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.
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. ⛔️🏷
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Slide 4: A career BCBA talks about how autistic people are right about ABA.
Slide 5: A former RBT talks about how she abused autistic children at work.
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.
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.
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.
Slide 9: CL Lynch discusses how ABA is invisible abuse only autistic people can see (with videos)
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.
Linktree for easy access.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
#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) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.