For awhile now I’ve been interested in how …

For awhile now I’ve been interested in how trauma gets laid down in the brain, because I’ve wondered if the way sensory and other stimuli hit the autistic brain carries a risk of causing trauma, especially with research suggesting persistent connections in such brains. I’ve wondered if such connections effectively mean that, for example, ongoing environmental stimuli don’t give the autistic brain time to recover from moment to moment, creating a kind of mounting pressure.

In comes a story on Spectrum today about sensory overload and hypervigilance which seems to support pretty much exactly this idea.

In most people, sensory stimuli such as noises or unusual textures trigger activity in brain regions that process sensory information. If the stimuli persist, however, the brain tamps down its response. This process, called habituation, enables people to tune out unimportant sensations — such as the sound of an air conditioner or the feeling of a wool sweater on bare skin — so that they can pay attention to new information.

The new study found that some autistic children don’t show habituation — and this may explain why these children show unusual responses to sensations, such as covering their ears in noisy environments or refusing to wear clothes with itchy tags, says lead investigator Shulamite Green, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Habituation. Hypervigilence. Suddenly I have terminology to describe what I’ve been trying to get at.

The article suggests that this means “exposure therapy” likely will not work for the autistic brain, with an unrelated researcher therefore noting a need for “another way to treat” autistic people. I have a suggestion: accommodate this disability by subjecting autistic people to as few stressors as possible, rather than trying to find a way to “treat” it, per se.

Such accommodations which should include adaptive methods of psychotherapy for autistic people, since presumably therapy is not meant to cause further trauma.

With these various bits of research converging on the idea that the autistic brain is one that experiences trauma just by moving through the world around it, this, too, should start suggesting to psychotherapy new pathways for their autistic patients. It’s not, perhaps, about “treating” the autism, but about addressing the trauma.

As a member of the Oregon Trail generation, I came …

As a member of the Oregon Trail generation, I came of age alongside the Web. I had access to much of it a little earlier than my peers, because my dad’s work provided home access for him. As an adolescent, I had this sort of constant feeling of the immense potential of my life ahead of me and of the Web, and as a young adult I really leaned into that, blogging starting in 2001. It’s not a big leap from me to this rando kid on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “I Robot, You Jane” who says, “The only reality is virtual. If you’re not jacked in, you’re not alive.” I feel this visceral connection to the Web that I have a hard time putting in words.

From “Life online and losing and finding my faith in it” by Kimberly Hirsh

Compensation might be an adaptive trajectory that …

Compensation might be an adaptive trajectory that can be differentiated from other trajectories in psychiatry, such as resilience, in which a negative outcome is avoided, behaviourally, cognitively, and neurologically, despite exposure to risk. Instead, autistic compensators, despite apparent lack of observable autistic behaviour, continue being autistic at the neurocognitive level. Importantly, compensation can generate challenges in diagnosing and supporting these individuals. Because autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed by behaviour alone, compensators might not receive a diagnosis and support until later in life, if at all. This issue is thought to be particularly acute in females, who are less likely than males to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder despite similar underlying autistic characteristics. Even for people with a diagnosis, a neurotypical appearance due to compensation might result in support needs being underestimated in educational and workplace settings. Additionally, compensation is thought to contribute to poor mental health in autism. Compensatory attempts are taxing, need to be sustained over time, and are often unsuccessful, resulting in a cost to wellbeing.

From Compensatory strategies below the behavioural surface in autism: a qualitative study by Lucy Anne Livingston, Punit Shah, and Francesca Happé

“Well then, my final ‘reason’ …

“Well then, my final ‘reason’ for not supporting social justice is a really simple one,” admits Nils Grønkjær, “and that is I think that suffering is actually a somewhat healthy and fundamental part of being a living being.” This after earlier in the post admitting “the concept of social justice has no personal appeal to me” because “I want for almost nothing in life. I’m not lonely, I’m not poor and most of all I’m not bored with my life.”

And that’s all you really need to know about how such people view the humanity around them.

Grønkjær disdains “social justice” (really, collective action) because when you get large enough to be a “mob” there’s no way the group can represent the true range of feelings of every person involved. This is the attitude of a child. Grønkjær likely would get along with the one who hates fairness because we aren’t omnipotent enough to achieve it.

Just as “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried”, so, too, collective action for social justice is not perfect; it’s just better than everyone being out for themselves because something-something “mob identity” something-something “compromising situation”.

Several things came across the transom today about …

Several things came across the transom today about being autistic as an adult, as I am. One of which I want to highlight.

First, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a reauthorization of the so-called “Autism CARES Act” which includes an expansion of its directives expressly to consider autism “across the lifespan”, taking into account the fact that it’s not like there somehow are only autistic children and teenagers.

Second, the journal Autism in Adulthood put out a call for papers for a special issue on “scientific developments in measurement topics impacting autistic adults, particularly those outcomes that are meaningful and relevant to autistic individuals”.

Third, The Conversation looked at compensatory strategies autistic people might use to navigate the neurotypical world which therefore might hide their condition from “from doctors, employers, and even family members”.

This last one is especially relevant to me, because as a late-diagnosed adult who didn’t know he was autistic until he was forty-six, I’m going to have to establish some strong arguments in order to receive benefits such as SSDI, which are based upon one’s work history. My work history, at a superficial level, effectively “masks” my autism but in reality when considered more closely shows how difficult it was to find stable and consistent work absent disability accommodations—which of course no one knew to ask for because we didn’t yet realize I was autistic.

It’s important to make it clear to “doctors, employers, and even family members” (and social benefits agencies) that the fact that one could, in my case unknowingly, deploy some compensatory strategies, doing so was not without cost and arguably was not in the interest of my long-term health, mental or otherwise.

Basically, knowing or unknowing compensatory strategies, absent an evaluation of their impact upon an autistic adult’s health and wellbeing, should not be held against them when seeking assistance, let alone understanding.

Trump does not need a Soviet Politburo. He does …

Trump does not need a Soviet Politburo. He does not need a Nazi Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda. He does not need an army of Russian saboteurs. He doesn’t even need House Republicans repeating conspiracy theories. All this president needs to make war on the truth, break the law, profane the US Constitution and undermine the will of the people is a press corps as aggressively anti-moral as ours.

From Nihilist Press Abets Fascist Politics by John Stoehr

It’s not clear whether Pelosi even thinks people …

It’s not clear whether Pelosi even thinks people actually believe this line of reasoning. She just doesn’t seem to think it’s her job to convince them. Voters handed Democrats a meaningful avenue for holding the executive branch accountable in 2018, but Pelosi seems to have no interest in the hard work of doing that, except inasmuch as it means Democratic Party elites will issue public statements condemning the president’s actions, and effectively fundraise off of those public statements. As far as she’s concerned, her assurance that she’s in some distant fashion righting the wrongs of Trumpism by hoarding her own symbolic political power should be action enough for now.

From Beyond Pelosi by Elizabeth Spiers

The authoritarianism of indifference. That’s what …

The authoritarianism of indifference. That’s what [Free Speech Absolutists] are implementing: an infinite acceptance of toxic speech and malicious ideas, built on the accusation that any criticism or attempt at gatekeeping is a slippery slope toward mass censorship. To make it worse, FSA’s focus is toward a handful of issues, all conveniently targeted by far-left activists and groups. It reeks of reactionism. FSA’s and their sympathizers argue they should be able to discuss race IQ “science,” refuse using a person’s preferred pronouns, and mingle with racists and vitriolic conspiracy theorists with no consequences. Absolute freedom, with absolutely no concern for others.

From Free Speech Absolutists are Letting Arsonists into the Marketplace of Ideas by John-Pierre Maeli

I haven’t posted anything today because the day …

I haven’t posted anything today because the day began at 5:30am not for the Mueller hearing as planned but for dealing with the urine on my bedroom floor because apparently I had not locked the drain spout on the catheter bag during its previous emptying. Fortunately for convenience’s sake I’ve been hanging the bag inside a small waste paper basket, so most of the urine actually was just pooled at the bottom of that. But since I didn’t notice the problem until I went to pull the bag out of the basket, a fair amount of urine had been splashed onto the floor as well.

In the end I went back to bed, and back to sleep, after cleaning up as best I could in the early morning confusion, then tried to reset later on by making an actual breakfast and then watching movies.

Not, you know, the best day ever. Trying to hold onto the fact that at least there was a waste paper basket, at least it was a logistical accident and not a medical one, and at least, as pointed out to me on Twitter, it was my own urine and not someone else’s.

Not for nothing, but I think Joe Biden should read …

Not for nothing, but I think Joe Biden should read this Jane Coaston piece asking the right to imagine for a moment that the left has been correct, all along, on race and on the right’s problem with race, because what she’s describing, in fact, is the “time before Trump” back to which Biden says he wants to take us, and the fact that he doesn’t comprehend this is hugely problematic.

While I don’t think the retweet is some sort …

While I don’t think the retweet is some sort of smoking gun for what’s wrong with social media, I do think there’s a strong argument for discussing how to build more friction–and more context–into actions we can take on social media platforms. I’m not sure what form that takes, but I do think that push-button reactions don’t communicate much except as analytics data.

It’s why I’ve expressed fondness for things like Medium’s use of highlights as a way to “like” or “react” to something in a way that actually informs both the writer and other readers about just what it was about someone else’s words that struck you, without yourself having to write something. A kind of middle-ground between retweeting and commenting, that actually provides some sort of useful information about one’s thoughts.

There’s also something to be said for a web where comments don’t exist natively, per se, but via something like webmentions requires a commenter to be publicly responding on their own site and linking to the original post. Rather than invading, even at implicit invitation, someone else’s space, you’re responding in your own space, and the original author can consider your response of value or not.

I guess in a sense that’s an argument for “ownership as friction”. If we had to comment by posting something to our own sites, would we treat the discussion differently?

ETA: One could argue that in a sense retweets and even likes aren’t social media but asocial media because they provide no real information or context. They aren’t an interaction but merely an indication.