27 June, 2011

the violence of nerdiness

(from Fear Claws)

more on this (about Chase from Runaways, some weak spoilers)

I was also thinking that Chase’s lack of nerdiness/intellectualism/intelligence (including the facts that he isn’t part of a subculture, doesn’t do well in school, and is often kind of dense and spacey) is an extremely important facet of his character, and that makes it especially unfortunate that Joss Whedon retconned him as nerdy. The conceit of Runaways is that all the main characters have parents who are a different type of supervillain, and when the kids find out, they team up to fight their parents. Chase’s parents are “mad scientists,” obviously the most intellectual type of supervillain (which Whedon himself portrayed as a hero in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, with the villain being a conventional hero, Captain Hammer, who is a stereotypical dumb jock–self-centered, stupid, sexist, and a bully of the nerdy Dr. Horrible). Although, like all the Runaways’ parents, they do evil with the goal of providing for their children, Chase’s parents are physically and emotionally abusive, and they are the only set of parents who are like this.

Although Chase fights with his parents and behaves rebelliously, he is written throughout Brian K. Vaughan’s run as having internalized the lessons he was taught by their abuse–basically, that he deserved to be abused because he wasn’t a good person, misbehaved, or was otherwise unsatisfactory. An amazingly painful moment, toward the end of BKV’s run, is Chase’s realization that he is “innocent” after all. (Amazingly painful because Chase wants to sacrifice an innocent soul to bring his dead friend back to life, so his realization causes him to plan his own death.) Chase’s parents frame their abuse of him in terms of “we’re smart, and you’re unsatisfactory and don’t know what is good for you, because you aren’t smart/intellectual.”

I started thinking about Chase again because my original post was called “isn’t that a cliche?” which is a quote from the first page Chase appears on. During an argument about Chase’s grades, his dad hits him and tells him he is a “dumb jock,” a “cliche.” Chase responds, “You’re a nerd who punches like a girl–isn’t that a cliche?” Which I think is really interesting because if you do read Chase’s dad through that lens, as a nerd who was bullied as a kid and wasn’t physically able to stand up for himself, and the violence that grew in him became his supervillainy…doesn’t that serve as a frame for his parenting? Does he have a childhood hatred of “dumb jocks,” which he takes out on his dumb jock son? It doesn’t matter if you “punch like a girl,” after all, if the person you’re punching is young and dependent on you.

So can I just say how much I love Brian K.Vaughan? He clearly isn’t mainstream or anti-nerd, as many of the positive characters are nerdy, but he also sees the potential violence in the idea that nerds are better than other people. In Y the Last Man he does a great job of portraying very diverse characters and the same is true for Runaways.

(The reason I’m categorizing this post as “disability” is that I think some disability culture, primarily Autistic culture, has this kind of nerd violence in it. Basically, autism is associated with nerdiness and intellectual achievement, and the people who hold this association think that intellect should redeem autism from the stigma of disability, or even the word disability. People who feel this way are prevented from experiencing solidarity with people who have autism but don’t have high intellectual achievement, or have intellectual disabilities, and they are prevented from experiencing general disability solidarity. Which is a huge problem in my opinion, and very upsetting.)

25 June, 2011

real time post #1

but not a super composed post, just a reply to a comment. Normally I'd just respond in the comment thread obviously, but since I've had poor access to the Internet I have spent a lot of time thinking about the comment and have a lot to say.

Sarah Abraham-son is a person who writes a blog called Aspies on TV where she lists TV and movie characters who she thinks have "Asperger's." Several months ago I made a comment here expressing why I didn't agree with the blog, and she recently came across the comment and left her own comment on one of my recent posts. This is Sarah's comment:

Hi Amanda:
I just read this, I'm not sure how we disagree, based on your comment on my blog. Of course people with ASDs commonly have EF issues and mood issues, but these are not core features and not part of the diagnostic features, but often more disabling than some core features. Many of the fictional characters I described do have these features, eg. David Brent in The UK Office (EF issues help him be bad at his job, mood issues develop later when he's fired). This sort of issue though is not very funny, and the aim of fiction is firstly to entertain in some way, so not standard in comedy characters with ASDs.

Hi Sarah. Like many Autistic people and allies, I don’t consider the stuff you consider to be core features of autism to be core features of autism. I’d recommend reading my “social skills don’t exist” series to better understand my perspective on social skills being socially constructed.

As for executive function and mood not being part of the diagnostic critera for autism spectrum disabilities, that’s neither here nor there as the DSM kind of blows in this department. Also, the social skills thing is really neither here nor there either, as a lot of of the characters you claim are “Aspies” don’t even have the kind of social problems that verbal people with autism usually have, but are insensitive or odd in any number of ways. I think fictional diagnostics is fun and everything, but to pick out any character who doesn’t fit in socially or acts rude, without taking the time to think about the specific reasons why some verbal Autistic people don’t fit in or are perceived as rude, is to thoughtlessly perpetuate the very popular and inaccurate belief that all types of insensitivity and social awkwardness equal “Asperger’s.”

Not really clear what you mean with the entertainment value thing--I can think of many humorous portrayals of people with mood disorders and other psychiatric disabilities (although I don’t agree with a lot of them obviously), and cognitive disabilities including intellectual disabilities and Alzheimer’s. Just on a basic level, I tried to serve myself corn in a water glass the other day and all my campers thought it was really funny. Probably much more funny than if I said, “Wow, you have ugly hair” or whatever I’d be saying if I was an autism pop culture character.

Furthermore...come on. Funniness is not an excuse for portraying minority groups inaccurately or disrespectfully--not that portraying a minority group was even what most of these TV shows and movies were trying to do.

24 June, 2011

Fallacy Week: Form Over Function Fallacies

Hi guys it's FALLACY WEEK! Every day you get some fallacy action from a post I made a super long time ago at LOVE-NOS.

Form Over Function Fallacies
I guess that all fallacies of relevance kind of are form over function, but these fallacies are ones in which stuff that is just incredibly, incredibly content-free gets used to win an argument. Again, these are difficult to separate and define, and parts of them are familiar, so I won’t be overlong in describing them.

1. John has an intellectual disability. John and Mary are having an argument about something important to John, and he starts crying. Isaiah, who is also present, concludes that John is obviously too fragile to be thinking about this stuff or having these conversations, or is too childlike to understand the issues being discussed.
2. John and Mary are having an argument about something important to Mary, and she starts crying. John feels bad for being insensitive or being too fixed on a particular point of view. Or if he doesn’t feel bad automatically, Mary or Isaiah tells him that he should feel bad.
3. John has autism. He and Mary argue. Mary tells him that he is too fixed on his own point of view, because of his autism.
4. John can have many different developmental or psychiatric disabilities, but he usually has autism. He and Mary argue. Mary tells him that he can’t understand the experiences of other disabled people, or their families and staff, because his disability makes him insensitive and unempathetic.
5. The way John talks is unusual and/or impaired, and boy do Mary and Isaiah talk about that after he’s gone. He talks in a very rehearsed way or blanks out when asked a complicated question, so Mary and Isaiah figure that he’s either lying or has been trained by someone else and doesn’t really understand what he’s saying. He uses the wrong words a lot, or rambles, so he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. He uses very simple words, so he isn’t being serious. Infinite examples.

I can’t really deconstruct these because they just are awful and if you don’t understand why, you never will. Anyway, it's the end of Fallacy Week! Go forth and argue.

23 June, 2011

Fallacy Week: Undisabling Fallacies

Hi guys it's FALLACY WEEK! Every day you get some fallacy action from a post I made a super long time ago at LOVE-NOS.

Undisabling Fallacies

Undisabling is when someone is speaking as a person with a disability, and you convince them that they don’t have a right to do that. I’m not going to go over these fallacies with a fine-toothed comb because a)there are tons of them, and b)they often contain elements of the Harder Fallacy, the Shocking Behavior Fallacy, and the Suddenly Specific Definition Fallacy–so they should be pretty easy to figure out.
I should probably mention that a lot of the other fallacies are pretty innocent and are often used by people who don’t have these conversations very much and aren’t really thinking about what they’re saying. Undisabling fallacies tend to be used by people who are very very involved in these issues, and are really vicious.

1. Mary tries to convince John that his disability either isn’t real, or isn’t severe enough for him to have an opinion. She does this by trying to make him feel guilty by telling him something bad that happened to someone else with the same disability. For example, if John has muscular dystrophy, Mary could tell him about someone she knew with muscular dystrophy who died when they were very young. John is set up as seeming to claim a bad experience that he didn’t have. He feels bad. This is the Suddenly Specific Definition Fallacy, and is closely related to the Shocking Behavior Fallacy, although it’s not an exact application.
2. John says something that goes against disability being the Super Sad Worst Thing–probably it was about Thomas the Tank Engine, knowing him. Mary takes this to mean that John is happy and doesn’t see his disability as a problem at all; therefore, she says, his disability must not be very severe; therefore he doesn’t understand. This is both the Harder Fallacy and the Suddenly Specific Definition Fallacy.
3. A really souped-up version of #1 where Mary tries to pick a behavior that she thinks will really gross John out, to the point that he’ll get super confused and never say anything about disability ever. I’ve seen some people in the Autistic community use the phrase “You don’t smear feces!” as an inside joke because it is so consistently used in this type of fallacy.
4. John is being insensitive to Mary’s very negative feelings about disability by stating his own feelings and opinions, which of course she takes as being very positive because they are not like hers. Kind of Harder Fallacy-ish. Also kind of ties into what I’m about to describe. Since I am posting this in pieces, you'll have to wait till tomorrow if you're reading this on ISE!

22 June, 2011

Fallacy Week: The Contest Fallacy

Hi guys it's FALLACY WEEK! Every day you get some fallacy action from a post I made a super long time ago at LOVE-NOS.

The Contest Fallacy

JOHN: It makes me upset when my parents always say that they wish I wasn’t disabled.
MARY: But that’s totally legit. It limits what you can do with your life and it means things are going to be harder for you.
JOHN: I mean, I get that, but how would you feel if your parents were always saying they wish you weren’t a woman because things are harder for women?
MARY: That’s so stupid, John. Being a woman and being disabled aren’t the same thing!


JOHN: I’m not saying that parents don’t have a right to say if they’re upset about their kids being autistic, but, like…it’s basically like if every time there was something on TV or in a magazine about gay people, it was gay people’s parents saying that they wish their kid could be straight and how depressed they are.
MARY: Can’t you explain how you feel without doing Oppression Olympics? People try to make their kids straight all the time. Haven’t you ever heard of Love in Action?

In both examples, John tried to explain how he feels about something as a disabled person by replacing disabled people with a group that Mary belongs to; but Mary either turned it into a contest between the two groups, or thought that John was trying to have a contest.
The first example is easier to take apart because it’s obvious how much of a subject change there is from John’s analogy to Mary’s response. John was trying to explain that your parents can imagine an easy life for you to an extent that makes your real life much harder. Mary responded as if John was saying that because women and disabled people both have harder lives, they are exactly the same.
The second example is more tricky to discuss because it involves an accusation of Oppression Olympics. Oppression Olympics basically means that you say that your minority group has it worse than another minority group. Sometimes people do it intentionally in a conflict, but other people just have a lot of trouble understanding that the problems of the group they’re advocating for are not worse than the problems of everyone else in the world. Hence the astonishingly self-centered, and astonishingly common, declaration that whatever prejudice you care about it is “the last acceptable prejudice.”
Basically, Oppression Olympics is really annoying. You don’t want to do it. But was John doing it? Let’s think back.
Did John say that gay people aren’t oppressed?
Did he say that people with autism are more oppressed than gay people?
Did he say that gay people’s parents never try to make them straight?
No, he didn’t say any of those things.
He did state that the majority of media about gay people is not about parents wanting to cure their gay kids, which is true. Such a statement could be used in Oppression Olympics, if John was trying to argue that he is more oppressed than Mary–but in fact, rather than trying to “win” by convincing her that their oppressions are on different levels, he was trying to explain his experience in a way that would be accessible to her through her experience. It’s perfectly likely that his intentions were to connect with her, not to be malicious and deny her experience as a gay person.
I do think this can be a little dodgy, and the best way to make this kind of analogy is by comparing two groups that you belong to. However, not everyone can do this; and while John made a risky comparison, he was not wrong.

21 June, 2011

Fallacy Week: The Shocking Behavior Fallacy & The Suddenly Specific Definition Fallacy

Hi guys it's FALLACY WEEK! Every day you get some fallacy action from a post I made a super long time ago at LOVE-NOS.

The Shocking Behavior Fallacy

MARY: My nephew Ralph has autism and it’s really sad. He insists on watching Thomas the Tank Engine every day, and he’s sixteen.
JOHN: Why is that sad? There’s nothing inherently wrong with an older person liking things that are aimed at kids. I feel like in our society, people label a lot of things as problems that aren’t actually problems.
MARY: That’s really insensitive. Ralph bites himself so badly that he has to go to the hospital.

John didn’t say that it’s not a problem to seriously hurt yourself, nor did he say that Ralph doesn’t have any problems. But Mary reacted as though he did say that, and now John is knocked off balance. He wonders, did he say that? How can he explain that that has nothing to do with what he was saying? Is there anything he can say now to avoid giving the impression that he thinks self-injury is okay?
In the Shocking Behavior Fallacy, you can use a shocking behavior to excuse something unrelated that you did to or said about the person who has the behavior. The fallacy functions by changing a very specific statement to a general one. Mary changed John’s specific statement–watching Thomas the Tank Engine is okay–to a very general statement–everything Ralph does is okay. Now she can prove John wrong by giving an example of something Ralph does that is not okay.

(Fun fact: This is actually one of the most dangerous fallacies in use. By equating one thing a person does with everything that person does, it creates a class of people about whose treatment no one is allowed to complain. Let’s change the example a little and say that Mary is a staff person working in an institution, and every time she sees Ralph trying to watch Thomas the Tank Engine she takes points away from him, which means that he doesn’t get to go on day trips. John thinks that Mary is micromanaging Ralph’s choices in an abusive way. Mary responds that Ralph has to be monitored closely and dealt with harshly because his problems are so severe; he bites himself, remember?
Professionals can fall into an inverse of the Shocking Behavior Fallacy, where instead of going from specific to general to shocking behavior, they go from shocking behavior to general to specific. Ralph has a really big problem, but instead of thinking of it as one problem, Mary starts thinking of it as who Ralph is. So whenever Mary sees Ralph doing something she doesn’t agree with, she responds as if he is biting himself. The results can be horrifying.)

The Suddenly Specific Definition Fallacy

JOHN: It bothers me that doctors tell pregnant women that people with Down Syndrome can’t count change. They advise women to abort people like me, when they don’t even know what someone with Down Syndrome can do.
MARY: But most people with Down Syndrome aren’t like you. Just think, it would be so hard to have a kid who could never live on their own.

In this fallacy, you tell a person with a disability that they can’t use their feelings or experiences to make a point about their disability, because you just made a new, more specific definition of the group of people being talked about-–a definition which no longer includes them. Mary has transformed John from someone who had authority on the subject, due to his experience, to someone whose experiences aren’t valid because he’s an exception.
Let’s briefly accept Mary’s new definition of someone with Down Syndrome-–a person who can never live on their own. It’s true, John could have some opinions about whether it’s wrong to abort such a person, but he can’t speak as someone from that particular group. But guess what? The prenatal test doesn’t measure whether someone could live on their own, it just measures whether they have Down Syndrome. If a fetus exactly like John is diagnosed with Down Syndrome, it doesn’t get a break because it’s John. Its mother’s doctor is just as likely to present the diagnosis as bad news, encourage an abortion, and list a bunch of things the child won’t be able to do that may or may not be true of the John-fetus in particular, or people with Down Syndrome in general. Being an exception gets the John-fetus absolutely nothing.
The reason the Suddenly Specific Definition Fallacy is a fallacy is because of its suddenness. Stuff goes along, people with a particular disability are getting discriminated against, mild and severe alike. Everyone’s welcome in the stigmatized group. Then someone says, “Hey, I have this disability and all these things you’re saying about my disability aren’t true.” Bam! Apply the Suddenly Specific Definition Fallacy and remove the person’s authority (they can keep the stigma).

(Fun fact: I’m sorry if the example comes off as melodramatic, but I’ve read a lot about this stuff and John is not exaggerating.)

20 June, 2011

Fallacy Week: The Harder Fallacy & The Uncomfortable Fallacy

Hi guys it's FALLACY WEEK! Every day you get some fallacy action from a post I made a super long time ago at LOVE-NOS.

A lot of the time, when you are having a conversation about disability and/or ableism, the person you are arguing with will make a fallacious argument. Most of the fallacies I’m describing in this post are fallacies of relevance. Wikipedia describes fallacies of relevance as “presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but does not address the issue in question.”

Fallacies of relevance can be very difficult to respond to for several reasons.

1. They involve an abrupt change of subject, which can confuse and distract you, causing you to lose your train of thought. Depending on your disability, this can have the effect of making you have to quit the conversation altogether.
2. Often the change of subject isn’t obvious–it may even be unintentional on the part of the person who’s using the fallacy, if they are responding emotionally rather than logically. You may end up feeling that something isn’t right about what they said, but unable to identify exactly what it is.
3. A lot of these fallacies involve stating something irrelevant that is true. You may become confused and think you are wrong because the other person said something true.
4. A lot of these fallacies involve stating something irrelevant that is related to violence, the speaker’s personal feelings, or other emotionally powerful themes. You may become uncomfortable and think that it would be wrong to disagree, because you might be implying that you don’t care about violence, people’s feelings, etc.

I have experienced 1, 2, 3, and 4 in real-life and online conversations, and as a result I’ve become super interested in sitting around by myself and deconstructing what happened–why did I feel like I was wrong even as I sensed that the other person wasn’t being fair?

In these examples, John is a disabled self-advocate, while Mary is using various fallacies to oppose him. From example to example John and Mary are different people and have different relationships with each other. I tried to give John a few different disabilities, since most of these fallacies are fairly universal. But I felt awkward doing this, because I was mostly writing from my own experience; I hope I haven’t stuck in disabilities that don’t fit the example.

The Harder Fallacy

JOHN: I didn’t like the story we read in class. It was told from everyone’s point of view but the son with CP, and whenever it talked about the disabled son, it would just list everything he couldn’t do. We never learned about his personality or how he felt about anything. I thought it was an offensive portrayal of a disabled character.
MARY: Come on! Are you saying it’s not harder to have a kid with cerebral palsy? That’s a ridiculous thing to say.

John wasn’t talking about whether it’s harder to have a disabled kid than a non-disabled kid. He just wanted the disabled kid to have a point of view and a personality, like the other characters. If someone wanted, they could easily write a story that portrayed a family having a very hard time coping with their son’s disability, while still portraying the son as a well-rounded character and not a plot device.
Mary was responding to a totally different statement, which she made up in her head and is pretending (or actually thinks) is what John was saying. The way the harder fallacy works is that when someone makes any comment about disability being portrayed offensively or inaccurately, you respond to the following imaginary statement: “It isn’t harder to be disabled and it isn’t harder to live or work with a disabled person.”

(Fun fact: some people use a form of the harder fallacy to defend statements like, “This weather is retarded.” Their argument is that having an intellectual disability is harder than not having one, so therefore intellectual disabilities are bad, and words relating to them can be used to mean “bad.” I guess this is a legit argument, except that most people who make the argument don’t apply their “harder life=synonym for ‘bad’” rule consistently, and only apply it to stigmatized groups.)

The Uncomfortable Fallacy

MARY: Wow John, it’s so nice of you that you do that program where you go bowling with people who have special needs. I really admire you because I’m not the kind of person who can talk to special needs people.
JOHN: Well, they’re just people. I’m sure you could come bowling with us and it would be fine.
MARY: No I can’t. When I’m around special needs people, I feel really uncomfortable and don’t know what to say.

This is a less classic fallacy, and not quite an argument; but I think it’s worth exposing. Mary is confusing a feeling with a fact. She interprets her discomfort with “special needs people” to mean that they are a homogeneous group which one needs certain skills to interact with–skills which, she concludes, she must not have.
If Mary always feels uncomfortable around an entire minority group, it’s probably because she hasn’t been around people from that group very much, or has heard a lot of bad things about them. There is no way an entire group of people could be so similar that one person possesses the ability to either get along, or not get along, with all of them. The uncomfortable fallacy is when you think that being uncomfortable around another person necessarily indicates something about the person.

(Fun fact: You may be wondering why John considers this an argument, when Mary just told him he has admirable skills and is nice. Remember, John is disabled. From Mary’s attitude towards disability, we can guess that she probably doesn’t know John is disabled. But John knows that John is disabled, so he’s probably thinking, “I wonder how Mary would feel about me if she knew I was disabled. Or if she does know, why is she talking to me and why did she tell me she’s uncomfortable around other disabled people? Does she think I’m not really disabled?” And so on. Although Mary meant to compliment John, she simultaneously insulted him which makes him feel, well, uncomfortable.)

17 June, 2011

Autistic Passing Project

I finished this a while back but hadn't really gotten to posting all of it. It's here:


go to the last page and scroll up

(eta: just kidding, I put this in the queue thinking I'd have time to finish posting the passing project, but I actually haven't)

16 June, 2011

What should I know about autism that I'm not learning from pop culture?

from my disability page here

I feel like American pop culture is obsessed with autism. It is obsessed with two kinds of autism: very severe autism, which it thinks is kids hitting their heads, and mild autism, which it thinks is people who act weird and are socially impaired. In America and some other places, a person with autism can make a ton of money writing a book about having autism, especially if they make it sound as exotic as possible.

I'm a pretty good writer, and I have autism, but I think I will try to make money in other ways. I find it hard to write about having autism, especially if I have to make it sound exotic. It doesn't feel exotic to me since it is my life.* Also, as everyone knows, being asked "What is it like being gay?" or "What is it like being a middle child?" is very confusing, because you don't know what a lifelong situation is "like" because things have never been any other way. I feel like it's kind of a betrayal of yourself to write a really sensational book about a disability you have always had.

Anyway, I'm just trying to say that I'm not going to spend a lot of time writing about "what autism is like for me" or "what autism is." There are lots of places you can read that (some of them good). But this one page is an exception because I really just want to talk about the pop culture portrayal of mild autism/Asperger's Syndrome (mild autism and AS are not really synonyms, but whatever, pop culture thinks they are). I want to explain why it's not correct.

Lots of people think "Asperger's" is a purely social disability.

According to pop culture, people with "Asperger's" do some strange/geeky things, and don't understand other people's feelings, and don't have any friends. And that's all that "Asperger's" is.

This is fucked up because it's not true. First of all, it leaves out some really difficult parts of living with autism, and leads people to think that mild autism isn't a real disability. Second of all, it means that the severity of an ASD person's disability is often judged by how socially successful they are. This means that if a person has friends and/or seems "normal," other people won't believe that they are disabled, even if the person has a lot of other problems.

What are those other problems?

Well, one of them is called "executive dysfunction." I recommend reading the Wikipedia page on dysexecutive syndrome, which is a disorder caused by a brain injury, but is very similar to what ASD people experience. Executive dysfunction affects many people with developmental disabilities and is a huge issue for every Autistic person I know, but it hasn't been studied very much and isn't officially considered to be part of autism. (I'm guessing this is because so many studies are done on kids, who have a lot of decisions made for them and therefore aren't going to show executive dysfunction as clearly.)

Also some people with autism have trouble transitioning from one activity to the next, have anxiety problems, have intellectual disabilities, have depression, have sensory issues (get upset by certain sensory experiences, like loud noises or stiff clothes), get upset unless everything is a certain way, or have trouble talking. (Trouble talking can mean a lot of things, like having trouble pronouncing words so people can understand them, having trouble putting together clear sentences, not being able to talk at all when you're upset, or talking in a style that other people react badly to.)

One reason I like to say I have autism instead of saying I have "Asperger's," even though there is a stereotype that autism means severe autism and there is a ridiculous stereotype of what severe autism is: my problems are mostly related to executive dysfunction, anxiety, transitions, and having trouble talking. At least the stereotype of severe autism includes people being upset, not liking change, and not being able to talk or take care of themselves. Even though it's overblown, it's more like what my actual problems are than the "Asperger's" stereotype.


Okay dude, here's the thing:

1. Lots of people with disabilities have social problems. Especially people who have developmental delays, because when they're in school, they may not have the skills or interests that other people their age have. Actually, for people with autism, it isn't always that we seem too young; some people with autism seem too old because they are self-educated and know about things that other kids don't know about, or "talk like an old person." But it can go either way. Or both ways in one person. Talking differently or having different interests can make it hard to fit in.

2. Lots of people who don't have disabilities like to ostracize people who are disabled. Some people with mild autism do things that "look disabled" like flapping their arms or clapping their hands when they're excited or running around all the time. This means that many non-disabled people aren't going to want to be friends with them.

3. Some people with autism may want to talk about the same things all the time, or always do activities that are related to those things. There are actually lots of subcultures that are accessible to a person like that, but the average non-Autistic person will want to do a variety of activities, and won't get along with such a person.

4. Some people with autism have very strong feelings and may scare people they want to be friends with, because they are really affectionate and want to spend a lot of time with them right away.

5. Some non-Autistic people may not understand why a person with autism isn't looking them in the eye, or doesn't want to hang out because it would mean breaking their routine. This means that they may think the person with autism doesn't want to be friends with them, when the person actually does.

6. Some people with autism may be shy and anxious as a result of being bullied when they were younger. They may also be kind of self-conscious and distant if they're trying really hard to hide the fact that they are disabled. This can make it hard to make friends.

I'm not saying that I'm 100% sure autism doesn't cause people to have trouble sensing other people's emotions, but there a lot of aspects of autism that could keep someone from being socially successful. I think it's very reductive to say that "Asperger's means a person is socially impaired/doesn't understand other people's feelings/can't make friends."

When I was 16, I was kicked out of a study of ASD kids because the study was about how to make someone better at reading facial expressions, and I was judged to already be good at reading facial expressions. But despite that, I had a lot of social problems at that age, and still have some now.

What is a better way to think about autism?

(In making up this fake question for myself to answer, I'm thinking about a better way than really sensational books and very special episodes of TV shows saying that people with mild autism are super genius geek robots who don't care about other people's feelings, or don't know that other people's feelings exist.)

I wish that autism was more strongly associated with intellectual disability (formerly known as mental retardation). This isn't because some people with autism have ID, although that's true. It's just because I think there are a lot of similarities: a person with autism, ID, or both is born into the world with a certain disability that they will always have. They will develop some skills later than other people. Depending on the severity of their disability, there may be some things they will always need help with. They may have trouble fitting in with other people. They may be abused by other people for being different. They may end up in situations they don't understand (and of course, people may assume they don't understand things they really do understand). They may have trouble taking care of themselves. They may have trouble talking.

This isn't interesting. It's not something to write a book about--which isn't to say that people with autism, or ID, don't often lead interesting lives. But their impairments alone are not interesting. They're just a part of life.

This is not to deny that people with intellectual disabilities are treated terribly in our society, in a different way from people with autism. I'm jealous that they're not seen as curiosities because of their disability, but the awful side is that they are often seen as not interesting at all in a pervasive way. Non-disabled people just want them to be completely kept out of sight. Non-disabled people insult each other using the word "retard" as if it doesn't refer to any real group of marginalized people. Non-disabled people are surprised to learn that a person with an intellectual disability can be funny or cool, and they do their best to avoid finding that out.

However, once people are actually forced to spend time with a person who has ID, such as by being their parent, I think they are more likely to accept the person for who they are and work around the impairments the person has. This isn't really the case with autism. And I think that the movement for people with ID to be treated equally is in a lot of ways ahead of the movement for people with autism, because of this acceptance. At least there are many organizations that encourage people with ID to speak up for themselves--whereas most people with autism are encouraged only to speak about themselves.

*I admit I'm being kind of a bitch what with constantly declaring that I'm not interested in writing about what autism is like. I mean, I know that some people have been recently diagnosed and they are very interested in reading about what autism is and what it's like, which is legit and I don't want to be critical of anyone who's in that situation and happens to wander over here looking for help. I just tend to be really snarky about this stuff because I really don't like the cultural trend of people with autism being expected to educate non-disabled people about autism. But if you actually have autism and want to talk about it, you should get in contact with me on tumblr or gmail or something.

15 June, 2011

the difference between Asperger's and autism

from my disability page here

Hi, I was just wondering why you keep using words like "ASD" and "autism spectrum disorder" and "autism" and "Autistic" about yourself when it's pretty clear that you have Asperger's and not autism at all.

Well, that is a good question. Can it be "pretty clear" that someone has Asperger's and not autism? What is Asperger's anyway? What's the difference?

I don't think there is a difference. This isn't to say that everyone with ASD is the same, or that I'm denying the privilege I get from being a person with a relatively mild disability, when some people with ASD are quite severely disabled. But I do think there aren't two distinct types of people with ASD called "people with autism" and "people with Asperger's."

You might be interested to know that there is even another ASD diagnosis besides those two. It's called PDD-NOS and when doctors give it to people they mean "this person has ASD that's milder than Asperger's" or "this person has ASD that's more severe than Asperger's but milder than autism" or "this person has autism but I don't want their parents to flip out so I'm going to give them a diagnosis they've never heard of" or "this person has the traits of Asperger's but they have an intellectual disability or they had a speech delay which people with Asperger's aren't technically supposed to have" or a billion other things. There is also a diagnosis called Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which is something that doctors diagnose people with even though it's pretty much exactly like mild ASD, and some people think that only happens because there is a lot of stigma attached to ASD so doctors don't want to diagnose it.

This is pretty boring to read, but just imagine how much more boring it is to go around with for example a PDD-NOS or an NVLD diagnosis and have people going, "but do you have autism or Asperger's??" And no the solution is not to get rid of the PDD-NOS and NVLD diagnoses and stick to autism and Asperger's, because those are hard to separate too. For example, some imaginary people I made up for you so you can do a diagnosis braintwister:

A. ASD person who is pretty good socially and has good self-care skills, but is nonverbal
B. ASD person who seems very verbal when they are assessed by a doctor, but can't talk when they are stressed, speaks in a very disorganized fashion, and has trouble pronouncing words in a way that other people can understand
C. Person who is quite impaired by their sensory issues, to the extent that in loud places they are perceived as someone with a severe developmental disability--who is actually extremely verbal and has normal intelligence
D. Person who has mild ASD that only affects them a little, in terms of being disorganized and a bit socially inept, but has an intellectual disability that keeps them from being able to read or write very well
E. Person who as a young child was nonverbal and seemed severely affected in other ways, but became verbal as they got older and has worked really hard to learn to do a lot of things, and now doesn't "look disabled" to the average person
F. I could make up some more examples but I am again becoming bored so I will just tell you about a cool exchange I had with someone once:

Me: My friend has cerebral palsy.
Other person: Oh, how does it affect him?

The reason I thought this was cool is because I think it's often not useful to talk about disabilities in terms of "mild," "moderate," and "severe." I mean, sometimes it's necessary to use those terms as shortcuts I guess, but when you're talking about an individual I think it makes more sense to say whether they can walk, whether they can talk, and if so what is the way they walk and talk like? What is hard for them? What is something that they've learned to do on a regular basis, but it still kind of tires them out? What are they good at? What do they like to do? Do some things make them upset that wouldn't make a non-disabled person upset? Can other people tell they're disabled? How does the disabled person feel if other people can tell? How do they feel if other people can't tell? Do they ever take steps to try to keep people from "reading" them as disabled? What is their social life like? How are they at academic stuff? How are they at handling transitions? Are they clumsy? Do they make noises sometimes? Do they want to be in a relationship and if so how's that going for them? Do they live on their own? Can they eat lots of different foods and can they tell time?

I just think that, although the terms ASD and autism may seem overly broad to you, it is much better to use a broad term and then fill in the specifics than it is to act like autism exists in two distinct types, especially when there are so many stereotypes associated with each type. I'd rather someone just find out what I am like by knowing me instead of demanding that I tell them my diagnosis or my level of "functioning" or whether I am "mild."

14 June, 2011

can't imagine, can't judge?

(from LOVE-NOS)

Adelaide, actually I didn’t understand what line you were referring to with the terrible vs. unimaginable thing. I’ve been thinking about it more.
I think the difference between terrible and unimaginable is huge.

on the one hand, you can’t completely imagine anything if it isn’t your experience–and everyone should accept that that’s true.

for example, I grew up in a rich family. so if someone’s from a working-class family I’m obviously going to be like, I can’t speak from their experience and I’m going to give more weight to their opinions than mine re: class issues because I’m surely unaware of a lot of stuff. same for other oppressed groups that I don’t belong to. and I guess this is one kind of way of saying, “I can’t imagine your experience–not necessarily because I think it’s a terrible experience, but just, no matter what it is, because it’s not mine. so I’m not going to behave like an authority." But there are limits to this; if I strongly strongly disagree with someone’s actions/beliefs and they attribute their actions/beliefs to an oppressed identity or a terrible experience that I don’t have, and I really think about it but I just think what they did/think is not ethical at all…well, I’m still going to think it’s not ethical.

that’s not totally related but I feel like the response of “I can’t imagine your experience so I can’t judge you” is in SOME WAYS a good response to have, but I feel like when it comes to parents of disabled children, it gets way overdone. the raising/having of a disabled child is seen as so unimaginably terrible that other people are put in the position of feeling like they’re absolutely not ever, ever allowed to judge parents. of course we see this when parents of disabled children kill or seriously abuse their children or put their children in facilities where they are given shocks or take out their kids’ uteruses. anyone who criticizes these parents is constantly told, “you don’t understand the emotional pain/the financial pressure/the physical strain/the lack of free time these parents have.”

of course I don’t understand personally, because I’m not a parent. I try to be as aware as I can. I try to read blogs/watch movies/etc. about people with severe disabilities and their families so that I don’t just project my own experience of disability onto other people and families. I work with people with severe disabilities (I don’t do this to improve my thinking or anything, but just because it’s the type of work I enjoy the most and am good at-–but it helps my thinking, too). I try to think about how all those things could affect a parent–-and I also know that since I am not a parent, I can’t really imagine how it is.

at the same time, I think I can imagine enough to say: there are certain things that no parent should ever do to their kid. It’s not okay. I don’t believe there is some secret feeling that I can’t conceive of, that I would experience if I had a disabled child, and in this feeling would be the reason it is morally acceptable for me to abuse or kill my kid.

so, yes, I can’t imagine other people’s experiences-–but not to an extent where I am going to say, oh, I think certain experiences are so terrible that I’m not even going to begin to think about them, I’m just going to completely detach and not have any opinions about what it’s ethical for that person to do.

13 June, 2011

hi guys it's SUMMER BACK CATALOGUE time!!

I know no one reads this blog anymore because I never post, etc., but starting tomorrow there will be a post every weekday

but every silver lining has a cloud and the cloud of the moment is this: most of the posts will just be things that I already posted in other blogs before, wah-wah. I haven't felt much motivation to write lately and I'm not sure why that is.

Well actually I raised 2 Gyarados

which resulted in a sense of pride I've never experienced writing this blog or anything else, so I may raise a few more Gyarados before they lose their luster and I come back here. But anyway, drumroll, summer back catalogue.

AND if you would like to write a guest post, just email me at awf.vivian at gmail.com or ask me on tumblr. I will probably publish your guest post if I agree with it and think it is interesting, some stuff I like is:

disability + pop culture, or really any social justice reviews of pop culture
children's television/movies/games
intersectionality, especially including disability as one of the identities
Christian ideas/discussion
fallacy smackdowns (next week will be a whole week of fallacy smackdowns, so you'll have ample opportunity to see what I mean)

I reserve the right to think your post is boring or just off-topic for what I think of this blog as being about, but I definitely don't care about whether it's polished, I just care about ideas. You can even make a guest post by anthologizing your facebook statuses, if they are on topic.

04 June, 2011

hi universe, trying to get this out before I forget.

I haven't been posting here for two reasons, one long in the making and one more recent and specific:

1. I have been using tumblr to have more specific conversations and to make shorter and less formed posts.
2. My school switched over to gmail hardcore. It's weird, because they were basically on gmail before, like my school email worked like gmail and I could gchat on it, so I became dependent on it as my main gchat email. Then it somehow became MORE gmail and now I can't be simultaneously logged into my school account and the gmail account I use for this blog. Anyone who knows me knows that all I do is gchat, so I can never log out there, i.e. I can never log in here.

Since I graduated I'll have to either switch back to my old gmail account or somehow consolidate both accounts into a new one (does anyone know if this is possible?) so I'll probably be here more eventually, but I'm working at camp starting in a week for two months, which completely shuts me off from the Internet.



I'm probably going to set up a queue that will result in quite a lot of posting here while I'm gone! Most of the content will be stuff that I've posted on love-nos or tumblr, and a little bit will be things that I just never ended up posting. Of course if anyone is still reading this blog they're probably pretty rabid fans (as if) and will have doubtless read all of these things before...but you know, rabid fans, and therefore will rejoice in getting to read all of this stuff over again.

Which is to say, this blog might spend the next two months being regularly written by no one and read by no one. It'll be like a zombie apocalypse.

Also, if there was a zombie apocalypse, wouldn't it be exciting if you met the zombies of famous people? They'd be acting just like everyone else.