Note For Anyone Writing About Me

I got blogger working again using a different proxy. It'd still be nice if people liked my Facebook, but you don't need to look at it to get posts anymore.
For anyone who wants to write about me
I am an Autistic person. I am not a person with autism. Don't call me one.
My name is Alyssa, I'm a triple major in mathematics, mechanical engineering, and Chinese. I'm currently studying abroad in Tianjin. I have an About. I'm Autistic. I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Acceptance Vs. Recovery

So this was actually a bit back, but I've been thinking on and off about my exact intended wording. I've also just been really busy. Taking five classes, teaching one, assisting three others, playing sports, and working on a paper for INSPIRe Student Symposium has that effect.

Anyways.

Think Inclusive wrote an article. This is a thing they do pretty often. This particular one started off by showcasing a poet, which is cool, and then mentioned that he had also been interviewed by a site called Autism Live, which includes language about "recovery." That struck an uncomfortable note with the author over at Think Inclusive, so they asked: "Can Autism Acceptance and Autism Recovery Coexist?" as I believe both title and Twitter text. Definitely Twitter text. 

I responded, as I am wont to do.
.@think_inclusive Re autism acceptance and autism recovery coexisting: LOL NOPE. Recovery=pass for NT, lose recognition of passing effort. 
I mean, the problems are more numerous than that. But the idea that if you act "less autistic" in public, no matter how much effort that takes, you therefore are "less autistic," potentially even "not autistic anymore," is kind of at the root of some icky stuff. Including the idea of recovery from autism, really. Because how else has recovery from autism ever been defined? Seriously, when has recovery from autism as a concept ever been defined in a way other than "this person is no longer acting in ways that person X finds to be obviously autistic," with no regard given to the amount of effort required to do so?

I'm gonna go with never.

Sure, there might have been times when people interpreted that "evidence" to mean that things more core were changed too, but even that isn't consistently happening. It's an idea of autism as some set of external stuff in how we act, rather than a more internal thing of how our minds work.

And I have plenty of criticism for the goals and concepts of passing for neurotypical, beyond what I'm putting here. But.

Autism acceptance involves teaching autistic people as we are, accepting that our minds work... however they happen to work (that's not even necessarily consistent over time and between energy levels within a single autistic person, many of us have multiple modes of thought, but there are some patterns in how autistic people's minds tend to work.) It involves saying, "This person is always going to be autistic, and we're going to work on skills that are compatible with their autistic self, in ways that are compatible with their autistic self, with goals matching their goals." It views growth into an Autistic adult as the goal.

Autism recovery views growth into a non-Autistic adult as the goal.

I think that's a pretty core difference: autism acceptance says that an autistic child will grow into an autistic adult, and that that's great. Autism recovery says that an autistic child should grow into a non-autistic adult, and that an autistic person being able to "pass" for non-autistic, even if only by the cluelessness of those around them, is the same as being not autistic anymore. These are pretty incompatible ideas.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Some Joking Nerdery

I'm taking a graduate linear algebra class this semester. (I'm also taking difference equations, which looks a lot like more advanced linear algebra, at least while it's linear.) During the "lets go through all the stuff you probably learned in undergrad, then forgot, but kinda want to know for this class" phase, one of the things we've covered is linear transformations. T is the variable typically assigned. Linear transformations have kernels/null spaces, which is the stuff from the first set that gets sent to the "zero" point of the second set. These get denoted by a cursive N.

So the null set of a transformation T is  NT. Now, the joke of NTs being null as in nothing is not even a little bit where I am going. Neurotypicality as a construct is pretty thoroughly terrible, yes, but calling a group of people, even privileged people "null space" as in nothing as the punch line is not my idea of joking nerdery.

Defining a function from people to something, like from people to some sort of directed distance from "exact average brain" or "the brain society is defined for" and pointing out that plenty of people are close enough to it to not have a problem, so are going to be close, but the null space isn't based on being close to the zero point. It's based on the function taking you to exactly the zero point. So  NT being the empty set with no one in it because no one has exactly that idealized brain amuses me. (Even if it's not exactly one of the ways I think about neurotypicality/averages/social ideals, it's close enough to amuse me.)

The other idea I had was a space of neurotypes, where the zero point represents the idea of neurotypical as default (so basically this is a space that I don't really like, but I recognize it's how society tends to work.) Defining a function for that is honestly even weirder to me than defining it from people to the directed distance thing, though I could maybe make another function from that multi-dimensional directed distance thing to the neurotype labels the brains map to? In that case, NT would actually be "close enough to that ideal to be privileged by it." That's fairly close to the other way I think about neurotypicality/averages/social ideals.

Neither of those things can actually work as linear transformations, at least partially because I don't think any of the people spaces work as vector spaces, and I'm not entirely sure that any of the spaces I'm mapping into work as vector spaces either, plus there isn't people addition to work like vector addition should. Also  NT being the kernel of something instead of null space, cause that's two words for the same thing. Probably some funky associations there too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"But AAC Increases Speech!"

So this is one of the big arguments I see in favor of giving people who don't talk, or who only talk a little, access to augmentative and alternative communication (or, as sometimes I think of it, maybe-actually-working communication. Because most of the time, if parents and teachers are considering AAC, that means that the communication that the person has is not working. Maybe it's a matter of not knowing all the words, maybe it's a matter of other people ignoring the behavior side, there's always multiple sides in a communication breakdown but that doesn't change the not-workingness.)

And people worry that if they let their kids use AAC, their kids won't talk.
Study after study shows the opposite, by the way, that if you do speech therapy type stuff and AAC stuff at the same time there's both a better chance of speech and more speech than if there was only speech therapy stuff. Even just "we're doing speech therapy, here's an iPad AAC app too" increases speech more than just the speech therapy.

But.

Here's my question.

Let's say that a person did decide, after getting their AAC device, that they were done trying for speech. Let's say that a person did decide that typing or picture cards or whatever else just worked better and they were done trying to make mouth sounds.

WHY IS THIS THE THING YOU ARE AFRAID OF?

No, really.

Why?

Where is the problem with this?

If a person is happy with how their AAC device is letting them communicate, which means it's working for them, why the insistence that they must also speak orally? Why the insistence that one method of communication is standard and ideal, while the other is, well, "alternative and augmentative." Why is AAC even needing to deal with the accusation that it could reduce a person's motivation to speak?

Cause I'm not going to lie. My motivation to speak is lower when I can just type. If I feel like I'm on the edge of speech going kaput, or speech is getting tougher, or whatever else? Once speech is an effort much of at all, if typing is an option I really do just go, "Screw it, I'm typing." And I fail to see the problem with that! It's me choosing the method of communication that works best for me, and that should be a good thing, not used as the reason to keep AAC out of people's reach.

Friday, September 12, 2014

On Technology's Role

I  read "On Institutionalized and Autonomous Access Forms: Toward a Refusal of Pity Infrastructure." As is typical of that blog, I'm not sure how much I understood the actual points the author was trying to make, but it made me think anyways.

I think I get what's being said here, though:
We can start to build communities that do not create singular models of access, but turn access needs into a constant conversation between people. Access needs can become an everchanging process based on persona deliberation.
And at least some of this:
Access and asking about access needs is built into the social patterns of disabled people amongst disabled people. This proves that access need not exist as a reassertion of private technology manufacturers and government bureaucracy.
Here's the thing:  I'm an engineer. I like finding technological solutions to problems. I like when technology can make a job or a process or a life or anything else easier.

What I don't like is when a lack of technology is used as an excuse to discriminate against people, or when a lack of technology is used as the excuse for failing at access. I especially don't like when technology is kept out of the reach of the people who need it most because of profit motivations or discrimination in general.

Before elevators, someone could have made the excuse "we don't have a way to get you up to the second floor" to a disabled person, and it might have even been true. That wouldn't have made it OK. Finding a way to make whatever the person needed be somewhere they could get at it, finding another way to get them to the second floor (there's ramps to the second and third floors in the gym complex, wide enough, smooth enough, non-steep enough that yes, you could take a wheel chair up that.)

When people don't understand the communication of disabled people, or when people don't understand that our actions have a purpose (even if it's a purpose that wouldn't make sense to others,) there can be problems. It depends on the attitude: If they say "I don't understand what you want, but I can understand your no and try stuff till I get it right if you want," that seems reasonable. If they instead decide that because they don't understand, there isn't any communication happening, that's not OK. Finding a technological solution to "we're having trouble understanding each other's communication" is a reasonable thing to try. (Google Translate, much?) Using technology to try to prove that communication isn't happening or using the current lack of a technological solution as an excuse to ignore communication is not OK.

So: The way you look at a problem matters. If you're looking at a problem in a way that is equitable and not oppressive (hard to do!) there may still be questions and problems where a technological solution makes it easier. The lack of technological solution isn't an excuse to do things wrong, but trying to find said technological solution and make it readily available is still cool.

If you're looking at a situation from an oppressive angle, the technology-based solutions you come up with are probably still based in that oppression and that's not OK.

Also:  There not being technology answers to any given access issue (yet?) doesn't keep disabled communities from figuring out ways to do access. Technology that makes it easier for people to do what they've already been doing, that makes it easier for communities that care about access to make it happen as a community? I think that's still worth trying to create, yes. 

I say "if you" here, but this is something I need to remember just as much, if not more, than most of my readers: I'm the engineer. I'm the one who'll be looking at problems and finding technological solutions for them, so I'm the one who's going to have to remember to pay very close attention to my perspective on the problems, to make sure that I'm not basing solutions in the idea of a person being broken or wrong or lesser, or of a culture being broken or wrong or lesser. I'm the one who's going to have to pay attention to, well, who I'm paying attention to for things like problem statements and possible solutions.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"how can an autistic guy prevent rape"

Welcome to another post in "someone found my blog by searching this, so I'm going to respond." Warning for discussion of rape, assault, and sexual abuse.

This is actually a really good question to ask. Reasons:


  1. Overall, men do most of the raping. It's about 90% done by men. That means men are in a really good position to stop it by calling out their fellow men.
  2. Autistic people are way more likely than people in the general population to be sexually abused or assaulted at some point. It's not only autistic women being attacked, not by a long shot, but still a majority.
  3. Autistic people tend to spend a lot of time in the company of other autistic people, sometimes by choice and sometimes by segregation done by others. This means putting autistic men and autistic women and autistic nonbinary folks all in one place.
Now. I know that an autistic man isn't going to be able to do much to protect a fellow resident in an institution if the harasser/attacker/abuser is staff. I wish he could! But it probably won't actually stop the problem. Checking in with the fellow resident, letting them know that what's happening is wrong, offering to report it if there is anyone to report it to, those kinds of things have the potential to be helpful (and aren't limited by gender or neurotype!) Saying something in the moment might buy a delay, but that's a maybe, and it comes with a risk of being the next target. The power differential in an institution is a big problem, and it's not OK, but I'm not really comfortable telling residents to risk their own safety to correct injustices there. (I also won't argue if someone decides to.)

If it's between residents, however, there's probably less of a power differential going on, which means saying something in the moment or not leaving the attacker alone with their intended victim is more doable and more likely to be effective. The stuff for when it was a staff member victimizing a resident is still good to do. The thing to worry about here is more general rape culture stuff: most places don't like to admit that sexual assault happens on their watch, or if it does, to pretend it's the victims fault. This makes reporting against the will of the victim a really bad idea, because they're sadly probably right about the consequences that would come to them for being victimized.

And of course, if you're an autistic guy living or working in an institution, don't rape people there. This is a substatement of don't rape. This actually applies outside of institutions, too. Which I'm going on to, next.

Outside an institution, in mixed neurotype places, you're on the same kind of "how to prevent rape" as most guys. If someone you're flirting with tells you they aren't interested, listen. (Admitting that you have trouble with subtle and that you need more direct is potentially a thing because autism, but people being afraid to do the blunt thing because of a very reasonable fear of violence from men in general means you might not get the bluntness needed. Actual problem, leaving people well enough alone as soon as there is a signal of "no" that you understand is really all I've got here.) If you can see that someone isn't interested and the other guy isn't backing off, intervene. Tell him what you see, tell him to back off, tell him not to push another drink on the person! It's scary, yes, but think how much scarier it is to be the person who needs this guy to back off and can't get him to!

All this stuff I'm saying you should tell other guys not to do apply to you too: if the person you were hoping to date or to have sex with says no, or maybe, or not now, or anything of that sort, stop. Don't keep asking. Don't give them more wine. Definitely don't tell autistic people you could theoretically reproduce with that they need to have sex with you for the survival of the neurotype. That is extremely not OK. 

And another reminder: If you see someone else doing those things, tell them to stop! Yes, it's scary. Being the person this stuff is being said to is scarier. And, you know, you're the one who asked how to prevent rape. This is an answer: stop the lead ins, stop the "little" ways that boundaries are violated which lead to the big ones.