I updated “Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.” with selections from “The evolution of evolution | Autistic Collaboration” and “Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman”.

Over the last 200 years, starting with the deployment of the first electrical telegraphs, human societies have been incrementally equipped with global zero-marginal cost communication technologies, culminating in what we now refer to as the web. This development, made possible by people with creative autistic minds, has fundamentally altered the social power dynamics within human societies.

On the one hand modern industrialised empires, states, and corporations have unprecedented abilities to influence and manipulate large populations, and on the other hand, there is nothing that can stop autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people from connecting and collaborating across spatial and cultural boundaries.

Source: The evolution of evolution | Autistic Collaboration

For me and many other LGBT individuals with autism, the internet has been a socialising goldmine, filling in the gap left by our inability to engage with other LGBT spaces. Online, tone of voice and nonverbal facial expressions are removed as factors from understanding conversational intent, with words alone explaining intent. Social media allows me to socialise with other LGBT people, regardless of their location, while controlling my sensory information. I can listen to my own music on loop, eat my texture-limited foods, in comfortable clothing, under a weighted blanket, in my own home while making a new friend who communicates by saying the words they mean directly.

Source: Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman

For me and many other LGBT individuals with autism, the internet has been a socialising goldmine, filling in the gap left by our inability to engage with other LGBT spaces. Online, tone of voice and nonverbal facial expressions are removed as factors from understanding conversational intent, with words alone explaining intent. Social media allows me to socialise with other LGBT people, regardless of their location, while controlling my sensory information. I can listen to my own music on loop, eat my texture-limited foods, in comfortable clothing, under a weighted blanket, in my own home while making a new friend who communicates by saying the words they mean directly.

Source: Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman

Related:

Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.

Typed Words, Loud Voices: Written Communication While Presumed Incompetent

Another way that typing has helped me is with my blog. I am able to say things, especially about my feelings that I cannot get out through my mouth. Sometimes, it can take weeks to get it out even by typing, but it does come. If I was trying to speak, it would never come out. I have noticed that when I am upset about something, if I blog about it as soon as possible, I am able to get my real feelings and frustrations out. This is a new and helpful thing. It is helping me to become a better advocate for others and myself. The words are starting to come out through the keyboard, but it has to be done as soon as possible, otherwise the words disappear. I also have to be careful because certain people may read what I write and get worried (this has happened even though there is no reason to be). I am tempted to start another blog but keep it anonymous so that I can say whatever I need to say. It would be interesting to see what would happen if I had that freedom. Something I have definitely never had with the spoken word.

I type to talk. Without typing I have no voice to tell you I am smart. I spell my thoughts because I cannot speak with my mouth. Thoughts remain imprisoned in my mind escaping only through my finger on a letterboard or keyboard. I tell of my experiences of being autistic in my writing and blog. Without typing I am misunderstood as retarded and unteachable. You cannot tell from my exterior that I am following everything you say. Understanding comes easy to me.

Some days I spend most my day typing. In the past, most days. I type to share who I am, to figure out how to interact with the world, to interact with my boyfriend, and to teach. I am verbal. I’m also someone who interacts better online. Most my communication has been through IM and IRC. I’ll sit down, cuddled up to my boyfriend and type to him. I’ll ask a channel how I should interact with a situation I’m in and learn how to deal with social situations like that. All of this is understandable to people. Me having gone for years unwilling to go anywhere without my laptop, and now using my smartphone more as a connection to the people elsewhere to type to than everything else combined, is just the same as everyone else just a bit more extreme. The fact that this is how I understand the world, how I figure out what I’m saying, and frequently me feeling like the only people who respect me, doesn’t change that it’s something they can understand.

Fingers are better communicators. They’re just harder to be listened to if you’re in the same location. Sometimes this isn’t used because speech is so much faster, but the fingers give so much more detail, phrase in so much more depth, get tied up so much less. Fingers don’t get lost in their own sentences.

Even those who can always make words with their mouths often find typing a more eloquent and less stressful means of communicating than speech. No one should feel that they have to prove they are “disabled enough” to deserve the supports that will make their lives easier, happier, and more productive. Increasing my ability to communicate with others has filled me with so much hope and joy. I want everyone to feel that way. I want everyone to be heard. Typed voices are a celebration of communication and connection. Listen to them and rejoice. The clicking of the keyboard is the song of life unfolding.

Source: Typed Words, Loud Voices: A Collection – Autonomous Press

Typed Words, Loud Voices is written by a coalition of writers who type to talk and believe it is neither logical nor fair that some people should be expected to prove themselves every time they have something to say. Read our arguments and hear us. Help us change the world.

See also:

The studies repeatedly underlined the importance of first impressions. A negative first impression held true no matter how much further exposure a person was given to reassess that first impression. But there was one scenario in which the Autistic people left a positive first impression: when people read a transcript of their words instead of seeing and hearing the Autistic people saying those words, observers rated them as more likable and more intelligent. In fact, in the scenario where observers just read the written words of Autistic and non-autistic people, they rated both groups the same. For non-autistic people, the written transcripts were their lowest-rated mode of communication, although only by a small amount. For Autistic people, the written transcripts were their highest-rated mode of communication by a very significant margin.

Written communication is the great social equalizer.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Autism and the Burden of Social Reciprocity

See also: Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.

Writing ability is crucial, and distributed work only amplifies its importance.

Source: Distributed FAQ: How to Transition to Remote Work – Distributed.blog

A related thought from “Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools”:

Writing is too important because, though forms and structures will differ, writing is the path to power for those born without power. This importance lies not in how to write a “five‐paragraph essay” or a “compare and contrast” book review but in the capability to clearly communicate visions both personal and collaborative. Whether the work is a tweet that generates action when that is needed, or a text message to an employer, or the ability to convince others in the political realm, or the expression of one’s identity in a form that evokes empathy in those without similar experience, “communicating” “well” is a social leveler of supreme importance.

In both cases, methodology become less important than process. Our students read on paper, or through audio books, or through text‐to‐speech, or by watching video, or by seeing theater – or by observing their world. They write with pens, keyboards large and small, touchscreens, or by dictating to their phones or computers, or by recording audio, or by making videos, or by writing plays or creating art, or playing music. We do not limit the work by attacking those with disabilities or even inabilities – or even other preferences, because that robs children of both important influences and of theira individual voices. Multiplicities are an intention: We build the best collaboration, the deepest learning, when we expand the opportunities for complex vision.

Thus we begin by moving the teaching of writing from the training of a specific skill set toward an interpersonal art form that flows from students and builds communities. Then, through the reimagining of teaching places into “learning spaces,” we craft “studios” where all the technologies of school – time, space, tools, pedagogies – liberate and inspire rather than deliver and test. Then, using those recrafted technologies, we allow communication learning to flow.

Source: Socol, Ira. Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools (Kindle Locations 3725-3739). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Distributed work amplifies the importance of writing and is at its best when it provides tools and culture for making that writing an accessible equalizer supportive of neurological pluralism.

Written communication is the great social equalizer.

Remember this if you start to fear your Autistic child is spending too much time interacting with others online and not enough time interacting with others face-to-face. Online communication is a valid accommodation for the social disability that comes with being Autistic. We need online interaction and this meta-study demonstrates exactly why that is the case.

I couldn’t help wondering, since the study showed the durability of first impressions and the positive response to the written words of Autistics, with all visual and auditory cues removed, could we mitigate childhood bullying in any way by having a class of students meet first online, in text, and form their first impressions of one another in that format before ever meeting face-to-face?

Getting online was revolutionary and may have saved my life.

The difference between offline and online communication could not have been more dramatic.

Source: THINKING PERSON’S GUIDE TO AUTISM: Autism and the Burden of Social Reciprocity

See also:

It’s easy for people to dismiss online activism as somehow fake, or at least not significant. When it comes to disability in particular, that’s a mistake. Twitter is the most accessible real-time conversation. It is not perfectly accessible, but its text-based public nature allows people to talk to one another who have radically different modes of interacting with the world. People who have difficulty leaving their homes for reasons of physical or social disabilities, people who are blind or deaf (or both), who do not speak verbally and communicate by typing (regardless of appendage used to type), and those with other disability-related access needs can all use Twitter to talk to each other. I have been in wildly accessible physical spaces, with captioning, ramps, sign, and warnings about a lack of scent. It is possible to make accessible spaces, but Twitter brings us together by design. It’s a space, therefore, where the disability community can manifest as a powerful constituency. And it doesn’t hurt that both journalists and political operatives also hang out on Twitter.

Source: Where the Heck Is Joe Biden’s Disability Plan? | The Nation

Also: Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.

I updated “Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.” with selections from “NeuroDiversity: The Birth of an Idea by Judy Singer”.

Computers as the essential prosthetic device for autistics?

Despite a common history of what can, with the wisdom of hindsight, be termed “oppression”, the limited social, networking, and organisational skills of people with AS together with their aversion to direct human contact, had prevented them joining together to form an effective movement to address their specific issues. All this changed however with the advent of the Internet. Computers are the communications medium par excellence for autistics. A significant number of autistics claim that computers mirror the way their minds work (Grandin, with Blume, 1997). By filtering out all the sensory overwhelm caused by actual physical presence, computers free up autistics’ communicative abilities.

InLv members regularly sing the praises of the new medium that allows them to have the form of communication they desire, while protecting them from the overwhelming sensory overload and rapid processing demands of human presence. For many, email lists are their first experience of community. Jane Meyerding, a member of InLv makes clear just how much autistics owe to computer technology:

Like a lot of ACs (autistics and cousins), I find myself able to enjoy “community” for the first time through the internet. The style of communication suits me just fine because it is one-on-one, entirely under my control in terms of when and how long I engage in it, and, unlike real-life encounters, allows me enough time to figure out and formulate my responses. In real-world encounters with groups—even very small groups—of people, I am freighted with disadvantages. I am distracted by my struggle to identify who is who (not being able to recognise faces), worn out by the effort to understand what is being said (because if there is more than one conversation going on in the room, or more than one voice speaking at a time, all the words become meaningless noise to me), and stressed by a great desire to escape from a confusing flood of sensation coming at me much too fast. (Jane Meyerding – Thoughts on Finding Myself Differently Brained, 1998)

As this statement shows, for autistics, computers are the essential prosthetic device, one which turns them from withdrawn, isolated individuals, to networked social beings, the prerequisite to effective social action, and a voice in the public arena.

Autistics compare the importance to them of computers with the importance of seeing-eye dogs to the blind. Martijn Dekker, who is the ‘owner’ of the InLv email forum, and a prominent autistic activist foreshadows puts it plainly:

For reasons obvious to our HFA/AS community, I consider a computer to be an essential disability provision for a person with Asperger’s. (8 Nov 1998)

Source: NeuroDiversity: The Birth of an Idea by Judy Singer

Computers as the essential prosthetic device for autistics?

Despite a common history of what can, with the wisdom of hindsight, be termed “oppression”, the limited social, networking, and organisational skills of people with AS together with their aversion to direct human contact, had prevented them joining together to form an effective movement to address their specific issues. All this changed however with the advent of the Internet. Computers are the communications medium par excellence for autistics. A significant number of autistics claim that computers mirror the way their minds work (Grandin, with Blume, 1997). By filtering out all the sensory overwhelm caused by actual physical presence, computers free up autistics’ communicative abilities.

InLv members regularly sing the praises of the new medium that allows them to have the form of communication they desire, while protecting them from the overwhelming sensory overload and rapid processing demands of human presence. For many, email lists are their first experience of community. Jane Meyerding, a member of InLv makes clear just how much autistics owe to computer technology:

Like a lot of ACs (autistics and cousins), I find myself able to enjoy “community” for the first time through the internet. The style of communication suits me just fine because it is one-on-one, entirely under my control in terms of when and how long I engage in it, and, unlike real-life encounters, allows me enough time to figure out and formulate my responses. In real-world encounters with groups—even very small groups—of people, I am freighted with disadvantages. I am distracted by my struggle to identify who is who (not being able to recognise faces), worn out by the effort to understand what is being said (because if there is more than one conversation going on in the room, or more than one voice speaking at a time, all the words become meaningless noise to me), and stressed by a great desire to escape from a confusing flood of sensation coming at me much too fast. (Jane Meyerding – Thoughts on Finding Myself Differently Brained, 1998)

As this statement shows, for autistics, computers are the essential prosthetic device, one which turns them from withdrawn, isolated individuals, to networked social beings, the prerequisite to effective social action, and a voice in the public arena.

Autistics compare the importance to them of computers with the importance of seeing-eye dogs to the blind. Martijn Dekker, who is the ‘owner’ of the InLv email forum, and a prominent autistic activist foreshadows puts it plainly:

For reasons obvious to our HFA/AS community, I consider a computer to be an essential disability provision for a person with Asperger’s. (8 Nov 1998)

Source: NeuroDiversity: The Birth of an Idea by Judy Singer

See also: Bring the backchannel forward. Written communication is the great social equalizer.

To be successful at a company like Automattic, you have to be able to communicate effectively via text

Source: Welcome to the Chaos – Distributed.blog

Distributed work, the future of work for many, runs on written communication. Fortunately for me, written communication is a great social equalizer, enabling me to participate and contribute.

See also,