April is Autism *Acceptance* Month

April is Autism Acceptance (or Awareness) month, and you might be asked to Light It Up Blue to show your support of Autism Speaks. However… if you want to actually support people with autism, I’d suggest making a donation elsewhere.

There’ve been a lot of posts about what’s so bad about Autism Speaks, so in a quick summary: the message in almost all of their advertising is that autism is a disease hiding the “true child” (implying that people with autism aren’t real people), and that we need to fix autistic people by curing autism (and thus most of their effort/money goes to finding the cause/a cure). Unfortunately, many autistic people (myself included) disagree with this perspective, as we’re definitely real people, and many of us feel our autism/aspergers gives us a unique perspective on the world – and “curing” us of that would make us totally different people.

There are other problems with Autism Speaks, but I’ll let this post explain them all.

So, what should you do instead? Celebrate Autism Acceptance Month — honestly, most people are aware of an autism stereotype, take some time to learn from actually-autistic people. A short list of blogs I’d suggest:

There’re way more blogs than just those, you can also click around the neurodiversity and #actuallyAutistic tags on WordPress.com and twitter. Around April, the tags #REDinstead and #WalkInRed are also used, as a counterpoint to the blue of Autism Speaks’ event.

What if you still want to donate? Check out local Autism support organizations in your area, or donate to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network or Autism Women’s Network.

Weekend Reading Wrap-up

Okay, so maybe 2 weeks of reading. This week’s topics include gender (+ alcohol), race (+ alcohol), more gender, autism, and mental illness.

Later, I’d hop into a cab, coiffed and pumped for a television appearance, ready to talk whiskey.

And then this would happen: “What does it mean to be a women in whiskey?” or, “What kinds of whiskey do women drink?” or the nebulous, “What can you tell us about women and whiskey?”

— Whiskey-Drinking Women Get Stereotyped — What If Men Did Too?

I bet that sort of thing comes up in every “traditionally male” industry… Saw this posted n a group chat after someone else was talking about an interview asking “What’s it like being a woman in STEM?” and how frustrating that is.

A recent Nielsen study commissioned by the Brewers Association found that while black drinkers compose 11.2% of the US population, they consume only 3.7% of the country’s craft beer. Compare that with the 80% of craft beer guzzled by whites, who make up 60% of the population, and you’ll start to get a sense of the size of the divide.

—There Are Almost No Black People Brewing Craft Beer. Here’s Why.

The rather obvious answer is systemic racism, but the article details some of the beer-specific history that got us here.

But for transgender and gender nonconforming people like myself, the question of what to wear to work becomes an exhausting question of identity and of survival. For us, the question changes from “how do I present my best self at work?” to “can I present my best self at work?”

—Why I’m Genderqueer, Professional and Unafraid

“Professional” clothing is quite gendered, and that’s definitely one reason I prefer to stay in the “draping jersey shirt” area of clothing. This is a great discussion of navigating professionalism when you don’t fit “white cis person”.

The “truly stunning” findings, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, show that transgender kids like mine (those allowed to live in the gender they say they are) are just as mentally healthy as their non-trans peers. They aren’t depressed or riddled with mental health diagnoses. In fact,  emotionally, they’re pretty average.

—Trans Kids Not Necessarily Crazy

A parent writes about the results of a survey on the mental health of trans kids, unsurprised that those allowed to live as their actual gender are just as “normal” as their cis counterparts.

Researchers are aware of these problems. But because so few elderly adults have an autism diagnosis, healthcare workers have little experience helping them navigate the pitfalls of old age.

—Adults with autism face old age without much support

Following up on The Missing Generation, this post goes into more detail about the issues older adults with autism face.

I also want to link To The Friends That Knew I Couldn’t Do This ‘Mental Illness Thing’ Alone, but it’s not quote-able, it’s almost like a poem? Any quote I pulled out would not do justice to the weight of the whole piece.

Weekend Reading Wrap-up

Some things I’ve read this week that I think are worth sharing.

When I ask high school students what they’d like to learn how to make if they knew how to hardware hack or code, they say things like, “Maybe a social app.” “Maybe some kind of a website.” But you get very different answers if you ask them, “What household objects would you enchant if you were in a Hogwart’s charm class?”

— Art and Math and Science, Oh My!

If Chris is a hero merely for hiring someone with a disability it lets all of us other “non-hero humans” off the hook. It also implies that there is something inherently wrong with Sam that it took a hero to hire him in the first place.

— Ellen DeGeneres’ Video About the Starbucks Barista “Sam with Autism” Shouldn’t Make You Feel Good

But this was only the first of numerous – too many to count – anecdotes about autistic children which described them repeatedly as odd, strange, violent, disconnected, destructive, dangerous, difficult to handle, their behaviors meaningless, their interests obsessive. As isolated, unspeaking, severe, uncooperative, and having illogical anxiety. They describe autistic children as vanishing, having broken minds, as screamers, runners, and head bangers. These are the words that Donvan and Zucker use to perpetuate a tragedy narrative that is meant to justify every horrible thing that will be done to these children by parents and professionals.

Cognitive Dissonance In A Different Key, by Erin Human

One of the most sweeping arguments used to silence disabled activists in the debate was the argument that “the discussion was about the environment, not disability”. The thing is you can only have one without the other if you have somehow managed to exclude disabled people from the human race.
[…]
This debate has never been about sacrificing the environment for the sake of disabled people but asking to be considered as part of the solution.

Oranges, Access, Opposition and “Yes, but…”, the follow up to When Accessibility gets Labeled Wasteful

Lastly, a book I’ve been looking forward to, On The Edge of Gone, came out last week… but I still haven’t started it.

A Brief Response to Better One on Ones

Last week this post about One on Ones showed up on my twitter feed. The gist of it is that one on one meetings are good, and it gives a few pointers for how to make them really useful for all involved. This was all great advice, except for the comment that remote teams should use video for meetings.

As a remote team, you should insist that everyone talk over video.

Seeing the other person is meaningful. Body language speaks volumes, and even when you aren’t looking for anything, the human connection is worth having the redundant “Skype hates me!” commentary once a week.

I understand what they’re saying — for a lot of people this is true and a great way to connect. But I really think that you’ll get a more honest/productive conversation if you leave the method of communication up to the participants. Video calls are just not the best medium for everyone, for any number of reasons.

For example: When I’m on a video call, it’s hard for me to process what’s being said with enough time to respond before the topic moves on. Sometimes this means I only half-answer a question, or maybe over-explain because I didn’t catch the beginning, but mostly it means I don’t speak up as much as I should.

This idea isn’t really anything new — “video is the best method” is pretty common. This sentiment that it should be the only way to do a one-on-one, however, is what has made it difficult for me to request text-based chats. I’ve never really had anyone push back on it, but I still feel a little weird asking about it when I have to meet with someone new.

Instead of pushing video, we should ask for & accommodate preferences (as possible — just like I have trouble with video, I know others have trouble with text). If we do this, people who need the accommodations won’t need to feel so “special” interrupting the status quo, and likely will be happier employees. Plus, if they’re not, now they’re better enabled to do something about it 🙂

 

annoyed at a conference from six months ago

Last night I was reading a blog post, “The Year 2015 was a Breakthrough Year for Autism”, and I noticed a mention of a “Neurodiversity in the High Tech Workforce” conference in silicon valley. This seems really relevant to me, no? Apparently it was in June at Microsoft, I learned after googling for it… but the only references I could find were on a dyslexia website. Luckily, they had videos of the event, so I checked out the talks.

I was pretty quickly disappointed to see that actually, this is a dyslexia conference, not really a “neurodiversity” conference. I decided to read the talks just to see if anyone brought up other kinds of neurodiversity.

Unfortunately I only saw awkward comparisons about how autism is the “opposite” of dyslexia, and one story about an autistic coworker that didn’t really have a resolution, but was just a point to make. I also searched through for ADHD, but this was also only used as a footnote, “this is sometimes true for ADHD too”.

In fact, “neurodiversity” was only mentioned twice, and never defined. The whole conference left me feeling kind of weird, like it was tagging along onto a buzzword of neurodiversity, without actually engaging with what the “diversity” aspect meant.

Anyway, the post that I found this on claims that neurodiversity panels are becoming more mainstream. Perhaps in 2016, there’ll be another “Neurodiversity in Tech” conference – one that encompasses all the ways to be neurodivergent. I’d love to attend 🙂

 

getting over disclosure

I’m nervous about this blog. I want to be open about being autistic when asked, but when asked I know who’s asking and how they’re likely to react. In a perfect world that wouldn’t be a problem, and I could be open about it to everyone, but our current world still has a lot of prejudice… and despite being exactly the same person as before disclosing, I might still be treated differently.

It’s not that I think I pass so well for neurotypical – with the amount I’m called “shy”, “aloof”, etc, clearly I’m not (because I’m not shy… really). But I’m worried that once people know I’m autistic, they’ll just start to see stereotypes. That I’ll be written off, limited by what other people think my limits are. I’m worried most about this in the context of work, which makes my posting this un-anonymously, here, a big deal.

It’s not that I have such a low opinion of people that I think this will happen often, but the fact that it’s a possibility makes me… nervous. I want to be open about this. I want to write about what I’ve learned about myself and how this (relatively) new diagnosis of ASD fits into my life. I want to write up neurodivergent work tips, travel tips. And I’ll likely post about my difficulties here too. But I need to get over this first bump of anxiety about disclosure.

So here I am, starting off 2016 by telling the world I’m autistic.

A new blog

There’s been a lot rattling around my head lately. There are things I want to write about, but my primary website ends up being so developer-focused that it feels strange going there to post about personal topics. I’ve been reluctant to splinter off into a new blog – I don’t post much on my dev blog, would I really post more here? I didn’t a few years ago, when I did have a personal/developer split.

But I’m giving it a shot. Maybe with a “side blog” I’ll actually post these thoughts I have about being queer, being female(ish), being neurodivergent… and maybe eventually I’ll be comfortable putting them in my “public” blog. For now, though, they’ll live here.