Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ableism, invalidation, & more in the #actuallyautistic community

I like to start off my posts by giving some warnings. 1) All opinions I give are just opinions, they are my own and I stand by them and you don’t have to agree by any means. As I say, the best part of being human is having your own individual experiences, and that we are all different. Having the privilege to disagree is a good privilege to have, and if you have it, cherish it. I will not be offended if you disagree with me, and I’m open to *respectful* discussions. I do not like arguing, however, it’s pointless and petty, and not productive. But it’s okay to disagree with me, and if there’s anything you feel I’ve said or done that was really wrong, I’d like to know, because there’s more a chance that I didn’t mean it than I did. 2) Trigger warnings are unique and specific to every person, and so trying to count through all the different ways something I discussed could be triggering is exhausting for me to write and for you to read, so I would like to just make everyone aware that there’s probably something triggering in this post, but I didn’t intend it to be that way. If there’s something I do a lot that you feel is triggering to lots of people including yourself, please let me know and I’ll make sure to work on it and/or make people aware of it. I want my blog to be educational and comfortable for everyone, and don’t want anyone to feel excluded. So I’ll do what it takes to make sure no one feels left out, I promise I would never intentionally leave anyone out, this is a safe space for all people of all kinds and all *respectful* view points. 3) You are loved, and no storm lasts forever; And afterwards you may just feel cleansed, or find a rainbow. That’s not a warning but I think it’s important to know anyways :^)

So, I touched a little bit upon this subject in my last blog post, but it’s something that’s really prominent and something that really bothers me, so I want to talk about it more and rant about it in my typical fashion. This topic is invalidation and ableism within the disabled community, but I’m specifically discussing the #actuallyautistic community for most of this post. I myself have probably contributed in the past, but it was out of my own ignorance, not out of any ill intent, and I want to educate others and help them learn- Not because I’m perfect, but because I’m a flawed human being who makes a barrel of mistakes, but is trying to learn and make a difference in the world. 

Now, I love the autistic community, I’m APART of it...obviously. But outside of the friends, acquaintances, and other varying words for “people I know and like” I’ve met through my blog and things like that, I don’t really interact with the major community too much. That kinda doesn’t say much, though, because I’m an incredibly private, introverted person. I spend as very little time on social media as humanly possible, mostly because I don’t understand it in the slightest, but I also find it to be a confusing, and a lot of the time, negative, toxic place that can heighten my own existing negative thoughts- But it’s given me a platform, and so I use it accordingly. 

Really, anything with the word “social” in it is kind of like a “do not enter” zone for me. And mostly because of what I’m discussing today, there are really only a few trusty blogs, social media’s (social media’s?? Is that grammatically correct? I’ve no idea. As I said- oblivious), and whatnot that I read, and follow, and all that. 

Recently there’s been an epidemic in, really, any community, and just people in general, but especially this one- wow, this sounds like an Autism Speaks commercial, I promise it’s not headed that way- AS I was saying, before I rudely interrupted myself, there’s been an epidemic of invalidation and just low key ableism within the disabled/neurodivergent/autistic community. There’s a lot of issues with social media communities in general, but I’ll get to that another time; This is a big one, though.

I’ll be reading a post- For example, a post about autistic representation- and it’ll be fine and I’ll agree with some points, and then there will be something along the lines of “I couldn’t relate so I doubt any other autistic people could” or “I’m autistic and I know, like, 3 other autistic people so- -“ or just flat out “we, autistic people, are not like this AT ALL!!” or “An autistic person doing (insert thing here)??! Completely unbelievable and inaccurate!” and my personal least favorite, “this is a minority in autistic people, so it shouldn’t be represented” which really, deeply peeves me because when it comes to racial, sexual orientation, or gender minorities in representation it’s a very big deal- which it is, completely, it is a huge deal, please don’t go and spin my words into something they’re not- but when it comes to something small like “only a small majority of autistic people like broccoli! Most of us dislike it so this is inaccurate!!!” (I don’t even know if that’s a real thing, I love broccoli myself. That’s just the first thing that came to my mind) Why is that any different than representing racial or gender minorities in the autistic community? A minority is a minority! You don’t get to pick and choose what a minority is to suit your arguments. And in my personal opinion, anything that changes the usual narrative is quite progressive, and there are many people who see, for instance autistic women and non-male autistic individuals, as a “small minority”- not to mention just being autistic is a minority- and base stereotypes on their opinion, so isn’t representing any minority a *good* thing? Isn’t suggesting we don’t hypocritical? Or is it just specific minorities? Which, in that case, I wish people would specify that instead of insinuating any minority matters rather than only some. Please just say what you mean. 

~I want to note I am not comparing disliking broccoli to being a person of color or a member of the LGBT+ community (which I am a member of, if I might add), or anything like that. I was using that to make a point, that’s it. Any other interpretation is not right, because I meant exactly what I say I meant. I don’t know if anyone will take it the wrong way, but I want to point that out before someone else does because- not to sound like an annoying relative on Facebook- these days people will find just about anything offensive or wrong or problematic. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt when no hurt was intended, I always wanna make sure of that. But, as you obviously know, I’m autistic, and for me, communication is a struggle, and I don’t always word things how I want and I have to settle for what’s close enough. Long story short: I’m just sick of hypocrisy, that’s all. And I like analogies. And I also have the right to my opinions, as do you. That is all.~

And it could be any topic, really- I see this everywhere!! But I see it specifically in conversations about ending stereotypes about autism. In order to prove that Group A of autistics is as valid and exists just as much as Group B, we erase, alienate, and invalidate Group B instead. And to me, that’s just- pardon my language- shitty. Imagine if we just did that with all of our problems? (Actually, don’t answer that...)
I’ve found this is a huge thing in social justice or “progressive” circles, which I will not be getting into in this post, but that actually ties into a post I have planned; So stay tuned for that.

Sometimes I can just roll my eyes and brush it off, but sometimes it really gets to me. Because some of those people talk about these things in a way where you should almost feel guilty for being a certain kind of autistic person. Like, if you fit a certain stereotype, you should be sorry because you have contributed to the discrimination of other autistics who don’t fit these stereotypes, rather than- I don’t know- the allistic people who made it a stereotype in the first place. 

I also find it blatantly hypocritical when I see autistic people doing exactly what we’re calling out allistic people out for doing. Just because you, yourself, are autistic, does not make what you are doing any more okay. Boxing up an entire group of people and putting a label on that box to describe EVERYONE in it, whether you are in that box or not, is ridiculous and inaccurate every time. Pulling that “I know everything about autism because- -“ bull crap is ridiculous and inaccurate every time. I don’t care if an allistic or autistic person is being ableist, it’s wrong either way. You don’t get a “get out of ableism free” card just because you, yourself, are disabled. Disabled people can be ableist- in fact there’s a huge portion of the disabled community that is actively and unapologetically ableist. 

There are physically disabled people who erase the existence of mentally/developmentally disabled people to make physically disabled people more taken seriously. There are mentally/developmentally disabled people who erase the existence of physically disabled people to make mentally/developmentally disabled people taken more seriously. Intellectually disabled people are thrown under the bus by all sorts of disabled people, and slurs and such that specifically target them are thrown around like it’s nothing. And I think we’ve all been just negative and ableist to each other at least once. I have, and I will apologize and work to fix that, I work on it everyday. Being disabled is not a pass from ableism- In fact, there’s an immense weight of internalized ableism every disabled person must overcome, and we have to overcome the ableist mentalities we have against disabled people with disabilities we do not share. 

Internalized ableism, however, is not some buzzword to throw around when it’s convenient. It’s a serious thing that plagues the best of us, not simply a fellow disabled person disagreeing with you. Any form of discrimination is more serious than someone disagreeing with you, but that’s a whole different discussion.

One form of ableism I’ve seen in the disabled community, specifically in this example with autistic people who say things like “(*Mentions autistic trait*) this is inaccurate, autistic people aren’t stupid” - things like that piss me off so much. Honestly, the words “stupid” or “dumb” or “idiot” in reference to a living being should be cancelled; I have never heard it used in a way that is not ableist. 

Sometimes I’ll just have a crisis, like “this fellow autistic person has just said it’s impossible for me to be autistic so they *must* know what they’re talking about because every autistic person must be the all knowing authority on autistic issues and experiences so they MUST be right and I’m not autistic, but I’m DEFINITELY not neurotypical so....So what the heck am I, then?” 

I am someone who compares myself to people very often, I am extremely hard on myself and I’m already spending way too much time thinking thoughts like “I’m autistic and so is this person but we’re slightly different so I’ve obviously probably been faking my autism this whole time”, and I also spend a lot of time feeling unintelligent because neurotypical people can make me feel that way. I’m already so hard on myself, even if I know all the things I’m thinking aren’t true.

And it’s just such a negative thing, I wouldn’t wish this mind gunk on anyone, and I know there’s probably a ton of autistic people out there who deal with the same thing and to read blog posts from within a community you’re meant to feel safe and accepted in, and read invalidating, just genuinely ableist comments is utterly horrible. You begin to invalidate yourself because of that or they’re brought back to a place where they were invalidated or bullied by ableist jerks- Maybe both, for me it’s both.

I just want to hand out some advice I may never take myself, but I hope it’ll at least help someone else for what it’s worth:

If someone invalidates your place on the spectrum, or makes an ignorant, nasty comment on your autistic traits- regardless of their own neurotype, they can frankly eat dog shit. I know that’s an immature, silly way of putting it, but it just makes me so angry, because it’s so horrible to be made to feel like you have no idea who you are. Ones identity can be one of the things that we’re aware of and we’re familiar with in this ever changing, chaotic world and to have someone attempt to take that from you is the cruddiest feeling in the world, especially coming from the very group of people you should expect empathy from. It doesn’t matter if it’s an allistic person doing this, or an autistic person, the only person who is the expert on your individual experiences is you. If you are autistic, that is enough; You are autistic and no one can tell you otherwise or take that away from you. You are no less or more autistic than anyone else, you are you and you own your experiences, not anyone else. 

And you are not dumb- Let’s just throw that concept out. What is “dumb” anyways? Because the definition changes from individual to individual. Words like “dumb” “smart” “normal” and stuff like that, in regards to people, or really anything sometimes, all have completely different meanings to every person and none of them really exist. I think we can do without them, and find better words. 

And I mentioned it before- do you mean intellectually disabled? Cognitively disabled?  Learning disabled? Because don’t claim to speak for and be an ally for disabled people but erase members of this community because they don’t fit a nice little agenda. Those with intellectual disabilities are so looked down upon, even in our own community, and it is disgusting and it breaks my heart. They are capable as anyone else to achieve great things in their own ways, but they also don’t need to prove anything to be seen as worthy human beings. They have a voice as much as the rest of us. We must welcome ALL disabled people, of all kinds, of all shapes, all sizes, all colors, all genders, all perspectives, all opinions, and all experiences. We must stand together, not against each other. This generation is determined on the idea that hating and segregating from each other will solve problems, but please look at all the change that has been made in history; The good change, the change that matters- it didn’t happen because we yelled, threw things at each other, and had petty arguments. 

Another concept I’d like to talk about- What is “childlike”? Who defines it and what exactly is wrong with it? Because much like other “stereotypes”, people are very against being childlike or autistic people being portrayed as such, as it is “infantilization”.

Autistic/developmentally disabled people can and most often do exhibit traits considered “child-like” such as literal thinking, being naive or coming off as naive, difficulty expressing what they’re thinking and therefor coming off as “distant”, slow auditory processing, simple or slow speech, being sensitive, overreacting to things, interests aimed at younger demographics, etc. etc. etc. - I fit every single one of these. Apparently this means I am a child, or promoting the idea autistic teens and adults are children, simply by existing. “Autistic people are not childlike” people will say about these traits I exhibit. “Stop representing us this way” - Who is US? Maybe you’d like to see different representation for YOU, or your autistic friends, but then say that! We are not one giant being, like the cluster on Steven Universe. We’re all different people. For me, it’s so wonderful to see characters who act and present in ways typically seen in those younger than them, because it’s been something I’ve been shamed for and ashamed of myself for my entire life. So much of my bullying came from having traits that matched those younger than I am, and exhibiting these traits. Insinuating it was pretty much my fault, and that ones infantilization is their fault, simply because this is who we are is- you guessed it- ableist! 

Being childlike doesn’t make you a child. Not all autistic people are childlike, but, once again, you guessed it, SOME ARE! Because it’s a spectrum! And we’re all different! What an (sarcasm incoming) incredibly wild concept! Are childlike autistic people to blame for their own infantilization? Because I’ve seen so many people seem to insinuate this.

Autism is such a vast spectrum that the possibility of two autistic people being exactly, identically alike is impossible; Two human beings in general being exactly, identically alike is impossible in general. There will always be differences, because that’s just being a human- that doesn’t even have anything to do with the autism spectrum, it’s just the human spectrum. We are all so vastly different even if only in subtle ways; If we were meant to be exactly the same we wouldn’t have individual fingerprints or DNA. We are created to be our own, and to attempt to speak for and be the expert on the experiences of anyone but yourself is not just impossible, but it’s ignorant. You speak for no one but yourself. Speaking with others is a whole entirely different subject, but speaking for others is just ignorant, impossible, and frankly, pretentious, in my opinion. 

Long story made short- We’re all different, and this is scientific fact. 
Just because it’s a stereotype doesn’t mean that’s necessarily wrong or not representative of everyone in a group. You are not everyone, representation is subjective and everyone will respond to it differently. No one is wrong, and everyone deserves the right to be who they are and be respected and represented. Just because, for example, it’s a stereotype that all people with Tourette’s swear or all people with OCD are obsessively clean doesn’t mean that all people with those conditions are like that- but it’s also not the fault of those who DO fit those stereotypes that these stereotypes exist. They are not the reason people aren’t taken seriously, unless if they’ve, ya know, personally been an ignorant, ableist butthole themselves. People who fit those stereotypes exist and it’s unfair and awful to erase them simply to make a point. Please don’t alienate people, no matter who they are, from somewhere they should feel safe. That’s one of the cruelest things you could do. For some people, this is the only home they have. Why risk alienating a group of people to validate another? It’s creating no change whatsoever if more people wind up hurt.

It is GOOD and FINE to say “hey, this majority is not the only thing that exists, this minority exists too. We are all valid and all deserve acceptance, respect, validation, representation, and accommodation.”

It’s not GOOD and FINE to say “hey, this majority is not the only thing that exists, this minority exists too- and you should only focus on us and only us because that majority is a total stereotype and doesn’t even exist”

I fit a gigantic ton of autism stereotypes. I’m highly intelligent (my IQ has never been tested due to anxiety levels, but it’s incredibly likely I’m a genius. That’s not to sound boastful or bragging, just telling a fact about myself to demonstrate the point) and my abilities in several areas fit the description of savant syndrome (a term I don’t personally care for). But quite contrary to what other people think and what some have experienced, people never thought of me as autistic BECAUSE of my intelligence, I wasn’t diagnosed early because I didn’t have any delays. I could read before everyone in my class and generally performed mostly well in academics. My autism was invalidated because of the stereotype that autism equals unintelligence. The narrative I’ve always seen and experienced has been that autistic people must always be unintelligent. Shows like, for instance, The Good Doctor existing when I was younger might have gotten me diagnosed earlier. This show existing now could get someone else diagnosed and taken seriously.

Of course, there are autistic people with intellectual/cognitive/learning disabilities or average intelligence who are expected to be intelligent or have a “special gift”. This is the opposite end of things. But guess what? People like me and people like this both deserve good representation and to be taken seriously! And we’re all validly autistic! Because it’s a spectrum and we’re all different!

I am also what a lot of people like to call a “walking DSM” inside and outside this community. I don’t really have a “personality outside of autism”, all the things I consider and what others consider great and endearing about me are all autistic. Put an autistic trait checklist in front of me, and I’ll have nearly the whole thing checked; And there are people who can only check off a few of these boxes.
They’re nothing like me, and I’m nothing like them, but we do have something in common- We are both validly autistic, we both have the right to be taken seriously, we both have the right to good representation, we both have the right feel respected and understood in our community, we both have the right to acceptance, and we both have the right to be ourselves and not feel like we’ve done something wrong by doing that. It’s not my fault stereotypes exist, I am not the cause, nor am I intentionally promoting them, I’m just simply existing as an autistic person in the world- which every autistic person has the right to do.

Once again- in bold- I will yell it from the rooftops- It’s a spectrum. This is why we need a multitude of different types of autism representation and autistic voices because we are all different and all have different strengths and struggles, and have all faced our own things.

A community does not work by having the majority of people doing all the speaking while the little tiny amount of people who don’t fit or don’t agree sit in the corner and don’t get to be heard or have a voice to listen to. A community works by everyone, regardless of who they are, what they are, what or how they think, anything- Everyone getting a chance to talk. Everyone lending an ear. It’s about everyone coming together, and despite differences, working towards a common goal. Everyone having a voice. That’s a community. We’re not a community. 

Though, on the topic of the spectrum, I will add one thing- there are hallmark traits that indicate autism. These aren’t stereotypes, they’re just things that pretty much across the board every autistic person has to some degree. Professionals look for these hallmarks in diagnosis, it makes the process easier. Though not all professionals do this, instead they look at things like gender or intelligence, which is ~language warning~ shitty and a completely different topic. 

And while seeing people argue about stereotypes, I’ve also found we have slowly turned pretty much e v e r y t h i n g into a stereotype. I was reading a blog post which had something to do with stereotypes, or something, and every single “this isn’t autism” comment was a hallmark autistic trait. I’m not even joking. I wish I remembered the post but at the same time, I don’t want to slander anyone, they’re allowed to have this mindset....Even if it’s terrible... (I joke. Even if there was truth to that.) 

“WHAT IS AUTISM THEN?!” I just want to scream sometimes. 

What the hell is autism? 

Because it seems like, according to social media, it’s absolutely nothing. Is it a personality? No, because if your personality is autistic, you are perpetuating the stereotype that “autistic people have no personality outside of autism”. WHAT IS IT THEN? IS IT EVERYTHING? IS IT NOTHING? IS IT.... Is it God?

I have never been so confused.

And this is why I stay off social media.

This brings me to another topic- Self diagnosis. 

I’ve been wanting to discuss this for a while, but I’ve never known how to bring it up. Mostly because it’s quite controversial, and I don’t want to offend or alienate anyone. But I have wanted to give my opinions on it, because I feel like it fits this general topic, and what I was just talking about. It’ll all tie in, just bare with me. 

First off, I’m gonna say this- 

I support self diagnosis...

...for the most part.

Not always.

I have a very complicated view point on it, mostly because, ultimately, it is not my life and it’s not my job to tell people what to do, but when it comes to the point where something is harmful and it’s affecting others, I do want to find a way to help in the best way I know how. 

Here is my humble opinion- Now you don’t have to agree! It’s just an opinion! It’s not gospel!- Self diagnosis should be a last resort. It’s not something fun, it’s not something cool, and if you have the privilege to seek out a diagnosis, I highly recommend you take that route.

Self diagnosis is a wonderful, wonderful option for those who are underprivileged, either they’re a minority and are not taken seriously in the diagnostic system, or they can’t afford a diagnosis, or their family is holding them back from it, or anything like that. If you know in your heart you are autistic and you don’t have the privilege to be professionally diagnosed, that is perfectly okay. I pray that one day you have the option, and if not, you are still validly autistic. If you’ve done the research and you’ve spent time studying and you know that there’s no possibility it could be anything else, and you just know- congratulations, you’re autistic.

But if you have the option and the privilege to get a diagnosis, and there’s nothing holding you back- aside from the lack of spoons and the frustration that comes along with it sometimes- then that is the safest route to go. Because while we do know ourselves better than anyone else ever could, and there is that gut feeling where you just know, we are still human beings and human beings can be wrong. Misdiagnosis is a thing, in professional AND self diagnosis, but the difference between getting your information off of the internet, or just from your own thoughts, and getting it from a professional is that a professional has studied this for years and regardless of anything else, they are more capable of getting it right than a page on the internet. Well- there are professionals online, people who diagnose via the internet- one being Tania Marshall who is a brilliant ally and advocate for autistic girls and AFAB individuals, and professionally diagnoses all over the world- but on the internet there’s also places like Tumblr which glorify and simplify absolutely everything, and yell at you if you disagree. 

There are downsides to really anything you can think of. You have a thing like self diagnosis which started off as an alternative for this who do not have the access to professional diagnosis, and it has slowly spawned into a trend. Kinda like the whole fidget spinner hell of this past year. 

Self diagnosis, like most things, has a downside and is abused by those who don’t actually need it. 

Self diagnosis is not a statement. It’s not something to use to say “F U” to society. 

It’s not even an opinion at this point, professional diagnosis IS the safest route. Self diagnosis is valid, but professional diagnosis should always be the goal, and it is always the safest route. 

In some cases, when it comes to just knowing yourself, it doesn’t matter- though, for me, I have a completely different experience and viewpoint. (*whispers* it’s because autism is a spectrum) 

That’s another thing which truly ties all these topics together, I can’t stand when self diagnosis advocates say that professional diagnosis absolutely doesn’t matter and that it doesn’t mean anything when it comes to knowing yourself. For some people, this may be true, but for me, if I didn’t get diagnosed, if I never had that, I may not have ever had the answers for the questions I had my whole life. Not everyone has that “A-ha!” moment. I didn’t know the first thing about autism beforehand, I knew I was different, but I thought it was just a flaw rather than my neurology. I knew absolutely nothing about myself, and I was depressed and isolated because of it. It’s wonderful that people have more options now more than ever to figure themselves out, but not all of us have been so lucky. I wouldn’t even have thought to look up autism, I wouldn’t have even thought to even think about it. To me, autism was the kids I knew who were autistic, who presented extremely different from me. Without a professional saying “autism”, I would have never known. Nobody around me would have even thought about it, regardless of how obvious it was and still is looking back. I’m sure eventually we might have thought of something, but I was so depressed and it already had taken so long to learn I was autistic, I can’t imagine even making it longer without knowing. 

Sometimes it just doesn’t occur, even if it’s right on the tip of your tongue, for some people, it takes hearing it from a professional to have that “a-ha!” moment. I agree, let’s normalize self diagnosis- SAFE self diagnosis that is- but much like with what I said about stereotypes, let’s not shame and alienate people to get the point across. Everyone deserves to figure themselves out in whatever ways they can access. 

But as I was saying, self diagnosis- actual, safe, committed self diagnosis- is not what I have a problem with. It’s people who can relate to maybe 2 traits of something and then just stick the diagnosis on themselves. Also simply relating to autism doesn’t make you autistic, especially if the traits you are relating to don’t affect you in any major way. Being autistic is pervasive, meaning that it pervades and affects you in every way. If you’re able to function at a neurotypical level or *better* than most neurotypical people, and don’t really have any significant traits, than you’re not autistic. And that’s okay! 

Also, this is specifically with ailments rather than autism, but you, for instance, diagnose yourself with clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, or a chronic illness- And then what? Are you going to read a self help books? Take supplements? Find affordable ways to cope that don’t require a professional diagnosis? Because the point of a diagnosis of an ailment is to get accommodation. It’s not like autism, or another condition that is neurological, where it shapes who you are. Sure, an illness can greatly affect you and how you live, but the goal should be managing them and finding a way to live with them, not glorifying them like cute little stickers to wear on your shirt and make relatable text posts on tumblr about. People like that make it incredibly hard for those who need self diagnosis to be taken seriously.

~Something I want to put out there is there is a difference between self diagnosis that is the only option for someone, and/or that has been the result of years of studying and researching, and self diagnosis that is simply relating to a post by an autistic person on tumblr and deciding right then and there you’re autistic and no one can question it. They are very different, and I honestly don’t think they should be in the same category. One is an accommodation, the other is just harmful and yet another example of people jumping onto something great and ruining it ~

How this connects- and how I got off topic on the first place- What the heck is autism? I’ve found that the harmful side of self diagnosis has screwed around with the idea of what autism is. It’s been simplified and changed to be more Inclusive™. We are entering Everyone’s A Little Autistic™ territory. Really, I go on social media, and everyone has “self diagnosed (blank)” in their bio. And that’s fine!..If you actually care about this diagnosis and aren’t using it to feel special. Because, contrary to what people may say to validate arguments- Yes, people do self diagnose to feel special; It is extremely common, actually. And there are many, many people who are like that in this community. It’s highly common in the social justice side of the community. ~Once again, upcoming blog post~ I’m not anti social justice or feminism- the idea of them, the ORIGINAL idea of them, are wonderful ideas. I am a feminist, the original, good kind. Though, I prefer the term “good human being who supports equality” because the term has became heavily changed much like everything else today. And, once again, I’m for social justice too, but I’m not for the people who claim to be these things and use them to promote hate and segregation, and also completely ignore disabled people ~ U P C O M I N G  B L O G P O S T wow I’m very off topic ~. And sometimes this gross side of it comes into other groups, like the autistic community, and it’s Magical /sarcasm. 

This is the side I try to avoid like the plague, which is sad, because as I said- we should be a community, but we’re a very divided one. I avoid this side because like most so-called “feminists” and “social justice warriors”, they are not open to discussion, difference in opinions, or the idea that not everyone in their community is exactly the same as them; And for warriors, they have absolutely no idea what they’re fighting for. 

This side of the community is always at war. And the Autism Parents™ are at war on the other side. Somewhere in this mix are the Aspie supremacists. And then ALL of the extremist sides come together and have a war against EACH OTHER. 

And then there’s people like me; I like to refer to us as the “I’m so scared and confused what the heck is going on here I just went to the kitchen to get tortilla chips and I come back to World War 3” part of the community. We’re the part that just wants to be a community and- not to boast- actually gets stuff done. 

In every extreme of the autistic community, there’s extreme views on what autism is, all pretty much shaped to fit an agenda. And none of them are true. 

Speaking of autism as anything other than what is factually is, both a neurodevelopmental disability and a natural variation of the human brain, is harmful and wrong. 

And as for what autism is- GOOD LORD, ITS A SPECTRUM. It is a spectrum, and each individual autistic experience will vary. Though none of us are quite the same, there are hallmark indicators/traits across the board that are experienced by the vast majority, and if you don’t really have any of those, or any other traits besides just a few, than it’s highly unlikely you’re autistic and more likely it’s something else. However, if you find yourself relating to autism in more than one way, you’re probably neurodivergent in some other way! The safest route on figuring out your brain is to see what your options are for diagnosis and figuring it out, please see what you have access to before doing anything else, or diagnosing for yourself. Though, I am not you, you can do what you feel is right and have your own opinions, but I just want people to stay safe, and not ignore facts. Because the wrong self diagnosis can and HAS harmed autistic people, it’s spreading misinformation about what autism is. And most importantly, self diagnosing yourself irresponsibly can harm you. 

So please, if you’re going to self diagnose, please consider other options first and when you find you have no other options, do it responsibly and educated. Always make sure it is safe, because it has the power to harm more than just you, especially if you’ve decided you’re going to advocate for the community you’ve self diagnosed into. Self diagnosis is sometimes valid and good, but not always. Saying all of it is good and hasn’t harmed anyone is just a blatant lie. 

With all the (many, many) things I’ve discussed (and went off topic from) today, I think it goes without saying that the autism community as a whole is very separated, and I think that is something we can all actually agree on for once. Especially on social media- once again, in pretty much every community- there’s a lot of arguments and passive aggressiveness; A lot of “this side vs this side”. In any community I think there’s a lot of “”allies” who don’t want to learn” or “members who don’t want to educate” so it can feel like nothing gets done. 

But something really prominent in any community, specifically one aiming for social justice or anything like that, there’s a lot of obligation out on members of the community to always agree and always be on the same page as everyone else in the community, but that’s just not right nor possible. Being autistic, between some people, may be the only thing they have in common. We’re human, not some other species, and all humans have different personalities and thoughts. Simply because you have the same brain or are apart of the same minority does not mean you must agree and follow along with everything someone says. You don’t have to like every autistic person, or get along with every autistic person. I know for me, this is hard, because I just empathize so hard with other autistic people, and I can let this get in the way of my true opinion and feelings on them. But I’m learning how to overcome this, because it’s just human nature and reality that I won’t like or get along with or agree with every single autistic person I meet or know. This is how it is for anyone, even neurotypical people. You’re not failing your community or yourself by being a human being. 

Don’t feel bad about disagreeing with another disabled person. Don’t feel bad about calling someone out if something doesn’t feel right. Don’t feel bad for being you- and don’t make others feel bad for being them. 

Really, just don’t be an a**hole. If you find yourself being ableist, work on it. Speak for you and only you. Listen to others and encourage them to listen to you. Be open to opposing view points and respectful discussions. Be open to the concept that people are different from you. And when it’s possible, be kind. 

I want this community to be what a community should be. I don’t want it to be segregated, I want people to listen to each other and help each other out towards the same goals, and for everyone to have a turn to speak. That’s what a community is. That’s what a community should be.

So what did we learn today?

  • Autism is a spectrum

  • The autistic community is incredibly divided and in all the extremist parts of it, and even sometimes in the middle, you will find lots of ableism and invalidation and nonsense

  • Safe and educated self diagnosis is valid. Trendy self diagnosis is not.

  • Autism is a spectrum 

  • People are different

  • Speak for yourself 

  • Don’t be an a**hole

  • I have a very short attention span 

  • Autism is a spectrum 

Thank you for reading this post, I hope you’re having a wonderful day, and if not, tomorrow is always another day. 

Also, if there’s any topics you’d like for me to write about, let me know. I’ve just come out of a burnout and I generally struggle with executive dysfunction, so it helps to have things planned out and to know what people would like to see from me! 

If you liked this post, feel free to share it around! It means a lot to see my stuff be apart of discussions and change, it makes it all worth it. 

Thanks again for reading :^)



Friday, September 29, 2017

Review of The Good Doctor that's actually more than just a review of The Good Doctor because is it ever really something simple with me

Warning: General use of " you" Maybe spoilers. Talk about abuse, death, hospital stuff, probably lots of triggering stuff. Just prepare yourself its a heavy show and so there will be heavy topics. I poured myself into this. Thank you to this show for kicking my executive dysfunction and inspiring me to write about something.

Note about this post: I’ve had some people misunderstand what I meant, which I was sure was going to happen. No, I don’t think autistic white males should be the only autistic representation. Yes, I’m aware that this problem IS a problem, and that it matters. All I simply was trying to say is that diverse representation could go just as wrong as non-diverse representation, and autism itself is a minority, so seeing an autistic white man as simply a white man is unfair, though we need to go beyond that trope.

I am a minority in more than one way. I am an autistic person who is female, gay, I consider myself to be non binary, and chronically and mentally ill, I’d like to see my story on the screen- But my story doesn’t ensure accuracy to everyone either. And first and foremost, if I’m watching about autism, I am watching to see autism. 

I am a writer and I work very hard to make sure I portray more than just my story in my work, but stories a wide variety of people can relate to. In the near future I plan on publishing stories which hold a wide, diverse variety of autistic characters, but the one thing they all have in common is their autism. I make sure everything about them is nuanced, especially their autism.

Diverse representation is more than just important, it’s crucial and it’s not an option at this point. We have had too many autistic white savant males, and while that doesn’t always mean bad representation, we need to see more. But when we see more, it needs to be good.

My hope, and goal for my own work, is a future where there’s a wide variety of autistic representation and for people to be able to see themselves in many characters. 

And I see more and more diversity coming along in representation, though we’re nowhere near where we could or should be. But it makes me upset to see some great and diverse characters ignored simply because of some bad or not as diverse ones. I’ve seen more autistic poc and more autistic girls in recent times, and we need to continue down that path, but it makes me very angry to see people pick out things about diverse rep and find ways to make it problematic, after they’d just went on about how diverse rep is good rep, and even going as far as to step on the toes of autistic poc/autistic women/etc. 

There were many situations I missed out on learning about some good representation because people were silent about it. I’m aware there’s a very huge race and gender problem in representation, but the goal should be to move that forward, not keep it going in order to keep some sort of, I don’t know, oppression olympics going. People ask for diverse representation, then conveniently fall asleep when diverse representation exists. It’s cool to be a minority, because you get oppression points and a nice little agendaAs a minority, I’m not your conversation prop, I’m not going to be apart of your agenda, and I don’t take pride in my oppression. I’m not here only to further an agenda. I deserve representation because I deserve to see myself, not just to promote diversity and understanding. If you want to understand, talk to autistic people and read books, do some learning. All I want is a character I can relate to. If I want a non binary character to relate to, I’ll look for one. If I want an autistic character, I’ll do the same. And it goes on. And of course, I want to see an autistic enby, or an autistic person with more than just autism, I want to see so much more. But based on the proof I have, the problem with autism representation is a lot more, quite literally, than black and white, and the biggest issue about it simply lies down to autism. We’re either too tropey, or we put too much into the diversity of it and not enough into the autism- there’s just not enough listening to autistic people and learning about autism. 

There have been many autistic female characters in recent times, and there needs to be many more, but at this point, with this representation and just overall autistic females advocating and speaking, if you don’t think autistic females exist, that’s just a you problem. Autistic female characters should exist because autistic females deserve to see themselves. They shouldn’t merely exist to educate people. 

And this goes for anything. My identities and other people’s identities are not a text book. 

That is all I’m saying here. I am just not the best at wording things all the time, nor can I say absolutely everything I want to say. And I wish I could go back and change how this post was worded in a lot of areas, and I was very nervous about this post, especially given how controversial it might be. But what can you do. I stand by my opinions because they matter to me. As a minority not just as an autistic person but in autism in general, I do get tired of people trying to tell me how I should feel about my own representation, and I’m sick of seeing that happen to other people. I’m an autistic person that is rarely seen on screen, my life is specific, and if I want to see it I have two options: Wait for this very specific story to be in stories or on screen, or do the work myself. No, marginalized people should not be expected to make their own representation all the time. It is reasonable, however, if you have a very specific story in your head. I’d say this to fellow marginalized people, or some average white cis neurotypical male. If you have a story, tell it, don’t wait for other people to tell it because you’ll be waiting probably forever depending on how specific and unique that story is. 

As for this show, it’s a far cry from unflawed, I can’t relate to everything, as there’s things I’d relate to more if he was female, not cis, chronically ill, etc. but I do relate to so much,  and I am giving credit where credit is due. I’m allowed to like this piece of representation even if it doesn’t represent every aspect of myself. For once, it’s just nice to watch something and not feel spat at.

I do not intend anywhere in this post to say that we can’t do better. We can and we should. I’m just saying this is a start, to me at least. Everyone is entitled to feel about this representation what they will.

But here’s how we don’t do better: By ignoring diverse representation when it comes out. I’ve seen far more people complaining about The Good Doctor yet still watching it (hatewatching still creates ratings, which ensures more episodes/seasons) than people talking about one of the only black autistic characters in the power rangers movie, or Julia on Sesame Street, some of the first representation many young children will get and she’s a girl! I see so many people critiquing stories and writing and not doing any storytelling or writing themselves. Inclusion and diversity happens with us. Got a story you wanna see or read but it doesn’t exist? Make it exist. Support diverse media when you see it! There’s a quote I like to live by, it’s from the Lorax, and it goes “unless if someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not” 

Anyways, enjoy the blog post :^}

I was wrong. Those are words no one likes to say, but I'm incredibly happy to say them today.

The Good Doctor premiered on Monday and I was so prepared, so ready to hate it, so ready to throw another towel in. I didn't see a point in watching it all, because what would the point be? I'd hate it anyways; It'd be just another stereotypical, inaccurate portrayal of autism. The tiresome tropes were there, and I'm so sick of them by now that I just barely wanted to give this show a chance, because they've never worked before so how could they work now? But I decided to watch it; What the hell, I've got nothing to lose. 

I prepared myself to hate it, I prepared myself to be offended, I prepared myself to put another bad piece of representation in the bin. However, I didn't prepare myself for was watching something that I could completely, utterly connect to and empathize with deeply. 

When I first heard about this show, and saw how my community talked about it, I never thought I'd be telling you that The Good Doctor is the show I'm talking about here. 

Heck, I wrote about it in a blog post how I didn't see any hope at all for this show. It would definitely be just another stereotype and not even worth giving a chance. I assumed the absolute worst. 

I never thought I'd be saying it's the greatest canon representation of autism I've ever seen. 

I remember the first time I saw a canon portrayal of autism. I went into it with so much ignorant hope, and I was let down so hard. I was so mad. I swore to be extremely critical of any representation after that. I didn't want to feel so completely mocked again; We get enough of that already.

I saw another trailer for the show, more improved than the first one, and while I was still skeptical, it was good. I was still scared, but I began to feel a bit more hopeful. And if it didn't turn out good, at least I'd get to say "I told you so", both were good for me.

So Monday night came around and I was terrified, I was excited, but also terrified. Every new piece of representation that comes out, it's usually dread, but this time I had some hope, and I was just praying it'd be good. But honestly, if it was, I didn't know how to even react. What did good representation feel like? 

I believe my first words were "I was wrong". 

Oh my god. Oh my god guys. It was good. It was GOOD.

When I tell you everything- E v e r y t h i n g- Everything was there.

From the very minute Shaun was introduced, I instantly saw myself. How his little routines are so precise. I noticed his cat, and I instantly knew he was an animal lover. 

He left the house and when he walks he sees a line in front of him. I do this, and when I tell you I was so excited- I was so excited. But also terrified because I thought little leprechauns had crawled in my brain and told the producers everything they saw. I thought I was the only one who did this, I didn't know it was significant or that anyone even knew about it. And here I was, seeing a character who sees things the same way as I do. You don't know how full I felt in that moment. That's what good representation feels like. 

A ball rolls to Shaun's feet, he's instantly brought back to a childhood memory- one of memory- and I feel the emotion building up inside. Because this show gets it. They see how hard it is, but it's not like other stuff I've seen where they make it out to be our own fault, because we're not trying hard enough to be normal and if we did it wouldn't happen. Other stuff I've seen blames us for being autistic. 

Other stuff is on the opposite of the spectrum, it's too positive; Our lives are perfect because we're smart and junk. We're just a little awkward, that's all. 

This show was different. Finally. It was real. For the first time I felt connected, rather than alone while watching something that should make me feel surrounded. 

He's lost in flashbacks, he's zoned out, not saying a word, standing what I referred to as "an autistic stance", and a young boy is trying to get his attention. He finally comes to and kicks the ball to the boy and walks away. That's how it is.

He takes a bus to an airport, and inside was yet another look through my eyes. They showed the scurrying of feet, the lights, the different sounds, all meshed together. They were showing what Shaun sees. They were showing what I see. 

Something falls and hits a little boy, an emergency team rushes to save him. After a few moments Shaun walks up and tells them that they're not helping him, they're killing him. He explains why, while an example of his photographic memory is shown. The way his brain remembers things, is exactly like mine. Little words and pictures and all sorts of things, all collaged together. 

Shaun goes to the desk to ask for the supplies he needs. He asks for a knife but he can't communicate it correctly, so they assume he's asking for malevolent reasons, and won't give it to him. People assume autistic people follow rules and take no for an answer. Shaun grabs the knife and runs. Runs very awkwardly, just like me. 

They tackle him but one of the emergency people comes to his defense. People have pointed out that the police were too calm, despite tackling him, which I have to agree, it may not have resulted in Shaun getting away at all. The police brutality rates for disabled people are very high, but this is our protagonist, so it's not like that reality is going to really be shown. So just keep that in mind. I think they did a pretty decent job of at least showing the work all fields need in understanding autism. 

Shaun saves the boys life.

Do you see the outcomes of listening to autistic people? How crucial we need better autism training in absolutely everything? This may be just a show, but it illustrates something so real. 

At the hospital Shaun will be working at, there's a debate going on if he should be. This is where I've seen some people say "that is illegal!! You can't not hire someone because of their disability!!!" But if you have ever been autistic in the world, you will learn very quickly that people can find ways against the laws to protect their precious ableism. You know how much shit that happened to me in the public school district was most definitely against the law? A crap ton of it. Laws are broken every day, the meanings are changed, to the point they barely matter anymore. It's the purge everyday. This is getting depressing, but it's true. You think there's not places out there who are doing what this place on the show is doing? Maybe in real life it's more subtle, saying you're not going to hire that autistic actor because they don't have the right hair color, or that autistic person can't teach this because they didn't have the requirements for this specific thing, when in reality they just don't wanna hire an autistic person. Or excluding a chronically ill kid from school activities they enjoy because they didn't want them to "miss practice" or "overdo it" when in reality they saw that kid as an inconvenience and were blatantly segregating them. That kid was me. I was left out purposefully and punished simply for being ill. Is that legal? Probably not. Definitely not. There are disability laws placed everywhere. Does that stop people from breaking them? Absolutely not. I'm living proof they're rarely followed. And the justice for these broken laws isn't as common as justice for other things, unfortunately. Disabled people are called a "minority" for a reason. 

There is a conference discussing Shaun's limitations, they use "high functioning" and "savant syndrome" which, as I discussed, I could do without. But someone pointed this out, this is a medical setting, they use terms like this for many things. Medical settings aren't known for being very correct, just technical. So I understood it, because it was actually pretty accurate. If anything, it just showed how even a "high functioning" autistic person struggles so greatly. Independence doesn't equal able to do everything, not independent doesn't equal able to do nothing. Moving on- It was like watching the internet as people. People hear autism and they make all these assumptions about ability, and sometimes this causes autistic people to make assumptions about themselves. This amazing man on the show, I don't remember his name, but he's a father figure to Shaun- he fights for him. By hiring Shaun they not only gain just another good doctor, but they "give hope to those with these limitations and show they they do have a shot" 

On the way to the hospital Shaun has another flashback. This was the hardest scene in the entire show. I won't explain it in detail, but to keep it simple, Shaun and his brother were abused, his bunny is killed (which took me the whole night to get over. "Autistic people can't feel empathy". I cried over a fake bunny for a whole night.) It is painful, it is heartbreaking, and half of my sobs are because I was so aware in that moment of how lucky I am to have two parents that love me, and do their best to understand. Why should that be luck? The other half was empathy. I don't have abusive parents, and I've never been physically abused, but I was abused at the hands of teachers. It wasn't just misunderstanding or sensitivity, it wasn't me being a problem child. I was made to feel stupid and broken and it left me with scars that still haven't fully healed. I started school a child who was not afraid to cry, to express their emotions, to be open about them. I left a child who was petrified to cry for fear they'd be shamed, threatened, and punished by people I should feel safe with. Sometimes something so small in someone will remind me of these people and for a moment I don't recognize anyone anymore and I'm so scared. Sometimes even though I'm not there anymore it feels fresh, it haunts me, and I still hear the taunting fresh in my head. I feel so weak sometimes, like maybe it was my fault, like I'm not strong enough for not letting it go. That's what abuse does to you. Even though the kind I faced was different, it made me feel less alone. I'm not alone, even though this is just a story, I realized how many people have been through it. Most of us have. And we shouldn't have to have gone through it. It's not fair. It's so unfair. I cried hard, and I never do that. This made me open up a little. Because I was faced with something so hidden deep below and I was seeing that I wasn't the only one. The emotions were not one in specific. I wasn't happy nor sad. I was just crying. It was beautifully painful. 

Shaun gets to the hospital and he attempts to verbalize that the young boy needs an echocardiogram. Nobody listens, and he starts to meltdown; The one female doctor I once again do not remember the name of tells him to behave or he'll be thrown out. He is persistent, but they throw him out. Once again, they do not listen. I am so strongly empathizing at this point, feeling angry for him. I could see myself- A foreigner in a strange place, speaking some different language than everyone else, most people don't try to learn. They don't understand and they don't try to. 

He's standing out in the rain and has noticeably shut down at this point. When the ignorant doctors who I Don't Like finally realized how wrong they were they go find him. He's shutdown, non verbal, and can't collect his thoughts at all. He's repeating small words over and over and can't quite make anything coherent come out until one of the doctors which as I've said I cannot remember the names of says a medical fact that Shaun has scripted, and Shaun finds the words. Power of the script. 

They go inside to do the echocardiogram. They all see it as a normal heart, but Shaun sees something they don't. He believes a piece of glass has entered the blood stream. CLAIRE (I remembered google exists), who is the more open minded of this Brady bunch, is aware of how rare that would be, but suggests that he could be right. The doctors reluctantly go along and check, and there it was, he was right. Did we doubt this? No. Did they? Yeah. I reacted to this victory like a proud dad- That is how you know I'm invested. 

I just now realized some of this may be out of order, but I'm just going by memory.

Shaun is brought into the conference room to give a speech on why he thinks he'd be a good surgeon. He freezes, just stands there silent, stimming, everyone looking at him like he has two heads. Another flashback to his childhood, which I'm not going to to go into, because it may have been predictable but it was still shocking so I'm not going to spoil it. I've already probably spoiled like half of this but I am just not able to review things without going into intense, painstaking detail. It's just who I am. 

Finally, he speaks. He delivers it in a creative, poetic way, describing events by their smells. Tears fill his eyes and mine. You have to hear the speech for your own. 

He ends it bluntly in true autistic fashion with "and I also want to make lots of money so I can buy a television" That's my boy. 

He goes to eat lunch, making extremely sure there is no pickles in his food. Soon Claire- Thanks again, Google- comes to talk to him. 

She asks him if he's new to town, he says yes. She asks him if he has any questions about the town or the hospital, and he very autistically replies "no". Me too. 

He explains how he has a map of the place and should be fine with that, Claire just gives up and walks away. Shaun stops her and says he has one question.

"Why were you rude to me when we first met then nicer to me the second time we met. Which time was it that where you pretending?"

I've said nearly those exact words. My whole life, I've felt so dumbfounded in friendships and social situations. People constantly change and never tell me what they want and I never know what comes next. I just want to know what is true. I just want people to say and be what they mean. 

At this point I'm just a mess. Cheering and crying and wishing I wasn't 15 so I could marry Freddie Highmore. 

Last scene, Shaun is offered to go participate in a surgery. We learn why he holds a little toy scalpel, and why he tussles his hair. A surgeon spews some ableist bullshit about how Shaun will never truly be on his team, and Shaun tells him he's better than any surgeon he ever knew in college. I love this man. I. Love. This. Man. 

He also tells the surgeon (who I'm not even gonna bother to know the name of) that he's very arrogant. He asks if that makes him a good surgeon, or more, if that makes him a good person. And is it worth it? 

I was in awe. Shaking and taking in everything I had just watched. I believe one of the first things I said was "I just watched good representation" 

This is why representation matters, kids. Good representation feels like this.

Everything. Everything was there to a T. The stimming, the communication and social skills, the synesthesia, the body language, everything. Everything, everything, everything. Freddie Highmore is the worlds greatest gift I have decided, he is one of if not THE best actor, ever. I am aware this is dramatic and I do not care at all. It was all so natural, he portrayed it so delicately and precisely, and I had to ask myself about 7 or more times, a few times out loud, if he's really as neurotypical as they say he is because frankly I'm shocked a neurotypical person could do THAT. I'm not a psychologist so I can only speculate, but I can just tell this is important to him for one reason or another, the way he talks about it- he knows. He cares. And that means the world to me. That tells you everything you must know about my feelings on how it was represented. It's very easy to relate to a character but feel like something is still off, this wasn't like that. I felt like I was just looking in a mirror. It was truly, truly amazing. 

Was this show perfect? No. There were tropes, some terms I didn't like, some things that felt over the top and campy (but I didn't expect anything less coming from a medical drama), and moments that teetered on inspiration porn. As much as I adored it I was also annoyed because one of if not the best canon pieces of representation I've seen yet just HAS to be about my biggest fears (blood, death, hospitals, etc. etc.) It made a lot of it unwatchable, but I trucked through. 

The thing that stands out to many is that he's your same old white, cisgender male genius. But, in my controversial opinion, I really don't think that matters. Well- it does, because is it tiresome? Yes. Is there more than one kind of autistic? Yes. But I see so many people not giving this show a chance for that reason, and maybe this will be controversial but I believe when representing autism it should be about autism. Not race, not gender, not intelligence, not anything but autism- This goes for any end of the spectrum. This goes for anything with a main topic at hand. I don't care what the character looks like, what they are, any of that, I just want to watch something and not feel spat at. I was watching his show for no reason other than to see how good the autism was portrayed, not how good his whiteness or his maleness or anything else was portrayed. 

The first piece of representation I ever saw was a female person of color. She fit every stereotype in the book, she was a complete walking stereotype (not to say that there's no one out there like her, stereotypes exist for a reason, and those who could relate to her are not wrong for doing so). I saw a lot of people ignore her (really big) flaws because of how diverse she was, and that really bothered me. This is the typical story of judging a book by its color. And no, I'm not saying "ohhh I don't see color" I do. Ones race can be a huge part of their identity. But I'm not of color, I'm not reviewing for race, because I would never try to speak about something that doesn't directly affect me and when I see people do that it drives me absolutely mad. The people who have had a huge problem with this have all lacked the identity of being of color or being LGBT+ or anything like that, and it's perfectly FINE to care, it's very important actually, but I personally find it very disrespectful to try to be a voice for a group you're not even in. Why do you get to be the one offended or the one deciding what's good for a community you're not even apart of?

I myself am LGBT+, but I'm not reviewing for gender or sexuality. I'm reviewing an autistic character. I've seen people on the topic of this show literally say they don't care about the traits he portrays simply because he's a white cisgender male genius. If you're watching for those things, then why say you're reviewing it for autism? That's not true. You're reviewing it for other reasons. 

I've seen people dislike Speechless, which is probably THE most diverse show, because it "follows the same narrative". This show has given disabled people jobs, it has given disabled people, women, and people of color positive role models. And you're going to tell me because the main character is a white male teenage boy that's all erased? I suppose our idea of diversity is different. Mine is that everyone, minorities and majorities alike, coexisting and all being included. I guess yours is that no majorities exist at all and all the great historical minorities dance down from the heavens. It seems like that's what people want, and you're never going to get that. We might as well cast shows with rocks and pieces of grass. Although, people could find a way to make that "offensive" too. I could scream. Y'all know I will defend Speechless until the day I die. GAHHH. 

I also see a lot of people ignoring representation because it's convenient. This is in every single group, but in specifics here with autism. There have been autistic female characters, characters of color, and so on. Two recent examples are Julia from Sesame Street and Billy from the power rangers movie, both have been extremely well received by autistic people, but I see so many people forget they exist when it comes to ranting about representation they don't particularly like to back up their arguments.

They also act like a diverse character can only ever be a good one. Half of the least accurate autistic characters to me were all minorities in some way, and not for that reason because I know someone will make accusations because this is 2017, but because they followed stereotypes and just were inaccurate to me. A lot of the accurate representation, mostly headcanons, are minorities too! You can do diverse representation well, but when we focus on one aspect of ones identity over another instead of seeing someone as their own unique person, that's when things go wrong. If you're writing an autistic character and you only educate yourself on their skin color or gender, how are you going to portray them correctly? Likewise, if you're watching autistic representation to review other diversities, how are you going to see it correctly? 

Something else that really, really bothers me about some reviews I've seen of this show and others is that a lot of people tend to speak for everyone instead of themselves. They seem to think "well I think this so everyone does" - And listen, I am completely guilty of being this way, and I will admit it, but I also actively work to change this. I work everyday to better myself when I know something I'm doing is ignorant and could be harmful to other people. 

Opinion isn't fact, and you're also not the God of the autistic community. You didn't like it, but that doesn't mean it's horrible and should rot in hell and everyone who likes it is a stereotype perpetuating trash monster. Specifically with this show, I could intensely relate to this character, and to see someone, some people I followed and admired, saying that "no autistic people are like this, he's just a walking DSM" hurt. Am I just a walking stereotype? Am I less valid as an autistic person because I can tick off a majority of checkboxes? A huge majority of autistic people have their own unique dance on the spectrum, they're atypical and tick their own boxes, but some people fit specific boxes and can relate to the stuff they've been evaluated and represented with. Both of these people exist and it annoys the absolute crap out of me to see invalidation and gatekeeping in ANY community. You don't get to define what autism is just because you're autistic. Autism is defined by every autistic individual, it is a spectrum, and it is so complex and holds a different meaning for anyone with an autistic brain. 

I get it, you didn't like the character, that is perfectly okay. But what's not okay is ignoring that there are people behind these characters that are real and exist, simply because they don't fit your convenient little diverse checkbox. In an attempt to diversify things and make sure not to perpetuate any stereotypes we alienate real existing autistic people from a community they call home. What you are doing is what allistic people do. You're pulling that "my sisters cousins dog walkers uncles cats grandmas son is autistic and---" crap. Once again, I don't care who you are, you're being just as harmful as whatever representation you're talking about. You can dislike something, even hate it, but don't make people feel bad for relating to it. 

I personally hate Atypical with my entire guts, but I've seen autistic people say they could relate to it, even if just in aspects, and that's fine with me. I don't hate the autistic people that relate to it, I hate the show, because it personally doesn't represent me. I wouldn't want to be compared to this character at all, and regardless of how diverse a character is, if I don't relate, I don't want to be associated. Because any character could be the backboard of a "you can't be autistic because you're not like---" comment in the reality of it. 

The fact is, autism is a spectrum, we are all different- so very different- and I think we need representation to match. I pray for a day that we get to see ALL kinds of autistics on tv. I can also, however, acknowledge we need to start somewhere. 

Some of us will love things, some of us will hate them. No two of us will ever be identical, and to assume that, is frankly ableist. 

NOS Magazine's review, while differing from my opinions, was respectful and just that- an opinion. They also were very open to the show and hopeful that any flaws had the possibility to get better, which I really appreciated. They didn't attempt to speak for anyone but their own selves, and I completely respect anything they publish. Their reviews on Atypical were spot on and incredible, and I suggest that everyone go read them right now. I cannot praise this website enough, I never walk away feeling like the odd one out or insulted, even if how I feel from them is wildly different- especially because they're extremely open to other people's perspectives. They're a perfect example of how you should do things. Please go support this lovely website, I can't praise them highly enough. They really are my very favorite. 

I've seen a few people call Shaun's character "dumb and clueless" because he only really talks when it has to do with his special interest. I don't care if an autistic person said it, that is horribly ableist. There are real people, including myself, who communicate that way. All I see constantly is how we need more verbal diversity with autistic characters- you just got some! I suppose it wasn't as pretty as you'd like it to be.

It's not just being verbal all the time or non verbal all the time. Some people fall in the middle. And falling in the middle doesn't just mean "uwu I feel quiet right now please put flowers in my h air" it means jumbling your words and vomiting them all out. It means a normally bubbly chatty person not saying a single word. It means taking long breaks between sentences. And for a lot of us, that means relying on scripts and favored topics to verbalize. It means a million different things. 

It's not always pretty. It's not uwu Tumblr dot com aesthetic. It's serious shit and calling an autistic person dumb for how they communicate is ableism, I don't care if you're autistic. You're an asshole, and that's not the autism, it's you. You're the exact kind of people I ran away from on the playground. You're the exact kind of people I would never associate myself with, autism or not. 

Basically, the big picture here is, it doesn't matter who or what you are, I don't think any of us can say that every single (blank) character ever represents us. That's just not how it works. 

Do you think my neurotypical mother or sister can relate to every single neurotypical character they've ever seen? No. Do you think my family can relate to every single family we've ever seen? Definitely no. Do you think I've related to every autistic character I've ever come across? Absolutely, 100 percent no. 

It doesn't matter who you are, we are all different. We are all unique. And we all are just dying to be seen. If you make someone feel like shit for feeling seen, you're a dick, and that has nothing to do with your neurology or race or gender or anything of the sorts. Anyone can be a dick. 

I also am personally offended by the idea autistic people must be portrayed as average, "normal", basically neurotypical people. Is allistic passing a thing? Yes, of course. I'm an example of it! But I've seen people genuinely offended by the idea of an autistic person standing out and *gasp* achieving great things! Being successful and using your unique way of thinking to get you there is inspiration porn, I tell you!! Some autistic people can't do that so we can't offend them!! /sarcasm. Much like the majority of any term or word in the dictionary, this generation has found a way to take problems and meanings and take away from them, to the point I think we should just communicate in clicks like dolphins. 

Do you know how much autistic representation is centered around just being a regular person? Despite being a genius, the character I always bring up as bad representation was portrayed as your average teenage girl with a friend group, a boyfriend, and she was flirtatious and confident. Sam from Atypical is your stereotypical model teenage boy. In terms of what I would consider good representation- Billy from Power Rangers (which I haven't watched because I'm just not into that series, but from what I know, he's amazing) a super hero is also a (not so) typical teenager. He's messy, he makes mistakes, and he likes to have fun. Julia, from Sesame Street, doesn't really do anything spectacular. She's just a kid, she's an amazing artist for a young kid, but she's also just a "regular" kid who enjoys having friends and playing like anyone else, in her own Julia way. Abed from Community, which I've not yet to watch, but I've heard it's great and it's made by Dan Harmon who's autistic and great!!! is a regular college student who really likes pop culture. These are all canon autistic characters that are diverse, break the typical molds, and may or may not be good representation. And they also all tend to be ignored because diverse representation doesn't exist. Except it does, you just want to pick and choose. And that does a huge disservice to autistic people, people of color, or any other minority. 

And here's a question I ask- Why do so many people seem more offended at an autistic person being successful and achieving spectacular things than an autistic person disrespecting women and locking them in closets? Are we, as a society, so brainwashed by the message of stand in rather than stand out that the idea of an autistic person openly standing out is more offensive than one that's sexist but is pretty typical and average nonetheless? Are we so accustomed to the message autistic people cannot be better than a neurotypical person at anything that promoting that seems wild and wrong? 

Autism isn't always a superpower and not all of us are superheroes (see "The Accountant" which is about an autistic assassin, which isn't heroic at all. Or any of the representations I mentioned above) but isn't changing the narrative from mostly negative to a little more positive a step in the right direction? This isn't the only representation we'll ever get, but in my opinion, I'd much rather people think I'm capable of doing great things than think I'm capable of violence. This show isn't over the top with the positivity either, it's much more realistic than anything I've ever seen, but because there's positivity at all you don't even wanna give it a chance? I just don't understand the mindset. 

I saw someone say it was "harmful". Yes, ALL autistic people are being harmed right now. I'm so harmed that I see a positive example of an autistic person in a work setting, something I once thought was impossible due to the narratives I saw before. I'm so harmed to see things on my tv I never thought I'd ever see; Things about myself that I could never verbalize before but now can show people and educate them. I'm so harmed to see that standing out isn't always a bad thing, that maybe I'll always be the odd one out but that can be a VERY GOOD THING. Seeing just an hour of this already improved so much of the way I think about myself and the world around me. I was able to say "me too" in a way I don't get to a lot. I'm aware we've only seen one episode, but before you start assuming it's going to get worse, why not see it through. I am one to believe things can only go up. We had a downfall with representation, now we go up. This mindset may seem a little too optimistic, but it's gotten me through the darkest times in my life. And I've found that when I think it will only go up I've never been wrong. A little positivity can go a long way. But I'm not surprised that people are so afraid of positivity because we live in very negative times- This comment is coming to you from a pessimist leaning realist. 

My review of this show: It was incredible. But that is not gospel. Someone could watch this and hate every square inch of it. And guess what? That is a completely valid opinion and I respect it. But what isn't okay and valid is telling people how they should feel. You don't have to like this show because I like it, and likewise, you don't have to dislike it because another autistic person says to dislike it. You don't have to agree with every single autistic person, we have the same neurology, but for a majority of us, that's the only thing we have in common. Form your own opinions, and stick with them- The world needs free thinkers. The only thing I stress and beg of you, is you give this show a chance. Give any form of representation a chance. Even if it seems hopeless, even if it seems like just another tired portrayal, even if you're sure you won't like it. How will you know unless you give it a chance? I was so sure this show was going to suck and I wound up with one of the most beautiful pieces of representation. I could've missed out, and my philosophy is that I'd much rather regret something I did than something I didn't. I don't want to see anyone miss out. Please give it a chance before deciding it's horrible, because you may just be surprised. I think that's a good motto not just for this specific thing, but for life in general. I've been so afraid to try a new food and then I tried it and really liked it; Some of my favorite things were the things I was most afraid of. 

The famous quote "don't judge a book by its cover" is very true. If you're always looking at the cover instead of the story you're going to miss out on a lot. That is true for just about anything. 

So my stance on this is it was very good, and very flawed. But nothing is without flaws. Flaws don't take away from good things. 

Can we do better? Yes. Give me autistic girls, autistic people of color, LGBT+ autistics, all sorts of things. But don't put those things before the topic at hand- autism. 

This is a start, we bring something new to a overdone formula, then we change the formula, and we keep going from there. Much like building blocks. Representation is building blocks, and everyone will have their own opinion on the tower.

I think I said everything I wanted to say. Disagreed with anything? That's great! That means we're both humans with working brains. I'm totally open to respectful discussions about this, I love hearing different perspectives! 

Thank you for reading this post, it was just what I needed to get back into the swing of things after a little break. Hope you enjoyed and once again, these are just my thoughts, they don't represent anyone but me. You are totally open to your own thoughts and that is completely valid and fine! Isn't that the most wonderful part of being human? That we all get to think and see things in our own way :)

Thanks again for reading and I hope you're having a wonderful day, and if not, tomorrow is always another day!