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 15, 2016

Alyssa Reads Uniquely Human: Part 10

Still reading Uniquely Human. The series begins here, and the prior post is here.
I'm now on the chapter entitled "The Real Experts."

So, Temple Grandin might be the first one to get famous this way, but she's not the first autistic person to write a book and get it published! Thanks to Mel Baggs for the detective work here, because sie compiled a bibliography of books by autistic authors, which is in Autonomy. Books in the same year or prior to Grandins include:

  1. Eastman, David. (1985). Understand: Fifty Memowriter Poems.
  2. Miedzianik, David. (1986). My Autobiography.
There's probably others, but one example is sufficient to say that she's not the first to do it, just potentially the first to get famous that way.

I think now is a good time to point out that there are issues even with the idea of articulate. I could have sworn Lydia (Autistic Hoya) wrote something about this and I can't find it ugh. But how often do we point out that neurotypical white men are articulate? For a different issue with the word, I did find the second piece I wanted to link, Julia's, "On Being Articulate." I strongly suggest you read it.

He points out three people who he says especially helped his understanding. Ros Blackburn (who he meets in Michigan at a conference she flew to from England in order to give a presentation that's described as "experiences growing up with autism," which makes me suspect she flew from England to be a self-narrating zoo exhibit. Michael John Carley, who founded GRASP. Stephen Shore, who recently joined the Board of Autism Speaks. You know, the organization that super duper needs to not, that I have an entire tag here devoted to why they are terrible, and that are work-stealing, white-texting liars? No one on this list is radical. Everyone on this list is white. Everyone on this list has at least a masters (Ros has an honorary masters, not sure if she has one from going to graduate school.) Everyone seems to be middle class to rich. The same can be said of Temple Grandin. I think they're all cisgender and straight, too.

(And yes, that means that including me would not fix the representation problem I'm pointing to here. I'm white, at least middle class, and have a masters degree in mathematics. I'm queer, but still, I'm not going to pretend that would lead to my helping with this issue.) I know (of) Autistic activists and writers who would, though, by being poor, by being a person of color, by being queer, by not having had access to higher education, or by several of the above. Kassiane, Lydia, Amy, Finn, Morenike,  the entire contributors list for All the Weight of our Dreams, and more. Always more. And not to be tokenized. Don't just listen to one or two and call this your "diversity" requirement.

Now, since that's about who he chose to write about rather than what they have to say (and what he chooses to relay to us/how he chooses to relay it to us,) let's get on to that.

What Ros has to tell us is good. She knows stuff about herself and tells people what she needs. Cool! The anecdotes her statements are coming in between are illustrative of what we do (behavior) but is a bit of a mixed bag on providing internal processes. 

Michael's story starts more with a biography than anything else. Also, "You might not guess that he has an autism spectrum disorder until he begins speaking about something he is excited about." (180). I assume this is supposed to be a compliment? It is not a compliment to pretend we are not things that we are. I'm glad Dr. Prizant pointed out that only two actual people on the spectrum were called to testify (because that is way too low a number) and would have liked some reference to why there were even the two. Originally there were none. Then autistic people made a fuss. (Ari Ne'eman was the other, and this reference to Ari is the reason he appears in the index.) 

I feel like Dr. Stephen Shore's story is again largely a biography interspersed with anecdotes, illustrating lessons that he may well have taught explicitly, but using behavioral examples. I did like the bit where he teaches piano to spectrummy kids but not neurotypical kids, because "he finds it difficult to understand how they think and learn." That is, autistic/non-autistic as a sort of cultural barrier.

Having read the chapter... I can't say this is really a case of treating us as experts on autism in general (and some of us are general autism experts rather than simply being experts in our own lives and our own particular autistic ways of being) but of us being framed as spreading particular messages that relate specifically to our own life experiences in the hopes that they generalize. He says we are experts, but devotes far more space to showing our behavior in anecdotes that illustrate things than to allowing us to speak for ourselves, as the experts he says we are. We're articulate... so he doesn't relay much of what we actually say, and the readers don't have to listen.

Part 11 here!

1 comment:

  1. Is this the piece Autistic Hoya wrote about articulacy?


    This was the first time I'd been exposed to their work.

    and the answer to q#15 in the FAQ.

    Ros: her presentations under the LOGICALLY ILLOGICAL banner are great.

    Ah, Eastman. And Miedzianik.

    So Grandin comes in under "loosely the first USian to write a first-person account".

    Yes, that word articulate is racialised and class-coded.

    No, I don't think Ros went to graduate school. She does describe her speaking as a form of acting.

    Probably a time she was treated like a zoo exhibit of the self-narrating kind was doing SNOW CAKE.


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