Autism: sensory challenge, overload and functionality at work (…and study).

Re-blogging in response to Sonia Boue’s blog: Autism: sensory challenge, overload and functionality at work. Featured image is also an amazing piece from this author’s blog post.


I think that for ‘neurologically biased’ we should read neurological privilege and allow that working accommodations begin right there. But first the bias must be revealed and spoken.

Source: Autism: sensory challenge, overload and functionality at work.


Being capable is so vastly different to being unaffected. I’m neurologically different, but very capable. To be capable, however, I have to allow myself to be impacted in ways that are often outside of my control…missing out on having my voice heard and speaking for myself, losing days of work time to recover from the exhaustive exercises of interpretation that come with every social interaction, re-balancing my senses after they are left raw from day to day noises that most people don’t even hear…

Sometimes, it seems like having a ‘disability’ in the academic world is a free ride and a ticket to advantages – extra time, exemptions from particular modes of completing tasks, all that kind of thing. But what is left unseen is just how much time is lost each week, and how much of my capability goes unseen/unheard.


The number of days lost is never predictable, only that there will be a significant sensory hangover with a loss of energy and resources. Modalities can shut down entirely – loss of speech or the ability to tolerate sound or light are classic effects. Retreat to a dark and quiet sanctuary for recovery time is unavoidable.

Source: Autism: sensory challenge, overload and functionality at work.


The worst part is feeling inadequate because of the energy limits, the recovery time. Feeling like you are letting the team down, disappointing peers and colleagues, failing to prove yourself, living in the shadow of impostor syndrome on top of Asperger’s ‘syndrome‘ rather than owning my identity as an Aspie – different, but not less. University disability services told me little over a year ago that:


…perhaps you should consider something other than research, something you are more capable of doing…


It’s offensive and limiting, because I am capable. But I am impacted by a limiting society. The ‘who you know, not what you know’ mentality, the over-valuing of extroversion and your ability to ‘sell yourself’, the hyper-focus on the myth that all humans are social creatures within a social species, the use of fluorescent lights in classrooms, and the meetings in crowded, painfully noisy/busy places. The idea that if on top of these challenges you also can’t speak up, if you can’t use the heavily verbal, spoken languages of one group…you don’t belong here.

My language is not a language of spoken words. It is one of thoughts and understandings that form through sensory pathways and are expressed in the ways that I relate to a highly animate world – both negatively and positively.

If you spent a day in the company of people whose ideas and mannerisms irritated, hurt, frightened or offended you….you’d be exhausted, and need time to recover. My sensory world is the same – but I cannot choose to not spend my time with those people. I cannot choose to not spend my time with the sounds of cars driving past, speaker announcements at train stations, the buzz of conversations unfolding all around me, endless rivers of colours and big printed words in the bombardment of advertising all around, the neighbours power tools, or the flickering noise of those damned fluorescent lights. My sensory world is detailed and loud. All of the time.

So much hurts. So much impacts. So much time and energy is lost.

But I am capable.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s