I have been invited to be on Dr. Gil Tippy’s radio show on Sunday, April 27th at 9PM EDT (6PM PST - my time). The radio show is called “Respecting Autism” and it aires on the The Coffee Klatch Special Needs Radio Network every second Sunday of the month. I’m excited!

Random Thoughts

People I know, family members, they are so wrapped up in their news channels and their weather channels and their property that they don’t really see or hear or touch or taste or smell what is around them. How can they experience life when they are so cut off from it? The answer to this is that they really don’t. They don’t “feel” what is right in front of them. By “feel” I mean a whole gauntlet of sensations happening all at once wrapped up in emotional states. For me, that is everyday business, living with ongoing unfiltered sensations happening all at the same time. I have experienced life in this way as long as I can remember, because I wasn’t born with a sensory filter.

From my perspective, it seems that many people form these shielded bubbles around themselves. Going about their daily lives in some preordained, scripted manner. Filtered from the world. Living is a way very reminiscent of the world that the Murry children encountered in the Wrinkle in Time, the world governed by “IT”.

How can one live like that, so removed from the world, so filtered? There is so much to life. Life is dirty and loud and smelly and hard. Life really is hard, but it is also beautiful and wonderful and magical all at the same time. People are like that too. People are messy and difficult and aggravating and frustrating, but also loving and caring and wonderful and beautiful all at the same time.

Life is chaotic and unfair and doesn’t make a lot of sense much of the time. Life is also a journey, a fantastic journey full of self discovery, wonderment, beauty, and personal growth. I wish I could say that life can be as simple as we want it is be or as complicated as we want it to be, but I can’t. In my experience, life doesn’t work that way, but I work with what I got and do the best with what I have. That’s life, unfiltered.

(Image found at www.funlava.com)

Garlic Allergy

It has been determined that I have a garlic allergy. I have wondered about garlic for a while, but couldn’t figure out if it was tomato sauces, bread, or something else that was making me sick when I ate spaghetti or certain pizzas. I did an elimination diet and found out it was the garlic. Grand … no more garlic bread for me. I ate some yesterday and I am still feeling really sick. If anyone is interested, here is more information about having a garlic allergy - http://allergysymptomsx.com/garlic-allergy.php

With the high prevalence of food sensitivities in people with Autism, I wonder what the percentage is of autistic people being allergic to garlic, and to onions as well since these two vegetables are related. Just something to think about since garlic and onions are found in many processed foods.

Here in more information about onion allergy - http://www.onionallergy.net/. I generally don’t eat raw onion (too strong for me), but I do use dried minced onion when I cook. I don’t seem to have a problem with that, but I do find that if I have fried onion rings I have to really limit the amount I eat. Onions don’t settle well in my stomach. I wonder if I have a sensitivity to onions as well, just not as strong a sensitivity as I have when ingesting garlic. I found out that garlic makes me sick in any form.

(Via The Antagonista on Facebook)

(Via The Antagonista on Facebook)

I am having a proud mama moment:

My kids are becoming quite the cooks! Today my son took his wheat-free pizza crust dough (he is wheat intolerant) out of the refrigerator, greased the pizza pan, rolled out the dough, got the oven going, baked the crust, put on all the toppings and seasonings he wanted, put it all back into the oven and baked it again, pulled it out, cut it himself, and ate the whole thing. All he asked from me was how to turn off the oven timer. I couldn’t believe it! This is the first time for him doing something like this all by himself.

Yesterday my daughter went through my cook books and planned out our Easter dinner. She even wrote down a list of needed ingredients. She did all that by choice. I never suggested for her to do any of that. Today she found all the ingredients in the cupboard that she needed to make wheat-free and nearly sugarless brownies from scratch. (My daughter is pre-diabetic, so the more sugarless we can make it the better.) She followed the recipe in my cookbook and figured out how to convert the amount of granulated-sugar the recipe called for to the amount of sugar substitute she needed. She wasn’t sure about using the blender, so I suggested using a whisk and that worked out great. I gave her a hand by turning on the oven for her just because I was there. She did everything else by herself.

My kids are amazing!

"One of the cruelest tricks our culture plays on autistic people is that it makes us strangers to ourselves. We grow up knowing we’re different, but that difference is defined for us in terms of an absence of neurotypicality, not as the presence of another equally valid way of being. We wind up internalizing a lot of hateful, damaging, and inaccurate things about ourselves, and that makes it harder to know who we really are or what we really can and cannot do."

— Julia Bascom, Loud Hands: Autistic People, Speaking (via kelpforestdweller)

(via neurowonderful)

"The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance - the idea that anything is possible."

— Ray Bradbury

"Nine years ago, Congress passed the Combating Autism Act (CAA), legislation that focused federal autism research and policy activities on creating a world without autistic people. In 2011, Congress re-authorized this deeply flawed legislation, over the objections of self-advocates and our families. Now, with the CAA set to expire this year unless Congress re-authorizes it, we finally have an opportunity to change things." - ASAN

For more information about ‪#‎StopCombatingMe‬ and what you can do to try to get congress to reform the CAA to align its goals with those of the Autistic community. please go to http://autisticadvocacy.org/stopcombatingme/


What is Sensory Processing Disorder? Can a person have SPD but not have Autism? What is it like to have SPD? What kind of accommodation helps people with SPD? Is picky eating a part of SPD? Answers to all of these question and more in this episode of Ask an Autistic!

Strengths of Autism – Hyper Memory

What is memory? Many people would associate memory as recalling past events, such as where you put your keys. Other people would say memory is about remembering phone numbers or faces or information for a test, but a person’s memory is so much more important than that. In her article “Memory Definition & Types of Memory”, Kim Ann Zimmermann states memory is essential in our everyday lives. She continues to explain that we would not be able to function in the present or move forward without relying on our memory.

How do we form memories? Our senses, including our emotions, are a key to forming memories. Important memories typically move from short-term memory to long-term memory, such as learning to tie your shoe. You hear directions being given as you see the shoe laces and feel the shoe laces moving within your hands. With enough repetition, all these sensations go into long term memory and you end up tying your shoe without thinking about it much. This is if you do not have coordination issues. You might know how to tie your shoe, but can’t get your hands to do it. This can be very frustrating for people, especially when they are seen as unintelligent because they can’t get their hands to coordinate to tie their own shoes and they can’t verbalize their frustration in a way to get people to understand.

Another way to encode a memory into long term memory is through association or connecting it to prior knowledge. Let’s say you meet someone named Ruby. You remember her name by associating her with a red jewel. In someone who has synesthesia, you might associate a person, a number, or something else with a color. The color either reminds you of a person or the person reminds you of a color.

Information relating to something that you have a keen interest in is more likely to be stored in your long-term memory. Kim Ann Zimmermann explains this is why someone might be able to recall the stats of a favorite baseball player years after he has retired or where a favorite pair of shoes was purchased. In my case, I can recall Doctor Who stats from the past 50 years and have long conversations about Doctor Who with my daughter who is also a big fan.

See “Memory Definition & Types of Memory” for more information about the different forms of memories.

Depending where you live, April is either Autism Awareness Month or Autism Acceptance Month. In this third installment of a series show casing the strengths of Autism, I want to focus on memory recall in an autistic person. As I have stated before, moving information from short term memory to long term memory involves the use of the senses. If you were born without a sensory filter, like I was, you are bombarded with sensory input all the time.

In someone who doesn’t have Autism, their brain automatically decides what needs to be ignored and filtered out. Memories are filed as a filtered version of the original. As an autistic person, my memories are filed with all the sensory information. I don’t know what to ignore, so my brain takes in everything which causes my processing speed to slow down. It takes me longer to file things in my brain. I cannot say with absolute certainty, but I surmise that since I have to work harder to file information, because I am taking in so much at one time, I end up developing extraordinary detailed memories and I can recall these memories almost verbatim weeks, months, and even years later. Hyper focusing, hyper awareness, and hyper memory are all strengths of Autism.

Hyper memory is great when you are teaching or discussing a fandom or needing facts to back up your claims, but there can be problems associated with having a great memory and being autistic. I have executive function problems. Sure, I am really good at explaining scientific principles in detail from memory, but I have trouble remembering that I need to eat lunch (especially when I am hyper focusing) or where I parked my car. I have trouble even knowing where to begin when I am given too many things to do. My first impulse when something like that happens to me, I want to crawl into bed and block everything out. It is just too much for my brain to sort out.

I need specifics when learning a new skill or when I am tasked with a large job to do. I need these specifics broken up into chunks, because too much information at once overloads me. Information overload is very similar to sensory overload. It is very unpleasant, sometimes painful and it causes me not to be able to function very well. When this happens I often tell my kids that I have too many tabs open right now and my brain is not working right.

For more information about executive functions, see Executive Functioning - Understanding Executive Functioning Disorders

People with executive functioning problems have difficulty with planning, organizing and managing time and space. They also show weakness with working memory. Working memory, which is also referred to as short term memory, is the ability to temporarily hold and manipulate information for cognitive tasks performed in daily life. Working memory depends on the control of attention and mental effort. This can be problematic when you are being distracted by the sound of the air vents or the flickering fluorescent lights and the pain that fluorescent lights cause, and the sound, movement, and scent of the people around you.

If I have multiple things going one at the same time, plus dealing with all the sensory input, and then someone chooses that time to try to tell me something or try to explain something to me, I am not going to remember what they told me or even know that they are talking to me. My working memory cannot manipulate the information and begin to file it where I can make a response or retrieve it later. The information ends up being lost. I have this extraordinary memory, but my ability to recall or articulate what has been stored in my memory can be impacted by my environment and by those around me. This can be a frustrating conundrum for me and those around me.

(Image found at kate-butenko.blogspot.com)