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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Intent... not magic

Trigger Warning: Ableism, Inspiration porn.

(I don't like the word inspiration porn. It insults actual porn. But that's the word I'm looking for...)

I get that people were trying to be nice. Really. But... not OK. This video is not as nice as you think it is.
It squicks me.
Everyone is sharing this around again, and talking about how sweet it is, and how inspirational. And you know what? Everyone was trying to be nice. They were. And they patronized the team manager in the process. They probably patronized him every game, but I don't know that for sure, I don't have video of that. 
I could get into all kinds of theory, but I shouldn't need to:
I am developmentally disabled. I'm no better at basketball than the manager. No, really. If you had put me out on the court, I would have missed. Every shot. And I would be pissed if someone did that to me. 
I played sports all through high school. I ran cross country. I was, for four years, the slowest person on the team. I was only able to stay on the team at all because it was non-cut. And I was the slowest by quite a large margin, too. The girls whose times were counting were running their 5k in 19 minutes and less. In four years, I never ran my 5k under half an hour. My mile time? Right around 10 minutes. Four years of cross country, and I am a worse than average runner looking at the general population.
But people insisted that I was doing a great job. I did no such thing. All I did was be too stubborn to quit, because that's what I do. And if I had been praised for that, everything would have been fine. Because it was for something good I actually did.
But no.
It wasn't about my stubbornness. It was about how I was doing such a good job running. Yeah, no. I wasn't. I was doing a pretty fail job running. 
I've been in that position.
In spring track (I got cut from softball,) they generally had me run the 800. There is a reason they had me run the 800. They put me in the mile exactly once. I got lapped. By everyone. Yes, everyone. One kid was about 10 yards short of double-lapping me in a four lap race. And they didn't let me finish, because there were other events to have. Not being allowed to finish was mortifying, I won't deny it. But the stuff I took on a daily basis about how great a job I was doing because I was too stubborn to just quit already? That was worse. The time they didn't let me finish, I was embarrassed, and that was pretty much it. The times that people were patronizing, I was embarrassed, angry, and expected to be grateful for it. And no one listened when I told them I wasn't. They kept lying to my face about how great a job I was doing.
It left scars.
I have trouble believing the praise I get from anyone, ever, still. Because what if it means that I'm not actually doing well and they're pulling the same thing as they did in high school? They only do that when you're so bad at it you're not even seen as really being competition. Am I really that bad at it? Or am I actually doing well? I thought I was actually doing a good job, and then someone praises me and suddenly I'm not so sure. 
It doesn't help that people still do this to me. 
You might wonder how they can. Well, there are drills we do at practice in Ultimate where yes, my motor issues come out so obviously that I really do look like the obviously developmentally disabled kid they're letting practice with them to be nice. But the coach tells me I'm doing great. The captains tell me I'm doing great. As I pick myself up off the ground because I couldn't even figure out how to keep my feet under me while failing to do the drill properly and the entire rest of the team, while tired, has done it 30 times correctly and I've messed it up five times, falling over from three of them. Yeah, not doing great. If you want to praise my stubbornness, go ahead, but don't tell me I'm doing a great job just in general, because I'm not. And I know it. And that is why I have trouble believing even genuine praise, now. That is why I have social anxiety. Because people lied to my face and kept doing so as I called them on it and wouldn't even admit to the fact they were doing it and expected me to be grateful for it, at that. 
Actually playing, I'm not that bad. I'm not great, probably not even average, but I'm passable. I'm actually good enough at the stuff we do in a real game that it's worth keeping me on the team, especially since we often wind up playing with only one or two subs, but from practice, you wouldn't know it. And at practice, they do it. Still. 
And they insist that I'm just being hard on myself and I'm really doing a great job. 
I'm aware of what's going on around me, folks. Don't patronize me. And don't patronize other disabled people. Even if that manager did want to be put in (I could believe it,) the way the member of the opposing team acted was still well-intentioned patronization and the way the video was made can't even be given the "well-intentioned" qualification. It was just patronizing, plain and simple. How much of the video was other people talking about how wonderful it was, compared to how much was the manager actually talking? Wonder why?


  1. Non-disabled people - even the best-intentioned ones - don't quite realize the un(sub)conscious bias they have when they think of themselves as better than someone else.

    1. you are absolutely right about that, Brenda.

  2. Ugh... I admit it... I know what you mean here. And I confess I am guilty of sharing this video myself. But I completely get your point - I remember there was another video of an Autistic team manager getting to finally play in the last few minutes of the last game or something - and I have pretty mixed feelings about that one. I love that he *finally* got a chance to play and I love that he totally kicked ass while he was in. But I hated that he never got a chance to play before that because he could have potentially been kicking ass all season if he'd been given the chance. You get my point?

    So this is a tough one because I know how freakin uber-competitive basketball is (I played) and I think people are mostly astounded that someone on the *opposing* team would put aside his ego and pursuit of sports glory for a moment to give someone he doesn't even know another chance at making a basket.

    If it means anything, I can say that this is not entirely unique to this situation. I remember my own NT daughter going an entire season without making a single basket, so in the final game of the season her coach designed about a million different plays in the last quarter to get her the ball so she could try and score at least once that season. Granted, she was like 8, but it was the same idea. Sometimes the coach just wants everyone on the team to have that moment of sports glory.

    As for not trusting people's assurances - I get that too. My daughter is amazing at the violin but doesn't really buy it because we are her parents and I guess she assumes we will just say she's great because we love her. So I think she believes we are patronizing her, even when we are not.

    But yes, sometimes people pat themselves on the back a little too much for feeling like they did a good deed, and don't think about how much their act of "kindness" can actually demoralize the other party. My family was very poor in high school and I had a friend that always wanted to buy me things - I guess she felt like she was being charitable, but it mostly just ended up making me feel awful and ultimately pissed me off.

    I am genuinely sorry that this particular video offended you, and I can't say I blame you. And I can't really ask you to cut us slack, because there's no reason you should have to. So I guess I will just offer my meager explanation that the reason some of us are moved by such things is that the world is full of so many shitty people... sometimes we are all pretty happy to see evidence of even one human being left that is not completely self-centered. Especially when it comes to competitive sports.

    1. The coach got slack until he decided it deserved a video. The member of the opposing team needs educated, but gets some slack because he was trying to be good. The makers of the video are awarded no points and get no slack.

    2. Fair enough ;) And you are definitely spot on about the media - clearly everything they say is just in the interest of selling a story, so they will capitalize on ANY human interest story they can.

      What is that saying about how there is no such thing as altruism or genuinely altruistic behavior? Because even something we do to help someone else is really, ultimately, to make ourselves feel good. Every action is a selfish action in that regard. Which can be fine, until you start publicly patting yourself on the back for it, eh?

  3. Hmm. I thought the video was as much about the recognition that some lessons we can teach are about way more than winning as anything else. I thought the team showed compassion, respect, and kindness for their teammate. I guess I'd rather see honest attempts to include and show caring even if the result is somewhat patronizing.

    1. It's a hard one isn't it? How do you help and include without coming across as patronizing. And I don't mean just to Autistic or disabled people, but to other people in general. I don't really get offended by much because I guess I am usually fairly successful at seeing multiple parties' perspectives. So I can almost always listen to an opposing argument, and if it is well articulated and not completely fallacious, go "yeah, Ok I see why you think that/feel that way."

      I guess I agree with you that it's significant that at least people make an effort to be decent... but I also see why posts like this one are important, because sometimes people really do not think about the person on the receiving end and how their actions will ultimately make that person feel. And I firmly believe that you HAVE to be vocal about things that upset you, or people will never know that such things can be upsetting to some. Just putting it out there to be heard and acknowledged is important I think. Because it may not occur to people to think about such matters, until they are pointed out by someone. Right?

  4. This is a tough post, and I am going to pose a tough question.

    Did that coach and team do what they did to make Mitchell feel good?

    Or did they do what they did to make themselves feel good?

    With porn, the viewers derive much more pleasure at much less personal cost than do the actors.

    1. Actually putting him in the game- people do that for team managers, it's a thing people do. Probably to make Mitchell feel good, some slack for them, but not a lot because making the video is probably their choice, even if they didn't do it themselves.
      The member of the opposing team- probably meant to make Mitchell feel good, but out of pity, not respect. Well-intentioned patronization with no time to think. Some slack, but still must be taught.
      The makers of the video- for themselves. 100% for themselves, no slack for them.

    2. Gah. Sorry this *just* occurred to me about the "making" of this video. It is quite common for teams at the high school level and beyond to film ALL of their games. They do this for the purpose of reviewing the films later in practices to examine mistakes made and whatnot. It is the crux of college and professional basketball and football, and I know my husband said they spent an amount of time reviewing films in high school and college so vast that it would surprise most people.

      So, I suppose it is possible that this video was not necessarily "chosen" to be made for the express purpose of highlighting this planned event, and that it is likely that it was just another video of another game. And I know local news networks will often pick up on local sporting events and report their outcomes. (my husband watches the high school highlights often, not all that interesting to me, but oh well)So I guess it could also be possible that this was just more run of the mill local high school sporting event coverage that stumbled across something unexpected.

      Hard to say though. I would not be surprised if the footage was standard game footage taken at all games, but have my doubts that the media just *happened* upon it by chance. Schools rarely miss an opportunity to share their news with the media, and the media NEVER misses an opportunity to grab viewers.

    3. The entire situation feels manufactured to create maximum dramatic effect and boost the chances of it making the national news and going viral.
      My school let the manager and seniors that weren't on the normal starting lineup play the last game too. They were announced to the crowd, then they started the game and were kept in for a few minutes, and had their "moment" when the game really was far from decided.
      That would have been far more appropriate. Show Mitchell that he was appreciated by letting him play for a minute or two and be a competitor, not an object.

  5. Reading this helped me figure out something that's bothered me for a long time - why I'm so uncomfortable with compliments. A lot of stuff just fell into place. Most of it not in a good way. Ugh.

    If people think this kind of stuff doesn't have long term ramifications or if they think that developmentally disabled are clueless to what's really going on, they seriously need to think again.

  6. You talk about patronization so well, considering your autism. /sarcasm

    You talk about patronization very well indeed, probably because you're a good writer in general and this is a topic you have personal experience with.

  7. Yeah, I wont watch the lets be nice to the crip videos. I have birth defects that make me look different. I spent my childhood having surgery to make me look normal. And every time I complained about how I looked I was contradicted. Every single time. I have no idea how good or bad I look because I can't trust anything anybody ever said. No matter how much surgery I had, how I was treated never changed.

  8. I almost got lapped in the 800 once... and they actually had everyone lined up for the next race because I was so far behind they didn't realize someone was still running. But the people on my team luckily gave very precise compliments and usually would just congratulate me for keeping trying or not giving up. Which was accurate.

    I hate compliments, though.


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