— if I like something, that means it’s boring

— if I like something, that means it’s silly and juvenile

— if I like something, that means no one else will like it

— if I like something, that means it’s gross and wrong

— if I get excited about something, it means I’m a boring nerd who cares too much about pointless things

— if I get excited about something, it means I’m showing what an uncool newb I am and ruining things for the cool people who are real fans of that thing

— if I get excited about something, it means that I’m too much, too intense, making people uncomfortable

— if I get excited about something, that makes me gross and wrong

— I don’t deserve to have things that are exciting

— I don’t deserve to have things that are cool

— nothing I can do is exciting

— nothing I can do is interesting or cool

— nothing I can do would be appreciated by anyone else


I’ve been thinking lately about stimming and ways that I suppress it, and it occurred to me that it isn’t really the whole story to say that the avoidant way I sometimes react to positive, exciting things is just about “suppressing stimming”. It’s partly that, but that’s not all.

It’s partly about resisting the urge to happy-stim in public.

It’s partly about resisting the urge to show happiness in any way in public, even just to smile or laugh, because it might not be an appropriate situation to be happy in, and/or people might want to know what I’m smiling about, and that’s a fraught question. That’s where some of the above jerkbrain-assumptions come in.

But what it’s all added up to, over the years, is a really deep assumption that cool things are not for me, and things I like are not cool.

The second part of that– the stress and anxiety I feel about telling people about my interests– is something I’ve thought a lot about, and I feel like I understand it pretty clearly. And I’ve thought a lot about how secretive I often was when I was younger, about pursuing things that interested me.

But I hadn’t really realized until now the extent to which I’ve pushed myself away from ever learning about things I liked, things I thought were exciting and cool, out of this knee-jerk assumption that there’s no way I could ever actually have them and enjoy them. Instead of taking feelings of excitement and interest as a reason to find out more about a thing, I often did my very best to crush those feelings, avoid the thing in question, and never admit to anyone that I was interested in it.


What brought this into focus was an exercise routine I tried out a few weeks ago. It included some punches and kicks. I was working my way through the routine, and I thought to myself, “I feel like I’m getting the hang of this and doing it correctly. It feels good. I feel kind of cool and tough, punching things.”

And part of my brain immediately went “No no no, nothing you can do is cool, if you think so you’re wrong, and if you show anyone else they’ll hate you. Go ahead and do the exercises, but don’t enjoy it. Don’t feel strong. Don’t feel like you could ever be cool.”

Like, I was completely alone in my own house, and part of my brain didn’t even want me to feel happy in total privacy because that was too close to showing off for people who might disapprove. Come on, brain.



Why didn’t I think being “gifted and talented” was a fun and cool thing?

Because my first teacher for “gifted and talented” classes was… not a good kind of teacher.

The activities we did in her class were interesting, most of the time, but “excitement about learning,” “creativity,” “inquisitiveness” were not really ideas she was interested in. We had a very regimented set of activities we did, and… we never really talked, I guess, is what I feel was missing? We never discussed things. We just got activities and did them according to the rules.

One of the things I remember is the periodic math tests that were put out by some organization, I don’t remember what. They tended to have the same categories of questions, if not the exact same questions, every month (or week or whatever the timeframe was). One of them was made-up mathematical operators, like, “If [triangle symbol] means multiply and then add two, what’s three triangle five?” Another was questions about clocks or schedules that would be easy to answer with algebra if we had known algebra but really hard without it– like, “if this clock runs ten minutes slow, and that clock runs five minutes fast, and right now they show the same time, how long will it take for them to work around to showing the same time again?”

Young-me thought the made-up new operator questions were ridiculously easy and was totally bewildered that any of my classmates got them wrong. I never got to ask my classmates why they had trouble with those questions or explain how I solved them.

Young-me occasionally managed to solve the clock questions by making very long tables. I never got any feedback on my solutions or any explanation of how else I could have solved them. Even though we did them every few weeks for the whole year. It was just, “do these math problems,” no context, no discussion, no learning except whatever we came up with ourselves.

This was also the class in which I was assigned a really bad research topic, then was lectured until I cried because (a) printing out articles from the internet and highlighting parts of them didn’t count as taking notes, only handwritten notes counted, (b) none of our books and in-class activities had mentioned my topic, so I hadn’t made any handwritten notes. Did she tell me in advance not to print stuff off the internet? Of course not. I was just supposed to know somehow.

That incident is one of the things that comes to mind whenever I talk about teachers assuming above-grade-level “giftedness” comes with above-grade-level informational knowledge and skills, but for some reason I hadn’t connected in my head that all these things happened in the same class.

The other big assuming-skills issue with that class was re: organization and communication skills. So this “gifted and talented” class was something I was taken out of my regular class to go to. I was expected to know when it was and take myself out of my regular class to go to it. Since I was in the school band, I also had to keep track of my own music lesson schedule once the band teacher told me when my lesson would be, which changed each semester. That’s kind of a lot for an elementary schooler to keep track of already, I think, but the real problem was that one semester, my band lesson time was suddenly changed to a time that overlapped part of the “gifted and talented” class time.

The “gifted and talented” teacher did not like this, understandably. What’s not so understandable is that she expected me to handle it, on my own, instead of her talking to the band teacher herself. “I only get one hour a week with you kids anyway, you can’t take this time to go to band. You need to reschedule your band lesson.”

When was I going to do this? Since I wasn’t going to my band lesson?

How was I, as a nine or ten-year-old (autistic) child, supposed to take the initiative to (a) go see a teacher outside class hours (b) or interrupt them during a (already very busy) music class, to (c) tell them what to do with their own schedule?

It was like a perfect storm of things I could not cognitively deal with (some of which I still have trouble with):

— interrupting people
— bringing up new conversation topics even if it’s not a direct interruption
— remembering/fully understanding things without seeing them written down
— remembering and bringing up things from one context in another context without some kind of reminder
— understanding that bureaucracy isn’t actually infallible unchangeable laws from on high, but rather a system set up by people who can change their minds and make exceptions to the rules
— having to weigh two conflicting but equally authoritative orders and decide which to follow

Anyway, this post was brought to you by Tumblr posts about gifted students. Why didn’t I feel like being a Gifted Student made me superior? The fact that in practice it was just another setting for me to get in trouble with rules I didn’t understand and expectations I couldn’t meet, is probably part of it.


Pet peeve

When somebody makes a resource about a problem, and their attempts to make it understandable to people who don’t have that problem, directly make it less accessible to people who do have the problem.

I mean things like:

— articles about PTSD that begin with a graphic description of a traumatic situation

— videos about / fictional TV or movie depictions of sensory overload that use enough bright lights and loud noises to cause sensory overload in the audience

and the thing that prompted this post, a video about how to cope with vertigo that began with a good sixty seconds of the camera being swung wildly back and forth. For the very same reason that I would like to watch the rest of the video, I don’t want to watch that.

Honorable mention goes to articles about trypophobia that include a bunch of pictures of things that are likely to trigger it.

I just remembered something

I had been thinking that I don’t have the attachment-to-objects / empathy-for-objects thing that some autistic people do (basically treating objects as if they have feelings. Feeling like you should apologize to them if you damage them, grieving when you have to get rid of them as if you were losing a friend, things like that.)

It’s true that I don’t feel like that very often or very strongly now, but I just remembered there was one object-empathy-ish thing that I felt really strongly about when I was a kid.

It’s not something you would expect, like ascribing feelings to dolls or stuffed animals.

It’s balloons.

I used to think that the way balloons slowly lose their helium, stop being able to float, get smaller and wrinkled and damaged-looking, was really sad. I didn’t like having balloons in the house for parties because I knew they were just going to (I felt) die, in a few days.

I felt the same way about glow sticks. We used to get them on the Fourth of July, and after we got back from watching the fireworks and I went to bed, my mother would put my glow stick in my room “so I could see it while I fell asleep.” As soon as she shut the door, I’d get up and cover the glow stick up with something, because I hated the thought of watching its glow slowly die.

So yeah. Single-use things that run out. That’s my object empathy thing.


I’ve been thinking about fasting– not in the sense of “considering whether I should do it,” just thinking about the topic– and I think I can now (months after I started thinking about it, yeah) explain why the idea fills me with Nope.

So. Eating, actual meals, regularly, is something I struggle with executive-function-wise. In fact, it’s one of the few situations in which I actually feel… vulnerable / helpless / not-able-to-cope re: being autistic, is when I’ve gotten hungry enough that it impedes my ability to get myself food.

Why does hunger impede my ability to get food.

  • physical fatigue/weakness
    • on top of executive dysfunction, makes getting up & doing things even harder
  • executive function goes down
    • makes it harder to stop doing other things & start looking for food
    • makes it harder to follow a long series of instructions to get / make food
  • sensory issues / need for familiar things goes up
    • limits my choices for foods I can eat
    • makes it harder to get / make food (going to a noisy store, touching unpleasant textures)
  • general emotional fragility
    • makes managing my phobia harder
    • which may further limit my food choices and may also make cooking & eating take longer
    • makes me start fucking crying instead of just going “ew!” when I touch an unpleasant texture, which is not fun

I didn’t used to have as extreme a reaction to low blood sugar as I do now, I think, but… I do now. It affects my mood pretty dramatically, and it also makes me physically weak, a lot faster than I think it should at least.

tl;dr I associate not-eating with meltdowns.

Fear of consequences


You consider doing something (X). X is something you could do if you chose to, but not something do very often if at all. You would have to go out of your way to do it. You imagine what would happen after you do X. One of the results is something that would be dangerous or unpleasant (Y). You imagine that you would be scared or upset if Y happened. You can easily and reliably prevent this unpleasant thing Y from happening by not doing X. You don’t do X. You stop worrying about Y.



You remember what happened the last time you did something (A). You thought A was a harmless thing to do, and you did it almost without thinking, but then something else (B) happened because of it. B happened suddenly and unexpectedly, and it was very hurtful and/or scary, and you were terrified. Thinking about it now, you’re still terrified. What if you do A again by accident? And not only that, if something as harmless-seeming as A can make B happen, what if other things you do cause B to happen, too?  You are constantly on alert to keep from doing A. You are constantly afraid of B.


Both of these things could be described as “learning from the consequences of your actions,” but they are not the same thing.

Do Neurotypical People Stim?

This is another Tumblr autism community controversy that I’m like a month late to.

The question isn’t really “Do neurotpyical people do stim/fidget-like things?” because obviously the answer to that is yes; the question is, should we call those things by the same name when neurotypical (or, non-autistic) (or, non-cognitively/learning disabled) people do them, as when autistic people do? Or should there be separate words?

Continue reading “Do Neurotypical People Stim?”

Dear person who wrote about how being bullied is like being in ABA therapy,

First of all, I totally get it. I’ve made basically the same comparison. I’m assuming you had the same experience I did where you read people talking about harmful therapy and went “Wow, that feels familiar” even though you were never in therapy. I get it.

But isn’t it… a little soon, to be saying “Bullying is bad because it’s like ABA therapy”? Shouldn’t that sentence be the other way around?

I mean, the group of people in which it’s unquestioningly accepted that ABA therapy is harmful is not that big.

I feel uncomfortable about the idea of using the harmfulness of ABA therapy as a foundation to stand on to talk about how much I was harmed by other things. It seems kind of rude to put that weight on them when they’re already more than busy with all the people who can’t believe a Scientific Therapy™ could possibly be harmful.

What I feel comfortable saying about ABA therapy and abuse goes in the other direction:

When people tell me that they were harmed by ABA therapy, I believe them even though I have no personal experience with it. I believe them because I do have personal experience with bullying and emotional abuse, and I can recognize that their experiences are similar to mine; their experiences are abuse coupled with medical authority. The basic premises and underlying worldview of ABA therapy are the same premises that underlie bullying and abuse.

That’s what I have to say about ABA and bullying. They’re harmful in the same way, for a certain sense of “way.” And I think that talking about that similarity is good for both helping people understand bullying, and helping people understand how therapy can be harmful.

But inasmuch as any kind of abuse can be said to be worse overall than another, I think it’s pretty reasonable to say that receiving that abuse mindset one-on-one, in a systematized way, from a person who you’ve been taught to respect as a medical professional, is a “worse,” more intensive exposure to it than receiving it haphazardly from your peers.

Autopilot again, a silly thing this time

Most of the time, when I see people talking about executive function problems in the form of autopilot/habit fail, it’s things like “I put sugar on my toast and butter in my tea instead of the other way around,” or “I started putting my shoes on to go out the door but I hadn’t put my pants on yet,” things like that.

My most common and most annoying autopilot fail is clicking the wrong button on the computer. Examples:

  • assuming whichever button is on the left is “agree” or “ok” when actually it’s “cancel”, I hate websites/programs that switch that around
  • intending to click on something in the toolbar of the browser (like “refresh” or “back”) and instead clicking something at the top of the web page
  • or vice versa
  • within one toolbar or menu, clicking whatever I click most often instead of what I needed to click
  • clicking on an icon that looks superficially similar to the one I intended to click on (tumblr versus twitter, anyone?)
  • clicking on the location where some thing usually is, but it’s not there (dear programs that re-order things based on what you’ve used most recently: stop)
  • using a keyboard shortcut that belongs to a different program
  • typing the correct password… for a different website

The worst is when I do something wrong and then have to wait an interminably long time for the wrong thing to start up or load before I can get to what I actually wanted to do.


Netflix is great and all but honestly, I miss commercial breaks. I can handle broadcast-TV-style “marathons” of a TV show (or at least, I used to be able to) but I can’t handle Netflix binge-watching. It’s just too long for me to listen to something– especially, I guess, something with a complicated, emotionally intense plot– without breaks to process, stand up and walk around, think about something else.

And commercial breaks served that purpose really well, and that makes me kind of sad that they’re kind of gone from the places where I actually watch TV. (I’m obviously also not a fan of Netflix’s “automatically start the next episode in ten seconds” thing.)

Today one of Sparkly’s favorite TV shows got a bunch of new episodes added to Netflix, and we watched three of them in quick succession, and then I spent about 20 minutes playing solitaire because anything more complicated felt like Too Many Things.

And it’s a good TV show! And I really like it! I just… can’t watch too much of it all at once. I hate this, it feels ridiculous, but apparently this is the current state of affairs for my brain.