Julianne Vallera

@jmvallera | contributor
Website: www.jmvallera.com Email: vallerawriter@gmail.com I’m a writer based in San Diego, California. I have a few disabilities and prefer identity first language when discussing my autism.
Community Voices

Your assumptions

<p>Your assumptions</p>
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Medical assistants and optometrist aren't ophthalmologists

<p>Medical assistants and optometrist aren't ophthalmologists</p>
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2 people are talking about this
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One of the hardest words for me to understand #Autism #Communication

As a heterosexual woman, I find it somewhat confusing when someone asked me, "Do you think he (referring to a male peer of a similar age) is cute? Like are they asking if I think
1. Does the guy fits society's standards of attractiveness?
2. Is he not ugly?
3. Is he my type?
4. Would I consider dating the guy?
5. Does he make me laugh and smile?
6. Do I have a crush on him?
7. Is he the type of person who I'd want to impress?
Or is it something totally different?

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Community Voices

Here is something to think about

<p>Here is something to think about</p>
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Are there downsides to therapy #ABA

I studied child development for a while and for a school essay I was asked to respond to an article arguing that modernized therapy could be considered abusive and one of my afterthoughts was, “If a child can’t participate in after school activities and go to their classmate’s birthday parties because of their therapy schedule, then they are missing out on critical socialization.”
To put it into perspective, if the school schedules rehearsals for their upcoming play on Tuesday afternoons and you have an hour-long therapy session on each Tuesday afternoon, taking into account transportation time, you would arrive at rehearsal at the same time everyone was packing up. (This would be in the context of school ending at 3:00 pm, arriving at the therapist’s office at 3:30 pm, finishing therapy at 4:30 pm, and then at 5:00 pm you would return to school at the same time the rehearsal was wrapping up.)
I’m fully aware that parents can’t change the availability of the therapist and that some parents can only do therapy during the times when the local Boy/Girl Scouts meet (or on the weekends during the hours when soccer/football games take place), but if the therapy that’s supposed to help the children improve their weaknesses prevents them from actively exercising their underdeveloped muscles and/or socializing with their peers, could it be actually be causing an unintended deficit?
The disabled people I’ve met said there’s a huge difference between sending a developmentally disabled person to therapy as a means to teach the person to not stalk their crush and sending a developmentally disabled person to therapy just because the parents want their child to not act quirky.
I think that most types of therapy should be integrated into everyday activities instead of putting children in a room that is isolated from their able-bodied peers: as activities like group sports (like I mentioned above) force you to stretch, use a wide variety of muscles, and communicate with your peers all at the same time.
Even though most therapists have no ill intent, you need to look around and find one that your child both connects with and also understands that having a work/life balance means not having therapy during times when the child’s unproblematic peers are hanging out and, in addition, lets the child have some say in what their goals should include.

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The controversial phrase “disability privilege”

When we hear the phrase “disability privilege” we commonly think of two things 1) fast passes at Disneyland and 2) that is some made up idea and it doesn’t even exist. One thing I noticed since getting an autism diagnosis is that people will give you discounts out of pity (as some of those discounts were never offered to me before my diagnosis). While 30% off Spider-Man tickets is nothing to complain about, it makes me question the social construct and stigmas around some disabilities.

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Improving Upon Accommodations At School

The one accommodation no one talks about in the school setting is the ability to be in classes with people who have agreeable personalities. While being in classes that you can get to without climbing two flights of stairs may be physically convenient, it isn’t a guarantee that the classes will be the right fit for you. I remember that when I was younger I was sometimes upset because being in conveniently placed classes came at the cost of not being able to have classes with the cool teachers and students with agreeable personalities. Therefore, whenever you enter a new school, I’d strongly suggest that you ask to sit in on any individual enrollment meetings or beginning of the year IEP/IPP meetings so you can have input in what accommodations you have control over.

One thing I’d also suggest is that when you get older and move on into the university dorms, when given questionnaires to help pair you with an ideal roommate, upon seeing questions like, “What qualities do you look for in a roommate?,” respond by saying, “I’d rather live in [insert ideal dorm] instead of the one that is the shortest walking distance from my classes,” if you aren’t asked what dorm you want to live in on the questionnaire: as it is so much easier to switch classes or dorms during the first few weeks as opposed to half through the semester.

While I’m aware that people with mobility aids may not have the privilege to live on the fourth floor of their desired dorm, when you are capable of doing things that able bodied people do yet let someone else dictate your class schedule, to some extent, you are giving up autonomy. We commonly use the phrase, “My body my choice,” in the abortion argument, but it should also apply to having your body physically being in a emotionally safe place: as you should have the ability to choose mental health over being in conveniently placed classes.

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Do Braces Affect Mental Health

As a millennial, braces were a right of passage for those born at about the same time as me, and like most adolescents in the early through mid 2000s, I had them. However, unlike my peers who had them for roughly around two years, I had them from the ages of 11 through 16.

Never seeing protagonists or love interests with braces made me question my prettiness, so to say. Whenever I saw characters with braces, they were the butt of the joke like Betty Suarez from Ugly Betty. I remember hearing classmates say stuff like, “You can tell who has braces just based on who doesn’t smile in their yearbook photos.”

One type of trauma that hardly ever gets addressed is when doctors make their patients feel ugly. We were first told that keeping up with magazine trends isn’t enough, and then the orthodontists persuaded our parents to pay for a grey smile, which then made us feel uglier.

I remember the orthodontist said, “You’ll be just like all of your friends,” in order to get preteens to stay still during their first few appointments. Within three months of realizing that stars like Hilary Duff weren’t wearing braces, me and my peers were counting down the years, months, and days until the orthodontist took them off.

While invisalign wasn’t widely available until after I got my braces off and cosmetic dental surgery is unreasonable to perform on a minor, it seemed as if the orthodontists wanted perfection instead of attainability. In fact, more than a few people I know of tried to get their brackets off with nail clippers the second their snaggletooth stopped showing because they hated their grey smile.

As my peers got their braces off before me, I started harboring feelings of otherness. While I didn’t develop PTSD as a result of braces, I noticed my friends with white smiles were treated better. Seeing them being treated better made me feel horrible, especially due to the fact that I couldn't do anything about it, as it is 10 times harder to get your braces off than to do things such as change your wardrobe.

For those pesky years, braces became part of my identity. As I briefly touched on earlier, most teenagers realize that you don’t have to have the perfect smile in order to be hot, as people like Madonna have imperfect teeth yet are considered attractive.

I do believe orthodontic intervention can be beneficial in most cases, but we need to look at what point do the downsides outweigh the benefits--as repositioning a snaggletooth is totally different than trying to recreate Julia Roberts’s smile.

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