creativity autism

The autism community is known as a driver of the neurodiversity movement. Neurodiversity is a way of accepting and fostering diverse neurological differences that are as normal as having either blue or brown eyes.

It is what is behind those eyes that is so revealing.

Bipolar, schizophrenia, the aging brain, and now, autism are known for having enhanced creativity.  It’s in our genes and possibly in how our minds adapt to our changing lives and the world around us.

This article quoted, “The Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger famously wrote two millennia ago that “there is no great genius without some touch of madness” – now scientists have shown that he may have been right.”  Do note that autism isn’t a mental illness; it’s a developmental disorder, which I will get to in a bit.

Wikipedia: A study by psychologist J. Philippe Rushton found creativity to correlate with intelligence and psychoticism. Another study found creativity to be greater in schizotypal than in either normal or schizophrenic individuals. While divergent thinking was associated with bilateral activation of the prefrontal cortex, schizotypal individuals were found to have much greater activation of their rightprefrontal cortex. This study hypothesizes that such individuals are better at accessing both hemispheres, allowing them to make novel associations at a faster rate.

Another study involving more than one million people, conducted by Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute, reported a number of correlations between creative occupations and mental illnesses. Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, and were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves. Dancers and photographers were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.

However, as a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people, although they were more likely to have a close relative with a disorder, including anorexia and, to some extent, autism, the Journal of Psychiatric Research reports.

The Aging Creative Brain

As we age, we experience a cognitive decline, but the older brain accommodates by becoming more creative.   In this article, they wrote, “The aging brain resembles the creative brain in several ways. For instance, the aging brain is more distractible and somewhat more disinhibited than the younger brain (so is the creative brain).”

“Distractible” meaning noticing all kinds of things that are outside the scope of the task or thought at hand.  All those other variables are taken into the activity, making it into a creative activity or thought.

To quote the same article, “Aging brains score better on tests of crystallized IQ (and creative brains use crystallized knowledge to make novel and original associations). These changes in the aging brain may make it ideally suited to accomplish work in a number of creative domains.”

In short, do read, “When I am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple,” where one of the poets writes, “…to make up for the sobriety of my youth.”

We autistics are now a part of a storied group of creatives

Some of us like to claim Einstein as a part of our autistic tribe, but so do the bipolars and schizophrenics.  Maybe he had two or three disorders?  I posit that there are no lines drawn in concrete among older people, autism, bipolar, and schizophrenia.  We have more in common than the sharply defined diagnoses would describe.  After all, sharp distinctions are necessary as a diagnostic tool, but they are not a tool that defines a person.

We all have behaviors that are attributed to our particular disorder, but what if it’s just that we’re a creative type?

This article is interesting:  People with autism ‘have greater quality of creative ideas.

Another good one:  Study Finds Link Between Autism And Creative Thinking

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.

-Steve Jobs

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Autism-Radar

When your child is going through the autism diagnostic process, they will ask if your child reminds you of someone else in the family.  You name Grandpa, Auntie Millie, and Cousin Jim.  Ahem, and who else?  Mom?  Dad?

Autism tends to run in families, so you might start seeing autism traits in yourself or your child’s other parent.  You don’t necessarily need to be diagnosed, but delving into the traits you may have, can better help you understand your child.

Here is a quick quiz to look into your own possible symptoms.

Adults with autism may not necessarily show the symptoms the same way.  For example, when I have a meltdown, I get angry, sweaty, scared, anxious, or all of the above, and instead of yelling or other ways a child may express a meltdown, I walk away or go home.  If my meltdown is at home, such as when we have people over, I go downstairs and immerse myself in writing or learning more web programming.

But, the company we have over the most are my step-kids and step-daughter-in-law, and I adore them, so when I have “come down,” I go back upstairs and parallel play or engage in some conversation.  I don’t talk too much, but they know me well enough, I think, that the parallel play is being with them.

So, at this point, you are learning a lot about autism in your child, and perhaps in yourself.  You have participated in parent groups online to learn and ask advice and to get and give support.  You have learned more about symptoms in yourself, or maybe sought an official diagnosis.

Then comes the “ah-ha.”  It all starts making sense that you and your child are not “different,” rather, you are a part of a large community of autistic adults and children.  Then, you start hearing about famous people on the autism spectrum, many of which are thought to have autism, such as Einstein or DaVinci.

Wikipedia has a list of people on the spectrum citing sources.  The only think I don’t like about the list is a section name “high-functioning.”  Functioning level and experience are different for every person on the spectrum.  Also, I don’t know how “functioning level” could be defined.  I function quite well at some things, and I have to work hard at others, such as social skills.

But, I learn, as does every person on the spectrum.  Autism is a developmental disorder, so I like to think of it as continuing to develop.  What I can do now, I may not have known how in the past.

Now, given that you have learned some or more about autism, can you spot other adults or children on the spectrum?  I have gained “autism radar,” where I can see traits in others as I am out and about, such as a grocery checkout clerk or staff at the doctor’s office.

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Merry Christmas!

by Eileen Parker

christmas-lightFor all those who celebrate Christmas,  Merry Christmas!

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Autism No More Strawberries!

by Eileen Parker

Strawberry-AutismYesterday, I announced to hubby that I don’t like strawberries anymore, no more, won’t touch them, can’t make me.  He asked because before he went out of town, he had taken out some frozen strawberries and put them in the fridge for me, and there they sat untouched.

He knows that I will suddenly change a preference, so he smiled at me.

The extreme likes or dislikes are typical of autism, and in my case, they change.  It happened with blue pens one day.  I wrote in blue, put the pen down, and grabbed a black one.  I announced to hubby that I don’t like blue pens anymore, no more, won’t touch them, can’t make me.  I bought new black refills for my favorite pens to replace the blue ones.

When it’s a dislike, it’s extreme.  I feel repulsed by the strawberries or the blue pen.

When I am out and about in the world (eeew.), I can encounter things that repulse me, and I can sometimes seem “rude” in my need to get away now as in, right now.  I can relate to a child who wants to leave but can’t because they have to be in a store or getting a hair cut, that sort of thing.

I’m sure that I’ll like strawberries again.  I have loved them my whole life, especially wild strawberries that are so concentrated with flavor.

In the meantime, pretty much all I have been eating is pumpkin quiche, morning, noon, and night.  For supper though, hubby makes a hot meal, and tells me that it’s good to eat something different.  He’s right, but I want my quiche.

Then there’s the problem of my guts.  I have had digestive issues all of my life, and I have to eat healthy or I feel horrid.  Now, since I had half of my colon removed this summer, I have to eat even healthier.  Healthier also means a variety of foods.  Does that mean I can live on pumpkin quiche then I switch to another favorite food?

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