06 May, 2011

“I can do RAD all by myself”: a fancy About Me section

I was born in 1988 to a rich white family on the East Coast of the United States of America. For those keeping track, I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when I was 9 and Asperger’s when I was 14--but all that really tells you about me is that I was born in 1988 to a rich white family on the East Coast of the United States of America.

By the time I was 18, I had been undiagnosed many times by people both qualified and unqualified to do so; and after a brief flirtation with Autistic culture I soon succumbed to the implications of the types of praise and encouragement young disabled people often receive. When we succeed we’re told that we’re not really disabled or that we’re different from other disabled people. The idea of being a real average disabled person becomes unacceptable. Being approved of or getting the things that we want is associated with not being something that we are; so, growing up, we bury part of ourselves.

I grew up to be a buried young adult. When I associated autism with myself at all, I identified as “very high-functioning” or “someone who used to have Asperger’s.” I even wished there was a word for someone who was more high-functioning than Asperger’s, since I felt I was on the very, very mild end of that spectrum, almost disappearing into thin air.

I experienced a lot of intense emotions, but ultimately calmness and joy, when I was around disabled people; so in college, I decided that I wanted to work with disabled people professionally. As I began to get experience doing this, I became aware of two things. First, I learned that I liked real average disabled people and would like to be one. I also learned that disabled people were often treated or judged in ways that didn’t make sense but were accepted as natural.

So, I became interested in analyzing and taking apart some of the “natural” judgments and decisions that are made about disabled people, and that’s most of what I do here. In the process of writing this blog and learning from other blogs, I’ve made some real average disabled friends and acquaintances who have helped me get better at being RAD.

In a few weeks I’ll graduate from college and go work at a summer camp for teenagers and adults with disabilities. I don’t know what I’m doing after the summer, so I can’t write a better description of my life circumstances. The best way to describe my “disability experience” is to say I’m a cognitive zombie and an emotional werewolf, but I’d rather not try. I’m Christian, queer, and cis; I write genre fiction about dishonest people; and I used to make pop music.

Here is a picture of me with a book I really like, but unfortunately have to write a paper on soon:

[Image description: a white girl with blond hair wearing a black shirt, blue nail polish, and a ring, sitting in front of a window in a white room and holding up Showings by Julian of Norwich. Unintentionally covering up Christ's face. Overdoes image descriptions and as a result tends to avoid them or put them as alt text so no one finds out how dumb the image description is without using a screen reader, or hovering over the image to see what it says.]


  1. "without using a screen reader."

    or looking in the HTML code. (not that I ever do that, oh no)

  2. are you serious, you're a fantastic person. why don't you just hover though? or do you do it for other reasons?

  3. Oh I have other reasons also. Sometimes people leave in funny comments (when they make pages manually).

    But sometimes I also hover.

  4. I like your description of yourself as a "buried young adult," it's very evocative somehow.

  5. <3

    I got confused when I read RAD and thought you meant RDI (because that's something that people "do"), so I looked up "RAD autism" and then was more confused and then decided to actually read through this whole thing and then got un-confused.

    I would diagnose you as awesome. Autistically awesome!

  6. In most browsers other than Internet Explorer the hover thing doesn't work, so you have to look in the source code.

    Are you planning not to make music anymore? :(

  7. Congratulations on succeeding as much as you have and I hope you continue to push yourself towards the sorts of spaces you want to be in.

    I wasn't *~OfIcIaLlY dIaGnOsEd~* with an ASD until fairly recently, but I did have some motor and learning things that I reacted similarly to you as. You are definitely one of the forces that helped me realize that it was okay to think of myself as disabled.

  8. Good luck with your work! I have often wondered if the "brilliant" had more in common with those on the other end of the bell curve than they did with those in the middle.

    Birds of a feather and all....

  9. Pancho, you are A+, that is in fact the correct way to spell "officially diagnosed."

    also I use Firefox and hovering works for me but I don't know what browser you are using. Zoe are those your stim toys?

    I'm not sure I know what you're referring to r.b. I do remember, when I had the whole "I'm more high-functioning than EVEEERRRRYONE" trip going on, I identified more with people with severe developmental disabilities than people with mild disabilities--I mean I guess this is sometimes still true, but it was obviously confusing to me at the time because being "high-functioning" was such a big part of my identity. I think that it probably has a lot to do with the fact that the way "mild autism" is talked about is so based in "social skills" and "awkwardness" and that's the least of my problems. When cognitive zombie/emotional werewolf stuff is discussed, it's usually about people with severe disabilities.

  10. Ding ding!

    A girl at my school is doing a project where she takes eyes-up photographs of students in their preferred on-campus environment (beyeographies.tumblr.com). It's actually really cool. I posed in front of a shelf on which I have arranged my beloved objects.

    (Now that I have typed the phrase "beloved objects" I feel very conflicted and am considering deleting it because, stereotypes, but ultimately will not delete it because, fuck that shit.)

  11. "I think that it probably has a lot to do with the fact that the way "mild autism" is talked about is so based in "social skills" and "awkwardness" and that's the least of my problems. When cognitive zombie/emotional werewolf stuff is discussed, it's usually about people with severe disabilities."


    AKA, yes, this.

  12. This is an excellent article, which reflects some of the same ambivalence toward labels I had had for a couple of years following my diagnosis, right through early 2011, in fact. You've inspired me to write a post on similar topic for Autistic Hoya -- in a little bit.


    Blessings and peace,

  13. Hello Amanda, I apologize for the topic highjack.

    I am one of the editors for The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. We would like to republish this post on our blog.

    Can you email me so I can send you the details? My email is lizditz at gmail dot com.

    Amanda, sorry for the topic