Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

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

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Am No Angel.

Every so often, I see quotes running around. Sometimes they are good. Sometimes... not so much. This one is sufficiently poor that it gets two posts dedicated to explaining what is wrong, as there are two huge problems with it. When I say huge, I mean huge. Take a look, and get ready for the first:
Assume the person with Aspergers is not intending to offend you. Intention to offend is actually a complicated line of reasoning that someone with Aspergers doesn’t have…People with Aspergers want to be nice. It’s very important to them even though you would never guess that by their actions. So if you tell the person what you want, and give specific direction, they will always try their best to do it, because they want to be nice. That said, them trying their best might look to you like not trying at all…Just because someone with Aspergers says no right now doesn’t mean it’s no later. No is a defense mechanism for “I don’t like change.” You can try asking again a second time later.-Petunia Trunk
I'm not even getting into the fact that this is supposedly just about Aspergers. Aspergers and classic autism aren't as different as many people think, and the differences in criteria are not the same as the differences in how they actually get diagnosed, and it's basically a mess. Speech delay is a pretty arbitrary line anyways, especially with the fact that people can gain and lose speech and how people can learn to use AAC instead of speaking and do just fine that way. (I have an AAC app on my iPad and a text-to-speech on my laptop. I have needed the text to speech.) It's an issue, but I just gave a reasonable explanation of why in a paragraph. This next one? It's big.
It's this: Autistic people can insult and offend on purpose. Sometimes we are jerks because we don't know better, and sometimes we are jerks because we really are jerks.
Claiming that "Intention to offend is actually a complicated line of reasoning that someone with Aspergers doesn't have" is wrong. Complicated lines of reasoning are totally fine. The social rules that will tell us what will and won't offend can be difficult (I don't always get them, to be honest,) but that has little to do with the intent to offend. It goes both ways, really. Autistic people can offend without intent, and we can fail to offend when we were trying to. We can even attempt to offend and then have it turn out that we did so in a completely different way than the one we intended. The issue is not with comprehending and having the intent to offend, but with knowing what words will satisfy the intent or lack thereof.
Claiming that people with Aspergers always want to be nice is false, it's silencing (Oh, they don't know what they're saying!) and it's reinforcing the Autistic Angel stereotype. You know, the one where the cute little children with autism are perfect angels who would never do anything wrong on purpose, they just don't know any better? It's one that comes from compliance being a high goal in all our therapies, from everyone just trying to make Autistic people do as we are told and not be mean to anyone ever.
And we do know what we are saying.
We might not always be aware of the exact emotional effects that what we are saying will have on a reader or listener. No one does- no one is actually a mind reader, no matter what some people might think. I could believe that I am worse at guessing the effect my words will have on a neurotypical reader than the typical neurotypical writer. I really could.
Guess what that is an extremely different statement from?
It's got nothing to do with my knowing the content of my words. I know exactly what I am telling you. Really, I do. We do. And people keep conflating "can't predict the emotional effect that words will have" with "doesn't know what they're saying." That's a huge problem.
I'm not usually trying to offend you, I'll admit that (Sometimes, offence is the only way I think I can get your attention, and I will try. So... yeah, I can intentionally offend as well.) But I am trying to make you think, and I am trying to point out problems that I see in the world. If I offend you in the process? I really don't care. If I make you uncomfortable in the process? I really don't care. If my words have that effect, it's because there are things in you that you need to be looking at.
In your rush to defend my intentions, don't deny me tools of communication. I have the same right to offend when I so choose that you do, and I have the same ability to do so, both intentionally and not. I know people like to think of Autistic people as being angels, but we only seem so when you deny every action and intention that is not in line with your idea of us as such, either by teaching further compliance or by questioning if we are really Autistic. We have the same range of temperaments that you do, and I am no angel. 


  1. Thank you!

    Saying we're precious and just can't help it is like declawing a cat. You feel better when the cat stops shredding your five thousand dollar couch but the cat doesn't feel so hot when it slips out an open window one day and gets eaten by a dog because it can't do the most fundamental, basic cat things like climb a tree to get away from danger.

    Sometimes my claws draw blood. Most people who know me have a collection of adjectives to describe me and "angry" is almost always in there somewhere. Recently, a group of people were talking about me and they all said they had gotten a "fuck you letter" from me at some point. Thing is, every one of them had done something heinous -- ranging from trying to dismiss my political beliefs as a pathology of my autism to telling me if I didn't write essays for them for free I was wasting my life -- to deserve a good, strong swipe from my claws.

    If they're all sitting around now and saying that my "fuck you letter" wasn't really meant to offend because autistic people are so darned SWEET and I didn't know what I was doing? Then they all deserve a SECOND "fuck you letter" from me. And a third and a fourth and so on until it gets through their heads that I really did mean to offend because they were being really offensive!

  2. Everybody wants to be mean sometimes. I've been mean by accident a lot of times, but I've been mean on purpose a bunch of times too. Anybody who knows me knows that, or at least they'd better. It's demeaning of all people on the spectrum to say that we only offend because we don't know better, do they think we are toddlers?


I reserve the right to delete comments for personal attacks, derailing, dangerous comparisons, bigotry, and generally not wanting my blog to be a platform for certain things.