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Why Do So Many Autistic People Flap Our Hands?

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com [image: rainbow colored hands in silhouette, upraised and reaching out with joy.] The saying goes, “if you’ve met one Autistic person, you’ve met one Autistic person.” That was really hammered home for me today as I watched a short video in which an Autistic man explains why Autistic people flap our hands … and pretty much nothing he said matched up with my own experience. A few of the things he said even bothered me. My intention is not to erase what he said, however. His view of why he used to flap his hands is just as valid as my view of why I still flap my hands. There are many ways of being Autistic. (Since the video was not captioned, I took the time to make a transcript of it for those who can’t hear or understand it. That was fortunate as the original video…

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When Autistic People Have Epilepsy

Photo © Ivo Dimitrov | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Illustration of a human brain, in profile, made of colorful cogs in various sizes and shapes.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com [Content note: This post discusses suicidality, mental health, and death.] In the early 1990s, I was engaged to a man with epilepsy. He had tonic-clonic seizures and he was a big guy, so I was always alert to the possibility of an episode. I knew there were stores we couldn’t shop in, and roads I couldn’t drive down. I caught his body and lowered him safely to the ground more times than I can remember. I guarded him from the pressing crowd of curious onlookers when he came around after a public seizure. And I worried, feeling helpless, when his medication levels were off, and he had seizure after seizure. I can’t know what it is like to have epilepsy or…

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Autism Uncensored: A Dangerous and Spirit-Crushing Book

Photo © Charley Lhasa | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: Plush red Elmo doll lying on asphalt. A yellow chalk speech bubble has Elmo appear to be yelling “Help!”] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com [Content note: Extensive discussion of restraints. Discussions of gaslighting, denying Autistic autonomy and competence, child abuse, autism profiteering, and similar goblins. Discussion of the 1960s medical view of autism as it continues to occur today.] You may have seen the recent Washington Post article titled “Bystanders were horrified. But my son has autism and I was desperate,” an excerpt from Whitney Ellenby’s new book, Autism Uncensored: Pulling Back the Curtain. True to the exposé tone of the title, Ellenby describes in livid detail the day she wrestled her panicked son, Zack, by clamping his 50 pound frame tightly between her thighs and locking her feet together. The two spent over half an hour in combat as Ellenby dragged him inch…

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Why Is the Autistic Unemployment Rate So High?

Photo © Terry Chay | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: A colorful office workstation with two large computer monitors.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com In the United States, thirty-five percent of Autistic eighteen-year-olds go to college. Of those American Autistics with university diplomas, only 15 percent are employed. This 85 percent unemployment rate (among college-educated Autistic adults) is massive—the general population’s unemployment rate (at all education levels) is only 4.5 percent. There are some obvious reasons for this disparity. Just as with all Disabled people, workplace understanding and accommodations are a huge reason why Autistic people have such a hard time finding and keeping employment. Making it past an interview can be an insurmountable hurdle for many of us. While organizations and employer programs are popping up to help Autistic adults find and keep employment, with an estimated 50,000 new Autists entering the workplace every year, the few programs that exist cannot possibly keep…

Please Stand By is a Quietly Subversive Film

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Me too. Which is why I can’t wait until Hollywood starts getting that stuff right so I *can* just relax and enjoy a film about people like me. #PleaseStandBy — Unstrange Mind 🖖🏼 (@UnstrangeMind) January 28, 2018 [image: Twitter exchange: “I want to see Please Stand By but as one on the spectrum I don’t want to be hung up on the attention to detail and accuracy of the portrayal at the expense of actually enjoying the movie.” -@GlennHampson “Me too. Which is why I can’t wait until Hollywood starts getting that stuff right so I *can* just relax  and enjoy a film about people like me.” – @UnstrangeMind] That Twitter exchange sums up how I feel when I watch fictional movies that feature Autistic characters, like the recent release Please Stand By. I want to just sit back and let the experience carry me away to fantasy…

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Identifying Good People and Avoiding Bad People: How Can an Autistic Person Stay Safe?

Photo © Dee Teal | Flickr/Creative Commons license [image: Blonde white teen girl whispering into the ear of an adult white woman with long brown hair and bangs.] Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com It started as a tweet from @frogautistic to my friend, Shannon: “Would you know of any guides for adult autistics wanting to differentiate between Good & Bad people.” Shannon replied: Some #actuallyautistic guidance from @unstrangemind (who probably has more to say, if he has time): Be wary of people who treat autistic people differently in person than they do via written communications: https://t.co/9u4OM2fEI0 https://t.co/g1f0CMnzYK — Shannon Rosa (@shannonrosa) December 28, 2017  [image: Tweet from @shannonrosa, reading, “Some #actuallyautistic guidance from @unstrangemind (who probably has more to say, if he has time): Be wary of people who treat autistic people differently in person than they do via written communications”] Shannon’s response included a link to my TPGA article about social reciprocity, in…

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Authoring Our Own Lives: How Autistics and the World Benefit from Auti-Biography

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com Photo © barbara w | Flickr/Creative Commons [image: Hands on a typewriter keyboard, at a sunny wooden desk, next to a drink on a crocheted white doily, amidst some plucked green leaves.] The last decade has seen a blossoming of blogs, articles, books, and documentary films about autism, authored by actually Autistic people. This is an exciting time of growth for Autist-created content about autism, and I want to encourage all Autistic people to document their lives: whether in a private journal, or to share with the public. There are great personal and community benefits that come from Autistic people writing about our lives—especially when we write about emotions, victories, and challenges and not just the factual events by themselves, although any autobiographical writing is helpful to the writer as well as to others if they decide to share what they’ve written. Michel Foucault, the postmodern philosopher,…

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Why To Siri With Love Is a Wrecking Ball of a Book

Maxfield Sparrow unstrangemind.com [Content note: possible triggers include: forcible sterilization of minorities including Autistic people, forcible gynecological experimentation on minorities, Judge Rotenberg Center, electric shock, stereotypes about Autistics lacking empathy or a sense of humor, stereotypes about Autistics or Black people lacking the ability to feel pain, snakes and feeding live rodents, harmful Supreme Court verdicts, dehumanizing of Autists, getting drunk, preferring drunkenness to talking with Autistic children, humanizing the author of a grossly dehumanizing book.] Come mothers and fathers / Throughout the land  And don’t criticize / What you can’t understand  Your sons and your daughters / Are beyond your command  Your old road is rapidly aging.  Please get out of the new one / If you can’t lend your hand  For the times they are a-changin’.  -Bob Dylan [image: Book cover: A blue background with informal font white text reading, “To Siri With Love,” with a photo of a…

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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…