Category Archives: rant

April Wears On Me

Image is of a tired teddy bear slumped over a laptop. Creative commons license, image by Nenad Stojkovic.

As I write this, it is halfway through April. Or Autism Awareness month. Or possibly Autism Acceptance month. Or “sell autism merchandise” month. Honestly, it mostly seems to be that last one.

For the past 15 days I have been absolutely bombarded with targeted advertisements for autism-related things. I expect the same for the next 15 days. And I’m already tired.

I expect that I am a particular target for those advertisements because I am autistic and I talk about it openly. It still strikes me as an odd choice, though – do the algorithms think that I need to be made MORE aware of autism somehow? Because I can assure you – I am already VERY aware of the existence of autism and autistic people. I also like to think I’m pretty accepting of autistic people, including myself. 

Ok, I’m only kind of serious there. I know perfectly well why I’m being targeted, and it isn’t to make me more aware – it’s because people are selling things, and they think that autistic people will be more likely to buy their autism-themed wares. Or (and now that I think about it, this is more likely) they think that parents of autistic children will be more likely to buy their wares, and I’m getting swept up with that because I am an adult and they have forgotten that autistic children turn into autistic adults. Whoopsie!

Often, but not always, the products feature puzzle pieces and the color blue. Often, but not always, the proceeds aren’t getting donated to any autism organizations. Often, but not always, when the proceeds are being donated, it’s to A$ or the like, rather than an actual autistic person lead organization. On one notable occasion, the seller had listened to the autistic community enough to feature rainbow infinity symbols and the colors red and gold, but was still donating to A$ which was honestly really confusing.

And it just wears on me. I know, I should just scroll right by. Don’t even look at them. I almost feel compelled to look over them every time, though. What colors are featured? What symbol is being used? Where is the money going? Why do I keep getting a stomach-ache when I look at these things? (don’t answer that. I know why) 

Like so many ills in the world today, I wish I could do something but I truly don’t know what. If the seller hasn’t bothered to listen to autistic voices yet, they certainly won’t bother to listen to me.

I don’t have a pithy wrap-up to this. I have a blog. Obviously, I am in favor of autism support and awareness and acceptance. These are good things that we need more of. But when an ad literally says “Show your support for Autism Awareness by wearing our custom products.” I just can’t even. It’s not like I’m surprised. I know this is how things are, and I know it’s not just autism stuff where this happens. 

It’s just that April wears on me. Which is a bummer, given that in theory, the month is supposed to be about accepting me.

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Pushback Against Autistic Headcanons

The root of this post is a reddit thread I came across a wee bit ago in which our poster talks about how they started an Instagram about fictional characters they headcanon as autistic, and the strong pushback they got against it. They were wondering why people were reacting so strongly against, apparently, the very idea of seeing fictional characters as autistic if they weren’t explicitly stated to be so by the writers. 

And OOH do I have OPINIONS on this matter. I can’t say exactly why THIS pushback happened in THIS instance because I am not psychic, but I do know why SOME pushback happens in SOME instances. So let’s get started.

First of all, let’s talk about headcanoning. A “headcanon” is a personal belief someone has about a fictional character or story that has not been actually stated IN the story, but makes sense to the person who has the headcanon. It’s pretty common for autistic people to headcanon various fictional characters as autistic because, let’s face it, autism representation is kinda sorta completely terrible. There is not a lot of autism representation in fiction in the first place, and what little there is leaves a lot to be desired. Autistic people are generally either objects of pity, quirky geniuses, or simply displayed for comedy. We hardly ever just get to be, you know, people. 

This is hardly an uncommon thing in minority groups, of course. Nor is it uncommon in those minority groups for people to headcanon a fictional character to be like them in some way – to fill in the gaps of representation, in order to see themselves when they otherwise wouldn’t. Personally, I’ve seen this a whole lot in queer people headcanoning characters as queer in some way – gay or bi or trans or something along those lines. Because representation is important.

Alright, back to autism representation. This is where it gets a little more ugly. The fact of the matter is that in real life, autistic people are rarely ever actually seen as people. We’re seen as objects. And as objects, we are very much NOT seen as having autonomy or the ability to speak for ourselves. For example, I’m sure we’ve all seen how it’s basically stated that if an autistic person can speak for themselves in some way, we are not autistic enough to “count” (honestly, what a terrible thing to say. It astonishes me how horrible people can be sometimes).

But it also means that to at least some people, when we headcanon a character as autistic, we are essentially saying that the character isn’t really a person. Which, yeah, if we were saying that it would truly be terrible. But we aren’t saying that. We’re saying that we see ourselves in that character. We identify with that character. We want to imagine that character is like us in a way that is meaningful to us. Which, to be clear, is not a conclusion we make carelessly, despite what some people think. 

And by “some people” I mean Benedict Cumberbatch (and others, but he’s always the one that comes to mine first for me). I don’t really want to dig a whole lot into what he said because quite frankly, I find it upsetting. So here is a link to a quick summation of this mess, and to summarize the summary – basically Benedict Cumberbatch thinks it’s “lazy” to headcanon people as autistic, and that imagining brilliant, successful characters as autistic “offers false hope” to autistic people, since apparently we cannot be brilliant or successful. And despite autistic people pushing back against that incredibly harmful (and cruel) narrative, it looks like there are people out there who agree with him.

Which brings us back to that reddit user’s Instagram, and the pushback they’re getting against seeing characters as autistic. It’s not at all surprising to me that they are getting this kind of pushback, but I do find it incredibly sad. Someone just wants to showcase characters that they think are like themself in some way, and people get incredibly angry about it. Because of course they do. Because instead of seeing us as people who are seeing aspects of ourselves in fictional characters, they see laziness or accusations of fictional characters being objects or whatever else. I hope that person continues their Instagram, because personally I am really into the idea. There are some fictional characters out there who I personally headcanon as autistic, because they seem like me in autism-specific ways. And you know what? IT’S OK THAT I DO THAT. 

PERIOD.

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Museum day

So this sunday I went to the Franklin Institute. I greatly enjoy museums, and a friend of mine had found a leaflet from the museum proclaiming “Sensory-Friendly Sundays.”

The description on the front says, “The Franklin Institute is proud to welcome families, adults, and groups with members on the autism spectrum to Sensory-Friendly Sunday, a day to enjoy the museum in your own way and in your own time. All are welcome!”

I’ll repeat on bit here: “a day to enjoy the museum.”

It only occurs one Sunday every two months, which I thought was kind of dismal, but I was also heartened that they were having sensory-friendly days at all, and I wanted to try it. So on one of the days listed, we went.

Well, we got there in the early afternoon and started poking around. We didn’t see much different about it but weren’t too concerned about that as it was being an enjoyable time. There were various enjoyable things to look at and interact with and it was going fairly well.

Until we got to the electricity section. Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong. It turns out that on the ceiling in the middle of the electricity exhibit there is a fairly large tesla coil. A tesla coil that goes off incredibly loudly, with no warning whatsoever.

We were there in the room, looking at an exhibit, when an incredibly loud, deeply painful ROAR occurred. Nothing was going wrong or was broken (as I first thought must have been happening). Nope, apparently that is just part of the exhibit. No signs warning us of it (at least that I saw), no announcement or notice ahead of time, just a sudden, horrible noise.

Honestly, that pretty much took everything out of me. Once I could feel my limbs again I left the room. And I tried to keep doing the museum, I really did. I didn’t want that to destroy the day. But honestly, I just couldn’t. It had taken too much out of me. It had been too painful. It was not long after that I realized I really had to leave.

Which, of course, brought up the question – what happened to this sensory-friendly day the museum was supposed to be having? A loud, painful noise given without any warning whatsoever, so that no one in the vicinity has a choice whether to be subjected to it or not, is extremely far from sensory-friendly. I would call it downright sensory UNfriendly. Maybe a sensory onslaught.

Before we left we went back into the ticketing area and looked for another copy of the leaflet to look at. A task which proved somewhat difficult, but we eventually found one. Turned out carefully looking over it and reading all the details on the back gave some critical extra information. “Specially adapted exhibits throughout the museum from 8:00 am-12:30pm” (emphasis mine). Now, I will grant you that it is my own fault for not reading the fine print. However, I do not think it’s my own fault for thinking that “day” (as mentioned in their description) actually means “day” rather than simply “morning.” But apparently when they say “day” they mean “morning” and personally, I think I’m justified in being unhappy at their word choice. I find it disingenuous.

Even for an autistic adult there is aftermath to such an event (and if it had happened when I was a child, I can only imagine the meltdown that likely would have resulted). Somehow my friend and I made it back to their apartment despite the fact that I was shutting down and finding it increasingly difficult to walk. I wound up collapsed on my friend’s bed, wearing their noise-cancelling headphones, for I don’t even know how long as I slowly, gradually, came out of my shutdown and became able to deal with the general noise and chaos of the world again.

I also want to mention what my friend was pointing out – while that noise was particularly bad for anyone with sensory difficulties, even neurotypicals would find it bad. As they put it, “It’s just really fucking loud and completely without warning. Most people don’t go to the museum to have the crap scared out of them.”

I am extremely unhappy with the Franklin Institute and think what they did, what they are doing, in the electricity exhibit is wrong on multiple levels. Is it really so impossible for those already rare sensory friendly days to actually be, you know, a whole DAY? Is there no reason they cannot give warning when they are about to assault their guests’ senses so we can opt out if we choose?

This was not ok.

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Cure Femaleness Now!

A childhood picture of me – a child with femaleness. What a tragedy.

{A note on tone before we get started. This is a very sarcastic post, intended to show some of the problems of how some people talk about autism}

There is a terrible epidemic happening across the globe! An affliction known as femaleness affects approximately 49.6% of the total world population! Many people may not know just how terrible femaleness is, which is why I am here to tell you all about it.

  • People with femaleness are twice as likely to develop depression as normal people. An astonishing 1 in 5 people with femaleness experience depression at some point in their lives!  (citation)
  • While both normal people and people with femaleness experience anxiety, anxiety is both more prevalent among people with femaleness, and is more disabling for people with femaleness than for normal people. (citation)
  • About 1 in 8 people with femaleness will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. For normal people, the rate is only about 1 in 1,000.
  • At least 78% of all those with an autoimmune disorder are people with femaleness. (citation)
  • When it comes to Type 1 diabetes, people with femaleness are 40% more likely to die of it than normal people. (citation)
  • 1 in every 6 people with femaleness experience sexual assault, compared to only 1 in 33 for normal people. (citation)
  • On average, people with femaleness are paid only 78% of what normal people are paid. (citation)

The statistics are clear. Being burdened with femaleness is a terrible thing that no one should have to live with. Clearly the best solution to all of these problems is to eradicate femaleness! Please donate all of your moneys to me so I can find a cure for the scourge of femaleness.

Now to take a more serious turn, I rather hope the absurdity of this post was entirely obvious. Every point in that list is true, complete with citations if you want to look them up. They are very real problems faced by women (or those who people perceive as women) in our society. However, the list conveniently ignores any condition that is less prevalent among women than men. It ignores any benefit to society we get from having women around. The overall implication was to blame and demonize gender for gender disparities, even though that is absurd. It is far better to change society when the problems are social, and to simply address the various medical cases as they are rather than try to “cure” them via getting rid of one gender. And not only is it absurd, it is horrible. It is a terrible, awful thing to blame a person’s gender – something that is intrinsic to who they are – for possible associated problems. If a woman is experiencing menstrual cramps and is doubled over in pain, it would be absolutely horrible to simply say “oh, she’s female. women just do that sometimes” and then seek to “correct” the behavior and get her to stand up straight without addressing the underlying issue of pain.

So why do people do this all the time when it comes to autism?

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It’s Not Bad

I don’t know how well I am going to manage to write this post. It’s a topic I really want to write about and I increasingly find I have strong feelings about, but I doubt my ability to express myself in a clear and logical way. So this is just going to be my best try, and I suspect there is a good chance I will re-visit bits of this in the future.

It all started with the word “stupid.” With how I saw people using it. With how is always seemed to equate to “bad” and “wrong” and “personal failure.” It’s about the situations in which we use that word that way, and the overall trend associated with it.

So basically, let’s say you see someone who does not know a thing that you know. You think this thing that you know and they do not is incredibly obvious and there is no reason for a person to not know this thing – almost certainly ignoring the fact that at some point in your past you did not know that thing either.

So you respond with scorn. You sneer, you call the person who does not know that thing “stupid,” and when you say “stupid” you also mean bad, and wrong, and less than you. You get to feel superior than that person, while also feeling angry with them for not knowing the thing.

Now, I say “you” here because honestly, you almost certainly do this. I don’t think I have ever met a person who does not do this. I am ashamed to admit that I do this, though I am trying very hard to stop.

I see it regularly, with group A sneering at group B, because group B has yet to figure out that The Onion is satire. Or that DHMO is actually water. Or that whatever the latest hoax is, is a hoax. Nor is it just about who knows what. Someone enjoys a thing that you do not enjoy? Sneer at them and call them stupid! Someone cares about a thing that you do not care about? Sneer at them and call them stupid! Someone is interested by something that does not interest you? Sneer at them and call them stupid!

Years ago, a friend of mine sneered at me because I still sleep with stuffed animals in my bed. Apparently that is only for children, and adults who sleep with stuffed animals are bad and wrong and deserve to be looked down upon, even by their friends.

More recently, I saw a thread with a bunch of autistic people sneering at all the interest people had in That Dress, calling everyone stupid and vapid and bad and wrong because it was generating so much attention. I tried to speak up in favor of That Dress, because I find perception and brains and eyes and processing and such a vivid example of how people can look at the same thing but perceive it completely differently to be incredibly fascinating! Everyone ignored me, clearly preferring to sneer and judge people who were interested in a thing they did not care about.

It should be noted that this trend is used against autistic people all the time. It is very common for autistic people to have interested that are considered “not age appropriate” and I am no exception. And like that friend from years ago who sneered at me for having stuffed animals in my bed, people look down on us for it. People call us stupid when we are confused by social situations, and it is understand that stupid also means bad.

And then autistic people do it right back. I see it regularly, and I have not always managed to refrain myself. Sneering at other people’s interest in pop culture, or fashion, or parties, or whatever else. Or at people missing details we find easy to see.

And it’s not just about people looking for ways to feel superior to others based on petty differences. It’s also about the word “stupid” and how it always seems to mean bad or wrong or lesser. That’s an awful way to use the word stupid, it really is. I know people who have various sorts of learning disabilities, who find certain things challenging that other people may find easy. This does not make them bad in any way! I also know people who really are less intelligent than your average individual, who are more susceptible to scams and hoaxes, and they are sweet and lovely people!

Yet we live in a victim-blaming society, where anyone who is “stupid” enough to fall for a hoax or scam or whatever else must deserve it. Apparently we believe that people are capable of choosing their intellectual capacity, and I guess anyone who chooses to be “stupid” is a bad person.

The point is, we really need to quit doing all this mess. No more sneering at people whose only crime is to be different from us. No more using the word “stupid” to mean bad. No more looking down on people who are less smart than you in some area.

xkcd # 1053

Maybe we can be more like that instead.

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I am so sick of this

Image is of a woman prying herself out of a wheelchair in order to reach top-shelf alcohol. Text reads: “Alcohol / Makes miracles happen”

I am really struggling to find my words on this one, but I am going to try. This meme. This HORRIBLE meme. It’s hardly new, but it just keeps popping back up, again and again. I am inclined to think that there are *many* layers of awful in this, but let’s start with the obvious one. That people assume she’s faking.

*sigh*

The fact of the matter is, there are people out there who still have some use of their legs, but still need wheelchairs. It’s a thing. Yet so many people out there are either unaware of this, or just refuse to believe it.

This is an example of people policing disabled people. We have to be disabled “enough” in order to “count.” Apparently the only options are able-bodied, or para- or quadriplegic. This erases the existence of people who have partial paralysis, or MS, or degenerative diseases, or any number of other things that will severely limit a person’s mobility but still leave limited use of limbs. There are many people out there who outright need wheelchairs, but can stand for short periods of time.

Yet when looking at this picture, it seems that people just see a “faker” because, of course, that is the only option for a person standing from a wheelchair. (tone note: that was intended as sarcasm)

Only when I look at this picture, I do not see a person who is standing easily. I see a person who is standing awkwardly. Who is holding themself up with the assistance of a shelf. They do not look like they are faking it to me, so why do we have to go there?

And then, of course, there is the alcohol part. I strongly suspect that people see this, and even if they recognize that the person can probably only stand with difficulty and for short periods of time, there is judgement that the person is standing for alcohol. As though alcohol is a luxury that only able-bodied people get to have. That disabled people should stick with what we can reach. Or possible, that disabled people are supposed to be helpless. How dare someone work to get what they want, and how dare that work go towards alcohol? (more sarcasm)

And really, there are SO MANY ways that able-bodied people police disability. The comments people make when they see someone walking from their car in a disabled spot is one of them. I mean, I’m sure they think they are standing up for disability, by calling them out when able-bodied people use those spots. And yeah, there are assholes who use those spots inappropriately. However, that random person out there who yells at the person who parked there *cannot tell* if the person is disabled or not.

I’m serious. No one can. We can’t tell if the person has some form of condition that allows them to walk, but only for very short distances. We can’t tell if they have an artificial limb under their pants. We can’t tell if they have rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia or any other painful condition that makes walking agony. Yet when people yell at a person who perhaps looks fine on the surface, they are assuming they can tell. They are saying that only the visibly disabled get to have accommodations, and those who have invisible disabilities can stuff it.

And they are saying that the only ok way to be disabled is to be entirely helpless.

We need to stop it.

Right the fuck now.

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Stop trying to make me feel better

This post might turn out to be a little ranty, as it is a topic that is weighing on my mind lately, and involves some of the ways I’ve been treated over the past year.

First of all, I just want to say, in general to everyone – when you see someone sad, stop trying to make them feel better. Just seriously, cut that out. It’s not helpful.

Ok, I should be more specific. There are definitely ways to comfort a sad person that are very helpful and I do strongly support those things. It should, however, be noted that those things all involve accepting the person’s feelings and sharing them, not trying to change the person’s feelings.

Don’t try to change my feelings. Seriously.

So earlier this year I was in the hospital and had to stay overnight there. Eventually, once Nee left and it was nighttime and just me in my bed that I wasn’t allowed to leave even to pee, I started crying. A lot. It was overwhelming, it was frustrating, I felt quite unwell, and I guess I just needed to cry. At some point a nurse popped her head in to check on me (or she noticed my vitals were off, since I was wearing a bunch of monitors at the time) and saw that I was crying. She immediately came in and said:

“Don’t feel sad! It’s not worth it!”

Now, this nurse was a sweet lady. She took time out of her night shift to sit with me while I blubbered, and I did and still do appreciate that.

Unfortunately she also kept saying things like “don’t cry!” and “don’t feel sad!” and “it’s not worth it!” and I REALLY wanted her to stop. I WAS crying, I DID feel sad, and “worth it” wasn’t really a factor at the time. Yeah, her intentions were good – she wanted me to feel better – but in the process all she was actually doing was invalidating my emotions.

Because in the end, when you do that, that’s what you are doing. However good your intentions are, and I’m sure they are very good indeed, invalidating another person’s sadness is not helpful. Don’t do that.

Wanna know another really bad but also really common one? “You shouldn’t feel that way.”

NEVER SAY THAT.

What a person “should” feel is irrelevant, and telling them that their emotions are incorrect somehow won’t suddenly make them have the “correct” emotions, whatever they are. All that sentence does is invalidate those feelings, which ultimately does more harm then good.

What matters is what I AM feeling. Let’s just deal with that, and for crying out loud, LET ME FEEL IT.

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Justice

I’ve been thinking about the concept of justice a lot lately. About what it is, what it means, and the best way to achieve it. It’s an interesting subject to me, but I don’t have any easy answers.

I live in the US, and in the US it seems to be taken as a given that justice = punishment. It is a highly binary society, steeped in ideas of good vs. bad and punishment vs. reward. When someone is bad, we get justice by punishing them, and this seems to be very rarely questioned. And, honestly, having been raised in this culture, in a family that fully embraced the punishment ideals, I am not immune to this idea. I also think that this punishment thing taps into the desire to *hurt them back.* This is something else that I am not at all immune to – when someone hurts me, often my very first desire is to hurt them back. So if I have been hurt by someone’s actions in some way, the idea of them enduring some form of punishment can be very appealing. And, honestly, when a person does a terrible thing, particularly a terrible thing that ends in the death of an innocent person, punishment should definitely be a consequence of their actions.

However, is that justice? If I want justice, is that how to get it? Are consequences for the perpetrators enough?

This is not simply an academic question. The autism community seems to be rocked by tragedy entirely too often. A type of tragedy that I keep hearing over and over and over again, and I’m sure you have too. It’s the one where the headline goes, more or less, “Parent kills autistic child.” And everyone blogs about it and we try to make enough noise to be heard above all the people acting like killing an autistic child is maybe less bad than killing a “normal” child and we cry out for justice. Over and over, we want justice.

Eventually in my life I learned that their are other ways of looking at justice than simply punishment. One way is restitution. There are plenty of cases where I like this idea, but in the kinds of tragedies we deal with, is restitution really a thing? Nothing can ever undo the damage done when a child is murdered. This is not an act that anyone or anything can make up for. It’s done, it’s over, that’s it. What kind of justice can we have in this sort of situation?

Increasingly I think I want to look at justice as bettering the world in some way. Hurting the parents who do things like this certainly makes me feel better, but does it make the world better? Does it make it so that these things don’t happen anymore? Not really.

Crying for better services is certainly something important, but it carries the dangerous subtext that lack of services somehow makes killing one’s child a reasonable decision, which is not the case. So while we need better services, no doubt about that, I’m not so sure they are part of justice.

Want to know one thing I think would be just? Something that would make these situations ever so slightly less terrible? If, when something like this happened, the headline simply read “Parent kills child.” If we didn’t need to add in that “autistic” thing. If a child could simply be a child, and the world reacted to a parent killing their autistic child the same way it reacts to a parent killing their neurotypical child – as opposed to how it is now, when so many people seem to believe that the loss of an autistic life is less terrible and more understandable than the loss of a neurotypical life.

That would be a step towards justice. A small step, but at least it would be something.

I’m not sure what other conclusion I can draw here. I don’t know how to achieve justice for murdered children, autistic or otherwise. All I know is that I don’t want it to happen anymore.

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No. No no no no no.

I read this. I feel kind of awful linking to it, but I’m responding to bits directly so I seems to make sense to let you know what I am responding to.

I fight against autism

Ah. The battle metaphor. I have got to go over this more, but seriously, the battle metaphor is not a good one. Don’t fight autism. It is not your enemy.

I fight for my daughter to be a normal child

Well at least you directly said it. This is really sad, though and is really more about you than it is about her. You’re not helping her be the best her that she can be, you’re trying to get her to hide her differences so that she looks like everyone else. That is disturbing to me.

as a parent, I cannot give up the hope of reclaiming my child back from the claws of autism

So in this metaphor, autism is some kind of predatory beast with claws, that has taken your child?

… Wow.

Autism is the way her brain works. It is inherent to who she is. Autism is not a monster, and it does not have claws.

Will I ever get her completely back?

Back from where? She’s your daughter, and she’s right there. Maybe try to take her as she is, and accept her as she is. She’s not gone, and it’s on you to see that.

“What are you working for (choose reward) when you are playing dolls with me?” What a strange question to get a reward for what should be rewarding by itself to a regular child, but not to a child with autism.

No, it’s still a strange question. If she is doing something she doesn’t like, then it isn’t play for her. It’s work. Just because it’s the kind of play that *you* think that little girls should be doing does not mean that it is the only valid form of play out there. Why are you so threatened by the idea of just letting her be herself? Maybe relax some of your rigid standards about the right way to be.

calm down from her tantrums

Meltdowns.

an overpowering tantrum

It’s a meltdown. The word matters a lot, because they mean two totally different things.

I train myself to ignore her when she is asking without making an eye contact

Whoa. I just… I don’t even…

Eye contact is PAINFUL. Nor is it all that high on the list of necessary things to deal with in terms of autism. I mean, yeah, it’s helpful to be able to do so, but it’s actually not a huge deal. And sometimes we just CAN’T (at least, not without significant pain) and forcing us to do so in order to get our needs met is nothing less than cruel.

which encourage me to continue my fight against autism in my child and in other children I evaluate as a psychologist.

Oh dear. You’re encouraging other people to view autism as something outside their child, to be fought against? That honestly frightens me.

For our children with autism it is not important why they are sick

Autism is not a sickness. I am not sick because I am autistic. I do need to be helped, but I do not need to be cured. STOP IT.

Puzzle pieces are not flying around, my daughter does not run away or lie on the floor screaming. She can finish a board game. She wears many different clothes, and I almost forgot that it used to be only one dress and only yellow color.

Ok, I will say – I am glad for this. It sounds like there are concrete ways that your daughter is learning to manage herself, and that is good. I can only hope that she is also learning to accept herself as she is, love herself, and advocate for her needs. Based on what you’ve written, I think those other things – things that are extraordinarily important – are getting neglected in favor of getting her to look and act normal.

Oh, and the clothes thing? I wear almost entirely black, and when I find an item of clothing that I like I almost always get multiples of it if I can. Because in the end, diversifying my wardrobe matters much less than finding clothes that don’t hurt me or stress me out, and just staying appropriately clothed.

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ARGLE BLARGLE

 

Comic is from cyanide & happiness by Kris Wilson

 

I’m going to tell you about something that I find REALLY frustrating. And annoying. And sometimes outright offensive, depending on how people are reacting to it. Something that at this point I despair of ever changing, but still find myself wishing that it would.

So let me put it simply here.

Introversion and social anxiety are two different things.

Seriously. Despite the comics, the way people talk, the widespread misinformation, these things are separate. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes they don’t. Apparently it comes as a surprise to some people, but it’s actually totally possible to be both extroverted and shy/socially anxious. Really. It happens. More than you might think.

Now, you might be wondering why this is such a big deal. Why do I care so much that so many people equate the two? It’s not hurting me, right?

Well… wrong.

Here, let me put forward a little scenario; one that I think actually happens often enough to be a thing.

We have a person. Let’s call them Morgan. Morgan has severe social anxiety and so rarely ventures out of the house. Morgan is very lonely and sad and does not like being this way. Since Morgan finds socializing so very difficult, Morgan figures they are an introvert. I mean, comics like the one shown above explain introversion that way, so that must be what it is, right?

Eventually Morgan gets help and overcomes their social anxiety. As it turns out, Morgan is an extrovert! Morgan now goes out and socializes on a regular basis, gets lots of energy from being around people, and is much happier than they were before. From Morgan’s perspective, they used to be introverted but fixed that and turned themselves into an extrovert.

So now Morgan thinks they know what it is to be an introvert. Morgan knows some introverted people and maybe even has introverted friends. Morgan remembers what it was like when they were so anxious, and believes that all their introverted friends must be going through the same thing.

Morgan responds by deciding that they just need to “get out of their shell!” Drag them to enough (exhausting) social events, show them that it isn’t scary, help them be more outgoing, and they’ll be cured! Morgan feels so nice doing this, thinking they’re doing a good deed for those poor, introverted souls.

Here’s the thing. Morgan is being harmful. I have experience with both introversion and social anxiety and I can definitely tell you – they are NOT the same thing. NOT THE SAME THING. Ok? Really not.

Social anxiety is very unpleasant. It makes interactions ever so fraught; people can be really quite scary. Introversion, on the other hand, is actually rather pleasant. Or rather, it’s neutral, it just means that I take pleasure and gain energy from things that extroverts would generally find more draining. Now that my anxiety is more under control, it’s easier for me to go do social things. As in, less scary. However, it’s still draining. I still recharge with alone time, and I still have a dramatic preference for one-on-one interaction. I happen to like being an introvert and do not want to change.

When someone thinks that my introversion must be anxiety and want to “fix” me, they are harming me. If I am denied much-needed alone time, I am harmed. If I am forced into a group when I would rather just talk to one person, I am harmed. If I am made to interact after all my spoons are gone and I really need to be done, I am harmed. Whoever does those things to me, harms me.

Which means that this pervasive idea that introversion is the same thing as social anxiety is harmful. It’s harmful to me, and it’s harmful to others who are like me. Please, don’t participate in spreading this misinformation. It does no one any good.

 

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