Tag Archives: actuallyautistic

Autism Questions

Since this is a post in which I talk about myself, have a selfie! I don’t actually take very many of these, so I am feeling very self-conscious.

Ok, so I THINK I found this list of #ActuallyAutistic questions around 4-5 years ago on tumblr, but I seriously do not remember any more details of where I found it or who may have created it. I am really at a loss here. In any case, I thought it might make a decent way to ooze back into this blogging thing, and if any of the questions really strike me I can always note them down to make a proper post about them some other time. If anyone knows where they came from or who wrote them, PLEASE let me know so I can properly cite them.

Anyway, let’s go. A bunch of questions about how I experience my autism. Woo!

1: Did you discover that you are autistic early or later in life? How do you think it affected you?

So at the time of writing this I am 39 and rapidly heading towards 40, just to give my answer some context. I got my first inkling that I might be on the autism spectrum when I was 18. I was officially diagnosed when I was 30. I spend the 12 years in-between pondering, wondering, thinking, analyzing, and having random people occasionally say “do you think you might have aspergers?” to me. I think it affected me in MANY ways, which I know I’ve written about in the past but might be worth writing about more. In brief, I was spared ABA but also no one knew what was wrong with me and it was basically all chalked up to personal failings on my part. 

2: Which terms and words do you prefer when talking about autism?

I am so very identity-first. English puts adjectives before nouns, so “autistic person” just makes linguistic sense.

3: Do you advocate for yourself and other autistic people?

Well, I used to have a blog I posted to weekly that I’m trying to get going again in some form. That’s about it, honestly. I mean, I guess I advocate for myself in my personal life (see: getting diagnosed as an adult, being trans, transitioning, etc) but that’s about it.

4: How did you find out about autism?

Honestly, I don’t remember. I think I first heard of it somewhere in the vicinity of 2000, pretty close to the same time the first person asked me if I might “have Aspergers.”

5: Do you have any autistic family members or autistic friends in real life?

Family members – not that I know of that are officially diagnosed, but it would not surprise me if certain family members were on the spectrum. Friends – yes. 

6: What, in your opinion, is your best autism-related quality?

My capacity to see and focus on details.

7: Which autistic trait gives you the most problems?

Sensory overload.

8: If you could get rid of one and only one autistic trait, would you do it and which would you choose?

See above.

9: Any autistic traits that you don’t have but wish you had?

I’m honestly not sure. The past few questions have already been difficult because I’m not used to breaking down being autistic for myself into specific traits. That said, it’s something I’ve done in the past so I had something to draw on. This one, though… I really don’t know.

10: What do you think about support labels as an alternative to functioning labels?

Ok, so I definitely am against functioning labels. I could go on a rant about “what IS functioning, really?” but I’m pretty confident I know the answer at this point: “functioning” is simply a measure of how well a person passes for NT. This might be worth elaborating on in the future, but yeah. People who look at me see someone who is high functioning because I pass for NT in brief interactions, but I can’t hold down a job, conversation is ridiculously complicated, group interactions with as few as three total people feel hopelessly complicated, I get overloaded in public spaces ridiculously easily, I could go on. 

ANYWAY. Support labels certainly do better at identifying something more concrete and practical than this idea of “functioning” but I worry about them also being used to separate autistic people into “respectable” or “not respectable” categories. I suppose that’s true for any label like that, though.

11: What, in your opinion, is the most ridiculous social protocol rule?

Ooh, this reminds me – I want to write a post about why small talk is actually useful and functional (oh no. now you can see that I don’t post in the same order that I write. In any case, I made that small talk post). I generally take the view that all social protocols are useful in some way, and my lack of understanding doesn’t say anything about the protocol itself. I know this sounds like I’m feeding into the deficit model of autism, so I want to be clear – I truly, sincerely wish that this was a stance that everyone took about just about everything. I am VERY TIRED of people using their lack of understanding something as a reason to state that the thing they don’t understand is wrong or bad. Like, you don’t have to understand why or how I’m trans or transness in general in order to accept that I am. 

12: What are your hypo- and hyper-sensitivities?

I’m hypersensitive to sounds and food textures. And clothing tags. And clothing texture. And smells. 

My sense of proprioception (the ability to tell where my body is in space) and my interoception (the sense of the internal state of my body – for instance, am I thirsty? Do I need to pee? etc) are definitely impaired.

13: What is/are your current special interest(s)?

Crafting. It’s always been crafting. I have other, more minor interests as well – for instance, I REALLY like bags. Hip bags, backpacks, purses, duffle bags, all sorts of bags, and I have very strong opinions on what makes a good bag. But mostly crafting.

14: What is your daily routine like?

Get up. Do hygiene things. Take care of the cats. Read stuff. Eat lunch. Do working stuff (this has meant different things at different times. Sometimes it’s crafting, sometimes it’s writing, I spent several years transcribing for the National Archives). Feed cats. Eat dinner. Craft while watching TV and hanging out with my nesting partner. Have alone wind-down time. Go to bed.

15: How do you stim?

I do some of the stereotypical ones like hand flapping and rocking. Sometimes I like to sorta snap my foot back and forth because I like how it makes my ankle feel. Other times I make popping or other noises in my mouth or throat. 

16: Is there any media with canon autistic character(s) you like and would recommend to other autistic people?

OK, so there was this TV show called “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” which is a murder mystery (obviously) show which takes place in 1920’s Australia. Episode 8 of Season 2 was called “The Blood of Juana the Mad” and featured a one-off autistic woman character who was VERY well-done. I mean VERY. She is never explicitly stated to be autistic in the episode itself, possibly because they are staying true to the time and autism hadn’t been identified as a thing at the time, but it is made extremely clear in the episode itself. Seriously, it was fabulous. Now I want to re-watch it.

17: Which characters do you headcanon as autistic and why?

I recently wrote a post about the general idea of headcanoning fictional characters as autistic and now I feel weird answering this question. In any case, Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers, for sure.

18: If you could make one accommodation universally available and 100% accepted, which would you choose?

Specifically an autism accommodation? I’d make public TV’s less prevalent. 

19: What, in your opinion, is the most ridiculous autism myth or stereotype?

Hrm. This is tough. Fair warning – I’m mostly answer these questions off the cuff, but some of them definitely deserve more thought than I’m giving them. In my defense – there are a lot of questions! Anyway, the first answer that comes to mind is the tendency of people to reduce all autistic people to a flat, 2D object. Now, that is not a myth or stereotype, and it is a thing that people do to any and all groups that are othered in society. Still, it’s the answer that came to mind first, so I’m going with it.

20: How would you describe autism to someone who knows nothing about it?

It’s like having a different operating system.

21: Do you have any happy autistic childhood memories?

I really enjoyed lining up my toys. Since no one pegged it as an autism thing, no one tried to stop me. It was just me being weird.

22: What, in your opinion, is the best thing about being autistic?

Even though I’m answering these totally off the cuff, I still skipped this one and am coming back to it. For some reason, the question itself is weirding me out and I really don’t know why. 

In any case, I guess it’s the fact that I have a unique perspective that people close to me have come to really value. I think differently, which gives me my own, atypical viewpoint, and that in and of itself has value. 

23: Do you think autism influences your identity, like your gender, sexuality, religious and political views or personality?

Just to nitpick part of this question – autism is absolutely part of my identity, along with my gender, sexuality, religious views, etc. Anyway, does autism influence those things? Absolutely, in that they are all enmeshed together into the entity that is Me. Also, there is a good chance that I will write posts in the future about the intersection of being trans and autistic, and see my old post about the intersection of being autistic and polyamorous.

24: Are there any internalized ableist ideas that you struggle with?

The idea that generating an income is what gives a person worth. (ooh, maybe this would make another blog topic)

25: Do you think we will achieve autism acceptance soon?

No. 

Maybe this could be another thing to elaborate on in a future post, but short answer? No, I really don’t.

26: Are you a no eye contact autistic or excessive eye contact autistic?

No eye contact.

27: Are you a “no food touching” autistic or “mesh all food up” autistic?

No food touching. One of the regular meals my family would make while I was growing up was a simple stew, and I always insisted on separating all the bits into their own piles, and then I would eat each pile one at a time. Once again, my family just saw it as me being really weird.

28: Are you a pretty rock collection autistic or soft stuffed animals collection autistic?

Stuffies collection. Can autistic people really be divided into this kind of binary? I like pretty rocks too, though admittedly I don’t really collect them.

29: Are you a get along with kids autistic or slightly afraid of kids autistic?

These binaries are getting weird. Also, I’m a ‘slightly afraid of kids’ autistic.

30: Are you a soft, gentle touches autistic or a deep pressure autistic?

LAST QUESTION! Oh boy, it’s another binary. 

Deep pressure. I seriously cannot handle soft touch. It hurts.

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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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