Things You Didn’t Know Were Autmisic

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to my latest entry: things you didn’t know were autmisic, i.e., discriminatory towards Autistic people. Now, I’ve talked about many neurotypicalist things on this blog that are autmisic in addition to being neurotypicalist in general–labeling interests and behaviors as “cringe” comes to mind–so for this entry, I’m going to try to focus on things that are either primarily or only autmisic. Let’s dive in.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about autmisia is ABA. I’ve mentioned briefly why ABA is horrible before. In fact, what I said was “ABA, or applied behavior analysis, is an abusive practice in psychiatry that is a form of conversion therapy to force Autistic people to act allistic. ABA often uses aversives such as forcing Autistic children to taste Tabasco sauce, and the actual techniques for ABA were based on dog training. ABA misunderstands Autisticness; it is based on the idea that Autisticness is a behavioral disorder and not a neurotype. The inventor of ABA, Ivar Lovaas, has said ‘Autistic children are severely disturbed…You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense—they have hair, a nose and a mouth—but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but l you (sic) have to build the person.’” I also referenced a paper (link here https://neurodiversityconnects.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/PTSD.ABA_.pdf) about how ABA causes PTSD.

But something I didn’t emphasize enough in my previous discussions of ABA is that no ABA is okay. Some ABA child-torturers providers insist that their ABA is play-based or reward-oriented. Use of aversives is more obviously evil than this, but even “play-based” or “reward-oriented” ABA is based on the flawed idea that Autisticness is a behavioral disorder and that as such you can make a person not Autistic by changing their behavior. This is like saying that colored contacts permanently change a person’s eye color. An Autistic child who has been conditioned by ABA to act allistic by forcing eye contact, not playing in ways that are rewarding for them, not stimming, etc. is still Autistic; they’re just also suffering because they are no longer able to express themselves. In conclusion, #ABAIsNeverOkay, and ABA is extremely autmisic.

Something you may not know was autmisic is expecting people to know right and left on a dime. Yes, really. Many Autistic people, myself included, struggle with right and left. So the next time you’re out for a run and want to pass someone walking, don’t say “on your right” or “on your left” and expect the person to move right away; if they’re Autistic, they’ll probably get confused and either not move or move the wrong way, and you’ll run into them.

Antivaxxers represent another thing that people do tend to know is autmisic but may not know how bad of a problem it still is. In the actual fucking year 2021 (or 5781 if you’re Jewish like me) and there are still people who think vaccines cause autism. I’ve heard horror stories from teachers and daycare providers who have gotten sick because their young students’/clients’ parents are antivaxxers. I don’t think I have to spell this out, but thinking that you’d rather have a child who is dead from the mumps or measles or pertussis than an Autistic child is autmisic as all fuck.

What else…grabbing, otherwise touching, or making loud noises to get a person’s attention is also autmisic. I recently went to see my PCP and someone standing behind me in line tried to get my attention by clapping her hands right by my fucking ear. I nearly had a goddamn meltdown right there in the hospital atrium. Autistic people can’t stand being startled, grabbed, and/or touched without consent, and doing any of those to us can result in distress, pain, or both.

This next one isn’t only autmisic, but it is primarily autmisic, so here we go: acting like you don’t have to listen to an Autistic person who self-advocates because they “don’t speak for people with severe autism” is some bullshit. First of all, functioning labels are also autmisic…hmm, should have mentioned that earlier…but anyway functioning labels are arbitrary, useless, and dehumanizing, and any Autistic self-advocate speaking out against autmisia is speaking for every Autistic person who deserves to be accommodated and respected (which is all of us). The “you don’t speak for people with severe autism/people with autism who are non-speaking/people with autism who can’t work/people who are like my father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate’s son with autism” line is just an excuse for allistic people to keep believing autmisic bullshit. Don’t fall for it.

You may notice that those bullshit lines about “you don’t speak for [x]” use person-first language. I’ve talked about why PFL is often ableist before, but I don’t think I have talked about why it is autmisic. Autisticness is a disability, sure, but it’s also an inherent part of how Autistic people experience the world. You can’t separate an Autistic person from their Autisticness the way you could from, say, a tuberculosis patient from the bacteria infecting them. “Person with autism” implies that the two can be separated when in reality, they can’t. There are people who identify as autigender, meaning their understanding of gender is so entwined with their Autisticness that the two can’t be separated; that’s how crucial Autisticness is to a person’s self. “Person with autism” implies a separation that, in reality, does not exist, so “Autistic” is the accurate and respectful term. Note: some Autistic people do, in fact, prefer “person with autism;” “Autistic” is overwhelmingly preferred by the Autistic community, but there are still people out there with enough internalized autmisia that they prefer “person with autism.” So default to “Autistic,” but if someone tells you that they prefer “person with autism” for themselves, respect that (until they figure out they’re wrong).

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Hannah, Max, Sam, and Sydney! It’s only $1 a month to be as cool as them; this gets you early viewing of my blog entries and participation in polls to help me decide which topics to write about next!

Being Disabled Is a Full-Time Job

Content/trigger warning: emetophobia, discussion of medical ableism and fatmisia, suicide, psych meds

Being Disabled means putting up with a truly unfathomable amount of bullshit, either from society, from your own bodymind, or both. (Note that I say “bodymind” because I have always thought separating the two was silly, and Disabled Twitter has provided me with a word that gets the connection between the two across.) Obviously the specific type of bullshit varies depending on a person’s disabilities, and I can’t speak for the entire Disabled community, but just for an example, I will go over a typical pre-pandemic day for me to demonstrate just how much work being Disabled is on a quotidian basis.

-I wake up. It takes me multiple alarms to get up because of my hypersomnia. I debate skipping work to sleep til 3 PM, but I’m too afraid of losing my job to do that, so I get up. I’m already exhausted.

-I take my antacid for my hiatal hernia-induced GERD and set an alarm for half an hour. I need coffee to function because of my hypersomnia, but if I drink it before the antacid has kicked in, I will be vomiting uncontrollably for hours. I make my coffee and put it in a travel mug for when the alarm goes off.

-I get dressed. I avoid looking at reflective surfaces because seeing my reflection when I’m particularly or fully undressed gives me horrible body dysmorphia. If my clothes are too tight, I also get body dysmorphia and have to change.

-I commute to work. My anxiety is so bad I can’t drive, so I don’t own a car; I take the El. I have to wear ear defenders or listen to music in order to deal with the noise from the other commuters. If I have to be squished in close with other commuters because the train is crowded, that puts me at risk of having a meltdown.

-I drink my coffee. Ahhhh. I use the coffee to wash down my psych meds.

-I arrive at work. The overly friendly security guard tries to make conversation. I try to reply with “small talk” even though it’s costing me dearly fuel-wise to try to figure out socially appropriate things to say.

-Morning meetings should help me plan my day, but I can’t focus during them. Sudden tasks come up without warning, putting me at risk of having a meltdown.

-I have so many meetings over the course of the day. I wish I could skip them to just do my actual fucking job, because I can’t focus during meetings anyway, but I can’t. Meetings also force me to engage in more small talk, which is exhausting and difficult.

-If I am having a bad brain day, especially if I forgot to take my meds, I have to talk myself out of leaving the office and walking into traffic. I first experienced suicidal ideation as a child, and my brain has spent so many years telling me that I want/deserve to die that I still experience those thoughts pretty regularly. I also have to talk myself into eating/convince myself that I deserve food, especially if I have had the misfortune of seeing my reflection that day.

-I also probably spend some of the day dissociated, and if I get startled or otherwise experience a trigger for one of my trauma-related disorders, I have to spend energy dealing with flashbacks or one of my protector alters trying to fuck shit up.

-I commute home. It’s pretty much the same as my commute to work, except I’m even more exhausted now and as such at higher risk of having a meltdown.

-I get home. I reheat some leftovers and maybe take a shower. Showering isn’t hard for me–I love showers–but I’m one of the few Disabled people I know who has an easy time with showering/bathing.

-I spend time with my wife and cat, then I fall asleep. I have to get at least 11-12 hours of sleep to be able to function the next day because my life is so exhausting.

See what I mean? That’s a lot of shit to deal with that wouldn’t even be on my radar if I were abled. Notice that I didn’t even include any chores like cooking, cleaning, or taking out the trash; that’s because I almost never have the fuel to do chores after such a long-ass day. This is why I’m always behind on chores.

And don’t get me started on all the shit I have to do in order to keep my health in its partially functional state. Actually, yes, get me started, because that’s what I’m writing about. I don’t have a PCP because I’m broke and scared of medical fatmisia and I don’t see enough specialists because I’m broke and can’t do phones…but if I were on top of my shit, I would be regularly seeing a PCP, a sleep specialist, and a GI specialist. As it is, I see a therapist and a psychiatrist, both of which require a ton of time, energy, and money. (Especially therapy; that shit is work, some of which needs to be done outside of my therapy sessions.) Staying on top of refilling my psych meds also takes time and money. If I did see all the specialists I should be seeing, I’d practically need a damn secretary to make all my appointments for me, if only because my Autisticness means I can rarely handle phone calls.

Also, when you’re Disabled, doctors often don’t know how to deal with you. A lot of Disabled people are fat and tend to get told “just lose weight” when we have health complaints. Not to mention if I did a Twitter poll of the chronically ill community asking if they had to explain their own illnesses to their doctors, I’d bet the poll would come back with an overabundance of “yes” answers, especially among people with “rare” (read: underdiagnosed) illnesses. When doctors don’t know our condition/s well, that means we have to do research. That’s a lot of time and energy spent on work that shouldn’t be our responsibility, but doctors rarely can admit when they don’t know things, and doing research is often key to Disabled patients’ being able to advocate for ourselves when our #DoctorsAreDickheads (thanks to Stevie Boebi for the hashtag).

There’s also the issue of medication. I’m lucky enough that I only take a few pills in the morning (and I also have an anxiety med to take as needed). Many Disabled people have delicate and complicated medication schedules that they have to keep track of. Sometimes this can involve going into a doctor’s office for a treatment; sometimes it involves having a pill reminder. Remembering to take medication and taking it can be a huge part of a Disabled person’s day.

I also want to emphasize that anyone who says “Well, just get on disability if being Disabled is a full-time job” is a towering pile of ableist shit-garbage at worst and ignorant at best. In many states, the percentage of people who apply for SSI or SSDI and get it is in the fucking twenties, and if you are approved, the process takes years and is extremely difficult, humiliating, and inaccessible.

I think that’s all I have for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Mackenzie, Sara, and Sydney! To be as cool as them, it’s only $1 a month to see blog entries two days early and to vote in polls to help me choose what topics to blog about.

Autistic and Other ND Masking

Content/trigger warning: mention of murder by police, discussion of ableism

I’m so fucking tired.

I actually have an accomodation at work that allows me to turn my Zoom camera off whenever I want. This is because performing neuronormative facial expressions is fucking exhausting and I can’t do it for long. Performing neuronormative facial expressions is a part of what Autistic people call “masking,” which is a word for “pretending to be neurotypical.” Not all Autistic people are able to mask, and masking has recently become something of a hot topic on Autistic Twitter and TikTok. Despite being neck deep in the online Autistic community, I’m only just becoming familiar with masking and how I mask. I mean, during Zoom meetings, I still have to modulate my vocal cadences to sound neurotypical even with my camera off, and I only realized when writing this blog entry that that was a form of masking. Other forms of Autistic masking can include:

-Suppressing stimming
-Forcing eye contact
-Standing differently/mimicking neurotypical body language
-Learning and following social scripts, some or all of which may not align with actual views
-Using pre-prepared jokes or phrases
-Engaging in popular activities, especially social ones, that we don’t want to engage in
-Refraining from infodumping

Honestly, learning some of what constitutes masking made me a little bit surprised at how much I mask. And it makes me wonder if masking so much is why I’m so fucking exhausted all the fucking time. Because what happens when you force an Autistic person to mask?

Exhaustion.

Meltdowns.

Burnout.

Masking is hell. It’s draining. It’s concealing the essence of who you are. It’s like expecting a person to hack off parts of themselves in order to fit into a designated space. And yet it wasn’t even widely discussed enough for a lot of Autistic people (HI) to know what the fuck it was until recently. We destroy ourselves in the name of ablenormativity and I’d be willing to bet most psychologists wouldn’t know what I was talking about if I tried to talk with them about “Autistic masking.”

You might be thinking “it sounds like society forces Autistic people to mask.” If you’re not thinking that, you should be. Masking is a safety issue, especially if you’re also part of a different marginalized group that’s at higher risk of, say, having the police called on you (and then being subsequently murdered) for acting “strange.”

Also, while masking is primarily discussed in relation to Autistic people, we’re not the only neurodivergent people who mask. I would say that any neurodivergent person suppressing themselves in order to appear neurotypical is masking. For example, an ADHDer who was masking might:

-Suppress stims/fidgets
-Get good grades through good memory despite poor organizational and study skills
-Overcompensate/try harder at tasks and activities to make up for developmental difficulties
-Joke or kid about ADHD-related mistakes
-Pretend to be incompetent to avoid high expectations
-Conceal that they’re experiencing RSD

I could continue making lists for how different neurodivergencies are usually masked, but we’d be here all day.

There also are a lot of conversations around masking that I don’t want to get into. Or at least, there are two conversations around masking that I don’t want to get into. These two conversations are:

  1. Autistic women and girls mask more than Autistic men and boys because women and girls are expected to be more pacifying and unobtrusive
  2. Whether or not being able to mask is a privilege

The first conversation often erases non-binary people and involves second-wave bullshit about being ~*~socialized female~*~ and I, a cis binary woman, am not qualified to address that particular stripe of bullshit. As for the second conversation, having been in situations when I was able vs. unable to mask, it mystifies me that there’s even a debate here. Of course being able to mask is a privilege. The fact that masking sucks to the degree that it leads to mental health breakdowns doesn’t mean it’s not a privilege to be safer and treated better than Autistic people who can’t mask. (And no, able to mask vs. unable to mask isn’t in any way the new “high functioning vs. low functioning,” don’t @ me.) But that’s not what I want to focus on here; I’m trying to give more general information about masking, not drop hot takes.

So what do we do about masking? At some point during the arc of me keeping this blog (it’s been over FOUR YEARS!? WHAT!?), I would have said “Take the mask off! Be yourself! That’s the only way to normalize Autistic behavior!”

Yeah, past self? That’s not fucking safe. Dismantling ableism is the name of the game, of course, but ableism is a structural issue that is inextricable from other forms of oppression. Actually, I don’t think I’ve shared the updated definition of ableism with my readers! This is the latest definition of ableism, modified this year, from activist Talila “TL” Lewis:

“Ableism: A system that places value on people’s bodies and minds based on societally constructed ideas of normality, intelligence, excellence, desirability, and productivity. These constructed ideas are deeply rooted in anti-Blackness, eugenics, misogyny, colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism.

“This form of systemic oppression leads to people and society determining who is valuable and worthy based on a person’s language, appearance, religion, and/or their ability to satisfactorily [re]produce, excel, and ‘behave.’”

So unmasking is not going to pull out the evil ableism tree at its roots; it might only pull off some of the leaves, or it might backfire spectacularly and put someone in danger. Do I want a society in which nobody has to mask? Absofuckinglutely. Do I think we should take off our masks whenever possible, because masking is so detrimental to health and well-being? Yes. Do I think that we should stay masked when it isn’t safe to unmask? Until the revolution, sadly, yes.

Hey, it’s complicated.

Thanks to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, and Sydney! If you’re reading this and are not a Patreon supporter, it’s only $1 to see blog entries two days early and participate in producer polls to help me choose topics to write about and $5 to submit potential topics for those polls!

Cringe Culture Is Neurotypicalist

Content/trigger warning: ABA, ableism (especially extreme autmisia), neurotypicalism

I write fanfiction.

No, I’m not giving you my LJ (yes, I’m that old) or ff.net or AO3 name. But I write fanfiction. I have written fanfiction since the age of four, when I saw The Lion King and immediately wrote fix fic to rectify Mufasa’s death. I had an OC, Kelsey the Good (read: was exclusively a scavenger and did not present a threat to living lion cubs) Hyena, who saved Simba from drowning in a river. Yeah, Kelsey was a self-insert to the degree that I thought of myself as Kelsey. I used to picture myself as a bipedal hyena walking into my kindergarten class. As recently as…well…now, while I don’t write self-inserts anymore, I still write fanfiction about characters that I over-identify with.

The kids these days call this kind of thing “cringe.”

SuperWhoLocks (fans of Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock) have been a fairly recent target of being called “cringe.” People who are enthusiastically fannish about their favorite TV show are often called “cringe,” especially if their favorite show is nerdy—have you ever heard someone say it’s “cringe” that grown zedcishet Statesian men are obsessed with football?—and especially if they’re high school age or older.

Stop me if you get where I’m going with this.

Actually, don’t, because this is a blog entry and you literally are unable to stop me from writing unless you have a TARDIS to go back in time and slap my hands away from my keyboard. A high schooler being obsessively interested in something the mainstream considers silly and unpopular…what does that sound like?

By chance, does that sound like an Autistic person with a special interest that’s considered “developmentally inappropriate”? Or an ADHDer with a hyperfixation? Or a person with depression engaging in escapism?

Now do you get where I’m going with this?

Despite or perhaps because of the fact that “cringey” interests tend to be those of ND people–and sometimes the neurotypicalism is more overt (i.e., calling hand spinners “cringe”)–douchezeppelins seem to think that shaming people with these interests is going to somehow help them. Apparently, said douchezeppelins think that shaming people will make them realize that they’re being “socially inappropriate” and that they need to “grow up” or whatever complete bullshit excuse they have for bullying. The bullying involved in cringe culture is not only condoned, it is celebrated. If I may quote a popular Tumblr post about cringe culture, “[fans] are degenerates that deserve to be shamed and we absolutley (sic) need cringe culture.”

Look, behavior shaming is just bullying, and if you are bullying someone for liking a thing, you’re being an absolute shitheel. I shouldn’t have to say that cringe culture is neurotypicalist to get people to stop bullying, but I’ve seen Autistic disability justice advocates say that cringe culture is crowdsourced ABA, and I agree with that to some degree, so let me go into that more.

ABA, or applied behavior analysis, is an abusive practice in psychiatry that is a form of conversion therapy to force Autistic people to act allistic. ABA often uses aversives such as forcing Autistic children to taste Tabasco sauce, and the actual techniques for ABA were based on dog training. ABA misunderstands Autisticness; it is based on the idea that Autisticness is a behavioral disorder and not a neurotype. The inventor of ABA, Ivar Lovaas, has said “Autistic children are severely disturbed…You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense—they have hair, a nose and a mouth—but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but l you (sic) have to build the person.”

So the tl;dr of ABA is that it’s an abusive practice that is aimed at forcing Autistic people to behave in a way that is palatable to NTs. While it isn’t only Autistic people who are targeted by cringe culture and its neurotypicalist bullying, I agree that cringe culture is an abusive practice aimed at forcing neurodivergent people to behave in a way that is palatable to NTs. I don’t think cringe culture shares the impressive rate of producing PTSD in ND people the way ABA does in Autistic people (yes, really https://neurodiversityconnects.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/PTSD.ABA_.pdf), but bullying is certainly traumatic. Cringe culture is socially sanctioned abuse that primarily targets neurodivergent people, and if you see someone on the Internet who still plays Undertale or who writes self-insert Pokemon fanfiction or who draws Bowsette fanart or what the fuck ever, please, let them enjoy things.

Thanks so much to my Patreon supporters: Ace, Hannah, Emily, Karina, Mackenzie, Rose, and Sean! To become as cool as them, or to see my blog entries 2 days early and get a thank-you in every blog entry, you can support me for $1 a month on Patreon: patreon.com/arzinzani