Autism Acceptance 2020: Day 3

April 3: Talk about special interests. Do you have any? What are they? How long have you had them? What does it feel like to have special interests? What does having special interests mean to you? Talk about your past special interests.

I’ve always had really intense special interests. When I was a kid, it was cats. I used to read books about cat breeds and write stories about the neighbor’s cats. I still love cats and have one 🙂 Animals and pet care have been a theme throughout my life. I’ve had pet rats as a special interest since I was 14, and have had pet rats for the last decade.

I’ve gone through a few special interest phases that I’ve either lost interest in due to no content or just a general loss of interest.

My current SpIns are Steven Universe (I have no idea what to do now that it’s over), astrology, autism (if that wasn’t obvious), and Animal Crossing (I hope to get the new game soon).

It’s nice to have something to dive into or distract myself with, and a lot of my special interests have good fandoms and communities. For me, it can be a focus of creativity as well (fanfiction when I was younger, fan art now). I think special interests kind of become a part of you. They’re comforting.

What are your special interests?

 

Autism Acceptance 2020: Day 2

April 2: Post your red instead selfie today! Alternatively, you could talk about why you choose to go redinstead and what it means to you.

I wasn’t feeling my looks too much today, but oh well. Red Instead is important to me because it’s a direct pushback against the harmful rhetoric of Autism $peaks. It draws attention to the flaws of “light it up blue” and reclaims the mic as our own.
Again, if you feel comfortable, share a #redinstead selfie!

Prompt credit to autie-jake on tumblr.

Autism Acceptance 2020: Day 1

April 1: Introduce yourself. Talk about who you are as a person.

Hi lovelies. I’m CJ. I’m 28, non-binary/Demi-girl (not totally sure of my gender identity but pronouns are she/her) and supa dupa gay. I have a cat, rats, and snails. I do a lot of cosplay. I’m an ambivert (equally introverted and extroverted). I love going out with friends and staying in and playing video games. I always need a creative outlet. I also love traveling and seeing new places. I’m also an activist for intersectional feminism and human rights.

I’d love to learn about my autistic followers as well! Introduce yourself in the comments if you are comfortable 🙂

Daily prompts retrieved from here: https://autie-jake.tumblr.com/post/614227611273527296

What is “Autigender?”

autigender

 

A while ago, I heard the term “autigender” being used on tumblr, and my original thought was “this is silly/ridiculous.”

After doing some reading, I learned that autigender isn’t a gender or gender identity, but rather, how one’s view of gender is affected by autism.

CandidlyAutistic on tumblr says “Autigender is not explicitly saying that “My gender is autism” – it’s not about saying you are a boy, girl, enby, autism, whatever. It’s about your relationship with your gender.”

I think their post is a good start on describing autigender, but I would argue some of the terminology used. CandidlyAutistic goes on to say

“Specifically, gender is a social construct. The primary deficit of autism includes difficulties interpreting and understanding social constructions. This means that we have a disability that inherently makes understanding gender part of our disability.

Because of this, we can have exceptionally complicated and unique understanding of what gender is, how it affects us, and how we express gender.”

I think using wording such as “deficit” and describing us as not understanding gender can be a bit problematic, and can easily be used against us. Specifically, if an autistic person is trans, nonbinary, etc, they already are more likely to face doubt and stigma because of being autistic.
“Oh, she’s autistic and easily influenced.”
“He can’t really know his gender, he’s autistic.”
“They don’t know any better.”

Those kinds of statements make the assumption that we’re too simple to understand gender, whereas it’s moreso the opposite.

I think being autistic personally expands many of our views of social constructs like gender and sexuality. Rather than not understanding it as a concept, we are able to see beyond the binaries and boxes society tries to define itself in. I think part of this is due to the fact that we are on a spectrum, and we’re able to see many things in life that are spectrums that others only see in black and white. (Yes, this is ironic with the stereotype that we see the world in black and white, but that’s a blog for another day).

I also want to mention that I think Candidly Autistic is a great blogger. I just didn’t feel 100% comfortable sharing their post without my personal views on the matter.

I’m still unsure how I feel about auti-gender as a term. I think being autistic gives us many relationships with social constructs and we don’t inherently owe people an explanation for why we don’t see gender the same way as neurotypicals. I don’t feel it necessary for myself to identify as autigender because I believe I have other factors in my perception of gender, and also that many folk who are not autistic can have similar feelings about gender. However, many find comfort in this word and explanation and that should be respected.

I’m sorry if this post was a bit convoluted. I recently had a discussion with another autistic person who identifies as a demigirl, which, for us, falls into the gray area of not inherently feeling strict adherence to cis womanhood, but also not inherently feeling “not cis” or trans. She brought up the topic of her autism influencing her, and many other’s, view of gender, and I found myself re-reading some posts.

I think the most important takeaway, is that there is a complex relationship between those who are already outside of binaries and the view of other binaries. Autigender, in my opinion, is more of an adjective to gender, rather than a gender itself. A similar example would be the words “cis” or “trans.” Cis and trans are not genders. They describe your relationship with gender. “Auti” functions in a similar manner. You can say you’re a girl, boy, enby, etc, without having to explain your adjective in relation to that gender, or you can.

Autistic People Review Foods (All about food aversion)

The quotes used in this post were inspired by quotes made on a post by Kristy Forbes that hilariously describe food aversions.

Food aversion is a part of sensory processing disorder, and in real life isn’t quite as funny as these posts. Food aversion manifests through our senses of taste, smell, and touch.

It can derive from texture issues, strong smell, just plain taste, and even sight.

Texture issues are one of the primary examples you might see. I struggle to eat eggs because of the rubbery texture. I think a lot of issues have to do with a signal going off in our brains that tells us something is not right. I can have a hard time eating cheese that looks too rubbery. It’s just stuck in my head at that point.

Our imaginations can be so strong that they affect our quality of life.

Also, imagine cheese dipped in chocolate. Bacon sundaes. Things that, even to a neurotypical, seem gross together even if you like them individually. That can be why some of us avoid certain foods- not enjoying the mixture of flavors or textures. Also why many autistic kids and adults don’t like food touching on their plates.

One more example I’ll bring forward is the effect of scent on what we eat.

I loved grilled cheese as a kid, until one day I was playing upstairs and I could smell the cheese burning on the pan. I vomited from the smell, and developed an aversion to melted cheese until I was almost a teen.

These issues should be taken seriously, despite my comical pictures. Some of us can “stomach” (pun intended) food we dislike, but others may actually vomit or have bad adverse reactions.

Please trust the people in your life about their food preferences. I’m not saying only feed your kid ice cream, but please don’t force them to eat foods they are adverse to.

Book Review – On the Edge of Gone

This week I’ll be reviewing the book On the Edge of Gone, by Corinne Duyvis.

(This doesn’t inherently mean I’ll be doing a book review each week, though)

Image result for on the edge of gone"

On the Edge of Gone is an apocalyptic scifi novel, following the character Denise, an autistic girl who is determined to survive.

I thought this book was fantastic for many reasons. It handles diversity in a very natural feeling way. I also found Denise to be an extremely relatable character. Her autism doesn’t feel forced in the narrative, but more of an organic part of the character. I think this is because the author is autistic, so the experience is captured very well by her. She makes sure to bring in the casual nuances of being autistic, with the assumptions from others and the thought patterns of the character.

This book also brings up important moral questions in the face of an apocalyptic future, especially the value of “usefulness” that is relevant to our current society. Many of the most well-intentioned advocates try to show our value as people by our usefulness, which is problematic.

The story itself was also a good read. There are parts that seem a bit improbable, but not dissecting the technicalities too closely and reading it as a fiction piece, it was an enjoyable read that held my interest. There were no parts of the story that did not engage me, and I was eager to read what happened next.

In short, yes, I would recommend On the Edge of Gone, unless Sci-Fi is not your genre.

The Case Against ABA

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(Image credit Wikimedia Commons)

ABA, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, is the most widely used therapy for autistic children. It is also incredibly harmful, which practitioners and parents will often refuse to acknowledge.

They will argue that their child is doing Much Better, and ABA has “helped them incredibly.” However, what exactly is ABA helping?

ABA is not set as a model for help to the autistic person. It is rather a behavior modification system, much like dog training, that teaches children to suppress behaviors that are important to their functioning.

Comparing it to animal training (but not comparing autistic people to animals, which is in itself a problem with the therapy), it would be comparable to say, getting a shock collar to prevent your dog from barking. Barking is an important behavior to dogs, part of their instincts, and signifies meaning, even if we don’t always understand why a dog is barking.

On human terms, ABA is very closely related to Gay Conversation Therapy. In fact, both ideas were based on the principles by Ivar Lovaas. Lovaas encouraged shock therapy, referred to stimming as “garbage behavior” and discouraged “atypical gender behaviors” in children.

Many people who support ABA will argue that it’s changed drastically, that they don’t use methods like shock treatment, etc.

While I do think there is a point to redirecting behaviors that are actually harmful (such as self injury), ABA works more to force a child to appear neurotypical. Behaviors such as hand flapping and fidgeting are discouraged, while these behaviors are harmful to no one.

I can’t speak from personal experience, as I was diagnosed as a teen and primarily did CBT, but I still experienced aspects of what this therapy preaches. Family and friends mocked me for hand flapping, which I did when excited, until I became self conscious enough to stop. My primary stims now are leg bouncing (which really isn’t that different from hand flapping, but is somehow more socially acceptable), and dermatillomania, or skin picking. I almost never can be sitting still, especially if I am anxious, upset, or excited.

Often, the result of suppressing a behavior results in a build up that can be explosive. The worst example is the people who take their lives after gay conversion therapy.

Many autistic adults express feelings of trauma from receiving ABA as a child. Some examples are herehere, and here. There is also a study about ABA and PTSD here.

During the last year, I had worked in close proximity with someone who was an ABA practitioner. I had originally got along fine with this individual, but once I began to see how they interacted with children, I became irate. Even if I had not known this person’s background, I watched them talk down to kids, belittle them for not being quick enough, and scold them for moving too much. It was deeply upsetting for me to watch, and I wish I had known what words to say, but I just stayed silent and tried to encourage the children to be themselves.

Again, as I did not personally experience ABA, I cannot speak for the experiences of others. However, I will stand with the autistic community against this practice, and give a platform to those who have been harmed by this “therapy.” Others can and have articulated this better than myself, and I will include some links for further reading.

Invisible Abuse: ABA and the things only autistic people can see

https://sociallyanxiousadvocate.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/why-i-left-aba/

https://autisticmama.com/even-new-aba-is-problematic/

How I teach autistic students without using ABA

View at Medium.com