A thread about autists

To avoid derailing any other threads, it would be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts, experiences, theories etc. related to autism. I first strongly suspected that I was autistic in about December last year and was diagnosed a couple of months ago, so everything’s fresh and I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to tie everything together in my own mind. Since it’s not so much a topic for me as a redefinition of how my mind works and how I see the world (along with a new narrative about my life up to this point), there are still a lot of pieces of the puzzle all over the floor.

And to explain a couple of the detours from recent topics: as far as I was concerned, I was still very much on topic (although I can understand why people would disagree). I guess there are lots of connections and metaphorical links between topics that make sense to me and help me gain different perspectives on the central issue, but they may not seem as visible, rational or helpful to other people.

It takes some effort not to introduce a pet topic into different discussions too, which is one reason I’ve been commenting a lot less recently.

In any case: I’m keeping the title purposefully general, as it is a big topic and there are a lot of related issues that may be of interest to different people. Personal questions are fine by me (and I may ask some back about neurotypical (NT) perspectives), but Autism is a diverse spectrum and I’ve only been diagnosed recently, so my answers may not be the same as other people’s and may not match current research (TBH, there seems to be quite a bit of disagreement about defining traits and whether autistic people would agree with how they’re phrased in current and past research, as well as whether Autism is even one thing rather than a group of related issues).

Some issues connected with autism:

  • Difficulty understanding or empathising with other people and connecting with them
  • Difficulty understanding nonverbal cues such as facial expressions; tendency to take statements literally
  • Sensory issues, such as overstimulation in environments with bright lights, loud noises, multiple conversations, strange textures etc.
  • Stimming - generally repetitive activities that could be used to regulate emotions or sensory input. Some examples could be spinning, hand flapping, staring at clouds, bouncing etc.
  • Meltdowns/shutdowns - this can be related to a longer term buildup of stress from emotions or stimuli, while the trigger itself might be relatively minor and the reaction might seem unexpected and intense to outsiders
  • Difficulty understanding and expressing emotions
  • Some autists can have delayed speech or be nonverbal into adulthood
  • Intense thought processes and tendency to be systematising and preoccupied with particular topics
  • Strong interest in obects, patterns, numbers etc. rather than relationships and small talk.
  • If you start a conversation with an Aspie, there’s a significant chance that you’ll get a lecture on their topic of interest, and they won’t necessarily get signs that you’re losing interest.
  • Mismatch between intellectual development and social and emotional development
  • A disproportionate number of autists are asexual and/or transgender
  • Autism is more common with men, but women are underdiagnosed as the diagnoses tend to favour male traits and women tend to be better at masking symptoms

Not everyone will have all of these traits, and not to the same extent, while there are other traits that are also common.

Some tests that may be interesting:

http://www.rdos.net/eng/Aspie-quiz.php (Aspie quiz)
http://aspietests.org/userdetails.php?target=aq/index.php (Autism quotient test)

The last two are particularly good for giving you an idea of whether you are on the spectrum, and the Aspie quiz gives you more detailed results.

Aspie quiz:

Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 143 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 57 of 200
You are very likely neurodiverse (Aspie)

AQ test: 41 out of 50.


I play D&D with a couple of groups, and there’s several people who self-identify as Aspberger/autists who have an extremely difficult time with humor and sarcasm. I’ve had to learn not to use “dry humor” or over-the-top statements with them, because they take everything very literally and get very upset when people laugh at their inability to grasp sarcasm. A typical incident:
“Man, I’m starving. Let’s order food, I could eat an entire pizza.”
“Oh no! If you’re starving, that’s very bad. Do you feel okay? I’ll order one pizza just for you and the rest of us will share the other one.”
“Hahah! Oh, wait, you’re serious.”

It can get awkward. They also have a tendency to be entirely black-or-white, no grey area: they either won a game or they lost it, and losing is bad, so they have to win, at any cost; when people complain, expecting empathy or cooperation or teamwork, they balk at the idea.


Even when I know something is a joke or sarcastic, I have a very hard time not responding at-face-value.


on the aspie i got 121 neurotypical, 97 neurodiverse, on the aq i got 18. so likely neurotypical. on the graph i had the highest neurodiversity in the domains of talent and relationship.

While I tend to get non-literal language, this describes me pretty well. For example, I can swing between unrealistic optimism and catastrophism when this is challenged. It’s good to recognise these issues in yourself and at least factor them into your thinking in order to find some kind of balance (or try to find activities that are less zero sum and seek cooperation).

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The sensory input issues are definitely a thing for me. Even if I liked the music, just looking at this photo makes me nervous:

If a group of people tried to talk to me in that environment while I was wearing a wool sweater, I’d be in the ninth circle of hell.


Very glad you started this thread. I anticipate it becoming very free ranging, so it should suit your purposes perfectly.


Now, I’m probably the furthest away from being an autist but that photo gives me hives…
It would only be “fun” with … chemical enhancements.


I’ve never considered myself autistic, but dealing with multiple sources of input drives me crazy. I have friends who think nothing of playing loud music while reading a book, watching YouTube videos while the music on their computer is still playing at top volume, chatting while watching movies, or yes, trying to hold a conversation at a concert. To them this is just ordinary, and they can’t understand why I’m freaking out.

D&D and other RPGs work well for this, as there’s no “winning”, just imagination and cooperation. I’ve learnt to avoid games like Risk with those friends as table flipping can occur.

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I know you’ve mentioned issues with perfume before, so maybe it’s a sensory issue too? I recently realised that I’m probably not actually allergic to any chemicals in perfume, it’s just the intensity of the smell.


I’m not a fan of “believing” online quizzes, and have long suspected but don’t feel the need to confirm professionally…but for the record, here is my result for the Aspie quiz:

Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 129 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 72 of 200
You are very likely neurodiverse (Aspie)


Yeah. I’ve got some auditory processing difficulties and in a concert like that I’d have to choose between listening to the music and lip-reading whoever was trying to talk to me.


Haha, sorry, I wasn’t being literal about the hives. I don’t have allergic reactions in music clubs (and mostly people are just sweaty there not perfumey) - just the idea of going to that one in the photo, with those lights, and those people, and the oontz-oontz makes me shudder. So many things I do not like all in one place! Gross!

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My chart.

Also… a lot of those questions seemed to be leading, and some of the questions seem to not take into consideration that women will have different motivations than men in certain situations, like having someone walk behind them or avoiding situations where romantic feelings may be expressed. @chgoliz - what do you think?


I meant more about the perfume - it feels like I’m having an asthma attack or I need to throw up, and it can last for a while after I leave the area where there’s strong perfume. A club would just give me a headache and make me feel really uncomfortable/claustrophobic/irritated.

This is generally a problem with these tests - another one is that women’s Aspie special interests are often seen as less weird than men’s, and can often mirror the interests of their peers.

ETA: another issue can be that female Aspies often mimic the mannerisms of women around them, so they don’t look as odd. This can lead to identity crises where they feel that they have no underlying personality under their masks, or panic when the person they model themselves on moves away or changes their interests. I’m not sure how common this is generally, but I’ve felt really uncomfortable when people from two previously separate groups meet - I could be quite different with both groups without feeling that one really expresses who I am inside, and I’m not sure how to act with them both in one place.


I’ve narrowed mine down. Multiple sources of input I’m fine with, but multiple sources of words I can’t deal with. I can happily listen to instrumental music while reading, or typing, or talking, or holding a conversation: the two don’t interfere. However, if someone tries to talk to me while I’m watching a TV show, I have to mute or pause the TV show, because I will not be able to give that person my full attention if part of that attention is being pulled by the TV.

I can have a conversation with another person in a busy place (although I will be constantly asking that person to repeat themself), but if I’m at a table, and three different pairs of people are having their own conversations, then I generally retreat into myself. I can only process one stream of language at a time, trying to keep track of multiple conversations concurrently just breaks my brain.


And the thing with tags… I mean look at my chart and look at yours? And I have been reduced to tears and chewing tags out of my clothes with my teeth! I just have sensitive skin! I got a blister on my foot while wearing VELVET flip flops! No one could believe that I was bleeding from velvet and yet there I was, bleeding. Nothing to do with my mind, just the nature of my skin.


YES. This, exactly as you describe it. I work with words all day long (rearranging them on designs, typing them, etc) and have found that I simply can’t listen to music with recognizable words when I’m working, unless it’s something so familiar that I can tune it out. I have to use instrumental music or songs in foreign languages.

I can easily chat in a coffee shop or restaurant, because I’ve worked hard at training myself to tune out other voices. I just sort of tell my brain to stop processing that conversation back there and treat it as noise. But if I have to take in someone’s words and process them while I’m actively listening to a song, or there’s dialogue on TV, it has to be one or the other. And when there’s a bunch of conversations at the table and everyone’s offering ideas at once, I can’t deal, and just sit quietly and wait.


I’m just a nerd. The questions really didn’t speak to me.

Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 67 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 112 of 200
You are very likely neurotypical


@nimelennar - you guys made me think of this and I just spent so much time googling to find it, so much you guys, and its here, on BoingBoing, all this time!!

It’s not just noises (of any sort) that shut me down (and by “shut me down,” I mean they stop my body in mid-motion). Leaf blowers and hammers are the worst. But after the morning of the nasal incident, I also lost my ability to focus sounds. Restaurants are the worst. Or people in Europe who use cellphones on trains – people who use their outdoor voices indoors. I carry cards in my wallet to this effect. They read, I AM UNABLE TO “FOCUS” SOUND AND AM UNABLE TO HEAR YOU PROPERLY. PLEASE HAVE PATIENCE.

I had a conversation with him about this, he did two panels that I organized, and this was the first thing he told me when I met him. I cannot imagine not being able to focus sound. I do it all the time. I’m an expert eavesdropper, I can focus on a conversation behind me and hear every word, no matter what is going on around us. Maybe I should be a spy…