November 23, 2015

The Emergency Chat App

The Emergency Chat app was created by an Autistic computer science student and it's seriously the best thing since sliced bread.

It's useful for any time you would prefer to use written communication over verbal. Open the app and a screen with a message you have customized appears. You can hand your phone to someone to have them read the message. Once they read it, they press "continue" and an internal chat applet opens up. Passing the phone back and forth you can chat within it.

You can find it on Facebook here:

It's available for free for Android and iOS!

Here's a screenshot of the text I wrote for my version:
screenshot of splash screen of Emergency Chat App message explaining I'm having a panic attack

You can customize it for any time you may be non-verbal - asthma, allergy attacks, seizures, anxiety - whatever your needs are. 

October 23, 2015

Not All Opinions Are Equal

In another form of tone policing lives the statement: we all need to come together, get along, and all opinions should be respected.

Actually no. All opinions do not need to be respected. Not all opinions are equal.

You might have the opinion that killing kittens on the weekend is totally acceptable. I am under absolutely no obligation to respect your opinion. Just as much as you have a right to kill kittens, I have a right to tell you I think you're wrong. I am under no obligation to "get along" with you just because we also both happen to like the colour red. I am under no obligation to respect the fact you do it in the privacy of your home. All I can do, is report it to law officials and let them decide, but other than that, I don't need to respect your actions.

Similarly, some opinions are just wrong. I do not have to respect opinions that don't make any scientific sense. I don't have to respect people who shove bleach up their kid's ass because they think it will cure autism. Actually, I think that's child abuse, so no, I will not respect that.

I'm not really sure where this idea of "respecting" opinions comes from. I can agree to disagree with you and move on, but I have no need or desire to respect you or your opinions. Of course, you are free to do the same with me.

When we're talking about a divided community, no, I will not unite with people I can't respect. Especially ones who do harm. I, quite frankly, don't want you on my team or trying to represent me. Because you don't. We have about as much in common as a snail and a car transmission.

When it comes to the autism community, the ones who get the biggest share of the voice pie are actually Autistic people. Then come allies. I don't have to listen to the input of allies, but allies should for sure listen to mine. It's not fair, you say? Well, life isn't fair, is it? I get to be in charge of my story and that narrative, and if you want to help, the best thing you can do is to listen and repeat it. That's it! Your job is complete!

You don't get to change the story or tell me to edit my tone or delivery of it. You also don't get to blame me for dividing the community because you hear something you don't like. Either you're an ally, you're or not. If you no longer agree with the story, you don't have to keep reading it or repeating it. And none of that is my fault. You're in charge of what you do and I'm in charge of what I do.

The autism community is not divided, you just don't happen to agree with some parts of it, but the vast majority of us agree on the major points and either you're with us, or you're not. 

October 19, 2015

Nice People Don't Deserve to be Called Out and Other Myths

I'm not sure if this qualifies as tone policing, but it tends to get trotted out shortly after the always popular and dismissive, "well, you're being too sensitive, so your opinion doesn't matter" part of an online discussion where I have pointed out something offensive that someone has said or posted.

The phrase is sometimes said by the person being called out, or by their friends and it's: "don't pick on me/them, I'm/they're a really good person! They didn't intend to offend and they have ______ friends/family members."

Louis C.K. quote from that says, "when a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't."

It's the old, "I can't be racist, I have a black friend" trope, mixed in with this bizarre idea that nice people can never mess up and accidentally offend anyone. Just like how a nice person could never accidentally get into a car crash because we all know, they didn't intend to! Sounds funny, doesn't it? That's because it makes no sense.

Even if, let's say, you are the nicest person in the world and you would never intend to hurt a fly - and even if, let's say, I'm really super amazingly sensitive, if I tell you I'm hurt/offended, the really super nice thing to do is sit with that fact for two seconds and rather than dismissing it. You can say such compassionate things, as: "I never thought of it that way" or "I hear what you're saying but I don't quite understand. Would you be able to explain more?" or even, "I see what you're saying, but I still disagree." That's what nice people do.

You don't need to call people over sensitive. You don't need to tell them they're too angry or loud or scary or stupid or ugly or wrong. You don't even always have to apologize, though a sincere one is welcome.

If I'm calling someone out, it has nothing to do with how nice a person you are. (Though how you handle it can say a lot about your character.) It doesn't matter if you're the Pope, when you say something bigoted, racist, homophobic, ableist, etc. you need to be told because it's not nice and most of the time, you're being called out because I thought more of you. I know you can do and be better and most of the time, you did it because you made a mistake.

We all have blind spots in our activism. We all have privileges we forget about or take for granted. I know if I goof up, I certainly want to be called out. Don't leave me in ignorance because you think I'm an otherwise nice person.

Also consider the amount of courage it may have taken for that person to tell you. Take a moment to honour that and stop defending how nice a person you think you are and how you are apparently exempt from causing harm.

As Maya Angelou said, "when you know better, you do better."

October 15, 2015

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

It seems a lot of things are commemorated in October. It is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, but October 15th is the actual date. If you visit the link, they encourage everyone to light a candle at 7pm and create a wave of light.

Four Pictos of women, three pink and one black with text that says, "1 in 4 is not just a statistic. It's me. Speak out about pregnancy loss. Found on
Four Pictos of women, three pink and one black with text that says, "1 in 4 is not just a statistic. It's me. Speak out about pregnancy loss. 

I think it can be a time to acknowledge the difficulties some people have. I think it's a good time to share our stories and say the names of our lost children out loud. So many people suffer in silence because they don't feel they are allowed to grieve and talk about it.

I've written many times here about miscarriage and I want people to keep talking so that they know they're not alone.

Not only should we let others know they are not alone, we need to change the dialogue about the value of women. There are so many ways to mother without giving birth. The ability to get pregnant has no bearing on your value as a person. Too often people blame themselves and say they are "broken," "not meant to be mothers," or "not womanly enough." That's simply not true.

We shouldn't be taught that motherhood defines our worth. When we get rid of that rhetoric, we can have more equality of the sexes, as well as more respect for the childfree.

When we allow our vision of what motherhood is to expand and see the many forms it can take, our children benefit as well.

So as we mourn our losses, let's see what we can do to lighten the burden for everyone:

1) Stop teaching young women that their worth is tied up in their ability to reproduce
2) Stop making judgement calls on the characters of those who choose to be childfree
3) Make space for everyone (women and men!) to grieve their pregnancy and infant losses freely

Share your stories. Say their names. You are not alone. 

We remember the babies born sleeping, those we carried but never held, those we held but could not take home, those who came home but could not stay.

October 06, 2015

What I Have Learned About Speaking Up and Out

I have been, at times, scared to speak up about certain things. I think a lot of people share this problem. Some of us, depending on the situation, may be more at ease commenting about certain topics more than others.

A dark grey megaphone picto with the words, "speak out!" in white on a light red watercolour background by
A dark grey megaphone picto with the words, "speak out!" in white on a light red watercolour background.

Sometimes on Facebook, I was scared of sharing some of my views, in case it offends family members who I rarely see or know very well. But over time, I started to let pieces out. I think also I've learnt that I don't have to disclose everything about myself in order to stand up for others. Standing up for homosexuals having equal rights doesn't make me a homosexual anymore than speaking out against routine circumcision means I have a penis. I think some of my initial hesitancy was because I didn't want people to think that perhaps I was some of the things I was standing up for. (Which, of course, was my issue to work through)

What I've also discovered, much to my delight, is how many people were already in my camp, but either could not or did not speak up. Of course, we all use social media for different reasons. I happen to be very political on mine, but I also share cute animal pictures. What I've come to understand is that even if people aren't necessarily posting and speaking out, they still carry those thoughts with them. For them, it is safer and easier to simply "like" or comment on something I said, rather than to say it themselves. I think this is ok, as everyone has their limits. There are times when the rallying of the troops is necessary and hopefully they will allow their voices to be heard, but it is still heartening to me to see those "likes" and comments and know I'm not alone.

I know I do it to let others know they're not alone. I do it to see who's in my camp, many of whom I didn't expect. I do it to share ideas. I do it for discussions and for others to keep me accountable. I do it for those who have no voice. I do it to keep learning. 

August 03, 2015

Where Am I Looking?

It's been established that Autistic people are not the best at eye contact, in general.

Of course, there are exceptions. It's not that we don't do it, it's often that we don't do it enough, or too much, or time it incorrectly.

I have an easier time looking at just one person talking to me. I prefer looking at brown over blue eyes. I prefer looking at female faces over male.

I learned, at a very young age, from reading about how investigators interrogate people, that you can look at the point just between two eyes and people believe you are looking into their eyes. It's a trick I use when I know I have to socially conform.

I'll admit, however, that if there is a group of two or more people talking, I really have no choice but to stare at the person talking, or not look at either. In meetings, I tend to want to close my eyes and concentrate on what is being said. I, of course don't, because I have yet to feel comfortable enough to close my eyes in a business meeting.

So if my eyes are open and I'm not looking at your eyes, or that point between them, where am I looking?

I look at mouths. A lot. So much so, that I'm a pretty good lip reader. I can tell you all about your teeth. Your lips. Your nose. Your ears. Your neck. And then I am forced to move my gaze up again because you noticed my eyes wandering and you think there's something on your face maybe?

Not everyone notices, but if you're the type that does, I have to think about what my eyes are doing, so I don't really listen to you. Sorry, but it's the truth. I hear you, but I can't listen properly.

If you have a shiny necklace, my apologies, but I am wondering about the material and make. I will try to guess the brand, the gems and the karats. I will identify the cut and style.

Like I said, if you are female, you are in better luck, as I am most likely looking somewhere around your face. If you are male, it's easier to avoid your gaze because most men don't seem to care as much about where my eyes are going. I tend to look at shoulders, arms and hands on men.

Unfortunately, according to body language specialists, looking at a man's mouth/lips makes him think you want to kiss him. Add to the fact that I'm most likely looking at his arms - he may get the impression I am checking him out or into him. Even worse, I have a thing for pinstripe (on men, women, mannequins, it doesn't matter) so if he's sitting, I am looking at his pants and he believes I am looking at something else....

All this to say, I'm good at isolated parts of people and not always looking at the whole person. If you are in a different context next time I meet you (in the caf instead of a meeting room), I won't immediately recognize you. If you are wearing sunglasses, I probably won't recognize you. Dyed your hair? I either won't notice right away or won't recognize you. But I would sooner recognize your voice, or a mention of where we met ("the numbers from Monday's meeting were thrilling, weren't they?") and I will jump back to the situation mentally and match the puzzle pieces.

There are, however, times this all comes in handy. I can find you in the dark. LOL. I don't judge people by appearances. I understand body language better than spoken words. It's really good when playing poker, since I can rely on other body cues. (And I can count've been warned)
Also handy when car shopping since we spend most of the time looking at the car and I keep a deadpan face - confusing them as to whether I'm interested - so they keep adding perks or dropping the price.

Curious to know where other Autistic people look - strangely enough, I like looking at other Autistics. It doesn't seem as harsh for some reason.

July 26, 2015

Through Our Eyes - Living With Asperger's Out on DVD

You may remember, just last month I reviewed Alyssa Huber's new documentary called, "Through Our Eyes - Living With Asperger's." 

It's available to order on DVD now.

You can still watch the mini-version for free on YouTube to give you an idea of what it's like, but the DVD is the full version. There's also a special edition version.

If that's not enough, a line from my review ended up on the DVD jacket, so it's obvious I totally endorse this documentary!

Watch it and let me know what you think!