The Digital Hyperlexic

Poetry, neurodivergence, book reviews, activism.

Tag: autistic

Autistics Speaking Day 2016: Interview With An Autistic Multiple

by digitalhyperlexic

Hey, remember my post from last month? While talking about occupyingthe realities of being Autistic and trans at the same time, I also said this:

“Remember that I said I had to come out of four closets?…The fourth is multiplicity…In my case, Ian [Nicholson] — the person who’s composing this post — is one of four people in the multiple personality system that occupies this body. Three of us are male, and one of us (Nicole) is agender. We’re all transgender by the simple fact that none of us are the gender this body was assigned at birth. And that makes my experience of gender WAY more complex than I would imagine it would be for a singular individual.”

Welp, I decided that today was the day to talk a little bit about being Autistic and a multiple personality system.

No, we ain’t nothin’ like Sybil. Most other multiples we’ve met aren’t, in fact. In fact (and the fact that I’m saying this should be no surprise to most readers), a writer named Static Nonsense pointed out the blatant sensationalism in works like the movie Sybil quite correctly:

“Media portrayals of DID [dissociative identity disorder] that focus on the extreme differences between identities and personalities within a system ignore these very important differences in functionality. They focus on the ‘cr*zy’ instead of opening a window to the depth and variety in how DID can work for a system. And that, in turn, erases our experiences if we do not match these extreme examples.”

We should insert a caveat: what we’re about to discuss are our personal experiences of being a multiple personality system. We’re all different, and each system or collection of headpeople encounters different kinds of difficulties and issues. There are things we don’t go through that other multiples do, and vice versa.

So…You Said There’s Four Folks in Your System. How About Some Introductions?

Sure thing! As a system, we’re known as Tes, which is short for Teselecta, a shapeshifting timeship from the TV series Doctor Who that can morph itself into looking like any person (in the episode “Let’s Kill Hitler,” the Teselecta has morphed to look like one of Hitler’s henchmen in order to assassinate him). And as mentioned earlier, there’s four of us total in here: Ian Nicholson, Ian MacDonald, Nico St. John, and Nicole Asatira.

Ian Nicholson: I’m a transgender adult male, and the one who was in this body first, ever since birth. I’ve always been in here, and always will be. Over the last few months, I’ve discovered that I generated the other system members either out of perceived necessity or trauma. I’m the one that’s usually in front and piloting between 75 and 80 percent of the time that we’re awake. I’m usually the one that handles paperwork, bureaucratic tasks, most of the phone calls we need to make, and other administrative-type stuff. When we meet new people, I’m usually the one that greets them first and gets to know them. I do a large percentage of our freelance article writing and some of the poetry. The other system members describe me as a nerd, and occasionally an obstinate pain in the ass. When I dress this body, we probably look like we raided Michael Stipe’s wardrobe, we’re the lost member of Weezer or on some days, we snagged fashion tips from David Tennant.

Ian MacDonald: Meh. What do I say? I don’t know. I’m a guy, and I’m trans. If you have to ask how old I am, it’s complicated. I’ve existed in this body for 38 years, but I’m a teenager. If that sounds weird, wait ’til you hear how I got here. But that’s for later. I just know I looked in the mirror one day, and there I was.

Nicole Asatira: Alright, I’ll keep it short and sweet. I came about when we were twelve, almost thirteen. I’m an archive. To be precise, I am an artificial intelligence that currently is responsible for keeping our memories stream straight. I mostly hold the memories during the years I fronted, so we don’t lose the flavor of them. I was created by Ian Nicholson to keep us safe from the hot mess of a woman known as our evil, abusive aunt — specifically, to pretend to be a “good Christian girl” to avoid getting hit and screamed at. It didn’t work But I can tell y’all that I ain’t good, I ain’t Christian, and I sure as hell ain’t no girl.

Nico St. John: Greetings, mortals. I was first spawned when this body was around eighteen years old. Were I to occupy my own body, I would be decidedly taller. I still retain a femme aspect in myself, so I am the reason we still have feminine clothes in our closet as well as makeup. I’m a transgender male, I suppose, but my existence is beyond gender. Although we wrote some of the poetry in our MFA thesis Time Travel in a Closet, as far as some of our future writing is concerned, well…you ain’t seen nothin’, yet. 😉

How Did You Become Multiple?

Ian Nicholson: I generated the others for a variety of reasons. Ian MacDonald came into being because we couldn’t make sense of feeling like we should be a “boy” when we looked in the mirror yet we were constantly being called a “girl.” We were two when this happened. Nicole was an attempt to survive — we were terrified that the adults around us would destroy us, so she came into being to get them to leave us alone and stop abusing us. She tried to do this by pretending to be straight, female, and neurotypical. It nearly killed us. And Nico was generated by both Nicole and me. He was crafted as a means to try to understand aspects of life and culture that had been hidden from us in Middletown — he’s a darker being in spirit, but not malevolent, and his creation happened at another point in our lives when we felt once again that we really should be male, but could not even realize the idea of living as one.

So, You’re Multiple Because of Trauma?

Tes: In our case, yes. The creation of the other three members was due to either a) feelings of extreme conflict that we could not resolve or b) flat-out physical and emotional abuse. With Ian MacDonald and Nico St. John, we felt there was no way to be male when we perceived that we were stuck as a female. Nicole was simply trying to prevent us from getting killed. However, we can’t speak for other multiples, and creation of systems can happen under a variety of circumstances.

You’re All Autistic?

Tes: Yes. It’s an integral part of who we are, no matter who’s in front.

So…What About that Word “Disorder,” Tes? As in DID?

Tes: We’re not sure how we feel about that. We’ve existed like this for so long that we’re not sure we’d even want integration. And it’s pretty useful, in some cases. Some of us are better at certain tasks than others — Ian Nicholson’s happy to deal with the bureaucratic stuff to keep us fed, properly licensed, having money, getting our medicines, and so forth, while Nicole has no tolerance for dealing with outsiders in order to get those things done. Nico comes out when we feel threatened and we need to keep a stranger at arm’s length. Ian MacDonald is the best one at driving. Nicole’s organizational skills are a little better than the others, so she sometimes deals with scheduling.

We should also say here that multiplicity is a form of neurodivergence in its own right. It seems to us that it’s in line with a basic definition of neurodivergent (a term created by Neurodivergent K, blogging now at Radical Neurodivergence Speaking). And because it’s a broad term, as Nick Walker of Neurocosmopolitanism points out, encompassing multiplicity in that universe makes complete sense. In our case, it’s an alteration in brain functioning due to trauma, and because we’re Autistic, we’re also multiply neurodivergent.

That’s about all the time and space we have for now, but we’ll continue writing more about our experiences with multiplicity. We namely wanted to give a basic introduction to our readers of our world.



Nothing About Us Without ALL of Us. That Means Autistics of Colour, Too.

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

First things first: I suggest that Steven Shapin find a new profession.

His lack of journalistic integrity in his recent New Yorker article, “Seeing the Spectrum“, is painfully evident. While reporting about John Donvan and Caren Zucker’s book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, there is a clear failure to recognise just how problematic this book is. All Shapin has managed to do in almost 3900 words is perpetuate the same old tired and horrible myths about autistic people, including:

  • that we need to be cured;
  • that abuse is acceptable treatment (READ: ABA);
  • that we are rigid, inflexible, emotionless beings; and,
  • that our own communication and testimonies are unreliable.

Shortly after the article’s appearance, protests on social media began by autistic people. Some of them used the hashtag #notblackmirrors, in reference to a quote from the article:

“It’s a searing experience to have a child who doesn’t talk, who doesn’t want to be touched, who self-harms, who demands a regularity and an order that parents can’t supply, whose eyes are not windows to their souls but black mirrors.”

Thinking it would be helpful, I also posted a couple of selfies — one on Facebook, one on Twitter — adding my voice to the #notblackmirrors protest. Trouble is, this wasn’t probably the most well thought-out protest. Not too long after my own tweet, I saw this post from Radical Neurodivergence Speaking on Facebook:

“SHOCKINGLY ENOUGH Autistic PoC exist. Many of us have extremely dark eyes (mine are on the light side of ‘dark’ & if you know me in person AND look at eyes you know…yeah they can be mistaken as such). I can think of a dozen Autistic people off the top of my head that have basically-black eyes.”

This was a case of me not thinking before I posted and tweeted: not considering something very important. While #notblackmirrors may have been well-intentioned, it does leave out a large percentage of autistic people of colour. Sometimes, my own eyes are so dark they’re almost black. This was true for my late father, who was African-American and autistic, and well as my future husband’s late  father, who was South Asian (Indian) and also autistic. Additionally, I know several autistic people of colour whose eyes are black or almost black.

Radical Neurodivergence Speaking ended that post by saying “Do better. Please.”

And they’re absolutely right.

A few artifacts surrounding all of this are very telling, and point to additional larger issues. Because the link above is to the Do Not Link version of that heinous article, the original contents and artwork are still visible. Included is an illustration of what seems to be a large image of a light-skinned male child, in front of which there is scaffolding with small groups of people standing on it. Of course, my mind immediately flashes to the often perpetuated image of autistic people as, as someone else on Facebook put it (and my apologies to the original commentator, as I can’t remember your name), “eight year-old white boys obsessed with trains and airplanes.”

Which, of course, leaves out ALL autistic adults. And autistic people of colour. Finally, it leaves out autistic women and nonbinary autistics.

When I used to blog on Woman With Asperger’s, I frequently mentioned lower diagnosis rates for autistic women and girls, and also lower rates of diagnosis, later diagnoses, and lack of access to services for autistic people of colour. For me, these were issues very close to home. I’m a multiracial person of Black ancestry, and until late 2014 I identified as female (the story behind that is a different post for a different time). And I was not diagnosed until age 34. To be fair, I grew up in a dysfunctional family of origin: so my late diagnosis may have saved me. Had I been identified autistic as a teenager, it is very likely my family would have institutionalized me, or worse. I might not be sitting here writing this post right now. I spent nearly all of my childhood trying to pass for allistic, once I figured out that I was not the so-called “normal” that everyone else seemed to be. My chameleon circuit worked so well it almost killed me.

My set of problems are shared by some autistics. There are also issues of abuse, exclusion and restraint, our own testimonies being seen as unreliable, lack of access to needed supports and services, and so forth. However, for some of us — particularly autistics of colour — there can also be issues of life and death. Autistic people from all backgrounds have been murdered, but autistic people of colour face institutionalized racism which increases our chances of facing wrongful arrest and violence. One need only think of the cases of Neli Latson and Kayleb Moon-Robinson — both within the last two years — as examples.

Nothing about us without us. That phrase has often been used to address policy made on us autistic people without our input, a lack of autistic voices in media coverage about us, and funds raised without any of the money directly benefiting us as well as harmful, ableist pity-based messages about us used to raise those funds.

That statement should be amended to read: Nothing about us without ALL of us. Just as mainstream LBGTQIA+ organisations have ignored the needs of queer people of colour, autistic activism should strive not to make the same mistakes. It’s bad enough that mainstream media whitewashes autism. Autistic activism should be careful not to (whether purposefully or inadvertently) do the same.

My words are meant out of love for fellow autistic activists. Shapin, Autism Speaks, et. al: no love for you. Sorry not sorry.

N.I. Nicholson


by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Thou shalt beat him [a child] with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
— Proverbs 23:14

Dear Dr. Lovaas: I must tell you
about the hot brand embossed
into my sacroiliac skin,
a letter D like my algebra grade
from high school freshman year — or,
D for “dumb”, D for “different”,

the toothless sideways grin
of my Thalia mask.

Maybe it was a comedy,
trying to pour my skinless self
into a “normal” mold:

but the licks of angry tongues
and leather belts
made me try to liquify, solidify,

until I was all Good Christian Girl,
a Goody-Two-Shoes with a warped face
and curved heart — a thing
I vaguely recognized in the mirror.

Truth is, I had the mask
upside down: it was Melpomene’s.
I should have been singing
its goat-song, to match the stinking fur
slapped onto my back

while I, 14 years old, autistic,
ignorant of my stripped fiber optics
and brain wiring like barking sycamores,
was made to dance to Normal in B# Minor
in glass-shard ballet shoes.

Lovaas, you demon, you quack,
maybe you never instructed
my family in your methods
but the outcome is the same:
at 38, my feet still fucking bleed

Written 8/11/14
Revised 10/8/14
 © 2014 N.I. Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

(Below are the original notes with published with the poem on my old blog in October 2014.)
This was a poem originally written in August (2014) but just revised today (10/8/14) as I feel it is timely. Sparrow Rose Jones’ blog post about ABA (applied behavioral analysis) inspired me to revise and post this poem. Jones breaks down with clarity and detail about ABA and why it is not only useless to help teach autistic children but why it is damaging and hurtful.

I grew up not knowing I am autistic. I was abused physically, emotionally, and sexually by my family of origin, who insisted that there was “something wrong with me” and I needed to be forced to “act normal”. I see so many parallels between some of the abuse I endured and modern (and even past ABA methods, as evidenced by this 1965 Time Magazine Article describing therapies that are the precursor to ABA — DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE EASILY TRIGGERED!). Dr. Lovaas may not have been instructing my family on how to abuse me, but he helped influence the dominant cultural paradigm which insists on a false sense of “normality” — a state of being that the majority is but minorities are not. Normal is a lie, and no matter whether your difference from the dominant culture is in terms of race, gender, gender identity, neurological state of being, sexual orientation, disability, what have you, if you are different, you are often made to feel as if you must conform.

So this poem, you could say, is my comment on the issue. I was angered and hurt at some comments parents have made on The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism which started this whole debate in the first place — and Jones’ response is brilliant and well thought out. Mine is certainly angrier, but I’m throwing it into the dialogue, for what it’s worth.

This poem, it should be noted, was also generated in my writing towards my final MFA thesis and book of poems. It may be revised and republished, but I hope its essence remains the same. It should get pretty interesting, folks.


Ten Things THIS Autistic Kid Learned from Being Bullied

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

[TW: Bullying, Abuse, Gaslighting,]
Read the rest of this entry »

Neli Latson Receives Conditional Pardon by VA Governor

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Neli Latson, as a child

[Image: a pair of tan-colored hands holds a photo of a young black teenager with closely cropped hair wearing a plaid blue and orange button-down shirt. The photo is inside an ornate red and gold picture frame.]


Neli Latson has been granted a conditional pardon by the governor of Virginia.

This is due to Kerima Cervik’s petition to pardon Neli Latson receiving over 2,000 signature and the diligence of many disability rights, autistic, and other activists.

As Kerima says, ” Please don’t lose track of Neli, and do not forget the injustice done to him. We need to make certain the ADA is protected and that what happened to Neli never happens again.”

Related links:

– N.I.

Petition to Pardon Reginald “Neli” Latson

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Reginald “Neli” Latson (Courtesy of Breaking Brown)

[Image of a young black man sitting on a sofa, holding a small curly-haired white dog in his lap]

A Petition to Free Neli Latson:

This is Reginald “Neli” Latson. And he is a young black autistic man suffering in solitary confinement.

Some of you may remember my first post about Neli. His hell began on the morning of May 24, 2010. He was waiting for the public library to open in Stafford County, Virginia. Latson evidently was wearing a hoodie, which was enough for someone to call the local police and report him as a “suspicious character”. Since then he has been in the criminal justice system after being racially profiled.

Kerima Cervik of the Intersected Blog started a petition on to free him. She says:

“Over the past four years Neli Latson has been restrained, pepper sprayed, shot with a Taser, bound in a restraint chair for hours, placed in solitary confinement, and criminalized all for having a mental health crisis during a catastrophic encounter with a police officer. He has suffered four years of hell for the crime of being a disabled young man. He never belonged in prison. I am the mother of a nonverbal autistic 12 year old son. If we don’t change the way our children are treated today, this could happen to any of them tomorrow. Our sons are NOT criminals! Please join the Virginia Chaper of the ACLU, The Arc of Virginia, The Arc of the US, ASAN, The Bazelon Center For Mental Health Law, and countless others in calling for a pardon for Neli Latson.”

ASAN released their own call for Neli’s pardon here:

Please sign! And share this, spread the word, etc. We need to help get Neli free.


-N.I. Nicholson

(Text for this post is from my original post on Tumblr:

Racial Profiling and the Black Autistic: the Case of Neli Latson

by Memoirs Of A Dead Woman

Reginald “Neli” Latson (Courtesy of Breaking Brown)

[Image of a young black man sitting on a sofa, holding a small curly-haired white dog in his lap]

Cases like that of Reginald “Neli” Latson worry me. No, scratch that — they frighten me.

Latson’s hell began on the morning of May 24, 2010. He was waiting for the public library to open in Stafford County, Virginia. Latson evidently was wearing a hoodie, which was enough for someone to call the local police and report him as a “suspicious character”.

According to the San Francisco Bay View, here is what happened next:

“Deputy Calverley [the officer who answered the call] then approached Latson and searched him for a gun. No gun was found. Calverly asked Latson for his name, and Latson refused and tried to walk away as he had committed no crime. Calverly then grabbed Latson and attempted to arrest him without reading him his Miranda Rights or calling for backup.”

Since then, Latson has been imprisoned without just cause. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) states that after serving two years resulting from the charge of assaulting a police officer, Latson “had another unfortunate encounter with police in which he threatened suicide”. Multiple sources report that after this incident, he has been in solitary confinement for the last year. The Arc of Virginia quotes a statement by Latson’s lawyers which appeared in a Washington Post article that “in effect Neli spends 24 hours a day locked in a segregation cell with minimal human contact for the ‘crime’ of being autistic”.

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