The Obsessive Joy of Autism

I am autistic. I can talk; I talked to myself for a long time before I would talk to anyone else. My sensory system is a painful mess, my grasp on language isn’t always the best, and it takes me quite some time to process social situations. I cannot yet live on my own or manage college or relationships successfully. I can explain, bemoan, and wish away a lot of things about me and my autism: my troubles finding the right words to say what I really mean, my social processing lag and limits, my rubbery facial expressions, my anxiety, my sensory system’s dysfunctions, my brain’s tendency to get stuck in physical self-destruct mode and land me in the ER. I can complain about the suckiness of being socialized and educated as an autistic and as an outsider, about lack of supports and understanding and always needing to educate.

One of the things about autism is that a lot of things can make you terribly unhappy while barely affecting others. A lot of things are harder.

But some things? Some things are so much easier. Sometimes being autistic means that you get to be incredibly happy. And then you get to flap. You get to perseverate. You get to have just about the coolest obsessions. (Mine are: sudoku and Glee. I am not ashamed.)

Now, maybe you do not understand. Because “obsession” and even “perseveration” have specific dictionary and colloquial meanings which everyone uses and understands and which do not even come CLOSE to describing my relationship with whatever I’m obsessing on now. It’s not just that I am sitting in my room and my heart is racing and all I can think about is Glee and all I want to do is read about it and talk about it and never go to sleep because that would take time away from this and that has been my life for the past few days. It’s not just that I am doing sudokus in my head or that I find ways to talk about either numbers or Glee in any conversation, including ones about needing to give a student a sensory break so he’ll stop screaming and throwing things.

(It’s not just the association and pressure of shame, because when ever an autistic person gets autistically excited about something, there will be people there to shame and bully them, and some of us will internalize that shame and lock away our obsessions and believe the bullies and let them take away this unique, untranslatable joy and turn it into something dirty and battered.)

It’s not any of that. Those are all things neurotypicals can understand and process. This goes beyond that. It’s not anything recognized on the continuum of “normal”.

It’s that the experience is so rich. It’s textured, vibrant, and layered. It exudes joy. It is a hug machine for my brain. It makes my heart pump faster and my mouth twitch back into a smile every few minutes. I feel like I’m sparkling. Every inch of me is totally engaged in and powered up by the obsession. Things are clear.

It is beautiful. It is perfect.

I flap a lot when I think about Glee or when I finish a sudoku puzzle. I make funny little sounds. I spin. I rock. I laugh. I am happy. Being autistic, to me, means a lot of different things, but one of the best things is that I can be so happy, so enraptured about things no one else understands and so wrapped up in my own joy that, not only does it not matter that no one else shares it, but it can become contagious.

This is the part about autism I can never explain. This is the part I never want to lose. Without this part autism is not worth having.

Neurotypical people pity autistics. I pity neurotypicals. I pity anyone who cannot feel the way that flapping your hands just so amplifies everything you feel and thrusts it up into the air. I pity anyone who doesn’t understand how beautiful the multiples of seven are, anyone who doesn’t get chills when a shadow falls just so across a solitaire game spread out on the table. I pity anyone who is so restrained by what is considered acceptable happiness that they will never understand when I say that sometimes being autistic in this world means walking through a crowd of silently miserable people and holding your happiness like a secret or a baby, letting it warm you as your mind runs on the familiar tracks of an obsession and lights your way through the day.

It takes a million different forms. A boy pacing by himself, flapping and humming and laughing. An “interest” or obsessions that is “age appropriate”—or maybe one that is not. A shake of the fingers in front of the eyes, a monologue, an echolaliated phrase. All of these things autistic people are supposed to be ashamed of and stop doing? They are how we communicate our joy.

If I could change three things about how the world sees autism, they would be these. That the world would see that we feel joy—sometimes a joy so intense and private and all-encompassing that it eclipses anything the world might feel. That the world would stop punishing us for our joy, stop grabbing flapping hands and eliminating interests that are not “age-appropriate”, stop shaming and gas-lighting us into believing that we are never, and can never be, happy. And that our joy would be valued in and of itself, seen as a necessary and beautiful part of our disability, pursued, and shared.

This is about the obsessive joy of autism. So I guess, if I’m trying to explain what an obsession (and, by necessity, obsessive joy) means to me as an autistic person, I can bring it back to the tired old image of a little professor cornering an unsuspecting passerby and lecturing them for half an hour. All too often this encounter is viewed through the terrified eyes of the unwillingly captive audience. I’d like to invite you to see through the eyes of the lecturer, who is not so much determined to force their knowledge into you as they are opened to a flood of joy which they cannot contain.

And why would you want to contain something like that?

Julia Bascom blogs at Just Stimming.

The Obsessive Joy of Autism appears here by permission.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 11/30/11 in featured, Language | 125 Comments | Read More

Comments (125)


  1. ictus75 says:

    Beautiful! I’m stimming with joy after reading this. Thank you!

  2. Maria says:

    Never lose that excitement you talk about, and never let anyone make you feel like you can’t express it. And don’t ever listen to the bullies, they’re only jealous of your happiness!

    What you wrote is very inspiring, and I thank you for writing it.

  3. Bernie says:

    Wow, wow, wow. This is BEAUTIFUL. My son is heavily into Minecraft right now and jumping all over the room and I just read this for the second time and it’s like you’ve really opened a door with your writing here for many I hope. Thank you.

  4. Barb says:

    This is brilliant. Thank you so much.

  5. Athena says:

    Thank you for this.

    I have lost that joy due to recent persecution by others and still trying to get my head round a recent diagnosis in my 40’s.

    I have hobbies and interests and skills I know but at the moment I can only see the flaws.

    I hope I can find the joy again.


  6. chrisd says:

    What a lovely blog! Thank you for explaining this because I think it will help others understand.

  7. JNgaio says:

    This article is awesome and made me incredibly happy to read. Bravo!

  8. Cynthia Maldonado says:

    Profound. Important. Beautiful. Magical. Palpable. Understood. Aprreciated. Thankful. Grateful. Significant. Wise. Eloquent. Blessed. Happy! So moved, I cannot adequitely explain. I just have words! ~I will share this and quite possibly even print on my wall at home! 😀

  9. CarolAnn Edscorn says:

    Word. When the people who believe they “know” what is right realize they might be “wrong” then happiness can be communicated. Sarcasm. Judgment. Bullying. I witness so much rudeness when humans interact. I feel sad and powerless. You are correct. Finding JOY in rocking, humming, watching the light in dust motes, celebrating the sparkies in water drops…sometimes I really LONG to share these with others, but experience indicates others do not WANT to know this type of joy.

    Why? Life is so very short. When we find joy, it should be accepted and shared. Going out into the world of “normal” can be very painful.

    Thank you for sharing the beauty. I teach about autism to educators through college courses. I teach it is about trust and acceptance MORE than supports and interventions like programs. I am sharing this blog.

    Is it not amazing how words escape in the horizontal exchange of conversation, yet radiate when written from the heart in our space apart? Your writing radiates. Thank you for reminding me. I only FEEL alone. I am not alone.

  10. Christina Rogers says:

    This is a wonderful article. I really enjoyed it and was educated more about autism by it. I hope to read more of your blogs.

  11. Mason says:

    One of the best articles about Autism I’ve ever read! One time at a party, I was talking to a boy with Aspergers who was “into” Star Wars. Being around 40, I grew up with Star Wars, so I talked to (mostly listened) to this boy about Star Wars for over an hour one day. It was clear that no one had taken the time to talk to him about his obsession, and yes, I did experience his joy. While the others in the room probably felt like I was just “dealing with him” - I was happy to share in his obsessive joy about Star Wars that day.. but it is sad that he will probably be shamed for it one day..

  12. Noreen Albright says:

    Love this and I know my son feels this. Appropriately coming after my son got way “over excited” as we “not clued in typicals” call it ;o) last night singing the wonderful new muppet movie opening song. Sometimes being alone can feel “quite happy” too! It’s your perspective and your life. This is my favorite part of your writing,
    “I say that sometimes being autistic in this world means walking through a crowd of silently miserable people and holding your happiness like a secret or a baby, letting it warm you as your mind runs on the familiar tracks of an obsession and lights your way through the day.” Thanks for the enlightenment.

  13. Beth in MA says:

    I never knew!! THANK you for writing this. I’ll never look at it the same again. As it is, I can’t stop grinning now, so happy you’ve made me with your writing.

  14. Celeste Walkup says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article. It has given me a new perspective about autism and obsessions. I love it that you talk about being happy! Because you described a child I know and now I have a better understanding about his happiness and flapping!

  15. Amber says:

    Beautiful, honest and moving… I am a mother of a 2 year old little girl. She has recently been diagnosed with autism and she sees beauty in so many things - we encourage this, we love her for who she is and now we too see beauty in everyday things. Thank you so much for writing this..

  16. Karen says:

    Beautiful. Thankyou for giving me a new perspective and helping me understand my son who has Autism a little more clearly.

  17. Pat Conti says:

    what a beautiful expression of someone with Autism. My 37 year son plays with action figures and enjoys them. I would never take them away. Others need to understand him and not change him.

  18. M says:

    My god my god how did you capture this on paper?
    I’m in tears - it’s all so perfect

  19. Rick says:

    Profound! For someone who tends to view the cup as half empty, my cup now runneth over. Thanks and Peace.

  20. Thanks for helping me understand better by sharing your view of the world. I am brimming with glee!

  21. Gaby Lucas says:

    Oh man…I couldn’t help but cry tremendous tears of joy! I LOVE THIS…I too feel that joy coming from my dughter when she is free to express herself in her own singular way. I most share this blog with as many people as I can. Thank you so much for sharing.

    This is such perfect research for our new musical about Autism for elementary school children “No Such Thing As Normal”. Please visit us.

    Thank you for defining in such perfection, the beauty of stiming.

  22. Yeran says:

    BEAUTIFUL!!!! I have a 2 year old son with Autism and I am in awe of him! I am far from pitying him at all. He has taught me so much about the pure joy of the ‘simplest’ things.
    I am now going to share this awesome piece of writing. EVERYONE needs to read this.
    Thank you

  23. Lara says:

    Multiples! I was obsessed with them as a child, and multiples of seven were favorites.

  24. Suebob says:

    This is SO interesting. Thank you. There’s an adult woman I know who has a bunch of stuffed animals and she has invented very rich lives for them - relationships, stories, likes and dislikes. I love to ask her about them just to get a peek into her joy.

  25. Jennie B says:

    This is wonderful, and brings me, as the parent of an autistic child, so much joy - the kind of joy only a parent who knows her child is happy can experience.

    My son may not yet know how to communicate with us but I have never questioned that he feels joy and love. Thank you for the reminder.

  26. Incredible post! Thank you!

    I see this joy in my son. He loves checking the weather, as often as possible, and telling us about it. His joy is HUGE and often expressed with flicking his fingers close to his eyes. He also has flickers — objects he enjoys flicking. They are so much a part of him that on the rare occasion when he loses one or leaves one somewhere, a friend returns it promptly because they think the item is important to him. They do this with such heart-felt sincerity that I don’t tell them Daniel would happily pick up a stick (if we’re outside) or a piece of a toy and use that.

    Daniel is a joy-bringer and I am grateful for this post that helps me understand the flapping more.

  27. jkhattori says:

    While reading this wonderful article I am listening to my son run his regular route, banging his chin and humming his happiest hum. Thank you so much for giving me another way to see his happiness!

  28. Clara says:

    I feel the same way I am 8 years old I have Aspergers, autism. We see al peace and happiness easier but people that don’t have autism see it harder. Love clara

  29. Estée klar says:

    Bravo! I remember being criticized when I did The Joy of Autism events and blog. I am so glad that parents and others are taking joy in the way we, and our children, are. Thanks for this post.

  30. Janna says:

    I worked with autistic children (ages 2-13) for ten years, and my absolute favourite moments (and there were so many great ones) were when the child I was working with would begin to laugh because he (or she) was just THAT EXCITED and THAT HAPPY to be where he was and doing what he was doing. Because happy stimming and obvious enjoyment of an activity really does carry across. You’re right when you say that it’s contagious; autistic joy is the most pure form of happiness I have ever encountered, and that makes it the most contagious emotion, as well.

  31. Diana S says:

    Amazing! This is a great read and i appreciated this, This will help others, families, caregivers, therapists working, sometimes when they laugh I laugh too, although i dont know what is funny, this are the moments i love, sometimes i ask and they cant tell me they are just so happy (the children, youth, adults i work with) and its the best when although you may not be in their world right in it, but your in it with them enjoying whatever happy moment they may be having!

    We have to remember despite the behaviours all the ABA, IBI, this and that..they are kids, and sometimes they need to stim, flap, obsess..whatever because that is their moment,

    This is their way of dealing with us! lol so we cant wrong them for doing what makes them happy and we shouldnt this is what people need to understand, parents/people worry about making them normal because of what other people who dont know them think is a bad kid, or a parent that needs to take their kids in hand etc..etc..

    This is what they have to do to make them happy!!

  32. Nicky says:

    I am so glad to find this site….We have some incredible people in our family, some have autism, some have asbergers, some are plain and some are “fancy”… Every single one is perfect in the eyes of love. I wonder what the silent ones think of us!

  33. Max Solberg says:

    I worked for over a decade with people diagnosed with all sorts of “developmental disabilities.” What I learned was people really are all alike. (Just as we really are all different!). Another thing I learned was that sometimes I could share in the joy of the folks I worked with. I could sit and rock with them. Or turn my head back and forth in a certain way. (This turned out to relieve so much neck / shoulder tension I still do it on occasion). Sometimes I stim — mostly rocking or flapping. I obsess over drawing geometric shapes. I don’t know if I experience the joy you so beautifully describe here. I do know I find freedom, peace, and a kind of solitude that is the only antidote to what is otherwise sometimes debilitating anxiety.
    Thank you — more then these words can say — for sharing your secret joy. I hope all of us can step back, and respect your bliss, even if we can’t share in it.

  34. Chris says:

    Julia, this is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read—and I’ve been reading a long time! I found it from a friend’s post on facebook. I re-posted it and now friends of mine are sharing it. You have created something beautiful and thought-provoking that will help many people begin to consider autism and nuerodiversity in a new and more holistic way. Good for you for getting the words and pictures together in such a gorgeous fashion. You have moved me and I know many, many more are also going to be moved by your eloquence. Kudos!

  35. Bailey's Mommy says:

    My daughter talks about tuna 24/7. It’s her Glee and Sudoka all in one green labelled can. I loved this writing. Absolutely marvelous. Thank you for writing it.

  36. Michael's mom says:

    Simply, THANK YOU!

  37. Cindi says:

    Love this! Thanks for sharing this and being so open :)

  38. kathy says:

    I absolutely loved this!!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing it with me.

  39. deusxmac says:


  40. clair says:

    hi, its really helpful to hear how your mind works. i have two autistic young adults one whom does not communicate and she is having a tough time and recycling outbursts right now and lots of medical needs but ive always wanted to know how she might think and in some way have always thought her world must be so wonderful and amazing so i am comforted to know that her happy autistic world is a happy place for the most part to be i wouldn’t change her for the world i just want them both to be happy with who they are good luck and look forward to hearing more.

  41. Jonathan's mom says:

    Well, you gave me a little boost again with your beautiful story! My son is exactly in your same situation and it is good to remind us how he really feels inside and why he is acting this way since he can’t express it like us (even if he is able to talk).
    Thank you and keep writting to us.

  42. Louise Sarah Kim says:

    Wow, you really captured the way I feel joy. And even helped me realize why I love some things and hate others. I feel very uneasy doing somethings and need to stop regularly to ‘feel my joy’. Which means other things take longer.

  43. LIsa says:

    Thank you for writing this and expressing your joy with us! It puts everyday life with my autistic son in a different light.

  44. Shawn says:

    Thank you for publishing your thoughts for all to read. I work with teenagers with autism. They all have difficulty expressing their needs, wants and feelings in conventional ways. I have learned that what one student finds exciting might terrify another. While one student rocks or flaps because he is happy, another does these things to self-calm when he overly-stimulated, frustrated or angry and wants to feel in control of himself. Often we make assumptions in our interpretations of these actions based on trial and error/ cause and effect. It is nice to hear your explanation “right from the horse’s mouth”. I wish all of the students I work with were able to tell us what all of their actions and words mean, so that we could learn to understand their wants, needs and feeling without question. Not so we could change them, but so we could accommodate and communicate with them better.

    Thank you for sharing.

  45. marie says:

    thank you so much for sharing! i have a friend with autism and this helps me to think about his thought processes and actions much different manner. hope i can be a better friend!

  46. Tashalee says:

    This is wonderful, I’m so glad to come across articles like this. My son who has autism it defitnetly puts things in perseptive.

  47. JoAnn says:

    This was such a touching story, it brought tears to my eyes. My 9 year old you described to a T, he suffers with PDD/NOS and some aspergers. And I think my 3 year old daughter also suffers with autism. Just reading this story made me think of the little things I was overlooking. The CDSA says she is just slow to warm up to new situations, well duh, she never completely warms up, she struggles to get through the situation. And she does flap when she gets excited. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I just wish I had someone who would help me with the day to day struggles, the fighting over going to school, wearing shoes and so on.

  48. Thank You for giving me a moment that takes my breath away!

  49. aleisa says:

    Thank u for your lovely insight! My son is 17, and I think he would have wrote these words if he were able to put his feelings into the words. Amazing insight. Thank u

  50. Terri says:

    JoAnn, I’m not so sure you can call it “suffering with” now. Don’t you see?

    Julia, thank you so much for sharing. My 8 year old son’s current obsession is Legos. Building with them, gaming with them, sometimes all from the privacy of his happy mind while his heart races and his body tenses up and he makes his “noises”. I looked on them as nothing but an irritant, not realizing the joy I was stealing. I just didn’t see from his perspective. I see now, and I will embrace his joy and share in it. Thank you again for helping me see!

  51. Lili Marlene says:

    Terrific piece, Julia!

    There’s a reason why I have the word “pleasures” in the title of my blog - because I believe that pleasure is the most overlooked or discounted aspect of the autistic experience. You’ve done a very nice job of helping to change that.

  52. Lili Marlene says:

    Such a cute baby photo! A gummy smile!

  53. Betty says:

    Thank you for this blog. I live, in an extended family, with a brother-in-law who has autism. He brings joy to my life, everyday. Your blog increases my ability to understand what brings him joy, and how to support that. Beautiful.

  54. Lux says:

    Thank you :)

  55. Lane Browning says:

    Exquisite; such fine writing, and such sweet realizations. I refer to the “obsessions” my son has/had as his little love affairs. He is a child who is marinated in joy, and he always points out that even neurotypical people have “obsessions.” It’s certainly true, yet we label autistic individuals. As for flapping, my son would twirl his hand at the end of his wrist…

    I have written, in my essays about him, that he is the happiest person I know.
    Thank you, Julia. See if you recognize yourself in any of this

  56. Mark says:

    And now I feel terrible about any time I have tried to stop my son from expressing whatever thing or sound or action he is obsessing about. Thanks for the insight.

  57. Lynn Hull says:

    My reaction is quite like Mark’s. I am so thankful to have come across this. It explains so much and makes me realize how limited my own thinking is. Never again will I discourage my child from enjoying her “joys”, whether others think they are “age-appropriate” or not.

  58. Hannah says:

    Thank you. I am extremely jealous that I don’t get to experience or express these joys like you do but with this beautiful writing, you have given me a taste. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  59. Silvia says:

    Beautiful, thank you so much! Your joy is contagious!

  60. Jen smart says:

    Wow! This is exquisite. My eyes are brimming with tears. I can never thank you enough for helping me understand my son. Never again will I “silence” his flapping hands or cry hysterically for my sorrow over his non-neurotypicalness. You are a beautiful writer, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  61. My daughter (who has Asperger’s syndrome) is sitting in the kitchen with my mother in law (who may also have it) right now. They are escalating each other in excitement over a bunch of geographical facts. Caroline’s voice has developed that breathy quality that means she is elated and on the verge of being overwhelmed. Grandma’s eyes are wide. Grandma is nodding unconsciously. Caroline leaps out of her seat every few seconds and twirls in a big circle. Every times she reads a fact, Caroline’s voice takes on an exaggerated dramatic range, and she exclaims everything like she’s presenting at the theater.

    Thank you for some insight about what’s maybe going on inside her head, as well.

  62. Carrie Dunsmore says:

    Like all of the other Autism Moms who have left comments for you, I will be forever grateful that you bravely shared these inner-most feelings and thoughts with us! You have opened my eyes the way no one else could. I thank you, for my son - who will never again be “re-directed” from something that brings him joy!

    ** Just so you know, I shared “The Obsessive Joy” on my Facebook wall, and within my friend list, it is going viral very quickly! Everyone thinks it is beautifully crafted. Well done… **

  63. Fabulous! This is my kindof blog! I love my own autistic children and their behaviors - they are wonderfully fascinating. I used to do them with my oldest autist to find out why they were so fun. And, they just were!

  64. Kathryn Clark says:

    You my friend, are awesome!

  65. Elizabeth says:

    I am convinced that you are blessed with a gift that will encourage the world around you to open its eyes to the beauty and joy you experience. As you have mine. There are really no words for this; you are amazing. Your courage to tell us a little bit about your world speaks volumes. The kind of college that can learn from you is the kind that needs you to attend! Keep Going! Never Stop!

  66. Elaine Hall says:

    Thank you for putting into words what I feel on a daily basis! I LOVE autism. Surely not the challenges with processing and socializing, etc. But the sheer joy of life’s little pleasures. I am blessed with an autistic son and have chosen my career path to be with those on the autistic spectrum. I have never felt “neuro typical” myself - though I pass well in the world. I feel that the students I teach, the friends on the spectrum I know, are the most honest, wonderful people I have ever been privileged to know. I write (with c0-author Diane Isaacs) about acceptance in my new book, Seven Keys to Unlock Autism how joyous it is to join the world of autism - with love, appreciation and JOY!

  67. Eddie Hejka says:

    My son Sam has autism and is one of the happiest, accepting people I know. He is full of joy. Still I would ‘cure’ him in a second if I could. I don’t want to die and worry that he will be dependent on the kindness of strangers.

  68. Carla says:

    I am so thankful for the internet right now - without it I would never have had the chance to read your words. Thank you for having courage and doing the work of writing. Thank you for sharing so honestly and trusting others with your insights and stories. Your language is beautiful and your voice is so important. Please keep sharing… You have so much to teach us.

  69. Sima Ash says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing your beautiful writing with the rest of us who are parents of children with autism. We need such reminders every day. As a homoepath I see autsitic patients every day and I will be sharing your inner feelings and thoughts with those parents so they can finally let go and accept their child’s obsessions and joy. Your words and thoughts are so profound and touching.

  70. Lee says:

    Thanks for sharing this insight into your world. You are awesome and wonderfully made. God bless.

  71. Tracy says:

    I am a parent of an autistic daughter. She is wonderful and full of joy most of the time. We are working on lots of barriers right now; potty training and communication. We do NOT correct her little hand waivings, or other gestures because it makes her happy. We let her be whoever she is, and don’t worry about what other people may think. We do have to explain that she is autistic sometimes when she gets a little carried away. The tantrums are a challenge, but we work thru them.
    Thank you for sharing this story, as we (parents) often need a reminder of what our children or others are going thru, and that we are the outsiders, not the other way around. If we thrive to make our children happy and accepted it makes everybody better people.

  72. Wow. This was amazing. I’m a writer and the mother of an autistic child. Thanks so much for explaining to me, in what I can only call the exactly right words, what goes on in my daughter’s head. Priceless!

    Please keep writing so I can keep reading. You are a far better writer than you realize.

  73. Shanan says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Every bit of insight into how my son thinks, feels, acts and reacts will help me in my mission to allow him to be himself growing up. I don’t ever want to squelch his way of doing things, just because it’s not how I would do it. I don’t want o stifle his reactions because they aren’t “right”. Sure, there are certain social norms that he’ll have to learn… but the world is just going to have to learn a little Aspie right back. This post was a lightbulb for me… It gives merit and validity to his expressions of joy… which can be exasperating at times… but it’s the way he does things, so I’m willing ot meet him on his playing field :)

  74. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for this article. :-)

  75. Roberta Polak says:

    Holy cow. I was not expecting this. I always say that I’d give anything to spend an hour in my son’s brain just to figure out how he thinks. This was almost as good. When he is happy, he is THE happiest person in the world. Now I can grasp, at least a little, why. This may have been the best thing I’ve ever read about autism. Thank you.

  76. Amanda Babcock says:

    This is beautiful, a real insight into an often misunderstood condition. My 5 year old son is autistic, and wonderful. I let him fully embrace his obsession with door handles and bus tickets, and he can stim as much as he wants to. His joy makes me happy.

  77. Shelley says:

    Thank you for sharing this with the world. You gave me the best glimpse of what life is like for my child. Your writing is so descriptive and beautiful!

  78. Jeanne says:

    Now I get it! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  79. Amy says:

    This is awesome! My son has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and I’m awaiting my own diagnosis. This is how we both are about our obsessions and nobody else, that is neurotypical, “gets it”! Thank you so much for writing this!!

  80. SkyraCloud812 says:

    I think this article is pure awesome. some people think that autism is like a disease, and it needs to be cured. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and though i have a hard time with things like writing, it all feels normal to me. Autism is a part of my personality, and you can’t cure that. I wouldn’t want to get rid of my autism, if i did, i might be a completely different person. Great article! 😀

  81. NE says:

    Thank for such beauriful reminder. That was brilliantly compiled, and now I appreciate my son’s obsessive joy especially when he plays “annoying orange” on the computer and he giggles, and laughs so hard about this game. And when he spins around in the living room laughing to himself, saying “that’s so funny mommy”

  82. rbat says:

    My son is 3 years old and has ASD. He is one of the happiest and most joy filled spirits I know. Your writing in this article is simply brilliant, thank you for sharing your insights and story.

  83. Liz says:

    As a parent of a 18 yr old with Aspergers, and I work for the AEIOU Foundation - for children with Autism. This is so true. As I was once told. who care if your child has Autism they are a child first, and they are your child and they are no different to anyone else in your eyes, the other children and the ones that are different. I love my boy and all the wonderful achievements that he had done. He has an incredible future in IT and he is very happy and healthy.

  84. Rachel D says:

    Joy and sense of humour thats what I see when my son literally does what he is told to do. Trying to fit into nuerotypixal world will make anyone lose their sense of humour.

  85. Dawn L. says:

    Thank you for describing my son so well. His beautiful disposition has given us all reason to step back and realize we need to stop and give thanks for the little things in life. He is my hero, my life’s teacher. His perseverance and determination is unmatched. His flapping makes my heart fill with joy.

  86. Patty says:

    This just made me cry, partly from shame for all the times I have tried to get my son to “calm down” and “relax” (Translation-tamp down on some of his joy) and partly from a realization that you are right-my son IS happy. He is the most exuberant child I know and it never occurred to me that this might be related to his autism. Thank you for helping me understand him and for shedding a light on my own misconceptions. This knowledge will change how I interact with my son, definitely. Thank you.

  87. Lauri says:

    This is beautiful. We say our son is passionate about his interests…You can feel and see his excitement in every ounce of his body as he watches or types about Nascar and America’s Next Top Model..pure happiness. May you always have joy you cannot contain, we should all be as fortunate.

  88. Fiona says:

    Just brilliant. Thank you for sharing your truth :)

  89. Amanda says:

    Love this. Given me a better understanding into why my son does what he does. So glad mine is not the only one mad on minecraft Bernie. Thank you for writing this.

  90. marty says:

    there is not much more to add that people have not already said. thank you for the great insight into my son’s (tony) brain. I wish I could get this tattooed on my forearm to read every day.

  91. Linda says:

    I’ll add another thank you to the list. I really appreciate the insights you’ve shared here.

  92. […] that the GenEd teacher, who was sitting in front of him, kept turning around to watch HIM, because his infectious joy was even more fun than the show.  Ash couldn’t stop talking about the experience, from the […]

  93. angie acosta says:

    Gracias por este articulo tan revelador. No se trata de una obsesión clásica si no a mi entender un estado de consciencia diferente.

  94. Rebecca says:

    I am brought to tears - that is a beautiful, personal story of one with autism. Thank you for sharing.

  95. Robin says:

    My daughter was diagnosed with Autism this summer. Unlike many of you, I am having trouble finding any amount of joy in Autism at all.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting this essay, it gives me the idea that there may be hope for her after all.

  96. Neoma Zim says:

    Parents for some reason judge their own “worth” by the accomplishments of their children. How smart they are, how beautiful they are, how accomplished they are, so for the parent whose child falls under the autistic spectrum it is often hard to feel the joy. We are bogged down with the reality of the situation, full knowing how difficult our child’s life is going to be since more than half the world doesn’t even know what Asperger’s is all about. Even as the parents of the child, we find it difficult to understand so how can the rest of the world who doesn’t even love this child as we do? This article made me cry, to be looking from the inside out really helps one to “get it.” My son doesn’t really “flap.” Not physically, but mentally he does. I see the total absorption of his mind and his emotions when he succeeds in one of his games. I see the total ecstasy on his face when he watches one of his favorite shows, and I smile when he laughs out loud all by himself in his room in his own little world. What we all want, what we are all hoping for, are dreaming for, is UNDERSTANDING for our children. This article brings into focus what we are seeking, knowledge, thank you so much for posting it…

  97. Amy says:

    LOVE THIS! Every teacher should read it! :)

  98. Neoma Zim says:

    I second that, EVERY TEACHER SHOULD READ THIS. My son is in mainstream High School and has to deal with teaches daily, who have absolutely no comprehension of what he is going through.

  99. Tara says:

    This was a VERY important article for me to read, it helped me gain a lot of insight and the descriptions of the emotions were incredibly affirming for me. Im getting a much better understanding of my son studying the article and the remarks. But unlike most of the people here Im not thrilled with my sons non stop insane happiness. It scares the crap out of me. Sure, Im glad he is happy and not sad, but his overall functioning is so low that at, age 24, despite all the schooling and education and support possible, he is still functioning on a toddler level and I blame the relentless happiness on it. He is so thrilled with pointless nonsensical activities…like waving a pine branch in the air 5 hours a day{if I let him} it gets in the way of his learning to survive. I want to know if there is a medication to temper this hysterical happiness and get him to pay attention to the world around him a bit more so he Can live an independent life and learn to live on his own.

  100. […] Источник Рубрики: Аутизм у взрослых, Симптомы и признаки аутизма. Метки: специальные интересы, стереотипии и стимминг. […]

  101. lyndal says:

    I felt like I was reading about myself :)

    Now I don’t feel bad about the childlike (not childish - there is a difference) things I enjoy, like reading children’s books and collecting soft toys - but only owls, ladybugs and small teddy bears. I knit clothes for them.

    I don’t flap my hands anymore. It was suppressed a long time ago. Instead, when I’m happy I swish my hair around and jiggle my feet up and down if I’m seated. Or literally jump for joy or run around in circles.

    Maybe it’s time to start flapping my hands again.

  102. […] friend (thanks Mrs. H!) passed along a blog post, written by a person with Autism. I’d encourage you to read it because it is both raw and […]

  103. […] The Obsessive Joy of Autism by Julia Bascom Julia blogs at Just Stimming and LOVE-NOS. In this essay, from 2011, she infectiously captures the happiness that comes from her obsessions (Glee and Sodoku) and hand flapping. “All of these things autistic people are supposed to be ashamed of and stop doing? They are how we communicate our joy.”  Julia spearheads The Loud Hands Project, a transmedia publishing and creative effort by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Also check out her piece Quiet Hands. […]

  104. Joy says:

    I came across this blog post quite accidentally and could NOT stop reading it. I’m not autistic (or maybe I am a little?) but I could SOOOOO relate to everything in this post. I have, at times, been obsessive AND joyful and obsessively joyful. Though I can and do express myself well verbally, I don’t feel understood. I have a high IQ and I am an ’empath’, that is, I feel the emotions that I see others experiencing, but I always feel a little bit ‘crazy’ in my head. It takes a LOT of effort to suppress my natural joyful inclinations (I am a 53 year old woman) and I sometimes feel the need to go into withdrawal from others. At times, I experience crushing depression as well. I’ve learned that meditation helps me to balance these extremes.

    Your words above are exquisitely beautiful and I imagine that, as a person, a human being, you are beautiful as well. Thank you so much for sharing. I will read this every so often when I feel overwhelmed.

    Love and Hugs

  105. tania says:

    Thats the most beautiful thing i have read .i have a daughter 11 with aspburgers and a grandson 2 with high functioning autism and wouldnt change a thing about them this was a joythank you …

  106. Christie Olstad says:

    Beautiful post! It made my day! I wrote a short book on Ayurveda and Yoga for Aspergers, NLD and HFA that I want to give you. There are some things that may help you with the sensory problems you mention. Here’s the link:

  107. Phil Schwarz says:

    Yes. This.
    The central idea so needed to be described in ways recognizable and resonant with folks on the spectrum, and in ways understandable by many many more not on the spectrum.
    And you’ve done that. Beautifully. Eloquently.
    This essay is one for the ages, one that belongs in the same must-read-must-see category IMHO as Jim Sinclair’s “Don’t Mourn For Us” and Amanda Baggs’s “In My Language”.
    Deiner Zauber bindet wieder was die Mode streng geteilt.
    Yasher koach.

  108. Brittani says:

    I am 20 and I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I am high functioning in most areas, due to being supressed as a young child, but I still have obsessions, like My Little Pony and the Xanth book series by Piers Anthony.

    My main joy is in my instincts. I grew up surrounded by nature, and when I go into the forest, I’m just another one of its creatures. I react very instinctively to any stimuli, including the few times I’ve let out a battle roar when something scares me. I feel happiness in the simplicity of just BEING. I’m very intelligent, and my brain never stops working even when I have nothing to do or think about, but when I’m in nature, all that goes away, and I’m just me. I don’t have to think or feel or do anything except just BE.

    I hadn’t thought of it as a tic before, but my happy tic is a backwards squeal (inhaling instead of exhaling), and it makes me even happier when I’m elated, if that’s even possible. It makes my stomach leap and my heart race, and everything seem lighter and brighter. This article does describe how I feel when I’m onto my latest obsession. People used to think I was a know-it-all, when really I was just so happy to have something so amazing to be happy about, that I wanted to share a bit of that joy, like a kid sharing their food or toys.

  109. […] senses so intensely that she is able to experience happiness on a plane that I can only imagine? I believed that before I knew for sure that it was true; I see her taking joy in things that escape my notice entirely. A sweater that I think of as simply […]

  110. Michelle says:

    So beautiful. The obsessions can lead to great discoveries, or frustration and anguish. It’s definitely intense though, feeling synaestesia, sensory overloads, and being happy being invisible.

  111. Hi, Neat post. There is an issue together with your site in web explorer, might check this? IE still is the marketplace leader and a good component of people will leave out your excellent writing due to this problem.

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  113. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it’s
    time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I want to suggest you some
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  114. Estelle says:

    I always found the teachers that had that excitement about their subject to be the best. A teacher whose excitement and love of their subject could make even the most uninteresting subject interesting for me. I wish I could be as eloquent when I get excited and obsessive about something.

  115. […] The Obsessive Joy of Autism […]

  116. […] that autistics may use these interests to better understand the world around them. And in an article published in Shift Journal, Julie Bascom of Just Stimming spoke of the joy she experiences when engaged in her […]

  117. […] Shift Journal and the compassionate wisdom of Julie […]

  118. […] The Obsessive Joy of Autism […]

  119. I am genuinely pleased to read this webpage posts which contains plenty of valuable data, thanks for providing these

  120. Hello Julia
    Such a beautiful article. Thank you! I am a Feldenkrais Practitioner and have worked with autistic children with some wonderful results. I have a question for you. What do you recommend “neurotypicals” to do in response to your joyful mannerisms that look ‘different’ to them?
    I see some caretakers feel it is their responsibility to consistently bring attention and correction to someone with autistic mannerisms and use reprimand and reward to create a more acceptable behavior but I am not so sure that this is helpful. It looks like pet training to me. Should we be working on the “neurotypicals” instead to embrace the unusual actions or is it necessary to a higher quality of life for the autistic person to focus on behavior mod for more ‘normal” behavior?

  121. M V Welsh says:

    Thank you!

  122. Se importa se eu citar um alguns de seu artigos enquanto eu fornecer crédito
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