Autistics Make People Uncomfortable

Autistics make other people uncomfortable, and we do this almost instantly upon meeting. In my communications classes, I teach about the 50 to 500 milliseconds during which most people develop first impressions. These impressions are difficult, nearly impossible, to counteract with evidence and familiarity.

Knowing us doesn’t undo the initial discomfort of meeting usThat is the cost of autism.

Read more at our new blogging site...

New URL for The Autistic Me

The new URL for The Autistic Me is:

Migration of the complete blog archives will require several weeks, at least. Leaving Blogger behind was a difficult decision; I'll do my best to post to both locations for a few months, at least, since so many readers visit this URL and redirection isn't ideal.

The Autistic Me podcast will be launching this month, too!

Thank you.

Big Plans for 2018

English: Podcast or podcasting icon Français : Icône pour les podcasts ou la baladodiffusion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The Autistic Me Podcast is coming! My microphone and mixer sit on my desk, waiting for me to record the introductory episode, which I will make available in January if all goes according to plan. The podcast will begin without any guests, but that will change if I can build an audience. Podcasting requires some extra effort, from preparing cover and episode artwork to publishing the RSS feed for iTunes and other services. I’m hoping the extra effort helps make The Autistic Me available to more people. I do plan to transcribe episodes, lightly edited, and post the text to the standard blog, too.

With the podcast and podcast transcripts extending the reach of The Autistic Me, I intend to increase my activity on social media. We have a Facebook page for The Autistic Me and a neglected Twitter feed (@autisticme). The Facebook page growth stalled at 950 followers and the Tw…

Collegiality and Academia

Academic departments in the humanities rarely understand the social impairments of autism. These departments are, by their nature, social places — quite unlike some departments in the STEM disciplines. I’ve blogged repeatedly that STEM fields tolerate introversion and even social awkwardness, but not the humanities. This claim is based not only on my experiences, but on dozens of interviews with graduate students and terminal degree holders.

The autistic students and professors with whom I’ve discussed this problem point to the underlying philosophies and pedagogies of the humanities. Group work and discussion are the norm, which might be good unless you struggle with group dynamics or conversation cues. If you pause to interpret speech, speak too quickly or too slowly, if your tone remains flat or sing-song, then you don’t fit into the “style” of the discipline. Autism features an impairment of social skills and interpersonal connections. Any academic skills the autistic might have b…

Autism Complicates the Path to Employment

Employment history and various job searches demonstrate how difficult it has been for me to locate and retain employment.

In September, Slate carried the following article by Sarah Carr, using "Leigh" as an example of the hurdles facing autistic adults.
The Tricky Path to Employment Is Trickier When You're Autistic
Autistic children grow up to be autistic adults. Our society doesn't give them the support they need.
By Sarah Carr

Leigh epitomizes the underemployed. The 39-year-old has a master's degree in library science from a top-ranked school, years of experience working the circulation desk in a Boston library, and an IQ of 145. He is reliable and considerate, and he works hard.

Yet for the past eight years, since he lost his salaried Boston library job due to austerity measures, the only permanent job Leigh has landed is at the T.J. Maxx near his mother's home on Cape Cod. He works part time dusting, vacuuming, and washing the mirrors, and he is paid the…

Smile, the Photographer Said

"Smile," the photographer kept directing me.

"I am," I kept replying.

"Look at the girls and smile."

"I am. How could I not be smiling?"

On the way home, our five-year-old foster daughter asked why Daddy can't smile. I smiled. Or so I thought.

My wife finally explained, "If Daddy can't see his face, his brain thinks he's smiling but he isn't. He has to really work at it. It's called paralysis. The doctor broke Daddy, remember?"

And in that moment, I had a flashback to an annual review meeting when a department chair said I didn't smile or seem happy and probably wasn't a good fit within the program. It was the start of a very rapid decline at that job.

Everything I hate about being judged by social skills.

My voice, my facial expressions, my gestures… so many things I try to control yet fail to control properly.

When we tell autistics or other disabled people they need to "Be happy! Smile!…

Holiday Survival Mode

Holidays offer a number of challenges for individuals with sensory processing challenges. For me, the lights and sounds of the holidays can lead to migraines and tremors, along with a general sense of overload.

Imagine being a child without the ability to escape the sights, sounds, smells, and touches of the holidays. Blinking lights (and often too many or too bright); sirens and party sounds; smells of baking, fireplaces, and fragrances; everyone seems to wants hugs and handshakes, if not kisses. It is an overwhelming holiday.

We have two little ones with sensory processing issues and other special needs. I rarely write about them on the blog. I wanted to share that not only must we plan strategically for my special needs, but we must also plan for their needs as children.

First, tell people about the sensory challenges. Eventually, I either have to leave a party or will have a stress meltdown. Telling people that crowded, loud spaces can be a problem might let hosts know that …