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

Saturday, February 9, 2013

More Than Two Options

Trigger Warning: Passing mentions of ABA and similar therapies

I keep seeing people (mostly people who support therapies that base themselves heavily on compliance, like ABA) arguing that not doing these therapies means leaving Autistic people untaught and providing them with no help. I don't know how it happened, but I keep seeing people assume that there is a binary choice. We can:
  1. Provide intensive therapies to teach an Autistic person "skills" that are really more like "acting neurotypical" 
  2. Do nothing.
The idea that there are only two choices is reflected in comments people make about how compliance based therapies are necessary . No, they aren't. Teaching is important, education is important, learning is important. Compliance-based therapies are not, and are often in direct opposition to what we really need to learn. People tend to compliance type therapies are needed and important because either compliance is convenient or because they do not realize that compliance in the sense it is used in most autism therapies is not a prerequisite for teaching or learning and can inhibit education! Yes, really. Some people consider education to be learning how to learn and think, and that is not something that can be taught through compliance. Only compliance and rote can be taught that way, and the cost of compliance is unreasonable.

What people are missing is a third choice, the choice of providing supports (some of which might be therapy-related) to autistic people in order to help us navigate the world as autistic people and to set the boundaries we need to set. Before you ask, yes, there is a difference between this and most therapies, which tend to ask autistic people to act like their non-autistic age peers or to repeat the same tasks over and over. Acting not-autistic is usually either impossible or requires so much work that little else can be done, the repetition leads to boredom, frustration, and eventually acting out from frustration. Remember, every behavior is the act of an autonomous being who has reasons for acting as they do, and understanding why violent outbursts happen is going to be much more useful than simply punishing them. For everyone involved.

When someone gives you a binary choice between ABA or similar therapies and doing nothing, call them on it. Either they are willfully misleading you or they have been misled. When someone tells you that no therapy is dooming a child to a life of suffering, call them on it. Either they are willfully misleading you or they have been misled. When someone tells you that compliance based therapy is the only way to teach a disabled person, call them on it. Either they are willfully misleading you or they have been misled. There is an option C. 


  1. Excellent post! And lots of the misleading stems from ABA being the only therapy most insurance will cover (thanks to aggressive lobbying by those who sell ABA for a living.) This really needs to change!

  2. This is really well done. I was very struck by the fact that you needed to put a trigger warning in for ABA being discussed. In my experience, ABA was offered as the only option for my daughter. This is a great call to action, Alyssa!

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for this excellent blog. I'm 36 year old and have only recently found out that I'm autistic. I had a tumultuous life for almost my entire life and only now started getting the answers to why. I'm still in the process of figuring out exactly who I am, how autism is affecting me, and why some of the things happened to me. I'm seeking autistic peers to help me with my self discovery. I was wondering if I can email you for questions and helpful advices.

    1. You can message my Facebook page

  4. I'm 23 and was diagnosed as a child. I remember most of my therapy/tutoring was about compliance, about how to learn the "right" (read: NT/allistic) way of doing things. I can pass very well for allistic now but.

    This entry made me cry. Because I feel cheated and crushed, somehow. Like a square peg that had a bit of luck in being small enough to fit within the round hole. I feel such resentment, wondering what my life could have been had I not been forced into compliance.

    I feel like a hole was cut into me and only now, knowing better, can i begin to fill that abscess and heal.



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