Ableism in Action: “To Siri With Love”

WARNING: Mentions of medical abuse, ableism, and prejudice

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I was certain I had nothing to say about a book I never read. The book “To Siri with Love” seems to me biased and anti-autistic, with some thoughts about forced sterilization and not being able to picture having sex without the Benny Hill soundtrack in the mother’s head, for example.

Well, here’s a few statements I jotted down in my journal. Take a look, judge if you must:

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Just wondering: how much ableism is “To Siri With Love”? A whole bathtub of ableism, as I have heard. My mother recently told me not to read negative things about autism; trouble is, “To Siri With Love” is one of those things. Saying your son can’t have sex in your head without the Benny Hill soundtrack, that’s ableism. Saying you want to sterilize him by force, that’s ableism. Saying no woman will want him, that’s ableism.

I haven’t talked about it before, because I haven’t read the book. I don’t think I’ll be able to in the near future, unless I rent it electronically. I have a strange feeling that I will be triggered like I used to be in the days of living with my sisters.

I tried to get the book “To Siri With Love” through the library. It was not there. I hear you can only buy it through Amazon. And you can only review it if you can buy it through Amazon. I wanted to come to the book with an open mind, but its mind is so closed that I feel I have to protect myself from Judith Newman.

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Unfortunately, I have not read the book, as I have stated before, but it seems the book was not written for me, as Judith Newman actually states. See, I am autistic. I am also a woman who wants to work with autistic people. So, Judith Newman says this book is written for me. Which one is it, Judith? Am I good enough for you or not?

Forgive me, it is a bit rambling, but I am certain the hatred toward people like me will increase based upon “To Siri With Love.”

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Here’s the lowdown: I wanted to approach “To Siri with Love” with an open mind, but the author has approached autistic people, including me, with a closed mind. And how am I supposed to respond to that?

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More Thanksgiving Tips; Plus, How it Really Works

Here comes Thanksgiving. Strangely enough, it’s going to be an easier time than in years past. Funny thing, I actually do the cooking. That alone puts me on a stress level that may be higher than many autistic people – and I said maybe, mind you. The thing is, a person who has done the main Thanksgiving cooking for, say, eight times in their life might be able to recall how it is done. It’s not that bad, considering we’re having a quiet Thanksgiving Day. However, I’ve been through bustling, huge Thanksgiving Days, too. I’ve got a few last-minute tips to give for the day. 

  1. Setup, setup, setup. This kind of runs into the next tip, but involving some sort of planning and maybe practice is necessary. I am currently sitting next to an empty dish arrangement I made for the dinner setup. I’m in charge of Thanksgiving, but setup and practice may be necessary.
  2. Have the person get involved, when appropriate. I may have been delayed in some things when it came to social interaction and executive function, but I was fine in other things, like getting the finger veggies out (we always have pickles and olives at our table). Can they handle setting a table for the occasion? Go ahead and let them help out. Someday, you may have someone who can take over more major duties, or even the whole thing altogether. Give it time and patience.
  3. Have an Chill Out Space. This is not a traditional Safe Space, as marginalized groups prescribe. A Chill Out Space is actually a space away from the festivities the person can escape to, when, say, things get too loud, or, someone decides to discuss politics. It can be as simple as the child’s room. It is simply a place where the person can rest their senses and their interactions.
  4. The Girl Scouts Are Right. I learned early on that it was customary to give hugs to greet people in my family. I adjusted sooner than many like me. However, I don’t recommend a suffocating hug for someone who is, say, a little more delicate in the touch arena. Don’t push it if the person is not up for it.
  5. Have a Quiet Moment Immediately Before the Meal. In praying families, this seems to be built into the meal through prayer. A quiet moment helps center not just the autistic person, but most everybody.
  6. You Know Your Autistic Person….If You Listen and Accept Them. You know how much your child can take of Thanksgiving. If they need to eat in their Chill Out Space, go ahead and let them. It does not matter what your fickle relatives say; have they actually gotten to know the person?  

Helping out an autistic person during Thanksgiving requires actually getting to know them, beyond perceived stereotypes, beyond disappointments, and all the way in acceptance. Unfortunately, many autistic persons’ caretakers are often unwilling to get there. This may or may not be the case with you, but acceptance of current reality is required for all these tips to actually work.  

Free to Be Me

It’s not a thing I take for granted. For the longest time, the above statement was not true. It has taken me almost forty years to realize that being Free to Be Me was a privilege denied me for years. I had to change and conceal my true self with almost everyone. I mean, you’ve seen the wreckage. I’m still trying to figure out who I am. I mean, I’ve answered most of the fundamentals, like who I’m attracted to. I’m not going to digress into that. There are more answers I still do not know. I’ve just barely learned how to be free; now it’s time to learn how to be me. 

In these hours it is when I realize how truly lucky and grateful I am for a parent who accepts me as I am. This has helped me free myself more than I have ever been. Many people I know do not have that, in relation to autism. I also know many more people do not have that in other ways. There is no real platitude or words of wisdom to give in those cases. Sometimes, you just have to amputate people from your life. You also need to reach out, and be vulnerable. Considering my history, this is very shocking for me to write. I have learned who my real friends are. And I’m not giving my trust out to just anybody. I know making friends while being autistic is hard, but you do need your support. You may find your support in surprising places. I know they’re out there. They’re going to help you be free. Don’t you think you deserve that to look forward to?  

Twenty-Six People Dead; NOW Will You Take Spousal Abuse Seriously?

I said it once; let me say it again. Trump is wrong about the Texas church shooter. He said it was not a gun problem; it was a mental illness problem. Now, since it has been revealed that the shooter’s family attended the church he shot up, but not that Sunday, it has been revealed to be a domestic violence problem. Twenty-six people dead, all because he wanted to kill his ex-wife and her family. The Texas church shooting was about the ultimate display of power and control over his wife; the power over life. 

Power and control have been at the core of domestic violence for all time. It was at the core of my family’s fighting and struggle. It was at the core of many a spousal murder and attempted murder; it was at the core of my life for so long. As a matter of fact, I am terrified of getting married, due to the fact that domestic violence was in my family and life for so long; what kind of wife beater will I attract? What kind of pain and abuse will I have to endure just to be comfortable? This is the effect of domestic abuse and violence in my life. As a matter of fact, domestic abuse was in the history of the Texas church shooter. He was dishonorably discharged for cracking his stepson’s skull. And he was convicted on another count for beating his wife. And he was able to buy weapons because the Air Force failed to report these crimes, so he went and shot up forty-six people in a church-where his ex-wife’s family went. So, is the Air Force almost as guilty of neglect in preventing mass murder? You be the judge.  

A Time Magazine article once stated that a soldier was going to have to kill in a big way for the military to understand domestic violence. Well, Air Force who failed to report it – twenty-six people are dead; twenty more are injured, all because the shooter wanted to control his ex-wife and her family. Now will you take domestic violence seriously?  

“Oh No! It’s….DIFFERENT!!!!!!”*

You have to scream the title like a horror movie final girl to get the full effect.* 

How many times have you dealt with somebody who was a little different from you? Many times, I am sure. Trouble is, many of us have not dealt with different in our lives as much as others. And the sad thing is, dealing with different may just be the key to overcoming different. And yet, with the trend toward dividing up and shrinking back into racial and religious divides, fear and hate helps different keep us apart.  

Now, I know that the rich, white and powerful have most of the prejudice and hate on lockdown. That is a fact. That is how they stay in power. What I am saying is, there are people on all sides, not just black and white, need to overcome the prejudice inside their own heads in order to function.  

I’m not even talking about Black Lives Matter or antifascists at this point. I do not believe they are a terrorist group. It’s a shame that it only takes a color of skin to designate one group terrorist and another group not. It is a shame that I even have to waste space on this declaration. 

What I am talking about is the person who shuts their ears to another person, simply because there is a different trait. I am talking about the white person who closes his ears to the understanding person of color, as well as the person of color closing his ears to the understanding white person. I am talking about the person who says “You are just a ______” and name that difference. With a closed mind and a cold heart, they become part of the problem of hate that is about to destroy the United States of America.  

How does this manifest in my own life? I am glad you asked. This manifests in my life with a chilling precision; I fear these words will not get to the people who need to hear them, because I am autistic, and white, and cisgender, and female, and fat. I have just listed six reasons people shut out my words. I am sure there are many more.  

 

Real Thanksgiving Talk

I’m talking mostly to the American folks, who celebrate Thanksgiving, but you can apply these tricks to any holiday you’re celebrating. Now, admittedly the Halloween talk came a bit late, but I’ve decided to get a jump on the Thanksgiving Attack Plan. And if you’re smart, thanksgiving prep for an autistic person begins November 1. In case you haven’t noticed, that’s the day after Halloween. Maybe if we get some jump on the real autism talk, or my flavor if we get truly real about it, here’s a few tips to consider when getting into Thanksgiving prep with an autistic person: 

  1. Have regular meals at the table. This can be done year-round, and if you do this, your child will know what to expect sitting down for a Thanksgiving meal. 
  2. Accept the child’s autism. This will get a lot easier if you accept that the kid is autistic, and was always autistic, and will always be autistic. I am forty years old, and I am still autistic. And that is a set of traits, not tragic. Get the tragic narrative out of your head. It is possible for your autistic child to have a good, autistic life. Nowadays, I do the Thanksgiving cooking. As far as anyone goes, the cooking on Thanksgiving is no small feat. And I do it my way. 
  3. Thanksgiving decorations, if appropriate. Something that helps me personally is the holiday decorations. It gives me the sense of excitement that I need to propel me into Thanksgiving meal planning, Thanksgiving guest expectations, Thanksgiving celebration, and Thanksgiving rest if needed. However, if this is inappropriate, go ahead and leave this one out.  
  4. Keep the favorite dish of the kid’s on the table. I know, this can be a tough one, especially if the kid will eat nothing except chicken nuggets, or white food, or nothing spicy, or what have you. But it will give the kid a sense of security and acceptance , making them feel like a part of the family. For me, that Thanksgiving food was a cherry walnut salad. I know, it’s a little adventurous, but if the favorite food is kept on the table, they’ll feel more like part of the family.
  5. Don’t take it personally if they only eat the favorite food. It is not an affront to you if they do not eat the turkey, or the cranberry, or the green bean casserole. Often, it is a sensory issue with the food. It may be too slimy, too saucy, or even too hot or cold. Relax. Here’s a point: If your neurotypical kid was, say, a vegan, would you be able to get them to eat the turkey? 
  6. Have a place for the kid to “chill out” when things get too loud. I get it-I’m dating myself when I say “chill out.” You may not need it, but sometimes, a kid needs to chill out. For the autistic kid, that may be sooner and more often than most others. And if the kid is headed into a meltdown, wouldn’t it be better to be prepared?  
  7. See if the kid can help in the preparation. This is a sneaky way to get your child prepared and anticipating, instead of dreading, Thanksgiving. Age-appropriate preparation, help and interaction is necessary. I began with setting the table. Then I moved to putting together the pickle and olive tray (separate cartons, relax!). Eventually, it was mixing cold dishes. I then began to hep cooking the ten or so side dishes we still cook. And then, I graduated to the turkey. It’s a natural, gradual process.   
  8. Let the kid stim or rest away, even if you’re sitting down for the meal. Again, this is a meltdown issue. Would you rather have someone sit out and be okay, or a knock-down, drag-out, possibly table-destroying meltdown? 
  9. Don’t pressure the kid about eating everything on the plate. The real beauty of preparing a large meal is that you can eat it all weekend. My family would eat a small amount of food, and eat the rest of it over the weekend. It was great.  

I’m going to need some help concerning more tips as to what we as autistics and the ones who love autistics can do. Any more tips?  

Must I Have an Art Studio to Be Depressed? and Other Stereotypes of Depression

A take down of various stereotypes dealing with pop culture’s misgivings about clinical depression, as presented by this Buzzfeed article. 

Now, I try not to talk too much about myself, but sometimes my own personal experience and the portrayals of that experience in pop culture and media can be so unduly, undoubtedly different. These are not all the misgivings and stereotypes in Hollywood Depression, but they are ones I can address easily. For example: “First of all, depression always looks beautiful — beautiful characters crying, staring out windows, taking a listless shower, etc. etc. etc., beautifully.”

Now, let’s get one thing straight: not everything is a wonderful plate of listless ennui fashioned for some invisible camera. Sometimes depression is eating too much, or eating too little. Sometimes, it’s the ugly cry. Sometimes it’s being too depressed to even cry. You ever think about that?

Characters with depression are pretty much always reduced to being ~sad~.”

Have you ever considered that people with depression are not always sad? We are not a single emotion. It’s like a person, on the flip side, with mania. People with mania are not always happy. I often find myself putting out a fake smile, or a genuine smile at times, but I still find myself often angry, often sad, yes, and even often happy. Again, we are not cartoons.

“Most of the time, depression is triggered by Dramatic Plot Elements.”

This was not true with me. Depression, in my case, came upon me slowly, in the night, under cover of darkness. It was slowly and undetected, until it was almost too late. I did not even remember showing signs of depression or major red flags, until my mother came to me after just receiving a call about something I had written. (More about that later.)

And because of that, depression always culminates as a big blowup or breakdown.

No, no huge blowup, no huge breakdown. As a matter of fact, when my depression was discovered, I had barely any feeling left in my body, and although I could not communicate it at the time, I was starting to see things under a cover of hazy gray. No, there was no gigantic yelling and screaming fit.

Or if a character valiantly pretends they’re fine and doesn’t succumb to their depression, the audience is obviously supposed to think they’re strong and brave.

This goes back to the fact that “Strong and Brave” people are uncharacteristically portrayed as not having any feelings. This is a tenet of toxic masculinity, or perhaps of not showing any vulnerability. Perhaps this stereotype is what often leads to suicide

In fact, most of the boring parts of dealing with depression are erased.

Of course, because they’re not either “beautiful” or “dramatic,” but they’re real life. Why don’t you ever show the real side of depression, Hollywood? Try showing not having the energy to lift a hairbrush? Or, just looking in the mirror with barely any energy to open your eyes?

Depression is treated as an alluring or mysterious trait that draws the attention of a love interest.

Oooh, romance! The fix-all for any sadness! That is an insult to anyone and everyone with clinical depression. If romance and/or sex was the cure, the clinics would do that. Besides, this points out an insidious stereotype that depression is rational. Depression is not rational. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.

AND THEN THAT LOVE INTEREST ALWAYS ~FIXES~ THE PERSON WITH DEPRESSION.

As above, this is not only wrong, it is insulting. Chester Bennington had the great wife, the great kids, and yet he still took his life. Depression is not rational.

If treatment IS explored, it’s always super easy and straightforward.

Well, often treatment is a long, tedious process. It often goes with trying to find the right medicine, the right therapist, the right clinic. Nobody ever tells you that. Again, depression is not rational.

Speaking of therapists, they’re usually portrayed as pretty useless.

What did talking out and working out the issues ever do for anyone, right? Wrong. Working out and talking out the issues has often averted wars. Why does it not work for people willing to talk, listen and be honest?

When treatment is shown in a positive light, it’s always super linear and FAST.

This is wishful thinking. We always want the quick fix, the easy solution, the fast-working drug. If those worked, we would do that. It is also insulting to those who need more research, more diagnosis, more help.

There aren’t many examples of high-functioning people with depression, rather than people whose depression completely derails their life.

Now, I currently have a “high-functioning” form of depression. You know what I feel about the functioning label, but when people are handling their troubles well, apparently they are not worthy of the Hollywood stereotype. Even people who actually are handling their depression must be derailed and sent back to the mental ward to show the seriousness of the problem.

Pretty much every depressed character is also suicidal at some point.

Now, I may have been suicidal at one point, but I am not suicidal anymore. In fact, when I was getting my diagnosis, I was actually beginning to climb out of the pit of suicidal ideation. I was regretting my decision. Then, a diagnosis was given and I received more help.

More often than not, a character with depression fits a specific stereotype.

I know this particular type. You know, the girl who wears black all the time? In my day, we called them goths; you might call them emo. I must tell you the truth: the goths in my particular high school were actually quite happy people. I thought about going goth for a time, because I bought this stereotype, but as I look back, the people in black actually seemed very pleased. Maybe there’s a thing for being yourself?

Also, take a look at me. I am currently wearing a bright pink dress with yellow, orange and purple patterns on it. I have brown hair that was once blonde, green hazel eyes, somewhat tanned skin (for Kentucky, anyway,) and big curves. I own a rainbow of clothes I rotate regularly. I have a Pomeranian dog, who loves me to death, and a mother who encourages a happy home. What is goth about this particular depression sufferer?

And let’s be real, even with positive representations of depression, more often than not, the characters are white.

Even though I am white, this fact is true: people with depression are not. Trouble is, you kind of have to be white to be noticed by Hollywood. Maybe that’s why most persons of color think mental illness is “white people s***.” This stops a huge number of people from getting the help they need, simply because they think it’s a tool of The Man to keep them at the bottom of the heap.

Medication is treated like this evil, personality-zapping stuff you should avoid at all costs.

Again, not true in my case. As a matter of fact, the medicine I take actually helps me function better. Before I took medicine, I liked Pearl Jam, Green Day and rock music in general. After I started taking medicine, I still liked Pearl Jam, Green Day and rock music in general. My personality has not changed.

And depressed characters are always super creative and artistic.

I certainly WISH! If I was super creative, artistic and talented, don’t you think I would be in a different kind of existence? Like, actually making money instead of living off the government?

For some reason, going through depression always ends in some sort of cheesy life lesson.

If there is one thing about depression, it does not really give you some life lesson. If there is any lesson, it is this: sometimes you have to fight for what you want, whether it’s love, money, or even your life.

And finally, most of this is covered in the span of a Very Special Episode — or, if we’re lucky, a small arc — then forgotten about forever.

Don’t even get me started. Depression is not something to be forgotten about. I am reminded every time I eat breakfast. I have been with my diagnosis for twenty-two years! There is no reason for me to stop working on my health.

All in all, I am utterly disgusted that I have to address mental illness stigma and stereotypes seventeen years into the twenty-first century! When are we ever going to learn?