This is my autism blog.
When I hear new phrases, my mind quickly does one of three things:
it Spoonerizes the words (swaps the first letters),
it forms a portmanteau (melds the words), or
it initializes them (IYKYK).
Hence, blotism aug.
I hope you find something helpful here.
Photo: Creating a portrait of the sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein.
Autism Puzzle Pieces
May 23, 2022
The “puzzle piece” image is a popular symbol for autism.
Here’s how I think about it.
Understanding my own autism, and sharing about it, is contributing to the assemblage of a big jigsaw puzzle for which there is no box (and thus no cover image to use as a reference).
In my space are the pieces I have collected. I am patiently working on fitting them together. Over some time, an image has begun to emerge: balloons. A bunch of balloons, red ones.
Somebody else working on the same puzzle has clouds. Wispy clouds, white ones, on a blue sky.
“I have balloons over here,” I say, “red ones! And a hand holding them! I think this may be a park situation. We should keep an eye out for people with picnic blankets on a green slope or something.”
And the first person, who actually has assembled quite a large section a while ago and has stopped working on it, says, “Nope. This is a sky. It’s just a sky, a blue sky with clouds, and it’s beautiful and honestly let’s be satisfied with what we have here. I'm good. Why do we need to look for anything more than a sky situation?”
What they’re not noticing, perhaps not ready to see, is that the edges on two sides of their sky are jagged. They aren't ready to embrace the fact that those jagged edges are not, in fact, an artistic roughness, but knobs and sockets where more puzzle pieces can connect.
At that moment, a third person comes over and joins the conversation. “Hey! Did someone say picnic?” they ask. “This totally makes sense! I’ve got picnic blankets down here! Brb.” And gradually, collaboratively, more people join and more sections are connected, and we begin to complete the puzzle and see the full image.
Until somebody new comes along with a steaming mug in their hands. “Hey, listen,” they say, “something bigger is afoot. The puzzle's just part of the situation: there's a kitchen over there, and hot tea."
And we look up to find an entire home, in a neighborhood, in a city, a country, a continent, a planet, a solar system, a galaxy, the universe, … in the limits of our … perception, in our minds, which brings us right back ‘round because…
… it’s all one big Mobius strip with one side and one edge ...
... and here we are back where we started …
... noticing that when we put this Mobius strip together with that Mobius strip, we can start see ... “Balloons! Red ones!”
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If You've Met One Person
May 29, 2022
There’s a saying in the autism community, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Let me walk you around the block on this one.
It’s a spin on an old trope of stereotyping. An example: “If you’ve met one lawyer, you’ve met ‘em all.” Strange, but that’s how many of us were trained to see the world. We say things like, “My neighbor’s a Muslim, so I get how they are.” It’s quite delusional, if you think about it.
It’s also human nature. A lot of people, including me, learned about autism for the first time by watching Rainman, the 1988 movie featuring Dustin Hoffman. Its title character was a rigidly-inflexible, institutionalized savant who could count spilled matchsticks at a glance. It was based on a real-life person named Kim Peek. “Aha,” we thought, “now I know what autism is like.” It was as if we’d watched Batman: The Dark Knight and decided we knew the stories of every other comic book superhero from then on.
Instagram is a favorite communication tool for a lot of folks in the autistic community. Thus, it’s a great place to get a front row seat for some of the many (infinite?) nodes of the spectrum. Here are some of my faves:
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June 6, 2022
Cornflowers are my favorite flowers. They’re a periwinkle kind of color, and they’re special to me because of how they pop at the edges of cornfields.
Imagine: acres of corn, row upon row, green and regimented on a field (literally) of brown.
At the edges, along the ditchy road the farmer drives to survey this homogenous desert of subjugation and sterility, there is consistently found an unconquered volunteer resistance of bright blue flowers.
In college, I was a punk. I took my politics from bands like Minor Threat, Bad Religion, and Propagandhi, and I wore my disdain for the dominant paradigm on my ratty sleeve. One afternoon, ordering lunch at the counter in a collegetown restaurant, I requested that they put my curry in my reusable mug instead of a disposable to-go container. The owner, an older white man, came over to find out what was going on. He looked me up and down, blue hair to tattered Chucks, and shook his head. “You know, the Japanese have a saying,” he said. “The nail that sticks up must be hammered down.”
It was clearly intended to communicate “do it our way, or get lost.” Whether or not his paraphrasing distorted the original spirit of the saying, I scrammed.
This month is Pride month. As an able-bodied cis-het white English-speaking man myself, I’ve barely experienced any discrimination. Still, I know that the sunlight that makes possible life on earth comprises all of the colors of the rainbow. Our world becomes dark when we block out portions of the spectrum.
Alok Vaid-Menon, an American writer and hero of mine, said this recently on their Instagram:
“I think trans people are leading the way for everyone, once again. We have been taught to fear the very things that have the potential to set us free. And so, when we see trans people living freely, saying, 'I don’t care about society’s norms, I don’t care about gender norms, I just wanna be me,' people are threatened by that, because they’ve had to repress their own true self and so for me the history of the LGBTQ community is we’re not just doing this for ourselves, we’re doing this for everyone.”
Being inclusive and open-minded requires practice. I am driven by the examples of people like Alok: I strive to be my own true self and to welcome the true selves of others, near and far. The payoff is nothing more than everything.
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July 17, 2022
"Sorry, dude, you're not autistic." It's a sentiment I've heard a few times since identifying myself as such. I thought I'd take this opportunity to clear up some misconceptions that readers might have about autism.
Did you know that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), autism is known as a “spectrum” disorder? [source] Folks in the autism community are quick to note that the spectrum is nonlinear, more like a color wheel than a slider on a measuring stick.
Did you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approx. 1 in 44 children in the U.S. was identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 2018? [source]
Did you know self diagnosis is widely recognized in the autistic community? Here’s one of my favorite autistic thought leaders, Louise Chandler, explaining why they support it.
For the sake of sharing and providing more illumination to the puzzle assembly table, I intend on posting my self diagnosis “coming out” story, including a tidy list of autisticky things about myself.
But not because I need to prove it to anyone.
Only because everyone benefits when humanity understands autism better, and because collaborative computation is how we're going to get there.
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