A very ‘neurotypical deficit’.

This assemblage piece is a work in progress which I’m developing for a performance.

This post modestly observes that the deficit model for autistic people is neurologically biased. 

For me one of the clearest differences between myself and the neuro-majority is one of pace. In comparison my processing speed can appear snail like – but is this bad?

Generally, I like significantly less volume of input in my life than my NT contemporaries. And I’ve noticed that I like to go deep into the kind of ‘information bank’ I prefer.

In this state experience and thought tends to the profound and considered. Like so many autistics I know I go full on in and bask in the kind of immersion that generates my favourite state, that of flow.

Once in flow I turn what I’m handling this way and that. I see the object of my interest from many angles as I strive to understand it in perfect detail.

What I notice most is the NT habit of fast crawling (ant-like) in a purposeful direction over the surface of things (not saying that profundity is lacking but that the focus appears to be speed and reach). So there is a general hurry to move across the surface and to go wide extending outwards. New places and new connections are made endlessly it seems. They want more and more of this – so that the web of interactions unfolds exponentially, growing larger each day.

I’m talking about tendency with variation of course – there will be NT who like quiet and slow too.

But I hear NT reminding themselves quite often to slow down, go back to base and value the small things and the people who ‘really matter’. In a corner of perception NT know that they can tend to overdo it.

These are two vastly differing vantage points. And that is all they are.

I think this is a perhaps one very good reason why NT can seem to to ignore autistics and don’t quite register our presence.

I write the above in the context of World Autism Awareness Day 2017 – which being deep in a flow state – I missed!

But it’s been an interesting week.

As April rages on unnoticed in my immediate environs I haven’t seen much autism awareness on the streets of Oxford. Not one person I know has mentioned autism.


In a way I’m relieved. I’m tired of all the misinformation.

Autism to me is a language and a culture. It’s my identity. But I am yet to fully realise that, or rather what that means in my life.

As the internet groans with blogs and videos, articles and debates this month, I turn to practical matters. I have to live in a neurotypical (NT) world. I have survived all these years. But I want an equal footing in this crazy scrambled world.

While NT life has powered on this week there’s been a quiet revolution in my autistic soul.

I’ve gone from feeling weighed down with the enormity of my task to locate myself as an autistic woman in a world that doesn’t suit my neuro-type, to feeling freed. Its as though I’ve absorbed another level of my difference and come into a clearing.

I know what I want because I have experienced what I want.

Miraculously, l’ve connected with a community of autistic women. This is a new kind of sisterhood.

And suddenly I have the information I need to understand the distinction between friendship and the rubbing along of convenient relationships that can so often masquerade as friendship. Those fickle, brittle ties that are quickly made and broken as convenience moves on elsewhere.

As I analyse this truth I begin to see that the trouble in truly grasping this before has lain in the mismatch of pace and intention. It is perhaps because NT are almost constantly engaged in a subtle form of mapping and networking that autistics can so often become confused about relationship.

NT like this practice enormously but (as an aside) it can cause no end of confusion in terms of purpose and getting things done.

Perhaps I’ve never seen it this clearly because the foil of autistic sisterhood was missing. Isolation from your group is clearly a bad thing from an informational point of view.

Without this knowledge of my group I have been less discerning, but I can at last see things more clearly as I discover more what kind of social shape my neuro-type fits.

I can suddenly see with 20/20 vision that in relationships of convenience (no matter how friendly they seem!) people don’t necessarily have my interests at heart even if I’ve been generous and giving.

So I don’t need to give all those breaks and benefits I tend to rush in with (autistic people can be unusually kind). I’m too helpful by nature and that is frankly exhausting.

Returning to the differences in processing with which I began my piece, it seems to me that as NT move speedily onwards to the next person and the next opportunity they may fail to notice many examples of autistic kindness.

What an unfortunate processing deficit that would turn out to be.




Published by soniaboue

I am an artist.

28 thoughts on “A very ‘neurotypical deficit’.

  1. I feel like a NT person on a path less trod… I feel like I should put up a sign to tell other people how great the slow road is… But then they’d all be over here with their Tarmac and service stations! I am loving working with you Sonia, and hope to be able to
    do so for a long time to come.

    (I was driven up to Liverpool on Monday, my friend chose to avoid the M6, it took a little (but not much) longer, but it was a mostly rural, steady, beautiful journey full of idle chatter, music, and not a single bit of stress! I love an analogy – Autism Awareness for me!)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So true Elena!! SO TRUE!! somehow I think it will be the sincere and genuine who find us so perhaps we’re safe after all! Loving working with you too – and your insights are very important to this piece. I need my NT sisters too! xx

      Liked by 3 people

  2. A lovely piece, dear Sonia! xxx

    Flow is a very rewarding experience. I find my work almost effortless once I achieve the state, and time becomes irrelevant, meaningless. It is perhaps a type of hyper-focus, but one that is achieved through a Zen-like calm, sinking into something approaching a trance, as opposed to making a conscious effort to “work harder” (that common exhortation) which so often is self-defeating as it consumes energy without producing progress.

    On a different note, what you write about friendship strikes a chord with me, not least because you are one of the autistic women with whom I have formed bonds of friendship over the past few years. I think the shared experiences of our shared neurology combine to produce a profound insight and understanding between sympathetic souls: neurosisters, as we have previously described the phenomenon.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m a few miles down the road from you (literally!) and no one has mentioned autism here either.
    Your contemplation of “fast” and “slow” is interesting. One of my prevalent traits since childhood is being slower than others, but another one is to notice the little details, and I think the two go hand in hand. In friendships as well, because I believe they have to develop over time. If people want something out of a relationship quickly, there is no time for them to develop into real friendships, as you point out.
    I don’t know if you know the “Blind Date” feature in the back of the Guardian Magazine, but often the daters say afterwards that they won’t see each other again because “there was no spark”. I’ve often wondered why everyone seems to accept that there has to be a spark on the first meeting. Is it not possible that the spark will appear once you get to know the person better? But if they don’t get what they wanted out of the date straightaway, they drop it and move on.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I work at the museum in Abingdon, which is where I sit as I type this just now!
        I wanted to add that I liked the picture of the shoes and jumper in the suitcase – made me want to reach out and touch them.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow. Very close. I imagine not much autism awareness (never mind acceptance!) where you are. The image may be the beginning of a performance piece. Have a lovely day 🙂


  4. I think you’ve absolutely hit on something so important, Sonia – the “Flow Factor” that sets us apart from the hectic NT pace. Okay, maybe I’m over-simplifying (of course, I am), but it seems like A Thing to me which really bears considering.

    Carefully. Always carefully.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Brilliant piece Sonia.

    All of it resonates with me, the pacing, the slow movement into the depths of things,the flow time of complete absorption that obliterates all distractions.

    Generosity is often overlooked by the NT mind but it is possibly a product of their orientation towards the external, the constant need for the novel/new wether people or things etc.

    That & the lack of awareness of how much energy and effort it takes for us to accomodate their needs.

    When i saw your suitcase , jumper ( Aussie for pullover/jersey) and shoes neatly in the suitcase I saw myself… at present confronted with packing the necessities to go away for a few days.

    It takes me ages… over days making lists before embarking on checking my progress, mental & physical, across all areas … clothes, shoes, medication, food stuffs as am GF and DF) then some of my refuge comforts… pencils, paper, camera etc, inspirational books and favourite shawl.

    Always there’s the ” Did I forget Something very Important”?

    Attending the Suitcase… our needs in all respects.

    Thank you Sonia. I feel less alone in living my life…my autistic life as a multifaceted person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad it was helpful Sonja – it came from a similar need to process a frustrating experience. I’m so sorry you went through this – it is shattering but a very neurotypical deficit.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I wonder how you came about getting a diagnosis would love to hear your experience and how life has been for you pre and post diagnosis. Thanks for your post Tracey x

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you for your insight. I very much enjoy reading your perspective. In fact this piece zooms in on one of the assets that you bring to your work. Your sensitive ability to bring overlooked details into consciousness. Your work creates a beautiful pause. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thank you for your insight. This piece highlights an asset which you bring to your work – the ability to bring a provoking detail to consciousness. I admire your skill in creating these beautiful pauses.

    Liked by 2 people

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