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More than a Cookbook: The Autism-Friendly Cookbook by Lydia Wilkins

By Marie Blackett / 2023-01-03
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Disclaimer: The Autism-Friendly Cookbook was kindly sent to Marie to review, this has not influenced her views.


When I told someone I was reviewing this book, their first question was “how is a cookbook for autistic people different to a cookbook for neurotypical people?”. 

I had to admit that I honestly wasn’t sure. I know how my physical disability and ADHD affect me in the kitchen but being someone who didn’t realise they are autistic until recently, I hadn’t really thought about how my autism impacted my ability to follow a recipe and cook a meal. 

So I approached Lydia’s book hoping not only to discover some tasty food, but also hoping to learn more about my autistic self. 

I soon discovered Lydia’s book is more than a cookbook. 

Right at the beginning, in the preface, Lydia perfectly describes the paradox of being autistic: that we can simultaneously carry out hugely complex tasks but then struggle with the ‘ordinary’ things of life. 

This sets the tone for section one of the book, which is arguably more important than the recipe section (and probably could have been a book of its own). 

This extensive section is full of hints, tips, advice, and helpful information. Primarily aimed at autistic people, Lydia explains several key cooking concepts to aid in your cooking journey. No knowledge is assumed, but equally, there’s no hint of talking down to or patronising the reader. It’s a great reference section to refer to again and again along the way.

Lydia also deftly sprinkles in some advocacy and activism into this section. There’s valuable guidance for those supporting autistic people in the kitchen and Lydia does a fantastic job at explaining some of the barriers autistic people face when it comes to cooking. 

I identified with several of the things Lydia mentions, gifting me language to describe something I’ve struggled with all my life but never been able to explain before. Thank you, Lydia!

Section two is where we get to the recipes. This section is divided into four parts: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and baking/miscellaneous. Each recipe is laid out the same way, making them clear and easy to understand throughout the book. 

Every dish contains a rough time duration to make, an energy level and skill level required (both of which are explained in detail in section one) and ideas for when you might make it. Next comes an equipment list which I personally think should be standard in all cookbooks!

After the ingredients list comes a comprehensive method. The method starts by telling you everything you need to have chopped and prepared before you start cooking; as someone who naturally approaches cooking in this way, to not have to scour through the recipe for these prep steps is fantastic. 

From there a step-by-step method follows. What I thought was excellent about the methods is nothing is assumed; everything is explained but the reader isn’t patronised at all. The recipe writers tell you not only what to do but what piece of equipment to do it with and what will happen in terms of the appearance, texture, and smell to the ingredient you are using. 

Finally, each method is finished with ideas to expand the dish or alter it to suit your food sensory preferences.

Of course, I had to try the food! I want to preface this by saying that l am an experienced cook, who was privileged to receive an education in food as I was growing up. I also have ADHD, so I’m what the book would describe as “sensory seeking” when it comes to food. 

I opted to try dishes on the complex end of what the book had to offer and implement some of the “expanding your repertoire” suggestions at the end of the recipe.

The first recipe I tried was the Roasted Aubergine and Tomato Pasta (page 163). This involved chopping and roasting an assortment of veggies and blending them to make a sauce. I opted to add a carton of passata as suggested and topped the finished dish with cheese. 

I used gluten-free pasta and dairy-free cheese due to my allergies, so I’ll focus on the sauce which was delicious! It was smooth, had a consistent flavour, and went perfectly with my wholegrain gluten-free pasta. The recipe makes LOADS of sauce; I increased the pasta to feed two with leftovers and I still had about half the sauce left, so this is a recipe where your labour is rewarded. 

Next, I tried the Three Bean and Chorizo Chilli (page 267). This is a sensory seeker recipe, and I was intrigued about the inclusion of chorizo in a chilli.

Upon starting to cook, I realised it called for A LOT of spices, twelve tablespoons in total; the sheer volume of powdered spice would have been way too much for the dish, so I used teaspoons instead, which still made a flavoursome spice mix. 

The result was a tasty, wholesome, and comforting meal, with a warm smoky taste from the chorizo and paprika. Again, the recipe made loads, so whilst it’s a longer cook than many of the recipes, your labour is rewarded with lots of yummy leftovers.

The Autism Friendly Cookbook is a companion and guide for autistic people who want to gain confidence and independence in the kitchen. The comprehensive reference guides and clear and informative recipe layout are what sets this book apart from others, making it as accessible as possible to its target audience. 

Whilst I did sometimes wonder whether as an experienced and adventurous cook the food was aimed at me, the advice and advocacy Lydia peppers her book with helped me understand the difficulties my autism presents in the kitchen and gave me the language to explain to others. 

More than a cookbook, Lydia has produced a book that is an excellent educational tool, a model for accessible and inclusive cookbooks, and an important piece of advocacy for the autistic community.

Other authors could learn from this about how to make their own books more accessible to autistic and neurodivergent cooks.


The Autism Friendly Cookbook by Lydia Wilkins is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Waterstones.


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The post More than a Cookbook: The Autism-Friendly Cookbook by Lydia Wilkins appeared first on The Unwritten.

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A Newbie’s Guide to Traveling While Autistic

By Payal Dhar / 2022-12-01
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Like many late-diagnosed adults, finding out that I’m autistic was a relief. Suddenly, somehow, everything in my life made sense. Overnight, I had a name for that out-of-place feeling I’d had since I was a child. Finally, I belonged somewhere.

 

But it also meant that everything changed, including my self-perception and the way I engaged with things I enjoyed. No surprises, therefore, that when it came to traveling—something that my partner and I regularly did pre-pandemic—I was apprehensive. How would the newly-awakened-autistic me deal with it?

 

How quickly would I be able to identify my triggers and pre-empt sensory overwhelm, meltdowns, and shutdowns? How was I possibly going to navigate airports, flights, layovers, and connections? How could I manage all the noise, people, lights, and unpredictability? Not to mention the uncertainties of travel to a foreign country, new languages and cultures, time zones, weather, and many other considerations, including COVID.

 

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of canceling the whole thing and going to bed for a week. But our last break was in December 2019. Two and a half years of being more or less stuck at home was negatively affecting our mental health. The choice was simple: take a break or prepare for bloodshed.

 

Cleaning up after a holiday is definitely the less messy choice.

 

We planned for two weeks in Indonesia—one in Yogyakarta in Java, the other in Ubud, Bali. As Indians, staying within Asia meant less of a culture shock, and not having to deal with racist airport staff who invariably zero in on brown-skinned folks for extra scrutiny.

 

TL;DR—it wasn’t a disaster. We were reasonably well-prepared and, while things did go wrong, we survived and even had fun. And this is what I learned about traveling while autistic:

 

1. Organizing my support system: I prefer traveling alone; I find it less stressful. But there are advantages to traveling with a companion, especially one who is knowledgeable about what it means to be with an autistic person and is willing to support you. In my case, this was my partner.

 

She knew to check in with me if I was anxious or overwhelmed; there were times when I was but hadn’t realized it until I was asked. She regularly inquired about what she could do to help. Things would have been very different if I’d had a travel companion who didn’t have my back.

 

This trip taught me that having a support system is important—if not in the form of a travel buddy who understands my needs, perhaps as a friend communicating through a phone call or messaging app. It also gave me good insight about what kind of travel would be extra hard. Large group holidays, for example, are definitely out for me.

 

2. Learning to delegate when possible: In the weeks preceding my break, I spent hours online looking up tips from other autistic travelers. The one thing all those traveling-while-autistic articles swear by is to plan well and not leave anything to chance. “Great,” I thought, “I’m a planner, so I’m all set.” Despite that, I know from experience that I am inevitably already stressed out by the time I’m at the airport. Turns out that all that planning and handling logistics on the ground alone can be pretty draining.

 

I didn’t want to start my holiday burnt out. So, for this trip, my partner and I decided that I would plan, but she would execute. That left me free to switch off during much of the traveling part. We tried this as an experiment with mixed results. I could never completely switch off, as numbers—including flight numbers and times—tend to stick in my head. But not being the one responsible for getting us to the gate on time meant I was more relaxed than usual.

 

This doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to a solo holiday in the near future. Being in tune with what makes me anxious means planning accordingly. For example, making lists and arriving earlier than usual.

 

3. When things go wrong: Of course, things were going to go wrong. We had a bag that didn’t arrive with us at Yogyakarta; it was finally tracked down at our previous layover. Later that week, I confidently took us to the wrong airport for our flight to Bali and had a meltdown, believing that we would miss that flight. (We didn’t because it was late.)

 

A few weeks prior to the trip, my therapist mentioned having a “toolkit” for when things go wrong. So, I gave this situation some thought. I took time and space to calm myself right then and there. Next, we discussed our worst-case scenario, which wasn’t that bad—we could just get a later flight! And it wouldn’t have been that expensive for us either.

 

4. Letting go when you can: I’m lucky that I love to travel. Well, maybe not the getting-from-one-place-to-another part, but I love experiencing new places. That means being ready for adventures. Well, kind of.

 

Over this past year, learning to drop my mask—the metaphoric one that autistic and other neurodivergent folks use to blend in with neurotypicals, often at great cost to ourselves—has meant continually stopping to ask myself how I’m doing. This has enabled me to accurately gauge if I feel safe and confident to do something spontaneously, or if I’m pushing myself to the point of overwhelm.

 

In Nusa Dua in Bali, I felt safe saying yes to an incredible marine walk. I walked on the ocean bed wearing a 45 kg helmet into which oxygen was being pumped. I managed my aversion to textures, touching fish, anemone, and corals. I also learned that I’m not ready to touch a starfish yet. But I plan to go snorkeling next time!

 

5. Asking for help: Some places may not have much awareness about autism, especially in adults. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. I’ve always prided myself on my independence and self-sufficiency, but I’m learning now that refusing to ask for help can be a trauma response.

 

People in both Java and Bali were helpful and friendly, so asking for accommodations was possible without having to over-explain. Communicating was relatively simple even without a common language—a bit of an adventure at times, but in a good way. Hotel staff, I discovered, can do a lot more than just show you to your room. They can liaise with airport staff to retrieve lost luggage, hail becaks (three-wheeled rickshaws used for local travel), and negotiate with cab drivers.

 

Of course, asking for help isn’t always an option. My go-to back-up is asking the internet. Before travel, I make sure to keep a list of resources about my destination. Researching the place I’m traveling to is absolutely essential, too.

 

6. Preparing for post-trip burnout: Before autism appeared on my radar, I was always puzzled by why holidays rarely recharged me. Whereas other people came home refreshed, I would be knocked out for days, even if I’d had the best trip possible. As for jet lag, whether it’s a 1.5-hour or 5.5-hour difference changes nothing—I’m guaranteed to be physically dysregulated for days.

 

Learning about sensory overload was the key to understanding that that is a common—perhaps even expected—part of neurodivergent experience. Therefore, penciling in post-trip burnout recovery needs should be an essential part of any autistic holidaymaker’s itinerary. (Learn from my mistake—don’t schedule a deadline two days after your return.)

 

***

 

After my diagnosis, I became aware of the true cost of masking on my mental and physical health. I realized the toll it could take and feared that my travel days might be over. I am perpetually exhausted from hiding my “autisticness” for more than four decades: copying words, expressions, and behaviors from neurotypical people around me to fit in. But learning to unmask with intention has been just as difficult. Like many of us diagnosed as adults, I don’t really know who I am when I’m authentically me. This sometimes made a public-facing activity like a holiday trip feel like an insurmountable hill to climb.

 

But it doesn’t have to be. Most tourist destinations and public spaces may not be autism-friendly (though inclusive, accessible spaces have increased over the years), but it doesn’t mean we don’t get to occupy those spaces. With some strategic planning and combining our collective wisdom, traveling while autistic on our own terms is possible.

 

 

 

Payal Dhar (she/they) is a freelance journalist in science, technology, and society. They write about AI, cybersecurity, surveillance, space, online communities, games, any shiny new technology that catches their eye, and occasionally travel. They also write novels for teens.

The post A Newbie’s Guide to Traveling While Autistic appeared first on Rooted in Rights.

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Lack of Sensory-Friendly Movie Screenings for Adults Annoys This Man Whose Only Option Is ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’

By Zephyr Ash Ostrowski / 2022-11-11
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Alan Clark would love to see the latest blockbusters at the theater, but he can’t thanks to his sensory processing disorder. “Between the loud volume and the lack of subtitles, how am I supposed to enjoy a movie when I’m in overload? Sure, there are sensory-friendly screenings, but the options are very slim.”

These screenings, established in the mid-2000s, reduce the noise level and the lights for the sake of disabled patrons. There is a distinct trend among them, and it is that the films are usually targeted toward children and the parents who accompany them.

“Look, I’m not saying this is a bad thing as a whole. But it’s rather infantilizing when my only options are pointless remakes of classic films or the latest animated sequel for those way younger than me. The practice as a whole implies that disabled adults who could benefit from sensory-friendly screenings don’t exist. Disability erasure is one thing on the screen, but it’s worse in real life.”

The owner of one of the two local theaters, who requested anonymity, said there were no plans to accommodate adults any time soon. “Yeah, we’ll put up a warning on a scrap of paper if a film has flashing lights so that epileptics need not apply. But requesting a sensory-friendly screening of ‘Deadpool’ or arthouse films? There’s no audience for that. Disabled people can either watch the ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’ movie or get out of my face.”

So, what to do? Aside from continuing to ask theaters to accommodate disabled adults, Clark has taken matters into his own hands. “I do host a film night at home with a few friends. It helps that I can adjust the volume and subtitles and also pause for bathroom breaks and stuff. We just streamed ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ on Friday. And if I do go to a sensory-friendly kids’ screening, it’d better be worth my while. After all, ‘Paddington 2’ is actually a masterpiece.”

The post Lack of Sensory-Friendly Movie Screenings for Adults Annoys This Man Whose Only Option Is ‘Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile’ appeared first on The Squeaky Wheel.

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Hospitalized Autistic Knows All the Tea

By Ekie / 2022-10-17
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When Autumn Windhover, 28, went into Mount St. Maple Hospital for a hernia repair, they never anticipated what they would learn there. They thought they would figure out how to care for their body after surgery. However, due to their placement in a single room right outside the nurses station, Autumn now knows absolutely everything going on at Mount St. Maple.

For example, Barbara in pediatrics has a marriage that is really on the rocks, and she doesn’t know what to do because her husband’s family is planning a trip to Aruba next year and she really wants to go with them but she’s not sure she can stay with him that much longer.

The guy in room 401C has the biggest tattoo anyone on staff has ever seen, covering his entire front and back with a you-know-what all the way down to his you-know-what. Catheterizing him is like going to an art museum.

On Sunday there was an hours-long discussion about whether the staff should order lunch, and if so, from where. The nurses and aides eventually decided to place a large order from the Shish Kebab House, but Pam from radiology had never heard of a shish kebab and wasn’t at all certain about eating “foreign” food.

There was so much poop on the floor of 31B that PCA Hector wants to throw out his shoes, but the Payless near his house is closed.

One of the surgeons, Dr. White, likes to play ’90s Disney songs during procedures. If his PAs have to hear “A Whole New World’ one more time, they may break sterility just so they can punch him.

“I really don’t think most people understand how acute autistic hearing is,” Autumn commented after they were discharged to recover at home. “We don’t tune out sounds. They kept leaving my door open, so either they didn’t mind being heard or they didn’t know I was listening. It wasn’t as if I could get out of bed to close the door myself.”

When asked for comment, Mount St. Maple Hospital declined to make a statement, but Autumn overheard the hospital administrator saying she “doesn’t know why this nosy newspaper is asking these questions” and that “they better not try her.”

The post Hospitalized Autistic Knows All the Tea appeared first on The Squeaky Wheel.

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Heartbreak High’s Quinni is the authentic autistic representation we’ve been desperate for

By Charli Clement / 2022-09-21
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Age fourteen, after my mental health crisis, I sat in front of the first professional who told me I was probably autistic. It didn’t make any sense – the very specific notion I had of autism was of a cisgender white boy, one who was good at maths and didn’t want to speak to anyone. How could that be me? 

It took several years of unpicking to understand what being autistic really meant, and what it meant for me specifically – it certainly wasn’t being good at maths or liking trains. There was nothing in the mainstream media that looked any different to the boy I knew from primary school, constantly compounding the idea I always had. 

Rain Man is still cited for autism representation today, The Big Bang Theory caused the savant idea to be pushed even further, and Atypical, though more recent, is not much better. They all have much of the same characteristics in common, as well as being played by non-autistic actors. Sia’s Music was no more than a caricature of autism, causing ableist harm, particularly to non-speaking autistic individuals. 

But seven years later, enter: the Netflix reboot of Australian TV series Heartbreak High – a beginning to the representation we have all so desperately needed. 

Chloe Hayden, autistic actress and well-known TikToker, stars as Quinn Gallagher-Jones, known more commonly as Quinni. From the moment she steps on screen covered in glittery makeup and star stickers, it is obvious she is not your male autistic stereotype. She is a queer, autistic girl, there as part of the main cast of school kids, and there is no fading into the background here. 

For those of us who are autistic ourselves, the representation is there quickly – Quinni bypasses social norms, asking difficult questions in a room gone silent, and is shown stimming in the first episode. 

But it is the second episode where Quinni comes into the forefront and the representation becomes more than something background or implied. 

We watch as Quinni faces something so many autistic people will relate to, where she sits in a restaurant unable to focus on the words of Sasha So (Gemma Chua-Tran) as they fade into the background. The editors of the show managed to master the way that we get to see Quinni’s overload through her eyes, zoning in on sensory input as she becomes increasingly overwhelmed.

She masks her overwhelm until she is in a safe space with best friend Darren, who already knows how to support her when in a meltdown, telling the others not to touch her.

The conversation that follows later with Sasha is one which is almost identical to many I’ve had, Quinni blurting out that she is autistic as she is being told her face wasn’t expressive enough and she didn’t seem interested in what was going on, things so many autistic people will have been criticised for too. 

Part of the beauty of the authenticity Quinni provides is not only the exposure it will provide to non-autistic people, but the liberation I feel, seeing myself on screen for the first time ever. I have never seen someone like me on a platform like this. I got to watch her have a meltdown like mine, sat on the floor at home, and watch her heart break as Sasha says that sometimes it’s “a lot for her”. 

Had I seen Quinni when I was younger, the way I felt about myself for years might have been different. I might have felt more self-assured, like I wasn’t broken, and like I could have been myself in school instead of hiding that I was autistic until I had left sixth form. 

Quinni’s part in Heartbreak High will be normalising so many aspects of being autistic that are seen as weird. The opening scene of one episode shows her following a multi-step daily routine to the letter, which is later challenged by Sasha; it is clear to the viewer that this is just a part of Quinni’s needs. She is not forced to speak when she experiences a non-verbal period after her meltdown, her friends again telling others that it is just a part of who she is. There’s no trying to “fix” or “cure” her.

Heartbreak High has managed to engage with so many of the nuances and layers of being autistic within its eight episode season. There is no pretending here that we don’t face significant ableism from our peers or when we are trying to engage with allistic society and relationships, feeling like we are too much and questioning everything. 

But, easily and effectively contrasted, there is also celebration of the beauty of autistic joy when we engage with our special interests, as we see Quinni do when she is enveloped by a blue wig, talking to her favourite author. 

The most crucial part of the representation we see here is the way it is intertwined into each episode regardless of whether Quinni is the focus. We see her stimming openly, infodumping to others, and taking things literally across parts of episodes where someone else is taking main stage. Her noise-cancelling headphones become a part of her outfits, silently signalling her looking after her sensory needs. 

We see an autistic, queer, non-male character getting to engage with relationships and embracing their sexuality, something almost unheard of. She talks about sex, she drinks alcohol and goes to parties, she swears – there is no infantilisation here, no acting as if we can’t engage with “taboo” topics.

Chloe’s Instagram post after the release of the show

Quinni is not the end point of authentic autistic representation; she should be the start, opening up the eyes of the media. Every aspect of her character is not only important for putting it on our screens, but the way it comes acted genuinely from Hayden’s lived experience. 

We need more of this, with every aspect of diversity – we need Black autistic people on our screens, non-speaking autistic people, autistic people with physical disabilities.

Hayden has given us something we have had so rarely until this point. I want to see more of it, because we cannot underestimate the way representation changes and saves lives. 


Heartbreak High is available to watch on Netflix, along with the original series.


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The post Heartbreak High’s Quinni is the authentic autistic representation we’ve been desperate for appeared first on The Unwritten.

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How Playdough Helped Me Accept My Autistic Repetitive Behaviour

By Kaelynn Partlow / 2022-08-23
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To be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a person needs to have “persistent deficits” in three domains; social interaction, communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviour. “Restricted/repetitive” behaviour includes rituals, stereotypy (repeated movements), and restricted interests in specific topics, or “special interests”. 

I feel it doesn’t get as much attention, and as someone diagnosed with autism at the age of 10, I’d like to share a bit about how some of my restricted/repetitive behaviour evolved over time – using an analogy to illustrate why some things just “stick” and “become a thing”; how they become absorbed into my daily routines.  

Imagine opening a new can of playdough (or slime, if you’d prefer), it’s soft and easily moldable. Now bring that playdough into your kitchen and drop it on the floor. I must preface this next part by saying, no one has a perfectly clean kitchen floor. And if you do, you probably aren’t using your kitchen, or you’re lying; I know you’ve got dirt and crumbs like everyone else. 

Don’t pick it up, just leave it there for a bit. Then, go back to it, and press it down as you roll it all over the floor. For the sake of this analogy, let’s assume your kitchen floor is of average cleanliness. When you pick it up again, you’ll notice it may have absorbed some bread crumbs, some dirt, and maybe even a bit of pet hair. 

Now try and remove the crumbs, dirt, hair, and whatever else your playdough may have absorbed while it was being rolled on the ground. I’m not sure how familiar you are with playdough, but it’s virtually impossible to remove these tiny bits of debris. 

You’re probably wondering what children’s toys, the cleanliness of your kitchen floor, and the level of difficulty of removing dirt all have to do with repetitive/restricted behaviour. The playdough is symbolic of my brain. When it’s figuratively rolled on the floor, this is to say, exposed to different activities/routines, it will sometimes pick up the activity/routine and not let it go.

Sometimes this is a good thing, you might go far as to say it could be an advantage. I’ve got a really functional and efficient morning routine that’s completed in a ritualistic manner. It always gets me to work and I rarely forget the items I need each day! I’ve also developed similarly efficient routines for hygiene and household tasks.

The flip side of having dependable and highly efficient routines is the emotional catastrophe I experience when a portion of it is unavailable or unable to be completed.

 When the routine must account for so many specific and unpredictable variables, it becomes very difficult to uphold. And when it falls apart, it can often lead to a meltdown.

As an adult, I generally make my own choices about what things to do and when/how/where to do them – at least to the extent that any other adult has control over those things. But what I cannot control is other people. So if they play a part in the routine and aren’t able to participate, or if being in the space would negatively affect the routine, it can cause distress.

So I try my best to self-manage, that is to say, to keep my figurative kitchen floor as clean as possible. This means that I do my best to monitor for patterns in my own behaviour and try to notice when it becomes a trend. If it does, and it’s a routine or ritual that could easily be “ruined” by something outside my control (many of them can be), I’ll try to disrupt or adjust it myself. Unfortunately for me, I don’t like keeping the figurative floors clean, it’s a lot of work.

It feels a lot better to drink one kind of tea between the hours of 10:30-11:30 pm when two of the living room lights are on and the one kitchen light is on at 40% capacity. And it’s even better to do it while watching one of three specific TV shows alone in the living room. But that’s a lot of variables to be messed with, especially if you share space with other people.

Like most autistic people, I too find comfort in ritualistic behaviour. It brings a sense of control and predictability into a world that too often feels chaotic. 

Adult life (for most people, autism or not) is a balancing act between doing what we might prefer to be doing, and what we should be doing at any given moment. The trouble is when autism is thrown into the mix and you lose your balance – you let the cleanliness of your kitchen floors go – you can absorb too many/too specific routines, and everything can come crashing down. 

And the process of attempting to remove the crumbs, dirt, and/or pet hair can be a painful reminder of the need for flexibility, which is inherently difficult for those of us who are hardwired to seek out and maintain routines and rituals.

So, Reader, if you struggle with inflexibility in your daily life, my advice to you is to go mop your kitchen floor. That is to say, monitor your daily habits for a while and take note of any trends. 

If you can keep the debris on the floor to a minimum, they’re less likely to get stuck in your playdough (aka your brain). 

This helps keep you aware of when your brain picks up new rituals and routines and that way, you can decide for yourself if you need to redirect that or if it’s one of those beneficial routines.


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The post How Playdough Helped Me Accept My Autistic Repetitive Behaviour appeared first on The Unwritten.

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Putting the ‘Stim’ in ‘Stimulation’: This Random Autistic Guy is a Sex God

By Zephyr Ash Ostrowski / 2022-08-14
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Perhaps you heard whispers of a “savant of sex” the last time you were at a club. Turns out the legend is true, and it’s an unlikely person.

Jack Lawson of Indianapolis has made a reputation for himself as one of the most desired autistic people in town.

“For too long, autistic people have been seen as nonsexual beings with no agency,” Lawson says. “It’s quite damaging, especially since most of us will not receive comprehensive sex education or be taught basic steps to protect ourselves. I’ve had to do a lot of learning by myself, and it’s better than nothing.”

Lawson won’t see just anyone. “I have my standards. I request each person I see get tested afterward for safety’s sake; I do the same because I’m responsible. I’ve come across a few who are interested in the exotic aspect of who I am rather than my personality, which does put me in a spot. Do I take what they say at face value when it’s quite ableist, or do I ignore it for the sake of their pleasure? In the end, I turn them away because I can’t be bothered with those who are disingenuous.”

Derrick Thompson, the most recent person to experience Lawson’s powers, had this to say: “I met Jack at Indy Pride, and after we got to talking, we decided to see how things would go in the bedroom. And I gotta say, I haven’t met anyone quite like that before. I have no idea how he does it, but what he can do is magic. He had this hypnotic album playing in the background — it’s an incredibly structured experience. It’s trancelike to the point where I got lost in the moment.”

What does Lawson have in store for the future? “I’m writing a book specifically for autistic people that helps navigate sex and relationships in a way that isn’t infantilizing. The working title is split between ‘Stimmy in the Sheets: Sex for Those with Sensory Issues’ and ‘Fappy Hands are Happy Hands.’ Fingers crossed it gets picked up by a big publisher.”

While further questions were planned, we got a bit, uh, distracted, and couldn’t complete the interview. However, we can confirm that the rumors are true.

The post Putting the ‘Stim’ in ‘Stimulation’: This Random Autistic Guy is a Sex God appeared first on The Squeaky Wheel.

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The Power of the Autistic Stim

By Devin S. Turk / 2022-07-21
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The sensation feels like fountain soda under my skin. It starts in my shoulders and, by the time it has traveled to my elbows, I’m already moving. My hands become a blur. Loose at the wrists, they move back-and-forth, up-and-down in wide, swooping arcs. After a moment, my arms are still again. The fizz subsides…I exhale.

Be it the hand-flapping frenzy, the rhythmic bounce, the head-bang, or the monotonous hum, the Autistic stim is a vehicle for power. It has a natural and immeasurable value, because to stim is to self-regulate, emote, communicate, or otherwise express. My own stimming can be reactive, reflexive, and both consciously and unconsciously engaged. Yet, it is largely dismissed as a meaningless display of abnormality by those outside neurodiverse circles. Wider non-Autistic society doesn’t understand the essence of the stim. People stare, people mock. And still, I would never trade the ways I feel for neurotypicality.

The environments of most non-Autistic spaces are often too loud, too fast, and too tiring for people with brains like mine. Overhead lights buzz and flicker. The seams in my clothing press and squirm relentlessly against my skin. Crowds of people feel like swarms of giant, hulking insects. Everything is vivid and deeply textured and moving. Stimming switches open the pressure release valve. Stimming is the desperate breath of fresh air.

As an Autistic person, my stims are political. People who jump, flap, and hum like I do may be dismissed as non-persons solely on the basis of our non-normative movement. In the hivemind of an ableist society, humanity becomes conditional. We are called to stand, sit, speak, and move our bodies in particular ways, lest our personhood be called into question or revoked.

So, I often behave neurotypically at great personal cost to my wellbeing, for my own safety. The exhaustion born out of masking my Autisticness eats away at my energy and leaves me feeling false. Still, people remark that I do not “seem” Autistic. I swallow this backwards praise like a poison. I’ve concluded that if I do not “seem” Autistic to someone, it is because that person does not know enough about Autism. Or it is because I simply do not feel like I can be myself when I’m around them. It is not a compliment to be assumed allistic; it is an ignorant testament to a normativity that kills, and not always from the inside out. Sometimes that death is external. For many of the most marginalized of us, that death is literal.

It is impossible to divorce my Autism from other aspects of my being. Autism exists not as its own isolated identity, but through and within Autistic people—many of whom are marginalized (or privileged) on other axes in addition to Autisticness. My disabilities do not in any way put a dent in my privilege as a white person, for example. When I stim in public, statistically I am much less likely to be apprehended by police or suffer other violence, simply because I’m white. In our world, Black, Native, and Brown Autistics experience racist ableism; I do not. It is unsafe for many BIPOC Autistics to unmask and stim freely. Autistic liberation from ableism must not demand, in our current climate, that every masked Autistic person unmask their traits. That is the end goal, but we must live in the present. For Autistic liberation to occur, however,  it must happen in tandem with liberation for Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples. We should all have the freedom to wield the power within us.

My stims are power I hold deep within my flesh. When I stim, my movements may signal otherness or oddity to the neurotypical behind me in the checkout line. However, to me, they symbolize self-granted permission to be in my body-mind the way that it is. I wish desperately for this form of autonomous existence, both for myself and for all Autistics. I long for Autistic voices—however they manifest—to be paid the right, deserved kind of attention. I hope that someday soon every Autistic person will grow up knowing the collective history and culture of our people. I want all Autistics to feel empowered to embrace the stim as a thing of beauty and strength. In a world that stares down at us, to stim without apology is to stare back.

 

Devin S. Turk (they/he) is a poet, essayist, and visual artist creating from personal experience about Autism, transness, and Madness in the Mid-Atlantic United States, often with a cat in their lap.  Their poetry is published in Short Edition’s quarterly review, Short Circuit. You can find them on Twitter.

 

The post The Power of the Autistic Stim appeared first on Rooted in Rights.

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I’m Autistic but I Don’t Need to be “Cured”

By Charlotte Colombo / 2022-07-08
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When my parents told me I had autism spectrum disorder, it was just a formality. All of my brothers had already been diagnosed, and given that I spent more time at school in my own head than I did interacting with the people around me, it was pretty damn obvious.

I remember shrugging, even laughing, at the news, then tucking back into whichever Jacqueline Wilson book I was hyperfixated on at the time.

Words like ‘autism’ and ‘Asperger’s’ were thrown around as frequently in my house as phrases like ‘good morning’ or ‘Where is the remote control?’.

As picking my younger brother up from his specialist school became a normal diversion of my daily routine, I was used to being around autism. I knew a hell of a lot more than most about what it meant, how it affected people and what ‘triggers’ to avoid. On the surface, I was pretty accustomed to autism being at the centre of my family’s life.

But every so often, after particularly lonely playtimes or classmates who commented on how ‘weird’ I was, I’d Google “Is there any cure for autism?”

Google replied with a resounding ‘no’, but it was a question that popped up in my mind often. More than I’d like to admit. How much easier would life be if I could purge the parts of myself that make it hard to talk to people, to concentrate, to catch a ball or even write in a straight line?

Even now, I’m proud of being neurodivergent but I can’t help wondering how much easier my life would be if I could claw the autistic parts of myself away.

The parts that might make me prone to silly mistakes, slow to process things or too burnt out to function after a week or two of artificially engineering every micro-movement involved in a face-to-face interaction. I exhausted myself by avoiding standing out. 

It’s probably not great for my career – as a person who writes about autism – to admit that I still feel ashamed sometimes, but it’s true.

Sometimes it can take just an infantilising comment, or seeing that all-too-familiar placid pity in someone’s eyes to remind me that when I see a neurodivergency, they see a neurodeficiency.

Autistic people are typically seen either as being built differently or being broken. What makes this viewpoint increasingly troubling and dangerous is the fact that there are people within the autism community: parents, teachers, doctors and even charities – that view autistic people this way.

Charities like Autism Speaks receive millions in funding, yet they continually ‘research’ into how to de-autism your child, while doctors sell a twisted fairytale about purging the autism from your child with Pavlov-veiled abuse. 

Parents of autistic children often appear on TV and podcasts (usually for a nice fee, too) ‘grieving’ the ‘normal’ child they could have had before they were lumbered with their autistic disappointment.

And that’s on the lighter end of the spectrum – other parents try to feed their children bleach or snake oils or avoid getting them vaccinated because God knows that they would rather their child die of measles than even entertain the possibility that they might end up autistic. 

Ultimately, autistic people have been framed to appear incapable of normal, independent lives. Autistic people are expected to live in their bubbles forever, isolated from society while also being considered a hindrance to it.

But this isn’t the reality.  

Being autistic does not mean that I’m broken. It’s taken me a long time to realise that. Even now, at 23, I still have my moments of insecurity. 

I might experience life slightly differently than some people, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t fulfilling. I’m studying for my Master’s, work a part-time job, I freelance write, and I live on my own.

I even volunteer for a charity and I actually have a pretty solid support network of friends: people who are well aware of my autism and like me. Not despite my autism or even because of it. They just like me.

Unfortunately, not everyone is as kind and understanding towards autism as my friends are. Some areas of society even think that we are better off trying to separate the autism from the person.

An old housemate of mine even made a snarky comment at me once, complaining she couldn’t tell where my autism ended and my real personality began. But, autism cannot be approached as simply as that. 

Advocating for an end to autism verges uncomfortably close to eugenics – the practice of trying to breed out characteristics that a particular elite group deem undesirable – which is utterly abhorrent. 

So, guys, put down your bleach bottles, keep vaccinating your children, and for your own dignity, stop snivelling on podcasts. I promise you that being autistic isn’t a life sentence. It’s just life. And I shouldn’t have to beg you to respect that.

Autism isn’t a broken leg or a common cold. It’s an integral part of my mind and, in turn, what makes me me. It’s taken me a long time to like myself, and to be honest; it’s a journey that is still in progress.

That’s precisely why it is so disheartening and damaging to mine and so many other autistic people’s self-esteem to think that so many people out there see our existence as some kind of tragedy that needs to be “cured”.


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CripMyHouse: Designing My Home Around Adult Autism

By DNW Contributors / 2022-06-21
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Think about it. What do most humans want from a new home?
Big welcoming entrance.
Living room.
Dining room.
Family room.
Home theater.
Bathrooms.
Closets…

All to entertain & impress guests. For everything else… they invented tool sheds… and storage units.

Honestly…? Autistic-as-fuck-dot-me has different priorities. Which is why you won’t find much discussion of autistic living in Better Homes & Gardens…


Johnny Profane Âû –  Blogger. Podcaster. Pretend Rock Star. #ActuallyAutistic. On Twitter at @johnnyprofane1. An earlier version of this article appeared on [AutisticAF.me](https://autisticaf.me/2022/05/12/designing-my-home-around-adult-autism-pt-1-making-it-work-for-me/). Also as a [podcast](https://autisticaf.me/2022/05/12/designing-my-home-around-adult-autism-pt-1-making-it-work-for-me/) & [captioned video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHug5TjTvNY).


If you’re autistic, love one, work with some… can’t figure out if you are one…

Or live with the challenges of any other disability..

You really, really need to think about where you live…

Because finally learning to create a place of safety, peace, and passionate work… Did more than keep me out of psych wards.

It kept me alive. No joke.

Here’s how I cripped my home. To work for my needs…

Your needs…? Your solutions…? Will be different. But here’s some ideas… to get ya started.


Nothing captures human life like a story. So let’s start there…

“DAMN it.” My big toe smarts…

More wail than shout, “WHO… left the scales in the middle of the bathroom floor?!”

“They’re not in the middle of the floor,” my wife says quietly behind me…

So I jump. Hitting the bastards again.

“If you need your slippers, they’re next to your bed, hon…” Patient. She’s always… patient.

“AARGH!!!”

I love my wife, I love my wife, I do, I do, I do… I love my wife…

This…

This is one reason I live alone. And design my home around my autism.

As an autist, I’m challenged…
managing space,
time,
mind,
heart,
body, and above all…
energy.

I give a LOTTA details, so here’s the short TL;DR, too-long-didn’t-read:

I’ve learned to improve those challenges by
creating routines,
organizing space,
grouping objects in containers,
memorizing “cognitive maps,”
designing for efficiency…
and asking for support from loved ones.

See, there are a few things you should know right off.

My ability to function varies wildly.

Meltdowns,
Shutdowns,
Depressions,
Decompensations… when I lose skills for weeks… or months…

For bonus points? Ya got yer executive processing problems with decisions & prioritizing. ADHD & mild dyslexia/hyperlexia problems with any list longer than 3 items…

That’s why it’s hard for me to stick with… any… “system.” Even ones that help me a lot. So, as I explain below, my wife gives me weekly support. Or everything falls apart.

Also, sometimes I’m tuned into my surroundings. Sometimes I’m lost on Cloud 9.

For instance, like some autists, I wake up slow. As in, it can take hours for me to stop bumping into stuff. OR… have any freaking clue what’s going on around me…

Pros seem to make up an ugly medical term for every quirk of mine. This one… “confusional arousal” or “sleep drunkenness.” My personal fave… Like many autists I have awareness difficulties. Waking, dreaming, sleeping…

Then there are attention deficits… and balance problems. You can see why…

I have trouble negotiating 3D space.

So getting back to my opening story…

I head to the kitchen to make coffee… which can speed up clearing my head.
Down the long, narrow corridor… trailing my left fingers against the wall. To keep my balance.
Through the living room… Briefly touching my keyboard, a chair, and my work table.
Into the kitchen itself… Touching the table, grabbing the oven handle.

Here I’m using “cruising” as a survival strategy… as some autists do. Maintaining my balance… and frankly, my attention as well. By making sure every room has solid surfaces that I can touch as I go through. (I’m likely an undiagnosed “dyspraxic.” I’m definitely an adult “clumsy kid.”)

I click a burner on high. Turn to my coffee nook beside it. Grab my pour-over pot, a filter…
Then reach right into the door of the fridge. My Bustelo espresso and half-and-half await me.
Step two steps to the right, flick the water filter switch, fill the teapot.
Step two steps to the left and plop the pot down. Then stare off into space…. waiting for the water to just hiss…

I create routines whenever I can.

They save mental energy. Like they say, saving more “spoons” for important stuff. (Now’s a good time for the classic essay on disability, “The Spoon Theory,” if you haven’t read it already.)

Simple frustrations can stop me from achieving even simple goals…

So I arrange my entire home in “Nooks.” Places where I can find all the tools, resources, space, and furniture I need for each project.

No confusion. No lost time searching. No re-arranging furniture.

One single-purpose nook for each interest…
In my 10×12 kitchen, nooks for
– coffee,
– baking and pickling,
– pub table for eating & work projects.

In my 12 x 12 “living room”…
– band room for playing & writing music,
– doggie den,
– two-seater “home theater.”

My 8×10 “office”…
– illustrating,
– writing,
– vlogging set,
– tool bench.

My 10×12 bedroom…
– bed,
– yoga studio,
– dressing area.

All in less than 700 square trailer feet.

Outdoors, I have nooks for firepit, container gardening, tools, recycling, a compost pile. Oh, and a maze for the grandkids. I mowed a small hayfield in circles. Added ornamental grasses, flowers…

Decisions are hard for me… demanding colossal energy.

Took me a lifetime to realize it. I actually ran a magazine, an ad agency, and coupla nonprofits. With a LOT of staff support. And reducing everything to routine, flowcharts, 3-item lists.

At one time, I prided myself on my “quick” decision-making. Truth is, I did everything I could to avoid decisions. My “quick” decisions were mostly impulsive. They may have reduced my executive-function anxiety… But frequently, with poor results.

In retired life, without support staff, this is becoming more clear to me.

I walk to the front door… Call Buddy, take him out on the porch, put him on his cable. Head back in.

 

I love living things. Pets. Plants. Yeast. I surround myself with them. 3 cats. A Pit-Chihuahua dog. Vines & plants in every room. An entire fermentation nook for my living food.

Because I can’t predict shutdowns or decompensations, I automate the care of my loved ones. When I can.

I try to walk my dog every day… but make sure he has long cables from my two exit doors. That way I can let him out… when I can’t go outside my door.

I automate watering my plants. For when I forget them for a few days.

Yeast and fermented pickles?

Yeast and fermented pickles… Well… sometimes the lower life forms get tossed. I set up routines for demanding living things. But some days I can’t process any list, schedule, or phone alarm.

So I can’t count the number of times I’ve restarted my damn sourdough starter….

I sip my coffee… and pretend to glance at the colored index cards on my corkboard…

The good news? I have found… after decades of trial and error… the best organizational system for me.

The bad news? Not that bad, really.

I need a little help to make it work.

No system helps me all THAT much… without modest outside support…

A loved one or caseworker…
“Letting me do it myself”… when I can.
Helping me focus and overcome inertia… when I need it.
Lending me energy to restart the process… after I completely lose it for a while. Again.

Works like a champ for me with a little care & concern.

I tried paper planners. Personal digital assistants (PDAs). Elaborate todo computer apps. Getting Things Done™… trademark, all that good stuff… Electronic calendars…

Turns out…

If I can’t see it… I forget it. Soon… it doesn’t exist for me.

And…

If I can’t touch it… I don’t really understand it. Soon… it doesn’t exist for me.

Food pantry items stored behind doors? I almost immediately forget they’re there. End up buying them over and over.

I mean, I’ve got more cans of canned milk… Why do they can milk, anyway…? For when I forget to buy half & half….

Notes, calendars, alarms stored on my phone or computer desktop? I forget them immediately. And then ignore them even faster when they do go off…

Cuz there’s always something more important to do.

My best system: Low-tech, colored index cards. On a corkboard. With big wooden pins.
I can see them.
I don’t have to read them to know what they’re about. Color tells me everything.
I love moving them around and organizing them.
I remember them.
Touching them, physically writing on them… vastly improves the chances I’ll use them.

Unfortunately…

I can’t process any list longer than 3 items. I’ve said it 3 times now.

So… nix to long, written to-do lists. Spreadsheets. Detailed calendars. Etc, etc, etc…

I can create them okay. It’s not that kind of cognitive impairment. I understand them well. I’ve always created usable lists and forms for employees, for instance.

But using them? My eyes glaze over.

And it’s true for index cards too. I can handle up to 3 cards okay. I can even handle up to 3 sub-cards per category… with effort & discipline.

Any corkboard more complex than that? Just so much colorful space junk… wasted on me.

I sit down at my writing desk.

I flip on my desk lamp. My computer already open to the newsfeeds on autism that I post… most days… to my Facebook groups.

My notes, phone, paper, pencils, pens, writing tools… everything I need, organized in one place. Only one question remains…

Do I have enough energy & clarity left…

To BEGIN my day…? To get ANYTHING done that I really want to do…?

Because that’s the question I must answer every day. No matter how I plan it. No matter how I organize my home.

It’s the question facing every autist I have ever known. Every morning.

The struggle for energy and clarity is behind EVERYTHING I’ve described so far about my home.

Every detail is a distraction.

Every distraction saps my energy.

Every decision takes time and energy.

Every rug or dog toy is a risk of stumbling. Every step around… or, worse, step over… any obstacle saps me.

And every nagging thought, “I don’t have time to move it right now… I got stuff to do… I gotta remember to do it later…”

Every undone task… gnaws at the back of my mind. Say, walking on an unswept floor all day… “cuz I just gotta get other stuff done…” drives me bonkers.

Every missing tool. Every tiniest obstacle.

And because of all the above? Every missed goal I brood over… in guilt.

Each and every one of these sets off incessant, automatic backward mental processes…
trying to remember,
trying to decide,
trying to review,
trying to prioritize,
trying NOT to self-loathe,
trying trying trying… instead of doing.

This leads to exhaustion. And collapse. Zero spoons…


Here are 7 surivival principles…

And some bonus tips… I’ve used for myself. Tbh, I haven’t been able to use these strategies in every living situation… all the time.

But I always keep them in mind. And I try to work toward them.

1. Every detail in my home should support my autistic life…

limited social interaction,
intense passions & interests,
a need for structure and routine,
sensory processing differences,
executive functioning differences…
and physical or cognitive disabilities.

My lighting can be neither too bright… nor too dark. Bright lights… especially blue, fluorescent or LED… overstimulate me. Dark surroundings can cause depression.

It took me years to discover the perfect solution. Avoid overhead lights altogether. Instead, create bright “pools” of light with lamps in functional areas. Reading lamps, spotlight on the baking counter, low-wattage bulbs on end tables…

The QUIETER, the better. I didn’t discover this till I moved to rural Indiana. Traffic, sirens, street yelling, parades, mega-bass car radios… were exhausting me. I had no idea.

Now I turn off every fan I can. Noisy lights. Turn the refrigerator up so the fan kicks on less. I put up heavy drapes and block unnecessary windows against traffic and neighbors. When I hang quilts or colorful blankets on my walls… such a pleasant, cozy hush.

I also converted a small 8 x 8 “bedroom” into a blacked-out, noise-insulated yoga room. Doubles as a safe space for when I must isolate.

I thrive with lots of fresh air and outdoor activity. When I can, I use air purifiers & filters. This may be due to allergies… or my chronic respiratory problems. Either way, it helps with my focus a great deal.

Less is more.

More time. More energy. More awareness for what’s important to me. I have as few objects as I can in my home. Now, it’s not exactly a Zen desert… but I do tend toward the minimalist in my art AND life.

If an object doesn’t have a use, embody a memory, or radiate enough beauty to make me feel something… Do I really need it?

2. Simple frustrations can stop me from achieving even simple goals…

If I meet the same obstacle a second time… I stop and fix it. Now. Before I “forget” yet again…

3. Decisions are hard for me.

I try to decide once, and move on. If I don’t move toward the results I want in a reasonable time… then I consider a mid-course correction. Or the next idea.

4. My awareness of my surroundings varies.

My mood varies. And I dissociate… space out or trance out… a great deal. Think “absent-minded professor.”

Both can dim my awareness of what’s going on around me. And I get bored easily. So I’m frequently lost in my head. I bump into things a lot. My house has to assume an autopilot role to help me.

I tend to rely on “cognitive maps” to get around.

I put furniture and floor items in logical places… and then never move them…. At least not without planning and thought. That way, I can get from point A to point B, without thinking. Like stepping around the bathroom scales…

Finding the right “home” for a tool or utensil is key. I imagine, where does an object want to live? Where does it feel it wants to belong? Like pets…

Where’s the first place that pops in my mind when I picture using the object?

Fingernail clippers, for instance. In a hurry, I might use them anywhere in the trailer. Playing guitar, sitting chatting at the table… But after, they always go home to a specific corner in my bathroom drawer. Because that’s the first place I groom after a shower.

I avoid rugs.
I invariably trip on them because I forget they’re there…
Or when I’m not aware enough to lift my feet.
I trip on wall-to-wall carpet too.

My favorite to walk on are hardwood floors… Tile or linoleum, vinyl… work too.

BUT I also avoid HARD bare floors. When I dissociate, I can forget I’m holding a glass of water… until it spills or smashes. Wooden floors are somewhat forgiving. I have lived on tile over concrete… not a good choice.

5. I have trouble negotiating 3D space.

I constantly bump into things… with the bruises to prove it. And it takes a lot of attentional energy to avoid injury.

I put foam rubber on the corners of counters, washing machines, shelves… Anything I bump into.

I try to make sure all hallways are clear of ALL obstacles. Including pictures on the wall… If they stick out much. A Twitter friend removes doorknobs they bump into.

I try to keep ALL doorways clear, at least 2 to 3 feet… No nearby furniture, baskets, shoes, piles of odds & ends.

The concept of flow is central to my life.

I never made a religion of Feng Shui… but I use a few principles religiously. I try to design each room as if water were flowing through it… Where would it flow freely? Where would it be forced to slow down? Where would it get trapped?

Because in my foggy mental state, I tend to wander like water… path of least resistance.

I must be very careful of open doors, cupboards, drawers. I walk into them or bonk my head over and over. When I can, I remove them. This also helps me organize as I talk about in my next point.

6. If I can’t see it… I forget it. Soon… it doesn’t exist for me.

Things in drawers, piled in layers.
Things behind doors.
Things in cupboards.
Things under beds.
All become invisible to me.

I’ve exquisitely organized drawers thousands of times in my life. Only to forget what’s in them… within moments.

I use open shelves or chifforobe for my clothes instead of a dresser. Socks & underwear especially. Drawers become a random mess that won’t close.

I use open shelves for the pantry. I set it up so I can turn, choose, grab, and go from my chopping block.

I use a transparent over-the-door shoe organizer for nearly all my tools. Toolboxes & totes drive me crazy. My home repairs went up 1,000% when I could actually FIND any tool I needed at a glance.

7. If I can’t touch it… I don’t really understand it. Soon… it doesn’t exist for me.

Using my hands helps me remember, think, understand. This includes writing… If I write it, I remember it.

Sometimes… if I just handle the tools in one of my nooks… baking or writing… it can give me the desire to do. So I leave as many tools out to touch as I can. They lend me motivation… when I stroke them.

I organize my workspace around ease of reach. If I use a measuring cup daily… I make sure it’s within an easy arm’s length in my cooking nook. Same for my hammer on my workbench.

If I use a tool several times a WEEK, it must be within a few steps. If I use it once in a while, I make sure it’s in plain sight within the room.

But less than MONTHLY…? Do I really need it?

I obsessively containerize… in transparent containers like jars. Objects with similar uses belong together. In my mind… and in my living space. I’d rather grab one jar of screwdrivers, than decide which ones I might need. Easier putting them away too.

I use baskets, trays, jars, pails… whatever I have handy to group similar objects.

Without containerizing my life? Too much fussy detail. Too many chances for frustration. Or loss.

I hope you got some ideas. Some you might want to try out. Some may inspire you to find your own solution…

An earlier version of this article appeared on AutisticAF.me. Also as a podcast & captioned video.

Resource articles for further reading:

“Major indoor triggers include irritants such as paints, cleaning agents, pesticides, and perfumes (both personal from toiletries and from deodorizers) as well as building materials such as sealants, plastics, adhesives, and insulation materials.”

Discussion of clumsiness and apraxia.

Discussion of insulation from sensory input from in the environment. Dividing areas into certain activities. Indirect lighting. Easy navigation. Quiet rooms & safe spaces.

“Inside the home, predictability can be a big deal to some on the spectrum. Each room should have an obvious purpose, transitions between rooms should be smooth and their boundaries should be clear. This may help an autistic person establish routines and increase independence, while minimizing anxiety.”

Discussion of using your environment for cues to make changes.

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