Spiky skill sets

A small hedgehog makes its way through autumn leaf litter.
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Some people define autism in a negative way, but there are a lot of positives. These are what I call spiky skill sets: Different autistic people can have very different traits.

Dyslexia and Hyperlexia

Dyslexia is in my family, hyperlexia is the opposite. Both of these exist outside of autism, but both are more common among autistic people. Hyperlexia is identified, usually in childhood, in someone with a reading ability that is well advanced for their age and a fascination with numbers or letters. It has only recently been identified, unlike dyslexia which has had diagnostic criteria since the 1990s and has been spoken about for a few decades before that. That is understandable, why have the name for something that people are good at?

Hyperlexia is one of the hypers of autism, like hyperfocus and hypersensitivity. I know about hypersensitivity, being sensitive to light. But even things common have an opposite. Hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity, are common opposites, part of the spiky skill sets that are found in autistic people. Some have strengths whereas others have weaknesses. It is why autism is called a spectrum. But a tendency in autism is that we can be very good at what we are good at.

Hyper- and hypo-sensitivity

A cup of coffee.
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Autism guide said, “I strongly believe that most people with autism are hypersensitive to caffeine,” but the only evidence she gave of that was that she was hypersensitive to caffeine. I’m not. I drink coffee because I like coffee. I do not get the buzz from coffee, not at standard strength, when I need to be awake four espressos in a mug stop me dropping off; others would be climbing the walls at that strength. I like the taste unadulterated, I joke that I drink it as dark as my moods and as black as my memories.

We are very different from each other. I am hypersensitive to light and to ambient noise yet hyposensitive to caffeine others could be the other way round.


Life with autism can be great, and often is great when we are allowed to be ourselves. Making anagrams from the number plates of passing cars is normal to me, as is wondering why we call them number plates when they have more letters than numbers. Other autistic people have their own quirks or no quirks at all. That is all part of what makes meeting with other autistic people great.