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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Teaching us to be Silent.

Trigger Warning: Abuse

They teach us how to ask nicely, but not when it's time to demand.
They teach us how to engage, but not how, when, or why to disengage.
They teach us how they wished social interaction worked, but not how it really does.
They teach us how to accept, but not to decline.
They teach us how not to offend, but not when we need to offend.
They teach us how to act the same, but not that we shouldn't need to.
They teach us how to fit in, but not how to stand apart.
They teach us to be kind, but not how to respond when others aren't.
They teach us to accept, but not when to reject.
They teach us the rules, but not when to break them.

That's how they teach us to be silent. That's how they teach us to accept whatever abuse they may give. That's how we learn we are broken and wrong, because we are expected to engage all the time, more than even they are, and we simply can not do it.
That's what's wrong with our therapy; that's what's wrong with social skills training.
They are not teaching us the way people really act, but how to be invisible. 

That's not to say that all social skills classes have to be bad. It's a great idea when done right. It's just that almost no one does it right. Teach us when to swear. Teach us what white lies are for and when to use them. Teach us about euphemisms. Teach us how to politely decline invitations. Teach us how to say no. Teach us when to demand, and how to ask questions that aren't really questions. If you're going to do it to us, teach us how to do it back, and teach us to know when you are doing it. 

But they don't really want to do that. They want us to be easy to handle, easy to manage. If we can not be normal, they want us to be invisible. They teach us to be silent, turning a wonderful idea for helping us navigate the world into a tool to help them manage us.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Who was that for?

Yesterday I made a lot of retorts for person-first crusaders. Today I want to talk about who that's really directed at.
If you are a person with autism and prefer to be called at, it's not directed at you.
If you are talking about someone else who prefers that, it's not directed at you.
If you are an autistic person and you use them interchangeably, either because you don't care or because you have trouble with being consistent, it's not directed at you.
If you have any sort of impairment that makes it hard or impossible to remember who wants autistic person and who wants person with autism and to use the right one with the right person, it's not directed at you.
If you just didn't know my preference, it's not directed at you. I'll probably let you know what my preference is, but you're not on the receiving end of these sarcastic replies.
If you are new to all things autism and just don't know what people prefer to be called, but are aware that you don't know and aren't correcting people on what they call themselves, this isn't directed at you.
That said:
If you are writing an article about me ever, you are expected to do basic research. If you're quoting my blog, you've seen it, which means you know my preference. As such, if you are quoting my blog in an article and call me a person with autsm, this is at least semi-directed at you.
And if you actually are a person-first crusader, this is very much directed at you.
If you have ever said, "You mean you are a person with autism; your disability does not define you," to an Autistic person, that is the exact phrase I am making retorts to. This is directed at you.
If you have ever said anything like that, this is directed at you.
If you think that we call ourselves Autistic because we don't know better, this is directed at you.
We know why person with autism is used, and we reject it anyways.
If you can't accept that we really do know what we are doing when we call ourselves Autistic, then this is directed at you. Go read the retorts, then sit down and think.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Responding to Person-First Crusaders

I have no issue with person-first language for people who want to be described using it. I have lots of issues, however, with anyone who thinks that it's acceptable to tell me what to call myself or to presume to know what someone else really wants to be called after they have stated otherwise.
That's what a person-first crusader is. A person-first crusader tells me that I am a person with autism after I call myself an Autistic person, or possibly simply an Autistic. I do use Autistic as a noun, sometimes.
And so I, like many other people who prefer to be called Autistic, have a few comebacks up our sleeves for when we run into a person-first crusader. Before I gave my presentation and paper on Autism in China, I prepared a few, just in case. Here they are, meant to be served with a healthy heaping of sarcasm.

  • "If y'all devoted half the energy to helping me that you do to telling me what to call myself, we'd not be in anywhere near the dire straits we're in as a community."- Neurodivergent K
  • "You seem like a person with rudeness when you tell me what to call myself."-Landon Bryce in I Love Being My Own Autistic Self
  • Basically the entirety of "A Person With."
  • Especially "You are a person with neurotypicality."
  • "I am an Autistic who happens to be experiencing life with personhood!" (Laughing)
  • Can I cure your neurotypical?
  • Why do you care what I call me?
  • Just like I'm a person with femaleness, right?
  • What else could I be if I'm Autistic? Are there Autistic cats now?
  • No, I think I'm an Autistic Martian. Nice try, though.
  • You mean we can detach my brain and I'm still me? I didn't know that!
  • Yes, and tomorrow I think I'll be a person without autism. No, wait, it doesn't work that way, does it?
  • Only sometimes. Sometimes my autism goes and shaves the dog while I'm still sitting here, and I don't have autism when that happens. It keeps coming back, though.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Tychonoff's Theorem

I was told to write something brief about Tychonoff's Theorem for topology, and here it is. I like math.

Tychonoff’s Theorem was named after Andrey Nikolayevich Tychonoff, first proved this theorem. It states that the product of compact spaces is again compact under the product topology, and it is one of the most important theorems in topology.  The original proof was for products of the unit interval in 1930, with the general result stated five years later along with the statement that the proof was the same as for the special case. Since 1930, there have been several proofs for this theorem depending on several different concepts, though all require the Axiom of Choice, which Tychonoff’s Theorem has been shown equivalent to. The theorem has been used to show that invariant means (of bounded doubly infinite sequences) exist, even though we have no way to construct such a mean. This is the sort of odd result that is not unexpected from theorems that are based on or equivalent to the Axiom of Choice, which is well known for leading to strange-seeming results.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Not Children

Trigger Warning: Infantilization of people with disabilities

If we recognized that children are people, that children have thoughts and feelings and needs, that in any conversation about what should be done about a child (a sign that we're already looking at this wrong when we're doing something about a person...) the goals the child has actually matter, that there is such a thing as child abuse, that there are limits on what is and is not acceptable to do to a child all need to be thought about before the convenience of the adults, the whole mental age thing wouldn't get one whit more accurate. It would probably get less creepy, since being seen like a child is seen wouldn't imply the same loss of control over one's own life that it does now, but it would be just as inaccurate as it ever was.
A developmentally disabled twenty-year old might not be able to communicate her emotions in speech any better than the kindergardener next door, but that doesn't make her somehow equivalent to a kindergardener. There's still fourteen or fifteen years of life experience, fourteen or fifteen years of maturity, between the two. Even if there are problems communicating these differences, they are still there. We didn't somehow stop developing emotionally when we were five or six and just get stuck there.
We don't somehow have only the intelligence of a toddler, and a toddler is not somehow unable to comprehend what happens around them either!
We're not somehow children trapped in adult bodies, not any more than you are. (Yeah, I know- sometimes you might feel like you didn't really mature and that what on earth are you doing in the adult world you're not ready! We might have that experience too, but it's not evidence that we actually are still kids any more than it is evidence that you really are still a kid. Be consistent, here.)
When I can't speak, I don't suddenly become five months old again. (Yes, I was talking at six months. It happens.) When you get laryngitis and can't talk for a few days, even, no one thinks that you are whatever age you learned to talk again inside. No one considers you an infant for it. When I lose speech, it's not based on a sore throat, but the effect on parts of my thinking other than "make the words I am thinking actually come out using my vocal cords and mouth" are unaffected. (They might have been affected by whatever caused me to lose speech... but generally, once my brain gives up on that I've got enough energy to keep everything else running normally. As far as my other mental processes go, I'm probably better off losing speech than not, since the energy has to come from somewhere and if I'm at risk of losing speech, I'm already pretty overloaded and something has got to go.) The point is, the rest of my mind is working fine. The reasons may be very different, but the effects aren't as different from laryngitis as you might expect. Consistency says that the reactions to each shouldn't be so different, then. Niether somehow reflects on the "mental age" of the person it happens to. It doesn't work that way when the reason for the inability to speak is a motor control issue, either. It's still not a reflection of mental age. It never was, and it never will be. People just sometimes act like it is, and that's wrong, both factually and morally.
If we treated children like autonomous beings who just needed a little more help, it might not be as creepy to make this sort of argument, and there might not be as much of a moral issue with the whole concept, but it would still be factually inaccurate, and I'm pretty sure it would still need to go. Those added factors just make it worse.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Autonomous beings

Not sure why, but I feel like this could be triggering. Read with caution?

Did you know that I am an autonomous being, with my own thoughts, my own feelings, my own wants, my own needs? I have my own goals, too, and they might not be what you expect them to be.
I know, I know. You think that being able to go to a crowded party and socialize with everyone is important. You MUST think so, or else you would not be so bothered by the fact that I seem to be unable to do this. Even this inability, however, is not necessarily what you think it is. Sometimes it really is that I CAN'T do it, no matter what else I may sacrifice from my day to manage. Sometimes, I have too many other things I need my energy for, and this goal is the one that I sacrifice. Other times, it might not have even been one of my goals, but one that you (wrongly) expected I would have. Whatever the case, it doesn't happen.
I know, I know. You think that being able to sit still without flapping all the time is important. You MUST think this whole "Quiet Hands!" business is important, or else you wouldn't be so bothered by my consistent failure to have quiet hands. But... this failure isn't because I can't do it. It's because I simply do not care about having quiet hands... at all. I have other things I would rather spend my time and energy on. You can disagree on the value of my other things, but I am an autonomous being, and what I think is important for my own life is what matters. What you think my goals should be... not so much.
Did you know that ALL Autistic people are autonomous beings? Some of us are children, in which case our parents get a bit more say, but if they are good parents, they do take their kids goals into account. (That's true of good parents regardless of the kids neurology, just in case you were wondering.) Good parents take into account the fact that their kids have wants, have needs, have goals, and that what the kid wants to do with their life might not have the same prerequisite skills as what the parent may have expected their kid would want. (Did you know that a freelance writer doesn't need quiet hands? Did you know that a teacher doesn't actually need quiet hands either? Did you know that most professions don't actually need quiet hands in order to get the job done? The only ones I can think of that even might are soldiers in combat and surgeons in the operating room.)
And some of us are not children. We might need some extra help in day-to-day living, but the fact remains that we are autonomous beings. We still have our own wants, our own needs. Making the job of helping us as easy as possible is fine, as long as the definition of "possible" states that interfering with what we want to do with our own lives is impossible. The problem comes when people forget that part of the definition. We're not dolls to be dressed up and trotted out, any more than children are. We're people. Not wanting to do what you wanted us to do isn't a sign of rebellion (seriously- when you're helping a person and there is the idea that they might somehow be rebelling, this is a sign that you are doing it WRONG. You should be helping them do what THEY want to do, at which point they are the ones in charge anyways, like they should be.) It's a sign that either you are pushing towards the wrong goal, the person is tired, or the person disagrees with you on how best to reach the goal. Pushing harder for compliance isn't the answer. Figuring out which of these possibilities it is (not assuming it's the second!) is the answer. We're autonomous beings, remember?
Yes, so is your Autistic kid. And yes, "I'm in sensory overload in this location" is a reason that demanding to leave is appropriate. Yes, I meant demanding, not asking. Autonomous beings, own needs, remember?
And they say WE are the ones lacking in Theory of Mind.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Yeah, I know. I'm not Christian. I'm more Jewish than anything else, and even that is only culturally so. Religiously, I'm pretty indifferent. I'm never going to get proof of any one philosophy, most of them have pretty similar basic requirements for human behavior, and I have better things to do with my life than philosophise about questions that I will never be able to answer, no matter how hard I try.
I can still wish you all a Merry Christmas, though, right?
I think so.
I'll even be participating in some Christmas stuff.
In my family, there are a couple branches that are Christian, like my stepmother's whole family. So on Christmas, we go to see them. It works really well, actually. There are enough days of Hanuka that it can always be worked out, and only one group wants Christmas, which means that it's a holiday season with very little compromise or complication to it. We go to that set of grandparents and have a bit of a get together. It's small, and it's not hard to find a quiet place for a bit, plus it wasn't that loud to begin with. I don't get overloaded, generally. It's about family, and I am lucky enough to have a good family that I am happy to see on the holidays. (No, seriously. That's good luck, right there. A lot of people can't or shouldn't go home for the holidays. Next year I won't be able to because I'll be in another country, and shouldn't is a more common issue than most people like to admit.) There is some gift-giving, especially for the younger kids. I generally get something, and it's something pretty cool, too. At Hanuka I got a copy of the complete original Sherlock Holmes, and I got the complete works of Shakespheare once. A History of Mathematics and some science books have been former presents too. I don't know what today brings since I've not got it yet, but my family gets me good things related to my actual interests, not what they wish my interests were. Depending on the weather, we might attempt football. We will see.
My Christmas will be good, and I wish the same for yours. :)

Monday, December 24, 2012


The ignorance is rampant. The ignorance has been rampant. 
We have been responding. We will continue responding.
And we are becoming more proactive.
Rather than simply trying to refute, we are putting our own statements out.
Correcting misconceptions only sometimes works, but stating something new makes a new association.
That's what we're doing.
Autism Shines does this.
The Autistic Adults Picture Project has been doing this for years.
People are sharing responses at thAutcast.
Lydia of Autistic Hoya is making a video using pictures along these same lines.
I made one, using an old picture of mine.
Image description:
At the left side, there is a young girl sitting for a picture. She has long brown hair, is wearing a purple turtleneck, and is smiling with her teeth not quite together. At the right is the following text, blue on a purple background:
This is Alyssa.
She's probably five in this picture.
She will grow up to be called horrible things by people who have never met her, simply because of her neurology. None of these things are true.
She will be afraid to put up a recent picture in which she claims her own neurology. She knows Google exists, and she knows Google Images exists too.
But most of all, she knows what so many still think of people like her, and she is afraid.
You see, she is Autistic.
She doesn't like loud noises.
Sometimes she doesn't understand why people act the way they do.
She has trouble putting things into words, sometimes, though it's easier when she types. Handwriting would work... if she could read her own writing. She mostly can't, though.
She might not look you in the eye. She might take you very literally. She is Autistic.
She isn't scary. She is Autistic.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Why do you want the one thing I can't be?
Always just out of my grasp.
Never be normal, the one "never" that's true,
But normal is all you demand.

Not from anyone else, just from me
No one else must be always the same
"Indistinguishable from their peers,"
My highest goal? To be one and the same.

Individuality? Diversity?
Not when it is mine.
Just a "behavior,"
Your name for what needs to be fixed.

All I want, all I need,
Is the right to be me.
Seen as normal enough to be free.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Follow-Up on the House Committee Hearing on Autism

Content Warning: Discussions of vaccine-causation, presumptions of incompetence, silencing of Autistic people
I wrote this for the ASAN December Newsletter, which can be found here.
On November 29, 2012, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the federal response to issues related to autism. Initially, there had been no Autistic witnesses invited to testify on this, nor had there been any representatives of organizations founded and run by Autistic people. This initial lack of input from Autistic people was concerning and generated considerable response. Following this response from the community, two Autistic witnesses were invited: Ari Ne’eman of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, and Michael John Carley of the Global & Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership.
The stated purpose of the hearing was to get a clearer picture of what is being done for Autistic people, what has yet to be figured out, and what needs Autistic people and their families have. Ari Ne’eman noted that despite the large budget for autism research, very little research is done into improving services for Autistic people and their families, with only 1.5% of the National Institutes of Health funding for autism research dedicated to assessing or meeting the needs of Autistic adults. He called for an increase in funding for research that will actually improve the quality of life and the ability to communicate for Autistic people. In fact, both Autistic witnesses noted the current imbalance in research and the need to use research money on projects that can improve support for Autistic people, rather than exploring issues related to causation. Mr. Ne’eman noted that if even a tenth of the budget currently allotted to researching causation were available for communication needs, non-speaking Autistic people would have greater access to Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC), allowing them to communicate their own wants and needs, both to Congress on their own behalf and to their family and service providers on a daily basis.
Also discussed were issues that can interfere with diagnosis, such as the possibility that the gender imbalance in diagnoses may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, wherein girls do not fit the stereotypical idea of autism and therefore go undiagnosed. Additionally, Autistic people of color are generally diagnosed later in life than Autistic Caucasians, and middle to upper class Autistic people are diagnosed earlier than Autistic people from low-income families. As a diagnosis is required for most relevant services, the disparity in diagnosis is a significant difficulty in making sure that Autistic people and their families get the supports they need.
In response to talk of autism as an “epidemic” and a “tragedy,” both Autistic witnesses had responses. Mr. Ne’eman noted that it is more than possible to determine if the rate of autism is even actually rising, questioning the factual accuracy of the “epidemic” language. Research into determining the rate of autistic spectrum disorders in adults as the criteria are currently interpreted can be done and, if the rates are similar to the rates among children, then the term “epidemic” is inaccurate as well as disheartening. He noted that a recent study in Britain suggests that the rates may, in fact, be similar, with findings that approximately 1% of British adults are Autistic. Mr. Carley of GRASP chose to mention that Autistic people generally can understand what is said in front of them and read what is written about them, noting that hearing such terrible things about yourself as being called a burden, a tragedy, or an epidemic can contribute further to our often too-low self-esteem, and that everyone needs to hear about what they cando as they grow, not just about what they can’t do. The hearing demonstrated that while there is much funding for research, the funding for services, for improving services, and for helping Autistic people communicate are all insufficient, and that the voices of Autistic people are urgently needed in the discussions of how to fix these insufficiencies.

Friday, December 21, 2012

I Hear You!

I hear you! I hear you!
I know what you say.
You say I am useless,
That I can not belong.
I'm not like the "real people."
I don't speak. I have nothing to say.
Not that you'd hear if I did.

I hear you! I hear you!
Though I wish I could not.
Each word is a knife through my heart.
I'm broken, I'm tragic.
A car accident.
In hushed tones you whisper,
You assume I don't know.

But I listen! I listen!
I listen all day.
It's all that I have, me with nothing to say.
Not sure how to tell you
Yes, yes, I am here.
But I am, I can hear you,
And I know what you say.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Welcome Back

"Welcome back," he said. It bothered me, and I wasn't entirety sure why. I did know why it confused me. 
"But ... I didn't go anywhere."
"Part of you was very far away, and it took speech with it."
No. There was no part of me that was far away to bring speech with it. No part of me had went anywhere. Part of my brain had gone on strike, sure, but nothing had left. It's a part that is very useful for communicating with other people, mostly people I am in the same place as since I don't like phones. I prefer email or instant messaging when I can't speak with someone in person, and sometimes even when I can.  Speech is a utilitarian skill more than an inherent part of me, and it not working does not imply that part of me is elsewhere or somehow missing.
That's why it confused me, I think. It was simply inaccurate to tell me, "Welcome back." But I was bothered in addition to confused, and my dislike of inaccuracy was not enough to explain how bothered I was. 
I'm still working on exactly what bothered me, but I think it was the similarity between the presumption that some part of me had been gone that I read from the welcoming back and the assumption that Autistic people who do not speak are somehow not fully there, that they do not understand. When I was unable to speak, I still understood what was going on around me as well as I ever did. I was just as there as ever- there was just a disconnect between my bran and my mouth that I couldn't get words across.
No part of me is missing when that happens. No part of any non-speaking Autistic person is missing because speech does not work. I think my problem with "Welcome back," is the implication that I was somehow not there. It's a scary assumption to have made, even temporarily. I know it's not what was meant, but it's what I heard and it scared me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

If You Want to Get Me Something for Christmas

I'm actually Jewish, but I missed Hanuka, and I'm really not that religious. I'll be going to a small Christmas party on Christmas anyways, so it counts. So here's what you can do if you want to do something for me:

  • Donate a copy of "Loud Hands: Autistic People Speaking" to a local library.
  • Donate a copy of "I Love Being My Own Autistic Self" to a local library.
  • Donate a copy of "I Love Being My Own Autistic Self" to a local school.
  • Give a copy of "I Love Being My Own Autistic Self" to the Autistic person in your life.
  • Donate a copy of "Ethan's Story: My Life With Autism" to a local library.
  • Donate a copy of "Ethan's Story: My Life With Autism" to a local school.
  • Give a copy of "Ethan's Story: My Life With Autism" to an Autistic child if there is one in your life.
  • Find me more pro-neurodiversity materials that I can translate into Chinese.

Speech? What Speech?

Losing speech is a thing that happens sometimes, and it can be frustrating. It's not that I can't come up with the things I'd like to say- I just can't get them to line up and make the jump from my brain to my mouth, and getting them in the order I want to say them in is difficult. The getting them in order thing I sometimes have trouble with when I can talk, and I suspect that the two phenomena are related.
It's like part of my brain goes on strike when this happens, the part responsible for speech. Everything else works fine, but speech doesn't and organizing things into speech doesn't. Switching to typing gets around this roadblock quite well, though I'm not entirely sure why. In any case, get me a keyboard and everything organizes again. Even when I can't get speech to work, I still word things well enough typing that I can hammer out a first draft of a paper for school and have it be good enough to pass in as a final draft, so the problem is clearly not with language. It's with speech. There is a difference.
Language I am great with. I'm a fast reader, a good writer, all kinds of awesome language stuff. Nothing you've seen here was edited before being posted. I just started writing and that was that. Speaking, though, can be difficult. I've gotten comments even this past semester from a professor telling me that my way of speaking is "unique." I'm not sure if that's good or bad. It's... something? I remember in one book I read, the parent found it so tragic that their kid replied to "Would you like a chip?" with "CHIP!" I didn't understand. I do that. I've always done that. No one called it a symptom when I did it, though it is apparently an autistic thing and I have gotten a couple comments about it. Even when I am talking, my speech is odd. It's not wrong or anything- people think I am well-spoken, for all I may interject strange things like a whispered "Laaaaaaaadle!" now and then or call an object a "thing" or a "doohickey" in a brief failure to come up with the spoken word I need. I can get my point across with speech as long as speech is working. I can just do it better with typing, even when speech works.
Typing, you do not see the random "Laaaaaaadle" and I can tell you what I think as fast as my fingers can move. I rarely need to stop to organize my thoughts. I can do so while I type. The odd pauses in my speech are gone. I go from intelligent and reasonably well-spoken with some oddities as long as I can speak to what I have been told is extremely articulate. I can organize my thoughts much better typing than I can speaking, and I can come up with the nerve to type things out better than I can the nerve to say them. The only way I find speaking better than typing is that speaking is normally faster. That's it. I get my meaning across better typing, I am more articulate typing, I am more organized typing, I sound more educated typing, I can say braver things typing. Speech is because it is fast, not because it is good.
If it weren't for society putting such value on speech and for the difficulty of making sure I always have my laptop, which is currently useless because the motherboard stopped working, I would be much less bothered by the times I lost speech. Personally, I think constant speech is kind of overrated.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Words Aren't There.

Trigger Warning: Mass Murder, Death, Ableism, Threats of  Violence against Autistic People
Content Warning: Even More Ableism.

There are multiple ways for the words not to be there. In this case, it is that the words strong enough Just Don't Exist. The capitalization is for emphasis, in case you were wondering.
People are continuing to blame this on autism, specifically on Asperger's, which I have yet to see confirmation of Adam Lanza, you know, actually having? I've heard a neighbor say he might have, and I've heard lots and lots of speculation, but no, I have not seen anything that suggests he really did. The logic of "Gunshots are sudden loud noises and Autistic people usually have sensory processing issues" says that I'm not really sure why people keep thinking this is an autism thing, anyways. It's not correlated, by the way. 95% of violent crime? It's done by someone who's not diagnosed with any mental illness or developmental disability and probably not diagnosable, either. It's just a scapegoat.
That doesn't change what's going on, though, and the words for how I feel about it Just Don't Exist. Scared isn't strong enough. Terrified isn't strong enough. Outraged isn't strong enough for the part of me that is reacting with anger.
See, no matter that I and much of the autism community are in debunk mode, just trying to do damage control, no matter that even some news organizations are starting to say that autism doesn't cause this, people still want a scapegoat, and autism (apparently Asperger's in the specific) is what they've got as a scapegoat.
So they say things like this in the comments:
There's a really, really weird teenager who attends my church. He has Aspergers. Yesterday I reported his odd behavior, along with several examples of strange stuff he has done and said, to the police. It's worth reporting this kid to authorities now that I know how dangerous his disorder can be."
And they say things like this in the comments:
 Anonymous said...people with Asperger are dangerous look what happen at sandy hook schools. i have bipolar but violent crimes are commit by people with Asperger and other forms of autism
Or they rant at their autistic family members for expressing potential fears about their safety:
 He sent me a lecture about how that was paranoia, classroom inclusion was bad, and people with disabilities belong in institutions.
 Or they take to Twitter:
Try curing the real desease, Autism, not the nra.
Here's a screencap in case he decides to take the post down. Fellow Autistics, you deserve to have some idea who to avoid, at the least.
Sometimes Facebook:

And the bigotry of others is retold on Facebook:
"Honey, I have Ivy League degrees in this, and I work with these people every day. People with Aspergers have compulsions. And, maybe it didn't drive them to murder in other cases, but in this case, it was his Aspergers, and nothing else, that made him kill those children."
And they write articles about science not counting, insisting that we really do things like this.

Yes, that's really happening.
So is this, though it appears that Facebook has since removed the page:

And yes, that exact thing happened earlier this year. The kid died. This specific person may have been joking, but these things actually happen.
People are stating that their autistic children could be the next killer based on the fact that they have violent meltdowns. There are a bunch of problems with that, both logical and for the community:
  1. We haven't got any evidence that Adam had violent tendencies before shooting up a school.
  2. Ok, we did find out that he really did have Aspergers. That doesn't mean you can link murder to Aspergers unless you want to link it to neurotypical too, considering how many of the school shooters have been neurotypical versus autistic and what the rates of each are in the population.
  3. Violent meltdowns are not like planned violence. Also, we lack evidence that he had those.
  4. They aren't even good indicators of planned violence, and we still lack evidence of him, you know, having them?
  5. Conflating things that suggest Autistic people are more likely to commit mass murder is going to make stigma worse.
  6. Two of the victims were autistic. Think about their grieving families, even if you can't think about Autistic adults who can suffer for the false link?
Karla noted that disclosing at work was not currently possible due to the association of being Autistic "like that kid that just killed everyone." She also suggested keeping kids who are prone to meltdowns home this week, as people may be quicker to call law enforcement on Autistic people than usual. Given the commenter who claimed to have already reported someone just for having Aspergers and being odd, I'd believe it. Given the tendency for law enforcement to misread Autistic body language and for us to be hurt or killed, I would be very careful. There is more backlash against the people suggesting the link than I expected to see, but there are still many, many people claiming the two are linked or thinking that being Autistic makes us dangerous.
The words for how I feel don't exist. I am mourning for these people who are no longer here. I want to focus on them, but there is nothing I can do to help them, not really. I only have so much energy to devote to responding to this, and it's getting sucked up in damage control for the autism accusations and to warning people to be safe. I have no words. There are no words for the person who killed all these people, nor are there words for those who would blame it on a disability the shooter may or may not have had, one of the victims probably had, and is already far too stigmatized. The words Just Don't Exist.

Why Do We Look to Disability?

Trigger Warning: Murder, Ableism, Racism, Islamophobia, discussion of institutionalization

First off, developmentally disabled people and people with mental illnesses are not more likely to kill people than the folk who are neither. People who are neither make up significantly less than 95% of the population (I think it's something like 75%) and they commit 95% of the murders here in the USA.
But the factual accuracy isn't what I'm here about right now.
Why? Why do we talk about mental illness when there are mass murders?
To answer that, I think we need to see which mass murders this happens for. If the killer was Muslim, we don't talk about mental illness. We talk about terrorism. If the killer was anything but white, in fact, we find something to talk about that isn't mental illness or autism, one of the latest things to be mentioned. In fact, autism scored speculation after both the Oregon shooting and the recent Connecticut one, though there was much more attention payed this time to the speculations.
We turn to disabilities as the explanation when there is nothing else to explain it- we don't want to accept that    a white man could do this barring any other reasons, or at least, white men don't want to accept that. They need some way to make it so that it's not a person who was like them who did this horrible thing, even when it was. So when there is no obvious -ism to simultaneously be the reason this person is different and the (claimed) reason they did it, mental illness is turned to. The person is clearly a troubled loner, or not right in the head, or mentally ill, or autistic. No matter that none of these things actually make a person more likely to be violent. No matter that many of these things increase the chances of being a victim of various forms of abuse.
It's about somehow othering the killer, not about increasing and improving mental health care. (Or sometimes it's about distracting people from the issue of gun control, but that could seriously be a whole separate post. There's that much in it.) It's been done in other ways before, and it will be done in other ways later unless we can either stop these tragedies or look at this pattern for what it is. It's a cop-out. It's a way not to look at the very real problems our society has, by deflecting it to a conversation that is ostensibly about helping fix the also real problems with mental health care but isn't. It's about deflecting, and it adds to the stigma around mental issues, opposite to what the stated goal would be. It paints people with mental illnesses and now autistic people as time bombs, as mass murders waiting to happen, which does not make it easier for us to get actually helpful services in any way, shape, or form. It might get more of us institutionalized against our wills, and Amanda Baggs can tell you all about what's wrong with institutions.
For the sakes of the people who actually are in the categories we keep on hearing are ticking time bombs, that we keep on hearing are reasons to do this sort of thing, stop. Stop choosing these categories. It's always  a category that is already vulnerable, and it always makes it worse. It's always a category where there are discussions that really do need to be had (dealing with abusive households, dealing with bullying, dealing with the broken mental healthcare system are all important things, truly) but where the ways we talk about them after a shooting do nearly the opposite of what is needed.
Have the conversations that need having on these issues. Go for it. It's needed. Just don't pretend that scapegoating these categories is the way to make these conversations happen, and don't pretend that this scapegoating is anything other than a way to avoid the fact that white men can do these things and that there are societal issues that make this sort of tragedy more common.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Moment for Her Son.

Trigger Warning: Discussion of Mass Murder, Institutionalization, and probably family abuse.

The whole "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" thing went viral. I want no more readers. I want to be responsible for no more hits to that (Please. Don't go read it. Don't look up her name. Don't try to figure out who he is. Just remember that he exists and that what's already happened will affect him forever.) But there is something that needs to be said, among the arguments where so many are forgetting about her son. Unless the entirety of "Anarchist Soccer Mom" is part of an elaborate hoax, she really does have a 13 year old boy who she just compared to a mass murderer with her full name. His pseudonym won't keep his identity secret from anyone who knows her. His classmates, his teachers, will know that his mother compared him to a mass murderer. There is no way that can help him, none at all. Saying such things is not brave. It might be from the heart, but it is not brave and it is not good. It is a way to make the child feel even more broken, and worse, that he is doomed to be a mass murderer.

Let's all take a moment to think about her son, her 13 year old son, who is going into school today, and whose classmates know his mother compared him to a mass murderer because they know who she is and she used her real name, even if she changed his. It won't protect him from the people who know the mother, not even a little bit, and if you think she's going to let him stay home, I think you seriously misread the dynamic in that household. He'll be at school, or she'll escalate it until she's "forced" to bring him back to that mental hospital. Take a moment to think about the son of the woman who wrote "I am Adam Lanza's morher." He's a person, too.
Take that minute. Think about the fact that he, too, is an person, that he, too, has feelings, that he, too, has a future, that he, too, is the subject of all this publicity that says he is like a mass murderer, or even that he could be.

Interview With Jill of Spectrum: The Film

There is a project called Spectrum, The Film, which will be making a short documentary about autism and sensory perception for Autistic people. The person running it interviewed me over email, and this is what was said. You can also find it here Have a read!

  • Alyssa (ME): My name is Alyssa, and I blog at Yes, That Too. I asked my mother if I was autistic when I was eight, making me the first person to put the pieces together by approximately five years (Lydia of Autistic Hoya was the second, soon followed by much of my high school including the psychologist.) Somehow, it still took until April 2012 for someone to actually diagnose me. In any case, I'm 20 years old, study mathematics, engineering, and Chinese, and seem to have acquired autism as my latest autistic obsession. Whoops.
  • Jill: I'm amazed that you were able to identify yourself at such a young age. It's great to hear you are studying three incredibly awesome and useful subjects! First question: How would you describe your autistic sensory perception?
  • Alyssa: My autistic sensory perception is interesting, to say the least. My *whichever one is the name for knowing where my body is in space* isn't quite useless, though it is close to it. My spacial reasoning is great as long as my body isn't one of the objects I need to reason about.
  • My hearing is slightly better than average- I can hear quieter things than most people and I can hear both higher and lower notes than most people. (Something like 16-25000Hz instead of the 20-20000Hz that is supposed to be average.) However, the maximum volume I can have is dependent on a lot of things- even small noises will make me jump if they are sudden/unexpected, and loud noises often physically hurt. I jumped at the school bell all the way through my senior year. There are also certain frequencies that are painful, mostly higher ones. Also I can't really process multiple people talking at once. Sound is one of the big factors in sensory-based meltdowns.
  • Taste-wise, I tend to be mostly OK, though I can't stand anything mint.
  • Vision-wise, flashing lights are my biggest issue. I'm not going to have a seizure (no epilepsy, thankfully), but yeah. Sensory badness. Once fluorescents start flickering, they are bad, though the same can be said for flickering incandescents...
  • I tend to be OK with most textures for wearing, though stockings, tights, and leggings are all out of the question. For food, rubbery textures (eggs) and yogurt-like textures are problematic. On bad days, I can't even have pudding. I feel like I'm missing some, but I can't really remember what all issues I have except for running into them.
  • Jill: Is there anything that you do to help your body know where it is in space?
  • Alyssa: Not really. I've just gotten used to the fact that I crash into things/walk into walls.
  • Jill: Seems like a fair adaptation. :) Have your other sensory issues changed or improved over time?
  • Alyssa: My tolerance for some of the textures has gotten better over time. Other sensory stuff varies with stress and energy levels- higher tolerance when I am under less stress and have more energy.
  • Jill: If you had a billion dollars to spend on making the world a more sensory-friendly place, what would you do?
  • Alyssa: I would lobby to outlaw strobe lights outside clubs. (Yes, this would include banning them for cop cars/ambulances. They can figure something else out.) I would also fund research to find a way to signal class changes with something other than the current school bells and get them ALL changed. Given how corrupt government is, I'm not sure how much I would have left after this, but I'd get noise-cancelling headphones for as many people as possible after that, with me first.
  • Jill: Haha! I think if you had a billion dollars, you should absolutely be the first one to get noise-cancelling headphones. Thank you so much for sharing with me. I look forward to following your blog, Yes That Too @
You can find more information about Spectrum: The Film on Facebook, Twitter, or their main website. They are raising funds for the project on Indiegogo as well.