Autism: It’s My Identity, Not My Issue

I was watching the movie “Milk” the other night; about the social justice activist and politician named Harvey Milk who was murdered by a man who claimed junk food made him do it. At one point in the movie Harvey tells the man who eventually kills him that the things he fights for aren’t “issues”: They are his life.

It got me thinking about my social media presence. Spending as much time as I do calling out authors or publishers might seem like it is undermining my intention of one day being a published writer. I could be seen as a trouble-maker; as a person who doesn’t support other writers or the industry. That’s a dangerous thing to be labelled, especially before you’ve even acquired an agent. There are days the fear of this makes me think I should erase my Twitter account and start over.

Here’s the thing: Autism is my identity. It isn’t a cause I’ve taken up or an issue I am passionate about. It’s my life. Ultimately, I wouldn’t want an agent or a publisher who didn’t understand this. I saw an agent put up a post that basically said there’s nothing more off-putting than a writer who says they’ll take any agent they can get. I’ve almost gotten to that point, but I haven’t become so desperate I’d be willing to take an agent who would reject me for speaking about things that directly harm autistic people.




I wrote this at the request of my students, but then had someone reject it for the intended purpose. The reason they gave the students was, “…in our culture, we don’t believe in stealing from the dead…” (Private)

I think you will find that the person obviously missed the point. Still, I’m finding myself feeling a little sensitive about the issue at the moment. I thought I’d share it with all of you and see if that makes me feel better. 

My grandfather was a man who kept his secrets close. He participated in Legion activities and never failed to attend a Remembrance Day service, but he never talked about his experiences with us. It wasn’t until after he had his first stroke that this began to change.

One day my brother was digging through the china cabinet and found a wooden box filled with pocket watches. He asked my grandfather where they all came from. My grandfather’s face slumped as he told my brother his secret shame; that he’d taken them off of the bodies of civilians they came across as they moved across the war-ravaged countryside. 

He explained that for a very long time he’d resisted the urge to take things, as he witnessed others doing. It was easy to tell that revealing the actions of those he served with was just as troubling to him as talking about his own guilt. My grandfather told my brother the reason he started taking watches is he’d found a diamond ring on one woman, and had told himself to leave it in case someone she loved found her, only to witness another soldier take it. Since it was going to happen anyway, my grandpa thought he might as well benefit.

Even in the midst of putting his life on the line for love of country and strangers, my grandfather had done something that filled him with shame. We don’t always make the right choices in life. This doesn’t necessarily damn us as bad people, so long as we learn from our mistakes moving forward.


So what do you all think? Does that sound like I’m breaking a cultural taboo by promoting theft from the dead?

Lowered Expectations

My life has been busy the last couple months; what with moving, starting a new job, and working hard not to get overwhelmed by it all. For a person firmly “on the spectrum”, this many life changes should send me spinning.

It isn’t as if I don’t have moments of mind-bending spirals that leave me shaking with anxiety. Something seems to have changed. For the first time in years, I feel like the mistakes I’m making as a teacher are small in comparison to the ways I’m succeeding. Rather than taking responsibility for things in my students lives or educational history that are beyond my ability to control, I’m learning to focus on those things my actions might be able to effect.

My goal as an educator is to set high, but achievable, expectations. When they fail to meet my expectations, I have to ask myself a series of questions:

  • Are the students who are on time and present in school every day the ones who are struggling?
  • Are the only students really struggling with a concept/task the ones who are chronically late and absent?

I have found there are students who believe my function as a teacher is to distribute pieces of paper with instructions. I have told them that I give lessons, which are not all recorded on paper. If they could get just as much from a piece of paper as they get from me, why would I need to be there?

If students who have consistent attendance are struggling, I have to assume my lesson and the supporting materials have been inadequate to help the students reach the objective. If the only students who are struggling are the ones with inconsistent attendance, I might be safe assuming their behavior is the problem.

In the past, if I came to the conclusion I was the problem, I would have panicked. It would have seemed like the end of the world. Now I have confidence that the bulk of what I do has been effective, so that the few mistakes can be rectified relatively painlessly.

My students wrote a test today and it quickly became obvious I had attributed skills to them that I take for granted. At the same time, I observed that a few students were still able to complete the tasks. Upon further consideration, I noticed a few of the students did not complete portions of the tasks they should have been able able to, regardless of their challenges with other portions. This made me think there might be an element of laziness contributing to the problem. Perhaps they have become used to lowered expectations. If that was the case, lowering expectations would be a poor reaction.

In the end, I decided to create a make-up assignment that focused on the skills they seemed to struggle with. The make-up assignment will be homework. If it turns out laziness was the issue, that attitude will carry over into their willingness to do homework, and they’ll end up keeping the mark they earned.

Working all of this out before walking out of the school doors was a key reason I didn’t spend this whole evening freaking out over the thought that I had pushed them too far. A few years ago, I would have spent the whole weekend beating myself up, and wasted a great deal of time trying to make up for it on Monday morning.


Glorifying Autism

Keep Your Cures

Writing my second novel has been challenging. In fact, getting to the point where I was ready to consider writing this story has been a long journey. My work in progress is about an autistic family. Put away your torches and pitchforks. I’m not talking about families who insist on defining their collective identities based on their autistic child/sibling. Almost every member of the family in my story are autistic.

What qualifies me to write such a novel? This is a serious question. The market is flooded with stories written by autism adjacent authors. Social media is full of parents shouting at people like me, accusing us of stealing focus from their children.

I am autistic. My dad is autistic. My grandfather was autistic. My aunt and two uncles were/are autistic. I have autistic cousins, nieces/nephews, and siblings. With all this family and personal experience, I was still terrified of speaking someone else’s truth, and not doing it justice.

Do I think I can write a story that encompasses all autistic experiences? Of course not…. But it’s taken a long time to overcome the mental barrier created by the idea any story with autistic representation needs to encompass the entirety of autistic life experiences.

The hardest part about convincing myself I’m allowed to write this story has been weighing what I want to say against the overwhelmingly negative representation of autism in the media. Can I write something that’s honest, without adding to this negativity? If I avoid portraying anything challenging in the lives of these characters, would the story be a shell of what it should be? If I focus on triumphs, will I be accused of glorifying autism?

If you don’t believe these concerns are founded, type “Glorifying Autism” into Twitter’s search function. It is disturbing. For some people, the only acceptable narrative is that autism is scary. These people refuse to accept any story about autism that isn’t founded on the idea autism is a tragedy and burden.

Having reached the point of being ready to write this book, the process is turning out to be extraordinarily difficult. I keep thinking I’m not being honest enough, but it is my characters who aren’t cooperating. They resist exposure at every turn. I can’t blame them. People have accused me of glossing over my struggles by focusing on the positive aspects of my life. I’m not obligated to convince people I’m qualified to write about autism by spilling out stories of my hardest days. This prejudiced, ableist world is the same one where I have to find a way to make a living and raise my children.

In order to write this story, I will have to force my characters to do what I avoid. They will have to expose insecurities hidden in the darkest corners of their minds. Since the book will not be devoted to a narrative of the tragic lives of a family cursed with autism, I’ll probably still be accused of glorifying autism. If this qualifies as glorifying autism, let the pride flags fly, because I’m all for it.

I Abused Children And SO DO YOU: A Response To An ABA Apologist

There’s so much to say about this. When she cited the woman saying she looked at her child’s diagnosis as the baseline of progress, I understood the degree to which the woman’s opinion of her children has been damaged by deficit based diagnosis. If I believed my diagnosis the way it was written, there’s a good chance I might have killed myself.

Diary Of A Birdmad girl

This was written in response to this article which was written in response to my first article:

You can read my first article here:

*CW: ABA/Autistic Conversion Therapy, abuse, torture (including graphic images and video of), mention of “awareness,” “recovery,” Autism Speaks, filicide, and links to all of this and other material that many people may find triggering. Please proceed with caution…

*CN: This is a very long read so settle in for a while (or save for later)…

Dear Condescending ‘Autism Mom,’

I’m assuming that’s what you call yourself since your views seem to be right in line with those who prefer that title. I also think it’s fair to make assumptions since you’ve made plenty about me.

Still, I wanted to sincerely thank you for writing your article, “True ABA Therapy Is Not Abuse: A Response.” You see, despite the fact that my article contained language…

View original post 8,409 more words

Capaldi: The Doctor We Needed, But Not the One Everyone Wanted


Adjustments must be made in the minds of viewers with each new Doctor and companion. Tonight we get the thrill of being introduced to Bill, which comes along with the work of understanding what makes her tick. Personally, I have been holding out hope she’s a transgender character. I doubt that’s the case.

All Doctor Who fans remember their first Doctor. For me, it was Christopher Eccleston. I’m not English and didn’t realize his casting was somewhat controversial; not that I would have understood a northern accent could be the subject of snobbery. My grandmother was a Yorkshire girl, before she married a Canadian soldier during the war, so it’s the kind of accent I am used to hearing.

Christopher Eccleston drew me into the Whoniverse, but it was David Tennant who made me fall in love. I grieved at the loss of his Doctor. Making room for Matt Smith was a bittersweet tragedy. Despite the feelings of loss, I fell in love with Matt Smith’s Doctor at first sight.

Then came Peter Capaldi.

I bet you think I’m going to go on a Capaldi hater spree. Nope, that’s not going to happen. The cadence of his speech was a huge adjustment for my Canadian ears, but his character speaks to me on a deep level. While I haven’t watched every version of the Doctor, I did take time to watch the original. His arrogance was infuriating and made him difficult to appreciate, yet William Hartnell somehow brings the audience around to a place of grudging acceptance. Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith only reveal the Hartnell at their core in their darkest moments; Tennant more than the other two.

With Capaldi, Hartnell’s Doctor is always near the surface. He lurks in the shadows of his face, and in his reactions. The brilliant thing is that all the other versions are right there as well. Capaldi doesn’t exactly seem to bring a brand new personality to the mix. I know many of you would dispute this idea hotly, so let me explain. More than any other Doctor I’ve seen up to this point, Capaldi makes you remember how many men dwell inside of him. He’s lightness and dark, soldier and pragmatic abstainer, bold and insecure, man and child.

What he’s not is a romantic distraction from the deeper questions; at least when it comes to anyone except River Song. While Peter Capaldi is very attractive, he’s an older man. For a large segment of the audience, this fact strips him of the potential to be a romantic lead. His Doctor seems unable to distinguish between male and female, and comes off as supremely uninterested in any sexuality. This detracts even more from the temptation to ship. He’s also a widower. Capaldi’s Doctor still wears his wedding ring, constantly reminding us of River Song; who is both long dead and alive.

The things that remove our temptation to ship Capaldi with every female around him allow us to focus on bigger questions. “Am I a good man,” is chief among them.

In recent episodes with Maisie Williams, we’re given an unromantic view of what eternity would really look like. Unlike the Twilight version of immortality, where everyone seems to improve with age, we’re reminded what it would be like to watch everyone you love blow away like dust in the wind. With this reminder, you can’t help loving the Doctor even more, despite the fact that he often makes flawed choices. The decisions he makes still come from a place of compassion. His character arch has spanned over fifty years, and started with him being arrogant and indifferent. Over many lifetimes, he’s actually managed to become a better man, rather than becoming hard and bitter. He might not see his own goodness, but we do.



Evie and the Expulsion from Jarden


There will be SPOILERS for Season two, episode 9 of The LeftoversYou’ve been warned. 

Meg has been on a fascinating journey. Until Ten-Thirteen, my assumption was that Meg’s issues stemmed from her mother passing away on October 13, the day before the mass departure. Suddenly her pain was overshadowed by loss on an unfathomable scale. It would be like a New York city resident having a parent pass away the day before 9/11. Would anyone have time for such a typical loss after that tragic event?

Ten-Thirteen gives us new insight into Meg’s mindset. When we witness her go to the washroom twice to snort cocaine during a brunch with her mother, we know she already is struggling. She seems cold and disconnected; her smile anything but genuine. She barely reacts when she comes back from the bathroom to find her mother dead. It’s hard to tell if that’s because of shock, being high, or some deeper level of emotional disconnection.

Meg takes a trip to Jarden, a place that seems to have been spared the departure. She goes to see a man named Issac, seeking insight into what her mother’s last words might have been. She becomes angry at his answer; probably that people don’t prepare profound last words if they don’t know they’re about to die. She’s been hoping her mother’s words, which she cut off by going to the bathroom to get high, might have given her a way to make sense of the loss she feels. Isaac warned her she wouldn’t find what she was looking for if he told her, but she asked for them despite his warning.

It’s always been unclear exactly what Meg is capable of doing. When she throws a grenade into a school bus full of children and bars the doors, the audience isn’t sure if it’s a fake intended to terrify. That action turned out to be a perverse play, but other things she’s done have been grotesquely violent. She kidnaps Tommy, has him beaten, ties him up, and rapes him. She lets him go after all of that, unlike the boy she has stoned to death for nothing more than seeing something he shouldn’t have in a barn.

When Meg shows up outside the gates of Jarden, we fear what might have brought her there. Matt confronts her. She tells him the people of Jarden were spared, as if that is an offense against the rest of the world. She tells Matt the people waiting outside the gates of Jarden aren’t looking for safety inside. They could get in any time they want, if that’s really what they wanted. They’re waiting for someone like her; someone to teach the people of Jarden about loss, and help them understand there’s no such thing as a safe space.

My sister’s phone kept autocorrecting Jarden as Garden, highlighting the metaphor. Evie is a girl from Jarden that has gone missing. By this episode, we know she’s with Meg’s group. She was what the boy saw in the barn; the reason he was stoned to death. If we follow through with the metaphor, Evie is Eve from the Garden of Eden. Her destiny becomes bringing damning knowledge to the people of Jarden that will result in them being expelled.


My Eyes Aren’t Mirrors

image1 (8) (2)


It’s starting to feel like another day, another article or media piece to be frustrated with. Maybe this is a sign of my increasing awareness, and unwillingness to let things slide. Awhile back I read a piece in The New Yorker called Seeing The Spectrum: A New History of Autism by Steven Shapin.

The art is the first thing I would like to comment upon. I interpreted the picture as a depiction of a whole community of adults in the process of constructing a child. It might be an artistic depiction of the concept that a whole community is required to raise a child. That’s not the first thought that popped into my head.

“Look at all these adults fixing this broken child,” was my first (sarcastic) thought. Maybe that comes from a cynical place.

The article starts out by pointing out how the world is an unpredictable place, and normal people just deal with it.

Sure they do.

Moving on, the author throws in an example of how someone might accidentally buy their boxers at J.C. Penney instead of Kmart. This is a clear reference to the film called Rain Man. He goes on to specifically reference this movie as a cultural tipping point in understanding autism. The movie is based on a real person who was named Kim Peek, who wasn’t autistic, although inspiration was also taken from another man who was.

The article goes on to say the world has always been this way; there have been people who deal with changes and those who impose order, but autism hasn’t always existed. The author means that autism was only identified relatively recently.

When a tree falls in the forest, and nobody’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a doctor hasn’t diagnosed you, does that make you less autistic? According to all the people who attack self-identified autistic people in online communities, I’m thinking they believe a person is only autistic if a doctor says they are. What a pile of crap.

My cousin was diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and depression. This is despite ALL of her siblings being autistic. The doctor told her that she cared about other people and what they think of her, so she couldn’t be autistic. This was in the last five years! If doctors are making diagnoses based on stereotypes, I’m more than willing to accept that a person might understand themselves better than the doctor. I’m not about to argue their assessment of themselves as autistic. The author warns against posthumously diagnosing famous people in history, and he has a point. I do it all the time, but it’s speculation rather than fact.

The part of this article that has many autistic people upset is as follows:

For parents of autistic kids, awareness is desperately important. It’s a 

searing experience to have a child who doesn’t talk, who doesn’t want 

to be touched, who self-harms, who demands a regularity and order that 

parents can’t supply, whose eyes are not windows to their souls but black mirrors.

Public recognition is vital, both for its own sake and as a means to mobilize 

resources for care, support, and a possible cure. 

My eyes are not mirrors. If they were, they’d reflect back the ableism of this statement. I don’t lack a soul. Furthermore, I wouldn’t choose to be cured if that was an option. In my opinion, the focus needs to be on finding ways to relieve aspects of autism that make living in the community difficult. Autism Speaks spends most of their money finding ways to test for autism in-vitro. If this is successful, it will lead to many fear-based abortions. They also spend a lot of money on curing autism, with the primary focus on wiping out the genome.

OUR SOCIETY NEEDS AUTISTIC PEOPLE! I’ve said it many times, in many blog posts, and I’m not going to stop saying it.

The author goes on to discuss brave parents who refused to institutionalize their children, and insisted on treatment options, changing the view of autism. It might be true, but it leaves out autistic people.

He discusses Applied Behavior Analysis as if it’s a thing of the past. I wish it were. I understand the approach doesn’t use cattle prods anymore, so I feel like I need to explain my reluctance to embrace it. This is especially true since Mr. Shapin  said that high-functional autistic people like myself are picking on the parents of severely autistic children by saying that we shouldn’t try to treat autism. (italics are his words, because I HATE functional labeling)  I’ve never said anything like this. I want people to have relief from symptoms that impact their daily living, without destroying autism.

I watch a show on CBS called Scorpion. To my dismay, I’ve watched it become increasingly ableist. I wince whenever Paige delivers lines to Walter like, “You’re becoming more human.” She’s saying he was less than human before that point, and she the one who gets to judge his humanity. This is what autistic people face all the time with behavioral modification approaches.

In one episode of Scorpion, Walter acts out a piece of Romeo and Juliet. Paige asks him why he doesn’t act all the time. What she means is she can’t understand why he doesn’t put on this show every time he has to deal with people. It’s exhausting and shouldn’t be necessary. Why should autistic people expend so much energy trying to accomplish trivial things? Why can’t neurotypical people just accept our stimming, if it isn’t causing us harm? Steven Shapin took the time to explain how great neurotypical people are at adapting. Put those skills to to work by adapting to the idea that we aren’t the same as you and we aren’t going to pretend to be, just to make you more comfortable.


No One Laughs At God

No Room At the Inn

This post contains SPOILERS for Season Two, The Leftovers

No one laughs at God in a hospital

No one laughs at God in a war

No one’s laughing at God 

When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

Laughing With, Regina Spektor’s song, is the perfect highlight to The Leftovers episode, No Room At The Inn

No Room At The Inn explores one man’s struggle to keep faith in a world that’s shifted beneath him. Faith is something that has fled the grasp of most people in this new world. People are desperately searching for new things to guide their life, now their former beliefs have stopped making sense.

Matt Jamison is a minister to an empty church. He is mocked and physically attacked on a regular basis. Through all this, the audience are led to believe he’s a good person at his core; until his catatonic wife becomes pregnant. We are forced to face the possibility Matt might have raped her, despite his memory of a day where she miraculously woke from her catatonia. We must consider he made up the memory to justify a repugnant action.

Mary and Matt Jamison had been trying for a long time to become pregnant, before the accident. Matt is sure Mary woke up long enough to become pregnant by miracle, and will wake again before the child is born. The people closest to him seem to have doubts; as they’ve come to doubt most things in life since the departure. It’s disturbing to see on their faces that they think he might have had sex with her while she’s unable to consent, while simultaneously seeing a lack of willingness to judge him for the action. It is a reflection of a society that teaches us to think of a person in Mary’s condition as a little less than human. When Matt can’t get back into Jarden, the people who originally sponsored him don’t come to his rescue; a passive aggressive condemnation, but the only one he receives apart from questions at the medical clinic.


Matt’s sister Nora has a neighbor named John Murphy, who’s mission to prove miracles don’t happen, provides a juxtaposition for Matt. Jarden has renamed itself Miracle, because of the belief they were spared from the departure. People believe the water has mystical powers, and residence in the town will protect a person from future departure events. If Matt is proved a rapist by the end of the episode, John’s position that miracles don’t exist becomes more credible. That doesn’t happen.

Matt has to betray some of his core value in order to get Mary back into Jarden; on the belief she will lose the baby if he doesn’t. Nora saves Matt out of loyalty to her brother and sister-in-law. Matt chooses to she her as an instrument of God’s will. A freak accident kills the man who stole Matt and Mary’s wristbands that would have allowed them reentry into Jarden. It’s possible Matt might see this as God’s punishment, if not for the child left without a parent in the accident. He decides God wants him to take care of this child, in order to repent for beating a man with a boat oar earlier in the evening, while he was trying to get his wife back into Jarden. He is standing in judgement of himself, as proxy to God.

Is Matt only repenting for the beating he gave that man earlier in the evening?


Does Matt know Mary’s revival was a lie? Does he really believe it happened?

Did it actually happen?

Faith is personal. Our attempts to explain our faith to other people often ends in mockery and disbelief. With this in mind, it seems appropriate we aren’t brought any closer to a definitive answer to these questions by the end of the episode.

This last line of Laughing With is, “We’re all laughing with God”. 

This is an appropriate sentiment to end on, for an episode that doesn’t bring us any answers to the many questions of faith it evokes. In the circumstances presented in this episode, laughter wouldn’t be the result of happiness. What’s there to be happy about? Bitter recognition of irony would cause laughter in the face of tragedy. The song reminds us the world these characters are occupying is an ongoing tragedy. In such a world, compassion and empathy compel us to set aside skepticism in favor of mutually respecting the things that give people comfort.