Anti-Ableism & Expanding Our Cultural Perspective

Season 2, Episode 3

by Ashia R.
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In this episode:

Saunatina Sanchez of Crafting Sound Meaning uses her Autistic hyperfocus to connect families across cultural divides.

This week, we’re talking about:

  • Communication challenges between Autistic & Allistic folks
  • Why we need to understand cultural communication differences to raise kind & courageous leaders
  • Why cross-cultural communication is so challenging
  • What we can do to tackle these challenges
Ashia Ray
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Guest Speakers

Saunatina (she/her) is the Autistic, Queer, Latinx founder of Crafting Sound Meaning.

As an Autistic raised by Autistic parents, she pulls from her experience navigating a world designed for allistics (non-autistic people) to help her community build deep and lasting relationships to resist and thrive in our modern capitalist hellscape.

You can visit her website at CraftingSoundMeaning.com to learn more and connect with her.

Bonus Resources & References

From Crafting Sound Meaning:

  • Linguistics You Can Use Livestream: Perspective
  • Use code ‘Ray‘ for $10 off a Coaching Session – works for a quick intro consult or a full session. Only 2 spots left.
    (This is not an affiliate link.)

From Raising Luminaries

(Contains some affiliate links)

Episode Transcript

Ashia Ray
Welcome everybody to the Raising Luminaries podcast season two, episode three. This is Ashia Ray and we are here with our new partner in cahoots towards do goodery and smashing the kyriarchy – Saunatina Sanchez of Crafting Sound Meaning.

For anyone who listened to Episode One of this season a couple of weeks ago, we discussed ascale of the work that we’re doing as self advocates and activists. And we talked about a scale of, the things that we’re doing that are toxic and untenable both for ourselves and society – and how we’re going to nudge it towards being more sustainable and regenerative with interdependent collaborations.

So, with that, we’re going to talk about how me and Saunatina are going to be partnering up as conspirators and Saunatina is going to take over the most toxic part of Raising Luminaries and it’s going to be awesome.

Okay, so, quick intro Saunatina Sanchez uses she/her pronouns. She’s the Autistic, queer Latinx Factor of crafting sound meaning. As an autistic person raised by autistic parents, she pulls from her experience navigating a world designed for allistics (for anyone new to this, that’s non autistic people) to help her community build deep and lasting relationships to resist and also thrive in our modern capitalist hellscape. You can visit her website at craftingsoundmeaning.com to learn more and connect with her. So would you like to introduce yourself?

Saunatina
Hello! Thank you. Hi, my name is Saunatina Sanchez. And I’m just so excited to be here and working with Ashia on this. Yes, matching the patriarchal capitalist hellscape that we are currently existing in. It’s like a dream of mine. So I’m really excited to have a cohort in that effort. Yeah, I’m based out of Seattle, Washington, if that is of interest of yours. I have a lot of experience doing lots of volunteer activities in the Seattle area. So I’m very active in my local community, and I just really enjoy talking about communication stuff.

Ashia Ray
Awesome. Okay. So today we’re going to cover… and this might take more than one episode, because both of us are Autistic. So both of us are going to get on to info dumpy tangents, and are very interested in our specific spheres of special interest. So it might take more than one episode.

But in this episode, maybe more, we’re going to cover what are some communication challenges between autistic and allistic folks, why we need to understand it to raise kind of courageous leaders. Why cross cultural communication, cross abled communication is so challenging, and then what we can do to tackle these challenges. So we discuss, how we’re going to make this tangible.

What’s it what’s a case study that we can use to discuss an example. And the best thing I could come up with is a recent challenge that I’m having with my own kid. And this is, I guess, this is my way of getting free coaching.

Saunatina
I love it. I love it. I love giving advice. So this is always fun for me. Yeah.

Ashia Ray
So for me as an autistic parent with an autistic child, putting him back in school after the pandemic, and we have to advocate for an IEP Individualized Education Plan. So that way, the state and the schools are mandated he to make the school accessible for him, so he can actually learn. They’re supposed to make it possible for him to learn. But also, it’s hard for me as a person who was raised Asian, feminine and autistic to advocate for myself.

And some of that internalized bias, advocating for myself sometimes comes up in advocating for my kid and I hear that from a lot of other parents with disabilities, in addition to allistic parents who just, they’ve never had to do advocacy before.

So when I go into these special education meetings you know, we have the, the doctor’s advice on what’s possible for his IEP, we have our advice of what we would like, we have, this futurist ideal of what it looks like to have a fully integrated, anti ableism classroom. But we also have educational boundaries, our teachers are exhausted. There’s only so much funding. So trying to hold space for all of these conflicting things, in addition to the fact that, I need to advocate through an allistic lens so they can understand me. and believe me. And they are not primed in any way – the educators, even though they’re lovely people, the teachers, the special education teachers, the aides, the social workers are completely unprimed for how autistic people communicate.

And my own kid has laughed about this. He’s like, “Why do they talk to me like this?” And I’m like, “Well, honey, it’s kind of funny. This is literally their job – to talk to Autistic kids, but they’ve never gotten any training from any autistic people. They just read about it. Books written by other allistic people.”

He just laughed and laughed. And then screamed a little.

Saunatina
Yeah, yeah. Now that is, coming up for how old your kid is, that is a perfect response. I feel like they’re already ready for the world.

Ashia Ray
He loves catching ridiculous examples of bigotry and ableism in the real world. While it’s also very frustrating. So with this little story, just want to give a quick content warning.

If you’re not comfortable with these topics, skip ahead, maybe 10 minutes. So anti autistic ableism, self harm, and autistic suicide, because this is a part of this story.

So I’m sitting here in this IEP meeting, and I have my allstic partner here to translate for me, but he can only do so much because he doesn’t have the knowledge that I have. So I say my words, he tries to sum up what I just said. And then it feels like I’m slamming my head against zoom screen, right?

So one of the things I’m trying to explain to them is he needs to be in a smaller classroom with, I don’t care what abilities they have, he needs to be in a smaller classroom, where the adults there can actually watch what’s going on in the patterns between him and just a couple of kids. And mostly because crowds, the horrifying fluorescent lights they have in that building, and all the visual clutter that the teachers pick up at the Learning Store, because they think that it’s cute, and it’s actually like really just like laying a bed of nails on a driveway.

So I’m trying to explain to them, like, my kid doesn’t have meltdowns at home, he does have them in school, I suspect this might help, right? I’m trying to communicate this to them. And I’m like, and I know your job is to get kids to conform. However, this is going to have long term ramifications for him that are going to be very painful.

In addition to that, this would be pretty simple. Most of these would be a pretty simple fix, you know, use lamps, or like, take some of the shit down off of the walls, like you don’t need those little colorful borders on every single fucking bulletin board.

And the other thing that I try to advocate for is – our school is pro ABA, they use that which is applied behavior analysis. It’s basically like the same roots of gay conversion therapy, and animal training. So basically, what it does is it trains us if you’re unfamiliar with it, to hide our pain, hide or discomfort, and force us to comply in order to have what non disabled people would consider basic human rights.

So trying to explain to them using rewards to get my kid to complete his learning, his homework assignments, whatever, it doesn’t teach them to love learning, it teaches him that learning is something that you endure. As opposed to just adjusting it to fit his abilities, right?

And it also teaches us autistic people that we have to earn the right to rest and earn the right to self care.

So they give him – he has legally mandated breaks to regulate himself. And instead of identifying ways to help him regulate himself, they give him Minecraft videos, which are actively dysregulating. But they’re easy to give him. It doesn’t require a person to talk him through breathing exercises.

And then the thing is – he has to earn those. So they have him working on something that’s very hard, disregulating, so we can earn the right to regulate.

So I’m trying to communicate this to them. And I’m pointing out – in as gentle terms as I can and saying, I know you only have so many people in the classroom. I know you only have so many resources. I know you have other kids you have to work with. But I need you to understand this.

Feels like bashing my head against the wall right? To the point where now I’m just outright I’m like, “This is torture. This is child abuse.” Right? This is not okay, what you guys are doing.

And then I had to point out – there’s a reason why I feel like I don’t have the right to sit down until every allistic person within 100 feet of me is completely comfortable. There’s a reason why I feel like I have to earn the right to sleep. And it’s because I was raised with these these methods to get me to hide my stimming, hide my need to move, that kind of thing.

And then I even brought up stats because you know white people love stats. Right? Like You know, the average life expectancy of a speaking, academically-okay, autistic is about 36 years old. Which I have overshot already.

Saunatina
Yes, thank you.

Ashia Ray
And this isn’t by accident, this is suicide from hiding, and conforming and trying to fit and then just burning out and not being able to take it anymore. So I was like, “If you keep doing this, he will kill himself.”

And I couldn’t be any clearer about this. I’ve tried it the nice way. I’ve tried it the direct way. And every single time I get nodding, I get the compassion face with like the little the little sad downturned mouth and the eyebrows that are close together, and they go, “Okay, well, we’re gonna do what we want anyway.” Right?

And I’m like, okay, clearly, there’s a communication issue here.

Saunatina
Yeah.

Ashia Ray
Or you just don’t believe that we are people who have the right to human decency, right? I can only control my communication, I can’t control their ability to see us as humans who have the same rights as allistic people.

Which is a long way of saying, that’s the story that we’re going to tackle as an example. So before we get into Saunatina’s approach on how she would help a parent going through this, we’re going to talk about why we need to understand communication differences. Why ableism and communication is a problem – and then our plan moving forward some tips for both allistic and autistic parents. Okay, do you have anything to add?

Saunatina
I mean, in terms of the story wise, I know people can’t see, obviously, but like I’m nodding the whole time. And I’m like, “Yes.” Because the experience is so relatable.

Having gone through my childhood, basically, I wasn’t recognized until I was 36, or 37. And I didn’t even suspect autism until I was about 34. And even after that when I talked to somebody, I was like, “I think this is actually what I might have. Not anxiety or depression.”

And they’re like, “No, you’re too social, you can’t be.” So it’s like one of those things. It’s like the experience of telling people it’s like, “This is my experience. This is the reality that I experience.”

And they’re like “No that can’t be. That’s not possible.”

And how hurtful it is, and how much that made me consider just not wanting to be around anymore. And that’s, that’s the most relatable part of it. So yeah, I’m looking forward to getting into your, into your IEP stuff because ugh that word itself is just, yeah.

Ashia Ray
So that constant invalidation of when we have the ability to regulate, when we are taking care of ourselves when we have the accommodations that we need, which are usually much smaller than allistic people think – they’re like, “But you don’t look autistic.”

You know, I’m doing a ton of work. Like that’s a great hashtag, right? That someone some smart person made that a hashtag. There’s pictures of us all over the internet, #ButYouDontLookAutistic. It’s like, yeah, because I have what I need. And I’m not in a meltdown.

Saunatina
I literally had some friend tell me that when I told him I was autistic. I mean, I went into this point now because if you said that to me, I don’t really think of your as a friend anymore. But anyway, that’s another topic.

Ashia Ray
Yeah. And it’s and I liken it to like, so many people tell me that. I liken it to…it’s the same thing as “Well, you don’t look Asian.”

It’s always white people, right? Like this white idea of what Asians look like, like a Jerry Lewis stereotype? And then you have this allistic idea of what what does autism look like, based on allistic people playing us in movies, right?

Saunatina
Yeah.

Ashia Ray
Let’s talk about why we need to understand communication differences. We are here to raise kind and courageous kids to be leaders in the revolution, right? And what does it mean to raise kind kids – not nice kids, we want kids who rock the fuckin’ boat, right? We want kids who are willing to do scary things because they know it’s the right thing to do. And it lifts up the rest of humanity. We need kids who are patient with others, even when they’re just giving us that fucking compassion face.

And like, when they’re saying shit, that just sounds completely awful. We need we need to teach our kids to like, hold back a minute. Wait. Try to understand what they’re trying to say. And then through a lens of anti supremacy, like we have to understand there’s no one right way to communicate. But the best thing that we can do instead of trying to force our kids to conform to the other ways that people communicate, is just understand the way that other people communicate and then hopefully, get the skills that they need to self advocate.

When we talk about raising courageous kids – because courage is a part of kindness, we need to have raised ourselves to have the humility and the vulnerability to be like “I don’t understand.” And like, “maybe I’m wrong, maybe my perspective, and the one way I do this and the way I was raised,” understandably is just like, “it’s missing some key elements of humanity.” Right?

Saunatina
Yeah, it’s, that’s not the whole story of what it is to be human.

Ashia Ray
Right? Okay. And then let’s talk about leaders. So many people think of one way to be a leader, like a Putin style, way to be a leader, like, just smash over everyone. Stand on tall things, ride horses. I don’t know, though, our definition of leader involves, like eight different types of leading, right. And a lot of them involve inclusion with people, you disagree with. Not taking shit from them, but finding ways to make sure that people are heard and included. And understanding that their communication styles are different, as well as accepting that our own forms of communication are valid.

Speaking as an Asian person who uses high context communication and indirect language, it takes a lot not to beat myself up for not getting what I want, because I’m communicating in in a way that I was raised. And it’s just not sinking in for the people who are raised differently and not not to understand that.

Okay, so let’s talk about why is ableism in communication a problem?

Saunatina
Oh, I mean, let’s, we are going to have this as a ongoing series now. Right?

Ashia Ray
Yeah. Right, let’s talk about allistic-centering and Western-centering and communication, if you want to narrow it down

Saunatina
Absolutely, absolutely. And actually, the way you you ended your little intro to that was perfect, because that made me think of, you know, you talk about about your Chinese heritage and I have a similar experience coming from a very Mexican culture and having very direct communication, but not in the way that we are used to thinking of direct communication in the west or in our current American culture.

I’ve had a lot of experiences in terms of having unsaid expectations around how you’re supposed to communicate, especially in a work environment. Because we do have a particular culture, and I always say, I am speaking very, very much about being raised in America, in the United States of America. And so my whole experience is related to working and living in this community. I’ve visited other countries, but I only know what it is like to live here.

And in the community and cultures that I was raised in, you’re supposed to make everybody else as comfortable as possible, unless you have the power to impose your will on others.

And that was always very confusing to me. So that’s the model that I I was raised in, in terms of how I came into the work world. But my, experience being raised in a family with a Mexican father, and a white mom, American, I say American-but, Right? that’s my definition for my white Americanness. But it’s predominantly, you know, what I found out later is she was very much from a Welsh culture. It came through our family, even if it wasn’t known, and so I have these two very direct cultures, in my family, and I come into the world.

And I’m used to, basically, just asking, and getting an answer, and not worrying if I’m going to offend somebody because I didn’t phrase the thing correctly. It was expected in my family, that we ask each other what we mean by something. When we say something, that’s just that was an expectation.

And as you said earlier, right. I didn’t know this even at the time – but both of my parents were also autistic. Are. Well, my mom is still, my dad is no longer around. But the experience that we all had in our home growing up was just one of kind of, not confusion, but consideration, of curiosity. That’s the word.

It was a an environment of curiosity, where it is not bad to think differently. It is interesting to figure out how we as a family think differently. It was just a whole other thing.

So I come into the world. And I have a very firm sense of self. And it’s been barrage constantly – from people telling me that I should be different.

And I’m thinking “No, I’m pretty sure that I’m good. I’m gonna figure out what everybody else’s problem is.”

Ashia Ray
[laughter]

Saunatina
And it did take me a while. But the what I came to the conclusion is, and now this is why we’re working together – is because, this time in my life, I have finally realized once I had the recognition of autism, once I’ve been able to communicate in my autistic community, and once I’ve been able to be a leader in the community where people do communicate like me – I have started to thrive in a way that I never knew before.

So the experience that I’ve had in the world has shown me that when we do make an effort for others, and bring a curious attitude around somebody else’s point of view, and not accusatory, or some kind of violent or negative kind of sheen over everything.

And, and it’s challenging. I always come back to the cultural messages that we get, have a very big impact on how we think. And so if we are committed to this process, it takes a lot of effort to be able to separate

What I think

What I want to think

And how I can express those things clearly enough to myself, so that I can clearly explain my true self to others.

And so yeah, as you see, it’s a complicated process. And as it hurts everybody to have to constantly wonder, “Am I actually being understood?”

And this isn’t just for autistic people. I feel like I’ve actually had a lot more success working with allistic people, because they didn’t realize how limiting their worldview was. Tthey just accepted.

It’s easier for some neuro types to just accept what is presented. And it seems to be for autistic and neurodivergent neuro types, it’s harder for us to just accept things. We’re just constantly asking questions. And so that’s, I feel, the fundamental source of miscommunication amongst most, neurotypes – is just how comfortable are you with just being like, “Okay, that’s how it is.”

Ashia Ray
Awesome. Yeah. And I think it’s, interesting – just like any concept behind inequity and bigotry, like who does it hurt? And I think a lot of people assume it only hurts the target, the person who is underrepresented and has less power, but it actually really does hurt the people who are raised to believe this is the primary dominant way, and therefore it is the best way.

I hear this from so many parents where they’re like, “I hit like, 20 or 30. And I went out to the real world, and it felt like I was kneecapped.” Right? “I felt angry at my parents for not equipping me for the fact that we have so much privilege. I felt embarrassed about the things that I had said to people when I was younger.”

And so – if we think about, how are we equipping our kids? We can’t protect them from everything, but how are we equipping our kids with the ideas that they need when they’re young to say… let’s have a little humility. This is not the only way. We’re creating the best home we can for you now. But when you’re leaving, be prepared for the idea that even though everyone in your world speaks the way you do, and communicates the way you do – you’re going to get some shellshock, you’re going to have some embarrassment, and you’re going to feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you. So it does hurt everyone when we can’t communicate effectively.

Saunatina
Mm hmm. Absolutely. I always turn back to that. I really do, because I don’t want to have the idea that this is a charity, right? The idea of charity itself is very offensive to me. And, again, this is going to be a series now – because I want to go into whole like, you know WHY our culture is like this, and I want to go all the way back to the Norman conquest of England. That’s how deep it goes. I’m saying. This is how much I’ve done the research on where our culture came from, and how our attitudes developed around these things. Because it is. This is this is my – I joke, special interest, right? As Autistic people, we just become very focused on an idea and it becomes an obsession. And I think that that’s such a valuable way of seeing the world, right? And of experiencing how deep you can go into something. Yeah, so anyway, I don’t want to go on that tangent. Because you’re right, we could [unintelligible] easy.

Ashia Ray
I mean, we could have an entire episode. It would be lovely to talk about the process of decolonizing our language and our communication. Because I know that you also center on decolonizing. And right now we’re talking about our identities as Autistics, but you also have other identities and the process of organizing our language and our communication has those roots in the early stages of capitalism and land ownership in Europe. Which feels far way, but it’s actually you know. It’s nonsense. Okay. Yeah.

Saunatina
Yeah. What is it? There’s a joke? Oh, what is it – the most recent one I heard. Biden was born closer to Lincoln’s inauguration than his own. Yeah. Like, time is fucking weird. Yeah.

Ashia Ray
That’s a weird, okay. Okay, so, here’s a couple of things that I keep reiterating, maybe you can add on to this. What do we do about these conflicts in cross cultural communication? And this is one of the reasons why I’m excited to partner with you because I’m tired of beating my head against the wall on this. Publishing article after article, carrying people individually, and being like, “Okay, what do we do if we’re misunderstanding each? ONE: listen to actually disabled people,” right? “Listen to what they say. And then believe them.”

Don’t be like, “Oh, I know what’s better for you. Because I’m the smart one here. Because I was born with power.” Listen, read, you know, whatever. Believe us.

And for a lot of people, we have a lot of allistic parents with autistic kids and they want to get the adult autistic perspective. They want to dig deeper into that humility, into that brave space of being like, “What am I wrong about?” or “What do I need to expand my understanding of?”

But one of the things that we get, like, level one folks, like “I’ve read white fragility!” And we’re like, “Okay, okay, great. Umm…”

Saunatina
Yeah, I would say ‘White Fragility’ first, and then ‘White Tears Brown Scars’ next, and then yeah,

Ashia Ray
Just like, okay, so I don’t want to work with anyone who doesn’t… I spent enough time working with people who have read ‘White Fragility’ and think that’s great. And now I want to work with the people who are like, “I read White Fragility, and I feel a little bit bad about it. I’m not super comfortable about learning about racism by profiting a white woman and talking about it through her lens.”

So the other thing that we need is – I get a lot of people who want to pick my brain. Gosh, I’ve tried so freakin hard to erase my email address off of the goddamn internet. And they keep finding me. And on my website, the ‘Contact’ link. It just says like, “Don’t. Leave me alone.”

If I spend my precious little time on Earth educating people, it needs to be educating more than one person at a time. I just don’t have the patience. I’ve written these articles. Use the search bar in my website.

So people are saying like, “How can I make autistic friends so that way they can mentor my kid.” And I’m like, okay, “PAY. THEM.” Like, you have to pay people, you have to get education from a sense of power.

Even if you’re just friends with an autistic person, they might not have the power to check you when you’re doing something terrible, right? Like, I have white friends who do problematic things, and I don’t have the safety to just tell them to their face – “that was a little racist what you just did.”

So the main things that I really want to – and this is where Sonatina comes in really well is – if you’re going to get support: Instead of treating autistic people like your token friends, and using them and using your relationship to educate your own kids or educate yourself as parent –

It exploits people who have social disabilities who are so desperate for friendship. Like I don’t know any autistic people who didn’t grow up feeling a little lonely and feeling a little bit desperate for deep relationships.

So if you are going to do that next step, which I highly encourage – of listening to other autistic people and actually being in community with them, not just reading the books and thinking you know stuff. Is actually hiring autistic people to talk through these communication problems with you.

If you want to understand why your kid’s having a hard time processing what you’re saying, talk to an autistic adult, right? So really get support and pay for that support. And that’s, we’ll learn, what Saunatina does.

And this also applies for if you are a white parent with kids of color, whether it’s trans racial or multiracial family, this also applies, right? Or transnational. Okay, so the plan moving forward, like I said, I identified the most toxic exhausting thing that wears me out about running, Raising Luminaries.

And it’s individuals who sneak into my inbox and asked me to personally educate them. And so I started charging a ridiculous amount of money for this. Because it was really hard to be like, “No.” Then I tried being like, okay, yes, but you’re gonna have to pay me $300/ hour. If you’re going to do this, you have to make it worth the fact that I’m taking that hour away from making public resources for everybody.

And people do that. People will pay for that. But it just, it’s exhausting to me, because there’s no accountability. There’s no way to make sure that they’re actually following through with what I’m saying. No way to know if theyare fully parsing what I’m saying. And even though it’s actually fun to talk with people, talk with their kids, I feel like I’m running out of time, right?

Saunatina
Yeah.

Ashia Ray
And I’m saying the same thing over and over again. So Saunatina is going to take over my most exhausting job – when people want one on one, individual consultations or advice, right?

Saunatina
Yeah. Cuz that’s like one of my favorite things to do!

Ashia Ray
And the other part is, because all of the elementary stuff – I feel like I’ve covered. I’ve covered all the basics, right? Andit’s frustrating to me, I understand Rreading isn’t for everybody. But if I’ve covered all the basics in an article, and they’re coming to me asking me the same questions, I feel like screaming.

So Saunatina loves working with people who are new to this. Who are afraid. When they’re like, “I want to stay nice. But I want to smash the kyriarchy.” She’s the one who breaks them open, levels them up a little bit, and then ship them back to me, right?

Saunatina
I give you a little bit of a… like, a little bit of a boost or armor kind of. You know, like a little bit of a… Yeah, the level-up aspect of, you’ll have a little bit more of a strength in terms of being able to understand the bigger picture. And so you feel less fear. Yeah.

Ashia Ray
I love that. I love the idea of you arming them with confidence and strength. So that way, I don’t have to tap dance around saying, “Yeah, what you said was harmful.” Right? Because like, I don’t have the time. I don’t…

Saunatina
Exactly. Because none of us have the time anymore. We don’t – none of us have the time anymore. That’s the point that I’m trying to make. Right?

It’s like, okay, and so real quick, like, you’re you’re introducing this – the way that I like, I like doing this work because I  understand how challenging it is to understand somebody else’s point of view.

And something about my brain in my life made me interested in helping other people through that transition. It is just an interesting and fun and joyful experience for me to see somebody come to me and say, “I want to be different. I want to think this way, but I don’t know how” and I’m like, “Oh, yes, I know how to help that.”

And I don’t know if this is in your notes or anything but I this is very relevant. I came into this work starting as a language teacher, and part of that goal for me, I went to get my teaching English as a foreign language certificate to teach sound, specifically. Right?

I went with a with this business in mind with crafting sound meaning. I didn’t have the name, I didn’t have everything all set, but I knew for sure, I was going to be teaching language by helping other people figure out how to create the the physical movements that create the sounds of other languages, Because I knew if somebody else can make their mouth or their their body do that movement, and it is possible in humans, then I can do it. I just don’t know how physically. So I did that work to figure that out and teach people.

And the more and more I taught language and that teaching, the intricate, how we form our physical body, our mouths, our tongues, all that stuff to create sound is very relevant to how we create the meaning behind those sounds. Right?

And so, as I was transitioning from language into general teaching, it was very clear to me that my students, my language students were coming to me for not necessarily language advice, but for cultural advice. They were asking me “I understand the words, I don’t understand the meaning.”

And so I was like, Yeah, that makes sense. Because the meaning isn’t just in the words, it’s in the way that people use the words, it’s in the context, it’s in the history of how somebody is, you know, coming to it. Their perspective, as you mentioned earlier. We’re looking at the different perspectives and why everybody’s perspective is valid.

And that includes the student. At the time it was my language students, I’m specifically thinking of one of my students who was a graduate doctoral student, I believe, in England. She came from China, and she was constantly confused about things. She was trying so hard. I was so happy that I was able to help her through being able to advocate for herself in the way that she was never able to be understood. Not because her accent changed. Her accent did change a bit over the course of our work, but what really changed was her ability to hear the context of the people that she was talking to – her teachers and her her fellow students. And she was able to give them some understanding of what they were saying, right? Because it was unconscious to them, because in their world the whole time.

So once they realized this moment of mutual understanding – that both parties didn’t really understand how deep the misunderstanding was. And it wasn’t just at the word level. It’s at the human level, almost the the cultural, the societal level.

That’s one of the reasons that I feel like, this is such a passion for me. Having those experiences being able to help people through the world, and actually, you know, make their goals happen for themselves. It’s just, it’s just fun. It’s happy. It’s magical.

Ashia Ray
Yeah, very, it’s a it’s a very helpful hyperfocus to have. So I know we’re coming up on the 45 minute mark. So really quick, gonna go over the plan moving forward, what each of us is going to take over in our partnership, and then what we’re not doing. And then maybe after this podcast, we’ll book maybe two more podcasts. One on an example of how you would help a coaching client, like how you would help someone like me, talk to those IEP people, or maybe how to get them to listen to me, right? That’d be lovely.

Saunatina
I have a few notes. Before we go, don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you with that. Because I know I have a few notes because I took notes.

Ashia Ray
I want to make sure that we have time. And then also another one on decolonizing our communication.

So the plan moving forward. Here’s what each of us is going to do. This is the plan on how we’re going to divide and conquer the world to smash the kyriarchy and raise awesome children.

So Saunatina is going to take over supporting both autistic and allistic adults in expanding their communication aperture like widening that concept, very specifically on communication, mostly verbal, right?

Saunatina
Yup, mm hmm.

Ashia Ray
And then not necessarily teaching parents how to talk to their kids, but helping parents advocate for their kids with other adults. Helping parents connect with other adults. So that way they can they can broaden their concept of how their kid thinks, without saviorism, without tokenizing. Right? Helping allistic adults understand the autistic perspective. If you want to break that down in a braver space, where Saunatina will get honest to be like, “Okay, that was a that was problematic, right?”

Saunatina
We’ll go through it. I’ll be as gentle as you need.

Ashia Ray
Yeah. And Saunatina will be more gentle. And I’ll be like, “No.”

Saunatina will be helping autistic adults communicate their needs in a way that allistics can understand. And then also, she’s going to work with more of the people who are nervous, who do have that fear, who have that one on one level of fragility, and do more one on one personal work.

She has small group, she has classes, but she also has one on one coaching. Which I’m no longer going to be offering.

So in terms of what I’m going to provide to people, once I have that off my plate, I’ll have a lot more time and energy to dedicate to the stuff that is my hyper focus – which is supporting parent activists. People who are juggling both parenting and activism to change the world while bringing our kids up in it.

So mostly I focus on managing and preventing burnout, in resourcing, in transformative justice parenting practices, in how to use our time and our energy most effectively. It’s going to be mostly about taking responsibility for ourselves and becoming the role models that our kids need.

Because you know best what your kids need, for the most part. So those 123 guides and checklists of how to raise autistic kids ‘the right way’ are deeply problematic. They won’t work for everybody. They especially won’t work for parents who are multiply marginalized and targeted. So I do small group incubators where there’s five or six people, we get an accountability group.

And it’s mostly for a parent activist who has hit a plateau. Like they’re in the parent group. They’ve read all of the books, and they’re like, “Okay, I know that this goes deeper, and I could learn more. I’m eager for this. I’m comfortable with someone being like, ‘that’s not okay.'” Right?

And they just want – like a video game, just not leveling up. But that next step where you’re just getting frustrated, because you’re in these toxic parenting activism spaces that are just replicating the same harm they claim to undo. So how do we identify those spaces? How do we work through them? How do we work through a transformative lens? And I do more small group, seasonally based, accountability incubators.

What neither one of us is willing to do…. So please go someplace else! Is parent coaching. We’re not going to teach you how to parent your child.

Saunatina
Not for me, no, I’m not even a parent. Yeah, I have no children to claim of my own. So that’s not something you want for me. No, no.

Ashia Ray
And the parent coaching, I’m going to get a little salty. I don’t understand. Because either you are a parent – parenting children in this current stage. So you know what’s going on, you know, the cultural influences, you know, the current events. [But don’t know if you’re doing a decent job yet.] Or you’re a parent who’s already done it, in which case, all advice that you have about how you breastfed someone at 1985 is kind of irrelevant now.

So I don’t understand the parent coaching thing. So we’re not going to do that, because we don’t know how. And we’re not going to offer any 123 checklist ‘this is what everyone should do!’ because everyone is uniquely different on how to raise our kids, whether autistic or allistic, otherwise neurodivergent.

And we are not going to – anymore, do any free emotional labor for allistic people.

Saunatina has made her serices very, very accessible. She has quick consults, coaching, so you can get to know her. They’re inexpensive, they’re very flexible, timing-wise and everything. So it’s very easy. Ask to see if she’s right for you. To sign up for her classes.

And I’m gonna keep trying to hide my fucking email address!

Saunatina
I don’t know. I mean, I wish you fortune, I still get stuff at a Yahoo address that I made when I was in middle school in like 1996. So I don’t know, I don’t know if you’re going to be able to.

Ashia Ray
don’t want to say this because I know people are gonna do it. But people sneak into my old photography site before I ran Raising Luminaries. I’m like, “How do you?” ::pants::

But now, what makes it easier for me. Because as an autistic person raised by allistic people, I was raised to never say no. So it’s very hard to be like, “No, I will not educate your child.” Even though I deeply want to. I want you to be okay, I care. And I want you to be the best parent you can be. But I just don’t have the spoons or the resources to do that.

So instead of saying no, I can be like “I have a friend who does that. Go pay her.” Right? So that’s going to be great. So what we’re going to do heading out from this, Oh, good. We’re right on time for 47 minutes. Perfect.

Saunatina, she actually has a great YouTube channel ‘Linguistics you can use.” You can Google that, or you can you can search for that in YouTube. I also made a bitly – a short link. So it’s bit.ly/csmperspective.

So these are all going to be on the show notes and the show notes are temporarily living on booksforlittles.com/podcasts. So her recent episode is about the word ‘perspective.’ And she touches a little bit on defensiveness and ableism.

But I do want to mention real quick that she only has two slots left for her current coaching clients. So she’s only taking on two new members, this season… or year? Or whatever. Time is limited. So you want to grab that, grab a quick consult, they’re inexpensive. So that way you can hold your place.

She also has classes and stuff like that, but I would I highly recommend you check out her website, craftingsoundmeaning.com/coaching, because that might be helpful.

But definitely check out the YouTube channel. Okay, so before we close out, bonus resources and stuff are going to be on the podcast transcript on the website.

So do you have anything else you want to add before we ship out?

Saunatina
I did. First, you said we’re going to come back to this but I did want to briefly touch on the issue you’re having in terms of the IEP and the student, the teacher communication with parents because this is one of the issues, right? That is majority miscommunication with the allistic community – is the acceptance of what they deem ‘okay,’ in terms of, you know, how the world should be.

So, one thing I heard you say was that you expressed to them, “I know your job is to get them to conform.” And I’m wondering, did you do actually tell them that specific phrase or something, that specific word “I know, your job is to get them to to conform.”

Ashia Ray
Like, sit still and get jobs in a factory or something like. You know, like that. So to yeah, not take up too much space or something.

Saunatina
But you literally tell them, you know that that is their goal

Ashia Ray
That’s their job and like, I get it, you need the test, you need the test to show up with the right grades and stuff like that. And this has been a five year process. So I started very gently, like, “I know, it’s things are hard, you’re stressed on resources.” And then the last IEP meeting before I just gave up, and now it’s only my partner who talks to them – was like, “I know, you guys, you need them to conform, you need them to behave like allistic people.” Right? Because I’m done. I’m so tired. I’m just done.

Saunatina
This is why I come back to it. So what I tend to do in those situations, right, is – people really like to feel, and this is especially true for people who are used to the power, they like to feel that their needs or whims are being the one that dominate the moment.

So I use that by asking lots of questions, basically. So instead of saying, like, “I know your job is to…”

And even if I’ve already asked them this before, it’s the reclassification, I want to know, in that very moment, as we are talking about this specific thing that we’re dealing with whatever it is, “What do you feel your job is around this situation?” Right.

I just, I want to know. I always try to go for the ultimate goal of… whoever I’m talking to. And keep bringing it back to that. Because the more and more you bring it back to their goal for the conversation, the more and more they have to actually acknowledge that they have a goal.

And they might not have realized that they are expressing one goal, but actually trying to get a different goal. So the more and more you bring up the explicit, “Tell me, you have to tell me, and I’m going to write it down. And we are going to keep it – it’s going to be laying here right in front of us. And we’re going to keep referencing it. This is the goal for this situation. How do we get here, and let’s work on that.”

So that’s the biggest, that’s the first step I usually take in these situations. And it’s, it can be challenging, because you can get resistance in that form of directness, depending on the culture.

But I find that people have a really hard time, especially when they are used to accepting somebody listening to them. They have a really hard time resisting that level of turning the tables. Right?

You are suddenly in charge of the conversation by becoming the interrogator. And people don’t realize it because you’re, you’re asking what they want. So aren’t they in charge? And that’s where I come about this miscommunication, recommunication training.

Ashia Ray
Yeah, and I think we should go over that. I just don’t want to overload people with too much.

Saunatina
Totally. And that’s fine. Like, I just wanted to make you see it that way.

Ashia Ray
Yeah. Okay, so we’re gonna close this out, check booksforlittles.com/podcasts For now, because the Raising Luminaries website is down currently.

And definitely check out ‘Linguistics You Can Use’ on YouTube. And check out Saunatina’s YouTube channel – and then also her website and see what awesome things she has available. Okay, so I’ll see you later. Bye.

Saunatina
Thanks so much!

 

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