A funny, true story

This is a true story, and one that I still find really funny!

This is when I was in Grade 8 (12 -13 years old) and all of the students had been preparing for a presentation oral and the purpose was to come up with some kind of ‘ad’.

I chose to do my ad on skincare for women, particularly mothers.

Backstory to this story, is that when I was about 8-9 years old, I had taught myself how to read by reading Garfield comic books (thank you Jim Davis!) Before I came across Garfield, I couldn’t read, most likely because I didn’t find the books all that interesting. But after a family friend gave me a copy of Garfield, I sat in my room looking at the pictures, working out the words and laughing hysterically. The fat, naughty cat was hilarious. It wasn’t long before I had requested my mother to buy more Garfield books that I had become a proficient reader, including knowing words like ‘anvil’ (referring to when Garfield said “release the anvil!”)

Back to the present story in Grade 8, I developed what I thought was a hilarious and catchy ad for skin care. The teacher had warned me multiple times that my opening line was NOT funny and might be offensive, but I insisted on reading it out to everyone…because it had its origins from one of the Garfield comic book stories and I thought it was hilarious!

I read the opening line and was expecting the class to roar with laughter but this is what happened…

Me to class: “Does your mother look like she’s been dragged through a mulberry bush backwards?!

Funnily enough, the class didn’t find it funny. A few of the kids looked shocked. I just assumed that none of them had senses of humour.

Back then, I had no idea that I was autistic. But now I do. I can kind of appreciate why the teacher had tried to warn me against reading out the opening line, but, I still think it’s bloody funny! Even though no one laughed, I’m glad I went ahead with it.

Since my diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder at the ripe old age of 34, things are starting to ad up with respect to my past. This is a slow process and requires a kind of interpersonal ‘migration’ – the missing pieces coming together over time of so many events that I could not understand back then.

The fact that I wanted to play games with other girls, but have them all follow MY rules, because to me, my imaginary play story was so much better than theirs. Needless to say they didn’t like it very much and I didn’t have many friends.

The fact that I would observe other girls social interactions, thinking that they had some kind of social ‘secret code’ that I had to find a way to unlock or discover. Trying to mimic them did not help me one bit, as it just seemed to be obvious and I could sense that they knew I was some sort of social impostor and a bit odd.

The fact that even now, I find it difficult staying focused on others stories that don’t interest me, without trying to change the subject. This includes me telling a story and the other person talking about my story for too long…I quickly move on to another topic of interest, like a lightning bolt! Thankfully most of my friends are quirky or neurodiverse and their stories and lives interest me and they also are wonderful people who are a little similar.

The fact that when I was a teenager, I felt really stressed having one of my school friend’s over, because it meant that I would have to entertain them or speak with them. I just remember these girls thinking I was weird. I much preferred when I had two of them over, so that they could entertain themselves.

The fact that on my bedroom wall, was an enormous amount of individual philosophy quotes (like the whole wall was covered) with quotes from Socrates to Zeno the Paradox man (that’s what I call him, but his real name is Zeno of Elea). I was interested in philosophy, ancient Egypt, my family history, the Titanic, the French Resistance and WWII.

The fact that when I was in high school, I would excuse myself from my friendship group and go to the library to “study”. Everyone thought that I was really smart, because I went to the library every day during lunch break. I remember choosing a book that I wasn’t really going to read and pretend to read, so as to be left alone. I needed a break from the overwhelm of all the people, noise and lunch-time goings on. This is how I survived high school.

The fact that I LOVE being alone. Like really alone. There is nothing more peaceful and energising than being completely alone (like not alone in a room, but having the whole house to yourself kind of alone).

I also remember at school only loving rainy days as it would always seem like the day would go so much quicker and be over in a flash. I hated sunny days, because they felt like they went on and on. I also thought that sunny days looked too “chalky”. My mother would ask me all the time what that meant…I still can’t describe it, but sunny days still look a little too “chalky”. My favourite days are still rainy days and always will be. I hate wind! Subtle breezes are okay, but windy days are cause for irritation.

I remember picking up on strange ‘people patterns’. From the age of 8 I could tell whether my mother was in a happy mood and going to have a good day or whether she was in a bad mood, based of the types of the clothes she wore. Whenever she would wear ‘sporty’ clothes, she would be happy. Anything else, and it was anyone’s guess. I remember demanding Mum to change into her ‘sporty’ clothes to ensure that the day went well! Mum would just laugh but thankfully she would comply when I requested it.

I remember weird sensory issues as well. Like when I was about 5-6 years old I could not understand how or why people would wear their underwear over their bums. To me it was the most uncomfortable sensation. I would walk around with my undies on, but just under my bum cheeks (never pulled up). My mother thought it was hilarious and would always try to pull them up, but they would be straight back down just under my bum cheeks again. I can’t remember the day this changed, but I certainly remember the uncomfortable feeling of undies. I hated socks too! Socks were the enemy.

I remember taking ages to get dressed and get shoes on. One Saturday morning my mother promised that we would be going to a theme park, however, I apparently took 3 hours to put my shoes on. I remember that day too. The shoes were next to me, however, I got lost in my imagination and the amazing stories that I dreamed up. Apparently I came out 3 hours later to see my Mum as I was ready to go, but was told because I took that long, the trip was off.

I remember being VERY sensitive to colour and combinations of colour as a kid, particularly in clothes. I only wanted to wear pretty dresses that had soft pink and soft purple/lilac in them. They were my favourite colours. But my clothing range, unfortunately included browns, reds and yellows – these were all loud colours and I hated them. Anytime I wore them I had a bad day and felt miserable. I sometimes have this aversion to colour now, however, I am also affected by the shape of clothing. If I wear anything that fits me well, but it’s just the wrong shape or is awkward to wear and not comfortable, then my whole day will feel wrong.

I remember my family offering me Milo when I was little. I would get so upset with them for calling it Milo, because to me they were saying “My Lo” and therefore the correct name of the drink was “Your Lo”. Eventually it became “Ugg Lo” but I don’t remember the rationale behind that….I’m pretty sure there was a logical reason for it though lol.

These are some of the ‘aha’ moments over a very long time. I’ll no doubt think of more as time goes on, however, I do now wonder whether my life would have gone differently had I known back then what I know now.

I believe autistic people have amazing senses of humour and perspectives and insights, which are rich with a different kind of information, because we think and process the world differently.

And the world needs different.

Stuff you probably didn’t know about Autism Spectrum Disorder, unless you’re autistic!

Trigger warning for all autistic people: the following article mentions the below topics:

  • Functional labels
  • Aspergers Syndrome and its beginning history in WWII, including original derogatory terms and research by Hans Asperger
  • Past and present eugenics research
  • ABA
  • An organisation that shall not be named…but we all know which one it is!

Please note that the following article has been primarily written for those who are neurotypical (non-autistic) and who need to be educated on the history, correct terminology and the current socio-political initiatives that the autistic community is striving to change.

This article acknowledges the tireless work that the autistic community does, especially in the face of considerable ableist attitudes, stereotypes, misconceptions and unnecessary barriers to progress.

One brick at a time!

Autistic aligned terminology:

  • Disability vs ‘Diffability
    • Some autistic adults prefer the term ‘diffability’ rather than disability, and other autistic adults prefer disability rather than ‘diffability’.
    • Use disability until you know what the autistic person prefers. Both are acceptable to use, if used by autistic people. Non-autistic people should use the term that an autistic person prefers (remember it’s not about you).
    • Disability term:
      • Preference for ‘disability’ term – usually the only way advocacy and supports/services can currently be utilized.
      • Those who identify with the term ‘disability’ use the term in accordance with the official diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder in DSM-V.
      • The term can fit more appropriately with the experience of those who struggle with day-to-day life, advocacy, supports, feeling isolated etc.
    • Diffability term:
      • Sometimes preferred over ‘disability’ term, to relate to the way in which those on the spectrum think and interact differently, as well as, how they may experience the world differently.
      • Commonly used with the unofficial term of ‘neurodiversity’, which is also starting to be used by some professionals all over the world.
      • Some see the environment as the disability, rather than disability being associated with being autistic (for example, due to lack of understanding/inclusion/support/discrimination etc.).
  • Aspergers vs Autistic
    • History of ‘Aspergers Syndrome’ (no longer used in DSM-V) has a very controversial history in the autistic community.
    • Many autistic adults refuse to use the terms ‘asperger’s syndrome’ or ‘aspie’ (derivative of asperger’s syndrome).
    • The reason for this is that in 1938 Hans Asperger, who was a member of the Nazi Party, termed children who were autistic as “autistic psychopaths” and developed the term ‘Aspergers Syndrome’.
    • Research exists to suggest that Hans Asperger was aligned with the Nazi regimes initiatives regarding disability. I don’t want to express more about this here, as it’s too upsetting, however more information can be found here regarding one of the research papers: Czech, H. Hans Asperger, National Socialism, and “race hygiene” in Nazi-era Vienna. Molecular Autism 9, 1–43 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13229-018-0208-6).
  •  Appropriate terms
    • Autistic, autistic person, autistic individual.
    • Some autistic people still prefer the term ‘aspie’ – again it’s at the initiative and use of the autistic person.
    • Avoid terms that say ‘<insert name> has autism’. Preferred term is “<insert name> is autistic”.
    • Do not describe autistic people as ‘suffering with autism’.
    • The term ‘on the spectrum’ is also okay, if used by the autistic person.
  • Functional Labels
    • Autistic individuals and autistic led initiatives are moving away from the use of functional labels, for example ‘high functioning’ and ‘low functioning’.
    • More appropriate terminology is framed around the level of support that autistic people may require.
    • If in doubt, the best term to use as always is ‘autistic’ without including the functional label.
  • Current socio-political initiatives/views
    • Autistic adults are heavily aligned to autistic led initiatives (organisations run by autistic people/actively including autistic people).
    • Many autistic adults and autistic advocacy groups are against ‘light it up blue’ and the puzzle piece logo often associated with autism, which has its roots in an organisation that shall not be named.
    • This organisation has a long history of very controversial practices, which has caused the autistic community a significant amount of pain over the years, including sponsoring research aimed at eradicating/curing autism.
    • While this organisation has apparently moved away from some past practices, the autistic community is very suspicious of this organisation and outspoken against many of its maintained practices and initiatives.
    • Puzzle piece logo is very unpopular due to the visual premise being that there is a piece missing or a gap (usually displayed visually).
    • ‘Light it up blue’ initiatives is unpopular due to the past and current gendered focus of autism in boys and men. Currently there is a 4:1 ratio of boys to girls who receive diagnosis worldwide. Many argue that this is not a male dominated disability or diffability.
    • It is very unpopular to associate autism with either blue or the puzzle piece within the autistic community, despite many organisations still doing this.
    • The autistic community wants it to be either ‘light it up red’ or ‘light it up gold’, alongside the infinity symbol (rainbow, gold or red).
    • Many teenage girls and women are misdiagnosed and it takes on average at least 1 year at the minimum and multiple medical practitioners, before the correct diagnosis is given. This is usually after an intensive, traumatic, and cost exhaustive process and the person’s own research.
    • Autistic women find access to diagnosis hindered with sexism and are often laughed at by doctors and other medical professionals when they go to request information on seeking an assessment for ASD. This is a very common experience.
    • Women and girls are underrepresented in most autistic studies and research.
    • There are concerns of women and girls having to present “worse symptoms” than boys and men who are at the same diagnosis ‘level’ (for example, ASD-1, ASD-2). 
    • Eugenics research
      • Currently very controversial in the autistic community and a recent study has come under enormous international fire over the ethical rationale for standalone DNA research in autistic people.
      • This is mainly because autistic people are concerned regarding history of eradication principles, research and practice, which have the potential to be used in the future.
      • The CDC currently states that there is “no cure for autism yet” – the autistic community are against medical searches for “cures”.
      • The autistic community’s stance is “nothing about us, without us”.
    • The autistic community are generally against “Autism Awareness month” and would like it changed to “Autistic Acceptance month”. The premise being that autistic initiatives should be about accepting autism.
    • Many organisations that do ‘Autism Awareness month” also do ‘light it up blue’ and the puzzle piece logo.
  • ABA
    • Many autistic people are against ABA.
    • ABA stands for Applied Behaviour Analysis Therapy and it is commonly used by Psychologists and Psychiatrists as the main therapy for autistic children and adults.
    • ABA seeks to change natural autistic behaviours/traits in those who are autistic (for example, stimming).
    • The reason autistic people are against ABA is because you cannot cure/treat autism and autistic people should have the right to be themselves and express their natural behaviours.
    • Masking is a technique taught by ABA practitioners to “help” autistic people change their behaviour to blend in, which can result in trauma, burnout and fatigue.
    • Autistic adults who have received ABA therapy as children and young adults, speak of the trauma that they have endured as a result.
    • ABA first used principles of punishment to stop autistic people behaving ‘autistically’.
    • There are now some autistic led psychology services, who are against ABA and do not practice this form of “therapy” on autistic children/adults.
    • There is a lack of research for support and advocacy for the autistic community. Most of the research is genetic and ‘treatment’ focused (i.e., what genes may contribute to autism and how it can be ‘treated’), and therefore the majority of money is not spent where it is very much needed (providing supports and inclusive advocacy services to those on the spectrum…and educating neurotypicals on how to listen more and be inclusive).
  • Stimming
    • Stimming is a natural behaviour.
    • Most common stereotype is of autistic people flapping their arms about. Some autistic people do this and this is not the most common stim.
    • Stimming is a repetitive, physical action done by autistic people, as a self-soothing measure or a response to stimuli (example, excitement).
    • Stimming is not bad and should not be stopped.
    • Stimming can often go unnoticed by others, when someone is stimming.
    • Stimming can be done by neurotypical (non-autistic people) as well, without them realising (i.e., tapping fingers together repetitively).
  • Autistic led organisations in Australia:
    • The ICAN Network
    • Yellow Ladybugs
    • Different Journeys
    • Spectrum Intersections
    • Spectrum Journeys
    • Aspie Rebels (18+)
  • Neurodiversity
    • A new term which is like an umbrella term for autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, sensory processing disorder etc.
    • Is gaining popularity in the autistic community due to its association with the premise that, as there is biodiversity in nature, so too is there neuro-diversity in human brains.
  • Women
    • Autism can look different in boys and girls and in men and women, like that of ADHD.
    • Autistic women often are misdiagnosed, undiagnosed and commonly diagnosed late in life between the ages of 30-60.
    • Autistic women struggle with being heard and taken seriously within the medical practitioner space.
    • Receiving a diagnosis for autism is extremely difficult for girls and women (and costly), in comparison to boys and men who are often diagnosed in childhood/teens.
    • The diagnostic criteria and lack of practitioner knowledge, has come under enormous international criticism from autistic women, who are often left out of research and diagnostic criteria.
    • Autistic women can be undiagnosed because women are good at something called “masking”.
    • Autistic women can be “good” at eye-contact. This is often a masking effect. Sometimes autistic women will maintain eye-contact with limited blinking (this can be a sign that the masking is occurring because it’s a strain).
    • Autistic adults in general are starting to learn ‘un-masking’ – basically undoing years of traumatic social copying and performing to try and fit in and are now embracing their own natural tendencies.
    • There are many self-diagnosed women (autistic women who have not received an official diagnosis) due to the medical ableism present and the cost of the assessments).
    • Masking is:
      • A complex survival strategy for autistic people
      • Autistic people learn and copy from other’s behaviors and then copy those behaviors in public (like a performance)
      • In private, autistic people can often burnout from masking
      • Masking can cause a variety of health issues (stress, anxiety, exhaustion, etc.)
  • Myths and misconceptions
    • All autistic people act the same way/demonstrate similar behaviors
    • Autistic people aren’t social
    • Autistic people can’t maintain eye contact
    • All autistic people stim
    • Savant autism – all autistic people are geniuses
    • Autistic people lack empathy
    • “You don’t look autistic…”
    • “You don’t act autistic…”
    • “Everyone’s a little bit autistic…”
    • Autistic people don’t have friends/lack friends
  • There is far too much medical and social ableism and sexism when it comes to seeking a diagnosis for autism, receiving support and the burden of educating non-autistic people is an enormous task that autistic people face daily.
  • Autistic voices are often ignored and left out of the conversation. I mean how hard is it to change it from ‘light it up blue’ to ‘light it up red/gold’…not that hard!!!!
  • Ableism can take many forms and can also be very subtle. For example, my own experience in dealing with people before they know that I’m autistic, is that they speak at a normal pace and tone with me. If I then disclose that I’m autistic, sometimes they slow their voice right down, as though being autistic means that I’m somehow slow or can’t follow what they’re saying. It honestly is ridiculous to watch!

I hope by reading this article you are more informed, ready and willing to listen and help the autistic community advocate for much, much needed change!

The responsibility is not just ours – it’s yours too. And let’s face it, there’s a shit load of you out there. Please help us, to help you, to help the rest of you.

Pigeons

I’m an exhausted pigeon! It’s my own fault, really, what with working full-time, running two small businesses, being a Mum and keeping my cats alive…it’s all exhausting stuff!

Luckily, I enjoy it all, otherwise it’d be some form of hell! I wouldn’t just be an exhausted pigeon, I’d be an exhausted, asshole crow!

I have to admit, today was a ‘bad’ painting day. I always overestimate how much stuff I can get done in the limited waking hours that I have. I was sitting on the floor of my lounge room trying to get three small canvases painted, the size of them being about my palm, when it was all just going to al’shitto.

The paint was still wet and it just wasn’t working. I held one of my small canvases up to my Mum who was sitting on the couch watching a movie, and said to her “doesn’t this look like sh*t? It looks like sh*t, doesn’t it.” I then got one small canvas in each hand and blotted them together, in a rhythmic like dance saying out loud “shit on shit on shit”. My mother almost peed herself with laughter….and said it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen! I joined in as it was rather funny! Turns out it made the canvases look better, so the rhythmic “shit” dance worked!

So there you have it! The next time you purchase a painting, the artist may have said “shit on shit on shit” and abracadabra you have your next lounge room piece of art!

This is my life. I feel like it’s a running comedy show of ridiculousness that has some form of meaning, of which I’m still trying to work out and unravel. The meaning part being about as difficult as trying to find Wally…the bugger can never be found.

My organisational skills in life are terrible. At the recent art exhibition that I took three of my canvases to, I completely forgot to name them, price them and measure them. I was standing at the register, hmming about what to name them. I choose very practical, logical names on the day, like “sunset”….whereas other artists were a lot more creative and meaningful in their name giving of their artworks.

This is the part that falls down for me. The lady who runs the exhibition and art shop (let’s call her Dorothy – not her real name!) knows me well now, to the point that she’s started to name my artwork for me. Honestly, it’s a relief.

I love painting. I put so much time, effort and love into painting. But naming them? I don’t what they’re called! And pricing them? How short or long is a piece of string?! It’s all just too much and I prefer others to do it for me.

The exhibition went well. They gave me a name tag to wear for the event and popped it on my left boob area of my dress. The name tag inconspicuously moved from left boob to just under my dress collar so no one knew who I was. Eventually it made it’s way to the bin.

A couple of my friends came along to the event which was super. They were most encouraging for me to wear the name tag proudly…ha! That would identify me and someone might want to talk to me. That was not happening…

One of my friends asked me after the event “did you get the chance to network?” My reply was “no, thank goodness!” She was at first surprised by my response but then quickly realized me having to network would be a form of torture. I would rather hide behind one of the pot plants at the event, than talk to people!

I left the exhibition early. An hour and a half is enough for me. My feet hurt and the noise from the live music and crowd, plus bright lights was overstimulating. I was exhausted. I can’t imagine having to do one of those events and be semi-identifiable. I’d rather not go.

Networking is not my jam and I don’t think it ever will be. I don’t think I want it to be. I’m happy selling my artwork to those who love them, but that doesn’t need to involve me.

That connection between a piece of artwork and an observer is an intimate experience for them and doesn’t have anything to do with me. What I see in my paintings, is not what anyone else sees. It’s a unique, individual experience. I don’t need to be a part of it, but I’m very glad that people appreciate my artwork and find some form of meaning and beauty in them.

This is art on the spectrum…or at least one artist who is on the spectrum!

Why I don’t teach my child that lying is bad

I don’t teach my child that lying is bad.

My child, like me, is autistic and we have different ways of thinking about and reacting to things than the average neurotypical person. The age-old topic of lying, particularly on the reasons why you shouldn’t and mustn’t lie, are rooted in societal and religious “golden” standards, which get passed on from one generation to the other.

I want to question and challenge these stale “golden” standards because they don’t make much sense to me.

Lying is a healthy developmental milestone in childhood which means that your child can mentally work out a sequence of potential events or situations, and based on that information choose to manipulate or change a course of events, through lying. It’s an intelligent and adaptive processing response.

The ability to lie and manipulate events, can also keep a person safe. There are countless examples of this in history, where people have lied to ensure the right thing being done at the time (like saving the lives of other people, or being able to protect themselves from harm, for example). The last thing I want to teach my child, is that this adaptive and intelligent, natural and normal response, is bad. Because it’s not.

The fact that my child occasionally lies, is something that I’m a little proud of – the day they started doing it, my reaction was basically ‘Woo! Healthy developmental milestone – tick!’

Apart from being proud that my child has the ability to lie, I do not react badly when I can tell that they’re lying.

Autistic brains process information extremely quickly and often consider an enormous amount of information and situational sequencing/potential events that others don’t necessarily think about straight away. We are processing extraordinaires! So if my child’s brain has been able to consider an out-of-left-field possibility of something that they don’t want to happen or a situation that may not work in their favour, then their brain is doing a damn fine job!

So, what do I do when I can tell my child’s lying? Honestly, I don’t tell my child that I know.

What I say is something along the lines of “Okay, no problem. If you need to tell me something more about this later, you can tell me.” My child responds to this with a nod. This gives my child time to process what they want to tell me and when. The great thing about this is, that my child will be honest with me later and tell me the full story. My reaction is always, great, thank you for telling me.

I also tell my child that they are never in trouble with me if they have lied and want to tell me about it later. This gives my child a safety net to process information in the way that their brain works and in their own time. I want my child to know and feel like they are safe if they have lied and need to tell me something more or different. My response is never anger or disappointment. It’s trust building and strengthening their capability to speak up if they need to.

I’m also honest with my child about the fact that I sometimes lie and about all adult’s lying too. It’s a fact that we all do it from time to time. So it makes no sense whatsoever that we would try and turn a child’s healthy and natural response, into some kind of constipated idea that we all have complexes over later as adults.

Yes, I hear you, integrity is important and valuable. But if we can’t practice this early with children and open the space right up for vulnerability, mistakes being okay and modeling trust and courage, then what are we really teaching about integrity?

My child is really honest and I get feedback from others that they find this too. I’m an artist and my child will tell me why she doesn’t like most of my paintings (they apparently have too much pink in them, LOL). It doesn’t bother me and I love it when she finally likes one of my paintings!

So, is it working? Well, I think the proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and yes this definitely works. Telling a child that lying is bad or that they are bad because they are doing what is natural and adaptive, is just well…wrong. It’s physiologically and cognitively wrong, because it’s what our brains do, whether you like and agree with it or not.

Brains win. The end.

Love is a Battlefield…so PIP yourself!

“Love is a Battlefield”, is not just a great 80’s song, but a relevant warning for all unsuspecting humans looking for that special connection 🧝🏻🧙🏻‍♀️

What is romantic love? Love is primal, chemical and some ethereal element that poets, philosophers and artists have all been caught up in, since the age they untangled themselves from Merlin’s beard 🧙🏻

Do I know what romantic love is? Yes…it’s that committed feeling to another human, combined with positive feelings, thoughts, intentions which leads to a deeper form of feeling-commitment. Romantic love is that slow-withering fluffy feeling in your heart, that gets lit and dimmed sometimes within the same day.

It’s like really really loving black forest cake 🎂 It’s your favourite cake. You know it’s good. You know it’s going to feel good when you’re eating it. You know you’re going to want more and more. If you don’t have blackforest cake for a while, you only miss it more. The heart doth grow fonder. Unfortunately, as you leave the black forest cake out of the fridge for too long, it’s going to become a bit stinky.

So, how do you stop your black forest cake from becoming stinky? Or more importantly, I hear you ask, how would you stop your love from becoming like curdled cream.

You PIP yourself! 💁🏼‍♀️

What does all this PIP yourself mean….okay, let me start right from the beginning…(I will be using ‘Mr, guy, he, him’ etc. but change it to the way you would think of it)…

  1. You meet that special guy who gives you hope, wonder and gah-gah 🤩🤩🤩
  2. You go on a few dates and confirm, yes, you want to see more of each other 🤩🤩🤩
  3. You’re getting excited about seeing him! 🤩😘😍
  4. A month passes and things are just amazing👩‍❤️‍👨🥰😍
  5. PROBATION! 🛑🛑🛑
  6. “Wait…what?” I hear you say. 🙎‍♀️
  7. You heard me….probation. First probation meeting at one month!
  8. “Ummm…this sounds kinda like an HR thing?..” you say 🤷‍♀️The force is strong with this one….🦄
  9. Yes, damn straight. He’s on probation….12 months! Listen up, with probation you’ve got an important opportunity to set expectations, make them clear, review performance, measure them and make important life decisions about whether probation will be confirmed or otherwise. You don’t have time to waste and you can terminate the agreement at any time.
  10. “But what do I tell him???” I hear you ask. You tell him “You’re on probation! Second review is in a couple of months!!!!” 🙀
  11. You start to slowly back away…👀
  12. I continue…. during a 12 month probation and especially after the honeymoon period of 6 months is over, performance can start to waiver a little bit. Like you might start to see that they leave their dirty clothes on the floor, track mud on the carpet, eat bread while drinking milk or annoy you in general. This is when you PIP yourself!
  13. “Oh for Pete’s sake, what’s a PIP?!” you ask.
  14. A PIP is a Performance Improvement Plan 💁You can get one of these things started at any time. The field of HR have been hogging onto these amazing things for far too long! Whether you’re in the honeymoon faze of first found love or in the cold war of married life, there’s no expiry date with a PIP!
  15. A PIP is your pal – it’s your barometer – it’s your measurement tape – it’s your sharpie pen on a whiteboard! It equips you with thinking about what YOU want, communicating your expectations clearly and frequently, reviewing performance and MEASURING them (sorry that’s the nerd in me coming out a bit).
  16. And there’s no excuse that they didn’t know….they had a PIP! (If you’re really keen you could even create a position description, but I’ll leave that up to you)…
  17. And the best thing of all? You have clear, available evidence for you to review, just for you!
  18. You can throw a party if they pass. And you can say “I’m sorry, on this occasion your performance has not met the expectations expected of you. I’m sorry to say you will not be receiving a rose tonight…”🥀
  19. Either way, you have armored yourself with clarity and measurements that give logical information. What could be better?

You can all thank me one day. I will be waiting…

Good luck! 🎂🎂🎂

34

I was diagnosed at age 34. I remember it being a mixture of relief and curiosity. I had suspected for a long time that I was autistic, but the diagnosis was the validation that I needed from years of wondering. Why was I so different? Why do I have this feeling like I don’t belong? Why does it feel like I have come from another planet…and who the heck are these weird aliens that I’m stuck with, called other people?

For the first time in my life it was like the light had finally been switched on and I could begin to see things around me. Everything up to this point, that had not made any sense at all, now finally made some sort of sense! I was normal and mostly everyone else was a weird, foreign alien! Whew!

Seeking a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD for girls and women is extremely difficult and is grounded in the sustained history of medical inequality and invisibility of women. The unique characteristics of ASD in women and girls is different to boys and men with ASD. Yet the ADOS assessment – the official assessment for ASD diagnosis – is based on symptoms and characteristics in boys and men since it was first created. Girls and women are once again forgotten, invisible and left excluded from the conversation.

There are thousands of women, like me, who finally receive their diagnosis between the ages of 30 and 60. Thankfully, I was in a financial position to be able to afford the expensive testing process. Unfortunately, many women are not in this situation and identify as self-diagnosed.

Currently, there is a 4:1 ratio of boys to girls who receive a diagnosis worldwide. This is not a male dominated disability or diffability (as some autistic people prefer to call it),….the assessments, tools, research and practitioners who are entrusted with diagnosis, have excluded the symptoms in girls and women for a very long time. Thankfully, autistic women in the community are starting to speak up and demand change!

Upon receiving my official diagnosis, I was told that autistic people are highly sensitive with an abundance of empathy…quite the opposite of the common stereotype linked to populist articles on ASD. The practitioner advised me that autistic people had so much empathy and that they processed and communicated emotions differently. She told me something that changed my way of thinking about emotions: One way autistic people can process their emotions is in a literal sense, through the immediate verbal expression. There are multiple ways in which autistic people process their emotions, however, it had never dawned on me that there are as many ways to process emotions as there are stars in the sky!

This made me think about how I process my own emotions. It’s like my body speaks a different langauge to what all other neurotypical people speak and that I’ve been taught the wrong language for my own internal language of emotion. I feel things…but it’s in a different language and I am now learning that language. That’s probably the best way to describe it!

The other annoying stereotypes which I would like to write about more later are these three, but I would like to address them briefly below:

  • Black and White thinking only
  • Not being able to read body language or people
  • Not being able to be social or fit in socially

Black and white thinking – for some reason many neurotypical people think that autistic people can only think in black and white. To them, there’s no grey for us. It’s irony that this rigid view held by many neurotypical people is well, rigid and inflexible…aka black and white thinking! Yes, some autistic people favour and are more naturally inclined to logic. Does that mean that we cannot think in the grey? And that we can’t be good at it? Hell no! Some of us learn it better and are better at the grey than neurotypicals. We can be good at many things…logic and thinking in the grey, pink, purple, orange, you name it!

Not being able to read body language or people – ugh, this again! Yes, some autistic people struggle to read body language. Some are incredibly perceptive to subtle body language changes that others don’t pick up on. Is it starting to sound like no two autistic people are the same? Yes? Good! Let’s continue…

Not being able to be social or fit in socially – hold my drink! I am perfectly able to be social and fit in socially. I work in a busy office with…people. I go out with…people. Do I like being social? Well yes and no. I only like being social when I feel like being social. I’ll go out to see 1 friend at a time. I have a maximum of 1 best friend and 2 close friends. Any more is challenging my quota and I have no idea how people can keep up with more friends than that. Can I fake it at work and pretend to be neurotypical-ish? Yes. I do it every day.

What I am getting at…is everything you think you know about autism, is based on a recycled one-size-fits-all stereotype. The autistic space for women is growing and so too, are their voices. Hear us roar…differently!