Saturday, November 1, 2014

Human

FeministAspie presents Human


Hello there. Let me introduce myself. I’m a human.

I have a name, although I don’t really use it on here. I’m a student, a blogger, a feminist, a sister, a daughter, a grand-daughter, a friend, an autistic. Not mutually exclusive.

Right now, I’m typing this because I lack the necessary executive function skills to stop what I’m doing and actually get a good night’s sleep. That, or I’m just enthusiastic about this post. In reality, it’s a bit of both. Also, like so many of my fellow humans, I spend far too much of my life procrastinating from studying. I take BuzzFeed quizzes, I tidy up, I play 2048, I make tea, I listen to music, I pace and pace and pace across the floor on my tiptoes because that’s what music does- sorry, does that sound weird? Fair enough, I suppose some people prefer coffee. But at the end of the day, I almost always somehow manage to get that essay written on time, and I tend to last longer with actually going to the lectures than a lot of my friends too; maintaining the routine helps me feel safer.

Outside of that, I play guitar (or rather, I should practice more often!), I go to a few student societies, and I quietly blog, mainly about feminism and autism, under the world’s least imaginative pseudonym. I’m currently catching up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I also really like Doctor Who. Really like Doctor Who. Nonononono but you don’t understand. Actually, I think you might; there’s no bold obvious line where the “slightly above average level of fandom enthusiasm” ends and the “autistic special interest” begins.

When you first meet me, I am almost definitely quiet. Nervous. Awkward. I’m better at the whole “people” thing some days than others, depending on a million and one other factors. Sometimes I feel like I can take on all the world, sometimes I feel like it’s all going to crash down on top of me, most of the time I’m somewhere in the middle. This doesn’t make me “high-functioning” nor “low-functioning”. I don’t suddenly regress, or am suddenly cured. I have varying emotions, and I have varying energy levels, being a human and all. Having said that, I find online interaction far easier even just amongst people I know in real life. On Facebook, I’m known for my love of and constant use of reaction GIFs, despite sometimes finding real-life, real-time facial expressions impossible to navigate; I don’t have any logical explanation for this, but maybe that’s okay. I mean, most people don’t find themselves having to explain their personality to people like that.

Let’s go back to emotions for a second. There still seems to be some confusion on this re: autistic people for some reason, so just to confirm, I do have them. It’s just that they’re often over- or under-expressed. I cry with laughter far, far more often than I cry with… um, crying, which is a rare occurrence. Unless, of course, I’m having a meltdown. Anger, frustration, lashing out was a real problem when I was younger, but these days I’m better able to nip those situations in the bud before they arise, and rant freely into the void of the internet instead. These days, I think it’s fair to say that my primary emotion is fear. I’m scared of talking to people, family arguments, sudden loud noises, sudden total darkness, crowds, my ex-boyfriend, and yesterday I managed to creep myself out – intentionally, in a sort of fun way – watching YouTube videos of game corruptions. But my biggest fear, for some reason, is probably that pesky heat/suffocation/being-trapped combo that, combined also with an actual over-sensitivity to temperature and humidity, just sort of gets in the way of everything far too much. But I’ve totally missed out on the whole bugs-and-spiders thing so, y’know, swings and roundabouts. Anyway, sometimes I panic and/or get too overloaded with sensory input, so I have a meltdown or, more commonly, a shutdown. If I can get out and get back to my room or somewhere else that’s nice and safe and quiet, these days I can generally handle it myself. What I can’t handle is your judgement.

Yet, despite the perceptions of autism as a tragedy, I find that the good is at the very least equal to the bad. Sound hypersensitivity means that music is even better, for one thing. Special interests are just the best thing, many of which have stemmed from music, although of course there’s Doctor Who too. And I’ve grown to love my neurodivergent body language, even as those around me don’t understand it or, in some cases, want to suppress it because it’s weird and therefore bad or because they think some other group of people won’t like it (and they say autistics don’t have a concept of irony…). My fingers flutter or fly inwards in defence, I tap the walls, the tables, the floor, my toes bounce with my full weight whether I’m pacing in my room or exploring the outside world and I’ve never had to think about high heels, I repeat words and phrases to myself and rehearse and perfect my lines for the conversation I’m about to have, I’m jumpy and twitchy and sorry sorry sorry sorrysorrysorrysorry. Okay, so that last bit’s sort of a pain, but I’ve even found it to be a great conversation starter. It’s a thing I do; it’s a part of me as much as everything else I’ve mentioned. I’m not perfect. I’m human.

I worry about how I’m going to get my work done on time, how I’m going to talk to whoever I need to talk to without drawing a complete blank and not being able to use words, my family and friends back home, what to have for dinner, how on earth I didn’t immediately realise that remark was sarcastic, the weather, the weather, what I’m going to do this weekend, if that guy could even possibly like me back, if I could even possibly risk going to that social event that sounds really fun and exciting but also loud and crowded and scary, whether or not the world and its people can overcome and recover from the effects of kyriarchy, whether or not I can overcome and recover from the effects of that constant, constant, constant feeling I’m being judged for not being neurotypical.

My autism cannot be separated from my humanity; my autism is a part of my humanity. To me, all person-first language does is imply that my autistic traits need to be somehow isolated from the rest of my personality for me to be seen as, well, a person. But they’re not. I am multi-faceted. I can be good, bad, flawed, happy, sad, angry, scared, so so scared, strong, weak, changing, all of the above. Most of the time, my general state of being has been influenced by my being autistic, positively, negatively, sometimes both. So, because I’m often afraid to be visibly neurodivergent in public, I’m often afraid to be multi-faceted around other people too. Of course, then I’m apparently too robot-like and stereotypical and feel bad for that too, but I digress.

I’m autistic. I’m also a person. An autistic person. And if that doesn’t make sense to you, perhaps you need to re-think your idea of what is required to be human.

Thoughts of the Neurodivergent Twin

Trebled Galaxies presents Thoughts of the Neurodivergent Twin

Trigger Warnings for functioning labels


"I don't want to play with her! She's a nerdy weirdo!" This phrase was not uncommon in my childhood, or now. I'm fifteen years old, and I remember this phrase as going back to my days in preschool. I remember knowing that I was different than others by the time I could put together full sentences. The problem was that nobody acknowledged my struggles for what they were: my disabilities.

Communication Shutdown or Autistics Speaking Day: Which will you celebrate?

Daniel Obejas writes on Acting NT "Communication Shutdown or Autistics Speaking Day: Which will you celebrate?"


This article was written as a submission to my college newspaper. Word choice and overall writing style are thusly adapted.

As November soon catches up to us, its first day brings a time to celebrate Autistic people speaking, or as it was originally called, Communication Shutdown.

Communication Shutdown was invented as an exercise in perspective taking. The basis of the exercise is to completely swear off social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for one day. The idea is to experience the social anxieties and inabilities associated with autism. The title of Autistics Speaking Day was proposed before the first Communication Shutdown even began, encouraging Autistic people to do the opposite: Become more vocal on the day when there are fewer allistic (not autistic) voices hogging the attention.

The exercise is inadequate to say the least. It's like trying to understand blindness by blinking a lot. A real autistic person must continue being autistic for the other 365.24 days of the year, and you don't even get an accurate experience for the one day. Social media is actually a place where autistic people thrive: There's no body language or facial expressions, no need to speak instead of typing, and no urgency. You would get a better picture by using the internetexclusively and canceling plans to see people face-to-face.

If you really want to experience the hardships an autistic person might experience, then swear off the internet altogether, along with phones and the concept of pen and paper. Duct tape your mouth shut and bind your hands. Line the inside of a shirt with sandpaper and don't eat anything other than hot peppers. Now that's perspective taking. You can choose any day to remember what life was like before social media. If you want to understand autism, try Autistic Speaking Day and forget Communication Shutdown.

Here's my recommendation: Stay on social media, silently. Don't tweet, blog, or take pictures of your food, but do read what autistics are saying. Shut down your own communication while listening to the people this day is really for. Then you might understand the perspective of someone who is ordered around and not allowed to talk back.

Hyperfocus as a useful tool

Emma Goodall has written  Hyperfocus as a useful tool on Healthy Possibilities


One of the interesting thing about having an autistic spectrum brain is that when I am not interested in something, I am absolutely not interested, but when my interest is sparked, it gets caught in a hyper-focused state until I have either finished or I realise it is now dark/cold/everyone has gone home….Many adults on the spectrum report forgetting to eat or drink when they are hyper-focused on an activity, not because we are stressed by needing to meet a deadline, but because we are so absorbed in what we are doing that we do it until that focus is broken.

This trait is both very handy and problematic – though not usually at the same time. When studying at university hyper-focus can result in an essay being completed in 5-10 hours (though not for everyone, especially not if the person has additional literacy difficulties). Sometimes the focus has drifted slightly from the original question as a particularly interesting train of thought has been followed, which can result in an essay that does not quite answer the question! At other times, the essay question is so uninteresting that it is hard to get motivated to start researching and responding…


For children on the spectrum school can be particularly frustrating as they are not allowed to remain hyper-focused on any one thing due to the way most schools are structured with a new task being started every 30-75 minutes throughout the day. One of the ways to encourage hyper-focus and the attending search for new knowledge and learning to learn and learning to pass on knowledge and skills to others (otherwise known as assessment) is to allow students 30-45 minutes each day to work on a project of their own choosing. Students who do not have this type of hyper-focus can be guided by an inquiry learning model over the course of several weeks, whereas students that do can indulge to their hearts content, which will make school a more interested place that is viewed as somewhere learning takes place.


This viewpoint is not widely held among autistic spectrum students, as those who struggle may see school as somewhere that is full of stress, anxiety and concepts that they do not understand, and those who are very able can quickly become bored if they are not challenged. There are a number of autistic spectrum students who start school able to read and write and if they need to spend their days reciting alphabet songs and tracing letters, they quickly form an understanding of school that does not include learning. I feel particularly lucky to have gone to schools where I was constantly challenged, and grateful to my parents for sending me school age 3, after I announced I wanted to go to school as I could read already. I learnt to write in a large sand tray and was lucky enough to go to schools which provided me with work at my personal academic level (higher in maths and latin and below average in biology) until I was in high school, at which point is was all do the same thing type education – which resulted in appalling behaviour on my behalf – apologies to those who had to suffer my rolling eyeballs to the sky – I was bored!!!!


High school was saved for me by my hyper-focus on art. I would spend literally hours on a pastel drawing (Queen Elizabeth the 1st) or a Warhol style painting and about five minutes on all the rest of my homework (which would be correct by take no effort). I could lose myself in the art, the lines, the colours, the textures. It made the rest of school pass by as I doodled on paper during lessons. For other autistic spectrum students, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, special interest projects can maintain a will to turn up to school in a positive frame of mind and to participate in other things that are not interesting so that we can get to the good bit! It may be music (at which I am hopeless), drama, science, maths or a particular thing like the architecture of rugby stadiums or mummification.


Only when engaged do students learn actively, and obtaining engagement with students on the spectrum can be incredibly difficult due to our un/interested switch! Once a student is engaged, their learning gains a depth and with support and skilled guidance it can also gain a breadth. For example, a student who was hyper-focused on dogs was guided to cover all aspects of the curriculum through the topic. Maths covered sizes (measurements), classifications (sorting, ordering, graphs etc), money (how much does it cost to feed a dog, pay for the vet etc), and so on.


On the flip side – it might be best to schedule the ‘topic’ time for the last section of the day as I can recall refusing to go out to play as I wanted to just keep on with my projects…. However, the draw of going home is far greater than the call of the playground!

Autism speaking day there is just to much to say

AutismDogGirl writes "Autism speaking day there is just to much to say"


Autism speaking day there is just to much to say.

Hello, so I am going to have to make this short as I am writting this last minute, I had hoped to have something nice long, elegant and elaborate written, but sadly other obligations have gotten in my way this year. Some of the reason is also indecision. What did I want to write about?

Part of me wanted to write about autism service dogs, real autism service dogs, dogs who are trained task. Maybe tell you a bit about how when your an adult with autism it is nearly impossible to find an proper program that will train a service dog for you. Or how most autism service dogs are cross trained as a service dog for someone with autism is trained tasks to help deal with the sensory issues and sensory process challenged that come with autism. I thaught about telling you how most programs only train for children with autism and how these program not only use but promote a dangerous practice known as tethering, then I thought about explaining how this puts both the child and dog in harms way. I thought about telling you how many programs are scams and many more are just poorly informed well meaning programs who train cookie cutter service dogs for autism often with tasks that are weak at best such as deep pressure, if they train tasks at all but will sell their service dogs on the emotional benifit. I thought about ranting how we deserve better than this and need to stand up for reform not just for the adults but for the kids and for our families who shouldn't be taken advantage of or put in harms way.

I also consider telling you about how I have read a lot in the news lately about the need for services for kids and how few of them there are and that's true! However what everyone over looks os there is even less and basically nothing for adults over 22!!!! How today there are hundreds of autistic adults struggling without the services they need. I thought about how this too was something important I wanted to talk about.

I also wanted to talk about communication. I wanted to tell you verbal speech isn't the same as having few or no daily struggle and challenges, how autistics who are verbal still may need substantial support through out their lives. How being able to speak and even do so well can often hide the fact you can't communicate. Because often times people who are fully verbal still can't communicate. It is one thing to talk about a special interest but a whole new thing to get the words "I'm hungry," "I'm hurt," or be able toe press even more complex needs, thoughts and emotions. I wanted to tell you that individuals who can speak often loose the ability at times and they aren't being bad or trying to get attention or whatever. Their brain has shut off their ability to communicate it's something that happens. It is important to realize this isn't their fault and to be patient . Offer additional supports or just give them time and space.

I want to tell you about acceptance and how it isn't given up. I want to tell you acceptance is about embracing the whole person autism and all and loving them! Acceptance is saying yes you are autistic your brain works diffrently and instead of trying to change you into someone else we are going to take you by the hand and together we will find your strengths and build on them and we will help you find ways to cope and manage with the proper supports in the areas in which you struggle because acceptance isn't about given up and not trying. When you truly manage to embrace and find acceptance it becomes a road to progress, growth and development! It's setting goals and not given up working with what you have instead of trying to be something your not and that is the best thing in the world you can do for yourself or your child.

I wanted to talk about functioning labels and tell you why they don't work and how they only hurt autistics. I want to tell you no one fits perfectly into these labels amd they only get in the way of progress by causing people to put limitations on a child causing people to not really want to put effort into them or cause them to be written off instead of never giving up and working towards helping them build their strength. They also cause people to be over looked in their challanged and supports they need causing individuals to have to struggle daily because they can't get needed supports because people see them As a useless label of high functioning and assume they must be fine since they seem high functioning to them

Lastly though I wanted To tell you about AAC! Aac stands for alternative augenttive communication. They are methods of communication such as PECs (picture exchange communication), Sign language and things such as type to speak or symbol communication apps for the iPad like proloquo2go or taptotalk. When it comes to AAC I want you to know this, AAC is for EVERYONE not just those who can't speak, but for those who are verbal but may loose the ability or those who are verbal and need help with word retrieval or just plain feel better communicating via AAC. I want you to know that everyone has the right to communicate in the method in which they prefer and feel is best for them. There is so much focus on getting verbal when our focus should be on providing communication as soon as possible! It is never to early or to late to introduce AAC! It is important to model AAC too. communication is key! So providing communication option as soon as possible is massively important! OH! And and don't rule out iPads if your child isn't responding to pecs or ASL! For many of us the iPads are a lot more intuitive! ,ost importantly presume competence

Anyways these were only a few things and very very abbreviated sorry this years entry is short and messy but it's halloween night and I am exhausted thank you for read ping this! Please continue to read posts by autistics and I hope in some way this one helped.

Insult or Compliment?

Jane Strauss Âû writes on Facebook: Insult or Compliment?



For weeks, I have mulled over what to write about for this, my (fourth?) Autistics Speaking Day.  And finally, though this will not be a long note, the "aspergery-gate" fiasco did it for me.  

It has come to my attention that I am apparently not deeply enough offended by the statement out of the Obama Administration that Bibi Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel is "Aspergery."  Huh.  As someone who espouses Autistic Pride, I consider it disingenuous to call this an insult - in fact, given the many positive qualities common to many Autistics, loyalty, honesty, attention to detail, researching things, not being swayed by majority opinions or wild emotion....it is in my mind a compliment.  Any government could benefit by having more of us running things.

Meanwhile, I have seen a large number of people online and on FB decrying the use of the word as an insult.   Folks, it is only an insult if you take it as one.  It may have beenintended as an insult by the narrow minded and uneducated dolt who used it, but that use said far more about him, his manners, and his character than it did about the Prime Minister. This is the case just as Autism Speaks' budgetary biases and constant derogatory and eugenics-oriented statements about us speak volumes about them, and inaccurately about us.  And by engaging in these tempests in teapots, the Ruderman Foundation, "Jews with Special Needs,"  and many others  either gave credibility to the use of this term as a pejorative, or showed the world that, in their hearts of hearts,  they actually agree that ASD is a bad thing, no matter what their public faces say about "inclusion,"  "Person first,"   and equality.  

So folks, either you are part of the solution or you are part of the problem.  And if you validate the negative intention of this puerile member of the administration through your protestations, perhaps you should examine your own beliefs, which may have been unduly influenced by ableist social norms.  Consider that perhaps your reaction was rooted either in your own ingrained belief that disability is bad or your internalized oppression.  Consider that what you did furthers oppression of disabled folks.   Consider the possibility that with the best of intentions you have only reinforced existing discriminatory norms, and until you can internalize a positive view of "Autism,"  maybe the most helpful reaction would be none at all.

ASD, ASD and ASD

Bigger On The Inside posts ASD, ASD and ASD on Tardistic

The full post has Content Warnings for medieval brutality and sainthood.


November 1st is All Saints’ Day.  It’s also Autistics Speaking Day, when blogs and social media will be full of posts about Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
I like acronyms, and this holy trinity of ASDs seems too good to pass by.
The trouble is, there isn’t an official Patron Saint of Autism or Autistic people (sadly the Church has been a little slow in canonising The Twelfth Doctor).  Various Saints have been suggested, but they’re usually either Saints connected with mental illness, like S. Dymphna, or Saints who deal with generic healing, like S. Raphael or S. Philomena.  If you’re interested in celebrating Autism, rather than trying to pray the Autism out of people, these are probably poor choices.
There aren’t even any Saints who definitely were Autistic, because of course Autism has only been recognised and defined relatively recently.  But there have been plenty of Saints who weren’t exactly “normal,” and some whose life stories feature events and character traits that might just ring a bell with some of us.  I’m not a fan of armchair diagnosis of historical figures, but sometimes you have to take your kicks where you can find them.  So, especially for ASDx3, here’s my personal, partial and totally unofficial shortlist of Patron Saints of Autism:

Read the rest on Tardistic

Cages

Alice Hewitt writes Cages from Tumblr

Trigger warnings for the abuse and murder of autistic persons



The real reason I'm an anagorist

n8chz writes "The real reason I'm an anagorist" from In defense of anagorism


It may be that the ideological self-label that I created for myself and call “anagorism” looks to some like a set of principles crafted to serve as some kind of a foundation for a social movement, or a new society, or maybe a political platform. What it really is is an anguished, gut-level reaction to the kettle of brine I find myself in, being the person I am, in the historical period in which I’m living, with the cards I’ve been dealt.
I don’t want to get too deeply into my life story here. This isn’t actually a squick with me; just approval of the privacy of living people in my life other than myself. The most salient thing I can say about myself is that I’m a “mild mannered person.” The neighborhood in “ideological space” (think Political Compass, or better yet AIS Ideology Sorter) that contains me and also contains those I criticize most harshly is given to endless arguments over definitions, and is also usually math-oriented (logic-oriented) enough to be passionate about definitions, so I will offer (for the purpose of this post) a definition of “mild mannered person.” A mild-mannered person in the anagorist sense is someone who will cheerfully go places where their presence is known not to be unwelcome. These places include places to which the mild mannered person has been invited, either specifically or by sets of non-discriminatory critera that I happen to meet, and also include places understood to be open to the public. In places such as these I am mildly extroverted, often popular and always self-assured. I’d like to believe that at least some of my time in such spaces is also productive, contributory, facilitative of others and even (though it pains my anagorist soul to say it) profitable.
The flip side of this most enjoyable personal characteristic that is mild-manneredness is that in my own peculiar case, the one thing I won’t do (at least without a lot of kicking and screaming) is invite myself into a place, a space, a situation or even a conversation. As with all personality traits, there is an uninvited dilemma. Quirks beget thoughts, thoughts beget actions, actions have consequences and problems demand solutions. Since a personality trait sets this recurring calamity into motion, we must identify it. Where does it fit into the taxonomy of quirks?
  • Is it a character flaw?
  • Is it a skill deficit?
  • Is it someone being unwilling to bite the bullet and do something they don’t want to, but is nevertheless needful?
  • Is it a voluntary challenge (perhaps borne of some supposed virtue), in which case the uninvited dilemma is over whether it’s one yours truly can afford in these times?
  • Is it a disability?

(My) Autistic History

Haley Outlaw submits (My) Autistic History

I spent thirteen years of my life hating myself (I turned nineteen two days ago).  I no longer hate myself.  All that hatred isn’t gone and I still don’t like things about myself, but I’m happy with me.  I love me.
I realized that there was something weird about me, not when I could read the first Harry Potter book at age 4.  I realized that I was smart when I entered school.  I realized that I was unbelievably stupid about most things.  One of my clearest memories from that time, is one of the teachers holding a book up in front of my face, and telling me to describe what was happening.  I tried to explain that I didn’t get it, that how could there be a book without words.  Books need words; I can read; why wouldn’t they give me a book that I could read?  (My legs are bouncing as I write this.  I usually stim when I’m excited or anxious.  I’m the latter) They told me that this was easy, that all I had to do was describe what was going on, that everyone else in the class could do this.  Still, I didn’t get the concept.  Why was there a book without words?  There’s no point.  I can read chapter books.  Give me one of those.  I’m beyond these.  But apparently I’m not because I still couldn’t do this simple assignment.  So I tried, I looked very carefully at all the aspects of the picture, from the background, to the decorations and finally to the girl, trying to commit every detail to memory.  I couldn’t tell what was important.  The teacher was getting impatient now and told me to describe the most important thing, and then when there was some more confusion, what the girl was doing.  I looked at her.  She seems unremarkable, doing a boring mundane task.  I said that she was putting on a dress.  The teacher prompted me further, why is she putting on a dress?  I told her that I didn’t know.  And how could I?  I have no idea what this girl is thinking or what her life is like or anything besides that she’s putting on a dress. Maybe if there were words to read, I could tell you, but I couldn’t.  This prodding goes on for a couple minutes until eventually she told me that she was putting on a dress for a wedding.  The color of the dress had seemed inconsequential until this point, another one of those details that I was supposed to ignore for the main action.  And there isn’t anything that says that white dresses could only be worn for weddings; that isn’t a rule!  I felt stupid.  And I’m not stupid.  In fact, for years and years, my entire self worth would hang on the fact that I’m smart (it might even today. I’m working on it).
The first time I realized that I wasn’t that good at socialization, I was also in second grade.  I was trying to figure out why this girl wouldn’t talk to me.  I hadn’t broke any rules that I knew of, so why?  To this day, I still have no idea why she didn’t like me.  
The first time I realized that I was “weird” and “strange” was at a break or recess.  Sometimes I could get along with the other kids.  Top Trumps, the card game, was popular; it was all facts, statistics and memorization, all my areas of expertise.  When the boys didn’t want to play (because I was the only one of the girls who did), I would walk the field alone or explore on the little wood of the field, also alone.  I tried to figure out somewhere I could be alone, and make little daisy chains.  It was sitting on a stump in the middle of a little wood outside my school that I realized that I wasn’t like any of the other kids.  I don’t remember if I decided to do anything about it, but that feeling of being wrong, would follow me for my entire life.  
We moved a lot; my dad’s in the military.  Then one of this experiences that mark my memory came along.  We were taking a standardized test; I did fine on the multiple choice portion, but then the essay prompt came along: Describe a fun time you had with friends.  I realized that I didn’t have any friends and that I didn’t have anything to write about and that something was wrong with me.  I spent the whole forty five minutes allotted staring at the blank piece of paper, knowing that there was something wrong with me.  
Something very wrong with me.  I was alone and how I had not realized this before now.  When they saw that I hadn’t written anything at the end of the test, they made me call my mom, who told me to make something up.  I did, at the back of the classroom while the normal classes continued; I made up a story about going to an amusement park with a friend.  I made up the friend and I hate amusement parks (They’re loud and noisy and hot and I can’t really go on most of the rides, except swings and teacups).  No one ever brought that back up again.  
The first time I got in trouble in class was in fourth grade.  I was talking to one of the girls and my table and I don’t remember how or why it was brought up, but I just remember her asking me if I thought I was smarter than her.  Maybe if I had social skills, I would have heard the outrage and hurt in voice, but I didn’t and I said, completely matter-of-fact, because it was just a fact to me.  “Yes, I’m in Gifted so I’m smarter”  I didn’t mean that she was stupid or anything and I wasn’t trying to hurt her.  But I thought that was an empirical fact.  She started crying and went to the teacher.  I was yelled at but I still didn’t understand.  I was in Gifted and she wasn’t, doesn’t that make me smarter?  Gifted is for the smarter kids.  I’m in Gifted.  She’s not.  I didn’t feel superior.  I knew that there were things that she was better than me in.  I just had this one thing, I was smart.  
Right around this time, I started picking the skin off my fingers.  I know now that it was a form of stimming.  I started just for something to do, pulled a little bit of skin off.  But that made it uneven, so I had to pull more and more and more.  My fingertips are the main place that I experience texture and because of the unevenness it hurt to rub it on fabrics, even soft ones.  So I pulled more, trying to make it even again.  I pulled all the skin layer by layer of my fingers until they bled.  I literally couldn’t stop myself, to wait until the skin grew back, so I just kept pulling.  Lotion would help, but the smell and texture of all lotion bothered me, so I couldn’t put it on for years.  Even now, I can very rarely handle it.  It took years to break that habit.  
In fifth grade, in Albuquerque, I realized something.  I didn’t have to hang out with girls, at all.  Girls were confusing and unknowable, and I know I’m generalizing but they seemed like a monolith of confusion back then.  I hung out with boys and we had adventures and lightsabers and walked and talked and played video games.  
It was then that I met Adam.  Adam was great.  I can’t remember him without smiling.  Adam didn’t care what anyone thought of him and when I was with him, I could be like that too.   We had a glitter fight in the classroom one time; we got in trouble but that was fine.  I would never break the rules of the class without Adam there; his excitement was infectious.  Adam lived down the street and constantly worked on his movie, The Adventures of Bob.  I had a character, at least until I left.
The two notable things about sixth grade was Kevin, a constant frenemy and rival who I spent every lunch and a couple classes with that year, and the other, which ruined the entire world as I knew it, romance.  All of the sudden there were a lot more rules.  There were rules about being in my room with the door closed, but only with boys.  People would assume that Kevin and I were dating, and coo over us.  It all got very complicated, especially because I wasn’t really interested in all that.  I wanted to hang out with my friends, all boys, without all of these problems.
After that year, I have always had trouble hanging out with boys.  There are so many things that I don’t understand.  Boys became the confusing monolith because they started saying things that I didn’t understand and we couldn’t be friends anymore.  I still have trouble being friends with boys, out of a fear and paranoia that I’ll make a mistake or break a rule I don’t know about.  I have no idea what flirting is and it scares me inordinately.  Right now, my only male friend is Joel, also on the spectrum.  
Seventh grade and eighth grades were horrible, but unremarkable, unless we’re talking about amazing displays of racism and sexism, being ostracized and academic and extracurricular success.  Then in eighth grade, I realized that I had problems; I didn’t love people that weren’t in my family.  I saw the rules as that you had to love people that were in your family, but you didn’t have to like them.  So I loved just my family, whereas my family was so loose with the term, saying it to friends and neighbors and it’s a serious word.  That was just another thing that made me weird and wrong; I couldn’t love.  I said that I loved my family, but I didn’t even like most of them.
Late middle and early high school saw me withdrawing away from people and into books, anime, and video games.  In eleventh grade, we moved in NoVa.  There I met the best friend I ever had.  She loved listening to me talk, about history and mythology and books, and everything I love.  She didn’t mind me explaining things to her.  She would pick where and with whom we sat at lunch and I could just talk.  
When my sibling started seeing a psychiatrist for the first time, mom said that he thought my sibling was “easy and simple.”  Someone in my family joked, it might have even been me, I don’t remember, that I would be more of a challenge.  Everyone agreed, but no steps were taken.  Maybe it was because I was an (almost) straight A student or because I never really cried in front of them.  To this day, it seems inconceivable that my entire family acknowledged how “strange” and not “normal” I was, but didn’t seriously think about having me see a psychologist.  Especially because I had been thinking that there was something deeply wrong with me since elementary school.
A couple weeks later, I brought up that I thought I had autism to my mom.  It was in her bathroom, early in the morning.  I couldn’t wait until after school to bring it up, because I had found ME.  In that list of symptoms, I found the essence of my personality, all the things I could never explain.  My mom said that she thought so too, but didn’t suggest going to get an official diagnosis (or help of any kind).  Since she didn’t suggest it, I just kept doing my thing.  It was a rule that only experts could issue a diagnosis.  This stayed at the back of my mind for two years.
At college one of my hall mates Joel was doing a presentation on autism and what it’s like to be on the spectrum.  I tried to avoid going, because that was still floating in the back of my mind and I didn’t really want to face it.  My friends pressured me to go though (and I have trouble saying no because I’m afraid people will leave me if I don’t go along with them).  So I went.  I cried the entire time, because this was ME, and he talked about being ostracized and excluded and bullied, and having different skills and this was ME.  I ran out of there and cried in the bathroom for what felt like hours.  I had a disorder.  That was what made me wrong.  But I’m not alone; there are other people like me, out there, who have those problems.  I finally realized that all the sounds I heard were ten times louder and smells and textures were ten times worse.  It wasn’t that I was just pathetic and couldn’t deal with it like everyone else.  Everyone else didn’t have these problems.  That’s why I was the only one I knew who would flee loud, crowded spaces and keep their fingers in their ears for an entire movie because it was too loud (Guardians of the Galaxy).  It wasn’t because I was so pathetic that I couldn’t handle it like everyone else could.  It was genuinely different!  Then I did the research and I met Joel and Danielle, both on the spectrum.  It was the first time that I ever felt like I belonged anywhere.  They got me!  And I got them!  In a way that I didn’t think was possible for me.
So I have autism, great!  But then I came up against my biggest fear, society.  I didn’t see anything wrong with being autistic.  I was different and I’m better that way!  I’m only me because I’m that way!  But I knew the reputation and I was scared to tell people, that they would think that I was disabled.  I am disabled, but it’s not my fault.  It’s society’s fault because it wasn’t built for people like me (for more information see the social model of disability).  Still, they weren’t educated. When I “came out” to my friends, I got “I don’t think you have autism” both times.  I cried a lot, going to sleep that night.  That of course, gave me doubts.  So no I can’t say I’m autistic because of the rule: only experts can diagnose.  I was scared of being judged because of negative stereotypes.  I knew that it was up to me then, to change those stereotypes, but I couldn’t do it.  
I went home for summer vacation, got my diagnosis, and came back ready to say that “I’m autistic and proud!”  But I still hated myself.  Not for having autism, but just because of my personality.  I thought I was annoying and friendless (both of which were pretty much true at that point).  The last semester I was depressed and anxious and it creates a downward spiral.  Under stress, my resistance to sensory input dropped.  I started avoiding the dining halls, classes, clubs because it was all too much to take.  So even though I knew know that I’m autistic, I was scared of that.  I didn’t realize that I could be like that.  
I came back to campus this year, trying to fix or cut out all the bad influences from last year.  I got a Wii U and a TV, and lived off campus (so much better for sensory issues), no roommate (so I can be alone and decompress), new classes (not forcing myself to take classes I didn’t like) and proudly autistic and ready to advocate.  It was the brand new me!  Except that I was friendless and lonely.  I pretty much lost all the friends I had made in college last year, which is fine, because most of them were horrible friends that made my social anxiety and depression a hundred times worse (except you Joel).  After I made some friends, I was happy!  I was succeeding, enjoying my hobbies, advocating, motivated, social (or as social as I get).  But there were still these thoughts of self-doubt and self-hatred.  Then I had a series of epiphanies.  
One, I don’t have to be good at everything that I undertook
Two, my own happiness comes first
Three, I’m an amazing person and if people don’t realize it, they are missing out.
Four, I’m a far better person than I gave myself credit for.
Five, if I could change my personality even a little bit, I wouldn’t.
Six, there’s no way I can be a better ME.  Sure I can try and work hard, but don’t try to do things that I can’t.
Seven, I have strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else.  Communication is a weakness for me.  
Eight, When I put my mind to something, there is nothing that I can’t accomplish.
Nine, There are limitless possibilities ahead of me.
Lastly, I’m perfect.
Not empirically perfect, but perfectly flawed and perfectly human, just like characters in books and TV.  I don’t begrudge them their faults, nor to begrudge another humans theirs.  I need to not begrudge me mine.  Whenever I was walking to class or anytime I thought negative thoughts, I would run through a motivational speech in my end, praising my strengths, minimizing my flaws and focusing on the limitless possibilities.  
And that’s how I reached Acceptance.  Not just Autism Acceptance.   But Self Acceptance.  
I still have negative thoughts and I still get embarrassed when I don’t “pass as neurotypical.”  I still have a ways to go, but I’m on that path now.  I’m really open about having autism.  I tell pretty much everyone I talk to for more than five minutes that I have autism, because Neurodiversity is one of my special interests and I can’t go more than ten minutes without mentioning it.  I don’t care as much if people think I’m weird or whatever mistakes I may have made in a conversation.  
The reason that I’m so passionate about neurodiversity though is that I don’t want another generation of kids growing up thinking that something was wrong with them, that they were a freak, in a society that wasn’t built for them.  It’s a tall order, but events like this are going to get us there someday.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

on being autistic, not okay

Hannah B writes on her tumblr "on being autistic, not okay"

Content warning for abstract sensory overload


Glimpses of unseen autism

Stimmycat gives us Glimpses of unseen autism on Autism through the Medium of Cats


Looking through some family photos I found one of me as a little girl, smiling as I created two lines of plastic animals. Lining up toys is one of those famous signs of autism, but I doubt my parents knew that. The ways I’m autistic are subtle and easy to dismiss, but I've realised that the signs were always there for me, even if nobody recognised them.
At school, when I was ten, I wanted to do my project on cheetahs but the teacher told me I should do it on the Botanical Gardens because I went there most weekends. Whenever our task was to write about what we did at the weekend I would wrote about going to the Botanics for a few hours to feed the squirrels. I didn't write that in the rest of my free time I was reading about cheetahs and other cats, pretending to be a cat, and sitting by the radiator to watch my own cat. These things were unremarkable and not worth mentioning. I’d been doing them every day for as long as I could remember.
Another thing I’d always done was spinning. I became an expert at pushing with the balls of my feet to spin on my heels as fast as I could go. I’d hold out my arms to feel the tugging at my fingertips, or pull my arms across my chest against the force pulling them outwards. When I wasn't spinning my hands never stopped moving. I squeezed my fingers, rolled up the edge of my t-shirt, and fiddled with my hair till it got tangled so often my mum told the hairdresser to cut my hair short like a boy’s to make me break the habit. But I also picked at my fingers, my lips, and the rest of my face.
I slept badly most of the time and none of the advice I was given helped much. In the evening the radio and my parents’ voices kept me awake and I was woken early in the morning by the sound of the central heating coming on. The sound of my brother bouncing a ball in the garden messed with my brain in ways I didn't understand, but my parents said it was doing no harm. In the school playground it sounded like every child was screaming.
I was scared of the children and terrified of the teachers and did everything I could to avoid making them angry. But at home my frustration and anxiety surfaced. I acted out and melted down. The psychologist said I was fine, and put me on a reward system that fixed my behaviour but did nothing for my emotions.
I always had friends at school but nobody else saw the teasing. But being teased was better than being alone and risking worse bullying or other children’s pity. I was desperate to make other friends but I couldn't manage it. When I could bring myself to admit this I was told it was due to my low self-esteem. My best friends were my cats.
I was shy. ‘She’s very shy’ was the explanation for every failed attempt at social interaction.
Home and school made a predictable routine that I was rarely forced out of.
I did my best to be a normal girl so people would like me and so they wouldn't see the ways I was different from everyone I knew.
Normal girls from my background went away to university, but once I was there I couldn't pretend any more. I couldn't cope with bars and clubs, or understand other students’ social interactions, and without my family or school friends I was more alone than I’d ever been. The noise in my flat gave me panic attacks and depression took away the energy I used to act normal and compensate for everything that assaulted my senses.
I had to drop out, but a year later the GP treating my depression noticed my autisticness. Once I’d got over my disbelief I realised, this explains everything.
I've felt sad and angry that I wasn't diagnosed as a child and had no support and no understanding of who I was. But I wonder now if support at that time would have meant being made to appear even more normal and my understanding would have been that I was disordered. Now I’m an adult I can choose not to accept these things.
But it’s comforting to look back and understand my life in the light of autism, and to see that autism has always been a part of me, because it feels like I know who I really am.

Ten Examples that Show Violence Against Autistics is Alive and Well in American Culture

Ben Edwards writes Ten Examples that Show Violence Against Autistics is Alive and Well in American Culture


Trigger warning/content: This post contains graphic description of electroshock, murder, torture, and abuse towards autistic individuals.  Please be advised before reading that this post contains instances of horrific treatment that if you do not think you can stand to hear about, do not read any further.


If You Walk on Issy's Shoes

Amy Sequenzia writes If You Walk on Issy's Shoes

TW for mentions of abuse, silencing, attempted murderer of Autistic person, murderer apologists


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Preparation for ASDay 2014

I know I'm late running for ASDay 2014, but I have most things in order!




For one, the submission form is now open and ready to take submissions.  And the Facebook event page is online.

And as always, I do advise people to review our FAQs and our Content Filter List.

I know it's only about a week until Nov 1st, but let's have a great day!!

Participation Post 2013


Contributors List

Autistic Contributors Alyssa, Yes, That Too: Autistics Speaking Day 2013
Alana, Written Words
Abby, A Story Told In Autism
Michael Scott Monje, Jr., I am at peace (with killing my socially constructed self) (see Trigger Warnings)
Leeanne Marshall, Autistics Speaking Day: My Pathway
Autisticook, Fear (See Trigger Warnings)
Sparrow Rose Jones, Autistics Speaking Day 2013
Cynthia Kim, Autistic as a Reclaimed Word
Nicole Nicholson, Isolation, Loneliness, and the Angry Aspie (See Trigger Warnings) 
Amy Sequenzia, My Fingers Speak
Ibby Grace, I Speak To Thank
Ash Satoshi, My Life in Singapore: A Message For Autistics Speaking Day
Matt Friedman, Real Monsters of Autism (See Trigger Warnings)
FeministAspie, You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party
Patricia Elaine Chandler, The Unaltruistic Nature of Autism Speaks
Alexandra Holt, Regression. Does it Really Exist?
Nicole Nicholson, a bright light jolted Aanteekwa awake (See Trigger Warnings)
Joe Andrew Campos, We're All Awesome
Amy Sequenzia, Autistics Are Speaking
Steve Summers, An Autistic Social Issue: Dismissal and Disrespect
Rayn, Autistics Speaking Day 2013!
Jasun Horusly, The Book I Read: Jonathan Lethem’s Infinity Loop
Jasun Horsley, How Am I not Myself
Queerability, Queerability
Bird Gardener, Finding My Voice
Nightengale, Speaking from the shadows
Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone, Impact
khawkgirl, Autistic Vloggers and Autistics Speaking Day- LAFA
Bridget Allen, My Value: Autism, Feminism, and Poverty
"Aspie Kent", Being Myself
Jennifer Hughes, People Like Us (See Trigger Warnings) 
rattiepuff, Why I speak (See Trigger Warnings) 
Catsidhe, Autism on TV isn't always done wrong (See Trigger Warnings) 
Jodie Gray, Shared and Different Voices (See Trigger Warnings) 
The MoUsY spell-checker, "So you mean you're an engineer?"
Rainbow Goddess, Autistic person speaking
Tuttleturtle, But what about those florescent lights?
Judy Endow, Words for Autistics Speaking Day
Paul, A helpful guide to my elementary school (see Trigger Warnings)

Ally Contributors 
Sharon Bergman, Chickens and Autism
Autismum, Autistics Speaking Day 2013
Kelly Green, Convergence
PK, When autistic people speak their truth, just listen

Thank you all for your hard work!!  You are the success of ASDay 2013!!