Definitely! A lot of autistics are semi-nonverbal. I don’t really talk very much in general but if im really stressed out or overstimulated I go completely nonverbal. You arent thenonlynone and you are definitely not broken friend
It’s not just possible, it’s normal. It’s very rare for autistic people to be verbal 100% of the time. It does happen, but even 95% of the time is far more common than 100%. Most people are in the 5-95% range, not either totally nonverbal or totally verbal. And people can change over the course of a day, or a lifetime, too.
That’s the article that got me diagnosed.
Criteria for catatonia
There are no generally accepted standardised criteria for diagnosing catatonia. In this study, a diagnosis of catatonia was given when exacerbation of certain features of behaviour occurred in sufficient degree to interfere with movement and everyday functions of self-care, education, occupation and leisure. The essential features were:
increased slowness affecting movements and verbal responses;
difficulty in initiating and completing actions;
increased reliance on physical or verbal prompting by others; and
increased passivity and apparent lack of motivation.
Other abnormalities of behaviour often associated were:
e. reversal of day and night;
f. Parkinsonian features: tremor, eyerolling, dystonia, odd stiff posture, freezing in postures, etc.;
g. excitement and agitation; and
h. increase in repetitive, ritualistic behaviour.
Basically catatonic features exist in autistic people in general, most people don’t know what catatonia is, but it’s a complex condition affecting movement in complex ways, basically.
Here’s a description of catatonia compiled by Martha Leary and Anne Donnellan:
The possible connection between symptoms of movement disturbance and “mental” disorders was first discussed in 1874 by Ludwig Kahlbaum a German physician. A summary of Kahlbaum and others’ descriptions of patients can be seen in the list below. In the nineteenth century the term catatonia was used. Later, catatonia came to be defined more narrowly as a kind of schizophrenia characterized by absence of movement. Regardless of the terms used, there has been a continuing awareness of these behaviors in persons diagnosed with a variety of psychiatric and neurological disorders, including autism/mental retardation.
Characteristics of Catatonia
Simple Disorders of Movement
- Repetitive movements — self stimulation, repeated actions
- Abnormal facial movement — expressionless, flaccid or fixed expression, abnormal eye movements, grimaces, teeth grinding, facial tics, lip movements
- Abnormal gait — too fast, slow, halting, peculiar, stiff walking
- Mannerisms — posing, unusual manner of eating, tic-like movements
- Blocking and freezing — lack of movement, difficulty starting movement, stopping during on-going movement, difficulty completing actions
- Unusual postures — odd hand and body postures, flexion of neck, trunk or limbs
- Abnormalities in muscle tone — too little or too much muscle tone, rigid, floppy
More Complex Disorders of Volition
- Automatic obedience — excessive compliance, follows commands instantly
- Echopraxia — forced imitation of another person
- Lack of imitation — unable to imitate others
- Negativism — does the opposite of what is expected or routine
- Extreme suggestibility
- Difficulty initiating actions, postures, thoughts
- Difficulty stopping or switching actions, postures, thoughts
Very Complex Disorders of Overall Behavior
- General overactivity — continuous movement, difficulty stopping
- Impulsiveness — action without consciousness of motives, easily aroused without inhibiting components
- Frenzy — explosive or violent movement episodes
- Destructiveness, aggression
- Self mutilation
- Extreme response to minor changes
- Decreased activity — motionless, stays in one place for long periods, difficulty initiating
- Decreased responsiveness — little or no response to others, aversion to contact with others, stupor or arrest, deepening and intensification of attention
- Maintenance of postures — including thought and perceptual postures
Disorders of Speech
- Vocal or verbal tics
- Stereotyped verbalizations
- Mutism — lack of speech or decreased use of speech
- Slowness or delay in answering
- Labored speech
- Unusual vocal melody — lack of intonation, stereotyped intonation, monotone voice
- Unusual loudness of volume — shouting, screaming, whispering
- Disturbance of rhythm of speech — talks too fast, too slowly, with unusual stress patterns
- Outbursts of speech
- Falsetto voice
- Repeats names of places, cities, towns
- Unmotivated laughter
- Repetition of words, phrases, topics
- Unintelliglble speech
(Sources include Kahlbaum (1874/1973), Bleuler (1911/1950), Abrams and Taylor (1976), Wing and Attwood (1987), Sacks (1990), Realmuto and August (1991), Lund, Mortimer, Rogers, and McKenna (1991), Johnson (1993).)
In contrast to the view that catatonia is a type of schizophrenia, the literature contains documentation of a wide range of causes of catatonia including infections (e.g., encephalitis lethargica, herpes simplex); vascular events; brain lesions; metabolic differences (e.g., porphyria, carbon monoxide poisoning); drugs (e.g., alcohol, neuroleptics, lithium); and epilepsy (i.e., non-convulsive epileptic status).
In Characteristics of Catatonia, above, we list some of the symptoms that have been associated with catatonia. Our interest is in understanding the symptoms, rather than the label, syndrome, or diagnostic category. Many of these symptoms have also been identified as problematic for people with labels of autism/mental retardation.
Most autistic people have some catatonic traits. But some autistic people develop more of them in adolescence, and that’s what the first article deals with. It can be slowly progressive, it can happen really fast, or it can be an intermittent thing. For me it was like a slow back and forth with things getting more and more difficult over time, but at any given time things could be fluctuating a lot. Like a wavy line going downwards overall but wavy over the shorter distances. I started showing signs when I was about 12 (and had some traits before that), but was not diagnosed until I was 20, which is when the above article came out and was brought to the attention of a psychiatrist who had known me for 6 years at that point.
A lot of behavior discussed when diagnosing autism (stimming, difficulty speaking and acting, compulsively imitating everything or not being able to imitate at all, echolalia, unusual intonation and volume of speech, “mutism,” lack of speech, lack of responsiveness to others, overactivity, impulsivity, suggestibility, repetitive movements…) sound like catatonia/movement difficulties that are described as if they were social or motivational problems. Go down the DSM list of traits and you will see a great deal of overlap. Why do we still see autism as a primarily social rather than sensory/motor disability?
Yes. I think that many of the social problems ultimately stem from overstimulation. When you are overwhelmed by the cool breeze and a bird passing above and slightly too-bright sunshine and two kids playing across the street and scratchy clothes and a bumpy tongue and the uneven sidewalk through your shoes and a faraway siren, it’s really hard to focus on someone else’s facial expression and also that person’s body position and also think about what those things might mean and also listen to the words that person is saying and also understand the literal meaning of the words working together and also interpret the subtext of the words working together with the facial expression and body position and past interactions with that person and also think of an answer to what the person said and also mentally check whether that answer conforms to a memorized set of social conventions relative to a brief chat with a neighbor at the mailbox and what you have inferred about the person’s mood and also edit the answer to better conform to those things and also coordinate your mouth muscles to make the sounds necessary to express the answer you formulated in your head within a reasonable interval (three seconds) of when the other person stopped talking.
The motor skills are also often a huge problem in autism. Evidence suggests that speech difficulties often occur with motor coordination problems. I think that speech difficulties in autism are usually a problem with coordinating mouth muscles rather than not understanding how words work. It would explain why so many people with autism can communicate well by typing, when the mouth muscles are out of the picture. If the problem were just not cognitively understanding how to use words, those autistic people would not be able to communicate with words in any medium. (I understand that there are probably a few autistic people who can’t expressively or receptively communicate with words at all, but I’m pretty sure that’s an extremely tiny minority.)
(I’m trying to move my conversations with Tumblr people to this blog. But it really bugs me that this is not about ADHD or cats. I can’t win.)
I think speech difficulties in autism can be very complicated. Like motor problems with the mouth are one aspect of it. But for me there was and is also the fact that I grew up with very screwed up receptive language, so all the expressive speech pathways that got made in my brain (as I imagine it, anyway — not being an expert in neurology) were made wrong. So that once I became old enough to more consistently understand words and use words to communicate, I was able to make the switch in typing, but I was never as able to make the switch in speech. (By “the switch” I mean, from using words in less consistently communicative ways, to using them in more consistently communicative ways.) I think having learned typing at an older age when my language skills were better had some part to do with it. But there’s also a huge part of autistic catatonia (a motor problem) in my speech problems. So it’s very complicated, nothing about it is simple.
It’s hard to even explain to people how screwed up things get when your expressive vocabulary and your expressive communication skills are superficially far ahead of your receptive vocabulary and receptive language skills. Which is how I tested from the age of five onward, and which is apparently classic for some forms of hyperlexia. Echolalia becomes a huge component of speech, speech does not necessarily get used for communication, and things get very, very tangled and weird in ways that you’re really lucky if you ever find your way out of. I feel very fortunate that in my late teens, communication began straightening itself out. I have a friend with very similar speech development to mine (except not as severe autistic catatonia, so she still has some speech, although I honestly don’t think she ought to be using it given all the trouble it causes her), and she also experienced a period in her late teens when language came together for her.
I really wish that more autism research went into looking into the dynamics of things like this. Like it’s obvious when you have known enough autistic kids, that there are timetables for autistic development that are every bit as regular as timetables for nondisabled development. Not that there’s one single timetable for all autistic development. But for instance, the age of 4 is a very, very common age to start speaking. So common that if an autistic kid isn’t speaking before the age of four, I don’t even start worrying yet about their speech development, because it’s like a nonautistic kid not speaking at the age of four months or something, it’s just not an age where I expect a lot of autistic kids to have communicative speech.
Donna Williams had a pattern of cognitive development, which the ages at which she learned certain things, very closely map onto the ages when I learned certain things. Anne Corwin even more so, for me. And I see ages where autistic kids are hitting autistic milestones (including cognitive, motor, and perceptual milestones that don’t even exist for nonautistic kids) consistently at very similar ages. Or where like, one group of kids will hit them at one age and one will hit them at another but there do seem to be very standardized ages for things.
Unfortunately, most of the research out there, doesn’t even know what milestones to look for, let alone how to study them. They’d have to have a much more intimate understanding of what autism is like from the inside, which would require talking to extremely self-aware autistic people from a range of different subtypes of autism. By extremely self-aware autistic people I mean people who have made it a point to understand themselves on their own terms, and not just parrot back what the experts or their parents tell them about themselves. Which is hard, because even those of us who have made it a point to do this, are still biased by hearing all about what autism Really Is all the time. I find it very difficult to put my insights about autism into words, because I often need a model for words before I can use them on a concept (otherwise it can take me years to communicate about it), and often there is no model, there is nobody saying what I’m trying to talk about. And I know lots of other autistic people have this communication problem. So even when we have the insight, it can be like pulling teeth to pry the words out of us.
But I seriously think there’s a lot of important research that can be done into autistic development, autistic developmental milestones, autistic cognitive development (including language development), autistic motor development, and autistic perceptual development, that would revolutionize everything we think we know about autism. And very few people are even trying to do it, let alone succeeding.
The most exciting and interesting research I’ve seen has been attached in some way to either Laurent Mottron, Morton Gernsbacher, or Martha Leary and David Hill. (David Hill is on the spectrum himself and has early-onset atypical Parkinson’s, meaning possibly autistic catatonia — which is sometimes diagnosed as a parkinson-like movement disorder. So he’s helped Martha Leary a lot in their joint research into movement disorders and autism, and it was really exciting to see them give a talk once.) That’s not very many people. :-( Laurent Mottron is responsible for the Enhanced Perceptual Functioning model of autism, which unfortunately is cloaked in nearly impenetrable language despite having a lot of promise. Morton Gernsbacher has done a lot of work debunking bad autism science and showing the truth about autistic people. And Martha Leary and David Hill have done a lot of work on movement disorders in autism. Morton Gernsbacher is also a really good source if you want to find out about tiny bits of really interesting research being done in labs around the world, in a very scattered and haphazard way.
And also of course there’s AASPIRE, which is a group of autistic people who team up with autism researchers to do research relevant to our community. But so far that has been more on the disability rights end of things — such as, for instance, a study we did on medical discrimination, which we are following up with a study on a tool we’ve created to make it easier for autistic people to communicate with doctors about our needs. So this is quite necessary autism research we’re doing, but it’s not the same kind that I describe above, it’s not about finding out what autism is and how it works.
I may have gotten a bit off track here, I’m just way interested in real autism research and there’s so damn little of it out there.
Some people say something is hard because they don’t value it and think any effort whatsoever is too much.
Some people say it is hard BECAUSE IT IS ACTUALLY HARD OR IMPOSSIBLE FOR THEM.
Yep yep yep yep yep.
I’ve been accused of the first so many times, when it comes to language issues. Especially when it comes to being unable to cut words out of my vocabulary easily, even really bad words that I want to cut out of my vocabulary very badly because I can’t see any reason such words should even exist, they’re so harmful. I still can’t always do it.
And it hurts — badly — to be in any situation where you give everything you have, and it’s never enough for people. Another situation this crops up with is when I’m unable to give a tl;dr summary for my long posts (which is most of the time), or to simply write short posts to begin with. Which is also something I badly want to be able to do, for the sake of accessibility. Lots of people, myself included, can’t read long posts easily. (I can’t even read all of my own posts.)
And it’s one thing to simply not be able to do it. But I’ve occasionally had people accuse me of not trying, of not caring, of not working hard enough, even when in one case, I’d literally worked myself into a head-banging meltdown and lost the ability to function properly for days. It’s not only hurtful on an emotional level, it causes us to damage ourselves in the pursuit of a level of perfection we’ll never be able to attain. And that can be quite dangerous. At one point I basically had someone taunting me about my inability to do it, trying to get me to try harder and harder, and she seemed to almost be enjoying herself, like enjoying making me try and fail over and over again while accusing me of being a self-centered asshole who cares about nobody but myself because if I really cared I’d just summarize my posts or write shorter ones. It was horrible. When I tried to speak up for myself, she’d accuse me of “playing the victim”. I still occasionally get triggered over that experience.
This is a video of one of the first stims my mom ever saw me do. She said I used to do this in my crib all the time. Sometimes it still happens. It seems to especially happen when I’m tired. I think it eventually evolved into many other forms of rocking, but this was the first form of rocking I ever did. And I still do it to this day.
So this could be the longest-running stim I’ve ever had. Unless there are still stims I do that are similar to whatever I was doing in the womb. And we have no idea what I was doing in there, other than that my mom said it was rhythmic and unusual. (I was her third kid.)
No You Don’t: Essays from an Unstrange Mind by Sparrow Rose Jones.
Can’t comment or review it right now, but it’s a good book, and fairly unusual as autiebooks go.
Yeah I know what you mean. It seems like some people are hell-bent on making sure that autistic people’s lives, disabled people’s lives in general really, look as bleak as possible from the outside. Either that or they just have prejudices that tell them it really is that bleak, and warp any perception of what we’re doing. Because I feel the same way, like my experiences with objects, and sensory experiences, make my life better than they would be without them. I mean I’m sure that if I were built in some other way, there would be some other thing that gave my life the same richness — if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that life is infinitely rich and you can find richness in any area of life if you look hard enough — but as it is, it’s these things that do it, and they’re sure as hell not things that make my life empty and hollow.
I’m trying not to use caps here but I cannot tell you how much I wanted to.
- Autism is not a clear cut thing that you can determine from watching someone. Autistic people know what they feel, how they think, and how they see things— you do not. That’s the same for all people. You do not know what’s happening with them all the time. You may think of them as just being antisocial, but you have no idea what they are thinking, avoiding, or protecting themselves from. I personally am unable to start conversations many times because I go non-verbal and cannot manage to speak. Many experiences with neurotypical kids and adults have also made me wary in engaging in conversations with people because I know that there are consequences if I do something that’s too ‘weird for them’.
- No one has to be ‘disabled enough’ to warrant your protection. They don’t have to prove that they have difficulties to you just so that you’ll help them!
- Some people are literally unable to get the words out and they have serious anxiety just leaving the house. Are you really judging them because they don’t want to face the constant pressure of needing a way out and unable to ask for it????
- Of course all Autistic people need protection. People try every trick in the book to make us feel worthless, many of us are exposed to abuse of every sort, and you should probably examine your motivations behind this post because it sounds like, “Well, I think some autistic people are just lazy,” which is yet another criticism based on someone’s inability to do something.
All Autistic people deserve understanding and basic human rights. The fact that that’s not being afforded to them means that they need protection from those who do understand.
Oh, and the best way to understand? Actually listen to them.
some autistic people are incredibly emotional and wear their hearts on their sleeves. this is okay!
some autistic people don’t feel strong emotions or cannot express them. this is okay!
some autistic people are incredibly empathetic. this is okay!
some autistic people are incapable of feeling empathy. this is also okay!
all autistic people are different and that is great!
An explanation of autistic inertia.
More importantly, it has tips to help one get past inertia. This could apply to those who are autistic or who have other forms of executive dysfunction.
There’s a rather wordy section on examples of autistic inertia, but this other part has some questions which may help guide you to doing things:
If you’re inertial, and you’re trying to figure out some ways of structuring things to make inertia less of a problem, here’s an outline of a possible way to proceed.
- Think about the tasks/activities you do easily, and those you find difficult or impossible (it might help to write a list out). Are there patterns? For example:
- Are you better at doing things in one setting (home, work, school, a friend’s house, etc.) than in another? If so, what is different about that setting?
- Are you better at tasks which need to happen at a particular time than at tasks which need to happen just whenever?
- Are you more likely to do things when you’ve already said out loud or in writing that you’d like to do them (or that you plan to do them, or something)?
- What effect does pressure have on your likelihood of completing a task?
- What effect do various sorts of reminders from friends and others have on your likelihood of completing a task?
- Are you more likely to do tasks you’ve already practiced several times?
- Are there certain things you get stuck doing (playing a particular computer game, etc.) which make it harder for you to move on to what you want to do?
- Do you have an easier time with certain tasks when you’re alone, or when you’re with people?
- Are there particular people you have an easier time doing stuff around? Are there particular people it is difficult or impossible to do stuff around?
- Is it easier when the people are busy doing stuff of their own, or when they’re in certain frames of mind?
- Is it easier to get stuff done when your day has gone certain ways (say, when you’ve exercised, or when you’ve eaten breakfast, or have gotten enough sleep, or aren’t stressed, or already accomplished something that day, or scheduled enough break time, or…)?
- Does it help if your environment is clutter-free?
- Does it help if there is a cue for what you’re trying to do (like the textbook, if you’re trying to study, or the stamps and envelope if you’re trying to send mail)?
- Brainstorm some ideas for making some of the tasks/activities you care most about easier for you to do, possibly with help from a friend. Try them out for a week or so and see if they help. Then, brainstorm again.
Really fucked up right now because I feel isolated by the people I thought I had community with.
Not sure though cause like autism making it hard to gauge how people feel about me.
I know how that feels. I wish I could offer solutions. I also know lots of autistic people who know how that feels. What really sucked was when I felt this from the autistic community, which was the one place I felt I might have been supposed to belong, but I was targeted by a harassment and bullying campaign and things to out of hand. So now I just feel like no community is safe, which is probably a safe assumption actually.
Objects and how I relate to them, as best I can write right now.
[This is a reply to a private message. As such, some information is being left out to preserve anonymity. The subject is the difference between the way I relate to, say, my dad-shirts, and the way many people become ‘owned’ by objects in a negative sense, where the amount of possessions they have controls their life and makes them unhappy, regardless of whether it’s a few or a lot. I’d suspect it’s the nature of the attachment, not the number of possessions, that causes that problem. Anyway, on to the post.]
The physical world is my mind, in some ways. I don’t hold complex thoughts in my head very well. They start slipping out of my head, or slipping out of sight, or messing up my ability to think and perceive other things that are more important. So I have always said, let the world be the world. The world can hold all the complexity it needs. I don’t need to hold it all in my head for it. It’s still going to be there whether I’m thinking about it or not.
But the difficulty holding all these thoughts and feelings in my head on a conscious level, means that I often use objects to represent those different things. Especially useful are objects that are saturated with meaning. If I only had the words to describe all the things I can perceive in it, I could go on all day about my mother’s alpaca-wool poncho she recently sent me. It contains many memories from before the age of four years old, it involves my mother, it involves love, it involves a lot of important things. It’s as much a mom-poncho as the shirts they sent are dad-shirts.
And yes — this way of relating to objects is very different from being owned by objects. It also may help that I see objects as having their own life. So I don’t try to shackle their life to me. I don’t try to make them into extensions of me, or to tie myself to them in ways that create discomfort for me and something akin to discomfort for the object in question. My way of relating to objects is similar to my way of relating to people — and there, too, I find the wrong sort of attachment to be extremely destructive to both parties involved.
I do try to keep my possessions to a minimum for a large number of reasons. But the possessions I do own, and do keep around, often have specific meanings to me. And they hold those meanings outside of my head, so that I don’t have to hold the meanings inside my head.
I wanted to elaborate on this because of an ask I got that was actually a private message so I can’t reply to it as an ask. I think this is an interesting topic, and I would love to go into it further, but I don’t really have the words. I was hoping I could paint you a beautiful picture of how I relate to objects and what it does and doesn’t mean to me. Instead, I’ve managed to describe a couple things and that’s all. Maybe I’ll be able to come back to it later.
Also, to relate to an object in this way, it doesn’t have to be ‘mine’. It can be an object that only belongs to itself, or that belongs to someone else, but I can still relate to it as a friend, sort of. My friend Anne has a house that I have a strong relationship with even though I have never set foot in it. The house has a specific personality and it has shown interest in me — or at least that is how I would describe such things, not knowing any better way to do it.
(I’m not unaware of what ‘inanimate’ means. People tend to think I just need it explained, verrry slowwwwly. But that’s not the issue, the issue is a major difference in worldview. This is not about ‘retaining childhood anthropomorphic characteristics’ nor is it about ‘primitive belief systems like animism’ — both of those are very condescending at best, and definitely inaccurate. I don’t see objects as being human-like, I just see them as having a life that is very uniquely their own, nothing else has a shape quite like it, and decidedly not human.)
And I think that it’s very possible to form relationships with objects without becoming owned by objects in a negative way. I understand why some people would want to avoid relationships with objects altogether, too. I just happen to relate to objects on so many levels — mental, emotional, and spiritual — that they’re a very important part of my life. But they never own me. And aside from legally, I try not to own them. It’s important to me that they be what they are meant to be, not what I want them to be.
Another thing objects have been huge for me with is communication. If I have arranged objects around me in a certain way, then it means something, usually, and something that some people are able to pick up on and others are not. Some autistic people also arrange ideas around themselves in the same manner. But for me it’s mostly objects. If I want to add in an idea, I find a book about that idea and add it to the object collection. I used to call it my ‘connection collection’ and was amazed when the very first person ever followed it and found me at the center — the message of the objects was “Here I am. Over here. Right over here. Please see me?” I’ve talked to other autistic people who did the same things, with varying degrees of success.
Many autistic people relate to objects in a way that is similar to the way I do, for what it’s worth. And many autistic people go “WTF?” when I try to explain it to them. So it’s one of those things, as so many things in autistic people, that can go both ways. But I definitely get the sense that this pattern of relating to objects is far more common in autistic people than nonautistic people. It’s been described in the literature since the very beginning, for one thing, although they often get it wrong. (They see our “attachment to objects” as “attachment” to something cold and hard and unloving, when actually our “attachment to objects” tends to be full of the same warmth and love that people experience in friendships. As usual, they find a way to make the presence of something sound like the absence of something, because it’s easier to pathologize us that way.)
Anyway, for me an object contains so much detailed information that nothing quite is the same as an object. An object can be felt, smelled, looked at, tasted, and tapped on to listen to. In a purely sensory way, objects are complex. If you start looking at the patterns between what you see in a sensory or pre-sensory way, you start getting more and more complexity. But you don’t need to hold the complexity in your head, because it’s all there in the object. So each object has its own life, its own personality, its own meaning, and that can be very important to some people.
I hope I’ve made sense here. Especially to people who don’t experience things this way, but are curious.
youneedacat would know what this is.
I’ve known people who call this ‘thinking in thoughts’. And yes, some autistic people do it. It’s like… there’s words. But there’s also ideas, and the ideas come before the words (even in people who think in words, they’re usually just not conscious of this, but it happens underneath the word layer). And some people think in pure ideas, without sensory information or words attached to them until later. I’ve seen many different autistic people describe it in many different ways.
It’s not my main mode of thinking but it’s a mode I can go into at times. (Most people don’t just have one way of thinking, we just have a dominant way of thinking that’s the most obvious to us. Like for me, I think in sensory and pre-sensory patterns the most readily. But obviously I have a system set up for ideas and words, or I wouldn’t be having this conversation.)
I think it’s fascinating how many different ways that autistic people think. One time I tried to keep count of how many I’d heard of, I made a list, and all I remember was it was extremely long.
Like even “visual thinking” isn’t just one thing. There’s Temple-Grandin-style visual thinking, which is extremely detailed and specific scenes, often with motion added. There’s thinking in the printed word, as if a typewriter is scrolling across your mind. There’s thinking in a mix of colors and shapes that all have specific meanings. There’s all kinds of visual-conceptual synesthesia that ties into thinking for some people. There’s thinking in really vague fuzzy pictures. There’s thinking in something akin to line drawings. So even just a phrase like “visual thinking” doesn’t capture the whole array of ways you can think visually.
And I suspect that thinking in ideas/thinking in thoughts is similar, where there would be many different variants on it, but due to the nature of the kind of thinking, it would be very difficult for two people to even describe the nature of their thoughts well enough to compare notes. I know that I’ve heard of it time and time again, though. It may be unique to each person, or there may be more general versions of it that lots of people have.
Also, while I’m on the subject, there are people who are totally blind to their own thoughts. They can’t see the idea-layer in their head at all, or any word-layer, or sensory-layer, or anything else. They only discover what their thoughts are once they hear them come out of their own mouth, or typed onto a computer screen. So they experience their thoughts only as expressed, not as internalized. Donna Williams talks about this a lot. I think I sometimes have the problem but not as severe or constant. It seems like a kind of agnosia almost, like having an agnosia to your own thoughts. Because clearly the person is having thoughts, they just don’t have conscious access to them at all.
I find the way people think absolutely fascinating. The way autistic and other neurodivergent people think, but also just the way people think in general, whether neurodiverse or neurotypical. There’s a lot of variation in the range of ‘neurotypical’ too.
But yes. Heard of this. Heard of it lots. Lots of autistic people do it. Very common. Very cool.
Oh and the other thing about ‘bad social skills’.
Offline, I see a lot of people say ‘bad social skills’ when they really mean someone is mean or nasty or cruel.
It’s like it’s becoming a euphemism for something it’s not.
Which is disturbing, because I have actual problems with social skills. Like the real actual thing. At least, I lack a lot of the social skills that nonautistic people seem to be born knowing, or pick up in the first five years of their lives. And I will probably never have some of those social skills no matter how old I get. I am always learning, mind you. But it’s discouraging sometimes to learn something when you’re 34 years old and realize that everyone else knew it when they were 4 years old. It’s like you feel like you’ll never catch up, ever.
And sometimes the things you’re learning are important things to know. Like they’re not just cosmetic social skills that make you look good. They’re things about how to be considerate to other people, and things like that. And you learn something in your thirties and realize that most people already knew it when they were in kindergarten. And it’s just really discouraging, because you wonder “What else don’t I know?”
And then people go and describe people as “lacking social skills” when they really mean the person is an asshole.
And you wonder if people think you’re an asshole too because you really lack certain social skills.
I know that social skills and language skills are two of my biggest social problems. I don’t talk about social skills problems a lot because in terms of autism, they’re not my biggest problem and never will be. But I have just as many social skills problems as the next autistic person. And I find myself wondering if I can go through life and not be considered an asshole.
I know that some people do think I’m an asshole, and that this has put my life in danger at times — when your doctors think you’re an asshole, they don’t treat you very well, and when you have life-threatening medical conditions, this is a huge problem. I really need to come up with some autism cards for medical situations explaining various social and communication problems. Because it’s always either a social problem or a language problem that makes them dislike me.
Like one of my social things is I don’t do social hierarchies. And it’s not a choice. I can’t do it. I can’t perceive people as above or below me in a hierarchy. And I can’t show the proper deference or dominance that is expected to be shown to someone above or below me in a social hierarchy. Now personally I don’t see this as necessarily a problem in and of itself. But it causes me problems, especially among medical professionals.
The local hospital has some doctors and nurses who have formed a culture where they are better than everyone else in the hospital — better than patients, better than janitors, better than respiratory therapists, just better. The doctors who are like this are worse than the nurses who are like this, but the nurses who are like this can also be pretty bad sometimes.
And anyway, I don’t show the “respect” that they think they are due. It’s not that I don’t respect them on the level that they are human beings and deserve respect. But I don’t show the other kind of respect. I don’t show the kind of respect where you are sending off signals showing deference to the other person, like telegraphing every few seconds “I know you’re better than me.” I don’t think I could do it even if I was trying to do it. (And in a few fits of desperation I’ve tried to do it before, it comes off wrong. Very wrong.)
So then they think I don’t respect them, and then they don’t think I deserve their respect. But the kind of respect they don’t give me, is the basic human kind of respect that everyone deserves. I do give them basic human respect, but they don’t give me any kind of respect.
- I don’t give them deference-respect. [And they want me to.]
- I do give them basic human respect. [And they don’t notice or care.]
- They don’t give me deference-respect. [And I don’t want them to.]
- They don’t give me basic human respect. [And I need them to, in order to survive.]
Meanwhile, they are above me in a power hierarchy and have control over things that have life and death consequences for me.
So that’s an example of how lacking certain social skills gives me serious trouble. And the thing is, I don’t really think that having to give them deference-respect should be a required social skill. In fact, I think the arrogance that makes them demand that kind of respect and confuse it with basic human respect, is something that should be stamped out of them at the earliest opportunity. When they act like that towards patients, it should be evaluated as part of their professional evaluations as a really bad thing that results in penalties somehow.
But the truth is that right now as things are, lacking that social skill is a serious problem for me. And it’s not fair, and it’s not right, but it’s reality. And people should have to understand that I do lack that kind of social skills, and therefore that I should not be penalized for lacking that kind of social skills. I’m fucking autistic, good grief, cut me a tiny bit of slack here?
And it’s not just that social skill that causes me problems. It’s a whole lot of social skills that I lack, that make people decide that they don’t have to respect me on a basic human level. That somehow, by being socially inept, I have forfeited my right to basic human dignity and being treated as well as people who are not socially inept.
Also frustrating: I know some bullies who are autistic who claim that their bullying behavior is simply “a lack of social skills” or “a problem with communication skills”. They have managed to tie my brain into knots before by:
- Bullying me.
- Claiming that their bullying was a lack of social and communication skills.
- Accusing me of discriminating against them or being “abusive” to them on the basis of their “communication skills problems”.
- Encouraging other people to bully me on the basis of my own communication skills problems. As in, real communication skills problems.
And I think they do it on purpose, which is maddening. I mean, they do the thing on purpose where they do these bad things, blame them on poor social skills, then encourage people to bully me based on my actual poor social skills, while at the same time telling me and everyone around me that I don’t actually have any social skills problems at all and that I am an “eloquent communicator” and therefore have no misunderstandings based on language problems.
(Even though misunderstandings based on language problems are the fucking story of my life. These misunderstandings don’t go away just because you’re a superficially eloquent writer. In fact, the superficial eloquence can make people even less aware of the language problems, causing the misunderstandings to simply grow and grow the better you get at communication in some ways.)
Anyway, it is frustrating to see assholes described as having ‘bad social skills’, while at the same time, being assumed wrongly to be an asshole because you have actual bad social skills.
And here I’m mostly not talking about people saying of themselves “I have bad social skills” when they’re really just being an asshole, although I have seen that happen sometimes (see bullies above). I’m talking about totally nonautistic people who’ve started using ‘bad social skills’ as a euphemism for ‘asshole’ when talking about other people.
And the fact they use it as a euphemism for asshole, makes me wonder what they think of those of us who really do lack social skills. Do they think we’re just assholes?
Anyway sorry for rambling all over the place.
tl;dr: Some people are starting to use ‘bad social skills’ (when describing people other than themselves) as a euphemism for being an asshole. I really don’t like this trend. Meanwhile, I have actual bad social skills and it makes people treat me like I really am an asshole, and like I don’t deserve basic human respect. This is frustrating. And scary, when I need that basic human respect for survival reasons.
Does anyone know of any blogs that talk about being autistic and nonverbal?
Non tumblr blogs are great. I’m taking a disability studies class and we have to do a presentation on a disabled person’s blog.
I would like to do one by someone else that’s autistic since that’s what I’m familiar with, and I think nonverbal people’s viewpoints don’t get discussed enough.
I’m autistic and nonverbal. But I have not been nonverbal all my life, I have a condition called autistic catatonia that causes some people to lose speech at some point later on (in my case I lost it very gradually, but it was gone by my early twenties — I also had a lot of communication problems even when I had speech, so there’s nothing straightforward about this at all). As long as you understand that (and don’t try to paint me as someone who’s always been nonverbal), there’s my blog on tumblr, and also I have a blog at http://ballastexistenz.wordpress.com
There’s also Amy Sequenzia, at http://nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.com/
I think she’s always been nonverbal, if that makes a difference to you.