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Articulate Autistic

We Have The Choice: On the Use of Autism to Excuse Harmful Behaviors in Adult Men

“How can I make it more clear that we could all do so much more”

Never Gonna Learn, Demon Waffle

(This topic has been somewhat covered here focused on within the autistic community, but as a really terrible thing is happening to a dear wonderful friend relating to this narrative I’m writing a piece myself. I’m not naming names but if you know who this is and want evidence I can provide it.)

I’m taking a break from my usual political blogging on The Outcast Post to address a narrative that exists about autistic men like myself which is toxic, stigmatizing, infantilizing, enabling, and quite frankly insulting.

It’s the narrative that we are slaves to our desires, can’t know right from wrong and thus should be excused from any terrible action because we don’t know any better. It’s really bad and is what has provided an excuse for an autistic guy who has been tormenting a dear sweet wonderful friend of mine for a year, spreading revenge porn and lies, targeting her through alts, blackmailing and emailing her, and other terrible stuff…and all along both he and his defenders have been saying that he’s autistic as if that somehow excuses anything (he also forced an eighteen year old to call him attractive in a chat I was in…he’s terrible).

Understandably the fact that people are using a societal lie about my neurology to justify and excuse someone who I actually know and have seen his actions personally tormenting a friend of mine is…rather personal.

Honestly, the song quote conveys my frustration with this quite well, because there are a lot of us autistic guys who aren’t doing this so it should be fairly obvious that it’s not true, that we can be better, but people still keep enabling this and letting this happen and now it’s led to this hell. In this specific case an autistic friend and myself who both know him were told by someone else that they disagree and…frankly, when autistics are telling you that you are wrong about their lived experience (combined over 50 years between the two of us, also we’ve been involved with this case since September and he was in my autistic-only Autistics Against Anti-Vaxxers (AAA-V) for a while…to any defenders reading this, we know him better), you should listen in general, we know what being autistic is like much more than you do because…we’re autistic.

The problems with this narrative are many.

First, autistic adults are well…adults. Whatever our strengths and weaknesses, this narrative treats all of us like we are still kids, incapable of growing up and knowing that some things are bad to do. When you say that we can’t help doing anything wrong because we’re autistic you’re saying that we never developed logic or a moral compass, considering us perpetual children…and that’s insulting as all hell. We are developed human beings, we may make mistakes that others might not make but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn.

But the thing about mistakes is that you don’t know what you’re doing is wrong. If you are told that you’re wrong in something, someone clearly tells you that you’re doing something messed up, you have choices: you can learn from it and try to do better (we might slip occasionally), or you can defend your actions and not change what you’re doing. After you are told something is wrong there is no excuse to keep deliberately doing it and not try to change your actions, especially when you’re told that you are hurting people. Autism is about not getting social cues or rules automatically but when we are told that they exist, especially told over and over by multiple people like this person has, it’s up to us to not break the rules again. Beyond that, a lot of the stuff that he’s done is made obviously wrong by the internet, TV, movies, things that we are bombarded with being bad things that you shouldn’t do. My old school for autistics in Santa Rosa, Anova, had social thinking classes and they actually showed us a comedy movie where people made a lot of ridiculous mistakes and we saw the consequences, saw they were wrong…society and media would have already showed that a lot of this stuff is so messed up that he did know better before he was told by the person he did it to told him he hurt her.

The result of this narrative is made fairly obvious by current events. Because not only does it stigmatize those of us who do choose to be better, it enables monsters to keep doing whatever harm they’re causing. When people should be as a whole telling him his behaviors are wrong they are supporting him or letting it go unchecked. By telling him and him acting like he doesn’t know any better people aren’t doing anything when he’s hurting my friends.

Every time I see people excuse him because of the neurology we both share or let him go because they think he might not know any better it makes me more and more enraged because they are enabling an abuser to keep hurting people who don’t deserve it. It doesn’t matter your good intentions if this is the impact. Doing so is harmful in every way possible and it’s killing me to see my friend continue to be hurt while people excuse the person causing the suffering because he’s autistic like I am. If we’re doing something wrong that’s hurting , tell us clearly so we know, and then if we don’t care that’s on us and your defense or passiveness is causing harm. Maybe if people had told him this stuff and made it abundantly clear to him that behavior like this was wrong before he ever encountered my friend this would never have happened but now it is and people are still enabling him to continue.

Do better.

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You Know Your Mind: A Diagnosed Autistic’s View On Self-Diagnosis

“Now everyone wants to be something
A feeling so strong
But only one thing really matters
A place to belong
Don’t spend all your days in the shadows
You’re not on your own
But just keep on fighting
‘Cause you’ll never know you’ve got ’til it’s gone”

Power and Glory, Dragonforce

 (This, I feel, is one of my more important posts. I have actually “met” [through the wonders of the internet] four ally moms who either have very recently or not at all claimed the diagnosis of autistic, even though it matches what they’re going through…this is to them, and others who haven’t self-diagnosed for some reason or another)

reachinghands

I was lucky enough to be diagnosed autistic at a very young age. This led to me getting the services (like Anova, the school for autistics that I went to) I needed to survive (flourish, even) in the world today. With the few memories that I have from my time before Anova, I know I’m not mincing words when I say that the only reason I’m alive today is because of the help I got because of my diagnosis.

But I’m a lucky one.

Thanks to a variety of factors, many people don’t pursue official diagnoses, especially adults. Even those who might pursue and might be autistic may end up not getting the official diagnosis, especially if you’re an adult and/or female (the latter is a big issue…1 in 271 [pretty sure, definitely over 200] women are diagnosed as autistic compared to the once 1-in-68…with statistics this messed up, something must be going on).

I have no problems with this, it’s important to do what works for you.

The problem I have is that very often the people who don’t pursue the official diagnosis with a doctor and all also don’t self-diagnose, even if they feel the label fits.

Sometimes the world is straight-up hell. Too many sounds, too many lights, and far, far too many people. While being buffeted with this insanity, you are also supposed to carry on conversations, keep eye contact, and just generally act “normal”. It is hard interacting with the world at large, especially when the way your mind works ends up isolating you naturally.

The joy of claiming your diagnosis is not being alone…we all know, in some form or another, what you’re going through. We know and accept each others’ weaknesses, because we have them ourselves. The rest of the world will often tell you you’re weird, strange, or “wrong” in some way, while we’ll see the difficulties you’re going through.

I hate the fact that people are feeling the need to go out on their own when their people are right here. I remember pre-Anova, trying and failing to be normal with nobody to turn to, nobody like myself. Now, thanks to knowing I’m autistic, I don’t feel alone, as I have quite a few people who I can turn to who will know what I’m feeling…

Leave the shadows and embrace who you are. We’re here for you..I asked a few autistic groups what they felt, and I got a few responses from self-diagnosed people on how they felt afterwards:

“1. Finding I was Autistic was a revelation. I had no idea why I was so different from others around me. I had never met other autistic adults. When I did I realised how much I had in common with them and it led me on a voyage of self discovery. It was literally like having a blindfold removed and seeing myself and the world around me with new eyes.
2. Having spent years trying to fit in, to be normal, I realised that I had allowed society to hold me back by putting a ball and chain of expectation on me. I have now learned to embrace my Autistic self.
3. I think being female contributed to my being overlooked. And my very strengths (eidetic memory, observation skills) contributed further. It meant for me getting diagnosis came later in life, much later. I self diagnosed when I was 47 but then sought formal diagnosis a year later (privately). I wanted formal diagnosis to rule out other possible diagnoses and because I felt formal diagnosis would help with credibility in the field I was/am working in.
4. I now help others get their diagnosis (where possible and if wanted) and help advocate for services and acceptance.”

“It gave me a sense of belonging. And a much wider sense of those around me, their own personality make up, it seemed to suddenly be like bright lights, lighting up all around, I don’t know why, but it became so easy to spot a fellow aspie. I think I had to know myself before I could do this, and that’s really what a few months of self realisation did, being in this group, listening and talking with people who were, well, just like me actually!! And to the NTs in the group, I found people who are accepting and understanding, and its helped me to find my place among the ‘strangers’ around me. It also made a huge difference for my officially diagnosed Autie daughter, because now I feel more connected, and somehow that has channelled into a more patient and accommodating approach to my parenting. The fact that I will never go for an official diagnosis, stems more from a dislike of so called ‘experts’ and wether they may or may not tick enough boxes on their forms to give me something which I know already, within the core of my soul. Diagnosis criterias will ebb and flow with the years, and so maybe will my own sensory reactions, my social interactions and my thought processes to everyday life. I’m happy just to have been given the chance to ‘be’ myself and understand things in a whole new light.”

“I never have been officially diagnosed, but I’ve read enough and taken enough self-evaluations to know that I am definitely on the spectrum. I’ve always known I didn’t quite fit, or my experiences didn’t match up with other people’s, so it’s comforting and validating to at least put a name to it.”

Why Is How You Communicate So Special?

Image from PrAACtical AAC

Currently I’m taking a Linguistics class, and we read Mother Tongue by Amy Tan. Mother Tongue is Tan’s reflection on how her mother’s “broken English” has negatively affected the perception of those who hear her.

Her mother would literally have to put Tan on the phone to talk with people in her “perfect” English just to make people take the thoughts seriously. One rather horrendous example was when a hospital lost a CAT scan that her mother had gotten because of a benign brain tumor. When her mother spoke first the doctor told her that she had come for nothing, but when her mother finally convinced the doctor to call Tan, the doctor actually listened and said that he would look.

Rationally and logically, there’s no reason to take a person less seriously because they don’t communicate the same way as you do.

When I read this before, I found it obvious that this prejudice is racist, but when I read it this time I realized it was actually ableist as well.

While I’m very verbal, many autistics are nonverbal.

The right thing for a parent to do, I would argue, is try to find other ways to communicate with your child. As I said in We Are Not (parentheticals removed):

We do communicate-we just may not know how or even be able to communicate in or understand your usual way. It is a language barrier that, if you are willing to love and accept your child for who and what they are and put the work into learning our way of expression and help guide us to understand the peculiarities of your language, this barrier can be broken.

However, this focus on spoken language as superior and important leads some terrible parents to think that their child is somehow lesser because they can’t talk (anti-vaxxers would say that their child is vaccine-injured…We Are Not talks about that), and thus they don’t listen to their communication through behavior, or try to find other methods for their children to communicate (sign language or assistive tech of some sort, both of which fall under the category of “Augmentative and alternative communication” or AAC). I have nonverbal friends on Facebook which use AAC devices for communication, and that’s something that these parents wouldn’t even bother with because of their biases towards spoken language and their selfishness of not trying to put effort into understanding and trying to enable their children to communicate…which is screwed up. I do realize that this is difficult to do for parents, but frankly everyone deserves a chance. Even if that doesn’t work for your child, recognize that all behavior is communication. ISAAC defines communication as:

Communication is the essence of human interaction and learning.

The nature of communication is dependent on interaction between two or more individuals and understanding is constructed through that interaction.

Communication is a basic human right and essential to our quality of life as a social species. As human beings, we use communication to: relate to others, socially connect, greet, call attention, share feelings, express an opinion, agree, disagree, explain, share information, question, answer, tease, bargain, negotiate, argue, manipulate, compliment, comment, protest, complain, describe, encourage, instruct, provide feedback, show humor, discuss interests, be polite, make friends, express interest or disinterest, etc.

Our focus should be on the thoughts and emotions that are being communicated, not on the method that they are being transmitted, and we should value all methods of communication equally, not valuing one type as somehow special. To do so, I feel, is not only harmful to those whose feelings we invalidate, but also harmful to ourselves because we’re limiting how we connect to our fellow humans.

Please Don’t Support Autism $Peaks: From An Autistic And His Community (Email Sent To A Sorority At My School That Supports Autism $Peaks)+additional resources (updated 4/21/17)

(In the interest of April I’m going to link on the bottom any other articles I find on the bottom in order to make it a concentrated source, will update as I find them)

Want to actually help autistics? Please donate to The Autistic Self Advocacy Network here

Image may contain: text
Picture from Ink & Daggers Illustration (ally not autistic)

So, I learned that a sorority at my school supported Autism $peaks in my class and my mind short-circuited and I wrote this…it’s time to listen to us:

So, I’m writing this in class because someone mentioned that you support Autism Speaks and I’m…stunned

I’m an autistic and part of the autistic pride movement, and as the articles will show you, we consider them a hate group against us…they thrive on stigma of our community, and they spend 43% of their funding on ads perpetuating that stigma like this, and 4% on family services (source here)…almost 11 times as much advertising us than helping us. They have no autistic members among their board, and spend most of their money on research on how to cure us or prevent our existence (now it’s 3% on family services, 39 % on advertising [13 times as much], and they now spend more on advertising than research, source is this flyer)…their blue puzzle piece, in addition to all the points I mentioned in that link, also contributes to the misperception that autism mainly affects boys leading to the stuff mentioned in this article
I’m sharing you articles that both I and others in the community have written. I’m honestly begging you here, please stop donating to them…if you want to support autistics, our main policy organization is The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, as you are a sorority you can look into the Autism Women’s Network as well, both of them are run by us and are fighting for us. A$ has been a huge stumbling block…barrier moreso by dominating the narrative with considering us a tragedy…I don’t blame you for thinking that they’re the right organization to donate to, many do, but as these articles from all around the community will show you…it’s the worst thing that you could do for us…
From myself
You Have the Choice: Autism Acceptance (message to our allies; TW: Autism Speaks) (…it’s terrible enough to deserve a trigger warning for my fellow autistics because the mention of it hurts…it’s on Autism Awareness and asking people to support Autism Acceptance, our community’s movement)
From my co-blogger (autistic mom of an autistic son)
And from many many others (each of the following articles are from different sources…even if you don’t read them all, I’m hoping that you get the impression that this is a universal thing)
Autistic Hoya: An Unholy Alliance: Autism Speaks and the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC does electric shocks on autistics…yes it still happens, and your current charity of choice supports it)
Why? Why? Why?  (from a parent)
Look Me In The Eye: I resign my roles at Autism Speaks (this is a resignation letter from an autistic guy who tried to change the organization from within but realized that he couldn’t)
why i #BoycottAutismSpeaks | a diary of a mom (from a parent that dearly regrets supporting them once)
“Autism Speaks”- but Should Everyone Listen? – The Daily Beast (not autistic…but actual news organization)
This picture is from Ink and Daggers Illustration (ally not autistic)
…I have given you a total of seventeen different sources here, a range of parents of nonverbal children, verbal and nonverbal autistic adults, ally pages, an actual news organization…with one shared voice…boycott A$. These are Autistics Speaking against them…please listen, I beg you, don’t continue to support the hatred that you have unknowingly been supporting.
If you have personal questions, Facebook is my favored method of communication, this is my profile page: Garrett Winters Âû
Added 12/28/16:
Recently Autism $peaks added Polly Tommey to their organization. This is all kinds of wrong as she’s an anti-vaxxer involved with the anti-vaxxer anti-autistic hate film Vaxxed which was directed by the person who started the false connection between vaccines and autism, Andrew Wakefield. I thought that they couldn’t be worse, they proved me wrong.
Added resources 4/3/17:
4/21/17 my Autism Acceptance piece A Red Rage #RedInstead – The Outcast Post

We Are Not

“Born free, but still they hate.
Born me, no I can’t change.”

Rise Against – Make It Stop (September’s Children)

 

 

So, recently a young hero of mine, Marco Arturo, created this absolutely killer video (watch the whole thing, remember that I’m an extremely pro-vax autistic) debunking the anti-vaxxers argument about vaccines causing autism…what followed was something that I honestly shouldn’t have been surprised about…after attacking him with arguments on his Facebook page which he continuously shredded (for just one example check his brilliant explanation of “the dose makes the poison” [the point that ingredients like formaldehyde may indeed be dangerous if you chug them, but the miniscule amount in vaccines can’t harm you {…there’s also more of that specific chemical in a pear}]), they decided to create multiple articles against him, insult him saying things like “I want to throat punch this kid” and “clearly on the spectrum himself no?” (truly wonderful seeing that used as an insult…) and dox him (definition of dox here).

All of this vileness because a genius twelve-year-old countered the claim that vaccines cause autism (if you don’t believe him, how about these 107 studies that also counter that claim).

I am tired of being used, and of the tragedy narrative (my term to describe the narrative that autism is something to fear/avoid/cure…all of the terrible things happening to us that I mention in Why I Fight are merely symptoms of this story about us that is the main narrative about autism) that makes them think that being like us is a fate worse than death from the diseases that vaccines prevent.

So, to anti-vaxxers and all of those who spread this narrative, hear this well:

We are not a tragedy. We are human, just like you, and deserve the same respect that you do.

We are not “vaccine-injured”. Autism isn’t an “injury” at all, is a genetic condition, and we are sick and tired of being used as a pawn for your agenda, of hearing our parents talk about how the light left our eyes when they made the choice to save our lives from deadly diseases, and of having you listen to Playboy models like Jenny McCarthy or movie directors like Robert De Niro (fun fact: before he changed his mind and decided to defend VAXXED, Andrew Wakefield‘s latest effort to profit off of the tragedy narrative, after his film festival retracted the film Naturalnews pretty much called him a Nazi…no point too low, gladly trivializing the holocaust before they changed to regard him as a saint) over actual doctors.

We are not broken neurotypicals who need to be “fixed” by therapies like ABA (and, before you say “That’s not ABA”, which I have seen by people who do something they call ABA…you don’t practice ABA according to the father of the therapy, who said such lovely quotes like this, and it had vile articles written about it like this one, screams, slaps & love. There may be tamed versions that are more palatable now, but still today we are having electric shock devices used on us to train us out of behaviors, so understand why I cringe and turn away whenever I see those letters) or “cured” by deadly things like MMS. We are autistic-autism is what makes us the unique beings we are, colors all our strengths and weaknesses, and not only would you have a completely different child if you “succeeded” in your terrible quest to remove the parts of your child you can’t accept, your attempts can scar us for the rest of our lives, with your message of us being broken, incurably diseased (because the MMS won’t make us what you want, so we’ll go through our lives thinking that even after all the hell you put us through we couldn’t be “cured” of our neurology), and of our coping strategies (stimming) being abnormalities to be stifled leads to high rates of PTSD and suicide in our community.

We are not Neurotypical people covered with a shell of autism that you can crack or a wall of autism you can bulldoze through to get to. We are what we are. We do communicate-we do feel (oh, how we do…to the point where I sometimes wish I was emotionless)-we just may not know how or even be able to communicate in or understand your usual way. It is a language barrier that, if you are willing to love and accept your child for who and what they are and put the work into learning our way of expression and help guide us to understand (NOT force us to imitate. Assume that we are trying to function and that if we are not doing something there may be a reason…we have sensitivities that you don’t, and what you may try to perceive as a stubborn child may be us trying to avoid things that cause us pain or discomfort, communication that should be heard…again, forcing us not to stim or forcing eye contact to make us more like you is wrong, you’re breaking us, not fixing us)  the peculiarities of your language (voice tone and body positioning and eyes and all of that stuff is weird…we need help figuring it out some, and respect when we can’t emulate it), this barrier can be broken.

We are not yours to do what you want with. We are human beings. When we are in meltdowns, our weakest moments, the moments when we need help, you should not whip out your phone to record us to put us on Youtube (when looking for “What’s wrong with meltdown videos”, 4 of these terrible videos popped up…we are not your amusement. Think about the time you were most overwhelmed and your reaction, and think if you would want that on the web for the world to see. Now multiply that amount of stress by 10, and you have what brings us to meltdown…it is so messed up to take a video of your children when this is happening, and the makers of these videos should be ashamed. Also, meltdowns are not tantrums, they are communication that stress has been building up and has finally exploded). We are not yours to kill, and when our caregivers do kill us (this has a list of 224 instances like this), they do not deserve your “understanding” (and when you believe these things, you perpetuate the killing). Murder is murder, taking the life of another human being no matter their neurology is still taking their life…frankly, writing this one out, realizing that people seem to need to be told this, makes me feel sick. I should not have to tell you that murder is bad, but people actually need to hear it…

But that’s the way the narrative goes, brought into focus every April, but also lurking in our minds through the year.

If people accepted us as the equal human beings we are, then nobody would be attacking a child for making a video reaffirming something that has been proven over and over…because nobody would use us as a reason not to vaccinate, Wakefield wouldn’t have made a fraudulent article blaming vaccines for the tragedy of our existence…for we are not a tragedy. We are you.

Marco, if you read this, know that it’s not you that they hate. The tide of rage that they represent has existed for years, we have been fighting against it, and your total awesomeness made them latch onto you…keep fighting on, don’t let them get to you too much, the future seems brighter knowing that you’ll be in it.

-Laoch Onórach

Sick And Tired: A Rant Against Anti-Vaxxers

So, I did this rant on Facebook, and Tricia encouraged me to share it here…so I am. It’s in response to how anti-vaxxers love to use the rise of autism and how it correlates to the use of vaccines as a reason to say that vaccines cause autism (despite the fact that correlation does not equal causation, and if it did…well, let’s let the image speak for why that may be an issue for the pseudoscientist scum)

Organic food sales rise at the same time as autism diagnoses, which, according to anti-vaxxer "logic", means that they cause autism

So, I decided to write a response that detailed all the reasons why diagnoses are rising, why the United States has more diagnoses, why that’s a good thing, and why I hope that they continue to rise:
“Vaccines don’t cause autism
Stop throwing us under the bus as part of your agenda
The reason for more people being diagnosed (not *having*, but diagnosed, the many self-diagnosed aren’t even included in the statistics) is that we are better at recognizing what exactly autism is
We went from thinking of autism as just non-verbal to the spectrum
This is actually a really good thing, as it made it so people like myself can get the help they need because of an official diagnosis that we can show doctors to get medicine or to schools to get the accommodations we need to survive
The change to the spectrum model happened here in the States, was put in the DSM, which other countries use as well
Of course more people are diagnosed here, the change happened here first
Autism used to be considered just a childhood disorder as well, meaning that adults who would be diagnosed autistic if they were born now aren’t diagnosed
They may not think they’re autistic, but maybe something happens that makes them want to seek out and fork up the money to get tested, they get diagnosed, bam, an addition to your statistics
Many psychiatrists may still be under that childhood disorder notion and may not diagnose adults, and the diagnostic criteria is geared to children anyways, this happened to a mother I know whose child was diagnosed…many moms don’t even think of the idea of being autistic until they have their children diagnosed
There’s also a perception that autism is in boys only (assisted as well by issues with the diagnostic criteria…the boy thing is why people lit it up blue in April…issues with that are outside the scope of this point), so as we get more open to girls being autistic and more perceptive of how their autism manifests, more will be diagnosed…so, yes, it is an improvement in the criteria, and we still have a long way to go…all of my self-diagnosed friends aren’t included, and that means that they aren’t getting the help from the system
You are wrong, so utterly wrong, and we autistics are sick and tired of being used by you and your anti-vaxxer ilk”

I honestly hope diagnoses do increase…at the moment the ratio of boys diagnosed to girls is 4 to 1, and there is absolutely no genetic reason that has been found, only issues with the criteria that are stopping girls from getting the help that I need…however, it will never be one in two, as those who call us an epidemic say as a scare tactic.

If you want some more information about some things in here, I may be able to provide if you ask in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and please share to combat the people who keep using us for their deadly agenda

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