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Autistic Children and Toilets: Misunderstanding the Difficulties

Photo © Ann Memmott [image: A disorientating digitally altered photo  looking down into an empty toilet cubicle.] Ann Memmott annsautism.blogspot.com Many autistic children sense the world very differently from how many parents and teachers expect. Above, an example of how an autistic child may see a room with a toilet and hand basin in it. A tiled wall, a patterned vinyl floor surface. Would you put your feet on that floor? Could you work out what it was? Could you even reliably find the toilet? Now let’s add in the ‘smellscape.’ Perhaps air fresheners. Toilet cleaners. Hand soaps. Wee. Poo. Then, let’s add in the soundscape. Noisy pipes. The jet-engine-like flush. The deafening smash of wee or poo hitting the water, and the terrifying prospect of freezing water splashing up. Let’s then add in the elements of freezing cold toilet seat, ice cold taps or boiling hot taps, the ice-cold…

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The Meaning of Self-Advocacy

Image © Gioia de Antoniis  | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Black and white photo of a person with long dark hair holding their arms straight out towards the camera, with palms facing outward protectively.] Mel Baggs withasmoothroundstone.tumblr.com Too often people define self-advocacy in narrow terms. They define it in terms of formal groups like People First or Autism Network International. They define it in terms of the ability to use standard language in a specific set of ways. They define it in terms of a specific method of going through the legal system, or other usual channels, to get specific kinds of things done. These are all valid kinds of self-advocacy, but they set people up to believe that only certain kinds of people could ever become self-advocates. When one inmate in an institution fights back against the staff in defense of another inmate who is being brutalized, this…

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Starting Points for Understanding Autism

Oolong oolong.co.uk Photo courtesy the author [image: Photo (light-painting) by the author: a spectral outline around a hand and arm, raised as if to flap.] I believe that the best way to understand autistic minds is in terms of a thinking style which tends to concentrate resources in a few interests and concerns at any time, rather than distributing them widely. I wrote in some detail about how this explains the observed features of autism in Me and Monotropism: A Unified Theory of Autism. Here, I want to distill what this means for living and working with autistic people, expanding on the six starting points for understanding autism that I identified in ‘Theories and Practice in Autism.’ I’m writing in the first person here, as a late-identified autistic adult who has worked and talked with many other autistic people in various contexts over many years. I believe that everything I…