So, meltdowns and shutdowns.

It’s not a shock that it took me forever to recognise my meltdowns for what they were. Whenever meltdowns are discussed in the mainstream, it’s about the inconvenience to parents. They look like tantrums and are characterised by violence.

That’s not to say that meltdowns don’t sometimes look like that, but mine don’t. I just burst into tears…

But if I had known what they felt like from the Autistic point of view, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

So, if it took me forever to figure out what meltdowns felt like from the Autistic point of view, when I was actually having them, how are you supposed to know when it comes to writing Autistic characters?

Never fear, I took to my Tumblr to ask exactly how meltdowns feel to a variety of different people.

Now, bear in mind that not all of these happen to everyone. Think of this like the Emotion Thesaurus. When you’re writing a meltdown/shutdown, just visit this page and pick a thing or two to have your character experience.

Sensory Experiences/Feelings

These are usually experienced in the build-up. There’s still an opportunity here to avoid a total meltdown, but only if the character acts quickly. They will often continue, in a higher intensity, once the meltdown begins in earnest.

  • Senses feel “staticky”
  • Senses feel turned up to eleven
  • Vertigo
  • Disorientation
  • Feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Slower processing time (trouble thinking)
  • Feeling disconnected from the world around them
  • Chest tightening
  • Shaking
  • Loss of co-ordination
  • Temperature fluctuations (feeling warm or hot and cold at the same time)
  • Fight-or-flight kicks in
  • Alexithymia
Sound
  • Noises are like nails on a chalkboard
  • It becomes harder to differentiate between different sounds
  • Might sound muffled and/or distorted, as if far away
  • Trouble processing language (people talking becomes meaningless babble)
Vision
  • Vision fills with yellow static
  • Vision turns grey around the edges
  • Vision becomes blurry (especially if the character’s eyesight isn’t perfect)
Touch
  • Skin begins to crawl
  • Character becomes hyper aware of clothing
  • More aware of small pains
Taste
  • Horrible taste in mouth
  • Craving high-energy food/drink

External Responses

It’s important to remember that these are a reactionary response to stress. The unpleasant sensory experiences will build up until they hit a critical point, at which external responses will start. Much like screaming/increased heart rate when startled, they’re reflexive. Some people, with enough disciple, can stifle certain responses or redirect them into others, but it’s extremely taxing to do so and usually reserved for situations where the reactions can put them in danger (near an abusive parent/partner or near a cop, for example) or have severe consequences for them (in front of a boss). Some people simply can’t stifle or redirect their responses on their own or without careful planning beforehand. How you portray your character is up to you, but it’s important to have an idea in place, as it will inform your character’s backstory/personality/willingness to put themselves in situations where they risk meltdowns.

Shutdown
  • Limbs freezing up
  • Going non-verbal (I’ll do a separate post on this)
  • An inability to process sensory information (you’re aware of sound/movement happening around you but your brain won’t turn it into anything useful)
  • Tensing up
Meltdown
  • Stimming (including self-harming stims, which will have their own post)
  • Bursting into tears (often alexithymia will have also kicked in, so they will feel out of place to the character)
  • Defaulting to echolalia/scripting
  • Going non-verbal
  • Running to a safe space
  • Retreating to the fetal position
  • Tensing up
  • Outward expressions of frustration (hitting, screaming, etc. – as these are the most extreme reactions, they are the most often suppressed)

The Cooldown

Eventually, whatever caused the meltdown/shutdown will go away (or the body will simply give up), but that doesn’t mean that it’s over. It can take hours, if not the rest of the day to recuperate. Whereas the build up and meltdown/shutdown themselves have a sense of panicked urgency to them (much like when you’re nauseous and you know you’re going to puke), the cooldown feels more like a hangover. Your body has already been through the worst and you know that you’re going to recover, but that doesn’t make it pleasant.

Sensory Experiences/Feelings

  • Fatigue (often requiring a nap/full night’s sleep to recover – in extreme cases they might pass out)
  • Senses remain heightened (everything feels raw)
  • Hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Trouble processing sensory input, especially detail or nuance
  • Feeling “hungover”
  • Headaches
  • Guilt – feeling like they hadn’t done enough to prevent it or feeling as if they let their family/partner/friends down or ruined their day
  • Feeling worthless/useless (this – as with guilt – is more of a reaction to the frustration of having had a meltdown/shutdown than something directly caused by the meltdown/shutdown itself)
  • Pain if muscles were tensed uncomfortably
External Responses
  • Seeking out comforting spaces (somewhere dark and quiet)
  • Stimming, though often it’s more subdued than in the lead up (probably because we’re tired) – think more playing a single song on repeat for hours than hand flapping
  • If they smoke/drink, they may turn to cigarettes/alcohol to help them through (I’m going to give alcohol/cigarettes their own post because they’re complicated topics when it comes to mental health)
  • Wearing hoods/sunglasses, etc.
  • Hugging pillows/soft toys/hot water bottles
  • Wearing weighted vests/blankets
  • Crying

Now, after reading all of this, you might be thinking “holy f*ck on a f*ck sandwich, Autistic people really go through that much?”

Again, once more, this is a list of many possible feelings/reactions to a meltdown/shutdown. Your character might experience a lot (or even most) of these, but probably not every single one.

And even if they did, the point here is not to elicit pity. It’s also not so that you can write about how terrible your character’s life is.

Meltdowns/shutdowns are irritating. They’re a nuisance. I wish I didn’t have them.

But, like, in the same way I wish I had chill periods (which I know is something only about 50% of you will understand, but I can’t think of a completely universal analogy).

I don’t like them coming around, but I deal with it and life goes on.

You know, this wasn’t even going to be the post today. I was going to write about the technical aspects of meltdowns and shutdowns.

But The Accountant is coming out and there have been social media rumblings, so I thought I would instead wade into the waters of Good, Bad, and Morally Grey characters.

This is gonna be an issue with any minority group. You’re going to be coming up against positive and negative stereotypes that you don’t want your work to contribute to. And yes, positive stereotypes can be harmful as well.

Bad Guys

This is where The Accountant comes in. I see a lot of people rail against autistic bad guys in fiction because of the stereotype that autistic people are violent/dangerous, but I think that’s an overgeneralisation.

The stereotype isn’t just that we’re killers (autism seems to be the new hotness when it comes to explaining violent crimes, such as mass shootings), but that we’re capable of such acts of violence because we lack empathy.

I’ve been meaning to write a revised empathy post, but for now let’s simply say that autism =/= lack of empathy, and lack of empathy =/= tendencies towards violence.

In all honesty, using a lack of empathy to explain why bad guys are bad is just lazy writing.

Bad guys aren’t just “bad”. Evil is not a thing people are born into. But this Key Stage One Reading Level style of writing remains. Lazy writers have just replaced “evil” with “psychopath” (doesn’t exist), “sociopath” (also doesn’t exist), and “autistic”.

Even if someone didn’t care about other people and had no empathy towards them, why would they turn to evil/crime? Why risk prison or getting involved with criminals?

“Because I don’t feel bad about it” isn’t a good enough reason to have a character commit crimes. It lacks motive.

Motive is important. Your bad guys should have it.

What do they want and how desperate are they?

Have they been indoctrinated into thinking that their targets aren’t real people?

“Because I grew up in a society where X type of person wasn’t valued” is a better reason for why they felt it was okay to kill someone than “Just because.”

Or “I was simply desperate enough and they were standing in my way.”

Your bad guys can be autistic, but being autistic can’t be the reason they’re bad guys.

Good Guys

Now, your counterpoint to the previous section may be “Fine, then I’ll just write about pure and innocent autistic characters who never do any wrong.”

Yeah, no, that’s too far in the other direction.

Specifically, there’s a line of thinking about a lot of developmentally disabled people that they have no ability to be consciously bad (if they are bad it’s all the autism – much like the devil possessing a child in a horror film – and isn’t actually anything to do with the autistic person making a choice) because they don’t understand right and wrong/are eternal children and therefore innocent.

If you write a character who is good and pure and who has never had a bad thought in their life… Well, that’s just not very realistic. So, instead of demonising your character, you’ve dehumanised them by denying them human thoughts/feelings.

Even Superman – the best of the good guys – has bad days.

Morally Grey Guys

The stereotype that is probably most likely to fall into the morally grey archetype is the manipulator. The character who, for either good or their own gain depending on their mood, will lie to their friends with no qualms simply because they can.

And I don’t know with this one. It’s definitely not an “avoid with all costs” scenario, because I’ve seen it done well (Sherlock in Elementary springs to mind).

But I also think that it comes back to the autism =/= lack of emapthy and lack of empathy =/= being evil/a dick/having a complete lack of any emotion problem.

This is done well when the reason behind the manipulation is explained. It doesn’t have to be romanticed or brushed aside, but it can’t just be for the lulz. It has to be a reaction to something. An emotion/situation that the character doesn’t otherwise know how to deal with.

This is best done in Elementary when Watson calls Sherlock on his crap and he is remorseful and apologises. It works because it’s a flaw of his character, not an unchanging constant that can never be addressed. It’s not just “the way he is”, it’s a maladaptive coping mechanism.

So yeah, I guess the part to avoid here is simply the “with no qualms” part. At least, in the long run. If your autistic character grows and changes then you’re already ahead of, like, 95% of writers.

Alright, well, I guess that’s it for now…

I might think of more points and do a follow up post, but I think this will do for this one.

I will get to working on that post about shutdowns/meltdowns, and I’m also going to put together a masterpost, including all of the links to my posts and to any other resources I know of.

So, I’m doing a thing this summer. In September/October, I’ll be (probably?) starting down my postgrad path. Fun for me, but it will probably leave little time for writing. So, I’m trying to get all of the Freya Snow books until next summer written now.

It’s actually been going pretty well. I’m should have the fifth book finished by the end of the week, meaning that all of 2016’s books will have been written.

The thing about book five is that it largely centres around Sarah, a character who briefly appeared in the third book. This meant a whole lot of research since, as people who have read the third book probably remember, she’s Deaf.

So I went about collecting resources so that I could be as well-read as possible on the subject, but I realised about half way through the process that I was filtering the resources based on my own knowledge of resources for writing autistic characters. Many of the red flags were the same, and I imagine they remain consistent regardless of which disability you’re trying to write.

But it occurred to me that people might be reading the bad resources in good faith, simply because they don’t know what makes a good or bad resource.

So, here are my tips for avoid bad resources.

Not Written By an Autistic Person

Seriously, this one’s important. If you’re looking for writing resources specifically, you will come across a lot of writing blogs that were asked about writing autistic characters.

If their response is to put together a masterpost of other resources, then that’s fine. You can judge each of those resources on their own merits.

However, I’ve seen a lot of responses that are “Well, I don’t have X disability, but here are a bunch of stereotypes and technical advice on how to adhere to these stereotypes in your writing”. If they start with “I don’t have autism” and then attempt to give advice on writing autistic characters regardless, my advice is to run. Run far away. They will be perpetuating things that they have picked up through reading popular but deeply offensive works. *Cough*TheCuriousIncidentoftheDogintheNighttime*Cough*

No, Seriously, Even if they Know an Autistic Person or are the Parent of an Autistic Person

Look, the parental posts are usually well-meaning. Often parents get frustrated at being unable to find books for their kids with people like them in them, so they write blog posts for writers to help them understand their child.

And there are some really good parent blogs out there. But for every good one, there are a thousand terrible ones. And if you haven’t grown up with a disability, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. There is a very specific way parents of disabled children sometimes talk that looks sweet and well-meaning from the outside, but is actually incredibly icky and awkward for their child. It’s a weird self-congratulatory way of talking about how they “deal” with their child’s disability that often seeks to erase the disability as an important part of their life.

If you haven’t experienced it, you probably can’t tell the difference, so don’t rely on being able to. Just set the resource aside and move on.

To Be Treated With Caution: “I’m Autistic, but I am Not Part of and Don’t Agree With the Community at Large” or “I’m Autistic and Hate my Autism”

Look, there are people out their who hate the fact that they have autism. Who would take a cure tomorrow if you presented them with one. I’m not going to pretend that that’s not true.

But any allistic writer should stay a million miles away from that narrative. Seriously, just stay far far away from it.

The thing is, any outsider writing a minority character who has issues with self-loathing will always come across as loathing that minority themselves.

It all ties into the idea that you can write about minority characters, but you cannot write about the experience of belonging to a minority that you’re not a part of.

So resources where the autistic writer disparages the autistic community or disagrees with autistic pride should be taken with a grain of salt, and definitely should only be a minor fraction of your list of resources.

They can be informative, I am in no way denying that. They can often have a lot of useful information about the exact difficulties people with autism face in the world without sugar coating, but you are very likely to pick up some things they’ve said that are heavily tinged with internalised ableism. On the page, it will just look like you are being ableist.

If you want a safe starting point, here’s one list of resources that should all be fine.

Further Reading: Common Signs that an Autism Resource is Bad (for general resources, not writing specific ones)

It has taken me a long-ass time to pick myself up from the floor – where I lay groaning, having given up on TV forever – and write this post.

It’s 2016. Why is this still a problem?

#StopDrivingLucyToDespair2k16

Seriously, though, disability as a metaphor is just the worst.

“This character was refused to see the consequences of their actions, so now they’re blind. Get it?”

“This character has various physical disabilities as well as extensive facial scarring because they’re evil. Their soul is reflected on the outside. Get it?”

“The character was magically cured of their IRL-incurable disability so that we could have this shot of her literally walking away from someone! Seriously, we spent several episodes actually disabling her and having her learn to adjust to her wheelchair for this shot. Aren’t we so f***ing clever?”

(Sorry, I’m still salty about that last one.)

With autism, it’s usually a metaphor for losing touch with humanity and being overly reliant on computers.

UM, OKAY?!?!

Seriously, though, just stop.

Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop.

Stop.

Like, let’s just address the first thing, which is how often disabilities are used as a metaphor for how evil/bad someone is.

I had to stop listening to a lot of reviews and discussions around the Force Awakens because a common complaint was “Kylo Ren’s face wasn’t f***ed up when he took off the mask! He’s the bad guy, he should have a f***ed up face.”

We have reached a point of critical mass with this trope where even when film-makers do the right thing and avoid it, most people noticeably miss its absence.

That’s just all kinds of messed up.

Facial scarring is now so synonymous with evil that people are shocked by its absence in fictional baddies.

Do I even have to explain why this is bad?

The next problem is just the use of disabilities as a metaphor is general, even when they’re not a clever punishment or as a reflection of character flaws.

Say, for example, using curing a disability (which is bad to start with) as a way to show the strength of a character in a moment that they creators probably consider feminist, so that they can have a visual metaphor…

(Salt levels still high…)

Look, here’s the long and short of it: disabilities are not metaphors. There is no great reason behind them. They are not a punishment or a reflection of character.

They just are.

Disabled people are just disabled.

Be it because of genetics, an accident, illness…

Being disabled doesn’t tell you anything about me other than I am disabled. It certainly isn’t a metaphor for anything. It’s just a fact.

So, seriously, stop with the painful metaphors. Chances are, they will always be ableist.

And they will always piss me off.

#StopDrivingLucyToDespair2k16

So, StoryBundle had a writing bundle back in November.

Ever since I cancelled my KU subscription, I’ve been hurting for ebooks, so, while I mostly bought the bundle for the more business-oriented books, I’ve been making my way through the writing advice ones. I also check out writing advice blogs from time to time, but they can be hit-or-miss.

And, yeah, I know this is a writing advice blog, but I’m working in a specific niche here, and I’m mostly acting as an educational tool about autism in general through a writing-oriented lens.

So most writing advice boils down to three categories:

  1. Solid advice that’s either universal or where the writer acknowledges that different things will work for different people.
  2. Advice that works for them, but is by no means universal.
  3. Advice that is so bad my eyeballs bleed.

I would just like to say right now, if a piece of advice seems off to you, check the credentials of the person giving it.

I’m giving advice on how to write autistic characters. I am autistic and I have written well-received autistic characters, so you know that I have at least some idea of what I’m talking about.

This whole post was prompted by a piece of advice I saw from someone who had no business giving writing advice.

The advice was basically, “If you belong to a minority group, you shouldn’t write main characters from that group.”

Just…

What?!

Their reasoning was that you may struggle to be “objective”.

Objectivity is a nice idea, but it’s ultimately a fallacy. People from the privileged groups don’t think of their bias as bias because it’s so accepted. It’s just the way things are, so they don’t have to think critically about it.

They think they’re objective because, from their perspective, everyone else shares their bias.

They also said that you may end up writing a character who is a bit of a self-insert.

I will admit that that probably becomes a bit of an added risk.

(But the endless novels about abled, white, cishet men with English degrees thinking of having affairs aren’t self-insert fantasies at all. /sarcasm)

Here’s the secret with self-insert – it’s okay.

No, really, it is.

The problem with self-insert is that you might be a little more likely to fall into the same trap as any other writer – you might make your main character too perfect.

If you end up writing a character similar to you, there is the risk of you avoiding writing them with flaws. After all, no one likes to focus on their own flaws.

That can be honestly tough. If you’re going to draw on your own traits, you need to draw on both the good and bad.

I’m not going to pretend that that’s an easy line to walk.

The thing is, though, as long as you’re conscious of not falling into that trap, it’s perfectly possible.

Autistic people can write autistic characters.

I’m proof of that.

So don’t let any old asshole tell you otherwise.

So, like many of my posts, this is something I’ve been stewing over since a post popped up on my Tumblr dashboard.

The post in question was an anon ask to another autism blog, asking for advice on autism coding in a novel they were working on.

They realised, reading back, that the character came across as autistic, which was unintentional.

Which is fine, such things happen, but the most common response I saw was “if you didn’t mean to do it and had no malicious intent, it’s fine”. Which brings me to the death of the author.

That sentiment should be true. If someone had no malicious intent, the end result shouldn’t matter.

But it does.

Now I’m not having a go at this anon. In the grand scheme of things, coding isn’t that bad as long as it’s not being used to make autistic people the butt of the joke while avoiding culpability.

It was the consistency of the response that I want to address.

Telling an author in the writing process that their intention matters more than the final product helps no one. There are arguments for and against taking into account author intention when criticising a work, but it’s best as an author who is worried about a specific piece of criticism to assume that no one will.

And, honestly, when it comes to criticisms of a work that say that work is racist or ableist or sexist or homophobic, etc., authorial intent is usually only taken into account if the author belongs to the group in question or if they had malicious intent.

If someone creates an offensive piece of work, no one cares that the author didn’t mean it.

Again, this example wasn’t about a piece of work that would have been offensive but that response of “you don’t mean harm, so it’s fine” is one that shouldn’t apply, regardless.

Am I saying that authors should pander to imaginary future critics?

I’m saying that authors have a responsibility to not be racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, etc., in their work and authors should be aware that it doesn’t matter what their intent was if that’s how the work reads.

At the end of the day, the reader doesn’t have a telepathic link to you. All they have is what’s on the page.

So, I wrote a post last week about happy endings for Autistic characters.

Basically, they don’t usually exist.

And, when they do (or, at least, when the author thinks it’s a happy ending) it’s often a cure ending. Though, because autism can’t be cured irl, this is usually kept to sci-fi and fantasy stories.

The Autistic character has reached the end of their quest and, as a reward, they are cured of their autism.

Except that’s not a good thing! It’s actually pretty horrifying to think about.

Like, do you understand just how much rewiring of the brain that would take? You wouldn’t be the same person. You couldn’t be.

Autism colours all of my interactions with the world. It influences the way I react to situations as well as how I interpret sensory information.

It’s not a chemical imbalance to be reset.

It’s not a disease to be cut out.

It’s a fundamental part of who I am.

Even if it wasn’t, cure plot lines are still damaging because cures don’t exist.

Cure endings say “you are only acceptable without your disability” but, in a world where the disability cannot be cured, that is a horrific message to hear.

So, don’t write them.

Ever.

So, here’s the thing.

We all know the right in the feels ending. Usually it’s some noble sacrifice made by a main character to ensure the group’s victory.

I’ve written it before for a variety of reasons.

One time I was really upset and had just listened to End of the World one too many times.

One time was because I had a whole narrative thing about the inevitability of fate and making the same decisions you condemn others for.

One time I had a character who had this whole thing about putting everyone else before herself and I was really exploring that as a flaw, rather than a strength.

And more than a few times, it’s because I just didn’t know what to do with the character after the final confrontation.

The greatest secret about right in the feels endings is that they’re a great way to give closure to the audience if you don’t think you can wrap up the character adequately enough in the last chapter/epilogue.

Endings are hard.

And I don’t just mean the final confrontation.

That last chapter and/or epilogue has to say goodbye to the characters that the audience has (hopefully) become attached to. It has to wrap up their story in a way that leaves the audience satisfied and not wanting more. You have to set up what the rest of their lives will look like (or just skip forward a decade or so to show it) in a very short amount of time.

Of course, you could leave the ending ambiguous, but not a lot of writers want to chance that because it risks leaving an unhappy and unsatisfied audience.

The best way to write a happy ending (if the main conflict of the book isn’t personal in nature) is to rely on tropes and deeply engrained ideas of “happiness”.

They get to go back home is an easy one if the character had to leave home for their quest.

They ride off into the sunset with their love interest is an easy one if there was a romance sub-plot (this usually comes with heavily implied, if not outright said, “they will get married and have children”).

But then there are disabled characters.

These happy endings often require a suspension of disbelief.

We have to believe that this character will now go on to live a relatively conflict-free life.

But we don’t believe that’s possible for disabled people.

Most people have no idea what life is like for disabled people, and so think that our whole existence looks like one of those gray-scale adverts for charities with the sad voice-over, trying to get your pity money.

Which makes the suspension of disbelief required for a happy ending even harder. Because what would that ending even look like? And how would you convince the audience of it in such a short amount of time.

So, the writer has no idea how to write a happy and fulfilling existence for the character in the short space after the final conflict, which means that they get the right in the feels ending.

(Or, worse, the cure ending, which is its own post.)

Yay, resolution!

Right?

Wrong.

These endings are fine on their own, but once they become a pattern, it’s alarming.

People need to believe that they can have a happy ending, in the most Disney of senses.

Once you’ve seen it a dozen times, it does get boring, but able-bodied neurotypical writers need to understand that happy endings are a privilege that not all of us get.

You have to have something in the first place to get bored of it.

Grim/dark endings for us aren’t revolutionary. They’re all we get. And that’s pretty sad…

So, one of the most common questions I get asked, especially after my post on being explicit, is how to be explicit with a character’s autism when writing a fantasy or historically based novel.

I’ve given a few different answers to this and have used a few different techniques myself, but I wanted to use this post to talk about my current favourite: meta-fiction.

Meta-fiction is adding another layer of fiction on top of the story in which you the author also belong to this world.

Usually, this takes the form of author bios or ancillary content in the back of the book.

One of my favourite examples of this is Girl Genius which is “written by Professors Foglio and Foglio of Transylvania Polygnostic University as textbooks for their “True Events in the Life of Agatha Heterodyne 101″ class” (Girl Genius FAQ Page).

Another is The Gift by Alison Croggon (also known as The Naming in the US), which starts with a note on the text explaining that it is a simplified translation of the Riddle of the Treesong, intended for a general audience.

Of course, there is no Transylvania Polygnostic University or Riddle of the Treesong. It’s all just meta-fiction, in which the authors pretend to be experts on the “true” events of the book. This allows for extra world-building in a way that wouldn’t clog up the story.

For example, the final of the Books of Pellinor (the series The Gift belongs to) ends with extra content telling the reader what happens to the main characters, without clunky epilogues.

Some books have this extra content without the meta-fiction layer (such as the A Song of Ice and Fire books) but I think that it’s important when we’re talking about autism.

Why?

To explain, here is the opening to my steampunk novella, Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the Clockwork Suitor:

“The condition we now refer to as ‘autism’ was first recognised by the medical communities of Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

However, before this point, Autistic people still existed. Many were simply seen as ‘eccentric’ and certain euphemisms arose to describe them.

One such euphemism arose during the Industrial Revolution, within the upper class of London. Many of the great minds behind the revolution were referred to as having ‘an inventor’s disposition’.

The majority of the modern day technology we so heavily rely on – particularly automatons and other mechanicals –  can be traced back to these inventors.

One such inventor was referred to only as The Owl, and they were single-handedly responsible for a great deal of both technological and social change during Queen Victoria’s reign.”

– Excerpt from The Owl: The Birth of the Automaton Age,
   By Professor Lucinda Caroline Mawson

That’s it.

One paragraph of meta-fiction and I just explicitly said that my character is Autistic without using the term “autism” in a historical setting.

So, yeah, meta-fiction.

*Jazz hands*

So, you’re thinking of writing something with an Autistic character and a romance subplot involving them. But what do we think is sexy?

I’m here to answer this question.

(As best I can as just one person, who asked a few other people…)

  1. Understanding
    Look, Autistic people are going to do things that Allistics will find odd. That’s not a “maybe”, that’s a fact. Nothing turns me off faster than someone pointing out (even if they mean well, and just want to let me know that other people might be judging me) that my behaviour is odd. If I haven’t explicitly said that you should tell me to pack something in if you notice me doing it, just shut up and leave it be. Chances are that I know that it’s odd, and I just don’t care. The best kind of person is the one who doesn’t comment, and who is understanding when my behaviour is a way of indicating distress.The person who asks me what I need, and remembers for next time, when I’m about to meltdown is the one for me, not the one worrying that I’m embarrassing them, or who ignores what I’m saying because it doesn’t fit with how they think people should be.

    (If somebody tells you the lights are too bright and they need to leave, the last thing thy want to hear is “How can the lights being bright be upsetting you? That’s ridiculous.”)

  2. Sensory Goodness
    Apparently, someone having soft hair is really, really nice. As someone who has been on the opposite side of that, I can definitely say that dry/straw-like hair texture is enough to make me cringe.

    It’s the same with strong colognes/perfumes. It’s really difficult to focus on romance when you’re dealing with sensory overload (which can have physical side-effects ranging from headaches to dizziness to nausea).

    But, on the opposite side, nice sensory feelings are nice.

  3. Trust
    Trust is important in any relationship, but for Autistic people, it’s 110% essential.

    There will be times when we’re vulnerable around our significant other. Whether it’s a meltdown or shutdown or sensory overload, we can’t afford not to trust the person with us.

  4. The Same as Everyone Else
    Look, we’re different, but we’re not aliens. Everybody has their own turn-ons and turn-offs and they’re not really that different for Autistic people.

Tune in next week to see if I am brave/mature enough to write a post about sex.


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