In which I, a grown adult, was foiled by a bag of popcorn.
A typical example of the kind of rigid thinking that manifests in autism. So here I am staring at an unpopped bag of Orville Redenbacher popcorn. The instructions: remove outer covering, (at one side of the rectangular bag) this side down.
But there’s a catch. It’s a new “popcorn technology”, a pop up bag, as in instead of pulling the bag open once popped and pouring the contents into a separate containment system, it is its own bowl.
Now, my aspie brain is confused as the bag seems to be made of a double layer of paper and microwaveable plastic. So which layer do I remove? I discover not long after that the plastic is for propping purposes.
“This side down”. My mind instantly goes through a series of every bowl I have ever seen and starts to try to manipulate the package in a 3D space to figure out how this thing goes into the microwave and then becomes a bowl. Every iteration goes through my mind and yet I cannot figure it out. My husband appears and sees me trying to stand the cursed bag up on one of the red plasticked sides.
“Its like every other bag of popcorn. The instructions are the same. ”
And yet, dear fellow, the context and physical shape were different. My aspie brain was not able to generalise between varying shapes of popcorn bag tech.
I am a grown, matured adult with a gifted IQ, and savant like skills in verbal patterning and yet I cannot figure out how to generalise across popcorn contexts and pop a bag of corn for a snack.
I very much felt like Carson in that moment. We’d been watching Downton Abbey.
I have no “common sense”. I have a mensa level IQ, I generally understand social rights topics, and scientific theories quite well, but I cant look after a dehydrated child.
I had an ill child. Full on puke fest. She hadn’t been drinking water and yesterday was hellaciously evil, bright and hot and sunny. I had to find an “adult” to get them to FIX THE CHILD because I had no idea what was wrong with her or what to do.
I am almost middle aged.
But that’s life with Autism for you. Also part of the reason I am scared to have a child in my care. My animals will straight up tell me what they want, when, how and where. Most kids don’t have that kind of insight. Neither do I.
An article in the Telegram called it the Kiriana Conundrum, based on an Autistic woman named Kiriana, who had a pHD in Neuroscience, but lacked “common sense” or insight into other people.
Another strange thing was lately I keep getting paresthetic tingling that turns to numbness when I start getting overloaded. Instead of just breaking down crying or whatever, I lose sensation. Trying to teach small children to swing an axe and chop kindling when you cant feel either of your hands is a surreal experience.
In other news, other than spinning my favourite special interest-Barlow era Iced Earth, I’ve been jamming out to Leprous’ new album The Congregation.
Im not dead, Ive just been working on other writing projects and indulging in some special interests and its taken some time away from this blog(in reality my affinities tend to be cyclical and that means right now Neurodiversity and Medievalism are not in the cycle- Metal is). I promise you though, many things are upcoming. I also need to get back on my IDGAF stuff but as such I haven’t had the brain power for it.
Anyway, I thought I’d share with you some of my current jams(Im keeping a data mining through last.fm. I know, why did it take me so long to start one up? Who knows?) . I have been catching up on this year’s new albums from my old favourites, namely Blind Guardian, Enslaved, Primordial, and Bloodbath. I’m gonna share some of my current favourites from some of those albums.
I am really glad to see both of these old favourites of mine back in fine form.
Metal has always been my main special interest and it takes up a large amount of my thinking time. There are times when I feel sort of alienated from people due to the sheer force of love I have for the topic and the automatic physiological response I get that can drag me through the mud for hours and days at a time. Two nights ago I was awake until the sun rose thinking about Iced Earth’s Barlow era. It resonates exactly at my frequency. I am particularly drawn to shades of blue and that era of Iced Earth is an extreme shock of galloping blues.
So there’s a quick little post for you guys just so you know I haven’t woken up dead somewhere. I might also start posting a serial of a comic Im writing(the textual scene descriptions anyway) though I am awful at dialogue. More posts to come, but expect the bent to be slightly different than the usual trajectory of this blog.
This is a post I have been meaning to blog about for some time but no matter how I try, I can’t seem to find the words. Any googling to look for inspiration or Autistic experiences comes up with things aimed solely at Neurotypical parents. Not very helpful to say the least. Something that happened to me earlier today triggered the urge to finally, finally write it out though. We’ll see how well I do.
There is this thing that happens. Every Autistic knows about it. This thing where there is a communication barrier and the individual on the other side assumes what it is you mean, and, well, they’re wrong. They cannot understand the Autistic and thus assign an intention where there is none, or where a different intent is meant. It most often happens with echolalia, but can also happen with impulse control errors or catatonic motor reactions. The Autistic individual is struggling to control what their body does, but there is a processing error and therefore the body does its own thing… and their communication partner makes an assumption that causes a communication breakdown and possibly may lead to hurt feelings or even a meltdown.
I often say things that sound contextually appropriate, and are related in some way to the topic at hand, but happen to be factually incorrect delayed echolales of sentences other people have said. People presume I am unintelligent, or may become incensed that I said something offensive. “I didn’t mean to. I don’t actually believe that.” doesn’t exactly hit NT ears the right way. They ascribe intent. This isn’t a flaw, this is how people react, and they aren’t used to this phenomenon. People ascribe intent to everything. Last night, someone called my Lorna Wing quiz, “pandering”. An intent was ascribed to something I had merely done to pass the time and do some special interest engagement with where there was none. They had also become angry at this supposed pandering. To whom did they think I was pandering to? Why become angry at an intent you assumed was there without finding out whether that intent did indeed exist? I admit, my quiz was not great, nor was it meant to be. I’ve heard the same thing all my life. I have a communication disfluency. The amount of times I was held back during recess to rewrite paper after paper because of assumed intent would have put me in the top 1% by now if I got paid a penny for each incident.
This happens in other ways too. Impulse control. Every Autistic has been in a moment where their body did not obey their commands, lashing or thrashing out, and performing some action that may have hurt another person. Communication breakdown. Two weeks ago, I had some errands to do at the mall and upon entering, a man beside me suddenly kicked a constructed wall, creating a thunderous echo in my brain. Instantly I went full misophonia mode and while trying to regain control, he appeared in front of me and apologised. He had schizophrenia he said. He had impulse control problems. Immediately I softened and told him he did not need to apologise. I have Asperger’s. I know what it’s like to have your body not obey your orders. In that moment, we created a space of solidarity with one another. People out there understand what it’s like.
I have been calling this phenomena “Autistic Passivity” because, as far as I can tell, only Autistics are talking about this in any depth and it has no convenient search function at this juncture. All of us take in what we are exposed to. Some Autistics have an urge to mimic the movements of others, or to directly repeat what they hear. Others have delayed full sentence reactions, motor impulse control problems, or a communication disfluency that prevents us from being understood. I call it Passivity because we are sometimes forced to become passive observers to our own bodies and those around us seem content to ascribe whatever presumed intention they think we must have meant onto us, and to react emotionally to that. They react emotionally to assumptions. It is something all humans do, some to a lesser extent, some moreso(NTs tend toward doing it more often).
So what is even going on? Well, since no NTs are talking about it(because they are busy ascribing intent), I am not even sure. Recent studies have shown that Autistic brains are more reactive and less consistent in their impulses than non-autistic brains are. Scientists are finally starting to look at what Autistics have been saying forever about our executive functioning deficits. On top of that Autism is comorbid with many other neurodevelopmental disorders in which inhibition issues, language disfluencies, movement disorders, and executive dysfunction are all present. ADHD, OCD, Tourettes, and Dyscalculia are a small slice of this big mess of a shepherd’s pie. In my case, my sticky brain repeats the thing until I do it. I have tried to interrupt my own thoughts and urges but there is always an undercurrent that keeps repeating..do the thing DO THE THING DO THE THINGI DID THE THING. Once it’s out into the aether, you no longer have any semblance of control over what happens with it. Cue assigned intention.
These actions aren’t done for absolutely NO reason, however. In the case of echolalia… there is more often than not, an attempt at back and forth communication. How it comes out is where the problem arises. There is a certain level of suggestibility to Autistic passivity. The mind needs to be open to absorbing that information to script and print out at a later date. I often get into these issues when I am struggling with poor social imagination or open ended questions. My brain freezes up. All that is left at my disposal is the filing cabinet of previous experiences. At worst, I may shut down entirely. At best, I may end up saying something entirely nonsensical but that appears contextually sound.
**There are very simple ways to get around it, however. Understand, and I mean really take the time to think about and do your research(autistic people are your friends), that it is not in anyone’s best interest to make assumptions about how your Autistic friend is feeling or thinking based on how they appear to be reacting. Ask them before you react emotionally.
**Do not ask open ended questions. Instead of asking, “do you wanna go out for dinner?” and becoming upset when they can’t choose a location to eat out at the drop of a hat, ask them if they would like to go out for sushi, or pizza. When they respond, ask them if they meant what they said. Do they have echolales about pizza?
**If they do or say something factually incorrect, ask them to repeat it. This will buy your friend time to think about their script and formulate a more correct answer. Don’t assume they lack intelligence because of a script they heard someone else say.
(This is called prompting. It is often used for treating catatonia, rather effectively, I might add)
If someone asks me an open ended question(“how does this make you feel? How does this affect your daily life?”) I need a long time to formulate an answer, otherwise I begin to fall back on scripts. I am also hyperlexic, like many on the spectrum are. This means a person can appear to understand something, but are actually very good at picking out and mimicking linguistic patterns. Some may then script or echolale those patterns. We need time to use those sounds to process their meaning. Be patient.
So, Autistic Passivity is a phenomenon then, that results in a communication breakdown when an individual with Autism is having trouble expressing their beliefs or needs. It results from a suggestible and perseverative thinking style that is highly dependent on things that have happened previously in their life. It results in echolalia, catatonia, and poor inhibition. Assigning intent to these actions without directly confirming with the person doing them first is the source of a lot of pain, stress and hurt between communicative parties.
This time I’ve written my own quick quiz. Ten questions based on Lorna Wing’s Autism Personality Profiles, from her original paper that brought Asperger’s Syndrome to American consciousness. Lorna Wing’s Types are as such:
Aloof Most frequent subtype among the lower functioning. Most high-functioning in this group are a mixture of aloof and passive. Limited language use. Copes with life using autistic routines. Most are recognised in childhood. Independence is difficult to achieve. There may be loneliness and sadness beneath the aloofness. Rain Man is an excellent example of this subgroup.
Passive Often amiable, gentle, and easily led. Those passive rather than aloof from infancy may fit AS. More likely than the aloof to have had a mainstream education, and their psych skill profiles are less uneven. Social approaches passively accepted (little response or show of feelings). Characteristic autistic egocentricity less obvious in this group than in others. Activities are limited and repetitive, but less so than other autistics. Can react with unexpected anger or distress. Recognition of their autism depends more on observing the absence of the social and creative aspects of normal development than the presence of positive abnormalities. The general amenability is an advantage in work, and they are reliable, but sometimes their passivity and naivete can cause great problems. If undiagnosed, parents and teachers may be disappointed they cannot keep a job at the level predicted from their schoolwork.
Active-but-odd Can fall in any of the other groups in early childhood. Some show early developmental course of Kanner’s, some show AS. Some have the characteristic picture of higher visuospatial abilities, others have better verbal scores (mainly due to wide vocabulary and memory for facts). May be specific learning disorders (e.g., numerical). School placement often difficult. They show social naivete, odd, persistent approaches to others, and are uncooperative in uninteresting tasks. Diagnosis often missed. Tend to look at people too long and hard. Circumscribed interests in subjects are common.
Stilted Few, if any clues to the underlying subtle handicap upon first meeting. The features of AS are particularly frequent. Early histories vary. Normal range of ability with some peaks of performance. Polite and conventional. Manage well at work. Sometimes pompous and long-winded style of speech. Problems arise in family relationships, where spontaneity and empathy are required. Poor judgement as to the relative importance of different demands on their time. Characteristically pursue interests to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. May have temper tantrums or aggression if routine broken at home, but are polite at work. Diagnosis very often missed. Most attend mainstream schools. Independence achieved in most cases. This group shades into the eccentric end of normality.
For this test, I have written out my own descriptions of these personality profiles after having observed many Autistics “in the field” so to speak:
Active But Odd is a common personality type among Autistics. In Early development, many active but odd types may fit into Kanner’s profile and many into Asperger’s. Many make persistent but peculiar attempts at reaching people. May be verbally repetitive. This type is great at rote memory and repetition of large swathes of facts.
Aloof is more common in nonverbal Autistics. May appear to be disengaged but really have a very sensory way of processing the world around them. Aloof types may take longer to process input than other types of personalities. Independence may be difficult to achieve. Typical “spikey cognitive profile”. Aloof types are deeply sensory and incredibly in tune with their environments.
Passive: Gentle, suggestible and easily led, the Passive type shares some similarities with the Aloof type, such as seeming disengaged when attempting to process input and a spikey cognitive profile, though they struggle less than the Aloof type with both issues. They are perseverative thinkers and their passivity may manifest through delayed echolalia. This type are introverts and need time to recuperate after socializing. Emotionally sensitive, passive types may react very visibly and strongly when overstimulated, especially through anger and sorrow.
Passives are usually gentle, generous and friendly, but can quickly become distressed.
Stilted: This group almost appears neurotypical. They are often actors and have perfected and practiced the art of passing. They share the same idiosyncrasies as other Autistics and may appear to be slightly “off”. This type holds meltdowns in until they get home. They are more concerned with social propriety than other Autistic personality types, and may not have the insight to see their own emotional reactions.
Take the test HERE to see what type you are. I am the passive type.
So I am into my third month of IDGAF and I have fallen a little behind. The area in which I live has made getting a hold of the reading material next to impossible, however, this month has been one of deep reflection. Reflection of my journey as a pagan on the spectrum, and as a female bodied individual, reflection of my new journey into sea witchery, and devotion to Ran.
As such, this month’s ritual was on the equinox and the new moon quite deliberately. Let me explain. I am part of a group that is largely made up of Pagan women called Red Tent. We support each other, we do rituals, we take care of the Earth. It’s a life way. Red Tent has been going on for a long time. Recently our matron passed the crown on to a new facilitator and the new facilitator held our first new meeting during this time, with a huge turn out of roughly 20 women. This month’s ritual was a rite of passage.
We held our child selves and assuaged their pain. We embraced each other and supported each other. We stepped through the portal and walked down the candlelit aisle as crowned heroes. We did so under the new moon, and on the night of the equinox. It was powerful. I feel like a changed person.
I stepped through the portal to accept myself as a demigender trans person, an autistic demi woman and someone who will accept themselves as they are. It was profound.
Autism Awareness is almost upon us and we can expect to see the usual inundation of glaring shades of blue, clashing primary colours and of course, the puzzle piece. Once the symbol of the National Autistic Society in the UK, the puzzle piece has now become best known for its position as the logo and symbol of the infamous Autism Speaks. As such, the jigsaw puzzle piece has a fraught history and taken on a distinctly poor connotation.
The original usage was anything but neutral. NAS stated that it represented children who “suffer from a puzzling condition and do not fit in.” I wonder, have any of those folks ever put together a jigsaw puzzle? EVERY piece belongs. Every piece plays a role and every piece is necessary to complete the greater whole.
I think for this year’s Autism Awareness, I am going to reclaim the puzzle piece, for Autism Acceptance.
Just like jigsaw puzzle pieces, each Autistic is a unique individual, each brings something necessary to the greater whole. The world without Autistics is like a jigsaw puzzle that is missing that last piece.
The Neurotypical world grasps at straws trying to come up with an overarching theory of Autism, or figure out what makes the Neurodivergent brain tic. In attempts to offer an emotionless, disconnected, singular theory of how we work, they forget to ask us how we work. There is also a level of cherry picking that occurs in these theories. I’ve lost count of how many exist for Autism and how they all miss several key points. For this, I draw on my experiences with Dyscalculia and impaired working memory. I have just heard of the Cognitive Load Theory, and believe it can offer, if not an objective idea, an insider’s experience of how Neurodivergence works in the brain.
First, a little bit of background; the Cognitive Load Theory was developed in the 80s as a way of explaining how individuals process and utilise information. It refers to the total amount of mental effort it takes to learn something, commit it to memory and then utilise it. It is directly related to working memory and executive functions. It is broken down into three sections, intrinsic(the inner effort associated with a specific topic), extraneous(the way the information or task is presented to the audience), and germane(the effort on the part of the audience that goes into committing the information to memory and being able to pull it up and utilise it). As you can see, a lot of things can go wrong with any one of these steps. This is most notable in learning disabilities and Autism.
It is well known that working memory and attention are impaired in Dyscalculia, and it has been observed many times over that Dyscalculics struggle with processing mathematical information and committing it to memory. Our memories just do not allow us to do things like BEDMAS. The same thing is now being observed in Autism Spectrum Disorders in the way that many Autistics have issues with sensory gating, sequential instructions, open ended questions and multitasking(that is to say, we are monotropic. We do one topic at a time. Not great for following instructions and remembering arbitrary rules subject to spontaneous shifts). The theory states that a heavier cognitive load makes it harder to process and perform. It suggests that the brain, like a computer running a bunch of back ground processes and being told to open yet another programme, can slow down or even overheat or hang altogether. Anyone familiar with Autism knows well how that results(meltdowns, shutdowns, lashing out).
A typically developing individual can generally handle a higher cognitive load(which is why we see seven digit numbers as seven is the amount of “information chunks” a Neurotypical person can load and process with little effort). It gets too heavy, and the brain gets tired or confused. Neurodivergent people typically handle a lower cognitive load and the brain gets tired out faster. There are several reasons for this too. Mainly that extraneous information is poorly organised and that there is a noted and quantified deficit in sensory gating(no cocktail party effect for us), and thus, the amount of extraneous information skyrockets and the balance of the three parts of cognitive load is damaged.
Another aspect of this is incidental processing, which is again, similar to the cocktail party effect. Neurodivergent people have a more difficult time attending to singular stimulus, especially when a lot of chaotic sensory information is incoming, yet we are objectively better at Where’s Waldo, and amazing at becoming experts in our special interests. This is likely due to monotropism. Using strategies like looking away from the extraneous, blocking out input and becoming solely perseveratively focussed on a single topic so that our cognitive load is reduced, allows for us to become specialists but it takes increased intrinsic and germane effort to get there. Thus is the imbalance of our cognitive load. With that being said,
From the earliest days of the study, John Sweller(the founder of the theory) performed experiments on individuals checking pupillary dilation as an objective means of measuring cognitive load. Pupillary dilation has also been noted in working memory tasks. Many LD people, as well as Autistics find that gaze and eye contact interfere with their ability to handle heavier cognitive load which is sometimes interpretted as physical discomfort or mental discomfort, or a problem with selective attention(do I watch your eyes or understand what you say?). This is why in some Autistic children having meltdowns, pupillary dilation and sweating has been observed. Some studies now are being done that suggest that gaze aversion in Autistic people is used to reduce cognitive overload. The same has been noted in individuals with William’s Syndrome. I can remember as far back as I have memories of people asking me why I was staring away from them and seemingly ignoring them as they talked to me. I had to look away so that I could process their words. Their faces and idle movements added too much extraneous input. I started a script to let people know I was listening, I was just putting extra effort into my cognitive load(“I am listening to what you’re saying, I’m just thinking about it”). Were I to look at your eyes, or watch any other part of your body, my brain would become easily overwhelmed and the meaning of your words would dissipate and become meaningless symbols. The sensory saturation effect that allows for senses to be dulled or filter out extraneous information(like when you stop smelling the way a room smells after spending time in it) can backfire on an Autistic person when the cognitive load outweighs the ability to process and utilise information appropriately(I can become saturated on voices and words and symbols to the point of agnosia… too much math makes me stop recognising numbers).
Informational overload can cause as many meltdowns as pure sensory overload. This is why you see Autistics meltdown over routine changes out of their control, or unable to follow instructions given to them in specific settings without a lot of effort and help. An inability to gate the extraneous causes a cognitive load too heavy for the brain to bear, and that is when meltdown occurs.
What I would like to see in the coming future is a proper, standardised set of cognitive accessibility that is aware not just of sensory overload, but the cognitive load theory. As far back as the 80s, Sweller and his team found that changing the way extraneous information and sequenced instructions were presented reduced cognitive overload in every single individual, typically developing or not. The way informational chunks are organised and designed before being presented to an audience is of utmost importance. I would like to see an end of an era of intentional obfuscation of information, and that includes academic jargon(sorry guys, most of it is meaningless anyway). Every place of employment should put to use whiteboards, picture instructions, longer allotted breaks in midst of shifts, and specified labelled organisation of objects. As well, all employers, doctors, teachers and any other public service personnel need specific targetted training on how to present information in the clearest manner possible.
Within the world of Autism, most people speak solely about the sensory as if it were the only extraneous input that overloaded us. This is simply not true. There is a complex interplay of cognitive load and the extraneous that is hardwired into the very build and make of our brains. In the world of learning disabilities, these methods of cognitive accessibility are already being put into place(reduction of information chunks such as putting a single question on a page, or use of coloured lenses to help a person focus on the necessary stimulus) and the Autism community needs to catch up on that.
Obviously, there is no overarching one size fits all Tell All for how Autism Spectrum Disorders work, but I believe certain theories are definitely on point and present within the larger gestalt of how not only ASD, but all Neurodiversity tends work within the brain and body.
Doherty-Snedded, G, et al, Gaze Aversion as a Cognitive Load Management Strategy in Autism Spectrum Disorders and William’s Syndrome
Sweller, John, et al, Cognitive Load Theory[Explorations in Learning Sciences]
Ordonez de Pablos, Patricia, Technology Enhanced Learning for People with Disabilities
Or why I choose to disclose and talk about disability.
I am something of a self advocate work in progress. Unfortunately, my disabilities are cognitive and sometimes make perspective taking and perspective making rather difficult. My forward thinking and insight can be impaired, especially if put on the spot(see: routine changes, unexpected stimuli or lines of open ended questions). But, the way I see it, is that these disabilities strongly shape who I am, at any given moment of my life, and while there are times I can totally pass, there are other times when I do not pass at all as neurotypical in any sense of the word. Yeah, I’m one of those people. I’m one of those people whom people are uncomfortable just being in the presence of me because of my weirdness. I have always walked to the beat of my own drum and heard time and time again how “unique” I am(it was always so patronising). And yet, I have always felt alone and isolated. I have often been the only person like me in a room; I have been a self narrating zoo exhibit, or just a creepy oddity, or a mere pain in the ass to people. I have seen that face people make when I’m being neurodivergent in their way. That isolation and sense of alienation is precisely why I DO talk about it. It is not just an act of self advocacy, but an act of outedness. A challenge to the world, and a call to those like myself. It is a message that tells others, “you are not alone.”
I don’t really care how “inconvenient” others may find my perseverations, as a devotee of the Defender of Midgard, part of my worship is to act as such. I am not only an ambassador for myself, but I am an ambassador for those lonely passersby, the aliens among us, who see me and hear me and know that they are not alone. It’s those little acts of outedness that matter to me.
The world does not want us to be out, to be fully and unapologetically ourselves. Most therapies, and the one-size-fits-all system of schooling and employment are designed to squash our neurodivergent tendencies, to hide them, no matter the mental health cost to the person forced to bury the way they move and think. When we just can’t perform to neurotypical standards anymore we are seen as alarming and embarrassing, simply for existing in the public sphere in our own biological way. This is a world that would isolate ourselves from our own peoples and our own cultures. It is the effect of colonisation, assimilation and so-called “enlightenment”. In a post-asylum era, neurotypicals seek to abuse us into conformity, lock us in seclusion rooms and tie us down in restraints. All for the sake of silencing us, and separating us from not only our own selves but each other. It is damaging. It is patronising, in the real sense of the word. It is ill-sought paternalism and it is evil. It is a festering wound, a chasm that must be closed. A few of us would see the wound healed and the chasm closed. We can see our doppelgangers on the other side, alone, separate, damaged,
All people want to know themselves, and all people want to know that they are not alone on an island. We did not get this far in evolution by being alone. It is our social brains(whether allistic or autistic, tourettic or epileptic) that carried us to the present day. Our large social brains allowed us to hunt more effectively, in trade for our relatively neotenous and skinny splinter-limbed bodies that could not survive the harsh palaeolithic world alone on an island. Neurodiverse people deserve access to society, and full, unadultered access to understanding our own brains and seeing ourselves in others. That kind of representation is priceless. And so, it is those little acts of outedness that bring us together, that give us peace in our hearts and minds, and provide us with the insight to know ourselves(theory of mind be damned).
It is a kindness to be unapologetically open and disclosed. When I got my Autism diagnosis, I made a rule to myself that I would always disclose. I was done with the isolation, the stares, the disgust at my presence. I had seven long years in the Neurodiversity movement since my second(and first official) diagnosis of Neurodivergence-my Dyscalculia diagnosis. To this day I still struggle with the fear of being alone. I don’t mean solitude either. I often prefer to do things by myself without the presence of other physical bodies near me. I mean loneliness. That feeling that you are on the periphery, an oddity or an embarrassment. The desire to see just one other person ticcing or stimming as you walk down the street. That is the reason I disclose.
I recall seeing a nonverbal Autistic man passing me on the street, loudly humming an atonal vocal stim as he skateboarded past me. He met up with friends on the other side and communicated with them without speaking a single word. That was a little act of outedness. The wiggle in my toes became a wiggle in my fingers, bare to the world and visible. I felt at peace.
The first time I read Aspergirls, I cried, hard. I cried so hard I had a headache and my face stayed swollen and red the whole next day. I was not crying in sorrow, but in happiness. That was a little act of outedness that allowed me to feel just a little less alone.
A man approaches me at the deli counter, his hands over his ears, face scrunched up. We make contact. A small notice of recognition. An act of outedness. The next time I was overwhelmed, I let my hands find my ears. The sense of barely suppressed rage that usually roils below the surface dissipates. I am free.
I have been told that my own little acts of outedness have helped people discover who they are, and eased the fear that they are alone, or wrong, or broken. If we cast the shackles off of our flapping hands, the million sighs of our aching joints, the anxieties and fears we have, we may find that we are not alone. We may also learn of better ways to deal with our issues and insecurities. The paternalistic Neurotypical world may want us to bury it, to ignore it, in the hopes that what is “all in our heads” will simply go away. But it wont. It is in the way we move, the way we feel, the way we think, what we know, how we know it. It is in the way our toes wiggle in our shoes, or our socks provide us pressure. It is in the way we close our eyes, and with the backs of our hands, feel the surfaces of the world around us.
Little acts of outedness erase shame. Keeping it all inside is the modern asylum. Hiding it is the modern asylum. Seclusion and restraint, those looks of embarrassment, ABA and other select therapies, are all modern day aspects of asylum. Each act of outedness breaks a link those chains.
It frees us.
Spread your wings, flap your hands. Free yourself.