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Disability in SF: Resources on Autism - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Disability in SF: Resources on Autism

chordatesrock has helped me find some of these resources about autism, something I'm researching for my new series An Army of One: The Autistic Secession in Space.  Some other folks have added things too.  I put in the stuff about space and science fiction for convenience.  I'm compiling a list here, for other folks who wish to write about these topics, suggest ideas for me, etc. or who are dealing with autistic spectrum issues in everyday life.  If you have more resources -- especially from the perspective of neurovariant people themselves -- please share in comments.



Online Articles and Discussions

Ableist vs. accepting expectations for listening.  Autistic people use coping skills to help them concentrate and learn.  If you block those coping skills, they will burn up all their energy pleasing you and not have any left to pay attention or absorb new information.

"About Rocking" discusses rocking as body language, particularly as used by autistic people, and how it can have different meanings.

Accessportrayal is a Dreamwidth community for people portraying characters with disabilities in the creative arts, in the interest of getting it right or at least not doing further damage.

"Allistic Assumptions of Auties" discusses nonhuman language and hand flapping with some excellent descriptions of the usefulness of these communication modes.

An attempt to rewrite autistic criteria.

Applied Behavioral Analysis is abuse. So is shock therapy.  So are many other types of "therapy" for people with disabilities.  And then of course some therapists just resort to plain old beating.

"Aspergers Hand Flapping" is a video that discusses the use of hand flapping as a coping method for anxiety.

"Asperger's Traits in Females" discusses assorted characteristics common to girls and women on the spectrum.

Autism on Wikipedia.

"Autism Gives Woman an 'Alien View' of Social Brains."

Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Autism spectrum post on Accessportrayal.

Autism symptoms.

Autism Women's Network.

"Autistic Adults and Kink"

"Autistic Inertia" describes the tendency of autistic people to keep doing (or not doing) what they are currently.  See also "Inertia: From Theory to Praxis" and "Autistic Inertia: An Overview."

"Autistic Women: A Life More Ordinary."

"Backstopping" explains how to support a person with autism, or absolutely any other trait that sometimes puts them at odds with the surrounding world.  (That's everyone.)  You learn what matters to someone you care about, and when you see a problem approaching, you give them a chance to solve it themselves.  If they can't, you have a backup plan so it doesn't snowball into a disaster.

Ballastexistenz and Lisa Daxer aka chaoticidealism discuss their personal experiences from very different perspectives.  Another counterpoint is Joe90 on Wrong Planet, with a less positive view of the neurovariant experience.

"The Benefits of a Neurodiverse Workforce" explains the strengths of several different neurotypes, instead of focusing on the weaknesses.  It's all about finding the right kind of job or environment for each person based on what they do well, instead of trying to make them struggle through things they do badly.

"Can Aspies show TOO MUCH emotion?"  Forum discussion about emotional expression in people with Asperger's syndrome.

Communication Failure and Solution.  An autistic person who often has difficulty expressing feelings or needs under stress cleverly addresses the challenge by writing down useful phrases (such as "Please stop talking for a minute." and "Angry for no reason") on a page that can be read aloud or pointed to at need.

"The Difference: Asperger's and High Functioning Autism."  Forum discussion.

Emotions in people with Asperger's syndrome.  Forum discussion.

Experience-based distinctions in autistic traits.  Forum discussion.

Everyone Communicates.  Website of resources for multiple modes of alternative communication for people with linguistic handicaps.

"Feeling trapped sad hopeless frustrated/lost...LONG VENT" is a forum discussion begun by the mother of an autistic daughter who is severely unhappy at school, with a variety of input from other autistic people and parents of autistic children regarding likely causes of stress and what might be done to improve that situation.

"The First Time My Son With Autism Got a Birthday Invite I Didn’t Have to Decline" shows what accommodation really looks like.

"Flapping to Kalamazoo."  A poem about hand-flapping as emotional expression among autistic people.

"Flapping Means Energy" talks about hand-flapping and how it expresses emotion in autistic people.  In particular, the author notes:  "I usually read autistic body language by looking at the torso. NTs [neurotypical people] read each other by looking at the face."

"Growing Up Autistic: 10 tips for teenagers with Asperger Syndrome or mild autism" suggests a variety of coping strategies and concepts.

"How autistic adults banded together to start a movement" discusses autistic pride and community.  It also introduces the term "neuroqueer" for people who are both on the spectrum and gay or trans.

"How to Avoid Meltdowns" is written from an autistic perspective.  It explains warning signs, the importance of escaping a bad situation, and ways of calming or soothing yourself.

"How Our Ways of Handflapping work" is a comment from DW user Beasts_of_homeworld, who describes many different styles of flapping and their uses. Read more of the thread.

"How to Write Nonbinary Characters" explains the handling of characters who identify as something besides male or female.  Some autistic people are nonbinary.  In this series, Astin (using the xe pronoun set) and V (using the V pronoun set) are other-gendered; the AYES all seem to be identifying as neuter (using the it pronoun set) so far.

"I Have Aspergers" is a comic illustrating the struggle to build a life and find relationships when your personality is widely out of phase with other people's.

"I'm autistic. When you assess my needs, this is what you must know." Tips for social workers. Frankly most of these points of basic functionality should apply to everyone, because failing to do them can make a meeting largely or wholly useless; but for people on the autistic spectrum, they can trigger meltdowns.

"My Contribution to Autistic People Are" by chordatesrock is basically Autism 101, an introduction to the condition and people.  It is precise yet easy to understand, and an excellent guide to the core concepts.

"On Happiness and Its Appropriateness"  is a blog post explaining the suppression of emotion in neurovariant people by neurotypical people who disapprove other their methods.  It includes a couple of videos of the "happy dance" with hand flapping and clapping.

The Loud Hands Project: Autistic People, Speaking.

"A Nonspeaking Teenager on Autism" writes about his experiences.

"On the Scapegoating of Crazy: A Neurovariant Perspective on Recent Shootings."

"The Other Autistic Muppet."  A case for Fozzie Bear being on the spectrum, and the implications of autistic characters.

"Please consider supporting autistic people through organizations other than Autism Speaks" has both an explanation of why that organization fails autistic people, and at the bottom a list of better ones for people wishing to make donations.

"Respecting Neurodiversity" offers tips on raising children with autism in a positive rather than medical paradigm.

"Ten Things an Autistic Adult Wants You to Know" explains some differences about the author's mindspace.

"Thinking Like an Aspie" is a fascinating collection of personal traits and observations by Dreamwidth user Primeideal.

Thinking Person's Guide to Autism.  Various articles about autism and interviews with autistic people.

"Understanding Autism: The Basics."

"Unreasonable Goals."  An autistic adult explains why many expectations of autistic children are inappropriate at best, amusing at worst, and mostly boil down to "be pleasing."  (I couldn't help thinking "Smile at de white folks" while reading this.)  Also none of these are goals.  They are demands.  Goals are something you set for yourself to achive a desired result; demands are placed on you by an outside agent, usually more powerful than yourself.  A real goal for an autistic child might be "Make one good friend whose company I enjoy" or "Build an organizer for my collection."  These would improve personal experience (having fun, getting to put things in order) while also improving interpersonal results (building a relationship, preventing other people from stepping on or fighting over toys).

"We Have Autism All Wrong: The Radical New Approach We Need to Understand and Treat It" presents behaviors as coping skills rather than problems.  It suggests looking for reasons behind the behavior.  It also points out that autistic people are given little if any help in improving their communication ability, but does not suggest solutions for that gap.

"What everyday misuse of power in the DD system can look like."  An account of mistreatment by staff of an autistic person, presented as a typical example of what can go wrong, although the author notes that their regular standard of care is better than this.

"What a Meltdown Feels Like for a Person with Autism" includes descriptions of different types of meltdowns and how to help someone who is having one.  A safe quiet place is almost always helpful.  If that's not available, at least shoo away the rubberneckers.  Offering snacks may help if low blood sugar is a trigger.

"What would help?" -- I launched this discussion during Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month.  I asked my neurovariant readers about their goals and needs and what they would find helpful, instead of what other people are pressuring them to do or learn.

"Women with Asperger's Syndrome."

"Women and Girls on the Autism Spectrum."

"Working on a job app" features an autistic person asking for help rephrasing straightforward concepts (such as "I will be the best at record-keeping for you because I'm basically obsessive about color-coding and the alphabet...") into more socially acceptable formats.


Tumblr Tags

#ableism -- for dealing with discrimination against people with handicaps of all kinds.
#actuallyautistic #actually autistic, and #autie - three tags for conversations by people with autism.  See also the #ActuallyAutistic blog on Tumblr.
#art about autism -- for visual representations of autistic people and their experiences.
#askanautistic -- for asking questions of people with autism.
#asperger's nd #asperger's syndrome -- two general tags about Asperger's syndrome.
#aspie and #aspies -- two tags for people with Asperger's syndrome to share their experiences.
#autism -- a general tag about autism.
#autism awareness -- activism by autistic people and their allies to improve their circumstances.
#autism speaks -- mostly activism by autistic people to improve awareness and acceptance of their condition.
#autism spectrum #autism spectrum disorders, and #asd -- three tags for discussing the whole set of autistic conditions.
#difference -- a general tag about the feelings and effects of being different from most people.
#disability - a general tag about disabilities of all kinds, physical or mental, visible or invisible.
#disability pride -- an activism and celebration tag about identifying as a disabled person.
#disability rights -- an activism tag.
#high functioning - seems primarily focused on "high functioning autism" but may include other disorders with "high functioning" as a degree modifier.
#neurodiversity -- in support of the many ways that brains can work.
#neurotypical privileges -- for discussing the advantages people get just from thinking in common ways, and conversely, what people lose if they think very differently from those ways.
#neurotypicalism -- for discussing normative behavior and discrimination regarding how the brain works.
#nonhuman -- a general tag for people who feel that they have very little in common with ordinary Homo sapiens  and/or identify as some other kind of person.
#privilege -- a general tag for perks that people get from pleasing society with their innate traits or performed actions.
#stigma -- a general tag for discussion penalties and discrimination for being different.
#stimming -- discussion and examples of stimulating behavior such as hand flapping.


Art and Other Images

Autistic Pride banner showing three different autistic people.

Emotion cards in which the excited person is flapping his hands.  Many nonverbal or semi-verbal people communicate using icons like these on a speech board.  So it is very affirming to show their actual body language.

Hand flapping picture.

Hand flapping picture with caption, "When it comes to expressing happiness, there are no wrong ways."


Books and Stories

Maverick Mind: A Mother's Story of Solving the Mystery of Her Unreachable, Unteachable, Silent Son by Ph.D. Cheri L. Florance and Marin Gazzaniga.  Nonfiction.

"The Silent Laughter of Her Hands" by Dreamwidth user Alexseanchai.  Short story about an autistic girl interacting with other students at school.

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.  Read a summary on Wikipedia.  Science fiction novel about an autistic protagonist pressured to try an experimental "cure."

The Truth Machine by James L. Halperin.  Read a summary on Wikipedia.  Science fiction novel featuring a protagonist who is a genius with odd coping mechanisms.  Society ultimately forces a "cure" on him.


Television, Film, & Other Entertainment

Arthur,  the children's cartoon on PBS, has an episode featuring a special new friend with Asperger's syndrome. See "PBS's Arthur Makes a Friend with Asperger's," "George from ARTHUR Makes a New Frieng (and He Has Asperger's)," and  "Watch the Asperger's Episode Online."  This seems like a thoughtful and positive portrayal.

The earlier seasons of The Big Bang Theory are usually regarded as accurate, but still have a mixed reception within the autistic community, because apparently holding up an accurate example of an autistic person as something to laugh at doesn't sit well with them.

Glee portrayed a character whose Asperger's manifested solely as a desire and willingness to insult people.  See Glee season 3 "Glee's Asperger's Plot Causes a Stir," "Asperger's Character on Glee, Anyone Else Offended?"  and  "Glee's Portrayal of Asperger's Syndrome."  The consensus seems to be a ringing chorus of Not Like This!  (Oh, it's on FOX Broadcasting.  That explains a lot.)

"The World Inside the Crystal"  by Steve Savitzky is a famous filk song about the perspective of computer wizards who feel more at home in cyberspace than in meatspace.


Education, Work, and Tools

"13 Apps That Support and Empower the Autistic Community" describes a number of useful programs with different objectives.  These include text/speech translators, image-based organizers, stress-relief games, and more.

Specialisterne provides meaningful employment in information technology to people on the autistic spectrum, by capitalizing on their strengths.  This is very close to some of what happened in An Army of One, with the military of the two Arms recognizing how useful such passionate experts could be.

"How Apps Are Helping Kids with Autism to Communicate" explains the use of the YuuDee icon app for communication and for literacy practice.

"Using Gaming to Flip the Script on Autism" views interest in computers as a virtue instead of a vice.  This allows teachers and parents to use video games and other computer programs to teach life skills and job skills, thus preparing autistic children for the future.  Play to your strengths!


Activism

Autism Speaks is by neurotypical people about neurovariant people.  However, actual autistic people object to it based on multiple flaws.

Autistic Self Advocacy Network is by and for people on the autistic spectrum, seeking to make their lives better and safer.

"Nothing About Us Without Us" is a pledge to include neurovariant people in speaking and making decisions about themselves as a group.  Here is an essay about the pledge in action.


Some Space-Related References

Explore the galactic coordinate system.  See the big map of galactic directions.

Galactic empires,  or other powerful political entities that span more than one star system, are a common trope in science fiction.  "Galactic Empire"  (Princeton.edu) is more academic but well organized. "Galactic Empires"  in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is heavily cross-referenced.  "Are Galactic Empires the New Middle Earth?"  by James W. Harris in 2011 explores how current and historic politics have made their way into literature.  "Galactic Empires"  by Robert A. Freitas, Jr. is an older essay from 1983 with a literary focus.  "Galactic Empires and the Contemporary Extravaganza: Dan Simmons and Iain M. Banks"  by Christopher Palmer from 1999 discusses the implications of large political bodies in space.

Maps of the Milky Way Galaxy with the named arms labeled.

"Politics in Science Fiction"  by John Frost.  A brief essay and longer discussion in comments about political ideas in SF.

Space Travel by Ben Bova with Anthony R. Lewis.  Nonfiction book.  It covers methods achievable with known science and some extrapolation of other possibilities.  There's also a sizable section on space habitats, which is useful for this series in general.

Spiral Arms of the Galaxy.

Star Drives in Science Fiction: A Catalog by Geoffrey A. Landis.  A thorough guide to interstellar travel in science fiction.

"Superluminal: A Scientific Look at Science Fiction Stardrives"  by Paul Lucas. (Scroll down; there is gibberish at the top.) Another guide to different types of interstellar travel.

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6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
thnidu From: thnidu Date: January 14th, 2013 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)
There's an LJ community called, I think, talkingwithaspies.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 05:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

It says "not currently registered."
chordatesrock From: chordatesrock Date: January 14th, 2013 07:42 am (UTC) (Link)
That is quite a lot of resources! Don't credit me with everything; I think I linked you to less than half of those.

Also, thank you for posting a list of SF resources that might help in ficcing your work.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)

You're welcome!

>>That is quite a lot of resources! Don't credit me with everything; I think I linked you to less than half of those.<<

Okay, I edited that part to say "some."

>>Also, thank you for posting a list of SF resources that might help in ficcing your work.<<

I'm glad you found the SF stuff helpful. If you need more, let me know. I loved the ficlet you wrote for "A One-Way Trip." You really got me thinking about that more.
primeideal.dreamwidth.org From: primeideal.dreamwidth.org Date: January 14th, 2013 03:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Following on from my earlier comment, here's a lot more stuff about my spectrum experience if you or others find that useful. I tried to point out a few things that seem relevant to "An Army of One," but if other people have more specific questions, feel free to give me a holler. :)

http://primeideal.dreamwidth.org/8885.html
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 14th, 2013 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

This is very helpful. I have added a link for it to my resources list.
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