Marquis de Saydrah

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

A Point is Made, Relating to My Good Neighbor, Jim August 12, 2008

This is the post where I make a point relating to my good neighbor, Jim, who has a disability. Do me a favor, particularly if you are a reader who is not familiar with the disability rights movement or the social model of disability: Recall my post about Jim, and think of a few words you would use to describe him. Okay, got a couple of adjectives?

 

Now, let me share two quotes from a forum. The person posting works in the prison system. Understand, she is not a bad person. She is a funny, snarky person who feels that she is doing a service to society through her work as a corrections officer, and she does, in fact, stand up for inmates’ rights if she sees them violated. Whether or not you agree with the US prisons system, she is an individual who believes in herself and her work, and she is a good person. These quotes do not reflect a complete person. They reflect a use of language by her, a person whom I like, that, in my opinion, was hurtful and shocking.

 

In the first, an excerpt from a transcribed conversation, the context is that an inmate has just endangered himself by doing something very reckless. “Me” is the person who posted this; “IM” is the inmate.

 

ME: Mr [Retard].
IM: Yeah.
ME: If you ever do that again, I will write you so many DR’s your children will do Seg time.

 

In the second quote, some inmates have been misbehaving by shooting spitballs.

 

The 2 cells I suspected were in the corner, so I watched them out of the corner of my eye. I asked the Porter (cellhouse janitor) if he’d noticed any retards throwing spitwads lately, and he said no, but he was tired of cleaning them up.

 

Would she– we’ll call her Sue– ever hurt my feelings, or the feelings of a person with a disability, intentionally? I don’t think so. I also don’t think she is aware that her words were hurtful. The forum I quoted these things from does not allow members to call other members out on their language.

 

The moderators require one to use a “report” button to report a post that is offensive. The moderators then make a decision amongst themselves about the complaint. I’ve reported similar posts for use of language in the past, and the decision has been that they will not take any stand against this word. In addition, I’m told that I’ll get an “infraction” for frivolously using the report button if I continue to report hurtful use of this word.

 

So, I can’t ask Sue if she would use that word to describe my neighbor. I can’t ask her if she would use that word within earshot of my friendly, gentlemanly neighbor, Jim. I can’t ask her if she understands that it’s a near-certainty that, at some point in his life, Jim has heard that word applied to him in a hurtful way.

 

That’s why I’m talking about it here, and why I asked you to think of a few words that describe Jim.

 

I think the point is made.

 

My First Concert, and More NT-ocracy July 31, 2008

First Concert

So, I went to my first-ever concert on Tuesday. Yeah, first-ever. Seriously. I made it to adulthood without ever taking in a concert. Well, except for Anti-Prom (the goth/punk alternative to prom, which I attended instead) where a few local bands played– but a real concert with a touring band? My first one. I saw The Faint at The Ogden.

 

It was pretty awesome. I went with my SO and some friends of his. Waiting for the concert to start was a little awkward, since the specific friends he brought (with the exception of my roomie) were not people with whom I’m at all close; three of five are people I actively don’t like. But, once the opening bands (which were terrible) started to play, we were all united in horror at how much they stunk, and then when The Faint came on, nobody noticed anything except how great they were.

 

I got there early and we were up front by the railing that separates what apparently is a mosh pit for most shows from the regular concert viewing area, so as soon as The Faint took the stage, others were trying to push me out of my spot. One drunk Australian guy made me laugh, so I moved over and let him in, but then everyone else started pushing and shoving. I held my ground, and one girl started pushing and hitting me– it wasn’t until after the concert that I (having not taken my eyes off the band pretty much the entire time) was informed that the “mosh pit” got ignored and all the moshers were beating on each other right behind our group. I was totally oblivious and pretty confused about why everyone was pushing me!

 

Oh, and I danced, and headbanged (yeah, to The Faint, sue me), which is kinda big for me because I’m pretty self-conscious about being tone-deaf and a pretty bad dancer. But hey, that drunk girl next to me was dancing and intentionally knocking into me every couple beats, and I wasn’t about to let that slide without giving as good as I got… okay, so maybe technically I moshed a little? I’m not sure if that counts.

 

Anyway, yesterday morning (Wednesday) I was pretty bruised and sore, but I’d do it again for sure. If you get the chance to see The Faint live (and concerts are something you do and like), go for it. Todd Fink– formerly Todd Baeschle– is the lead singer, and his costume for this tour is a mad scientist’s outfit, with a lab coat and goggles, and he plays the part the whole time he’s singing, leaping and spinning around the stage, jumping on the amps, waving the microphone stand wildly…

 

Oh, and I’m thinking of taking a boxing class now. It actually was pretty cathartic when I was struggling with the crowd trying to push me out of my spot, and I think maybe boxing or martial arts would do the same thing for me.

 

I have a picture of myself with totally overdone makeup for the show here somewhere; didn’t get any pictures of my whole outfit, unfortunately, since they wouldn’t let anyone bring a camera in. So a Myspace-esque photo I took myself will have to do, when I upload and post it. I usually don’t wear any makeup at all, so it might be a little strange to see me wearing a ton of foundation, blush, lip gloss, eyeshadow, and mascara. I still can’t figure eyeliner out, though. What the heck are you supposed to do with it?

 

NT-Ocracy and Forums, Pt. 2

 

I was again scolded on a forum, for something else this time, which I imagine is an extremely problematic automatic characterization for anyone not neurotypical (see “Autism Threshold” post for my and others’ speculation on why I identify as NT, but seem to fall into a lot of the same social traps, particularly online, as my Aspie/Autie/etc. friends).

 

So, I ran afoul of the mods on the same forum mentioned in the NT-Ocracy post again. Their grievance this time? I was “lecturing people.” The subject was the term “bull dyke.” A member used it, another member called him out and characterized the phrase as a “homophobic slur,” and a couple of members responded that the moderators probably were not taking a position because nobody had reported the thread to them yet. So, I posted saying that, to avert further conflict, I was using the report button to report the thread to the mods, and taking a brief stance on the term at issue. For those interested, my stance was that there’s a pretty big difference between a person describing herself that way, versus (as the person who made the original post used the term) describing someone whose actions you found objectionable with that term; in other words, using it as an insult.

 

Then I get a textual tongue-lashing by private message from a moderator, with something along the lines of “Maybe this will FINALLY get the point across to stop lecturing people!”

 

Finally? Did I miss something? I haven’t been told that taking a position on an issue under debate is considered “lecturing” in the past.

 

The moderator in question just lost a loved one and is grieving and recently posted about how much depression and grief changed her life and personality, so I’m not going to respond the way I’d like to– I just deleted the private message, and I’ll tread more carefully for a while. I’d leave the forum, but there are many people there I like and care about, yes, including many people on the Autism spectrum. However, there’s no real appropriate way to broach the topic of “Do you feel discriminated against here because of the way you communicate?” without violating forum rules, so I don’t know if they have encountered the same problems, but if I push the mods’ buttons, I’m betting most of the Aspie/ASD/Autie users have done so in the past and been similarly confused about what, exactly, the problem is.

 

I’d be willing to bet that the exact same scolding has been given to a few of these members, really; I’ve noticed that many folks on the Autism spectrum (spectra?) have an area of expertise and are more than willing to share knowledge and opinions about that subject. I guess that could be called “lecturing” when one is not open to receiving knowledge and opinions from others on a particular subject; perhaps that’s where I missed a warning to “stop lecturing?” My area of expertise is pet care and training, and I’m frequently called out in threads about animals– “Oh, Saydrah, this one’s for you!” So I would not have ever imagined that, since my advice is frequently requested, it is unwelcome and perceived as lecturing. However, that’s the only thing I can really think of that might have grated on somebody’s nerves in the past and led the moderator to consider me a habitual lecturer.

 

Thoughts?

 

Is There an “Autism Threshold?” July 15, 2008

Shiva mentioned recently that zhe thought from my photos on my blog that I was a person on the Autism spectrum until reading a post in which I identified myself as neurotypical. This got me thinking (and taking up space in Shiva’s comments section– sorry!) about the behaviors and opinions of mine which are similar to those of people on the Autism spectrum, as well as the question of “diagnosing” Autism/Asperger’s/ASD in general: Specifically, where’s the point at which the benefits of a diagnosis, such as accomodations in school or benefits from insurance companies, are sufficient to justify gathering a set of behaviors together and calling them Autism/Aspergers/ASD? Is there an Autism threshold? Where does the spectrum change from the Autism spectrum to the NT spectrum, one end of which potentially adjoins the Autism spectrum?

 

Certainly, some people are easily identifiable even by neurotypical people as Autistic. Others are “passing” as neurotypical but are often recognized by others on the spectrum. Then, there are people who just seem to surprise others with their behavior, but who most NT people pass over as “weird,” rather than the lightbulb going on that says, “autistic.”

 

As Amanda Baggs said *link is to Google cache because her site is down temporarily,* “We’re (Autistic people are) the person who everyone calls “retarded” who suddenly comes out with things that seem very intelligent, and the person everyone calls a “genius” who can’t do some really simple stuff.”

 

But then you have the NT people who do Autistic-like things, but who are never given an autism-spectrum label. For example, stimming. I’ve heard in various places that 10%, 25%, half, or nearly all NTs stim to some degree, but that NT stims just happen to be more socially acceptable. I found an NT blogger with an Aspie partner who puts it well: “NT stims tend to increase with greater anxiety, discomfort, or boredom. Though most are ‘socially acceptable’ in their style, they can become socially unacceptable if done to excess, because they are distracting and signal discomfort.” NT stims include tapping, leg bobbing, chair rocking, hair twirling, zit popping, head scratching, shifting weight side to side… all sorts of things that NTs see as normal, and which are normal, but the jump is rarely made from “My neurotypical stims are normal,” to, “Autistic stims are normal; they’re more obvious, and sometimes self-injurious, but they’re normal.”

 

I also think that NT stimming differs from Autistic stimming largely in that NTs are more able to inhibit stims– some of the typical Autie stims like rocking or hand flapping are just as appealing to small NT children as small Autistic children, but NTs develop a greater capacity for identifying situations in which these stims won’t be perceived as acceptable. For example, an NT person who stims by staring at fan blades might do so while waiting for an entree at a restaurant by herself, but not during a business meeting with 20 corporate suits. A stim that’s rarely, if ever, socially acceptable might be suppressed entirely: For example, headbanging. Or, an NT person who likes to headbang might channel it into doing so at concerts where that behavior is expected.

 

Another behavior typically associated with autism, but frequently seen in NTs, is avoidance of eye contact. Many NTs avoid eye contact but don’t associate that avoidance with the autism spectrum. “I’m shy,” or, “I just don’t like to make eye contact with people I don’t know well,” are frequently-used explanations for the avoidance of eye contact by an NT. I think Shiva perceived me as autistic from my photos because I avoid “eye contact” with cameras instinctively unless I’m thinking very consciously about looking right into the camera lens. That results in my looking down in a lot of my photos, or looking up in some– usually, the weirdest photos of me are the ones where someone said “Chin up!” and I tipped my chin up, but my eyes followed it up, and I end up looking over the camera. When a person looks at a photo of another person, the viewer’s eyes are in the place of the camera lens, and one perceives a photo of someone looking away from the lens as a photo of a person avoiding eye contact with the viewer.

 

My posture and positioning in photographs may also appear autistic; however, I’m not familiar enough with the body movements typical of autism/Aspergers/ASD to explain that one. I do trend away from posing facing my body straight toward the camera for photographs, but I think that has more to do with a long history of hearing about my thighs and hips being larger than average than anything. You can see from my photos that I’m of average weight, but I have a pear-shaped figure like my mother’s, and “affectionate” (read: needling) comments from my father about her legs and behind affected my own perception of my body shape. Then there’s the acting classes– “Hollywood stars stand at a thirty degree angle for red carpet photographs, with one leg in front of the other, because that angle is slimming.”

 

So, back to my initial question– when is a collection of behaviors associated with Autism sufficient to warrant a label or diagnosis? My initial impulse is to say, “When those behaviors impair the person’s ability to participate in NT-dominated society,” but that’s pretty subjective also. I don’t think I should have a diagnosis– I think I’m just one of many neurotypicals who don’t suppress Autism-like behaviors as readily as most, and that my bookwormness has sort of a chicken and the egg relationship with my social awkwardness. But have I benefited from the Autie/Aspie/ASD blogosphere and community? Sure. So, maybe someone who isn’t impaired significantly could still benefit from being assigned a label if it comes with encouragement to explore that community and culture. So, maybe, “When that person finds a sense of community and acceptance among autistics/aspies that they do not feel in communities of neurotypicals.”

 

It’s not an easy line to draw, and I wonder if perhaps the difficulty of making that determination is responsible for the enormous numbers of self-diagnosed Aspies roaming the internet, who identify as Aspies but haven’t ever seen any type of professional to confirm that label. I don’t know that professionals are really more qualified to diagnose Asperger’s Syndrome than other Aspies, since the Aspie-dar some people have (like Shiva) is sensitive enough to detect commonality even in people who identify as NT but who fall slightly closer to Aspergers/Autism than average for NTs.

 

Stigma comes with a diagnosis, but so does self-awareness and the availability of community support and community-based learning. So, where’s the line? When should a parent refer hir child for a possible autism-spectrum label? When should an adult self-label or see a professional to talk about the possibility of an autism-spectrum diagnosis?

 

Here’s a rough, graphical representation of how I see the Autism spectrum, the NT spectrum, the connection between the two, and me. I realize this is most certainly flawed and may well reveal some of my own unconscious biases, but I’d appreciate if others would share their thoughts on how they perceive the differences and similarities between self-identifying NTs and self-identifying Autie/Aspie/ASD people.

 

Please click to access the full image; wordpress cuts it off and shrinking it loses the text.

Autie/NT spectrum and the bell curve of neurodiversity; visual description below.

Autie/NT spectrum and the bell curve of neurodiversity; visual description below.

 

Visual Description: A red line representing the Autistic spectrum connects to a blue line representing the neurotypical spectrum. Below, a purple line draws a rough bell curve showing the most people toward the center of the NT spectrum. An X representing me is about one-fifth of the way toward the right on the NT spectrum. Toward the far right is “very social and extroverted, no autism-like traits” and to the far left on the Autistic spectrum is “Autism affecting mental age and social interaction, LFA label, most or all traits associated with autism.”

 

The Drama Llama Rears its Ugly Head July 11, 2008

Filed under: rants — saydrah @ 2:36 pm
Tags: , ,
Drama Llama followed me home? Uh-oh!

Drama Llama followed me home? Uh-oh!

 

It seems that the Drama Llama has decided to pay me a visit. I did not invite this houseguest, nor did I give it permission to spit on my couch cushions and eat all my bagged salad. Nonetheless, it seems to have made itself very comfortable, so I suppose I had best just work around it for the time being.

 

I belong to a small group that was, in years past, a successful club made up of people whose views were aligned fairly similarly and who worked together well. From what I’m told, I came on board as those years were coming to an end. For the past year or so, the club has been successful but plagued by disagreements; in the last couple of days, it seems to have fallen apart completely. The two members remaining from the group that founded the club have resigned their board positions. I think I will resign my own board position, too, and go back to participating informally in this particular hobby until and unless another club forms that resembles the way this club was in its first years.

 

It’s always sad when drama causes the end of a good thing. I often get to see, through my job and volunteer work, people at their best. I meet people who are active and involved in their community, advocating for issues that matter to them. I meet people who save abused animals and rehabilitate them. That just makes it more shocking when I see people at their worst. Like the person I thought I knew who sent an email to a woman who has been dealing with a major family crisis telling her, “Don’t expect any respect from me.” Or the person who I considered a friend who was contacting my other friends in the club and telling them not to trust me and that I have no moral fiber.

 

I hate it when things fall apart like this. It’s bad enough that all good things have to come to an end eventually, but do they have to leave so many hard feelings behind when they do? I had a feeling the club’s days were numbered, but I wish I could have taken most of my friendships away from it, not just the few that have survived the sudden explosion.

 

Drama Llama, please go away soon!

 

ADAPT March Followup– pics, video, and a media rant. July 9, 2008

Adapt Gathering in Civic Center Park
Adapt Gathering in Civic Center Park

 

 I promised you pictures and video from ADAPT’s march commemorating the Gang of 19’s bus sit-ins in Denver, and there’s one– but before I share others, I need to rant. See how, if you look closely at the above picture, the silver building says “The Denver Post?” You know, the building right behind the park where the ADAPT group is gathering, with many windows overlooking the park? Now, notice the large group of wheelchair users, and you’ll see from other pictures that there were around 50 people listening to someone speak over a loudspeaker system in front of an enormous ADAPT banner.

 

Now, would you think that someone from the Denver Post might, perhaps, notice this scene unfolding, and come write a story? I know ADAPT sent a press release around (I got a press release myself, so I’d imagine the Post did). I know the park is visible from those windows. I know, as a writer, I would welcome a group of people wanting to make my job easier by holding a story-worthy event right outside my office window.

 

So why the hell was I the only member of the media present?!

I’ll be writing a letter to the Editor of the Denver Post to this effect. It’s really frustrating to see things like this happen, then open the newspaper and find, on any given day, at least one example of bad disability journalism full of “inspires” and “despites.”

 

Anyway, on to the positive stuff: Photos and video from ADAPT’s fabulous event. First, my favorite video from the day:

 

Visual Description: The video shows a procession marching along the sidewalk. Many participants are using wheelchairs. Others walk, with or without assistive devices, and some users of manual wheelchairs are being pushed by able-bodied people. At the end of the video, a little boy runs toward the camera to catch up with the march.

 

And some more pictures (plus a bigger version of the first one), with descriptions:

Click each thumbnail for a larger image and a description of the photo.

 

Again, I had a great time– and congrats to ADAPT on 30 years of Denver activism!

 

Technical Difficulties July 2, 2008

Filed under: Animals,disability,humor,rants,work stuff — saydrah @ 4:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Working in online media is never boring. Sometimes confusing, often hectic, but never boring. I really, genuinely, love my job. However, a few technical errors can really make your day more difficult. Recent conversation (names changed to protect the guilty):

 

IT: “Saydrah….”

 

Me: “What?”

 

It: “Can you do us a favor?”

 

Me: “Did I break the website again?”

 

IT: “No, but maybe you could fix the website.” (Instructs me to perform a very simple task using my Disaboom account)

 

Me: “Um… I can’t access My Disaboom.”

 

IT: “Use Control Panel.”

 

Me: “Control Panel gives me an error.”

 

IT: (much harrumphing, some pacing)

 

Time passes.

 

IT: “Saydrah, could you show Cool CoWorker how to delete her photo gallery from the website?”

 

Me: “Sure.”

 

Other IT: “You know, she might need to be able to access My Disaboom for that.”

 

IT: (rinse and repeat harrumphing and pacing)

 

Me: *le sigh*

 

This is a fairly accurate summary of most of my day. See: Why I am blogging on WordPress, rather than working.

 

However, I think I have discovered what IT is really doing at work! (Link goes to a hilarious 10 minute video. Sorry, not captioned, and there seems to be no way I can find to rip it and put it on one of the free sites that lets you caption. So, for a summary, scroll down to the end of this post.)

 

So, yeah, now I need to think of something to fill up the next couple paragraphs, so folks who don’t want to see the plot summary have time to avert their eyes. Some random thoughts:

 

I have a feeling Nutro dog food will experience another recall soon. Have heard some murmurings from friends who work for the company. If you feed that brand, be cautious. Blue Buffalo and Canidae are both good brands to switch to in advance of a recall, if you’re worried.

 

Jerry Lewis does NOT deserve any Congressional Gold Medals. However, I suppose medals have been given in the past to people even more despicable. Not that this is any sort of an excuse. Merely an observation.

 

God I hope Barack pulls his head out of his rear and votes against FISA if telcom immunity isn’t stripped from the bill… I’ll vote for him regardless, but I am seriously considering reducing my consumption of cool photoshopped Obama pictures! I may even retract my assertion that Michelle deserves to become the next First Lady Fashion Icon (a la Jackie O.)

 

I wish the clouds would decide whether or not to deposit rain on my lawn, so that I can decide whether or not to water.

 

There’s a parade commemorating the 30th Anniversary of ADAPT’s bus blockades in Denver this weekend. I’m hoping I can go. If I do, I’ll take a camera and post photos here.

 

Okay, is that enough space?

 

Video Summary:

 

An IT professional is playing Halo online instead of working. Zhe (the voice could be female or male) receives a phone call from someone saying that “the website is down.” IT professional checks the website. It is not down. Zhe questions the annoyed caller and discovers that the website isn’t down; the caller’s internet connection is down. The caller demands that the server be rebooted anyway. IT professional instructs someone else to reboot the server and goes back to playing Halo.

 

Another call comes in, from a different person, whose website actually IS down. IT person, tabbing back and forth between Halo and investigating the problem, discovers that the server has been rebooted improperly. IT person calls back the first caller and tells them that the server now won’t come up because the first caller made the IT person reset it the wrong way.

 

IT person calls a third person, who apparently is the person who actually physically rebooted the server. IT person uses remote desktop to access the third person– Chip’s– computer, where zhe discovers an… interesting arrangement of icons. She fixes it, Chip demands that she change it back because now he can’t find his icons, and finally she ends up changing his background to a screenshot of the icons in their unique arrangement. Which, of course means Chip can’t click anything, but he is happy so long as he has what he thinks is the right arrangement back.

 

IT person proceeds to fix the server, and goes back to playing Halo.

 

I think this summary includes all relevant audio.

 

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

Filed under: disabilism,disability,rants — saydrah @ 12:17 am
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

 

However.

 

(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.”

 

????

 

Huh?

 

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?”