The Five Neurodivergent Love Languages

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We love this fun tweet on the five neurodivergent love languages from the always insightful Myth.

The five neurodivergent love languages: infodumping, parallel play, support swapping, Please Crush My Soul Back Into My Body (deep pressure), and “I found this cool rock/button/leaf/etc and thought you would like it” (penguin pebbling)

Myth

Emotional bids are the pixels of relationship communications and are important to relationship accommodations. This list is much about recognizing and meeting some common neurodivergent emotional bids in relationships, thus the phrase “love languages”.

We’ll expand on each with selected quotes, images, and videos.

An emotional bid is when we do something to signal that we want attention and connection.

Emotional bids are central to every kind of relationship – romantic, social and professional.

The Most Important Relationship Skill – Emotional Bids

Gottman refers to bids as “the fundamental unit of emotional communication.” Bids can be small or big, verbal or nonverbal. They’re requests to connect.

Bids are often purposely subtle because people are afraid to be vulnerable and put themselves out there. It’s scary to say, “Hey! I want to connect! Pay attention to me!” so instead, we ask a question or tell a story or offer our hand for connection. We hope we’ll receive connection in return, but if not, it’s less scary than pleading, “Connect with me, please!”

Want to Improve Your Relationship? Start Paying More Attention to Bids
I like them spooky and you're just my style
Said the Leo to the Taurus
And if you’d like to stay with me awhile
I'll cover us with forest
We can stroll across a magic land
It's green and it is glowing
Lay our bodies in the moss and sand
We know and we are knowing

“Strange Astrology” is one of the only proper love songs I’ve ever written. It’s an honest exploration of what it means to love someone who is intrinsically different than you. It’s about hoping that those juxtaposing qualities and instincts encourage meaningful growth instead of chaos, but knowing that inevitably it will always be a bit of both. 

FLOOD – Slothrust Break Down Their Spiritual New LP “Parallel Timeline” Track by Track
And I don’t mind
Our strange astrology
I hope we find
You bring the best out in me

Strange Astrology by Slothrust

Infodumping

SpIns and Infodumps

I don’t know who invented the phrase “special interest.” Probably some researcher. Autistic people don’t really love the term because the term “special” has become tied so closely with terms like “special needs,” which we resent.

Nevertheless, somewhere down the line “special interest,” commonly shortened to SpIn (“spin”), became the term for the characteristically-autistic tendency to develop an obsession with something specific and often obscure.

Some special interests are short lived, and some last the lifetime of the person; but, however long they last, they are intense, delightful, and a vital part of autistic culture.

So integral are special interests to autistic culture that autistic people will post about feeling depressed and unmotivated because they don’t have an active SpIn at the moment.

Having a special interest is like having a crush or being newly in love. It is consuming and delightful. We love to share our special interests and a common example of autistic empathy is encouraging others to talk in great detail- “infodump”- about their SpIns.

It is considered a sign of caring and friendship to encourage someone to talk to you about their SpIn- whether or not you actually share their interest- because nothing makes an autistic person happier than discussing, learning about, or sharing about, their SpIn.

It is also quite acceptable in autistic culture to “infodump” on a topic whenever it happens to come up. To autists (an insider short-hand for autistic people), the sharing of knowledge and information is always welcome.

7 Cool Aspects of Autistic Culture » NeuroClastic

🐇 …when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by…

Parallel Play, Body Doubling

We enjoy parallel play and shared activities that don’t require continual conversation. When we talk, it gets deep quickly. We discuss what’s real, our struggles, fears, desires, obsessions. We appreciate a good infodump, and there’s no such thing as oversharing. We swap SAME stories — sharing a time when we felt similarly in our own life, not as a competition, but to reflect how well we are listening to each other.

Lost in Translation: The Social Language Theory of Neurodivergence | by Trauma Geek | Medium

I want to spend time in parallel existence with you; let’s be alone together.

neurowonderful — neurowonderful: They’re here! Because you…

Related to parallel play is the ADHDer practice of body doubling.

But in the world of ADHD, a body double is someone who sits with a person with ADHD as he tackles tasks that might be difficult to complete alone.

Many people with ADHD find it easier to stay focused on housework, homework, bill paying, and other tasks when someone else is around to keep them company. The body double may just sit quietly. He may read, listen to music on headphones, or work on the task that the person with ADHD is working on. Hard work is simply more fun when someone else is nearby.

Getting Stuff Done Is Easier with a Friend

But why does a body double work? There are a few possible explanations. The simplest is that the body double serves as a physical anchor for the distracted individual who feels more focused by the presence of another person in their space. The distracted person feels responsible to and for the body double. This perception translates as­-I can’t waste this gift of time.

The Body Double: A Unique Tool for Getting Things Done | ADDA – Attention Deficit Disorder Association

But she wasn’t there to procrastinate. For an hour, Ms. Bee, a teacher in her 30s, live-streamed herself sorting the clothes on her account dedicated to ADHD: brainsandspoons. As the live stream went on, viewers jumped in to do their own laundry “with” her.

“Everybody was so encouraging,” said Ms. Bee, who learned she has ADHD as an adult. “It made it really feel like a group project, not just me by myself on camera. It definitely made the time go by faster.”

The ADHD community calls the practice “body doubling.”

‘Body doubling,’ an ADHD productivity tool, is flourishing online | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
What is body doubling?

If you imagine that an autistic kid at school is likely to be wrenched out of their attention tunnel multiple times every day, each time leading to disorientation and deep discomfort, you are on your way to understanding why school environments can be so stressful for many autistic students. If you can avoid contributing to that, you may find that you have an easier time with your autistic students: try entering into their attention tunnel when you can, rather than tugging them out of it. Parallel play is one powerful tool for this; start where the child is, show interest in what they’re focused on. If you do need to pull them out of whatever they’re focusing on, it’s best to give them a bit of time.

Craft, Flow and Cognitive Styles

Support Swapping, Sharing Spoons

Neurodivergent people, working together, can fill the gaps in each other’s spiky profiles. Go team. Members of the Neurodiversity ERG at Automattic help each other out during synchronous, meatspace meetups, which can be very stressful.

Support swapping can happen during parallel play, making for a nice moment of converging love languages.

The people tell us what they need, and we find the person in the community who can meet that need.

A concept we have taken to calling “sharing spoons.”

What are we working on now? 🥄 #onefreeapp #sharingspoons #communitysolutions #mutualaid (feat. @lindsaymakesvideos)
@onefreeapp

What are we working on now? 🥄 #onefreeapp #sharingspoons #communitysolutions #mutualaid (feat. @lindsaymakesvideos)

♬ original sound – OneFreeApp.com

What is mutual aid?

“Solidarity, not charity.”

Why is a spoon share helpful?

  • Interdependence, understanding and support
  • Gives opportunity to help & care for other in on our own terms and within our own capacities
  • Direct support in a community within a community
  • It’s much easier to practice asking, offering, receiving, and declining among people who “get it”!
Collective Community Care: Dreaming of Futures in Autistic Mutual Aid

Increasingly, autistic communities have been exposed to ideas of disability justice, interdependence, access intimacy, collective/community care, and mutual aid. Care collectives, spoon shares, and other community care groups by and for disabled people, racialized people, LGBTQ2IA+ people (and people at this intersection) are growing in number. Is there a future for autistic spaces to also act as spaces of intentional mutual aid?

Moving from a rights-based perspective to a justice-based one necessitates a look at our care systems and re-envisioning how our communities function to ensure no one is left behind.

Collective Community Care: Dreaming of Futures in Autistic Mutual Aid, Autscape: 2020 Presentations

Please Crush My Soul Back Into My Body

A famous example of the common autistic preference for deep pressure input is Temple Grandin’s Squeeze Machine.

At age 18, I constructed the squeeze machine to help calm down the anxiety and panic attacks. Using the machine for 15 minutes would reduce my anxiety for up to 45-60 minutes (Grandin and Scariano 1986). The relaxing effect was maximized if the machine was used twice a day.

Gradually, my tolerance of being held by the squeeze machine grew. Knowing that I could initiate the pressure, and stop it if the stimulation became too intense, helped me to reduce the oversensitivity of my “nervous system.” A once overwhelming stimulus was now a pleasurable experience.

Using the machine enabled me to learn to tolerate being touched by another person. By age 25, I was able to relax in the machine without pulling away from it. It also made me feel less aggressive and less tense. Soon I noted a change in our cat’s reaction to me. The cat, who used to run away from me now would stay with me, because I had learned to caress him with a gentler touch. I had to be comforted myself before I could give comfort to the cat.

As my “nervous system” calmed down, I required less squeeze pressure to produce a comforting feeling. Gradually, I could reduce the pressure regulator setting from 80 to 60 psi.

Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals

But I’m tortured because whilst I don’t want to make a scene or have strangers adding to the overload and overwhelm, I’m simultaneously desperate for someone to give me a massive, firm, bear-hug. To hide me, cocoon me, and shield me from the shock waves that travel from their universe into mine.

On meltdowns | The Misadventures of Mama Pineapple

I can think of no logical reasons why swaddles should just be for babies because they are super helpful.

They’re like a hug without physical contact. That’s amazing!

soundoftheforest
@soundoftheforest

Replying to @toetie9112 hug sleep is awesome #autisticadult #autistic

♬ Sneaky Snitch – Kevin MacLeod

Penguin Pebbling: “I found this cool rock/button/leaf/etc and thought you would like it”

Penguin Pebbling

It’s our way of saying, “I thought about you today. I remembered this thing about you. Here’s something I want to share with you specifically.

Send a little “thinking of you” pebble. It helps.

@brainsandspoons
An Adelie Penguin carries a rock to add to its nest on an island in Antarctica inspiring the neurodivergent love language penguin pebbling
An Adelie Penguin carries a rock to add to its nest on an island in Antarctica inspiring the neurodivergent love language penguin pebbling

Penguins give pebbles to other penguins to show that they care.

@brainsandspoons

Penguin Pebbling gets back to SpIns, both inviting people into yours and encouraging other’s. SpIns are a trove fo r unconventional gift giving.

Pebbles resembling the letters L, O, V, and E arranged in the word LOVE on a sandy beach, evoking the neurodivergent love language of penguin pebbling.
Love Pebbles
Pebbles resembling the letters L, O, V, and E arranged in the word LOVE on a sandy beach, evoking the neurodivergent love language of penguin pebbling.
Image Credit: AJ Wool

Neurodivergent Love Languages and Teamwork

yellow blue red pink purple green multicolored open umbrellas hanging on strings under blue sky
Team work makes the dream work

Infodumping, parallel play, support swapping, and penguin pebbling are languages of teamwork and collaboration too, especially in distributed work cultures and “communication is oxygen” cultures. If only there were a distributed and work-appropriate equivalent for “Please Crush My Soul Back Into My Body”.

Spiky Profiles

Appreciate the strange astrology of our spiky profiles coming together.

What makes us different, makes all the difference in the world.

Randimals

Join the Randimals in learning about spiky profiles.

Hork: Shark + horse Randimal
Hork

We call ourselves Warriors and Weirdos.“

AURORA

Eagert: Eagle + Leopard Randimal
Eagard

We call ourselves Warriors and Weirdos.

Seadog Sea Lion + Dog Randimal
Sea Dog

“What makes us different, makes all the difference in the world.”

Ellarilla Elephant + Gorilla Randimal
Ellarilla

Omega hai foleet

And I don’t mind
Our strange astrology
I hope we find
You bring the best out in me

Strange Astrology by Slothrust

So, one of the things to also bear in mind with this is that the impairments that exist in terms of relationships or even in broader sense with folks both on the spectrum and with ADHD is that our impairments can often be invisible.

We’ve been socialized to try and speak neurotypical, but we’re not good at it.

A lot of relationship-difficulties for folks who are neurodiverse come from misunderstandings of intent. Misunderstandings of action. Or feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. Often because we come from an entire lifetime of literally not being accepted for who we are.

ADHD and Autism Relationship Accommodations — How to Get Your Needs Met

Reframe Neurodivergence

To understand neurodivergent people in relationships of any kind, we must reframe. We reframe disability and difference with our Four Pillars.

Mutual Aid

Real help against the onslaught. Staying alive is a lot of work for a disabled person in an ableist society.

Learning Space

The place where we belong does not exist. We will build it. Anti-ableist space for passion-based, human-centered learning compatible with neurodiversity and the social model of disability.

Open Research

Digital sociology, neurodiversity studies, disability studies, and syncretism, in the open. Improving science by restoring the humanities.

Services

Stay relevant in a constantly changing world. Dismantle ableism in your spaces. Enable dignity through access.

Support Myth

Myth’s “Ask an Autistic” YouTube series is an important part of our journey here at Stimpunks. We’re glad to support their work.

Need Support?

Stimpunks Foundation challenges the typical approach to helping people who are neurodivergent or disabled. We know what it is like to live with barriers and what it means to not fit in and have to forge our own community. Stimpunks knows that neurodivergent and disabled people have human needs. We offer a humane approach to help our community thrive.

Through Stimpunks Foundation, we:

  1. Offer financial and mutual aid;
  2. Hire our community members as consultants;
  3. Provide a learning space designed for our community; and
  4. Support our community’s open research efforts.

One in four U.S. adults have a disability. However, our community receives only 2% of US grant funding, and only 19% of us are employed. We can’t just let that be the truth. We have to challenge the norm and change the narrative around people who are neurodivergent or disabled.

Stimpunks Foundation seeks to do just that. Learn more at stimpunks.org.

Header Art: Sphere of Humanity by Heike Blakley

“Sphere of Humanity: A Traverse Gift of Energetic Connectedness” by Heike Blakley
Flowers grow from a skeletonized human torso. Some of the flowers have teeth and mouths. One flower is biting the skull of the torso.
PunkFlowers by Heike Blakley
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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic retired technologist turned wannabe-sociologist. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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