Connecting minds & collecing thoughts – a website for autistic and other curious people

Extraordinary Brains - who are we?

We want neurodivergent people to thrive, and we think it is possible. Even though our contribution is relatively small, we’re consistently on your side. In the article collection, you can find both formal and informal pieces, on different themes and by different authors. We also sometimes put out information about ongoing research studies, and occasionally run our own questionnaires. 

The people

Dr Kajsa Igelström, is an assistant professor of neuroscience at Linköping University (Sweden). She completed her neurophysiolgy degree at Otago University (New Zealand) and did her postdoctoral training at Princeton University (NJ, USA). Living with a neurodivergent brain of her own, she knows a thing or two about invisible impairments as well as superpowers.

Kajsa & brains (Princeton Neuroscience Institute. 2017)

Some history

The beginning

In late 2016, Kajsa was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, doing neuroscience research on autism. At one point, there was a need for input from the autistic community, so she set up a simple website and Facebook page. A bunch of her neurodiverse colleagues and friends joined the effort, and the project was named Extraordinary Brains. A humble outreach effort… 
 

The unexpected twist

The first questionnaire was called The Strengths and Weaknesses Questionnaire. It collected some data on how we differ in our experiences of sensory inputs, social/nonsocial rewards, stress levels, and motor activity. We saw some interesting patterns, but also discovered some issues with the study structure. It was a good pilot questionnaire, but not really publishable. 

However… the Strengths and Weaknesses Questionnaire opened a different door. In the free text boxes, which were strewn throughout the survey, magic happened. We got to read about everything that actually mattered to the participants. We realized that Extraordinary Brains’  greatest potential was as a communication machine! 

We ran a number of questionnaires, refining our designs and expanding to Swedish audiences. The blog has slowly but gradually grown, and the website has helped recruit participants to several studies at the university. 

The future

 We aim to expand the article library and develop the ways in which the website can be used for communication. Full-time jobs or other commitments prevent all of us from going all in, but we try to keep the site alive and well to the best of our ability!