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 http://yesthattoo.blogspot.com/post-specific-URL.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Autistic Development: It's a Thing

I have three main points when I say that Autistic development is a thing (as opposed to neurotypical development.) None of them are that all, or even most, autistic people are going to have the same developmental trajectory. There's definitely patterns, like "autistic people are way more likely to go from no speech to sentences really fast than neurotypical people are," but that's not the same as "we all do it."

Point the first: Autistic people are not going to be stagnant in the absence of autism-specific interventions. Environment is absolutely relevant, in that I'm not going to pick up speech in an environment where no one is talking, and I'm not going to pick up reading in an environment with nothing to read. We don't learn to swim without getting in the water. We don't learn to cook without at least observing it done, and probably getting explicitly taught. But! None of those are autism-specific therapies designed to make me less autistic. (And yes, these are all skills that I have. I don't have the executive functioning to consistently keep myself fed despite knowing how to cook, but I can usually speak, consistently read and write with terrible handwriting, swim, and cook.)

This means that even if you are doing therapy of some sort, you can't know for sure if a skill was gained because of the therapy, because our development reached the point where we got/were ready for the skill, or a combination of the two. (Unless your therapy is some sort of dangerous quackery like, say, chelation for autism. Then it was definitely our development. #Sorrynotsorry.)

Point the second: Just because we're "late" or "out of order" to a specific skill by neurotypical, able standards, that doesn't mean we're not going to pick it up later (even without autism-specific interventions.) I couldn't jump with both feet leaving the ground at the same time until college. That's a skill that occupational therapists apparently help autistic kids with sometimes. (Really? That's our focus?) Anyways, I eventually learned it on the Frisbee team. Not in therapy. I did not get my learner's permit when I turned sixteen, nor did I get my drivers license quickly. I tried driving my senior year of high school, but I wasn't ready. I didn't get my license until last Saturday. I'm still waiting on the piece of plastic to arrive. I'm twenty-three, by the way, and I was on my third learners permit. Autism-specific therapy is not how I learned to drive. Driving school was.

This means that even if you are doing therapy of some sort and we're "late" to a skill, you can't know for sure if a skill was gained because of the therapy, because our development reached the point where we got/were ready for the skill, or a combination of the two. (Unless your therapy is some sort of dangerous quackery like, say, chelation for autism. Then it was definitely our development. #Sorrynotsorry.)

Point the third: If we're developing differently from the neurotypical norm, it'd make sense that we end up somewhere different. I picked up a lot of skills at unusual times, and not all "late." Part of why it took as long as it did for me to be recognized as autistic was my learning to speak really early. Like, a six month old is saying "want more noodles" with terrible pronunciation kind of early. However, there are times that I can't speak at all. Or for some sports-related examples that don't matter much but do illustrate the point: I was on swim team and did racing dives for three years without being able to jump so my feet left the ground at the same time. My feet always left the starting blocks asynchronously. Also, on Frisbee team, one of our warm-ups involves skipping backwards, so I can skip backwards fairly quickly and not fall over. I can't walk backwards, though. Only skip.

This means that Autistic adulthood, which doesn't look like just one thing, is not the same as neurotypical adulthood. Trying to measure Autistic adulthood by any of the yardsticks we use for neurotypical people is going to go badly. I don't mean badly in that we're going to measure up poorly, though that could happen too. I mean that the way we do adulthood may not even be measurable. Where do you put someone who teaches classes, is a published author, is a graduate student, and can't keep themself fed or safely live alone without supports? What if they're known to throw themselves into walls and bite themselves? That's me, by the way. It's the sort of thing I'm talking about in "Growing up into an Autistic adult" and it's the sort of thing I wish they'd be talking about, or at least acknowledged, at the autism and sign language conference that listed "unique developmental trajectories" as a topic.


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