Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Hillary, A. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Disability in the Graduate Assistants Contract

Two years ago, I suggested to my graduate assistants union that disability and accommodations should be covered in our contracts.

I could understand why it hadn't been there before:
  1. It's not the sort of thing most people automatically think of unless they are themselves D/disabled or have a disability.
  2. The accommodations/access side is theoretically covered by laws like the Americans With Disabilities Act anyways.
But for a few reasons, I thought it needed to be there:
  1. Enforcing the ADA is really hard for most people, because it involves filing a lawsuit with the department of justice. Yes, even the threat of a lawsuit can be effective at times, but it generally needs to be at least a semi-credible threat.
  2. If it's in the contract, then violations can also be handled by having the union go to bat, such as by filing a grievance. That's got more force than showing up in an office and complaining alone, but is generally easier to accomplish than filing a lawsuit. This is important because many professors do refuse to ensure access for students, and many departments do actively exclude disabled faculty members.
  3. Attitudes: If following relevant disability laws is explicitly stated in the contract, even if it is a bit redundant (and as an engineer, I like certain kinds of redundancy, including this particular kind,) tells people that there's a group on campus that cares about the disability side of things, beyond just disability services (who don't negotiate the graduate assistant contracts.) There being such a group is a whole lot more welcoming for folks who find disability issues relevant than there not being any groups like that is!

And one more reason that occurs to me now but I didn't think of at the time:

  •  Graduate assistants are both students and staff. Students handle accommodations through Disability Services for Students. Faculty and staff handle accommodations through Human Resources. Where do graduate assistants go, since we're both? That being unclear would be a barrier for anyone who has issues with bureaucracy. So would an answer of "Do both, haha," because that means dealing with two different offices for one issue.  

Well. The executive board for the union agreed, and none of the union members objected. They pushed to get disability language into the contract, beyond the list of thing they're not supposed to discriminate against us for. (And disability definitely belongs on that list.)

Contract negotiations happened. While the university negotiators tend not to like adding information that's already in other places to the contract or even referencing those other places in the contract, they did add a line about disability accommodations.
4.5 Disability Accommodations– The Administration and GAU shall adhere to Federal and State laws and regulations as they apply to treatment and accommodation of persons with disabilities. Requests for accommodations shall be submitted to the Office of Disabilities for Students.
Am I totally satisfied with that? Not completely. I think it's progress, since there wasn't any information about accommodations before. I know that contracts are all about basic compliance and lagal language. I've still got the same issue with "will follow Federal and State law" here that I do with it on syllabus statements and generally everywhere.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

#Pokémon Go and #Autism

Like most games that get super popular, Pokémon Go has a lot of autistic people interested and playing. We play games, you know. And enjoy having fun.

Like most activities that have autistic participants, Pokémon is getting attention from autism "experts" and professionals. They want to know why we play (uh, it's fun... why do neurotypical people play?) They want to know what it "helps with", since apparently everything autistic people do (everything we're allowed to do by our all-knowing and compassionate caretakers?) must "help with" (reduce) some aspect of our autism.

I am, of course, less than thrilled about the assumptions involved here. There are plenty of things I do for reasons that differ from why neurotypical people do them, but that's not so much in the area of games. It's more in the area of "I said words because I meant those words, but apparently neurotypical people say those words as code for something else and what do I do if what I actually mean is those words, why do you neurotypical folk need to ruin useful statements with your codes???"

So, why do I play Pokémon Go?

Well, it's fun.

Also, it gets neurotypical people socializing in more autistic ways, which makes it a heck of a lot easier for me to understand them and interact with them. Let's turn the usual social skills paradigm where we assume it's the autistic person socializing "wrong" on its head and make a super popular game that encourages people to socialize autistically, thanks.

Here's what I mean when I say that it encourages autistic socialization:

  1. This isn't random small talk. "Hi, there's an Eevee over here!" makes a perfectly acceptable introduction to a fellow Pokémon Go player. Or when you meet one at a gym, "What team?" Straight to the point.
    1. It's centered around a single shared interest. That interest is Pokémon (Go).
  2. Eye contact is not an expected thing on any side. This is centered around a game played on our phones or tablets, so it's completely expected and accepted that we are looking at our phones or tablets, not at the people we're talking too. Great!
  3. Pokémon was created by an autistic guy. He likes bugs. Why did you think "bug" was a type in Pokémon?
So let's turn that question around: Why do neurotypical people play Pokémon Go? What does it help them with? I welcome input from parents, professionals, and of course, those with neurotypicality themselves. But only when they are self-narrating zoo exhibits. I don't really think those with neurotypicality can speak to the general neurotypical experience :p

(And yes, that's what you sound like when you add a note about autistic contributors at the end of your calls for contributions.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Pride and Resistance

I made words on Autistic Pride Day. That's a thing that happened.

And I got quoted for Autistic Pride Day, by the folks who make one of my AAC apps. Also a thing that happened.

It turns out I have more words to type about pride as resistance, about unreasonable expectations of indistinguishability, than I typed that day. (How do you write like tomorrow won't arrive? How do you write like you need it to survive? How do you write every second you're alive, every second you're alive, every second you're alive?)

Indistinguishability from one's peers is a root of a really, really nasty plant. It's fruits are use of "loss of diagnosis" as the optimal outcome, It's fruits are considering that a person losing their autism diagnosis, but having anxiety and depression, means having beaten autism. It's something that Neurodivergent K has written about far better than I ever could, with the Indistinguishability series.

Indistinguishability connects to the perception of autism as something external to us. I'm still working out exactly how, but I know the connection is there. I think it looks something like this:

  1. If you can behave in a way that appears "less autistic," then you are, in fact, "less autistic." That's the indistinguishability and behaviorism idea. (Note the assumption that more vs less autistic is a sensible concept. Autism is not a single variable that varies linearly.)
  2. If you can choose to be less autistic, then you can also choose to be not autistic, thereby beating autism. (Note the assumption that being less autistic or not autistic at all is better.)
  3. Since it's apparently possible for an autistic person to become less or not autistic, it must be external to who we are. (Note that I don't think autistic people becoming non-autistic is actually a thing. I think faking it can be a thing that often leads to burnout, and that there are some similarities between "converted" lefties and "recovered" autistic people.)

Indistinguishability isn't quite the same thing as neurotypicality, to be clear. When you actually are neurotypical, that's still neurotypicality, but it's not "indistinguishability from one's peers" as written about with autism. Because the expectations get raised when people know a disability is part of the picture (neurotypical kids get to have a bad day, but "indistinguishable" kids will have it taken as evidence that they don't really belong in the mainstream classroom,) feigning neurotypicality is a heck of a lot easier when folks don't know that you're really anything else. That's the comparative safety of being passed off as merely weird... or quirky

But Autistic Pride as resistance isn't about choosing indistinguishability or neurotypicality or "beating" autism. It's about rejecting the idea that any of those things make good goals. It's about, even and especially as we are told that the best thing we can ever be is "normal," deciding that This is Wrong and that the best thing we can ever be is the version of ourselves that doesn't feel the need to hide. It's about asking:

  • Maybe I could stop myself from flapping, but why would I do that?
  • Maybe I could push speech to work more consistently rather than typing when speech is wonky, but why would I spend my time and energy there?
  • Maybe I could fake eye contact, but why would I do that?
  • Maybe I could learn not to jump at the bell, but why would I still my startle?
  • Maybe I could make my language less repetitive (Maybe I could... but why?) but why would I do that? 
And then it's about answering:
  • I won't stop myself from flapping. Flapping is a natural expression, and who I am is not wrong.
  • I won't try to reduce my use of typing. I will type when typing works better, rather than waiting until speech is insufficient. Speech is not superior to other methods of communication, and who I am is not wrong.
  • I won't fake eye contact. Eye(ball) contact is not natural for me, and who I am is not wrong.
  • I won't spend the energy to still my startle. If the bell or the flashing light or whatever else hurts me, people can be aware of this. If it's just a surprise and that's how I react to surprises, that's how I react to surprises, and who I am is not wrong.
  • I won't make my language less repetitive. If I'm going to put in the effort to change how my words work, it needs to be for the sake of making my communication more effective, not for the sake of making it seem more neurotypical. Echolalia, palalia, and patterns are part of my natural language, and who I am is not wrong.
Autistic Pride means resisting not only specific demands for neurotypical-passing (neuronormative) performance, but also resisting the ideas behind those demands. Who we are is not wrong.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Inspiration and Inspiration

Inspiration and Inspiration

I Hate one.
I am not your inspiration simply for existing.
I am not your inspiration because I am able to write and tell
my story that you will reduce to overcoming what wasn't an
obstacle with the help of the real barriers in a way I would
never approve of.
I am not your inspiration.
That is a complete sentence.

I Love-Hate the other.
I am inspired not in the way of a warm fuzzy feeling,
But in the way of words are demanding to be written
Art is demanding to be made,
And I can not eat or sleep or stop or work on my the
homework that is about to be due until this idea has
pushed its way into existence no matter the toll on me.
I harness my inspiration.
It writes my complete sentence.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dear Neurotypicals: What if you use your words?

If we don't use our words, we won't be indistinguishable. (What's wrong with saying, "use your words"? Many, many things, including the part where it's ignoring communication that you actually did understand because you didn't like how it was phrased. Thanks, Neurodivergent K.)

But it's not just about words, is it? Once we're using words, you want them to be the "nice," polite words that don't challenge your ideas of how the world works. You want them to be your words, not our words. You want them to be in the right tone, which is, again, polite, and definitely not angry or demanding. (Why is it only called demanding when we're demanding to be treated as human, not when you're demanding we do things like make eye contact or stop flapping?) 

And then you want us to understand all sorts of things from your communication that weren't actually conveyed in words. So how about this: USE YOUR WORDS. Not your tone, not your social codes about connotations and extra layers, not your body language. If we don't get to use ours (the different ways of flapping mean things, didn't you know) because you won't understand, or you'll pretend not to, because you want us to use our words, then guess what? You can use your words. 

Your tone of voice is not inherently easier to read than mine. Your body language, with shifts in how you stand, is not inherently easier to read than my flapping. Your facial expressions are not inherently easier to read than mine. Your layers and layers of meaning behind your words conveyed in all those things are not inherently easier to understand than my flapping and grunting, and in fact they are a heck of a lot more complicated than my statements that mean exactly the words I said. 

And yet. You get to tell us to use our words, and this is somehow completely sensible. It doesn't matter that we've got a disability that literally makes it harder for us to use our words. We have to use them anyways, and it's not even our words we're really supposed to be using. We, on the other hand, don't get to give you the same demand: most of you all don't have any disabilities that make language use harder, and those of you who are demanding we use are words are usually doing so in a language you're fluent in too. That doesn't matter. Some huge percentage of your communication is happening through not the words, so have you considered using your words?