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Why Doesn’t Respect for Communication Diversity Include Non-Speaking Autistic People?

Photo © Pier Paolo Tosetto | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Photo of a young child wearing a white baseball cat crouching down and talking at a brown bunny.] Emily Paige Ballou chavisory.wordpress.com One day, when I was 15 or 16, I was making my way through the crowded halls of my high school as I did most days, wondering for nowhere near the first time in my life how it could possibly be that I felt so isolated and cut off from most of my peers. Even ones I considered friends, or generally got along well with. There was some quality of their relationships with each other that just wasn’t there when it came to me. Everybody seemed to know things I didn’t, all the time. And finally, that day, I thought, “It’s almost as if I’m blind and deaf.” Not in the literal sense of not being able…

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The Unrecovered

Photo © Lluís Ribes Mateu | Flickr / Creative Commons  [Painting of the Ancient Greek demigod Hercules and the giant Antaeus, c. 1570, Oil on canvas. from the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.] Emily Paige Ballou chavisory.wordpress.com This is the reaction I wrote in response to the article The Kids Who Beat Autism, originally published in the New York Times Magazine in 2014. While I have no doubt that the parents and therapists profiled believe they have these kids’ best interests at heart, I was—and am—angry and frustrated at the celebration at their “recovery” on the part of people who are not the ones who are actually going to bear the consequences for the rest of their lives. I’m sad for the kids who are. The parents, teachers, and therapists and researchers without a clue who celebrate “recovery” because they still wrongfully define autism as a fixed set…

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I Identify As Tired

Hannah Gadsby in the Netflix special Nanette [image: Australian comic Hannah Gadsby, speaking into a microphone. White text at the bottom of the image reads, “I identify… as tired.”] Emily Paige Ballou chavisory.wordpress.com I started wondering something explicitly for the first time recently (I don’t even entirely remember why), and that is: How many autistic kids who fly under the radar for years, or forever, present primarily to non-autistic observers as exhausted? I was wondering this as I was recovering from the end of a production a while back, and my main problem was just that I was so exhausted. If I got up at 10:00 AM, I needed a nap by 4:00 or 5:00, and not for having done all that much in my waking hours. I couldn’t exercise the slightest amount of group planning ability outside of work. It took my writing brain a couple of months to…

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Autistic Commonality and the Illusion of “Quirky”

Emily Paige Ballou chavisory.wordpress.com Some people insist on describing the autistic spectrum as ranging from the non-speaking and very profoundly disabled, to the “just quirky.” Or, during discussions about the need for acceptance and accommodation, the same people might tell autistic self-advocates, “That may be fine for autistic people like you who are just quirky, but you’re not like my child.” Some of those same people even insist that autistic people who are “just quirky” should probably have a different label than ‘autism’ altogether. Meanwhile research shows “camoflauging” influences autistic suicidality [image: Screenshot of a tweet. The icon and user name are blurred. The tweet reads, “If u can”disguise” your autism then imo u cannot possibly have autism. #NeedRealDiagnoses #SuckItGroupingEveryoneUnderOneLabel #FocusOnObjectiveReality”] But I actually wouldn’t mind if the word “quirky” were to disappear entirely from autism discussions, and take with it the dismissive and simplistic idea that autism is a…

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How Can We All Do Better By Our Autistic Girls?

TPGA is observing Autism Acceptance Month by featuring accounts from autistic people about the differences accommodations (or lack thereof) make in their lives. Today, five women talk about about the under-recognition of autistic girls, the long- and short-term effects of going without supports and accommodations, and what autistic girls and actually need to succeed and be happy. Photo: Steven Depolo (Flickr) [image: Two smiling African-American girls, on a swing set.] Autism is different for girls, and not only because fewer girls than boys get autism diagnoses. Autistic women and girls tend to have different traits than autistic boys do, and are also socialized differently — leading to many of those girls being overlooked or misdiagnosed well into adulthood, plus leading most of their life without the supports that could have made their lives much easier. It gets even more complicated when autistic girls are also racial minorities, and/or from low-income…