Please tell readers a little bit about yourself.
Let's see, I'm an Autistic adult from a Mennonite family in Canada. I'm a writer, an artist and a musician, and if I wasn't those, I'd probably be tinkering with computer parts right now. I was diagnosed with ADHD and Learning disabilities as a child and as a teen, and then I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when I was 17. I used university as a crash course in living-on-my-own skills and explored information on Autism. I graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University in 2008 with a B.A. in English, and now I'm studying Disability Studies at Ryerson University.
How long have you been blogging?
Personally, I've been blogging since my mid-teens on an old geocities blog. I moved to Livejournal in 2003, writing mostly about my day to day life with occasional Autism, ADHD and Disability topics. I got more into writing about Autism when I got a summer job at a local Autism service provider, and was encouraged by staff to be more active. In August 2009, I was tired of searching through my archives for my articles to share, and decided to put everything onto a separate blog. Thus, No Stereotypes Here was created. So I've been blogging for about 11 years, but only about 2 years on Autism specifically.
Where does the name of your blog come from?
The name of No Stereotypes Here comes from when I was working at the Autism service provider. I had just gotten back from a travel class to South Africa. For my final assignment, I wrote and illustrated a children's picture book based on my experiences, and wrote a small essay explaining my reasoning behind the approach to the book. Before shipping it off to my professor, I showed the book to my manager at work. She read it, and said to me “you know, according to the professionals in my textbooks, you shouldn't be able to pick up on what you illustrated here.” I replied “yeah, I tend to break stereotypes.” I remembered that conversation three years later, when I was coming up for a name for my blog.
What kinds of things do you normally write about?
Generally, I write about whatever catches my eye that I feel strongly enough to respond. A lot of it tends to be Autism related, although I try to cover other disabilities as well. What I focus on is my response as an Autistic and disabled person on current events and topics such as poverty for persons with disabilities, survival tips for getting through holidays, and the meaning behind words in our community. It kinda depends on what I'm aware of going on, and what I feel hasn't been addressed properly, or that I have my own viewpoint on something.
Who are some of your favorite bloggers?
Oh, I hate this kind of question, because I hate keeping favourites. Er, if it's on my blog list, it's my favourite.
What do you wish people most knew about you?
Well, usually offline, I'm not nearly this articulate with my verbal skills. Yeah, I'll get my moments where I'll grab hold of a subject and talk about it for a couple hours, but there's not a lot of triggering topics and it's not a constant thing with me.
Other than that... er, I'm a geek. I game, I read, I marathon watch TV shows and movies, and I spent a lot of time picking them apart and analyzing them. That's what I'm usually doing when I'm not writing or studying, or trying to get a job to actually pay tuition and maybe get myself off social assistance. Oh, or when I'm not writing and drawing comics. Cause I do that too.
What has surprised you the most since you started blogging?
To be honest, the praise. I expected the negative comments and agreeing people, but I thought I was just going to be yet another blogger online. I figured that what I was saying was just common sense and I'd barely be noticed in the larger scheme of things. But then people keep saying how much I've contributed to their understanding, and that's really surprising. It feels good, but I don't think that I'll ever get used to it.
I'm also surprised about how far my readership is; I get giddy when I check my blog's stats and find someone's coming from half way around the world. And then there was the huge response for Autistics Speaking Day. I hadn't expected such a big turnout. I thought that it'll just be me and maybe a few friends on Twitter or something, and then people started putting in their blogs and it was just wow. It was incredible.
You work hard advocating for autism awareness and acceptance; what has been the most frustrating experience for you relating to this these past two years?
It's not the people who disagree with me; I've been in and around enough online communities to know that there's always going to be some people who you just don't get along with. And to some extent, I think I can understand a bit of where those people are coming from. So it's not them, but rather, what they say sometimes, the assumptions they make about me, that frustrates me the most.
Because I'm generally articulate online, some people have assumed that I'm more functional than I really am, and have skills and abilities that I don't actually have. For example, when I was having an online conversation with some one from Autism Speaks, the person invited me to New York to speak face-to-face. It sounded pretty neat, except for the fact that I don't do confrontations and those kinds of conversations really well offline. I also don't always have the personal resources to plan, organize and then execute that kind of trip on my own. Heck, some days, I don't even have the ability to go grocery shopping, and I find it really frustrating when I'm talking to people online who assume that because I can do one thing really well online, I must be able to do other things just as well.
Other than moments like that, there's been a couple of times when I'm having a discussion with someone and I'm trying to have a civil discourse, and the others' arguments start becoming circular, even after I've pointed out the flaws, or they start making personal attacks. It's really frustrating, because I'm all for discussions, but that kind of behaviour sort of sabotages any efforts for mutual respect and maturity.
Where do you feel like you've gotten through, made an impact?
I think that I've made the most impact with parents, and some caregivers and professionals. Especially on Twitter, where I find a lot of parents looking for help. I try to do my best to provide answers that might help their understanding about specific things and work together to brainstorm solutions to problems, solutions that respect both the needs of parents and the autistic child. I don't pretend to know what's exactly going on, but I try to use my own experiences to come up with possibilities. I think that I've helped, even in a small way.
What are some your online goals and how do these differ from your real-world goals?
My goals online are to advocate for autism awareness and acceptance, to help people understand what it's like, at least for me, to be Autistic, and to bring attention to issues that directly and indirectly relate to Autistic people and people with disabilities. I'm still working on my real-world goals, but they expand on my online goals. I want to spread Autism awareness and acceptance, as well as working with organizations and government to develop more efficient and needed supports for Autistic people, and to ensure that people with disabilities are properly receiving their human rights.