Social Interaction Survey

This week’s questions are all about general social interaction (next week is social communication). Some of these questions might hit a little close to home for some of us  because they touch on trust and vulnerability. Please don’t feel pressured to answer any questions that make you uncomfortable.

If you prefer to answer anonymously, you can do so at Survey Monkey.

(And Ack!, sorry about goofing up the title on this. Not sure where my brain was going, sticking Strategy in there instead of Survey. All fixed now.)


1. Have you dated knowing you had Aspergers/Autism? If so, when and how did you disclose? How did that turn out?  How did you go about getting someone to date you?

2. How often do you like to go out? Do you prefer to do stuff alone? Do you find it difficult to motivate yourself to go out sometimes?

3. Do you talk a lot to people? A lot of books go on about how Aspies can talk the hind leg off a donkey about their pet topics  but I don’t have the desire to really talk to people.

4. For people diagnosed as an adult, do you have a changed perception of how others see you? for example how friendly/outgoing/confident you seem to them.

5. Do you see yourself as vulnerable because of ASD? Are you more likely to be persuaded to do something or taken advantage of than most other people might? Has your perception of this changed with age?

6. Trusting other people – over the years I have learnt that I am very poor at reading peoples intentions and have been taken advantage of. I have adjusted to this by needing to understand what is happening and needing to be able to logically join up what someone does and says into a consistent picture – or I don’t trust them. How do other people manage this?

7. Do you ever feel like you’re living on a different scale of time from other people? For example, do you hear about a new TV show and only watch it years later because it just didn’t seem urgent?

8. My therapist explained that extroverts gain energy from others and introverts gain energy from being alone, and that autistic people can be either or anywhere in between. She also said there are challenges for extrovert autistics because of the social difficulties making it hard to achieve needed social interaction. (more details) Thinking about it in these terms, where would you place yourself on a continuum from introvert to extrovert? Is this different from how you would think of yourself using the terms in a broader sense, and is this different from how others see you?


Prosody: Loud Voice, Fast Voice, Soft Voice, Flat Voice

Things people have said to me:

Dog training instructor: “Get excited! Look happier! Make your voice happy! You have to sound HAPPEEEEE! If you don’t sound HAAPPPPEEEEE!!! your dog won’t know that she’s doing it right.”

Random stranger, after a 5-minute phone conversation: “You don’t seem like a very nice person.”

The Scientist, after sharing something meaningful: “Do you have any feelings about what I just said?”

Phone interviewer, mid-conversation: “I’m glad I’m recording this. You talk so fast, I could never take reliable notes.”

Many people, in many situations: “Shhh. Keep your voice down. The whole floor/house/airport/neighborhood doesn’t need to hear your story.”

More people than I can count (sarcastically): “Don’t sound too excited about it.”

Who Needs Prosody? Not Me

The first time I ever heard the word prosody was when Jess was in high school. She went to a performing arts magnet school, where she majored in creative writing. Occasionally her report cards would mention that she was working on prosody as part of a poetry class.

Naturally, I assumed that prosody was some sort of poetry reading technique and didn’t give it another thought.

Or Do I?

Fast forward to the day I came across “talks too loud or too softly” in a list of aspie traits. It was one of those traits that just stopped me in my tracks because it was something that had been a source of embarrassment at times. Most people I knew seemed able to intuitively control the volume of their speech. At least they weren’t always getting asked to speak up or lower their voice.

I, on the other hand, often have no idea whether I’m speaking at the right volume or pace.

After giving it some thought, I’ve realized that my “too quiet” voice usually happens when I lack confidence. For example, if I have to approach a stranger to ask a question that I’m uncertain about, I’ll almost certainly mumble it–often at breakneck speed–then have to repeat myself. Even if I prepare and think I’m using a normal volume, it still comes out mumbled, at least to start.

The quiet voice can also make an appearance when I’m not feeling very verbal and am having trouble finding the necessary momentum to initiate speech.

The “whoa that’s loud voice” also has two distinct triggers: excitement and environmental transitions. If I’m talking about something that excites me (read: anything special interest related), my voice will gradually gain volume, soon becoming way too loud for the situation. Somehow I don’t notice this happening until it’s painfully obvious by the look on the other person’s face. Or they just outright tell me to tone it down.

I didn’t catch on to the transitions trigger until someone mentioned it in a comment here. When I go from a noisy or echo-y environment to a quiet environment, I don’t realize that I can lower my voice and still be heard. I’ll go from speaking at an appropriately elevated level to be heard in a noisy parking garage to the equivalent of shouting once I’ve entered the much quieter building attached to the garage.


But Wait, There’s More

In addition to intonation, prosody also includes the stress and rhythm of speech. When the dog training instructor was constantly nagging me to sound “HAAPPPPPEEEE!!!” she was trying to get me to speak in less of a monotone.

The stress and rhythm of my speech can get erratic, especially in situations like dog training class where I periodically had to bring Emma out in front of the class and giving her commands to show that we were progressing. Week after week I got admonished by the instructor for not being enthusiastic enough.

The ironic thing is, my dog knows exactly when I think she’s doing something right or wrong. Animals are incredibly good at learning human social cues and, more importantly, they aren’t limited by the preconceived notions that people have about prosody. She learned my cues and integrated them into her understanding of the world.

When I was trying to be fake happy in those classes, she probably sensed my discomfort more than anything. She did much better in a later class with a different instructor–one who didn’t criticize the voice I was using to give commands.

Taken together, intonation, stress and rhythm make up the “music” of language. And that music is rich with social cues. Prosody can convey emotion and intent, telling us when someone is angry or lying, sad or sarcastic. It’s a big part of language pragmatics. (Pragmatics is a fancy way of saying the social function of language.)

An Autistic Thing

Difficulty with pragmatics–especially atypical prosody–is a common autistic trait. Not surprisingly, the difficulties are a two-way street. If you struggle with expressive prosody you probably also have trouble with receptive prosody (decoding the social cues in others’ speech).

A recent theory–one that makes a lot of sense to me–is that impairments in prosody are a result of atypical sensory processing*. Much of our social repertoire is learned by example. Most young children are close observers of the adults in their lives, looking to them to understand how to interpret situations and respond accordingly. However, for this to work, the child has to be able to pick up on the often subtle social cues that adults project. If a child doesn’t pick up on the nuances of prosody in the voices of others, it will be harder for them to learn how to use prosody in their own speech.

Like so much of social interaction, prosody feels like one of those things that if you don’t learn it young, it’s much harder to learn as an adult. I know that my voice is often flat, loud, fast, soft or otherwise off, but I rarely know it in the moment, as it’s happening.



*If you’re interested in the technical aspects of how our brains might be wired differently when it comes to prosody, the discussion section of the linked study has some interesting findings. If you want the short version: it appears that we use a completely different neural network to process speech prosody and we have difficulty turning off certain parts of our brain to focus on task-related processes while ignoring task-irrelevant information (which would account for why filtering out background sounds or visual distractions is so hard).


Coping Strategies Survey

This week’s questions are all about coping strategies. Traveling, panic attacks, aging, job hunting, emotions, obsessions – it’s a great mix and I think we’re going to come up with a great big pool of potential strategies that we can all draw on when needed.

You know the drill–if you’re on the spectrum, either formally diagnosed or self-identified, you’re welcome to join in. Answer as many or as few as you like. Do it here or anonymously at Survey Monkey.


1. I am wondering if travelling is hard for all Aspies as they age or if it is just me?  I like my home at night and my own environment. I prefer to be as close to it as possible…and I get sick or upset if I stay away…my tolerance is two days from home max and two weeks to recover…Does anyone else feel this way? Does it get worse with age or in certain decades? more details here

2. Is liking or disliking foreign travel related to ability to pass for NT at home?

3. Do you experience problems with long flights? If yes, which aspects are most problematic? (which travel stages: e.g. planning, navigating airports, flying, unfamiliar surroundings at the destination etc – and which problematic factors: e.g. sensory overload, executive function issues, anxiety / panic attacks etc) How do you cope with long flights? (what are your coping strategies)

4. How do you cope with panic attacks in unavoidable situations that you can’t leave, such as during flights?

5. Do you find yourself getting more autistic as you get older? Did your coping strategies improve with age due to experience or psychological assistance (I shy away from the word ‘treatment’) or did they deteriorate over time because of a decrease in overall energy?

6. How do you cope with strong emotions, especially strong negative emotions, especially if you’re also alexithymic? How do you support someone going through a very difficult time emotionally (nothing practical to be done)? How do recognise what the feelings are, and how do you respond in a way that comforts the person?

7. How do you motivate yourself to job hunt? more details here

8. A question that is specifically for people who menstruate: do you notice changes during your menstrual cycle. With changes I mean changes in sensory perception, abilities to cope and/or compensate, EF, etc.

9. If you’ve been heavily obsessing about an interest for a while do you find you have to have a short break from it because it has got too intense?

10. Has anyone taken concerta/ritalin/other stimulant drug prescribed to help ADHD type symptoms and reacted very badly to them physically? What effect did it have on you in the short and long term?


Backstopping: Supporting the Autistic Person in Your Life

The Scientist and I moved cross-country a few years ago. We made the drive In four days and by the middle of the fourth day I was on the verge of shutdown. It was way past lunch time, we were out of snacks and we were driving through Middle of Nowhere, West Virginia.

When we finally came upon a place to eat it was a McDonald’s. Just the thought of eating fast food made me feel nauseous. I said I would walk the dog around while The Scientist went inside to order. When he asked what I wanted, I said “Nothing.” By the time he came out with a big bag of food, I was sitting on the curb by the car with my head on my knees, wishing I could teleport myself the final four hundred miles to our new home.

The Scientist sat down to me and said,”I got you something.”

Even though I was so hungry that I was light-headed, I couldn’t imagine being able to eat a burger or fries.

“I don’t want anything,” I said.

Undeterred, he reached in the bag and took out a container of oatmeal. When he opened it, I saw it was topped with fresh blueberries. He’d found the one thing on McDonald’s menu that wouldn’t totally repel me. I was so happy, I nearly cried.

What’s the point of this rather boring and uneventful story? It was the first memorable instance of something I’ve come to think of as backstopping.

Finding the Right Balance

For readers who aren’t familiar with baseball, the backstop is the tall metal fence located behind the batter. It keeps foul (mis-hit) balls from flying back into the bleachers, but it also saves the catcher a lot of work. If the pitcher throws a wild pitch that gets past the catcher, the backstop will “catch” the ball and the catcher won’t have to run fifty or a hundred yards to track down the ball.

In that McDonald’s parking lot, The Scientist saw the ball that was getting by me–I was too close to shutdown to realize that I wanted to eat something bland and that hunger was contributing to my crash. Instead of saying “you need to eat” or “go find something to eat”, both of which would have been met with negative responses, he recognized my crisis and went in search of a solution.

But not before giving me a chance to catch the ball myself, which is a key point. He didn’t just rush off to buy me lunch without first asking a couple of times what I wanted.

Backstopping is by nature a form of back-up support. It’s a tricky balance of recognizing that a potential crisis is arising and then giving me a chance to deal with it before stepping in to help or offer support.

Sometimes it requires reading between the lines and guesswork, like the McDonald’s incident. But sometimes it’s as simple as him saying, “hey, wouldn’t you be more comfortable if you sat on that side of the table” because he’s noticed that I’m about to sit down facing the restaurant’s chaotic open kitchen. And sometimes it’s about being ready to offer support, just in case.

My daughter reminded of the importance of this a few weeks ago. While we were out shopping, someone asked me an unexpected question and I floundered around a bit before finally blurting out an answer. Jess watched quietly and after the person left, I expressed my distress at struggling so much to find the word I was looking for.

She casually said, “Don’t worry, I was ready with it if you really couldn’t get it.”

That was perfect. It made me feel like she respected my competence and was patient enough to let me get to the answer on my own if I could. But she was also ready to support me if I couldn’t.

The beauty of backstopping is that it’s unobtrusive and supportive without being smothering or invasive. It makes me feel like the people around me care for me without having to act as caretakers.


Putting Backstopping to Work

Watching backstopping in action has gotten me thinking about how other people could put it to use to support an autistic people in their life. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Be observant. Often, the precursors to a crisis are obvious in retrospect. Each of us has specific things that trigger our sensory sensitivities, cause us to struggle in social situations, etc. We also have our own unique “tells” that signal when a shutdown or meltdown is imminent. By watching carefully, you can learn to recognize precursors and be on the lookout for them. The Scientist sometimes asks me what triggered a shutdown or what I was feeling during a key moment. I think he’s secretly building a precursor database.

2. Be prepared. What works to head off sensory overload? What strategies are best for making difficult situations less stressful? What kind of support is most useful? Sometimes observing our instinctive reactions to a situation can reveal useful strategies. But sometimes our instincts aren’t the best and a little post game analysis is necessary to work out a better plan for future occurrences. Asking questions like, “what do wish had happened?” or “what would have made that easier for you?” can be helpful. Some autistic individuals, especially children, might need more specifics, like, “did you want to leave the room when Joey started crying?” or “did you want me to tell Aunt Joan that you were tired and wanted to play quietly with your toys instead of playing a game with your cousins?”

3. Be patient. When someone is struggling, it can be tempting to simply step in and do the thing for them. But remember, the backstop is located behind the catcher. It doesn’t jump out and catch every ball that looks like it might go astray. It’s important to give the autistic individual in your life a chance to try and perhaps to fail before you offer support. The Scientist didn’t immediately go order food for me. He gave me multiple chances to recognize that I needed to eat and that hunger was contributing to my shutdown. Only when it was clear that I was already crashing and not in a state of mind to make good self-care decisions did he step in.

4. Be nonjudgmental. Sometimes backstopping means “doing the obvious.” If the autistic person in your life struggles with the same thing over and over, it can be easy to get frustrated and wonder why they “just don’t get it already.” The thing is, sometimes we have blind spots in areas that are obvious to others. We may not sense that we’re hungry or in pain. We may not realize that we’re putting ourselves in a position to trigger sensory sensitivities or we’re overdoing things socially. Rather than saying things like “why can’t you just _________” or “are you ever going to learn to ___________” try gentle reminders, prompts or leading questions.

5. Be ready to step back. Sometimes, once The Scientist points something out, I can “reboot” the necessary subroutine and get myself back on track. When this happens, he has the grace to step back and let me take over my self-care or whatever he’s been supporting me with. He’ll even do this when he suspects I’ll goof up because he knows that having a sense of independence is important to me.

Not An Instant Fix

Backstopping is a delicate art. As a friend or family member, it’s hard to watch someone you love struggle with something that seems easily solvable. As an autistic person, it’s hard to find yourself facing the “same” crisis repeatedly, feeling as if you’ve learned nothing from the ten iterations that came before it. Navigating these situations can require some emotional tightrope walking at first.

In the past, I was prone to resenting any help that was offered. I think The Scientist caught on to this early and finally found a way around my defenses by keeping his assistance really low-key. He doesn’t make a big deal out of offering it and (even more important) he doesn’t make a big deal out of how much better I feel as a result of it. That might sound strange to someone who has a good relationship with accepting support from others, but I suspect there are a bunch of you who know exactly what I’m talking about.

For my part, I’ve become better at suppressing my No Reflex, which makes it easier for me to consider alternative solutions. Or in some situations, any solution at all. I’ve also accepted that there are times when the ball is going to get by me, no matter how responsible, independent or careful I am. When that happens, having someone around to backstop me can prevent a deteriorating situation from spiraling into a full-blown crisis.


How We Experience the World Survey

I was stumped for a title on this one. The questions all center around various ways we experience the world around us, but they’re about as loosely related as you can get and still say there’s a theme.

If you want to answer anonymously, you can do so at Survey Monkey.


1. Is the fascination with certain topics usually a life-long one, persistent over many years, or subject to change ?

2. What are your special interests and on what scale do you engage in them?

3. What effect does alcohol have on you, particularly on your executive function or stimming?

4.  I’m wondering if sitting all crossed-up in chairs is an ASD ‘thing.’ (i.e. do you do this?)

5. Do you have some very specific memories? Such as “ah-ha!” moments that you can draw up much more clearly than most memories, involving not only a picture but feelings, perhaps sounds and smells etc. as well and the image is VERY clear whereas most memories are a thought.

6. Do you sometimes attribute feelings to inanimate objects? Do you feel like certain objects ‘want to’ be interacted with or will feel bad if you don’t use them? Do you explain some of your quirks in this way, for example thinking that street furniture or certain textures want to be touched/felt, rather than you want to touch them? Or does it feel this way but you translate it when talking to others?

7. Does arousal influence you in an autism-specific way? As in: Do you overload easily when aroused? Does arousal influence, for example, your verbal reasoning skills than you feel would be “normal”? Do you stim when aroused? (for clarification: the questioner described this question as being “personal” so I think they are referring to sexual arousal, but answer in whatever way is comfortable for you)

8. Do you have difficulty with sequencing – working out the order in which you need to do things – for example if you were preparing an unfamiliar meal with several elements, would you have difficulty balancing them all without explicit planning and measurement in advance? Do you often realise you’ve done things in the wrong order or in a very inefficient way?

9. Is your primary fantasy ‘stopping’? In school, I used to fantasize about spontaneously dropping unconscious. As an adult, I fantasize about leaving the social system entirely. more details here

10. We often hear about autistic children wandering off. Did you wander? Did you “disappear” frequently to the point that was upsetting to your family (or teachers?) Why did you wander off? What do you remember about it? Now that you are an adult do you still wander? Do you disappear (perhaps during sensory overload) without telling anyone that you need to remove yourself at this time? more details here

Asking for Accommodations

Accommodations make life easier, but as Otterknot pointed out in a recent comment, asking for accommodations often sounds simpler than it is.

Why is that? Why are we so reluctant to ask for something that will improve our quality of life, our relationships or our ability to succeed at work or school?

The biggest obstacle is often disclosure. Asking for an accommodation or support means disclosing that we’re disabled. Accommodations are for disabled people, after all. For those of us who have spent a lifetime instinctively trying to pass as nondisabled, it can be hard to make the mental shift to being openly or even semi-openly disabled.

There is also the question of whether the other party will understand the nature of hidden disabilities. Unlike a visible disability, a hidden disability carries a certain burden of proof. So we hesitate, wondering whether the other person will believe that we really need this particular accommodation or perhaps dreading the amount of explaining and/or convincing that will be involved.

Finally, there is the specter of self-doubt. Do I really need to ask for this? Can’t I just continue to suck it up and power through like I always have? Maybe if I work harder, I don’t really need any supports.

For late-diagnosed autistic adults, this is a big hurdle. Often, we’ve gotten this far in life by doing our best to get by. Not only are we inexperienced at asking for accommodations and supports, we’re also often inexperienced at recognizing when we need them.

We worry that we’re imposing an unnecessary burden on others by asking for “special treatment.” We feel conspicuous and singled out for having atypical needs. We’ve spent a lifetime working hard to blend in and suddenly we’re being told that it’s necessary to proactively announce our differences.

Building a Foundation

As Otterknot pointed out, many of us have to do some foundation work first before we can feel comfortable asking for accommodations. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

1. Recognize that I have needs, that my needs might be different from those of others and that’s okay. I wrote about this a bit last year–about how hard it is for me to identify my wants and needs, let alone seek out ways to meet them. I’ve made some progress in this area, but it’s something that I constantly have to work on bringing to the forefront of my consciousness.

2. Admit that denying, dismissing or minimizing my needs is more harmful than helpful. My instinctive reaction to needing something, especially something that I think will make me appear “weak,” is denial. I assume that by “not making a fuss” about something, I’m doing everyone involved a big favor. But I’m not. Because it quickly becomes evident when I’m struggling and my struggles can have a ripple effect, resulting in unpleasantness for others.

3. Remember that other people want to help. I’m very self-sufficient, often to the point of ridiculousness. I’m working on asking for help and/or accepting it when it’s offered. Accommodations aren’t always help per se, but the underlying principle is the same.

4. Make peace with the discomfort and self-consciousness that being different can cause. Yes, sometimes receiving accommodations or supports will make me stand out from the group. Yes, it will confirm to other people that I’m different. Yes, it will (rightly or wrongly) make me feel like I’m making a concession to my disability. I’m slowly getting better at being with those feelings, even though they still make me uncomfortable at times.

Mostly, I try to remember that by asking for a change in a situation, there’s a good chance that I’m improving the odds of success, not just for me, but for everyone involved. For example, at a big family gathering last year, I felt myself on the verge of overload. I’d spent two days surrounded by people and just as we were all arriving at the rental cabin for a big afternoon cookout, I felt a sense of panic set in. Too many people, too much noise and commotion.

In the past, I would have simply dealt with it. And by “dealt with it” I mean ignored my feelings and ended up in a classic shutdown before the afternoon was out. Instead, I told The Scientist that I was feeling overwhelmed and panicky. Actually, what I said was, “I need to get out of here. Now.”

He brilliantly deduced the overwhelmed and panicky part, and suggested that we go for a walk. We spent about an hour walking along a stream nearby and being quiet. When I felt ready, I told him and we went back to join the cookout. The hour of quiet allowed me to enjoy the rest of the afternoon and avoid the shutdown that had felt inevitable earlier.

Not only was my day better, but The Scientist (and other family members) didn’t have to spend the rest of the afternoon worrying about why I was feeling miserable.


How to Ask for Accommodations and Supports

There’s no formula for requesting an accommodation or support. Instead, think of a continuum ranging from a casual to formal requests. Often, it’s possible to ask for a minor change in a situation without disclosing your disability (if you prefer not to). Here are a few examples of places along the continuum:

Casual request: This works well with friends, family or acquaintances in situations where a minor change will make a big difference for you and have little impact on the other person. For example, you’re meeting a friend in a coffee shop and they choose a table right next to the barista station. Knowing that the noise from the machines and constant chatter will make it hard for you to focus on the conversation, you say, “Do you mind if we sit at that table in the corner? The noise from the counter will make it hard for me to hear you clearly.” Or “hard for me to concentrate” or “hard for me to focus on our conversation.” Whatever makes the most sense to you.

Although this is phrased as a question, most people will assume it’s rhetorical and go along with your request, unless they have a competing need (i.e. your preferred table is next to a cold drafty window). If you want to be more assertive, you can say, “Let’s sit at . . .” or “I’d like to sit at . . .”

Firm statement: A statement of your needs is appropriate in situations where there is an imbalance of power or you expect to experience pushback. For example, you’re in the car heading home from a long afternoon of shopping and your partner/parent/friend is feeling chatty while you’re feeling overloaded. To prevent yourself from melting down, you take out your headphones and say, “I’m feeling overwhelmed and need some time to chill out so I’m going to put on my headphones and listen to music until we get home. It’s nothing personal and once I’m feeling less anxious (overwhelmed, tired) I’d like to hear more about __________.”

In this situation, asking the other person to stop talking may be perceived as rude or offensive. Phrasing your statement as being entirely about you and what kind of self-care you’re going to engage in reduces the chances of a misunderstanding. The other person may or may not be bothered by your actions but at least you’ve attempted to explain it in a way that doesn’t blame them (i.e. they’re being too noisy) and have offered to resume their preferred activity once you’re feeling better.

Formal request: In a work or school situation, you may have to make a formal–perhaps written–request for supports or accommodations. This will also involve disclosing, if you haven’t already, your diagnosis to your boss, manager or professor. I wrote about making formal requests in the Disclosure post from the Adult Diagnosis series, so I’ll refrain from repeating myself here.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I’m still a novice at asking for accommodations but I’ve been making a conscious effort to practice and it’s slowly becoming less difficult. One thing that’s helping me along is the steady deterioration of my language skills. For the first time in my life, I’m feeling truly disabled. Not social model disabled or medical model disabled but just plain “I can’t do this thing” disabled. That’s forcing me to think seriously about the types of supports and accommodations that will continue to allow me to pursue the things I enjoy while not beating myself about how much I’m struggling. And that’s probably a whole other post.


Learning Differences/Disabilities Survey

We’re going to kick off a round of 4 (or maybe 5) Tuesday surveys (yay!) with a set of questions about specific learning differences (UK term) or learning disabilities (US term). All of these questions are by Quarries and Corridors and I have rather selfishly scheduled them first because I’ve been experiencing so many things mentioned here lately and want to hear about your experiences with them. But not worries – I’ll make sure everyone’s questions are included over the next few weeks.

The questions are detailed, so feel free to answer as few or as many as you want with as much or little detail as you like.

You can answer here in a comment or you can answer anonymously at Survey Monkey. (If at all possible, it would be great if you can answer here. There ended up being hundreds of anonymous answers to bring over from Survey Monkey last time which is awesome but also a lot  of work, y’all.)

Learning Differences/Disabilities Questions

1. As well as an autistic spectrum condition do you also have a specific learning difference (aka US English ‘learning disability’) such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, nonverbal learning disability, ADHD etc? Even if you don’t have a diagnosed/labelled SpLD, do you have cognitive traits commonly associated with SpLDs like slow processing speed, below average spelling, fragile working memory, poor concentration etc?

2. Are you actually unusually good at any of the above? For example unusually fast reading speed, learned to read early, extremely good at spelling, usually good short term memory, extremely good spacial reasoning, adept at doing things efficiently without conscious planning, excellent concentration regardless of interest level etc?

3. If you have spelling difficulties, has your spelling had much improvement since childhood? Do you still remember how to spell words correctly by remembering how to correct your automatic wrong version? Can you read without ‘reading out loud’ in your head? Can you read faster than you can read out loud? Do you have difficulty pronouncing words you’ve read but haven’t heard said before – even if you’re told they’re said how they’re spelt?

4. Do you frequently mix up two options when speaking or writing (for example confusing ‘train’ and ‘bus’)? Do you find you often miss out small words or parts of words, or tend to add inappropriate postfixes to words (for example writing ‘specifically’ when you meant ‘specific’, or vice versa)? Do you regularly get people’s names wrong in speech even when you know what they are? Do you repeatedly forget the words for things when speaking? When you make these mistakes do you often not realise that you have, sometimes even when proof reading? Do you make more mistakes of these types when tired?

5. Do you often mix up left and right? Do you have difficulty judging distance, speed, size, volume etc? For example, do you need to be careful crossing the street because it’s difficult to judge how fast cars are going? Do you find spacial reasoning tasks difficult, for example working out which way up to put the page back into the printer when you want to print on both sides? Do you have particular difficulty performing manual tasks that ‘cross the midline’, ie, your hands cross over and both do different things? Did it take you an unusually long time to learn to tie shoe laces, and if so did you learn an alternative type of knot to do so?

6. Did you struggle to learn the times tables as a child? Do you still not know your times tables as an adult? Do you particularly struggle with mental arithmetic? Did you have difficulty learning negative numbers and subtraction of negative numbers (without a calculator)?

7. Do you have difficulty reading analogue clocks? Do you find it a challenge to understand/visualise how the clocks going backwards or forwards when daylight savings starts or end will affect time differences with time zones where the clocks haven’t changed? Do you find mental arithmetic unusually difficult?

8. Do you struggle to visualise things and tend to think in words, or alternatively do you naturally think in pictures and have to translate to words? Do you ‘hear’ words or ‘see’ them when you think? Alternatively do you not fit either of those models and think in some combination of them or think in some other kind of unusual way, for example in spacial relationships or in tactile sensations or motion?

9. If you’re asked how to spell something, do you ‘see’ the word and read out the letters or do you have to work it out from the sounds or simply remember the sequence? Do you have difficult learning how to spell new words or speak/write new languages?

10. When you mentally solve non-verbal problems like splitting the bill and working out the tip, or like how to seat everyone at a wedding dinner, do you tend to think them out as mostly word-based problems using verbal reasoning or do you visualise or conceptualise them in other ways?



Giveaway Winners and Call for Survey Questions

Congratulations to the 5 winners of  Ultraviolet Voices – Stories of Women on the Autism Spectrum :

  • Otterknot
  • Lana
  • Nicole G.
  • Mama4science
  • Tagaught

I sent off emails to the winners, so be sure to check your inbox and get back to me with your mailing address if your name is on the list above.


There was enough interest in doing another round of surveys so let’s go for it. The last time we did surveys, I had a lot fewer readers and we still ended up with 5 weeks worth of survey questions so I have no idea how manageable this will be, but we’ll give it a try.

The Concept

Do you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask other autistic people? This is your chance. Some of the questions in the last survey had over a hundred people answer them and often the answers went into a lot of detail. For an idea of questions that were asked and answered last time around, take a look at this post and the posts linked from it.

How it works:

1. Leave a comment on this post with your question(s). You can post more than one question and I’ll try to include everything, but if there are too many questions, I may have to limit the number of questions per person that get used.

2. I’ll collect the questions and organize them by theme.

3. I’ll post the first survey on a Tuesday (tradition!) and then post a new survey once a week until we run out of questions or we get tired of talking about ourselves. :-)

Book Giveaway: Ultraviolet Voices – Stories of Women on the Autism Spectrum

The giveaway is now closed to new entries – winners will be announced soon!


It’s time for another giveaway!

The past few weeks have been really hectic, so no new posts this week but I do have some books to giveaway. Late last year, I was invited by Autism West Midlands to contribute to their anthology Ultraviolet Voices – Stories of Women on the Autism Spectrum (more details about the book). It’s a collection of narratives, each 1 chapter in length, most written by women on the spectrum, meant to shed light on the difficulties related to being seen and understood as an autistic girl or woman. There is also artwork, poetry, an interview and some background research. I’m Chapter 2! :-)

2014-06-27 09.09.09

I have 5 copies to giveaway and to keep it simple, I’m going to choose 5 random comments from this post. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling me about something that’s making you happy today. That’s it! Everyone is eligible to enter, including international readers. You have until Sunday evening at 5 PM EST.  Ready? Go.

Oh! Wait! I have a question for you all and this seems like a great place to ask it – how many of you would be interested in doing another set of make-our-own survey questions to answer? Kmarie wanted me to do a survey about traveling and a while back someone else suggested a survey on another topic. Maybe it’s time to do another survey series?

The Logical Fallacy of Person First Language

The problems with person first language have been talked about extensively in the autistic community. Many autistic people have expressed a strong, explicit preference for identity first language. And yet, we’re still treated to comments like this one (paraphrased from a comment on another blog):

I work with children with autism and I always say child with autism because they’re children first and autism doesn’t define them. Also, I say typically developing child instead of normal, because normal has negative connotations. Words are important–they reflect how you think.

My first reaction to reading that type of comment is always, “aren’t the typically developing children also children first?”

Or do we just not need to be reminded that they’re children?

If you don’t use normal because it has negative connotations, does the same logic apply to the use of autistic? Or does autistic exist in some special category of word that’s not bad but also unspeakable?

I fail to see why it’s okay to use the identity first descriptor “typically developing child” but not the identity first “autistic child.” Why do we constantly need to be reminded that the autistic kids are people? Is it so easy to forget? I would hope that no matter what label I use to refer to myself it be would obvious that I’m a person.

Anyone who needs to constantly remind themselves that disabled people are people should probably spend more time examining their own beliefs and less time telling other people how to speak about themselves or their children.

Using person first language to refer to autistic children and identity first language to refer to typically developing children isn’t inclusive. It’s othering and unnecessary.

Person first language arose because disabled people were being referred to by demeaning and pejorative terms that had an identity first construction. In some communities, where a preferred identity first term hasn’t arisen, person first is still the preferred construction.

Autistic people, however, have repeatedly expressed a preference for identity first language. For some reason, nonautistic people who think they know better continue to ignore our (loudly and oft-stated) preference. To those people I say, “If you truly believe we’re people, first or otherwise, then listen to what we’re  saying and respect our preference.”

Autistic is not a dirty word. When you act like it is, you aren’t helping  autistic people. You’re contributing the very stigma that you pretend to abhor.


One of my wonderful readers brought this post to the attention of the folks at the Yeah Write Writer’s Challenge it was made an Editor’s Pick. I even got some swag. :-)