The Life Autistic: It’s Not Just Introversion


It can’t be possible that everyone is an introvert.

But it sure seems that way, based on the amount of folks I meet (who are genuinely otherwise genial and social) who confess that, despite their apparent gregariousness and yen for social activities, they are introverts at their core.

So there are times I have to reckon with The Life Autistic: am I not just a different variety of introvert? Or conversely, aren’t introverts in some way “a little bit autistic?”


Autism encompasses a range of characteristics. Even though it may make sense that a “bookish, awkward, comic-book loving math savant introvert” would be your typical autistic example, it’s just as likely that it’s actually going to be your “focused, clumsy, exuberant, trouble-with-eye-contact-and-boundaries camera-parts-loving extrovert.”

Really? Really.

Introversion and extroversion are basically just matters of “social energy,” as I’ll call it. Extroverts gain it, introverts drain it.

And it has nothing to do with whether you like people or not. You could be an antisocial extrovert, or a sociable introvert — it happens.

That’s where people can get confused about autism.

I’ll admit that I’ve worked to a place where I can turn on the jets, flip a few switches, and almost be fun at gatherings, events, parties, you name it.

Would I rather be back at my house reading a book? Or out doing my own thing alone? Uh, not always.

Sometimes I enjoy the thrill of company, where it changes the pace in my day, and I know I’m going to have a good time — who wouldn’t?

The introverted side of me has to recharge after a load of people and events.

The autistic side of me needs to recharge before I melt down and lose my emotional bearings.

And no matter how much socializing I do or don’t do, I’m still an overly literal thinker, have trouble summoning the right empathetic responses, dig into fixations and enthusiasms, and stim oddly in my own house.

I have autism, and I just happen to be an introvert.


The Life Autistic: Value Diversity? Promote Remote Work.

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I owe much of my career longevity and relative success to Apple allowing me to work almost entirely remote.

Working remotely is not just a matter of convenience in The Life Autistic; it’s a way to embrace and promote diversity for us.

All too often workplaces get bogged down in remote work debates (or justifications!) from a convenience, creative, or productivity standpoint. Those are all well and good, but they fail to account for a more inclusive, important factor: people.

We’re in a “bring your whole person” to work era — even if that means you’re bringing in remotely.

So how does remote work promote diversity and neurodiversity?

Remote work minimizes our social burnout 

I travel to our sites every so often, and atop an already demanding role, I’m smoked by the sheer number of interactions and meetups that pile on. While I’ve tried to be less popular (hah), it gets tough to save energy for my work when it’s being spent on social capital and interaction.

Remote work allows focus on our terms

Ok, autism-friendly workspace, it’s nice that you let me wear big headphones at my cube in your open office — but that’s only going to help so much. We value our space, place, unperturbed arrangements in a way where we don’t have to drown everything else out, but can make a more focused place to begin with.

Remote work lets us opt in to the essentials 

I’ll write about this later! But being able to select my spots for meetings, collaborations, and partnerships has helped my mental well-being, even if I don’t get as much of that organically. And if want to do that, I travel. Win-win.

Remote work allows for our, uh, expression without awkwardness

Are you familiar with stimming? No? Well, it’s a thing — and it’s very noticeable if you watch me for too long at home. In public, I can shut it down, but that takes work. We’re way more free as people when we can segue into stimming without co-workers or colleagues thinking we’re weirder than we already are.


But here is the kicker:

Don’t just offer and tolerate remote options.

Embrace and promote not just the work, but the worker finding their best in it.

Are you actively embracing the growth and benefit it can afford your people? Is it just an option to offer so you can check a box?

Are the opportunities of remote career growth appealing, or are they at a lower tier “because it’s too hard to make it work?”

Are you valuing and finding ways that your neurodiverse remote employees can grow and do more?




The Life Autistic: Children are the Best Escape


Here she is – my greatest little escape artist.

Not just on her own, but for my escapes too.

This is Zo, my youngest, most focused, fierce, determined little girl. Don’t let the eyes fool you: it’s a trick to sucker you into letting her get away with whatever she sees fit to do.

I’ve got musings and a half on my kids and on each of them, but for all of her strong-willed excursions and fate-tempting boundary stretches, Zo has been one of my biggest helps lately.

She gives me a focal point when I need an out

Zo’s still kind of a baby, sometimes the youngest in the room. Depending on the awkwardness of the context, I’ll volunteer to feed her or watch her or (try to) keep her from trouble. Otherwise, I’m stuck at a table making eye contact and small talk, and frankly, I’ll take my chances wandering around with the kiddo.

She runs away, so I don’t have to

Zo doesn’t mind being with people, but she’s way more intent to play with things of interest, like cats and playground equipment. On two days in a row, she sneaked away to both, and — hey, she needs adult supervision with cats, claws, slides, stairs, etc., so I can deftly slip away from the people milieu and engage her without needing to justify a people break

When she’s *done* — I can be done too

Sometimes it’s the best to bring Zo along. When she’s done, she is D-O-N-E. Me? I’m a little more subtle with the meltdowns, but Zo is a baby: she tires, gets cranky, decides to stop behaving. And there are days when I’ve just gassed out my social tank, but I know it’s going to be awkward to haul up and leave. But if the baby is hurling and chucking a tantrum? Well then, that’s the socially acceptable queue to get outta dodge.

I know Zo’s going to grow up, get a little more congenial and mingle for much longer than she does now. But I’m going to miss her at this stage, where she’s my perfect accomplice in escapes on The Life Autistic.