Saturday, February 27, 2016

Value in Diversity

One of the most common themes I see is people belittling others based on intelligence. Use of ableist slurs is so common that people don't even bat an eye when ableist language is thrown into G rated movies without a thought. Why is this? People are equating lower intelligence, learning disabilities, and slow processing time to being a bad person, unworthy.

In fact, I think the value of a person is not based on intelligence at all. Qualities I look for in a person include kindness, compassion, and support for equality. But people don't hurl bigoted at another person as an insult, like they would an ableist slur...

There has been a campaign on social media recently called #SayTheWord. The word they are referring to is disabled. So many people are afraid to use this word, fearing it is an insult or disrespectful. Why do we think this? Because nondisabled people see themselves as superior to disabled people, like we are inherently broken. 

I have slow processing time. So it can be hard to have a verbal conversation with me, because the conversation has changed by the time I have processed and responded. Sometimes it is also hard for me to participate in written conversation when it moves too quickly. I have sensory difficulties, so it is hard for me to join in activities the way others do. 

I am not broken though. I am the friend that will sit with you all night, talking as long as you need. I am the parent that loves their kids fiercely, celebrating the glorious diversions from the mainstream that they are. I am the teacher that helps kids' first school experience be a safe and positive one. 

I'd like to see a change in the way people view other people. Ableist slurs can and should become a thing of the past. Separation between Autistic people, as some seek to separate us into gifted and learning disabled, as if those are the binaries we all exist under, should be done away with. No, we are not all the same. But our differences go far beyond an IQ score. I celebrate that diversity.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

On Self Diagnosis

I fall into this category. Though I did see a psychologist that confirmed my own recognition, it is not a formal, paper diagnosis. So I want to speak to that. 

Two, (maybe three,) of my kids are Autistic. One has a professional diagnosis, the other an educational diagnosis. While learning more about autism, and seeking advice from Autistic adults, I recognized myself. It was not immediately obvious. We learn to cope. We learn to hide our Autistic traits from an unkind world. We hide who we really are, so the world doesn't know we are disabled. The more I learned though, the more I knew that inside, who I really was, regardless of how well I've learned to fake being neurotypical, was an Autistic person. I went through the diagnostic criteria to see if perhaps I just "had some traits," but no, it was so clear.

I'm also an anxious person. I don't take anything lightly. I don't want to make false claims. I desperately wanted community, but not with those that were not truly my community. I decided I needed some kind of confirmation. As an adult, presenting as a woman; (I'm nonbinary,) I knew this would not be easy to get.

 So I settled on discussing the issue with a psychologist I already had a relationship with for other reasons. I knew I wouldn't be able to adequately speak to it, as I verbally shut down at emotional times. So I wrote him a letter, 3 pages, single spaced, explaining why I think I do indeed meet criteria. I gave it to him in advance of our appointment. When I arrived for the appointment, he told me he had read through it several times. His response? "You need me to tell you what you already know?" (He then went on to confirm that he agrees with my assessment.) This is it in a nutshell. We know ourselves. Presume competence. Believe us when we tell you we have thought long and hard about this, and have read the criteria. 

Since that time I have joined the Autistic community in full force. I've made wonderful friends. I think I've helped some people with my advocacy. I am glad people have not shut me out of advocacy because I lack a piece of paper. We are all in this together.