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In Silence and in Sound: Autistics Do Not Benefit From Presumptions of Deficit

Photo: Ian Chen | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Close-up black-and-white photo of a young East Asian child, with one finger over their lips in a position indicating “hush.”] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com When an academic writes accurately about aspects of autistic lived experience, some people grumble. “All they needed to do was ask me and I would have told them,” some will say. “We’ve known this for years but they act like it’s a shocking new revelation,” others might add. I, however, rejoice. Formal confirmation of autistic common knowledge is exactly the kind of research we need out there. I am so happy when an academic paper states the obvious (at least obvious to us autistics) because it means there is finally an information source that “the system” will respect. Do I wish people would actually listen to actual autistics? Most definitely, I do. But until we manage to shift…

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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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Autism and the Burden of Social Reciprocity

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Breaking Down Walls That Shouldn’t Exist Photo © Gavin Stewart, Creative Commons license. [image description: People using a wooden ladder to climb over the Berlin Wall during its 1989 fall.] One of the images that comes up again and again in articles about autism and Autistic people are photographs of children behind panes of textured glass. Their hands are usually pressed against the glass and their faces are distorted beyond recognition by the swirls and ridges in the surface of the glass. The images are meant to symbolize how we are “trapped inside autism” just waiting to be broken free from our “prison.” Journalists and their editors love those images; Autistic adults tend to really hate them. Years ago, when I was struggling hard with a deep self-loathing that I had projected onto my autism diagnosis, I embraced those images as well. I had been terribly, sometimes…