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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Jobs for autistic strengths and "autistic strengths"

Full disclosure: Real Social Skills got me thinking about this with some tweets (first tweet, second tweet, third tweet), and then a blog post, both of which I think you should read. That said, I think my thoughts are parallel rather than identical and it's still worth my writing my bit.

To me, what she's saying reads a few main points:
  • Some models of autistic strengths assume that attention to/liking of detail is one of the strengths.
  • They then assume this means we will enjoy repetitive, detail-oriented jobs most people find mundane.
  • That's still putting us into different sorts of jobs than everyone else (segregation!) but calling it strengths based and assuming we're all the same.

Since this is May 1 (Blogging Against Disablism Day), I've got some "spot the (dis)abl(e)ism" thoughts. Let's break those down. Here's what I'm reasonably certain isn't ableism:
  • Thinking it's a good idea to play to an autistic person's strengths does not read like ableism to me.
  • Recognizing that some strengths may be statistically common in autistic people does not read like ableism to me.
  •  Understanding that the jobs we find interesting or want to do may be different from what "most people" find interesting or want to do does not read like ableism to me.
Helping an autistic person find a job that's a good fit for them based on their (autistic, since they are autistic and autism is pervasive,) strengths would also not read like ableism to me It would be helping someone find a job for their autistic strengths. Unfortunately,  the way programs around finding jobs for "autistic strengths" often run ... does have ableism involved.
  • Assuming that "autistic strengths" means exactly a certain set of (perhaps statistically common) strengths is treating us as a monolith, and therefore ableism. Not all autistic people are detail-oriented, for example. (I appear to be a lot more detail-oriented than I really am thanks to pattern-recognition.)
  • Assuming that a given strength will correspond to a given interest is stereotyping based on interests. If you're only doing this in the presence of an assumed disability, it's ableism. If not ... it's still inaccurate stereotyping but it might not be ableism?
  • Celebrating how we can therefore do these jobs other people find boring and pushing us into those jobs is effectively workplace segregation, definitely stereotyping based on autism, and therefore ableism.
And this is what a lot of autism employment programs seem to be doing. It's not what we need. My jobs? Based on my actual strengths, some of which are a bit stereotypical and some of which are decidedly not. Math? Yeah, I'm good at that and I like it. People tend not to be surprised by that one. Grading? I guess that involves attention to detail, or pattern recognition that makes breaks in expected patterns stand out. Teaching? Seems a bit social, yes? Well, explaining things to people in ways they can understand is absolutely part of my skill set. As a student, I often explain math-heavy neuroscience papers to my non-math classmates in the neuroscience program. As a teacher, it means finding the way to explain a given concept that actually makes sense to my students. I don't think any autism employment program is going to suggest that a person who can't always talk become a teacher, but that's what I do. Editing? I guess it's attention to detail, but it's also language. None of my work has been in areas typically considered "boring," and a lot of the work people consider "boring"? Really wouldn't be a good fit for me. Assuming it must work for me because I'm autistic isn't going to work. I'm an Autistic person, not a machine made of autism stereotypes. 


  1. So what's been your experience with the open job market?

  2. Funnily enough I have a major problem when I see this happen as part of advocacy initiatives and the like... "you should employ an autistic person because - (list of stereotypical strengths, presented as if all AS people have them, and they're all that AS people have)". Like, I see myself in maybe a quarter of those, but the rest aren't really any kind of fit, and there's a lot of things I can do that are missing. If that was put forward to a prospective employer and they hired me on the basis of it because it made me look like a perfect match for a certain role, we'd be parting company a few months later, both feeling rather disappointed and cheated.

    A particular infographic / image macro style meme I saw outlines it better as "Autism is a buffet bar", with a couple dozen strengths *and* weaknesses overlaid as the names of the different foods in the trays at said bar. They're all things that may selectively be true for any given person on the spectrum, but the implication is that only some of them end up on your plate, and there's probably a few other such bars scattered around the room, either AS specific or just relevant to the general population, because our brains aren't 100% different... just enough to cause a bit of disconnect here and there. I recognise more of myself in that second example simply because it's allowed to tick off a certain few of the presented possibilities, and to have other traits besides, rather than having them as an all-or-nothing, be-all-and-end-all prescription.


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