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, January 28, 2014

Explaining How I Feel

Some folks ask how I, an autistic person, can explain so well how I feel. Difficulty explaining feelings is apparently either actually common among autistic people or stereotyped to be so (possibly both?) In person/in the moment, I have trouble with it too (OK, fine, I pretty much always have trouble with it, and that's why despite the fact that I'm expressing my opinions and emotions are probably coming through loud and clear to readers, I don't usually have an emotion word in my head of how I'm feeling when I'm writing any given post.) It's just that I am typing, not speaking, and I am generally not typing about it while I am having the emotion. Distance gives a perspective that helps a lot. And, of course, there are plenty of things I get that help that the internet can cover up or that people seem to miss when noting that I am better at explaining my feelings than their autistic (usually very young) child is. Now I get to explain some of them, and maybe it can help with either getting the explanations or understanding why they might not be coming yet.

  1. I get to type instead of talking! While I actually did learn to talk on time (ok, REALLY EARLY- I've been told that simple sentences at six months is unusual even for NT kids,) there are certain topics that are very hard for me to speak coherently about, and my feelings tend to be one of them. However, I can usually express myself when typing. Most people who aren't autistic don't understand the huge difference between what you can come up with typing and what you can come up with talking because they've never experienced it. For example, if you'd asked me why I can explain my feelings so well in person, I would probably have flapped uncomfortably and not been able to answer. I might have even lost speech entirely. (Unless I thought to get my laptop out, in which case you'd have gotten pretty much this.)
  2. Time. Lots of time. Over the internet, you can't really tell how long I've spent thinking about what I've typed. Which means I get minutes to hours to think about something, when in "normal" conversation, people get seconds, maybe a minute if they are lucky. I can't come up with this kind of answer in the time frame of normal conversation either!
  3. I'm 21. (Insert whoever is not explaining emotions according to their teacher or parent) is probably not 21. So I have much more experience of life behind me, along with a lot more practice at sorting out how I feel about things. I've noticed that plenty of neurotypical children have trouble explaining their words.
  4. Expressing emotions/opinions in person scares me. I think it's because I've gotten in trouble for expressing unpopular opinions, and because I was always "too sensitive" when bullies upset me, even by my parents standards (I actually cry pretty easily- I'm just not likely to realize I'm upset without crying.) Typing over the internet, I can take a step back from reactions (or at least not let anyone else see if I'm crying.)
Those make a huge difference. No one expects a neurotypical kindergartener to be able to express feelings and explain opinions as well as a neurotypical 21 year old. Everyone figures that the neurotypical kindergartener is going to get much better at this in the next ~15 years. And autistic kids can too.
If you aren't autistic, you probably don't understand how getting to type rather than talk helps. But believe me- it can, even for people who normally can talk. (When I can talk, which is most of the time, I usually come across as highly articulate, and typing still helps me!) And, of course, let people process things at their own pace and make sure they actually feel safe expressing their opinions, even when those opinions are not the same as yours.


  1. Feelings. I can't do the categories for feelings and emotions. I can get broad categories fine, but anything in more detail is pretty hopeless, because I just won't know what it is. I have a few that I have figured out, but even then, I can only get it from observing how my body is moving.

  2. I just got into a /fascinating/ discussion with two of the group leaders for the Partial Hospitalization Program I'm in now about this very thing! Both know I'm an Aspie. I was talking to the first one, whose adult daughter is Autistic, and was explaining how I can rarely /know/ the word for what I'm feeling. I can typically easily identify that it's bad and in my chest feeling icky and causes some flapping, but I can't identify too much past that positive/negative thing. She's really into DBT, and was hypothesizing about whether, in my own head, I really need to be able to name the emotion. If I know it's negative and sits in my chest, do I have try to fight to label it more clearly since I already know how it feels? We agreed that being able to name it was a valuable tool for me interacting with others, especially in close relationships, because it made communication easier. She concluded that really, though, naming them wasn't crucial for my own well-being. The next day, I talked with the group leader for my process group, who has several NT children who are incredibly good with emotional stuff. She comes from a background of CBT and DBT. She disagreed with the first therapist because different emotions may mean I would want to process them differently. If I know it's negative and sad, I might process differently than negative and angry or negative and scared. She agreed that it eased communication with others, but also thought it was secondary to the benefit I could actually get by working to name my own emotions. I thought the whole thing was just fascinating. I love to see other with ASDs processing this stuff, especially those of us who are all around the same age. I'm still chewing on the whole interaction; I don't know what I think of the two opinions yet.


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.