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: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

(Formal) Accommodations

For the first time in my life, I have formally turned an accommodations letter from Disability Services in to a professor. My accommodations are done "correctly," with proper paperwork from the abled people who make it their business to document those things.

Despite all my opinions on the abled bureaucracy gatekeeping access for disabled people (where are your handlers, where are our papers?) I thought I would feel safer, more secure, with that bureaucracy at my back. The person in charge of disability services likes me. A lot of people at this university do. I thought I would feel safer in knowing there was someone besides me who would at least theoretically defend my accommodations, even if getting it to happen in practice didn't seem likely. (More likely for me than for most-- see also: the person in charge of disability services likes me.)

I was wrong. I don't feel safer.

I don't mean in comparison to how safe I felt in the math department, where I didn't turn in my letter because everyone know and trust me. Besides, everyone got that my accommodation would be totally useless to someone who didn't need it anyways. When speech is usable at conversation-typical speeds, the right to use AAC, either writing or typing, instead of speaking is not going to provide an advantage. Very few people write or type faster than they speak. Regardless, the bigger portion was that the professors know me. They trust me to 1) be able to learn the material and demonstrate in the written homework and exams that I understand it, and 2) know what I do and don't need. So they never asked for my letter.

I mean in comparison to how safe I felt in class 1) not having disclosed at all, 2) having said I'm autistic but not mentioned any accommodations, and 3) after having had the conversation about accommodations but before forwarding the Disability Services letter about said accommodations. How safe I felt increased as I progressed through those steps, and then dropped as soon as I sent the letter in.

You see, I'm taking a statistics class this summer. I'd never met the professor before the first day of class. She's nice, she's friendly, and she even pointed out that accommodations are a thing when going through the syllabus, which most professors don't do. (They have to have a disability statement on they syllabus, and that statement is generally pretty boilerplate, copied from other professors or semesters. They don't need to announce it in class while going over the syllabus and usually don't.)

I talked to her during a break during class. I let her know what my accommodation is (typing/text-to-speech or writing) and she was cool. She suggested that in addition to the in-class solutions I already had, I should always feel free to email with questions after class. I'm pretty darn sure her reaction to my disclosure is not the reason that going through the "proper" accommodation process with my paperwork leaves me feeling less safe than not doing so.

So what is it? Anyone else have this experience? I'd love to have more idea of why I'm feeling this way.


  1. So good that statistics professor said "E-mail with questions after class". Not many professors do this!

    Why do you feel less safe?

    If the disability services professor didn't like you so much...?

    "Where are your handlers? Where are your papers?"

  2. Because you shouldn't have to?

    Needing a formal accommodation letter is very medical model. I don't feel safer within the medical model even if that is what I have to do to get what I need.

    I'm autistic but I've never needed/requested/gotten formal accommodations related to autism. I have gotten formal accommodations for other disability related things. And I feel safer getting them than not getting them, but certainly less safe than if I'd just gotten what I needed in the first place.

    Like, I need to type, not handwrite.

    I am safer typing as a formal accommodation than not being permitted to type. But I am safer still in a universe when I can just type if I need to, without it having to be a formal, signed, on paper accommodation.

    The time I had to get a formal typed-on-letterhead letter from a doctor (a handwritten note from an OT didn't cut it) to be permitted to SIT ON THE FLOOR in lecture hall, I felt decidedly unsafe compared to all the times when I just sit on the floor if I want/need to.

    In the best version of the current world, people get the accommodations they need. But in the world I want to see, no one would need accommodations because people would just get what they need in the first place. That's the safest world to be a disabled person.

  3. Oddly, I kind of recognise this, but not in the academic realm... instead, the employment one. Getting first a dyslexia and, later, aspergers diagnosis helped explain a lot of the difficulties I had trying to battle my way through the early-to-mid noughties academic, and after that the working environment, without any kind of support or even understanding (and thus ability to intelligently compensate for or work around) my own issues.

    The initial diagnosis helped deal with some academic problems I was facing at the time (even if only mildly - any kind of comprehensive support was so long in coming that I left the associated training scheme before it could kick in), and the latter one has helped round out the picture and open the door to enough other support and understanding avenues that I now feel confident in applying for upper high school thru university level retraining and apprenticeships - having, prior to that, completely sworn off further formal learning for nearly ten straight years as an unmanageable hell that I never wanted to participate in ever again. Having those bits of paper mean I better understand and can contextualise any struggles I have in terms of those conditions, know that I can seek and obtain support for them, and what it is I need to ask for... rather than the previous case of simply assuming there was something broken in my head that meant that, although I had been able to somehow fake being smart enough to handle lower level learning, I was actually simply too stupid to handle anything much more complex than regular HS diploma level work.

    So the diagnosis and report, and having it to submit to future educators, makes me feel somewhat safer and more secure in my ability to do the work, and claim and access the support or allowances that I may need to do that.

    On the flipside ... the experience I've had of trying to get similar help in the workplace has been deeply negative; at best, it seems to be paid lip service, and whatever minor actual assistance ends up being granted is so token and ineffectual that I'd rather have given up on it and claimed back that time to keep on plugging blindly away at my tasks as I had been beforehand. It's making me very wary and uncertain about how to approach declaring my diagnosis to future employers or claiming any in-work support through them, or whether to even do that in the first place. I have a fear that it would mark me out as being potentially just too much of a hassle and additional drain on company resources, and prevent me even getting job offers in the first place. And if not, my potential managers may have their opinions of me coloured as a troublemaker, malingerer or ineffective worker before we even meet.

    I had enough trouble dealing with applications and interviews and settling into new jobs beforehand, when I thought I was just weak through lack of practice in certain areas ... now it's developing almost into a phobia, as I know I'm *inherently* bad at these things. And particularly, reasonable adaptions for interviews have been so thin on the ground as to be essentially nonexistent, even though most places ask you whether you need any ahead of time, so I have no confidence in similar hands being extended in the jobs themselves. The net result of the diagnosis, other than maybe providing something I can use to cover my ass, has been one of enhanced uncertainty and nerves...


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