Autism is a spectrum, not a binary

Hailie Pentleton:

Autism, as is so often stated, is a spectrum. Often, however, this notion is used to support a false binary. There is a common misconception that if you are autistic you belong in one of two categories: “high functioning” or “low functioning”. If you’re considered “high functioning” you likely speak, attend mainstream school, and mask (i.e. hide) your traits well enough to function in a social setting. Typically, “low functioning” is used in reference to non-speaking autistic people, particularly those with a co-occurring learning or intellectual disability. Human beings tend to slot things into neat little categories with neat little labels. The problem with functioning labels, is that they just don’t cut it; they are both redundant and offensive. So often “high functioning” is used as a synonym for “savant” or a euphemism for “not really autistic” — either way, it is often used to justify ignoring a person’s support requirements. 

Conversely, “low functioning” is used to peddle the notion that speaking is the superior mode of communication, and that autistic people with a particular set of consistently high support needs are incapable of autonomy. The idea of autism as a spectrum is supposed to illustrate that being autistic affects no two people in the same way; our difficulties can vary depending on time, place, or context. To assign such rigid labels entirely misrepresents the experiences of autistic people all over the spectrum, a great illustration of this can be found at Art Of Autism. 

I’m still on the waiting list for a formal diagnosis, but from the research I’ve done myself, the results have almost all declared me to be ‘high functioning’. But like the author of this article, there are days when I don’t feel remotely like I’m functioning highly.

I suspect that the desire to place autistic people into various brackets is driven by the motivation of those doing the grading, which in turn is driven by the perception of autism as meaning either ‘genius’ or ‘retarded’. The former may be supported, though not necessarily tolerated, while the latter will most likely have to fight for any support at all.

Fear Of A Notifications Badge

I’ve probably mentioned this a few times before on the blog, but one of the best decisions I took in recent years was to turn off notification badges on all the apps I use, on all devices.

For some people, this might seem counter-productive — “When will you know when someone has sent you a message or response?”

The answer, of course, is when I next open the application in question.

(I do allow some notifications to go to my lock screen or notification centre, but I only see those when I choose to look.)

Be in no doubt, those innocuous little badges can sap your attention and focus if you let them, and instil dread in your heart. They are perhaps the most well-intentioned yet pernicious inventions of the last few decades.

Why am *I* the weird one?

Athena Scalzi:

But now, eleven months into the pandemic, where people are still shamed for wearing masks, called “sheep” or “pussies” for complying with mandates and attempting to protect others, all I can think of is that day two years ago. Even now, when I go into Kroger or Walmart and there’s signs plastered on every door that masks are required, I get looked at funny by the people that aren’t wearing one. Why am I the weird one?

Why are we, the ones that are trying to protect others, looked at like we’re the bad guys? I truly don’t understand anti-maskers, and I know it’s because I have what they lack. Empathy. Anti-maskers are unempathetic; to the people dying, the people suffering for months on end, the families planning funerals. They only care about their “freedom”; the freedom to risk the lives of others by going out and exposing people to a deadly virus. Anti-maskers are selfish, and have no compassion for their fellow citizen.

Why is it so hard for them to wear a piece of cloth in front of their face? Why is it such an unbearable burden to put a little bit of fabric over their mouth for the ten minutes they’re in Dollar General? Why is it an inconvenience to protect others?

I wear a mask whenever I go outside now. I’ve not been given dirty looks, but people have given me a wide birth sometimes, as if I’m the menace. And it frightens me how many people are not wearing masks, or socially distancing properly.

Silo To Silo

Adam Tinworth:

It deeply bothers me that ongoing access to a whole load of important and significant writing from the last few years is entirely based on the continued existence of only two companies: Medium and Substack.

I commented on his post on

Particularly in the case of Medium, thanks to their zigs and zags over the years, links to content hosted there have succumbed to bit-rot, either through the blog closing down or being removed, or because a paywall is now in the way. Substack hasn’t zagged yet, but that would definitely be in the back of my mind.

I want to expand on the above paragraph a bit here. I’ve been a member of Medium in the past, albeit as a reader rather than a writer. There is a lot to like about it, particularly its annotation system that lets readers comment on parts of articles and the author(s) respond. The problem with Medium has been its business model, or rather its search for one. They’ve tried out quite a few over the years, with varying degrees of success, and a lot of fallout in terms of writers and publications getting burned.

So far, Substack seems to have learnt from Medium’s missteps. But there’s no getting away from the fact that, while it might be profitable for both Substack and their user base, it’s a silo in much the same way as Medium. Yes, you can probably export your writing, but then you have to find a new home, and all the links to your posts on Substack stop working, unless you own the domain name you used and make sure the rehomed posts have the same URLs.

Services like Medium or Substack are popular because it reduced the spadework required to create a presence online and get noticed. The downside, however, is that the spade-wielder is between you and your audience. And, as Medium has shown, the foreman may direct the diggers to become bricklayers or erect fences.

My iMac is now living on borrowed time, it seems…

Apparently, my 2017 iMac 27-inch system, whose AppleCare+ cover expired yesterday, ‘is not eligible for additional coverage’.

I’m unclear as to why Apple has come to this decision. Yes, I appreciate that they’re transitioning all their Mac range over to Apple Silicon, but they’ve also said that they’ll continue to support users of Intel-based Macs. And this system is still a way off from being considered ‘antique’ or even ‘vintage’, so I’d imagine they still have spare parts for repairs.

And I want the peace of mind of knowing that my iMac can be repaired if anything goes wrong, and I’m prepared to pay Apple for another three years of cover!

Yes, I’m still able to claim the cost of repairs against Apple using current UK consumer legislation — for now. But I know from experience that Apple will drag their feet on this.

As things stand now, the local Apple Store in town is closed due to lockdown, and I suspect that the authorized Apple repair shop I’ve used in the past is either closed or only open by appointment.

So, I’ll need to have an emergency fund set aside now for use if this Mac breaks down, and I have to get a replacement.

I’m pretty certain that is Apple’s intention.

Slow Down & Read!

Update: A quick search for Firefox add-ons led me to Reading Ruler, which looks like it may well be the solution I’m looking for — will let you know how it works out…

I’ve noticed that I tend to scan ahead when reading, and sometimes skip over words without thinking. Holding a bookmark horizontally across the page and moving down as I proceed through each paragraph helps, when I’m reading a physical book. Now I wonder if there’s something I can do to achieve the same thing on web pages.

Zooming in to make the body text take up more of the screen is a partial solution, as is Reader View. And having Firefox narrate the text to me makes the text scroll as it is spoken, with highlighting to show each word, but I still have a tendency to jump ahead using the cursor keys.

I’m not sure what has led to this state of affairs. A symptom of my autism, perhaps? I don’t think it’s dyslexia, as I can read the words just fine. It’s just that my brain always seems to be in a rush when I’m reading.

Learning By Doing

I’m trying to do more personal projects this year, both to scratch some itches and to learn new skills and improve old ones.

In the past, I’ve been put off by a lack of knowledge combined with perceived effort required. But thanks to time spent last year focussing on my mental health and well-being, I now realize that both of those excuses are bogus. At worst, I’m a little rusty in a few areas. And I’m making more time by removing all the avenues for procrastination and ‘busy-work’.

This morning, I cleared one roadblock by installing Python 3 onto my Mac using Homebrew, and started the process of re-acquainting myself with zsh and command-line activity in general. I’ve not used the command-line full time since my university days, about thirty years ago, so as I said earlier, I’m a little rusty.

I’m also making more effort to read books rather than flit around online. So, every hour or so I have a ten-minute break from the computer (thanks to Time Out) when I can get up and do some stretches, then sit away from the computer and read a book. Right now, I have a paperback copy of Getting Things Done by David Allen next to me at the desk.

Making little changes like these has worked wonders for my health, so I’m hoping that I can now do the same for my mind.

Reasons Why I Love My RSS Feeds

  1. Everything is in chronological order.
  2. I can skip over articles I’m not interested in.
  3. I can mark all articles read if I wish.
  4. The only stuff that is hidden is the stuff that I want hidden. (I use filters in Inoreader for this.)
  5. If I want to reread something, I just select All Articles instead of Unread Articles and scroll back to find it.
  6. There’s nothing else between posts — no adverts, no suggestions, nothing.
  7. Readability view means that I can read articles the way I want to, rather than the way a web-designer wants me to.
  8. If I want to move to a different RSS service, I can export my feeds as an OPML file and use that elsewhere.
  9. I can share links to articles however I wish.
  10. My attention is under my control, not controlled by others.