Oh, Canada: Maple Dip-Donuts, Public Transit, and Disability Accomodations

Earlier this week, Tina and I spent the day traveling through Ontario on our way to the Burlington IKEA. Many of you may not know that I have harbored a deep love and appreciation of Canada pretty much since I was young. I know that I also tend to romanticize Canada, but Canada and its provinces are filled with so many fascinating and beautiful vistas and they always seem to be miles ahead of us Americans in many respects (public transit, universal healthcare, etc.). It’s hard not to be impressed or taken by some aspect during a visit.

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How to Really Support Autism

My mornings are pretty consistent – I wake up for the several alarms I’ve set neurotically, hit the off button, and browse on my phone to stay awake while snagging a few more minutes nestled in my comfy warm bed. While checking Twitter this morning to see if ODAAT was finally picked up by a network (fingers crossed), I saw so many posts for World Autism Awareness Day. So many puzzle pieces and #LightItUpBlue, so little time. You might also know that April happens to be designated National Autism Awareness Month. As an autistic woman myself, I felt compelled to set the record straight about some things that I take issue with when mostly well-intentioned people try to support autism as a cause. It’s not all bad, but there’s definitely some bad vibes that April gives to #actuallyautistic people like myself.

Language Matters

When you’re drafting a post to social media, you might spend some time thinking about hashtags, which filter, and definitely if you’re anything like me which gif to use (still not solid on how that’s actually pronounced). So why wouldn’t you spend some time thinking about the language you use on social media? I can’t tell you how many times in April I see people using language that’s often considered hurtful to both the autism and disability communities. Phrasing like handicapable, differently-abled, and special needs or calling people with disabilities inspirations or courageous. My biggest issue is with what is commonly referenced as inspiration porn. I recently discovered ABC’s Speechless, which is an amazing show that actually features genuine disability representation and needs to be renewed ASAP!! They hit the nail on the head in one of their episodes as they explained what inspiration porn is.

No Assembly Required

The imagery associated with autism of the puzzle piece may appear innocent, but it carries an implied meaning that can be hurtful to autistics like me. Think about the last time you tried putting together a puzzle. You had to look at the box to see if the pattern was even remotely close, scavenge for the right piece for a particular spot, and sometimes slam it into place before you realize that there was a missing piece. People are not puzzles!!! The analogy of a puzzle piece – especially when paired with that saying “until all the pieces fit” – implies that people on the autism spectrum need to be fixed or that something is wrong with us. The sooner we ditch the puzzle piece, the sooner we can change the narrative of autism as being something to fix when really it’s society that could benefit from changes.

Blue-Washing

Every April brings a wave of blue everywhere, which seems cheery enough, but again there’s an aspect that might not even cross your mind. When you think of the color blue, there are several associations you might make from raindrops to a beautiful clear sky. Of course, there’s also the association seen at many gender reveal parties with boys traditionally being represented with the color blue. When attached to something like autism, it wipes out the existence of other autistic people who identify as female or another gender identity. In 2019, we need to do better in not only recognizing but supporting all autistic people regardless of how they identify in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation.

Ditching Autism Speaks

Have you ever had that one acquaintance that’s always saying something really messed up? Enter Autism Speaks. For many well-intentioned people, Autism Speaks is the organization that you might give a donation to in April, but peel back the curtain and see the horrible ethos of the organization which ascribes to what is referred to as the medical model of disability. It essentially aims to fix or cure people with disabilities including autistics through medicine. In the case of Autism Speaks, their goals are made into reality with research for a cure and support of prenatal testing which aligns itself with other modern eugenics practices. Let me say emphatically: I and fellow autistics like myself – we are not broken and we don’t need to be cured!! They are an organization that not only fails to represent the support needs of autistics directly but is perfectly okay at the prospect of erasing autism and autistics like myself off the map. This op-ed published four years ago from The New York Times written from a parent’s perspective, while dated still provides a great perspective of the issue.

 

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) also gives some thoughts in a prepared pamphlet on the ills of Autism Speaks’ practices as well as providing some helpful guidance on where to donate instead that will actually benefit people on the autism spectrum and not an organization participating in mass character assassination of autistic people. I leave you with this thread from NYT YA author Marieke Nijkamp that pretty much sums up my feelings to a T. I hope you enjoy the rest of your #WorldAutismAcceptanceDay and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!!

 

All the Education Money Can Buy

I vividly remember my experience preparing for college during eleventh grade. My basketball-loving high school counselor Mr. Brousseau pointed me to the PSAT as a way to prepare for the big one: the SATs. I had been practicing with the College Board’s online practice tests whenever I could. I remember the anxiety I experienced coming in for the PSAT and that wasn’t even the real thing. My mom dropped me off at my high school early that Saturday morning and I nervously sat myself down at an open desk in one of the math classrooms with at least 10 other students in my high school. This was one of the first tests in a long time that I didn’t have accommodations for. I honestly don’t know which was more nerve wracking: the people around me or the test that was about to be on my desk. I had prepared my usual ziplock bag of test supplies – several pencils and a Texas Instruments calculator. Soon the proctor distributed the practice tests and I was a fearful matador in front of my frightening bull that was this practice SAT test. My nerves were frantic as my skin felt like ants marching underneath. I tried breathing to relax, but I quickly faced a crushing blow when the batteries on my calculator died. As someone who couldn’t do any math to save my life, I felt utterly helpless and unsure of how to proceed. My test anxiety was getting the better of me and I felt like I was watching my college future slipping away. I left the test that Saturday feeling beyond defeated and disappointed in myself.

That disappointment faded into a fiery sense of stubborn determination when I sat down to take the actual SAT test in the spring. It also helped tremendously that I was able to take the test with accommodations for time, and a separate and quiet location. I sat down again with my ziplock baggie of pencils, my Texas Instruments calculator and an entire package of batteries (I wasn’t playing that game again). I was still absolutely terrified of the test, but somehow, I felt less frazzled than last time. Each time I exhaled, it felt like I was shedding the weight of my inner buried anxieties, which I had placed on a single test (which was absolutely unfair to do to myself). In the end, I was right and I did really well. The irony is that I didn’t end up needing to take it because I started at a community college, but I learned a lot about myself from the experience.

You see, before the PSAT/SAT one-two punch, I wasn’t really serious about going to college. It was this thing that all of my teachers and guidance counselors had an opinion about and I was kind of flirting with it in a noncommittal way. Taking the test taught me through a so-called failed practice test that yes, this was something I wanted and because I let it slip through my fingers, I was going to fight like hell to get that chance.

When I read the news about the FBI uncovering a college admissions scam with fraudulent testing, I felt so many emotions reading the story. Mostly anger and frustration as I saw these students were falsely and unethically obtaining testing accommodations for the ACT and SAT under the guise of having learning disabilities. As an autistic student now working on grad school, I consider myself extremely lucky to have had the accommodations I’ve needed during my high school and college career so far because I know that doesn’t always happen. I took the SAT with accommodations of extended time and a separate and quiet location which helped me tremendously so when I read about students without disabilities falsifying having learning disabilities to gain access to accommodations in order to buy and cheat their way into college with so-called good test scores, I felt angry that people who have busted their butts and taken the SAT the right way may have been cheated out of an education at their preferred colleges because some privileged white kids made their own lane and fraudulently bought their way into college. Simply put, the people who took and didn’t cheat were cheated – whether or not they have disabilities. If I’m honest, it’s especially infuriating when you are familiar with some of the statistics for post-secondary education like I have become from one of my disability studies courses this semester.

I literally just wrote a paper on the statistical divide in college enrollment, which for a brief review, revealed a tremendous gap between the enrollment rates for students with disabilities and those without. Add to that factors like economic and racial privilege that gets stacked against students with disabilities who are already disadvantaged when it comes to getting a college education. The stats I used for my paper may have been 10 years old, but a 2011-2012 U.S. Department of Education study shows that only 11% of the college population is comprised of students with disabilities.

I also felt incredibly sad for the many students who like me are actually disabled and set out to attend college the right way and had been denied in order to make room for these people who cheated and scammed the system that’s already rigged against individuals with disabilities. This whole story brings up a lot of feelings for me in regard to how people with disabilities are treated. People without disabilities are taking advantage of the resources that so many people with disabilities have had to fight for their entire lives.

I couldn’t help but think of my experience obtaining accommodations which actually hasn’t been smooth sailing. I’ve had to fight to get the support that I need throughout my educational career. In first grade, I was held back a year in order to obtain special education support services, before being formally diagnosed as autistic. I literally had to repeat a grade to get the services I needed, and these parents simply paid for access?

 In college, fighting for support was often an uphill battle. Trying to advocate for yourself and the assistance you need, on top of all the other college priorities is a stress, and a distraction. I’ve had professors who have denied me my accommodations such as a math education class when I was denied use of my calculator despite it being on my approved accommodations. While in many senses, I was lucky to have had relatively medium issues obtaining accommodations – other students with disabilities aren’t always so lucky.

Having able bodied students coached into claiming disabilities to get accommodations they don’t need is a slap in the face of disability activists who throughout history have worked hard in the fight to gain equal rights and fight unnecessary barriers placed by an ableist society that discriminates and constantly stigmatizes people with disabilities.

This behavior sets us back. People fight for accessibility which doesn’t always come easy. This whole scandal is insulting. What happens now? Will these parents face consequences for their actions? Will the colleges do anything to ensure this behavior ever stops or will it just continue on? Because let’s be real: this isn’t new, it’s just an instance in which people were actually caught. What will become of the degrees these students received? Do the students get off with no consequences? Because weren’t they adults who could have stood up and said no thanks, I’d rather get by on my OWN Merits?!?

Perhaps this outrageous story can be an opportunity for a dialogue on the realities of education and disability.

Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who – Richard Dinnick – REVIEW

Hey guys – so I know Tina tends to be more of a book-lover on the blog than myself, but one of my goals for this year is to read more as a way to expand my knowledge as well as to give myself and my eyes, some much needed “R&R” away from screens. I intentionally set the bar low on my Goodreads with only 10 books because I know it can be hard during the school semester to read for classes let alone for myself. Plus, I want to get back into the habit of reading more!! I remember when I used to whizz through books during high school so my hope is to return to my former reading glory of satiating several books monthly. Considering I’ve already read four so far this January, I’d say I’m doing well!

The latest book I’ve finished has been the graphic novel Doctor Who: The Many Lives of Doctor Who from Richard Dinnick. I’ve been learning that I enjoy reading graphic novels. I used to read manga and have more recently enjoyed reading the March historical trilogy from Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and earlier this month, I polished off Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. It really shouldn’t surprise me that I like graphic novels so much, seeing how I loved reading the comics as a kid (I absolutely loved Opus the Penguin).

I’m also quickly becoming a Whovian. I’ve been working my way through watching both the Tenth and Thirteenth Doctor, and my eventual goal is to watch every single Doctor. I’m no where near done, but I have a basic understanding of both the order of the Doctors and some of the creatures from the iconic British science fiction program. Now that I’ve explained that, let’s talk about the book itself!!

The book kicks off right as the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) regenerates. While the regeneration process takes place, The Doctor revisits past incarnations of himself as a means to prepare the latest and current Thirteenth Doctor (played by Jodie Whittaker) to travel through space and time dimensions. While I mentioned before I’m not yet as well-versed in all versions of The Doctor, I think this book was a fun read despite that and it’s not really necessary to have that knowledge to read it. The fourteen different stories from prior versions of The Doctor provided a really enthralling read as they travel through space and time from New York in the 1980s, Northern Italy in 49 B.C.E, and beyond. The stories not only feature the 14 different versions of The Doctor but also incorporates some of the beloved companions, other characters, and creatures like the Daleks and Cybermen throughout the series. The stories also incorporate various established characteristics from the series such as The Doctor’s distaste for pears. Regardless of how much you may or may not know about the series, this book does a good job about making a series of short tales that are captivating without needing extensive knowledge about everything within the Doctor Who series.

The stories in Dinnick’s book would be nothing without the mesmerizing illustrations. The illustrations within are individual masterpieces as each story was done by different illustrators. Like each incarnation of The Doctor, the illustrations have their own discernible creative differences but every illustration is both authentic and gorgeous visual representations in their own way. I think one of my favorites were the illustrations of Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor – they’re absolutely adorable and fun and made me want to switch to watching the Fourth Doctor now!

Whether you’re a fan of the longstanding sci-fi series or just looking for an in to the Doctor Who fandom (I’d say that this book is a great way to enter this world, that can honestly feel overwhelming to anyone unfamiliar), this book is a very short read and if you’re anything like me, will leave you wanting more. The book earns a 3.84 rating on Goodreads, but I personally would’ve given a higher rating of 4.5. It is absolutely brilliant and it’s safe to say I want to dive further into Doctor Who graphic novels!!

Double Vision: Sitcoms & the Great Recasting

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – you’re watching a TV show and you notice that one actor who was on the show in its first few seasons, is back as somebody else. Well, I recently noticed this with Golden Girls when in one of the episodes Rose was dating a guy named Arnie Peterson who looked really familiar. Turns out the character was played by Harold Gould who would go on to portray another of Rose’s love interests with Miles Webber. A whole dissertation could be devoted to the way Golden Girls reuses actors or has several actors playing the same characters, but it’s not just Golden Girls that I’ve picked up on this, it’s sort of a whole thing…

 

Harold Gould as Arnie Peterson (left) and Miles Webber in The Golden Girls.

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Why I Hated The Last Season of The Office

So I’m probably one of the last people out there to watch The Office (what can I say I’ve been living under a rock), but it was one of my goals for the new year to finish watching every single episode of the show which spanned the course of nine seasons. I started watching the show around the time I was finishing my undergrad and I quickly understood why it’s such a favorite. But I have to admit that in contrast to prior seasons, the last season just wasn’t as good in my opinion. Hear me out – it wasn’t all bad, but there were definitely things I thought could’ve been better about this cult favorite show’s final season.

The Bad, The Good and The Ugly

First off, I really hated the way that Andy just up and left everyone (especially Erin) to be on a boat/in the Bahamas for three months! I know comedic writing makes sure to incorporate the foibles of characters, but it just seems rude that Andy would make such a profound misstep after telling Erin that he loved her, by acting like such a jerk during season nine. One of my other gripes about the last season were the conflicts between Jim and Pam. I really felt uncomfortable with the way Jim was splitting his time between Philly working for his company Athlead, and working in Scranton part-time at Dunder Mifflin. All while Pam was left to hold down the fort as a single mother. I was conflicted – I wanted Jim to follow his dreams, but also I could see the strain being put on Pam and felt sympathetic for her. Especially as there were several moments during the season that I felt Jim was being really dickish to Pam unnecessarily (say for failing to get a video of Cece’s ballet recital)! I just felt like after watching Andy and Jim for so long, they suddenly were acting completely out of character. Here were two guys who at one point, would have done anything for the women they loved. Everyone is entitled to their missteps in life but it just felt like too much. Long gone were the twelve days of Christmas and teapots with secret love notes.

It was hard (that’s what she said) to watch the ninth season with the roller coaster ride that Angela and Dwight’s story lines had become in the final season. Angela finds out that Robert is cheating on her with Oscar, but she continues a short lived facade of a happy marriage to The Senator. Dwight then asks Angela for assistance caring for his elderly aunt as the two reconnect, but any hopes of the two reuniting are squashed by Angela’s mention of her husband Robert. Dwight soon ends up romantically pursuing his neighbor Esther while Angela’s marriage to Robert continues to unravel when during a televised press conference he comes out as gay. The results end up providing one of the sweetest moments from Oscar as he offers a place to stay after Angela is evicted.  It’s difficult because you just know that Angela and Dwight belong together!! The will they, won’t they of their relationship extends dangerously close to the end of the final season. I’m just happy there was a happy ending, or this entire post would be one long bitch about how they belong together!

Another area of frustration for me was the warehouse mural. Pam’s artistic skill is so underappreciated throughout the show and few really seem to acknowledge it (I’m still a little choked up from Michael’s reaction to Pam’s paintings in the Season Three episode “Business School”) so when someone defaced the mural (with butts, really?!?) that she was working on in the warehouse it really bugged me, but then we find out who did it. Is it just me or does Brad William Henke (who portrays new warehouse worker Frank) play the whole douchey antagonistic type of character really well as evident by his character in Orange Is The New Black? Things were definitely made better when we were provided another sweet instance of Pam and Dwight teaming up as they painted on his truck together. It can’t be said enough – Dwight and Pam’s friendship throughout the show is seriously underappreciated!!

This might be controversial, but for me, one of the highlights of season nine was the exit of Ryan Howard’s character. I did miss the sass that Mindy Kaling’s Kelly Kapoor brought to Dunder Mifflin, but I’m not going to lie – I absolutely couldn’t stand Ryan so I may have clapped when it was mentioned by Toby that he had left (sorry, not sorry)!!

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Build With Us! Sims 4 Build Challenge – January – #Sims4PubCrawl

It’s a new year and I’m excited to introduce a new series to the blog with Sims 4 monthly builds. You may know I’ve been playing The Sims since its initial series of games (I still have the complete The Sims game disc and can remember the graphics that seem so primitive in contrast to the game today), but I feel like despite the many (many) years that I’ve been playing, I very rarely share what I’m up to in the game, or the builds that I create.

So I’ve decided to create a thing! I was thinking that in a way to get myself to share my creations, we could all do it together. Starting this month, I plan to share a different themed build on the blog each month. I’ll be uploading each one to the gallery and I hope that you will feel inspired to join in and do the same!

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