I thought the good friend test was who do I tell that I got a job at Harvard. But I ended up telling everyone. Then I thought maybe the good friend test was who can I reach out to when I’m having a total breakdown? But again, the answer is everyone, because no one solo person can actually deal with me calling them, repeatedly, so I have to just tell you all, here on my blog. Read more
In the 70s my family’s knowledge of plastic exceeded our knowledge of gerbils, so we bought two girl gerbils and a plastic Habitrail cage because it didn’t look like a cage at all. The two girls made babies, and started eating them. We thought that meant the cage was too small, so we bought more Habitrail stuff. Read more
The first time I heard about vaginal rejuvenation surgery was at a brunch when I was in my late 30s. I love brunch because it feels Jewish. After I typed this I googled it to make sure I wasn’t crazy. And it turns out that while there is no causation, there is correlation: the more Jews there are in location in the US, the more brunches there are. Read more
My Autism Workshop runs Dec. 3, 4, 5, 6 from 8-9pm Eastern. The cost is $150 now and $195 after Thanksgiving weekend. You should join.
People say to me, “Why does it matter if I have autism or not?” The answer is you can transform your life by using what we know about autism to your benefit.
Experience the intellectual jolt of an autistic group. We have a love/hate relationship with groups; We hate forced participation but we love watching and listening. When we learn about autism on our own, by reading, we engage in selective learning and we miss a lot. However in a group, we are great at seeing what other people need to learn, so we see better for ourselves as well.
Spend less energy trying to appear normal. My whole life I knew I was different and I kept trying to figure out how things work and why people do what they do. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs as a child studying the adults just like that girl from the Norman Rockwell painting. I memorized body language, workplace rules, dating rules, and diet rules, all the rules I could find. Now we have a word for this process: Camouflaging. It’s exhausting to camouflage, but scientists can tell us how to be the most successful at camouflaging using the least amount of energy.
Leverage your erratic behavior instead of being upset about it. A lot of my self-knowledge comes from close calls. Like, I get by at work by doing nothing for days and then I accomplish ten times more than anyone else in a single day. I deal with social situations by refusing to leave my apartment. Then if I must socialize I’ve saved up enough energy to be fascinating all evening long. But I have to not let anyone spend too much time with me or they’d see how difficult I am.
Find your true personality type by overlaying your autistic strengths. Autism shifts our personality type preferences and our strengths. When we understand these shifts we can gain a more clear picture of our true type and what we have to offer.
Here are other questions people ask me:
Will you record the sessions?
Yes. If you can’t join live, you can watch the recordings in your own time.
What if I don’t think I am autistic?
People who don’t think they are autistic will fit in great in this workshop, because every autistic person once thought they were not autistic. In fact, they spent most of their life not even knowing the word. You’ve read this far. You’re at least very autism-curious. Sign up now.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My earliest memory is when I learned to read. I was three. I sat in a tiny rocking chair in my grandma’s house with Dick and Jane. And it just clicked. I didn’t know how I read the words, but I did.
In kindergarten a teacher asked, “Who knows what elamenopee means?” I could already read long books but I didn’t know what I was singing with L-M-N-O-P.
In first grade, I told the teacher I can already read. She gave me the dictionary and told me to read it. I read it. She asked me what it meant. I said I didn’t know. To me it was not obvious that reading and understanding went together. Now I know autistic girls have poor reading comprehension.
The only time I felt like it mattered was fifth grade when I got put in the gifted program. We read The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I spent three weeks trying to understand the first two pages and was relieved to be removed from the program.
My first semester in college my professor announced I got the highest grade in a class of 200 kids where I was the only freshman. I didn’t do any of the reading. At some point I realized there is no correlation between reading the material and understanding the material.
Those famously long books like Anna Karenina and One Hundred Years of Solitude? I threw them away.
I like a book I can read in one day. When I walk into a book store, I shop the spines. I know the authors who write short — because I feel like they write for me. Jamaica Kincaid. Sandra Cisneros. Susan Minot. Susana Kaysen. Who cares that teachers sprinkle these books across eighth-grade reading lists?
I love telling you about books because I love telling you about words. But the price of that is autism — reading words early cost me reading faces later.
Autistic brains are full of imbalances. For example, our brains are extraordinary at retrieving past events that happened to us. But just like our lack of executive function means we have a flat hierarchy for our to do lists, we also have a flat hierarchy for our memories — we have categories rather than chronology.
Now I see why nitpickers say I’m not a reliable narrator. It’s not about reliability it’s about relatability — their memories don’t match my patterns.
Neurotypical people have the type of autobiographical memory that creates a chronological unfolding of events. Autistic people have episodic memory which is nonlinear.
In literature, autobiographical memory is canonized in the narrative arc. We describe that like epic (Odyssey), philosophical discussion (War and Peace), or the Great American Novel (Moby Dick).
Nonlinear writing by men commands serious words like stream-of-consciousness (As I Lay Dying) or just The Longest (Proust). Nonlinear writing by women receives diminutive labels like flash fiction (Lydia Davis) and slice-of-life (Annie Ernaux).
This is why, when Annie Ernaux won the Nobel Prize in Literature, I cried. The spines of her books are thin. Her chapters are short and the sentences slide across the white of the page.
The Nobel committee commended Annie Ernaux’s courageous approach to personal memory. I hear this as a call to arms for autistic women to write our stories.
Because there is no body of work from women describing the autistic experience. We have not known about autism long enough. Annie Ernaux reflects our sensibilities but not our context. She provides a blueprint and the literary legitimacy, but it’s up to us to create a canon of consciously autistic literature for the next generation to look to as they grow from autistic girls into autistic women.
The more memories we have the more compelled we should feel to write them down. And we up to the task. Because just like autistic men dominate math, autistic women dominate memoir.
As you may know, I’m doing research at a lab at Harvard where I focus on autistic women. One thing I’ve learned is there are lots of easy, objective tests we can give ourselves to determine if we have biological markers for autism. I’m excited to share those with you so we don’t have to have any more discussions about everyone asking themselves do I have or don’t I?
I also notice the news that will help women the most is very slow to get to the public. So I’m offering a workshop to give autistic women groundbreaking research into their lives right now. The workshop will meet once a week for ten weeks, starting this week. Here are some topics we’ll cover:
- Use the same techniques that labs do to quickly diagnose female subjects for autism. It’s easy and fun. You can try it out on everyone.
- Question people who say they improve executive function. Science says only two things work, and they’re really weird things.
- What to do about a speech delay when research shows it’s more important to decrease the mother’s stress levels than get a kid into speech therapy.
- Don’t look for friends, look for special interests, the friends will follow. Neurotypical girls make friends their special interest; no wonder we were lost in junior high.
- Find out the one thing autistic women do that makes all camouflaging fail. But also, does this mean we can all stop trying to mask?
- The biggest problem autistic women have is emotional isolation. If an autistic woman isn’t feeling that then her kids are; understanding why helps you understand what drives you.
We’ll also have a discussion board to talk about any topic that interests you as it relates to women and autism. I’ll drop in each day to shed some light — or some tears — because it’s always in the free-for-all where I learn the most.
Closeup you see that we’ve all had to navigate the world in similar ways as autistic girls and women — knowing there was something wrong but we didn’t know what. Some researchers call us the lost generation of autism but talking with you all makes me feel like the found generation.
People are joining from all over the world, so the meeting times accommodate a range of time zones:
Tuesday 9pm Eastern
Wednesday 8am Eastern
Thursday 5pm Eastern
The deadline to sign up is this weekend. The cost is $150.
And one more thing. I’m going to send videos of me and my friends talking about autism. This video is me with Caitlin. You get it without even signing up; in the middle she talks about a group of autistic women we created a few years ago that was so transformative to her. How could you listen to that and not sign up now? Really?
No one has devised a perfect questionnaire for determining a narcissist, which is why the New York Times makes the argument for cutting narcissism from the DSM.
We know what narcissism looks like: pompous clowns who are sad on the inside, treat people like shit wherever they go, and perhaps most importantly, have no idea that they look this way to other people.
That sounds like autism to me. Not all autism, but the version of autism where there is the most focus on knowing information and least focus on understanding people.
The narcissist wants people to see when they are right and the narcissist wants people to listen to them, but the narcissist does not want to listen to other people. The narcissist does not notice other peoples’ feelings, but if the narcissist’s feelings are hurt and they get angry.
That sounds like autism as well. Not all autism. But people with autism who I don’t like.
When the narcissist is having a terrible time in life, they might seem to change, but the narcissist does not have enough personal insight to change. They might seem to understand that they are all about themselves, but they don’t really understand.
This is everyone with autism: We think we see ourselves and we think we are managing the parts of our personality that are anti-social. But if we could do that, autism would be curable.
We go to therapy to complain about a parent or partner or terrible dates. And therapists need a word to describe people who are transgressive. Narcissism is a word that enables people to empathize with how hard it is to live with the person.
Except that every time I coach someone with autism, they bring up the word narcissist to describe someone in their life. But autism is genetic, and it can’t be that everyone in the family has autism except the narcissist parent. Really. Autism is genetic. The parent has autism too.
Sculptures by Laurent Craste remind me of autistic men with high IQs who can’t understand themselves, or other people, and let their rage and anger destroy the people they love. I grew up with a father like this and attracted men like this. I know what it’s like to live in fear. They have periodic urges to change but it’s clearly impossible for them.
People with narcissism have the same type of brain as people with autism: very high IQ with unpredictable dips in certain areas. People more numerically gifted are more stubborn and rigid. People less numerically gifted are better at camouflaging those autistic traits. Narcissism, then, is the numerically gifted version of autism.
Why is this important? Because people with autism marry other people with autism. We are drawn to each other because it’s genetic so autism feels familiar to us. Also, we don’t play normal dating games so neurotypical people screen us out of their dating pool; we’re too weird.
So you and your partner have autism. You are not diagnosed because the mental health profession has no idea what they’re doing with autism. They are not trained well in diagnostics and they miss it all the time. So you really need to recognize autism yourself. Luckily it runs in families so if you have one person you can catch everyone. There is never one person with autism. Really. I swear.
You will both always have autism, but if you understand your autism you can use it more effectively. For example autistic people are competitive because we don’t understand how to be valuable to people outside of logical ranking systems. You and your partner both have this trait. But your partner is more competitive than you and less good at masking it.
At some point in the dating process you liked that you’re both winners. And everyone was on good behavior so no one noticed that you are low-conflict and your partner is high-conflict. But the truth is you’ll do anything to avoid conflict. So you give in. And the high-conflict person sees that and assumes they’ll get what they want.
Your partner doesn’t have to change for your relationship to change. You can decide to face conflict and establish boundaries. For example, someone can blame you for whatever goes wrong, but you don’t have to accept that as truth. The person can pick fights with you but you don’t have to take the bait. You could leave, but that won’t change the fact that you don’t deal well with boundaries or conflict. And it won’t change that people with autism marry people with autism.
So consider that narcissist is really the word for “autistic person I hate.” And you can make things better by managing your own autism more effectively. Give it a try. If nothing else, the number-one complaint about people with narcissism is they blame everyone else for their problems.
I spend half my life trying to not offend people. My safe space is the comments section here on my blog where the only social rule is: be interesting. I’m especially grateful to people who disagree with me; it’s out of control for me to chase someone around arguing with them in person, but in the comments people think: She’s so responsive! Read more
I call Melissa to tell her my newest discovery. I gear up to lecture her about Tango and the Jews. “Do you know about them?” I ask. “I won’t be fun if you already know.”
She says, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Read more