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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Open Access (And Thunderclap)

Depending on how well you know me/how long you've followed my blog, you might or might not already know this, but I do research in a few different areas.

One is disability studies. For that, I tend to cite blogs really heavily, partially because I think Disabled voices need to matter and I know lots of Disabled bloggers (plus the publishing cycle on a blog is way faster than that on a journal.) But I do sometimes run into academic journal articles where it would be helpful for me to be able to read it, and then I can't. My university ID gets me access to lots of articles, but not everything.

Another is engineering stuff, sometimes assistive tech from a social model perspective when I'm combining the engineering and the disability, sometimes nanotechnology research, currently including a design project so I can graduate. This uses more stuff that's published in academic journals, so I run into the problem of paywalls and not being able to get articles a bit more often.

Then there's pure math. I'm playing around with Lyness equations right now, letting things be negative. Not much has been done with that, but there's one article that I know exists and that I know lets things be negative. I can't get at it. I'm frustrated. Open access would help.

And yeah, I do think researchers should be compensated for their research. That's not what the money being paid to journals is generally going to, though. Authors send their stuff in for free, so it's not content creators getting paid.

Academic publishing is currently a system where academics aren't always able to get their work to the people who could use it, and the people who would be building on it aren't always able to get at it. It's a problem. Open access stuff is at least a start. (A complete overhaul of the system would be good, really.)

Hence a thunderclap about it. I care about this. Maybe some of you lot do too?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

#AAC Awareness Month

It's apparently AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) awareness month all October.

I'm a big fan of AAC. I'm not a big fan of it being considered alternative, rather than just being one more equal way of communicating. I don't much like the idea that it should be an alternative, because that suggests that if you can use "typical" communication, then you should. My oral speech sounds pretty good, superficially, so people tend not to realize just how much I'm not able to do with it.

For example, there's a thing called "fluent in requesting." What this means is having good use of the grammatical structures involved in asking for things. I want, can I have/borrow, could you please, etc. Or in Chinese, 我想要,请给我,可以把————借给我吗?,你能做, and quite a few more. Yeah, I know the words to ask for stuff in two languages.

I usually can't initiate a conversation where I'm actually going to ask for something in either. What I can do is type the request.

Or if I'm having a problem. Maybe I'm overwhelmed. Maybe I feel sick. Even though I know all the words to explain what's going on, again in two languages, I probably can't tell you orally in either. But I can type to explain exactly what feels wrong, and possibly how to fix it. That's a big difference.

It's also something I would never have the ability to communicate if I didn't have access to typing. (For things at a distance and for writing school reports, I've had this for a while, because typing is expected/accepted in both those contexts. For face to face communication, I've been typing part time for about two years, maybe two and a half? I started using writing to cover some of that space before typing, but my handwriting is terrible and if I want my computer to say the words for me I should type it rather than hand write anyways.)

Because of how much typing to communicate has helped me, even though I'm not the picture of a "typical" AAC user most people probably have, I really do support more people knowing about AAC. I'm a big fan of folks knowing that some people type or use picture cards or apps to communicate, and a big fan of folks knowing that some ADULTS do this at least part time.

The adults bit is key too. Most of the AAC awareness stuff that I have seen is parents writing about their kids, professionals writing about the technology they use or the kids they work with, that sort of thing. Very little is actual AAC users writing about their own AAC use. (Ballastexistenz is one exception, and Typed Words, Loud Voices is going to be entirely people who type ourselves, but by and large, the promotion is done by adults talking about kids they are close to, not by actual AAC users.)

This means I am in two categories where people tend not to think of AAC: adults, because who ever thinks about disabled adults who are off doing adult things while also acting disabled; and people with some (in my case quite a bit of) oral speech. I don't think I'm actually rare among AAC users for either of these things, or even both at once, but I know that people like me aren't much of the conversation about AAC use. I know there is a lot of pressure for people with speech to use their speech as much as possible, though, even at the expense of actually communicating.

And finally: I'm a big fan of folks thinking about how much communication is typed when we aren't face to face, and wondering why meeting in person makes the typing somehow "different."

Image is of a jeans pocket, with orange background and orange text that reads "I use AAC." It's a profile picture from PrAACtical AAC.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Warning for mentions of attempted ableist murder.

Isabelle Stapleton survived a murder attempt by her mother. You would think it'd be clear that she is the victim.


Isabelle is autistic.

This means people view her mother as the victim, as the person to have sympathy for, as the person whose shoes we should walk in, according to that old metaphorical statement. This means people expect us not to judge, because... apparently "Don't try to kill your kids" is an unreasonable bar to set? (Not everyone is Christian anyways, I'm not! But the statement is "Judge not, lest ye be judged," so it sounds like judging by a standard you're OK being judged by in turn is still fine. And I'm totally fine with being held to the standard of not killing my kids, or I will be once I have them. Right now I'd mostly be confused by the current impossibility of my failing this standard.

This means people may not even admit that Isabelle has a point of view. Yeah. Isabelle's a person, she's got a point of view, and in terms of the "Walk in someone's shoes" metaphor, Isabelle Stapleton has shoes. She probably has literal ones too, because most people don't hate wearing those as much as I do and I still have to deal with wearing them a lot of the time.

Anyways. Can we try having some sympathy, empathy, etc for Issy? You know, the person who survived her mother trying to kill her?

Seriously. I only have one thing to say about Kelli Stapleton, and I've already Tweeted it:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Set List

I think rather echolalically at times. I use lyrics a lot for this.

So I've been throwing around in my head the idea of what set list I  would choose for, say, a concert "for autism." Which is totally code to get more people in in and then hit them with reality in the form of angry Autistic singers. (Mostly Autistic singers- there's a couple songs  I think should be a mix of Autistic and non-autistic singers or just a non-autistic singer, depending on choral arrangements (a cappella is awesome) or more typical band with lead singer sorts of arrangements.)

So, in order:

  1. Numb, by Linkin Park.
  2. Strangers Fate- first verse and chorus (possibly with first verse of One and Only for a medley), by High Tide, now known as The Saturday Nights. As far as I know, there are no publicly available recordings of Strangers Fate anymore, but here's a link for One and Only.
  3. The Jumper, by Third Eye Blind. I think this song should be either mixed or non-autistic singers.
  4. People of the Sun, by PONS (another name High Tide/ The Saturday Nights have gone by.)
  5. King of Anything, by Sara Barellis. Specifically, I want the version used in the Loud Hands Project video. And to have the video part (not audio) going in the background. Synchronization would get interesting.
  6. I'm not sure if I want to finish with Defying Gravity, straight up (Glinda would be a non-autistic singer, Elphaba would be an Autistic singer) or with a blending of Let it Go and Defying Gravity, similar to Let It Defy Gravity but not with the exact same set-up. I'd want to end on Defying Gravity, not Let It Go, and I'd do some of the transitions differently. (Also make Let It Go way louder and and more blatantly defiant than it's being sung.)
I'm not entirely sure about the order of Strangers Fate and Numb, because I'm not sure if "basically losing" (Stranger's Fate) or "knows what the goal is and can't see how to get it" (Numb) is the bigger "low point." But it's those two, then The Jumper, which is fairly straightforwardly someone saying "Just leave it all behind and get out, your life is more important than all that stuff." 

After that, we turn around. People of the Sun still doesn't feel like all that successful a rebellion or of fighting back, but we've got denial that the other people know better and the idea of starting a revolution. The King of Anything video makes a really good transition from the bad space prior to there actually being some revolution type stuff going on. There's momentum! And then Defying Gravity (and Let it Go) are pretty direct defiant middle fingers to expectations of what's right and possible. 

Long story short, BRB figuring out the lyrics and transitions I want for my personal Let It Go/Defying Gravity Medley to close with. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Nonfiction writing quality by gender? Yeah, no.

This is an answer I made on Quora. The question was incredibly sexist in my opinion, but someone other than the asker requested I answer and it caught my interest for rebutting. 

The question was:
Do you agree that nonfiction written by women is typically less interesting than nonfiction written by men?
The reasons given were that women tended to write with more attention to emotion and character, while men tended to write with more attention to taut arguments and scientific methods, which led to women's writing being superficial while men's writing was idea-rich. I am not sure if I can find a portion of the reasoning which actually holds up under examination. Anyways, next paragraph begins what I said.

The prioritization of quantitative stuff that's easy to measure over qualitative stuff where emotions make sense as richer is part of the problem here: each focus has its use, and devaluing the one that's associated with femininity is part of sexism, especially since women are taught that they need to be in touch with  emotions and then punished for being so.

Additionally, many serious nonfiction topics involve human factors. When human actions are involved, analysis of thought processes is necessary to properly address the topic. Despite the extent to which many of us wish to believe otherwise, humans are generally driven more by emotion and instinct than by rationality: we are rationalizers, not rational creatures. With this knowledge in mind, the idea that bringing emotional factors into the analysis makes it less idea-rich is shown patently false for many topics.

Next, there is an implicit assumption that these areas of focus are contradictory. Taut argumentation can still be used when discussing emotional responses, and scientific methods can be applied whenever causes and effects are observable. This is true even if the effects are qualitative rather than quantitative. 

Finally, confirmation bias is a known factor: once such an opinion is formed, a reader is more likely to notice examples that confirm this opinion and categorize exceptions as "the exception that proves the rule" or something similar.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A New Least-Eventful Disclosure

One of the many things I am is an engineering student. (No, I don't say that I have engineering studenthood, though in terms of how important the identity is to me, I'd buy that before I bought that I have autism rather than that I am autistic.)

As an engineering student in my final year, I have a capstone design project. This is pretty cool! One of the things that my professor asked for as we are getting started is a resume. Publications go on this.

Now, publications are awesome. I have a few, some with wallet!name and some with out-as-Autistic!name. (In person, I'm usually out as Autistic with wallet!name, but in public spaces online not so much.)

Most of the ones which are under the out-as-Autistic!name (Alyssa Hillary, in case you were wondering) out me as Autistic just by reading them, as disabled of some sort from the title of the essay or the description of the book alone. That's part of why they're under that name. 

Since I'm out to my school in general (though not always disclosed to any specific professor yet), I figure the question of how to handle those sorts of publications was a reasonable one to ask the professor. 

This means that my new least-eventful disclosure is the one where I get an answer of, "That's a good problem to have, but I'm not sure how to answer it." (It's a good problem to have because my publications (plural!) are the only reason I even needed to ask.)

But I'm still not sure what to do. My guess is that for any given company I send to, I'll figure it out from public and public-ish stuff about them, on a case-by-case, and for the copy my professor gets, I'll do everything that's even a little relevant to engineering, regardless of which name I put on it.