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, June 12, 2013

Disabled and Differently-Abled

Trigger Warning: Ableism, murder of disabled people

In terms of my actual set of abilities, differently abled is, well, actually true. I'm really, really good at certain things, like a lot of the pattern recognition stuff and at writing essays quickly/not needing to edit. I'm not very good at the whole activities of daily living thing. I live in the dorms at school, and I get help from my mother or my ex (we're still good friends) for some of my ADLs (Activities of Daily Living.) Like actually getting laundry done, like keeping my room not a complete disaster and not a fire hazard. If I didn't have a meal plan, they would be helping me with actually getting food. I know how to do laundry and cook, I just have trouble with the executive functioning part of it. So living alone without some sort of help is not a thing I can do. I need a friend/family member who can help me, or I need DD services, or I need to hire someone. Because of my IQ, it's probably going to be friend/family unless/until I can afford to pay a person myself. Which I may well be able to do someday, because there are jobs I can hold with my ability set as long as ableism does not cost me the job. In fact, I have held the same job for just about three years now with an online math education company, grading, writing problems/solutions, being a classroom assistant (answering questions, mostly.) They know I'm autistic, and they're thing is that as long as I can do the job it's fine. So yes, in terms of what my abilities are, what my impairments are, what my "just weird but they pathologize it anyway because society is made of fail"s are, differently abled is true.

[Until you ask the question: different from what? Different how? Why are certain sets of differences called differently abled and not others? What is the unnamed default?]

And yet I won't say that I am differently abled, and I will correct people who call me differently abled. I will also info-dump all the reasons that it's not the language choice I want if you tell me I should be using it. It's soft. It's nice. It also ignores the fact that I am Disabled. I am disabled by society's responses to my actual set of abilities, impairments, and kind of weirds. In many cases it's more by the kind of weirds than the actual impairments, which is... really telling.

I won't let society ignore the fact that they are disabling me. If I'm not supposed to call myself disabled, they can ignore that I am even disabled at all. If they can ignore that I'm even disabled at all (I am, and by the rules and expectations of what I am supposed to be able to do, like use phones and sit still and make eye contact and not need to choose between paying attention and looking like I am paying attention and being able to use speech instead of typing whenever I meet people in person and choosing to do so every time it's possible because that's what's expected even if typing would be much easier and there are certain things I can only communicate that way because I have mental blocks that I'm not supposed to have and it goes on and on...) well, if they don't need to look at my being Disabled, they don't need to look at the ways they are making me disabled. Ableism, institutional and personal, creates disability, and I can't let people forget that because you can't dismantle a system you can't even see, won't even look at. I need the world to look at the way it turns differently abled (different from what? Always ask) into disabled, and I can't do that without calling it what it is made- DISABILITY.

You want it to be called differently abled? Go change the world so that our different sets of abilities really are just different sets and they don't get all kinds of discrimination for being unexpected or (supposedly) wrong sets. Go make sure people don't think existence with my set of abilities is tragic and not worth living and that murdering people for being like me is seen as the murder and horror that it is, not as some sort of mercy killing. Go make sure that the tools we need are in our possession. Go get rid of the access barriers. Make ableism stop being a thing, and we can talk (though lets be real, I'm still going to reject it because of the unnamed default being catered to. In a society where differently abled is a term I could even consider accepting, it's a term that wouldn't even make sense and therefore no one would even have suggested it.) Look at what it is made to be- DISABILITY.


  1. Thank you. I recently have been thinking a lot about this and the points you make are excellent, Alyssa.

  2. Whenever someone calls me 'differently abled', I just say, "Well, we're all differently abled, aren't we? Like I'm really good at writing fanfiction and you're really good at (insert ability here)."

  3. Whenever anyone tries to tell me that I'm 'differently abled', I just say, "Well, we're all differently abled, aren't we? After all, I'm really good at writing fanfiction, and you're really good at (insert ability here)."

  4. for example, my daughter doesn't like to be said to "have autism" and mild cerebral palsy...she doesn't want her set of personal parameters to be pathologised.
    so she prefers to self-define as a differently-abled, neuro-diverse autistic person.
    as for me, the prefix "dis" in front of a word forms a negation of that term ...i.e. dis-respectful,dis-regard,dis-integrated...not respectful, not having regard, not being integrated, respectively..dis-abled, following this pattern, would negate ability i do have, which are different from another person's in ways that pose challenges for me that someone else might not experience.

  5. my previous paragraph being said...i totally can see the rationale behind using 'person with dis-abilities' because it implies that there are some abilities not possessed, without coming out and designated one as 'not' able in general


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