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, May 13, 2013

No, Really. Communication Is IMPORTANT.

Trigger Warning: Reference to Quiet Hands and other abuse, presumptions of incompetence

I am having a rant. Professionals have this thing where for whatever reason, AAC isn't on the radar, and apparently sign language isn't on the radar either. It's why Carly Fleishmann's intelligence surprised people, I think, even though it's not shocking at all that a person can think. Or you'll hear people actually say that a kid can't learn sign language because they are autistic. It doesn't work like that, sign language is actually one of the things they use as an alternative to speech for autistic people. Neurodivergent K uses it after seizures until speech works again. My mother used it with me when I was really little and not talking much yet, but I talked pretty early and unfortunately don't remember much of it. Evie knew some signs, though maybe seizures messed with that because seizures can mess with pretty much everything. Maybe she went into a longer-term shutdown of a sort due to higher demands. Maybe some of both. But she is autistic, and she was able to learn them.
As a part time AAC user (yeah, I'm not always capable of oral speech, the things you can't tell from the fact that I blog include speaking status,) this is really important to me specifically, and as an Autistic person who supports the rights of everyone, this is also really important to me. As far as I'm concerned, communication (not necessarily oral speech, it's not going to consistently work for everyone and there are people it will never work for at all and that's OK) needs to be priority number ONE once food, water, and shelter are taken care of. This is not an exaggeration. Yes, it comes before stopping S.I.B. (Self Injurious Behaviors) in my book, because there is always a reason for those and if a person can tell you why they are hurting themself that's going to be pretty useful. If they can tell you about the problem before they start hurting themself, that's even better, especially if you listen and fix it, which you should. (Remember, everybody communicates. Not everyone does it in ways that are easy for you to understand, but everyone communicates.)
Now, why do I think it's so important? Well, like I already said, if a person can tell you about a problem explicitly, you can fix it. That's a big thing. When a person isn't being taken care of properly, is maybe being abused? (That happens a lot, often by teachers and caretakers.) Communication means they can tell people about it, maybe even get it fixed. People are more hesitant to abuse someone who is capable of and willing to report them. It still happens, unfortunately, because ableism is rampant in our society, but it's marginally safer and much easier to fight. Communication opens up self-advocacy and plain old activism both. Communication that other people understand makes it even easier. Communication means the person can tell you what their goals are, which means that working on the things they want to be able to do is now a thing. Self-determination, autonomy, eventually perhaps independence? All the stuff parents talk about wanting for their kids is a lot easier (or just plain old requires) some form of communication that others can understand, so it has to come first.
Acting less autistic? Only going to ever be useful if the person is trying to pass for neurotypical, which isn't even possible without oral speech. Quiet hands? Abusive, straight up. Forcing eye contact? Also abusive, also shown to hurt listening ability. Same with same? I guess it's maybe useful for pattern recognition and such, but it's a lot easier to figure out if the person understands if they can tell you. Which means you can move to the next thing faster. Which means education is a thing- real education, not the "We're going to teach you the same thing 200 times because why not?" that a lot of therapy seems to look like.
And yet people don't think of it. They are often shocked to discover that we can communicate. I don't get it. There are actual studies showing that AAC is a thing that works, that sign language is a thing that works, that autistic people who have some sort of AAC/sign are more likely to start using oral speech and do so sooner. This knowledge is out there. And no one thinks to use it. Are they that determined to believe us incompetent?


  1. Yes, they are that determined to believe us incompetent.

  2. Sign can certainly help for many autistics, but the majority of autistic kids I've met who had trouble with speech also have just as much trouble with sign. I actually can't think of any autistic person I've personally met who communicates better by sign than speech. (I've only met two hearing people who communicate better through sign than speech, and both were non-autistic and developmentally disabled.)
    So while I wouldn't automatically rule it out without a try, I do think many autistics would be better off using typing or picture-based communication rather than signing. (Many of the kids I've met who were taught to sign with very little success had much more success with picture or text-based systems.)

    1. I've met quite a few autistic folk who've benefited from sign, but most of them have been sometimes-speaking autistic people who can still sign when they lose speech.

      Which I'm not sure if that has anything to do with sign itself versus just being a different language (because I didn't ask them that) but I know I lose speech in my two languages sometimes together and sometimes separately.


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