If autism means genius why do I stay in bed?

I kept this picture to remind myself that when I don’t want to get out of bed and I do anyway, I’m glad I did. The picture doesn’t inspire me, so I’m putting it here to remind us all that tricks for self-discipline that work for most people do not work for people with autism.

Luckily there are lots of ways we can make our lives easier, we just need to use different methods. Therefore: my 7-week workshop about autism! Each week, I’ll summarize research on the topic then we’ll discuss how to apply it in our own lives. In between meetings we’ll continue those discussions on a private forum, where I’ll be available to answer questions and share stories.

I know I’m getting serious about this because I have slides for each session, which I’ve never done in the past. I’m not saying that I’m going to be perfectly organized – I know my limits. But at least if you can’t make it to one of the sessions, you can watch it on video.

This is the plan for what we’ll cover:

Week 1

Autism testing is a Ponzi scheme.  Schools don’t teach how to test a woman for autism so test yourself instead of going to a self-described testing expert. Scientists have created tests for autistic women to test themselves in order to sidestep the red tape of testing experts. And once you see the sidestepping process, you’ll be an unstoppable resource for friends and family.

How to get test results that matter. The autism test is unactionable – that is, there’s nothing to do with the results. Schools don’t even accept autism as a reason to give extra help. So you need to learn practical testing like how to ace an IEP, and how to talk to psychiatrists to get medicine.

Week 2

Autistic inertia is real. The autistic brain has a self-control malfunction; during early development our excessive IQ took over where our self-control would have been. Really! This means we need new solutions to succeed when a situation requires executive function, self-management, or sensory overload.

How to get out of bed. Behavioral therapy is a non-starter for us. But learning to recognize why we’re tired helps a lot. You know how the Inuit have a lot of words for snow? Autistic women have a lot of words for tired. Because we can have excitement for one thing and no energy for other things. At the same time. That’s autistic tired. And we can work around that. Even from bed.

Week 3

Epigenetic autism is the troublemaker. Having an autistic brain comes with lots of perks, and it’s fun to be smart. What makes autism truly difficult is families have been hiding it for generations. Seeing the impact our parents’ autism had on our childhood allows us to separate autistic trauma from simply having an autistic brain. Autism can flourish when autistic trauma ends.

How to make a big difference fast. We’re the first generation to have information to trace epigenetic autism, and we’re the first generation who can pass down autism in a careful way. But we have to start now, and scientists are scared to talk to us about this. So we have to talk to each other. We can change autism from being a risk factor for childhood trauma to being a family treasure.

Week 4

Camouflaging works at home not at work.  Masking is ubiquitous among autistic women. But costs of camouflaging are high, and the research about how unsuccessful we are at camouflaging is surprising. So camouflaging in most places only serves to keep people from helping us, but camouflaging inside the home is essential for everyone’s emotionally stability.

How to tell what gives you away. Autistic women who are camouflaging still have rhythms and tics that are small enough that we don’t notice. But they’re large enough that at six weeks old, a scientists can tell if a baby has an autistic mother. Learning when and where to camouflage decreases stress levels measurably for not only us but the people around us.

Week 5

Female friendship has a timeline, we’re not on it. In elementary school a friend acts as a our social skills guide. In high school we have a hard time knowing who are real friends because we don’t understand reciprocity. In our 20s and 30s we fall so far behind in the ways people form friendships that by our 40s we’re in sync with only each other.

How to tell who’s a real friend. There’s a friendship scale that scientists use to measure connection. Most autistic women are so far off that scale with friendships that it almost doesn’t apply. But we can learn why the scale matters and adjust to it. And there’s a ripple effect; changing one friendship changes them all.

Week 6

Finding a theory of mind. This is a label for how much we can tell what other people know. It’s a deficit we have, but the nature of the deficit is that we don’t know we have it. So it’s one of the most difficult parts of autism to understand. But one of the biggest opportunities.

How to stop wishing people would change. Most conflict in autistic relationships comes down to theory of mind. Once we get that arguments are about blind spots, we become much more accepting of the people we love; they’re not being difficult/selfish/stupid. They just don’t see. And this is true for us, sometimes, as well. Understanding autism means living a kinder life with it.

Week 7

Autism means gifted. Labels like synesthesia, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and hyperlexia connote gifted ways of seeing, thinking and hearing. Traits like unique personal memory and perfect ear for dialogue make us built for memoir. We see see questions and answers that others don’t because we see patterns everywhere, and we see far outside social norms.

How to make sure you’re leveraging your gifts. Many of us have been using our gifts all along, but in hiding, so we never see our genius. When we understand our autistic identity we can best use our autistic gift. We can be more forgiving of ourselves by understanding we have inconsistent energy that comes in bursts. — because we are autistic geniuses even when we can’t get out of bed.


First class is March 15. Sign up now.

The sessions will be every Wednesday for seven weeks at either 2pm or 8pm Eastern (you pick). The forum will be active the whole seven weeks.

The cost is $195.

There are recordings of the sessions in case you have to miss any. But hopefully you won’t; I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone better.

27 replies
  1. Tracy M
    Tracy M says:

    Fascinating, Penelope!

    I’ve been confused, for some while, by the relationship between autism, empathy and the whole ‘HSP/Highly Sensitive Person’ (Elaine Aron) temperament.

    I thought lack of empathy was a hallmark of autism, but have heard several people since state that some autistic people feel crushed by ‘too much’ empathy. But surely high empathy = high relationship / interpersonal intelligence, on balance? Therefore, autism and the HSP-profile may overlap in some respects – e.g. sensory overload – but are very different in others.

    Is it possible people are conflating the two, do you think? Maybe some so-called HSPs are actually autistic? And similarly, is it possible that whilst autism is generally under-diagnosed, especially in women, that some people are being misdiagnosed with autism, when they’d actually fit better with the HSP profile instead?

    There seems to be so much confusion out there, re what’s what and who’s what.

    By the way, I love this: ‘Labels like synesthesia, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and hyperlexia connote gifted ways of seeing, thinking and hearing.’ Many of these labels are seen as being curses, in our society; it’s so important to remember they’re indicators of other superpowers!

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      This sounds like a HSP who is really hoping they are not autistic. But it’s the same thing. You should sign up for the workshop. You would love how much you learn about yourself.

      One way to see why HSP is autism: there are aspects of HSP that lead to other developmental problems.For example, a baby who is highly sensitive would be sensory defensive and would therefore be worrying about that stuff instead of learning to be open to communication. This has been documented as early as 12 months. So if someone has sensory issues, the distracting part of that affects their ability to connect with people whether they realize it or not.

      A good rule of thumb is if you can write two paragraphs about how you’re not autistic then you probably are.


      • Tracy M
        Tracy M says:

        ‘This sounds like a HSP who is really hoping they are not autistic.’. And the last paragraph in your comment. LOL! You’re practically shamanic. (Though I wasn’t asking just about me…)

        Also, I knew you’d tell me to sign-up to your course. 😉

        Aaarggh! I need to think; it’s 3am here, and I’ve got insomnia, and my.mind is spinning!

        P.S. The developmental research in babies blows my.mind, but makes sense. Hmmm. Thinking some more….

        P.P.S. Am still confused over the empathy-thing (i.e. can those with autism actually have crazy-high.empathy? ), but, yes, I’m sure that’s something that would be dissected on your course!

        • Penelope
          Penelope says:

          Empathy is feeling how someone else feels. Compassion is doing something about it. Like, first saying the right thing to alleviate suffering, or having the energy to take action, even if it’s small.

          Empathy is the step before compassion. You can have a lot of empathy and show no compassion. I think I might have done that, actually, in answering your question.


  2. Diane Orehek
    Diane Orehek says:

    I have many autistic people in my life, especially my son, whom I need to understand better.
    Would this course work?

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      Yes! I’m so glad you asked. There will be a lot of parents in the course wanting to understand their children. And this is a great way to do that.


  3. Shad La Franc
    Shad La Franc says:

    Thank you so much for writing this!
    Do you have any tips for how to deal with the current political climate as someone with autism?

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      Thanks for asking, Emme. I’m too frustrated with PayPal right now. But I understand that none of the other options work for you. I’ll accept an Amazon gift card. You can email me that for payment for the class. It’s like Amazon is an international currency.


  4. celestial
    celestial says:

    I do not understand how you relate epigenetics to autism. Are you saying that parental behaviors can modify the expression of autism in their children? Or that autistic behavior can be shaped by other strategies?

    I also do not understand how psychological testing can be likened to a “Ponzi scheme”. As I understand it, a Ponzi scheme is a bottom monetary level feeding into a finite top level. Are you saying that the multiple symptoms of autism can feed into a single diagnosis? Isn’t that what a diagnosis does? How does relating this to a dishonest business practice make sense?

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      I think you’re asking if I’m using “Ponzi scheme” correctly and if I’m using “epigenetic” correctly. The answer to both is yes. I like that you’re so curious. You should, of course, sign up!


  5. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    I would totally sign up for the course except the process seems overwhelming. I’m too autistic to email you for instructions. Why not put it on a learning platform so one can simply pay with a card and get an access link through an automated message? Maybe next year…

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      Lynn, you convinced me to get a new way of payment. Now there is a button, just like you suggested. Thanks for making the suggestion so clearly and making it sound so obvious.


  6. Mary
    Mary says:

    Do you do these courses more than once? I would like to do it, but I’m a CPA and it’s a difficult time of year.

    I’m also not comfortable with Zelle or Venmo and wondering if the Amazon gift card option is an alternative for others as needed.

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      Hi, Mary.
      Anyone can use the Amazon gift card option. I record the sessions, so you can watch them later if you need to miss any.


  7. cortney
    cortney says:

    i was interested in watching these. are there steps beyond submitting a payment to access?

  8. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    “I’ll accept an Amazon gift card. You can email me that for payment for the class. It’s like Amazon is an international currency.”

    Cool! Love this idea.

    🌐 💸

Comments are closed.