Marquis de Saydrah

Because I’ve moved from thinking, “I’ve GOT to blog that!” to doing it.

Red Winged Blackbird June 30, 2008

Filed under: Animals,Photos,seen walking the dog — saydrah @ 5:10 pm
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Red Winged Blackbird by Lake


I thought I’d share this handsome fellow who sang to me on a recent evening as I walked my dog by the nearby lake. The picture is of a red winged blackbird perched on a piece of dried vegetation in front of a line of tall cat-tails and a lake, which is somewhat agitated by the breeze. He sat quite fearlessly as I snapped his photo, and continued to trill to potential mates as I walked on by.


Forum Politics and the NT-ocracy (rant) June 28, 2008

Filed under: disabilism,disability,rants — saydrah @ 12:17 am
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Please forgive a brief (okay, I’m lying, it’s long) rant.


I like forums. Forums are a way to interact socially with a much larger number and more diverse group of people than I would normally see in real life. They’re also a source to get and give information, meet people with common interests, and discover interesting news I wouldn’t find elsewhere.




(Rants always include a however)


There is something that, lately, has been grinding my gears about one forum in particular. I won’t name it or the administrator, since it’s not so much a problem with that forum as with the concept of forums in general, particularly large ones with many moderators. This forum is generally a very pleasant one, and the community, though united by a common interest, is very diverse in all aspects: Ethnicity, gender, neurology, body shape, political views, sexuality, everything.


However, the moderating body lacks diversity in one important aspect. There are, I believe, three female moderators, and five or six males. Most are older adults, and very nice people; one I know is younger, and a bit hot-headed, but generally friendly. One of the moderators is a person with a physical disability. However, though I’ve counted several members with Aspergers, Autism, ASD, ADHD, ADD, and other developmental disabilities, none of the moderators is a person on the Autism spectrum.


A conflict with the moderators on this forum has made me realize that this particular flaw in the moderation structure could be very problematic for members who aren’t neurotypical. 


A member much beloved by the community had to make the decision to take a loved one off life support. In a post expressing my sympathies, I complimented the strength of their relationship because they had discussed this possibility prior to his sudden illness– Every couple should be so lucky and so smart as to know exactly what each person would want in the event of such a tragedy. Many nasty battles are fought over this decision, in hospital rooms and courtrooms, because a person’s wishes weren’t communicated or put in writing. If anything good can be taken from such a heart-wrenching decision, in this case, it’s that she will never have to wonder whether or not she did what her loved one would have wanted.


Shortly after making my post, I was chastised by a moderator, who removed my compliment and told me it sounded like I was lecturing her and the rest of the forum, and that she didn’t need that right now. Apparently, to him– not to her, as she hadn’t even seen the post– my compliment on the strength of their relationship was “preachy.”






I didn’t respond to the condescending message that notified me my post had been edited– I know many of the moderators are still skeeved off about an old R-word argument, and if I want to keep my friendships with more open-minded folks on the forum intact, I have to pick my battles. But this did get me thinking.


How often do people on the Autism Spectrum get told they’re “interacting inappropriately with others?” In my (limited) experience, one of the most common ways for a rift between an NT and an Aspie to happen is a compliment from the Aspie considered inappropriate or rude by the NT. That’s even tip #3 on LastCrazyHorn’s list of Social Tips for Aspies– From an Aspie:


“Find things about people that you like and complement them on it. But stay away from the really strange remarks like, ‘Oh, I love the way your shoes match your nose hairs.’ Not good. In fact, don’t mention hair at all–except that which is either on the face of men or on the top of the head for men and women.”


So, if, being an NT myself, I can deeply offend another NT with a compliment that I still can’t see the problem with, how hard must it be for someone with an ASD to give compliments within the NT-ocracy? An Aspie on the panel of moderators could stick up for non-NT members by noticing what “transgressions” could in fact simply be communication that differs from the expected norm.


Then there’s a double whammy– many of my friends who are on the spectrum have more internet friends than in-person friends. There are obvious advantages: No eye contact, no need to explain stimming to each new friend, and the chance to wait a few minutes and look again at something you’re about to say before you say it, for starters. I appreciate the advantages of online friendship greatly as well. I can have a deep conversation with an online friend while brushing my dog, blogging, and browsing Reddit all at once, which I certainly couldn’t do in person without causing offense.


However, what happens if you communicate in the way that comes naturally to you, it offends someone who doesn’t communicate that way, and they have the power to cut you off from a major social network in your life?


That’s when the NT-ocracy in an online community turns from annoying and sometimes offensive to truly discriminatory. Rules that depend upon the subjective evaluation of a person’s behavior or communication patterns are nearly always biased toward the middle of the bell curve, and that means a moderation team composed entirely of NT people isn’t likely to notice that the communication pattern they’re subjectively judging is that of someone with an ASD, not someone who is being rude or who typed before thinking.


And then– as Amanda Baggs points out– if someone tries to defend herself by explaining that people on the Autism spectrum don’t always communicate just like NTs do, she’s told, “You’re just using that as an excuse for poor social skills.” From Amanda’s post:


“I have noticed a trend online, which is for people to say to others, ‘You are not autistic/AS, you are just using that as an excuse for poor social skills or an excuse to be a jerk.’ I have an online friend who frequently gets this reaction, when she says something she considers just direct and someone else finds it insulting and flames her, and she tries to explain, only to get that response. Indeed, things like ‘Asperger’s is just an excuse to be socially inept’ or ‘people who use Asperger’s as an excuse’ have become givens in some parts of the Internet community. It is even accepted (with little to no apparent evidence) by some autistic people as fact.”


Is there a word for someone who, through ignorance and prejudice, separates a person with a disability from a valued network of friends for being direct, but being perceived as insulting, as a result of that disability?


Of course, that’s not to say that people on the spectrum don’t have friends they chat with face to face. However, I queried an Aspie friend while writing this about how he’d feel if he were banned from one large online community where he spends many hours each week, and his response was, “Angry. Devastated. Lonely.


Is there a word for someone who, because of their own biases against a particular style of communication, makes someone feel angry, devastated, and lonely?


It happens constantly in online communities. In fact, in my younger (early teen) years, I bought the “Aspergers isn’t real, it’s just an excuse for poor social skills” bit hook, line, and sinker.


It didn’t help that someone with Aspergers was, at the time, an authority figure online who was grating on my nerves and the nerves of several others, and that the others annoyed with that individual saw no problem with suggesting that, “If you can’t communicate better, you should hire someone who can to handle customer service for your business,” or, “If you can’t deal with people better, you should find a different job,” or even a variant of the old line: “Asperger’s is just your excuse to be a tyrant.” I was pissed off enough at her not to bother trying to find out anything about Aspergers besides that it was a condition some people on the internet say they have, but some other people on the internet say it’s just an excuse to be a jerk.


So, yes, for a while, I was that person who doesn’t see the difference between an explanation and an excuse. And I have moderated forums where someone who identified him or herself as an Aspie was eventually banned from the community after offending other members. And I didn’t speak up. I didn’t push that button, but I didn’t speak up.


I can’t speak for people on the Autism spectrum. As Bev illustrated in square talk, it’s ridiculous and presumptive for an NT to even attempt to do so.


But I can speak to neurotypical people in a position of authority in online communities: Don’t buy the “Excuse to a be a jerk” crap. Before you cut someone off from their online friends for offending someone, try running a synopsis of the incident by someone you trust who has an ASD. Better yet, especially in large communities, appoint a moderator or several who’s on the Autism spectrum.


And I can speak to the Autistic community, to ask questions:


How can online communities be more inclusive?


How can a website where people congregate handle a situation in which a member with an ASD offends others by communicating in a certain way?


What measures can be taken to stop online communities’ moderation policies from becoming, “You must communicate like us,” and turn them into, “We welcome people who communicate like you?”


New Coworker June 27, 2008

Filed under: Animals,humor,Photos — saydrah @ 4:21 pm
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New Blogger writes her first post

Seen above, my newest coworker contemplates the subject of her first blog post…


(Actually, Cheva brought her new pup, Izzy, to work)


RE: Politically Correct Methods of Addressing the Able-Bodied

ATTN: All Team Members
FROM: Timothy Q. Snorfleblark, Director of Human Resources
RE: Politically Correct Methods of Addressing the Able-Bodied




It has come to our attention that certain persons in this office have shown a marked lack of sensitivity in addressing able-bodied team members. Several complaints have been filed with Human Resources, forcing us to take action. The offending individuals have been warned, but insensitivity toward the able-bodied seems to be a company-wide problem. As a result, Human Resources has put together a simple guide to appropriate methods of addressing the able-bodied. Please read in full, and, when in doubt, consult Human Resources before doing or saying anything you feel could potentially be offensive.


Timothy Q. Snorfleblark
Director, Human Resources
ACME Mega-Corp


ATTACHMENT: “ablebodiedsensitivity.doc”


Use of Appropriate Language


Using appropriate language in the workplace is essential to maintaining a harmonious work environment. All coworkers deserve to feel safe and accepted at work, regardless of their disability or lack thereof.


In order to avoid causing discomfort to able-bodied team members, please refrain from using terms like “social model of disability,” or “crip culture” at work. It is considered rude by the able-bodied community to create confusion and challenge preconceptions by asserting that people with disabilities do not want to be cured of their conditions.


In the same vein, calling coworkers “curebies” is also inappropriate, particularly as a reaction to the expression of a charitable sentiment or a request for donations to a worthy cause.


“Crip fashion” is also a term politically incorrect for usage in the presence of the able bodied. The able-bodied consider this term inaccurate and offensive. It is very impolite to insinuate in front of able-bodied team members that team members with disabilities are concerned with beauty, dating, and sex. As discussed above, this causes confusion and discomfort. Please be considerate of others.


When referring to your disability in the presence of able-bodied team members, do not call yourself a “crip,” “gimp,” “amp,” or any other term that could be associated with language reclamation. Many able-bodied persons suffer from a fear of change. In order to make your coworkers’ selection of appropriate verbage easy, refer to yourself as a “person with a disability,” if you must refer to your disability at all.


Making Conversation with the Able-Bodied


When conversing with able-bodied coworkers, remember that their condition may prevent them from understanding certain types of humor or relating to certain topics of conversation. Please do not discuss bodily fluids, catheters, colostomy bags, or assisted showering and toileting. It is considered polite within the able-bodied community to limit discussion of disability to positive and uplifting topics.


In order to converse politely with the able-bodied, try mentioning an exciting hobby like tennis or swimming. Make sure to emphasize how you’ve overcome your disability in order to compete or participate in this hobby. The able-bodied person may tell you that you are “an inspiration.” This is a compliment; please accept it graciously. Some people who are able-bodied may even be moved to tears by your courage. Again, this is to be considered a compliment.


Some able-bodied team members may make conversation by pointing out to you news stories about disabled persons, or by asking if you know another person with the same disability. This reflects the depth of their caring and an effort to reach out to you. Laughter is not an appopriate response to such a query. Nor is it polite to call an article brought to your attention by a coworker, “stunningly bad disability journalism, typical of the New York Times.”


If in doubt, limit topics of conversations to sports, crafts, and the weather. Discussing sex, health, politics, dating, friendship, work, or, worst of all, protests and activism, with able-bodied coworkers may contradict existing prejudices and offend a team member.


Meetings and Office Parties


Appropriate behavior during workplace gatherings is just as important as appropriate behavior during one-on-one interactions. Please do not scold coworkers for assisting you at office functions by preparing your food, pushing your wheelchair to an appropriate location within the room, or ordering for you at group lunches. It is important to allow the able-bodied to keep their sense of autonomy and control intact despite the presence of disabled persons within the organization. Thank able-bodied coworkers for friendly gestures such as those listed above, in order to help preserve their self-image as charitable and inclusive individuals.


Complaining about accessibility at office functions is frowned upon. Providing ASL interpreters, for example, might take away from the positive experience of others during parties. You wouldn’t want to be seen as selfish, would you? The same goes for requesting that team-building exercises be conducted at fully wheelchair-accessible facilities. The able-bodied community loves paintball and ropes courses, and it would detract from their enjoyment of these delightful activities if a disabled person were to come along and repeatedly emphasize his or her inability to participate.


In order to avoid offending a team member, it is best to excuse yourself from events where access could prove challenging. Use an excuse that doesn’t reference your disability if at all possible. A sick family member, flat tire, or salon appointment is a good excuse not to attend team building exercises. If you recuse yourself in plenty of time, you’ll avoid looking like a wet blanket while others are having fun.


During meetings, please avoid calling attention to your disability by objecting to the language or suggestions of others. The able-bodied are very sensitive, and scolding them in front of their peers could cause emotional trauma.


If all of these guidelines are followed, we anticipate that our workplace can be a fun and inclusive environment for all. Let’s remember our company motto: “What’s Good for the Company is Good for All!”


Disclaimer: This post is satirical and inspired by this and this. Please have a good laugh at the expense of ignorant ABs everywhere.


Heartwarming. June 25, 2008

Obama sign by wheelchair ramp.

Description: A Barack Obama for President campaign sign is planted in a neatly mowed suburban lawn, next to a wheelchair ramp. There’s a young tree in the foreground, and in the background are several brightly colored pinwheels and a “beware of dog” sign.


There are little things that warm my heart, and among them is this house, with its beautifully crafted ramp, its Obama sign, and the whimsical collection of pinwheels.


DGR seeks SWD for LTR June 24, 2008

Filed under: humor,Photos,seen walking the dog — saydrah @ 5:12 pm
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Roof Missing Doghouse

Divorced Grey Roof seeking Single White Dog House for LTR. Please be open to immediate committment. I feel about two feet tall since my other half left, and I really want that sense of completion back. Must love dogs and, if out of town, be willing to relocate– I have roots here and can’t leave. Rust and stain free– you be same.


(actually, it’s probably a well, or something like that, with a cover to keep kids from tripping and falling in, but this roof I saw on a walk with my dog looks so much like a roof missing its doghouse that I had to post it.)



‘Days of Our Lives’ Tackles Autism

So it seems that ‘Days of Our Lives,’ that bastion of fine contemporary drama, plans to “tackle Autism” with a storyline revolving around the parents of a 3-year-old child who receives an Autism diagnosis. I’ll give you three guesses which organization the show is partnering with to produce this storyline, and the first two don’t count.

That’s right– Dena Higley, mother of a child with Autism and Days Of Our Lives’ head writer, is partnering with Autism Speaks to “ensure the storyline contains realism and sensitivity.” Of course, that’s when Autism Speaks isn’t too busy sending their lawyers to intimidate real, live, speaking Autistic teens and adults and allies who criticize the organization.


A quick run down of questions that weren’t asked in the Today Show interview:


“Dena, how does your 19-year-old son, Connor, a college student and athlete with Autism, feel about the portrayal of Theo on Days of Our Lives?”


“Dena, how does your 19-year-old son, Connor, feel about the organization Autism Speaks?”


“Dena, did any person with Autism play a role in ensuring that the storyline ‘contains realism and sensitivity?'”


“Dena, has ‘Days of Our Lives’ ever hired a writer with a disability?” 


“Dena, doesn’t it strike you as strange that an organization called ‘Autism Speaks’ employs only neurotypical people to speak for Autism?”


Is it so hard to understand?  Really! I can be somewhat sympathetic to the neurotypical view that Autism must be difficult to live with, if one has never met a happy Autistic person, and I can understand that it’s not a big jump for many NTs from the reasonable ‘It would be nice if people with Autism could live with more autonomy if they wish to do so,’ to ‘Let’s cure Autism,’ but how is it that people just don’t even wonder why they’ve never heard someone with Autism thank Autism Speaks for their hard work in attempting to eradicate the condition that makes her who she is?