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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meltdown

Recently, a friend of mine asked what we wished others knew about meltdowns. (She blogged about meltdowns a while back, too. It was good.) This caused me to make words. Many words.

You see, I have experience at appearing to be more OK than I am. (I think a lot of people have this experience.) I have also been taught, in a variety of ways, that I should not show around other people that I am not OK. And the thing about getting around that is … it takes energy to break that, energy I might not have when I'm not OK. Often, holding on to some appearance of being OK until I am alone is cheaper for me than allowing myself to show that I'm having a problem. (I'm not faking overload. I might be faking not-overload.)

Now, there is still a point where I will melt down, like it or not, and there are limits to how much I can delay this. So it is possible for me to melt down in front of people. And most of the people I'm around would want to help, would want to check in to make sure I'm OK, that sort of thing. There's just one problem: I reach the point where I can put up an (unusually expensive) facade of OK before I reach the point where I'm actually ready to start putting myself together.

What this means:
If I look like I'm on the edge of a meltdown, there are a few questions you can ask me, one at a time. I'm not going to keep track of a bunch of questions at a time, really do stick to one. And do not touch me. I know people do light touch for reassurance but this is a bad idea. You can point out a spot that's semi-enclosed (corner, alcove, back to the wall) and ask if I want to sit there1. I probably will. Don't push it if I say no. You can offer me a satin-bound blanket or a fidget toy. I'll probably take you up on either (or both) of those, but again, don't push it. And you can ask if I'd like you to leave me alone. I might say yes, but I also might say no – sometimes, especially if I've got another event coming up sooner than I'd be able to have the meltdown and start putting myself back together afterwards, I'm going to prefer to keep delaying. I'm better at delaying than I really should be, but sometimes this unfortunate skill gets used. But if I say yes, it's time for you to go away, and not come back until either I come looking for you or until the next day. Don't come check on me to see if I need anything. Don't come check on me to make sure I'm OK. Because your presence would mean my training to appear to be OK would make me appear to come out of the meltdown sooner, and because this is actually bad, doing either of those things is very likely to ensure that I am not OK. It will cause me to put the facade of OK up before the actually OK gets going. It does not matter how many times you tell me I don't need to put that facade up for you. I will not, in that state, be able to stop myself from doing what I've been taught I need to do. Stay away. No, you are not the exception to this, because there are none.

If I am actively melting down, that means I'm in bad enough shape that I can't hide it. That's not good, but that does mean there are some things you might be able to do before I've got enough juice to run the facade (and not enough to stop myself from doing so if there's anyone around.) First, do not touch me. Second, if I am not already curled up in a corner or alcove or with my back to the wall, offer to help me get to one of those positions. If I say yes, you can lead me to one. (See above: do not touch me to lead me.) Third, if there's a soft, satin-bound blanket around that I am not already in possession of, putting it near me is a good idea. (Not on me. Again: do not touch me.) If I don't seem to understand the offer, this is a cue to leave. Fourth, melting down burns a lot of energy. I am going to be tired, hungry, and thirsty. If you can put food and/or liquid that is ready to be consumed far enough away that I won't accidentally hit it while rocking or flapping, but close enough that I don't need to interact with any people to get at it, this is potentially useful. (Post-meltdown, I am even more likely than usual to get lost somewhere in the process of attempting to create and consume food.) Once location, blanket, and consumable objects are either taken care of or not, it's time for you to go away. The same rules apply as if you were heading out before I actually melted down.

Counterintuitively, if I start showing any signs of being OK again after I melted down, that's the point where you absolutely must leave now. I'm not OK yet, but I'm starting to be able to fake it and you need to go away so that I can choose not to do so. Those rules from heading out before I actually melted down? They still apply. You need to go away.



1  Weird as this may seem, if I'm going to the corner or grabbing the blanket on my own, that's a good sign. It means I've caught on to the low energy in time to drop the performance, which will buy me more time able to do stuff before I run out of energy entirely. It also means I'm still in good enough shape that if I felt I needed to just leave, I could have done so. This is the part where you get to see a person getting stuff done while visibly autistic. Just like the times where I'm pulling out a whiteboard marker, pen, or tablet to go to class non-speaking, I'm actually fine. Appearing to have my neurotype is not an emergency.




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Monday, October 24, 2016

Alyssa Reads The US Book

On September 26, my copy of The US Book, by Michael Scott Monje Jr, arrived. I started reading. I know that's the day it arrived because her poetry immediately got me writing, which she says is one of the best compliments her book could get. I was happy, because the writing induced by (starting to) read this book broke through a bit of writers block. After writing a good bit in June (honestly mostly yelling at Uniquely Human, but I was making words) I dropped off a good bit in July, then only managed to write here once each in August and September. (To be fair, there was some other writing happening in August. There was not in September.)

So you can thank The US Book for my presence here again.
Image of a very happy looking Alyssa holding a copy of The US Book

Also, those of you who know my art style might recognize that cover, partially. I did that line art. 

Now to the actual reading bit:

The line that got me writing again was "Speaking is a prison when it's the only thing you're given." As a part time typist who can always, always tell you more typing than speaking, I represent that statement. It was always assumed that speech would work, because it appeared to, but written English is my natural language in a way spoken English isn't. 

I don't know what word to best describe my reaction to the call for psychology, as rhetoric, to make use of neuroscience. Something positive, and with perhaps some pride because neuroscience is the thing I am studying for my doctorate while writing about rhetoric, representation, and neurodivergence on another side. (I can't call one action the center and all others the sides, but I can say that there are many sides to what I do.) I have to agree that neuroscience has a ways to grow, and I'd like to be part of that growing because seriously folks, there are always assumptions and narratives built in to our science and at least I will admit to my neurodivergent ones. 

Face My Morning Face remains as important as it was the day it went up on her blog, if not more so. I'm thinking more so, because of what it's led to since then.

I'm as proud of Look for our communications if you want us to bother with your language. being dedicated to me now as I was the day it went up on her blog, if not more so. (The dedication is on the blog, not in the book. That's OK. I remember, plus it's on the Internet.)

And maybe, just maybe, the taste of those two pieces, which appear in The US Book but which are also still free online for you to read, will whet your appetite for the rest. I know I'm pretty blatantly saying you should read this, if you can, but that's because I think you should. The US Book made me think, laugh, and write. 


And of course, I'm studying neuroscience without leaving behind my knowledge as an Autistic activist and scholar of how we speak and write about things. Or my knowledge as a mathematician, for that matter. That's where I learned to poke holes in arguments, after all. While I work, I need to remember:
  • Reading My Own Screams

    "Speaking is a prison when it's the only thing you're given." 'Nough said.
  • Uses of the Knife

    I need this to remember about psychology as rhetoric + needing neuroscience. What I am studying is real, and it's important, and it's narrative too. Remember where the narrative comes from, because ... some of it's coming from the same people who hate us (It's time to accept that they hate you.) I don't get to be "apolitical" (as in protecting the status quo or as in not paying attention) without being self-loathing or self-sabotaging.
  • Look for our communications if you want us to bother with your language.

    Communication barriers have more than one side and all too often, the side that's working hardest to translate their communications are also the ones who are called inherently incomprehensible.

    When I am tired and anxiety is telling me that nothing matters, I can remember that I have already had an impact. Not one measured in the metrics of academia, but one measured in people and poetry. I know which one matters more to me (and it's the one I've already got. Not gonna lie, though, I'm aiming for both.)
  • It's time to accept that they hate you.

    Put so well, what I fight, why I fight, and remember that I am not alone. I'm not. 



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Not everything is possible (And I get a lot more done when I admit this)

There are, in fact, things I can't do, no matter what mindset I am in. There are, in fact, things where it is not worth my time to try it again and bang my head against that (metaphorical) wall one more time, just to satisfy people who say I won't know until I try. (Usually I have tried the specific task already, which means I should get to know by their logic? The rest of the times, I've tried enough sufficiently similar things that I can predict what the problem will be.)

Now, this is probably the part where you want to tell me not to be so hard on myself. You might want to tell me that the only disability in life is a bad attitude. (Maybe, just maybe, I'll shoot back that my primary disability is y'alls bad attitude about my realities.) Maybe you want to tell me that anything is possible, and tell (not ask) me how much I'm limiting myself this way.

Because I used to think that if I just tried harder I could, in fact, do anything, I actually know what my abilities look like that way. I'm still working on the details of what my abilities look like when I recognize my limits (which is not the same thing as limiting myself, to be clear. I do not bring these limitations into existence by recognizing them.) But I can tell you this: Overall, I get more done  (not less!) when I admit that there are things I can't do. 

I get more done when I recognize that I am not going to gain the ability to independently organize my space on the n+1st try, and that I should wait to try this whole organization thing until the person helping me is ready, because I don't spend all my energy on it until there's someone there to help make sure I'm spending it in useful ways. (Organizing my room still costs all my energy for the day, but it at least ends with organization.)

I get more done when I recognize that my exception handling is not suddenly going to work normally just because that would be convenient. (Weirdly enough, this exception handling issue as it relates to sudden schedule changes is one reason that pushing through pain or illness to finish whatever I was planning on doing is actually the smarter choice. Which sounds like the opposite of limiting myself, at least to an outside observer, I think? That I'm doing a thing while sick or tired or injured because I know my limits even sounds counter-intuitive to me, and I know it's sometimes true.)

I get more done when I recognize that this exception handling issue (plus whatever else is going on with certain kinds of questions that cause them to create an exception in the first place) will, in fact, prevent me from doing many surveys and evaluations. If I'm not burning out most or all of my energy for the day on some survey my program asked me to do (and which they thought would be a 5 minute easy thing), I still have that energy for literally anything else.

I get more done when I recognize that I can't actually stay in a room with a flickering fluorescent light or troubleshoot a circuit with an LED flashing at 5-20 Hz. That's because said flashing lights will, given time, knock out my ability to speak, possibly my sense of direction, and definitely my ability to concentrate on anything other than make it stop. Turn off the light. Unplug the circuit while I try to determine what's wrong with it. Replace the 0.1 microfarad capacitor with the 1 microfarad capacitor to get a .5-2Hz flash rate on the LED, or with 0.01 microfarad for 50-200Hz that I can't see flashing. 

I get more done when I recognize that I am not going to be able to cook three meals a day for myself (and not even one consistently if I'm working from scratch) because I can plan around this. At university, I have a meal plan. That keeps me fed. At home, I cook a large pot of something once or twice a week and eat it until it's gone (then stare sadly at the pot which no longer contains food because I am hungry and there is not a food.) This doesn't work as well as the meal plan does, but it works much better than believing that if I just try one more time, I can cook three meals a day. Because I am spending less time trying to make food happen and more time fed, I can get more other things done too!

I get more done when I recognize that I do, in fact, need to stim and probably shouldn't be faking eye contact all the time. (No, really. Letting myself flap and rock made the difference between always absolutely needing 10 hours of sleep per night with people being able to tell the difference if I got "only" 8-9 hours of sleep one night and my being completely fine with 9 hours as a regular thing and OK with 7-8 occasionally.)

I get more done when I recognize that I am not going to work 40 hours in a week. (I'm going to suggest that anyone who's ever seen my class schedule not run the numbers for this statement, because you will be at least as confused as I am by how this works. I'm pretty confused even while knowing from experience that it somehow does.) I get more done because I'm not staring at whatever my work should be and not recovering when I burn through my mental energy in two to three hours. I rest for several hours and can sometimes (not always, but sometimes) get a second good shift of an hour or three writing things that needed to be written, doing homework, reading for classes, preparing to teach, editing work before I submit it somewhere, or reading for the purposes of my writing. That's more done than when I tried to work straight through, just to be clear. Less time total that looks like work, but quite a bit more done and similar amounts of time that are actually work.

I get more done when I recognize that I can't do a hackathon or any other kind of event that involves working for a marathon amount of time at a sprint level of intensity while going short on sleep. (Actually any event or combination of events that puts me short on sleep for more than a night or two is usually out regardless of intensity, and it's definitely not happening during the semester.) Making myself ill over the weekend by burning myself out to the tune of needing two or three days completely off to recover... when the next day is Monday? Yeah, I can't do that. (Seriously, do you think I'm going to gain the ability to work a 40 hour week by putting all 40 hours onto 2 days?) A more extreme version of the work model that already doesn't work for me only fails more obviously. 

I have better class participation when I don't try to force speech until it's gone, then fall silent because if I had something to say I'd be able to say it. Switching to writing when speech gives out means I can keep participating, that I can show what I know and help my classmates when they are having trouble, and that I can ask questions if I need help. Switching to writing at the point that writing is simply easier overall lets me save energy so that speech might not even give out entirely! That comes in handy if I have sports practice after class, or if I'm going anywhere that doesn't have a white board. 

I have a better time on vacation when I recognize that I'm not going to enjoy speeding from activity to activity at a breakneck pace and will eventually melt down if I try. I still want a calm hour alone on my computer in the morning and similar at night. (I also wake up earlier than my family by enough that it's really easy for me to get that morning hour.) So I bring my laptop on vacation, even if I'm not planning to work, even though the others don't. 

I can't stop you from believing that I'm limiting myself (as opposed to recognizing limits that are already there and being happier and healthier while doing more things I care about because I'm not banging my head against the stuff I can't do.) I can, however, explain so that 1) I remind myself that I'm doing what works for me, and 2) others like me can read that they are not alone.


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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Switch out the capacitor

This semester, my teaching assistantship is in electrical engineering. (And for as long as I'm a TA instead of a research assistant, I suspect it's going to stay in electrical engineering or similar, since electrical, biomedical, and computer engineering is the department my advisor's in.)

So now I'm one of three responsible people in the room for a digital circuits lab. (All three of us speak Mandarin, which is cool, but not the point of what I'm writing today.) They've both been doing circuits for much longer than I have, which is to be expected since I'm brand new to electrical engineering. Still, I'm a pretty quick study and I have very good pattern recognition, which comes in handy when my job mostly means troubleshooting other people's circuits to figure out what's wrong.

This isn't about my ability to troubleshoot circuits, really.
Unless it is, because I can't troubleshoot a circuit while looking at a light that's blinking at 5-20 Hz. The light is small enough that I'm (mostly) OK with the light near the edges of my vision, but the blinking light is the signal on the circuit I'm troubleshooting, which means it's on the circuit I'm trying to fix. That's not going to work.

"Alright, I'm turning off the power. I can't work with the flashing in my face and you should turn the power off when moving wires anyways."

That's method the first. You've got two reasons to turn off the power (plus "the teacher says so") and one of them is a safety thing they've been taught but tend to ignore. I'm still telling you what my need is (no flashing lights in my face) but it's not the only reason for what I'm asking you to do. I tend to go to this first if the problem seems to be with the circuit.

"Can you switch out the capacitor for one size up or one size down? I know this is the one on the lab sheet, but I can't work with that blink rate."

That's method the second. It eliminates the bad flash rate permanently, which is good, and it lets me leave the light on while trying to figure out what's going on with the oscilloscope. The only problem is, of course, that it's not the capacitor size used on the lab sheet, so I am telling students to not follow part of the directions. Still, why are the directions setting up a circuit that blinks in the most common frequency rate for problems? Seriously, why. Why are they so sure no one who'd have a problem is in the class? (Or, you know, teaching the class. Disabled teachers exist and all.)

Now, here's the bit where being a teacher and being around good folks is helpful: the students listen. I'm not sure how so many people don't realize that flashing lights can be an issue (and I don't blame the students at all for, well, following directions) but no one is arguing with me when I point out that the flashing lights can be a problem for people, including for me. They turn the power off, or they switch off the capacitor. They ask, "Is that a common issue?" and I say "More common than you'd think with how many things flash in that range..." Who knows? They might even remember that flashing lights can cause problems.






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Monday, October 17, 2016

Plans, Executive (Dys)function, and Throwing Exceptions

I've written before about plans and routines, where a routine can become an implicit plan, and if a plan gets thrown off, I'm going to have a bad time. I've also (really recently!) written about "independent" (as defined by able people, not as defined by the independent living movement) living, supports, and teachable skills not being all there is to it. Now I'm writing about something that connects both of these, thanks to Avi for providing the word to describe it: Exception handling. Thanks to Avi also for the idea of writing these out as scripts. I've done enough programming to write psuedocode for this. The code is intentionally a bit messy because, well, the way my head actually deals with this stuff is a bit messy. So there's exceptions and different kinds of loops mixed together, and sometimes things will just crash instead of doing what you'd expect, even if it's not immediately obvious why.

I've done a little bit with programming, enough to know that sometimes you can break a program by giving it input it doesn't expect. If my program is supposed to take a number between 0 and 100 and convert it into a letter grade, which is an actual simple script they had us write when we were learning, it might not give me an output for a number less than 0, a number greater than 100, or an input that is not a number. It also might, but it wouldn't be especially useful output. (It's not a letter grade for an actual score.) Still, the program just sort of ... stopping ... the first time the input is supposed to get used is a very real possibility if the input is wrong or missing.

Something like that can happen with my change of plans issues, and with my getting things done issues. It's even what goes wrong for me on a lot of surveys and popular online quizzes.


Change of plans
self.goto(class);
self.eat(lunch);
self.goto(meeting);

Error: meeting not found.

And then I am done. I don't really have a script to handle that exception, so I crash.

Tentative plans
self.goto(class);
self.eat(lunch);
try self.goto(meeting);
try self.goto(office);
try self.playgames();
while time>5:30 pm;
     try self.eat(dinner);

This time the plan for the meeting is tentative, so instead of "go" it's "try to go" and the script does not immediately crash if the meeting is not found. This is why "no plan" or "tentative plan only" is better for me than "broken plan." Also, there can be lines after the attempted meeting about what I'll do if the meeting isn't actually a thing that's happening.

Note that self.eat(dinner) can time out or get lost at any point in this listand that any of the items used being missing will throw an exception that I may or may not be able to handle.

Cleaning my room
self.examine(room);
floor.list(objects);
for object on floor;
     try;
          self.pickup(object);
          location = object.properlocation();
          object.place(location);
          energy -=5
          if energy <=0;
               stop;
               return false

     except(properlocationNotFound);
          if energy>=10;
               define object.properlocation();
               energy -= 10;

     except(location is occupied);
          if energy>=15;
               try;
                    object=location.contents();
                    energy -= 15

self.flop();

And to be clear, this is what the script looks like after a lot of optimization. I did not always have the two except bits that could catch. Common places for this program to fail were at location=object.properlocation() because I don't know where something goes, at object.place(location) because there's already something else where the thing goes. These used to lead to a complete crash.

Now I've got some level of exception handling define a new output for object.properlocation() or interrupt and choose a new object to move because location is occupied. That's what the exceptions are meant to handle, but you might notice that they are expensive! (You also might notice that I can get my energy as low as -5 before hitting the stop point if I'm not careful, which is a problem I'm still working on. If I were actually a computer I could just change some numbers around in my if statements, but I am not.)

I can also run through all my RAM trying to list the objects on the floor and never even get started. This is a thing that happens.

Surveys/Quizzes (must complete, no aid available)
crycount=0   % Initialize the cry count.
for question in survey;
     read(question);

     if question.type()==TF or question.type()=multiple choice;
          answers={true, false};
          if question.type()=multiple choice;
               answers=read(question.answers());
          try answers.choose(correct);
               increment question;
          if "other" is in answers;
               answers.choose(other);
               try answers.write();
          try self.cry();
          crycount+=1;
          answers.choose(leastbad);
          increment question;

     if question.type()==open answer;
          try answers.write(response);
               increment questionl
          except(question.brainbreak=yes);
               try self.cry();
                    crycount+=1;
                    try answers.write(nonsense);
                         increment question;
                    try answers.write(nope.explain());
                         crycount+=1;
                         increment question;

     if question.type()==number rating;
          try self.cry();
          crycount+=1;
          random.choosenumber();
          increment question;

self.flop(crycount hours);

So there's two things in there which lead to bad things. It's try self.cry() because I don't always actually cry, but the count definitely still gets incremented and this sort of thing knocks me over  pretty badly. I'm done for the day after even a short inaccessible survey. Multiple choice questions where none of the answers are quite right are bad, especially if they don't have an other option. Certain open response questions also break my brain. I tend to think in patterns rather than examples and my episodic memory is terrible, so if you ask for an example of a thing that happened to me we'll usually get into trouble. Choosing a number to explain how much I agree or disagree with a statement is really bad to start, and it's even worse if the statement is ambiguous or one that I only partially agree with. These kinds of problems, by the way, are why I thought the language utilization reports were the hardest thing they asked me to do while I was in China. They were also the first time I managed to ask for help with one of these, leading to the next bit of psuedocode:

Surveys/Quizzes (not required AND/OR can ask for help)

required=read.survey.required();      % Don't need to check help value because this script is only used 
                                                          % if help is available OR it's not required. If the survey is 
                                                          % required, help MUST be available.

crycount=0   % Initialize the cry count.

for question in survey;
     read(question);

     if question.type()==TF or question.type()==multiple choice;
          answers={true, false};
          if question.type()==multiple choice;
               answers=read(question.answers());
          try answers.choose(correct);
               increment question;
          if "other" is in answers;
               answers.choose(other);
               try answers.write();
          elif required==false;
               return false;
          else:
               help.request();
               pause();
               answers.choose(help);
          increment question

     if question.type()==open answer;
          try answers.write(response);
               increment question;
          except(question.brainbreak=yes);
               if required==false;
                    return false;
               else:
                    try self.cry();
                    crycount+=1;
                    help.request();
                    pause();
                    answers.write(help);
               increment question

     if question.type()==number rating;
          elif required==false;
               return false;
          else:
               crycount+=random(0,1);
               help.request();
               pause();
               answers.choose(help);
          increment question

self.flop(crycount hours)

Progress! Crying and flopping are significantly reduced. (So is the likelihood of my getting the survey done, but I'm OK with that.) For timing reference, my language utilization report from my year in China was the first time I managed help.request()  for this sort of thing. They, uh, weren't quire sure how to handle that, because these reports aren't the hard part for most people. Their first idea was to ask the residence director to help me. This got the report done, which was some sort of progress, but it involved enough crying (by me) and confusion (by both of us) that she decided to have the program just ... give up. No more language utilization reports for me, it's not worth it. (I agreed. It was really, really not worth it.)

Notice that while someone helping me eliminates the exhaustion cost for a multiple choice or true/false question that is ambiguous or has bad answers, it does nothing about the exhaustion cost for a brain-breaking open ended question, and it reduces but does not eliminate the cost for "rate this from 1-n" type questions. That's part of why the language utilization reports got nixed, and why the survey I was supposed to do for my university after the year abroad was done slowly, painfully, and with help.

And as for things that aren't just teachable skills? Yes, teaching me certain skills (or practice with certain skills that I theoretically have) could have the effect of writing in ways to handle specific exceptions. That's not the same thing as making my exception handling work at a "standard" speed or efficiency, and it's definitely not the same thing as reducing the associated costs for those exceptions.



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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Alyssa Reads Odinochka: Armenian Tales from the Gulag

I recently read and reviewed Odinochka: Armenian Tales from the Gulag (and got a free copy from the deal, Simbi thing like yesterday's review.) This is admittedly not my usual fare, since I tend to go for science fiction and fantasy, mostly of the young adult variety. However, the subject matter is important. In the USA, where I am, we've never managed to formally recognize the Armenian genocide, even, and that's one of the tragedies or atrocities covered in the narrative. (Tragedy for those it's happening to and atrocity by those who are doing it, I would say.) The other, of course, is the gulag.

The first word that comes to my head when describing this book is "poignant." The stories are connected to each other, told partially through flashback memories as the narrator dies in solitary confinement in a gulag and partially in real time as he lives (and dies) his last day. The book is not light reading because of the topic it covers, but it is easy reading in the sense that I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next once I started.


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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Alyssa Reads The Myth of Gender: Create Your Own Identity

Full disclosure -- I'm reading this book as part of a Simbi deal, in which I got the book in exchange for reviewing it on a site where it's sold. I'm still going to review honestly, because 1) ethics and 2) I am terrible at claiming to like things I dislike, have you read my reactions to Uniquely Human? I wanted to like that book. I did not like that book. Also this review isn't the required one anyways, and mostly consists of my notes for writing that review.

So, here I go. You can get The Myth of Gender: Create Your Own Identity by S. G. Mune on Amazon, in paperback or for Kindle. They also seem to be providing it through Simbi, and may still be game for reviewers? My copy is a pdf for reviewing. I have mixed feelings about the book, by the way.

The first things I noticed, because I checked the book out on Amazon before agreeing to notice, are the reviews already there (positive except for a therapist who seemed very bothered by how the contents of the book aren't in line with clinical guidelines, which Mune didn't claim to be aiming for, and which actually makes me want to read the book more. After all, evidence based "best practices" and similar are always geared towards giving the most possible people the best outcome, with best defined by the folks in charge. There are always people who don't fit, and there are always people who disagree with the definition of "best" that's being used. Pay attention to their stories.) I also noticed the author bio, which is really interesting but does have one slur I doubt is really theirs to reclaim. Appropriation of things that aren't theirs to claim is a thing -- there's one slur in their bio and another near the end of the book, of which I'm fairly sure neither is actually theirs to reclaim. I'm not sure what culture Agobi is from, but that's likely appropriated too.

I enjoyed the personal stories. They're fun, they're individual, they're funny, and they have meanings behind them. Some of them resonate. (I didn't want to play the "girl" roles at school either, usually. The one time I went for it, it was playing the queen in the kindergarten play, in which I had the queen save the knight too so it wouldn't be one-sided.) I was very amused by the use of giraffes as an example, thanks to the Autistic Party Giraffe.

A good bit of the advice reminds me of things I learned when studying Mandarin, because of course the Tao Te Ching came up, or when we read parts of the Bhagavad Gita in my senior year, or even Siddhartha, though I don't remember which year of high school that was. There are unexpected comparisons, there's the idea that it's OK not to know things, and there's an explicit statement that we only know someone else's identity by what they tell us it is. (Familiarity is not a bad thing. Having seen something before, but in a different form, means that it is easier for me to make connections.)

I have big issues with the idea of language as the catalyst for human identity. As someone who spoke in infancy but doesn't have much in the way of episodic memory from ... ever, really, but I certainly don't remember much of anything from before I was eight even though I'd been speaking for seven years by then, I have to disagree strongly with language as being the catalyst. The ability to describe things more broadly, I might buy (not sure, but maybe), but language is not the only descriptive tool we have available to us. So that's my not buying it. I also have an ethical issue because people who either never use language or for whom language is not natural exist and are humans with identities. Not in the sense that they describe that identity in language, but in the sense that they can know what does and doesn't fit with who they are and what they want.

I loved the statement about children wanting "everyone's dream to come true, not just the normal boring ones" (emphasis in the original.) Kids really do tend to be so much better about accepting people than adults are, until the adults teach them otherwise. And empathy for yourself, asking yourself what you would do if your friend had the problem you're having now, is so important.

I also seriously love the impishness in some of their life and expressions and art. Someone concludes you are everything they fear? Prove them right. [I am your optimal outcome, in every way but one. Thud. I rejected your ideal of indistinguishability from one's peers. Thud. I have thrown myself conspicuously and defiantly into a wall at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Thud.]

Taking issue (and repeated issue) with the idea of being forced into boxes is great. And taking issue with "unity through extinguishing difference" is also great. (Hi, neurodiversity paradigm, I think you fit well here.) Their take on gendered clothing and colors, and how ridiculous these can be, is great. I'm not fully on board with their definition of "orientation" but I definitely like calling out the part where we almost always realize attraction before actually knowing what's in someone's pants, and I definitely like the mention for the idea that you can have a preference re: a partner's gender without it being an all-important trait that must match your preference.

The idea that all our internal pressures and similar are thing we've placed there ourselves runs victim-blaming when abuse enters the picture, when compliance based therapies enter the picture. I don't trust that. And this isn't the only time their statements run victim-blaming, either. Watch out for it, sometimes on a systematic level. Really, really watch for the victim-blaming and not quite -- I don't want to say not getting, because they talk about the transgender day of remembrance and murder and people being killed for who they are -- but sometimes badly overlooking the extent to which we have  to pay attention to the people who hate us and fight back for our lives and freedom, or hide for our lives and the hope of later freedom. Overlooking the extent to which trauma is real, and that yes, we can be hurt without our consent.

The statement that no one has ever died from being fired is similarly ... just not true. People do starve to death because they don't have an income anymore, people do freeze to death because they don't have homes anymore, people do sometimes die as a result of having been fired. Losing things that you could afford to lose and maybe even needed to lose is one thing, but no you should not tell people to be glad for things that could literally kill them. Similarly, appearing mystical or mad to those around us is no concern of ours... until it is. Sometimes those perceptions get people involuntarily, and sometimes they get people killed. Both of those are actual concerns.

On the whole, I enjoyed the collection of stories and essays that is this book, though I cringed at points. Generalizing their experiences to broader theories didn't work out quite so well (though I am approximately 100% sure that the points I think it didn't work are not the same as the ones the therapist thought didn't work.) There are apparent contradictions, but whose life doesn't have those? If I contradict myself, then I contradict myself. I am vast; I contain multitudes. (And language is only ever an approximation, if a useful one.) A big theme I liked was the idea that you can change, and that things that don't work for you can be discarded and replaced. That's not always possible, but knowing when it's possible and taking advantage of the possibility is so useful. There were definitely bits where I'll be applying that theme to the book itself (use the parts I find useful, discard what I don't) but it was worth the read, for me.




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Thursday, October 13, 2016

My fear is not of water.

Written at a poetry workshop at my university's gender and sexuality center. The prompt was a first memory of a swimming pool/body of water. 

My fear is not of water.

I know my mother took me to the JCC when I was a baby,
Held my head above the water and let me bounce and splash.
But that's not what I remember.

You shall teach your child the ten commandments and how to swim
They wrote above the door.
She taught me how to swim, a little.
Watched me in the pool as I bounced and splashed and swam underwater.
But that's not what I remember.

My first distinct memory of water, I am in a lake.
Swimming lessons, I am three,
Too strong a swimmer for the pre-school classes and placed with the kindergartners.
We sit in a circle in the lake.
Suddenly, it matters that I am smaller than my classmates.
I am not tall enough to sit and keep my head above water.
I gasp. I stand. I cry and leave.
My fear is not of water, but of adults telling me it is safe for me to sit,
Then discovering, gasping, that they are wrong.

I don't return to the lesson.
I do drag my mother back to the water with me.
My fear is not of water.

My next distinct memory of water, I am at my grandfather's pool. I think I am eight.
We splash each other, shoot each other with water guns.
I pull myself up on the floating mattress, laughing.
He sits. On my head. He doesn't know I'm there.
I stare up at him, trying not to panic.
I can hold my breath for one minute.
That's one minute to get out.
I can reach the edges of the mattress with my arms.
I pull with my arms and my neck.
My head pops free. I can breathe.
My fear is not of water, but of adults who want only the best for me,
Hurting me because of what they do not know.

I still join swim team, in high school,
Pass out into the pool the first time I swim the 200 medley.
Swim the medley again at league championships, repeating to myself:
Butter, back, breast, free, don't pass out.
My fear is not of water.




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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

It's not just teachable skills

Sometimes (like, oh, yesterday and today) I see people talking about supported housing programs or transition housing programs (I think the difference is that transition ones are supposed to be short-term, though depending on how they decide when to move someone on, that might not work out.) And usually, if it's neurotypical people wanting to create programs to help autistic people, there's a big focus on teaching certain "independent living skills."

That means they want to teach things like:

  • How to safely use a stove (don't burn down the house)
  • How to effectively use a stove (actually make the food)
  • How to use the oven
  • How to use a microwave
  • How to do dishes
  • How to order take-out/delivery (unclear if this is over the phone or online)
  • How to do laundry
  • How to make a bed
  • How to make a phone call
  • How to clean the bathroom (because all the pieces in one go is apparently a single task??)
I know how to do all these things. I really do. A program that's aiming to teach me these skills may or may not reflect that, because no, I am not going to interact with people all day and still make myself dinner or make a phone call to order delivery, and my ordering delivery online is iffy too. With the meal plan I have at university, I can (and often do) go get the food and bring it back to my room where there are not people. However, if you can find a way to test only whether or not I know how to do the thing, not whether or not today is a day when I can actually do it after considering various other factors, you will find (as I already know) that I can do all these things. 

However:
This doesn't mean I can live "independently" (alone, without a meal plan, needing to cook all my own food and do all my own laundry, scheduling my own appointments, calling the people who don't take email and who I can't get to in person to make the appointment, and on and on. 


In fact, the closest to living "alone" I've ever gotten was an academic year abroad where I had a roommate, but there wasn't a meal plan and my friends were on another continent, meaning that they were not able to come help me. This did not go well. (It did not help even a little bit that I was extra stressed out by knowing the administration had tried to keep me from coming at all once they found out I was autistic and that they made a few attempts to have me sent home during the year. Seriously, that sort of "don't let them try because disaster!" is just about a self-fulfilling prophecy, because everything is harder when stressed.) The mess was made vaguely manageable because:
  • When the roommate was making or getting food, she would usually ask if I wanted any/to come with. This meant that I would get at least that meal.
  • My mother actually shipped me snacks that did not involve any kind of preparation. She also shipped me menstrual products after I discovered that none of the stores near me sold tampons. Only pads. 
  • The program's academic advisor helped me put my half of the room into some semblance of order during our "academic" meetings more than once.
  • The program's residence advisor would actually *bring me meals* when I hit the "can keep up with my academic work or keep myself fed but not both" times. 
  • This was the *international* "dorms," which doubled as a hotel, and therefore someone else was cleaning the bathroom and changing the sheets when that needed to happen. (When I am dealing with my own linens, the wash point tends to be "I have bled on these in two different periods.")
Keep in mind that even with all of this, it was, in fact, still a mess. 

At college, I have a single room, a meal plan, and help keeping the room in some semblance of order+making clean clothing happen. This seems to be the bare minimum of support for "manageable."

And yes, learning how to handle the fact that I can't consistently make these things happen for myself is a thing. It's even a thing where a person who understands the actual problem might be able to help me with. (If you've suggested a life skills class, or if you've suggested anything involving a planner, I have already concluded that you do not understand the actual problem and have discarded your advice as so much noise.)  However, some skill that you can teach me so that I can then proceed to consistently make these things happen for myself is not a thing. 

There are skills I consistently retain, pretty much regardless of my physical or emotional condition. I can (and have) participated in mathematics competitions and done well while sleep deprived from a night in the ER and nursing a focally fractured shin, as well as while coughing my lungs out between rounds. I probably shouldn't have been in school either of those days, if I'm honest. I knew full well I wasn't safe to ride my bike to school (and therefore walked... on said fractured shin) in the first case. But I did, and I was still fine with the mathematics. 

There are other skills that can give out on me for many reasons, not all of which I even know. Speech is one of them. I lose speech pretty regularly, and I still go to class (and do math) while speech isn't working because math is sturdier than speech. All of the skills they talk about teaching as "independent living skills" are of this type. I know how to talk. Sometimes I can't. I know how to cook. Sometimes I can't. Heck, there are times when making use of my meal plan pushes my limits. I remember one day where lunch was Thai chicken wraps. I wasn't that hungry, so I only wanted half a wrap. I stood in front of the table with the wraps on it for a good two minutes trying to figure out how to make this happen before "there are knives" occurred to me. If it takes me two minutes to think of getting a knife which is in my line of sight, I probably shouldn't be using that knife. Thankfully, I was having lunch with a professor that day (no, really, his stopping by my office is probably also why I made it to the dining room at all that day.) He cut a wrap in two pieces. I took a piece. From there I was able to get a cup of liquid and a napkin, and make it to the table. Acquiring and consuming food is not easier for me than graduate math classes. 

If I need to make my own food, it's even harder. Here's an approximate list of the steps involved if I want to make ramen in the microwave at university.
  • Notice that I am hungry.
  • Stop doing whatever I was doing before.
  • Stand up.
  • Do I want tea too? Where is my tea jar? Where is a chopstick to stir the tea with? Is there still tea in the tea jar?
    • Pick up the tea jar.
    • Take the tea jar to the bathroom.
    • Dump the remaining cold tea into the sink.
    • Turn the sink on.
    • Put the jar under the sink.
    • Turn the sink off.
    • Empty the jar into the sink again.
    • Go back to my room.
  • Remember that I want ramen.
  • Grab a thing of ramen. (Do I still have the tea jar and the chopstick?)
  • Go down the stairs.
  • Do I want chicken in my ramen?
    • Take chicken out of the fridge. (actually several steps)
    • Dump chicken from bag to bowl.
    • Put chicken in microwave. (again several steps)
    • Set microwave for one minute.
  • Grab two tea bags.
  • Unwrap the tea bags.
  • Put the tea bags in the jar.
  • Fill the jar with boiling water. (Thank blob we have a machine that dispenses boiling water.)
  • Open the ramen package.
  • Remove the two small bags from the ramen package.
  • Empty the vegetable bag into the ramen container. (Do... something with the spices bag.)
  • Fill the ramen container with boiling water.
  • Carry the container full of boiling water to the microwave (don't spill!)
  • Put the ramen in the microwave.
    • Take the chicken out of the microwave if applicable.
  • Set the microwave for four minutes.
    • Add sugar to tea. 
    • Stir tea with chopstick.
    • Add whole milk to tea.
    • Do something for the remainder of the four minutes. Could be fall over on the couch in the room that has the microwave and fridge. Let's go with that because it means I'm still in the room when the timer goes off and this is long already.
  • Pull the ramen out of the microwave. Hot hot hot!
  • Carry ramen, tea, bag of spices, and possibly chicken upstairs.
  • Add spices+additional cayenne to ramen.
  • Mix ramen (more chopsticks.)
    • Add chicken to ramen, if applicable.
    • Mix ramen again.
And now, finally, I have ramen and tea. Realize that some of these steps could be broken down further. None of these steps are automatic for me. I can (and have) forgotten what I was doing and wandered off between any two of these. When I need to boil the water myself, I forget that I have boiled water for long enough that I need to boil it again an average of three times before I actually manage to make myself tea or ramen. 

So the thing I actually need, often, is someone who can remind me (but only at the actual time I need to do the thing, ahead of time is worse than useless) about a thing I need to do, possibly walk me through steps (and not in a "this is how you do the thing" way, because I actually do know how to do the thing and being condescended to will only make me mad), and in some cases, just make the thing happen for me because seriously this is not happening right now. Are any of those the skills they're going to teach me? No, because they aren't actually skills. 


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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

National Coming Out Day

I live in the USA, so it's national coming out day for me, today.

The short version: I'm queer.

Slightly longer version: I'm nonbinary, genderfluid, gendervague, bi/panromantic, and repulsed asexual.

Longest version (thus far): If you ask me whether I'm a man or a woman, my answer is "no."  The genders I vary around  are agender, androgyne, and "no, really, autism is my gender." That means that my neurodivergence is pretty thoroughly intertwined with how I (often don't) do gender. Since I am not a man or a woman and clothing tends to be marketed to one of those two genders, either everything is drag for me or nothing is. I go with everything. There are a few different pronoun sets I'm good with. Describing myself, I'll use they/them/theirs or sie/sier/siers. In text I go either way, in speech it's they because sie sounds too much like she for my taste. Xe, ze, and other sets created to be gender-neutral are all fine with me too. I will be amused by he/him/his because that's not the assumption people usually make. I tolerate she/her/hers from people I'm not out to. I do not tolerate "it."

When I do crushes or romantic attraction, the gender of the person is something I am aware of, but it's not particularly relevant. I have liked nonbinary people. There are too many different ways of defining biromantic and panromantic, and too many often conflicting explanations of the difference, for me to tell you with any certainty that I am one and not the other. I'm fine being described by either. I don't do sexual attraction, at all. Or libido, for that matter. Disabled people as a whole cover the full range of human sexuality, and I sit at the "no thanks" part of that range.

You can trace my journey, or pieces of it, along with more academic musings that relate to queerness, on my Queer Stuff tag, generally from less firm on my queerness (mostly I don't want to have sex) to stronger blatant statements (I'm repulsed asexual.)

Now, I'm fairly safe being out. (And there's not much in this post that you couldn't pick up on from having read other stuff on my blog anyways.) And I have a policy of being pretty out when it's safe for me to do so, to hopefully make it safer for others to be out in the future. Which wouldn't be necessary if I thought it was currently safe for everyone. It's not. I know it's not. Shout out to everyone who can't be out, who weighs the costs and benefits of being out and decides the closet is safer. You matter. Protecting yourself matters.




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Monday, October 10, 2016

The absent minded professor

It wasn't exactly a secret to me that some professors are autistic. First off ... professors are a subset of humans, and therefore I would expect to meet some autistic professors. Then there's the bit where a really focused interest (in an area you can get a doctorate in) might come in handy for getting a PhD. Plus I'm pretty good at recognizing other autistic adults when I meet them, though they don't always know themselves.

It's even less of a secret (by which I mean it'd be pretty easy to deduce if you think about it, plus you could find out by listening to us) that academia is frequently inaccessible for autistic people. Department politics? UH-OH. Bureaucracy? UH-OH. Networking, and getting jobs in ways that may or may not have much to do with the "official" channels? UH-OH.



And yet.
Hans Asperger described some of us as "little professors." Why did he think we were like professors? Or, perhaps more to my point, why did he think professors were like us?

Neurodiversity in the academy.
We've been there all along. Or, some of us have.

Can you speak, at length, on your topic of interest?
Can you speak at all?
We might have use for you.

Do you look like the person we expect at university?
Enough that we'll deal with the bureaucracy for you?
We might have use for you.

Can you maintain the schedule we expect?
Even the graduate school version? And the adjunct version?
We might have use for you.

But that's not really neurodiversity, is it?
It's just moving the line.

The absent-minded professor may well be autistic. I've met a few who are.
But without solidarity from the ones who were always given a space, this supposed representation is nothing but Aspie elitism.
(I don't pretend that Aspie is a useful category, but elitism based around the idea that it is? For people presumed to fit there? Now, that is very real.)

Remember that the absent-minded professor we are shown is always a man, always white, usually at least middle aged.
The only allusion we get to autism as disability, and not purely (or even primarily) social, is that his wife might take care of him when he forgets to eat. Or he just doesn't take good care of himself.
Sensory processing issues? Who knows.
Executive functioning? I think that's why his wife is feeding him. Or maybe it explains the Rube Goldberg machine that makes a mess of the food but does provide something vaguely edible. Usually.
But it's always a him, and it's always his wife.

What about the autistic people who aren't a "him?"
Women. Nonbinary people.
What about the autistic people who don't have wives?
Who takes care of us, if it turns out that our living alone wasn't such a great idea after all?
Or do we just not get to be academics?

So here's to the ones who were never supposed to make it through.
Here's to the ones who didn't, because they weren't mean to.
The university might be a haven for some of us,
But without solidarity from those who were permitted
For those who never passed for consistently verbal white men who live on their own or found a woman to pick up the slack
Or even for the "close enough" of one difference away,
It's only ever another aspie elitist wrong planet to build a home on.





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Saturday, October 8, 2016

"Locker room talk", "vulgarity", and sexual assault.

Heads up that I'll be talking about sexual assault. Most of the thoughts I'm expressing are things I've heard elsewhere, but not necessarily combined in the way I'm doing and I unfortunately don't remember my sources. Also note that my position on the Trumpster fire, though not stated on this blog before now as far as I know, has been "As a queer disabled Jew descended from Holocaust survivors, I am concerned by these patterns" for some time. Also part of my position is: "Knocking down one figurehead of these patterns doesn't undo them, but letting one such figurehead become the most visible figure of a country makes the patterns get much worse, very quickly."


I've seen quite a few articles floating around that talk about the Trumpster fire's latest comments as "vulgar," rather than as "bragging about sexual assault." Let's start off with thing the first: he's bragging about sexual assault. I've also heard about it getting defended as locker room talk, and typical of men. (Also something men will sometimes try to include queer women in, because apparently the fact that someone likes women means that they would go in for their objectification and the glorification of their assault?)

And I am, in fact, well aware that not all men would commit any sort of sexual assault. (I'm also aware that quite a few will admit to having done so as long as you only describe the act and don't call it what it is.) Want to know who doesn't realize that? The men who assault think that all men actually do so, and just avoid getting caught/in trouble for it. So when someone tells me that these sorts of statements are normal locker room talk, I have to come to one of two conclusions:

  1. They're one of the ones who would (or has) assaulted.
  2. They can't tell the difference between speaking about consensual acts in a vulgar way and speaking about assault in a vulgar way.
    1. Or they don't care about that difference? That's not better though.
Similarly, when someone tells me that all men are like this in private, that all men will "take advantage" if they get you alone, or anything similar ... if it's not about the vulgarity, option 2 (or 2.1) isn't really there. I have to conclude that they have, or would, assault. They're telling me something about themselves -- if you claim every member of a group does X, and you're a member of that group, you claim to do X. That logic doesn't depend on what X is.

And if someone tells me this is normal, that all men speak like this in private, they don't get to turn around and claim that not all men are like this should I take precautions. They also get to cope if I take those precautions specifically about and around them -- see the logic in the last paragraph.

On another note, I've heard the idea that groping is "less serious," "not really assault," or "not a big deal." I can't speak personally to less vs. more serious, because groping is the only kind of assault I've experienced, and only once. ("Lucky" me. And the fact that this really is lucky is seriously messed up.) From a more general perspective, though, I'm fairly sure it's a bad idea to compare which kinds of assault are more or less traumatizing. It definitely is really assault. Our judicial system is similarly terrible about caring, and similarly tends to blame the victim if a report even happens, and it's really assault. It's a person touching or grabbing you in a sexual way, without consent. (I never reported mine. The study abroad program I was on at the time had been attempting to have me sent home related to my disability, and I sure as heck wasn't about to give them a safety issue as ammunition.) 

And then there's "not a big deal." It is, or it should be, but sometimes it doesn't get to be. People who've been through a lot of trauma sometimes ... adjust ... their ideas of what counts, or of how bad the things they've been through really are. It's not usually conscious, or intentional, but it's a thing that happens. I think it's part of our tendency to "norm" on our own experiences. (Another example of this sort of norming would be my reaction to being unable to speak. I pretty much don't care, it's just another day ending in -y. This is apparently unusual.) Growing accustomed to something in this way doesn't make it OK, if it's something that wasn't OK before. But it definitely means that things which are, in fact, a big deal don't always get to register as such. 





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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Just Another Day at the Office

(a snarky guest post by Autistic Academic, whose work involves generating clickbait content for recruiters)

For Job-Seekers


23 WAYS TO MURDER THE INTERVIEW, THEN RUN SCREAMING FROM THE BUILDING AS IT ALL BURSTS INTO FLAMES BEHIND YOU

USING NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION DURING THE INTERVIEW TO SUMMON THE DARK LORD FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE INFERNO

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

#AAC and the day taught lab without speech

After just over two years teaching, it finally happened. I had to teach, and speech wasn't working. This is for a lab class, introduction to digital circuits, and for the sections I work, there's three of us in the room. There's the professor who is generally in charge of lab for the class, and there are two teaching assistants. I'm one of the assistants. So I'm not alone in charge of the room anymore, though I am still one of the people in charge. People tend to assume that the folks in charge can communicate via mouth sounds, and I usually can ... but not always. I've usually been able to plan so that speech is working when I teach, tutor, or present ... but not always. This was the first time it happened as a face to face teacher.

Now, I'd thought of quite a few ways to handle this ahead of time. For me, competence at anything has to include competence at doing the thing while speech isn't working, and this is now my third year teaching face to face. It's a lab now, and it was a lecture before, but the general idea is similar. I need to be prepared for speech to give out while I'm teaching, because if I keep teaching long enough, eventually I will need to teach while speech isn't working.

I thought I could write on a white board. In some classrooms, I probably could. It didn't work out in the lab. There's one white board, and it's not near the lab counters that people are working at. Helping a student with their set-up while running back and forth to the white board every time I need to say something isn't practical. Since I'd been in the classroom before and noted where the white board was, I wasn't completely shocked when this didn't work and did have more back-ups, but the white board marker has been my go-to for a while. The white board, after all, is my most used communication board. 

I thought I could carry my iPad and use one of my communication apps on it. In some classrooms, I probably could. I think this would work fine in a lecture style class, since lots of teachers use iPads and projectors nowadays. It wasn't practical in my lab class, because the iPad is frankly ... too big. Space is at a premium at the lab benches, and my iPad doesn't fit in my pockets.

I had no illusion that my laptop would be the answer in the lab. Typing into a word document and projecting my screen to the front of the room is something I've done before -- it's what I did when I presented at Autcom without speech, and it works fine when there's a projector I can hook my laptop to and I can be at my laptop. That doesn't work when I need to move around a lab where even the iPad is a bit big for my purposes.

Which brings me to pen and paper. It's a writing solution, just like the white board marker is, but it's a bit more portable because paper is smaller than a white board. I use blank 4"x6" index cards to print my reading notes, because a note card system similar to the one I was taught in high school works well for me, except for the part where my handwriting is terrible and will eventually make my hand hurt. Still, if I slow down enough it can be read, and that makes it a viable communication option when typing might not be.

So I put a pack of index cards in one pocket along with a pen, and that was my communication solution. If a student had a question that required a linguistic answer, I pulled out an index card and wrote on it. I then left the index card with the student when I went on to help the next person, which meant they didn't need to remember my answer. They could go back and read it again if they needed to. This seemed to work quite well, overall. There were a couple students who thought they could skim my answers instead of reading every word of them (seriously, these answers were 1-2 sentences, read the whole thing) and then got told by one of the other instructors to fix the problem that I'd just told them about, which was a bit awkward. (I underlined the relevant words from my original answer and waved the card at them at the same time that the other teacher started telling them about the problem with mouth-sounds.)

Other moments from the class:

  • One student asked if I'd lost my voice. I wrote, "Approximately." She said that sucked. "Not really." But ... "It's my normal. I'm not concerned." That's so sad! [I point back to "Not really."]
    *Sigh* She was definitely following my lead on the assumption that I could teach while not speaking, but seemed to have some trouble with the idea that my being disabled and prepared to teach while disabled was not sad or needing pity.
  • The teacher who runs all the lab sections for the whole course asked me if I was OK. "Yeah, I'm fine. I'm autistic and sometimes speech doesn't work." She circles "autistic" and says she'll need to look that word up. I turn the card over and start writing 自闭症 on the other side. She goes "Oh!" Sometimes the fact that I read, write, understand, and sometimes speak Mandarin Chinese comes in handy. She doesn't seem particularly concerned by the fact that I just disclosed a developmental disability that has lots of bewareness campaigns around it, and she does realize that I'm working with students and successfully helping them while speech isn't working. 

So that was that. For something I spent two years being worried about (and being prepared for) this was rather ... anticlimactic. I'm not surprised, really, but it is a relief that it finally happened and now I know from experience that losing speech in the classroom as a teacher is not a big deal. Students were fine, fellow teacher type people were fine, nothing is exploding, metaphorically. Literally... a few LED bulbs blew, but not based on my advice!






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