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Autism and Intense Interests: Why We Love What We Love and Why It Should Matter to You

Photo © Deanna | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: White child with short brown hair holding up a massive bunch of colorful Mardi Gras beads.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com If you know an Autistic person or are Autistic yourself, you are familiar with the intense interests and consuming passions that we can get so engrossed by that we forget to eat, sleep, or even use the bathroom. While not every Autist has one or more deeply-lived interests*, the laser-focus with which we can approach preferred things is generally considered one of the hallmark traits of autism. An Australian research study from 2016  demonstrated the tremendous value of going directly to Autists, by asking us about this tendency in order to discern our motivations. The researchers wanted to answer the question: why are Autists drawn with such intensity to the things that catch their interest? To that end, they developed a 20-item, self-administered assessment…

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Coping with a Crisis When You Have Unreliable or Intermittent Speech

Maxfield Sparrow Unstrangemind.com Photo © Marcia Furman | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: White person with tousled medium brown hair slumped over at a restaurant table, face hidden, with sunglasses resting on the top of their head and hair.] Autistic people already know how alarming and overwhelming a crisis can be. But when we have unreliable and intermittent speech, a crisis can go beyond stressful, even becoming deadly. I’d like to share a few tips on how I’ve managed to stay alive despite intermittent speech. Sections: What is unreliable and intermittent speech? People With unreliable and intermittent speech can help others in emergencies What to do when you are in a crisis and need to contact someone  Text someone you know or a professional helper Use TTY/Relay to contact someone Use an AAC over the telephone Use the Text Crisis Line How to interact with others during a crisis Decide whether and…

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Labels Are Valuable Tools

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com There’s something that kind-hearted and well-meaning people say that can hurt. And it usually goes like this: “Let’s go around the circle and introduce ourselves.” “Hi, my name is Max. I’m a writer, artist, musician, and public speaker. I live in a van with my cat, Fermat, and I am Autistic.” “Oh, Max, I don’t think you should call yourself autistic. Labels are for soup cans, not people! You’re such a sweet, intelligent man. You don’t need to use that label on yourself any more. We all accept you here. You’re just like us and seem totally normal to us. Don’t label yourself.” [Image description: A bowl of alphabet soup with the word “Autistic” made of alphabet noodles floating in it.] The person who says “Don’t label yourself“ is trying to be progressive and enlightened and kind and accepting. It is so hard to tell them that…

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Under a Double Rainbow: Autism and LGBTQIA+

Photo © Ted Eytan | Creative Commons/Flickr [image: Multiracial crowd rallying with flags and signs behind a banner reading “Trans Solidarity against transphobia for justice”.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Ten years ago, I wanted to write a paper about autism and gender issues for a gender and sexuality conference at which I had previously presented. I started the research, then dropped into a depression after realizing how little material was available, and that the existing research about autism and gender was both dismal, and erasing. The medical journals talked about transgender autistic children as if their gender issues were delusions, mere symptoms of their autism. I never wrote that paper. Today, not only is there good autism information available, but the “double rainbow” of being both autistic and LGBTQIA+* is just beginning to be more accepted and understood. We have a long way to go, but people are beginning to understand…