Autism News, 15/08/2014

My last post about language was prompted by some of these interesting posts about language.

There was an article recently in New York Times Magazine about children who “recoered” from autism by reducing their visible signs of autism to a certain level after therapy. I’m not going to link to the article, but here’s Chavisory taking it down by explaining what life ends up being like for children who go this route.

Meanwhile, here’s some interesting “what it’s like to be autistic”-type posts:

Some intersectionality:

  • The Autism Women’s Network is Kickstarting an anthology on the topic of autism and race. This is awesome.
  • Speaking of autism and race: a while back I posted a link to an article about undercover cops in the US preying on developmentally disabled teens by pressuring them into agreeing to a fake drug deal, then arresting them. Turns out it’s even worse for developmentally disabled Muslim Americans; the FBI entraps them into agreeing to help with fake terrorism.
  • On a completely different note: Virginia Hughes on the sexual politics of autism. (Note: This article is pretty medical-model-y, and is exclusively about researchers rather than the viewpoints of autistic people. Proceed with caution. I’m linking mostly because I find it interesting to see what the researchers are arguing about these days, and because it might be useful for newbie/NT readers who have seen gender-related research claims and want context for them.)

And some pan-disability stuff:

  • Real Social Skills on what disability acceptance means
  • Everybody is talking about mental illness and depression now following Robin Williams’ death. I’m not going to post much on this topic since I’m certain it’s already been plastered all over everyone’s social media feed in great detail. However, if you’re interested in this topic, here is a much-needed post by Jo from Ether Drift Theory reminding us that it’s not only about depression.
  • Here is a Disability in Kidlit roundtable about what not to do when writing disabled characters.

Misc:

  • Here is an ASAN toolkit for managing health care during the transition to adulthood.
  • Cynthia Kim on backstopping: a useful skill for our close friends and caregivers
  • A shout-out from Mel Baggs to atypical Aspies. (Oh man. I fit, like, six of these.)

A post about language, ableism, and words

[Content warning: some discussion of specific slurs and ableist statements]

I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while now, but ironically, I haven’t had the words.

I care about language; it would be hard for a writer not to. For instance, I prefer identity-first language to person-first language, largely because I have considered the arguments for it and agree with them. When speaking about myself or about others with disabilities similar to mine, I try very hard to make use of this language.

I also don’t really care that much how other people refer to me.

Language is an act that occurs in context, and I care more about context and intent than I do about language. If I need help and you’re helping me, for example, in some way that involves referring to my neurotype in front of others, then I don’t really care if you call me an “autistic person”, an “Aspie”, a “person who has autism”, even the dreaded “high-functioning” – whatever. As long as it’s what works in the situation we’re in. If you say something really weird, I might gently bring it up with you later. But mostly, I care that you’re helping.

(Though, of course, claiming you’re “helping” does not give you a free pass. I care that you’re helping cluefully, effectively, and with my consent. But that’s another post.)

I’m also a fan of reclaiming slurs, although that’s neither here nor there.

Many people are more upset by person-first language, or by other language-related matters, than I am. That’s fine, and it’s a thing one should take into account when deciding how to talk. But I think on some level most of us are like this. We care how we, and others like us, are treated. Language is one part of that. It can be important but is not always the most important part, and I think very few of us really believe that it is.

Social justice people get accused of being the “PC language police”, but in my experience, the worst offenders when it comes to pointless PC language (more about the term “PC” below) are very privileged people who don’t actually care about any of this.

A friend of mine told me a story once about an American politician who stated publically that people who are “mentally retarded” should be happy to work for only pennies an hour. (Because yes, it is still legal to pay that little to certain classes of disabled people in certain classes of job.)

After public outcry ensued, the politician apologized, and explained that he had misspoken. He had meant to say that “intellectually disabled” people should be happy to work for only pennies an hour.

I don’t think anybody actually found this reassuring.

If you ever hear me use the term “politically correct” non-ironically, then this is likely what I mean. People in power who carefully sanitize their language without actually caring about context, or about the effects of their actions on the people they are talking about.

It’s possible to be very, very dehumanizing and emotionally abusive without ever using the “wrong” words or the “wrong” tone. It’s possible to dress dehumanization up in a nearly-unlimited number of kittens, rainbows, and reassurances. It’s possible to do it with exactly the terminology and speech style of the people you are dehumanizing. It still is what it is, and if we critique only the surface features of language, we’ll never fix it.

However, even though it is not one of the battles I choose for myself, critiquing the surface features of language can be important. I don’t want to shame anybody who does choose this battle, or to suggest that their concerns are not worth hearing.

And, while it’s easy to go on, say, Tumblr and find people who seem to be focusing on language to the exclusion of all else, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is rarely what’s actually going on. Sometimes people choose that battle for themselves because they recognize it as a battle someone has to fight, and one that they have the tools for; that doesn’t mean they believe there are no other worthy battles. Sometimes people are genuinely upset by certain terms or language forms and need to talk about it. Sometimes people talk about language in one place, and other issues in another place. Sometimes people want to make a deeper critique of someone’s attitudes, but have trouble doing so without pointing to specific words and saying “see, that.” All of these things, and others, are valid.

(Though there are some related problems that should be talked about. Such as “punching sideways”, in which a marginalized person tries to talk about their experience and is shouted down by other marginalized people – or, worse, “allies” – because they didn’t use the correct terms. I want to talk about this but I don’t have my thoughts in order about it and can’t right now.)

In the meantime – and I can only say this for myself, personally, never for other autistic people – as long as it’s clear in context that you actually do have my back, and are actually listening when I talk to you, then you can call me whatever seems reasonable to you. And when referring to yourself, you can use whatever language you damn well please. I don’t, and shouldn’t, mind.

That is all.

The Self-Rescuing Princess

I’ve somehow been totally dumb and missed this for the first several days it was out. But! My poem, “The Self-Rescuing Princess“, is up now at Lakeside Circus!

This is my second short piece appearing in Lakeside Circus. The first, in Issue One, was my micro-story “The Button”, and I have another poem coming up in Issue Three. I am now wondering if I can challenge myself to somehow appear in every single issue ever… 😀

Anyway, it’s an angry little survivor poem with princesses in it. So, if you’re into that, go check it out.

A podcast version of this poem, read by Carrie Cuinn, is in the works, but has yet to appear. I’ll try and link you guys to it when it’s available; it’s a monologue style of poem, and those are the MOST fun ones to read, so this ought to go well.