cognitively disabled


NFL player Joe Haden is taking a powerful stand against the “R-word” 

Joe is an NFL cornerback for the Cleveland Browns. Jacob, his younger brother, is Joe’s biggest fan. Jacob also happens to have a cognitive disorder that limits his speech and language capabilities. Via the Special Olympics and activism, the two are inspiring people everywhere — and the story of how Joe saved Jacob’s life is just the beginning.

“We were talking about you moving to the institution.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“Tell me what you remember about going there.”

“I remember one part of it very well.  I don’t remember walking in there.  I was just a little girl and i’m not sure I knew what was happening until I was in the admission office.  I was standing in front of the desk beside a social worker that I didn’t know very well and they were talking about how I was going to live there.  The social worker had given a form to the woman behind the desk who read it very carefully. She ketpt looking at me and shaking her head.  I knew that she was reading about me breaking plates.  I wanted to tell her that it wasn’t my fault.  But I knew better.  I knew that I should just stand there.  Then it happened…” She stopped as if considering going on.  I knew better than to prod.  "A man came in.  He worked in an office there.  He stopped at the desk and sai dto the woman, `What’s its name?’  The woman told him that my name was Ella.  He told her that Ela was too pretty a name for someone like me.  He looked at me and then said, ‘Call it Noreen.’  That has been my name ever since.


Dave Hingsburger, I Witness: History and a Person with a Developmental Disability

This is how much of an unperson you are when people stick you under the umbrella of retard.  I frequently try to get across how people think of you when they call you that but this gets it across better than anything I’ve ever said: You don’t even necessarily get to keep the most basic marker of your identity in our culture – your name.

Also if you can get your hands on this book it contains a lot of important information.  Both from Noreen’s perspective, and Dave’s – Dave describes things like how he used to write behavior programs involving skin shock so severe it left burn marks on people’s skin: JRC is not the only place that happens at.


Please do not use The ‘R’ Word

Tumblr is my fun place, so I don’t usually get into this here, but… reasons. 

Lovely people here sometimes use the word ‘Retard’ or ‘Retarded’ or some variation (ie ’________-tard’) and those lovely people do NOT mean anything at all against people with cognitive or physical disabilities.  

I understand. I get it.  Seriously!  I’m not being sarcastic at all.  This is on my mind in the friendliest of ways.  I don’t mean to embarrass or offend.  I just hope to help you understand.

My younger son was born with Down syndrome. He’s doing well (learning, growing, healthy) and I adore him. I’m proud of him. But, for me, slurs against people with disabilities strike a painful nerve.  It’s personal.  It brings up every fear I’ve ever had about my son being bullied or abused.  It hurts.  I can’t step off this soapbox.  Life put me on it for keeps.  

So, please, consider your language. ;)  Help End the ‘R’ Word.

Thank you.

Executive dysfunction and teachers

we-aint-borntypical asked: Sorry if this is late, but how do I tell my teachers about my executive dysfunction and how it affects my ability to do assignments?

realsocialskills said:

I think the most important thing you can do is accept that the problem is real, and that it’s ok to need help.

It can be hard to accept that executive dysfunction is real. It can be very tempting to feel like if we just try harder or wait long enough, it will somehow work out. And some percentage of the time that does work — which can make it seems like it will *always* work if we try hard enough. But it doesn’t work that way, and expecting it to causes a lot of problems.

Executive dysfunction means that sometimes there are insurmountable barriers to doing things completely independently. Sometimes this can happen with things that our culture says are easy and that you may not have heard of anyone having trouble with. It can be hard to come to terms with that. It gets easier with practice.

More directly about managing relationships with teachers, I’ve found two things helpful: I try to err heavily on the side of asking for help as soon as I’m feeling stuck, and I also try to select instructors based on understanding and/or cognitive compatibility.

If you’re facing an assignment and can’t figure out how to make progress on it, it’s good to err on the side of asking for help immediately. This can be hard to do, especially if you feel ashamed or like you don’t have a good reason. It’s actually ok though, and it gets easier with practice.

It’s normal to need help sometimes, even if the reasons you need it are unusual. All teachers have students who need help. Good teachers understand this and consider needing help normal. (Not all teachers are good, but many are). A lot of teachers care about helping their students, and it’s usually a lot easier for them to do that if you ask sooner rather than later. (It also saves you the time you’d waste trying to do something impossible through sheer force of will.)

If you can, it helps to explain in concrete terms what you are having trouble with, and what you think would help. (If you don’t know what would help, the concrete request might be “Can we meet to talk about this assignment?”). I think that it usually helps to err on the side of talking about concrete problems rather than abstract concepts like executive dysfunction.

For instance, I think “I’m having trouble getting started on this assignment. Could you help me narrow down my topic?” is usually more effective than “Executive dysfunction makes this assignment hard for me, what should I do?”. That said, if the latter is the only way you can ask for help in a particular situation, don’t wait until you know a better way. It’s ok to ask for help imperfectly; it’s ok to need help even if you’re not sure what help you need.

Not all teachers will be good at helping you. Some won’t be willing, some some won’t know how. Some will be inconsistent. But a good percentage of teachers *are* skilled at helping. If you have a choice about who your teachers are, it’s good to err on the side of picking teachers who are good at helping.

Also, some teachers are going to be inherently more cognitively compatible with you than others. Different teachers do instruction and assessment differently. If you have a choice, it can be good to err on the side of taking classes with teachers who give assignments that are more reliably possible for you.

Aside from attributes of teachers — asking for help effectively is a set of skills. One of those skills is the emotional skill of feeling ok about the fact that you need help. Another is assessing what’s going on and figuring out what your needs are. Another is expressing it to teachers in a way that they can understand and act on readily. And there are other skills I’m not sure how to explain. No one is born knowing how to do these things, and they all get easier with practice.

tl;dr Executive dysfunction makes school complicated. Taking classes with teachers who teach in a way that makes cognitive sense to you can help, when you have a choice. It can be hard to ask for help, and hard to feel ok about needing help. That’s a set of skills, and it gets a lot easier with practice.

Can we talk about how autism discourse often revolves around throwing people with intellectual disabilities (and other cognitive stuff) under the bus? Like I’m reading something and it involves literally saying “well at least autistic people can actually be really smart and not have cognitive/intellectual disabilities!”

First, autism and intellectual disability are not mutually exclusive.

Second, intellectual disability does not preclude meaningful lives. Intellectual disability does not mean people cannot have input on their own lives and choices.

Stop talking about it like autism is higher up on a hierarchical scale and that’s why autistic people are worth something.

People are worth something because they are people.


Fiction versus fact, Down Syndrome

Fiction: Down syndrome is a rare genetic disorder.

Fact: Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic condition.

Fiction: All people with Down syndrome have a severe cognitive disability.

Fact: Most people with Down syndrome have a mild to moderate cognitive disability, or intellectual disability.

Fiction: Most children with Down syndrome are born to older parents.

Fact: Eighty percent of children born with Down syndrome are born to women younger than age 35.

Fiction: People with Down syndrome are always happy.

Fact: People with Down syndrome experience a full range of emotions just like anyone else. 


for my mentally ill/cognitively disabled peeps or anyone who has issues with personal hygiene! please get this soap! It’s called crusader medicated soap and it’s supposed to be an antibacterial soap to help with the skin BUT it really helps with fighting odors even the funkiest odors. So if you are someone who has issues with taking showers everyday with this soap you don’t have to and you won’t exude an odor for at least 3 or 4 days.

you can find this at your local drug store but if you can’t find it anywhere they do sell on amazon

please spread this so people will know about it

The tl;dr version of my post about cognitive disability and academic communication styles in social justice circles.

I’m usually very bad at summarizing my longer posts.  In fact, it’s usually impossible.  This upsets me a lot because it means that a lot of my posts are unreadable to a lot of people.  Sometimes, though, I’m able to summarize things.  I’ve been able to do it here.  

If you want to read the whole, original post, click here:  Cognitively disabled people DO get to complain about jargon, academia, etc. in our movements.  Seriously, we do.

But here’s the basic gist of what I’m saying:

  • Academic language and academic communication styles have become an enormous part of social justice movements both online and in universities.
  • This language and communication style is impossible for a lot of people to understand.  Most ordinary people can’t understand it.  Many oppressed people have particular trouble understanding it.  Many cognitively disabled people will never understand it.
  • I am not telling anyone to give up academic language or communication styles.  Some people can’t (including because of disabilities), some people won’t.  I’m just trying to say that there’s something wrong when an entire movement is based on these communication styles, to the point you have to be able to understand it and use it in order to participate fully.
  • On tumblr, people who bring this up often get told it doesn’t exist, and that what we call ‘academic’ is just ‘people talking about their lives’.  This is partly because academia has so thoroughly shaped how oppressed people in certain social movements talk about their lives, that people really do think this is how you talk about your life if you’re oppressed, period.
  • I posted a long list of words that create little explosions in my head every time I read them, that are used in social justice circles constantly.  My intent is not to tell people not to use those words.  It’s to prove that yes, there is jargon, I am not imagining this or making things up.
  • I am, myself, oppressed in many different ways.  Fighting oppression is a survival issue for me.  I’m also cognitively disabled in ways that make these academia-influenced social circles very, very difficult for me to communicate within or understand.  I’m not writing this just to bother people (I’m no more anti-SJ than I’m SJ), I’m writing this because for my own survival I need social movements to be accessible to people like me.
  • Ordinary people, all over the world, fight oppression in amazing ways.  Without ever coming up with new jargon, without forming academic departments at universities, without engaging in sophisticated academic argumentation styles, without becoming inaccessible to ordinary people.
  • People need to stop denying that this stuff is academic in nature.  Right now it seems like people will admit it’s academic if it gives them more credibility (“it’s not just tumblr, this is how Real Sociologists talk!”), but if anyone says it makes things inaccessible, suddenly they say “There’s nothing academic going on here, nothing at all.”  This makes it impossible to address the problem.
  • People can still do their academic stuff it they want to or need to.  I’m not stopping anyone.  I just really, really don’t think this stuff should be at the core of any movement that seeks to end oppression.  Because that just makes things impossible for a lot of people, including the people who most need these movements.
  • My dream is exactly that:  Ordinary people, including cognitively disabled people, fighting oppression.  Talking about our oppression without needing fancy words.  Fighting oppression without needing academic argumentation tactics.  Doing all these things, without needing this academic stuff.  I know it’s already happening offline, everywhere around the world, in fact.  But I’d like to see it happen on places like tumblr, too.
  • It’s possible to be intellectual without being academic.  I do it all the time.
  • Not all cognitively disabled people have the same problems with the same stuff.  Some cognitively disabled people even need to communicate in an academic style.  But there’s a huge number of cognitively disabled people who can’t participate in these discussions because both the language and the entire structure and mentality of the discussion is too academic in a way that we can’t penetrate no matter how hard we try.  Some of us stick around and tough it out and try to change things, but more walk away on sight.  And lots of ordinary oppressed people have the same reaction.

And even though that was kind of long, that was much shorter than the original post.  If you want more detail, see the original post, it’s lots more detailed and may clarify some things that I leave out here.


Shout out to everyone with learning, attention, cognitive processing, executive function, and/or anything of this nature that affects you in school/daily lives.

  • To everyone who has ever been denied accommodations from the College Board.
  • To everyone who is denied accommodations from the College Board because they are “too smart”. 
  • To everyone who has to go through repetitive extensive testing to submit to the College Board, even though you’ve already done them. Even though you know your diagnosis.
  • To everyone who has wasted lots of money on these new pointless tests for the College Board, only to be denied.
  • To everyone who can’t afford to apply for accommodations for the College Board because the testing they require is too expensive.
  • To everyone who has failed an AP exam because your weren’t properly accommodated.
  • To everyone who finishes your tests last while your classmates make noise and disrespect you. 
  • To everyone who has to stay after class, during lunch, or after school to finish their work while their friends hang out without them.
  • To everyone who is left out of social activities because school work takes up too much of your time.
  • To everyone who is the last person to leave school before winter/summer break because you were making up work.
  • To everyone who is given accommodations they don’t need because your disorder isn’t recognized, and is labelled as something else in the school system.
  • To everyone who’s ever heard “you have _____? But you’re so smart!”
  • To everyone (with mild symptoms) who doesn’t always need accommodations, but don’t receive them when they do.
  • To everyone who can’t do well in school if they forget to take their medicine.
  • To everyone who struggles with teachers who aren’t willing to follow your accommodation plans.
  • To everyone who isn’t receiving accommodations they need because the school won’t pay for them.
  • To everyone who has parents that put lots of pressure on them about this.
  • To everyone who has parents that are very supportive to them, and don’t give up on them. (even when others do)
  • To everyone who also suffers from emotional/mental illnesses alongside these ones. 
  • To everyone who has been diagnosed pretty late.
  • To everyone who was diagnosed early and has known about it since they were little.
  • To everyone who has been misdiagnosed with the wrong disorder.
  • To everyone who hasn’t been diagnosed.
  • To everyone who has ever heard that “______ is just an excuse”
  • To everyone who has ever heard that “______ doesn’t exist, it’s made up so people can be lazy”
  • To everyone who worries about being able to get and hold onto a job.
  • To everyone who is scared they won’t be able to graduate. 
  • To everyone who has struggled with anything else related to this.

Im so sorry that these problems are so often overlooked. Im sorry that many of these problems are completely invisible to everyone else. Im sorry that so many people don’t know about these struggles we face. 

But I believe in you, I believe in us! We can make it. You can do it! Im proud of you, no matter how well you do in school, or on a test or assignment. Im so proud of all of you guys.

Some Things to Know When Interacting with People Who Use Assistive Technology to Write

(especially online, where so much communication is in writing)

All of these are based on my personal experiences using multiple types of assistive technology for text entry together with my knowledge of these technologies and the software that makes them work. I have the most experience with speech to text systems, but I have also used eye gaze keyboards, alternative touchscreen keyboards, Dasher, and stroke based character entry systems. I am familiar with an even wider range of technologies. However, I am approaching this topic from the perspective of physical disability, and you should remember that people who use assistive technology for other reasons, especially cognitive or developmental disabilities, may have significantly different needs and limitations.

What you should know:

1. Formatting is hard, especially when the user interfaces aren’t accessible.

Many times, assistive technology for writing only handles the text itself, not any formatting extras like bullet points, bold/underline/italics, special types of paragraph breaks, numbered lists, special spacing, etc.

If someone is using all caps for emphasis, remember that they might not be able to format the text as bold. (If text in all caps is a problem for you for whatever reason, consider downloading a browser extension to remove it. Conflicting access needs are real, but in this case there’s a pretty easy solution.)

If you get a wall of text, that’s probably because the assistive technology only (easily) outputs text! Depending on the tool, sometimes getting nicely formatted text with paragraph breaks is hard.

Keep reading

Cognitively disabled people DO get to complain about jargon, academia, etc. in our movements. Seriously. We do.

[If this post is too long for you, try this other post, which summarizes it, but doesn’t have quite as much information.]

First off, quickly, to get this over with:  I am not telling anyone to change their language. People can make their own decisions on whether to change their language.  I have language disabilities that make it very hard for me to change my language.  So I pretty much never, ever tell anyone they absolutely have to change their language.  And I never assume that someone’s language skills are so good that changing language would  be easy for them.  You can’t tell that by reading an essay or something.  Also, I’m not against the existence of academia, I’m against the insistence that academia and things learned from it are necessary in the everyday runnings of anti-oppression movements.

Also, I understand the irony of writing a really really long post that some cognitively disabled people can’t read, in order to complain about inaccessibility of stuff to cognitively disabled people.  Unfortunately long posts are a side-effect of some of my own cognitive disabilities.  I often literally can’t read my own writing after I’m finished with it, not kidding.  I tag my long posts with #long or #long post.  Or both, usually.

Now that this is out of the way, on to what I really want to say.

People who fight oppression often use a lot of jargon.  That jargon is difficult to read and often academic in nature.  But we’re not allowed to actually say this – except when we are.  There’s two main scenarios:

1.  Someone has been exposed to tumblr social justice for awhile, but hasn’t seen anything like it anywhere else.  She goes to university and takes a women’s studies class.  All the words and concepts are familiar from tumblr.  She is overjoyed.  She makes a long post about how, in fact, people should be okay with all the jargon because it’s actually what Real Academics use when doing Real Sociology, and it means that tumblr social justice is incredibly meaningful and on the right track.  Because it is so much like academia, so it must be right.

2.  Someone complains that the academic jargon and buzzwords used in tumblr social justice contexts (among others) makes it impossible for a lot of ordinary people, including himself, to follow what is going on.

In the first instance, it is okay to mention jargon, because the jargon is being mentioned in a good light.  In the second instance, it is terrible to mention jargon.  And they must convince the person, as quickly as possible, that there is no actual jargon being used and that the whole idea that it’s jargon is all in his head, and oppressive besides.

I usually run into the second situation.

I’m just going to lay this out here, because my problem is a common one, and it’s not the only problem that can result:

I am cognitively disabled.  I have, in particular, a problem with understanding language.   I am much better at creating words than understanding words.  My receptive vocabulary is small.  When I encounter a word outside of my receptive vocabulary, I don’t just skip over it.  It creates a sensation that is almost like an explosion in my head.  It is physically painful.  It then creates a blank space, a blank space that try as I might, I can’t fill in.  This can even happen with words that I sometimes understand.  It can even happen with words that I am able to use easily, but not understand easily.

Other people have cognitive disabilities that affect their ability to understand jargon in other ways.

Other people have English as a second language, and jargon can be extremely difficult.

Other people have limited education, limited access to books, and limited vocabularies as a result.

All of these things can be connected to oppression, strangely enough.

Yet whenever those of us in these positions bring this up, this is what we get told:

“There is no jargon.  There are no buzzwords.  We are just people talking about our lives.  When anti-SJ people want to shut us down, they try and talk about our jargon and buzzwords.  But really there is no jargon and buzzwords.  And if you say that there is, you are oppressing us.”

This is not acceptable.

Neither is being told that if we don’t understand them, it’s because we lack the ability to understand oppression properly.  

Neither is being told that if we don’t understand them, it’s because we don’t experience the oppression in question.

Neither is the hostility.  The snark.  The put-downs.  Often put-downs that are themselves ableist or classist.

One of the least acceptable things to me is the denial.

The part where you say “Move along, nothing to see here.  There is no jargon, how dare you call it jargon.  It is not academic, how dare you call it academic.”

And on the note of academic things, the problem is not just that the language used is overly academic and difficult for people outside academia.  It’s that academia teaches entire ways of interacting with the world.

It teaches a way of interacting with the world where you can argue for or against any point of view possible, with lightning precision.  I’ve tried to have conversations with people who were doing this to me.  Here’s what it felt like:

I tried to say something.

They formulated an entire, coherent argument that crushed everything that I was saying, and also lots of things I wasn’t saying at all but that they insisted I must be thinking.  (Insisted.  Seriously.  Over and over again, insisted I must be thinking, until people reading the discussion assumed I was thinking those things too, even though I’d never said those things or anything remotely like them.)  

No matter what I said, they found an argument against it.  It wasn’t even that they were arguing their own viewpoint.  They were just arguing against mine.  So they’d take every single thing I said and find a way to argue that it was, in fact, wrong.  For me the point when I stopped believing there was any amount of good faith on their end, was when they tried to argue something so absurd that it could only come out of an academic-style argument of that type.  But basically they had gone over everything I said with a microscope, and then found a way to attack each piece of what I said, individually, each with a fully-formed argument of sorts.

That is a weapon, and it is an academic weapon, and it is a weapon that is taught to people in academic contexts, and it is a weapon that people learn either in academia, or from people who have been through academia.

That is not communication.  It’s bludgeoning another human being with words because you feel like it, or because you feel justified somehow.  And it’s very, highly, academic.

We’re not supposed to say anything is academic though.

Apparently, it’s oppressive to call these things academic, even when they are clearly academic.  The only time it’s not oppressive to call these things academic, is when you’re using ‘academic’ as a compliment – for instance, “This isn’t just tumblr, this is how they do things in real academia!”  People who say that get a free pass.  People who can’t handle academic communication styles, on the other hand, get told we’re oppressing people by calling their communication style academic.  Even when their communication style is about as academic as it is humanly possible to get.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with academic, in academia.  But when you’re trying to run an anti-oppression movement using academic buzzwords and academic arguing tactics and academic everything, then yes, something is wrong.  When those things become the norm in such movements, something is very, very wrong.

Because ordinary people can’t communicate that way or understand what you’re saying when you communicate that way.  And I’m talking just ordinary people here, not even people who are necessarily oppressed in any way.

But people who do face additional oppression?  Especially the combination of ableism, classism, and racism that keep people out of contexts where they could learn these things?  And especially people who would never be able to learn these things no matter what advantages they were given?

It’s even worse for us.

And this especially goes for cognitively disabled people.  Which, just so we’re clear, isn’t about IQ, it’s about any disability that affects cognition.  Autism, intellectual disability, dementia, learning disabilities, and brain injury are all very different conditions medically, but they’re all cognitive disabilities because they all affect thinking.  And many, many different cognitive disabilities are going to make people have trouble with academic language and academic arguing styles.

What kind of trouble we’re going to have varies a lot by the person.

We might be able to use academic language, but be unable to understand it, or we may be unable to use it, but able to understand it, or we may be unable to either use or understand it.  Or we may have trouble using or understanding it but be able to on a good day, with a lot of effort.  You get the picture.  

We may completely crumble when faced with an academic-style 'argument’ against our position, even when we’re in the right and we know it.  Because we can’t argue back, or can’t do it in a way the other person is going to respect.  

In my case, I crumble in those contexts a lot unless I take specific steps to prevent it (and even then…).  Because I get bombarded it’s like being hit by all sides with “you’re wrong because _____” repeated a hundred million times, and I can’t handle that amount of information it’s like information overload, and then even when I know I’m right, I’m not always going to be able to tell you why I’m right.

Which is why academic argumentation feels like a weapon sometimes.

But we’re not supposed to say it’s academic.  I’ve even read that it’s sexist, racist, or both, to call academic social justice buzzwords academic (or to refer to it as “buzzwords” or “jargon”), or to suggest there’s anything wrong with it being academic, or any problems that it being academic causes.  Because apparently since women and people of color came up with a lot of these words (in academic contexts, a lot of the time, mind you, like women’s studies departments), then we’re supposed to embrace them wholeheartedly and not point out that they can make things inaccessible for a lot of people.

And honestly there’s something very wrong about the fact that they’ve got it twisted around so that it’s oppressive to point out the oppression in what they’re doing.  That’s high-level mind-twisting stuff.  Which also makes things very difficult for cognitively disabled people.

And there may be a need for this academic stuff, these buzzwords, in certain contexts.  I don’t know.  I’m just saying there may be a need for it somewhere.

But when it becomes everywhere?  That’s a problem.

When it becomes mandatory?  That’s a problem.

When you can’t participate in your own movement because of it?  That’s a problem.

And that’s what a lot of people are facing.

Ordinary people who don’t have the background for this.  Which is most ordinary people, everywhere.  Which is exactly who you want involved in these movements, you’d think.  If so many people within the movements didn’t have their heads so far up their own asses, anyway.

Cognitively disabled people.  Especially cognitively disabled people.  (Yes, there are cognitively disabled people who do great with academic stuff.  I’m not talking about them right here, right now.  I’m talking about people who find academic stuff totally inaccessible in one or more ways.)  We’re the ones that I think are hit the hardest by it, because our brains literally can’t do this no matter how many classes we take or how much we are exposed to it.  So no amount of 'educating us’ will make it better.  The only way to include us is to actually change what you are doing, rather than expecting us to magically change.

And no, even now, I will not tell anyone that they absolutely must drop their mountain of jargon and buzzwords.  Because I know, still, that there are people who can’t, for a million reasons, they can’t.  There is jargon and buzzwords that I myself can’t stop using.  I can’t very well tell others who can’t stop, that they must stop.

But for people who can, I do wish more would.

I wish people who were able, would work at making their communication more accessible to a wider range of people.  

And that goes beyond avoiding academic jargon.  It goes beyond becoming more concrete and less abstract.

It also involves unlearning certain academic styles of communicating, and not using them to bludgeon everyone who disagrees with you.

There’s a lot of academic stuff that I don’t even have names for, that I can’t even describe, that has made it into these movements precisely because these movements have come to be defined by things that take place in women’s studies, disability studies, black studies, and similar academic departments.  These places, and the things people learn in them, have become the way people understand oppression.  And while people are taking part in these departments, they’re usually in school learning other academic stuff.  And all that academic stuff is stuff they take with them back into the social justice movements that they participate in.  And then that stuff gets passed around on places like tumblr, to people who have never been in academia but still absorb all these ideas and ways of interacting that ultimately come from academia.  

And then those people who have never formally been exposed to academia but still are absorbing all this academic stuff from people who have been in academia, are the ones who say the loudest, “But there’s nothing academic happening!  We’re just talking about our lives and people call it academic.”

They probably sincerely believe that.

Because the way in which they have been taught to discuss their lives is academic.  The way in which they have been taught to discuss oppression is academic.  These things come from academia, and when people want to use that as a means of legitimizing things, then everyone admits it.  It’s only when people complain that everyone starts denying the academic roots of so much of the way these movements are handled on tumblr and elsewhere.

So yes, oppressed people just talk about their lives and it gets called academic.  Because loads and loads of oppressed people have learned how to talk about their lives from academia.  Academia that is controlled largely by oppressed people, but still academia.  With all the privilege that academia generally entails.

I want non-academic ways to talk about oppression.

I want cognitively disabled people talking about oppression as we experience it, minus buzzwords we can’t easily understand or use.

I want ordinary people able to discuss oppression without having to learn a whole new vocabulary.

I want to be able to discuss academia’s heavy influence within anti-oppression movements without being told the influence doesn’t exist and that I’m being oppressive by mentioning it.  When I’m a fucking cognitively disabled person who can’t do most of the jargon and buzzwords no matter how much I bang my head on them, and believe me I tried everything before I realized somewhere that I wasn’t at fault.

Here’s a list of words that create miniature explosions in my brain.  Some of them do it at all times, some of them only do it when used in certain ways.  Some of the explosions are worse than others.  Don’t you dare tell me that if I tried harder I would understand them, or that my problem is that I’m not oppressed enough to understand them, or that I am attacking the types of oppressed people who came up with them.  Don’t even.  Just fucking don’t.  And don’t try to define them for me, it won’t make it any easier, and if you don’t understand why, just trust me.

  • normative
  • normativity
  • heteronormative
  • mononormative
  • hegemony
  • intersectionality
  • trope
  • homosocial
  • heterosexism
  • cissexism
  • decentering
  • discourse
  • disenfranchisement
  • allistic
  • coalition
  • coalescing
  • structural violence
  • co-opt
  • patriarchy
  • heteropatriarchy
  • patricentricity
  • heterocentric
  • ciscentric
  • deconstruction
  • normative
  • kyriarchy
  • [anything] industrial complex
  • marginalized
  • queering
  • community building
  • performative
  • performativity
  • othering
  • textual
  • intertextual
  • praxis
  • on point
  • essentializing

This was true of some of the other ones, but especially the following are ones that only give me that explosion thing when used in certain contexts:

  • narrative
  • navigating
  • accountability
  • spaces
  • performed
  • performing
  • performance
  • interrogating
  • negotiating
  • oppositional
  • social justice
  • gaze
  • analysis
  • dynamic

You’ll note that I even use some of these words on occasion.  I have two separate vocabularies, one for using words and one for understanding words.  My vocabulary for using words accurately within sentences is far larger than my vocabulary for understanding words.  That’s common for my particular set of cognitive disabilities.

I have never published this list in its entirety before.  But I thought I should now.  I spent years writing down every time a word made my brain explode on a regular basis.  And for a long time I wouldn’t publish the list because people in these movements are so fond, so very fond, of making lists of words that you can’t say.  And that’s not what I’m doing here.  I’m not saying you can’t say these words.  I’m using these words to illustrate the point that damn straight there is jargon and damn straight is a lot of it highly academic, no matter how much anyone wants to deny it.

Use these words as much as you feel you have to, just be aware that lots of people can’t understand them.  And that not understanding a word isn’t always a neutral experience, in my case it can cause extreme pain and cognitive dysfunction.  This doesn’t mean I hold you responsible for everything that happens in my brain as a result of reading these words.  Maybe you need these words, maybe there are things you can’t say yet without them.  And I’m the last person to simply want to create yet another list of Forbidden Words For Social Justice People To Ever Say because I hate that entire way of doing things on principle.

But I would love…

I would absolutely love…

If one day, we could say everything we needed to say, and nobody had to resort to words like those ones to say it in.

If one day, ordinary people and cognitively disabled people weren’t looking at these online social justice movements, taking one good look at how people communicate, and going “uh-uh, no way, I’m outta here, can’t do this.”  And only the most tenacious of us sticking around trying to change things.

If people didn’t think that academic ways of understanding oppression were automatically so superior.  Because seriously, right now, there’s a lot of people out there who think that we can’t do without them.  That this 'analysis’ (including the words, including the ways of thinking, including everything) is what’s required in order to end oppression.

Because honestly?

Ordinary people work to end oppression every day without learning a single one of these words.  Ordinary people and cognitively disabled people form our own ways of doing things.  Ordinary people do these things.  Without creating new words.  Without creating analyses.  Without creating academic fields.  Without creating new departments at universities.  There are people all over the world doing all kinds of things to end all kinds of oppression.  Uneducated people, cognitively disabled people, ordinary people, just ordinary people.

But you wouldn’t know it from the way lots of tumblr approaches the issue.

Oh, and because I know this might get passed around to people who don’t know me?  I’m multiply disabled (physically, cognitively, psychiatrically, chronically ill), queer, genderless, fat, poor, and raised female.  The fact that I reject certain ways of dealing with oppression, doesn’t mean that ending oppression isn’t as key to my survival as any other oppressed person.  I deal with survival issues on an everyday basis.  I need anti-oppression movements as much as anyone, and I need ones that are not spectacularly inaccessible to me.  That’s why I write things like this.  Not because I’m privileged and get off on tweaking the noses of SJ folks or something.  I’m no more anti-SJ than I’m SJ.  I consider writing things like this an obligation, because unlike many other people in my position, I am able to write them.  So I do.


Stop using it.

Stop using it to insult people.

Stop using it to describe a character’s actions. 

Stop using it to describe a real person’s behaviors. 

Stop using it to complain about a device that isn’t working properly. 

Just stop fucking using it. 

When you use that word to insult something or someone, you are directly insulting a large group of people with developmental and cognitive disabilities, and implying that these people are lesser. “But I don’t think of people with disabilities as lesser!” - then prove it. Change your behavior. Stop using a word that harms these people, that perpetuates negative stereotypes of people with mental disabilities. 

Hello Tumblr people. This is me. I have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I am absolutely terrified to make this post, which is why it needs to be done. #NoShameDay is a very cool thing and I want to help end the stigma. 

While my disability isn’t physically visible and I am now able to pass as neurotypical, it still affects my life. I am aware of the ways I think and process things differently and I face unique challenges pretty much every day. Yet, only my absolute closest friends know.

I was diagnosed at 3 years old and have undergone tons of therapies to help me function. I am now 22 years old and about to graduate from one of the top 20 universities in the US and will continue on to get my master’s degree. I have an amazing group of friends and an active social life. Funny how when I was first diagnosed, the doctor told my mom to put me in an institution and I would “never be normal.”

I get so ticked off when neurotypicals say that people with autism can’t function in society or don’t have empathy or can’t be smart and if they are smart they are just savants in one thing. I function fine (some social anxiety, but loads of other people have that too), I am filled to the brim with empathy (all I want to do is help people), and screw you I’m brilliant. I just think differently than you do. Different isn’t bad, it’s just different.

ASD is a very misunderstood disorder. It is also very “trendy” to talk about, which really doesn’t help resolve the misunderstandings tbh. 

Like it’s recently been trendy to use autism as the big bad monster in the closet that can be caused by vaccines or eating wrong or whatever unscientific ableist nonsense they want to preach. As though autism is worse than death. It’s offensive. I have been living with ASD for 22 years and I am doing great. 

I welcome anyone who has any questions. Sometimes people with ASD have difficulty speaking for themselves; I am fortunate to have a voice, so I intend to use it.

Happy No Shame Day! I love all of you brave people out there who shared your stories. I also love y’all who are still working up to sharing what makes you unique. You are all beautiful souls. <3 

Hi, guys! Can you sign this petition in support of autism housing? We're less than 500 supporters away, so signing up and sharing this would be a huge help. Thanks in advance!

To say someone has the mind of a child because of a test score is like calling them a cat because they can’t fly.

Mel Baggs

Yep, quoting myself – is that like the text equivalent of a selfie?  Someone just quoted me elsewhere and I’d completely forgot I said this.  I still firmly believe it.  And I’m not always good with the short pithy quotes (generally I’ll take pages and pages to explain simple concepts, because of communication impairments) so I’m kind of impressed I managed this one.  

anonymous asked:

I read an article the other day that proposed abortion should be legal up until the start of brain activity and illegal for all cases, except the life of the mother, after the start of brain activity. Does the Constitution guarantee the right to an abortion of an fetus with no brain activity or does an unborn fetus at conception have constitutional rights? I don't mean to sound judgmental I'm curious of your opinion.

An unborn child from the moment of conception is a biologically unique human individual.

You’re going to determine rights based on brain activity? You open the door to rightfully killing a coma patient. I had a friend suffer a brain injury that paralyzed him, and though most of the time he could not think or move, he had brief moments of lucidity. Would you open the door to murder him? Not pull the plug according to his family’s wishes—actual murder. Would you open the door to murdering someone with a brain injury or a cognitive disability?

You’re going to determine rights based on development? What about a baby born at 22 weeks, alive while still underdeveloped? If a preemie is born, should it be legal to kill it? Or does location change also “give” rights? How many cells do you need to be human? Do you need both kidneys to be human? Do you need a fully functioning heart or lungs? What if I’m born without the use of my legs or with a malfunctioning organ? Can those be reasons to give or take my rights? No? Then certainly rights must be based on something else.

How will you determine the rights of a person? Purely on development? Here’s a question no one can answer. Exactly where is the line? If it’s as black and white as pro-choicers say it is, this should have an obvious, clear, and consistent answer. When the heart beats? When brain activity is detected? When the frontal lobe is developed? It all differs. Even then, can you pinpoint those times? Tell me. It’s ok to dismember the fetus at 6 weeks, but the VERY next second, it’s not okay? It’s ok to end the life of a fetus the millisecond before a heartbeat, but not after? Ok, even if you could identify a clear guideline, can you scientifically even detect that? Can we right now find out how many cells a fetus has to qualify as human? Can we use an ultrasound or some kind of medical instrument to find out that point? To very specifically discover the exact second, millisecond, hell, it’s clear that there’s a cut off for abortion right? Then I argue you ought to be able to identify the yoctosecond someone becomes human, since we are talking about murder or not murder here. (By the way, that’s 0.000000000000000000000001 seconds). I mean, let’s be honest here. This is Law. It’s reason free from passion. If we are taking about something as serious as human life, there ought to be very strict black and white guidelines, no room for discussion. For other parts of law, we do have those guidelines. There are different criteria for murder, for self defense, for manslaughter, for depraved heart murder, for this for that. So abortion I must demand the same kind of guideline. The fact no one can produce a single scientifically verifiable and philosophically and logically justifiable cut off mark for abortion is evidence of how wrong it really is.

Is it dependent on how many cells you have? If so, cutting off my arm would mean I’m less human than before, less worthy of rights. So unless you’re ableist, it really isn’t dependent on the number of cells you have.

You see, because you and I don’t determine rights. Rights are not determined. They are not granted and they are not given. Our constitution does not give rights. Rights cannot be taken away. Rights are ENDOWED, they are intrinsic within you, you have them by virtue of existing. Rights are either protected or violated, but they can never be stripped. They cannot be removed, only left unprotected. That’s why we cannot kill or do anything we want to anybody, because their rights exist. It’s not for us to decide if rights are based on development or psychology. You have rights because you exist. That’s that. You have rights whether you are brown or white or gay or straight or fat or short or skinny or religious or non-religious or female or male or evil or good or kind or stupid or anything, because you are human first and foremost, because you have human DNA within every one of your cells, and you are a biologically unique human individual.


Here is the work of Catlaina Vrana! She has written a book to educate others about autism and generously agreed to publish a few excerpts to our sites and blogs. 

First excerpt

Second excerpt

Third excerpt

Catalina’s book can be purchased here!

Catlaina has published two books, and written a graphic novel. She is autistic and cognitively disabled, and loves spreading information on neurodiversity. Her favorite advocacy network is ASAN, and her special interests include Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and number sequences.


The Snoezelen is the antithesis to the sensory deprivation tank, creating a controlled environment where users experience several different elements of sensory interaction. Pioneered in the Netherlands in the 1970’s, the use of colorful lights and interactive objects has seen use as a form of psychotherapy for individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities. Though the philosophy of psychotherapy as been unproven, the Snoezelen reflects an alternative approach to psychotherapy.