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.
Rise in Autism rates. Autism Epidemic. Autism Boom. Spike in Autism. No matter how you phrase it the question is the same. We have many theories but no one seems to agree. However, sometimes the answer is so simple and obvious it’s mind boggling and so I step forward to posit an answer to the question, “What is causing the increasing rates of Autism?” I put forth that the internet is a major factor that answers why we have been seeing an increase in Autism Rates over the last 20 years.
Since the beginning the internet has connected people. After all, that is what it was made to do! It went from simple information exchange to the leviathan it is today. Social media connects nearly everyone on the planet including Autistics and Autistics connect via the web just like everyone else and just like everyone else Autistics have found it to be a boon to their community. One that didn’t exist in pre-internet times. One we are protective of and cherish.
Before January 1, 1983, the birth of the internet, and the subsequent invention of social media Autistic people depended on the same modes of communication that everyone else did. The spoken or written word and anyone can correctly guess how that went for us! As the dawn of the internet communication revolution progressed little by little Autistics, like the rest of humanity, have become connected via the internet.
Autistic people now have a tool, the internet, of juggernaut proportions and it has led to the increase in Autism rates. The use of the internet by Autistic people gave the Autistic community a way to simply meet. Something that was more difficult to do in pre-internet days.
One way the world wide web has fostered our growth is recognition. We see others like us now and we connect. We realize we are Autistic too and seek out a diagnosis. One must also take into account that parents and families will see Autistic tendencies in children and each other and pursue an Autism diagnosis for their loved ones. This is all thanks to the internet where before we may not have known others like us existed at all. Internet access has increased recognition and therefore DX’s of Autism have gone up.
A stimulating aspect of the Autism boom, is that the internet has fostered, to be blunt… sex and reproduction. Prior to the mainstream internet we were either not aware of each other, or were under watchful eye. Both can cause issues with meeting and having sex. Now we have a way to connect and don’t fool yourself. Autistics even use hook up apps such as Tinder. These meetings have led to romances, interludes, and marriages. Just as it’s helped non Autistic communities improve their sex lives.
Another way the internet has affected Autistic mating is observation and comfort. We can now get to know people prior to meeting. We can process and analyse, as we do, potential sexual partners. This increases comfort when finally meeting and the subsequent relationship that follows. Not all internet friends turn out to be intimate partners but it’s safe to say they the internet has quelled some of the anxiety that comes with seeking a sexual partner. As a result, birth rates between Autistics have gone up. We are seeing more Autistic people because Autistic people are having Autistic babies.
As mentioned before the internet has helped form an Autistic community. Now we aren’t afraid to go out and seek a DX or even come out self DX’d, when we realize that we are Autistic! We know there is no shame in our community and we are protective of our own. Instead of hiding in the shadows and masking a life that is not true to us we can go forth and say “I think I’m Autistic” or “I’m Autistic” and I need a diagnosis. Autists aren’t alone anymore and people feel better about seeking a diagnosis because of the community the internet has allowed to form. We have a cushion to land on when we get that final word that we are Autistic. It has emboldened people!
It seems overly simplistic when you think about it. However Occam’s Razor says the simplest answer is the best one. The internet gives us a platform in which recognition of each other, reproduction and romance, community, and comfort has increased the rates of Autism in the world. Do you know what? It’s a good thing!
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.
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!
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).