Making Difference Great for Once

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After barely a minute of social media scrolling over the weekend, I came to the realization that I’m probably the only person who doesn’t go to Halloween parties as an adult. 

Which, great, check another one for me in the ABNORMAL PERSON box. It’s a pretty full list at this point.

After a while, if you’re on The Life Autistic with me, you’re probably discouraged from time to time about difference. 

We want to be accepted and valued for our differences without having to “fit in” and lose our difference.

“But Hunter, you’re—”

No, lemme just stop ya there.

No one’s thinking “Oh, look at that dude opting out of parties like a cool guy, prioritizing his health, ensuring he’s not putting himself in a spot to look like an idiot” — no.

Or “Look at that girl’s radical and non-traditional interests; I wish I were different enough to not feel I need to follow a trend” — no.

No one sees my borderline odd routines and rituals (screaming early rising, mid-day workouts, unvaried eating habits, scheduled work blocks that have to start on the hour or half hour, etc) and thinks “Man, this guy practices the unlocked secret to efficiencies and gets it done!” — no.

If you’re considered weird and different, then your actions are weird and different. Welcome to The Life Autistic!

I could campaign around ‘Make Difference Great Again.’

To the fella who can’t be bothered to be dragged to a party, instead of  ‘lame,’ ‘anti-social,’ and ‘boring,’ why not ‘image-conscious,’ ‘selective about experiences,’ and ‘confident enough to value time alone?’

To the gal with the niche interests, maybe less of the ‘offbeat’ and ‘weird’ and more ‘unashamedly bold in taste’ and ‘an individual, only more so?’

Personally, I’d love hearing less of “inflexible” and “rigid” and more “efficient,” “diligent,” and “thoughtfully tuned,” but y’know, I can’t have everything.

Difference stands out, but does it stand tall?





Rituals Liberate Creativity: How Autism Enables Problem-Solving & Artistic Output


A while back, one of my data scientist peers expressed how surprised she was at one of my satire ventures.

“How do you do that?” she asked.

“Do what?”

“Come up with some many things to post — you do that so often, I wish I were that creative.”

I mulled on that for a while: am I really that creative? 

By my own reckoning, I might have a clever idea or two once in a blue moon-in-a-half. But others seem to think I can spin up a decent thought, piece of writing, not-so-dumb-solution, or whatever.

After reading Michael Hyatt’s Free to Focus, I was jolted by a concept he mentioned:  rituals liberate creativity.

In essence, the more of your day that you can delegate to ritual, the less of your brainpower you’ll need to use to “do your day.” And where can that brainpower go? Creativity.

It’s the same concept that gives you those great “shower thoughts” — you’ve put everything on hold and on auto-pilot, so your mind is loosed for more lateral thinking and moonshot ideas.

So what does this have to do with autism?

Our autism can lead to significant ritualistic behaviors, so there’s ample room for creativity.

Granted, it’s not the case for everyone — executive function and other challenges can end up be overwhelming.

But for others, our autistic attributes accelerate problem-solving and creative endeavors, like our efficiencies gained in rituals, hyper-acuity, perception, pattern-recognition, detail-obsessions, and more.

Temple Grandin is probably the best example, whose work in livestock and animal welfare is informed and accelerated by her unique and uniquely perceptive view of the world around her.

I’m hardly the world’s most creative person, but I still manage to run with ideas on this blog, visual design and branding at work, rural satire, photo composition, social media narratives for a non-profit, and given enough time, fiction(!). There’s a lot of output there!

So yeah, it’s weird that I can’t go back to work unless the bed is made or my sink is clear or after I’ve checked off a few key deliverables every morning, but there is not much that gets undone in my life on a day-to-day level — and those rituals free up my mind for its most creative. 

One Autistic Adult’s Advice to Parents of Autistic Children


If you’re here because 1) you know me or of me, and 2) your kids have autism, then thank you. I appreciate whatever brought you this way.

But I’ll be honest about a major thing:

I’m not in your shoes.

If anything, I’d be reaching out to you for advice and guidance on parenting autistic children.

But you’re here, still.

Your wonderful kiddos are as unique as I am in our place on the autism spectrum. As the saying seems to go: when you’ve met one person with autism, then you have met one person with autism.

I want to relate, but I am a lot closer to the child you’re parenting, not a similar author.

The best I can do is articulate my own experience, one where your kids and I may overlap.

Here’s a little of that:

The tendency to hyper-focus and fixate is a lifelong thing; being pulled away from that groove still brings out an almost physically grating reaction from me. All I’ll say is pick your battles. We don’t exactly pick our obsessions.

The obsessions and enthusiasms just happen. Yeah, it can tend to be its own siloed information, but I hated being made to feel odd and different because I was the only one who was as engaged. The least you can do is engage and try to frame the enthusiasms in context, ask questions, and discuss some applicability (like Pokémon cards and sales).

Routines, routines, and routines. Our comfort is predicated on predictability. We just expect things to continue as is, and the more we can predict, the better we can adapt. But life ain’t all about that, so introduce those “timers and expectations” to help make routines for change and interruptions.

Affection ≠ “touchiness.” I do not care how difficult this one may be. Please don’t assume your kids don’t care, feel, or love, just because they keep out of touch. I didn’t get around to hugging people until I grew up, and even then, I put that on my own terms (and it’s still awkward, but important).

Kids grow up. I didn’t get a sense of being “legitimately different” until my late teen years, and that was after spending my miserable early teen years being told I acted more like an adult and feeling out of place with kids my age. Once that self-awareness kicks in, the active adaptation begins — like knowing others where may notice your stims, or that monologuing about interests loses the interests of others, etc.

You don’t grow out of autism; you grow better into handling it.