Yes, Every Day Ableism is a Thing

I stumbled across the Everyday Sexism Project a while ago. The project highlights the sexism that people, primarily women, experience every day.

I thought of it last week, or the one before, in relation to ableism, or discrimination against disability, when something happened at my retail job.

A modern cash register with a retail clothing store in the background.

Via Bella Ella Boutique, [CC BY 2.0]

Dyslexia Means I Stay AWAY From Cash Registers
One of the cashiers has made it her mission to get me trained in on the register. I’ve told her repeatedly that no, I’m not interested. Yes, I have run registers in the past and it never ended well because of my LD.

No, I’m not selling myself short. Yes, I CAN learn, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t end poorly at this job. I work better on the floor, helping customers find what they need.

NO. I do NOT want to be trained in on the new system to make YOUR life easier.

It’s gotten frustrating enough that I actively avoid her, because it’s obvious she won’t listen.

Since getting more conscious of the way language can be used to discriminate via insults, I’ve gotten a little more sensitive to the other forms of ableism that happens every day.

When it comes to disability, it also happens differently, depending on which type of functioning is effected in your life. For me, it’s mostly learning based. Some people automatically assume I’m stupid when they find out I’m neurodivergent.

Others use that bit of information to compound attacks on my gender.

Chronic Illness Counts, Too
It also applies to chronic illness. I’m asthmatic, and I have a hard time finding medication for certain things that doesn’t have severe side effects.

Allergy medication is a good example. The ones that work all have debilitating side effects. One causes chronic migraines, another triggered a severe asthma attack and the one I take as a last resort knocks me out at a half dose. Full doses leave me completely useless the next day, regardless of how early I take it the day before.

So, I’ve turned to nettle tea. It fights allergy by prompting the body to create a very mild antihistamine reaction. Herbology lesson time!

Nettle stings when you brush up against it, because the little hairs on the leaves and stems deliver histamine into your skin. Your immune system then creates antihistamines, which is why you welt up.

When the leaves are dried, the hairs fall out, but traces of histamine stays in the leaves. Brewing it into tea dilutes the histamine, and the natural reaction is mild enough in most people to counteract the histamine response that causes allergies. Although that plant has been used for centuries, our country hasn’t done much study on it, or many other herbs. Some initial studies have been promising.


(This affiliate link is the exact stuff I’ve been using. Allergies have gotten so much better.)

It’s worked for me, but certain parties feel the need to rip me down when I share what works for me with them. Western medication is an absolute last resort for me, especially when it can be so unpredictable and potentially deadly.

That fierce attack on how I manage my health is a form of ableism. Not everyone can safely rely on the options western medication has to offer. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who must rely on it to live. They also get accused of all sorts of terrible things.

The saddest part is, I know I’m not alone in these experiences. That’s why I want to talk about it. It must be discussed.

Adventures in Adult LD Testing: Part 6

Yesterday, I was finally able to get my last round of LD testing out of the way. Over the course of two and a half hours, I completed a test called the Academic Achievement test.

This one concentrated primarily on dyslexia, but there were one or two sections involving a little bit of math.

A spelling test with incorrect answers.

Not my test, but pretty close to how I spelled when I was a kid. by elginwx, via flickr

Spelling Test
Do you remember those spelling tests from elementary school? You know, the ones where the teacher read the words aloud, used them in a sentence and then said them again?

Yeah, those lovely things.

That was one of the first sub-tests in this larger series of tests. She started out with simple words, like “foot” and “scene”, and they got longer as it progressed. I know I got creative spelling the common, longer words, because I just couldn’t remember the correct spelling.

I’m a little nervous that I did a little too well on that, ironically enough.

Fill in the Blank
There was also a lot of fill in the blank involved. Some questions were looking for single words, while others looked for entire sentences. I had a much harder time with single words than sentences, because it’s so much easier for me to string ideas together instead of concentrating them to one word.

Interestingly, those types of questions were used in separate oral and written sub-tests. I don’t know why I didn’t expect that.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Word Recall
There were yet more requests to name objects on a page. I’m sure it was done to measure consistency, but it still feels like overkill, since that was done in the last session, too. I’d have to go back to see if it was done in the first one as well, but I have the feeling it was.

She also had me read words and then name either their synonyms or antonyms. That was surprisingly difficult in some cases.

I knew what the word was. I knew what she was looking for, but I just couldn’t pull the answer from my brain. It was so frustrating.

Socks are to Feet, as Gloves are to __________
For the life of me, I can’t remember what those types of questions are called. Relational?

Anyway, there was a test dedicated to questions like that. She’d show me two related words, then ask me to finish the next set of related words. That one was a little challenging in that the relationships were obvious, but I kept wanting to give obscure answers, because so many meanings came to mind.

Best. #Socks. Ever. I want more! #glowinthedark Could probably use new slip on shoes like these.

A photo posted by Emilie Peck (@peckemilie) on

True/False
There was also a long set of true/false questions. I have the feeling it was a way of testing my reading speed, and as the questions got longer, I had to slow down a lot.

They like trying to trick you with these things, and that makes the questions so hard to understand sometimes. I know that’s the point, of course, but it wasn’t fun to endure. At this point, I was flashing back to the standardized tests I took in high school.

I’m sure those were done by Pearson, but these were done by a different company. However, the IQ test I was given at the beginning was a Pearson test.

Story time!
I laughed a little at this one, because a couple of the tests actually used an old tape player and cassette. My doctor is a little older, so she doesn’t have the grip on technology that maybe a younger doctor would, so she used a lower tech instruments.

The tests are the same as the ones given on computers, but it was so funny seeing her pull out that old tape and play it.

Anyway, there were a couple of different story-related tests. The one on the tape tested my memory and attention, such as it is.

She’d play stories, and have me repeat them back to her. Of course, the short ones were easy, but the longer ones just lost me almost completely. I’d get, I don’t know, a half? Maybe a third? Of the main points.

And I’m pretty sure THIS is where I’d need accommodation. Lectures are just not for me, but they’re still one of the most popular teaching methods used today.

After we’d moved through a couple more sub-tests, she brought those stories up again and asked me to recite what I remembered from them when she read the first few words back to me.

I feel like I gave the same answers, but I don’t know if I really did.

The other story-related test was where I had to write sentences or short stories based on pictures, using a few pre-selected words. I was writing by hand, which really reminded me of why I’m so grateful for keyboards.

I make a good number of mistakes typing, but I make so many more writing by hand. I caught myself leaving out letters, and I have no idea what other mistakes got made. I’m pretty sure I was able to keep my handwriting mostly legible, at least.

Instruction Following
The last test I recall involved following oral instruction. This one also involved that cassette player. She showed me a picture, and the recorded voice would tell me to point at different things in said picture.

Like the rest of these sub-tests, it started out simply and got progressively more complicated.

“Point to the cat nearest to the boy and then the clock, but only after pointing at the dog that is not the largest dog.”

“If the TV is on, point to the picture on the left wall before pointing to the lamp. If it is not, point at the rug and the cat on the sofa.”

It got weirdly difficult to keep up with. He wasn’t asking me to solve for pi to the thousandth degree. He was just asking me to point at things on the picture.

If I didn’t know that was purposefully complicated, I’d feel a lot worse about myself than I did after leaving.

The final test was asking me to identify math symbols and solve a few math problems. Blech.

Overall, I wasn’t nearly as wiped out from this round of testing as I had been the others. Despite my problems with spelling and whatnot, I’m a lot more comfortable with words and language than math.

Regardless of what happens from here, I’m just glad the testing is over. I don’t know what she’ll find, but I’m sure there will be something. If all goes according to plan, I’ll find out on June 8th.

As for now, I’m off to keep on with the other areas of my life!

A selfie of a woman wearing sunglasses, a TMNT sweatshirt and leather jacket showing a peace sign.

Do We Need a Cause?

An ultrasound of a fetus's face.

Do we need to know if LD can be detected before birth? Should it even be possible?

Part of my learning disability assessment involved giving a history of my family, my childhood health and my mom’s pregnancy. This is likely done to eliminate physical causes for whatever cognitive challenges exposed during testing, but it does present an interesting philosophical question.

Do we need to know the causes of neurodivergence?

So long as neurodivergent folks receive needed supports, does it matter how they got to be the way they are? Does the why behind their differences really matter?

The Onset of Fear
New parents are offered the choice of whether or not to abort when their fetus tests positive for Down Syndrome. While I like to think most parents who are presented that choice decide not to, but I know there are those who still do. It’s not right to abort because of disability, but it still happens.

The anti-vax movement has caused incredible suffering to huge numbers of people, because of the fear incited by a debunked medical study linking autism to vaccinations. Yes, there have been measles outbreaks, but now those who cannot get vaccinated – the very people who are protected by herd immunity – are now stigmatized as ignorant anti-vaxxers.

Those with chronic neurological and immune system diseases already suffer from symptoms directly caused by their diseases. They also deal with constant stigma associated with chronic illness, but now they must deal with rage from those who don’t understand there are real medical reasons against vaccinating.

When cognitive function is impaired by environmental problems, like lead poisoning, the urge to blame parents is strong enough to make many families miserable. Lead poisoning is much more common in low-income areas because homeowners can’t afford the high cost of renovation, or renters have no control over what their landlords do.

That, in turn, can make the struggle for children to break out of already difficult situations.

Using Knowledge For Good
On the other hand, finding out about a high likelihood of Down Syndrome may present a way for future parents to better prepare for their new baby’s future needs. They’ll be able to find support systems before birth, study up on what to expect and how to find resources for early therapy and accommodation.

Although the fallout from the bogus study has caused massive damage, it’s still healthy to question common medical procedures, especially if there are demonstrable side effects. Although modern vaccines may be generally safe, they weren’t always. For instance, one of the versions of the polio vaccine that eradicated the disease from the US actually infected 200 children.

Examples like that one highlighted the need to regulate and test vaccines for safety. When unexpected reactions do happen, there is now a system on which to report them, VAERS. This program works to monitor post-market vaccines and will start the investigation process into side effect patterns.

The knowledge that lead poisoning leads to neurological problems has prompted removal programs of lead from homes. That does cut down on cognitive function challenges as well as overall health.

Like so many issues surrounding neurodivergence and science, the issue is fraught with pros and cons.

As for my personal situation with dyslexia and whatever other labels I’ll be carrying in the near future, the cause isn’t a big concern for me. I never liked looking back and lingering over the question of “why me”, so if I ever find the causes out, I doubt it’ll bother me much.

I am curious about it, but it’s not something I absolutely need to know.

Caution: Dyslexic in the Kitchen

This morning, I was woken up by a call from the doc who’s doing my assessment. She had to reschedule again, this time due to health problems. I understand, and I feel for her, but it wasn’t the way I wanted to start my day.

So, I dragged myself into the kitchen, fired up my little one-cup coffee maker and perused our pantry for breakfast type food.

When coffee finished brewing, I realized I’d forgotten to put the chocolate mint leaves in with the grounds, so I figured I’d add in some almond/coconut milk for extra flavor.

I pull the carton out of the fridge and try opening it.

A carton of Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond and Coconut milk blend

This is the best milk alternative I’ve found to date. I haven’t tried it on cereal yet, but it’s fantastic in smoothies and so good in coffee.
I have an affiliate link here if you’d like to order some from amazon.

For a good three minutes I tried opening it with no success.

That would be because I was tightening the cap instead of loosening it. Right-left confusion, hurrah!!

Oy.

At least I didn’t hurt myself this time.

Yesterday evening, I made Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls for the first time. My husband mentioned he liked them, so I figured why not? It couldn’t be that hard.

The canister advertised itself as “peel and pop”, which I interpreted as popping the ends off and peeling the container open. With that in mind, I read the instructions.

“Press spoon to seam”.

Oh, so to the seam between the cardboard and the metal end? That seam?

I gave it a try. No luck. I tried harder. Again, no luck.

Then, I saw the little triangle and silver box on the spiral seam on the canister. Well, ok.

I pressed the spoon there, waiting for the pop. Nothing.

I pressed harder. The spoon slipped. Now, Michelangelo is guarding the resulting cut from infection.

My fist with a ninja turtles bandaid on the pointer finger.

Ah, yes. Only I would injure myself making quickie cinnamon rolls. Hey, at least I didn’t almost slice a fingertip off, like in November.

I figured out how to do it correctly post-injury.

I don’t know if attempting that kielbasa and potato recipe today is a very good idea. With the way things have been going, I might just blow myself up in the process.

Organized? Me? No, not really.

A spiral journal with the ninja turtles on the cover, lying on top of a journal with a kitten on a light blue background and a bright red planner.

As long time readers know, my biggest struggle is in staying organized. I TRY, but it just doesn’t seem to work most of the time.

Today, the doctor doing my evaluation called to reschedule my next appointment, due to a conflict on her end. Since she knew she may have to do something else during our last appointment, we tentatively scheduled a different date.

I was in the middle of doing something on my tablet, so I had to hunt for the notebook that goes with me when I go out. My Ninja Turtles are where I write down notes, #AbilityChat questions* and those sorts of things.

When she had called, I was working on my tablet. Since I’m prone to hand problems, I use a stylus instead of my finger, and the one I’m in the habit of using has a lanyard attached. Since having something actually attached TO me usually means I won’t lose it, I’ve gotten in the habit of looping the lanyard around my wrist.

In this case, that was probably not the best idea. CRASH! BANG!

Who know a stylus could be so noisy? The poor woman had to listen to me banging into everything in my office as I hunted for that notebook.

Once we got that squared away, I had to call the school’s disability office to reschedule that intake appointment.

“I have to cancel ’cause, the doctor who’s doing my…uh…diagnosis…appointment…doctor…thing…”

Nope. Words weren’t working. At all.

Thankfully, the woman on the other end understood, ’cause my brain was just not working the way it should be.

Ugh. If I’m already having this much trouble keeping my life in working order, how am I going to survive school again?

*Sorry, no chat this week.

Adventures in Adult LD Testing: Part 4

I just got back from my first round of LD testing, and my brain feels like it wants to ooze out of my ears. It probably doesn’t help that we went to see a movie, Hardcore Henry, last night that gave me some serious motion sickness.

Ugh.

But LD testing. Right.

Working Memory and Focus
The first test my doc gave me was to test my working memory and focus. The test was done on a laptop. The idea was to click the mouse whenever you saw the number 3 show up in the center of the screen or whenever you heard the letter 5 spoken aloud. You’re not supposed to click the mouse in any other situation.

An orange number three in an orange outline of a rectangle on a black background.

The screen looked something like this.

Different voices were used, as were different fonts, and numbers were spoken/flashed somewhat randomly. I noticed a few patterns, like how the voices would say 3 right before 3 popped up on the screen, or they’d flash the number 5 repeatedly.

Great. Googly. Moogly.

SO much more frustrating than it should have been. I kept clicking when I saw 5 or heard 3, though I managed to refrain from doing that most of the time. I have no idea how well I did in relation to other people, but it is what it is. I know my focus was ok, though the working memory thing remains to be seen.

General Intelligence
Next, she gave me a general intelligence test, the WAIS-IV (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition). This test was a combination of vocabulary, connections between concepts, math, pattern recognition, pattern matching, short-term memory, sequencing, “general knowledge” and “object weight”.

That last one, object weight, was done by showing a picture of a scale with different objects on each tray. Then, you were supposed to figure out which objects equaled the weight of the objects on the scale with an empty tray.

The short-term memory/sequencing bits also had me cringing. She’d list numbers, then I’d have to repeat them, sequence them lowest to highest or repeat them in reverse. Now, my auditory memory is not good at all. I can get up to maybe 3 or 4 numbers, before my circuits short.

I had the most trouble with those two, and the general math section.

Some of the general knowledge questions weren’t exactly general knowledge, either. Who knows off the top of their head how long it takes light to reach the Earth from the sun or exactly how many miles around the circumference of the Earth is?

Just out of curiosity, I looked it up. Light from the sun takes 8 minutes 20 seconds to reach the earth, and the circumference of the equator is 24,902 miles. So not general knowledge.

I was a little surprised to hear questions about the theory of relativity and the chemistry of water, too. At least those really are more common knowledge. I couldn’t remember who wrote Alice in Wonderland, either, though I could tell the story.

Otherwise, that test wasn’t too terrible. Hopefully, I’ll at least get average intelligence, despite the parts I know I did poorly in.

A joke in math equasion form on a grey background: "y=i just don't care./x+1" in fraction form.

This about sums up my attitude about math I’ll never realistically use.
via flickr

Math
Ah, yes. Math.

Math. Math. Math.

Word problems, and “solve for x” and equations I haven’t had to look at since high school and fractions and imaginary numbers!

Uuuuuugh.

Just think of a math test that gradually grows in complexity from “2+2=?” to calculus, and you’ll get the idea. I’m not sure how she’ll use those results to determine presence of a disability, but it won’t be hard to tell just how terrible I am at math.

It was horrible. Just…SO bad. At least I was allowed scratch paper for the last part. Everything else I had to attempt in my head.

I’m so glad that part is over. SO glad.

Provided the doc doesn’t need to reschedule, rounds two and three will be next week. Since we seemed to cover math this week, it’ll probably be reading/writing and memory next week.

I really shouldn’t laugh…

As part of my adult LD assessment, I need to go through whatever I have of my old high school records to find grades and whatnot.

Title section for a 1997 SAT score results sheet.

Yeah, I’m dating myself with this image.

Well, I found my SAT scores. For those not in the know, the SAT is a test taken by college bound high school students to measure their math, reading and writing skills.

Oooh, boy. If someone were NOT to go into math as a career, that someone would be me.

I had actually taken the SATs twice.

The first time, my math scores were just atrocious, but my English score was perfect.

The second time?

Well, my math scores were slightly less atrocious, and my English score was not quite perfect anymore.

I’m laughing, because they list a raw score on the final results.

I got a 4 on Geometric Reasoning. FOUR.

That brings me right back to the single digit scores I used to get on spelling tests back in elementary and middle school.

It’s just impressive just how poorly I did on those tests.

On the other hand, my reading/English scores were very good. Out of 78 questions, I got 61 correct, which put me in the 87th percentile of high school seniors the year I graduated. Not too shabby.

It’s no wonder I didn’t go into science or business. The math involved would have killed me.

Ableism in the Geek World

I don’t get into arguments online very often anymore. I don’t see the point in them, and they generally do nothing good for anyone.A woman's fingers resting on a computer keyboard.

Two Examples
I still read comments from time to time, though. Earlier today, I was reading through some comments on a post about how men need to start listening to women’s experiences with sexism in the geek community.

Naturally, one guy handled it poorly and was promptly smacked down. For every piece written about sexism, there’s always at least one comment proving the need for the conversation.

Somewhere along the line, another guy commented, asking for clarification, mentioning that not everyone learns in the same way. A couple of the people who were dominating the comments attacked him for asking. They saw him only as a guy trying to challenge them instead of someone who needed help understanding what they were trying to say.

The same thing happened to a family member with a cognitive disability. His attackers would not lay off until I bluntly told them that they’re attacking someone who cannot understand what they’re trying to say unless they replaced the insults and sarcasm with straightforward information. Those particular people back-pedaled as soon as they realized what they were doing.

I don’t know if they thought to apply that experience to future conversations, but they seemed pretty stunned with that one.

This is a form of discrimination
This is part of a larger pattern. It clouds messages of equal rights, invalidates those who are fighting for them and discourages quite a few people from taking part in conversations.

I’ve been attacked for asking for clarification, too. Dyslexia makes it difficult to understand what some comments are trying to say. When I’m attacked, it’s even harder to frame replies in a way that makes sense.

People on the other end of the screen automatically assumed I was either less intelligent than they were or was being willfully ignorant. It happens all the time to people talking about all kinds of things.

Yes, there are bigots out there who refuse to listen to what everyone else is saying, but they’re usually pretty bad at feigning ignorance. They generally return attacks with glee and refuse to budge on the subject.

Simple requests for clarification on a long thread don’t deserve automatic attack. If they follow-up with derogatory comments or refuse to listen to any attempt to summarize, then the person in question probably wasn’t willing to listen in the first place.

Going after someone based on ability level is just as bad as going after them because of their gender, race or any other quality they have no choice over.

Tone Policing
To be clear, I am not saying that oppressed groups be nice, kind and courteous all the time. Be angry. Use that anger to cause change. If you want to attack people online, that’s your prerogative. Call out bad behavior.

This entry is me calling out bad behavior I see repeated in the larger geek and social justice communities. When you attack someone for politely asking for clarification, you’re at best alienating a potential ally and at worst discriminating against someone with a disability or who is neurodivergent.

I’m so tired of people using errors in language or difficulty comprehending text as fodder for abuse and bullying. The only reason people on either side of the issue at hand do that is to derail the conversation in their favor. That’s a big reason why I now avoid online debates.

A lot of people do seem to like them, though, and there’s pressure to take part in them. If you want more people to take part in debates, remember ability level varies, and not everyone wears their labels on their sleeves.

Take the time to read comments and spot patterns in behavior. You’ll soon notice a distinct difference between trolls and people just struggling to navigate the conversation.

If you don’t include disability in your activism, your activism is not intersectional. If you use any sort of disability as a tool against someone else, you’re letting your prejudices show.

The two unavoidable things in life…

As they say, are Death and Taxes.

A painting of a man with a fabulous hat writing on a pad of paper and another man with a letcherous grin leaning over his shoulder. In front of them sits a pile of coins.

This is what came up when I searched for public domain tax collector pictures. Caption this!
Les compteurs d’argent (1575-1600)

Thankfully, I’ve not had much experience with the former just yet, but I have enough with the latter to know just how unpleasant they are.

Last night, we finally filed our 2015 taxes. I mean, the last day to file in the US is April 15, so at least we beat that deadline. I just spent close to an hour getting our property tax paperwork squared away, since we can’t file those online.

Seriously, there are few areas where my dyslexia gets in the way more than taxes. I always, ALWAYS have someone double-check them when I do them. Thankfully, TurboTax makes it much easier, but still, following simple directions is so hard for me.

I actually did pretty well, up until I came to the question “Answer yes if all of these apply”.

Of course, “all” translated into “any” in my brain, so I hit yes and proceeded to plow directly into a brick wall. The next question was about public assistance, of which we received none. Yet, it wouldn’t let me put “0” in. C’mon!!

It took three tries and my husband looking at the question to get past it.

Then came property taxes. Ah, property taxes. The only tax where the county sends three different envelops for tax purposes, only two of which are useful. Excellent idea.

Naturally, we only had one on hand, because despite my best efforts, my organizational skills are severely lacking, especially in terms of paperwork.

A stack of paperwork with a white box superimposed over it. This quote is in the box, "So much paperwork to read! So much paperwork to push away! So much paperwork to pretend he hadn't received adn that might have been eaten by gargoyles. ~Terry Pratcett, Snuff"

Original image via flickr I just added the white box and text.

At least I found the form sitting in plain sight on my desk this afternoon. I found it after spending close to an hour looking for the mythical instructions that had supposedly come with the form we need to send in to get our refund.

Welp.

I should try writing down the basic things we need for taxes, so I can be sure to put them in the right spot as we get them. Though, who knows if that’ll work, since requirements change?

I want a nap.