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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Between the Lines/Communication Theory and Practice

I think it's fairly common that people read "between the lines" as part of communication. Understanding that this is a thing which happens is definitely part of my skill set. Knowing what information people are pulling from words left unsaid . . .  not so much.

(Similarly, I don't usually get what folks are hoping I'll understand from between their lines.)

I'm not always sure how to handle this, because there are a few dimensions to this problem.

Piece the first: My communication style generally involves giving lots of information. If I know that a thing I want to do (even, and perhaps especially, if I'm excited about the thing, because then I'll have thought about it more) has some tricky bits, and you ask me about the thing, I am going to tell you lots. This includes telling you where I think the tricky bits are going to be. This does not mean I don't want to do the thing.

This is one of my communication quirks where I have some idea who is going to be confused, and how they are going to be confused: anyone from a culture where pointing out how something is "inconvenient" or similar is an (unspoken) no is going to think I'm saying no, I don't want to do the thing, when actually I'm probably working through how to do the thing. (Yes, this caused a lot of problems when I was in China.)

Dealing with the mismatch is a bit trickier than understanding it exists, though. I can give overall less information under some circumstances, but it's not going to work when I'm looking for advice (because then whoever I'm asking needs to have enough information to give helpful advice), when I'm tired (because then I tend to revert to my natural communication patterns), or when it's literally my job to provide information. Other people can learn how my communication actually works, but this is really only practical for people who interact with me frequently. (Ex: Most of the professors I've had for smaller classes have a good idea how my communication works, as do my teammates for frisbee an most of my classmates. However, the other instructors for the class I taught this semester, who I really only interacted with at instructors meetings, don't.)

Piece the second: Silence, or not responding, is taken as having meaning in face-to-face conversations, generally beyond "I'm still thinking about what you just said" or "I'm not actually capable of speech right now." What extra meanings there are depends a bit on the context, but even among people who know my ability to speak can give out, very few will guess that as a reason for silence. (One professor who I've had for five classes does. I think he's it, though.)

I'm not entirely sure how to deal with this one, either. The ways people react to me definitely change with the order that they get information in: as far as being considered competent goes, it's in my best interest to keep the fact that I lose speech sometimes private until it's relevant (meaning until speech actually gives out on me.) I don't always do that, because that's not my only concern and because there are other ways I can signal competence (plus when you're a graduate student it tends to be assumed.) So I can tell people that speech giving out is a thing that happens, and that it's not a big deal, and that if I'm not answering them verbally that's quite possibly what's going on. There are some risks involved in doing so, but I can do it. That doesn't mean it avoids the communication issues: plenty of people know I can't always speak. Most of them still attach the context-typical meanings to my silence, which means my disclosure isn't very effective.

Those are the pieces that are at the tips of my fingers right now, but there's definitely more. I still remember (and laugh about) the time that a friend of mine took "I'd love to but I'm not sure I can because I've got a presentation that afternoon" to mean "I don't want to join you for lunch [that afternoon when you're on campus]" and was therefore really confused when 1) the presentation got cancelled and 2) I still wanted to join him for lunch. Oops.

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