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February 2017

Southwest Boarding Terminal

Gray Area for People on the Spectrum

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One common issue for people with autism, is the lack of feel for non-literal conversation. Our view of self and the world tends to be very concrete, and we rarely see the abstract. You might say, “Just don’t think like that, life isn’t all or nothing.” And we would if we could.


In my mind, the lack of gray area when you’re on the spectrum means we can have difficulty dealing with or understanding that not everything is necessarily absolute.


For example, the way my mind works, an agreement between two people is an agreement, and it does not matter what your position is relative to each other. Once the agreement is made, you have to stick to it — no matter how small the agreement.


In college, it drove me nuts that an instructor could be five or ten minutes late, but if I arrived late I was penalized. I didn’t know how to deal with it, and I just needed the concreteness.


It’s always important to understand that some people might not view the world in the same way that you do. Specifically, when communicating with someone with autism, you might want to be careful about sarcasm or about doing things outside of the “rules” of the situation. Another experience that comes to mind happened to me when I was in the airport. I was in line for a Southwest Airlines flight. I had a boarding number, like B-10. So, I casually took my place in line at the B-10 section. Someone in front of me had the boarding number B-13. But since B-10 through B-15 were all lined up in the “same” section, he just stepped in front of me and said, “you don’t mind do you?”


Honestly, I did mind. Rules are rules. And to me, I follow the rules and expect everyone else to do the same. Otherwise, why do we have them in the first place? Overall, try to remember that people on the spectrum don’t purposely try to take things as literally as they do, it just happens sometimes.


I hope this post is useful! And thanks for following along.

Sign Arrows: with Help, Guidance, Support, Tips, Assistance

Is Autism Advice Misleading?

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Often I’m asked if I think that my advice on autism is misleading to some people, since not every person is the same and everyone has different experiences that make them who they are. And my answer is simple: Yes. To many on the spectrum, my advice will not be helpful. But to a lot of others, it may be very helpful.


My greatest fear is the day someone else on the spectrum approaches me and says, “This isn’t my experience at all! You’re misleading and confusing people, and making it harder for me to get the help I need!”


Unfortunately, I know this will happen eventually, because people with autism are exactly that: people. Every life is a unique experience, and what I’m trying to share with you is mine.


The diagnosis for autism is much more limited than the external symptoms you see. Autism creates many different symptoms that are coping mechanisms and can vary a great deal from person to person.


Working to understand some of the common challenges and experiences faced by most people with autism can make all the difference in your ability to understand them, and afford them the opportunity to function better in the world at large. And that is the primary goal of my life.


I truly hope that everyone takes my advice with a grain of salt and that they do some of their own digging for what advice is helpful, and what advice is not. I want to share my experiences and help whoever I can. But I know, for a fact, that everyone is different, because we are living our own lives.


Thanks for reading and I hope you continue to enjoy my blog posts!


Autism and Emotions

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I often get asked about people with autism and why we show emotion in a different way than people without autism.


People with autism do have emotions just like everyone else, but we aren’t affected by those emotions the same way, we don’t express them the same, and we don’t remember or recall them very well.


We can be considered cold or dispassionate, even robot-like, without visible emotion. This is a big misconception. We do have strong emotions going on inside, but we don’t know how to recognize them in ourselves or how to express or explain them to others.


Typical people express their emotions through subtle cues, like body language and tone of voice. Those of us on the autism spectrum don’t pick up on those cues very well.


When someone is sending emotional data to those of us on the spectrum, and from their perspective it seems as if we’re ignoring the data, it tells them the situation is not important to us. The truth is, we don’t even know we are sending that message.


Emotional understanding and expression is a very cultural thing. Japan for example, places the emphasis on NOT expressing emotions. Regardless of where someone lives, if they are on the spectrum, they will undoubtedly have the same struggle within their culture.


So just because someone on the spectrum may not seem to care, it is very likely that they do care, and either they do not know how to express that care, or they think they are expressing care, when indeed they are not expressing their emotions the way that is understandable to most people.


Always try to remember, people with autism are still people. We just express ourselves in different ways.


Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this post! Please let me know if you ever have any questions.

Words Have Power

Person First Language

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This week, I want to talk about an issue people with disabilities face, in some cases, every single day. That issue is person first language.


Person first language is the idea of not identifying people as instances of a disease. You don’t want to say 30 autistic people, but instead, you want to be sure to say 30 people with autism. You always identify the person as a person, because, well, we ARE all people!


This is simply the idea of changing how we think about people, by first changing how we talk about them.


There’s definitely a lot of evidence that shows the way we phrase things and the way we discuss things affects how we internalize our thoughts about certain issues. If we always focus on the person first, and the condition second, this reduces the dehumanizing effect. And doing this makes communication with, and our overall thoughts about, that person immediate and much more personal.


This might seem obvious to many people with disabilities, or people who’ve spent a lot of time around people with disabilities. But, in fact, it’s quite common to hear “that autistic kid” or “that deaf guy.” But you wouldn’t describe someone without a disability without using people first language, because it just would not feel right. For example, if your friend John was a chef at a restaurant, you wouldn’t say “that chef John,” you would instead say “John, who is a chef.” It’s the person first. And that’s the way it should be.


I hope this helps clear up the topic of person first language. If you have any questions, feel free to make a comment below. I love getting your feedback and read every comment.