Five Simple Tips on Reducing Holiday Meltdowns for Autistics

  • When choosing holiday decorations stay away from stimulating colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows. When everything else in the world is stimulating and overwhelming you will want to be able to go home to a sensory-friendly safe zone. Blues, deep purples, creams, greys, dusty pinks, and other soothing colors are good choices to help reduce stimulation for Autistics during the holiday season.
  • In the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven chose red and green for Freddy Krueger’s sweater because he had read in Scientific American that red and green are difficult for humans to perceive at the same time. This is due to green being a calming color and red being a stimulating color. Wes Craven used this to his advantage by dressing Mr. Krueger in his signature red and green sweater in order to induce discomfort in audiences so it enhanced the perception of anxiety and fear when Freddy Kreuger was on screen. You may be asking what the heck does that have to do with the holiday season, right? Well, the two colors that are associated with winter holidays the most are red and green. When we are exposed to these colors, whether or not it is in a horror movie, we still have a difficult time processing green, a calming color, and red, a stimulating color, at the same time and it increases our anxiety and discomfort during the holiday season. To help diminish the anxiety associated with the holidays ban red and green combinations from your holiday decorations at home. This also goes for other stimulating/calming color combinations such as red and blue, yellow and blue, orange and green, yellow and green, and other similar conflicting color combinations. Mix relaxing colors with each other such as grey and dusty blue or choose monochromatic decorations in a calming color.
  • Skip the metallics! We all love tinsel and glitter. We love the mirrors under candles and the sparkling table runners. Unfortunately, our nervous systems think otherwise. Shiny metallic decorations can increase stimulation, as do mirror ornaments, and other reflective decorations. The sensory experience they provide and the light they reflect can be disorienting and lead to overstimulation and rumbling. We may not even realize that may be the culprit of our stressed-out mood. Try skipping the shiny stuff in your holiday home decorating and you may see your anxiety go down.
  • Be super picky about the lights you choose to use on your tree or windows! Forget about the super bright LED’s. No Autistic needs bright blue/white light keeping them up all winter long. That defeats the purpose of winter! Instead, stay with lights that complement your calmer decoration colors. Once again you will want to stay away from contrasting colors so if you have a green tree shy away from red lights. However, oddly, red lights in and of themselves are not stimulating. It’s actually quite the opposite. Red lights won’t stimulate the brain at night and disrupt sleep patterns. Red lights are a good choice for around windows where light may shine into a bedroom window possibly keeping people awake. Good colors for trees are golden, clear, blue, and green lights all the same color or even intermixed with purple, orb style lights that give the tree more of a glow are also a good choice. Multicolor lights can add to increased stimulation when mixed with the colors of other ornaments and it may be wise to avoid them. Also, consider forgoing chasing or dancing lights.
  • Don’t stress about decorating your entire house. The point of decorating is for you to celebrate as you see appropriate. If all you want is a tree with clear lights then by all means just have a tree with clear lights! If all you desire to put up for the holidays is a wreath on your front door and nothing more then go for it! The point is to lessen your meltdown potential during the holiday season by making it a sensory-friendly haven for you. It’s all up to you and what your unique Autistic nervous system can handle.

Shock and Au

Danger High Voltage

Waves have gone through the Autistic community this week as electric shock of disabled adults, and more appallingly, children has been deemed legal by a US appeals court. Here’s a bit of backstory. Recently, in the US, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had banned the use of a device called the Graduated Electronic Decelerator (GED) that is commonly used at the Judge Rotenburg Educational Center on Autistics of all ages to shock them into obedience. This week the ban was overturned in court and lifted. The use of this dreadful device is continuing at Rotenberg in Canton, Massachusetts. 

Now while I am tempted to go on a rant on “How in the world is shocking someone considered education?”, I am resisting, for now. Before I get to that I’m addressing some misnomers that are going around about the use of electricity and it’s validity in medicine. Let’s start with the good stuff that can be done with electricity in medicine!

It’s Aliiiiive!

Electricity sounds scary as a medical treatment however it does have some useful applications. I’ve seen a few that are mislabeling the GED as Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) but it’s not. ECT is a powerful emergency or last resort type of treatment for those with severe and untreatable depression and it has up to a 90% success rate. I know a small handful of people that have had ECT. They are forever grateful for their ECT treatment and how it relieved them from their debilitating depression. ECT is done with a patient’s consent under a doctor’s supervision. 

The patient is sedated with general anesthesia and given muscle relaxers to prevent convulsions, their vital signs are monitored during the procedure. An electric current is applied to the patient’s temples via electrode until the doctor sees the patient’s fingers and toes twitch. This let’s the doctor know the treatment is now complete. While no one knows exactly how ECT works, it works! Theories from changing the polarization of the brain to the stimulation of neurotransmitters exist but no one has pinned down what goes on in the brain during the procedure that alleviates depression. ECT has saved lives and, when performed under general anesthesia, is a humane and effective treatment. 

Another application of electricity in medicine is the defibrillator. The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) can be found in many public places like malls and in airports. The AED is an emergency tool that is used in the event that someone is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. 

The AED electrodes are applied to the chest and can diagnose and treat or prompt the user to treat the heart by administering an electric shock to the heart to get it beating probably again. The AED is a modern miracle and has saved lives. It can be used by both the average person and trained professional to stabilize a situation until help arrives or until they can get the patient to the hospital. The AED is another application of electricity that is relevant in medicine. 

I do acknowledge that these two treatments are while people are unconscious and if I am to continue on to make my point I need to have some experience in the matter. Do I have any experience in medicinal use of electricity? Why, yes, I do! I have been fully conscious while given a shock and it wasn’t pleasant. Thankfully it wasn’t an emergency or a GED that I experienced! Instead it was a test that read my nerves to diagnose Peripheral Neuropathy called an Electromyography (EMG).

During the Electromyography my doctor placed an electrode in the form of a needle into my upper calf then he shocked my foot. The needle would read the shock as it traveled up my leg and tell the doctor how much of the electricity was making it through my nerves. The doctor said it would be a little sting or pinch or other inadequate saying they use to not tell you it’s really going to hurt. The shock hurt my toes, my foot, and made all the muscles in my leg jump. It was extremely unpleasant and my leg was sore for that day.

I’ll make it hurt!

The sensation was stronger than the one you get when you scuff your feet on the carpet and then touch the door knob. It was stronger than the static in the blanket. Yet, I have a feeling that the medically sound shock to my foot wasn’t as strong as the aversive called the GED that is being used to torture disabled people into submission in school. They say it feels like a bee sting, have you ever been stung by a bee? It is painful!

I’d like to point out that Rotenberg is not a medical establishment as it claims to be a “school” and a place of “education”. It’s the only school in the United States to use shock treatment on disabled adults and children alike. The GED is worn by the victim while the control for the device remains in possession of the “teacher”. When the so-called “student” does something that the teacher disapproves of, the teacher then shocks the pupil until the pupil complies with the demand. These demands are as petty as not taking your coat off within an acceptable amount of time which is decided on by said teacher. Students are even shocked for crying because they were shocked. Self-stimulatory Behavior, which enables Autistics to produce necessary neurotransmitters to process the environment and release anxiety in the body, is punished by shock. This is not medicine, this is not education. It’s senseless abuse and it should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. The GED needs to be recognized as such under the Constitution. 

There is no medical or educational application for the GED when there are more humane ways to help someone that is disabled. Care, Patience, Time, Repetition, Respect, and many other methods exist to teach. The GED does not teach nor treat, the GED scares people making them live in fear of doing the most human thing of all and that is making mistakes. No one should be punished for that. 

More on: 

GED (Graduated Electronic Decelerator)

ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)

AED (Automated External Defibrillator)  

EMG (Electromyography)

App Review: Loóna

Loóna in Google Play

Almost two years ago, before the pandemic, I started this blog and the accompanying Twitter account. One of my projects I said I was going to do was to review apps that I found to be helpful as far as Autism goes. I have finally found one worthy enough to write about! It was a long, arduous journey but I think this is worth it. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time falling asleep. I go over every interaction that I had during the day and then my mind goes 200 mph as soon as I lay down. But of course it does! I have no stimulation to hinder my thoughts as they come cascading out of every wrinkle in my brain. I have tried many sleep apps to help calm the storm so to speak. I’ve tried white noise, ambient noise, binaural beats, ASMR… All of it, I have done. None of it really worked. 

However, earlier this year I stumbled across an app called Loóna that you use before you fall asleep. It has what they call Sleepscapes and they can be very relaxing. How does this work? Loóna is an interactive app designed with the intent of helping you disengage from the day and relax and the Sleepscapes it takes you through are wonderful bedtime stories. The tales they weave are calming, they bring you back to those childhood days when someone read to you and you felt content. For me those days were the days I was with my grandparents or during quiet time in elementary school. 

Loóna For You menu that features the new Sleepscape of the night

The best way I have found to use Loóna is about 45 minutes before bedtime to get ready for bed. Make sure to brush your teeth and use the bathroom so you don’t have to get back up. Turn off all distractions and mute notifications on your phone. Get everything together you need to be comfy. Pillows, blanket, teddy bear and whatever else you sleep with. Perhaps make a cup of warm milk (there is a “how to” at the end of this article) or tea to sip while you’re doing your Sleepscape. (I love Sleepytime tea with Valerian Root in it. It’s a great choice as well as affordable.) Get your headphones and then get in bed and get settled in.

Loóna has a new Sleepscape every night. Calming music plays as you listen to the calm voice tell the story as it gives you items to tap on. As you tap on the beautifully done pictures they come to life with colors you choose at the beginning of the app. I chose pinks, purples, and blues. The interaction with the picture is just as important as listening to the story. It helps immerse you by combining physical repetitive actions, occupying your mind, and lulls you into relaxation with the rotation of the floating landscape. 

When you’ve completed the Sleepscape you can do another Sleepscape (up to three, the new one and two from the menu, before it warns you of screentime) or you can listen to one of Loóna’s Immersive Stories that accompany the Sleepscape. Immersive Stories are unlocked at the end of some Sleepscapes. An Immersive Story is a story without the Sleepscape’s visual and physical activity. You just turn out the lights and listen as you drift off. 

If you prefer music to drift off to, Loóna also has playlists of calming music to doze to. Loóna also has the option to turn off the audio bedtime story for those who need quiet to relax or just prefer to read. You can easily keep up with the story being told by reading it’s subtitles. For those that have trouble remembering (ex. ADHD) that they have the app on their phone, Loóna has a reminder option that notifies you when the new Sleepscape for the day is available. Last but not least Loóna had inspirational morning messages that include a playlist to listen to in the morning to help you ease into your day in a calmer state of mind. Bonus! Loóna is also a great way to calm down throughout the day as well.

Loóna does have a hefty for an app subscription price at 12.99 a month (cancel anytime). It’s more economical to pay for the year at 39.99 which, in my opinion, would be worth it. It does have a trial, as most apps do, in case you want to try it free for a week. I used the trial and purchased one month to try it out for an extended period of time before I reviewed this app. I suggest, if you have a spare $13, that you try it out for the 30 day trial. Everyone is different and it may not be for you but you may be pleasantly surprised!

Here is the link.

Warm Milk: 

Vanilla
Milk
Sugar or other sweetener
Microwave or saucepan
Coffee cup

Heat the desired amount of milk (or if you’re a Vegetarian or Vegan your favorite unsweetened plant based milk would work too) in the microwave for a minute and check the temperature. If it’s not warm enough then microwave it in 30 second intervals until the desired temperature. You can also heat it up over low heat on the stove. Make sure you don’t scald it (burn the milk that is). 

When the milk is heated, take it out of the microwave carefully or if you heated it on the stove gently pour it into a cup so it doesn’t splash. Add one cap full of vanilla. If you don’t want the alcohol content then use imitation vanilla. (It’s also cheaper for those who have limited funds.) 

Then add one teaspoon of sweetener. I like good old fashioned white sugar but Stevia or another sweetener would do well too. 

Stir until the sweetener dissolves (mostly dissolved is good, it doesn’t have to be perfect). 

Protected: Maybe, Numbness and Terror?

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Hints Autism Gives Us

We have all heard of the dreaded meltdown. I’ve written about my own meltdowns and how I view them. Those moments of terror in which we become a force of nature while our nervous system purges all of it’s stored anxiety. For some of us, we have triggers where the anxiety is instantaneous. For others, we have a tipping point in which the anxiety has reached its threshold and the sensory overload meltdown runs its course. However, what if you diverge from your normal pattern of meltdowns?


Usually, my meltdowns are completely sensory-related and I will reach a tipping point, as mentioned above, and out it, all comes out. I have no control over it. (Meltdowns are involuntary for those of you who don’t know.) On a normal meltdown day, I may throw things, say things I don’t mean, punch a wall, hit my head, stomp my feet, and then it’s over. I recover, usually in the shower, and then sleep for hours as my body adjusts to the neurological reset it just experienced. I get up later and get on with my life. However, what do you do when your meltdowns for no apparent reason takes a turn for the worse? A potentially fatal turn?

In the late spring/summer of 2019, my meltdowns did just that. They became a threat to my life. I had hit my head and had so many concussions that landed me in the ER that my insurance company called to make sure I wasn’t being abused. No, I told them, I‘m just Autistic. My meltdowns increased in frequency and intensity. I went from having an inconvenient meltdown once every 6 months or so to having them once a month or shorter intervals. I have a scar on my left wrist where they had to go in and reattach ligaments that were injured during a meltdown. I won’t go into details of the rest because they may be triggering for some. Needless to say, I was actively fearful for my life. I reclused and avoided all stress. Friends that didn’t understand the symptoms of Autism were dismissed because I was too high strung to properly educate them. What was going on with me?

At first, we thought it was my recent weight loss that was throwing off my balance but when it calm down as expected; I recalled that I had read in several blogs, articles, scholarly papers, and more, that an autistic person may have an increase in meltdowns if there is an internal illness that went untreated. Cysts, impacted teeth, IBS, pituitary tumors are just a few to mention. This isn’t only in non-verbal Autistics either! This can happen in Autistics that are considered low support needs as well. When I read this I realized that my nervous system may not actually be trying to kill me but instead, it’s alerting me to something serious, I became an Autie with a mission.

I made appointments with my Neurologist, Primary Care Physician, Psychiatrist, Gynecologist, Audiologist, and all the other specialists I could think of! I have had more MRI’s, CT scans, and X-rays this year than I have had in my life! Not to mention the EEG and the plethora of blood work. I didn’t have any latent STD’s, my pituitary tumor was well under control. I saw something in an old overlooked test result from years back that implied I may have low immunoglobulin’s so I insisted my doctor look into that as well. My routine yearly checkups came around and I put off my mammogram because I had been so overwhelmed with the number of medical demands I had put myself through trying to find answers. I just couldn’t do it because I might risk a meltdown. I rescheduled it for December. A couple of months out.

The prior year, 2019, I felt a lump, thickening, something was wrong in my right breast. After some testing, I was told it was just dense breast tissue so putting off my mammogram seemed a pretty low-risk decision. I went to my mammogram in December and 4 days before Christmas I was told I had two irregular masses in my right breast. The timeline fits perfectly. By the time you feel breast cancer, it’s been in your body for 2-5 years. I can do the math and if my body detected it in 2018 before I did it would have begun to cause major meltdowns in order to warn me. However, I didn’t know how to interpret my meltdowns as a warning of impending medical trouble.

Last week I went in for a biopsy and it was confirmed that I have invasive breast cancer. Even since my mammogram in December of 2020, it has grown. Soon I will be meeting with an Oncologist to discuss surgical options. While I’m terrified I’m also thankful. Hopefully, with treatment and healing, my meltdowns will subside and I can live peacefully again!

Meltdowns aren’t always sensory-based, for me, they are rarely emotional so when I was confronted with meltdowns that seemingly had no explanation it was terrifying. I’m glad I have found the answer within as to why my meltdowns were so out of control and I hope beyond hope that this may be an insight for someone like me going through the same thing.

Sex Stims!! (Just not too loud!)

Recently it’s been debated in the Autistic community, possibly due to one of my Tweets, on whether or not sex is a valid form of Self Stimulatory Behavior aka Stimming. (Spoiler Alert: It is!)

While the concept was met with mostly positive feedback there are some that do not see it that way and for those who do not see sexual activity as a stim, I feel it would be helpful to break it down for you so you are more apt to understand sex stims even if you don’t adopt the concept yourself. Keep in mind that Autism is a spectrum of differences that we may or may not share with other neurodiverse people. One person’s stim may be another person’s sensory overload and that is okay too! No one has to be the same. It’s a rule!

Before I continue I wanted to speak up for the neurodivergent that rely on sex stims to be able to function. Mainly the female among us. I have a hypersexual sex drive that is stimulation based and, as a result, I have been slut shamed for much of my life and, regardless of whether or not I was monogamous and faithful, I’ve had a bad reputation. I’m tired of this! We need more understanding and compassion for those of us that respond in a sexual way to carry out their stims. I’m not a slut or someone out of control. I’m not even particularly promiscuous. I like sex. A. Lot. I prefer long term trustworthy partners like a spouse or, in the past, a long term friend. However, that all has always been overshadowed, simply, by my liking sex. This is an attempt to bring levity to a situation that desperately needs it.

To start with I think we will answer what is a Stim? The word Stim is “Autistic Slang” for Self Stimulatory Behavior. It is very common for Autistic and Neurodiverse people to stim. You have most likely seen Autistics or other neurodivergent persons tap, rock, spin, snap their fingers, flap their hands, and other repetitive movements. These are the most common and more obvious of SSB’s but there are a plethora of other stims too!

There are also auditory stims (stims that you hear) such as words and how they make you feel when you say them (a good example is when swearing makes your stubbed toe hurt less) or humming. Grunting, clearing your throat, and shouting are also vocal stims. Some auditory stims are repetitive like striking a certain piano key over and over and some are whimsical for example enjoying wind chimes as they dance in the air currents. ASMR could even be considered an auditory stim!

There are tactile stims. For example, my husband likes satiny cloth that feels slick and silky when rubbed together. Petting your cat or dog, running your hand over a brick wall (I did this as a kid) are all tactile stims. I like how the hot water feels on the tips of my fingers in the shower. Walking on the grass, playing with fidget toys, sitting on your hands (also me) are all, yes, you guessed it! Stims! We have proprioceptive (where you are in space and in relation to other objects, body position, and movement), vestibular (sense of balance), Gustatory (taste), Olfactory (smell) self-stimulatory behaviors.

So we know what stims are but why do we do them? It’s all in your head, literally! Autistics stim in order to produce the neurotransmitters they need to function. (Non-Autistics stim to just not as much as we do.) Proprioceptive stims will improve your sense of where your limbs are. Some Autistics have a service animal to help them stim, such as Drea in Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, by having her service dog apply pressure to her body. Running or pacing can burn off extra energy and anxiety while flapping your hands can achieve the endorphins you need to be happy and in the moment. Feel good stims, like satin pillowcases, are there to help relax. Happy textures, warmth, water, they are all sensory-stimulating interactions that will boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain and help you get through life. My husband will squeeze me tightly when I’m being overwhelmed. It helps by calming my nervous system. My asking him to apply pressure, while assisted, is still me seeking the stimulation of a squeeze much like Drea and her dog, but my hubs isn’t a dog, he’s a human.

Breaking down the term Self Stimulatory Behavior is the key to deciphering what SSB’s may include.

The word self is pretty self-explanatory (weak attempt at a pun intended) so on we move to the word stimulation. (Yes, you can giggle at the following paragraph. I did!)

“(transitive) physiology to excite (a nerve, organ, etc) with a stimulus”

A few of the definitions I found for stimulation and stimulatory are:

“(transitive) physiology to excite (a nerve, organ, etc) with a stimulus”, “The condition of being stimulated. The application of a stimulus to a responsive structure, such as a nerve or muscle, regardless of whether the strength of the stimulus is sufficient to produce excitation”.

Then there is the word Behavior which I’m assuming we all know what it means but just in case I’m going to say it may be defined as an “observable activity in a human or animal, the aggregate of responses to internal and external stimuli”, “a stereotyped, species specific activity, as a courtship dance or startle reflex”, “Often behaviors or behavior pattern.”

Oh! What just happened! We are talking about the senses, and the stimulation of organs, getting excited, and application of a stimulus to a responsive structure! All of these apply very well to SSB’s, and all of them sound very satisfying. Matter of fact masturbation is known and recognized as a stim, is it just me, or is it getting a little hot in here!

The act of sex stims provides a very intense sensory-stimulating experience. It engages the entire body. The proprioceptive repetition of thrusting. The vestibular input of heavy breathing and vocal exclamation of delight. Sex also comes in an array of tactile input (take that however you want to, no judgment) that increases the neurotransmitters in your brain.

During sex stims, important neurotransmitters are produced, that boost the functionality of the brain and nervous system. Dopamine is known for making us feel good, it’s in charge of movement, propelling your personality up and out. Dopamine also is in charge of motivation and focus.

Sex is also a fantastic source of oxytocin, another neurotransmitter that important for us to stimulate, yet, it’s difficult to do on our own. Cuddling, sex, hugging, nursing, and childbirth can stimulate oxytocin. The hormone facilitates trust, bonding with a romantic partner (as well as bonding with a newborn after a mother gives birth). Social behavior and anxiety are also linked to oxytocin. Studies show that sex also stimulates prolactin, noradrenaline, serotonin, and endorphins (endogenous opioids), all of what a brain needs.

The Autistic Nervous System is deficient in many neurotransmitters. Dopamine, Serotonin, Norepinephrine, Oxytocin, are only a few neurotransmitters that come to mind that have been indicated as being contributing factors to how the Autistic mind functions.

Not a brain just a cool pic!

Sex is the one Self Stimulatory Behavior that not only stimulates the brain in its entirety and neurology all at once but the cervical stimulation that comes (okay the pun is totally intended here) with deep penetration can calm down the vagus nerve and help reduce anxiety.

Last, but far, far, from least, is that when it comes to sexual behaviors, in Autism, we have hyposexuality, hypersexuality, and paraphilia’s (such as BDSM) just like we do in the majority of the population. In psychology, however, they hesitate to diagnose these as sexual disorders even when it fits the description. This leads me to believe that sex, even when occurring in excess, thankfully, is seen as they should be seen. These are Self Stimulatory Behaviors, aka sex stims, that have been stigmatized as deviant behavior when they shouldn’t be. If it is consensual and everyone understands the meaning and purpose of the act, then we need to accept sex as a stim. To add stigma to something that is enabling Autistics to function better is not the way to go.

Sex stims! Safe stims!

Instead, may I suggest education on safer sex practices, instruction on sexual health, teaching consent and legal age limits, point them in the right direction towards age-appropriate information on sexuality. Most importantly we need to teach Autistics about telling people when they are violated. We need to teach people about replacement stims (age-appropriate instruction on “personal massagers” is good) and alternative sexual stims to, well, sex!

Personal massagers, in case you needed to know.

The fact is, we are sexual beings just like any other human, and many of us find sexual interaction to be a fantastic stim. Regardless if it’s an interactive (with someone) stim or not doesn’t matter. It’s a stim that brings focus, balance, and a slew of other health benefits. Sex is a stim.

Note: I did have all the links for references for this however I had them on a micro SD I was forced to reformat. Please, forgive me for not having all the pertinent information on hand. It was not intentional. In addition, I am not interested in anything sexual, so don’t message.

How My IQ Proves I’m Utterly Inept

I hear and read comments on IQ all over the internet that range from prideful (I have an IQ of 150!) to the defensive (You just think your smarter me.) to very disrespectful (You’re just stupid!) to blunt logical truth (You know your IQ doesn’t make you better, right?). The comments go on and on and things can get pretty tense between those with differing opinions. As someone with a higher IQ I want to set the record straight with this humorous anecdote on how completely unintelligent I can be but first a little background!

I am a late DX Autistic woman who was given an IQ test during my assessment. They do this to rule out intellectual disability that may be mimicking Autism. I was okay with that as it makes logical sense to rule things out that may be a differential diagnosis. During my ASD evaluation, I discovered that IQ is on a spectrum as well! My IQ at the time was 113-122 giving me a median IQ “score” of 118. 

It was explained to me that IQ can change in a person from circumstance to circumstance and it’s completely subjective. Since I had taken the IQ test during the Christmas Season (major stress), recently melted down from sensory overstimulation that the Holiday Season brings, and didn’t sleep the night before I possibly could improve the score if I were in a more optimal situation. (I have not attempted to do this and don’t intend to do this just for ego-boosting reasons if I am given one again for DX purposes, so be it!) However, I was also told that if I were put in a more stressful situation then I may score much lower. From that I know for a fact that IQ is never static.  

Now, in the recent past, my whole house (dogs, husband, and myself) had Norovirus. During this time in order to keep hydrated, I had gotten a bottle of Gatorade. When I was finished with the Gatorade I refilled the bottle with Mio and water and drank it. Refilled it and put it in the refrigerator to chill. I was being a responsible patient and doing what I needed to do, no problem, right? Wrong. 

I forgot about that water because my ADHD causes me to forget about everything and went on about my Autistic existence. A few weeks later I’m throwing up more than a puppy with motion sickness on a roller coaster. I ended up at Urgent Care on an IV and sent home with a pocket full of anti-nausea meds so I stopped throwing up. It was very worrisome as I had been fighting a UTI in the previous month. 

I got home and popped into a chat room to let some online friends know how I was and it dawned on me as I was talking to a medical professional in the group. I had drunk the water in the fridge on a particularly hot day after I had run out of ice. It was chilled and I didn’t think anything of it and I drank it mainly because I wasn’t thinking. I cringed! It was far, far from an intelligent thing to do but it made perfect sense as I was the only one to be reinfected in the house! 

I, of high average to superior intelligence, had given myself the worst case of vomiting to the point of dehydration with the full knowledge that the bottle of water was contaminated. I felt completely helpless and surprised I could even keep myself alive but I had simply forgotten because while my IQ may be impressive my section scores revealed more. 

My first section, Verbal Comprehension, was 114-125 which is Superior. I accredit my desire to communicate effectively on my high vocabulary and knowledge of what words mean. The second score I received was on Perceptual Reasoning was 104-117 which is High Average which probably is common in those that have a high pattern recognition in Autism. Now the bump in the road that took those two amazing scores down was my Working Memory which came in at a towering 83-96. This was the kink in the hose, the wrench in the machine, my Achilles Tendon. My working memory was Low Average. I take twice as long to learn something than my peer group.

My ADHD prevented me from getting a higher score and that was in a quiet office with no distractions. If I had taken the IQ test at a food court in a busy mall my scores could be drastically lower simply because of the overstimulation that would undoubtedly occur. My answers may be sound and intelligent but my response time and inability to ignore the surrounding noises due to Sensory Processing Disorder would make me seem like there wasn’t anyone home. Not to mention my ability to get the information out in an order way would be negatively affected.

Remember, that ditzy blonde that you make fun of could be a brainiac that can shame you under the table when it comes to “intelligence” and it’s only her ADHD that gets in the way. If you put her and you in a different environment you could easily be calling her boss. However, there may be a guy that doesn’t have much education or knowledge but his memory and ability to retain information on one topic could easily lead to the same outcome. That brilliant composer may be at a 10th grade reading level. You never know!

In a nutshell, IQ means little in the bigger picture, as long as you treat everyone with dignity and respect you are succeeding more than you will ever realize! It’s a hard thing to admit that I didn’t live up to my IQ but it needs to be said so people know the truth about what makes people intelligent and what doesn’t, like my attention span and memory! 

Extreme Stims During An Autistic Meltdown!

Photo by Atul Choudhary on Pexels.com

Most would agree that the Autistic Meltdown is the most notorious symptom related to Autism. An Autistic Meltdown is when the Autistic Nervous System reacts to being overwhelmed by environmental stimulation. These can range from external reasons (such as bright light) to internal ones (such as panic when plans change abruptly). Often this reaction manifests in an apparent display of intense feelings. Passion, Rage, or Overly Silly and Giggly. Meltdowns manifest in many ways. Which makes sense because humans overall are creatures with feelings and our emotions lead to their display. As with NeuroTypicals, the NeuroDivergent comes in a plethora of variations.

When Melting Down the Autistic Nervous System is being overstimulated and is interpreting that overstimulation as pain. It will do whatever it can in order to stop that pain. This is where Extreme Stimming comes into play.

During an intense Autistic Meltdown, Autistics both young, old, male, and female may engage in Extreme Stims commonly referred to as Self Injurious Behavior (SIB). I prefer the term Extreme Stim because the stimming isn’t intended to cause injury or harm. It’s meant to flip the figurative kill switch and bring you out of fight or flight mode. When Melting Down the Autistic Nervous System is being overstimulated and is interpreting that overstimulation as pain. It will do whatever it can in order to stop that pain. This is where Extreme Stimming comes into play.

I’ll explain but first I’m going to explain it to you in a smaller, more understandable, and way more relatable, way. I’ll use baseball as a life reference. 

Baseball in and of itself is a painful experience and I’m pretty sure most people were unreasonably forced to play baseball (or some form of sports that included a ball in school). When you or someone else was hit by the ball either you’d instinctively rub the area or your gym teacher or another kid would tell you to rub the injury and rubbing where the ball hit would surprisingly help the pain even though it makes no sense at all, or does it?

Photo by Steshka Willems on Pexels.com

In a nutshell when you get hit by a ball the signal that you were hit by the ball travels up the nervous system to your brain. The brain sends signals back and produces pain. When you gently stimulate the injury by rubbing, shaking, or “walking it off” it sends a signal up the same nerves and interrupts the nervous system process and signals from the pain and this helps make it feel better.

The same thing goes for the nervous system pain during an Autistic Meltdown. As I said before during a Meltdown the Autistic Nervous System interprets overstimulation as pain and reacted as though it’s on fire. It panics and senses impending doom. (I’m not being overly dramatic this is how an Autistic Meltdown feels psychologically and you can’t control it at will, you just go along with it because you have no choice!) In response, the nervous system does the only universally wide instinctive thing that we all share. It seeks out and applies stimulation that will stop that pain. Since the nervous system is on fire and in panic it seeks out stimuli that are more extreme than the environmental assault the Autistic Person is going through. Head hitting, screaming, rocking, head banging, pulling hair, stabbing oneself, etc. are all ways that this can be done. These extreme stims help calm the nervous system by stopping the pain with alternative simulation very much like rubbing an injury.

Extreme Stims also provide enough stimulation that activates the Endorphin System which is the body’s natural pain killer. There are many studies on Endorphins and Autism including evidence that Autistic’s naturally have Endorphin Deficiencies. Which would explain why our nervous systems panic in the first place! That’s for another article though.

Helpful Hints:

If you, or someone you know, experience Extreme Stims that are dangerous, potentially dangerous, or life-threatening you can learn replacement activities that will produce the same neurological reaction when applied when you are still in the rumbling stage and still maintain control over yourself. Replacement Stims may or may not prevent or lessen a Meltdown overall. If you have the opportunity please consult an Occupational Therapist or other Expert in Sensory Input.

You will want to focus on things that get your endorphins flowing. I have had luck with running and sprinting. (If you do take your stimming outdoors make sure you take a sedative that will calm you but not put you to sleep just in case you do sense a loss of control approaching while out but it’s even better if you have someone with you. I suggest both. These are precautions in case you encounter negative attention.) Throwing soft objects. Rocking. Pounding my legs with my fists (up to hard enough to bruise but not so hard as to cause swelling). Vigorously shaking my hands. Pacing. Sex. Jumping and coming down with force. Slapping a firm surface with an open palm. Applying pressure to my temporal nerve until uncomfortable. Hot shower. Basically, anything that may overwhelm the environmental overstimulation and produce Endorphins with little to no injury is the best. If you can match it up with the type of sensory input you crave, even better! Do this from the beginning of rumbling and throughout the Meltdown. I wish you luck!

One of My Autism Theories

What causes Autism? It’s the question of the millennium in many communities. From simply curious Autistics to the pro cure (eugenics) crowd the question is ever present. Why is this so important? Because many of us believe that we are just a natural variation of human DNA and therefore are normal in our own right. Meaning, we don’t need a cure but the only way to prove that is to find out why Autism happens. I’m going to explore one of my theories in this post that I believe may be an element to unlocking the mystery of why Autistics exist. 

The first thing most of us learn in life is that coincidence, correlation, and causation do not need to coexist and there are a slew of variables, X factor’s, if you will, that we may not know about. Yes, Autism can show up around the time the first vaccinations are administered yet Autism can also show up before vaccinations, after vaccinations, or in children who never have been vaccinated. Study after study has disproven the Autism Vaccination Myth and if that isn’t enough to convince you the fact that the doctor that made this claim retracted everything should. We can dismiss this and should. So what, you may ask, if not vaccinations? 

There is an observation that I have made that may explain Autism and it’s increased prevalence in our modern times and that’s modern times in and of itself. We see a study increase in Autism with the continuously growing population and the more technicalogically advanced we become as a society. I believe that this is happening as a natural reaction within humans due to overstimulation and lack of sensory input that we used to be accustomed to. 

The increase in the human population has left us with increasingly less and less individual room. We have a decrease in personal space with every birth, housing unit going up, resqued life, recovered illness out space decreases. Micro units and homes are becoming an ideal in many over populated cities because we have run out of space for us to comfortably have our own homes as we did in decades past. As a result we aren’t able to take times away to process and decompress our bodies and relieve the Neurological irritation that overpopulation comes with. This may have an effect on the Neurological System causing an over response in an attempt to protect itself. It’s a reaction to the perceived threat. 

In genetics we see generational fears appear in familial units. There was an experiment with rats where they conditioned rats to fear the smell of Cherry Blossoms by associating the scent with electrical shock. The rats then became fearful of the scent as it now represented pain to them. When the scientists bread the rats the adult offspring were scared of the smell of Cherry Blossoms despite the fact they had no prior experience with the scent. This is a good indicator that neurological reactions to any overstimilation may be passed down the generations. 

When we have all these phobias converge into one Neurological System it can cause genetically based general adaptation diversities and Autistic tendencies. Since Autism is a Spectrum with many unique and varied aspects we may have some humans not present with any Autistic traits until the genetic line is triggered by things such as overpopulation, lack of personal space, noise, and any other triggers that may be an issue to that specific genetic line. 

When humanity’s population started rapidly increasing as it has in Earth’s recent history more genetic lines have been being prompted to react. This would explain Autistic familial units as well as the unexpected Autistic child/children being born into Neurotypical families. However with the increase in population there also comes an increase in technology in order to serve more humans efficiently.

The advancement of technology often results in a reduction in humans having their sensory needs met. When it comes to history humans have had to till, plant, harvest, chop, boil, smell, feel, and experience the sensory that comes with life. Even an introvert that did not do these things would experience a richer sensory environment than one does now. 

We used to walk to a library while being out where birds chirped, wind blew, and the sun warmed you. Then browsing the nice neat stacks and rows of books. Pulling them out of place and feeling the book. Opening it and hearing the spine protesting as you spread the pages. The smell of the book and the neat lines of script that would cause stories to dance in your head as you found escape. But now, even the most book wormish of humans do not always get the rich sensory experience that we did a half a century ago. 

Many humans do not go to the library but read digital books on their computer, phone, or tablet. While technology comes with it’s boons it also lacks the sensory input that humans need to cope with the reduction in alone time and the crowding with increased population. 

For example if there was an Autistic in a crowded metropolitan area a century ago he or she may have completely flown under the radar because they had the sensory input that balanced out the overstimulation. If you took the same Autistic and put them into modern day America they may be more Autistic because of the reduction in sensory needs being met and the increased overstimulation from the surrounding environment. 

Keep in mind reduction in sensory and lack of area for personal use isn’t the only issue. We now have digital technology. We have beeps, blips, digital noises, the everpresent electrical hum, LED’s, blue light from everything, the list just goes on and on. Even when outdoors we are connected to artificial stimulation that is constantly bombarding our brains. 

We may be seeing an increase and a boom in Autism occurrences because the life humans have created for themselves is bringing about the protective genetic reaction that is programmed into their DNA. It was always there, it’s normal, natural. It’s a step in human adaptation that is a response to the progression of mankind. Not everyone has the genetic possibility of Neurodiversity but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t normal we are just a fragment of the vast spectrum that is the human species. 

However, this is only one of my theories I have entertained regarding the in’s and outs of the causes of Autism. I think there may be something to it. 

Sensory and/or Meltdown Room for Adults: Part 2: Disability Accommodation/Modification Requests


I apologize for taking so long to get this second part out about the Sensory rooms! I have been valiantly battling a horrid Kidney Infection. Illness can have a greater effect on Autistic’s because the sensory stimulation from pain, fever, etc. and it can overwhelm the system and make them less like themselves than if, for example, a Neurotypical had the same level of illness. In an eggshell, a scratch can feel like a gaping wound. That is not what this article is about though! 


Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

This is the second article on Adult Sensory rooms! Last time we talked about picking colors that were soothing to our particular nervous systems needs. No two people are alike and therefore no two Autistics are alike. As a result, all of us are in different living arrangements. Some of you live with family, some of us rent, some of us own our own home. 

If you are blessed to own your own home and you have a spare room or area to turn into a sensory area you are lucky! You don’t need your appeal for accommodation to be met or approved by anyone but yourself and/or your spouse. For the rest of us, we have Parents and Landlords to respect. If you live with parents, or other family members, sit down and speak to them about what is available as a sensory area. As for this article, I am focusing on what to do if you are renting an apartment because my husband and I live in an apartment. 

Since my husband and I live in an apartment we can’t do much as far as changing the structure of a room without physical needs such as a wheelchair but we can do plenty as far as changing the aesthetic of the room to create a relaxing sensory room or a place to de-escalate a meltdown. In order to do this, we need to ask the landlord for some Reasonable Disability Accommodations/Modifications. 

List everything you need to do to make your area more accommodating because it all needs to go in a letter!

The first thing we need to do is decide what we need to do to make the area calming and make a list. Keep in mind these are requests to do these and cover them out of your own pocket of they are modifications and accommodations are at the expense of the landlord from what I understand. Do you want a different paint than what came with the apartment so it’s more soothing? My husband and I would like to do the area in Greys. Would you like to have a light fixture switched from a florescent bulb to a LED so you don’t get a headache? (The landlord should cover an expense like this but if he doesn’t make sure you can cover the cost of an electrician and/or fixture in case they won’t cover it or let you have maintenance help you switch it out.) Do you need to have noise restrictions loosened in case of a meltdown so a complaint doesn’t get you kicked out? Put that on the list too! If you desire a different mode of communication aside from speaking on the phone or in-person then that should be included as well. List everything you need to do to make your area more accommodating because it all needs to go in a letter! It’s easier to make a list to take with you to write a letter than going back and forth and trying to remember what you need. This way you don’t miss anything. 

Now from what I understand requests don’t need to be in letter form and can be made and granted in person with an oral agreement. However, life has taught me that paper trails are an Autistics best friend. It is always good to get things in writing to protect yourself in the future. If for some reason problems arise you need to be able to defend yourself. Having a letter of request and a letter granting the request is a good way to do this. (First, call your housing management and ask if they have specific forms they would prefer you to use before writing a letter so you don’t run into frustration having to backtrack and do it over with their forms.) You can send this by email if it’s to an official email address that is linked to the Apartments Management if that is not an option make sure you send it certified snail mail with a signature request so you can prove they received it. Anything in which you can prove that you sent it will work. (If you have official forms from your Landlord then copy those before and after you fill them out. Before so in case you mess up you have spares, after so you have a record.)

It’s understandable that you may not want to disclose that your Autistic to your Landlord due to the risk of discrimination so you may want to use an umbrella term to describe your accommodation needs. When I spoke to the property management company that owns my building I used the term Neurological Condition and Sensory Processing Disorder. You may also use the term Asperger’s is you so choose. Asperger’s is trendy and, sadly, it may be more accepted than straight-up Autism. I understand that Asperger’s has controversial origins and I agree with filtering the term out of Autism discourse however this isn’t the time to make an issue of that. You will have plenty of time to educate everyone once you have gotten to know them better. We are focusing on requesting accommodations in a way that you feel safe and secure. (Keep in mind if you do say Autistic then you are still covered against discrimination but this is about your sense of well being.)

I wrote a Sample Accommodation/Modification Request Letter however there are probably far better examples on the internet than I am able to provide, please, feel free to look them up. You may want to request in the letter that they respond in writing as well whether an email or a return letter in the mail. 

Photo by Kamille Sampaio on Pexels.com

When you have written your letter print two, one for your records, and the other to take it into your Doctor or other Health Care Professional and ask them to write a letter confirming and verifying your request. This is your letter of support that you will be turning into your landlord with your letter or request forms. Your medical professionals do not need to disclose any medical information that is not part of the request so, if you need to paint in a calming color that isn’t as bright to your eyes as white, that is what they need to focus on. What they do not need is information about things that do not pertain to the request. So if you are, for example, HIV positive or Diabetic the Management doesn’t need to be informed if your requests do not to pertain to these conditions. HIPPA does matter! Your privacy matters.

Make a certified copy of the Doctor’s letter (a notary public can do this, many banks have them for free) or have him write two copies so you have a copy for your own records with his signature (it’s always good to have backups). If you are mailing it then put the letter/forms, signed with a pen, put it, and a copy (duplicate or notarized copy) of your Doctor’s letter in a business-size envelope. Fill it out like your normally would and take it to the Post Office. Tell them you need to send it Certified Mail with a Signature on Delivery. Keep any receipts as proof and so you can track it.

If you are sending an email then scan the letter or forms into your computer. (I do not doubt you know this however sometimes I get overwhelmed to the point I do not think of the trees in the forest and I just see the problem. I am simplifying for ease for those that read this in a time of high stress and require a higher level of support.) Write your request letter in the email. Attach the scan of the Doctor’s Letter. Send. Make sure you don’t delete your sent mail so you can prove that you did in fact send it. 

Keep in mind you shouldn’t start on any accommodations or modifications until you have the go-ahead from your Landlord. If in a letter or email save it for your records. In case there is reason to believe that the Landlord will contact you by phone to grant permission or deny your request then put a call recorder app on your phone if it doesn’t come with one pre-loaded. That way you still have proof of permission or denial. As I said I’m a big fan of evidence trails! 

*If you do not live in the United States such as a US territory or another country then check with the local authority on regulations for disabled renters.