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, March 29, 2017

What do you mean by severity?

A question I found on Quora (then answered, but the answer here is longer):
Do people with autism have an understanding of their own condition? If so, why does it not lessen the severity of it?
Now, those of you who have been around my blog a while might know that I am an autistic person, not a person with autism, and that I have reasons for this. That's not quite the point of this question though, so it's not quite the point of my answer either. Poking some holes in the premise, on the other hand? Sure.

I'm autistic. I know I'm autistic. This was not always the case. I used to know I was weird but not that autism was a label that could explain some of my weirdness. (Affinity for the absurd is also relevant.)

I know that, related to my being autistic, I am not always able to speak. Sometimes I can, but sometimes I can't. Knowing that I can't always talk doesn't magically make me always able to talk. (There would be a bit of a paradox if it did.)

However, knowing I can't always talk means I can plan around not always being able to talk. I carry alternative communication methods: pen and paper, text to speech software on my laptop, a whiteboard marker... it varies with the environment. But who looks more obviously disabled? Someone who happens not to be speaking or someone using text to speech because they can't speak? I am taking an action that mitigates an effect of my disability. This action also makes my disability more apparent. Am I more severe or less for doing so? Does the question even apply to my situation?

I also know some patterns about what activities or environments make it more likely that I will be unable to talk. That's a fairly thorough understanding of one piece of how I work, yes? Well, this knowledge means I can plan my activities in order to minimize the chance of speech giving out on me. (Or I can choose not to care, since I very rarely have a reason to care about speech per se. Access to one working communication method matters. That one method being speech usually doesn't. But let's assume, for the time being, that we're dealing with a circumstance where I would prefer to be able to speak.) This planning means I may choose to skip an activity or to leave an event early in the interest of maintaining my ability to speak. If I make this decision (and say why, if asked), does my non-presence for disability reasons make me more severe? Does maintaining my ability to speak make me less severe? Does the question even make sense in my situation?

On an entirely different note, I know sitting "properly" still is difficult for me. I could spend lots of energy doing so anyways (and probably not remember much of what I heard in class.) I could bring drawing or sewing with me. (It looks weird, but it's not obviously an autism thing. These take little enough attention that I'll retain more than I would trying to sit properly still, but enough that it's not perfect. It's often been my best option.) I could bring a fidget toy, marketed to neurodivergent people. Really, it's probably marketed to parents of neurodivergent kids but that's another issue. (I'm a bit more obvious now, especially if I'm also flapping and rocking. However, we've maximized my attention and retention.) So, the more visibly obvious my disability is, the more I'm getting done. When am I "more severe"? When am I "less severe"? What does this question even mean?

I get more obviously autistic (less "visibly high functioning", thanks Dani) when I order my life in ways that make it easier for me to get stuff done.
What do you mean by severity?

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