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OK, So We have AAC: Now What?

Photo courtesy Miss A [image: An iPad screen with the app Speak for Yourself, and a list of animals in the message bar: banana, cookie, cat, dog…”] Miss A teachingunicorn.com Access to AAC—Augmentative and Alternative Communication for people with speech disabilities—is a fundamental human right, but it’s one still that tends to be forgotten and overlooked in many spaces today. And many people are just hearing about AAC, or gaining access to it for the first time. The first few steps in using AAC can feel overwhelming to families and professionals new to this journey, because it is essentially learning a new language. Many people have fears about “doing it right” and “doing it enough.” I promise that you can do AAC. You can do it. You must do it. And it will be worth every step. How? Get excited. It can be really easy for AAC to be seen as…

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How to Be The Teacher Our Autistic Students Need

Photo © US Department of Education | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: A Black adult with curly medium brown chin-length hair and glasses reading a book with a young Black student with long black hair in cornrows.] Miss A teachingunicorn.com I am a special education teacher who happens to have an autistic teen and a recent autism diagnosis of my own. I’ve sat on multiple sides of the table; I’ve seen a lot. And we’ve all seen the headlines where professionals have demeaned or abused students in their care. We all think, “I’m not like that!” But I’ve seen professionals limit or take away a child’s voice. I’ve seen students given mindless and meaningless tasks. I’ve heard terms like “pre-learner” and “so low.” I’ve seen students spend years without access to reading and writing instruction. And I’ve seen professionals doing all of these things without realizing the harm they are…

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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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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…

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The World Is Such a Loud Place And It Seldom Stops Talking

Photo © dan_giles | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: A red lit-up mute button featuring a crossed-out microphone symbol.] Alex Earhart autisticallyalex.com Hearing is the sense that gives me the most trouble to the point that I often wish I had a mute button for the world around me. Sometimes I even wonder what it would be like to have a cochlear implant that I could detach when sound was just too overpowering. The world is such a loud place and it seldom stops talking. Some days are better than others. Sometimes my brain does a better job at filtering sounds toward the back of my mind, but most days the sound comes at me all at once in a jumble of confusing, overwhelming chaos. Each sound jockeys for position at the front of my mind as each insists I pay close attention to its deafening shouts. It’s an exhausting…

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Rethinking Autism and “Picky Eating”

Photo © Melissa | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Lunch box with each food type in a different compartment. Foods include pretzels, jellybeans, raspberries, sliced cucumber, and whole wheat sandwich bread in a butterfly cutout.]  Alex Earhart autisticallyalex.com For as long as I can remember, I’ve been ashamed of what I do and don’t eat. The stigma of being a “picky eater” has followed me my whole life, bringing comments (and no small amount of exasperation) from family, friends, wait staff, and strangers. I’ve recently been examining why I struggle with certain foods, and have come to the same conclusion as I have with much of my post-autism-diagnosis self-exploration: I’m actually incredibly strong, and my experiences are real and valid. Why am I so “picky”? Well, if you could experience my senses for a few hours, I bet you’d be more understanding, less judgmental, and I’m fairly certain you’d stop…

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What Is Light Sensitivity Like for One Autistic?

Photo © Jasper Nance | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Photo of lightning exploding in a purple night sky above silhouetted conifer trees.] M. Kelter theinvisiblestrings.com I’ve had a life-long aversion to lights. I wanted to share what this means in terms of the subjective experience, and how this sensitivity generally seems to operate. The concept of a sensory aversion is probably self-explanatory, but it can include more subtle effects that may not be as apparent. I’ve noticed two primary factors that can cause my eyes to feel pain (no surprises here): brightness levels, and sudden changes in lighting. What are the types of “pain” involved, specifically? This can vary. Certainly an intensely bright light can cause a sharp pain, but that’s probably true for many people. Let’s define “intensely bright” as something akin to a camera flash. That can cause a sharp, stabbing pain, and that pain can persist…