Monthly Archives: March 2007

The real barrier to communication.


One of my online friends has obtained text-to-speech software for her laptop and is going to try to use it in everyday conversation.

I am excited for her. I remember when I first found out about communication devices. Through the years, even when it was noted that at the times when I could not speak I could still often write (if anyone bothered to get me the materials to do so), nobody had suggested a communication device. And even when I had noticed that my communication was better in typing even when I could speak (or make speech sounds, which is not the same thing as speaking for communication, although at the time my typing wasn’t always communicative either), I didn’t know that there was any way to act on this knowledge to become a better communicator. It wasn’t until I saw Cal Montgomery switching back and forth between speech and typing at a conference that I got the idea, although it was hard to work up the courage to actually use that idea.

My parents bought me an AlphaSmart at that point in time — the AlphaSmart doesn’t have speech output (at least not without an add-on) but it is portable and cheaper than most text-to-speech devices. My friend (who is visiting right now) bought me a small Remington portable typewriter. I carried the AlphaSmart with me everywhere and used it some of the time. The typewriter, while portable, couldn’t be taken everywhere, but I was astounded to find that often when my mouth was babbling off on some irrelevant tangent that had nothing to do with what I was thinking, I could run to the typewriter and my hands would bang out clearly and coherently what I was really thinking about, even instructions to myself on how to do things. Knowledge I didn’t know I had, because I was so used to “thinking” meaning “scrounging around for phrases to use in speech” (and I then used typing merely to duplicate that feat, which was a waste of typing) that I didn’t realize I had a much more direct line to my thoughts in typing even when speech was technically available.

Once I became accustomed to typing as a means of communicating my everyday thoughts, the speech I had (which had been diminishing over the years in both quality and quantity) became obvious as both redundant and counterproductive. It caused far more pain, far more difficulty functioning, far more of that buzzing in my head that at the time was so common that I thought it was normal (and that I now instead of getting it every day only get after extremely stressful events like conferences or being filmed), and far less communication (when there was communication at all). The last straw for me was a telephone call in which I was attempting to use speech but could only reproduce the word “potato” over and over because the person on the other end of the line had been talking about eating a potato for dinner. And even the “potato” thing was taking maximum effort, the kind of effort where the entire world goes black and silent because you’re concentrating so hard only on getting a word out. Why make the entire world disappear to say “potato” when I didn’t mean “potato”, when it was possible to type complete sentences that more or less reflected my thoughts?

When I recently appeared on CNN, someone who’d met me shortly before I first got a communication device of any kind, told a friend that she hadn’t known me to be as articulate as I was on TV. I’m not too surprised. The level of precision and accuracy in my communication (as in, actually hitting the target I intend to hit, as well as actually reflecting what I’m thinking instead of something else entirely) as well as my clarity of thought in general (even if I don’t perceive myself thinking, it’s obviously clearer now than the muddle I was in before) have increased drastically since using communication devices, and even more drastically since using them full-time. Optimizing communication has meant that I have far more energy to put into everything from basic perception to complex writing.

My online friend can speak most (but not all) of the time, but she finds that typing is more accurate to what she is thinking and takes far less exertion, exertion that she could be using on other things. This is very common among auties. In fact, in 2000, there was a workshop at Autreat called “On Paper I’m Free,” the title taken from a poem by Donna Williams. It was an exploration of the use of writing by autistic people, many of whom could speak with superficial fluency, some of them all the time, but still they had better communication in writing. I submitted my old paper on part-time use of a communication device to that, which described among other things how much more spontaneous and fun my friends found me when I could use a much richer communication system than the speech I had been attempting to use. I was not able to attend, but they apparently read my paper and lots of auties had similar experiences.

The trouble is she’s somewhat afraid to use a device for communication even with the many positive aspects of it. She’s afraid that people will assign motivations that are simply not there: wanting attention, wanting to seem special, and so forth. She of course views it as I do — no different from riding a bicycle instead of walking when the bicycle would be more efficient. Professionals, though, could easily see what she is doing as a step backwards instead of a step forwards. To many people, normalcy is forwards and anything not considered normal is backwards, and the only reason a person capable of appearing normal would do something “abnormal” is for various bizarre motivations that always (for some reason) have to do with how others will see them. But as far as my friend and I, are concerned, the goal of communication is not to appear to be doing something in the normal way, it’s to communicate your thoughts in the most efficient and accurate manner possible. Which is undoubtedly a step forward no matter what that form of communication takes.

Other people might view my friend as doing this to make them see her in a different way. But the only way my friend is taking into account how others will see her is in her fear of taking this step towards communication because she’s afraid others will see her in a very negative light because of it (and will invariably interpret her actions as being about making a particular impression on them, when really it’s about optimizing her communication). I wonder how many other auties could benefit from alternative communication but will not use it because they’re afraid that they already look too normal to “get away with it,” afraid that others will regard them as seeking attention or special treatment, because they’re afraid of how their employers will react, because they or those around them have views that it’s only when communication completely and totally breaks down entirely that a person should have a way to communicate better than they already do.

I’ve watched a few auties now learn of and use alternative communication, and I have never seen it do anything less than enrich their lives greatly, whether they could speak (by which I mean “put their own thoughts into words”, not just “generate plausible sentences”) all the time, part of the time, or none of the time. The only barrier to them doing this successfully has been the attitudes of other people towards their use of the communication devices. Attitudes of disapproval, condescension, and accusations of manipulation. If people would stop reacting this way when other people attempt to communicate more efficiently, then thousands if not millions of people would be able to communicate far better than they do right now. I wish my friend all the best of luck, and I wish anyone who gives her trouble over it to shut up already and get over themselves, and better yet to learn about how much more enriched her life is going to be by this method of communication.


Affordable speech synthesizers.


An online friend just pointed this website out:

Afforda Speech

They have small DECtalk-based (which means, pretty low-end but comprehensible, they’re what the Link and Liberator systems used among others) speech synthesizers that can attach to AlphaSmarts and PDAs and such, for about $500. Which is still more than I could afford, but cheaper than anything else out there, and could be of great use to people in a lot of situations.

Such as, people who have a broken device and still have to wait some amount of time designated by the insurance company before they can get a new one. People who only need a speech device part-time and are unsure whether they want to go through the whole testing process to get one (I just spoke to someone like this, so hopefully she’s reading this blog because I can’t remember who it was). People who are waiting for a speech device and want something in the meantime. People who have an AlphaSmart or PDA or something they use for communication, but want it to be able to speak on its own. People who want to be able to easily use a custom keyboard. People who already have one device and want a backup. People who want to try a device before they commit to a more expensive one. People who want a device but have a phobia of professionals. Etc.

Not all of them are for sale yet, but some of them are, and it looks really cool and more affordable than nearly anything else out there.

Things there should be words for.


I recently got in the mail the dictionary of Laádan. Laádan is a constructed language that is supposed to be suited to communicating the experiences of women in particular, and also just has a lot of cool words, like doólelasholan (alone at last, after putting up with tiresome people). I had heard that autistic people were trying to construct a language for autistic experiences, but have little to contribute to that: if such a language is constructed, I don’t expect to be able to learn to speak it.

There are, however, a number of experiences (not all peculiar to being autistic, but certainly prominent for many of us) that I really wish could have a simple word or phrase for them. The problem is I have a lot of preferences for these things. Most out-and-out neologisms, words coined out of nowhere, are not my preference. Nor are words (even words like “conlang” for “constructed language”, which I use grudgingly) that sound jargonny and out of place. Nor are words that sound clinical, medical, psychiatric, or excessively long and Greek (it’s usually Greek that comes up with awful words like “monotropic”). Short, ordinary-sounding phrases are more my thing, just novel combinations of words that sound like they could easily go together, but usually don’t. (Given that I’d expect to use these words on a regular basis for actual communication with everyday people, who aren’t likely to learn any of the other things any more than I am.)

I started making this list while I was crashed and sick after the CNN thing. It’s nowhere near complete, and there are a number of things I want to add to it. But here’s what I’ve got so far:

The way things look when they look detailed, sharp, and intricately beautiful, but you know that even an ounce more stimulation will make them sharper and jagged and painful.

The high-pitched buzzing and humming in one’s head that can go with overload.

The point at which language cannot be overloading because it’s not processed as language.

The point at which the meaning of language cannot be understood, but the brain reacts to all language and symbol by trying to decipher it, and failing, generating intense amounts of pain whenever exposed to it.

The state of being able to write but unable to read, and therefore unable to check over what you’re writing to see if it makes sense or not. (May feel like you’re not making sense even if you are.)

A piece of trivia remembered at random at a time when nothing else or little else makes sense (example from my own life: not knowing what a brain was and unable to understand that anything I wasn’t directly perceiving could still exist, but automatically and randomly identifying a particular handshake as Masonic).

The only object in the world at a particular moment that makes sense.

Knowledge that has remained dormant and the person was unaware of it, until the moment it was triggered.

The state of being able to come up with a complex idea, but fully aware that if one actually moves in order to write, the brain will be too busy with the movements and extra perceptions involved to be able to write down and/or translate the actual thoughts.

An ability which seems to spring from nowhere, and possibly to vanish back to nowhere.

Being asked a question, and knowing that the answer is stored somewhere in your brain, but being unable or barely able to answer it.

The kind of person who, upon entering a room, makes communication impossible or distorted.

The knowledge that everything you’re perceiving is extremely detailed but that you’ll forget most of it later.

The vivid sensory echoes of things that have been perceived throughout the day, that flash unwillingly and unstoppably and “as if real” throughout one’s head when overload yet given half a chance to rest, and that may be so real-seeming as to be highly confusing until it’s over.

The experience of finding only one person in a roomful of people whose body language you can immediately and thoroughly read, usually because that other person happens to share your neurotype.

The distortions that come into an action through the application of conscious effort/thought.

The grace, smoothness, and accuracy of an action arrived at through triggering automatic words or movements without the interference of conscious/symbolic thought.

An inaccurate answer given not wit the intent to deceive, but because under real or imagined pressure, one can only come up with an answer that sounds plausible, but is unable to verify whether the answer is correct. (For instance, a friend of mine saying that she has “absolutely no learning disabilities” when asked if she had learning disabilities, when in fact she was known at that point to be dyscalculic.)

A plausible-sounding pattern of words put out in response to another set of words, more by pattern-matching than communication.

The ability to say words you don’t actually understand (in more jargony terms, when your expressive language seems to be better than your receptive, because you’ve memorized so many chunks of word without necessarily the meaning).

A gesture or word that you use for an extremely large number of things and honestly expect or wish people would be able to tell the difference.

Dog stuff.


Jen on the couch with two dogs

Jen (my morning staff) brought her dog to work today. He’s just recently adopted, five years old, easygoing, and enormous. BJ couldn’t exactly get him to play with her, but she still liked him, and he kept licking her ear, so I think they’re friends now.

In fact, they left ten minutes ago, and she’s just finally stopped whining and howling at the door after they left. She really likes him. Apparently he can come to work often from now on, so that’s what he’ll be doing. Which means BJ will have a friend (which is good because she’s of the social school of thought that if you don’t meet at least ten people every day you’re deprived of something essential).

The cat, on the other hand, can’t stand him. Of course. Her tail puffed up to an impressive degree before I even opened the door, and she turned spiky and growly as soon as he came in. He is enormous (125 lbs), and loves cats, and even he was intimidated enough by her to hide behind Jen.

(And just for an update on Joel, he presumably saw a doctor this morning and appears from his tracking system to now be in Canada which is a good sign.)

How to make a phone call, in 70 easy steps.


This is one of those archive posts I do now and then. From 2001:

How to make a phone call, in 70 easy steps (or, why it takes me so long to get anything done around here) :-)

1. While sitting at the computer, realize that you have to make a phone call.

2. Continue to read the document you were reading on the computer.

3. Eventually, remember the phone call long enough to get up.

4. Stand up.

5. Go into the kitchen, since the phone number is on the refrigerator door.

6. Stare at the refrigerator door for awhile and the orange slip of paper on which the phone number is located.

7. Congratulate yourself for remembering to look at the slip of paper.

8. Open the refrigerator.

9. Stare inside the refrigerator for a few minutes.

10. Close the refrigerator.

11. Go back to the computer.

12. Sit down.

13. Stare at the monitor for a bit.

14. Realize you were trying to make a phone call.

15. Stand up.

16. Go into the bathroom.

17. Use the toilet.

18. Wash hands.

19. Congratulate yourself on remembering to wash your hands while wondering how you got soap on the mirror.

20. Go back to the computer.

21. Sit down.

22. Realize you’re supposed to be making a phone call.

23. Stand up.

24. Sit down on the couch next to the phone.

25. Stare at the phone for awhile.

26. Realize that the computer’s still connected to the net.

27. Stand up.

28. Go back to the computer.

29. Sit down.

30. Tell the computer to hang up.

31. Stand up.

32. Go back to the phone.

33. Sit down on the couch.

34. Congratulate yourself on having actually looked at the slip of paper with the phone number on it.

35. Connect LINK to phone line.

36. Adjust LINK volume.

37. Put on headset.

38. Pick up receiver.

39. Hear dial tone.

40. Wonder if computer is still connected to the phone line.

41. Process dial tone.

42. Hang up the phone.

43. Stand up.

44. Go back to the computer.

45. Realize that you already hung up the modem.

46. Go back to the couch.

47. Sit down.

48. Put on headset.

49. Pick up receiver.

50. Hear dial tone, and process it this time.

51. Stick fingers on keypad.

52. Notice that while you stared in the general direction of the orange paper you were so happy at having looked at, you did not read the telephone number.

53. Think about going back to the refrigerator to get the number.

54. Space out for a few minutes.

55. Stand up.

56. Go to the refrigerator.

57. Grab the orange piece of paper.

58. Take the orange piece of paper back to the phone.

59. Sit down next to the phone.

60. Put on headset.

61. Pick up receiver.

62. Look at paper.

63. Notice that there are two separate numbers on the paper.

64. Figure out that the bottom number is the one you want.

65. Read the number.

66. Put fingers on keypad.

67. Look back at paper.

68. Look back at keypad.

69. Dial number.

70. Get busy signal.

(Then by the time I typed that into the computer, the person I had been trying to call showed up at the door.)

…I don’t know why she swallowed the fly, etc.


Until a friend brought it to my attention recently, I forgot some of the crap that happened to me from medications. It seems that some people are taking words I wrote while on Wellbutrin over-seriously. Just a little note about that:

Many years ago, I was on a neuroleptic. I was found to be toxic on that neuroleptic (very toxic, in fact) and put on another one instead. That one was heavily sedating (among other things). Instead of doing anything with the dosage of the neuroleptic (Zyprexa, which they’d cranked up to 45 milligrams in their continuing tradition of overdosing me on things by prescription), they added Wellbutrin (lots of it) to the mix. I immediately felt deliriously and unreasonably happy, started believing all sorts of weird and grandiose things (and I’d been recently exposed to a lot of New Age crap, so that had a heavy influenced on what weird things I believed), and had way too much energy.

Now, when you have this kind of side-effect on Prednisone (and I have had an extremely similar one on that recently), it’s considered a side-effect of a drug. An unpleasant one, and one that needs to be watched out for and guarded against, but a side-effect, not something innate. When you have a side-effect like this on a psych drug, the assumption is too often that you had this all along as an “underlying issue” and that the proper thing to do is to “treat that issue” rather than to reduce or eliminate the psych drug.

So the next thing I knew I was being put on Lithium for either bipolar or schizoaffective disorder depending on who you asked. And I was beginning to think that maybe they were right about me being out of touch with reality for real, and becoming far more likely to want to take every drug they shoved at me, because even I was aware that something was a little “off” here.

Fortunately the cycle just about stopped at the Lithium, because when I started having toxic effects from that, I was old enough and getting enough of my own thoughts and desires out amidst the less-communicative stuff to be able to tell them that I wanted to taper off every drug I was on, which at that point was Seroquel, Lithium, and Wellbutrin. That was in 1999.

After the withdrawal period (which was nasty in its own right, even with tapering), I haven’t experienced anything like that. But some of the more outlandish things I’ve said in my life, were said under the influence of plenty of Wellbutrin I should have never been on in the first place, and shouldn’t be taken as representative of my actual beliefs. I’ve said plenty of other outlandish things for different reasons (too many reasons to count), but the only ones I ever actually believed — and some of the most grandiose ones, at that — were courtesy of Wellbutrin, which has a known track record of doing that to some people.

My experience of getting off all these drugs was interesting, too. Compared to how it felt after the withdrawal was over, my mind on all of those psych drugs felt like a murky, delirious, dreamlike haze, with little rhyme or reason or logic going on. Then there was a lot of pain and disorientation during the initial withdrawal period, and then slowly the regaining of more and more mental faculties that I’d been missing so long as to not notice their absence. The murky dreamlike feel to life went away entirely, my ability to communicate my actual thoughts (as opposed to a mishmash of random things I’d heard and vague bits of my thoughts now and then) increased dramatically, I could suddenly tell the difference between waking and sleeping, and I no longer experienced anything that would lead me to believe the strange things I’d believed before.

One man whose daughter had long ago gone to school with me (and who kept in touch) had worked in nursing homes (I can’t remember if he was a psychiatrist or what, but he had background in that field), and he said he’d seen totally lucid but “difficult” people given the same drugs I was, and get less and less lucid over time, more and more confused, and more and more out of touch with reality. He said he saw the same thing happen to me on psych drugs, but that he hadn’t felt like it was his place to mention this to my family until I had successfully gotten off of them.

So take anything weird I said while on Wellbutrin with a large grain of salt. And also be really careful with the assumptions that psychiatrists often have about the side-effects of their drugs. Too often you’ll get treated for the side-effect as if the side-effect itself is an innate part of you. I’ve seen this over and over, not just in my life but in the lives of other people in the psych system, including autistics who are being given neuroleptics who then get their resulting akathisia or violence or hallucinations or immobility treated as innate rather than side-effects. I imagine it’s even harder when you already are hallucinating, get put on a neuroleptic, and the neuroleptic makes you hallucinate more, because who’s going to believe you even if you notice that it’s the neuroleptic?

I’m really glad that when Topamax made me cry randomly and be at the mercy of a torrent of emotion at all times, I was under the care of a neurologist, rather than a psychiatrist. The neurologist told me to get off of it immediately and I did — personality changes on a drug are generally considered really bad news. I’m also glad that when Prednisone made me stay up for days on end and believe myself capable of nearly anything and start warping reality right and left in bizarre ways and going into random extreme rages in which I almost threw a telephone through a window at one point, I was both well-warned about that side-effect in advance and around doctors who knew about it. And I’m also glad that when Phenergan caused me to have visual hallucinations at night, this was recognized as a side-effect (one that I’d also experienced on Seroquel but which had been considered at that point — when noticed at all — just a part of what I was like). If the same had been true of Wellbutrin (and the myriad of psych drugs that led up to it, for that matter), then my odd beliefs on it would have been a matter of days or weeks instead of more like two years, and attributed to a drug instead of to me.

But even if my strangeness at that time were attributable to some innate thing that made me do that instead of a drug-induced state, I’m not sure what the problem is. I know a lot of autistic people who’ve experienced what psychiatry describes as mania, without any outside chemical alteration of their brains to create it. Including Donna Williams and Kassi Sibley. And that doesn’t make me discount their viewpoints about being autistic. Few to no autistic people are ‘just’ autistic anyway. If everything sometimes assumed about me in the ‘psychosis’ department were true, that’d just make me one of the many autistic people who’ve experienced that kind of thing. Big deal.

You’d think I’d know, by now.


You would think I would know by now, that failing to mention something because I don’t know what it is would be a bad idea. I just know that if something doesn’t fit into tidy categories that other people create — especially anything deemed medical — then it’s often best not to talk about it at all, because the reactions I get from the medical profession can be negative when they’re puzzled.

When I was on CNN, they showed me going to the dentist. The dentist had done a cursory check of my jaw and said it was just fine, and that any problems with it were probably not mechanical and that it was probably just a coincidence that they got super-bad right after a five-hour dental procedure under general anesthesia. But that I should see a specialist “just in case”.

I just went to the place I was referred to — the doctor who actually deals with jaws on a regular basis. He immediately felt and heard everything that’s actually wrong with my jaws (at least the stuff that can be felt and heard), and ordered more tests. He seemed aware it’s bad in there. He also asked me about other joints, and I talked about my wrist tendonitis.

And then I talked about something I hadn’t filled out on his questionnaire. I was afraid to fill it out on the questionnaire because it’s been my experience that unexplained pain leads to doctors wondering if the pain’s there at all. But he’d seemed nice, so I took a chance and mentioned it: I get joint pain all over my body sometimes, but don’t appear to have arthritis or any other thing I know that leads to joint pain.

picture of me bending my thumb backwards

He did something odd (to me) then.

He asked me to start bending various joints in various odd ways (such as the one pictured). I did so. He watched and said, matter-of-factly, “You’re hypermobile.” He showed me how he could not bend his joints to the extent I could.

Then he said this is quite possibly the cause of the joint pain I’ve been experiencing, and there’s even a possibility it’s tied into why my jaw went bad so easily.

The amazing thing to me is that I’ve had this joint pain for ages but ever since it was shown I didn’t have arthritis (at least not in some parts of me), I haven’t wanted to say that I had general joint pain. I have had a lot of experience of medical professionals who tell me that what I’m experiencing inside my body is wrong, even if I can feel it. I was afraid that the joint pain was one of those things that didn’t fit into a category.

I used to fit myself into categories — out of fear — by saying things that I thought were expected of me. Now I don’t do that, but I just fail to say things that I think might be too unexpected for them to handle. This has its obvious problems, but so does saying everything that is happening in my body in front of someone who will either look at the fact that they don’t know what it could be, or the sheer number of things going on, and dismiss everything I’m saying. That’s happened so often that it’s bizarre and pleasant when someone happens to come up with a plausible explanation for something I’d been hiding for fear of confusing people.

But you’d think I’d know by now that this is not the best way of handling things. That of course, if something is happening, then it’s happening, I’m not imagining it. I might not know what it is, but it’s something. It weirds me out that doctors default to “It can’t be happening” so much that people like me become too afraid to mention out-of-place things. Even highly painful out-of-place things.

The other weird thing is that there was a discussion of hypermobility on an autism-related mailing list I was on last year or the year before, and I was utterly convinced at that point that I wasn’t hypermobile, that my mother probably was but I wasn’t. But the criteria fit me and then some (I’m overqualified in fact) and it does sound pretty plausible. I’m just always weirded out when a doctor does something simple and goes “Oh, it’s this,” with something I’ve been afraid to talk about for ages.

A Tale of Three Experts


The following is a story I wrote based on an explanation I gave to someone who wanted an easy-to-visualize metaphor of how strange and arbitrary the designation of things like “kinds of autism” and “severity” and stuff are when performed by the average diagnostician/etc. It’s also relevant to my last post about assumptions.

Once upon a time, there were three renowned autism experts: Dr. Johnson, Dr. Smith, and Dr. Shaw. Through meticulous research, they had noted that most autistic people had animals living in their homes with them. Level of function was determined by the amount of iguanas and canaries in a person’s home: five was mildly autistic, ten was moderately autistic, fifteen was severely autistic, and twenty was profoundly autistic. They carried out their assessments of the presence of autism and level of functioning by visiting homes and counting the animals. In reality, the presence of any animals living in the home signaled autistic traits, but the experts were – being non-autistic and Very Professional – overly focused on unimportant details about autistic people.

The first person they assessed was named Julio. Julio had five canaries, ten iguanas, and five pigeons. Dr. Johnson was best at noticing canaries, so he wrote down that Julio was mildly autistic. Dr. Smith was best at noticing iguanas, so she wrote down that Julio was moderately autistic. Dr. Shaw was good at noticing both, so xe wrote down that Julio was severely autistic.

Next, they assessed Jane. Jane had five iguanas, ten canaries, and five ferrets. Dr. Johnson wrote down that Jane was moderately autistic. Dr. Smith wrote down that Jane was mildly autistic. Dr. Shaw wrote down that Jane was severely autistic.

Then, they assessed David. David had twenty iguanas. Dr. Johnson wrote down that David was not autistic at all. Dr. Smith and Dr. Shaw agreed that David was profoundly autistic.

Now they came to Kazuko’s house. Kazuko had twenty canaries. This time it was Dr. Johnson and Dr. Shaw that agreed Kazuko was profoundly autistic, and Dr. Smith who believed that she was not autistic at all.

The next person on their list was named Geoffrey. Geoffrey had nineteen canaries and a tarantula. Dr. Johnson was terrified of tarantulas, but did not want to tell anyone that. He pretended to have assessed Geoffrey and found him not to be autistic. Because he disliked being at Geoffrey’s house so much, though, he wrote down that Geoffrey had a personality disorder that was extremely hard to treat and outside his specialty. This ensured that he would never have to see Geoffrey again. Dr. Smith was not afraid of tarantulas, but because she did not see any iguanas she concurred that Geoffrey was not autistic. Dr. Shaw noted all the canaries and said that Geoffrey was profoundly autistic.

Next came Helen. Helen had fifty cats. The three doctors agreed that Helen was not autistic at all.

Alex’s house had three canaries, five iguanas, a hamster, a pig, four ferrets, a dog, three mice, and two boa constrictors. Dr. Johnson wrote down that Alex had a few autistic traits and might have Asperger’s or PDD-NOS. Dr. Smith wrote down that Alex was mildly autistic. Dr. Shaw was extremely interested in ferrets, and spent xyr entire time at the assessment playing with and watching the ferrets. To make up for lost time, xe wrote that xe had found that Alex was not autistic at all but had several highly interesting neurological traits that were worthy of further study. This was so xe could come back and play with the ferrets.

Penelope had eight canaries, eight iguanas, a rabbit, a ferret, a bear, and a bonded pair of rabbits. While Dr. Johnson would have otherwise written that Penelope was approaching moderately autistic, he was fascinated by rabbits. He spent his whole time hanging around with the rabbits and forgot to count the canaries. He wrote instead that Penelope was highly gifted because she had rabbits in her house. Dr. Smith would have also written that Penelope was hovering around moderately autistic, but she took one look at the bear and ran off screaming. She wrote that Penelope was an extremely disagreeable person with behavior problems, but not autistic. Dr. Shaw played with the ferret and wrote Penelope up, like Alex, as deserving further study for interesting neurological traits.