Friday, November 3, 2017

The supermarket

tahrab writes The supermarket at lucalunablog.

Trigger warnings at the post:  swearing (arsehole, crap, damn, fuck, goddamn, motherfucker, shit),  sensory integration issues

Trigger warnings here:  swearing (damn, fuck)

The supermarket

I’m heading to the supermarket. Either one. I only use the third player for its salmon and those damn rice cracker packs my kids inhale. And even then I exit with a random middle aisle purchase or seven…you know the ones. The beach towel. The craft pack. The soap dispenser (seriously?). The bamboo chopping board and bag of tennis balls. So…focus.

 I’ve pulled in to park. My silver SUV blends with the other silver SUVs except for its side scrapes on both sides. Starting to rust. The maneuvering just to get the car in or out of our garage does my head in. I can spend the next 15 minutes of the drive ruminating over the “stupidity and greed of developers”. I cannot understand at a deep cellular – seriously at a visceral level – why anyone would choose to squash us all in. Why not allow a little wriggle room for those days when my hands ache and my sense of spatial awareness isn’t the best? For fuck’s sake. But I digress.

Read the full post here.

The assessment

tahrab sends us The assessment
It’s Spring and the city light is squinty bright. We’re driving up winding streets with seascape views so stunning I almost forgive the traffic crush. My stomach is aching with nerves and my hands are shaky.
We find Building 2 after being buzzed in at the boom gate. It’s an industrial complex with a café and a bushblock next door. I can smell the heat on the gums, banskias, natives flowering. Double-storeyed monoliths loom. We take the lift to the second floor.
Inside we say goodbye and I sit in the corner on a black vinyl couch. The magazines are old and domestic. Cakes and clothing and gossip and body size.
I unwrap my half eaten sandwich and crouch over a paper napkin. The very first resuming bite slops tomato on my light pink top. I pad at it with the napkin and manage to both squash and spread it further.
The receptionist at the front desk is chatting to another staff member. They’re comparing shoes. They have worn “the same” as each other, though to me they look quite different. There’s detailed talk (so much of it!) of footwear and driving to their work meeting later that day as neither “want to walk in high heels”. I look at my broad sandalled feet.
My name is called and I’m ushered down the corridor and into a windowless room. I was going to write airless, for that’s how it instantly felt, like a sudden squeeze to my chest. The walls and carpet are a yellowish beige and there are two noisy canvasses hung. Four itchy blue chairs circle a coffee table. “Please take a seat”.
The day begins and on it goes in various forms till the mid afternoon. There’s talking and answering all sorts of questions and discussing such a range of topics that I’m genuinely surprised. My mother is phoned for an interview part way through and I retreat to the café to guzzle peach iced tea and answer more questionnaires. My head is now spinning.
When I return to the room there’s still more discussion. Then, finally, as we limp to the finish line, the assessor delivers her diagnosis, my diagnosis: you have autism spectrum disorder. You have had it since birth, you will always have it and it is not ambiguous. You are not borderline, it is not a maybe, it’s very clear. Here are my findings and here’s my reasoning and here are some recommendations.
Though I know she’s a clinical psychologist specialising in autism, I hear myself nevertheless asking how long she’s been doing these assessments, you know just in case she has no idea. She smiles and says “six years”.
She hands me some paperwork and leads me to the lift. Down I go to the afternoon sun and sit out by the boom gate waiting for my husband to collect me. He arrives with our daughter and a block of chocolate.
We drive back to the seaside suburb we’re staying in and he drives on to collect the boys from their robotics day. I’m alone in the apartment, an art deco place with terrible acoustics. I make a rattling cup of tea and wait.
Soon there’s a knock on the door and I open it to the four of them. First my oldest son who too has autism. He is beaming. His mouth seems gorgeously huge – his face is all smile and shining eyes. He doesn’t say hello but simply bursts with “so I hear you have autism – that’s awesome!” and wraps his arms around me so tight and for so long that I’m quite sure it’s the longest he’s ever hugged me. Then our second son, who is also autistic. “Hi mum, you’ve got autism. Cool.” And he slides past nodding to himself. My daughter’s next, tugging at my arm “we bought you flowers mummy!” and then my husband stumbles in carrying bags and hats and water bottles…“Hey bella” and I fall into another embrace that seems to last forever.

La La La, I'm so Happy

Brigid Rankowski posts La La La, I'm so Happy on A Road To Me

I miss writing.
I miss it so much, that I figured today was as good a day as any to take it back up.
Yesterday was Autistics Speaking Day. To learn about the origins of the event click Here.
I’ve talked about writing and have reconnected with people who ask me if I write or have a blog, so here is an attempt to unearth this creation as I begin to move forward with my career.

I woke up last week with the strangest feeling, or at least it was strange to me. I wasn’t anxious. I wasn’t too tired. I wasn’t feeling like I was missing something.
I woke up feeling happy. Then, I spent the rest of my day being happy. Then, for the next few days the feeling didn’t go away.

Does the happy autist have a history?

Adelaide Dupont submits Does the happy autist have a history? from Halfway up Rysy Peak

Trigger Warnings for genitalia mutilations, child marriages, historical mention of cure, historical mention of research, emotional labour, gangs, bullying behaviour, happiness as tool of social control, denialism, oppression, medical mismanagement, pseudoscience, florescent street lighting, and human intentional betrayal

We have no past 
We won't reach back
Keep with me
forward all through the night [Lauper 1980ish].

And there is a chance under these white street lamps and with the maps which got us through to the street.

My question is Does the happy autist have a history?

When I was with you all at #31for21 it was as a guest and with the courtesies observed that would be proper and expected of a guest.

A book on the left - Autistic History Month in the middle - neurodiversity infinity symbols on the right. Below history community and culture in different circles

Who do I mean by the happy autist? Of course I mean each individual autist and their happinesses whether or not I know them/you.

I also mean something reified - something abstract. Something you might well have seen in the media and tried to reach.

You might say as you read this, "I am a happy autist. I have a history."

Or: "My happiness and my history was lost, stolen or mislaid at some point or another".

Thursday, November 2, 2017

How the Victorian Public Service discriminates against autistic graduates

Spekkio has sent in an essay on How the Victorian Public Service discriminates against autistic graduates

How the Victorian Public Service indirectly discriminates against autistic graduates

Trigger warnings for linked essay: unemployment, depression, discrimination, ableism, swearing (bullshit, piss, crap).
Trigger warnings for here: unemployment, discrimination, ableism, swearing (hell).

In honour of Autistics Speaking Day, I’m sharing my complaint about how the Victorian Public Service mishandled my application for their Graduate Recruitment and Development Scheme. The complaint takes the form of a long-winded essay posted on a popular graduate forum. If you ignore the swearing and some of the pompous phrases, which the forum won’t let me edit out, it’s probably the best thing I’ve written all year. 

For ASDay 2017 and Ever After

Corina Becker wrote For ASDay 2017 and Ever After on No Stereotypes Here

For ASDay 2017 and Ever After

I didn't think I was going to write something this year.

I have two works in progress waiting for me to finish, after all. A piece on how jokes can be harmful, especially when IEPs and disability are thrown in, and an open letter to Simon Baron-Cohen about how he's completely ignorant on neurodiversity when he tried to write about it in a recent article.

These are pieces that are so close to being completed. And like a lot of my work, I'm not sure how to conclude them. How do I tell when something is finally done? How do I wrap it up?

It's a problem I have with my writing, it's a problem I have with a lot of projects. I wonder if it's going to be a problem I'll have with ASDay. I hope one day I'll be able to say "okay, it's been a good run. We did what we set out to do. We're no longer needed," and pack it all up.

And while I think 2017 has been a bit of a slow year, for various reasons, I don't think this is the year that happens.

It may be the year I spent the night before hanging out with a friend having a mental health crisis. It may be the year I spent the evening beforehand at work on a retail shift wearing inappropriate shoes because I was in costume and totally regret it (always, ALWAYS wear appropriate work shoes, even if it doesn't go with your costume). It may be the year I only got 5 hours sleep and dashed out the door to a doctor's appointment.

It may be the year my doctor told me to stop doing everything that I love, to stop typing, to stop writing, to stop all my hobbies and restrict all my leisure pursuits. It may be the year that I promptly ignored my doctor's advice and spent over twelve hours on the internet, doing what I love.

Because ASDay is still needed. Because someone sent in a 20-page essay on neurodiversity as philosophy theory. Because we're still fighting for AAC to be considered a language in its own right. Because I can't count how many people send in self-discovery stories. Because autistic people are still demanding our rights, demanding to be heard.

And we're not going away.

So, for this ASDay, and the next one, and as many as it takes, here I am.

We need to stop treating AAC as a last ditch option and more

AutismDogGirl writes We need to stop treating AAC as a last ditch option and more on Nonspeakingnotsilent

im going to keep this short, I’m tired and low on spoons I have been for a while now, I mean low on spoons  but I wanted to get something out for Autistic speaking day.

We need to stop treating AAC like a last ditch option, so often I see parents waiting till their kids ore older to try AAC, they are told to try for speech  they believe that if they go straight to AAC that they will loose the opportunity for speech, but the science just isn’t behind this! Study after study has proven that if anything AAC helps promote speech  but more importantly they are loosing valuable time and spending years denying their kids access to communication methods in fear of not getting for mouth words. This isn’t just against the since it’s massively cruel, providing and teaching communication to your child should take priority over all else.  Not all of us will gain mouth words and that’s ok but it is critical you do everything to help us access methods of communication that work for us!

We need to do away with the idea of prove it low tech first this is archaic and BS  just google “everything wrong with prove it low tech first”and that should give you plenty of blogs with explanations.

Introducing comprehensive aac early and modeling is critical

We need to start treating AAC like a language and we need to start valuing AAC as much as we do as mouth words!

We need to recognize that AAC access is important and critical for many individuals with a variety of persevered verbal abilities. i say percieved as all to often what you see is not all that we are trying to say or express but often we cant get all the right mouth words, or the wrong ones come out, or they wont come out at all even when we know exactly what we want to say.

there are many Autistics (and im sure NTs) who can speak well or even exceedingly well but loose speech and need AAC part time. their need is no less real than someone who has never spoke a word.
some individuals need AAC to help them hold and process thoughts as they type them out so they can communicate clearly. Their need for access to AAC is real!

Some Autiscs have an easier time typing or using symbols than mouth word their need for AAC is real

Autistics  who ha intermittent speech, their need for AAC is rel

the autistic who has neever spoke a words need for AAC is real

Autistics that type and speak the words as they types need for AAC is real

baseline if someone expresses and interest in AAC no matter how old or how verbal their need and right to have access to AAC is real and valid

we need to change the converastion around AAC, from something tabo to just another way some individual communicate.

lastly it is acceptable and we need to nomalize switching between multiple modes of communication  be it

AAC- signs- sounds-pecs
verbal speech aac-sounds
or verbal speech-sogn
sign-aac sounds - letter board
letter board-verbal speech- pecs

and so on most any combination you can think of every individual has needs to be allowed their right to switch through ( yes even you)

Autistics Speaking Day: Special Interests and Autism

TimeTravellingGirl sends us

"Autistics Speaking Day: Special Interests and Autism"

Most autistic people have "special interests", sometimes called "obsessions" or "large interests". A special interest is an interest that a person spends a lot of time and enjoys, more so than "normal". A special interest can literally be anything: Some of my main special interests have included Great Big Sea (a band), The Sims, Back to the Future, Ferries, Planets and Winnie the Pooh. Other autistic people have had special interests in topics like dogs, Star Trek, trains, politics, airplanes and piano. This is in no way a complete list and I didn't even list all my special interests. That would take forever. At most times, I have had more than one special interest, it is sometimes believed that autistic people can only have one special interest at a time. I currently have three. So, are special interests beneficial? Most of the time, yes. People have developed careers based on special interests. I, myself, am thinking of opening a business that is related to my special interests. Another example is a person who has a special interest in animals becoming a vet or working with animals in some other way. I, personally use special interests as a coping mechanism. When I am upset or overwhelmed, I tend to indulge myself in special interests. In the past, I have listened to my favourite music. Now, I may watch clips from Back to the Future or play The Sims (or the Back to the Future video game. It is also cool to find someone who shares your special interest with you, it can help you make friends (if you so choose of course). Many of us are told that they we can't talk about our special interests or do any activities involving them. This does not work very well. First of all, in my case, whenever I have been preventing from engaging in a special interest, I have always ended up developing another one. Also, it takes away a coping mechanism that many of us use. I have been told to let other people talk about their interests and to never talk about mine. Not so much as a teen or adult, but certainly as a child. Sometimes, the other person's interests, don't interest me at all and I kind of drift away from conversation. For example, I have absolutely no interest in snap-chat whatsoever, so whenever someone starts talking about, I get bored. Just like people might do if I talk about something I'm interested and they are not. The trick here is find a compromise (or people who share your interest) instead of telling autistic people not to talk about their interests at all. I recall a time when I was in a social skills class (that's a other blog post), and both me and my social skills partner (also neurodivergent), wanted to talk about video games, but our social skills teacher told us that we had to talk about school, even though we were both interested in video games. Neither of us wanted to talk about school, so why would we? In real life, people don't discuss topics that bore both of them because society requires they talk about it. The bottom line is that special interests are rarely harmful or destructive and actually serve a benefit to many autistic people. Thanks, AP

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Somatics on the Spectrum

Vanissar Tarakali sends us Somatics on the Spectrum on YouTube

Content Warning for sound quality, length of video (1 hour), and description of alternative medicine (somatics)

Adventures of an autistic business owner

Paula Jones sends us Adventures of an autistic business owner from YouTube

(Content warning for the use of ableist slur)

"Speaking" to academia #ASDay

Alyssa writes "Speaking" to academia #ASDay at Yes, That Too

I wear many metaphorical hats. I'm a teacher. I'm a published poet. I'm a disability studies scholar, affiliated with a university but not for disability studies. I'm a graduate student in neuroscience. I'm an Autistic advocate, and not only a self-advocate (advocating for myself is often harder than the general stuff.) I'm a blogger.

Always, I am all of these things (and a bunch of other things). Sometimes, I get the opportunity to combine them. I've been blogging for GradHacker, part of Inside Higher Ed, since the start of the calendar year. That's for writing that's relevant to graduate students, or about graduate school.

Even though I know disabled graduate students exist, and disabled professors exist, and anyone teaching will eventually have disabled students, I've worried before every disability-related pitch I've made to them. Is it a topic that anyone outside disability communities would care about? Do they have enough background to understand the issue even if they care? Will the editors go for it, even if the audience would find the post useful?

[Keep reading at Yes, That Too]

Force of Habit

Tamsin Parker sends in Force of Habit on Vimeo.

Tamsin was a finalist in the National Autistic Society's Autism Uncut Film and Media Awards. 

Please check it out!

Nonverbal Day Today

Janey Colbourne writes Nonverbal Day Today at Heartseer

Nonverbal Day Today

Non-verbal day today
How can I explain
When my brain
Finds it hard to talk?
The thought of it is stressful
Do you mind if I just text you?
It’s nothing personal
Just my visual
Mind works better
On these days

#ADHD and #ASD do they make a good couple?

Janey Colbourne writes #ADHD and #ASD do they make a good couple? at Heartseer

#ADHD and #ASD do they make a good couple?
It is not uncommon for ASD and ADHD to be given as a dual diagnosis. I’ve been considering if, when they occur together, rather than being comorbid, they in fact complement or compensate for each other. The classical symptoms of ADHD include distraction, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The classic symptoms of ASD include obsession/hyperfocus, a love of routine and predictability and a tendency for social isolation. Clearly this is stereotypical but I am simplifying here for a moment, while I explore an idea.

I have ADHD and my mind flies around, bursting with ideas. I can be impulsive, with a tendency to blurt and easily get overexcited. I also have autistic traits, awaiting diagnosis. My autistic side loves predictability, hates excessive demands and prefers solitude and quiet contemplation. These two might seem contradictory, but they act as moderators for each other. They coexist at the same time, although sometimes one or other may be slightly dominant. Sometimes they conspire to get me in a panic. Overall I think they help each other.

My ASD hyperfocus helps my ADHD to get focused and stick to a task. On her own my ADHD gets so excited about something that she wants me to leap around shouting, or alternatively she gets bored and wanders off. My ADHD is bursting with ideas and darts off in unexpected directions to bring back a fresh perspective. This helps my ASD to open up and not get too stuck in a rut. My ADHD has a tendency to blurt what I’m thinking before I’ve assessed the situation. My ASD might not be great at assessing the situation either, but has sufficient inhibition and dislike of making a fuss to make me bite my tongue. My ASD gets tired easily, especially when it comes to auditory processing and is another way she calms down my ADHD from throwing me into excessive social peril. Together ADHD and ASD love to think and create. ASD helps my ADHD to stay on track and not run off chattering inanely to the nearest person, so they can work together. ASD needs ADHD’s bright ideas and energy. ASD can get the quiet she needs if ADHD is kept occupied with some exciting revelations to chew on. ASD has some awesome topics that she wants to work through and ADHD is only too happy to bounce these around and see what she can make with them. She can also spot when ASD is overthinking and pull her out of her ruminations.

ADHD doesn’t like to be too constrained by rules and routines. She finds them too boring. She might get into trouble. ASD craves predictability and likes to do things correctly. She might sometimes miss out on opportunities. ADHD and ASD are good together, like Howard Moon and Vince Noir.

Words Cut

Catsidhe writes Words Cut at Catsidhe

Trigger warning:  Ableist slurs, racial slurs, homophobic slurs

Words Cut

Words cut.

There was a time when I used those words, because I was ignorant. And because everyone around me used them, and I thought that that’s just what you did.

#Autistics Speaking Day

Jane Au Strauss writes #Autistics Speaking Day

Trigger warning:  Violence, domestic violence, chemical restraint, PTSD

#Autistics Speaking Day

It completely slipped my mind that today was “Autistics Speaking Day” - likely because my unwillingness to toe anyone’s party line has apparently gotten me out of the loop for such information. So maybe this will show up somewhere else or maybe not.
These days, I find increasingly that I am neither fish nor fowl. Definitely not NT - and due to my situation, not easily fitting into the world of the “autistic activists” few of whom are parents, and fewer of whom seem to have offspring who have ever presented significant behavioral challenges or been anything but delightful. Thus, they cannot relate to my world or my experience.

Stop attacking us and start listening to us: Autistic adults

Dallas Brogden writes Stop attacking us and start listening to us: Autistic adults at Fire Bright Star Soul

Trigger Warning:  Discussion of bullying, both of autistic children and online harassment of autistic adults by non-autistic parents of autistic children.

Stop attacking us and start listening to us:  Autistic adults

I don’t even know how to caption this, or preface it. So I will do what I always do, sit down, close my eyes, and start typing.

When you say you’re an “autism warrior mom” I wonder if you have Autism. I hope so because then I know you’ll understand first-hand what it means to fight our fight.

“But that doesn’t mean I can’t advocate for my child” you say. Well, and good. Duly noted. But you, as a neurotypical, can only go so far. You can take that battle only to the level of YOUR understanding, not ours.

Read the full post here.

My body is not your empathy gimmick

echolaliachamber writes My body is not your empathy gimmick at echolaliachamber.

My body is not your empathy gimmick

Today is Autistics Speaking Day 2017. It is the day we flash-blog in an attempt to tease out higher SEO ratings than the anti-autistic “autism warrior” “I love my child but I hate my child’s autism” establishment of autism “advocacy” – a stunt to try and snag more eigenbuddies than our oppressors so that parents of autistic children might find us instead of them. A prayer that they’ll find acceptance instead of fear.

Today is also just a few days shy of a month from the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Technology. I attended this year, along with 18,000 other people. It was overwhelming, of course. There were many good sessions which focused on diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality (Kimberle Crenshaw was actually credited for her term in one of them which was astonishing all by itself). As a whole the conference organizers were making a concerted effort to make Grace Hopper about women of all backgrounds, not just white cis women. There was still a disappointing presence of transexclusionary/genital essentialist language, particularly against trans women and femmes. And though I did see other disabled people around, and was grateful to connect with a few, there were many panels that were intensely ableist. Some of which I even had to walk out of for my own well being.

First there was the panel on Accessible Technology, which included 5 visibly able-bodied panelists on a stage that a person with a physical disability would not be able to access. Being myself an alphabet soup of invisible disabilities, both cognitive and physical, I will not claim that no one on the panel was disabled, however they were definitely presenting from a position of able-bodiedness and positions of authority over disabled people. This isn’t good enough. We need disabled perspectives on panels about technology accessibility and accessible interfaces. We need this not just because we should be listening to disabled people about what accessible tech means to them, but because disabled developers exist. Accessible technology isn’t just about helping the citizen with disabilities. Accessible technology is also about diversity in computing professions. We’re here. We use eye tracking software to code (among many other things). Our efficiency is dependent upon your gatekeeping, not our ability.

The panel covered some good topics. Disability studies often leaves aging populations out as a footnote, despite the fact that, if we’re lucky, we’ll all live long enough to be disabled, so I really appreciated the panel highlighting the aging population as critical consumer group of accessible technology. I also had a deep appreciation for the segment on user centered design and a panelist asserting that when you ask people with disabilities to contribute their knowledge and experience to your project that you compensate them for your time. I would also like to see more disabled collaborators being truly included as project members with full credit as well. I did not appreciate appeals to the economics of accessible technology. The economy of disability, spearheaded by our nation’s favorite Super Crip, FDR himself, was and continues to be a capitalist ploy that keeps us segregated in sheltered workshops and special programs. It isn’t a good look. Economies of any axis of diversity are inherently othering and I’d like to see people dropping this narrative entirely in favor of more compelling and dignified appeals to inclusion.

I was genuinely looking forward to the panel on Virtual Humanity. I have worked in video games, augmented reality, and virtual reality for many years, and compelling and empathetic virtual agents are critical to meaningful virtual experiences. I was not prepared for what I experienced.

A presenter from Facebook was describing the new Oculus project, Facebook Spaces. Spaces allows users to connect with friends in fully virtual chat rooms. With an Oculus head mounted display and motion sensor, users are teleported into these spaces, riding around in a cartoon avatar designed to look like them using their favorite profile photo. The presenter spoke about finding team meetings held in Facebook spaces much more engaging, that connection with her team members was made easier in this shared virtual space than in the fragmented distorted windows of a video conference. I found myself in agreement with the presenter, there’s always something about the quality of connection in an online video conference that somehow manages to combine all the most difficult aspects of information processing. Yet I was surprised to find myself pushing back feelings of panic, wiping my palms on the knees of my pants, rocking as subtly as I could manage in the audience, surrounded by strangers, struggling to breathe. What was upsetting me so much?

Eye contact. The presenter explained that eye contact was the reason that Spaces was better for team meetings than video conferencing. Eye contact was lauded as so crucial to meaningful connection that it is actually procedurally enforced within Facebook Spaces. All avatars maintain eye contact with their conversational partners at all times.

Let that sink in. Eye contact is enforced procedurally at all times. And more — Body gesticulations are interpreted into standard facial expressions automatically.

Do you see what I see? The panel is called Virtual Humanity and the first presentation defines humanity as explicitly exclusive of autistic mannerisms.

Let’s pull back.

Virtual Reality has been heralded as the empathy machine. Various and voluminous perspective taking experiences have been built, claiming to hold the key to breaking down bias and fostering human connection. Nevermind the fact that disability scholars have already roundly covered the ways in which simulation exercises actually contribute to stigma and othering – developers are attempting to ‘solve’ the ‘problem’ of disability by letting people ‘walk in our shoes.’

And yet.

And yet.

You will not even allow us the dignity of existing in our own skin within these virtual worlds.
Someone from Microsoft (who I deeply respect but will not name without permission), boldly pointed out that Facebook Spaces doesn’t allow for non-normative bodies. There were no accessibility aids to choose from for your avatar. There were no options to adjust the presentation of limbs. There was no mention of accommodating sensory disabilities, for which, despite popular perceptions, headsets are actually uniquely suited to do. When given the opportunity to respond to this criticism, the panel responded with the predictable but spectacularly disappointing refrain. “It’s so hard, because you have to get it right.” “It takes so long to make models for those sorts of things.” “Well if you don’t have an arm or something, the kinect just won’t drive that limb.” (!!??)

This is beyond not good enough. It’s embarrassing. First of all, as someone who has worked in 3D modeling and animation for over a decade, no. Nice try. Modeling mobility aids for users to personalize their avatars is not cost prohibitive. To match the art style presented in spaces, it would take, at a generous estimate, a total of 8 work hours to produce a 3D model of a futuristic, fictional, all-purpose mobility aid suitable for a prototype like Spaces, including integration and deployment to the Spaces system. I’m not saying it would take a single work day. But it wouldn’t take longer than a week devoting only a small portion of someone’s day at a time. And to allow users to customize limbs? You already let them choose a handful of different eyebrows. They can have access to some joint scalars. It does not require unique avatar models to throw someone a bone. Pun intended.

But let’s get back to the excessively normalized body language. Hi. *waves autistically* Please do not force virtual-me to make eye contact or generate normative facial expressions. Thank you. These are literally points of conflict for us our entire lives. Other people spend way too much of their time and effort trying to normalize our gaze and our external expression of internal states. As the developers of this new virtual communication medium, you have the power to force us into normative skins in order to connect with friends, family, and coworkers. Please don’t. It’s absolutely horrifying to know that if I were to connect with Facebook Spaces, my autistic way of moving and being would be literally and deliberately erased by your platform.

Empathy machine? How are you going to cultivate empathy if you make us all look exactly the same? How are you going to cultivate empathy making toys to put us on like a costume but then deny us access to navigating virtual worlds in our own skins?

Read the original post here.

Neurodiversity Theory: An Introduction

Leonard Corey Philip has submitted his final paper for his B.A.

**Please note, the following submission has not been completely vetted for content. It is a 20-page academic paper on philosophy, ableism, disability, and neurodiversity. 

Neurodiversity Theory: An Introduction [PDF] 

Autistics Speaking Day 2017: What I would say to autistic people who want a cure

chavisory writes Autistics Speaking Day 2017: What I would say to autistic people who want a cure from Chavisory's Notebook

Autistics Speaking Day was founded several years ago in response to a particularly ill-conceived charity campaign, as a way of resisting the narrative that we are or should be silent or non-communicative. We’ve utilized it, largely, to talk and write about the truths of our lives and refute common misconceptions to a largely non-autistic audience.
It has been less focused on autistic people speaking to each other. That’s what I’m hoping to do today.
Recently I was asked, in the context of a broader conversation on Twitter about the foundational principles of neurodiversity, what I would say to autistic people who do want a cure or support the development of a cure for autism. This post is adapted from that discussion. I’m not sure it’s what the person who asked me expected, and I’m not sure how many people who fit that description might ever read this, but, well, this is what I would say.
1.  You have a right to your feelings. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t think or feel this way. I’m not going to tell you that you only want this because of “internalized ableism.” I’ve never found attempts to argue other people out of their own feelings very effective, and I really hate it when other people try to tell me what I feel and why.
You have a right to feel the way you do about your own life. I’m sorry if you’ve encountered autistic communities where it was suggested that that wasn’t true.
I think too many of us spend our lives being told that by too many other people. It’s not right, and I’m not going to do it.
2.  However, your feelings and wishes are no more real and genuine, or more authentic an experience of autism, than mine are. I’m not sugarcoating the experience of autism when I talk about why I oppose cure-based research and favor acceptance; I’m telling the truth about conclusions I’ve come to from my own experiences as well as a lot of listening to other people from all sides of this debate. And it would be a mistake to assume that those experiences were easy or mild just because I have not come to the same conclusions that you have. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses “the danger of the single story” when the single story is a stereotype imposed from outside a culture or marginalized group. But I think one of the biggest dangers that the culture of the autistic community faces is the allure of a single story told from within.
Neurodiversity advocates get told a lot that we “don’t speak for all autistic people.” That’s true.
Neither do you.
3.  I actually think you should have a right to access any treatment or therapy (within certain standards of demonstrated safety and effectiveness that any drug or medical device is required, for good reasons, to meet in this country) that you and your health care providers think might make your life better or more comfortable. Like all of us should.
People who oppose or who do not personally desire a cure are not just the people who have everything easy, who have no real problems. We want our medical issues and other challenges taken seriously.
We just think they’re a poor excuse for why people like us shouldn’t exist at all.
4.  But a true cure for autism (that doesn’t consist of eugenic abortion based on genetic profile) is not only something that we are nowhere even remotely close to achieving, but seems, to me at least, increasingly unlikely to be achievable in light of current research. Autism isn’t something located in one part of the brain. In the vast majority of cases, it’s not attributable to a single gene or even to a small number of genes, or to any discernible damage or definite pathology, but involves differences in how the brain matures over time and processes information in complex and subtle ways.
Serious attempts at a cure, to date, have tended to be ethical and human rights catastrophes.
5.  I don’t say that to make you hopeless. I say it to strongly suggest that you not wait for a very hypothetical future in which you might be able to turn yourself non-autistic in order to try to be happier. To find the things that make you happy or satisfied and follow those things wherever they lead. Because if you’ve put all of your hopes for joy or contentment with your life in the basket of a potential cure, then you’ve already made your decision in a way that is very unlikely to have the resolution you want.
6.  In any way and to any degree that you can, get out of bad or incompatible environments. They can really easily make you feel like the problem when you’re not.
When you have, for a really long time, been surrounded by people who make everything about you into a problem, or only ever been in environments that sent the message that everything you want but can’t have is because of autism, then it can be very, very difficult to tell the difference between artificial, arbitrary barriers, and obstacles actually imposed by autism itself. And those messages, those arbitrary, imposed barriers, are very, very prevalent in our society and in a lot of the ways that our families, teachers, healthcare professionals, potential employers, and other people who have a lot of power in our lives, are taught to see and treat autistic people.
Those things aren’t just natural, inevitable consequences of being autistic, and learning how to recognize and challenge them might not make you change your mind, but life can be a lot more livable.
7.  There are ways in which I think the neurodiversity community could do a lot better for all of us.
I think we need to have more room for people who don’t necessarily feel prideful or self-accepting, who feel ambivalently, who are still coming to terms with difficult or ambivalent personal histories.
I think we need more room for people to admit to struggling, both with acceptance and with the pragmatic realities of being autistic.
I think we need to remember that neurodiversity is about the conviction that autistic and other neurodivergent people are truly and wholly human, with everything that that entails, that our existence is natural and innate to human biodiversity, and that it would be wrong to try to eliminate autism and autistic traits from the fabric of humanity; and not about feeling 100% positive about our lives or identities at every given moment.
That’s not something that’s expected of typically-developing, non-disabled humans in order to justify their continued existence.
I also think there are compromises we rightfully will not make. That the neurodiversity movement for the most part does not engage or condone “Well, I don’t need a cure and people like you might not need a cure, but low-functioning people do” rhetoric is not because we don’t understand how disabling autism can be. Indeed, some of the pioneers of the neurodiversity movement were and are very significantly disabled people. It’s because we believe that autistic people are real and whole people, no matter the intensity of their disabilities or their support needs, and that all of us have a right to our own thoughts and feelings and decisions about our lives. That if we’re serious about honoring diversity, we don’t get to say “We’re okay and intrinsically valuable the way we are, but people like you aren’t.”
There are a lot of things we could do better to find common ground with autistic people whose goals and desires differ from our own. That we won’t do that isn’t one of them.

Autistics Speaking Day: On Understandings

Leeanne Marshall Autistics Speaking Day: On Understandings from oneautisticperson

So, it is the 1st November 2017, meaning it is Autistics Speaking Day 2017. The following is my blog post on understandings from an Autistic perspective. I hope people enjoy reading.

I am 6 years old.
I am 6 years old and I am in music lesson with the rest of my class. A person in my class has answered “pig” to a question and it is clearly the wrong answer. I do not find this funny but because the rest of my class is laughing I laugh as well. The music teacher then tells me off for picking on another student. I go quiet and decide to never speak in that class again. 
I am 6 years old and I understand that my music teacher is unfairly picking on me.

I am 8 years old.
I am 8 years old and in my classroom after lunch on Friday. As usual, I am writing down everything on the blackboard that I had not managed to finish writing during the week. Four other students are also writing down everything they had not finished writing during the week, it is always us. The rest of the students who have finished writing are enjoying free time, doing whatever they want.
I am 8 years old and I understand that I am being punished for not being able to write at the same pace as most students.

I am 13 years old.
I am 13 years old and have written a story in my English book. Like everyone in my class, I now must type up that story in a word document. I type much slower than most of my class, it is not on purpose I am just slow. Most of the class now have free time on the computer while a few of us are still typing. One of my peers has noticed how little progress I have made and offers to help. Our teacher stops her from helping.
I am 13 years old and I understand my teacher wants me to struggle.

I am 15 years old.
I am 15 years old and am in a compulsory Home Economics class. Once again, I do not see the point taking this class because I am not going to eat what we have been forced to cook. Once again, the group I am assigned to has just made me wash dishes to get me out of the way and I do not mind. Once again, the rest of my class seems to be enjoying the practical cooking lesson.
I am 15 years old and I understand that I am different from my peers since I am the only person consistently not eating the cooked food and the only person that is happy to just wash dishes.

I am 16 years old.
I am 16 years old and just got out of my first photography class. I am meant to be taking the photography class as an elective for the semester, but I have encountered a problem. The smell of the photography classroom is bad and I spent the entire lesson concentrating on continuing to breathe. I did not hear one word of what the teacher said and I do not recall the name of the teacher. I make an appointment to see the school counsellor as soon as possible to enrol in a different topic.
I am 16 years old and I still understand I am different since I was the only person affected by the photography classroom smell.

I am 18 years old.
I am 18 years old and just got back from a follow-up appointment with a neuro-psychologist. The neuro-psychologist told me that I have Asperger syndrome. I immediately start looking up information about Asperger syndrome. I learn about sensory issues and social issues.
I am 18 years old and I understand why I am different.

I am 23 years old.
I am 23 years old and am completing a teaching degree. In the teaching degree, we are learning about ways to make sure students have completed tasks. It occurs to me that my grade 3 teacher was probably not punishing me for not being able to write as fast as other students. It was probably her method of ensuring I had the necessary information and completed the necessary tasks.
I am 23 years old and I understand that some of my past understandings have been wrong.

I am 27 years old.
I am 27 years old and I am writing a post for Autistics Speaking Day 2017. As I am writing it, it occurs to me that some of my present understandings are still likely to be wrong.
I am 27 years old and I understand that my understandings may change.

The reason I have written this post for Autistics Speaking Day is largely because, in the past, I have not understood the intentions of my teachers. This is not my fault since it is hard to know the intentions of people when people are not making it clear what their intentions are. If any teachers of Autistic students are reading this, my message to you is that I hope you are making it clear why certain things in your classroom are happening ……. so less misunderstandings occur.
The same goes for anyone who works with Autistic people in other contexts.

The Heart Asks For Pleasure First

Cyndi (butterflyinthewell on Tumblr) posts The Heart Asks For Pleasure First

This is a music video where I sing a cover of "The Heart Asks For Pleasure First" by Nightwish. Story of the video: Society's stigma shrouds the autistic Butterfly Girl. She tries to pass as neurotypical, yet spends much of her time remembering how it felt to be her truest self. Then she rediscovers the joy of stimming, breaks herself out of society's expectations of 'normal' and vows to never pretend to be something she's not again. Lyrics: Silent night surrounding me On the shore of wistful sea A kindest heart made me believe The world as I wish it to be Wind in the wheat Kiss by a hearth Little hideaways for a lonely heart Passed away in beauty's doom The good in me the child within A cruelest heart made me forget The world as I wish it to be Home inside but lost for life Human heart longing for love Slave to the toil this mortal coil The strife the suffering the void Wind in the wheat Kiss by a hearth A dead calm winter morn Morning birds and a smile of a stranger Frozen moments in time Little hideaways, the marrow of life Little hideaways for a lonely heart Wind in the wheat Kiss by a hearth Little hideaways for a lonely heart Silent night surrounding me On the shore of wistful sea A kindest heart made me believe The world as I wish it to be

We Are Still Here and Not Going Anywhere

Christy Walk posts We Are Still Here and Not Going Anywhere

I’m glad to say that as an autistic adult, this is my second year participating in Autistics Speaking Day. Our voices are still valid and we are not going away anytime soon. People take away our voices and that’s not a good thing, because we NEED to be heart. We need to be speaking out against ableism, when ableists try to stop us from saying something.
People say they want to erase autistic people from society. But we autistic people are here for a reason. We autistic people are here to remind you that we need to feel loved, validated and treated like people with respect, kindness and compassion. Unfortunately, we aren’t treated with compassion. We are mocked, ridiculed, beaten, murdered, teased, tortured and bullied. Our rights are being denied and we are forced to be normal. We are called names including the R word.
When we are not included in sports, jobs, etc. it can be tough. When we are not allowed to flap our hands, rock back and forth, or do other forms of stimming, it can be heartbreaking. We are being stared at, teased, and called names. Also, when we aren’t invited into our families’ homes, that’s the hardest because they don’t invite us to dinners or birthday parties or Christmas celebrations.
This world needs to be more autism-friendly. Please show us autistic people compassion, love and acceptance. Treat us with kindness and please be respectful. Please make us feel loved instead of bullying, murdering and making fun of us. We notice the stares, whispers, and abuse. We notice when somebody is taking advantage of us. We are sick of our voices being silenced and we are not going anywhere.
Please be patient with us, and don’t take advantage of us. We are not here on this earth for you to bully us, to take advantage of us and to tease or torture us. We are here because you need to hear our voices and listen to us. You need to listen to us because this is the right thing to do. Accept us and love us for being ourselves. Because we are not monsters. We are human beings who want to feel loved and wanted. This is what we want, and this is what we need.
The world doesn’t want to accept us autistics because society doesn’t want us to be ourselves. It’s a shame because there are caregivers and parents of autistic people and children being abusive to them. It hurts my heart so much. I hope that one day there will be a better world for autistic people, so that they feel loved and wanted here in society. I want a world that can be accepting of autistic people. I want a world where love and compassion is shown to the autistic person. Hate and fear are not the answer for having autistic children. Love is.
Please treat us autistic people with love and respect. Because we are still here. We have a voice and a story to tell. And we will never go away. Always make us feel loved and wanted. Because unfortunately, people are cruel and they make us feel unwanted and unloved. Love counts. Perfect love casts out fear.

An Open Letter to Autism Speaks

Nicolette writes An Open Letter to Autism Speaks

Trigger Warnings for curebie rhetoric, murder/suicide ("Autism Every Day" and "I Am Autism" videos)

I am here to tell you that what you are doing may seem “helpful to autistics” to you and your supporters, but what you are doing is really damaging. Many of the ads and videos produced for you depict harmful stereotypes that can increase the stigma of Autism in the long run. But before I dissect you as a “charity” (and I use that word very lightly), allow me to introduce myself and why I write this.
I am an autistic college student who was diagnosed at age 14. I grew up in a cliquey, shallow, and judgmental town where I was scared to be myself for a good chunk of my life. Even my own mother would tell me to stop doing certain things because “the other children would think I was weird.” Grant you, this was long before my diagnosis and she didn’t know, so I really don’t blame her entirely, but it still left me confused because I was told to hide parts of who I was just to impress the other children. This has stuck with me throughout most of my high school years; I was scared to even talk to someone for the first time unless they approached me first. This feeling stuck with me until the beginning of college, where I was able to find the right people and open up more. I am writing because there are many people out there who believe that you are doing “good” for the autistic community when in all reality, you are doing the complete opposite.

The Woman Who Mistook Herself for a Sociopath

Rachel Waters submits The Woman Who Mistook Herself for a Sociopath, originally posted on Huffington Post.

The Woman Who Mistook Herself for a Sociopath

I entered Harlem Middle School in Fall 1994 with a mouthful of braces, an overflowing training bra and a lingering attachment to Velcro shoes. I had no idea who Kriss Kross were, but I could recite facts from the Encyclopedia Britannica and The American Medical Association’s Family Medical Guide on command (and often without the explicit consent of my listener). I’d won The Young Georgia Authors’ contest the year prior and I was friends with at least one fellow tomboy who liked to play war games in the swamp with me. My mom and teachers thought I was pretty cool, so why didn’t everyone else?
I began to take note of the things most of the popular girls had in common: boyfriends, micro braids (this was the 90s) and relentless confidence. I had none of these things, but I suspected I might be able to fake my way, if not to the top, then at least some distance from my location at the bottom of the pecking order where I’d occupied ever since transferring from a private Montessori school to public school in 5th grade.
I acquired a boyfriend by strategically targeting the lowest hanging fruit. Chris was an adorable platinum blonde who’d yet to have his first serious run-in with puberty, leaving him a head shorter than most of his peers and rendering him invisible to every girl except me. And although Chris was hesitant to go official with someone so unpopular, my assurances that he didn’t even have to sit with me at lunch convinced him that the social cost would be offset by having everyone else in 6th grade see that he was a romantic contender in at least one person’s eyes.
My next task was to convince my grandmother to buy me a head full of trendy little braids, as she was the most easily swayed of my family members. After lecturing her on the urgent need to fit in, she agreed to take me to the local salon to see what could be done for my long, lank hair. The sweet, middle-aged woman who worked there patiently listened as I attempted to explain - without aid of pictures and a limited hairstyle vocabulary - what I wanted. I was going for Brandy-style box braids circa “I Wanna Be Down,” but by the time she finished, what I had was Bo Derek in “10.” Only I was no blonde, tanned and toned 10. I was a haphazardly pubescent girl with cornrows of dark hair starkly contrasted against a gleaming white scalp.
Lacking an appreciation for the subtle nuances in fashion, I figured it was close enough. I went to school the next day brimming with excitement over the compliments and interest that surely awaited me. Much to my disappointment, the day was uneventful. If anything, the other kids actually seemed to ignore me even more. Chris didn’t even give me the cursory greeting I’d come to expect during our week-old relationship. But this all changed by afternoon PE class when, as I shuffled about alone on the soccer field like I did on most days, I looked up to see a fairly popular classmate jogging out to greet me. My heart soared in anticipation.
“Chris wants to break up with you.”
I stared past her to the malformed bulldog mural painted on the side of the gymnasium.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because he says your hair looks stupid.”
There it was. The culmination of my failures summarized in one sentence fragment. Despite having been nicknamed “The Human Dictionary,” I always managed to stumble upon inventive ways to look stupid to my peers.
The problem never really got better, I just got better at faking it. I became a master imitator of those I admired. Their facial expressions and affectations replicated to perfection so long as I concentrated hard enough. But once I let down my guard just a little, the neat facade would begin to crumble, leaving me stranded somewhere between the Uncanny Valley and the person I really was.
My mother would come to label these periods of childhood mimicry with titles like my “Jim Carrey phase.” Other phases were more stoic and others more refined and feminine. By my mid-teens, I ended up settling on the persona that required the least work: Androgynous, blunt and professorial punctuated by intermittent bouts of crude schoolboy bombastics.
Despite my passable affect and ongoing penchant for dressing like a fashionable Ring Wraith, I never shook the unnerving suspicion that someone would eventually smell how uncool I was. Like when I stood in the middle of the room at parties, orbiting conversations before inserting myself at the exact moment I’d mustered enough courage to do so. Sometimes that moment happened to be when someone was midway through a deeply personal story. Other times, it was when both parties were just ending the conversation, leaving my introductory sentence to evaporate into the din of revelers.
My habit of butting-in, dominating discussions and blatant disregard for social convention did not go as undetected as I’d hoped. By age 19 it was clear that I’d been sniffed out, though not for simply being uncool.
During my freshman year of college, my best friend Mark asked me to meet him at my favorite bookstore haunt where I frequently lunched alone. After gently explaining how often I rubbed others the wrong way, he surmised not only that I “used my high intelligence to hide my deep social ineptitude,” but that all this evidence indicated that I might also be a sociopath.
A sociopath.
Of course. My knack for causing hurt feelings through casual interaction, my ruthless logic, my ability to watch autopsies while eating, my inability to process or even understand certain strong emotions in others, my quick temper when frustrated, my defiance of norms, even my practiced mimicry - everything was illuminated. I wasn’t uncool. I was just a sociopath who hadn’t yet perfected the ability to fool others with her mask.
So I took on the label and wore it quietly lest I replace the agitation I inspired in others with outright revulsion. While I didn’t love the notion of myself as a sociopath, deep down, for the first time in my life, I allowed myself to feel a little dangerous. To be excited and empowered by it. To convince myself that I was fearless and free from the perplexing emotional labyrinths of others. This felt fine for a time, but then came the catastrophic end of my marriage at age 30 and a deep existential crisis followed.
Single for the first time since age 16, I turned inward to reexamine the label I’d awkwardly embraced so long ago. Within months of splitting, I began to restructure my life around minimizing all the harm I felt I’d caused as a result of the monster I surely was deep inside. I decided that, like the fictional sociopath Dexter, the only way to be worthy of living was to live by a strict code.
So I quit my vaguely successful (and ethically questionable) job as a federal investigator, took a $12K pay cut to work in nonprofit and began volunteering as a Peacemaker with a local restorative justice center. I assured myself that even if my soul could not be good, then at least my actions could be. I reached out to prominent psychologists and to famed sociopath and author M.E. Thomas to share what I believed might be the closest thing to a “cure” for sociopathy: the cultivation of “logical empathy” and the framing of benevolence as the ultimate pinnacle of the sociopath’s need for power. I stayed awake long hours and made extensive lists of all the ways, great and small, I had hurt other living beings and crafted resolutions for how I could avoid doing so in the future. Over awkward dinners where my hands shook with nerves and my heart pounded in fear of rejection and hatred, I even “came out” to my friends and family.
Never mind that “sociopath” didn’t quite jive with my profound distress over injustice or the abuse of animals or defenseless people. Never mind that lying made me nervous and that the desire to undermine others or take revenge was absent in me. Never mind that music and art filled me with overwhelming joy, that the death and suffering of loved ones caused me pain, or that I had never understood what other sociopaths I’d read of meant when they described themselves as feeling “empty.”
“Sociopathy” explained all the things I could never grasp about myself better than any other label I’d encountered. I owed it to others in my life to own it. To warn them. To minimize the inevitable pain that would befall them by having me - the sociopath - in their lives.
Until one day I came out to someone who mustered the confidence to tell me that I was out of my mind.
“Have you ever considered that you might just have Asperger’s?”
Asperger Syndrome. It was a diagnosis that wasn’t widely recognized during the height of my childhood medical research. I’d heard of it, sure. I’d seen the shy, retiring Heather on America’s Next Top Model. I had quiet, pleasantly soothing friends who self-described as “Aspie.” But that wasn’t me. I talked to everyone whether they liked it or not. I wasn’t a calm or soothing type of person. I couldn’t have Asperger’s.
But the Asperger’s Quotient Test I took online begged to differ. As did the Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale and Rdos Aspie Quiz, too.
(The results from my Rdos Aspie Quiz.)
Alarmed by the prospect that I might be less self-aware than a character on HBO’s “Girls,” I found a psychologist in New York who specialized in autism spectrum disorders in adults. When he asked how I’d arrived at my suspicion, I explained that I had first believed myself to be a sociopath and rambled off my list of reasons. After some thought, he said, “Well, that’s not too uncommon. There’s a saying that people with Asperger’s can’t really see a forest when it’s in front of them, they just describe thousands of trees instead.”
Offended by his statement, I stumbled over my retort.
“Well, no. I mean if I’m walking in the woods I’m not going to be so oblivious as to not realize that I’m in a forest.”
He laughed on the other side of the line.
“Exactly,” he said, adding that I would likely benefit from coming in and exploring their services.
Thus began my life as a 32-year-old woman newly and neatly placed on the spectrum of high-functioning autism.
As I delved deeper, some of the most significant professional, academic and personal hardships of my life became legible to me. Additionally, my myriad quirks like my inability to tolerate fluffy towels and habit of walking on my tip-toes, my stubborn commitment to certain routes and routines, my eidetic memory, my love of collecting medical books and clinical trial data and my intense reactions to certain emotional and sensory stimuli finally had a context.
Yet for all the relief I felt in light of this revelation, there’s nothing that dulls your edge faster than the realization that not only are you NOT Dexter, but that you are, in fact, genetically unhip. Worse still? All those people you informed of your sociopathy mere months prior? Now you REALLY owed them an explanation.
And, just as I did that fateful day in middle school, I once again misgauged the anticipated reaction of my peers and family.
“Oh yeah, that makes sense!”
“That explains so much.”
And “I’m so sorry, I wish we’d known about this when you were younger. I know your childhood was Hell.”
The words were spoken without hesitation. The humiliation, disbelief, confusion and lost relationships against which I’d steeled myself never came. Seemingly boundless acceptance and compassion did.
And while the jury is still out on whether I’ll ever be particularly cool, at least I’m confident.