullying is too complicated and has too many layers of social consequence to address with any simple solution.

Instead, we need to create a safer society with the shared values of tolerance, acceptance, support, and interdependence.

These gestures are small ways to make a collective large change. This is a challenge with no hashtags. Just examine your interactions and reflect, consider if your actions have caused undue harm to someone/people who didn’t have due process to defend themselves.

We want people to grow, and that will never happen if we block their Light.

Be the light and not the shade.

NeuroInclusive Stories

My Brain Is Autistic

This NeuroInclusive story is for kids and adults and helps to understand how autistic brains are different.

What autistic kids and people around them never get the luxury to learn is exactly how they are different and what this means.

This is obviously an oversimplified analogy of brains, but it is accurate to the #neuroscience. #Autistic brains (usually/often) have less connectivity between left and right hemispheres, then either more or less connectivity to various sensory systems. Also, those systems themselves may be more or less developed. 87% of autistic people have a degree of #apraxia or #dyspraxia, which means that there’s atypical connectivity in the areas of the brain responsible for movement and coordination. This is why many nonspeakers cannot speak or speak reliably.

Basically, most people’s brains are like a bunch of evenly distributed two-lane roads, but autistic people have 14-lane superhighways, labyrinths like the stuff of Greek mythology, toll booths, mountainous hiking trails, and rickety foot bridges.

We may have to run an internal obstacle course every time we do a “brain errand,” or those tasks that become automated routines for most people.

We are in our heads with the urgency of Indiana Jones trying to navigate and keep up with your world and what is easy for everyone else. We spend so much time breaking our necks trying to do what everyone else is doing, the way they’re doing it, that we never get to learn what we can do if we open up that superhighway and do what we’re wired to do best– which varies depending on the person’s brain map.

NeuroInclusive is a word coined by NeuroClastic that is used to describe spaces, activities, and programs that are intentionally, actively designed to foster inclusion for people who are from different neurotypes— like Autistics, ADHDers, PDAers, dyslexics, etc.

Note: Thank you to everyone who credits NeuroClastic when using the term “NeuroInclusive” in your work and posts.

Find image descriptions here.

Written by Terra Vance with art contributions from Kate Jones.

Our viral NeuroInclusive story, My Brain is Autistic, has been translated to Spanish by Autismo: Mi cerebro atípico. Please share this anywhere it may be helpful for Spanish-speaking, -learning, or bi/multilingual families. 

The Blue Grumpkin - A NeuroInclusive Story for Parents

If people are telling you to get the blue pumpkin bucket for your autistic child, please consider not doing that.
 
Autistic kids and adults deserve the right to decide if and how to share their neurotype with others.
 
Many autistic people are happy with being autistic, but NOT with the picture of autism others have in their minds that erases and reduces their identity down to a list of symptoms.
 
Consider passing on the blue pumpkins and any “blue autism” fads. #Autism as a brand or trend is never going to be a respectful or helpful to #ActuallyAutistic people.
 
Let autistic kids captain their own identities.
 
Julius the Grumpkin illustrated by Kate Jones Illustration on Facebook and Dissent By Design on Instagram.

A Tale of Two Autistic Little Girls - A NeuroInclusive Story for Parents

People always ask the wrong questions about their autistic children. That’s not their fault. They don’t know which questions to ask.

This is the story of two autistic little girls who both had wonderful parents.

People always ask, “If not ABA therapy, then what?”

That’s an impossible question to answer because the answer is different for every child. It’s hard to explain when parents are convinced that early diagnosis is critical because early interventions are critical.

Yes, they are. For the parents.

Parents need an intervention when their children are diagnosed, and not because they are bad parents. They’re usually wonderful parents.

They need an intervention because they are misinformed and their instincts may fail them. They may become so wrapped up in remediating what their children can’t do that they accidentally teach their kids that they’re broken.

This story of two autistic little girls is based on two real autistic children who had wonderful parents.

What do you think is Callie’s future?

What do you think is Keisha’s future?

What parent showed awareness?

What parent showed acceptance?

What does this illustrate for you?

For several years, we have been developing a theory of two communication types: Weavers and Concluders. When we had access to the book, Lulu is a Rhinoceros, it provided the perfect context to introduce these two styles of communication.

Most people are Concluders, which means they communicate to make a point; however, some people are Weavers.

Lulu is a Weaver, or someone who communicates by throwing out facts and hoping their conversational partner will reciprocate with their own lived experience. Because most people aren’t Weavers, though, they don’t understand Lulu’s conversational style or how she creates meaning in communication.

Weavers are pattern communicators, and communication between Weavers is the building of a pattern together. They avoid direct questions outside of asking for clarity or for factual information as this could be seen as trying to coerce the other person’s pattern.

When Lulu tries to engage in Weaver communication, she experiences a series of rejections. Finally, she runs into another weaver and their communication reveals beautiful patterns in their experience that can serve as the foundation for a beautiful emerging friendship.

Lulu is a Rhinoceros is a book by celebrity activist Jason Flom and his daughter, Allison Flom. Special thanks to the authors for allowing us to use their story to spread acceptance and to Kate Jones Illustration
for the illustration assists. A more complete version of this article that explains Weaver and Concluder conversation in more depth is here.

Lulu is a Rhinoceros is currently on Amazon at a steep discount.

Are you a Weaver or a Concluder?

I Am Autistic!

This NeuroInclusive Story is based off two of three children’s books we are featuring in the month of April, Lulu is a Rhinoceros by Jason Flom and Allison Flom, and My Brother Otto by Meg Raby.

Lulu is a picture book about a Rhinoceros that looks like a bulldog. She is remarkable for her individuality, self-determination, and emotional resilience. Despite being rejected multiple times and a series of failed experiments to find the perfect rhino horn, Lulu never stops being true to herself.

An homage to celebrity activist Jason Flom’s service dog, Lulu is a perfect companion to introduce kids to living an authentic life, to staying true to themselves, and to finding a path to interdependent and meaningful friendships. This would be a great entry to have conversations about gender identity, neurodivergence, or any other invisible marginalized identity.

Otto is a picture book about a #ActuallyAutistic crow who is #nonspeaking and uses an AAC device. His family accept him and accommodate his differences without any coercion or attempts to force him to be more normal.

Like Lulu, Otto knows himself and is determined to live authentically. He is a sensory seeker who loves to line up his toys, smoosh himself into tight spaces, spin around, and surround himself with his favorite color, yellow. He loves his yellow pipe cleaners!

This NeuroInclusive Story is written to help you start conversations about #AutisticAcceptance. Link to both books, which are currently on deep discount, is in our page bio. There are also autistic-written reviews in the link. Alt text added to images.

Stay tuned for lesson plans and activities from both books all week! Special thanks to Dissent by Design for all the graphic design and illustration assists, Trevor Byrd for creative input, The Autistic OT for professional consultation, and to the authors for allowing us to use these books to spread acceptance.

Stimming Is Fun

Otto Crow is a #nonspeaking autistic crow who uses his AAC device to communicate. He loves to #stim!

Stimming is short for self-stimulatory behavior. Everyone #stims, but some people do it more often than others. For people with very excited nervous systems, like many people with disabilities and people who have experienced trauma, they may stim more frequently or in more obvious ways. Stims can be body movements or thought patterns that we repeat to help us keep ourselves regulated.

All month, we are going to bring you materials from Autistic content creators with the goal of creating more #AutisticAcceptance, awareness, appreciation, and inclusion for autistic children and adults.

We will have lesson plans, resources, and activities that can be used at home, school, or in therapeutic settings, beautiful infographics, NeuroInclusive stories, printables, and great articles that will, as always, be completely ad-free, login-free, and free of cost.

There are three children’s books that our collective is focusing on in the month of April to help us spread messages of autistic acceptance: My Brother Otto by Meg Raby, Lulu Is a Rhinoceros by Jason Flom and Allison Flom, and Melt Like Ice Cream by The Autistic OT Sarah Selvaggi Hernandez and Tessa Newell.

We asked the publisher if they would consider discounting My Brother Otto for April, and they’re offering it for half off for the whole month. You can find it at that price here.

This NeuroInclusive story is for all people to help introduce stimming as the fun and healthy self-regulatory strategy that it is. We want to normalize #Stimming All month, we’ll be providing more in-depth information on stimming and other topics important to #AutisticAcceptance.

Special thanks to Trevor Byrd, #nonspeaking teen writer, for creative input, illustrator Dissent by Design and Kate Jones Illustration for all the design and illustration assists, and Meg Raby for letting us use Otto to tell this story.

Arguing or Joint Troubleshooting? A NeuroInclusive Story For Adults

Are you a JOINT TROUBLESHOOTER?

A couple weeks ago, we ran a social experiment with a scenario about a fictional couple named “Betsy” and “Andrew.” We asked readers to respond. As a reminder, here is the transcript of that argument:

Betsy & Andrew

Betsy plans to cook soon as has been paying bills when Andrew walks into the kitchen. She asks Andrew to start the dishwasher.
Then this happens.

Andrew: It’s not full yet. I’ll run it after dinner.
Betsy: I need the plates for dinner. Just run it.
Andrew: I’ll wash the plates in the sink.
Betsy: I also need the spatula and the serving spoons.
Andrew: I’ll wash those, too.
Betsy: Why do you have to argue every little thing? I could have done it myself by the time it took to beg you to do one simple thing to contribute around here. I don’t want to create a list of what dishes I’ll need.
Andrew: Do you know how many gallons of water a dishwasher uses per load?
Betsy: There you go again! Do you know how exhausting you are? You argue about everything under the sun.
Andrew: I’m not arguing!
Betsy: You are arguing about not arguing! What is wrong with you? You can’t even admit what you’re doing right now. You only think about yourself.

The responses were extremely interesting– far beyond what we expected. Some people believed that Betsy was autistic and was overwhelmed. Some believed Andrew was autistic and was communicating literally. The person who was believed to be autistic was the one who was generally given grace for their communication style.

One thing that was evident and agreed upon across the board was Betsy and Andrew had poor communication and needed help supporting each other.

When the scenario was written, it was based off of a real incident between an autistic man and a non-autistic roommate, and Andrew was the fictional version of the man and Betsy was the fictional version of the woman. The scenario was taken from a woman complaining about how her roommate always wants to argue and was looking for advice.

There is a communication difference we are going to call “Joint Troubleshooting.” While there are neurological reasons for why many (but not all) neurodivergent people communicate this way, for now, we will just focus on the reality that this is a common way that NeuroDivergent individuals (including some non-autistic ADHDers and other forms of neurodivergence) and neurotypical communicators often clash.

Connection Through Play - A NeuroInclusive Story For Parents

Social Stories are often used (misused) to make disabled kids feel like they are at fault for their own social exclusion. This wasn’t the intention of Carol Gray, who came up with the concept. Now people call generic stories that shame autistic kids “social stories,” and it’s time to shift the focus towards changing the culture, not the children.

NeuroInclusive Stories encourage all kids to embrace diversity.

Check out this amazing young #ActuallyAutistic reader who is reading our #NeuroInclusive story to help spread acceptance for #AutisticAcceptanceMonth here! Excellent work from a young advocate in Ireland!

We’ve been taught that there are ways to communicate, demonstrate empathy, and show relatedness, and that to do so differently is to do it “wrong.” Autistic communication is often discussed as if it is lacking in empathy, a moral failing that results in failure to connect. But communicating differently should be embraced. There is more than one way to relate to each other, and those who relate differently shouldn’t be sent the message that they need to change in order to deserve friendship and mutual respect….

Social stories are often used with Autistic kids to force them into behaving and even thinking and feeling like they are non-autistic. These social stories cause children to feel ashamed of the way that they naturally are and like adults will only be proud of them if they change for others.

It’s another way to exclude Autistic children and cause them to internalize messages of shame and inferiority.

So, here’s a social story for ALL kids, written by an #ActuallyAutistic former counselor and English teacher— because being in the majority does not make someone “right.” All kids need to learn to embrace differences and see the value of inclusion.

Others

What is NeuroClastic?

NeuroClastic is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with autistic leadership. We embrace and value diversity of thought, of neurology, and of identity.

The mainstream autism industry has failed parents, educators, and providers, and has caused trauma to millions of autistic children.

We are here to break that cycle. We don’t want or need legislation, therapies, training programs, products, or services created for us without our input. Autism is not an industry and Autistic people are not products or charity cases. Disempowering Autistic children with tragedy narratives built to sell products and inspire pity has set the stage for generations of Autistic adults who are undiagnosed, living behind a mask, under-accommodated, underestimated, and disenfranchised from society.

Autistic people have the highest suicide rates of any demographic. We know how to reverse this trend.

We are here to help. We are here to support parents and providers with tools to understand Autistic minds and learn how to connect and maximize the joy and self-determination of every human, Autistic or not.

We aren’t your mother’s autism charity. We are charitable, and our volunteers provide you with ad-free resources to improve your self-knowledge (for autistics) and your approach to connecting and understanding the Autistic neurotype (for all people).

We know you want to help. We will show you how. Please consider putting lift under the wings of our movement so we can break things and build something beautiful that is ours.

Person-First vs Identity First Language & Mild, Moderate and Severe Autism - A Visual Guide

This is here to illustrate in a comedic way that functioning labels are based on how obvious our autistic traits are to others. These four memes are one person. With “autistic person,” it is simply a person who is existing while autistic. The function labels are based on how obvious being autistic is to a non-autistic person.

Essentially, function labels are projected on autistic people based on superficial understanding. The person is the same, but what others see becomes more obvious.

We used the puzzle because that’s what others put on us, and it’s like the “brand” of autism and how much others want to make an exhibition out of us or reduce our humanity to how “mild” or “severe” autism is.

Bekki Semanova is #ActuallyAutistic and has pronounced #SelectiveMutism. Her friend, Ellie Rebarbar, makes sure as an ally that Bekki is included and helps fight stigma and misinformation. Click the title to read the article.

My Brother Otto

My Brother Otto is a story of a crow family with a sibling pair of Piper and her little brother, Otto, an autistic nonspeaker. Otto loves the color yellow, deep interroceptive pressure, sensory seeking by spinning, covering his ears, and swinging. His family is happy to accommodate and accept his differences like his love of bear hugs and his sensory sensitivities with clothes.

New Shirts #RedInstead

New shirt design ahead of April. Shout-out to Iqra for the art! Shirt is red with an infinity symbol made from words that read “Red Instead” in Black, white, and grey text. 

The reason that many people in the autistic community use #RedInstead as a counter to the “light it up blue” campaign used by Autism Speaks. 

Many autistic adults consider Autism Speaks to be harmful and working against our community, giving unhelpful information to parents and providers. 

We ask that people donate to autistic-led organizations— like NeuroClastic and Divergent Minds — during April, share autistic content, hire autistic people, and buy from autistic businesses in April.

Link to buy here.

Graphics

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