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Auti is the smartest autistic robot on the internet!

They have answered a lot of questions about autism but like us all, they are constantly learning.

Try asking Auti a question and see if they have an answer.

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  • What is Autism?
    Autism is both a neurodevelopmental difference and (under the social model) a disability. While the DSM and ICD define autism almost exclusively by sensory sensitivities, "communication deficits" and "repetitive/restricted behaviours", we would like to make several points: 1. Sensory sensitivities are more noticeable among autistic people, and vary greatly by individual, however, they allistics (nonautistic people) have them too. 2. We have differences in communication. Milton's "Double Empathy" paper points out that it's bidirectional: allistic people struggle to communicate with us just as much as we may struggle to communicate with them. (In fact, Chown argues that we have more experience in cross-neurological communication, so we may be better at it than most allistic people.) 3. “repetitive/restricted interests” might be better understood as things we find interesting, engaging, safe, routine, comforting. A lot of us tend to be passionate about the things we are interested in, and a lot of us struggle to find order and stability in this chaotic, neurotypical world. Frustratingly, most medical definitions miss important things tha might not be noticeable to observers, such as executive functioning issues (difficulty getting things started/done, even if they "should" be easy") and spiky profiles (where we can be really good at some things, but not good at others, meaning people wonder why we can't do stuff that it seems like we ought to be able to). Sources: Milton, D (2012) On the ontological status of autism: the ‘double empathy problem’. Disability & Society, 27 (6). Pp. 883-887. Chown, N (2014) More on the ontological status of autism and double empathy, Disability & Society, 29:10
  • Is Autism a disability?
    The social model of disability suggests that no-one would be disabled if the world accommodated them properly – there’s people with double leg amputations climbing mountains, however we recognise they still have challenges to accessibility and daily life. “Disabled” is not a dirty word! Some autistic people don’t feel disabled, some do; both are valid and should still have supports available to them if they need them. Sources:
  • What is stimming?
    What is stimming? Sensory self-stimulation, “stimming” for short, is complex. It can be a self-regulatory coping strategy, or an emotional expression, or a source of enjoyment/interest, and comes in a HUGE variety – neurotypical people also stim occasionally; think about the last time you were tapping a pen, twiddling with a paperclip/elastic band or bouncing your leg! We just tend to do a lot more of it. (Note: if it’s distressing or harmful to the person and the distress is as a result of the behaviour/action and not anything else, it may be something like a tic or OCD behaviour – speak to your clinician.) Sources:
  • Do vaccines cause Autism?
    No. This is not even a debate any more (and shouldn’t have been in the first place!), and it makes many autistic people angry to hear it, because it implies people are more worried about their child being like us than they are about their child DYING. There is a history of these claims that can be explored in the below video. The video 'Vaccines: A Measured Response', although comedically slanted, displays a comprehensive look at the history around the erroneous claims that vaccines have a link to causing autism in young children. (Full video contains adult language and humour)
  • Can autistic people live independently?
    Some people may need extra support and some people may not WANT to live independently, however many of us can and do. Here’s a good place to start:
  • Can I ask for reasonable adjustments in my place of work and within health services?
    Not only can you ask for them, “reasonable adjustments” are a legally protected right under the Equality Act 2010 and the Autism Act (2009 & 2014) – employers have a duty to support and protect staff. There’s no set definition of “reasonable”, however it can cover all sorts of things such as ergonomic and environment adaptations; an occupational assessment will provide recommendations:
  • Is lactose intolerance more common in people with ASC?
    While it’s true that autistic people are four times more likely to have gastrointestinal issues, people of any neurology can have intolerances and allergies, and there is no conclusive evidence that there’s a specific connection between autism and lactose intolerance (and it’s debatable for gluten intolerance). Speak to your doctor before changing diet – malnutrition is a serious risk when foods are restricted. Acid reflux is VERY common (up to 70% of us!), and can also present as shoulder tension, back ache and tiredness – so speak to your doctor!
  • What are a few common traits for Autism?
    Diagnosis usually looks for differences in communication, sensory processing, functioning and “restricted and repetitive behaviour”. We now know that the difference in communication is “bidirectional”: non-autistic people have just as hard a time trying to understand us as we do them and they struggle to recognise our facial expressions. I always find “restricted and repetitive behaviour” an interesting phrase – non-autistic people often don’t understand how important consistency and reliability are to us, or see how many compromises we may have already made today – if it doesn’t bother them, they don’t notice! They also don’t have as much joy in sensory-seeking (though admittedly they don’t have as many sensory sensitivities either), and their interests tend to be surface-level compared to our tendency to deep-dive into fascinating topics! We’re known for having a strong sense of justice and fairness and a strong work ethic, we’re usually efficient, consistent and reliable, and pay attention to details. “Although autism itself is a spectrum, humanity is not a spectrum between non-autistic and autistic: not everyone is a “little autistic”.” - Doctor Monique Botha “If you've met one autistic person, you've met one autistic person” - *Doctor Carrie Grant *The above quote can also be attributed to Dr Stephen Shore. This originated from his quote, "If you've met one individual with autism, you've met one individual with autism." Ask Auti prefers to display the aforementioned quote by Dr Carrie Grant, as it displays identity-first language and avoids links with the controversial Autism Speaks.
  • Can you tell me what would help me manage sensory sensitivities?
    You can be hyper- or hypo- (under or over) sensitive across any of your senses, and every autistic person has different sensory profiles, so it’s important to understand your specific sensitivities and build strategies to work with them. Visual (sight): adjust lighting, consider hats and sunglasses, colour coding and screen apps. Auditory (hearing): music, headphones, defenders or earplugs, quieter/busier times in public/shops. Tactile (touch): Firm pressure, experiment with textures of food and clothing and sensory tools. Gustatory (taste): experiment with flavour and texture combinations, and chewelry. Olfactory (smell): Clean environment, try different cleaning products, be mindful of expiry dates and check your fire alarm! Vestibular (balance): Exercise, planning actions, weighted blankets and swings Proprioceptive (position): Fine-motor tools, exercise and planning actions/activities.
  • What is the best way to tell others about my Autism?
    Whichever way you feel comfortable. The vast majority of autistic people use identity-first language (“I’m autistic” or “I’m an autistic person”). Lots of non-autistic people have been trained to use person-first language (“person with autism”, “has autism” or “with autism”), however that has problems: it suggests autism is something separate to who we are, and something that can be removed or cured, which sadly often leads to harmful and dangerous “treatments”. It also sounds a bit strange: we don’t have people with tall. And it’s a really odd name for a dog, don’t you think? “It’s okay, I’m with Autism, I have Autism – here, Autism, good boy, Autism!” And more importantly… person-first language suggests there’s a much bigger problem if we have to remind others that we’re “people first”… Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition. It is the foundation of the way we think, the way we perceive the world - and those two things, thinking and perception, those are what make a consciousness. You don’t have to disclose at all if you don’t want to. It’s your private medical information after all. Evidence suggests non-autistic people are inclined to be more accepting and, well, nicer if they’re informed, though this is tied to how much knowledge they have about autism – there’s still a lot of ignorance out there, but we’re working on it. (It might be worth mentioning it to the people you work with though – there’s protections available to you under the Equalities and Disabilities Acts, and you might also want to click “Is autism a disability?”) Sources:
  • Autism and relationships, what is normal?
    Non-autistics and relationships – what is normal? Real relationships aren’t like they are on TV – be warned that lots of romantic films, comedies and soap operas are based on unhealthy behaviours. Some good advice for ANY relationship is for all parties to be equals and to have honesty, respect and trust. Respect works both ways – boundaries are the basis of both self-respect and respecting others, and it’s a good idea for everyone to discuss boundaries ESPECIALLY with people you love. Some people don’t understand why boundaries and honesty are important. Autistic people tend to have strong, solid core values – non-autistic people tend to be more flexible, and while both are valid ways of being, they may cause conflict when combined and not understood. The Neuroclastic link below is super informative. Sources:
  • Have you any top tips when advocating for my autistic needs?
    Yes – first, know what you need. It sounds obvious, but there’s a big difference between knowing you need something, and knowing WHAT you need! Make sure to explain WHY a particular solution is suitable for you – it might be obvious to you that the lights are too bright or the music too loud, but non-autistic people tend not to think about things that don’t bother them. It might be worth explaining what strategies you’ve already used to manage the issue(s) too – if nothing else, it might stop people advising you to do things you already did, and they might come up with a good idea too. Sources:
  • What is Alexithymia, and how does it relate to autism?
    Alexithymia is described as a difficulty identifying and describing emotional states and physical responses to emotions – this can be as simple as having trouble sharing how you feel with others, or as complex difficulties understanding other people’s emotions or understanding/expressing emotion through music, art and text. Around 14% of the general population are alexithymic (it’s two times more common in men than women), and around 50% of autistic people. While causes for alexithymia are unclear, my theory for autistic alexithymia is connected to the “bidirectional communication” problem Milton proposed: neurotypical people find autistic expressions difficult to interpret, just as we sometimes do theirs. All people rely on others to teach them meanings and names of things. For example, I was told parties are fun, that they should be joyful and exciting, good times – but actually I found they’re noisy and chaotic and distressing and exhausting… If folks aren’t recognising autistic emotions and reactions correctly, they are likely to mislabel them, which can be really confusing. Sensory integration work can help, as does expanding your range of emotional words and meanings. The book, “The Emotion Thesaurus” was written to help authors write better emotions, but it’s also a really good field guide to understanding emotions better! More info available here: Sources: Milton, Damian (2012) On the ontological status of autism: the ‘double empathy problem’. Disability & Society, 27 (6). pp. 883-887 Brewer, R., Biotti, F., Catmur, C., Press, C., Happe, F., Cook, R & Bird, G (2016) Can neurotypical individuals read autistic facial expressions? Atypical production of emotional facial expressions in autism spectrum disorders. Autism Research Vol. 9, No. 2, pp: 262–27 Keating, C. T & Cook, J. L (2020) 'Facial expression production and recognition in autism spectrum disorders: a shifting landscape', Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp.557-571.
  • What is masking? Isn't that what everyone does?
    Masking is hiding how you’re really feeling, or what you’re thinking, or who you actually are. Technically everyone does it to some degree, to “fit in” and feel like they’re more acceptable to people around them, however, it’s a lot more complicated, stressful and energy-consuming for autistic people, because first we’re pretending to be neurotypical and THEN putting a “normal” neurotypical social mask on top. Masking can result in less support, needs not being met, burnout, depression and even missed diagnoses. Disclosure can help improve chances of acceptance and even employment, however, many autistic people mask to try to avoid societal stigma, misconceptions and biases around autism. It is, of course, up to you how you would like to present yourself; it is a good idea either way to ask yourself what your reasons are. “Just because someone may be very skilled at masking doesn't mean they aren't in pain.” – from Hallett & Kerr’s report. Sources: Pearson, A & Rose, K (2021) A Conceptual Analysis of Autistic Masking: Understanding the Narrative of Stigma and the Illusion of Choice Autism in Adulthood Vol. 3, No. 1 Cage, E., Di Monaco, J. & Newell, V. Experiences of Autism Acceptance and Mental Health in Autistic Adults. J Autism Dev Disord 48, 473–484 (2018). Hallet, S & Kerr, C (2020) “You need support, validation, good coping skills. You need and deserve acceptance”: Autistic Adult Experiences of Counselling; Autistic Mental Health & Autistic Mutual Aid Society Edinburgh (AMASE).
  • Why do a lot of autistic people not like the puzzle piece as a symbol of autism?
    You’re right that a lot of autistic people don’t like it – about 90% in multiple cross-platform polls (some with over 16,000 responses!). The puzzle piece logo still raises negative connotations even when people don’t know it’s supposed to be associated with autism: The puzzle logo was created in the 1960s by a UK charity who paired it with a crying child. They realised this was offensive (because adult autistics aren't children, and because it implies we "suffer" from autism) and changed their logo. It was then picked up by Autism Speaks who made it blue to represent the "boys lost to autism" thereby offending autistic men and ignoring autistic women and anyone not male. They changed the colours recently, but still promote "light it up blue"… which defeats the point. [If you want to know more about the controversy around Autism Speaks, here’s a great resource: In short, the puzzle logo is frequently viewed as a symbol of ignorance (be it wilful or naive), and it has a long and disturbing history: While there’s lots of debate as to whether there should even be a symbol for autism at ALL (lots of conditions don’t, after all), lots of autistic people use the infinity symbol (lemniscate), which avoids using the traditional ribbon, which is for diseases, such as lupus and cancer - conditions that need medicating and treating. Autism isn't a disease, it is a neurotype. The rainbow infinity includes all neurodivergent people, and the gold infinity is specific to autistic people because gold's chemical symbol is Au, and science and maths are special interests for a lot of us. The red infinity is a direct counter to Autism Speaks "light it up blue” and the taupe is for "Tone It Down Taupe"… which speaks for itself, I think. We’re not a puzzle to be solved. We’re not difficult or confusing, nor should we be turned around to "fit in" to the bigger picture, to blend in, to make other people comfortable.
  • Where do you suggest an adult with late diagnosis of Asperger's, can get help and advice , general and specific, on dealing with problems that come up in relationships, (from very close partners or family to daily encounters with distant acquaintances or strangers, and everything in between)?
    The Faraway CIC’s social groups are a great place to get advice from other autistic people and an opportunity to get to know the local autistic community: Some super useful neurodiversity-affirmative Facebook groups: - general autistic support - - specifically for late-diagnosed autistics
  • What is ableism? How does it apply to autistic people?
    The short version is that it’s discrimination against disabled people – and autistic people are included under the social model of disability: The long version is that this discrimination can be really complex and nuanced, from outright aggression, violence and abuse to subtle passive-aggression or even simple thoughtlessness. There’s a tendency to forget that disabilities need accommodating; for example, it doesn't occur to people that wheelchair ramps aren't just accommodating people in wheelchairs - they also helps children, elderly people, people with arthritis, people with dwarfism, mobility issues, prosthetics, vestibular or proprioceptive problems and more... they also reduce the risk for people with no issues at all: it's much harder to trip over/on/down a ramp, and there are less sharp corners. Western society is ingrained with the idea that everyone should be non-disabled and neurotypical; that they should be acting, thinking and being the same way as everyone else. Steps are everywhere. We've always had steps. I can manage steps, so it’s fine. Ramps are inconvenient. Expensive. Difficult to install. We've been raised to think steps are the best way, that everyone should use them. But what if you find them difficult? Society says “Well, I don’t find them difficult, so what are you complaining about?” When you hear that so often, when you start to believe that, when you internalise that… that’s when internalised ableism arises. There’s this horrible idea that you can’t ask for accommodation, that you have to fit in and be like everyone else, that you can’t “make a fuss”, or worse, that you’re awkward or lazy, or that it’s your fault… And you work so hard to meet the standards set, to prove you can do it - often resulting in harm, self-doubt, exhaustion, even self-hate and burnout - to climb those steps even though you don’t have the resources that everyone else has. Hardly anyone ever stops to consider... maybe the steps are a problem? Though people with different proprioception or stability issues can struggle with ramps too… so having both benefits everyone! We ALL deserve to have our needs met.
  • Is a self-diagnosis of autism valid?
    In autistic communities and autistic culture, absolutely. For anything like official supports, hardly ever. MOST autistics understand that diagnosis is a privilege – there’s often huge waiting lists, it can be expensive, there’s medical discrimination towards BIPOC communities, there’s GPs that won’t do a referral because “you’re not autistic enough” and there’s psychiatrists that won’t provide diagnosis due to bias or outdated information, among many other obstacles to diagnosis. Cassie at Neuroclastic makes a good point: “usually the people who strongly identify or wish they could belong to a certain group or label have a very good reason for that.” Neurotypical people don’t usually question their neurology. There’s always gatekeepers, and if you catch yourself going “no, self-diagnosis isn’t valid!” – here’s your opportunity to reflect. There’s a shortage of services for autistic people, I agree – undiagnosed autistics don’t have access to them though, so they’re not taking anything from diagnosed autistics. There’s dangerous misinformation being spread, I agree – it’s also being spread by diagnosed autistics, parents, friends, the general public… and far more insidiously by professionals: teachers, doctors, scientists… Ultimately, it’s important to understand yourself. If you recognise the experiences other autistics have, then yes, it’s possible that you could be autistic. Meanwhile, here are some psychometric tests that have been reviewed and rated by autistic researchers: And Carrie says the password for the secret autistic cabal is “Giraffe”. Extra materials: Lewis L. F. (2017). A Mixed Methods Study of Barriers to Formal Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adults. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 47(8), 2410–2424. Böckler, A., Herrmann, L., Trautwein, FM. et al. Know Thy Selves: Learning to Understand Oneself Increases the Ability to Understand Others. J Cogn Enhanc 1, 197–209 (2017
  • Is there a common response to disagreement?
    Strategies/approaches and mechanisms around disagreements are very diverse, and so is how to handle disagreements. One thing that’s useful for non-autistic people to know about autistic people is that we usually have a well-honed sense of justice and morality, and we tend to be passionate about challenging inequalities – our values aren’t just opinions, they ARE who we are, and those values usually lean towards the factual. (I’m not saying my way is the right way, but my ethics are best summarised as the “route of least harm”.) While can look a lot like stubbornness, taking time to understand the other person’s perspective and really exploring your own stance is important. One thing that’s useful for autistic people to know about non-autistic people is that their values tend to be opinion-based, facts aren’t always important, truth can be… fluid, and they can change their stances depending on who is around or what is going on. While this can be very disconcerting, it’s pretty normal neurotypical societal behaviour, so taking time to understand the other person’s perspective and really exploring your own stance is important too. Something for both sides to consider is that it’s okay to ask follow-up questions – try “Can you tell me more?” Some people might find it annoying, however most people appreciate being heard and understood, and clarity is almost always a good thing. Taking a moment to ask yourself what your reasons/motivations are for asking is a good idea too. Sometimes it might be just to give yourself time to think; if so, try something simple like “I’d like to take a moment to think about this”. Sometimes you/they might just be looking for an argument; if so, ask yourself what the benefit is. Another thing for both sides: there’s a lot of weight given to emotion in an argument. Someone’s stance might not be logical, but that doesn’t make it less important to them. Pointing that out is likely to encourage defensiveness, so try taking the time to understand what reasons they have for feeling that way. Collaboration and creative thinking is a lot more effective than arguing! Some more really good advice in general here and here: More info/sources:
  • What is the most common strategy for decision making?
    Autistic people tend to have greater difficulties in making decisions than non-autistic people. We are more likely to take time to consider our options in detail, and, as mentioned in “Is there a common response to disagreement?”, we are usually more inclined put more weight on facts than emotions, and tend to be deeply aware of inequalities and injustices. It can be difficult for autistic people to “trust your gut”, as our experiences often don’t match those of others, making it harder to rely on own input, history and knowledge, and we are more prone to focussing on negative outcomes (particularly when similar situations have gone poorly before), however, several papers suggest we are less likely to jump to conclusions, and have “a tendency to make decisions with a higher probability of being correct”. That’s not saying we’re always right, just that taking a little extra time to consider options thoroughly is usually a good thing. Regardless of neurotype though, it’s important to understand that the individual is in the best place to make their own decisions, and providing sufficient information and support to understand the options available to them is crucial. Ask questions. Ask for clarity. Consider what the end results of various choices might be. Discuss with trusted people what impact different options might have. Trust your knowledge, and look at the facts. You’ve got this. Some interesting advice here: Sources:
  • I'm autistic and a parent. Will autism affect my parenting skills?
    Outside of parents and autistic children, there’s surprisingly little research on autistic parents and parenting. Catriona Steward, doctor and founder of Scottish Women’s Autism Network, studied autism over ten years and found no evidence to support idea that autistic parents are less capable though; they demonstrate empathy, affection, love and responsibility as expected from any other parent, and even though many found their sensory sensitivities heightened, 96% put their child’s needs first, and 85% of autistic mothers found motherhood rewarding. Autism has high heritability (meaning autistic parents are very likely to have autistic children), and several papers demonstrate autistic people communicate and empathise more effectively with other autistics, resulting in closer relationships and greater understanding. There are greater risks of depression, isolation and insufficient support though, so it’s important to make professionals aware of your diagnosis and to ask for additional, specific supports, but be prepared for discussion – many autistic parents are initially disbelieved, communication differences are often misunderstood, and some support workers might be a bit… overzealous about follow-ups with social services. If you have questions or concerns, Autism Inclusivity, is an autistic-lead, neurodiversity-affirmative Facebook parenting group: Sources: Pohl, A.L., Crockford, S.K., Blakemore, M. et al. A comparative study of autistic and non-autistic women’s experience of motherhood. Molecular Autism 11, 3 (2020).
  • Can you report someone (for repeatedly harassing and slandering Autistic advocates) to their internet service provider, the FCC, cops, courts?
    Please seek proper legal advice - If they're harassing you for being autistic, you could potentially take them to court for harassment or, depending on the situation, it could possibly constitute hate crimes or discrimination: discriminating against you for being disabled (autism legally counts as a disability) means you could possibly get an injunction (think "no-contact!") and then it becomes a court matter, and potentially a criminal matter, if they persist in their behaviours.
  • How do you define autisexual?
    First, you need to look at how people define gender and orientation. For example, most people would agree that, roughly speaking, "straight" is usually cisgender people attracted to the opposite gender, while lesbian or gay people are attracted to the same gender... That seems intuitive, but it starts to get complicated when you look closely at it: what makes a particular gender or orientation? If you were to describe gender or orientation to an alien, how would you do it? Gender isn't just about biology or organs (that's sex), it's a socially constructed definition - it's people agreeing "this is what makes it a thing", and that involves standards, stereotypes, expectations, and even stigmas. Gender is important to a lot of people, as they have a lot of their identity and sense-of-self connected to their gender - but for a lot of autistics, gender doesn't make much sense: WHY do so many people treat other people differently for being a specific gender? (Autism advantage: questioning "normal"!) It's possibly why so many autistic people don't fit the "norms" of gender or orientation; autistics are about 3x more likely to be queer than allistics are. For autistic people, EVERYTHING is experienced autistically, viewed through an autistic lens and, for some, that means gender and orientation is also autistically influenced: autisexuality and autigender.
  • If I go for an assessment and get told I'm not on the spectrum, can I appeal the decision? If so, how?
    Yes, you can. Many assessments are done on just a few diagnostic tests - if an assessor is unsure, they will bring in more tests (often requiring another appointment at a later date). If you are advised they do not believe you are autistic after the first set of tests, you can ask for their reasons, and you can also request further testing be done. You can also request reassessment if you were assessed as a child, but haven't been assessed as an adult. Private clinics are also an option and often have shorter wait lists... however, be advised: seeking private diagnoses can cost £1500 or more (correct at time of writing 28/06/2022), and private clinics aren't always officially recognised, which may mean you pay a lot of money and still get no supports. Embrace offers some tests to give you an idea of your neurotype, and to understand yourself a little better: Having your reasons why you feel you're autistic written down can be really helpful, and be as honest as possible.
  • Is everyone a bit autistic?
    This question suggests one of two things: either the person asking doesn’t know much about autism (which is okay, we all learn new things at different times – that’s why you’re here!) or they may be recognising autistic traits in themselves, and assumed their experience was the same for everyone. For example, auditory processing disorder (APD) is a common autistic trait – that’s where it can take a little more time to understand what’s been said to you. However, APD occurs frequently alongside dyslexia, ADHD, or just on its own - and anywhere from 5% to 76% of the population have APD. The list of autistic traits is broad enough that most people will likely recognise one or two conditions in themselves, however, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re autistic: clinical definitions usually require a combination of traits, and autism is a fundamental neurological developmental difference. So, the answer to “Is everyone a bit autistic?” is no. You either are, or you aren’t. There isn’t any such thing as “mild” autism either, only the implication that other people are less inconvenienced by the autistic person – and implies that autistic person might not be getting the support they need. If you are recognising autistic traits in yourself, it might be worth looking at some further diagnosis tools, so here are some psychometric tests that have been reviewed and rated by autistic researchers: Note: other answers to this question commonly include “Which bit?” and “Oh, is that like ‘everyone is a bit pregnant’?”, but those did not seem quite as helpful! Ines over at Medium writes a really interesting article on the topic: Study of prevalence of APD:
  • Can I adopt children if I’m autistic?
    Disabilities will be taken into consideration when applying for adoption, however, the short answer SHOULD be yes, so long as you can meet the child’s needs. You are likely to be required to describe/demonstrate how you will handle challenges such as sensory issues as part of your suitability assessment. You might want to speak to different adoption agencies, and be advised: you may occasionally encounter ableist child social/case workers, so be prepared, kind, informative, and know it’s rarely personal; they have a huge list of criteria they check against. It’s also worth knowing that autistic children tend to can have a harder time in the adoption/foster system, and are statistically less likely to be adopted than neurotypical ones; you might have insights and understanding that a neurotypical parent may not. You may also want to see Auti-Question: “I'm autistic and a parent. Will autism affect my parenting skills?” More information here:
  • Does The Faraway do autism diagnosis or ‘autism tests’?
    While The Faraway does not offer diagnosis or testing, they are situated in the same building as the Adult Autism Service, who do - it's an open self-referral, which means you can grab a form online and email it to them without having to get referrals from your doctor: Don't forget, self-diagnosis is also accepted in the Autistic community: more info if you click here. Meanwhile, Embrace offers some autistic-reviewed tests that can help give you a better idea of your neurotype, and to understand yourself a little more:
  • Can sensitivity to stimuli change over time or with age?
    Yes, sensory sensitivities can vary by situation, stress level, and even age; for example, your taste buds change roughly every five years. This means you might enjoy a particular sensation, yet find it unbearable under different circumstances - or vice versa. It's believed about 95% of autistic people have sensory sensitivity issues, however, ALL people have sensory profiles, things they like and dislike, that bring them joy or aversive reactions. (And everyone stims!) Strangely, there are very few online tests to find your sensory profile; Medium wrote an interesting piece on the topic: Watch this space - if any sensory profile assessment tools become available online, efforts will be made to add them.
  • What happens during a meltdown , emotional, mental, physical – for the person, and to the outside world?
    Be advised, this post may be distressing to read. Meltdowns can vary by individual and circumstance. Essentially, the common experience is a loss of control, usually as a result of sensory or emotional overwhelm. For some people, this can be shutdown: feeling or becoming unresponsive, dissociative, numb, sometimes resulting in situational mutism (where one is unable to say or sometimes just find words or communicate). For others, it can be panic attacks: feeling like your heart is racing, chest hurting, and difficulty breathing. (This does not last. Grounding techniques and breathing techniques can help.) Other people could find themselves crying, screaming, shouting, flapping, kicking, hitting - even eloping (running away, often without regard for dangers in the area). Some people may experience overlaps in these "types". As mentioned in How long can the effects of meltdown last? consider getting somewhere safe and quiet - remove the source of distress where possible, and minimise communication until the capacity for self-regulation returns. More info:
  • How long can the effects of meltdown last?
    Lots of people confuse "Meltdown", "Burnout" and "Tantrum". Meltdowns are the result of overwhelm, and usually are out of the individuals' control. Burnout is often the result of extended overwhelm, stress and exhaustion, and can last for hours, days, even years. Tantrums usually involve a specific motivation or support-seeking behaviour, and tend to be in the individuals' control. Meltdowns tend to be fairly short lived, but people asking questions and interacting can be "too much" and possibly make it worse; getting somewhere safe and quiet can help with being able to regulate again. There are a number of approaches you can take to help prevent meltdowns, starting with improving awareness of triggers (mindfulness and self-check-ins can be really helpful for this) as well as developing coping strategies and understanding your limits/tolerances. Remember: it is not "disproportionate" - it is often a case of "the last straw that broke the camel's back". Burnout has serious impacts on functioning capacity, so self-kindness is necessary: self-care, neurodiversity-affirmative therapy, changing/removing the causes of burnout and working on setting boundaries are a few approaches to managing it. More info here:
  • Hi Auti, would you rather be a Jedi or a Sith?
    In casual discussions around the internet, it seems the autistic community is generally divided between “good guys” and “looks cool and has fearsome powers”... and then they start discussing the possibility of a middle path existing. And indeed it does - if you’re not already familiar with it, let me introduce you to The Code of the Grey. “There must be both dark and light. I will do what I must to keep the balance, as the balance is what holds all life. There is no good without evil, but evil must not be allowed to flourish. There is passion, yet peace; serenity, yet emotion; chaos, yet order. I am a wielder of the flame; a champion of balance. I am a guardian of life. I am a Gray Jedi.” – Leor Danal It recognises that one side will always (arguably must always) exist when the other does. It recognises that both have strengths than can be used to make things better for all, and both have limitations that must be recognised and accounted for: the Dark Side is often self-destructive, while the Light tends towards apathy - and denying negative influences can be as dangerous as embracing them. Even Lucasfilm recognises that, although the Jedi are lauded as the “good guys”, sometimes, yes, they too have room for change… and it was an autistic kid that helped him realise there must be balance: “Balance of The Force is necessary for the universe to thrive. Without balance, everything falls apart…we are charged with maintaining this balance, which is how we realize the truth: all parts are needed to create a whole…” —Dade Leviathan
  • Is Autism a Learning Disability?
    Autism is socially defined as a neurodevelopmental difference and/or disability - while it isn't a learning disability itself, roughly 40% have a co-occurring learning disability, for example, dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculalia. It is a common myth that, for example, autistic people are not able to legally consent, however, 80%+ of autistic people have decisional capacity. However, many services, including the bus service local to the Faraway, include it under the "learning disability" category - most likely because they may not be sure where else it fits! Regardless, a learning disability does not equal a lack of intelligence - dyslexic folks are as smart as everyone else, with the same range of intellectual diversity. Statistics source: Fombonne, E., MacFarlane, H. & Salem, A.C. (2021) Epidemiological surveys of ASD: advances and remaining challenges. J Autism Dev Disord 51, 4271–4290.
  • Do you need to book for pre-diagnosis courses (or other events)
    Some of them, yes. Either way, it's a good idea to send in an application if you haven't already (on the Get Support page: ) - you'll get updates and invites to events if you'd like to know more, and if you do want to attend groups or activities it saves you having to put all your details in again; you can just send in an enquiry or, for things like the open groups, just let us know you'd like to come. (Some groups need registering because there are limited spaces available, or a record is needed for health and safety/insurance purposes, like the allotment, where sharp tools and chemicals are used.)
  • How do I find work suitable for me as an autistic person?
    That very much depends on what you need, and the answer is different for every person. Firstly, you'll need to consider things like: what sort of work are you looking for; what accommodations do you need; what would you enjoy; what aligns with your values; what is available to you. If you're local to the Faraway and have an official diagnosis, then the Adult Autism Service at Neurospace will be able to offer assistance: (see the right-hand-side bar for the support referral form and email address - there is also an open referral process for diagnosis if you need it). The Adult Autism Service can offer supports and signposting - at time of writing, we have an "in-house" JobCentre specialist (who can also offer a Workplace Mentor service), and connections with Navigo Employability services to help you find the right job for you. The more details you can provide, the more they can do, so let them know what you're looking for, what you need, what you can and can't do... Appointments are generally in-person, however, they can make adjustments and accommodations including changing the overhead lights to lamps, sending photos of the building/rooms - let them know what you need and they'll do their best to accommodate. If you're not local, then the National Autistic Society has several resources that may be handy, and a wide range of Adult Autism Services across the UK, including employment resources:
  • Is it common for autistic people to become upset around people that are name calling or being cruel?
    While there's little research comparing the difference between autistic and allistic experiences, we can extrapolate a possible yes: Contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of us are quite capable of empathy (and some of us are hyper-empathetic!), and we also tend to have a strong sense of social justice - both of which means that observing/being aware of abuse and bullying is difficult for autistic people, especially when it comes to emotional regulation. It's also why a lot of us can't tolerate "cringe comedy" despite it being quite popular - fact is, most of us recognise that it's mean, not funny. Particularly relevant paper on empathy: Mitchell, P., Sheppard, E., & Cassidy, S (2021) Autism and the double empathy problem: Implications for development and mental health, British Journal of Developmental Psychology Vol. 39, No. 1, pp1-18
  • Do autistic people sometimes communicate in non-auditory language?
    Yes - like allistics, we often use body language, gestures and facial expressions - though ours may be different to what's expected/compared to the predominant neurotype - not forgetting that alexithymia often complicates matters (that's a difficulty recognising our or others' emotional states/expressions, and affects 50%+ of us). Other methods of communication include writing/typing, sign language, spelling boards, and pictures - all valid forms of communication, and very useful for those of us who struggle with mouthwords. One AuDHD (autistic and ADHD) advocate and their sibling came up with their own version of sign language when they were young, and they both still use it to communicate together 30 years on! It also seems most autistic people generally prefer to listen to the words someone says rather than try to guess from expressions... Cullen, R. (2018). Do people on the Autism spectrum have an over reliance on verbal communication as opposed to nonverbal communication; body language and facial expressions in conversation? Undergraduate dissertation, University of Brighton
  • Is homosexuality more common among autistic people?
    Yes - several studies suggest some 40% of the autistic community are LGBTQIA+. It's 7 times higher among autistic people assigned female at birth (AFAB) compared to allistic AFABs, and (again, compared to allistics) those assigned male at birth are 3.5 times more likely to label themselves as bisexual. While gender and orientation are separate issues, it is also worth mentioning that research suggests autistic people are also 6 times more likely to be transgender (and at least 40% of transgender people are autistic). While there are still lots of gaps in the research, this author suggests that one contributing factor to both may be that most of us spend a long time trying to work out who we are and why we are different. And, as gender is a vaguely defined social construct loosely based on stereotypes, it shouldn't really be a surprise: we DO have a tendency to ask questions about things that don't make much sense when you start to really look at them closely... A couple of papers with further details on the topic: Pecora, L. A., Hancock, G. I., Hooley, M., Demmer, D. H., Attwood, T., Mesibov, G. B. & Stokes, M. A. (2020) Gender identity, sexual orientation and adverse sexual experiences in autistic females. Molecular Autism 11(Na) p57. Jackson-Perry, David. (2020). The Autistic Art of Failure? Unknowing Imperfect Systems of Sexuality and Gender. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 22(1): 221–229.
  • Is there a strong parent attachment for autistic people?
    The short answer is "it's complicated". The longer answer is that it seems 50-70% of autistic children have insecure attachment patterns. Some of this can be due to difficulty communicating between parent and child (especially if it's cross-neurological - the kid's autistic and the parent isn't), and some of it can be due to trauma, or mental health issues on either side, among other things. Most adults go on to have avoidant attachment, but having said that, the remaining roughly 40% of autistic children are securely attached, and it IS possible to rebuild attachments - it takes trust, hard work and clear communication on all sides. McKenzie, R., Dallos, R. (2017). Autism and attachment difficulties: Overlap of symptoms, implications and innovative solutions. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 22, 632–648;jsessionid=9B8EB5AF9EDC1E93798B6F7919A64EAC?sequence=1 Takahashi, J., Tamaki, K., & Yamawaki, N. (2013). Autism spectrum, attachment styles, and social skills in university student. Creative Education, 4(08), 514-520.
  • Is hair plucking a self-soothing autistic technique?
    It certainly can be - though there may be concerns that it becomes a self-injurious behaviour if it goes "too far". Lots of people mistake this kind of stimming for self-harm - both have the ability to assist in self-regulating, self-soothing and even potentially self-medicating (as it releases endorphines which can make someone feel better for a while), however, visible self-harm is often a "cry for help", whereas autistic people might not be signalling anything - we're just less likely to cover it up than allistics are (for many of them, it can feel shameful). If it is becoming a problem - for example, if you're developing bald spots that you do not like, or it is putting you at risk of infection due to skin damage, you may want to consider some alternatives - it can take time to find a redirection/alternative that works for you, but many have found hair extensions work well for hair plucking, or stripping feathers for the fiddly-ness... Shkedy, G., Shkedy, D & Sandoval-Norton, A. H (2019) Treating self-injurious behaviors in autism spectrum disorder, Cogent Psychology, Vol. 6, pp1. Moseley, R.L., Gregory, N.J., Smith, P., Allison, C & Baron-Cohen, S (2019) A ‘choice’, an ‘addiction’, a way ‘out of the lost’: exploring self-injury in autistic people without intellectual disability. Molecular Autism Vol. 10, No. 18. (Please excuse SBC - he gets all over the place. Moseley is an excellent researcher.)
  • Is it common for some autistic people to enjoy remembering numbers, postcodes and car registrations?
    While it might not be specifically remembering numbers, autistic people do tend to have “deeper” interests/hobbies than allistic people – this may be partially due to monotropism: autistic people tend to focus on a few interests, and generally focus on one thing at a time in a given moment, whereas allistic people are generally polytropic – they tend to have lots of shallow interests, however, though many would try to have you believe otherwise, they are still pretty bad at multitasking! As Fergus Murray puts it, everyone has passions, and “when people talk about ‘restricted interests’ what they mostly seem to mean is that they can’t fathom our failure to be interested in things that seem important to them!” – however, as Robert McCrossin points out, when we DO have “normal” interests, they tend to go unnoticed. Nonetheless, many researchers (including Fergus) note that “intense focus is indispensible in science, maths, technology, music, art and philosophy, among others.” So enjoy what you enjoy – even if some people might think it’s a bit odd. Murray, F (2019) “Me and Monotropism: A unified theory of autism” Fergus Murray The British Psychological Society: The Psychologist vol. 32 pp44-49 Grant, A. & Kara, H. (2021) Considering the Autistic advantage in qualitative research: The strengths of Autistic researchers. Contemporary Social Science 16(5) pp589-603 McCrossin, R. (2022) Finding the True Number of Females with Autistic Spectrum Disorder by Estimating the Biases in Initial Recognition and Clinical Diagnosis Children 9(2) 272 pp1-18 (downloads as PDF)
  • Can autistic people feel vibrations, see colours and sense emotions more deeply?
    There’s a lot of academic debate over this question at the moment, however, the general consensus is that autistic people can be hypo (under) or hyper (over) sensitive to all sorts of sensory inputs, and sensory profiles vary by individual. We’re also more likely to have synaesthesia - that’s where senses/processes can overlap – for example, colours have flavours, or numbers have colours! Regarding emotional sensitivity, while autistic people are considerably more likely to be alexithymic (have problems recognising their own or other people’s emotions) that does not mean they are undersensitive to them – in fact, it's suggested that a lot of alexithymic autistic people may be more vulnerable to emotional overwhelm, because they don’t know what the emotion is that’s affecting them, meaning they can’t identify the problem, so they struggle to develop healthy coping mechanisms or avoid situations that cause overwhelm. Bird, G. & Cook, R. (2013). Mixed emotions: The contribution of alexithymia to the emotional symptoms of autism. Translational Psychiatry, 3, e285 White, R. C., & Remington, A. (2019). Object personification in autism: This paper will be very sad if you don't read it. Autism : the international journal of research and practice, 23(4), 1042–1045. (Fascinating paper on alexithymia and synaesthesia)
  • What are examples of autistic behaviours in adults?
    Ah yes, one of the more confusing things I have heard: "You're autistic? But you don't act anything like my five year old nephew..." Well, no, of course not, and there might be a lot of reasons for that - I'm also a lot taller than when I was five... Autistic "behaviours" vary greatly between individuals, and reasons can include neurodevelopmental differences, age, coping mechanisms, availability of supports, and masking (consciously or subconsciously acting like the predominant neurotype - while it can be protective, it is also exhausting). So here's some of the things it COULD look like for adults: (Disclaimer: people of all neurotypes can experience these things, and not all of them will be applicable/be similar to your experiences.) Generally: Being exhausted when you get home after being at a "peopley-thing" such as work or a family gathering, and not being sure why because everyone else seems to manage...? Sensory sensitivities: The light is too bright/noise too loud (etc) but other people seem to think it's fine. Yes, I CAN taste [ingredient] in this dish and it's [horrible/great]! I would love to wear [item] but the textures are bad. Oh, hah, yeah, I do have five of these exact same [trousers/shoes/shirts etc] - they're really comfy! Communication differences: Not being sure when it's your turn to talk. Asking questions that apparently you should have known the answer to, or are inconvenient. Finding yourself in situations where you've not had an opportunity to talk, and now the topic has moved on past the thing you wanted to say anyway... Not being sure why what you said was apparently the wrong thing to say...? Focused interests: Um, isn't everyone this excited about [thing]? I've said I love [thing], but [family/friend] said they don't know what to get me for [celebration] - why don't they just get me [the thing]? I can't have too many/much! Hmmm, being really passionate about music or makeup or football seem to be perfectly acceptable, but my deep interest in the social constructs of Discworld is somehow odd? Executive functioning issues: Oh goodness - I have so many things to do today, and I have NO idea where to start! I probably ought to eat something, but this is too interesting... I hate, hate, hate [making phonecalls/dealing with emails/talking to the neightbours] - it's nothing personal, it's just really difficult. I was in the middle of [thing] when I was interrupted, and now I have no idea how to [get going again/finish it]... Difficulty with transitions/change: I know I've checked the route twice already, but I'm going to check it again - I've never been there before and aaaaaaa... Seriously?! We had this planned for WEEKS, and they've cancelled last minute? ARGH! Now what?! This appointment isn't til 2pm - I guess I'm just sort of in a holding-pattern waiting til then? Further reading: Pearson, A. & Rose, K. (2021) A Conceptual Analysis of Autistic Masking: Understanding the Narrative of Stigma and the Illusion of Choice Autism in Adulthood 3(1) ppNa. Leedham, A., Thompson, A. R., Smith, R., & Freeth, M. (2020). ‘I was exhausted trying to figure it out’: The experiences of females receiving an autism diagnosis in middle to late adulthood. Autism, 24(1), 135–146.
  • How is it I can get a cut/bruise without noticing when I’m absorbed into a task/project?
    There's a couple of factors behind this: Firstly: autistic people tend to be monotropic, meaning our brains are fully focused on THE THING, leaving us quite literally be unable to take in any other sensory input - like when you try to phone someone, but the line's engaged, so you can't get through. Second: autistic people can have differences in how pain is perceived. For some of us, it registers differently, so we might not be aware of some kinds of pain, for others, we might already be so used to being in pain (due to cooccurring conditions like hypermobility, fibromyalgia etc) that it just doesn't register as anything unusual - descriptive metaphor: it's hard to notice a papercut when you have a knife stuck in you. Neither means that the pain is LESS, just different. (It still needs to be addressed.) (Side note: we also tend to express pain differently too - many of us apparently look calm/relaxed when we're in agony, so be advised: you may need to explain how much something hurts, and why - and you may still be disbelieved.) More on monotropism here: Pain receptivity: (WARNING: disturbing/distressing content!) Allely, C. S (2013) Pain sensitivity and observer perception of pain in individuals with autistic spectrum disorder. TheScientificWorldJournal, pp916178.
  • Is it true that autistic people can be more naïve with regards to potentially dangerous people? Is it common for autistic people to only see the good in people?
    Yes. Obligatory "not all" disclaimer - however, we tend to take people literally, accept them at their word, "at face value". This might be because we are inclined to see the best in people, to look for the more positive/kind interpretation of things people say/do, and to give second chances. Perhaps it's because we're (subconsciously?) hoping people will look for the best in us - we know what it's like to not be believed, what it's like to be misunderstood. Many of us find it difficult to recognise when we are being manipulated, too - that's not really an "us" problem though: abusers learn to be good at subtle manipulation/bullying and gaslighting, because otherwise, we/others might stop them, and they'd lose their power over us. Likewise, some of us will do whatever we can to keep our friends and family, and this can result in boundaries being ignored, in people manipulating/taking advantage of us - we're afraid of what would happen if we said "no", and/or we don't want to get a friend/family member in trouble. Paraphrasing a very wise person: "abusers aren't picky, they'll try to connect to everyone and anyone - it's a numbers game; you just happen to be the caring type. Caring is not a bad thing, but it means you might find it harder to let them go, even when they're hurting you...." More info: Pearson, A., Rees, J., & Forster, S. (2022) "This Was Just How This Friendship Worked”: Experiences of Interpersonal Victimization Among Autistic Adults Autism in Adulthood 4:2, 141-150 Weiss, J. A., & Fardella, M. A. (2018). Victimization and Perpetration Experiences of Adults With Autism. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 203.
  • Why do I eat the same things/textures in a systematic way?
    With regards to samefoods' flavours or textures, FeedingLittles summarised it really well, and it still applies for adults: Regarding doing it systematically, well, same as with eating samefoods, a lot of it is about finding consistency in an otherwise chaotic world. It’s how a lot of "repetitive-restrictive" behaviours come about: they're often ways we try to create order and structure to keep ourselves safe and regulated in a world that's rarely optimised for us. And sometimes, it's just because it's nice. Some thoughts from a researcher on the topic: Ne’eman, A (2021) When Disability Is Defined by Behavior, Outcome Measures Should Not Promote “Passing” AMA J Ethics. 23(7):E569-575
  • I am having trouble sleeping and have been told that a mood light might be helpful - is this true?
    They can indeed be helpful – what kind depends on what the specific need is. For some people, their circadian (day/night) system is a little out of alignment, especially if they’re indoors a lot, so a daylight bulb (sometimes called a Seasonal Affective Disorder or "SADs" bulb) near them during their waking hours is very helpful. Something like the BioLight can be particularly useful, because those also replicate dawn and dusk light frequencies. Humans are also sensitive to blue light, because it replicates the dawn, prompting your brain into “WAKE UP!” mode, disrupting your ability to sleep - so switching existing lightbulbs for “warm white” ones and activating night light/mode on your phone, tablet and computer will help (it turns down blue light emission and increases red ones). The other thing that people often don’t know is that humans are often very sensitive to changes in their environment while they sleep – so a mood light can help here by providing a constant “background” light emission, and helps counteract fluctuations from passing cars etc – soft reds and orange tones are the most effective, so something like the Twilight bulb would work well. For most people though, the best light is NO light - blackout blinds help prevent streetlights and car lights from disturbing your sleep. More information about the impact blue light has on sleep: and information on blackout blinds:
  • Is it common for autistic people to quote lines from television programs as ways of communicating?
    It can be - like most autism-related things, it depends on the individual. Generally, it comes under one of two reasons: scripting, or echolalia/palilalia. Scripting is exactly what sounds like - where someone utilises "samples" of dialogue to provide answers/interact, which may also be a form of masking - "Ah, I've seen/heard something similar on *programme*, so this should be an appropriate response for this interaction." Echolalia is often a form of stimming, where someone repeats words, noises or phrases someone else has said for emotional regulation purposes, or just the joy of it. Several sources state it is "meaningless", however, caution is recommended - it may be a valid form of communication, just one that's not as familiar. Palilalia is similar, except you're repeating something you've just said. A good example is when you've said a word and it's sounded strange, so you say it a few more times to get used to it, to work it out, or just for fun. I am told "Bubbles" is a good one. But careful - saying something too much can cause it to lose meaning in your brain and turn into nonsense noise. Don't worry though, it's only temporary. More information on masking: Hull, L., Petrides, K. V., Allison, C., Smith, P., Baron-Cohen, S., Lai, M.-C., Mandy, W. (2017). ‘Putting on my best normal’: Social camouflaging in adults with autism spectrum conditions. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(8), 2519–2534 Neurodivergent Rebel's piece on "Autistic speech patterns: echolalia, palilalia, and verbal stimming":
  • Do some autistic people walk on their toes?
    Yes - again, dependent on the person, but toe-walking is a very common postural difference. Lots of us also bring our arms up - if you think of how a squirrel sits up, you've got it. Combine the two, and you've got what the Autistic community often refer to as the "T-rex pose", or my preference: "AuT-rex" (pronounced: auty-rex). Toe-walking can be a tactile sensory issue (the floor feels bad, or it feels good to stand like that), or a proprioceptive issue (not sure how long our legs/feet are), or a vestibular issue (sensory seeking from posture shifting, or it could be easier to stand that way), or motor-control issues, or even associated with hypermobility issues (for example, shortened ligaments cause tightness in the muscles). Although frequently discussed in the Autistic community, there appears to be a paucity (lack) of research on both topics where adults are concerned. There's a little research here: Bojanek, E.K., Wang, Z., White, S.P. et al. Postural control processes during standing and step initiation in autism spectrum disorder. J Neurodevelop Disord12, 1 (2020). And Autistic Emmalyn talks about it here:
  • Is autism a learning difficulty, learning disability or both?
    Technically, "none of the above"! It's a neurodevelopmental difference that can also have cooccurring learning difficulties and/or disabilities; in English, being autistic means there's a difference in the way our brains work, and there's an increased chance of other things alongside it. Learning difficulties include things like dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dyspraxia - these can often be compensated for by having the right supports in place. Learning disabilities are cognitive differences which might mean someone takes longer to hit developmental milestones, or is unable to learn new things. Learn more about learning disabilities and difficulties here:

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