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, June 14, 2014

Disability, China, College

Folks who've been around for a while probably know I'm studying abroad at Tianjin Normal University this year. That's in Tianjin, China. Folks who read so much as my sidebar or header know I'm autistic. So far as I can tell (as in, it's relayed second-hand but it's pretty much coming from the admins) I am the first openly autistic student they've had. Ever.

I'm not the first disabled student they've ever had- there's apparently a student missing some fingers in the physics department, though I've never met him. I've never seen a wheelchair on campus, and I'm not convinced that many of the buildings and classrooms are actually accessible. I know the bathrooms generally aren't.

But, you know, the not accessible thing isn't unique to China or anything. Psuedoaccess, where there's a ramp theoretically there, or abled folk are claiming a place is accessible but you never see disabled people using it because the supposed access doesn't actually work? That happens all the time in the USA too.

So what I am writing tonight is really only about China in that the particular examples I'm talking about happened here. My personal experience as an autistic college student in China (a combination that apparently no one's ever heard of, my attempts at searching for other autistic college students via news articles found me nothing in mainland China and one autistic woman in Taiwan whose mother went to all her classes with her, and the article was more about the mom than the autistic woman who did college) has been pretty good. There's been icky stuff, but my residence and academic directors for the program I'm on have dealt with it for me and I haven't had to do any of it directly, which has been nice. I still know about some of it: before I arrived, there were administrators who said people like me shouldn't go to college, and they tried to get the program to un-accept me, and they tried to have me sent home.

But to my face people have been pretty good. I use AAC in class sometimes- specifically, when speech isn't working for me I'll type instead. If it's something I want the rest of the class to hear, I'll get a classmate to read it for me (they know I do this) because my laptop speakers aren't that great and my iPad's AAC is all English-based in addition to not being that loud. If it's something where I just wanted to make sure the teacher knew I understood how to use the language construction or how to use the word in question, I don't get it read out and just email it to the teacher after class. They'll count this for me instead of talking in class for class participation. Getting in and staying in was the hard part, day-to-day... well, I think that 面子, or face, is relevant? Directly insulting a person to their face isn't so much a thing. Makes it hard to know what people are really thinking of me, but it also helps shield me from the worst of the discrimination stuff- my residence director got to deal with it instead.

And what brought these thoughts up today? Well, I've been seeing articles about a Chinese man who took the 高考, the college entrance exams. He's blind, and he'd prepared on electronic versions, but in the end they gave him paper versions, using Chinese Braille. He wound up handing in nearly blank tests (On the test paper he apparently did write in a request for an electronic version) because electronic stuff is faster for him than Braille, both reading and writing. Didn't happen. Folks react. There's English coverage here and here, you can probably find more if you look. I'm not going to analyze the English articles, just point out where they are so you can look if you want. But tomorrow my plan is analyzing some of the Chinese coverage. 


  1. Whoa. First of all, the fact that this blog exists (just saw it linked to on Thinking Person's Guide to Autism) is really, REALLY cool. I feel like I have a lot in common with you! I've studied abroad in China twice now, 2 two month summer programs mostly in 青岛, but kind of traveling all over, and I minored in Chinese in college (it would have been a major, but my school didn't offer a major). I got a Confucius Scholarship to go study at 青岛大学 this year, which I'd been really excited about, but unfortunately I developed some health issues which made that a bad idea.

    One of my friends and I were talking while we were in China and it turns out he's autistic. Chinese people just labeled him a bit 奇怪 and left it at that. Of course, Americans (other than me) do, too. My friend thought I was autistic, too (most of my autistic friends think that about me), but I'm not quite sure if I'm BAP or autistic. My sister is definitely autistic, though (as in diagnosed), and I was working on our website explaining autism while I was in China. :)

    When I was there in China we went to on a field trip to a school for autistic children. It was better than I was expecting, given what my teacher had said about it, and they attempted to do PT and OT. But there was no working on speech, and my friend who interned there alluded to some physical punishment, although she wouldn't give details. While I was there, the woman in charge of the school was talking about how some of the children's parents didn't want their children or didn't know what to do with them. It was really, really upsetting, although yes, I get there are cultural factors at play. When I'm a speech pathologist (which I will be in two years), after I work here for a few years paying off debt and getting experience, I'd like to travel and work in China for a while, because I hear (and saw) there aren't a lot of services.

    I'm actually trying to make a Chinese version of my website explaining autism. Only, my Chinese reading and writing is actually really bad. (I'll have to go through and read your 中文, posts, I'm sure I'll learn a lot and it will be good practice!) Speaking and understanding, I do pretty well, but my knowledge of characters is not so great. So it's been incredibly slow progress... A doctoral Chinese speech pathology student was going to help me translate it, but unfortunately he never actually came through with his offer to help. Alas. :(

    But there are a million cultural issues I need to understand in order to write it, too. Like the myths and misunderstandings about autistic people. The way parents of autistic children in China view them. And the different words and concepts that are used to explain autism. Like 星儿, 自闭症, and 孤独症. An autistic person in Taiwan told me 自闭症 was preferable to 孤独症, and parents and the doctoral student told me to use 星儿 instead of 自闭症, but I really don't know the backgrounds behind all these words.

    Sorry. I know this is all unrelated to the post (I actually do have a related story, we went to a school for the blind, too, and also all of 青岛 was outwardly accessible to the blind, but in the entire city I never saw anyone outside the school for the blind) but at this point I feel my comment is already really long!), but I just wanted to express all that to somebody who actually gets it. It was really cool finding your blog! :)

    Creigh (方爱宁)

  2. You are a pioneer. I hope you continue your courageous journey.


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