Category Archives: Articles

Proposing the “Medi-Social© Model of Disability and Neurodivergence” I

[Rev.] Romulus Campan FDScMH (Forensic), LTh (Hons), CertEd-QTS,
PgCert Religion, Spirituality & Mental Health,
PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,
PgCert Autism & Asperger’s

Medi-Soc Mod Neurodivergence Title Pic 1The Medi-Social© Model of Neurodivergence Logo-Created by Romulus C.

The Medi-Social Model of Neurodivergence is an alternative to the prevalent Medical and Social models of Neurodivergence, applicable to the following, commonly accepted as, Neurodivergent conditions:

The Medi-Social Model of Neurodivergence could also provide a replacement to the imbalanced Psychiatric perspective of the Medical Model and the derailed Social Model Militantism, proposed by the “Neurodiversity Movement” and its ‘biodiversity’ dilettantism.

This Model would holistically and intersectionally consider Neurodivergent conditions in their Medical and Social complexity, with a realistic emphasis on understanding these conditions through also considering the invaluable lived-experience of individuals living with these conditions, and/or the accumulated co-participative experience of their families, caregivers.

I can boldly assert that the structural elements of a Medi-Social Model of Disability and Neurodivergence have always been present in what has been known as the Medical Model, which could have never existed without its Social aspects, proven by the well-known existence of Multidisciplinary Teams, mandated by legislation to safeguard each step of an individual’s journey through their Recovery.

A Medi-Social Model of Disability and Neurodivergence would open the possibility of exploring new and necessary horizons of how all participants in these multidisciplinary teams, such as the individuals themselves, their caregivers, their clinical team, their social worker team etc, could change the Recovery Pathway Dynamic from a Clinical-Team-dependant hierarchical, to a Multidisciplinary Co-participative/Intersectional.

Advertisements

The Stockholm Syndrome Symptomatology of Neurodiversity Militantism

me 1I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in June 2017. As I wrote in the “About…” tab of my blog, “Over 50 years of a rather odd life, came to a sudden realisation, with all the clicks and cogs falling to their right places.”

Little did I know at the time, that the sudden realisation was only the preamble of what is as I write, the crawling to a frightening light, of a child I can’t even remember, and whose only ‘happy’ memory is a set of painted wood blocks, neatly ordered in a slide-top box, taken out every day to became the same ‘castle’ in which no toy was ever planned to live, or play.

If I would have to give a name to the featured picture, it would be “Leave me alone”. I never liked being photographed, being looked at; probably because everyone expected me to look back, to show the same colloquial interest which never interested me.

I’ve never understood humans, the reasons why they kept asking stupid questions such as “what would you like to be when you grow up”, just to laugh themselves to urine when the five years old replied “Pensioner, because you don’t have to do anything, and the mailman brings you the money”. Mind you, I was raised by my maternal grandmother, savvy pensioner taking her grandson everywhere, mainly to the popular coffee parlours famous for their Italian expresso machines, dripping the golden bath for my -always at hand- thirsty sugar cubes.

I never had “friends”. My acquaintances could be anything and anyone, from my grandmother’s gossip team, my wooden blocks, collectible Gillette razor blade boxes, match boxes, my blind, talcum powder smelling masseurs (muscular atrophy), to the whole plethora of colleagues blessed or cursed to have met me.

Before being entirely absorbed in 2017 by the Neurodiversity “movement”, my life took a similar, dramatic self-discovery turn in 1990, when following a partly societal, partly family heirloom inherited, devastating guilt crisis, I had “my sins taken away by Jesus” and my civil liberties by a neo-evangelical church. The “love story” ended following nearly two decades of a genuinely successful international ministry, inclusive of two major academic degrees and two postgrads, radio, TV and conferencing.

My fondest memory of the time is a story by the manipulative “pastor” of the emotionally controlled congregation, about an Eastern European dictator, asked by a journalist how is it possible for the nation to adore him, while he basically took away all their rights? Apparently, the dictator asked for a living chicken and to the utter shock of the journalist, he plucked the agonising bird’s feathers clean. Having spread a handful of breadcrumbs on his boots, he put the poor bird down, which obnoxiously started to eat them. “You see?” the dictator said, “you can take away everything from your population, still they’ll mindlessly follow you as long as you give them enough to survive on.”

Keep this in mind…

Returning now to the reason for a title which may stir instinctive reactions I’m expectantly aware of, I remember in 2017 leaving my Autism assessor’s office with a maelstrom of emotions I did not expect, dragging behind myself the barely finished, mostly incoherently  mumbled reply to my diagnosing psychiatrist’s question, “How do you feel now, knowing what you felt all along?”

“Confused a bit…” I said, “both liberated and frightened…” because I did not want to tell her out of respect, that my first thought as I mentioned in my relevant post was “angry”, for all the reasons I describe there.

I was sitting in my car, trying to breathe, nearly crying, or maybe laughing as I usually do at funerals, trying to make sense of 54 years passed by, of a life weirdly writing itself like backwards with each new year.

At that time, I was well aware of Neurodiversity (ND) as an umbrella term for all neurodivergent conditions, but also as a “movement”, which started to ‘absorb’ me deeper and deeper, for all the good reasons I understood and identified with, absolutely in love with Silberman’s brilliant “Neurotribes”, the cosy fellowship of kindred spirits and high hopes to change the world for the better.

Another year of academic effort rewarded me by meeting autistic academic  Luke Beardon from whom I’ve learned that learning’s prime asset is critical thinking, at both its giving and receiving ends.

It was around that time, when I started looking at my autism with a receiving critical attitude, of questioning if self-acceptance and its projected extrapolation through the less and less “diverse and inclusive” Neurodiversity movement and some of its most “impetuous” proponents, is the right way forward.

I witnessed horrified and in utter dismay, mobs of self-proclaimed ND “advocates”, advocating nothing else but basest attitudes of hunting into silence perceived “dissidents” for taking themselves the liberty to think, having hijacked and mutilated much of what Neurodiversity would have been good for, oftentimes turning it into a lucrative merchandise, and a gathering ground for attention seeking individuals trying to force acceptance of their “valid” “selfDx”, so desperately necessary to stabilise the insecure reflection of themselves trembling together with the shallow social waters they are looking into.

Traveling for a while with the group, I more and more felt the unease and suspicious dread of a deja-vu which scarred what should have been the best two decades of my life.

I also met “the enemies”; scared, sometimes scarred autistic thinkers bravely unwilling to forfeit their liberty of thinking for belonging anywhere, exhausted yet hopeful mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, carers of autistic children and adults, many angry and frustrated to have their words and thoughts twisted by self-proclaimed ND representatives, unable to understand which part of “severe autism” can’t these “inclusion and diversity” vigilantes understand?!

I also met the counter-hijackers, same sort of self-proclaimed experts, mostly of their hate and bitter dissatisfaction with life’s immutable unfairness, living of the margins of counter-arguing every shade of neurodiversity they could find, throwing out in an identically destructive frenzy, not only the “baby with the bath water” but the bathtub as well.

And then, I finally understood, my life’s twisted entanglement with a condition I tried beyond “accept” to love…

A “love triangle” sort of relationship with neurodevelopmental conditions which claimed a brilliant mind, with physical conditions which claimed for daily torment my talented body, shaping who I am, hardly ever getting to know whom I should or could have been, or who my destroyed by alcohol, neurodivergent asocial father could have been, or who my benzodiazepines dependent neurodivergent mother could have been, or who my hero partner of 26 years, severely neurodivergent wife could have been, fiercely doing all I can for my neurodivergent children to become the best they could be …

I realised that I have desperately tried to consciously legitimise the subconscious, Stockholm Syndrome attachment to my Autism, to make all the suffering it caused a “love story”, forgetting that from Romeo and Juliet to Hiller’s Love Story, death and suffering rip afresh the deep wounds and scars of all such stories.

I sadly understood that, exactly as in the trading of my liberty in exchange for an only hoped religious absolution from guilt, my efforts to “love” my autism were nothing else but desperate attempts to transform accept and tolerance, into romance…

Wandering deeper, I must ask the hate-magnet question: “Is the derailed part of the Neurodiversity “movement”, with its priestesses and priests preaching and demanding acceptance, while ostracising anyone and all questioning them and/or their motives, their agenda and their Autism narrative representation validity, a real example of a double Stockholm Syndrome, where autistic individuals desperately want to love something which has probably taken away more from their lives than what it gave them, being further afraid to think and speak for themselves, for fear of having the (remember?) breadcrumbs of an illusion of belonging taken away from them”?

The reason I’m extrapolating my own existential struggle, is having worked with, taught with and been with diagnosed autistics clearly going through such soulquakes more or less openly, yet afraid to break free from this double attachment?!

I accept myself as disabled.

I “love” myself in spite of my disabilities.

But no one should expect me to love my disabilities.

I tolerate my disabilities trying to rearrange my life around them, in order to allow myself the space to live, create and care; for as long as I can.

So, what now?

I know that both the Neurodiversity side and the Severe Autism and Autism Parenting side have at their cores brilliant individuals surrounded by even more brilliant individuals, tired of being misrepresented by abusive mobs of questionable entities, diagnosed or not, causing more and more harm to a silent, often unseen majority.

Isn’t it high-time to bridge the shameful divide with a dialogue and alliance of interests already thought of, necessary to advance a unified agenda of making living with autism, a life beyond mere survival?

How? By listening instead of judging and by supporting instead of policing.

Because I can’t love autism, but I can respect and care about us.

There should be more to our neurodivergent lives than breadcrumbs…

Restructuring the Autism Spectrum Disorder Narrative around the Core Symptomatology of Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism

Museo_del_Prado_-_Goya_-_Caprichos_-_No._43_-_El_sueño_de_la_razon_produce_monstruos

[Rev.] Romulus Campan FDScMH, LTh(Hons), CertEd, QTS,
PgCert Religion, Spirituality & Mental Health
PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,
PgCert Autism & Asperger’s

“The theoretical understanding of the world, which is the aim of philosophy, is not a matter of great practical importance to animals, or to savages, or even to most civilised men”.
Bertrand Russell

Keeping in mind my Theoretical Philosophy positional disclaimer, I have arrived at the point of my scientific inquiries, where, theories of intersecting dimensional planes aside, I must allow a superfluity eradicating convergence of objectivity in the Autism narrative, which should dethrone impostor monsters, born as painted by Goya, from the minds asleep of scientists, and subsequent masses of dilettantes.
However, in all its simplicity, the Autism narrative’s only problem, is the underlying conflict fuelled by what has become known as Learning ≠ Intellectual Disability (e.g. Dawn, Fragile X syndrome, etc.), formerly Mental Retardation. I have deliberately used the non-equal sign, as a form of silent, dignified and resigned protest, against the frustratingly careless use of Learning Disabilities (rebranded now as Learning Difficulties) which shouldn’t encompass more than reading disabilities, written language disabilities, and mathematical disabilities such as Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, also Dyspraxia which has a profound impact on perception, therefore all afore enumerated.
I do respectfully understand and acknowledge why it may be emotionally less intrusive to use Learning Disabilities instead of the Mental Retardation reminiscent Intellectual Disabilities, however, subjective rebranding in the name of political correctness does never change objective inherence. And obviously, this isn’t influenced at all by the fact that Intellectual Disabilities could co-occur with Learning Disabilities, with the former having at the core a genetic or traumatic incapacitation of the brain to process/convey information, while the later are the brain’s non-typical modalities of processing/conveying information, caused by its structural and functional differences.
The Autism narrative therefore, must once and for all, separately consider Intellectual Disabilities, regardless of common identifiables, present at the time being, in what is reluctantly acknowledged as Low Functioning Autism, or more recently, “courtesy” of DSM 5, as Severity Levels 3/2 of ASD.
Now as a tangent thought, I must mention my genuine concern that this ‘reluctance’ has morphed unfortunately in the contemporaneous trend called “Neurodiversity” which has long left its Neurodivergence gathering meaning, home for ASD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Tourette’s etc., having mutated from initially a High Functioning, Asperger’s Autism forum, into a “HF/Asperger’s Autism plus…” stage, for an alarmingly increasing number of “self-ID(Dx) autistic”, more probably narcissistic individuals, unhappy of their probable Personality Disorder traits. These share the stage with the “thinking for myself may hurt + OMG, OMG, you’re so wrong…” vigilante crowd, the “stuck in-there, too proud to admit this is wrong” rather silent minority, and the “more-or-less personal, but good business” opportunists.
Returning briefly to DSM-5, I certainly appreciate the following clarification/condition:
“E. These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level” (emphasis mine). However, the statement’s last sentence, seems in my opinion to rather seriously muddle the already dark waters of practically understanding what the expected level of general development would be, in case of Intellectual Disability.
On a further thought, comparing symptoms of ID/IDD with symptoms of ASD, the similarities are beyond a reasonable horizon of reassurance that the two conditions wouldn’t be misdiagnosed for each other. Because if anyone is naïve enough to look for repetitive behaviours and/or communication deficits as some sort of failproof sign of ASD, let them be reminded that stereotyped, repetitive behaviours are also typical for passive traumatic experiences such as external stimuli deprivation, just to mention one…
Without even attempting to explain beyond theoretical philosophy the reasons for my suggestion, I propose as a valid and beneficial alternative to the present epistemo-semantic chaos, that the Autism Spectrum should selectively integrate what has been previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism, hoping that Autism research would resume the vital dialogue of identifying specialised diagnostic patterns for the core aspects of both.
Unfortunately, otherwise, the very real and oftentimes devastating, Intellectual Disability or Intellectual-Disability-identical criteria, will continue to overshadow and therefore ignore the maybe less visible but drastically life shortening symptoms of Autism.

Theoretical Philosophy, a Disclaimer…

bertrand-russell-philosopher-the-theoretical-understanding-of-the

Standing alone at the midnight crossroads of thought may be frightening.

No one knows who’s coming, bargaining belonging for one’s liberty of mind.

Alone however, doesn’t mean lonely, until there’s a clarity of purpose, bitter rooted in an effort to achieve through learning, forward looking onto a more palatable reward of understanding.

Theoretical philosophy irreverently surpasses other means of cognitive inquiry, through its sworn allegiance unto nothing but its fountainhead. Iconoclastic, crude, unfaithful, are only glimpses into its free mind.

Therefore, if the reader henceforth seeks referential justifications for my own thoughts, let them engage themselves alone into such endeavours, as I reserve myself the right to provide or not references, being under neither Harvardian nor any other arbitrarily imposed academic structural policing rules.

Because I believe that in essence, freedom at an age of consent is never taken away, but ultimately given; and I refuse to yield…

“It is right that we ask [people] to accept each of the things which are said in the same way: for it is the mark of an educated person to search for the same kind of clarity in each topic to the extent that the nature of the matter accepts it.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1 1094a24-1095a

The Cognitive-Behavioural Interpretative Isolationism of Intellectually Proficient Kanner’s & Asperger’s Autism (IPKAA)© Part 2 – Arbitrarily Set Standards of Executive Functioning

Part 2 – Arbitrarily Set Standards of Executive Functioning

By Rom Feldmann© FdScMH, LTh(Hons), CertEd,

PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,

PgCert Autism & Asperger’s, QTS

 

– The Theory of Executive Dysfunction

            ‘Executive function is an umbrella term for functions such as planning,       working memory, impulse control, inhibition, and shifting set, as well   as for the initiation and monitoring of action.’ (Hill, 2004, 1)

Hill states that in order to guide actions, these functions need to disengage from the immediate environment, which seems to suggest that at least part of an Executive Dysfunctionality has to present as an impairment of an autistic’s ability to disengage from the object/subject of their immediate environment’s single focus and shifting their attention to possible prompts by external stimuli.

However, I would question the axiomatic assumption that an apparent non-responsiveness to external focus-shifting prompts must be seen as an ‘impairment’, since such an assumption would imply a standard, focus-shifting expectation to all incoming external stimuli, mandatory for all, as a pre-requisite of a social interaction expectation singularity, a universal norm.

Judging such a perceived non-responsiveness as some pathologically uncontrollable ‘aloofness’ is a dangerous, a priori inconsideration of an autistic’s right to wilfully accept or reject incoming stimuli, regardless of their animate or inanimate origins. Autistics, as anyone else, have the fundamental right of deciding without any obligation to justify their choice, to accept or reject anyone’s, verbal or otherwise, approach.

Given the fact that most “Intellectually Proficient Autistics©” have an upper-level thought process best to be characterised as an intense continuum, would render approaches as unsolicited intrusiveness, met with and honest and non-dissimulated  disinterest or silent/verbal rejections. Justifiably, disrespectful insistence is oftentimes perceived as aggression, which could lead to provoked shut- or meltdowns. It is unfortunate that these provoked episodes with extremely distressful consequences are not considered or classified as physical and/or emotional abuse or in many cases, assault.

The other aspect of this theory (Frith et al, 2010, p15 footnote) is an analogy with neuropsychological patients displaying impaired executive functions caused by frontal lobes damage, suggested by similar ‘frontal test’ results produced by these subjects and individuals diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism.

Again, validating such a theory ignores an autistic’s volitional selectivity, leaving us either presumably brain damaged, or without any control over some pathological compulsions.

The question however, the genuinely disturbing question is: who decided  what the ‘standards’ of executive functionality are, and why divergence from these ‘standards’ must be viewed as “impairment” or “pathology”?

A possible answer is as disturbing as the question: the decision was most probably taken by neurotypical gatekeepers, interested (consciously or not) in establishing, further maintaining easily controllable, rigidly normative societal structures, leaving most population subject to a mass Stockholm Syndrome, using arbitrarily imposed societal ‘norms’ as means of compliance control, rewarded with nothing else than randomly refrained law enforcement harassment, disguised as ‘protection under the rule of law’.

Pathologising on grounds of superficial behavioural observations and biased evaluation premises, “Intellectually Proficient Autism & Asperger’s©” (IPAA©) individuals, is nothing more than attempts to control the innate proneness to logical judgement and justice, oftentimes displayed by IPAAs deeply involved and attached to protecting the vulnerable, fact also clearly backed by Tony Atwood  (Wylie et al, 2016, pg. 12)…

Pathologising our dedication to equality is a sad and dangerous attempt to devaluate justice into a law enforced pragmatic utilitarianism, reminiscent of malthusianism…

(to be continued…)

 

-Frith, U. (Ed.), Asperger, H., Wing, L., Gillberg, C., Tantam, D., Dewey, M., Happé, F. G. E., (2010). Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

-Hill, E. L. (rev. 2004). Evaluating the theory of executive dysfunction in autism.  http://research.gold.ac.uk/2560/1/hill_devrev04_GRO.pdf accessed 10.01.2018

-Hill, E. L. (2004). Executive dysfunction in autism. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.8 No.1, January 2004, 26 http://www.ucd.ie/artspgs/langimp/autismexecdysf.pdf accessed 10.01.2018

-Wylie, P., Lawson, W. B., Beardon, L., (2016). The Nine Degrees of Autism, A Developmental Model for the Alignment and Reconciliation of Hidden Neurological Conditions. Hove and New York: Routledge

The Cognitive-Behavioural Interpretative Isolationism of Intellectually Proficient Kanner’s & Asperger’s Autism (IPKAA)©- Part 1: What the “Theory of Mind” doesn’t understand about the Autistic Mind…

 

Part 1- What the “Theory of Mind” doesn’t understand about the Autistic Mind

Rom Feldmann© FDScMH, LTh(Hons), CertEd,

PgCert Special Psychopedagogy,

PgCert Autism & Asperger’s, QTS

 

On the back cover of the seminal “Neurotribes” (Silberman, 2015) the inquisitive eye should spot a hidden gem of apocalyptic proportions, basically stating that “the future of our society depends on our understanding” of what autism is. The statement is so powerful and frightening or maybe totally insane, that when I first blogged it, it attracted virtually no likes or comments. I will attempt to better understand why.

Surprisingly for a pathologized, general view of autism, Attwood (2002) mentioned research by Hans Asperger (1906-1980) in identifying “a consistent pattern of abilities and behaviour”.

The battleground becoming contention is therefore seeing and accepting the autism spectrum as a pattern of abilities or disabilities, branching itself further into seemingly endless explanatory theories and terminology wars, which I will attempt to deconstruct and re-construct from a personalised academic and philosophical perspective.

1.The Theory of Mind (ToM):

‘[…] ToM is the ability to put oneself into someone else’s shoes, to imagine their thoughts and feelings, so as to be able to make sense of and predict their behaviour. It is sometimes called mind-reading or mentalising.‘ (Baron-Cohen, 2008, 57)

Expanding further on his own statement, Baron-Cohen summarises on the same page, that ToM can be thought of as a theory which explains that a neurotypical (NT) person is normally/usually able to explain and predict other people’s behaviour, thus leaving autistics unable to use the ToM to interpret or anticipate the actions and/or intentions of individuals whom they have contact with, and therefore mind-blindly disadvantaged.

In my opinion, -and leaving aside a random personal thought about the fairly entertainment industry resembling concept of ‘mind-reading’-, Baron-Cohen and other scientists considering this theory, have attempted through ToM to understand why autistics seem unable to mentalise/mind-read, having observed NT and autistic children/adults, comparing their reactions mainly from an observable, neurotypical-behaviour perspective, without focusing on the much more important, individually specific, selectively volitional, pre-behavioural aspect. Because regardless of age, autistic individuals may possess a more functional capacity to individually and gradually select -or not-, a momentary focus of attention, leaving a NT observant genuinely mind-blind to the fact that autistic pre-decisional mental analytics are de facto behind what could be perceived as obnoxiousness or an inability of perception. However, especially at early stages of individual development, autistics are less aware of the reasons why mentally they may decide to fixate on some encountered aspects while actively ignoring any others, even if someone tries to divert their fixated attention, oftentimes provoking as a result, unexpected reactions commonly called shut- or meltdowns. Depending on an autistic individual’s level of what I propose to be identified as a Neurobiological Socio-Interconnectivity Predisposition (NSIP), unfortunately mistaken sometimes for other, valid learning disabilities (LD) such as ‘congenital abnormalities of the frontal lobes’ (Attwood, 2002), adult autistics may decide to learn (or not), to mentally re-negotiate maintaining, or shifting the focus of their fixation, identified by Murray et al (2005) as monotropism.

Because each individual is entitled to have someone else’s undivided attention, as much as the individual(s) from whom they expect such attention, decide for reasons they should not be expected or forced to disclose, to grant it or not. Autistics have the inalienable right to ignore at least as much as we are oftentimes ignored, without any obligation whatsoever to provide a reason for our choice to socially interact or prefer to remain asocial.

(to be continued…)

 

-Attwood, T., (2002). Asperger’s Syndrome – A Guide for Parents and Professionals. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

-Baron-Cohen, S., (2008). Autism and Asperger Syndrome. London: OUP

-Murray, Dinah; Lesser, M.; Lawson, W (1 May 2005). “Attention, monotropism and the diagnostic criteria for autism”  Autism. 9 (2): 139–56.

-Silberman, S., (2015). Neurotribes. London: Allen & Unwin

 

 

 

 

Stimming vs Fidgeting…

MagnificentHummingbird flapping is living

I personally think it is unfortunate that many NDs have so easily accepted that stimming is “just” the autistic version of fidgeting, because as I see it, the difference is actually neurobiological.

The problem starts with wrongly associating stimming with anxiety relief, concentration and other similar, secondary types of human behaviour, because while fidgeting does certainly and most of the time unconsciously assist with especially concentration or stress relief, stimming, as a behaviour sequence mostly specific to autistic conditions, is actually a primary neurobiological undertaking, with a very clear role in an autistic individual’s life.

If an autistic person would observe themselves while stimming, they would notice that the stimming activity they are engaged in, requires their dedicated attention, through which the stimming routine is carried out according to a deeply ingrained routine. Stimming is as important as any other autistic routine, probably even more important, because while other routines, e.g. replacing the toothpaste tub in the same place and at the same angle after each use (as the routine’s objective), has the toothpaste tub as its object, stimming’s object & objective are identical, permeating actually the person engaged in stimming. While stimming, the autistic individuals employ all their task specific dedicated senses. Now this wouldn’t be unusual, if the respective sense(s) would be analysed, evaluated and responded to, as usually in NT cases, by specific areas of the brain. But since autistic brains are thought to analyse, evaluate and respond through the entire cerebral cortex to all/any stimuli (this being the very reason of sensory overload), an overlapping of sensory receptor(s) and stimulus happens, with the stimulus remaining nevertheless auxiliary in achieving the desired stimulation, with the brain and its response as the ultimate goal. Let me exemplify.

You sit in your car, and start drumming on your steering wheel, knee, door armrest, etc. But this is not your usual drumming on your favourite tune, or unconsciously fidgeting with your fingers while looking at the red light. No, it’s none of these, but your well known, always the same rhythmic sequence, the perfect product of your autistic brain’s systemising function, which combines not only the same audible rhythm, but the sensory impulses received by the same areas of your fingers’ skin from the soft, always the same areas of the wheel, the soft rotating movement of your wrists, dwelling always on the same areas of your legs, while your vision has switched to enhanced peripheral vision, seeing the beginning and the end of your journey, your next WP post and the irregular helix of steam arising from your next coffee, just to name a few…

Having said that, I hope I’ve answered any unasked question about “autistic fidgeting”, which yes, it is certainly possible, but in my opinion never to be mistaken for stimming.

Stimming is like the magnificent wing flapping of a hummingbird, in which all its neurobiology is implicated, which defines its entire being.

What about self-harmful, injurious repetitive actions, one may ask?

According to Lorna Wing (The Autistic Spectrum, New Updated Edition, p.45, 1996), a self-injurious repetitive action such as self-biting, head-banging, etc, “more often […] is a response to distress, anger or frustration […] but self-injury can be a repetitive habit in someone who has no other way of occupying themselves”.

In light of the above, having also witnessed this type of behaviour in non-autistic children and adults with congenital or acquired learning disabilities or limitations, also in animals confined to very small places, I would suggest that such behaviour isn’t necessarily autistic, but a physiological response to pathological stimuli, and therefore shouldn’t be necessarily considered stimming, except in cases of severe learning disabilities when according to Wing “self-injury can be[come] a repetitive habit in someone who has no other way of occupying themselves”. In such cases, protective gear and pharmacotherapy are considered as means of ensuring that the individuals themselves and their environment are protected as much as possible from harm, while maintaining the highest achievable degree of dignity and autonomy.