End-of-Summer round-up

Hello, I am Helen Edgar (Autistic Realms). As guest blog writer for this season’s summary of monotropism, I am sharing a round-up of published work, social media interest, and some updates from inside the Monotropism Discord server (please email Fergus Murray if you wish to join us).

Monotropism-related academic research

Wachholtz, D., Vidal, V., Latimer, O., Jiménez, M. (July 2023), Meaningful Social Interactions as a Foundation for Affection and Learning for Autistic Individuals. In: Fossa, P., Cortés-Rivera, C. (eds) Affectivity and Learning. pp645-662

The authors look at how autistic people’s social interaction could be affected by their processing abilities. They draw on a vast range of research and emphasise that we must ‘move towards a socio-ecological model of understanding to support a positive learning experience paradigm, promoting the development of social interactions in the autistic population’. Their chapter suggests that, amongst other factors, this would include a better understanding of monotropism and how focused interests should be taken as a meaningful learning opportunity that can also support inclusion and help promote positive social interactions.

Wood, R. (July 2023),
Happier on the outside? Discourses of exclusion, disempowerment and belonging from former autistic school staff

This research analyses the language of former autistic school staff, showing that many had experienced different forms of exclusion and marginalisation when working in schools.   However, ‘autistic characteristics such as having deep interests and tenacity’ brought great advantages. Their research also showed that ‘participants understood exclusion from the school environment and the conflicts with hierarchy’. This enabled autistic staff to ‘include and  empower  pupils  who  were  marginalised  and  at  risk  of  exclusion  themselves.’ This research also provides valuable insights into how autistic staff could be better supported in schools.

Pritchard-Rowe, Lemos, Howard, and Gibson (Aug 2023) Diversity in Autistic Play: Autistic Adults’ Experiences

Wonderful neurodiversity-affirming research explores similarities and differences in how socialisation in play, imaginary play, and flow (a state involving intense focus on the play) are experienced.  Their research advocates for greater understanding and acceptance of autistic play preferences and experiences to support autistic people’s well-being.  

Let’s embrace monotropic play & flow states!

Thompson-Hodgetts et al. (Sep 2023), Toward understanding and enhancing self-determination: a qualitative exploration with autistic adults without co-occurring intellectual disability 

Whilst this research paper doesn’t specifically mention monotropism, it aims to understand and ‘learn from Autistic people about how they would like to be supported to be self-determined’ so they have more autonomy.  One of their themes looks at executive processing differences, making choice and decision-making difficulties. Some of their participants discussed difficulties with shifting focus and the difficulty that having hyperfocus can also bring them. 

Their research demonstrated that autistic people want to be self-determined and have autonomy and can ‘flourish with support, as they determine to be appropriate’. They conclude that we need to value differences and respect neurodivergence rather than impose ableist expectations. 

Ryan Boren (Stimpunks) has also summarised this piece of research here: Enhancing Self-Determination with Interdependence, Niche Construction, and Flow – Stimpunks Foundation & Ann Memmott has also reviewed this for Neurodiverse Connection.

Kimber, Verrier & Connolly (Sep 2023),
Autistic People’s Experience of Empathy and the Autistic Empathy Deficit Narrative

There is a long-standing stereotype that autistic people lack empathy; this research moves away from the deficit-based understanding and reflects on the inner autistic experience. Their study highlights that a high proportion of autistic people actually had hyper-empathetic experiences.
They also draw on the work of Fletcher-Watson and Bird, who argue that empathy is best broken down into socio-cognitive components and processes. This suggests that
monotropism could mean more attention resources are being focused on a single aspect of social interaction than other areas. This may contribute to the double empathy problem (Milton) alongside other factors discussed in this study, such as alexythemia which could affect autistic people’s experience of empathy.

Bertilsdotter Rosqvist, Hultman & Hallqvist (Sep 2023), Energy management: Experiences of young autistic adults in work, leisure activities and relationships

This is a fabulous piece of research! It explores young autistic adults’ energy management, which can be understood as both a consequence of neurotypical demands as autistic coping strategies and as a way of living for autistic people to help prevent BIMS – Burnout, Inertia, Meltdown and Shutdown (Phung, 2021). One aspect of energy management it explores is monotropism. The paper looks at how ‘young adults tried to understand and learn more about their energy levels and energy needs, and how they could create strategies for managing their energy. Three main energy-saving strategies were identified: selecting social interaction, balancing energy levels, and estimating energy consumption.
A Must Read! 

Monotropism Questionnaire

There continues to be a buzz around the Monotropism Questionnaire research paper. 

Fergus Murray created a new video to explain what it is all about here.

If you want to take the Monotropism Questionnaire, you can click this link to find out your score. 

There has been a surge of new blogs and social media posts about monotropism; some of the ones that have caught our attention are listed below.

Training and Conferences

Fergus Murray’s Monotropism and Wellbeing Scottish Autism Research Group Presentation (Sept 2023) was well received and opened up more discussions around the importance of monotropism for mental health and the well-being outcomes for autistic ADHD people. The text of the talk, and links to resources, can be found.

Richard Woods (Aug 2023) shared a presentation on his YouTube channel, ‘Present Monotropism is not an autism assessment tool’. This highlighted some of the broader societal and cultural situations related to monotropism. He looks at reasons why the Monotropism Questionnaire went viral as an autism assessment tool and why it is not an autism assessment tool.

Burnout & Mental Health

Tanya Adkin and David Gray-Hammond (Emergent Divergence) continue exploring monotropism about mental health in their Creating Autistic Suffering series. Their recent articles are looking at the practical applications of monotropism about monotropic split /spiral and interoceptive stimming.

Andy Smith wrote an excellent reflective blog about Autistic Burnout and the need to better understand autistic people, including how monotropism can play a part in our education system and impact children and young people.

Helen Edgar (Autistic Realms) has continued exploring monotropism, Autism & OCD and mental health difficulties. She has also updated her Supporting Young People through Autistic Burnout article, which covers how monotropism can affect well-being in different ways; this is published through Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.


Neurodiverse Connection shared another piece by Helen Edgar about Embracing Autistic Children’s Monotropic Flow States, which looks at how we can support monotropic learners in school.

Meghan Wison-Duff has just published a new children’s book, ‘How Are You, Verity?’, about a neurodivergent child’s special interest in the sea and her difficulties navigating the social norms of everyday greetings. I can relate to this beautiful story about a child’s strong monotropic interest and how her flow can be all-consuming and make social situations more confusing!

Inside the Monotropism Discord Server

We have a lively server discussing all things monotropism-related. Recent conversations have included:

Hendl Mirra inspires some interesting discussions within our channel with her new essay, ‘Holotropism: a multidimensional, spacious, edgeless terrain.’

There is a growing interest in how monotropism may impact neurodivergent play. We started our thread by sharing a Forest School Association post by Stefania Donzelli from Nov 2021.

This led nicely to the newly published research by Emma Pritchard-Rowe, Carmen de Lemos, Katie Howard, and Jenny Gibson,  Diversity in Autistic Play: Autistic Adults’ Experiences (Aug 2023). This research is summarised in an accessible blog; it highlights a key difference between autistic and non-autistic adults’ play being the ‘prevalence of ‘flow’ in their play experiences’.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the flow of monotropism takes us next…

"Autistic people are more likely to be monotropic*. This means more energy and resources are focused on fewer interests/tasks/ sensory input at any one time compared to non-autistic polytropic people.
Monotropic people often have deep attention tunnels. Engaging in your special interests can create a flow state. This can be a positive experience; it can be relaxing and recharging.
Embracing monotropism can lead to exciting new possibilities & potential."
*See Garau, V., et al. (2023)
REALMS ∞ AUTISTIC Neurodiversity Affirming

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