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Aspie-superpower days – why autists may be on an ‘autistic spectrum within a spectrum’? We look at the different ‘autistic’ days…

by | Jan 12, 2018 | News & Views | 6 comments

When you are diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition, it takes a while to process everything, if you were not aware previously that you had autism; in my case, Asperger Syndrome. What I’ve come to believe is that, just as all autists are on an autism spectrum, we autists are also all on a ‘spectrum within a spectrum’.

Oh, to feel this NT (neurotypical)! Confidently wearing white, casually drinking in a happy, 90’s-inspired group, and enjoying some garish lighting…

What I have discovered in my case is that there are three main facets or divisions of my autism, which I liken to the red, amber and green colours of a traffic light; my ‘green’ days are my ‘neutral’ days, and the closest I get to being neurotypical. (For me, I am ‘green’ most days, thanks to good self-care, and management of my social and sensory challenges.) My ‘red’ days are what I would call my ‘slow brain’ days, when everything is a little more challenging, and sensory overload is abundant. And my ‘amber’ days are my ‘fast brain’ days; not necessarily a cause for concern as they’re soooo productive, but something of a red flag that I need to take care of myself; but let me explain further!

On my green days I feel fairly normal and as neurotypical as I get; I’m not too tired, I don’t feel especially antisocial, I am reasonably happy to see people and hold conversations and engage socially, and I get quite a lot of pleasure out of life. (There’s a sub-type of the green days that I would call ‘neutral-slow’ when I am feeling pretty good but with a slight edge of irritation from shrieky noises, excess stimulation, etc.)

Aspie-superpower days

On my amber days, which happen once or twice a week, e.g. my fast brain days, in some ways I am at my most autistic – these are my aspie-superpower days. In actual fact, I quite like them; it feels like my brain is supercharged; I’m multitasking on a massive level! I will write an article in my head (to be typed out later) whilst I am doing other things, for example getting my son ready for school, and it feels as if I have lots of metaphorical PC browser windows open in my head, all busily working; conversations, lists, plans, music etc.

On amber/fast brain days, I am super-efficient, planning things, thinking of things, coming up with business ideas, and remembering things (which I need to write down or add to the ‘to do’ list!); and there is always a song on loop, or more usually, part of the song like the chorus, going round and round and round… I’m only now seeing this ‘stuck record’ as a little bit of a warning sign, a sign that stress is building. Invariably I have to find the song and listen to it later, to ‘let it out’.

MOVE ON!”

On my aspie-superpower days, other people (of any neurological persuasion!) very often seem to be going so s-l-o-w-l-y. Their brain-to-speech processing speed is often agonisingly and irritatingly slow. It annoys me when they want to focus or pontificate on something that my head processed and filed moments ago! This undoubtedly leads to me appearing bossy and maybe short-fused! It’s like telling someone you’re taking the M25 to somewhere, and your friend wants to s-l-o-w-l-y talk about every possible junction number and A-road, en route. “MOVE ON! My brain has covered that…” I fume, internally.

I hadn’t realised that these superpower days often precede my slow (red) brain days; it seems you can’t have one without the other – when my brain is quite worn out. These are the days I find it harder to communicate, and forget every-day words, mid-conversation; I am tired and often crave solitude; too much sensory input is massively annoying and even painful, to a degree. Touch can be super-charged. Some sounds, e.g. the rustling of a packet, seem to be deafening.

Some self-care is needed…

And why are these slow brain days categorised red? Because this is a big warning that some self-care is needed. Now’s not the time to book a series of intensive work meetings, or socialise in large groups. This is a time when some quietitude, some favourite music on the headphones, and plenty of sleep are in order. Generally these slow brain days only last a day (or maybe two, if I wasn’t able to look after myself and reduce sensory/social input on the first day).

And what’s next, if a person on the autistic spectrum on a ‘slow brain day’ can’t administer self-care – or if you continue to push yourself (or have to push yourself because of work) over the course of a few of these ‘slow brain’ days? It’s the dreaded shutdown.

An average week

Having noted how I feel for the purpose of this article, an average week for me may look like this –

Day 1 – Fast brain (amber).

Day 2 – Slow brain (red).

Day 3 – Neutral/slow (green).

Day 4 – Neutral (green).

Day 5 – Neutral (green).

Day 6 – Neutral/slow (green).

Day 7 – Neutral (green).

Thereafter, I am pretty sure a fast brain day is due!

I’d love to hear from other Aspies/Auties about whether they’ve noticed any patterns like this! (Find out about the author HERE).

A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism Spectrum Disorders; the information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences. 

6 Comments

  1. candy

    I am newly discovered and have noticed that there has been a pattern of lifelong periods of differences in function. These were previously thought to be trauma and depression related. I have begun to track my days of extreme non-function and noticed that hyper-sensory overload was non stop. I spent 50 years mistaking sensory problems for a mysterious mental illness. I didn’t know that other people also had these problems and neither did my parents or my teachers or my doctors. I plan on catching up quick. I will now track all of my days and see if I can distinguish a pattern. I think I’ve been in a melt/shut down -recover- repeat cycle and I think I can ameliorate some of my difficulties now that I know where to dig for solutions.

    Reply
    • admin

      Melt/shut down -recover-repeat – shall we get that on a T-shirt?!
      Thanks for commenting and am so pleased that you are digging for solutions too.

      Reply
  2. Ethan

    This is the greatest description I’ve seen of how my functioning fluctuates, I have such difficulty explaining it or even understanding it myself so thank you for articulating it so well- and also for validating my experience-! Your article on shutdowns was similarly enlightening and as someone only recently diagnosed in adulthood and still struggling to make sense of everything I have found real comfort in your writing.

    Reply
  3. admin

    Thanks so much Ethan your words mean such a lot. Many warm regards! x

    Reply
  4. Balaam

    Week 1

    Day 1 – Fast brain (amber).

    Day 2 – Slow brain (red). Only a small meltdown, I’ll be OK.

    Day 3 – Neutral/slow (green).

    Day 4 – Neutral (green).

    Day 5 – Neutral (green).

    Day 6 – Neutral/slow (green).

    Day 7 – Neutral (green).

    Week 2

    Day 1 Slow Day – Meltdown – This will take at least two hours before I get back down again.

    Day 2 Unable to function. Recovering from meltdown. Excessively tired

    Day 3 Unable to function. Recovering from meltdown. Excessively tired

    Day 4 Unable to function. Recovering from meltdown. Excessively tired

    Day 5 Unable to function. Recovering from meltdown. Excessively tired

    Day 6 Unable to function. Recovering from meltdown. Excessively tired

    Day 7 Functioning slowly. Recovering from meltdown. Excessively tired

    Reply

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