Whether you are new to the theory or interested in digging deeper, there are many possible places to start.
The animation below is an accessible 4-minute introduction to the key ideas.
Access note: the visuals in this video provide a semi-abstract interpretation of the words, and are not required to understand the content.
These comic strips by SALT for my Squid explain some ideas very simply:
You might also enjoy this 2-minute video from NeuroPride Ireland, this 11½-minute video from Autistamatic, or this 3-minute video in Sign Supported English with subtitles by Auticulate; Damian Milton talking about monotropism and flow states (9 minutes); or Dinah and Fergus Murray on the Different Minds podcast (34 minutes). If you prefer a slideshow type of presentation, try this from Autienelle or this en español; or this comic from Neuro Divers.
The 2005 paper Attention, monotropism and the diagnostic criteria for autism (pdf, epub, journal) by Dinah Murray, Wenn Lawson and Mike Lesser is the key academic text, with Wenn’s book The Passionate Mind going into a good deal more depth and his 2013 paper for OA Autism looking at it from more of a neuroscience angle. Dinah and Mike were interviewed for The Observer in 2005: ‘Say it loud, autistic and proud‘. Dinah also wrote the Monotropism entry for the Volkmar Encyclopedia of Autism; her chapter Dimensions of Difference for The Neurodiversity Reader is an update on her thinking.
The article Me and Monotropism: A unified theory of autism by Dinah’s youngest, Fergus Murray, is relatively accessible, and shouldn’t take most readers more than 15 minutes to read. It has also been translated into Spanish (español) and Hungarian (magyar nyelv). This conference talk by the same author is about as long.
More About Autism
‘So what exactly is autism?’ (pdf) (Damian Milton 2012) provides a good overview of autism theory (as of 2012) and makes a strong case for Monotropism.
A Critical Realist Approach on Autism (Marianthi Kourti 2021) argues that the Double Empathy Problem and Monotropism both ‘provide a theory of autism that is deeper than the neurotypical counterparts they are responding to’ by bringing in the insights of autistic people.
Understanding and Working with the Spectrum of Autism (book, Wenn Lawson 2001) was well ahead of its time, presenting an autistic view of what it means to be autistic, together with detailed insights on how to work with autistic people.
‘Keeping it all inside‘ (pdf) (Cathy Wassell & Emily Burke 2022) is a very informative ‘white paper on an internal presentation of autism and why it’s often missed’ – focusing on what autism is more likely to look like in girls, while being clear that it can present much the same way in people of any gender.
‘Atypical resource allocation may contribute to many aspects of autism‘
(Emily J. Goldknopf 2013) looks at neurological evidence that fits with the hypothesis that autistic processing resources tend to be more concentrated.
Roundabout Hypothesis (Chris Memmott 2018) is a metaphor or model for autistic thinking, which is closely related to monotropism. Another one is Splines Theory: A Spoons Metaphor for Autism (Luna Corbden 2013).
‘An Updated Monotropism theory: A Developmental Model & Pathological Demand-Avoidance‘ (video, Richard Woods 2019, revised 2022) explores the relationship between monotropism, anxiety and demand avoidance.
Theories and Practice in Autism (Fergus Murray 2018) introduces six starting points for understanding autism (español) in terms of monotropism:
- Coping with multiple channels is hard
This can be sensory channels or other information streams.
- Filtering is tricky and error-prone
Sometimes I can’t tune things out, other times I filter them out completely.
- Changing tracks is destabilising
Task-switching is hard, and new plans take work.
- I often experience things intensely
Usually things that relate to my concerns and interests.
- I keep looping back to my interests and concerns
It’s hard to let things drop.
- Other things that drop out of my awareness tend to stay dropped
I may need reminders.
See also Monotropism In Practice.
6 responses to “Explanations”
Our neurodiverse marriage just marked its 28th anniversary. We’ve known about our neurodifference for ~7 years. Always looking for mental models to help us be good for each other. Because we’re not always good for each other. This framework matches our experiences well. Thank you!
I appreciate the video very much, though I would have liked to have read a warning on the sound of glass bursting at about 2:50.
Superbly accurate, thank you.
Idea: could being pulled out of flow be likened to being woken from a vivid dream? If so, could there be a profound connection between dreaming and flow states?
Absolutely amazing resource and validation for me
I am an Irish Writer just diagnosed with #AuDHD at 57.
Monotropism explains my entire life.
I dream a lot of crazy shit
like astral travelling in a lucid dream, the terror, the speed, the blackness,
I create constantly.
Thanks for my new Hyperfocus project.
Cheers to the wormholes
Namaste to my neurokin tribe.
Man, we’re tired.
Well said, and cheers to you. Tired indeed.