Tag Archives: Autism

Read Across the Spectrum: Books by Autistic Authors

Great reads for parents of autistic kids! Books about autism by acutally Austistic authors.

It’s Friday, so it’s time for another edition of our Friday series for Autism Acceptance month! Acceptance means that not only are you aware of autism, but you appreciate all the beauty Autistic individuals bring to this world. You not only make yourself aware of the needless systemic obstacles Autistic people face because of the systems we have in place–you actively work to change those systems.

The awesome thing about this is that you don’t have to–nor should you–take my word for it. Instead, you can turn to people who are Autistic themselves. These talented writers and authors will show you the world through their lenses, across nonfiction, self-help and sci-fi literature.

Non-Fiction

The ABCs of Autism AcceptanceThe ABCs of Autism Acceptance

by Sparrow Rose Jones
Get it here.

“Sparrow Rose Jones is probably best known for their blog, Unstrange Mind: Remapping My World, and their previous book, No You Don’t: Essays from an Unstrange Mind, both of which deftly narrate their examination of themself, their identity as an Autistic person, and the  changing state of access and civil rights for Autistic people. Their essays have covered everything from famous civil rights and criminal cases in the media to sexuality and relationships, life skills, coping mechanisms, and personal introspection.

In The ABCs of Autism Acceptance, Sparrow takes us through a guided tour of the topics most central to changing the way that autism is perceived, to remove systemic barriers to access that have traditionally been barriers to Autistic participation in some sectors of society.

They also take us through the basics of Autistic culture, discussing many of its major features and recent developments with a sense of history and making the current state of the conversation around this form of neurodivergence clear to those who are new to it, whether they are Autistic themselves or a friend/family member looking for resources to help themselves support the Autistic people in their lives more fully. While it is impossible to capture the full scope and diversity of Autistic communities—and there are many of them out there—this book does serve as an important conversation starter, a primer, and a humble guide to the world.

In these 26 short essays, you will find most of the topics most often blogged about by Actually Autistic authors, including footnotes, resources, and references to other writers whose works continue the conversations that start here.”

The Real Experts: Readings for Parents of Autistic Children

The Real Experts: Readings for Parents of Autistic ChildrenEdited by Michelle Sutton
Get a copy here.

“How do I help my child to thrive? To be healthy and happy, to fulfill his or her positive potentials, and to grow up to lead a good life? Every parent of an autistic child struggles daily with this question. Just trying to understand an autistic child’s actions, feelings, and needs can seem like an overwhelming challenge. It doesn’t help that professional “experts” and the mass media bombard us with all sorts of harmful and terrifying misinformation about autism.

Fortunately, more and more parents are discovering an essential source of insight into autism: the writings of autistic adults. Who better to help us understand autistic children and their needs, than the people who have actually been autistic children?

Listening to the insights and experiences shared by autistic bloggers has helped Michelle Sutton to help her two autistic children to thrive. In The Real Experts , Michelle has collected writings from a dozen autistic authors, containing “insider” wisdom on autism that has been invaluable to her family. The result is an extraordinary resource for families with autistic children, and also for educators, therapists, and other professionals.”

Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking


Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking
by Julia Bascom

Get it here.

“Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking is a collection of essays written by and for Autistic people. Spanning from the dawn of the Neurodiversity movement to the blog posts of today, Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking catalogues the experiences and ethos of the Autistic community and preserves both diverse personal experiences and the community’s foundational documents together side by side.”

Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness

Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness

by Melanie Yergeau
Get it here.

“In Authoring Autism Melanie Yergeau defines neurodivergence as an identity—neuroqueerness—rather than an impairment. Using a queer theory framework, Yergeau notes the stereotypes that deny autistic people their humanity and the chance to define themselves while also challenging cognitive studies scholarship and its reification of the neurological passivity of autistics. She also critiques early intensive behavioral interventions—which have much in common with gay conversion therapy—and questions the ableist privileging of intentionality and diplomacy in rhetorical traditions.

Using storying as her method, she presents an alternative view of autistic rhetoricity by foregrounding the cunning rhetorical abilities of autistics and by framing autism as a narrative condition wherein autistics are the best-equipped people to define their experience. Contending that autism represents a queer way of being that simultaneously embraces and rejects the rhetorical, Yergeau shows how autistic people queer the lines of rhetoric, humanity, and agency. In so doing, she demonstrates how an autistic rhetoric requires the reconceptualization of rhetoric’s very essence.”

Fiction

Monsters in My Mind

Monsters in My Mindby Ada Hoffmann
Get it here.

“Ada Hoffmann’s MONSTERS IN MY MIND anthologizes 49 pieces of the author’s speculative fiction and poetry published between 2010 and 2017, including ten new, never-before-seen pieces. The author’s range is on full display in this collection: the 49 works alternate among traditional short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, poetry, and prose poems, creating a rhythm and flow to the collection as a whole and uniting stories with otherwise multitudinous and divergent content. Much of the work is suitable for readers of all ages, although it is worth noting that several stories deal frankly with issues of gender, queerness, sexuality, grief, and loss. Every piece in the collection constructs an immediate and effortless world whose rules are self-evident, although rarely explicit, plunging the reader again and again into an ever-expanding literary multiverse.

When it comes to themes, MONSTERS IN MY MIND spans the speculative fiction universe, demonstrating that the genre itself is bound only by the limits of the human imagination, and that its “raw materials” continually reemerge, shift, act, and process in ways few can articulate. The collection is not merely “weird,” as so much speculative fiction is; it is weird in the best ways, weird in the service of, and underscoring the true expansive potential of, the human. By exploring deeply human experiences like loss, grief, duty, love, courage, and loneliness within the context of parallel universes, fantasy quests, reimagined fairytales, near-sentient AI, velociraptors, and the occasional cephalopod, the collection creates a form of access for the reader: a way to approach, understand, and even befriend the monsters in one’s own mind through the exploration of worlds that are vividly different, yet achingly familiar.

The collection is essential reading for anyone interested in speculative fiction, the shifting boundaries of more “traditional” science fiction and fantasy genres, queer theory, or monster studies.”

All the Weight of Our Dreams All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism

by Autism Women’s Network
Get it here.

“Delve into poetry, essays, short fiction, photography, paintings, and drawings in the first-ever anthology entirely by autistic people of color, featuring 61 writers and artists from seven countries. The work here represents the lives, politics, and artistic expressions of Black, Brown, Latinx, Indigenous, Mixed-Race, and other racialized and people of color from many autistic communities, often speaking out sharply on issues of marginality, intersectionality, and liberation.”

This Other World

This Other Worldby A.C. Buchanan
Get it here.

“When her son reached adulthood, Vonika made the decision to emigrate to Kami, settling in the nation of Temia. In the years since, she’s married a Temian woman, established a distinguished career in architecture, and found the sense of belonging that she, as an autistic woman, struggled to find on Earth.

But the approach of old age brings decisions that Vonika knows she can’t avoid forever. And as Temia teeters on the edge of war, Vonika finds herself a reluctant emissary for peace.”

Want more from Autistic authors?

Check out this Actually Autistic Book List on GoodReads!

Career Resources for Autistic Youth

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be running a series of Friday articles in April that focuses on the financial challenges and triumphs Autistic people face and achieve.

girl with glasses reading a comic book, lying down in between the shelves of the library. Beneath this blue and black text reads "Career Resources for Autistic Youth femmefrugality.com"

If you have a child on the spectrum, you have one child on the spectrum. Your kiddo’s needs are completely different than the child next to them–even if the other child is on the spectrum, too.

With that in mind, today we’re going to be reviewing a governmental department which has resources to help those with disabilities–including autism–get the resources they need to start their careers off on the right foot. Your child does not have to have communication issues or visually-obvious accommodations in order to qualify for services.

If you are Autistic and American, you can benefit greatly from these services directly. Though I am writing to parents in this article, I do not mean to talk around you. But parents have a responsibility to figure these things out for their minor children, and I’m hoping that everyone has access to these services as young as possible. However, the programs run by this department can help you throughout your life even beyond the days of youth.

State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies

The federal government provides funding to state vocational rehabilitation agencies for a number of purposes. They aid both employers and job seekers to build inclusive workplaces, and go the extra mile to make sure training is available to those with medical needs.

Their aim is to help the disabled secure meaningful employment that highlights their skills, talents and interests. Their job is to remove barriers that may stand in their way of securing such employment, such as lack of guidance, lack of funding or lack of awareness and knowledge on the part of the employer.

For all you libertarians in the audience, I see you. And here’s something important to know:

It costs less to provide these services than it does to take care of an unemployed person. It costs less to take care of an unemployed person in their own home than it does in an institution built to accommodate those with disabilities. Reagan himself made policy changes for the disabled for this very reason, notably via Medicaid expansion.

Rather than railing on government spending in this arena, we should all be lauding it. It not only lowers societal costs; more importantly, these programs serve to bridge the gap between the oppressed and the ill-fitted places of employment our societal disablism has created.

*steps off anticipatory soapbox*

All right. Let’s get down to business and check out the resources available to those with medical-need at large–including Autistic individuals.

Career Prep in Middle and High School

As a disabled student, your child has access to certain career-focused programs in middle and high school. The age at which your state starts attending IEP meetings to facilitate these opportunities through Individualized Plans for Employment (IPEs) may vary depending on which state you live in. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to get in touch with your state vocational rehabilitation agency as your child transitions from elementary to middle school–or around age 12.

Even if they are not eligible for services just yet, staff can make you aware of the programs that exist in your state, and make you aware of the earliest age at which your child qualifies for specific services.

States have some autonomy, so programs may vary. But here are some examples of services that may be available to your child as they move through middle and high school:

  • Career exploration, in which you identify your skills and interests to apply to the following opportunities:
  • Facilitation of guest speakers relevant to your field(s) of interest.
  • Information about relevant career fairs.
  • Workplace tours and visits.
  • Summer employment opportunities.
  • Job shadowing.
  • One-on-one mentoring.
  • Information regarding relevant volunteer opportunities in the area.
  • Direct employment programs during the latter years of high school.
  • Education about your rights in post-secondary educational settings and the workplace, along with coaching for self-advocacy.
  • Information and access to job-specific education opportunities, including but not limited to vo tech schools and community colleges.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. And not every opportunity will exist in every area of the country. But working with your state vocational rehabilitation agency will help you find as many of the doors that are open to your child as possible.

Funding for College, University or Trade School

No matter your child’s (or your own) age, there is a specific program across states that allows for funding of higher education. Some states, like Pennsylvania, will only offer funding up to the average cost of community college, the reasoning being that the Office of Vocation Rehabilitation works in tandem with the state school system and community colleges to provide adequate services and accommodations to disabled students. You don’t necessarily have to go to a state school, but the amount vocational rehabilitation funding will be capped at that community college level.

Other states may pay full tuition even through grad school pending the availability of funds. Regardless of how much money you or your child is eligible for, you should take measures to get in touch with your state’s Vocational Rehabilitative Services agency. Any money for college is good money for college!

Note that for this program, you do not necessarily have to prove SSI disability qualification. As an individual on the spectrum, your child will qualify as disabled through SSI, but the SSI rigamarole is not something you’ll have to go through for this particular program.

After 21. Now what?

Vocational Rehabilitative Services which provide educational funding don’t have an age requirement. But so much else does when your child turns 21. Insurance requirements and coverages change, IEPs and the state school system are no longer required to execute the next step in your child’s growth, and if your child isn’t on the path to a traditional college education, it can be difficult to find support services which help them live a functional, meaningful life–even if they exist.

That’s where your state vocational rehabilitation agency can help. Well, sometimes. There are programs available which offer meaningful employment and social opportunities to those with communication and sensory needs dramatically divergent from the neurotypical population society has traditionally accommodated.

The hitch is your state has to choose to allocate their funding towards these programs.

Even if your state does not directly offer these types of specialized employment opportunities, your state vocational rehabilitative agency may be able to point you to other community organizations which do.

And if they can’t? They will have other programs established. The first step to learning more about them is contacting your state vocational rehabilitation agency. They’ll sit down and work with your child to create a plan to get closer to meaningful employment.

Additional Resources for Parents of Autistic Children

Getting resources and planning with your child for their future is definitely a long game. There are so many steps in the process. It’s legitimately a lucky miracle if you know some of these programs exist at all.

As you’re going through the process, here are some resources that can help make you and your child aware of their rights, services available to them, and the best available ways to pursue their dreams. Here are a few. If readers know of any more, they are highly encouraged to share them in the comments and I’ll add them to this list!

 

 

Support Autistic Artists

Wow, there's some great artists on this list--a lot of them working for Autism Acceptance! Headed to Etsy...

I’m getting ready to move in the very near future here. It’s the first time in my life that I’ll have complete control over how my place is decorated, and I’m pretty psyched about that part.

In my mind’s eye, I can already see a couple blank spaces on the wall that I want to fill. While I’m not sure I will, because budget–that didn’t stop me from engaging in my guilty pleasure: browsing Etsy.

Because it’s Autism Acceptance Month, I decided to check out autistic artists on the platform. Last year I got a pair of earrings that really spoke to me (words I never thought I’d say) from an autistic artist who communicates primarily through visuals. As April snuck up again this year, I realized I should be doing this more than one month out of the year.

Here are some of the artists I’ve found, and pieces of their work that I love.

CultureCrime

college money autism

CultureCrime is an Etsy shop run by Tiegan Hockman. After taking a break from her artistic talents for over ten years, inspiration finally struck again and she now has her art–which features various female subjects–in galleries and available via her Etsy shop. You can also check out her full website.

The one pictured above is called Our Lady of Student Debt. Which I figured was very apropos for this audience. 🙂

WhiteRabbitFlowers

black and white abstract art

WhiteRabbitFlowers’ Etsy shop aims to promote autism acceptance–not the desire to change people with autism, but the desire to accept autistic people for who they are, and recognize the great benefits our society gains from neurodiversity.

She has a lot of colorful paintings, but I’m drawn to this black and white. Her shop also has beautiful dream catchers, floral crowns and lip balms.

CadenceInspirations

autistic art

Cadence is a 9-year-old Australian girl who has produced a fair amount of art and writing for her age. Some of her work has focused on autism and spreading acceptance. I love this painting from her Etsy shop, but you can view even more of her work on her website.

HeAndSheSullivanSarah Neat Sullivan

Gah, I had such a hard time picking just one from this shop! Sarah Neat-Sullivan has a lot of work up on Etsy. Some of it’s related to autism. Some of it isn’t. She has jewelry, paintings, and art made from felt or stitching. It’s all pretty amazing, but the one I chose to show you is called On the Tip of My Tongue.

Those Blank Spaces

My budget may restrict me from filling those blank spaces right now, but when that’s no longer the case, I’m excited to turn to one of these artists to fill the void. In recent years I’ve moved from the mindset of simply spending the least amount of money possible to holding off on the purchase if possible (it’s not, always) until I am able to make a purchase that supports people or companies doing good things.

How about you? Would you rush out for that $10 poster at the mall?

Oh, god, how old am I?

Would you open up the Amazon app and get the $10 poster delivered to your door tomorrow because you pay extra for the speedy service so you won’t have to leave your house?

Or would you save up for meaningful art, letting the void just sit till your budget’s ready–forget aesthetics?

 

 

Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality will be hosting a series of Monday articles that focus on the financial challenges and triumphs that people with autism face and achieve. When they are children, these things also tend to affect their family’s finances, as well.

Pinning for my nephew. They don't have Medicaid coverge in his state and it's really hard because of the services he needs with autism. Maybe another state could help them out better.

 

When you’re raising an autistic child, the largest expense you shoulder is healthcare. You learn that “healthcare” isn’t just doctor’s visits and the occasional dramatic visit to the ER. It’s therapy. Adaptive equipment. Communication devices. And more.

None of it’s cheap, and if you don’t have a good healthcare plan, a lot of it’s not going to be covered.

Even if you do have a good healthcare plan, some benefits will still not be covered. In many states, the most comprehensive way to get your child the services and equipment they need is through Medicaid, and many states allow disabled children access to Medicaid even if their parents’ income exceeds eligibility limits.

Want to find out how to shelter some of your savings from asset tests? Check out ABLE accounts.

Medicaid Coverage Saves Everyone Money

Medicaid coverage keeps kids out of institutions. Until the 1980’s, one of the only ways to get children with complex needs the services they required was through an institution. Whether a parent wanted to part with their child or not, they were often forced to.

This was also extremely expensive. Providing a child Medicaid benefits so they are able to live and thrive at home is far less costly than having them live in an intermediate care facility or nursing home.

Luckily, things have changed, but not all states are equal. Today we’ll be looking at Medicaid coverage options for children with autism across all fifty states–and Washington, D.C.

Before we get started, there’s some vocab I want to review.

State Plan

“State Plan” simply refers to the Medicaid coverage that anyone gets if they apply for benefits with their state. Eligibility is dependent on income limits–not disability or lack thereof.

ABA Therapy

ABA therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy, is the most proven method for successful early intervention for children with autism. There’s just one problem: it’s insanely expensive.

Until recently, most insurers denied the evidence in favor of this therapy. Some still do because of its cost. But most states have enacted laws recognizing, and forcing insurers to recognize, it as an evidence-based therapy.

That doesn’t mean all states provide coverage. There was a mandate issued by the Federal government in 2014 that arguably required its coverage under Medicaid, but some states have interpreted this mandate differently.

I want to take a minute here to acknowledge that not everyone is behind ABA–even within the autistic community. There are some autistic adults who are opposed to ABA therapy when it’s practiced with extreme rigor. However, there is also a general acknowledgement that there are ethical and non-ethical ways to practice ABA from the autistic perspective. You can get both sides of the argument here.

Level of Care

Required “level of care” indicates where a child would have been cared for prior to our culture’s shift towards keeping autistic children with their families. There are three levels commonly recognized in most states. In order from the least care needed to the most:

  • Intermediate Care Facility– Many parents may be surprised to learn that their child would have been institutionalized not so long ago. This level of care can, in some cases, be equivalent to the child who goes to outpatient therapy several times a week and has behavioral therapists in their home or community setting.
  • Nursing Home– This level of care would require skilled nursing/medical care on a regular basis. Today, you may have a nurse come into your child’s home and/or school to help provide these services.
  • Hospital– This level of care is required when you need more than a nurse. There may be monitoring of a condition or simply more advanced care needed on a regular basis.

In this guide, the lowest level of care required is listed. For example, if a state lists the required level of care as an intermediate facility, that will typically mean that those at a nursing home or hospital level of care are eligible, too.

Conversely, if the listed level of care is “nursing home,” those who are at an intermediate care facility level of care would not qualify for the listed program.

Waiver

A Medicaid waiver is simply a program that grants specific services to those who do not typically qualify for the State Plan. There are also waivers that provide services in addition to and including what’s available on the State Plan.

Wait List

You may notice that for most states, there is no reference to the wait list. This is done for two reasons.

  1. Medicaid programs are in flux at the moment. A wait list–or even a waiver–could change suddenly. It’s information we don’t have the capacity to update continuously.
  2. We want you to get in touch with the agencies that provide these waivers. Even if the wait list is too long for your child, state agencies may know of other programs or community organizations that could help in your unique situation.

Download Your Free Copy of Children, Medicaid & Autism: State-by-State Guide

In an attempt to make this guide thorough for all 50 states plus D.C., it is much longer than typical Femme Frugality content–11,000+ words. As such, we’ve turned it into a PDF for your browsing convenience. You’ll be able to find your state in our table of contents and easily jump to the appropriate page to get the information you need.

>>Click here to get your free copy of the PDF<<

 

 

This information in the above PDF is accurate to the best of our research as of April 22, 2018. It will be reviewed and updated annually. Intensive research was performed for each state program. The majority of states had a governmental agency or independent advocacy group provide information regarding their programs.

How Disableism Has Affected My Finances

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, Femme Frugality is running a series of Monday articles focusing on the triumphs and challenges autistic people conquer as related to their finances and careers. Today I’m so happy to introcude to you Kristine–a Norwegian money blogger at Frugasaurus–who is here to give us first-hand perspective on what it’s like to face disableism in the workplace as an autistic woman.

Didn't realize autistic people faced so many barriers to entry in the workplace! Passing on to my HR rep so my employer can be more aware of these issues.

Hi, there! My name is Kristine, and I mostly write about frugality, sustainability and personal finance over at frugasaurus.com. I am also autistic–diagnosed in my early twenties with what was then known as Asperger’s. A classic middle child in many ways, my two siblings demanded attention, so my parents were overjoyed to have a child who mostly sat in a corner reading books or solving jigsaw puzzles.

When Femme approached me about writing a post for Autism appreciation month, I was honoured. I had recently written a post about autism and personal finance, but to be honest, I also felt a bit apprehensive. As I do whenever I poke my head out about my diagnosis. I was only diagnosed as an adult, after all. My condition was not such that it warranted special education or speech training.

Still, my experience is also a valid one, so here follows some of my experiences regarding disableism.

Getting A Foot Inside

It starts with the most obvious yet insidious of adult milestones: Getting a job.

I had done “everything right.” At least as far as I understood it. Society and my family told me school was important, so I attended school. They told me science was a safe profession (they were non-specific as to what kind of science), so I studied science. Environmental chemistry, to be specific.

I was told my degree was highly relevant and sought after–it had been requested by the industry after all–and I had several relevant internships. I had followed the rules. Surely, a meaningful job would follow?

That is not what happened.

Privilege & Disableism

While the job market is challenging for everyone at the moment, it is even more so for people with disabilities. I am privileged in that I am white and educated, but lack privilege in that I am autistic.

It can manifest in multiple ways. For instance, my thinking can be rigid. I have internalised that lying is bad, so I do not embellish my CV. In a world where “everyone” embellishes their CV to get ahead, this puts me at a disadvantage before it even gets to the interview.

Once at the interview, if I am lucky enough to get one, there is the risk that I might come off as a little off. No matter how much I practice social skills, I still struggle in high-stress situations with unexpected questions.

In many ways, disableism means I have had to accept that I am never the preferred candidate, unless the job involves a windowless archive with near-zero social interactions (in which case you’re probably one of the only qualified candidates).

No Data, No Answer

As an example of this, I once dropped a grade at an oral maths examination, because the teacher wanted me to calculate the weight of the air in the classroom.

I told him I did not know the weight of a cubic meter of air, and asked if he could provide an estimate. He told me to guess.

I had absolutely no frame of reference for how much a cubic meter of air weighs. I had no way to guess. He insisted I guessed, and I told him I could not. I could have calculated the volume of the air in the classroom if that was what he wanted, but the way he framed the question meant I was missing a variable, and that made me shut down.

That is how my mind works. Trying to “help” me in quiz or Trivia Pursuit just annoys me. I either know, or I don’t.

Keeping Your Financial House in Order

Nearly four years after graduating top of my class, I still do not have a permanent position. People seem to like me just fine, and they compliment my work, but I lack that knack for “chit-chat” and water-cooler talk that makes for great networking. People bring their newborn in to work and I try to compliment them as protocol dictates, but really, I just want to know if they’ve had time to look at x and y work-related subjects yet.

This means I do not feel financially secure in my employment. I hoard savings for the next time a contract will expire and I’ll be back hunting for jobs. In the end, I realised that I would never feel safe with someone else in charge of my paycheck. If I wanted financial peace, I would have to build it for myself.

If you are disabled in some way, but do not receive social benefits, you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you don’t look out for your own financial well-being, no one else will.

Note from Femme: In the US, if you are disabled and receive social benefits, the government hardly watches out for your financial well-being. Only recently have ABLE accounts allowed disabled populations to save without losing benefits. Other countries have more logical and less discriminatory social policies.

Oh, Brother of Mine

Mine is the story of autism from a highly educated and reasonably observant point of view.

My brother, on the other hand, might fit better into a different autistic stereotype. He lives a lot in his own world, doesn’t get the greatest grades, and really just wants to get on with his own life as a factory worker somewhere with rigid routines, playing video games at night and minimum amounts of fuss.

He is generous to a fault. More than once has he spent all his pocket money on gifts and tokens of affection, giving no regard to the fact that he has to eat tomorrow as well.

And I see the same struggles as he is trying his best to get a job. When and if he manages to get an interview, he is honest to a fault, and does not understand that an interview is a place to show off your best qualities.

I do hope he gets a job eventually. He may not be the most independent, but once you teach him something, he will work until you or the clock tell him to stop. In the right environment, he will be a great asset.

Just Pull Yourself Together

Probably one of the most hurtful comments to anyone with a disability–mental or physical–is the idea that it is all just in our heads, and that we can simply imagine away our obstacles with enough willpower.

If you feed off social interaction and feel invigorated at parties, that’s both incredible and alien to me. But please don’t try to assume I can do the same if I just “loosen up” or “let myself go.”

Social interactions with more than the select few people I feel comfortable with, can and will exhaust me. The office Christmas or summer party is my idea of a special hell, and no amount of practice can remedy that.

Act Natural

On a lighter note, I would suggest not trying to tell autistic people to “act natural” or to “be themselves.”

That might work for you, but myself and the other autistic people I’ve met laugh at this notion.

Acting natural for an autistic person might be sitting naked on the floor (because clothes itch or feel weird,) eating jello (smooth texture) while rocking back and forth or groaning repeatedly (“stimming”–repetitive behaviour that calms your down or shows joy/excitement.)

Trust me, I do not act “natural” in public, and you’re probably glad I don’t.

How Can You Create A Safe Space?

If you are hosting or employing autistic staff, hooray! Here are some easy tips to make them feel welcome and safe:

  • Make sure there is a retreat option. A place where we can be alone if we need a break. For most, this can simply be a bathroom that locks.
  • Many autistic people struggle with physical touch and eye-contact. Please do not force this.
  • Do not assume anything is “common knowledge.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made an ass of myself because no one thought to teach me the most rudimentary of behaviour.
  • Many autistic people appreciate honest, clear feedback on social mishaps. If you are in a position of trust, this could be relevant, but make sure it is in private and unambiguous: “Please welcome clients with a firm handshake,” (and then show them) not; “You’re greeting people a bit weird.”
  • If they want their work space organised a specific way, does it hurt anyone if you let them?
  • Educating yourself is great, but take the time to get to know the person in front of you as well. Meeting one autistic person means exactly that. You’ve met just one.
  • And please, do not make a public point out of behaviour you might find weird or if we excuse ourselves early. It’s not you–it’s us.