The Autistic Sensory Spectrum – Featuring Stimming: The great, the good, and the ugly

The Autistic Sensory Spectrum – Live at Honestly Autism Day 2019 – talking about Stimmig, Sensory Processing, Regulation, and Harmful Stims



Christa Holmans: Um, so, I’m, thank you so much for being here today. Uh, my name is Christa Holmans, I’m the Neurodivergent Rebel, and I wanted to tell you a little bit about the structure of this presentation before we dive in too deeply.

Uh, so, I’ll talk, first, kind of, about who I am, and where I’ve kind of been in my journey as a late … late-diagnosed autistic adult, and I’ve structured this program a little bit like TV in the old days, [inaudible 00:00:57], where, you know, the easy, accessible-for-everyone programming is on first, and you get a little later and later in the evening, and the, the topics are a little more intense. So, my program’s kind of structured in that way. It’ll be real light and fun at the beginning.

Uh, then we kind of move on to talk about sensory overwhelm. And the final topic, and I put it at the very end of the presentation, because, for some people, it’s just too much, and I won’t be offended if you step out before I start to talk about self-harm and some of those more destructive stimming behaviors, and kind of shine a light on that. So, that’s, sorry, excuse me. So, that’s, that’s going to be at the end.

And, before I get too far into the presentation, I’m always curious. Are there any autistic or neurodivergent people in the room who are willing to raise your hand and out yourself? Yes! Yes! Thank you! Nobody wanted to out themselves the first time I gave this talk. I was like, okay. Sometimes I’m the only one in the room. Sometimes I think people don’t wanna admit it, and that’s cool. It’s a stigma, unfortunately. And sometimes people might not know. You know, I didn’t know for almost 30 years.

Curious. Do we have more teachers? There were a lot of teachers here all day. Okay, great, teachers. Good, good, good. Doctors? Okay, awesome. Disclaimer on the doctors, because I have a bad doctor in this story, and I know not all doctors are bad doctors. Um, do we have our parents and family members here? Thank you so much. That’s our, you’re our support network, so you’re very important. I’m very glad you are all here today, thank you.

So, you know, what is autism? Autism is defined as a lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that impacts social interaction and the way the brain interprets and processes sensory information.

But this definition is rather cold, medical, and stale. I have found that, often, medical interpretations of autism remove much of what is good, human, and even beautiful about the autistic experience.

My biggest regret’s not having the clicker today. So, I’m going to bending over while I’m doing this.

Okay. So, I realize you know what autism is, but please just indulge me today, because I’m going to redefine autism through my own lens, without all that medical and pathologizing language. Because, despite my difficulties, I love being autistic, and I would never want to give that up.

Now, let’s talk numbers for a second. The CDC estimates that one in 59 babies are born autistic. It is estimated that 3.5 million people in America alone are estimated to be autistic. But these numbers do not include people who are self-diagnosed, undiagnosed, or have no idea, like I said earlier, that they’re even autistic. Because I didn’t know for almost 30 years. And then, these numbers, they’ve been rising recently, but it’s not that there are more autistic people here. We’ve been improving our understanding of autism, and the diagnostic criteria’s improved. But, unfortunately, we really have a lot of work to do still.

35% of autistic young adults between the ages of 19 and 23 have not held, had a job, or received post-graduate education after high school. And these numbers are from the National Autism Society website on the Facts and Statistics tab, if anyone wants to go dig deeper into those.

So, who am I? I’m autistic, and I don’t think that makes me defective or broken. I believe that I have a different type of mind, and it allows me to view the world with a unique and fresh perspective. This idea is controversial. Because autistic people also have weaknesses.

Autistic weaknesses have been very well-documented over the years, but it is a history that has been written from people who are examining autism from the outside. We’ve all got weaknesses. But having your weaknesses defined and outlined in a medical textbook in detail? It’s a bit shocking, and a little bit dehumanizing as well. And then, this is what gets me. Why no mention of the positives?

There are definitely some up-sides. And, unfortunately, they’re generally given less discussion time than the deficits. I’m a whole person. I am more than just my weaknesses. I’m a combination of both my strengths and my weaknesses. And having that intense focus on my weaknesses, I can tell you from personal experience, that is not good for anyone’s health. Mental health. And autistic self-esteem, and really for anyone, is essential for success.

So, you know, for the autistic people that you encourage, or that you encounter, I’m, I’m begging you. Please be an encourager. We really don’t need help focusing on our weaknesses. We’re programmed with a desire to fix problems. Don’t turn us into a problem that needs to be solved.

I, I have a fun activity, okay? This will be a mental, imaginary, in-your-head exercise. I would like for everyone in the room, and the livestream, because there’s a Facebook livestream going, everyone listening, to think of your top three to five biggest strengths, and get those in your head for a minute. I’m going to give you some time to think of your top three to five biggest strengths. And, you know, if you have more strengths than that, sure, think of those, too. You, you can give as many strengths as you, as you can come to easily. Has everybody got some strengths in their head? They know what they’re good at? You know what you’re good at? Need a little more time? Okay, so, the next part, though … think about those weaknesses.

But, for the weaknesses, I don’t want more than two or three, even if you have more. Because I don’t want to, you know, I don’t want to e-enforce that thought pattern where we’re just so focused in on our weaknesses all the time. I do want to say that it is important to be aware of our weaknesses, and to know them, but that’s not the same as just obsessively trying to fix them all the time.

So, you’ve got those strengths and weaknesses, right? What if I came here and told you today, those strengths, those weaknesses, those things that make you you, that’s part of a disease. Something unacceptable. How does that make you feel?

It’s a miracle I haven’t tripped over this yet. (laughs) We’ll see. Hopefully it won’t happen today.

All right. That diagnosis? It took a while to sink in. But, once I accepted it, and I stopped fighting my autistic nature, and, most importantly, learned a bit of self-compassion, my life did get better. I couldn’t grow while I was so busy beating myself up over my weaknesses and shortcomings.

So, it’s hard to pin down a good number for this one, but, but depending on the source, it’s estimated that 20-30% of autistic people do use little to no verbal speech. This does not mean they cannot communicate. This does … I’m going to say that again. This does not mean they can’t communicate. That’s really important.

However, it’s a myth that autistic people cannot be articulate. I’ve been highly verbal most of my life. In fact, for me, knowing when to stop talking is a pretty big problem. I can get up here, be on the stage. I can monologue and rambling on, talking about anything that catch my interest. For a long time. But then, you take me off this stage, and it’s that simple act of back-and-forth communication, that’s still hard for me, even now, in my 30s. I’m not sure that’s ever going to change.

It’s frustrating, because everyone else makes it look so easy. I stand out, and I’ve been standing out my entire life. I need freedom. Freedom to be myself. Freedom from demands. Freedom from people’s expectations. There really isn’t anything that makes me more miserable than trying to blend in. And, when I was diagnosed autistic in my late 20s, I decided I wasn’t hiding anymore.

Let’s go way, way back. Between the ages of one and a half to two years old, I loved dinosaurs and dinosaur books. And I taught myself to read. On one road trip, my ability to read cities on a Texas map brought surprise and delight to the adults sitting in the front seat. “Oh! She’s reading! When did that happen? Okay. That’s interesting.” You know? “Hmm.”

Then, you know, a little bit later, I was about three, we were at a family gathering, and one of the adults, we’ll call him Ray to protect his privacy, he made the comment that “talking to Christa is like talking to a real person”. But he, you know, he meant that I had an advanced way of speaking and advanced vocabulary for a child of three. You know, that young. Of course, my response to him was, “I am a real person!” Because I was, you know, hello, of course I’m a real person.

But, growing up, when I was the, uh, the smart kid, too smart for my own good kind of smart, I was always getting in trouble, because adults around me felt like I should’ve known better. But I didn’t. I didn’t, you know. I was just as immature as the rest of the kids.

And I always, always needed answers. And questioned everyone and everything around me. I’ve also always had a very strong need to do things my own way. Sometimes to the confusion and frustration of those around me watching from the outside.

Although, you know, adults often were impressed with that advanced vocabulary, my continued questioning avoidance to demands and constant use of the phrase, “Why?” got me in trouble. Often. Especially at school. In the first grade, I was already struggling. I remember my mother’s anger and frustration with teachers who just didn’t know what to do with me.

My behaviors in class were disruptive. My ways of coping with the busy classroom, my stimming, was distracting, and it was a problem. The school was pressuring my mother to put me on ADHD medication. This was back in the ’90s, and at that time, that particular diagnosis was gaining a lot of awareness. “There’s nothing wrong with that child!” My mother raised her voice to the teacher. She was mad. And she was right. There was nothing wrong with me. Too bad I didn’t know that fact about myself yet. I wouldn’t truly figure that out until I had fully accepted my autism di-diagnosis in my early 30s.

Also, this is a side note, because I really feel obligated to throw this in there, I am not saying there’s anything wrong with anyone who’s got ADHD. Actually, some of my absolute favorite human beings have been and are, throughout my life, ADHDers. And a lot of them, although they do tend to be a lot better at picking up on the social cues and the timing of conversation, they relate to many of the same experiences, especially relating to school. Also, I don’t want to shame anyone who takes any appropriate medical, or medication, okay? But the point is, I don’t have ADHD. That would not have been appropriate at all for my situation.

School was hard, and it really didn’t get any easier. I pretty much spent the entire time, I remember, marking off the calendar, waiting for it to be over, every year, and counting down, because I knew, at the end of 12th grade, I wouldn’t have to go anymore. I hated my childhood, mostly because of school. I just wanted to be an adult. (laughs) And then, senior year, my economics teacher let me know that she had bumped me up to a passing grade, mostly because she just didn’t want to deal with me anymore. But that was great, because I was done with her, too.

And I had already started a full-time job. I was the assistant manager for a popular fast-food drive-in restaurant chain, and I was ready for work, and the future. School was behind me, and at least at work they paid you for that time you put in. And, although I had struggled in school, in the workplace, I came alive. I was confident in the clear direction of my tasks, and my coworkers, now that I was no longer looking for friendships and relationships, we were just people working on a project, towards the same goal. That was easier for me. I had learned to love and even look forward to work. And work was, and still is, one of my “special interests”.

I have to put a big air quote up here. And, actually, I’m going to pause and talk about pathological language a minute, because special interests, I hate that term. I hate it. I think passion is a much better term. I’m passionate about the workplace. Autism and office culture. When a non-autistic person has an area of expertise, it’s not pathologized. And that laser focus is one of the biggest and most well-known autistic strengths.

We can focus for hours upon hours when we’re passionate about something. During that period of laser focus, in area of expertise, we can amazing things. It really makes me sad when I hear autistic passion described using that pathologizing language. Obsessed. Fixated. Repetitive behaviors.

Autistic passion is where innovation happens. Deep thinkers, looking towards the future, to pondering all the details. Remember that story about the dog bowl this morning, that detail? The people on Facebook going,” what”? Autistic people, we’re not afraid to think differently. We just do it naturally. And we look at the problems from a different angle.

Before I was diagnosed, I finally landed what I thought was my dream job. It was one of those hip and trendy offices, and I was lucky enough to work remote three to four days a week. It was great. But, as the years progressed, my employer’s needs changed, and so, I started coming into the office more and more.

By the time I left that job, I was only working remote one or two days a week, and I was really just beginning to settle in when we moved. Same building. Upstairs, to a new suite. And, all of a sudden, I found myself completely disrupted. In the old office, before the move, I had sat in this quiet little corner with natural lighting, and in the new office, because the team started to grow, we also had fluorescent lighting, which is something I didn’t have in my old office. And I found myself on rotation at the front desk, too.

So, a few months after that move, I started to see a decline in my health. I was feeling nauseated almost constantly. My weight dropped from about 120 to about 95 pounds fairly quickly. And I was having almost daily migraines anytime I went to the office.

I tried really hard to explain to my GP that I had been through this before, but I told her, “I don’t think this is IBS”. I pleaded. “I’m not even sure the problem’s really in my stomach. When they told me I had IBS growing up, it was because they were out of ideas, and technically, my stomach seemed fine.”

“Have you tried this new diet?” she asked. “If you have IBS … I don’t … it really helps everyone. I, I’d really like you to try it.” Did she even listen to what I’m saying? No. I, I don’t know why.

That d … that diet really, really did a lot more harm than good, and I did eventually fire that GP. I went back to her a few times before I fired her, though, and she eventually recommended that she thought maybe what I was dealing with was anxiety. I said, okay. I had also recently read something online that was by an autistic adult, and it had really resonated with me, so I said, will it be okay if you refer me to someone who has experience with autism?

And she said, “you know, I really don’t think you are autistic”. But then she gave me the phone number for the local chapter of the National Autism Society, so I called them up and asked for people who had experience with autistic adults, and I picked one who had experience with autism and anxiety.

So, it was a two-part appointment, and the first part, I came prepared with some pages of typed notes and questions. The doctor was very warm and friendly. We filled out paperwork, I answered her questions, and she reviewed baby tapes that I had brought in of me. (laughing)

I’m really fortunate, I was a very well-documented child. Autism, it’s a lifelong difference. And, even though I didn’t know it, I was autistic in the 20-something years before I was diagnosed.

Although my presentation and the ways in which I cope and interact with the world may change, I’ll always be autistic. So, for the autism diagnosis, it is essential those traits have been present since childhood.

After I went home, the doctor reviewed the information and then called my grandmother to find out even more about my early life and development.

A few weeks later, I returned for my second appointment, and this time it was a lot less work on my part. She gave me a printout of her sum, of her findings, a summary, and also included all the notes from the conversation she had with my grandmother.

I was autistic.

Then I read that paper twice, and I ran it through the paper shredder at work, because it was really obvious to me that my grandmother didn’t know I would read the things that she had said, and she didn’t know anyone else would either. Like, all these deep, dark family secrets. I learned a lot about my family, though. (laughing)

The doctor and I spoke about my struggles, work, and accommodations. I’m really glad that she recommended books by autistic authors. And she also didn’t paint autism as something that was wrong with me.

I had been burning myself out, and I was really drowning in low self-esteem as I tried to hold myself up to the impossible standard of the not … my non-autistic peers and coworkers. That doctor, she really set me on a great path. Although I really wish she’d given me more of the information about sensory processing, but thank goodness I finally uncovered the secret to my life. Autism.

Before I was diagnosed, it was just like everyone knew all the rules. Social rules, mostly. But I didn’t. Someone forgot to tell me these rules. But I was still expected to know them. And then, the information that I learned from other autistic adults shook my entire worldview. Suddenly, my eyes were open. I’d finally found my rulebook. Autistic Rules, 5.0! But it was more than just a rulebook. It was really was the answer to everything.

I’ve always, always been driven by questions. I need answers. And it’s very hard for me to stop when I haven’t found those answers yet. I would say that my autism diagnosis answered about 80-90% of the questions I had had floating around in my h-head about life, the world, and myself, for years.

Although, I am still asking why, and once I put those first questions to bed, and then I started to dig around more and more about autism, my mind was very quickly filled with many, many more questions. And I still have new questions each and every day, even now.

So, I found the answers to many of my questions on the Internet, primary searching three hashtags. The first one is #ActuallyAutistic, and this is kind of how I just st-stumbled, stumbled across autistic adults on the Internet.

There’s a lot of autistic people on Twitter. Kind of random, but it’s true. Um. And that hashtag, I encourage everyone to read it, and learn, and search for it. It is intended for autistic people to use to find one another, so don’t Tweet in it, please, or use it if you’re not autistic. It’s a bit like a bat signal. (laughs) We have a bit of an issue where it’s very difficult online to find autistic voices. Google’s search results really prioritizes big organizations, and medical organizations, and things like that, not the people with the lived experience.

So, the other tag, because #ActuallyAutistic is intended for autistic people, and there was a need for people who want to be our allies to be able to engage with our community, #AskingAutistics. I think this tag has been around for about two years now, and autistic people, parents, everyone uses it. It’s, it’s really active on Twitter.

And then, the other one that’s been around a while is #Neurodiversity.

And this difficulty finding other autistic voices was really, really frustrated to me … frustrating to me. Because, everywhere I looked, there were non-autistic people telling me I was broken. But I didn’t feel broken. So. I started a blog.

I purchased on WordPress, using their basic plans, and I started sharing my thoughts. I didn’t even talk about autism at first. Honestly, I didn’t know how to talk about autism or being autistic when I was first diagnosed. I just didn’t even have the vocabulary yet. But, at one point, and it’s very hard to pinpoint, something changed.

It was as if a mental block had been lifted, and I knew what to say. I felt compelled, obligated, to say it. When I started my blog, my tagline was “Rebelling against a culture of assimilation over individuality.” That’s a lot. Some days I’m happy it just comes out of my mouth as coherent words. (laughs) I’m still rebelling. But I do like to think that I refined what I do a bit.

Two and a half years ago, I was just Christa, a girl who’s always been way too hard on herself. Now, I’m the Neurodivergent Rebel. I’m proudly and unapologetically autistic. I amplify autistic voices, and I really hope to show the word that autistic is just another way of being.

But it isn’t always easy. Unfortunately, as many neurodivergent people know, this modern world isn’t always designed for us. So, most autistic people have sensory differences in at least one, or maybe more, of the senses. Any of the, the senses can be heightened or dulled. So, autistic people can be overly sensitive or overly, or underly sensitive in any of their senses.

And the other thing that’s important to note is that autistic sensory differences can differ greatly from one individual to the next. So, you know, for example, you know, something people that most people could ignore to, like sounds or light, that can be so painful to someone who has a sensory issue.

Or, you know, there are things that I might find are just totally awesome. Oh, my gosh. I love this. This is great! Shiny! But, for someone with a different sensory difference, I’ve had people tell me this stuff is painful for them. They can’t look at this. They can’t sit and stare at glitter, that’s overwhelming. So, that’s what’s really important to remember, is, what one autistic person likes might be another autistic person’s nightmare.

So, there are seven senses. These are the first five that people think about, know about, and there’s even I’m going to go into today. Um, so, hearing, like I said, may be more sensitive to sounds, or may be less sensitive to sounds. Auditory processing is a very big part of that. So, for me, you know, it’s where the brain, how it’s supposed to be processing words, sometimes it choose not to.

Sometimes, especially if I’m feeling tired, overworked, worn down, or it’s a loud or very busy environment, my brain just doesn’t pick up and process the words correctly. It can skip words. A wrong word might be substituted in place of another word. Or, sometimes, it can sound a bit like the teachers from Charlie Brown. Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa. Words? Are you making a word? I guess you must be making words, but I don’t hear any words.

Touch is a sense that can be really hard for parents, because some autistic kids, hugs, kisses, those things that parents can thrive on, can be physically painful and overwhelming. I’m not one of those kids. I have always loved the pressure of a deep bear hug. Squeeze me! But don’t come up and touch me and surprise me, and don’t like, give me, like a light touch. No. And I’m easily startled, too, so. You do that, and I’m gonna, like, jump out of my skin real quick.

So, smell. Heightened or lowered sense of smell.

Taste. Talking about autistic food sensitivities, because this is a big topic. Sometimes it’s taste. Someone can be overly sensitive to taste, or underly sensitive to taste. I’m a bit under-sensitive to taste, so, what that looks like for me is, I seek out really bold flavors of foods most of the time, and if I try to eat something that’s bland, I’m going to gag, usually.

I’m not, I’m not about bland food. I need a lot of flavor in my food, despite the fact that, sometimes, all these spicy things don’t even agree with my digestive system. But it’s so yummy!

And vision, lighting is a really big one to me. I hinted at this earlier, when I was talking about the fluorescent lighting in the office. So, for me, you know, that, that lighting sensitivity, you know, there’s blue light, and it can be in phones, computers, TVs, it’s everywhere.

And then there’s also this fluorescent lighting. This actually isn’t that bad. But there’s, you know, those big fluorescent lights that you see at Walmart, and a lot of the big stores. They’re in a lot of offices and big public spaces. If I have prolonged exposure to that, I start to get those migraines, I start to get dizzy, I can be anxious, and just feel really unwell.

And see, I had all that going on before I was diagnosed, and I just thought everybody dealt with it. I didn’t, you know, I didn’t know there was anything different going on with me.

And then, I have two senses that people don’t know about or talk about as often. So, the first one, the vestibular sense, is our relation, like, our, our, our body’s relation to gravity and movement.

So, I’m a bit clumsy, I’m probably going to, I’m surprised, I can’t believe I have not unplugged this yet today. It is a miracle.

Um, and then the other one, proprioception, this is fun. So, we’ll do a little exercise with this one. Everyone close your eyes. And I want you to pick a hand, and keep your eyes closed, take your pointer finger, and I want you to touch your opposite earlobe with your finger, and then, while keeping your eyes closed, I want you to take that finger to your tip of your nose. And, if any of you have any difficulty with that, proprioception is that sense that’s, lets us know where our body is in gravity, or our body is in space, even when our eyes are closed. So, like, the first time I did that alone by myself in a room, I went, oh, touch two to your nose. Oh, that’s not my nose. I practice, you know. Or it’s like, up here. Oh, this is the … that’s proprioception.

So, I have another activity. I like, I like imagination. Always been really imaginative. So, has anyone ever gone to a movie marathon? Or did anyone see Titanic in the movie theater when that came out? Or any other really long movie? And then, have you ever walked out from that long movie at between 1 and 3 in the afternoon on a day when there’s not a single cloud in the sky?

What’s that feel like in your eyes? It’s horrible, right? Like a stabbing feeling, almost. So, that feeling there, that’s that feeling I get anytime I go out when the sun’s even out a little bit, that’s how it feels. There are, when I go to Walmart, and I don’t have my sunglasses on, that’s how it feels.

Always. And, like I said, I went around for so many years, just, like, oh, well, you don’t wear sunglasses inside, it’s not acceptable. I didn’t know. I just thought everyone was like, oh, you just deal with it. So, that perspective is really important to have. So, the other activity, we’re going to talk a little bit about auditory processing. And this one I’m really gonna make you close your eyes and imagine, okay?

So, I want everyone to think about your favorite restaurant. And maybe your best friend. Or one of your close friends. And you’re sitting at a small table with your friend at the restaurant, and you’re very close to each other. I want you to think about what you’re gonna order to eat. Mmm, food.

Now, think of all the little sounds in the restaurant, okay? So, we have people talking. You might have a phone at the front, ringing. There might be forks scraping on plates. And there may be someone in the back house, you might hear them, metal sink, dishes are clinking, okay?

So, what if, then, all of those little sounds all over the restaurant, all of a sudden the volume was elevated? That is all the exact same level now. People talking, people chewing their food, phones ringing, all of this stuff, it’s all one level, include, and, your friend’s talking to you. Her voice is the same level as all that, too. And you can’t hear a word she’s saying.

That’s why I don’t like to go to busy restaurants or any, any place at peak hours. I don’t. I will avoid it as much as possible. Everything is just really loud, too busy, and I’m really only comfortable when I have complete control over my sensory environment. So, all sensory information, regardless of where it comes from, is processed in the brain.

I want everyone to think of the brain like a computer. So, if you start opening every application your computer has, and then us tart opening window after window after window of tabs of YouTube videos and play them all, eventually that computer is gonna start to kind of slow down. It’s probably gonna glitch out. And (laughs) it’ll probably not behave the way you would hope and expect it to.

So, sensory overload happens when someone is taking in more sensory information than their brain can sort out and process in that time. And, really, anyone can experience a sensory overload, but they’re more common amongst autistic people, people with sensory processing differences, and a few other select medical conditions. And so, if there is too much information, and then your brain is already running at less-than-optimal efficiency, or if you’re under stress, the brain can really get stuck. And it doesn’t know what information it needs to prioritize.

And then, this is the fun part. Fun. Sarcastic. In order to protect itself, the brain sends this signal. Run away. Get away from whatever’s overloading it. And that triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response. So, that’s adrenaline. The brain is just pouring out that adrenaline, okay? And has anyone here ever had a panic attack? Knows what that’s like? It’s a bit like a panic attack. That’s the closest thing I can relate it to. So, that’s really not pleasant.

And, if you’re having a panic attack, can you think clearly? Okay, so, we already are in a situation where it’s very hard to think clearly, and then we’ve got adrenaline dumping into the system, making it even harder to think clearly. This, this can be a really, really intense situation, and so, that’s why you get that message. That’s the one message you get loud and clear. Run! Run! Get away! That’s it.

So, I’ll talk about what it looks like, and a few of the signs that you could see or know if someone’s in a sensory distress. So, some very common signs would be, you know, just a general feeling of anxiety, restlessness, irritability, or unease. It’s kind of the first sign with a lot of people. You may have that urge to escape that I mentioned.

And another one, kind of, that’s a big sign for me that I need to rest is, if, all of a sudden, things that don’t really bother me are bothering me, like the lights seem brighter than, even, normal, or, like, sounds, all of a sudden, sound really loud, or maybe my clothes will start to feel like fire ants are biting me all over. That, that’s kind of a, that’s a good sign. Like, if the sensory system is kind of flaring up, freaking out, might be a good time to kind of take a step back.

So, if you believe someone’s experienced sensory, experiencing sensory overload, first, the environment. I want you to think really hard about the environment and get them to somewhere safe and quiet. Or create a safe and quiet space where you are, is even better, if possible. Avoid anyplace that’s loud, busy, or bright. And, you know, that, that includes, like, maybe turn off the overhead lights in a room. Turn down or off the music if you’ve got music on.

Really, really important, though, and this is something people don’t always know, do not touch someone who is having sensory overload without permission. Remember how I was talking about touch, and hugs, and things, and how it can be overwhelming for some people? That can, that can make sensory overload a lot worse for people who are touch-sensitive.

And remember how I said sensations that might not normally bother you might become overwhelming? Same kind of thing. Even if someone doesn’t normally have an issue with touch, if they’re in sensory overload, you know, their system may be doing something things that they’re not normally even used to dealing with. So, make sure you don’t touch someone without permission. And the other thing, too, is, you know, sometimes, when someone is going through sensory overload, they might have difficulty processing spoken language if you’re talking to them.

So, if you are going to use spoken language with someone who’s having an overload, keep it real short and simple, yes or no answers that they can nod and respond to, but, really, if you can not talk to them, just let them calm down, recalibrate, get their brains, you know, going, that’s better.

Don’t force someone who’s in overload to communicate with you. And the other thing is, you know, they may also have difficulty communicating. Sometimes, when people have sensory overload, they can lose the ability to speak.

And just remember that the person’s brain isn’t functioning properly. And that really can create danger when you get around strangers or in public spaces. There’s, there’s just this huge risk, huge risk of misunderstanding. Think about, when you have someone who’s acting aggravated, and then they’re also struggling with feeling disoriented, so, it’s really important to know what to do when that situation happens.

So, I want to talk about staying regulated and safe, and then, how we can prevent overloads, and then, also, as I said, you know, sometimes they’re inevitable, they do happen, and so, what to do, you know, once that does become eminent.

So, my first advice would be, if, if you know you’re prone to sensory overload, learn your triggers. Learn ’em. Learn to recognize ’em. Everybody’s different, so pay really close attention to all your experiences. Take notes. Look for things that they have in common.

And, once you do know those triggers, try to avoid what causes problems. Get plenty of rest. Eat. Stay hydrated. Just basic stuff, but your brain needs all, you know, food, water, and sleep, and all of these things, to work efficiently. So … take care of all that stuff. And, you know, if possible, when you go somewhere, ask them, hey, can you, can we turn the lighting, can we turn some of these lights off? Can we turn that music down a little bit? If people aren’t being total jerks, they’ll oblige you. (laughs) Sometimes people are jerks, and they’ll be like, deal with it.

You know, I mean, like, you know. Um, but that’s the other thing, too. Don’t be afraid to leave early if you need to. If you ask anyone who’s ever had a public meltdown, they will tell you, trust me, “it’s not worth it, just go home”. Go home and rest. So, I do try very hard to minimize exposure to my environments that cause sensory distress. I would recommend, you know, like I said earlier, I don’t go places when they’re busy. I don’t go to peak hours. I avoid the rush. I shop online. Why torture myself?

And, when I do have to go out into the world, because I can’t just be a hermit and stay at home in my RV all day. Like, I have to go out and do things, and, you know, I’m here today. Sensory protection. Protect your senses. Sunglasses. Hats. If it’s cold in here, I’d probably have a blanket thrown back there somewhere.

For your ears, you know, music, a lot of people like to put in music, like that young man said earlier in the teen panel. Music is a really big one. Headphones, earplugs. Ear defenders. Just whatever you need to do to protect yourself.

I try to stay regulated. So, movement. It’s important for everyone, but I find that it’s really important for autistic people. I can’t say this enough: I need to move and stim. Please, please, please, don’t force the autistic people you know to sit still and quiet all day long. And then, if you, yourself, are an autistic person, get up and move, take breaks, even if you have to schedule it or set a reminder to make sure it gets done, do it.

And then, for everyone, whenever possible, please encourage those around you, autistic or not, to move and stim freely. I try to seek out movement and engage in physical activity regularly. I like a lot of things. Hiking, walking, swimming. I’ve never been really into team sports. Everyone’s different.

I, I actually know there are some autistic people who do team sports, believe it or not. It’s a nightmare for me. Music. Like I said earlier, music is such a big thing. And even my diagnosing doctor, when I told her, you know, I, I love music, I listen to music a lot, I sing a lot, she said, keep that up. That’s really good for you, especially with anxiety. Music. And music really is great stress relief, so my advice would be, dance like nobody’s watching, sing badly and off-key, because it feels good.

Trust me, you do not wanna be in a car with me when I’m alone singing. It will hurt your ears. But I am having the best frickin’ time of my life. Okay? And that’s what matters. Although, if you’re really bad, anyone who’s hanging out with me, and they have perfect pitch, it would be completely intolerable.

So, the other thing. Unfortunately, overloads do still happen. And so, when you go someplace, I know I’m always scoping it out. Like, okay, where can I go if I need to tuck myself into a quiet corner for a bit and just kind of recalibrate? I’ve been to a lot of bathrooms. A lot of bathrooms over the years. But, for some people, you know, if you have the auditory sensitivity, those hand dryers, if the bathroom has those hand dryers, that kind of makes it off-limits for some people.

It’s, like, a joke, autistic people saying, how many hand dryers does it take to frighten an autistic person, or frighten, I don’t know how many autistic people. Yeah. One. Just one. Um, another good one, I would say, is, if you drive, because some autistic people don’t drive, and I don’t drive, really, in new or busy places. Um, hiding in your car.

I love hiding in my car. (laughs) I can turn on my heater or my AC, I have control, shut my door, I lock my door, I crank up my music. The car is a great sensory bubble where I have control over everything. Uh, so, I’ve been hiding in my car since my, since I got my car, since my first job.

Uh, if you don’t drive, depending on the neighborhood and the weather, and it’s safe and good weather, you could go for a walk. Just go out. You know, here, I like to just go for a walk around the property. It’s a beautiful day. Nice place to go walk. And then, you know, if I ever do find myself overloaded in public, I’m immediately going to remove myself. I’ll make my way to someplace private.

So, my body moves organically. If I let it. There are involuntary stims, like jumping, tapping on things. It’s just the natural ebb and flow of my energy. When I’m really happy, my hands, they flap. Joyously. But when I’m scared, something totally different happens.

But these stims are just part of my natural autistic body language. They’re me, but I’ve been teased for them my entire life. Even now. People say things like, “what the heck was that?” Or, “what’s wrong with you?” “You’re acting childish. Calm down. Control yourself.” I can hold it all in, but doing so is emotionally taxing.

So, imagine if you had to spend about 30% of your mental energy maintaining expressions and a bodily posture that is unnatural to you. Like an actor, you know, playing a character in a movie, right? But then that movie is your life. And so, every time you go out into the world, you have to pick up that acting mask and put it on. That’s what it’s like for autistic people who mask their stimming. It’s exhausting.

Everyone stims. Everybody stims. But autistic people, we stim more. We stim constantly. If people don’t shame us for it. And we need to! There are many different types of stims. There are stims for each and every one of the senses. Stims can be more … stims can also be destructive, like skin-picking, head-banging, or hair-plucking. The less cute stims that people are less willing to talk about … they’re real, and I’ll get into those later. Some of my stims would be rocking, I’m always toe-tapping under a desk, hand-flapping. I’m always jumping up and down.

Plus a little hand stuff. I talk with my hands a lot. they say you’re not supposed to do that when you’re a public speaker. You’re supposed to, like, put your hands down and be still. That’s not going to happen. No, thank you. Also, like I said, I seek out music. You know, singing, rocking, humming music, listening to the same song on repeat. I still do that. It’s a great way to relax.

So, this is piece that I think a lot of not-autistic people miss when talking about stimming. They just see stimming, and they’re like, oh, autistic people stim. Okay. They don’t, they don’t really understand the function behind stimming, because stimming actually is a very functional behavior. Stimming regulates energy. And so, in a very overwhelming environment, emotional or sensory, you know, when things get too loud, if I start to kind of rock a little bit, some of that excess volume kind of lowers. And then I’m able to focus a bit better on what I need to focus on.

For the most part, stimming is natural, helpful, and even healthy. But it’s irresponsible not to talk about the dark side and some of those more harmful behaviors.

So, what are some of those harmful stims? Well, they can be these little things that are easy to hide. You know, um, skin, like, ripping the little nail, hangnails off your skin. Uh, I know a girl who, uh, plucks hair out of her arms and legs with tweezers. Ow, yeah, it hurts. But, you know, you never know unless you see them doing it. Little awful things. Biting your lips, chewing them. But those more intense harmful stims, the ones like head-banging, hitting yourself, scratching yourself until you bleed, and then pulling your hair out like you see in a stereotypical movie when people are really, really stressed? That’s a sign, clear sign, of an autistic person in extreme distress.

And this is important. This is really important. Because autistic stimming is often an outlet for overload, it’s generally in proportion to the current level of sensory or emotional input that’s going on. Okay? So, because of that, strong stimulus is often used to block out and redirect focus away from another very intense emotion or stimulus. So, it has a function. So, the stronger that, that sensation, the emotion or the stimulus, there’s a need to provide. You have to do a stronger stim to cancel that out. So, that stim that you’re using to cancel it has to be equally or more intense.

So, you know, how can you help? Remember that, that quiet space I told you about earlier? Same rules apply. Create a nice, calm, sensory, safe, quiet space. When someone’s at this point, they’re really past their breaking point, okay? So, you really probably do need to, like, create the space right where they are, if possible, because you might not be able to get them somewhere else. Uh, but once you’ve secured that, that environment, and created that safe space, okay, that, there, there’s a destructive behavior.

You need to redirect that. But that behavior has a function. So, remember. That energy has to be redirected somewhere. And, you know, maybe, for some people, it could be participating in a vigorous physical activity. Some people said jumping on a trampoline, running on a treadmill. Uh, maybe, you know, some autistic people say, you know, hey, I used to hit myself in the head. Now, instead, I punch myself right here. Because I’m, it’s, it’s bad, but it’s not as bad. As, like, hitting yourself in the head. You could do some damage to yourself, hitting yourself in the head. So, just remember, it’s important in that that behavior is functional, and it’s a sign that something else is going on underneath, okay? There’s more than just the autistic person hurting themselves.

And I also like to look for things that kind of prompt a mental reset. And, at our old house, we had a Jacuzzi tub. Oh, I miss that Jacuzzi tub. We don’t have that in the RV. (laughs) It does not, did not get to bring it with us. Uh, and another thing, you know, for me, that might work for everyone, is, if you have, like, a trusted music playlist that you could put on and listen to that for a while, kind of soothe the brain. It’s all about soothing and calming everything.

So, think about what you can do to create a soothing, calming environment, but then, you know, someone, if someone’s needing that intenseness, you wanna give them a way to get that out, too. St-still. You can’t just stop them. You got to look at the root of the pain. So. It’s really important, you know, to find out what works for your situation.

Like I said earlier, make notes, look for patterns, try new things, get creative. For example, here’s, here’s one of my own. I’m really bad, and I’ve always been, about biting my lips until they bleed. I have, somewhere around here, a Chapstick, because I wear Chapstick and lip gloss. I don’t want that in my mouth, and I won’t chew and bite my lips.

Another one, um, I wash my hands with this horrible soap, I don’t like the smell of it, but I’ve done it on purpose before, where I get a soap I don’t like the smell of, wash my hands with it, because, like, I’ll pick at my face unintentionally, don’t even realize I’m doing it, or I’ll put my hand in my mouth or something. You know, bite your cuticles. I’m not going to do that, because, oh, that soap smells bad. And I’ll keep my hand way from my face.

So it’s just kind of, you know, it’s little things. Find out what works for you, get creative. Um. But it’s really, you know, number one, as you go, go out of here today, remember, I can’t stress this enough, each and every autistic person is different. What works for one autistic person may not work for everyone, and what works in one situation may not work for that same person in every situation. Be supportive. If someone is injuring themself, remember, they’re in extreme distress. And they need you more than ever.

All right, guys. I have time for questions, and they don’t have to be on the presentation.

Speaker 2: I’ll ask a question.

Christa Holmans: Yes!

Speaker 2: I have a daughter-

Christa Holmans: Okay.

Speaker 2:  … who is [inaudible 01:02:26], she’s 10, and do you … I, I guess, first of all, your presentation’s, you may have mentioned this, but did you have any, um, indication, when you were around that age, when you were younger, that you’d had [inaudible 01:02:47]?

Christa Holmans: Oh, yeah.

Speaker 2: Miss a bit? Okay.

Christa Holmans: Oh, yeah. Yeah, you did miss a bit, but it’s okay.

Speaker 2: Sorry.

Christa Holmans: No, no, it’s okay. No, I, I did talk a little bit about that early in the presentation. I … I had a lot of issues in school, and I got in trouble in school a lot, and the teachers really didn’t know what to do with me back then. I’m a child of the ’90s, so the only thing anyone thought of was ADHD, which wasn’t accurate, you know, for me, but there was no idea, you know, people didn’t really understand autism in the 90s. So.

Speaker 2: Okay.

Christa Holmans: Yes. But definitely, there were signs. And, I think, now, if I was growing up right now, I’m pretty sure I would’ve been diagnosed fairly young. Yeah, any other questions? Yeah.

Speaker 3: How did you learn to advocate for yourself?

Speaker 4: What’s the question?

Christa Holmans: That’s a good question. The question is, how did I learn to advocate for myself? I think a lot of that came from reading and interacting with other autistic people, and seeing how they do, and asking their strategies. Uh, really immersing myself with other autistic peoples, especially online. That’s, that’s really been such a big thing for me. Any other questions? Yes.

Speaker 5:  So, do you think it would have been more [inaudible 01:03:59] if you’re, if you had known earlier, and known, you know, these certain things would be happening in your life? Does that make sense?

Christa Holmans: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I’m always torn on this, actually. I think about this a lot. Like, would I, would I wanna know? Would I have wanted to know when I was younger? There’s a part of me that’s like, gosh, I went almost 30 years thinking, ugh, I’m just this broken person, part of normal, kind of like this ugly duckling story, you know? Oh, I’m an ugly duckling, I’m an ugly duckling. And then I was diagnosed. I’m like, oh, I’m not an ugly duckling, I’m a swan. I’m not, I’m not a broken non-autistic person. I’m a great, I’m, I’m, I’m totally “normal” for an autistic person. Does that help?

Speaker 5: So, yes.

Christa Holmans: Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 5: Okay.

Christa Holmans:  But it still, here’s the thing, though, about that. There’s that, that’s a two-part question, actually, because, remember those kids in the panel? Did you sit in the panel?

Speaker 5: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christa Holmans: Those teenagers? How they had people telling their parents, they’re never gonna talk, they’re never gonna do this? That scares me, because I know a lot of people who are adults now that say their parents bought into that narrative, and those kids are not in a good place as adults.

Speaker 5: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christa Holmans: So, I can’t really say yes or no. (laughs) I wouldn’t be who I was today if I knew earlier, so maybe not? That’s a hard question. (laughs)

Speaker 5: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christa Holmans:  Good one, though. Any other? Yes!

Speaker 6: What do you do for the children that are non-verbal and like my daughter, she’s, like, severe to profound autistic, and I have a history of autism in my family. Um, I don’t know how to deal with her sensory needs, but I can’t let her think that going and scratching my hands-

Christa Holmans: Yeah.

Speaker 6:  … and all these different things are going to-

Christa Holmans: Right.

Speaker 6:  … to get her to not, you know, feel, you know …

Christa Holmans: Well, maybe start experimenting with some different options for sensory things she can do instead when she starts doing that?

Speaker 6:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christa Holmans: You know, maybe give her, I don’t know, some, something else she can destroy in her hand. What’s that foam with those little balls in it?

Speaker 6: Yeah, that’s what-

Christa Holmans:  Or, you know?

Speaker 6: That’s what a behavioral therapist is having me try to do with her. [crosstalk 01:05:58]

Christa Holmans: Yeah. Because she still needs, there’s that, there’s that need for that energy to go out.

Speaker 6:  Yeah.

Christa Holmans: So, you can’t just distinguish, extinguish the behavior. Because that, there’s a need for that.

Speaker 6: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christa Holmans: But help find something that works for her.

Speaker 6: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christa Holmans: That’s more healthy. And it might take a while to find a bunch of different things-

Speaker 6:  Yeah.

Christa Holmans:  … to find out what that is.

Speaker 6:  That’s what the behavioral therapist said to me, okay.

Christa Holmans: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 6:  It’s going to take a while.

Christa Holmans: Yeah. I mean, I, it took me a while after I was diagnosed, and, you know, I’m an early-30-year-old adult, and I had other people to help me figure it out online, so.

Speaker 6: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christa Holmans: It’s not a simple situation, unfortunately.

Speaker 6: Yeah, no.

Christa Holmans: Okay.

Speaker 7: Do you feel like, after being diagnosed as an adult, did, did it, uh, a therapist help you really cope with that at all, since you’d already been coping?

Christa Holmans: Um, no, I, I didn’t go to therapy. I think therapy can be really great and helpful for a lot of people, though. I’ve had people say lots of really good things about going to therapy. She was impressed with a lot of the things I cope with. I probably could’ve used some therapy back then, but I was still so, like, oh, there’s nothing wrong with me, and I had a, I got an anxiety diagnosis with it as well, and I was like, I don’t have anxiety, you know. I was, I was, it took me a while to really let that all sink in, and by the time it sunk in, I’d kind of already found other autistic people, and they’re kind of like therapy in a lot of ways.

Speaker 7: So, you feel like finding that adult community was more helpful than-

Christa Holmans:  Yeah.

Speaker 7:  … getting therapy.

Christa Holmans: Like, you know how, earlier, you know, they were saying at the panel, the kids, it’s helpful, because people, they know other people lived and experienced it, too? It’s like, oh, I’m not … because I, you know, when you’re late-diagnosed, and you don’t know you’re autistic, you kind of think, oh, there, there’s all these, I’m a weirdo, there’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t know. And you think that you are just this freak that has all these weird quirks about you that nobody else can relate to.  And then, when you’re diagnosed, and you start talking to other autistic people, you’re like, oh, whoa, you have, well, most of you have a lot of the same quirks I have. We’re really similar. And it’s like, oh, wow, okay. I’m not, I’m not a weirdo, okay. You know, and that’s empowering. It’s really healing. Because I think, and that helped with that self-acceptance thing, because I needed that so bad. I really didn’t even like myself for a lot of years, honestly. Yeah.

Speaker 8: Sorry, I’m just gonna jump in on top of that, saying, I’m glad you like yourself better now. (laughing)

Christa Holmans: Oh!

Speaker 8:  You’re really impressive.

Christa Holmans: Oh, gosh. Thank you.

Speaker 8:  I feel like I’m [inaudible 01:08:30], I have this daughter who’s also autistic, and also very high-functioning, and so, she lives in a very neurotypical world. She [inaudible 01:08:31], she’s a straight-A student, she has friends. Um, and I’m sort of struggling with, like, how, and she does know she’s autistic, but she doesn’t love it, because-

Christa Holmans: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 8: … probably because it is [inaudible 01:08:44]. I just sort of struggle with how much to, like, surround her with more supportive environment, or how much to, like, preface her entry into a new place, and telling people that she’s autistic. Because she’s does, she has a lot of sensory needs, and she makes a lot of social, I don’t even want to call them mistakes. Sometimes it’s mistakes, sometimes it’s just, like, wrong interpretation on the world, right? So, I’m figuring out how much to, like, have the autism label be out there so that people know she’s gonna be different, but how much of that, like, just sort of [crosstalk 01:09:14]-

Christa Holmans:  Yeah.

Speaker 8: … her and handing that to her.

Christa Holmans:  So, my, my, my word of advice would be, try to teach her to advocate for herself. Do your best to do that so that, when she’s ready, she can do that on her own, because she’s gonna need to learn that eventually, one way or the other. Um, and, you know, when you’re helping her advocate, you know, say, you know, I disclose autism in my job interviews. And I, you know, I have a recent video up on, on Facebook, and, you know, what I say is, you know, I’m autistic, and, you know, explain, these are the things I can do for you, but this is what I need in return to be able to my job at optimal efficiency. I just need you to give a little so that I can do this, this, and this for you. So, I, you know, it’s, I never paint autism, it’s not something wrong. It’s just, I’ve got a little bit of a different thing going on, and I just need a little help so that I can do everything, you know, that’s expected of me. It’s just a little bit of a give from some people.

Speaker 8: And you consciously decided, like, hiding that or, like, not disclosing until the interview is just not an option.

Christa Holmans: Not for me. No. No. Well, and the other thing, I work from home a lot right now. I need accommodations for the workplace, and without that, without disclosing that, I can’t get accommodation, so. Yeah.

Speaker 9: Just circling back on what she was saying, um, I feel like when kids with autism, or severe kids with autism, for a numbers of years, [inaudible 01:11:01], and they just kind of use their hands, so, yeah, it’s really big when it’s that sensory input, so, [inaudible 01:11:12].

Christa Holmans: That’s great. I’ve had people say, too, that they like, maybe, like, scribbling really hard with a crayon until the whole page is gone.

Speaker 9: Yeah.

Christa Holmans: Just, like, coloring. Just, like, just, like, uh! You know, like, that same, real intense. You know, when you have a pen or something, it might break, but, or a marker, might squish it. Yes!

Speaker 10: And also, don’t wait until they’ve the point of, they’re really doing it hard-

Christa Holmans:  No.

Speaker 10:  … or doing something really hard, and trying to substitute at that moment. Anticipate when they might have those needs, and different things before.

Christa Holmans:   Yup.

Speaker 10:  Um, and experiment before with, and, you know, it might prevent getting to, sorry, getting to that stage.

Christa Holmans: No, that’s great. No, that’s true, because that’s the fun about learning to watch for those signs.

Speaker 10: Yeah.

Christa Holmans:   Those first signs. You know, from the inside out, for me, that’s like, okay, I’m starting to feel a little bit vibrate-y. Is what I say. Like, it’s like, so much energy is vibrating from the inside of me, and I’m like, ahh! You know? Okay. I need to go take a break. Yes?

Speaker 11:  You say you work from home a lot? Do you, are you self-employed, or do you … how did you carve out a, a unique spot for yourself in terms of your skills and your job? Because I, and I say, I hear you say you disclose, and then what your … can that be a dealbreaker sometimes, have you sensed that, when you disclose that?

Christa Holmans: I’m not, well, I, I, I, I’ve not been diagnosed for a lot of years, I stick in one job for a long time, so I haven’t had a lot of jobs since I was diagnosed.

Speaker 11: Okay.

Christa Holmans:  I was very lucky. I would say a lot of this is luck. Because I also sit on the board for a charity called Neuroguides, and I kind of whispered, hey, I’m looking. You know, to, to the owner of the charity. And he came back to me with another board member and said, you need this person. And so, we met, and we talked, and she has experience with autistic people. So, she knows. So, I, I just, it’s been, it’s incredibly lucky, uh, and it, a lot of that, too, was, you know, I can do all this for you. [inaudible 01:13:26] thing, like, this is what I need. I need to work from home. But I can work here a 50 hours a week sometimes, you know? If, if I’m at home, if you need me to go to the office, I can’t work as much. I’m gonna be burnt out, and I’m gonna need to work a lot less.

Speaker 11: So, are you using technology?

Christa Holmans: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.

Speaker 11: Mostly writing, or …

Christa Holmans:  Yup, yeah, so …

Speaker 11:  Okay.

Christa Holmans:   I’ve got my laptop here, and, um, I use my cell phone that’s over there for business calls, and I have a time tracker app called Harvest, so I clock in on my computer, remotely. And that’s the thing, I can,I can work from home. These are my solutions. This is how I’ll clock in. I’ll tr, I’ll track it by the minute if you want. She said, well, I don’t need to hear it by the minute, what you’re doing, that’s too much.

But, you know. So, it’s kind of alleviating a little bit of those fears, sometimes, for business owners, because they’re like, is this gonna be harder for me? It’s like, not really. I just need a little bit. And I’ll make your life better, I promise. But I have a really great, um, supportive coworkers. I love my team that I work with. Any other questions? Yes

Speaker 12: Do you travel and talk to schools, and teachers? Because what I find is, even, I’m embarrassed to say I’m an [inaudible 01:14:37] in a school, not embarrassed, I love my job, um, at a school for children with special needs, severe to profound, and, and feel as if, no matter what I say, people, um, very, very lovingly, with all good intentions, are like, I can’t keep taking him out. He needs to learn how to do this.

Christa Holmans:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 12: And I’m like, well, he, he can’t do it right now. So, I almost feel like, as much as I, I sort of have this, this, pretend degree, in a way, because I just love my job, and I get paid to do great, fun things with kids, and I just happen to have the blessing of the degree to go with it, but, even though I am supposedly the expert in this area, I feel like they don’t want to hear it, they want, and I, I see things from different perspectives, and I know, from a teacher’s perspective, they must learn to sit and do these things. They must have the music on, because that’s what kids need and love. But it’s too loud right now.

Christa Holmans: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 12: She can’t handle it.

Christa Holmans:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 12: But, but she can’t run the classroom, Carrie. I’m like, but … and I feel like, I wish I could have a person with inside-

Christa Holmans: [crosstalk 01:15:46], you know? Yeah.

Speaker 12:  … to come and tell them, this is who I am, and I’m telling you that I’m a person who deals with it, that this is how, maybe, to achieve your way of thinking, you know?

Christa Holmans:   I’ll come talk to anyone-

Speaker 12: Oh, okay.

Christa Holmans: … as long as they don’t want me to pay for my own airfare. (laughing) You know, as long as someone’s willing to pay the travel, I can’t afford to fly myself all over the country, but I, I do, I’ll go where I needed. I, I’m from Texas.

Speaker 12: Okay.

Christa Holmans:  I’m not from here. I flew. I left my house at 1 AM yesterday to catch a plane-

Speaker 12:  Oh, my God!

Speaker 13:  Jeez. Wow.

Christa Holmans:  … to get out here at way-too-early :30 yesterday morning. It’s been a wild weekend. But yeah, I, I go where I’m needed. (laughs)

And I have a vlog. Um, the Neurodivergent Rebel vlog. It’s, so, if you wanna share any of this, I, I do videos, I put out new videos pretty much every Wednesday. Um, so there’s a lot of content. If you enjoyed the content in this presentation today, check out the videos. And I share, if you follow me on Facebook, I’ll share other autistic voices a lot. And autistic … autism-positive news.

And then … I’m on Instagram, I’m on Facebook, and I’m on Twitter. The only one that’s a little bit different, it’s Neurodivergent Rebel everywhere except Twitter, it’s just NeuroRebel. They wouldn’t let me make my name that long on Twitter. Good afternoon. I appreciate you all. We’re over time.[inaudible 01:17:12]. Thank you so much!



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