i will rebel against your identity policing since you continue to act as if i don’t exist

i am allowed to identify however i want.

each autistic person is allowed to identify however they want.

even if that identification have been used by ableist society to harm autistics.

because autistic individuals who identify THEMSELVES that way are not the problem.

—particular more marginalized members of the autistic community. because we have been pushed aside, ignored, and policed by the dominant, most visible members of the autistic community for so long.

as an apraxic semispeaking autistic of color with mid-high support needs, the language used by the online autistic community frequently does not include experiences like mine. sometimes they are not coined, defined, or used with us in mind.

we are allowed to identify however way we want without being accused of “just having internalized ableism.”

allistic neurotypical society forcibly reducing autistic people into “high functioning” and “low functioning” to either deny our access needs or take away our agency is the problem. THAT is what we are fighting against.

someone who grew up being labeled as “low functioning” who finds this term more accurate for themselves than any of the terms deemed more acceptable by the online autistic community, who does not use functioning labels on others who don’t identify as that, people like that are not the problem. they should not be your enemy.

psychiatry defining us only by our deficits and the burden we place on our family, education system, and the rest of society is the problem. them creating a moral hierarchy based off of that is the problem.

autistics who rather label themselves as “level 2” or “level 3” as per the DSM-5 rather than levels of support needs are not.

the same for those of us who still choose to call ourselves “moderate,” “severe,” or “profound.”

this is not the same as someone insisting on saying they have asperger’s even though they know the bloody, loaded, violent, and eugenic history behind the diagnosis. aspie supremacists refuse the term “autism” because they want to separate themselves from “those people”—those of us who are more visibly autistic, who have higher support needs, who are seen as more “severe” and thus “shameful.” they believe they are superior.

those of us marginalized autistics who choose to use these terms for ourselves: we are not pushing these labels onto other autistics who don’t want them. we are not saying these terms aren’t problematic when weaponized by the ableist institutions in our society. we are not saying we are superior than autistics who don’t label themselves like we do.

we are, however, asking the more visible members of the community to listen to us and uplift us instead of gatekeeping and debating with us about our own experiences—experiences they may not have even though they are also autistic.

dear the more visible members of the actually autistic community: you do not create these community narratives with the more marginalized autistics like us in mind, yet you deem them as the only acceptable terms that are allowed to be used. yet you insist on us using them. yet you police our language. you say autism is not a monolith, yet when we does not fit into your narrow understanding of what autism is—white, mostly verbal, late diagnosed, can live independently, low support needs, and so much more left unsaid—you ridicule us and see us as a stereotype, shameful, problematic, or simply does not exist.

will that really bring you liberation?

A neurodivergent’s guide to therapist vetting

// (with a focus on plural and autistic needs on the latter half)


Speaking (lol) as a semi-speaking autistic system who has a really specific need for therapy, therapist finding is hard. A surprising amount of therapists are not good at their job, and another bunch are just not a right fit for us. We have unknowingly seen a lot of bad (neurotypical) therapists who did much damage on us in hindsight and made us internalize a wrong image of how therapy should work. Throughout the years, we have developed a system (double lol) for therapist vetting. An informal document of ours we initially made for ourselves has been circulating around plural spaces and systems have told us it was a helpful guide, so we thought we will expand on that and write a formal guide geared towards everyone with an emphasis on autistics and plurals/systems in the latter half

Table of Contents

  1. logistics and limitations: how much money/time can I afford?
  2. self-assessment: what kind of therapy and therapist do I want?
  3. broad questions: to determine what kind of therapist they are
  4. identity-based questions: how similar is the therapist to you?
  5. system-specific questions
  6. autism-specific questions
  7. i found a therapist!
  8. i went through this process and I couldn’t find a therapist
  9. conclusion
  10. list of questions: all the questions we posed here without our lengthy explanation
  11. infographic

First things first: you are hiring the therapist. The therapist works for you. We know as trauma survivors, many of us fawn and people-please at everyone we come across. Try not to do this with your therapist, especially not during therapist vetting. If needed, tell the therapist you’re interviewing, “I will follow up if I decide to see you” to give yourself/yourselves time to process from a distance. If you are afraid of coming off disinterested, telling a white lie (or truth, depending on your situation) of “i still have consultations with a couple more therapists” usually helps.


logistics and limitations

Before even asking yourself what kind of therapist and therapy you want or need, determine what you can afford financially or time-wise.

  1. Cost
    1. Am I using insurance?
      1. If yes, is a therapist not taking my insurance a dealbreaker? Or can I also do superbills or out-of-network? Can I pay with my own money?
    2. (if not using insurance of therapy not taking my insurance,) how much can I pay? Is a sliding scale important? 
      1. alternatively, begin with a sliding scale in the first place! check out open path collective
  2. Time
    1. When I am free to go outside without the worries of a pandemic, do I want to attend therapy in person or through telehealth/online?
    2. if I plan to go to therapy in person after the pandemic is over: how far away can my therapist be? How long am I willing to commute for therapy?
    3. if I plan to continue teletherapy or plan to use a hybrid of in-person and teletherapy after the pandemic is over: make sure to ask if the therapist will continue to offer teletherapy.

Self-assessment

Before going to a consultation with a therapist, it’s important to know what kind of therapist and what type of therapy you are looking for. 

For time and to prevent the therapist from rambling on, we find it useful to go down the list, highlight, and count how many questions we want to ask. Then, at the beginning of the consultation, we state the number to give the therapist an idea of how they should manage their answer time. Alternatively, you may ask to conduct the consultation over email. 

  1. What topics are you wishing to address in therapy? 
    1. The answer to this question can be, but doesn’t have to be, a disorder. If you want to talk about an aspect of a condition, but not the condition itself, that is causing you trouble, it’s important to make that distinction with yourself.
    2. For example, ours: use AAC more functionally, navigating a neurotypical world as an autistic, improve communication & clarity as a system
  2. Similarly, short term and long-term goals of therapy? What are you looking to get out of therapy?
  3. What are you looking for in a therapist? What qualities/characteristics? What expertise, if applicable?
  4. What do you NOT want from a therapist/therapeutic relationship?
    1. If you do not have answers to all previous questions, it’s (mostly) okay. However, please know this one! Please take some time and think about what boundaries and hard deal breakers you have. Make it as specific/concrete as possible.
    2. Some examples: 
      1. being talked down on/condescending
      2. not listening and seems to speak for you/put words in your mouth
      3. refusing to acknowledge that they can be wrong regarding a diagnosis/knowledge of diagnosis/experience of living with diagnosis/treatment etc
      4. Insisting on curing a condition/experience you do not want to be cured of; subtle nudge to make you neurotypical
      5. Support ABA, insisting on using parts language after you told them you are uncomfortable with it (if you are)/you do not identify with it, insisting on final fusion as the only viable treatment for all plurality, only working with hosts of the system
      6. Use medical model
      7. Blanket dislike towards when client researches condition on their own 
      8. Does not recognize or realize that people with lived experience are the true experts of the experience/condition
      9. close-minded
      10. neurotypical, white person, cis person, etc. 
      11. it can be anything. 

broad questions 

these questions are broader and open-ended, and they may seem useless: I/we as the client already know what is mental illness and what is therapy. i don’t need someone else teaching me that! but the role of these questions is not to gain any scholastic knowledge from it but to assess the fundamental viewpoint the therapist is conducting their therapy from. they are questions to determine how well you fit with the therapist. if the therapist tries to lecture you, well… maybe they are not a good therapist. (it is important to note that there are bad therapists that just suck at their job, and then there are therapists that does not fit well with you.)

Arguably, the answer to these questions are the most telling. Note the content of the answer, but also note how the therapist’s answer makes you feel (“but how does that make you feeeeeeel?”, we know, we know). Do they see themselves as superior and/or from a source of authority (in terms of knowledge, expertise, etc.)? Do you want that as a therapist (/neutral question)? Are they trying to lecture you? Are they bringing religion into the question (usually it’s christianity) when you did not specifically ask them to (had that happen after we started seeing a therapist for some months even after interview. Properly vet your therapists, you all)? Do they seem like a neurotypical therapist who is just trying a liiiiittle too hard to appeal to neurodivergent folks, to the point it’s uncomfortable? Do they, as a singlet, try to appeal to you& by saying “everyone has parts” and start talking about their “parts,” which, valid? But completely unwarranted and you& didn’t ask? TL;DR Does the therapist’s view on mental illness and therapy matches yours?

The ideal answer to some of these questions should be a definite “no” or “yes,” but most of the ideal answers are going to vary from client to client, depending on what type of therapy and what type of therapist they need. 

In our opinion, how well therapy works (however you want to define that) is less so about what type of therapy the therapist is conducting (CBT, etc.) but more so about the connection between the therapist and the client (common factor theory, introduced to us by @/dhoardlmft on tiktok). They can know all the leading theories and research of psychology, but if they make you feel uncomfortable, talked down to, or if they feel condescending, the therapeutic relationship is most likely not going to work.

  1. how do *you* (the therapist) define mental illness? & disability?
  2. what is the role of therapy?
  3. do you believe that those with lived experience of a condition are the true experts of that condition?
  4. how would you react if one with lived experience tells you that what you are saying/doing is wrong?

Identity-based questions

  1. Are you a BIPOC, queer, trans, neurodivergent, disabled, etc. youself? TL;DR: do you operate from a perspective of lived experience, whether that is race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc?
    1. If they are uncomfortable with disclosing whether they are ND/disabled, they will tell you. That is their boundary to enforce. If they get upset at you for just asking, maybe they aren’t the right person, and congratulations on dodging a long-term bullet by being temporarily uncomfortable. 
    2. Which identities must the therapist have? Which identities are negotiable? For example, because we have never had a good experience with a neurotypical therapist, whether neurotypical or Neurotypical™, we only see neurodivergent therapists. 
  2. What work are you putting into to challenge your internalized racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc., or become anti-racist, anti-ableist, trauma-informed, neurodivergent-informed, etc.? what is your relationship with social justice?
    1. if you have the time, split this question into multiple aspects so the therapist can answer component by component. For example, first ask about racism, then ableism, et cetera.
    2. Watch for performative activism and watch for talking at length but speaking nothing concrete

System-specific questions

We am going to focus on the disordered version of plurality (esp those who also experienced trauma in their lives) in this section because that is the framework we used in our experience. However, if you are a non-disordered plural system and wish to replace DID/OSDD-1 with “plurality,” feel free. 

  1. Do you work with people with DID/OSDD-1?
  2. Do you know how to work with people with DID/OSDD-1?
    1. If you do, what is your approach?
    2. How do you prevent retraumatization while approaching trauma in a therapeutic setting?
    3. How do you see alters/headmates’ relationship to the system as a whole?
      1. This question is getting to: does the therapist default to seeing alters/headmates as parts or people or others? If they do and your system identifies with the other one, are they flexible enough to switch their viewpoint to work with you?
      2. Especially if you are a people system, do they continuously refer to your system members as “parts” even after you corrected them? We’re amazed at how many do this constantly. One slip-up is understandable, but at this point, we are wondering if you are listening and if you actually care about the way we see our world. 
    4. How do you define “treatment” or “healing” for systems? 
      1. Ideal answer is somewhere along the lines of “however the client defines it, whether they want to integrate or collaborate as a system”
      2. For those who wish to work towards healthy multiplicity: If they only talk about final fusion, make a note of that, then directly say “we do not wish to integrate and instead want to work towards healthy multiplicity. What is your opinion and do you work with that?
        1. You&’re not actually asking for their opinion but rather, same logic for the broad questions
  3. Have you worked with people with DID/OSDD-1?
    1. We are continuously amazed at how many therapists answer yes to the first two questions but answer no or “only one to two” to this one. 
    2. We find it especially arrogant to answer yes to #2 and later on revealing they have never worked with DID/OSDD-1 clients or just one or two, but that’s us. You do not have to share similar opinions. 
  4. Are you familiar with these terms: host, system, plurality/multiplicity, alter/headmates roles, theory of structural dissociation (ToSD), etc.?
    1. We put ToSD in that list because some systems may find it helpful to use it to assess how well the therapist knows their medical DID/OSDD-1 stuff, others may use it as a red flag.

Autism-specific questions

A lot of this is the same logic as system-specific questions. We will avoid double-explaining it if possible, so we suggest autistic singlets (those with only one person in their body, non-systems) to browse the system-specific questions, if possible.

  1. When you talk about autism, do you use person-first “person with autism” or identity-first “autistic person”?
    1. This is to assess how much they actively listen to the autistic community.
    2. ideal answer is  “identity first unless the individual with autism says they prefer person-first language”
    3. Second best answer is saying “person with autism” first, but upon you the client telling them that the majority of autistic people in the community prefers identity-first language and you are one of them, they apologize and change it.
  2. Do you work with autistic people?
    1. They better.
    2. How do you see autistic people? 
      1. What we’re trying to get to without turning this question into a multiple choice is “do you see autism as a superpower, a tragedy, or a different and natural neurotype?” You may also ask that instead.
    3. How do you see autistic people in relation to the neurotypical world?
      1. In other words, do you realize that autistic people live in a neurotypical world that is not friendly to them, which leaves most (if not all) autistic people traumatized? Do you realize that trauma is built into the DSM autistic criteria because society does not produce non-traumatized autistics?
  3. Do you know how to work with autistic people?
    1. If you do, what is your approach?
    2. What is your opinion on ABA, applied behavioral analysis?
    3. Explain autism as a spectrum.
      1. The reasoning behind this question is the same as the broad questions category. In other words, “what is your opinion on functioning labels? Functioning levels?”
      2. Remember, most people see autism spectrum (or “spectrum” in general” as less blue to more blue, as “less autistic” to “more autistic.” they are actually thinking about a color gradient.
      3. A spectrum, like the autism spectrum, is a color wheel of rainbow or a horizontal stripe of rainbow (like visible light, & autism is like the element absorption + emission of the visible light).
  4. Have you worked with autistic people?
  5. Are you aware and/or involved with the #ActuallyAutistic movement?
    1. Usually for us, if a therapist is not well aware of the movement to begin with, we view it as a soft “no” (not a hard “no” yet) because we have no interest in turning therapy into “actually autistic social justice 101” and “how neurodivergents think 101.” however, if you are willing, you may also ask “Are you willing to be if we work with you?
    2. If you are really feeling spicy: Are you aware of the double empathy problem? 
      1. We honestly don’t expect them to know this tbh. We pose this question more for fun. 

I found a therapist!

Congratulations! Hope this guide was helpful to your therapist interview journey. You should celebrate how you just did some adulting :)!

However, we should mention that the vetting process is not over. Ultimately, while a short interview/consultation can give you a decent peak into the therapist and their approaches, it is not going to give you every information about them. The therapist can intentionally or unintentially lie, spread misinformation, say one thing while doing another, or in general, forget things. You as the client may also accidentally misinterpret what the therapist meant. Watch how your mind and body feels during and after the first couple of sessions. Do you still feel pleasant with them? Do you feel like you are trusting them more and more as each session goes by? Or do you find therapy to be a chore? Do you feel like you are lecturing and teaching them about your experience and the way you think more than you are talking about what you need to talk about? Try to be honest with yourself/selves when you or the body is alone to avoid fawning/people pleasing tendencies as much as possible. 


I went through this process and I cannot find a therapist

Most therapists will not be perfect. Sometimes, you need to compromise on your preferences. If you did not find any therapists who specializes in the plural experience but there are those who are willing to take the initiative and learn, and you are in a headspace (no, not innerworld, the other definition) where you feel like you can send them resources and guide them through it? Maybe you should give them a try. We are going to say the same thing as we did earlier but with different context—“Ultimately, while a short interview/consultation can give you a decent peak into the therapist and their approaches, it is not going to give you every information about them.” However, even with that, sometimes you cannot find a good enough therapist without compromising your boundaries and hard “no”s (and arguably, if you have to compromise like that, they are not a good therapist for you). Sometimes this happens, especially when you, like us, have a cocktail of very different therapy needs. 

First, know that you deserve a good therapist, and you are not asking too much. We know that us saying this would not magically improve your situation, but know that because psychiatry and the mental health system is built upon prejudice and discrimination such societal ableism and systemic racism, the therapy field is dominated by neurotypical abled white cis women who may not be much help to you. This is not your fault, and I am sorry the society is not built for people like us in mind. 

Second, ask yourself/selves this: is it better to have no therapy or bad therapy? Personally, as a victim of years of bad therapy, we will confidently say “bad therapy” is worse for ourselves, but this is a personal question that would mean the most if you come up with an answer yourself/selves. Is it better to have no professionals who are removed from your life for you to talk to? Can I function to a manageable degree without therapy? Will I be too bottled up if I don’t talk to someone? Or is it better to explain how my brain works before I can talk about my experiences but still have a therapist? Is it better to attempt to educate my therapist that I do not want to (nor should they push to) become neurotypical? Can I negotiate with my therapist so that they do not give any input and let me/us ramble? Can I tolerate microaggression from my therapist? Will therapy with this person begin to feel subtly coercive, and how do I notice it when it does? These are delicate questions only you can answer for youself/selves. 


Ultimately, we wish therapist finding is not this difficult. It should not be this difficult. It should not be this difficult to find someone like us who understands us to talk to. However, this is the reality in which our society is built. The best we& as the wilting honeysuckles can do for those who are reading, like you (all), is to write a guide on how to best get around the rules and rigidness of the psychiatric institution. We hope you are well, and we hope you find a therapist you feel grateful for.


list of questions

logistics and limitations

  1. Cost
    1. Am I using insurance?
      1. If yes, is a therapist not taking my insurance a dealbreaker? Or can I also do superbills or out-of-network? Can I pay with my own money?
    2. (if not using insurance of therapy not taking my insurance,) how much can I pay? Is a sliding scale important? 
  2. Time
    1. When I am free to go outside without the worries of a pandemic, do I want to attend therapy in person or through telehealth/online?
    2. if I plan to go to therapy in person after the pandemic is over: how far away can my therapist be? How long am I willing to commute for therapy?
    3. if I plan to continue teletherapy or plan to use a hybrid of in-person and teletherapy after the pandemic is over: make sure to ask if the therapist will continue to offer teletherapy.

self-assessment

  1. What topics are you wishing to address in therapy? 
  2. Similarly, short term and long-term goals of therapy? What are you looking to get out of therapy?
  3. What are you looking for in a therapist? What qualities/characteristics? What expertise, if applicable?
  4. What do you NOT want from a therapist/therapeutic relationship?

broad questions: 

  1. How do *you* (the therapist) define mental illness? & disability?
  2. What is the role of therapy?
  3. Do you believe that those with lived experience of a condition are the true experts of that condition?
  4. How would you react if one with lived experience tells you that what you are saying/doing is wrong?

Identity-based questions

  1. Are you a BIPOC, queer, trans, neurodivergent, disabled, etc. youself? 
    1. TL;DR: do you operate from a perspective of lived experience, whether that is race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc?
    2. (Which identities must the therapist have? Which identities are negotiable?)
  2. What work are you putting into to challenge your internalized racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc., or become anti-racist, anti-ableist, trauma-informed, neurodivergent-informed, etc.? what is your relationship with social justice?

System-specific questions

  1. Do you work with people with DID/OSDD-1?
  2. Do you know how to work with people with DID/OSDD-1?
    1. If you do, what is your approach?
    2. How do you prevent retraumatization while approaching trauma in a therapeutic setting?
    3. How do you see alters/headmates’ relationship to the system as a whole?
      1. does the therapist default to seeing alters/headmates as parts or people or others? If they do and your system identifies with the other one, are they flexible enough to switch their viewpoint to work with you?
      2. if you are a people system, do they continuously refer to your system members as “parts” even after you corrected them?
    4. How do you define “treatment” or “healing” for systems? 
      1. If applies: “we do not wish to integrate and instead want to work towards healthy multiplicity. What is your opinion and do work with that?
  3. Have you worked with people with DID/OSDD-1?
  4. Are you familiar with these terms: host, system, plurality/multiplicity, alter/headmates roles, theory of structural dissociation (ToSD), etc.?

Autism-specific questions

  1. When you talk about autism, do you use person-first “person with autism” or identity-first “autistic person”?
  2. Do you work with autistic people?
    1. How do you see autistic people? 
      1. do you see autism as a superpower, a tragedy, or a different and natural neurotype?
    2. How do you see autistic people in relation to the neurotypical world?
      1. do you realize that autistic people live in a neurotypical world that is not friendly to them, which leaves most (if not all) autistic people traumatized? Do you realize that trauma is built into the DSM autistic criteria because society does not produce non-traumatized autistics?
  3. Do you know how to work with autistic people?
    1. If you do, what is your approach?
    2. What is your opinion on ABA, applied behavioral analysis?
    3. Explain autism as a spectrum.
      1. “what is your opinion on functioning labels? Functioning levels?”
  4. Have you worked with autistic people?
  5. Are you aware and/or involved with the #ActuallyAutistic movement?
    1. Are you willing to be if we work with you?
    2. If you are really feeling spicy: Are you aware of the double empathy problem? 

infographic

[image description: five infographic posters. the backgrounds are squares made of white along with pastel teal, red, and yellow. There is a white opaque rectangle on top of the background. On top of the background, there are texts. The red header reads “a neurodivergent’s guide to therapist vetting.” the red subheaders and the teal body are pasted above the infographic in the “list of questions” section. On top of the everything, there are pastel teal, red, and yellow colored decorations such as squiggly lines and dots. end id.]

download them as a pdf here:


sincerely,

the wilting honeysuckles

do not look at me and say i am having fun wrong

// do note that as a system, we use we/us pronouns to talk about ourselves. many instances of “we” and “us” are referring to ourselves, and we can only speak for ourselves.

we cannot remember the exact words, but our therapist casually mentioned how we have fun differently than most people when we said we do not know how to relax today.

and you know what, that is very true, and there is nothing wrong with it.

a lot of therapists end their session by asking their clients what they are going to do for themselves today, this weekend, this week. a lot of therapists also ask their clients what they did to have fun or to take care of themselves since the last session.

for so long, we had no idea how to answer these questions. as an autistic who is really invested in their special interests but whose special interests are very academic or involves looking at the depressing state of the world, like social justice, whose special interests are very purposely intertwined with our college coursework, whose work and fun gets so blended together it’s hard to see where one color ends and another begins, we always feel compiled to answer “nothing” or “i don’t know” because our interests are very much not what comes to mind when one think of a “fun interest.”

but we very much did know. even before our current therapist explicitly pointed it out, we did know. we do too much introspection to not know, we pick our major and our upcoming courses too purposefully to not know, we infodump our therapist to not know, we explicitly tell people “these are our special interests; academic, we know” to not know.

yet, whenever we are asked those questions, we freeze and answer, “i don’t know.”

you see, these responses are very much trained into us by neurotypicals. neurotypical therapists played their part, so did aesthetic neurotypical self-care posts. 

the answers people seem to be expecting are things like tv shows, bath bombs, skincare and facemasks, and reading young adult books or modern poetry. and don’t get us wrong—these are perfectly valid ways to relax. however, these are just… not what we need.

our brain needs constant intellectual stimulus, and our interests revolve around that, too. we love reading research papers and academic journals: we go on google scholar for fun, have an entire USB drive full of hoarded papers, and get excited when a research paper is assigned that we often have trouble writing within the max number of pages designated. twitter and discord should not be your primary source of news, theories, and information in general, but after a day of coursework, we wind down by scrolling through the little blue bird app where we follow people that discuss, breaks down, and advocate for neurodiversity, disability justice, race, and queer matters. 

in other words, we have centered our lives around our special interests. some autistics have said that many of us autists are obsessive towards our special interests, and that is very much true for us. however, while you can list things like “literature,” “psychology,” and “disability justice” as our special interests, the reality is they tend to be broader and more abstract than that for us. 

they are things most people do not enjoy, what most people consider work.

and it is work. but to us, it is fun work. it is voluntary work. we once wrote a seven-thousand-word short story when the requirement was only one thousand. we just wrote a three-thousand-word critique of one specific section of the textbook about DID that irritated us to no end. 

that is why we struggle less with executive functioning skills (but it does not mean we do not struggle) when it comes to school. it’s not that we don’t have executive dysfunction troubles, it’s just that… we found a way to cheat the system. doing them still takes spoons, but doing them also gives us so much dopamine, and dopamine rushes make the spoons last a little longer (but when we exhaust the spoons, we really do exhaust them, like a switch just flipped and we instantly crash). 

but since neurotypicals do not experience things like hyperfixations and special interests, they rarely can grasp why what is work to them is so enjoyable for us. they think we do not know how to have fun, they think we are suffocating ourselves. and so, whenever we answer the question they pose at the beginning and end of the session truthfully—we did research, we wrote a six-page email on psychiatry’s problematic portrayal of DID (we actually did)—they look at us skeptically, not because they do not believe we did those things, but because they believe these are tasks, they don’t believe that they count as “fun.” 

autistic joys look differently than neurotypical joys. we do not know what neurotypical joy looks like, but autistic joy, to us, is simple. it is subtly bopping your body left and right to the music as you type, it is hand flapping when you are happy, it is lining up ordinary objects in a way that makes sense and is fascinating to you, it is hoarding things about your special interest, whether that is knowledge or tangible things.

and neurotypicals don’t understand autistic joy. so they look at us weird. so they don’t believe us. so they call us ableist slurs and describe us with deficit language. so they look at us in pity, “they do not understand how to relax and how to feel.”

we do understand. trust us when we say we do. we really do. 

here’s to all the autistics that have fun in different ways. here’s to all the autistics that relax in different ways. here’s to all the autistics that don’t conform. here’s to all the autistics. 

semi-speaking autistic musings #1

allowing ourselves to not talk as much is so new and we’re so lost. lost in the world that wrongly taught us speaking is the superior form of communication & the only way you should communicate that we don’t even know how to accommodate ourselves: how to firmly negotiate for accommodations and how to take up space. how can we make things more convenient for ourselves. how to get practice picture to speech AAC and how to not feel self conscious while using AAC apps. the best way to set up AAC picture boards. everything.

it’s like we’re relearning how to live.

i shall not die at your hands

originally posted in our (creative writing) wordpress (linked).

written june 6, 2020 with singular language “i”


reading about autism makes me love being on the spectrum. sure, there are challenges, but practices of professionals who actually care about asking “why” from the autistic person’s perspective instead of that of an outdated behavioralist neurotypical one shows that with the right understanding, patience, compassion, and accommodation, autistic people can thrive just like anyone can. sometimes even better.

i love being on the spectrum partially because i know no other way, just like a neurotypical know no other way than being a neurotypical, but also because once you understand your brain, once you understand yourself, once you indulge yourself in positive and unharmful ways, once you begin to recognize and work though all the internal and external challenges and all the ableism, you realize just how amazing it is to possess this unique perspective.

it’s like a kaleidoscope. the world is colorful. stimming is colorful; once you find the right stim for you, whether it is flapping your hands, twirling your fingers on a tangle, chewing on a chewable, spinning, jumping, moving your body to the music, you realize the world just got a lot more colorful. and during then, all the happiness, all the pure satisfied joy, it is colorful. when you tune out the rest of the world and find yourself drowned in your special interest that means the whole wide world to you, that world is colorful. when you communicate in your own way, whether that is through bodily motions, through a tablet, with echolalia phrases that symbolizes something to you, or through various levels of speech, when someone understands your communication and returns that invitation in the same way, you feel like you are about to explode in colorful clouds.

guaranteed, i sometimes hate being autistic. sometimes, i find myself loathing my autisticness, wondering if my life would have been a thousand times easier if i was not like this.

but usually, what lays underneath those aches are not a hatred towards my autism—something i cannot remove from myself—but rather people’s lack of understanding and accommodation and their pompous ignorance centering the ways my autism presents itself.

i cannot count the amount of times i messed up a crucial social cue. i cannot count the amount of times i overshared because talking about myself is predictable, because it is something safe amongst a threatening unfamiliar land of people and conversations, because i can actually feel like i am contributing and included in the conversations, and then how i made the atmosphere awkward, how people shift uncomfortably in their respective position, and how i am fully oblivious to the fact that i just made a fool of myself in front of strangers, or worse, i hurt my safe people whom i cared about, trusted, and would feel lost without. and you know what? that hurts. it hurts no less than the grieving of loss when i am finally made aware of it because oftentimes, for us, it is a loss. during then, i would stare at whatever i can stare at and wonder if this would have happened if i am not autistic. during then, i may truly feel like i don’t want to be autistic. but really, if i revisit that memory, i find someone who is wounded, bruised, terrified by the unpredictability, wondering why people who say they accept me as autistic abandoned me like a lost cause once i show a symptom, why no one ever guided me in navigating this from when i was a toddler to now, why the education and mental health system failed me when i did not have the ability to advocate for myself because i was a child, why i try so hard yet i always seem to mess up in the end. always. without fail. perhaps that is the only thing predictable to my life.

i always find a fragment of myself, a shard that was left there, angry about the system, angry about the ableism, angry at when something outside of my control fails me when my joint aches from tried my very best.

being autistic is traumatic. not because autism is traumatic, but because the way the world treats autistic people is traumatic. the way the current system—especially the mental health and education system where children interacts with the most—are not properly educated in identifying autistic traits and thus help those on the spectrum is traumatic (what we currently have is grossly inaccurate, inadequate, and unhelpful). the way so many people never tries to truly listen and understand the way we see the world, especially when we are still maturing—whether too entitled to, or too uneducated to—and instead, treats us as solely subtly sub-human, problematic behavioral deficits is traumatic. the way we are taught that something innate with us is not acceptable (think ABA, think cure speech), this implying that we are not acceptable, is traumatic. the way ableism follows you everywhere you go is traumatic.

silent hands. “appropriate speech.” “appropriate emotional display.” too intense. too weird. too different. too expressive. too silent. talk like us. eat like us. act like us. feel like us. love like us. don’t be who you are. be who you are not. be us. don’t be you. you are not us.

when put in all you can yet still cannot escape from a thing or an experience, it is traumatic.

if we are looking it this way, perhaps it would be easier to kill our autism. of course it would be easier to live as a person with privilege. all the times i melt because some sensory hurts. all the times i tear up in frustration because a blockage of preventing me from expressing how much things hurt: senses, words, actions, my emotions. all the times i pull my hair out during a meltdown. all the times i lose people i treasure. all the comorbid anxiety and depression and trauma. poof. gone.

but if you kill my autism, you also kill all the voluntary, additional hours i spend on my assignments because they are related to my special interest. you also kill my passionate infodumps and my impromptu research projects. you also kill my memory that can simultaneously play as a visual movie and as confusing abstract concepts. you also kill my loyalty, my crow-like way of showing affection, my attention to detail, my thoroughness when it comes to a task i love, and my strong sense of justice. you also kill my unique arrangement of words from my unique perception of the world.

if you kill my autism, you kill me.

i do not want to die at your hands.

i will not die at your hands.