Voices from the Spectrum #8: Paul Isaacs on Personhood and Autistic Identity


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Paul Isaacs is an autism advocate, trainer, and public speaker from England. He says that public speaking about his experiences and the experiences of others has helped him find his voice and develop a true skill. He always emphasizes the positive aspects of how life can be lived with autism. He uses the acronym PEC to describe the qualities people who work with autism should have: Positivity, Empathy, and Compassion. He is also a published author and blogs at Autism from the Inside.

Autism and Ableism This Holiday Season

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It’s the time of year when many people start thinking more about others, and charitable opportunities abound. While it’s wonderful to participate in various charitable activities, it’s also a good time of year to reflect on the difference between charity and ableism and how our own holiday activities and “charitable” mindsets might be assessed within these categories, especially towards individuals on the spectrum. Many autistics are outspoken on the topic of autism and ableism, yet many parents are completely unfamiliar with the term.

Carelessly Linking Autism to Violent Crime

linking autism to violent crime

We’ve all heard it. The media has been (intentionally or not) linking autism to violent crime over the past few years in the United States. A few years ago it was Sandy Hook. More recently it has been the Umpqua Community College Shooting. Mentioning that a shooter is on the spectrum along with a description of the violent crimes he has committed inaccurately inflates the significance of autism in these situations. People without intimate knowledge of autism hear this reporting and continue developing misconceptions and stereotypes about autistic people. The autistic community has spoken out on numerous occasions requesting that the media avoid making unwarranted connections because of the inaccuracies they imply and the damage the link does to people living on the spectrum.

How Not to React When Hearing About Someone’s Autism Diagnosis

hearing about someone's autism diagnosis

How many parents have heard: “He’s autistic? But he acts so normal!” Many respond this way to hearing a parent reveal a diagnosis because they think it would be considered a compliment. This statement emphasizes how someone looks a certain way and doesn’t address or acknowledge the state or experience of being autistic.

As psychologists learn more about the symptoms of autism and how they manifest themselves, the public, in turn has better recognized those affected, and more people are talking about it. Despite this increased “awareness” of what autism looks like, many people still fail to understand how the full range of symptoms affects how autistic people experience the world.

A lack of understanding can lead to unintentional offensive responses when first hearing about someone’s autism diagnosis. Much has been written by parents of autistic children trying to raise awareness of what these inappropriate responses are and how they make the parents feel. I’d like to approach this topic from a slightly different angle and explore how these inappropriate responses make the autistic child or adult feel and how we can best discuss autism with and among autistics.

Voices from the Spectrum #7: Shaun Williams on Late Diagnosis

Shaun Williams is a newly-diagnosed adult on the autism spectrum. His new website, Autism Guide, discusses his personal experiences with autism and offers advice and insights for all families affected by autism. Shaun asserts that he has achieved several successes in his life including a successful marriage with two children, a degree in Computer Studies, a Master’s degree in Computer Security, and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE). In this interview, Shaun discusses his experience being diagnosed with Asperger’s as an adult.

Holiday Tips for Families on the Autism Spectrum

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As with many families of autistic children, our Thanksgiving holidays have changed since the birth of our son. For our family, his rigid perseverations, social anxiety, and general feeding aversions added stress to our large holiday gatherings. Each year we’ve tried to safely expose him to socialization in different settings. Some years/settings have been easier than others. This year I’m thankful for continuous social development in family gatherings. It hasn’t always been this enjoyable for us or our son…

How to Facilitate Successful Haircuts for Autistic Children

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Haircuts can be especially nightmarish for children on the autism spectrum. The sensory assault from this experience can overwhelm children and stress out families. The noise of electric clippers, the itchy discomfort of falling hair, the gleam and snip of sharp scissors, and the anxiety of the unknown and unpredictable movements are a frightening combination for many children on the spectrum. This article offers some tips for reducing the stress of haircuts for autistic children through proper preparation and positive reinforcement.

A Case Against Retesting for Autism

retesting for autism

Are you wondering if you should get your child retested by a psychologist? You are not alone. Many parents of autistic children and autistic individuals themselves consider taking a second test to see if their symptoms still fall under the diagnostic criteria for autism. If an individual feels that he or she has been misdiagnosed, a reassessment may be a proper tool for identifying the accuracy of a diagnosis or determining a more appropriate diagnosis. However, I would caution parents against seeking out reassessments for their children in an effort to get rid of a diagnosis or a stigma attached to it.

Voices from the Spectrum #6: Amy Gravino on Autism and Sexuality

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Amy Gravino is a Certified Autism Specialist, author, autism consultant, and public speaker. She runs a private consulting business in New Jersey called A.S.C.O.T. Coaching. She is an autism consultant and college coach for individuals on the spectrum and also advocates for autistics through her work as a member of Autism Speaks’ Awareness Committee and the Self-Advocate Advisory Board for the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation. Amy speaks regularly about autism and sexuality and has written a book relevant to this under-addressed topic, a memoir titled The Naughty Autie. Below, Amy discusses her book and some of the major issues related to sexuality that autistic teens and adults face.

Passing for Neurotypical

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When I first heard someone on the spectrum talk about “passing,” I didn’t realize how this prevalent and conscious this effort was on the account of many autistics. The person I was speaking to was referring to “passing for neurotypical,” in other words, acting neurotypical enough that someone else wouldn’t recognize they were autistic. Outsiders often dismiss the severity of any disabling conditions when they see autistics who act non-autistic. However, many can pass for neurotypical only with great effort and feel pressured to act this way, living in constant stress over every small behavior and decision they make and never feeling accepted for who they are. To deepen understanding of the autistic pressure to pass for neurotypical, it’s important to read what other autistics are saying about passing and examine situations in our lives where we create this pressure for our children or for others.