ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Sensory: Life on the Spectrum’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sensory Life on the Spectrum - But Why Tho

Sensory: Life on the Spectrum is an anthology edited by Rebecca “Bex” Ollerton, and published by Andrews McMeel. Sensory contains contributions from over thirty autistic creators from various socioeconomic backgrounds.

Sensory’s greatest strength is this diversity. Too often the only view of autism we’re presented with in pop culture is that of a cis white man. But that’s such a limited view of the autistic experience as many socioeconomic factors such as race, gender, and class, significantly affect someone’s experiences with autism.

There are a few comics from Sensory: Life on the Spectrum that I would like to highlight: “Music Waves,” “Better Now Than Never,” “Retreat, Halfway,” and “Autistic Joy.”

“Music Waves” by Michiums is a short comic about how music is an escape from an overwhelming world and how music can provide a safe way to stim when unable to stim more visibly. In addition to the relatable story, Michiums art style is uniquely stunning with loose flowing lines and lots of soft white highlights.

Unfortunately, late diagnosis is a common experience for AFAB people. The story “Better Now Than Never” by Emma O’Friel is a look into O’Friel’s personal experience with this. Using some cute cartoon pigeons, O’Friel discusses the positives and negatives of her diagnosis journey. There’s anger and resentment at having gone so long not knowing this fundamental aspect of her life, as well as joy for finally having answers and a way to connect to a community of similar people. It’s been almost a decade since I received my own autism diagnosis but I vividly remember dealing with the same emotions O’Friel writes about. And I appreciate the way O’Friel validates her own anger and frustration.

Just because someone is extroverted and enjoys being around people doesn’t mean they don’t deal with autistic burnout. “Retreat,” written by Alicia Wedderburn-Graham and illustrated by Bex Ollerton is about Wedderburn-Graham’s experiences coping with autistic burnout. When burnt out, the same things Wedderburn-Graham usually enjoys, such as being outside, become unbearable and overwhelming. It’s only after taking time to be alone and recharge that they feel ready to face the world again.

“Halfway” by Dominique Morris is a story about autistic masking and the myth of “meeting people halfway.” Morris uses the illustration of a knight preparing for battle at another castle to exemplify how despite being told to meet someone halfway, it’s often the autistic person who puts on a mask and aligns their behaviors to what is expected of them. Autistic masking is exhausting and detrimental to mental health. And as Morris writes, it’s downright unfair of the world to expect autistic people to meet them halfway when the world won’t meet us halfway.

The final comic I want to discuss is “Autistic Joy” by Taylor Reynolds. “Autistic Joy” details the various things that bring Reynolds autistic joy. From support to understanding and safe surroundings, the specific ways a person experiences autistic joy may vary but in a world not designed for autistic people to thrive, the concept is equally important. Get your joy wherever you can.

A phenomenal collection of stories about the variety of experiences autistic people have in all areas of life, Sensory: Life on the Spectrum is a must-read not only for people on the spectrum but for anyone who ever wondered what it’s like.

Sensory: Life on the Spectrum will be available wherever books are sold on October 18th, 2022 and with our Bookshop.org affiliate link.


Sensory: Life on the Spectrum contains contributions from Bex Ollerton, Emma O’Friel, Charlie Watts, Arian Sebastian Farzad, Laila Ahamad, Almond, Suzanne Wdowik, Dominique Morris, Chloe F. McKay, Micaela Wainstein, Allie, Mell Stansel, Alice Williams, Jinx Peregrine, Matt Crane, Alicia Wedderburn-Graham, Buddy O. Baker, Dean McColl, Noel Fox, Ash Ortiz, Reloaxa, Jo Svensson, Kayla Gilliam, Rhia May-Byrd, Jo Blakely, Angeline Eddins, Kyle Lewis, Lindsay Miller, Shay Commander, Nova Kahan, T Catt, Cy Popps, CJ Barrett, Toria McCallum, Alexandra McCarthy, Kai Mycelium, Molly McCracken, Michiums, Kate Cunningham, C.A. Crisóstomo, and Taylor Reynolds.


Sensory: Life on the Spectrum
5

TL;DR

A phenomenal collection of stories about the variety of experiences autistic people have in all areas of life, Sensory: Life on the Spectrum is a must-read not only for people on the spectrum but for anyone who ever wondered what it’s like.

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