Awareness

My Sermon: Treatment of Disabled People vs. The First Two UU Principles

Hello everyone. I did a lay-led sermon at my Unitarian Universalist fellowship on July 17th, 2022. This was edited to remove the names of people from my congregation and I also went off-script a few times. Before I share my sermon, I have two things I need to share first:

  1. Unitarian Universalism has Seven Principles in which guide our morals. The link from the governing body shares the seven principles. The first two principles are:
    1. We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of everyone.
    2. We affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
  2. Trigger Warning! This post will talk about ableism and will mention the ableist r-slur twice (in the context that I tell people to stop saying it). If these are triggering for you, please stop reading this blog post. Thank you.

Earlier this year after the Disability Day of Mourning vigil, my minister said that disability issues should continue to be talked about, so I’m doing that now.

Many people don’t know this, but every March, the disabled community remembers those who were victims of the mindset “It’s better to be dead than disabled.” These are the people whose inherent worth and dignity were not affirmed. People who are not respected or shown compassion. People who are included in the list of people who receive no justice when something bad happens to them.

If you’re someone who believes in God, especially a God who doesn’t make mistakes, then why would you try to fix the mistake we call disabled people? Why do we not accept them for who they are and meet their needs? Why do we wish for or even try to make the mistake go away?

When I was a kid, being around disabled people, or other people who didn’t meet society’s definition of normal, was my normal. I grew up around an uncle who had autism during a time when autism wasn’t a spectrum and only people of below average intelligence could be considered autistic. He received a diagnosis during a time when it was thought best to institutionalize disabled people as they were considered a family and societal shame. It was considered okay to warehouse people like him. I didn’t know about the institutionalization of disabled people until 2010 when my cell biology professor told us about it when there were talks of my alma mater buying the property that previously held an institution for disabled people.

Many years later as an adult, I was back in the world of disabled people, but with me this time. Last year, I found out that my anxieties and social troubles are due to being autistic.

Okay, I know some of you are thinking that I don’t seem autistic. Many of those on the autism spectrum, which now includes Asperger Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, worry about being told that they don’t seem autistic whenever they disclose. We only disclose to people we think we trust because of it, and many on the autism spectrum may have lost friends or family members due to the diagnosis.

Not being believed is not unique to those on the autism spectrum; this is experienced by many people with invisible disabilities. It’s bad enough that doctors don’t believe their patients or take health issues seriously enough to investigate chronic illnesses more quickly. They’re told that they don’t look sick. In the words of the Devo song “Peek A Boo”, “If you cannot see it, you think it’s not there. It doesn’t work that way.” If they’re having a good day one day but aren’t feeling well the next day, people say “You were fine yesterday. What’s wrong with you?” They are often not invited to events because they may have had to cancel one too many times due to health issues. Some people may want to make their invisible disabilities more visible, but that is a risk not everyone is willing or able to take. As mentioned earlier, a person could lose friends for being disabled. They may be treated with pity, which gets annoying after awhile, especially since people don’t want to be pitied. Others will automatically assume the things you can’t do instead of figuring out what you can do, like what happened in an episode of Degrassi High.

In a season one episode from the late 80s, there is a character named Maya who is in a wheelchair. A group of friends wanted to go to a movie, but the closest movie theater was not wheelchair accessible and neither were the buses, so they didn’t invite Maya. At the end of the episode, Maya called them out on their ableism because the friends didn’t think of alternative and accessible options for her to be included. There was another movie theater in town that was wheelchair accessible and Maya’s mom could have driven her to that theater. They made a decision without her input and robbed her of her agency. It was also hinted that the friends intentionally went to an inaccessible movie and took inaccessible transportation due to being embarrassed of been seen in public with a disabled person.

As mentioned by Kim Nielsen, disability has been, and still is, used as a weapon. There are times when people use words as a way to demean people and their differences have been weaponized. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? News flash! Words hurt and since people know the power of words, people use words as weapons against people who are different. We have used outdated names for medical conditions as slurs, for example. In high school, the autism program director did a campaign called “Spread the Word to End the Word” with the goal of people ending the use of the word “retarded”. I saw this campaign happen once when I was in college and for years, I stopped hearing that word. However, when I worked at an old job, I started hearing that word again. Calling someone out on using that slur carries a big risk of being called a “social justice warrior,” which is a term I hate so much because it is used to silence people who speak about social justice issues.

Some of you know about hostile architecture. For those who don’t know, hostile architecture is a method used to restrict behaviors using the building environment around people. This can be as obvious as spikes built on top of ledges, but can be as subtle as removing benches so people can no longer sit in certain areas that were once accessible. The original intent of hostile architecture was to keep homeless people away from urban areas so as to not make the city unattractive to tourists. However, this type of urban planning also affects other people: the elderly, pregnant people, and disabled people. Disney World removed benches years ago so people don’t sit around often. You can’t ride rides or spend money at Disney if you’re sitting on a bench! You know what Disney’s answer is for people with stamina issues when they want accommodations? Rent a wheelchair or a mobility scooter. Most of the lines in Disney World and Disneyland are either wheelchair accessible or there is a separate entrance for people in wheelchairs. Hey Disney, maybe people don’t want to spend more cash than they have to and want free seating.

There’s also the issue of being invisible when you are using mobility devices such as a wheelchair or a mobility scooter. For some reason, people don’t see you or get in your way. I feel like this was originally done as a way for people to not stare at someone with a physical disability. We’re taught at a young age not to stare. If you are able to, you need to see where you’re going so you’re going to glance. Just don’t look at them for a long time. Also, if you see someone using a cane for mobility purposes or as a way to navigate the world when someone has low vision, for the love of whatever you believe in, don’t tamper with it when it’s in use! My boss’ wife uses a white cane due to sudden low sight issues. My boss and his family went to Universal Studios parks in Florida earlier this year when someone walked up to his wife, looked at the cane, and kicked it out of the way. You can’t make these stories of ableism up, people.

Our society is a deficiency-focused and fix-it culture. We focus way too much on what people can’t do and focus way too much on fixing people. A prime example of the fix-the-deficiency culture is Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy. This therapy is often used as an early intervention for autistic children to stop their negative autistic-based behaviors in order to pass as normal to society. The autism community is against ABA therapy due to how many therapists use aversions to stop negative behaviors. People see the therapy and make one comment: I wouldn’t even do this to my dog. The fact that animal lives are seen to matter more than marginalized people’s lives in America is very disturbing.

Disabled people have various strengths just like able-bodied or neurotypical people. When picking out the music videos for today’s service, I intentionally picked songs by disabled artists. These artists show that with the proper supports and the right people believing in them, they can achieve whatever they want that is within their interests and capabilities. However, we need to be mindful that just because a person with a specific disability can do certain things doesn’t mean that every person with that disability can do the same thing.

So how can you help with disability justice, accessibility efforts, and the fight against ableism? Honestly, the first thing you should do is to listen to the stories and voices of disabled people. They know what it’s like to live with a disability and they know what helps them live in an able-bodied and neurotypical world. Non-disabled people have tried, yet many times failed, at creating spaces and tools to help. Once you find out what works best for disabled people, you can start using your accomplice powers to work alongside disabled people to help improve accessibility.

Examine the language you use every day and think about any terms you use that are considered ableist. Yesterday was the last day any of you can use the term “retarded”. Also think about your thoughts. Do you have negative biases regarding disability? Do you focus too much on what a disabled person can’t do? While you need to be realistic about the challenges disabled people face, think about their strengths too! A nonverbal person can still communicate by writing or using AACs, Augmentative or Alternative Communication systems.

It is also wise to believe those with the lived experience of invisible disabilities. If you don’t live it, you don’t fully know it. Otherwise, you are invalidating their experience and are making it seem like you know more about their medical condition than they do.

UUFHC has made efforts to raise awareness and accommodate others. In March, my minister and I hosted the first Disability Day of Mourning vigil. While attendance was very low, people became aware of disability justice, which is a social justice issue that is not talked about much in our congregation or in Unitarian Universalism as a whole. Our Director of Faith Formation has made efforts to accommodate people who need to fidget and struggle with sitting still in a chair by providing sensory toys and a pad for kids to sit on the floor during worship. As many neurodivergent people have experienced, society forcing us to be normal like everyone else contributes to comorbid mental health issues.

Parents and guardians, let your kids use fidgets and other sensory toys. They serve a purpose of helping people focus and are effective tools for self-soothing. If you think your child is too old to have sensory toys, I’ll be 30 later this year and I have some self-soothing toys to use. The fidget toy I use the most is the infinity cube. Doctor’s appointments and dentist appointments cause me a lot of anxiety due to the unexpected nature of the appointments, so I play with the infinity cube to help calm me in the waiting rooms. People of all ages can benefit from these self-soothing tools, but many fidgets are marketed towards children so many adults don’t feel comfortable using something that is called a “toy”.

EqUUal Access, a UU organization made up of congregants with disabilities, their families, and allies, created a certification called Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry (AIM). The goal of the AIM certification was to recognize UU congregations who worked on accessible and inclusive ministries as well as dismantling ableism. Getting this certification was a goal my minister and I wanted to work on. However, due to a lack of participation, disabled Unitarian Universalists were not getting much benefit from the program and EqUUal Access decided to end the program on June 30th. However, anti-ableism efforts will not stop.

I know there are children and youth sitting in during this service and I have something for you all to think about too. I want you to think about whether there is a classmate or other student in your school with a disability. How do your classmates treat them? How do the teachers treat them? How do you treat them? Are you kind to them or do you stay away from them for being different from your classmates? I want you and your families to have a conversation about how people treat disabled people.

As Unitarian Universalists, we must include disability justice and anti-ableism efforts in our anti-oppression efforts. We cannot have one or two social justice issues dominate Unitarian Universalism, and I do not want us failing a group of UUs who may have had their issues ignored in the past. I encourage you all to be accomplices in the fight against ableism, but please be mindful to not speak on behalf of those with disabilities who are present. Ashe, blessed be, and in the words of Captain Planet, “The power is yours.”

Awareness · School · Workplace

Should You Disclose Your Neurodivergence?

So I usually don’t write neurodivergence-related blog posts that are commonly written, but I have only seen this commonly discussed in online support groups and not WordPress blogs, so you get this little treat from me. I usually hear this question in autistic spaces, but this may be something discussed in ADHD groups or learning disability support groups as well.

Typically, people say the answer is no. There you go. End blog! Wait, come back! I’m kidding! We discuss things here.

Oh thank goodness you’re back! Let’s first talk about why it is suggested not to disclose your neurodivergence.

  • Negative biases. This one is a major one that encompasses many other downsides to disclosing you’re neurodivergent. When it comes to neurodivergence, people only see the struggles. If you check off autism when you are asked in job applications about disabilities, you might not get an interview despite you being under a protected category. Note: I have not seen ADHD as a disability listed under job applications. Your abilities may come into question before you are given a chance. I’m a lead of a small team at work and I worry that disclosing my autism would cause my leadership abilities to come into question when I already don’t have leadership experience.
  • People won’t think you’re actually neurodivergent. People have pre-conceived notions on what someone who’s autistic looks like or how someone with ADHD acts like. However, what if you don’t “seem” neurodivergent because you present differently than what people thought years ago? Studies about neurodivergence focused on boys, so it wasn’t expected for girls to be neurodivergent either, and no one learned about non-binary genders until about 10 years ago. Maybe you did better in school than the stereotypical neurodivergent person. Or maybe you’re intellectually gifted as well (discussion about gifted and neurodivergent people can be found in this post).

Is there an advantage to disclosing you’re neurodivergent? Yes! Here are some advantages.

  • Challenging stereotypes. I’m going to use autism as an example as I am autistic. People who think of autism think of autism before it was considered a spectrum. They think of people who rely on 24/7 care from their parents or siblings. They don’t think of people like actor Dan Aykroyd or university professor Dr. Temple Grandin. If I disclose my autism, it will help people redefine what it means to “look autistic”. I can help show people that it’s possible to get a degree or to work a full-time job, though as I talk about in this post, I don’t want parents to set unrealistic expectations for neurodivergent children.
  • Getting the help you need to be successful. At some point in our lives, everyone regardless of whether they are neurodivergent or neurotypical need help to get something finished. However, neurodivergent people may need extra help. Before you can ask for any accommodations, you need to understand your strengths and challenges. This is because each neurodivergent person is different and not everyone needs the same accommodations. Look at accommodations that will help with your challenges and see if they would be considered reasonable accommodations in school or work. AANE posted an article last month that can help supervisors become more inclusive of neurodivergent people (Note: AANE is an autism support organization, so while this article has suggestions that can cover ADHD as well, there is a bit more focus on autism). Anyone who is a supervisor should read this to jump start their learning and support efforts.
  • You might be the source of support for other neurodivergent people. A note of caution: If you want to be a source of support for other neurodivergent people (or do any form of neurodivergent advocacy), figure out your social, emotional, mental, and physical limits first. Neurodivergent people are the best sources of support for other neurodivergent people because neurotypical people often get things wrong. Thus, some neurodivergent people have blogs, YouTube channels, and TikToks dedicated to educating about neurodivergence. Neurodivergent people might also seek advice from you. However, make it clear to everyone that they should look up sources for themselves, too. This is especially evident when people of privilege ask marginalized groups for resources instead of taking the time to do the research themselves. Yes, it’s good that they’re looking for sources created by marginalized people. No, it is not our sole responsibility in life to provide sources to people.

Do I disclose my autism? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. I only disclose my autism when the need occurs. For example, I disclosed my autism when I hosted the first Disability Day of Mourning vigil at my church back in March 2022. I disclose my autism when there are discussions about autism. Very few people at my job know that I’m neurodivergent (I didn’t use the autism label), but I am considering disclosing my autism to my boss soon.

Awareness

What to Do If Someone Says “Asperger’s”

Warning: As you can see in the title, I will be using the term “Asperger’s” in this post. I will also mention autism elitism, Naziism, and murder. Please stop reading if these are triggers for you. Thank you.

In 2013, the DSM V came out and removed the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and brought Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) into the category of Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, people still use the term “Asperger’s” when they talk about themselves. First, let’s take a look at reasons why someone may say they have “Asperger’s” instead of autism.

  1. The person was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome back when it was a separate diagnosis.
  2. The person lives in a country that still has Asperger Syndrome as a separate diagnosis.

The only difference between Asperger Syndrome and Autistic Disorder is that people with an Asperger’s diagnosis did not have significant speech delay. Thus, if I had been diagnosed sooner, my official diagnosis would have been Asperger Syndrome.

So besides the fact that there is only one major difference between Asperger Syndrome and Autistic Disorder, what is the harm in saying “Asperger’s”?

Asperger Syndrome was named after Hans Asperger, born as Johann Friedrich Karl Asperger. While he wasn’t a Nazi himself, he was aided and supported by Nazis for studies about autistic children. The children in his study were often sterilized and/or sent away to be euthanized.

There are also concerns about elitism in autistic communities. Asperger’s may be seen as the “better” autism. The “smarter” autism. They are called “high-functioning” autistic people, with that label ignoring their challenges.

Okay, now that I gave brief reasons why the term “Asperger’s” is considered a harmful term, what should you do if someone says “Asperger’s”? Well, that depends on your comfort level. Some people don’t like confrontation, so those people might not do anything. However, if you want to say something, follow these tips:

  • Calmly explain why the term “Asperger’s” should not be used. Key word: calmly.
  • This applies moreso to making this comment online, but might work if you hear someone say the term: If someone already told someone to not say “Asperger’s”, don’t say it too. People already don’t like being corrected, but the person may feel attacked if multiple people tell them the same thing about being wrong.
  • If you get pushback, tell people that autistic people know themselves best and how non-autistic people don’t always have our best interests in mind. Just like the first tip, mention this calmly.

Sorry for the long wait between blog posts, but I hosted my church’s first ever Disability Day of Mourning vigil and I needed to plan and prepare. I can’t promise to post more often as work has gotten busier.

Awareness

Twice Exceptional (2e): What Is It?

Sorry I haven’t posted much lately. I’ve been busy with DBT and haven’t had any topics of interest to write about. I want to write about neurodiversity topics that aren’t commonly talked about, so I’m not going to make blog posts just to increase my content. Speaking of neurodiversity topics that aren’t commonly talked about, what the heck is the term “twice exceptional”?

Twice exceptional (or 2e) describes a person who is intellectually gifted, but has a neurodivergent condition that affects learning. If you have read some of my recent blogs about my autism diagnosis, you will see that I am labeled as 2e as I’m intellectually gifted and autistic.

Yes, autistic people can be intellectually gifted. You might be working with or attending school with someone on the autism spectrum and may not realize it.

If you have never heard of this term, it’s okay! I didn’t hear about it until April 2021 when I was having my intake session with my autism evaluator. I mentioned to her that years ago, my grandfather revealed to me that my elementary school wanted me in a special program at a different school. I asked mom about it because I was wondering if it was a “special needs school”. She told me that the school felt like I was very smart and a school administrator wanted to do a home visit to see if I was naturally smarter than other classmates or if I was getting supplemental learning at home to get ahead of my classmates. Mom didn’t want to go through with it because she wanted me to have a normal childhood. My husband and his brother were in gifted programs at their school, but my husband might not remember what he did in the program. I think it was through his school, while other people have to attend school elsewhere.

This leads us to the next point about gifted children: Are they getting a proper education? It depends. Let’s first talk about gifted education for someone who is neurotypical. In many gifted education programs for kids (not sure if it’s improved now), gifted children get additional homework instead of intellectually-appropriate homework. As someone who had anxiety issues since before starting kindergarten and now has diagnoses of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder, having a lot of homework would not have worked well for me.

Proper education for twice-exceptional children? Heck, parents of disabled children are still trying to fight hard for accommodations and an education that works well for the child. Now add the fact that people are thinking “WTF?” when they hear a gifted child needs some form of special education and it’s a bigger challenge. You know, the whole “You’re smart, so why aren’t you trying?” issue. People also focus more on the disability instead of the ability. Let’s look at this Understood article written in 2017 by Jon Morin. Jon Morin talked about the educational journey of his oldest son and how the family worked with his high school to balance his intellectual strengths with his neurodivergent challenges. His son’s high school tried something new: a hybrid English program that combined what he was learning in English class with independent study. His son’s strength includes making larger connections to what he’s learning. For example, instead of getting simple worksheets on Romeo and Juliet, he’d write an essay to more deeply explore the play. Could this work for every twice-exceptional student? No, but it’s important to notice your child’s strengths and challenges to find the best way for your student to learn while managing their challenges.

My research dealing with twice exceptional mostly shows twice-exceptional children. If you’re like me, your twice-exceptional profile wasn’t noticed until adulthood. Like autism, there needs to be more resources and services for adults.

To the teachers and future teachers: Learn about twice-exceptional students and how to help students who are gifted, regardless of neurotype. Learn from them too, as a proper education for twice-exceptional students is crucial.

Awareness

Limerence (Obsessive Thoughts About People) and Neurodivergence

Definition of Limerence: Intense romantic attraction that includes obsessive thoughts, fantasies, and a strong desire to form a romantic relationship with your person of interest.

Never heard of the term? Neither did I until June 22nd when I was looking up information about being hyperfixated on people. Someone mentioned the term in the r/ADHD subreddit on a post about someone being hyperfixated on a person.

When I was looking up hyperfixation, most of the results dealt with hyperfixation being associated with ADHD. However, autistic people can have hyperfixations as well. Note: I was also evaluated for ADHD during my neuropsych evaluation and I do not have ADHD. My ADHD-like issues regarding executive function appear more under anxiety.

Have you experienced being obsessed with people you had a crush on? Do you talk about your crush often? Would these crushes last more than a year? Why is this reminding me of my middle school (and high school to a lesser time extent) self? This my friends is limerence.

My hyperfixation on crushes started in sixth grade when I developed a crush on a guy named Adam. At the time, I didn’t know of the term crush, so I would tell people I was “in love” with him. I tried to get a band together called “Adam’s Angels” where we’d perform parodies of songs where words were changed to describe Adam. I would talk about him all the time. I’d even write his name on my palms (one palm said “Ad” and the other palm said “am”). I made him a sign to put on his locker for his birthday since people’s lockers would be decorated for birthdays. I wanted to marry him. When he was thinking about going to a private all-boys school for high school (he didn’t), it devastated me. I was mad at this one guy for having his picture being between Adam and I’s yearbook picture because I for sure thought my picture would be next to his (funny thing is that I would develop a crush on that guy in eighth grade). People said I was obsessed with Adam and I took that as a compliment because I didn’t know the negative connotation of the word (thanks, autism).

Cara, don’t middle schoolers act like this around their crushes? At my middle school, they didn’t. The entire sixth grade knew about my crush on Adam. Besides, limerence does not go away after middle school.

Fast forward to ninth grade where I develop a crush on this one guy in band. In tenth grade, he revealed that I’m a very obsessive person and he quit a club we were in back in ninth grade once he became my next crush. That freakin’ hurt. As a way of masking, I tried to tone down my obsessive behaviors, which didn’t work. It was years after I finished university that I discovered that I naturally have an obsessive personality.

Speaking of university, there was a cute guy in my microbiology class. I talked about him so much that my friends wrote a letter to me about how I talked about him too much and I either need to talk to him or shut up. Luckily, one friend wanted no involvement in that letter (thanks, Kain). University was a time when my social deficits came to light more and upon reflection, I truly put in more effort to masking during my time there. I’m not nearly as boy-crazy as I once was, but adult Cara (not my real name) still can get a little chatty regarding crushes. Also, I only was chatty about boy crushes. Once I started developing feelings for girls, I was silent about it. Very silent.

I was reading the Aspergirls book and didn’t feel alone when I read part of Chapter 8 titled “Attraction, Dating, Sex, and Relationships” (look, I know people don’t like that chapter because of its heteronormative dating advice, but this book was written in 2010 when not many people used inclusive language and people didn’t use terms like “heteronormativity” or “comphet”). The author of this book as well as an excerpt by Elfinia shared something in common with me: we would become obsessed with our crushes and that never turned out well.

So is there a way to tone down our obsessions with people? Should we change ourselves if we’re not putting ourselves or others in danger?

This post has been brought to you by my brother-in-law’s nice legs. All that bicycling will do that to your legs. Thumbs up. Play the song “Bicycle Race” either the original Queen version or the cover by Blümchen.

Awareness · School · Self-Reflection

Being Neurodivergent in College/University

This blog talks about my experiences about being neurodivergent in university. I went through undergrad unaware that I was neurodivergent and I spent most of grad school unaware of my neurodivergence. I have still not gone through a neuropsychological evaluation yet to pinpoint which neurodivergent condition(s) I have, and I might not get a diagnosis before I graduate in December. This blog will mainly talk about the struggles I encountered in higher education.

We’re going to talk about grad school first because I didn’t have many struggles being neurodivergent in grad school. The only negative aspect of my neurodivergence is not reading things carefully. I didn’t see that we had to have a cover page for our assignments in one of our classes until I read something for the research paper proposal. That meant my first three analyses did not have a cover page. Probably would have gotten higher than a C if I did that. In another class, I didn’t follow the file naming convention for the homework. It only happened on the first homework, but I was lucky because the document with the instructions said that it might not be graded if the naming convention for the document isn’t followed. I think I just read and forget. It’s happened in two Discord servers I used to be a part of as well.

However, my (then-unknown) neurodivergence gave me the interest for my graduate project (proposal is due at the end of the semester) to deal with web accessibility for ADHD and autism (though I might make it just about autism). There is a lot of web accessibility work that has been done for users with physical disabilities, but not much work has been done for people with cognitive and neurological differences. Covid permitting, autistic people and people with ADHD will evaluate a site in my university’s Usability Lab and talk to me about what challenges they faced when navigating a web site. This will follow the expression “Nothing About Us Without Us” that I often hear by autistic people which means that anything about autistic people MUST be done with autistic people’s input. It also gave me the ability to help a friend cope with a bad exam score by giving him my worry stone… which was coral colored. I asked him the next day when he was calmer if he wanted a different color, but he didn’t care about the color since he had a pink shirt years ago.

Undergrad was when I had a lot more struggles in school to the point that I almost dropped out during my freshman year. I knew it was because college is a lot less structured than schooling from kindergarten to grade twelve. I barely kept a high enough GPA to keep my scholarship freshman year (the school’s scholarship required me to have at least a 2.6 after freshman year and I had a 2.67 GPA) and due to my grades, I couldn’t continue in the nursing major unless I retook a class and/or stayed an additional year. Now that I’m learning about demand avoidance, I had some of that too with me not doing some of my homework for a chemistry class. The stress of the spring semester of freshman year is what made me consider dropping out. I was a procrastinator since elementary school and still procrastinated with my lab reports. I kept my high school study habits until my senior year and didn’t know how to study. I found a quote from the book Divergent Mind by Jenara Nerenberg that I completely related to regarding my struggle in undergrad and shared it with my therapist.

…once that young woman enters college… whereby routine structures are taken away – and she needs to depend on her executive functioning to navigate the logistical details of daily life that she never had to think about before – her experience changes dramatically.

(Nerenberg, 2020)

That quote is based on how girls may often do well academically before university due to various factors, but they struggle in tertiary education. This was in the section about ADHD, but my therapist told me that this issue also occurs in other neurodivergent conditions.

Junior year was the worst for my GPA. During junior year, the university decided to make a lot of the classes online. We had to completely learn independently and I’m not good at independent learning. Add the weekly quizzes to that and I had a very low GPA that semester (I think it was 1.5 for that semester) because I failed 3 of my 4 online classes and passed both of my in-person classes. This meant adjusting my class schedule to retake the online classes in-person in the future. I retook one class in Spring 2013 and the other two classes in Fall 2013. I felt like a failure because this was the first time I failed this badly. I worked hard to bring my GPA high enough to meet the scholarship requirement of having at least 2.8 GPA at the completion of junior year. I vastly improved my grades well enough to graduate on time in May 2014, but that left me with a 2.992 GPA. The GPA affected me because I was conditionally admitted to the Master’s program at my grad school which required me to get at least 3.0 in my first 9 credits before I could be fully admitted. I learned from my mistakes and am doing much better in grad school.

I never had (and upon reflection, do not need) accommodations in university, so I can’t talk about how accommodations could help or hinder my school performance. The only school accommodations I ever had were for speech therapy from third grade to fifth grade when I’d leave class and go to the speech room.

I’m not sure how many neurodivergent graduate students read my blog and I can’t find online support groups for neurodivergent graduate students because I want to see if there are others like me who struggled in undergrad but are doing better in grad school. If anyone neurodivergent has struggled in undergrad, but did better in grad school, let me know in the comments. I also want to figure out why grad school can be easier to navigate than undergrad. I know for me, having stricter study habits is a big part of why I’m doing better, but do we do better in grad school because we get to focus more on our interests instead of having to add general education requirements to the mix that we may struggle with? I am good at math, but English and language arts classes were hard for me. I liked science as a kid (but struggled with chemistry in high school and my undergraduate science classes), but hate history classes.

Awareness · Inclusion

My Thoughts on Black Panther

I’m going to try to make this as spoiler-free as possible. Or at least there won’t be any major spoilers. Long story short, this is a must-see movie for black people.

On March 17th, my boyfriend and I finally saw Black Panther. Two things jumped out at me: the emphasis on social justice issues involving black people, and T’Challa’s technology developer little sister Shuri.

The first thing I must say is that Black Panther did not get advertised as much on TV compared to other movies, and we know damn well why. Still, despite white Hollywood trying to make us unaware of this movie, r/BlackPeopleTwitter did it’s job to hype everyone up and it’s still scoring big bucks at the box office. You know, because we know the importance of representation in the media. I don’t watch superhero movies, and I don’t really go to movie theaters anymore after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. However, BlackPeopleTwitter hyped up the movie so much for me that I knew I had to do something about it.

Characters like Nakia and Killmonger talk about the social justice issues that faced black people in the past and the social justice issues we still face. Even in recent years. No more explanation about that.

There are two tags that describe my feelings when I saw a black girl who develops tech stuff: #ISawMyself and #SeeHer. I’m a black woman in tech who has never been on a project with another black woman in tech. All the black women were in administrative roles. I was always the only black female software engineer in an industry oversaturated by white men. After the movie was over and my boyfriend asked me about my thoughts about the movie, I said “This will be the only time I will ever see another black woman in tech unless I look in the mirror.” Representation is so fucking important. We need to show other black women that they belong in tech. It’s why I’m excited to be going to grad school.

Going back to black representation, how many times do we see black people being represented as thugs, thieves, and murderers? How many times does media portray us in negative lights while white people get on news shows like Inside Edition for what would not be considered news? How many times are black people portrayed as successful and educated? Black Panther is the step toward proper representation of black people. Black Panther is the start of a revolution to change our media. We will get the same respect in media that white people do.

Even if you don’t watch superhero movies, this movie is groundbreaking. Vote with your wallet and see this movie. Show Hollywood that this is what we want in a movie. This movie is feminist-friendly, womanist-friendly, minority-friendly. I should have seen this movie sooner. WAKANDA FOREVER!

Awareness · Self-Reflection

A Reflection on a Martin Luther King Event

So I was originally going to do a blog ranting about how many people at my job want to work on Martin Luther King Day, but I decided to do a blog post on yesterday’s outing instead.

My co-workers put me in a bad mood on Thursday and Friday because I felt like they didn’t care about the significance of today. Yes, they’re white so they were never affected by racism, but they could at least not want to work that day. On Friday, I was looking at upcoming events in my boyfriend’s town. I found the perfect one to make me feel better. So I decided to channel my anger into an educational opportunity for my boyfriend. He likes history and there was going to be a light lunch. Franklin loves food, especially if it’s free.

The event was a four-part event gathering people of the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) in a “Journey to Peace”. This multi-faith event was created as a way to unite for peace when the 2017 inauguration was about to happen. The first event was the blood drive for people who are interested. 24 people signed up, and 16 whole units of blood were able to be used to donate. 1 unit of blood can save up to 3 lives, so up to 48 lives will be saved by the donations. The second part of the event was a light lunch. Bread, lentil soup, butternut squash soup, salad, and desserts were offered. I tried a new food, which I will talk about at the end of the month. The third event was us watching clips from movies and having a facilitated discussion afterwards. The final event was a 30-minute church service with scriptures from the Bible, Torah, and Quran; songs; and a ritual where we put tea light candles in a vase to promise that we will fight for peace and equality. As we said during the event, “Salam, Shalom, and Peace.”

We watched clips of the following movies:

  • Accidental Courtesy. In this documentary, we hear about musician Daryl Davis who meets with various members of the Ku Klux Klan to befriend them and try to learn why there are some people who hate African Americans. A few people he befriended quit the Klan
  • Malcolm X. This movie is about the life and activism of Malcolm X. He preached about a separation from white society, but his pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj, a mandatory religious duty for Muslims) made him learn that there are Muslims of all races.
  • Marshall. This movie is about Thurgood Marshall when he was a lawyer for the NAACP. He was assigned to defend a black man in Connecticut, but was not allowed to defend a fellow black man. Sam Friedman, a Jewish insurance lawyer, is assigned to defend Joseph Spell instead. Friedman is resentful at first. Trigger warning for the movie: mentions of sexual assault.

When I first stepped into the social hall where lunch and video viewing was located, I was surprised, but deeply disturbed at the lack of black people. This event is to honor someone that helped us. Why aren’t there more of us? More black people showed up when the lunch was ending, but I expected it to be a mostly black event. I decided to change that way of thinking and thought it was good that white people are here to be educated about the struggles we went through and still go through. Education is key to changing the perceptions people have about minorities. The food was vegetarian-friendly (and vegan-friendly if vegans avoid the desserts). It was a light lunch, but the soup helped to satisfy me and I didn’t feel hungry until later than usual. Drinks included sweetened ice tea, water, and lemonade. I usually don’t drink anything when I eat.

One key takeaway from this event was that change must first come from within. I first learned this in my Peacemaking class during my final semester of university. If you want to change others, you must look within yourself to see what self-improvements need to be made first. Kind of like “Love yourself before you can love others”. Another key takeaway is the message of how we need to unite with people like us instead of fighting with each other. Franklin liked the event overall, which is good. This boyfriend seems to get it, while the previous guy refused to acknowledge his privilege. I think we all felt renewed by going to this event. Go to your town’s (or nearest town’s) Patch for local events.

Awareness

Feminist Joys: Better Access to Birth Control in Maryland

Today while I was at work, I came across an article about how a Maryland law will make access to birth control easier. This law was passed in 2016, but will come into effect on New Years’ Day. Article here.

People! This is so important!

And before some of you complain, vasectomies are covered too.

Maryland is among a dozen states that strengthened birth control rights for those who need it. The Affordable Care Act has some loopholes that still made getting birth control harder, and with the people in this presidency who are trying to roll back women’s rights, this is a major step to resistance. Many states adopted this law after the results of the 2016 election.

Let us feminists and womanists thank the people who helped Maryland become a state that helps with women’s rights. Even when we’re scared, we can still resist.