Autistic Perspective Series: On Being Autistic
Sensory Processing: Sensory processing refers to the ability to receive, interpret, and organize sensory experiences. This includes sensory encounters from the environment and sensations within our bodies. When a person’s brain is unable to register the full intensity of the sensory experience, it under-reacts. When it detects too much information, it will over-react. - Judi Wolansky, OT
"From what I understand, neurotypical people have a sensory processing system that operates like a fancy shower head. They can adjust the temperature and pressure and how the water flows until it’s just right. People with atypical sensory processing, on the other hand, have a fire hydrant valve where that shower head should be. We get lots of data, all at once, all the time. Adjusting the flow of data ranges from difficult to impossible to totally unpredictable." https://musingsofanaspie.com/2014/01/28/sensory-sensitivities-and-atypical-sensory-processing/
Stimming: Stimming stands for self-stimulatory behavior and is often (but not always) a repetitive action or sound. Stimming has many different purposes for Autistic people and helps us to regulate and soothe ourselves. Stimming is different for different people. Sometimes stimming is intentional and other times it is unintentional. Sometimes stims are very obvious and at other times, they are barely noticeable at all. Teaching Autistic people that it is not okay to stim teaches them that how they exist in the world is not okay. It teaches us to mask. Autistic people stim to: distract, communicate, regulate senses, express emotions, prevent meltdowns, process, cope with anxiety, use up excess energy, feel in control, and for no reason at all.
Autistic Burnout: Autistic burnout is a state of physical and mental fatigue, heightened stress, and diminished capacity to manage life skills, sensory input, and/or social interactions, which comes from years of being severely overtaxed by the strain of trying to live up to demands that are out of sync with our needs. - Dora Raymaker, Autistic and Disability Rights Activist and Researcher
Raghav Swaminathan (he/him)
Raghav Swaminathan is 27 years old and lives independently in Durham. He was born in India and diagnosed with autism in the UK at the age of 5. He came to the US that same year with his family and has been in Durham and Chapel Hill ever since. Raghav graduated high school from PACE Academy in Chapel Hill, and then went on to spend one year at UNC Greensboro in the Beyond Academics program and subsequently graduated from Clemson University after completing their Clemson LIFE program. He works as an office assistant at the Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development and was a panelist at their Autism Employer Summit in 2018. Raghav enjoys listening to music, plays the piano and takes karate lessons.
Azrael Burton (xe/they)
Azrael is working toward a degree in Women and Gender Studies with a Minor in Sexuality Studies. Xe is driven by furthering sex education into a more intersectional arena, as xis lived experience is inherently intersectional. They believe marginalized communities are particularly underserved in many academic conversations surrounding gender, sex and sexuality and looks to those primary sources as equally important.
Jenna Meehan (she/her)
Jenna (she/her) is an Autistic and ADHD occupational therapist that recently opened her neurodiversity-affirming private practice, BE ME Occupational Therapy, focusing on providing supportive, authentic, and validating OT to adults and children as well as consulting with organizations and businesses for improved community neurodiversity support and inclusion. She lives in Durham, NC with her neurodivergent children and partner.