Friday, December 02, 2016

Privacy, Sexuality And Shame

I've decided recently to make a concerted effort to participate in more blog carnivals. I used to regularly participate in the disability blog carnival, but then they stopped using the widget I used to track that carnival, and I don't really know if that carnival is even still going on.

However, I just recently came across A Carnival of Aces. I didn't post anything for November because the topic was relationship anarchy, a concept that really doesn't make any sense to me. The December topic is privacy, which I can certainly write about.

Do you think privacy or the right to privacy is more important to you than it would be for another sexuality or for someone who identifies as straight?

I don't think my unusual approach to privacy has much to do with my orientation. It has far more to do with my neurology and my trauma history, and the complex way they interact. With that said, I do think that my approach to privacy as an asexual CSA (child sexual abuse) survivor is different from how I'd react if I was an allosexual abuse survivor. But I'll get into that more in a bit.

I've heard privacy used to refer to three domains that I personally have very different reactions to. Firstly, many people talk about privacy in the context of whether people see you naked - a disabled child I knew who would run out of the change room naked was described as "having no sense of privacy", some people aren't comfortable changing in front of the same sex while others are, and families have different standards for whether family members see each other naked and where in the home you can be naked. Standards around nakedness differ across cultures, too - by our standards, the normal !Kung style of dress would be considered nakedness. (Full disclosure: most of what I know about !Kung people comes from The Gods Must Be Crazy.)

By that meaning of privacy, I'm probably fairly typical. I am OK with being naked with other women in very clearly demarcated settings, such as in changing rooms. I'm also OK with being naked in front of prepubertal boys, or boys or men with significant developmental disabilities who need assistance dressing themselves, in similar circumstances. I'm not OK with being naked in front of men who don't have significant developmental disabilities. (I've only once shared a change room with a trans person, and he wasn't comfortable changing in front of me, so I haven't figured out my own comfort level in that area.) I'm fine with going topless in areas not designated as naked areas when I'm alone, but not when others can see me. I've also done the laundry while naked, usually as a prelude to having a bath, but I'm not comfortable with people seeing me like that.

I've known people who are more comfortable with nakedness than me (such as people who go to nude beaches, or would be willing to) as well as people who are less comfortable (such as my brother, who I've been told hides behind a towel or goes into a bathroom stall instead of changing in front of other men in the change room). About the only situation where nakedness is normally accepted, but I wouldn't accept it, is with a sexual partner - and that's more because I never, ever want to have sex than because of the nakedness itself.

There's also online privacy. Things like whether you use your real name, how comfortable you are with having things about you being tracked electronically, etc. I'm more private in that area than most people I know, mainly because of the influence of my father. Before I turned 18, I was forbidden from revealing my real name or precise location online, and just because I've hit the 'magic number' doesn't mean I've changed how I feel about those rules. In fact, my experiences with flaming and google-stalking have made me even less inclined to reveal my true identity online. I'm also pretty strict about location services and apps accessing data they don't have a clear need to know, because I don't want targeted advertising and I don't want companies learning how to better advertise to me. None of this relates to my asexuality at all. Mostly it's because I have a parent trained in computer security, although fear of both sexual predators and curebie threats also feature as strong incentives not to reveal myself.

But the last kind of privacy is where I really stand out. I am willing to tell complete strangers, without hesitation, the following about me:

  • that I'm autistic (or, before my diagnosis, that I suspected I might be autistic)
  • that I'm a sexual abuse survivor, and the relationship of my abusers to me
  • that I'm asexual
  • that I'm a virgin with no plans to ever have sex
  • that I'm intellectually gifted
  • that I was homeschooled, and precisely why school was terrible for me
  • that I'm an atheist
  • that I tried to masturbate and it didn't work
  • lots of other random details
The only people I know of who are willing to disclose that much in casual conversation are people I've read about in clinical studies of patients with orbitofrontal brain injuries, as well as one guy my Dad met who told my Dad about his schizophrenia during a brief conversation. I'm not entirely sure how much of the above 'most' people would disclose to a complete stranger, but I know I'm atypical.

I gather that most people would feel uncomfortable disclosing highly personal details to a total stranger, even if they don't feel ashamed of any of those things. But for me, the only reason I would hesitate to disclose any of the above is because I've learnt that it can make other people uncomfortable to hear those things about me, or if I have reason to fear a strongly problematic reaction (for example I've learnt that most flirtatious guys take a disclosure of sexual abuse or asexuality as meaning I'll probably cave to sexually coercive behavior, which has landed me in some scary situations).

And if it's something I'm ashamed of, like my history of bedwetting, I'm a lot more reticent mainly because I don't like to talk about it or think about it even with loved ones. Even in my diary, I remember writing that I wet the bed in much smaller letters than the rest of the diary entry.

So why is it that I don't feel the same urge that most people feel to keep certain kinds of personal information private? Well, given that patients with orbitofrontal damage and at least one guy with schizophrenia (which causes frontal lobe atrophy) share this trait with me, I'd say it's probably a sign that my frontal lobes don't function normally - just like my forgetfulness, poor time sense, difficulty with external motivation and general disorganization. My frontal lobe issues are probably mostly due to my autism.

But does my asexuality connect with any of this? (Apart from being one of the things I disclose?)

Well, for one thing, it's probably caused by the same underlying process. Autism and asexuality co-occur more often than by chance (one study found that 17% of autistic women are asexual, and another study found that autistics tended on average to have a lower libido). In addition, frontal lobe seizures can trigger compulsive sexual behavior and sexual arousal, and the frontal lobe shows increased activity during orgasm. As a nonlibidinist asexual, I personally feel that my asexuality was caused by the same neurological traits that made me autistic and made me have significant executive dysfunction. Which means my lack of privacy and my asexuality are both parts of the same thing, probably something that alters the function of my frontal lobes.

But there's a more direct influence of asexuality, combined with sexual abuse trauma, on my willingness to talk about sex. I suspect that if I were allosexual, sexual feelings would trigger intense shame and flashbacks. And I have research data to back this up - the only study I know of to look at asexual CSA survivors found that asexuals had lower rates of intrusive trauma-related thoughts, I'm guessing because asexuals are less likely to spontaneously think about sex. And I've heard from many allosexual CSA survivors that sex or sexual feelings can be very triggering.

As I described above, one of the only reasons I'll avoid discussing personal details that isn't due to thoughts of how the other person might react is shame. If I'm ashamed of something about myself, it's hard for me to say it aloud, even to my parents. So if I was allosexual, I'd probably struggle to discuss sex or sexual feelings, instead of happily discussing it with anyone who seems comfortable talking about it with me. Although I could see myself getting more comfortable after a lot of counseling and emotional growth, it would be a very difficult process. I'm glad I get to skip that part of healing from CSA.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Meet Polkadot: A Review

I recently backed a Kickstarter for a book called Meet Polkadot, by Talcott Broadhead. And now the book has arrived in the mail, and... well...

I really like the concept, and I think kids need books about nonbinary children. But I'm not sure this book is really for kids.

There are two big issues I can see with this book.

First, it's not written at a child's level. Picture books are typically for early elementary or preschool aged children (and most kids first become aware of gender at around 3 or 4), but the language in this book reads much older than that. Polkadot and their sister Gladiola and friend Norma Alicia don't think or talk like children. Polkadot uses metaphor and understands cultural relativism; Gladiola refers to the idea of things you "didn't know you didn't know" (2nd order theory of mind, at least). Overall, the conceptual level of this book is probably at least 8 or 9, and possibly a lot older. And kids that old aren't usually interested in picture books.

Second, and more serious from my perspective, it's kind of a downer book, and potentially kind of scary. Polkadot talks about being in a box, as if they're literally trapped in a box (complete with a picture). If a child can't grasp the metaphor here, this could be terrifying to them. Later, Polkadot goes on and on about how many things in our society are gendered.

I think we need to be careful in discussing discrimination with children. Firstly, some children may not have been exposed to certain discriminatory attitudes, and debunking them could create an idea in the child's mind that would otherwise not have occurred to them. Throughout this book, a lot of information about gender stereotypes is given, including a list of personality traits attributed to each gender and the idea that toys and toothbrushes are gendered. A child with progressive parents might not realize that people think toys and toothbrushes are gendered, because their parents don't. This could lead them to start trying to figure out whether a toy is "for girls" or "for boys", because the thought had never occurred to them before.

In addition, I think there's a problem in the trend - which I also see in children's books about gender noncomforming kids, binary trans kids and LGB characters - of always depicting the LGTB identity as a problem for the person. Not every story about LGBT characters needs to give airtime to homophobic or transphobic beliefs. Not only does this tell children that those beliefs exist, but it suggests that LGBT people always struggle with hate. Which isn't necessarily true even in our society, and if we achieve our dreams for the future, it will be even less true in the future.

And it brings up unhappy emotions. A happy ending doesn't negate that entirely. For a child who hasn't realized their identity yet, or knows who they are but hasn't faced discrimination, knowing that identifying a certain way can bring fear that they will suffer that themselves.

And for a child who is cisgender and heterosexual, if they always associate LGBT characters with suffering, this can provoke pity rather than true acceptance. Pity doesn't lead to empathy - the disability community knows that very well. There is more to being LGBT than being discriminated against.

And that's why we especially need books about "what are they when they're at home?" Books where the identity is discussed in terms that aren't about how the haters treat them. For example, not every book about Judaism needs to discuss the Holocaust. And not every book about LGTB people needs to discuss homophobia and transphobia.

With that said, I think Meet Polkadot is an important book, and I'm glad it exists. But when it comes time to discuss gender with my child, I'm not sure I'll want to read this to them.

Fortunately, Polkadot is supposed to be a series. Hopefully future Polkadot books will be more child-friendly.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Autism, Hypermobility and Body Positivity

I've always thought that body image issues don't really apply to me. Personally, I don't consider myself attractive, but I don't really want to be, either. I don't have any real interest in what I look like. As an autistic aromantic asexual, I have basically no reason to want others to find me attractive. Apart from annoyance when others are attracted to me and the occasional “wait, is that how I look?” when I see my reflection, my appearance occupies very little headspace.

But in counseling, I came to a realization. When I was filling out a worksheet and it asked me to describe my body, my descriptions were all negative. In the next chapter, which went more in depth about my body, I ended up crying as I relived the experiences of getting in trouble and being teased, and how they affected my view of my body.

My body issues have nothing to do with how my body looks, mind you. I hate my body for what it does, and what it can't do.

My body causes me pain. Standing hurts, various joints randomly ache, my back and neck always hurt when I first wake up, and physical activity causes pain for me more easily and in strange ways. I get tired easily and then everything hurts. I hate being in pain. Pain hurts. I spend a lot of time trying to avoid noticing the various ways that I'm in pain, and when I'm doing mindfulness activities, I take special effort to pop my joints so they don't hurt and distract me.

But it's not just the sensation of pain itself, but the way my pain has always brought judgment on me. In school, I got in trouble for refusing to stand still when we were supposed to be lined up during assembly and similar activities. I get criticized for cracking my joints, my only real way to stop them from hurting temporarily. I get told off for my bad posture and for taking my shoes off and pulling my feet up on my chair, both things I do because they hurt less than the alternative.

In a vicious twist, I get blamed for my own pain. I don't exercise enough. Cracking my knuckles will make it worse. My back hurts because I'm slouching (actually, I'm slouching because my back hurts).

I've also been taught to fear my body's aging. My father goes on and on about how much his body has declined, how things heal slower and he's in more pain. Random strangers warn me that I'll lose my flexibility, or that my bad body habits will wreck my body over time. People tell me that I'm lucky I'm so young because my body is at its peak - even though my ‘peak’ doesn't seem so great to me.

I used to take pride in my flexibility - at least my body was good at one thing, and people praised me for it. But then I discovered hypermobility, and realized my flexibility is directly linked to my pain. Or maybe it isn't - one of the higher belts in karate was at least as flexible as me but was strong and had no pain. I can't decide if I want my flexibility to be the explanation for my pain or not. If it is, then I can think something good comes from my pain. But worrying that stretching will make my pain worse has pretty much sapped my enjoyment of my flexibility.

And even if I weren't in pain, I'd still feel bad about my motor planning and balance issues. The only time I haven't been the least coordinated person in an exercise setting was when I was volunteering with visibily disabled kids. Even then, I've met kids with cerebral palsy who had better balance than me.

In school, I was expected to do physical tasks without any instruction. Somehow everyone else seemed to figure it out. Kids would make fun of me for doing poorly, or else get mad at me for making them fail and letting down my team. I learnt not to try anything I wasn't certain I could do - don't try to tag people with balls or catch balls or pass unless it was super easy. I once tried being a ‘traitor’ (‘traitre’, as I proudly announced to everyone in my French immersion school) because deliberately doing badly felt better than trying and failing, but I got in trouble for that so I never did it again.

As an adult, I discovered karate, and at first I felt great. I saw others who'd started later than me pulling ahead of me, but I could probably have handled it. But I didn't make fast enough progress for my sensei’s liking. While he made allowances for my overweight middle-aged father, he accused me of being lazy. He refused to give me the extra explanation I needed, and got exasperated when I couldn't string together moves I could do individually. Another sensei got visibly frustrated when we were paired off for practice and I was moving too slow for her liking - and then was offended when I asked for a different partner for both of our sakes. Once again, my body put me in a no-win situation.

The one sensei told me not to bother coming at all if I had any strains or injuries that affected my physical performance, even if only in very specific ways. Following that advice meant only rarely attending, and then an outright shouting match between us led me to quit. I tried going to other dojos, and found a really great one, but then we moved. The dojo in my new town would have worked if it was my first dojo, but it wasn't welcoming enough to overcome my fears.

Both my pain and my clumsiness have repeatedly been targeted by people commenting on my body. I've long known that physical education made me hate exercise. I've slowly gotten more tolerant of exercise, but I'm now realizing I have a deeper problem. How do I love my body when I hate what it does and doesn't do?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Why do High Schools teach (mostly) Medieval Mathematics? A Guest Post

A guest post from my father:

When I was a high school teacher I taught mathematics and sciences.  And while most scientific discoveries were presented along with the scientists and (with any luck) a historical context, the way mathematics was taught gave the students the impression that mathematics has always been there.  Perhaps it was first inscribed on the back of the Ten Commandments, or perhaps it was found in the cave paintings of southern France.  People don’t create mathematics; it just is.
But like any human endeavor, mathematics has a history, and I decided to find out what it was.  During my studies I realized most of what we teach in High School Mathematics was known during the Middle Ages.
Arithmetic goes way back into the mists of history.  Based on the evidence of the Ishango Bone, people may have been doing arithmetic by 18,000 BC.  It is also possible that ancient Sumerians invented ways to write numbers before they invented letters, just so they could count livestock and other saleable commodities.
Geometry was also known to the ancients.  Possibly the most famous textbook on geometry is Euclid’s Elements and it was written around 300BC.  Scholars believe it was based on earlier work by mathematicians such as Pythagoras.
Our knowledge (and word for) algebra comes from al-Khwarizmi who lived in the 8th century CE.   But algebra has roots that go back to Babylonian mathematics.  Even quadratic equations, which fascinated the Renaissance mathematicians, were known to Indian scholars such as Brahmagupta (598-c.670 CE).   Thus, most of what High School students learn would have been known in the Middle-Ages.
There are some exceptions of course. Analytic geometry started in the 17th century CE, as did probability.  Complex numbers started during the Renaissance.  Logarithms as we know them were developed during the 17th and 18th centuries CE, but go back to Babylonian times.
Even with the exceptions, most mathematics that high school students learn is at least 300 years old.  In fact, it was during one of my 4th Year Analysis classes in university (I have a B.Sc. in mathematics) that the Professor proudly announced.  “And now we are going to prove a theorem that comes from the 20th century.”
So why is this?  Partly it comes concentrating on the “how” of mathematics and not on the “why.”  It is important for students to understand arithmetic for business purposes and it is important they understand geometry so they can build things.  Some of the other stuff gets a bit dicey: “You need to learn in case you go to university.”  As an aside, one topic I wish was better covered in high school is statistics.  How many high school students really know what the phrase “This election poll is estimated to be accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20?”  How many people with a higher education even know what this means? 
I am not saying we should scrap the curriculum.  But it would be beneficial if we spent some time on the “why” of mathematics.  It could be taught as a brief history which could emphasize certain themes:
People invented things as they needed them.  Arithmetic came about because of needing to count things.  The Egyptians developed geometry because they had to contend with the Nile flooding each year.  They needed to replace their surveyor’s marks each year and geometry helped them do that.  They also needed geometry to build the pyramids.
People were/are constantly looking for refinements and easier ways to do things:  The Babylonians had a system for dealing with fractions that worked with parts of 60.  It was extremely accurate and allowed many kinds of divisions (e.g. 1/2, 1/3, ¼, 1/5, 1/6, 1/10, 1/12, 1/15, 1/20, and 1/30 are all easily represented as parts of 60).  The Indians realized they could simplify their number system by inventing a number for nothing, i.e. 0.  Europeans realized they could simplify their number system by borrowing the Indian one.
People were/are constantly looking to solve harder and harder problems.  Arab scholars like al-Khwarizmi realized that arithmetic expressions with unknown numbers could be manipulated as long as certain rules were followed and thus we got Algebra.
People realized that mathematical things could be combined.  For example, geometry and arithmetic could be combined to make analytical geometry.  Infinitesimals which Archimedes had used to solve geometric problems could be combined with algebraic concepts to create calculus.
People noticed patterns among certain things.  For example, rational numbers, real numbers, matrices, complex numbers, and polynomials all behave in similar ways. I.e. they could be added and multiplied.  Sometimes order mattered and sometimes it didn’t.  This gave rise to group theory and eventually to modern abstract algebra.
Mathematics could be used to predict things as well as solve for them.  This notion is imbedded in arithmetic, (e.g. If I work 9 hours at $10 per hour how much money will I have?) but it could also predict things that seemed unpredictable.  For example, if we played a game where you paid $1 for me to roll a die and I paid you $5 every time I rolled a one, probability can predict that if we play this game long enough I will clean you out, even if the dice is fair.
And finally, mathematics is constantly evolving.  It is not carved in stone in a cave or on the back of some tablets.  It grows as people’s needs grow.  And maybe if students understood the “why” better they would be more interested in the “how.”

Friday, October 28, 2016

Reverse Discrimination

When I was attending a predominantly Native inner-city school for grade 7, a girl told me I was "too white to be a person".

To their credit, the teachers took that seriously, despite ignoring the many other hurtful taunts I got on a daily basis because I was a nerdy undiagnosed autistic kid with mental health issues. They challenged her about how she'd feel if someone said the reverse to her.

Unfortunately, many people wouldn't take that nearly so seriously. There are a lot of people claiming that 'reverse discrimination doesn't exist'. This article specifically lists off reverse racism, thin-shaming, and misandry as types of reverse discrimination that "don't exist", and claimed that they don't cause systemic harm.

My own brush with reverse racism didn't cause harm because it happened once and received an appropriate response. If I'd been told "stop whining, white people are privileged so it's not a big deal to make fun of them", then it would have caused harm, just as all the other times my experiences of bullying were invalidated. And the girl who'd insulted me would have learnt that it was OK to make hurtful comments about my skin color. So it might not have been such an isolated incident.

And especially misandry. I'm not a man, but even I can see that both sexes are targeted by sexism. My WGST prof outright claimed that men couldn't be raped because an erection indicates consent, and accused a music video depicting a male musician's experience with an emotionally abusive woman partner as sexist because it showed a woman in a negative light.

She's not the only one. The idea that "women can't victimize men" is something male victims of female-perpetrated sexual assault and domestic violence run into on a regular basis. Even male child sexual abuse victims are less likely to be seen as victims, especially adolescent victims of sexually abusive women. (A 25 year old having sex with a 13 year old is seen as assault if it's a man and a girl, and as a "kid getting lucky" if it's a woman and a boy.) The harm of not taking victimization seriously is very severe.

In addition, fathers are subject to prejudice when involved in active caregiving. Men's bathrooms rarely have changing tables, paternity leave is harder to get and brings more negative judgment than maternity leave, a man sitting at a playground watching children is assumed to be a pedophile rather than a father, and men are told they're "babysitting" their own children. All of these enforce the idea that men aren't supposed to be active fathers. Some men are distanced from their children, harming both them and their kids, while those who stick it out face consequences for doing so.

As for thin-shaming, body image is a problem for women of all sizes. Even thin women frequently feel ashamed of their bodies. And for men, thin, nonmuscular men are seen as weakly and "feminine", definitely not the ideal. This harms men by encouraging them to endanger their health to build more muscle, exercising in dangerous ways and in some cases taking steroids.

The discrimination is often less pervasive and has a different flavor to it, but the same can be said when you compare the experiences of Jews to blacks. Similarly, my experience as a sexual abuse victim with supportive parents who immediately acted to protect me on their first suspicion of abuse and stood up for me when others tried to invalidate my experiences is very much different from the experiences my abusers had, where their abusers included at least two different parental figures, and no one acted to support them until adolescence. Their abuse experiences were far worse than mine on pretty much any dimension that you could measure abuse severity. But my abuse experiences were still wrong and hurtful.

There are also examples of historical situations where the discrimination has reversed. For a period of time in England, religious discrimination regularly reversed depending on the beliefs of the current monarch - Catholic monarchs persecuted Protestants, and Protestant monarchs persecuted Catholics. A number of colonized countries, during revolutions, reversed the racism in their society and began persecuting whites.

Some people do make false claims of reverse discrimination, but again, that's true in other cases, such as the girl my brother knew who claimed a boy was "raping" her if he accidentally bumped into her, or the Jewish classmate he had who claimed anyone who objected to anything he did was anti-Jewish. Or the boy who accused me and my friend of not wanting to play with him because he was disabled, when in reality we just didn't want to play with a stranger.

It's important to recognize the historical weight behind some forms of discrimination, and how it hasn't been supporting other forms of discrimination. But discrimination is still wrong, even if it's directed towards someone with historical privilege. A double standard that judges the same act differently depending on the identity of the target is wrong, regardless of the historical benefits or disadvantages of the group. And if one person has suffered 3 wrongs, those are no less wrong just because someone else has suffered a thousand.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Explaining ART with Up-Goer 5 Text Editor

In a previous post, I explained the Up-Goer 5 Text Editor made by XKCD, and used it to explain learning differences using only the ten hundred most commonly used words. Now, I decided to explain assisted reproduction techniques:

Lots of grown-ups want to have children. To have a child, you need to put together something made by a man body part with something made by a woman body part, and then have the baby grow in a woman body part that was made to grow babies in.
Most men fall in love with women, and most women fall in love with men. When a man and a woman are in love and want to work together to make a baby, it's usually pretty easy. The man and woman work together to put the man's baby-making stuff in the woman's body, where it meets the woman's baby-making stuff in the place where babies grow. The baby grows in there for a long time, and then the woman's body pushes the baby out so the baby can grow and learn outside of her body.
Sometimes a man and woman don't have an easy time having a baby, though. Sometimes the man doesn't make enough of the man's baby-making stuff, or the woman doesn't make enough of the woman's baby-making stuff. Sometimes the two kinds of stuff have trouble getting together in the woman's body. And sometimes the woman's baby-growing place is missing or not working very well.
Sometimes a man has the woman parts or a woman has the man parts. They can sometimes still have a baby, but sometimes having the wrong parts makes them so sad they need to get a doctor to help them change their parts. If they change their parts, they might not be able to have a baby anymore.
And some people have trouble because they don't have both a man and a woman. Some women fall in love with other women, and some men with other men. And some men and women don't find anyone to fall in love with, but they still want a baby.
No matter why they have trouble having a baby, there are lots of ways to help. Some men and women just need help getting their baby-making stuff together, so a doctor gets baby-making stuff from each of them and puts it together outside of their bodies. Then he puts it in the woman's baby-growing place.
Some people need help getting some man baby-making stuff. Either their man doesn't make any, or they don't have a man. So they get a different man to give them his baby-making stuff. They can either put that in the woman so it can meet her baby-making stuff, or take her baby-making stuff out and have the two kinds of stuff meet outside.
Some people need help getting some woman baby-making stuff. Either they don't have a woman, or the woman doesn't make that stuff. Sometimes a woman might be too old to make baby-making stuff anymore, or her body might not be able to make it. If a woman has the baby-growing place but can't make the baby-making stuff, the doctor puts together a different woman's baby-making stuff with a man's baby-making stuff and puts it in her baby-growing place.
But some people don't have the baby-growing place. Either they don't have a woman, or the woman's baby-growing place doesn't work. In that case, they need another woman to grow the baby for them. Sometimes the same woman gives them the baby-making stuff and has the baby grow in her baby-growing place, but more often they use the baby-making stuff from the woman who wants a child or from a different woman.
Who gives the baby-making stuff and who grows the baby in the baby-growing place is important for the baby to know about. But the most important people for the baby are the ones who look after the baby. Those people are the baby's real parents.

Friday, October 14, 2016

21 Days of AAC - Numerical Results

During the 21 Days of AAC challenge (which took 32 days for me to complete), I purchased tracking for my AAC device. I'd had logging turned on, but no way to access my logs until I made the purchase.

I know that subjectively, the 21 Days pushed me out of my comfort zone in a way that I found quite valuable. But what do the numbers say? To assess that, I compare the 32 days of the challenge with 32 days before and 32 days after the challenge.

Note that the 'after' results may be biased by several things. First, I was still within that period when I had the idea to write up the results, so I knew I'd be analyzing data and felt motivated to do more in response. Secondly, my tablet carrier arrived in the mail 9 days ago, so I've been carrying my tablet around with me more. And lastly, I found some good homeschooling early readers and I've been trying to read them with AAC.

Total Sessions
Before: 285 sessions
During: 151 sessions
After: 223 sessions
Sessions are divided based on a long stretch of time without any button presses.

Sessions were down during the challenge, and haven't quite returned. However, since sessions are divided by a break of time, this could simply reflect longer sessions.

If I look at the 8 days before and after getting my tablet carrier, I find that I had 32 sessions before and 119 after. So it seems that either the early readers or carrying my tablet, or knowing I'd be analyzing data, has caused an increase in the number of sessions. I think it's the readers - when I come across a word I don't have, I tend to immediately stop and add it, which involves leaving speak mode. I suspect this sometimes triggers a session break.

Total Words
Before: 5490 words
During: 6975 words
After: 10769 words

A slight increase during the challenge, and then an enormous increase just recently. My guess is that reading the early readers has greatly increased my use of AAC, but it does look like the challenge increased it a bit as well.

Analyzing before and after the tablet carrier arrived, I find I used 2078 words before and 2713 words after. Looks like a big jump. However, if I hadn't used my tablet at all for the last eight days, I would have still used 8056 words since the challenge ended, which is a big increase. So I think the challenge may be responsible as well.

Total Utterances
Before: 673 utterances
During: 842 utterances
After: 1214 utterances
Utterances are defined as hitting the "speak" button to say everything on the message board.

There was a large increase for the challenge, and an even bigger increase afterwards. Apparently I've been saying a lot more with my device lately.

For the 8 days before I got my tablet carrier, I said 265 utterances, and after the tablet carrier I've said 391. I'm guessing it's the early readers that did it. Still, my usage was not back to baseline before the tablet carrier arrived.

Total Buttons
Before: 8756 buttons
During: 10449 buttons
After: 16436 buttons

Button presses have gone up during the challenge and even more afterwards.

During the eight days before getting the carrier, I pressed 3198 buttons. After, I pressed 4154 buttons. So a big increase, but even if I hadn't pressed any buttons for that time I'd have still made 12282 button presses, which suggests a steady increase from the time of the challenge.

Words per Utterance
Before: average 6.12 words per utterance
During: average 6.37 words per utterance
After: average 6.28 words per utterance

During the challenge, I had an increase in average sentence length. It's gone down afterwards, but hasn't returned to baseline. The early readers are probably dragging down the average, but mostly I think the challenge had me communicating my actual messages, and therefore more closely reflects my non-AAC communication skills.

When I got my tablet, average words per utterance dropped from 5.79 to 5.34. Interestingly, both are much lower than the average for the entire 32 days. It seems like my sentences have been steadily getting shorter.

Words per Minute
Before: average 3.26 words per minute
During: average 3.94 words per minute
After: average 5.57 words per minute

I've been talking faster with AAC. It does seem like there was also an increase during the challenge. I did notice that as I was trying to talk to people I was making an effort to speed up to keep up with what was happening.

Pre-carrier, my words per minute were 7.78, and they've dropped to 5.14 since. This is not what I was expecting. I would have thought the early readers would have sped me up, but they don't seem to have. Maybe it's because they have some new fringe vocabulary that I don't know very well yet, so I have to stop and search.

Utterances per Minute
Before: average .4 utterances per minute
During: average .48 utterances per minute
After: average .63 utterances per minute

Similarly, utterances per minute have gone up a lot lately.

Pre-carrier, utterances per minute were .99, and they've dropped to .74. That mirrors the drop in words per minute, however, both are much higher than my overall average post-challenge. Although it's bumpy, I seem to be improving.

Buttons per Minute
Before: average 5.21 buttons per minute
During: average 5.9 buttons per minute
After: average 8.51 buttons per minute

Again, similar results.

Before the tablet carrier, I had an average of 11.98 buttons per minute, which has dropped to 7.88. Again, what was going on before I got the carrier? This is baffling. But, in any case, my numbers are still higher now than during the challenge.

I'll probably gather similar data after the next challenge, when I do it. It'll be interesting to see how it compares.