Using visual supports as an autistic adult: a review

[Content warning: dental]

Recently I created a lot more visual supports for myself, including some picture schedules. Although I often favor text, I’ve realized from my experience with AAC that symbols can actually be helpful for me, and now I’ve seen the benefit of using detailed picture instructions with my support staff in order to follow recipes, I thought it was worth trying to apply to other aspects of life too.

Background: I’ve tried and abandoned various planners and to do list systems over the years. Google Calendar is probably the thing I’ve stuck with longest, and if they had a way to integrate pictures I might have stayed high tech. But I love not just visual tools but tangible tools for coping with executive dysfunction, so I wanted to make hard copy supports. Plus, I’m less likely to remember to go into a certain folder on my device to open up a picture schedule compared to having it physically sitting next to me on the couch where I’ll see it no matter what. I was hoping visual supports could help with various aspects of my executive dysfunction: regularly skipping repetitive self care tasks (looking at you, morning meds), stalling every night when it was time to begin my bedtime routine (inevitably tweeting “GO TO BED E*” in inertia-mired desperation), trouble initiating certain irregular tasks (why is it that plugging in and turning on the printer takes so much effort?), and endless other examples. And like many autistics, I just thrive on structure and knowing what to expect. Mental health professionals often think this means I should go back to work or school or getting out of the house more to provide external structure, but they miss the point – I can create a structured life for myself without attempting high-spoons activities that I know I can’t sustain without ending up in autistic burnout and/or a bipolar episode. Just having a plan for my quiet life and knowing what to expect around the house on any given day is much more useful than trying to accomplish a heavy load of hard things that wear me down beyond repair.

But visual supports are just for kids, right? a voice nagged at the back of my head. No, no: they’re not. Disabled people grow up! Our needs may change over time but many of us still appreciate visual text and/or pictures to support our learning, focus, and communication. Some of us prefer photographic imagery over symbols, or we may want to use words only – and the content of our schedules and routines may be very different than a child’s – but that doesn’t mean we don’t need or want visuals. Executive dysfunction doesn’t magically go away when we leave school or move into our own place – in fact, for many of us we might need this kind of support more as an adult due to new work/living environments, increased demands on our cognitive load, decreased interpersonal supports, and/or the built-up effects of autistic burnout. The idea that picture schedules and other visual supports are only meant for children actively discourages disabled adults from accessing tools they need. It’s the fact that I’ve been part of a positive autistic community for a while now, a community that fights the stigma around using any needed supports across the lifespan, that got me to the place where I could ditch the internalized ableism around this and go ahead and create these tools for myself.

Before I go further, I want to take a minute to point out a few situations in which I hope you won’t use visual supports like these. 1) Don’t use visual supports to convince or train a disabled person to do something they don’t want to do, even if it’s what you think is best for them. 2) Don’t use visual supports to convince or train yourself to do something that overall impacts you negatively. (A couple examples to make it clear what I mean: you might not want to brush your teeth but still find the net effect on your well-being positive, whereas you might want to keep the house spotless but find the net effect on your well-being negative – in that case, go for it with the toothbrushing but please don’t use these ideas to get yourself to keep the house spotless, it’s not worth it.)

My process: I’d looked at premade visual schedules and sets of picture communication cards online and considered purchasing, but decided to make my own instead. I was able to customize the available options for each schedule (including many more adult type tasks than is easy to find in premade sets online), use symbols I’m already familiar with from my AAC app, use typefaces I can read more comfortably, and spend less money on supplies for more total supports. Before starting, I did a giant brainstorm of what kinds of supports would be helpful for me (for example, a “morning routine” checklist) and what items each one would need to contain (for example, “meds” and “wash face”). I let those lists marinate for a few days so I could gradually add items I’d forgotten. Then I screenshotted the relevant buttons for each item from my symbols-based AAC app (Proloquo2Go), in some cases temporarily editing that button’s label to more closely match my intention for the visual support usage. I used those symbols for all my supports except for my kitchen inventory – for that one I used pictures of the actual brands I tend to buy screenshotted from my local grocery store’s website. I inserted all these images into the Google doc I’d brainstormed items into, and played around with sizing before printing. After cutting out each item I “laminated” them with packing tape, and did the same to the backing pieces of cardboard most of my supports were destined to lay on. I then attached adhesive velcro dots to the back of each item, and placed opposite pieces of velcro to the various backing pieces for each support (or in the case of my shopping list directly onto my fridge, landlord be damned). I added envelopes to hold loose items not currently in use, and the morning and evening routine boards have loops of yarn at the top so they can hang around my neck until I’ve completed everything. The leaving-the-house checklist didn’t require so much crafting; I just taped the printed out list on a single sheet onto the back of my front door.

Images, text descriptions, and notes on individual items:

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Image description: a piece of cardboard hanging from yarn labeled “morning routine” has two columns marked “to do” and “done”. “To do” contains a set of empty velcro dots, while “done” contains velcro dots with symbols and words attached to each. Items included are: coffee, dress, wash face, deodorant, glasses, hearing aids, medicine, October [cat], breakfast, brush teeth, and mouthwash.

Notes on morning routine: I keep these in a rough suggested order from top to bottom starting on the left column and continuing on the right, but don’t necessarily complete them in the set order. It’s nice to be able to move them onto the “done” side individually so that I always know what’s left no matter what order I’ve proceeded in.

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Image description: a piece of cardboard hanging from a loop of yarn labeled “bedtime routine” has two columns marked “to do” and “done”. “Done” contains a set of empty velcro dots, while “to do” contains velcro dots with symbols and words attached to each. Items included are: tomorrow’s schedule, plug devices in, hearing aids, pajamas, medicine, October [cat], brush teeth, mouthwash, and glasses.

Notes on bedtime routine: As with morning routine. Both are on loops of yarn so that I can wear them around my neck until everything’s complete. This prevents me from having to continually walk back to a section of wall or counter in a certain part of the house between each step, and makes it harder to get distracted and abandon the routine partway through.

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Image description: a foldable piece of cardboard has sections labeled “today” and “maybe” containing velcro dots, and an envelope labeled “another day”. Currently visible under “today” are moveable velcro dots attached to pictures and words for walk, sign language, blog, video chat, Twitter chat, recipe, and Etsy. Currently visible under “maybe” are pictures and words for yoga, audio book, wizard rock, and modding.

Notes on day to day schedule: Every evening I pull up my Google calendar as a reference and remove all the possible items from schedule and envelope, sorting into piles for the following day. After returning any irrelevant items to “another day”, I place the “today” and “maybe items” to the bottom/right of each section so that I can move them to the top/left as they are completed. The gap in between tells me where I’ve left off and makes it easier to sort the following evening because I can see what’s been left undone. In total I made about 25 items that frequently repeat during my average week or month but don’t fit into a every-single-day routine like for mornings and evenings. Activities include various carer appointments, visits from my support staff, errands, hobbies, self care, and more.

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Image description: a piece of cardboard labeled “PCA time” has a short list of velcro dots. Currently displayed items are: oatmeal, beans, counters/sink, and prep a recipe.

Notes on PCA agenda: Like the day to day schedule, I initially place the agenda for me and my support staff at the bottom of the short list so we can move them up to the top as they are completed. A small envelope (not pictured) below the chart contains other tasks we do frequently but not that day. This visual support that’s tacked to the kitchen wall doubles as AAC, because I can point to it when needed rather than finding the word on my device or signing.

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Image description: A white freezer has a line demarking two sections labeled “have plenty” and “need more” with several dozen velcro dots under each. About forty food items and household items are attached across the two categories, displaying a photographic image and large text for each.

Notes on kitchen inventory: This list continues down the fridge, but the photograph above gives you the basic idea. Not currently pictured are additional non-food items I regularly need to restock such as soap and toilet paper. If I’m struggling to think of what to eat, a glance at the “have plenty” side tells me what I own without having to dig through fridge and cupboards, and as I run out of each ingredient I can move it to the “need more” side – the latter of which can then be photographed just before leaving for the store as an instant, bad-handwriting-free shopping list that incorporates pictures.

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Image description: a single sheet of paper is attached to a wooden background with masking tape, labeled “Leaving the house? Bring these things!” Below the heading are two columns of symbols and words for the following items: mask, wallet, keys, phone, hat, weather gear, sunscreen, Ipad, speaker, HA batteries, letterboards, chargers, caffeine, food, water, AAC bracelets, and stim toys.

Notes on leaving-the-house checklist: I didn’t bother attaching these items to moveable velcro dots because I don’t necessarily need every one of these items every single time I leave the house. Instead, I put them in rough order (top to bottom on the left and then continuing on the right) of how likely it is I will need each thing for any given time I exit the apartment – for example, I need mask, wallet, and keys just to take out the trash or walk to the corner store, but might not need to bring a backpack with a lot of the latter items unless I’m actually taking a longer adventure that day on transit.

Results so far:

  • I don’t always actually physically move every single item into the done category when I’m at completion of the end of the routines lists, but it definitely helps me not get lost in the middle, and having them hanging around my neck is also definitely making it harder to get lost in the middle
  • It does seem like I’m less likely to stall on bedtime now; at least the frequency of my “GO TO BED E*” tweets has decreased, which I imagine my followers appreciate. I have often been starting my routine ahead of my mental deadline rather than scrolling Twitter endlessly long past when I intended to move on.
  • That said, if I haven’t left the bedtime routine support actually within reaching distance of the couch (where I’m almost always sitting when it’s time to get ready for bed), it does nothing to help with inertia. Turns out standing up and crossing the room to pick up the schedule takes just as much cognitive effort as standing up and crossing the room to begin the actual routine – who would have guessed? – so the less-stalling effect only happens if I’ve left the schedule nearby.
  • The morning routine isn’t as smooth-going as bedtime, which seems to be because some of the things I only do every other day – that therefore aren’t worked into the morning visual support – have to happen in between morning routine items. (Ie shower before dressing, yoga before putting on hearing aids, etc.) So I might start the morning routine when I first wake up but then I set it down partway through to accomplish those irregular tasks, and it ends up being an hour or two before I actually complete everything. I also am liable to get out Animal Crossing halfway through and get distracted by that for awhile, oops. But it does seem like I’m more likely to eventually actually complete all the morning routine tasks than I used to be, so I do think the new support is still helping.
  • For the day to day schedule, I’m finding that if I change my mind and decide to skip something I meant to do under the “today” section, it can be hard to transition on to the next item. After some trial and error it seems like moving the skipped item down to the “maybe” section or even out of sight to the “another day” envelope is a suitable hack to get me over that AUGH-CHANGE-OF-PLANS cognitive barrier. But as always is true for me, it remains much easier for me to not do something I planned for a given day than to add something that I didn’t have in my brain as a possibility the night before. I think this is just a default quirk of my brain that the presence of picture schedules doesn’t seem to impact one way or the other.
  • There’s only so many empty velcro dots on the day to day schedule, so it’s harder to overbook myself spoons-wise!
  • I’m already noticing some important items I’m wanting to add to the day to day schedule, the PCA agenda, and the kitchen inventory, so I’ll probably do another printing-laminating session eventually to fill in the gaps.
  • I hadn’t been sure how many adhesive velcro dots to order, but a set of 250 was enough for this set of supports. I think the “laminating” process took less than one big roll of packing tape, which is much cheaper than actually laminating this much paper at the FedEx store.
  • Cooking isn’t easy for me (although having a support staff and detailed picture instructions have happily moved it up from “impossible” to “not easy”), so I’ve sometimes been forgetting to pay attention whether I’m getting low on an ingredient as we’re partway through a recipe. But having a support person here means there’s someone to remind me to move the item to the “need more” section of the fridge, so I don’t think I’ve actually completely missed anything yet.

My recommendations:

  1. While prepurchased sets of picture schedules or other visual supports might be convenient to just click “buy” on, if you do have the time and supplies, individualized homemade supports might be much more useful.
  2. Do use symbols the user is already familiar with, or photographs of the actual items they’re used to.
  3. Consider what typeface you’re using if you’re including text – size, spacing, contrast, dyslexic friendly fonts, etc can all impact how usable a visual support is.
  4. Consider portability of each visual support, or if they’re not portable, exactly where they’re going to be placed in your home. This can significantly affect how easy it is to follow through on each task.
  5. Assume you’ll need to add more items to your supports after a few weeks or months of trialling your original plans. Keep a notepad nearby where you can jot down missing items as you think of them. Like choosing what vocabulary to choose for an AAC device, it’s just hard to predict all the details of what you’ll need without actually trying it out for a while.
  6. Most importantly: Involve the user in intent, design, and implementation as much as possible! Don’t reward or punish someone based on whether or not they use the visual support, and don’t trade rewards or stickers or whatever for completed tasks. Visual supports should be optional tools for people who are dissatisfied with the way executive dysfunction affects their own goals, not a method of training a disabled person to do what you want.

Thanks for reading such a detailed post! I hope it was helpful for you or someone you love. If you have something to add based on your own experience with visual supports, please post a comment below.

Communication access and ableism

Adapted from a presentation I gave to college students today.

Content warnings: eugenics, abuse, coronavirus

Thinking about communication accessibility is important because access barriers are a huge part of disabled people’s day to day life, and it’s exhausting to usually be the only one addressing them. What shapes access barriers is structural and interpersonal ableism. Ableism demands all day every day that we as disabled people conform to the kinds of communication that are most convenient for abled people rather than those which are even slightly accessible to us. Not only that, it demands that the content of what we communicate is docile and submissive; we’re not supposed to stand up for our rights, disagree with mainstream culture, refuse unsolicited help, or self advocate. Let me give some pertinent examples.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing people have had to petition countless local governments around the world lately to add sign language interpretation to their press conferences and health advisories about coronavirus. At the level of government-provided information and mass media, this should not be seen as a bonus unplanned for accommodation that might be arranged upon request, but as a baseline accessibility measure required to meet the needs of the public at large. If not implemented from the outset, disabled lives are threatened due to lack of the same information that abled people have free access to. Similarly, it’s disabled run organizations and individuals that have taken it upon themselves to create cognitively accessible information about Covid – summarizing official briefings in plain language, adding illustrations and glossaries, and creating social stories for fellow autistic people devastated by the sudden change in daily routine. We do all this in part because we know that we are in that much more danger if we get sick. Even if we’re not personally immuno-compromised or dealing with underlying conditions that make the virus particularly dangerous to our bodies, we know that disabled lives are seen as less valuable, to the extent that many jurisdictions make decisions about how to ration medical treatment such as ventilators based on the presence of other disabilities and how an outsider estimates the impact of disability on subjective quality of life. This means that disabled people, including people who are labeled unable to communicate and people with intellectual disabilities, can be sacrificed in favor of saving patients without pre-existing disabilities. This is one example of modern day eugenics. So when people fight for communication access, it is not about mere convenience or political correctness. It is a matter of life and death.

The federal government has released guidance on how to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act in regards to communication accommodations, which really, the law should be seen as the bare minimum for making something accessible. That guidance states that primary consideration of which communication accommodation is provided should be the disabled person’s preference, which brings us around to the idea of communicative choice. It should be up to each disabled person to choose communication methods that work best for us in the moment. This is often not going to look the same as abled communication, and it’s not necessarily even going to look the same from day to day. I switch regularly between AAC that uses spelling versus AAC that uses picture symbols, high tech AAC versus light tech AAC, sign language, plus a bit of speech. I remember noticing one day a few weeks ago, it’s only noon and I’ve already used five forms of AAC this morning. I’m proud of being a multimodal communicator. Have you ever been in the middle of writing an email when the phone rings, and then while you’re talking your roommate comes over to ask something and you hold up a hand to them to mean wait, i’m on the phone? See, you’re a multimodal communicator too, but if you’re abled people probably don’t consider that anything but normal. Yet if people are used to me speaking, they are surprised I often need AAC. If they’re used to me using my communication device, they are surprised I might prefer a sign language interpreter. When you’re disabled your methods of communication are under endless scrutiny, skepticism, and ableist expectations.

So what’s important is to support disabled people’s communication by giving us as many options as possible, and validate whatever method we choose at any given moment. This means giving Deaf and Hard of Hearing children access to sign language and Deaf culture from day one rather than pushing oralism, and giving neurodivergent children access to AAC from the very first indication of a speech delay rather than pushing speech skills. It means adding image descriptions to your social media posts, whether or not you happen to know that a blind person will read them. It means celebrating autistic people’s echolalia, and infodumping about our special interests, and stimming, as important and valid forms of communication. And sometimes it might mean having conversations that aren’t totally comfortable for you. It’s more respectful for you to ditch your self consciousness and just go ahead and ask us how you can best support our individual communication, rather than being a conversation partner who finishes sentences for us, changes the subject while we’re typing, reads over our shoulders, touches our communication devices, or demands details about our medical history, without having asked whether any of that is okay or helpful for us. Sometimes we will say things that make you feel uncomfortable too. In autistic culture we are often upfront and direct about how we talk about things, this isn’t seen as rude but just as normal for our kind of brain. We might not know how to translate it into the kinds of phrasing that neurotypicals expect, or we may have too much going on at the moment to be able to spend the energy doing so.

Other times disabled people of any neurotype can find themselves forced to be rude in order to be listened to! When you are blind and people grab you without consent, forcing you to walk in the direction they think is helpful – or you use a mobility device and people take it upon themselves to move you around like furniture, despite your protests – these violations of bodily integrity are what is truly rude, and confronting them is a kind of self advocacy that abled people don’t often want to hear. When they’ve invested their ego in the idea that they help the disabled, that they use their superiority over us to make decisions in our best interests, they think us saying “don’t do that” or “I don’t need your help” or “leave me alone” is inappropriate or ungrateful. Let alone if we say those things without speech, at which point they might not consider it communication at all. It might be written off as just a behavior or a symptom, not a message that deserves consideration. Even within forms of AAC, sometimes speaking people privilege the ones that come closest to typical speech. They’d rather me use a device with a QWERTY keyboard and expressive voice output to compose full sentences in proper English, whereas if what I’m able to do that day is just point to hard copy picture symbols silently, a verb here, a noun there – somehow that makes me less of a person. But all communication should be honored, all people should be respected. Saying no, whether that’s with mouth words or some other way, is an important communicative function. Noncompliance and refusal are valuable social skills that help us set boundaries and protect us from the abuse we as disabled people are so likely to be subjected to.

In summary, we deserve to be our own decision makers about how we communicate and the content of our messages. Existing ableist structures and ideals are not a legitimate reason to withhold information from us, refuse to provide us with communication accommodations, or dismiss our messages. Communication access is a human right that is frequently denied to disabled people, and if you’re abled part of your job as an ally/accomplice is to help us fight for that access.

AAC is not just for requesting! Creative ways to use AAC

I think too often professionals and caregivers of AAC users only focus on using AAC – especially symbols-based systems – for communicative functions such as requesting. That really limits how much can actually be done with these powerful apps! I use my symbols-based AAC (Proloquo2Go) in a much wider variety of ways; here’s some examples:

Picture schedule: Why buy a separate set of physical or electronic event/task images when you already have symbols based AAC? AAC users or our support people can create a page to edit each night for the upcoming day, or create folders for the sequences of steps in complicated activities like cooking. Many of us who struggle with transitions and executive dysfunction can benefit from visual supports like this.

Flashcards: By creating a folder of vocabulary we’re trying to learn in a second language, setting the buttons to show image only, and programming the speak field to feature the foreign word, AAC users can use their symbols-based AAC system as a flashcards studying app. This is especially useful for learners like me who do best in immersion settings – other flashcards and picture dictionaries are always mixing in English, which can make it harder to learn the new language. (Please note that this idea should be used only for self-directed learners, not for forcing emerging communicators to go through drills to prove their competence.)

Navigate meltdowns: Some AAC users who usually use text-to-speech on a QWERTY keyboard may find that they lose this ability during meltdowns and shutdowns – but that they may still be able to use a symbols-based system during these times. One major reason I like having Proloquo2Go as well as Proloquo4Text (which is QWERTY-based) is that I can switch to symbols when necessary. Last year I had to go to class in the midst of this situation, and it turned out my classmate was totally cool with me composing messages via images to say things like “have meltdown hard communicate”. Normally I’d be able to type on QWERTY more complex sentences like “I just had a meltdown and am still having a hard time communicating”, but in that moment if it weren’t for a symbols-based program I wouldn’t have been able to interact at all.

Write poetry: AAC users can select images that evoke a scene and then use the words to write a poem describing the feeling it gives us. I especially enjoy poetry because poets are given more leeway to break the rules of “proper English”, something that AAC users are often discouraged from doing. But communication is about conveying an idea, not about grammar and syntax and spelling and pronunciation! If we can get our message across using a haphazard series of nouns and verbs, that is still valid communication. Poetry is a venue where this kind of creative use of words can be valued.

Write prose: AAC users can write school assignments or even extracurricular fiction by composing their sentences in a symbols-based app and then copy and pasting into a word processor. I have written sections of my novels this way!

Post to social media/emails: Similarly, by composing a message in our symbol-based apps and then copy and pasting to social media or email, AAC users can participate in online communities using the kind of communication we prefer. I sometimes use my symbols-based app to livetweet my favorite TV shows; it’s a great way to share my special interests with others and get more familiar with the app.

Give presentations: AAC users can program our scripts into a series of buttons and practice by running a stopwatch to make sure our words play in the desired amount of time. This could be for a school project, an open mic night, advocating for ourselves at an IEP meeting, or meeting with our senators on disability rights issues. I regularly use my device to give presentations about autism, disability, accessibility, and AAC.

Special interest infodump: Autistic AAC users like me might enjoy utilizing the way symbols-based systems organize categories and folders to store information about our special interests. I have folders full of hundreds of Harry Potter characters, spells, et cetera, so that I can talk about the canon I love with other fans.

Vocal stimming and echolalia: Many autistic people like me use vocal stimming and echolalia to modulate our sensory environment and communicate. This shouldn’t be limited to speaking people; it’s a totally valid way to use AAC! Don’t discourage us from “playing” with our systems – having the freedom to press buttons over and over, to use buttons that repeat phrases from our favorite movies, or to play buttons at random as experimentation can encourage emerging communicators to feel comfortable using AAC.

Prompt speech: This isn’t commonly understood, but some of us can speak words aloud only when they are in front of us visually. So we can use an AAC system to compose what we want to say, and once we have selected the right buttons we may be able to read the screen aloud rather than using our device’s synthesized speech. Please don’t pressure us to do this, and don’t expect us to read a message you composed for us! This is just one more tool that may give us additional agency over our communication.

I hope you got some new ideas from this list that you can try out and share with other AAC users! If you have discovered more creative uses for your own AAC, please add your thoughts in a comment below.

Why do some autistics like watching the same media over and over?

I can’t speak for all autistics, but there are a lot of reasons I watch the same media over and over! I have about 10 long series that I watch on endless loop – I restart one, watch every episode in order, and then restart the next one (I keep a spreadsheet), ad nauseum. Except for me it’s not ad nauseum – it’s the main, maybe only, way I can enjoy media! In this post I’ll go over a few reasons why, in case it gives anyone insight as to why you or your autistic loved one might be doing the same thing I do.

Routine: This might be the obvious answer, but it’s not unimportant. Many of us just thrive on routine. Even if all other elements were neutral, it is inexplicably reassuring and comforting to watch the same shows over and over. In a chaotic world where we may not always know what to expect, coming home to a familiar show can feel like a weighted blanket or a soft stuffed animal.

Prosopagnosia (faceblindness): I am not completely faceblind, but it does take me a huge amount of repeated exposure to any given face before I begin to recognize it reliably. For this reason, (re)watching TV shows that have several seasons with the same main cast of characters keeps me oriented to which character is which. In contrast, watching a two-hour-long movie would just be confusing: it’s very difficult to understand what’s going on when for the first two-thirds (at least) of the plot I can’t even tell if I’ve met any given main character yet, let alone what they said or did in previous scenes. Sometimes I recognize an actor by their voice, but unless I’ve seen multiple seasons’ worth of their appearances – ideally over and over – their face is likely to be a mystery to me. Occasionally even actors I am very familiar with are unrecognizable out of context – once, in the middle of a DM conversation about Gillian Anderson, a friend sent me a picture of Anderson. I’ve seen X-Files at least five times through, but this was an out-of-context photo where her hair and outfit was different than I’m used to. My response to my friend: “who’s that person?” I was baffled as to why she had sent me a random photo of what to me registered as a stranger.

Auditory processing: Captions can help a lot with auditory processing, but so can rewatching media. Captions don’t usually account for background music or sound effects, and even with captions it might take me a few times through any given scene before I’m integrating all that correctly. Crucially, jump scares and other startling sounds/lights/movements can somewhat be cognitively prepared for if you know what’s coming when. Watching a series from beginning to end on Netflix means I don’t have to turn down the volume for every artificially loudened commercial break like I would on a standard television, and I can skip the theme songs if they’re also too loud (or if they’ve recently changed – that bugs the heck out of me).

Understanding the plot: I guess this makes me feel a little silly, but I genuinely don’t understand the plot of many shows the first time through. Every time a new season of Stranger Things comes out it takes me at least three times through before I start to understand why things happened the way they did. It seems like I just don’t always clue in to the elements the creators expect neurotypicals to automatically notice. I didn’t fully realize how true this was until I watched a couple of shows with audio descriptions. While I wish the audio descriptions were also captioned, what I could catch of them was amazing. They pointed out crucial elements of each scene I was supposed to be attending to but often wasn’t – facial expressions, body language, visual elements that set the backdrop with clues and ingredients of later subplots. A bonus is that audio descriptions often name the character seen emoting on screen, helping with prosopagnosia. But they’re available for so few shows, in most cases it’s only rewatching multiple times that can help me meet these access needs. Repetition helps me grasp each step of the plot and how it’s all connected. I start to figure out characters’ motivations and understand the worldbuilding rules that shape the story.

There are probably many more reasons other autistic people might prefer to rewatch media, these are just the biggest contributing factors for me. What are yours? Comment below!

 

Nerding out on AAC: what is it like to switch grid sizes/layouts?

A frequent conversation in AAC communities for people who use symbols-based apps and their caregivers is: what grid size should I use? Is it okay to change grid size/layout later? Well, in the last week or two I changed my symbols-based app around significantly, and want to talk about why I did so and what it’s been like to transition.

First, some basics: I’ve been using Proloquo2Go for a couple of years now. This highly customizable app (for IOS only, unfortunately) features buttons with picture symbols for full words as well as a QWERTY typing view that can be switched to as needed. Due to my sensory profile (strong fine motor skills, somewhat easily overwhelmed visual processing, and difficult hand eye coordination) I’d come to use Proloquo2Go’s symbols view largely based on motor plan rather than by visually scanning for the words I wanted – that is, I had built a muscle memory of where many words were located on each screen so that my hand would automatically move to the right area, similar to how I type on QWERTY. I had this decently down for common words, albeit with plenty of near-misses on the buttons I was aiming for due to the hand-eye coordination problem, and of course was still relying on visually scanning (which takes me longer) for less frequently used words (“fringe vocabulary”).

So if having built up this muscle memory was how I navigated the app as well as I did, why would I want to switch grid size/layout?

I had toyed with the idea of changing the layout of many of my fringe pages for months, because I’d long since noticed that I almost always habitually went back to the “home” screen for core vocab rather than checking whether any given fringe folder’s template included the core word I was looking for. This meant that the templates used in most core folders were just taking up space, pushing lots of fringe words to the second layer of that folder – meaning it took an extra button press to reach those words. If I was going to automatically go back to the home screen to use core vocab anyway, why keep the same words in the fringe folders? But on the other hand, was it worth re-learning where my favorite fringe words sat on the screen once core words were removed?

I’d also noticed that the default templates (and honestly I’m not sure why this seems like a good idea to anybody) both vary which words are available on different kinds of pages and occasionally alter the location of core words compared to the home screen. This means that I couldn’t rely on motor planning to inform me where to find core words when on one of the fringe pages, which is probably what built my habit of returning to home each time for core words in the first place. While using fringe page templates like this might speed up communication for many people because their ability to visually scan for core words on the page they’re already on prevents them from needing to tap back to home, it was just slowing me down by pushing fringe words “further away” (more button presses) from the home screen. But learning how to edit templates somehow seemed like a daunting task, and I wasn’t sure if it was worth it.

The event that prompted me to go ahead and change all this stuff was that I’d offered to build a core board for a Facebook acquaintance to print out and introduce to their little one while they were waiting for the usual April sale on the app. I encouraged them, as is the general recommendation, to request whatever grid size they thought was the most buttons their kiddo was going to be able to handle given the prospective screen size and any visual impairments or other constraints. They chose 8×14, one of the standard options. I remembered considering this grid size when I was initially setting up my app, but at the time I felt visually overwhelmed trying to contemplate navigating anything bigger than 7×11 on my Ipad Mini, so I had set up my own user profile as 7×11 and used it ever since. I created a quick new user profile for 8×14 in order to create this other family’s core board, and after editing for a few minutes I realized… this is not overwhelming to me. 

I think something about having a couple years to get used to symbols-based/grid-based AAC – and this app specifically – really made a difference in how visually overwhelming a bigger grid size felt. So I quickly did the calculations: 35 more buttons per page? Even 35 more buttons just on the home screen would probably speed up communication. But I just wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to try to get used to a new layout.

And that’s when I remembered the other changes I’d been thinking of making – removing the templates from many fringe pages; editing the standard templates. If I was going to make changes, I really ought to make changes, right? I knew a major reason for the common recommendation of starting with as big a grid size as possible is that changing the layout of what-word-is-where later can be extremely difficult for an AAC user to adjust to, especially those of us that do rely on a motor plan more than visual scanning. Would making these changes be like learning AAC from scratch?

I took a few days’ worth of deep breaths and dived in, figuring, 1) I enjoy fiddling with communication boards no matter what, so even hours of rearranging and editing would probably just register as “ooh fun!”, and 2) if I put in a lot of effort but it ended up impossible to get used to, it’s not like my old user profile would have disappeared. (Kudos to Assistiveware for letting me design multiple user profiles on one app/device!) I followed through on all the changes I was thinking might speed up my communication – bigger grid size, removing templates from many fringe pages, and editing the standard templates to better match the home screen and each other. I also did a lot more color coding and subtle customization like varied outline widths to make certain buttons stand out to me more.

The results? Almost none of my fringe folders necessitate second layers – the words (or subfolders) I need are all on the first screen of each. For my People, Places, and Verbs folders, I pulled my most commonly used words from each of their subfolders out onto the main page. (For example, now I can find the words “friend” and “doctor” under just Home>People rather than Home>People>Friends and Home>People>Healthcare.) My Home screen fits not only more words on it now but more folders, so I don’t have to navigate to the second layer of Home as frequently either. Let’s look at how this affects sentence construction: on my new layout, the sentence “yesterday I had coffee with my friends [O] and [Z], we practiced more sign language and talked about our plans for next week” requires 49 button presses (average 2.1 per word), but on my old layout, it requires 58 (2.5 per word). If that sample is representative, it adds up! Writing 2000 words of my novel (I like composing on my symbols app and then copy and pasting into Google Docs) will take 4200 button presses on my new layout instead of 5000. Additionally, four of the necessary buttons for this example sentence have added color coding in the new layout due to being words I use frequently, which I expect will help me navigate to them (and buttons relative to them) more quickly. After editing templates, none of the core words from the home screen are located somewhere different (if present) in other folders, so I can more consistently rely on the new motor plan I’m building.

It is not without difficulty to switch to a new layout, and if someone has even more trouble with cognitive transitions than I do, it’s possible there’s no number of decreased button presses that would be worth the learning curve. But for me, this feels like a really positive change. I’ve been making a point to practice the new layout just like I made a point to practice the app when I very first got it. Reading aloud to myself, answering practice prompts in Facebook groups for AAC users, using Proloquo2Go to compose texts and Tweets, and writing other documents using symbols are all helping orient me to the new layout. I kept as many things in the same relative place as possible given the task at hand – like, the home screen doesn’t look like it went through a catastrophic reorganization compared to what it was before, it just has more than it had before. More personalized color coding than is the app’s default seems to be slightly improving my ability to visually scan for fringe words’ new locations. Wonderfully, this grid size even leaves me room to grow – many fringe folders now have one or two dozen blank spaces I can add vocab to as I find myself without any given word mid-thought, rather than knowing any additions would just be buried on the second layer.

Proloquo2Go’s default setup does work very efficiently for some people, but its customizability is its true strength – and the fact that the app allows for me to easily make all these changes is a major reason I am loyal to it. What I’d say to anyone considering changing their own grid size or app layout is: talk to other people who have done it (this Facebook group is a good resource), and make lists of what you expect will be the pros and cons… but, when in doubt? If inefficiencies or possible changes have been nagging you for awhile, then I’d say just go for it. Make sure you have a backup of your old layout safely tucked away, set aside plenty of time and energy for editing/customization and practice, and see what happens!

If you’re a professional or caregiver considering changing another person’s app – ask them directly what they think. Explain what you understand to be the pros and cons to be in language they understand, and phrase follow up questions in a way they are able to answer (for example multiple choice or yes/no if open-ended is more difficult for them). If they are excited about a reorganization, wait until you’ve basically finished tinkering with the new layout before introducing it to them, and ask them what they think/if they want any changes. After that, do your modeling on the new layout but make sure they have access to the old layout anytime they want to switch back to it – their ability to communicate in the moment should never be frustrated by trying to learn a new layout for the long-term.

Have you switched your AAC (symbols app, letterboard, whatever) to a new grid size or layout before? What was it like? Comment below!

1800+ gender neutral (ish) names

As an indecisive trans novelist I use… A LOT of names. I think there probably isn’t truly a such thing as a gender neutral name; although interpretation varies across culture and may work out to about 50/50 binary preconceptions, in a cissexist world it’s hard to argue that any name is actually not tied to either package of pre-cut bullshit. That said, the list I’ve been hoarding on my hard drive – from various sources including my own imagination – has a fair number of words that might literally never have been used as names before, and the rest are definitely debatably androgynous, so they get pretty damn close. This is a resource for you! Please feel free to consensually apply these to people/creatures/headmates/characters you know of any gender identity or expression. (But people, please name responsibly – I’m not listing any cultural or religious significances alongside anything below, so it’s up to you to make sure you’re not appropriating anything you have no right to.) Just point people back to this list if they ask you where you found the weird – ahem, cool – name.

 

Aali

Ab, Abhay, Abisael, Abisai

Accipiter, Achlys, Achyranthes, Acorus, Acris

Adair, Addison, Aderyn, Adler, Adli, Adri, Adrian, Adriax, Adriel

Aemilan, Aemilian, Aeon, Aerith, Aeryn, Aether, Aezrian

Aften

Agati, Aggie

Ahri

Aibhne, Ainsley, Aion, Airi, Aisling, Aix

Akili, Akiva

Alaine, Albany, Alden, Alectoris, Alek, Alepis, Alerion, Alexey, Ali, Alick, Alix, Allaiasin, Altair, Alyx

Amarey, Amari, Ames, Amiri, Amithi, Ammi, Ammyrsine, Amory, Amrit, Amsden, Amyr, Amyt

Anabaidh, Anais, Anakin, Anasser, Anasyllis, Andover, Andrey, Andrin, Aneli, Anith, Annalix, Annick, Annis, Annistyn, Anora, Anser, Ansley, Anthelis, Anthyllis, Antrocaryon, Anyt

Apios

Aqura

Aracely, Araquiel, Arbor, Arcadia, Arden, Ardin, Ardn, Ardrey, Ardyn, Arie, Arius, Arkadiy, Arlen, Arley, Arlin, Arlow, Arlyn, Arremon, Arrian, Arrow, Arteom

Asa, Asarum, Ash, Ashen, Ashling, Ashton, Ashtyn, Ask, Aspen, Asphodel, Asten, Astin, Aston

Atalin, Atheran, Athyrium, Atlantis, Atlas, Atlin

Auberon, Aubrey, Auburn, Aubury, Audi, Aurelian, Auren, Auster, Austyn

Avent, Avere, Averell, Averi, Averie, Averil, Averill, Avidan, Avien, Av’ry, Avye

Axyris

Ayan, Aydendron

Azariah, Azriel, Azyrion

Badge, Baez, Baileah, Baird, Bairn, Bako, Ban, Barley, Bats, Bay, Bayleigh

Bean, Beck, Bellamy, Berg, Bergamot, Bergen, Berkeley, Berry, Beryl, Beta, Bevin, Bey

Binder, Binnley, Bins, Binyan, Birch, Bit

Blade, Bladen, Blae, Blaec, Blake, Blaze, Blazen

Bodhi, Booker, Border

Brachyris, Brady, Brahms, Braidbark, Branch, Brayery, Bren, Brend, Brenner, Breslin, Breslyn, Brevin, Breyan, Breydn, Briargate, Bridge, Brier, Brighten, Briley, Brin, Brio, Brisa, Bristal, Bristol, Britain, Britton, Brixtyn, Brookin, Brooklyn, Brych, Bryley, Bryli, Bryre, Brysen, Brystl, Bryum

Burdock, Burren

Cabe, Cadiscus, Cae, Cael, Caelan, Caelum, Caelyn, Cai, Caiya, Caldernon, Calen, Calian, Calidris, Calijah, Calix, Calixter, Calyn, Camdyn, Camphill, Campsis, Campylium, Camryn, Cantalore, Canter, Cantor, Canyon, Caolan, Capparis, Caraway, Carex, Cariad, Carlisle, Carrigan, Carrington, Carys, Cas, Cascade, Case, Casimir, Cass, Cassidy, Castalis, Caster, Castien, Casydi, Catacline, Catkin, Cavalier, Cavan, Caven, Cavin, Cavrell, Cavril, Cayci, Caysie

Cedar, Celastrus, Celtic, Cepphus, Cersei, Cerulean, Cervus, Ceterach, Ceylon

Chael, Chaim, Channary, Channery, Channing, Chanter, Chantry, Charae, Charis, Chasetin, Chasmanthe, Chess, Chestnut, Chetly, Chiridium, Chiro, Chrislan, Chrysaris, Chrysitrix, Chrysopsis

Cicatrix, Cinq, Circus, Cirsium, Citlaly, Cixe

Clay, Clemency, Clever, Cloud, Clove, Clske

Co, Cobalt, Cody, Coen, Colorado, Colt, Colyn, Comet, Comma, Connelly, Conntae, Cor, Cordylin, Core, Corey, Coriander, Corin, Corisand, Corliss, Corr, Corren, Corrin, Cort, Corvus, Cory, Corydon, Corylus, Cota, Couer, Couratari, Coventry

Crax, Creek, Cress, Crew, Crey, Cricket, Crwys

Cua’n, Curio, Curran

Cyan, Cydney, Cypress, Cypringlea, Cyrtonyx, Cytryn

Dae, Daenerys, Dai, Dakota, Dane, Dannely, Darby, Dare, Dariel, Darien, Dark, Darken, Darragh, Dax, Day, Dayl, Dayne

December, Deja, Dell, Delphi, deNimh, Denver, Derry, Desi, Destry, Deve, Devanand, Deven, Devener, Devi, Devin, Devlin, Devrin

Diem, Digby, Digs

Dobry, Donnelly, Dori, Dorian, Dorsey, Dory, Doryxylon, Dov

Draiven, Drake, Drey, Dryden

Dubh, Dubhlin, Dublin, Duff, Dulce, Dune, Dusk, Dusty

Dwyn

Dyli, Dyr

Early, Easton, Eastyn

Eben

Echo, Eclipse, Ectasis

Edge, Edo

Eifel, Eiffel, Eiran, Eiren, Eirly, Eirlys, Eiryn

Elaeis, Elasis, Elbi, Elian, Elichai, Eliel, Elif, Elim, Elior, Elisae, Elisban, Eliseo, Eliyn, Elki, Ellerby, Ellery, Ellinger, Ellington, Ellis, Ellison, Elm, Elther, Elysander, Elysany, Elyx

Emberli, Embry, Emerin, Emerson, Emery, Emileni, Emmer, Emory

Encinas, Endrix, Endy, Endymion, Enfys, Enn, E’nnae, Enskide, Enver, Eny, Enzi, Enzy

Eri, Eridian, Eriodon, Eriope, Erlin, Erlyn, Erryn, Erycor

Esai, Esben, Eskil, Espen, Essery, Essex, Essiver, Estes, Estlin

Etcetera, Etienne

Eurion

Evander, Evelien, Even, Evensong, Ever, Everest, Everly, Everys, Evian, Evin, Evran, Evren, Evrin, Evryn, Evyan, Evyn

Eydie

Ezeryn, Ezri

Fable, Fadhili, Fa’ela’n, Faer, Fain, Fairfax, Fallon, Farin, Faron, Farrell, Farren, Farrin, Farris, Farrow, Farsiris, Favian, Fawks

Feather, Fell, Fen, Fenn, Fennel, Fens, Ferline, Fern, Ferran, Ferrin, Ferris, Feryal

Ffion

Fielding, Fields, Fife, Fifer, Finch, Find, Findias, Fini, Finlay, Finley, Finn, Finnas, Finnick, Finnleigh, Fir

Fjord

Flanneri, Flannery, Flin, Flint, Fliss, Flynn

Forest, Fox

Fray, Frey, Friend, Frost

Fury

Fyfe

Gable, Gael, Gaelin, Gaiadendron, Galaxy, Gale, Galen, Gali, Galway, Gattaca, Gavi, Gavivi, Gavril, Gavrit

Gelly, Gemi, Geo, Geocalyx, Geovany, Gerasim, Germaine, Germayn

Ghislaine

Gianni, Gibbs, Gidget, Gili, Gio, Giovanni, G’lee, Glorian, Gloriyn, Glyn, Glynis

Glacier, Glasgow, Glenne, Glynn

Golden

Grady, Grange, Granger, Gratian, Green, Grey, Grian, Griet, Grove

Gull, Gulley, Guri, Guthrie

Gwylan

Hadley, Hailegiorgis, Hainley, Hake, Halcyon, Hale, Hallidae, Hallow, Hallyen, Halsey, Halyn, Hamish, Hannan, Haney, Hanne, Hannelore, Hanon, Hanoever, Harbor, Harven, Harvest, Harden, Hari, Harlow, Harper, Haven, Hawk, Haydn, Hayli, Hays, Haze, Hazel

Hedley, Heike, Held, Hendrix, Henley, Hevvel, Hexater

Hil’el, Hille, Hiptage, Hiyya

Holderness, Hollis, Horizon, Houstyn

Huckleberry, Hudsyn, Hue

Hyalis

Ibycter

Ichirou

Idalis, Idaly, Idris

Ilex, Ilham, Illyrie, Ilo, Ilori, Ilse, Ily, Ilys, Ilysanthes

Imani, Imaran, Imri

Inali, Inci, Inter, Indigo, Indivar, Indry, Ingalill, Innes, Innis

Ioannis, Iolani, Ion, Iorwen

Iphigeny

Ira, Ire, Iren, Iresine, Irie

Isa, Isai, Isha, Ishi, Isi, Isley, Iso, Isra, Isran, Issy

Ives, Ivory, Ivrit

Ixanthus

Izalan, Izzy

Jabre, Jace, Jacey, Jackory, Jacoby, Jaddet, Jadyn, Jae, Jael, Jagged, Jagger, Jai, Jalani, Jalen, Jalil, Jame, Janli, Jannik, Jarel, Jarrell, Jase, Jaser, Jasiri, Javes, Jax, Jaxx, Jayce, Jayme, Jaymes

Jem, Jenetxis, Jenneky, Jenner, Jennyl, Jeobanny, Jerrin, Jess, Jessamy, Jesse, Jessen, Jessup, Jet, Jeven, Jewelian

Jhamay, Jamee’, Jhames

Jibri

J’lani, J’lyon

Jody, Joely, Jolyon, Jorah, Jordy, Jori, Jorn, Jorryn, Jory, Jourdan, Jovany, Joveny

J’ten

Jules, Junaiad, Juniper, Juriaan, Jurrijn, Justice, Justus

Jyliah, Jynx

Kadri, Kadrian, Kaede, Kael, Kai, Kail, Kailish, Kalan, Kalish, Kalle, Kallen, Kalli, Kalliyan, Kalonie, Kalyco, Kalyn, Kane, Kaori, Karaoc, Kare, Karik, Kasi, Kasye, Katrien, Kaveri, Kavi, Kayin, Kaylor, Kaysen, Kayson, Kaz, Kazumi

Kea, Keah, Keaton, Keats, Keelan, Keelty, Keften, Kegan, Kei, Keilan, Keilyn, Keladry, Kelby, Kele, Kelis, Kelton, Kempe, Kemy, Kendall, Kendi, Kendril, Kenji, Kennedy, Kennydi, Kenyon, Kenzie, Kern, Kerr, Kerst, Kester

Khari, Khiax

Kiah, Kiekelie, Kiet, Kiffen, Kilyan, Kindle, Kindred, Kingsleigh, Kinion, Kinley, Kinsley, Kinta, Kipp, Kirby, Kiril, Kirsi, Kistna, Kit, Kitt, Kiva, Kiya, Kiyo

Kjarr

Klei

K’nai

Kofi, Kopin, Koren

K’saiah

Kyan, Kyarr, Kye, Kylan, Kylen, Kyler, Kylum, Kyndle, Kyoto, Kyran, Kyrie, Kyriel

Lachlan, Lachlyn, Lael, Laik, Lake, Lakin, Lan, Lanai, Landri, Landry, Langdon, Langley, Langston, Lapis, Laramie, Larimar, Larimer, Lark, Larken, Larkspur, Lathyros, Latif, Lavan, Lave, Laventry, Laxmi, Lazuli

Leaf, Leal, Learner, Leatrix, Ledikyl, Legend, Leif, Leighn, Leighton, Leik, Leil, Leith, Lennon, Lennox, Lepyrodon, Leryn, Leva, Leve, Leven, Lex, Leyo

Li, Liatris, Lichen, Liev, Lilike, Linden, Lirit, Liryel, Lisle, Litzi, Lizeth

Lluvy

Loc, Locksley, Loften, Logan, Loic, Loki, London, Londyn, Lore, Loring, Lorne, Lova, Lowery, Lowri, Lowry, Loxley, Loxocalyx

Luca, Lucer, Lufti, Lumen, Lusik

Ly, Lychnis, Lycoris, Lydian, Lygos, Lyle, Lynley, Lynx, Lyr, Lyre, Lyric, Lyris, Lysis, Lyss

Mabli, Mabry, Macaiah, Mack, Mackenzie, Maclay, Mad, Madden, Madigan, Madison, Mael, Maeli, Maelorn, Maeryn, Magaly, Mailler, Maitland, Mako, Makota, Makoto, Malachite, Malak, Malako, Malin, Maliny, Malloryn, Mallow, Mansa, Manuka, Manyiten, Marcin, Marije, Marin, Marisol, Marixa, Marlen, Marlin, Marlow, Maro, Mars, Marsh, Matisse, Maur, Mayes, Maylin, Mays, Maysen

McCae, McCai, McKinley

Meabh, Mead, Meadown, Meander, Meilyr, Meine, Meja, Mel, Melisandre, Melivan, Melonias, Mender, Mer, Merari, Mercer, Mercier, Mercury, Mercy, Mere, Meridian, Merle, Merridy, Merrival, Mesynium, Meta, Meteor, Metz

Mica, Micah, Mick, Mihaley, Mikko, Miko, Milan, Milek, Mili, Millet, Millow, Mils, Milne, Mink, Minx, Mirit, Mirr, Misa, Misae, Misael, Mischa, Miska, Mist, Mistyllus, Mitra, Mitthyridium, Mix

Mladen, M’lani

Mobley, Moeli, Moke, Monaco, Monahan, Monserrat, Montalvo, Morag, Morey, Mosa, Mosi, Moss

Muir, Murchad

Mykelti, Myricanthe, Myriodon, Myriopteron, Myrrhidiium, Myrrhis, Mythri

Nalin, Name, Nao, Naoki, Naolin, Nat, Navali, Navy, Navya, Nayan, Nayeli, Nazli

Nenetl, Neo, Nequiel, Nery, Nerys, Nevada, Neve, Nevi

Nhi, Nhym

Nico, Night, Niko, Nikri, Niks, Nils, Nir, Niran, Niv, Nix, Nixi

N’Lani

Nnomi

Noble, Noe, Noely, Nor, Norrie, North, Nostelis, Nova, November

Nym, Nyr, Nyro, Nyx

Oak, Oakley, Oaklin, Oaks

Ober, Oberon

Odaliz, Odalys, Ode, Odell

Ofra

Olavi, Oleander, Olin, Ollie

Omarian, Omega, Omri, Onni, Onofre

Onix, Onyx

Ora, Oracle, Oran, Oren, Orenthel, Ori, Orian, Oriel, Orien, Orion, Orit, Orli, Ornition, Orom, Oromi, Orrin, Ortalis, Oryx, Oryxis

Ozzie

Pace, Pacey, Padget, PAge, Painter, Paityn, Paks, Pali, Pallavi, Palmer, Palti, Panya, Paratyl, Parham, Pariti, Park, Parker, Parks, Parrish, Pascal, Pascale, Pasquel, Pax, Payson, Payton, Paz

Pebbles, Pemberley, Pen, Penn, Pentake, Pepper, Peri, Peridot, Peristrophe, Perrin, Perry, Persea, Pesci, Petalonyx, Peylan, Peyson, Peyton

Pfeiffer

Phaelan, Phialis, Philemon, Philydor, Phoenix, Phyre

Picris, Pidgin, Pieris, Pigeon, Pinn, Piper, Piperel, Pirro, Pitch, Pitkin

Pleiades

Po, Poe, Poem, Poet, Polaris, Porter

Prairie, Press, Priel, Priti, Proteus

Psora

Pteri, Ptolemy

Pyper, Pyralis, Pyxidium

Qaden, Qadr, Qaelan, Qama, Qamra, Qantay, Qasim, Qays

Quant, Quaint, Quasar, Quell, Quest, Quetzali, Quillan, Quillon, Quimby, Quin, Quince, Quincy, Quinlan, Quinn, Quiscalus

Raeli, Rafferty, Raiden, Raimi, Rain, Rainer, Rainier, Rais, Raith, Raleight, Ramplin, Ranger, Rasha, Rasmus, Rasul, Rathkea, Rav, Raven, Ravi, Raviv, Raz

Read, Reading, Rebel, Red, Redd, Reed, Rei, Reilly, Rein, Reine, Remi, Ren, Render, Renly, Renn, Renske, Reva, Revel, Revelin, Reven, Revlan, Rey, Reyn, Reynes

Rhet, Rhett, Rhodax, Rhodri, Rhory, Rhydian, Rhylee, Rhys

Ridan, Ridhi, Ridley, Riely, Riggs, Riley, Rilke, Rin, Rinny, Rinstree, Ripley, Rishi, River, Riya, Riyaan

Ro, Roam, Roan, Robin, Rocket, Roep, Rogue, Rohan, Romy, Roni, Rook, Rory, Rothko, Rowen

Rui, Rune, Runes, Ruiqi, Rumi, Ruskin

Ry, Rye, Rylan, Ryleigh, Ryls, Ryn, Ryne, Ryo

Sable, Sabre, Sabri, Sabriel, Sachet, Saeran, Saeyeon, Saffron, Sage, Saghaley, Sahalie, Said, Sailor, Sailyr, Sakai, Sakari, Sakhr, Salali, Salaxis, Salem, Salish, Sam, Samhain, Sami, Sanne, SAni, Sanvi, Saoirse, Sar, Sarayi, Sascha, Satchel, Sauts, Savien, Savin, Savir, Sawyer, Sayaka, Sayer, Sayler, Saylor, Sayuri, Sayyi

Scanlan, Scien, Scotlyn, Scout, Schuyler, Scytalis

Season, Seda, Selas, Selby, Selbyr, Selene, Selerin, Selke, Selkie, Seneca, Sens, Seoras, Sephor, Sequiel, Sequoia, Sequoyah, Seraphim, Seren, Seris, Seven, Severin, Sevilen

Shadow, Shael, Shai, Shale, Shalin, Shandi, Sharvani, Shasta, Shaye, Shaytawn, Shelby, Shell, Shepry, Sheridan, Shia, Shin, Shinzi, Shire, Shixi, Shore, Shura, Shya, Shyam

Siam, Sian, Siani, Sibley, Sicalis, Sicily, Sidany, Sidhe, Signe, Sigrid, Sikai, Silaine, Sile, Sileas, Sileny, Siler, Silko, Sill, Sills, Silphion, Silvan, Silver, Silvijn, Simme’, Simra, Sinai, Sinclair, Sine, Sinzi, Siobha, Siphanthemum, Siraphat, Siriol, Sirystes, Siv, Sivan, Sixten

Skate, Skylar, Skyler

Slate, Sloan

Snow, Snowfall

Sol, Solace, Solaris, Solber, Soleyrie, Solstice, Sonnagh, Sonnet, Sophar, Sora, Soren, Sorrell, Sotiris

Sparaxis, Sparrow, Spindalis, Spins, Sprig, Spruce, Spyridon, Spyro

Squire

Staebe, Stachys, Starlin, Starling, Stellar, Sten, Steriphe, Sterline, Stev, Stevany, Sthir, Stixis, Storm, Story, Strawn, Strix, Stylan

Sullivan, Sulliver, Sully, Surrow, Sustuli, Sutton

Sy, Syam, Syaoran, Sycopsis, Sydne, Syler, Sylvan, Symmetris, Symphytum, Syms, Synaedrys, Synallaxis, Syshe

Tab, Tackett, Tadhg, Taelan, Tage, Taghen, Tai, Tailler, Tailyn, Taiye, Tal, Talaith, Talen, Tali, Taliesin, Tallys, Talon, Talus, Tam, Tamar, Tamary, Tamas, Tamias, Tamsyn, Tanh, Taran, Tarran, Tarun, Taryn, Tavarain, Tavin, Taye, Taylen, Taylin

Tea, Teagan, Teague, Teak, Tealy, Teleri, Temba, Tenaris, Tendai, Tender, Tenley, Tenn, Tennyson, Terik, Terran, Terre, Tersie, Tersis, Teshi, Tesla

Thames, Theo, Tehoren, Thessaly, Thian, Thierry, Thistle, Thy, Thylestrist, Thomomys, Thyridium

Tiaris, Tier, Tiernan, Tierney, Tilde, Timber, Timbre, Timofay, Tinsley, Tippeny, Tison

Tobin, Tobit, Torilis, Torn, Toviel

Trae, Traven, Tress, Trevain, Trevelian, Trevyn, Treyden, Trian, Trigby, Trilby, Tripteris, Trisk, Tristany, Tristemon, Tristerix, Tryp

T.S.

Tuli, Tully, Tulsi, Tuppence, Turlough, Tursi

Twm, Twyl

Tye, Tylie, Tyns, Tyr, Tyris

Umber, Umbre

Uptynn

Uri, Uriah

Utah

Vail, Vale, Valen, Valerian, Valiant, Valo, Varian

Vega, Venvolian, Veradis, Verdi, Verse, Vesper

Victorin, Vin, Vine, Viserys, Vitaliy

Vrai

Walden, Waverly, Wavery

Wen, Westlin, Westlyn, Westry

Whisper, Whit, Whym

Wilde, Wilder, Willemy, Willoughby, Windelsor, Wing, Winter, Withershins

Wren

Wylie, Wyntreaux, Wytt

X

Xadrian, Xammy, Xanthe, Xavian

Xynn

Xiclaly, Xiphidium

Xylon, Xyrias, Xyridion

Yale, Yardley, Yasi, Yavesly

Yorixy, Yoshi

Yule, Yuri

Yvian

Zaal, Zammi, Zandophen, Zaraiah, Zariel

Zedhryx, Zell, Zenith, Zentavious, Zephyrin, Zeren

Zinc, Zippery, Ziraeli

Zur, Zuri

Zytaveon

Well, another poem I guess

I know I said I don’t really plan on posting poetry to this blog, but a dear friend asked me to write some, and the content is relevant – so, here you go!

people think i spoke for all those years
even correctly, for some of them.
so how can i explain
that it is only now i have a voice?
true, i eked out words here and there
that were right and true
paper, journals, signs, word processor, instant messenger, emails, texts…
i even spent days in silence –
perhaps a whiteboard note or two,
scratch paper for the barista (soy latte, 16 ounces) –
but i didn’t understand.
how can i tell you
whose brain is connected to your mouth
that my fingers are more sure than my lips?
and that now that i know myself
my words are strengthened, more confident, more proud?
to me, quieter than i wanted for all those years,
being able to press play feels like a privilege.
but what i wish for everyone
growing up unusual
is a human right:
words any way you want them
all the ways you want them
no explanation necessary
at all.
my words my ways
is a promise to myself
and a hope for everyone else atypical
in this world that doesn’t listen.
may we all have loud hands.

[The final line is a deliberate reference to ASAN’s “Loud Hands” anthology, please check it out.]