Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is splashed all over the internet with its list of negative symptoms that define it. I don’t see autism as a disorder. I see it as a different neurotype that has wonderful impacts on how I sense, feel, and think in the world. ASD captures none of this. It focuses on the negative external behaviors that differ from neurotypicals, leaving out the lived interior experience and a full portrait of what it really looks and feels like to be autistic.
Many autistics like myself are reclaiming and redefining autism by sharing our lived experiences of being autistic (you can read my interviews of late-identified autistics here). I also acknowledge various positive characteristics throughout my essays on autism. In this series on The Joys of Being Autistic, I am pulling all of the good about being autistic into one place. There are so many positives that I cannot contain them all in one essay. Today I’m starting by exploring the positives of enhanced senses.
Many autistic individuals experience enhanced sensory perception, meaning they can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel with greater intensity and/or accuracy. My sense of smell is so strong that there are some foods that smell even better than they taste. Smells can quickly bring me into the present and a place of joy, such as when I smell a pine forest or the freshness of peppermint oil.
I like that my hearing is so refined that I can hear whispers as if someone is having a direct conversation with me. It’s also fun to hear different kinds of rhythm patterns. I can use music with strong beats to motivate me to clean and or start tasks I’ve been putting off.
I also deeply enjoy various textures. My closet is filled with soft clothes. My house has various fun textures, both to look at and feel. All of my enhanced senses bring incredible joy to my life.
They also bring me safety. I was able to detect a fire and alert everyone around me due to my sense of smell. I was once able to see a traffic accident in the distance and avoid an accident. I can quickly taste if something is off about my food, such as it being spoiled or moldy.
I can also use my enhanced senses to cope with difficult things. For example, I was once experiencing pain throughout the day due to some viscous ant bites. I didn’t want to be distracted when I met with my therapy clients, and so I slowly sipped some soda. My sense’s strong reaction to the carbonation was enough to distract my mind from the pain of the ant bites. My enhanced senses also help me to stay focused as someone is talking. If I play with something in my hands, I can stay present far better.
I’ll continue exploring all of the joyous parts of being autistic in this series. Some of the things I plan to touch on:
Enhanced Awareness of Self and Others
Increased Creativity, Problem Solving, and Innovation
Increased Connection to Intuition
Relationships with Depth
See the World Differently
In the Meantime
Other autistics are also fighting back against the onslaught of negative autism characteristics and statistics by offering their own positive insights. I highly recommend reading Jean’s essay in which she creates her own positive autistic statistics about herself.
If you have any positives you've experienced as an autistic, please tell me and I would love to add them to my growing list. Please also tag any of your own articles that talk about some of the joys of being autistic. I'll do my best to link to them in my upcoming series.
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