Nutrition and Autism: It’s Not Exactly What We Think

When people say that they can “heal my child’s autism” with their special vitamins, I react differently than when my son was first diagnosed.

At first, I desperately wanted to get rid of his autism. I hate admitting this, but I’ve tried vitamins. We ate pretty “clean”. and part of my motivation was to heal him.

I thought this was because autism was always described as a horrible thing that would devastate our family unit. Autism was described in “red flags” and “symptoms” and I thought my boy would be “trapped in his own mind”, because that’s how it was explained on tv by authority figures.

I wanted him to “get better”, because the way autism was always explained to me, I thought it was a disease to be cured.

Once I learned from autistic people about what autism actually is, I realized my errors. At one point I became enraged at people who tried to take everything that makes my child so perfect and tell me they can “fix it”.

But now when I hear a person claim they’ve “healed autism” through nutrition, it doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t offend me. But I wonder what they really mean.

First thing’s first. There’s no way around it: what we consume affects every aspect of our being. Nutrition is the very foundation of health and healing.

And yet, the word “healing” is often conflated with curing, and many of these same aforementioned people attempt to “cure” autism with vitamins.

As if a neurotype needs “curing”. 

I’ve also noticed that these same people who believe in curing a neurotype have a very narrow understanding of what autism is. Many times they will make claims about “severe” autism. So before we move on, we need to have the same working definition of what autism is.

Autism is diagnosed when a person meets a “smattering” (that is the official word used) of identifiable markers. A person cannot be “more” or “less” autistic: if you meet the smattering of criteria, you are. Can you have “autistic qualities” and not be autistic? Of course, because autistic traits are human traits.

But autism is a spectrum and autistic people have a wide variety of support needs, some with less, others with more, and sometimes these needs change with time.

Additionally, some autistic people have co-occurring conditions, which are often conflated with autism.

For example, autism is not an intellectual disability, but some autistic people are intellectually disabled (just as some neurotypical people are intellectually disabled).

In an attempt to keep this brief, the most common markers of autism are (but not limited to):

1. an obviously different sensory profile in which sensitivities to things like light/sound/pressure on the body are markedly different compared to a neurotypical person. Often this intense sensory input is dealt with by stimming, an important regulatory behavior that most people do, but autistic people do more often and often in more noticeable ways. Here is my book that simply explains what stimming is.

2. a different manner of speech and/or communicating compared to a neurotypical person.

If you noticed that both indicators of autism relate to not being neurotypical, you’re very observant. We will discuss the implications of this another time.

“Curing” an autistic person means to extinguish their very existence. If I were to approach you and say, “there is something wrong with your mind. It doesn’t work right. Every single way you interpret information in your surroundings is wrong and backwards, but trust me, I can fix you. Here take this medicine.”

It’s offensive and not necessary. 

Curing how your brain interprets information implies that there is something wrong with it in the first place. 

A judgmental approach to autism is common, especially in holistic communities, which I proudly am a part of (usually). Changing my diet has profoundly impacted how I exist. I learned how to heal my gut and improve my health through functional medicine and nutrition.

Holistic and functional medicine practitioners lose an entire demographic of potential clients because they ignorantly presume that all autistic people and their families must want the unique neurology of autism extinguished.

And many times these same people believe we need to cure autism because when they think of autism, they are talking about a very particular type of autistic person who has significant obvious support needs. They do not understand that you cannot “spot” all autistic person in the general public.

The same circles that significantly improved my health also call autism an “epidemic”, which implies it is a disease to be eradicated. 

While it is true that autism rates are “on the rise”, the exact reason for this has not been determined yet. These same “holistic” people will claim it is from exposure to heavy metals and toxins in our food.

But an important reason, (one that these people rarely acknowledge), is that autism is more diagnosed today than it was even 10 years ago. When people were previously called “quirky”, “different”, “odd”, “troublesome”, we now have an understanding that there are different styles of communicating, and that autistic people raised in significantly supportive and accepting homes can thrive.

In particular BIPOC and females are now being diagnosed more than ever, whereas before, these people were often hidden from society or brutalized in order to make them conform. Sadly, this was often done in the name of “safety”. If you want to read about this, please do yourself a favor and read In A Different Key.

But back to food and autism. Sound nutrition is paramount to everyone’s health. When we eat better and consume consciously, our rates of depression, anxiety, and chronic inflammation plummet for everyone.

Neurotypical people would do well to recognize that using language to “cure” someone’s neurotype is harmful. 

And yet it must be said that many autistic people also do not consume high quality food. Why? Many autistic people struggle with nutrition because food is an intense sensory experience for them.

For example, no two berries will taste exactly the same and each one can be interpreted as a shock to the palate (for some people).

Sometimes the smell or sight of a food triggers a gag reflex (because remember how I said a hallmark of autism is a heightened sensory profile?).

Is this example true for all autistic people? No.

Do some neurotypical people have heightened senses like smell, sight, or taste. Yep.

Do sometimes people think that they’re just picky and difficult but when they learn about the hallmarks of autism they realize they could be on the spectrum but never pursue it has been explained to them as though it is a horrible disease that needs to be cured? You betchya.

Processed foods are uniform and often considered “safe” by autistic people because it will not shock their gustatory sense.

There are ways to help autistic people become comfortable with diverse food, but it often takes time, resources and education.

Socio-economically disadvantaged families are unable to do this, and often opt for processed foods in order to feed their child. Because believe it or not, autistic people like my child will simply not eat rather than eat something appalling to their palate. They can do this indefinitely. It is not the same thing as a “picky” eater.

Wealthy people often are the ones who “heal” their autistic children, but what they really mean is that their child’s gut biome is healthy and thriving due to the nutrition provided. When they say the “behaviors of autism” are reduced or eradicated, it likely means their child does not have an inflamed nervous system and likely, their child has adeptly learned how to mask publicly so they do not appear autistic. Because remember, their parent has spent a lot of time and money “curing it”.

It should be noted that these wealthy people also often have insurance and provide early intervention like speech and occupational therapy, allowing their child to communicate and perform daily living tasks which enhance their self-worth and developmental progress.

We don’t need to shame people for these things, but I do believe we can do better for all autistic people who just want to live happy and healthy lives.

We can hold these two truths simultaneously: our food chain (especially in America) is profoundly damaged, and still make space for the fact that there are a variety of neurotypes and ways people process their environmental and emotional input. 

If you’re interested in me doing a deeper dive into food, gut healing, and autism, please drop a comment below!

Here’s What I Wished I Knew When My Kid Was First Diagnosed as Autistic

hen your child is identified as autistic, most parents believe they need to learn a monumental amount of information in order to support their child. I definitely took that approach when my kid was first diagnosed. 

But in hindsight, if you really want to help your child, an unlearning must occur. 

Most parents begin to observe that autism might be present in a child when developmental milestones are not met at the typical times. This often creates fear and anxiety within the parent.

This looks like: “She should be talking by now” or “Why isn’t he playing with kids at the playground?”

This is what happened with my child. It appeared everything was “normal” and then, around 17 months, we saw a regression in speech, as well as sensory processing differences that were no longer quirky; they were intruding on his quality of life and ability to access a typical education.

There was no doubt my son was growing and learning, but he was doing so in a way that caused alarm because it was not typical.

The alarm was that he appeared autistic, when previously he didn’t seem to be. 

I was always taught that early intervention was the key to a child’s success. I was counseled about the “warning signs” of autism and how it needed to be “treated” right away, or else….

This right there is what people need to unlearn.

The way autism is described to parents makes it seems like a disease that can grow and take over an entire person, somehow locking them away from meaningful relationships and joy. 

Unlearning that approach and asking better questions will yield far greater results. 

Better questions are: is your child developing? What external factors could be preventing development? Are you aware of your child’s sensory needs? What do you know about the autistic mind and how it differs from a neurotypical mind?

If you can answer these questions first, the fear will begin to dissipate. Autism is a disability because of the world we live in. The timetable pushed from the medical and educational community might leave your child out. 

Do not get me wrong, milestones are important markers, but if your child is autistic and not meeting milestones at the prescribed timetable please do not fear. 

This requires a great deal of courage because many parents are shocked by an autism diagnosis in the first place. Additionally, asking questions to people in positions of authority like school officials and medical providers is often perceived like challenging authority. 

Some questions I had to ask: How does one “treat autism”, exactly? If we don’t approach it like a disease, what else will happen? How do I intervene in autism, exactly? What am I intervening in, exactly? 

Years later, here’s what I wished I was told when my kid was first diagnosed: 

  1. Developmental milestones are approximations of appropriate progress. 
  2. Milestones are based on the neurotypical standard that dominates parenting books, and they shape our perception of acceptable development. 
  3. Our whole educational system is based on a neurotypical timetable that leaves very little space for neurodivergent thinkers who develop outside the typical. 

It’s for this reason my spouse and I feared for our son’s future. We were very explicitly told that autism was serious. We were coached that his natural way of processing information was something to extinguish as best we could with “early intervention” that could reduce “symptoms” of autism. 

The autistic way of processing the world is not a disease. Approaching your child as though this is the case is precisely how you damage and traumatize them. Autism is not the problem; our way of thinking about it is.

Our entire system is based on an expectation of socially accepted time and space for our children. If your child has been diagnosed as autistic, I understand the fear and concern you might be having, especially if you have not paid close attention to autism before. But very likely your child will not develop typically because your child isn’t typical. That isn’t a problem unless you judge it to be one.

If your child doesn’t develop at the same rates as others, doesn’t mean development isn’t occurring. 

And maybe they speak later, or achieve gross motor skills later. So what? 

Maybe they’ll need additional support like speech or occupational therapy that helps with the acquisition of those skills. So what? 

Your child isn’t broken. I bet your child has other gifts that are never asked about or measured on a pediatric chart. But you could chart them if that’s what’s needed to celebrate. And you need to celebrate them just as all children need to be celebrated for exactly who they are. 

Parents must get used to the idea that the way their child grows could look different than others, and that’s perfectly fine. 

I remember very vividly a time when I was taking my then three year old to daycare. I was constantly worrying about his lack of speech and what I would do. I worried about his intelligence multiple times per hour. “What is happening inside his mind? Why can’t he repeat after me? What is happening? He used to make sounds, right?”  

I buckled him in and got in the car, and he began making all kinds of sounds as I began to reverse the car. I said, “what’s wrong?!”, surprised by the sounds he made. 

My first inclination was that we were in a rush, and stopping for what seemed like “nothing”. We were always running late, and I was stressed. And yet, I could not help but be shocked by this unusual interaction.

He kept making the sounds, never ceasing until I put the car in park. At the time, he struggled to point, which is a common issue for autistic children. It seemed he was alerting me to the front of the car, so I opened the door and saw my coffee mug resting on the hood of my car. I could not believe he noticed that and that he felt compelled to alert me. 

In that moment, I was overcome with emotion.  I realized my son notices so much he probably cannot begin to say all the things he observes. I felt so proud of him, and if I am honest, I was proud of myself. Instead of writing off his attempt to communicate, I listened to it. It was different than his sister, but he was engaging me as best he could. 

That moment was transformative. I began to witness all kinds of tiny interactions he was making; I was oblivious to them because of my expectations of how it should be. 

From that moment, I shifted and I write this in the hopes that you will too.

Thank you for being here!

What Should I Do If My Child Is Diagnosed with Autism?

When I learned my child was autistic, I was afraid. 

I was a first time parent and was already worried I’m screwing up. 

This news sent me over the edge. 

I couldn’t even explain what autism meant. I felt scared and helpless. 

Autism always seemed like something bad. That’s how it was presented to me. Words like “suspicious”, “symptoms”, and “red flags” were used to describe my child. 

I didn’t realize the impact until years later. That’s when I wrote this book for you. I don’t want any person to feel the way I felt.

In hindsight I can see it was not autism that was the problem: it was how much I didn’t know.

It was how poorly autism was explained to me. Autism was always presented like some lurking, scary monster. It took personalities away. It could come without you ever knowing about it. It was something to be avoided at all costs.

My child was happy and thriving. He’s hilarious. ‘There’s no way it’s autism,” I used to think. But he was different from other kids his age. And his 17-month younger sister. 

It had nothing to do with my parenting. 

It seemed like no matter what I did, certain things were just different.

He responded unlike other kids.

His language was unlike other kids.

His movement was unlike other kids.

No matter what I did he would always run back and forth. He would flap his hands. He would squish himself beneath the cushions of the couch. Food was often difficult for him and not in a “picky toddler” way. It was like it hurt when he tried certain food.

I was concerned and confused. Even though it was different, my child was amazing just the way he was. 

When I finally learned about stimming, all of his behaviors began to make sense. Stimming was a way he was soothing himself and releasing pent up energy.

I realized what his autism means for my family. 

I was no longer afraid! 

I also realized I stim quite a bit. Most of us do!

Stimming is a sign that a person is managing things like: noises, lights, food, changes in routines, learning exciting bits of information, having a big feeling, etc. A person stims with their body. Stimming might look like: rocking, hand flapping, repeating a word, galloping, pacing, etc. Most people stim.

When we discover a stim’s purpose, we help people thrive. 

That’s what happened for us and it can happen for you too.

Sometimes you need to be a detective to understand a stim’s meaning. 

That’s why the book I wrote is called The Case of Sensational Stims

The characters Joey and Elise teach what stimming is. This book will help you understand what stims are and why they’re important.

My child is amazing just the way he is. His autism is an important part of who he is. We don’t need to fear autism. We don’t need to overcome it. 

We embrace who he is entirely.  Including his autistic mind.

Understanding stimming allowed us to do that. 

You’re here because you want to support your autistic loved one. Maybe you don’t know where to start. This book is for you.

This book:

  • Explains autism in a children’s story
  • Models how to support disabled people
  • Includes a glossary of important terms
  • Will help you support the autistic person in your life
  • Is a great place to start learning

Even if you don’t get the book, please do not be afraid of what autism means for your family. Honor your loved one’s sensory needs, and watch them thrive!

Thank you for being here! Follow this blog or my Instagram @sensationalstims to get free support for your autistic love one!

Difficult Behaviors, Autism, and Trauma

If your child is struggling at home or at school in significant ways that are impeding their personal growth, I hope you read this post. 

Many autistic people’s behaviors are misunderstood. I hope this post helps us understand what we are looking at! We do not need to fear autism, we need to learn how to support autistic people.

Typical trauma responses to situations perceived as dangerous are: fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. 

When the fear center of the brain is activated, higher level thoughts are unable to be accessed. 

The purpose of this post is to help anyone who works with an autsitic person understand how to support a person whose fear center is activated and a trauma response is happening.

Every human has a genetic predisposition to one of these four responses. Here’s what this means for autistic people:

Autistic people process situations differently, compared to neurotypical people (that’s why they’re diagnosed as autistic!). They process things so differently that it is disabling. 

Autistic people are frequently placed in situations perceived as dangerous because of their unique processing system.

Prolonged time in stressful environments becomes dangerous; the autistic person knows it means pain. 

For example, autistic people usually have a unique sensory profile that makes a typical situation extremely stressful. Often things like lights/temperature/sound can be so overstimulating that it registers as pain or discomfort. 

Trauma responses will be triggered in these situations, and we are all hardwired to react in one of four ways. 

Fawn=trying to please someone who causes discomfort as a means of trying to avoid conflict.

Flight= trying to escape/elope to avoid the perceived danger.

Freeze= the inability to move when danger is present.

Fight= facing the perceived threat aggressively.

Autistic children in school who have a fawn or freeze response generally are perceived as “good kids” and will be described by their teachers as “wonderful students. I can’t imagine why they fall apart at home!”

Autistic children who have a flight response are often considered liabilities, and efforts are made to keep them close to the location they’re trying to flee. Yes, even though that location is determined to be dangerous by the autistic person.

Autistic children who fight are considered dangerous and threatening. These are the ones who are often scolded and chided. They are either placed in a separate area so as not to harm others, rather than taught how to regulate and work through situations that are perceived as dangerous. These children are frequently misunderstood and consequently perpetually frustrated. 

This creates a dangerous cycle for both the child and all those who work with him/her. The child learns that the way they respond to danger is “incorrect”, which means that their entire life they will either try to figure out what is wrong with them, or will find everyone else to misunderstand their needs, causing shame, anger, and guilt. 

To avoid these unfortunate, traumatizing situations, we need to understand what fear responses are, and how to help unpack the situation, rather than to just get the child to behave the way we want in the moment.

Frequent exposure to painful situations means danger will be detected.This is true for any human. 

If your child is struggling with one of these trauma responses, you’ll need to determine what their perceived danger is. It is likely something with their senses, and because autistic people, especially young ones, tend to struggle with communication, you will need to look and listen closely to determine the trigger. 

Just because it isn’t triggering to you or the teacher means the situation isn’t for the autistic person. 

Once you do that, you can help your child work through the pain. Provide sensory tools that can help them cope. For example, if it’s very bright, offer them sunglasses. If it’s loud, offer noise canceling headphones. If needed, leave the situation with the child. 

I know some of you are saying, “this is not realistic! I cannot leave every time my child is overwhelmed!” But maybe not every time. Just for right now. Demonstrate to your child you see that they’re in need. Then give them what they need. They will begin to trust you, rather than distrust people who frequently put them in situations perceived as dangerous.

If you find the approach of meeting a child’s needs especially triggering, it would be wise to consider why that is. If your parents taught you that meeting a child’s needs was not “good parenting”, working with a therapist can help you unpack that.

The truth is helping a child, especially a child with sensory processing and communication issues feel validated and understood, creates a happy, healthy adult. 

We do not need to fear autism, we need to learn how to support autistic people!

Thank you for being here. If you found this helpful, please follow this page. If there’s any other things you could use support with, please message me and I can provide resources! 

Understanding Stimming Means Understanding Autism

If you don’t know what stimming is, you probably don’t understand autism very much. I never really knew what autism was either and I didn’t much care until my child received his diagnosis.

I was so scared about my son’s future after learning he had autism. I had no clue how to actually help him or even make sense of his needs.

What kind of parent doesn’t know how to help their kid?!

Me! I had no clue what to do. But I was that parent! Maybe you are too. That’s why understanding what stimming is matters so much if you want to help your autistic loved one. *Spoiler understanding stimming helps lots of other people, including you!*

Being able to understand stimming takes the fear out of the unknown aspects of autism, at least it did for me.

The Case of Sensational Stims helps parents understand the parts of sensory differences that autistic children don’t have the language to explain.

And it explains stimming so simply, even children understand. It’s on Amazon.

When I learned my child was autistic, I was afraid. I was a first-time parent and was already worried I’m screwing up.

This news sent me over the edge. 

I couldn’t even explain what autism meant. I felt scared and helpless. Autism always seemed like something bad. Words like “suspicious”, “symptoms”, and “red flags” were now being used to describe my child. I was so conflicted. My baby was good. How could he be these bad things?

I didn’t realize the impact of this language until years later. That’s when I wrote this book for you. I don’t want any person to feel the way I felt.

I know now it wasn’t autism that was the problem. It was how much I didn’t know. It was also how poorly autism was explained to me.

Autism was always presented like some lurking, scary monster. It took personalities away. It could come without you ever knowing about it. It was something to be avoided at all costs.

My child was happy and thriving. He’s hilarious. He’s loving. There’s no way it’s autism.

But he responded unlike other kids his age. And his 17-month younger sister. It had nothing to do with my parenting. 

It seemed like no matter what I did, certain things were just different.

If it was very loud he had to get out of the room.

If there were a lot of unexpected changes he cried a lot.

If it was very hot he seemed to overheat.

If it was very cold he didn’t seem to care.

If he got hurt he never cried out. Even when it was clearly painful.

His language was different, but I could understand well enough.

No matter what I did he would always run back and forth. He would flap his hands. He would squish himself beneath the cushions of the couch. 

Some nights he never slept.

Food was often difficult for him and not in a “picky toddler” way. It was like it hurt.

I was concerned and confused. My child was amazing but he was different. 

But when I learned about stimming, all of his behaviors began to make sense. 

I realized what his autism means for my family. 

I was no longer afraid! His sensory differences are autism!

I also realized I stim quite a bit even though I’m not autistic. Most of us do!

Stimming is a sign that a person is managing things like noises, lights, food, learning exciting bits of information, having a big feeling, etc. A person stims with their body. Stimming might look like rocking, hand flapping, repeating a word, galloping, pacing, etc. Most people stim.

When we discover a stim’s purpose, we help people thrive.

That’s what happened for us and it can happen for you too.

Sometimes you need to be a detective to understand a stim’s meaning. 

That’s why the book is called The Case of Sensational Stims

Joey and Elise teach what stimming is. This book will help you understand what stims are and why they’re important.

My child is amazing just the way he is. His autism is an important part of who he is. We don’t need to fear autism. We don’t need to overcome it. 

We embrace who he is entirely.  Including his autistic mind.

Understanding stimming allowed us to do that. 

You’re here because you want to support your autistic loved one. Maybe you don’t know where to start. This book is for you.

This book:

  • Explains autism in a children’s story
  • Models how to support disabled people
  • Includes a glossary of important terms
  • Will help you support the autistic person in your life
  • Is a great place to start learning

Autism and Standard Pediatric Development

“Life is not linear. When you follow your own true north you create new opportunities, meet different people, have different experiences and create a different life.” -Ken Robinson
Autism usually doesn’t follow typical pediatric development and this is usually why parents are so alarmed at the possibility of an autism diagnosis. 

The autistic child is a-typical. They are the minority neurological type which means their way of processing the world falls outside the norm of neurological processing.

Autistic children tend to not develop typically, which is usually how parents are tipped off that their child is autisitc in the first place. 

When children fall outside of the standard development time frame of speaking, writing, walking, etc, parents are fearful (unless of course the milestone is met early, in which case their child is a genius). The fear of autism is largely rooted in ignorance and the way many medical professionals describe autism. They say things like “red flags” and “treating autism” and “suspect a neurological disorder” and other such turns of phrase that can scare an uninformed parent witless. 

Doctors are usually amazing, but the average pediatrician do not know much about autism save a few hours of (likely) outdated instruction from a textbook unless they have a personal relationship to an autistic person or took time out of their busy life to learn on their own. 

Development and growth of a child, especially an autistic one, should not be compared to that of a neurotypical child. But developmental milestones are based on the standard and anything that falls outside of the standard progression is almost always the concern.

I am not a medical doctor, so please do not use this for medical advice. My page is a starting point to get people’s mindset shifted. This exists to help people who care to reframe their thinking about neurodiversity.

This page is to help anyone who knows autistic people but doesn’t know what autism really means. Better questions to ask if your child falls outside typical developmental milestones might be:

Is my child learning?

Are they growing?

What do I know about autism?

Is my child distressed often over things that aren’t a big deal to me? Figure out what you know and why you think what you do! 

Usually parents notice sensory differences that prevent a child from interacting with his/her environment, which can prevent growth. And when this happens a parent will say “I don’t understand” but what this usually means is: “I liked this thing when I was their age”, or “other children love this”, or “I was told this is the right way and my kid isn’t falling in line”, or “this isn’t making them happy and it doesn’t make sense”, or “other kids are already doing this but my kid is not”.

The parents who struggle the most with the possibility of an autism diagnosis tend to be the ones who are unwilling to adjust their perspectives.
A struggling parent usually leads to a child that struggles.

An autistic child is a unique individual with their own needs. Figure out what they are. Once you meet their sensory needs and your child is regulated, watch them blossom. Enjoy your child for who they are, not who you imagined they would be.

Please like and share this post with anyone who might benefit.

Follow @sensationalstims on Instagram for daily tips and support!

Could My Child Be Autistic?

If you’re on this page, you’re either wondering if your child is autistic or has just been diagnosed. This page is here because when my child was first diagnosed and I was so fearful of what the “A” word meant for him and my family and our futures, I scoured the internet and library looking for answers. I put them all here for you. 

This blog is to help you understand autistic people better so you can help them thrive in a world that wasn’t designed for them. It’s to help you possibly prevent mistakes I made early on so that you don’t unintentionally harm your child. And mainly, this blog is to help anyone who knows an autistic person and genuinely wants to include them and make the world safer. 

First, breathe. Relax. You know that baby you wanted and hoped for and loved? They’re still there. You just paid such close attention you realized they process information differently than neurotypical people. Your child isn’t broken! You noticed their needs and processing differences. You’re a great parent for doing that! Even if you didn’t do it right away, that is ok. 

You probably noticed because their sensory processing is markedly different from your life experience and you began to wonder why. 

Perhaps the sensory world your child is exposed to is stressful, or exciting, or overwhelming, or something else. Again: you noticed! You didn’t just say “Oh stop being so dramatic!”

Or maybe you did, but you realized some things, no matter what, cause issues for your child and are impacting his/her daily life. Whether they’re autistic or not, you’re probably here because you know there is something different. 

These processing differences may be signs of autism, but if so, your child isn’t broken. This page is to explain what and how accommodations help a neurodivergent person thrive. We use appropriate terminology, unlearn harmful stereotypes and outdated terminology and practices, and evolve so that our loved one can be a happy, fulfilled person. Heck, you may even learn a bit about your own processing system or others. 

I am so glad you are here!

What are the Signs of Autism?

Are loud noises, bright lights, extreme hot or cold, strong smells, textures an extreme sensory experience for your child? Does he or she deeply enjoy or fear or melt down in these sensory experiences and it’s not like a neurotypical child? 

Does he or she love to get pressure (like a big squeeze or being in a tight space) or perhaps loathe hugs? 

Does he or she have unusual facial expressions for the situation (maybe doesn’t look excited when there’s a big surprise or perhaps appears overly emotional for a basic situation)?

Does he or she have language delays or quite exceptional at language for their age?

Does he or she have the ability to focus on one thing for an exceptional amount of time without getting bored or perhaps watch and rewatch certain scenes or shows for an amount longer than what you’ve done?

Does the person display struggles with knowing appropriate body distance between others in a social situation?

These are all indicators that your child might be autistic and if at all possible, a formal diagnosis is important and very helpful. Notice how these indicators were not referred to as a “red flag” or “a warning”. A diagnosis is helpful, but do not confuse autism with a life threatening illness. 

Autism is a processing difference, much like the difference between two computer types like a Mac and an IBM. Even though these computers can both do things, certain programs that work on one won’t work on another. Their interface is different. Perhaps you have a preference for one type or another. Obviously this is not a personal computer and I sincerely hope you won’t take your child back to the hospital because you wanted a Dell and not a Mac. Because the truth is, if your loved one is autistic, they were born that way. And you don’t need to mourn. It’s just different than what you thought. 

Think of all the things you loved about your baby. Think of all the ways in which they demonstrate their love for life. 

Imagine if the person or people who raised you thought, “if only they weren’t this way. I wish they were how I imagined they would be instead.”  Ouch. That would hurt. Maybe some of us reading have had that experience.

Hoping a child would “overcome” the way they were born is a terrible way to live and treat another. This page is to find ways to celebrate who your child is and help them thrive.

Become a Better Ally: 23 Things I Wished I Knew About Autism When My Child Was Diagnosed

June 18 is Autism Pride Day. Autism Pride celebrates the beauty of neurodivergence and all the possibility it brings to the world. This post is intended to help us all be better allies to the neurodivergent community, today and every day.

Here are 23 things I wished I had known five years ago in order to be a better ally to my child and autistic community members.

The intent of this post is for everyone, especially neurotypical (NT) parents, siblings, educators, peers, co-workers, policy makers, bosses, and caregivers who want to support autistic people.

Also to the neurodiverse (ND)/ #actuallyautistic people, I hope I got this right. If I didn’t or missed something important, please tell me!

1. Can you define autism, right now? If you can’t, then you probably don’t know much. Keep reading and learning!

When it was suggested that my one and a half year old might be autistic, I was paralyzed with fear. How in the world would I help my child? Where do I start? I cannot remember the exact moment when it happened, but at one point the epiphany came: I knew NOTHING about autism and this ignorance filled me with dread and fear.

Once I was able to define autism without googling it, the anxiety began to subside. I became receptive to learning more and better equipped to help my child after his official diagnosis.

Start with learning the definition and do not attach judgement to it. Observie and learn, rather than rely on presumptions. When I did that, I ceased to worry about all I didn’t know.

Even if you know nothing right now, just learn one thing today. Then grow from there.

Knowledge is power.

2. Autistic is not a bad word, so don’t act like it. You’re allowed to say autistic. In fact, most people on the spectrum prefer this phrasing because their neurology impacts their entire life experience. However, not all autistic people prefer this. Confusing, I know.

Want to know what to do? Just ask the person what they prefer!

Does it feel weird to ask them? That might be because you think of it as an insult. Autistic is a type of brilliant neurodivergence. It’s not an insult. If you still feel weird about it may mean…

3. One’s level of (dis)comfort when discussing autism indicates how much learning needs to happen. So learn! I’ve written about it here on the blog, but also follow the hashtag #actuallyautistic to learn about autism from autistic adults. I share many of my faithful resources on my Instagram @sensationalstims.

4. Tell your child ASAP. Do not hesitate to tell your child. Why?

A. Hiding an autism diagnosis implies there is something to be ashamed of. I assure you there is not.

B. If you feel ashamed, you need to seek help. I say that with the utmost love and kindness. Lots of folks who have a neurodivergent child learn about their own neurodivergence and/or suppressed traumatic past. Seek help. You’re not too busy for this.

There is no shame in taking care of yourself. A healthy ally is an effective ally!

C. Your child is amazing. Learning from your them is a wonderful way to learn about what autism means for your child.

D. Most autistic people who were diagnosed as adults will tell you they’ve always known they were different than neurotypical peers. Your child likely already knows there’s something different- use the right words to explain it!

E. Understanding everyone’s unique needs significantly reduces stress on the neurodivergent person (and neurotypical people, too).

F. Tell siblings and people living in the house, too. Why? Because you live together! It’s helpful to know about family members’ different needs.

G. Don’t advertise a diagnosis without consent. But if the autistic person is a child and lives with or frequently visits another person/family, it should be shared.

5. Stimming is important! Autistic people have a different sensory processing system. Stimming is a way to deal and cope with different sensory needs. Check out my book about stimming. It’s an enlightening, sweet book about allyship and authentically represents what stimming is.

6. Some people will absolutely break your heart in their unwillingness to make the world more inclusive. As you become more aware about autism needs, some responses from family, friends, even medical practitioners may surprise you. Trusted people might be ignorant which translates to mean, ugly messaging.

It hurts. It’s confusing.

Sometimes you will need to let those people go and sometimes you can educate them. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of this experience and it’s rough. But I also have learned so much from my mistakes and from transgressions committed against me and my child.

7. Some people will restore your faith in humanity. Cherish those kind, loving people. Remember them instead of the heartbreakers. Become this person. I’ve also been on the giving and receiving end of this experience, too. It’s all I’ll ever need in the world.

8. “Curing” autism is wrong. Autism is the way a person is. Acceptance is the only cure needed. If you want to “fight” the way a person is, it’s a traumatizing, abusive approach. There are MANY outlets that want to “cure” autism. This is highly offensive. I was looking through all the notes I have taken over the past 5 years and early on in my journey I went to a training called “Fighting Autism with [insert the name of quack doctor here].”

I shudder at some of the “professional” advice I paid for, believed, and followed.

However, there are things you can do to support an autistic person to help them experience the world in a healthier way. For example, food tremendously impacts a person’s overall health. A common experience for NDs with sensory sensitivities is that they struggle to physically tolerate certain foods. Uniform tastes/textures tend to be preferred and this uniformity is a guarantee in highly processed foods. But highly processed foods have unquestionably adverse health effects.

There are therapies and support for this that I’ll share about later. Learn from professionals about ways to work with sensitive palates so your loved one can be healthy, and also have their legitimate needs met!

9. How to discover if a training/therapy is appropriate or not: replace “autism” with another group’s name and see how it sounds. By using a different noun instead of “autistic” in the description of the proposed training/therapy if it is problematic or not. I share this because it is often overwhelming to learn, implement, and adapt to a person’s special needs. It’s also expensive and very time consuming; most parents don’t know where to start or what to do.

For example, instead of the aforementioned “Fighting Autism with Dr. Quackenstein” training I attended (see tip #8), I replaced the word “autism” with the word “Latinos”, and said it aloud. Let’s see how it sounds: “Fighting Latinos with Dr. Quackenstein”. Wow!

It immediately sounds wrong. You can do it with any noun you prefer and prepare to be amazed and how awful and trauamatizing really intelligent people can be.

10. You may have feelings of guilt the more you learn about autistic people and their needs. Some may feel guilty with regards to their previous attitudes. Others might realize therapies/trainings attended in the name of helping were actually traumatizing the one you intended to support.

I know I have struggled with this immensely. All I can say is that when you know better, you do better. Guilt and shame help no one. Move forward by acknowledging your mistake and vow to do better by first listening to autistic voices.

11. Don’t use the terms “high functioning” or Asperger’s. The implications of these terms are laden with ableism. Autistic people have varying support needs that fluctuate over time, so instead of “high functioning” (because we have no clue how much effort/work it takes for an autistic person to be perceived as ‘high functioning’ aka neurotypical), it’s much better to say describe a person’s support needs. For example, “Sally has low support needs in the area of math, but high support needs in executive functioning skills.”

Asperger’s is often used as a synonym for high functioning and implies that a person is only a smidge autistic. Actually, Asperger is the last name of a Nazi doctor who did terrible things during WWII, including murder children. Also, Asperger’s (since 2013) is no longer a recognized label on the DSM-5. That’s because…

12. A person is either autistic or not autistic. Similar to being pregnant, you can’t be it a little or a lot. People are autistic or not. While neurotypical people may have some autistic traits because autistic traits are human traits, we are not all a “little bit autistic.”

Just like you would never say to a that because you and and a pregnant lady both have lower back pain that “we’re all a little bit pregnant”, don’t say “oh we’re all a little autistic” to an autistic person. It’s rude, untrue and not perceived as the sweet bond you think it might be. Also unlike pregnancy, autism is lifelong. A person cannot outgrow autism. Which leads me to my next point…

13. Autistic children become autistic adults. The autism spectrum is wide and depending on a person’s access to healthcare, support systems, intellectual capabilities, unique life experience, geographic location, gender, culture, socio-economic status, etc., the presentation of Autism and support needs will vary. But autism doesn’t go away with age. And since autism cannot be detected purely by visual cues, it’s always best to just recognize that sometimes people need help whether they have a diagnosis or not.

Getting an official diagnosis is a privilege. It takes a lot of clinical experts to get a diagnosis and it takes a long time to do. Usually people who can afford health care get this, while many others don’t. Respect those who have had obtained an official diagnosis and those who haven’t but have self-identified. Sometimes that’s all a person can do.

14. There will be awkward moments. Communication differences often cause social distress for both neurodivergent and neurotypical folks. Always presume competence and recognize that everyone is doing the best they can.

Most often, because communication styles differ, neurotypical people often feel offended by an autistic person’s linguistic faux pas. Because a NT usually has the social power, they are the ones typically considered “right”.

Neurotypicals, remember the inherited the privilege of being born neurotypical. It’s significantly easier for you to understand the social nuances of the NT world that impact every element of life.

As a parent who routinely finds myself in extremely awkward situations with my child and another person, I can assure you we’ve never died from it. Lean into the awkward.

15. If you’re not sure why an autistic person says/does/thinks a certain way?: ASK! My entire world shifted when I realized there are autistic people who are more than happy to share their insights and experiences and often do so for FREE!

There is no better expert on what autism is than asking an actually autistic person. Better than even asking, simply listen and learn! I follow the hashtag #actuallyautistic as well as a variety of specific accounts. This was especially helpful when my son was preverbal. These adults’ stories, wisdom, and knowledge stunned me. If you follow @sensationalstims, I share many helpful tips from a variety of accounts.

Bonus: I now get to ask my own child about his needs, preferences, and experiences.

16. There are lots of ways to communicate. Many autistic people struggle to converse verbally, but AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices, sign language, writing, and behaviors are all legitimate, helpful ways to communicate. If you know of an autistic person who struggles with speech, find other avenues to connect and resist the urge to only value spoken language.

Also, depending on the stress load a neurodivergent person is under, sometimes the capacity to communicate verbally significantly declines. So if a neurodivergent person doesn’t answer right away, even if they usually speak, this may be due to other mitigating factors.

Neurodivergent folks often shed a light on problematic social practices and confusing figures of speech by acknowledging (or not acknowledging) certain social things. Instead of writing off these unique observations/behaviors as idiocy, the kind thing to do is either to explain why something is a certain way or acknowledge that while something might not be entirely practical, discuss how to handle the situation in a socially acceptable way, but that still keeps the dignity of the neurodiverse person in tact.

Additionally, what neurotypicals may label as rude might feel direct to a person on the spectrum.

17. Neurodivergent Love Languages. I saw this tweet from Amythest (@neurowonderful) and need to directly quote it: “The five neurodivergent love languages: infodumping, parallel play, support swapping, Please-Crush-My-Soul-Back-Into-My-Body, and ‘I found this cool rock/button/leaf/etc. and I thought you would like it”.

These terms all relate to different, sacred ways a neurodivergent person might share their platonic or romantic affections. If an ND shares love with you in a unique way, feel honored because many autistic people have learned to mask their true self due to negative social consequences. Also, these ways to share love are not ONLY for NDs, but they tend to be more common for NDs than NTs.

18. Be EXTREMELY careful when financially supporting autism foundations. When it comes to autism research, not all foundations are created equal. Many of these places have worked to eradicate autism (read: practice eugenics). Here are some good ways to tell if a foundation is worthy of your money:

A. They hire autistic people to learn about autism and the autistic experience.

B. They find ways to support autistic peoples’ needs, not suppress or force compliance, and proudly share it with their supporters.

C. They do not infantilize autistics or view autism as a tragedy or disease to overcome, but celebrate the beauty of the neurodivergent mind and all the possibility it brings to the world.

D. Though autism rates are on the rise, it remains one of the lowest funded areas of study in the United States. It’s important to think about who we fund and who we don’t in the process of rectifying this sad fact.

19. Your attitude and language matters: be mindful of the words you use. How you act and talk about a person’s neurology will significantly impact their life experience. Much of the anxiety and depression autistic people experience are due to trauma, not autism.

20. Autistic/ Neurodivergent people live in a neurotypical world; they are usually not in positions of power. It can be very challenging, complicated, confusing and exhausting. Just because some things might be obvious/simple/easy for an NT does not make it so for ND people, who are almost ALWAYS required to make an adjustment, not the neurotypical person in a position of power. If you want to be an ally, explain things simply and give people time to adjust.

Pro tip: these approaches are helpful for nearly all humans!

21. Pathologizing differences is wrong. A common reason family’s fear an autism diagnosis is because it is often pathologized or phrased in ways that are similar to life-threatening illness. Here’s a common one: “Know the signs of autism and get treatment right away!”

I’m sorry, am I looking for a neurological difference or stroke signals?

Often, typical autistic traits are listed like symptoms which freak out inexperienced parents! For example, lining up toys is a common identifier when starting the path to diagnosis. Is this type of play inherently bad? Of course not! However, recognizing and diagnosing autistic traits helps people get appropriate services and assistance.

22. Address needs without attaching judgement. An ally does not judge another’s need, but accepts what it is and helps meet the need.

Sometimes autistic people are gifted at things that you might not value, and not very good at things you have determined are necessary. Please resist the urge to shame a person for engaging in “immature” play, or “hyper-fixating” on something you don’t care about.

There are things that autistic people will need to learn that might have been simple/easy for you or other neurotypical children. So what?

If you find yourself saying things like, “she should know how to do this by now!” or “this is so easy why can’t you just do it this??” Or “be more flexible- why do you care so much?!” These shaming statements do not support or affirm an autistic person, but encourage masking and burnout.

Remember that milestones can come at varying ages and give people time to develop skills and have a healthy life experience.

23. Celebrate neurodiversity today and every day! I am so thankful to live in a world that is beginning to tap into the power of neurodivergence. The more we learn about different manners to solving problems, viewing the world, and our own unique needs, the better of we will be.

Thank you for reading. I hope this all helps us be better allies to the growing neurodivergent community. Please share and don’t forget to follow @sensationalstims on Instagram and Facebook!

I honestly could add more, but I tried to write the most important aspects that helped my family.

Is there anything I missed or something you found interesting? Tell me!

Vanity of Vanities

I once went to an interfaith event where a rabbi briefly discussed an excerpt from Ecclesiastes:

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?

Sometimes when I read this above verse from Ecclesiastes or related writings, I feel frustration at the lot of human existence and the futility of it all. I especially feel this way when look at the state of America and how the powerful and weak respond to challenges.

Also, the fragility of life has been on my mind frequently. A few young friends of mine have recently passed in very tragic ways. Another friend in his 30s has a very serious medical condition that for the moment has left him debilitated. All of these people have young families. In these past few weeks, I have once knowingly and once unknowingly worked with teenagers who determined the world would be better without them here. It’s these occurences that remind me of this scripture.

In English the word vanity has an extremely selfish implication. The rabbi explained that “vanity”, commonly used in English translations, is not the best word choice to interpret the passage. It’s true. “Vanity” does not help me see the wisdom buried in this verse. The rabbi went on that a better translation would be the word vapor or breath. He asked the group to think about breathing on a mirror- how the breath is there, then vanishes. He said that’s more the original intention.

Vapor is there and in a flash, is gone- kind of like life is. When I replace the word “vanity” to “vapor” in this excerpt, I see and feel something different. One word changes the whole meaning for me.

Somehow my mind opens up with this new word. I am reminded of an October a few years ago when my grandfather celebrated his 94th birthday. At nearly midnight that same day, a baby boy was also born into my family. One lived through The Great Depression and one will likely hold multiple jobs that don’t even exist yet.
Here we have two beings at total different phases of the life cycle, but both amazingly magnificent. Totally different, but they both began the same way. And though taboo to mention, they will both end, too.

Every day I get up and essentially do the same things- I eat, I bathe, often I laugh, sometimes I cry. I breathe in, then out. I sleep. I live a lifetime in a day. I do everything to get to a certain point, yet still seem to always stay in the same place. I try my best and am still my imperfect self. Every day. It’s miraculous.

I breathe in. I breathe out.

I am here now and then I won’t be.

It’s worth noting that Ecclesiastes continues:


9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things…

It is tempting to read this and say everything we do is futile and ultimately selfish. But I think that interpretation would be in vain. There are some new things, after all. I think about medical progress and how we can successfully operate on the brain, a luxury millions of prior generations did not have. But still, those same millions have helped us get to where we are today.

But maybe that’s not what this scripture is about. Maybe this verse is how each person must live their unique life cycle. With that comes the good and bad, joy and heartache, gain and loss, sickness and health. These ebbs and flows are our life’s cycle. Collectively, yes, humankind should do things differently and learn from our history as those who practice medicine try to do. It seems as a global group, we are unable to learn social mistakes that have occurred throughout history.

Perhaps the reason why progress is so slow is that individuals are all indpendently doing the best we can to live out our own life’s cycle. Maybe that indivudality is part of our problem. Or maybe it’s just how we humans intrinsically are and that’s the point Ecclesiastes.

Humans are naturally inclined to vanity- we tend to be excessively prideful in our own achievements and appearance, which can make the quality of our being seem worthless or futile. Though it’s an unhealthy outlook, humans seem naturally inclined to this approach. Maybe this is why vanity was used in the English translation- not as a slam to mankind- just an utterance of truth. We are inclined to vanity.

It’s interesting the things we accept, support, and celebrate. It’s also interesting to note the things which we do not celebrate. We don’t expect infants to know how to walk when they’re born even though millions have come before them.

Perhaps life wouldn’t seem so futile if we celebrated more milestones when those we love achieve them.

We celebrate milestones along the way of our babies, like a first bath or a first food because it is the baby’s first, not because they will continue these things for the rest of their lives.

For example, though I know all the stages of grief, I must live them out each time tragedy strikes, no matter how many times I lose someone dear.

Why don’t we celebrate not just when one votes, but when one actually reads the voter handbook and civilly discusses controversial policies with neighbors and family?

Or when a friend writes her first chapter.

When a neighbor takes the class.

When a colleague starts a business.

Wouldn’t it be great if we supported couples- not just at their wedding when they are in health, but also later when they are in sickness?

What would it look like if we all celebrated the miracle of our breath-ins and outs- like my Yoga practicing friends do?

To breathe in and out- what a miracle!

What would it look like if our society celebrated the food and sharing meals every day, instead of viewing our essential nourishment as a hassle to be tackled?

What would it look like if we had a community where everyone had a safe place to share their gifts and vulnerabilities so that we could indeed find peace on earth?

What would it take to live this way?

Perhaps the only way this is possible is to imagine the person you like the least- the person who causes the most problems, is the most irritating, and spend quality time with them until you can find something endearing about them.

Perhaps that person is you.

Perhaps that is the start of peace.

Perhaps it’s impossible, or perhaps it’s simple.

The answer, I suspect, is already here. After all, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”