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! Permaculture and Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Asperger's

 
pollinator
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i have read a lot in this threat, that we should learn, even at school, about social rules, and how to behave to fit in. (I translate what I remember having read).
I did think the same....
I used to say that I used to lack social contact during my youth, and thus it prevented me from learning properly the correct use of social behaviour!

I do not believe this anymore. This proper behavior, I now understand, is transmitted in a way we just cannot capt, because of the nervous system we have. According to porges, this is ventral part of the vagus nerve that is in charge of this. The dorsal branch is responsable of the freeze response when a shock is too strong or too youngly experienced. When I learnt this, I could understand better why I would literally freeze in any stressful social interaction! In my case, my mouth was frozen, so people could not interact easily with me. ok, we can be bullied at scholl, but let's understand why other children could not understand us! And we are scaring to then as well, I guess, because even when you are a social child, well it is not so easy and you can experience fear, even if you do not freeze.

So, as I said, I do not believe that social skills have to be taught, but yes, it should be noted that some children have difficulties, and YES, there should be a program to help then, because they cannot learn in the unconscious way others do.

I also was "good at school" and still have problems to understand why some people do not understand what is obvious for me, especially because I am creative at new understandings through crossing of informations.
But now I understand that we are all like blind people: we can learn Braille Reading with the tip of fingers when we lack something. I did learn certain things just because I was blind for others.
 
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Interesting thread. I'm in an awkward position regarding this topic...

I am apparently on the autism spectrum, but not Asperger's and nothing like the "classical" autistic person. When very young, I was verbally precocious, very sociable with adults, did very well in school, was measured with a high IQ, learned to read almost instantaneously, learned languages and to play musical instruments quickly, and so on.

Unfortunately for me, however, even in elementary school the differences in my brain circuitry were making me socially "different". I respond to things differently, and say things which seem "weird" to the normies. I take words literally, and find most things said to me to be ambiguous, so I ask a lot of questions, which annoys people. They take things for granted which I must have explained. Girls/women flirting I never understood, and usually interpreted their advances as insults. I am not fun at parties, as I'm incapable of "small talk"; instead while people are drinking, dancing and trying to hook up, I always want to initiate a conversation about science or anthropology or politics, which they find inappropriate in a party milieu.

In some ways I do fit the standard description for autism: I strongly dislike looking at people's eyes, I'm always moving some body part, usually a foot, I am usually aware of all the stimulation reaching my ears and eyes, rather than filtering most of it out as is normal. I have a strong awareness of spatial relations, see and understand complex systems easily (this does not necessarily apply to my tractor's mechanical functioning, unfortunately), and am easily "overloaded" by strong stimuli, such as a person shouting, or a room full of loud talking.

Would I trade my brain for that of a normie? Hell no! I consider myself smarter than 99% of them. They speak in trivialities, they assume everyone else thinks just like them and are annoyed when I don't, they miss a lot of the information coming at them, and so on. There are strong advantages to autism. It has been suggested by some anthropologists that it was autistic people who made the Palaeolithic cave paintings in Europe, and also that having autistic people in a hunter-gatherer group was an advantage due to their heightened awareness of spatial relations and ability to assimilate complex input. In other words, they were better at predicting the movements of game, and better at stalking and tracking.

I think that for someone designing a permaculture or any horticultural system, the advantages for an autistic person are obvious. Designing gardens for me is nearly an ecstatic experience. Seed catalogs render me euphoric. Ok perhaps that is hyperbole but I can spend hours listing all the prices of every variety I want, comparing catalog offerings, and so on. This never bores me, while I suspect for most people it would be tedious.

Not intending to offend anyone, but I do consider myself superior due to my autistic-spectrum brain. Perhaps I'm just reacting to the social rejection I mostly have experienced, by rejecting them in turn. But the advantages I enjoy are very real. In grad school I was the first in the seminar to grasp the concepts presented, which annoyed and alienated the other students, needless to say. As I'd come to stop attempting to be accepted by them, I'm often seen as arrogant. A woman once called me a "linguistic snob" because I could not understand why they simply did not learn Spanish since it was spoken all around us (this was in NM).

Dorothy Hill of the Catholic Worker movement used to take skid row alcoholics out to a farm where they often were successfully taken off their alcohol diet while doing garden work. I think that for the more classically autistic people, working on permaculture projects would bring very good results. They're naturally attuned to such activity and thinking, they have perception that normies lack which are potentially very useful, and they are working in an ambience which is amenable to their cognitive mode.

Thanks for this thread which prompted me to get these thoughts "off my chest". Hope I didn't offend or bore anyone.
 
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I'm morally certain I'm somewhere on the spectrum, although I can't afford a formal diagnosis. And anyway it would be a moot point at my time of life. But I find that the ability to set my own schedule and largely avoid unplanned interruptions that come with being self-employed and growing much of my own food fit in very well with my neurological quirks.
 
Victor Skaggs
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Kevin Carson wrote:I'm morally certain I'm somewhere on the spectrum, although I can't afford a formal diagnosis. And anyway it would be a moot point at my time of life. But I find that the ability to set my own schedule and largely avoid unplanned interruptions that come with being self-employed and growing much of my own food fit in very well with my neurological quirks.



In fact the topic is not well understood, so it is likely impossible that either of us get a proper diagnosis or identification from anyone.

Generally these neurological differences are lumped under "Autism Spectrum" for lack of any better designation. The time for scientific understanding of this topic is still in the future.

I've gone to 2 psychologists and explained that I wanted to understand more about my "autism", and they both said, "Did you read early?" "Were you a verbal child?" I said yes, and they quickly responded, "Oh, you're not autistic." That pretty much says it all regarding the current understanding.
 
pollinator
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Victor Skaggs wrote:

I've gone to 2 psychologists and explained that I wanted to understand more about my "autism", and they both said, "Did you read early?" "Were you a verbal child?" I said yes, and they quickly responded, "Oh, you're not autistic." That pretty much says it all regarding the current understanding.



How recently was this? Since Asperger's has been eliminated as a separate diagnosis, no one should say that being a verbal child or reading early means you aren't on the spectrum. I've got three boys on the spectrum and I'm pretty sure my husband is too. One son has the Asperger's diagnosis (he's very verbal and has been since early on), the second has high-functioning autism, and the third has mild-to-moderate autism. There's a reason it's called a spectrum--no two people with autism or similar disorders are alike.
 
Kevin Carson
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I had a general practitioner actually tell me that hyperfocus is not a thing because "ADHD is all about being unfocused." It's a safe guess his entire continuing medical education after he left med school came from the flyers the Pharma reps left in his office.

In fact the topic is not well understood, so it is likely impossible that either of us get a proper diagnosis or identification from anyone.

Generally these neurological differences are lumped under "Autism Spectrum" for lack of any better designation. The time for scientific understanding of this topic is still in the future.

I've gone to 2 psychologists and explained that I wanted to understand more about my "autism", and they both said, "Did you read early?" "Were you a verbal child?" I said yes, and they quickly responded, "Oh, you're not autistic." That pretty much says it all regarding the current understanding.
 
Molly Kay
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Kevin Carson wrote:I had a general practitioner actually tell me that hyperfocus is not a thing because "ADHD is all about being unfocused." It's a safe guess his entire continuing medical education after he left med school came from the flyers the Pharma reps left in his office.

In fact the topic is not well understood, so it is likely impossible that either of us get a proper diagnosis or identification from anyone.

Generally these neurological differences are lumped under "Autism Spectrum" for lack of any better designation. The time for scientific understanding of this topic is still in the future.

I've gone to 2 psychologists and explained that I wanted to understand more about my "autism", and they both said, "Did you read early?" "Were you a verbal child?" I said yes, and they quickly responded, "Oh, you're not autistic." That pretty much says it all regarding the current understanding.



I've met some very good psychologists, who are perfectly able to diagnose a wide variety of disorders, but autism is not a psychological issue, nor is ADHD. Those should be handled by specialists, ideally neurologists but usually psychiatrists. We lucked out and ended up with a great psychiatrist who not only trained in an autism center but also keeps up on the new info--double luck in that she can tell you exactly how every medication she would even think about prescribing works, and she only prescribes meds as a last resort. The world needs more of our doctor. And psychologists need way more training or a reduction in scope, because too many do not have a clue about autism despite the growing numbers indicating a need for that knowledge.

Anyone who dismisses a diagnosis because a whopping two boxes aren't checked in the criteria needs their license re-examined. The DSM guides have sometimes extensive lists of symptoms for a reason, and all practitioners should understand and use those guides.
 
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Autism is not a disorder. It is a different way of viewing social interactions. It is often linked with physical sensitivities.
There's a bi-modal distribution in humans. It's like being right handed or left handed. Most people are right handed. A significant number of people are left handed. There are some people that fall somewhere in between.
Most people watch other people for social cues and copy their peers. Drives me nuts! someone has an idea that looks nice and, within a couple months, the entire community is doing the same thing!
Some people just don't understand why s/he should do something just because the other person did it. Those people hyper focus on his/her own situation and make decisions accordingly. this puts them in constant disagreement with their peers and it creates a lot of psychological stress. And that is what causes Autistic people to have melt downs, go non-verbal, Etc.
There are a much smaller number of people that are somewhere between the mob mentality of neurotypical people and the hyper focusing of neuro-diverse people.  
 
Molly Kay
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Jotham Bessey wrote:Autism is not a disorder. It is a different way of viewing social interactions. It is often linked with physical sensitivities.
There's a bi-modal distribution in humans. It's like being right handed or left handed. Most people are right handed. A significant number of people are left handed. There are some people that fall somewhere in between.



Whether it is a disorder or not, the medical community classifies it as one, though it should be many which is why they gave us the spectrum. Left-handed vs right-handed is really not a good comparison. The brains of lefties may work slightly faster, but overall the functions are neurotypical, whereas the autistic brain literally processes things differently than the neurotypical brain does.

Jotham Bessey wrote:Some people just don't understand why s/he should do something just because the other person did it. Those people hyper focus on his/her own situation and make decisions accordingly. this puts them in constant disagreement with their peers and it creates a lot of psychological stress. And that is what causes Autistic people to have melt downs, go non-verbal, Etc.



Yeah, that is not what causes meltdowns in my sons. You've left out sensory issues completely in this. Mine don't "go non-verbal" so much as their brains are moving so fast, and focusing on so many things at once that they can't figure out which words to use to make themselves understood. And yes, that does cause psychological stress, but so do a lot of other things. Disagreements with peers may or may not be stressful, depending on the individual and whether they care what their peers think--not everyone does.

Autism is far too complicated to be reduced to "it's this" or "it's that."
 
Victor Skaggs
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Molly Kay wrote:

Victor Skaggs wrote:

I've gone to 2 psychologists and explained that I wanted to understand more about my "autism", and they both said, "Did you read early?" "Were you a verbal child?" I said yes, and they quickly responded, "Oh, you're not autistic." That pretty much says it all regarding the current understanding.



How recently was this? Since Asperger's has been eliminated as a separate diagnosis, no one should say that being a verbal child or reading early means you aren't on the spectrum. I've got three boys on the spectrum and I'm pretty sure my husband is too. One son has the Asperger's diagnosis (he's very verbal and has been since early on), the second has high-functioning autism, and the third has mild-to-moderate autism. There's a reason it's called a spectrum--no two people with autism or similar disorders are alike.



It was, sadly, within the past 2 years.

I've come to have a low opinion of psychologists, generally.
 
Victor Skaggs
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As has been pointed out here, autism is currently poorly understood, and using the term "autism spectrum" doesn't resolve this, doesn't answer any questions.

I agree that most of the spectrum does not consist of "disorders", and that psychology is not equipped to deal with autism.

I suspect anthropologists might do better analyzing the spectrum. But I'm trained in anthro so I'm biased, perhaps.

Given that we can see characteristics of "autistic" people, we can see in many cases in which milieu they will do better perhaps for the purpose of this forum we should concentrate on how to involve autistic people in horticulture and the planning and design of permaculture systems. These things can be therapeutic for the autistic individual and result in good productive results for everyone involved. We can pursue this without having a good scientific understanding of "the autism spectrum".

If I had an autistic kid on any part of the "spectrum", I'd make sure they spend time in the garden...
 
Molly Kay
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Victor Skaggs wrote:

If I had an autistic kid on any part of the "spectrum", I'd make sure they spend time in the garden...



If you have suggestions for how to get them more interested, I'd love that. My oldest says he understands my interest in permaculture, and sees the value in it, but all the info I've shown him is "boring." He's very verbal but the others are visually oriented. What kind of solutions could we come up with that make it easier for those on the spectrum to develop an interest and knowledge base in permaculture?

 
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Molly, does your son like to be outside in any form? Perhaps he'd like sensory-type stuff. My son has claimed a wheelbarrow full of dirt to be his place to drive his little dumptrucks and excavators and dig holes with them. He also likes to build, so we're making a little debris shelter. He wanted to make his own path, so we helped him with that. So far, the only real interests he has in the garden is eating the food (he likes chives, sorrel and berries) and caring for the flax seeds that R Ranson sent us.

He also liked science experiment type things, like dropping all sorts of stuff in big buckets of water, and freezing water in various containers and then smashing them to pieces.

I'm thinking the best thing--especially when they're little--is let them do what they're interested in, and encourage them in that. Just being outside is calming. They might not be interested in gardening, but they might become so just from watching you as they play.
 
Molly Kay
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Molly, does your son like to be outside in any form? Perhaps he'd like sensory-type stuff. My son has claimed a wheelbarrow full of dirt to be his place to drive his little dumptrucks and excavators and dig holes with them. He also likes to build, so we're making a little debris shelter. He wanted to make his own path, so we helped him with that. So far, the only real interests he has in the garden is eating the food (he likes chives, sorrel and berries) and caring for the flax seeds that R Ranson sent us.

He also liked science experiment type things, like dropping all sorts of stuff in big buckets of water, and freezing water in various containers and then smashing them to pieces.

I'm thinking the best thing--especially when they're little--is let them do what they're interested in, and encourage them in that. Just being outside is calming. They might not be interested in gardening, but they might become so just from watching you as they play.



He does like being outside. Takes long walks around the backyard and such. He just doesn't seem interested in doing anything with the outdoors, at least not anything his parents suggest, and he may grow out of that.

Our middle son did some planting with us this year and liked checking on the plants to see if they were growing. He's expressed some interest in farming too. I think if we can give him the right tools he'll probably develop some good skills in this area. Tonight we had homegrown carrots and potatoes with a roast, and he would only eat the meat. When the seed catalogs start coming again I'm going to try and get him to choose some varieties he might be willing to try.

Our youngest boy was the one who loved being outdoors and playing in the dirt when he was little. But after spending almost two weeks in a hospital he started not wanting to be outdoors so much, and the year after that he stopped going outside altogether. Puberty hit and knocked him completely off track, and we're starting to get him back now, but he won't go outside except to go to school, doctor's appointments, or family things (where he may or may not get out of our minivan).

They all love animals, so it will be great when we can get back out in the country and have some. Our dog is great, but she's a mostly indoor pet. When they were little we lived with my parents and they loved to "help" with the chores and interact with the animals. As my mom and dad got older they had to cut back, so now it's just a few cats and dogs and the horses.
 
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It's my opinion too that autism isn't a disorder. The autism spectrum exists of people who react in a way that's different from what's considered 'normal'.

My first question is: why is a certain way of being considered 'normal' and what's wrong with being different? In my opinion in a good-functioning society all those different people can be part of it. Anyway: in a society that's following permaculture principles diversity (biodiversity, neurodiversity) is welcomed.

When I was young I didn't see 'being different' as a big problem. My entire family was 'different', and the friends I liked being together with were 'different' too. At school first there wasn't a problem, because my intelligence was high enough to stay at the same level as the rest of the class (higher level for language-related things and a little lower for math stuff).
Then I came at a high  school where a group of 'bullies' had everyone who was 'different' as their target. I didn't want to be bullied. So I became 'invisible' in class.
But being 'invisible' doesn't mean you're not 'different'. Only you know how to hide it.

It took me many years to become my 'weird' self again. I am happy being 'different' now. I don't consider it something I need 'help' for. I would like it if there are therapists who can help 'different' children live happily with the way they are. So they won't feel a need to become 'invisible'.
 
Victor Skaggs
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Molly Kay wrote:

Victor Skaggs wrote:

If I had an autistic kid on any part of the "spectrum", I'd make sure they spend time in the garden...



If you have suggestions for how to get them more interested, I'd love that. My oldest says he understands my interest in permaculture, and sees the value in it, but all the info I've shown him is "boring." He's very verbal but the others are visually oriented. What kind of solutions could we come up with that make it easier for those on the spectrum to develop an interest and knowledge base in permaculture?



While I am on the spectrum, I do not have a child who is, so I have no experience with this. As a teacher I taught in "normal" classes and so had little interaction with autistic children except when I'd sub in the special ed class.

I think the key is to not talk about it with them, just lead to them a task. If they won't respond to things like weeding, picking peas or beans or tomatoes might be interesting to them. Also planting seeds (with guidance) might be good. Once they've later eaten what they've planted, a strong connection to the garden may develop.

I have a friend in California who works with autistic children but she knows nothing about gardening.
 
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