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

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For Ashley, And Those Like Her

Trigger Warning: Mentions of abuse, murder, neglect of people with disabilities, presumptions of incompetence.

It wasn't an isolated incident when a nonspeaking woman was left in a hot car while her caretaker gambled. It wasn't an isolated incident when a court found that keeping autistic children in a cage wasn't illegal. It wasn't an isolated incident any of the times a person with a disability was neglected or abused or murdered by a parent, by a caretaker, by the very people who should be protecting us from those things. And what happened to Ashley isn't an isolated incident either.
She was beaten up, rather badly. Seven people were charged. They are out on bail. Some of those charged are living with Ashley's grandmother. There is an ongoing investigation. Details. If we get too caught up in them (you can find them in either of these two Facebook groups,) we can lose sight of two very important things, the two things we need to be focusing on.
In the big picture, we need to treat this like the broad issue it is and find ways to stop it. In Ashley's specific case, we need to make sure that she is safe and happy and that her rights are being respected.
When disabled people are abused, it is often ignored. Ashley's case has not been ignored as completely as many cases are- we know about it, and arrests were made. But it is often ignored. The broad change we need is that these cases are not ignored. The small scale change is that this time, there is an active investigation, this time it is not ignored. This is important.
When autistic people do not have oral speech, they are often assumed to be incapable of any communication, to have the cognitive ability of a much younger person. The broad change needed is presumption of competence and making AAC part of everyone's plans. The small change needed is finding a way that Ashley can communicate in ways others understand. If that means we learn her language, if that means we remember that behavior is communication, if that means that she gets an AAC device, it needs to happen. (I think all these things should happen, starting all of them now.)
When incompetence is presumed, rights are lost. Ashley is 22, but she is not allowed to choose who she lives with because she is considered a minor. Her guardians can make those decisions for her. Legally speaking, abuse by a guardian seems to follow similar paths to child abuse by a parent, so that needs reforming too. On the broader scale, it needs to be easier for anyone in any abusive relationship to get out, even and perhaps especially when the abuser is a guardian or is being protected by the guardian. In Ashley's case, she needs to be protected from the people who abused her and those who allowed it. Remember, it is likely that she was also neglected before her case came to light. There are so few pictures of her smiling and happy before, which is, at the least, a sign of problematic attitudes towards her.
In the big picture, the alternative to living with parents is often assumed to be an institution, a residential placement, a group home. (Different names, different trappings, similar ideas.) Incompetence is assumed, control is everywhere. This needs to change. There need to be more options than parents who may be abusive and residential placements that are designed to be manipulative and controlling by their very nature. In the smaller picture, Amy Sequenzia lives with a friend. In the small picture, living with an employer who is also a friend is what Jenny wanted. In the smaller picture, Ashley should be allowed this sort of option- living with a friend who cares, who will presume competence. In the bigger picture, that sort of thing should be on the list of options that everyone hears about.
For Ashley, the smaller picture things, the things specific to her case, have to happen. For those like her, we need to change the big picture. The ideas that make this sort of abuse seem justified or make people think of these as isolated incidents need to change. No one else should have to go through what Ashley is going through. 
These aren't rare and isolated incidents. They should be, but we can't treat them as such until they are.
This is about Ashley, and this is about everyone like her, and it is about everyone who could be like her.

1 comment:

  1. I hope we can make a difference for Ashley and everyone like her. Access to AAC or sign language, advocates who believe in her abilities, strengths, and comprehension. Thank you for sharing her story and what she and so many still don't get access to.


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