Content Warning – Talk of abuse
Jay from Jay's World writes
Corina Becker writes A Small Thing on No Stereotypes Here
Nothing stays the same. Everything changes.
Not Special Needs
I do not have the need for people to stare at my eyeballs. I do not have the need for people to talk to me about weather, news, or celebrities. I do not have the need to conform to peer pressure, to always have company, or make up lies. I do not have the need to avoid in-depth, complete focus on particular topics or types of tasks. I have the need for people to understand that I cannot do somethings a certain way without being unduly stressed, regardless of my intelligence, college, career, or independent living prospects, without patronizing me or pitying me. I have the need to bring up and respond to issues in the autistic community that not everyone will agree on without being called divisiveness. I have the need for people to stop seeing visibility of needs like that of a blind, wheelchair using, or intellectually disabled person to be the equivalent of the reality of them. I have the need for people to stop being told which autistics my autism makes me qualified to speak for by non-Autistics. I have the need to stop being equated with lightning strikes, car wrecks, cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and combat situations. I have the need same need you have to have non-universal needs respected, even if I don’t have the power to force them on you. As an autistic, I am the greatest martyr, carry the greatest burden, For it is neurotypical needs that I have spent my life caring for, neurotypical needs that held back my career, made me go broke, made me feel isolated, meant my life couldn’t be my own, or I could not be myself. It was caring for the needs of 6 billion children on the neurotypical spectrum that made me be defensive and protective. I spend endless amounts of money, take countless hours out of work, have to schedule and keep appointments with professionals that aren’t covered by insurance to take care of the needs of neurotypical children. I am interrupted over four times a week by an incident involving a neurotypical child. I can’t be myself; my life is not my own. And so many neurotypicals are always easily offended. I can’t speak honestly, talk about more meaningful things than sports, or avoid eye contact without them dogpiling me, contacting my employer, or costing me my job. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells. As someone affected by neurotypicalism, I need support, not criticism. Neurotypical needs have caused me PTSD and depression, but in spite of all this, being a neurotypicalism parent, child, and sibling is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. But one thing is certain: I don’t worry what will happen to these kids after I die. #NeurotypicalismAwareness
By Kat Bjørnstad
Content warning: Institutional racism, institutional ableism, police brutality, psychiatric hospitalization, non-graphic discussion of sexual assault, bad language
God help me, I am getting back into blogging (or making an attempt), and the subject I have chosen for my first post, on ASDay 2020 no less, is...this.
I must love hate mail. And disappointment in humanity.
The years have made me more cynical, more skeptical, and more radical. I have my reasons, and those close to me know them. I have avoided my blog for good reasons as well, which I may eventually share publicly. But it’s Autistics Speaking Day. Corina Becker invented ASDay to speak out in the face of silence and erasure of Autistic voices. I promoted it on Facebook because Corina motivated me.
And this year is the 11th ASDay, marking its 10th anniversary. I see things happening in our country that I can’t stay silent about, for both Autistic people and other minorities. I never thought this would happen in America.
I am focusing on how the police deal with disabled people, but there’s a relationship with how they treat people of color, people with disabilities, women, and the LGBT community. I have seen all of these things first hand.
I knew police were unfair when I learned that my grandfather was suspected of being on drugs following an accident. The cause of his “slurred” speech and panic? He was Deaf. His wife was injured.
But you can trust the police, they said. They’re there to protect you.
My hometown, Smithton, Illinois, could be classified as a sundown town. Black people don’t live there for long. Bricks get thrown through windows, people threatened, cars set on fire. The police do not help these victims. They further ostracize them. They prevent them from getting justice. They pull them over for suspicious behavior when they are just driving through town. There’s not an official policy forbidding black people from living there, or from visiting. That’s not how these things work. It is simply understood. And no one has any interest in changing it.
But they told me the police were my friends and would help me. It seemed true, because I was white. The police were generally helpful when I was young and I never had an exact reason to fear them. Because there was no category I could fit into that they could use to discriminate against me.
Of course, this is no longer true.
I was 17 when I was diagnosed as autistic. There was a lot of, “If only we’d known!” But I don’t think my life would be better if we had. The first thing that happened was they questioned my ability to go to college. I don’t doubt for a second that had I been identified as a child, they would have forced me into special education, given me ABA, removed my autonomy further.
I was in my early 20’s when I was diagnosed with PTSD, and in my mid-20’s when I started developing schizoaffective disorder. I was in my late 20’s when I was diagnosed. You would be amazed how many people will take the opportunity to gaslight you when they can literally claim that anything they have done to you is a hallucination, or that any conclusion you have arrived at is a delusion.
You would be amazed how often the people who do this are the very people you rely on for protection.
I wish I could be more specific. It is extremely risky to discuss the specifics even with close friends. I have personal experience with this but that experience is just too personal, and I apologize for vagueposting, but I have my own safety to consider. So the examples that I give are going to be a little less personal, because that’s safer.
Cops can and will use your diagnosis against you. Years ago, Lydia Brown posted about a woman who was forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation so she couldn’t make a rape report. I shuddered with the rest of you, and prayed it wasn’t common.
A year or more ago, during one of my hospitalizations, there was another patient, a black woman in her mid-20’s, who was reluctant to tell her story initially. She eventually admitted that she had been violently raped, and she didn’t know if the police were doing anything because they brought her there, to literally the worst hospital in the system. The other patients and the staff were stumped. “Did you want to hurt yourself?” we asked. No, she was understandably upset about the assault, but hardly suicidal. She was enthusiastic about therapy, and hoped to use it as an opportunity to improve herself. She had a hopeful attitude, and while I admit her behavior was a little strange at times, it was hardly alarming and within the bounds of normal stress reactions.
I have witnessed rape investigations firsthand, though, so maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me so much. I never forget that. Reporting crimes, if you’re a minority, can be dangerous to your health.
They are trained to see certain indicators of anxiety as indicators of deception. This is extremely dangerous for anyone with an anxiety disorder, or anyone really who is neurodivervent. Can’t make eye contact? Liar. Stuttering during interrogation? Liar. So you’re thinking more training will help, awareness will help, that they will stop if they only know better.
No. Give them an opportunity to fuck you over and they will. Laws change according to their whims. If they can use a diagnosis to lean on you, they will. They will lie. They will purposely trigger you. They will twist evidence to make you look more unstable. They will take someone else’s side without believing you or even giving you an opportunity to explain, because they’ve already confirmed you aren’t normal. That gives them permission.
I can’t believe people are actually publicly identifying themselves as Autistic thinking that the police will act differently if they know. They do it because they can, not because they have to. People with disabilities are shot at an alarmingly high rate by the cops. Ever seen what happens to wheelchair users at a protest? Did the cops not know that those people probably couldn’t get up if they were yanked from their chairs and beaten? No. American cops know that when they shoot a disabled person, the response will largely be crickets.
Note: I am not saying that disabled people shouldn’t be prosecuted for crimes that weren’t due to their disability, or that a disabled person holding a knife should be ignored. I am saying that the number of disabled people shot by police each year is disproportionate to the number of those in the general population. Please, if you are Autistic and you think that makes being a violent incel-Nazi okay, stop that right the fuck now, because you are making it worse for us all.
Also, if you defend Autistic murderers on this basis, especially for pay, especially when their status as Autistic is purely based on non-professional speculation post-crime, you can fuck right off. (Yes, John Elder Robinson, I am talking about you, if it wasn’t obvious by how painfully specific I was. So please whine about me on your Twitter, because surely I could have said you were going to get more of us killed without being so mean about it.)
What training cops are getting now is already problematic. The organizations consulted are often those run by non-disabled people who do not adequately understand our problems and needs. They often consider their own first. They may mean well. But Neurodivergent K has said more about presumption of benevolence than I ever could, and said it better than anyone else can.
And time and time again, non-disabled people running disability organizations have proved unwilling to listen to disabled people. They look out for their own self-interests instead of ours. For example, to make up in the press for fatally shooting an autistic man, one police department made a visually painful Autism Speaks police car. Autistic people really don’t like Autism Speaks. A$ happily takes money from neonazis and sues Autistic people speaking out against them. Also this action allowed the police department to look good while making absolutely zero effort to examine how their policies were hurting disabled people. Autism Speaks was complicit.
This has powerful implications with police involvement, because we may very well have to report that we are being abused one day, by people who can claim that they just want what’s best for us...and hey, officer, did you know they’re crazy? This makes it incredibly risky for us to go to the police for help, because chances are slim that they’ll take our sides. I have seen plenty of abuse victims in hospitals for being the one with the mental health diagnosis, while their partner is home calling them at the hospital explaining how they’re throwing away their shit.
If we can’t keep our behavior 100% calm when being rapidly questioned and even threatened with violence, if we can’t even avoid looking afraid, we must be dangerous. They face no consequences for not taking us seriously, even if we die as a result, at their hands or due to medical neglect. Maybe you get lucky, get the one officer in twenty who will treat you like a human. But for us, police involvement just means our day could be getting a whole lot worse.
I have had maybe a dozen interactions with police since I was diagnosed, and there was one single officer who was polite. One. Only one. He was doing a welfare check, and was excited about my rats. He understood my nervousness and didn’t take it personally. I can’t get him every time I deal with the police though. So I avoid them. Every time a minority deals with a cop, it is Schrödinger’s cop.
Police are not going to get better until they face consequences for their behavior. Police in countries with accountability tend not to shoot people as often. Iceland just had its first police shooting, and people mourned! Here in America it’s just same shit, different day.
I am from St. Louis. Racial disparity is very pronounced here. There are certain neighborhoods you don’t go to if you’re white, and others you avoid if you’re black. I remember the Ferguson riots. Not long after that, at a Ferguson restaurant, every co-worker at a table my ex-husband was seated at was served except for one. Let’s be honest, I don’t even have to tell you what race this guy was. The white manager was unhelpful and wore a T-shirt proclaiming her having survived the riots.
Another example from home. St. Louis County (separate from the city, just to make it confusing) is well known for running scams on mostly black drivers through ticketing and vehicle impound, to the point of clear illegal activity by the police. There are towns there that rely entirely on writing tickets to black drivers.
My ex and I were driving through one of these towns, less than 500 residents. We were ticketed. When we went to court it was unbelievably crowded with mostly black people. The only white people there besides myself and my ex were the police and court officers. There’s no way that in a town that is 98% white that didn’t look suspicious to the powers that be. No one said a word. We paid our ticket, went back to our car, and talked about how fucked up it was. I am unaware of the county taking serious effort to rectify this. After all, there’s good money in racism.
Disabled people are suffering. We cannot afford to ignore the BLM movement. We face a similar struggle.
The police aren’t there to protect us. They’re there to protect the interests of the rich and powerful. Do you realize how many serial killers were ignored by (or in Dahmer’s case, assisted by) the police because the victims were considered disposable? They aren’t even testing rape kits. They don’t give two fucks about us. We just make painfully convenient targets.
So if you call 911 because your kid is having a completely predictable issue related to his disability, and you call 911, and he winds up shot? I blame the police first, of course. But I also blame you. Disabled people have been warning you. Other minorities have been warning you. You haven’t been listening.
#Black Lives Matter
#Disabled Lives Matter
Autistic talents in the workplace are going to waste
The unemployment rate for autistic people is staggering. There are many differing statistics, but they all show an extremely high level of unemployment. A 2014 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics had only 19.3% of the autistic population working or seeking job opportunities. This is a lower employment rate than that of any neurological disorder.The worst part about this is that most employers are completely unaware of the benefits autistic people can provide a workplace. Many of us are extremely honest, diligent, and detail-oriented people, and we can flourish in many occupations that are beyond the entry-level status many people pigeonhole us into. The main reason for this lack of jobs is employers' preferred way to select candidates: personality tests and job interviews. I believe both of these are extremely unfriendly toward autistic people. The personality tests emphasize "soft skills" and often ask questions including rating one's ability to read nonverbal communication, and they also sometimes provide short-answer questions about how one would approach difficult situations, thus testing emotional intelligence. These tests either require a person to lie and appear to have a personality perfect for the job or tell the truth and be rejected for not possessing the desirable soft skills. If an autistic person manages to land an interview, the odds are once again not in their favor. A popular study revealed that neurotypicals feel less comfortable toward autistics based on small judgments when met face to face (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28145411/). In an interview, where first impressions are paramount, this is bad news. The only way I have been able to land jobs was showing the interviewers my skills firsthand. But many autistic people don't have the luxury to show their skills, which is a real shame, because in jobs that require extreme attention to detail, many autistics actually have an advantage over neurotypical people in the natural skills they possess, lending more evidence to the theory that we are different from neurotypicals, not inferior to them. All too often, employers are only aware of the harmful misconceptions of autism, leading them to believe we aren't worth hiring because we would just be a hindrance. If they are aware of any positive traits of autism at all, it is often the "IT nerd" stereotype, which does not help those of us in other fields. I believe the hiring system needs work to better accommodate autistic people and give us more of a chance to show what we can do and how we can provide benefits to companies because of our unique styles of thinking. When companies talk about how they embrace diversity, neurodiversity is all too often left out. That needs to change. Not only will more autistic people benefit from finding gainful employment, but employers will realize that we can be a massive boon to their companies as well.
Julian Edward Frost wrote Autistics' Speaking Day: Learning about autism, learning about myself on autismjungle for ASDay 2018
I realise this is a few days late, but such is life with a full time job.
Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve learnt a great deal about autism, and about why I am the way I am. This will be about the things I’ve learnt.
Sensory Processing Disorder
Processing Disorder, senses are either heightened or lowered. I have
heightened sensory perception. As a child, I enjoyed eating. In fact, I
was mocked for being the “family dustbin” and having “hollow legs”. To
me, food was always tasty. This recently became a problem. I am
currently trying to lose weight, but I really like food. Despite this,
I’m a few kilograms down.
I was in addition hyperactive, and burned up energy at a formidable rate. I also still enjoy having my hair played with.
The downside of heightened senses is that while pleasant sensations are more enjoyable, unpleasant sensations are considerably worse. Pain is more intense, the smell of burning rubber can turn my stomach, Malaria tablets taste utterly vile, and loud music is painful.
literally translates as “hatred of sound”. It was proposed as a
condition in which negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions
are triggered by specific sounds. People who suffer from the condition
are typically aware that they have it. I certainly know it.
Many years ago, my whole family were having egg rolls for Sunday breakfast. As we were standing around, my sister literally started slurping her egg roll. The sound so enraged me I bellowed at her “STOP SLURPING YOUR EGG ROLLS!” I then got yelled at for yelling. Deep down, I knew I was overreacting, but I was too angry to react normally.
I handle stress very badly. Worse than most people I know.
As an autistic, my social filters aren’t as well developed as a neurotypical person’s ones. As a result, I have to work hard to behave in an appropriate fashion. Stress causes my filters to fail. It is not atypical for me to start speaking very bluntly at the end of a hard day, to the amusement of my coworkers. I also behave strangely. Once, stressed out, I had nowhere to put an empty cup I’d finished drinking from, and decided to balance it on my head. Once people realised I had a cup on my head, the response was hilarity.
There is a myth that autistics lack empathy. This not only misunderstands autism, but empathy too.
There are two main types of empathy: cognitive and affective/emotional. The former involves working out what other people are thinking and feeling, the latter is about feeling what the other person is feeling. Autistics usually score below average for cognitive empathy. This has led some to postulate that autistics also have poor emotional empathy. This is completely untrue. From my own experience, I may find it hard to work out what another person is thinking, but once I work it out, I feel it intensely. From reading comments on the internet from parents of autistics, I know I’m not the only one.
There is so much I’ve learnt over the past eight and a half years. I believe there is still a lot for me to learn.
This is an apology to previous participants.
To those who have submitted their work, and did not see it show up on this blog or see it included.
There are very few reasons for why this happened, and for most of these, I apologize. I have always regretted not being able to post every entry to ASDay.
Most of the entries that I've had to decline over the last 11 years have been professionals or parents trying to peddle their newest book or website. I don't mind sharing that each year our email gets advance copy and interview offers for the Next New Autism Treatment. I don't know about you, but I don't apologize for not approving those.
What saddens me are those who, for whatever reason, I cannot access. And so, I cannot browse to confirm trigger and content warnings. And I cannot, in good conscious, add to the event.
I also love seeing all the autistic posts.
My only relief is that these instances are relatively few; most of the time posts have been scheduled and so I just need to keep checking the link. But the ones that I try every trick I know - changing accounts, switching browsers, even using a VPN (I'm not IT; I'm an English major, this is the extent of my knowledge) - and still unable to find, hurts. I feel like I've let the participant down, and worse of all, I don't know why.
This year, I'd like to try and fix those posts. So please, join me as I explore past entries.
~ Corina Lynn Becker
Leeanne Marshall post Autistics Speaking Day 2020: It Is Time on The thoughts of One Autistic Person tumblr
Autistics Speaking Day 2020: It Is Time
It would be so easy to discuss the worldwide pandemic for my blog post. The impact it had (and continues to have) on me despite there being few cases of Covid-19 in my local area (the few cases are all in hotel quarantine). However, I think the world needs some positive news. Besides, it is time. Time for me to reflect and provide an update on my first two Autistics Speaking Day blogposts. To be honest, I have attempted to reflect and provide updates on these posts several times on previous Autistics Speaking Days but each time I either come up with an idea that is more relevant/important or I can not seem to find the right words on the day, leading me to write about something else. Not today though, I am determined to get this positive reflection/update Autistics Speaking Day post done.
Back in 2012, I wrote my first Autistics Speaking Day post here: https://oneautisticperson.tumblr.com/post/34749796115/autistics-speaking-day-on-communication
In this post, I mention that in the past, I had previously stayed silent on comments that I should have confronted. I challenged myself to speak up if/when these comments were brought up in future.
In 2013, I wrote my second Autistics Speaking Day post here: https://oneautisticperson.tumblr.com/post/65686842050/autistics-speaking-day-my-pathway
I mention in this post that I still needed to work on advocating (communicating) for myself. Another para graph I included was “I do not yet know if I can succeed in holding down a job typically for neurotypicals (a teacher). I am sure however, that whatever my career ends up being, it will be related to education in some way and will hopefully be around including Autistic individuals in general education settings.”
It is at this point that I once again start thinking about ditching this writing and starting over with another post. I am worried this comes across as bragging, however, I will persist despite my worries. I completed my teaching degree in the middle of 2014 but ultimately, I decided being a teacher was not for me. That said, my jobs, my advocacy volunteer work etc. have all been related to education and indeed, inclusion of Autistic individuals (and people with other disabilities) in mainstream school settings. For starters, I am a casual academic at a local university. I am involved in an autism topic as a guest lecturer, an assignment marker and (sometimes) a tutor. Students in this topic are usually enrolled in teaching, education or disability studies degrees. This means I am influencing current/future teachers and their attitudes towards Autistic people by my involvement in this topic. Importantly, last year I was paid to assist in writing the case studies used for one of the assignments to ensure the case studies seemed to be real, diverse and included a range of issues for Autistic people.
Since late 2018, I have been part of the Inclusive School Communities (ISC) project as both a member of the steering group and a mentor (young, disabled person) connecting with the project schools. This project is about making schools in South Australia more inclusive for students with disability. Earlier this year, I wrote a report for this project based on two focus group sessions at a South Australian high school. The report went through issues faced by students with disability at school and suggestions for what this school (and other schools) could do to work on these issues, as well as what the school was doing well. I included 9 recommendations at the end of the report for schools. If readers are interested, the report is publicly available here: https://inclusiveschoolcommunities.org.au/news/report-school-student-consultation
Through meeting each other in the ISC project, two other school mentors and I got involved in advocacy volunteer work. We have had discussions with a Ministerial adviser regarding what needs to be done to make schools more inclusive and to save a local high school that has been making a lot of changes to be more inclusive. I personally also spoke at a rally to save the school. I am pleased to report that the school was indeed saved, a win in 2020.
So, as you can see from the above information, I have indeed been involved in the inclusive education space (just not as a teacher). As to the other problem I had, well, I am no longer silent when I should be speaking up. In fact, I sometimes worry that I dominate meetings with the other mentors in the ISC project (though they assure me that while I speak a lot, I do not dominate). Overall, I have certainly come along way since 2012-2013. Just goes to show how much personal growth and experiences can happen in 7/8 years. I have certainly done what I challenged myself to do in 2012 and what I wanted to do in 2013. I believe my efforts will help other Autistic people (and other people with disability).
……To my readers, I think now it is time for you to do some reflection. In what ways do you make the world a better place? For your local community, for your friends/family and/or for yourselves?
Jane Strauss posts from Facebook
Content Warning for mentions of politics
#AutisticsSpeakingDay - Autistics Speaking in 2020