Friday, December 15, 2006

Give a Clue this Christmas!

My Latest Autism Designs and what they mean.

People who are neurotypical tend to think in boxes. One problem with being on the Autistic Spectrum is that you tend to not think in boxes. As far as I can tell, our thought process is highly relational. We tend to not even SEE the boxes and we don't think in a binary way at all.

A great number of problems come from the inability to understand that different people can have starkly different ways of understanding the world around them.

We tend to assume that people who came up with a functional solution for a problem came to it in the same way; indeed, by way of the same initial perceptions. Autistics and Aspies are as guilty of this as anyone; indeed, it's been studied within the AS population. The reason it's not been studied within the NT population is simple; in the case of NT's, the assumption that another person has a thought process that works like yours does is statistically likely to be correct.

So, when an autistic person makes this unwarranted assumption, it's called "mind blindness" and the autistic is gently handed a clue in the form of "social stories." When an NT does it, it's in the form of an organization called "Cure Autism Now."

If "autistic thought" were not valuable, there would not be such a roster of famous thinkers, such as Einstein and Newton now thought to have been probably autistic to some degree. By the same token, it should be a profound clue that there are courses to teach neurotypicals to "think outside of the box," and almost all higher education is aimed at rooting out simplistic, either-or thinking and to over-ride fear and submission responses when you have to communicate about or defend your work.

The ability to think and function outside of the box is an asset of significant value; recognising that is especially important if you are planning to "do something for autistics." Their ability to function in 'in an appropriate way' is limited, but that does not imply their ability to function, given an appropriate context is as limited as it appears. The trick is to find that context; and in that context they will not have so much difficulty "being appropriate."

There's no area where this insight is more critical than in regards to the parents of autistics themselves.

Make no mistake; autism can be a crippling condition, and it's made worse by being a condition where you absolutely must depend upon others to accommodate your needs and accept limitations that those without the condition cannot easily see or understand. But even the most obviously disabled "autist" is as severely affected by presumptions of how their disability affects them and even more by refusal of others to accept our word for the accommodations we need.

This following paragraph is emblematic of the crippling parental fears that the 800-lb gorilla of the pro-cure movement exploits for funding and validation:
You are never prepared for a child with autism. You will gradually come to believe it, but never fully accept it, get used to it, or get over it. You put away the hopes and dreams you had for that child - the high school graduation, the June wedding. Small victories are cause for celebration - a word mastered, a dry bed, a hug given freely. - FAQs about Autism: Cure Autism Now
Those of us who object to such fear, panic and the pervasive bigotry that exists with in the pro-cure movement - as well as it's seemingly obvious ethical deficits are pretty soundly attacked, with all kinds of terrible motives assigned us. (Theory of Mind, eh?)

A great deal of the work on the support groups that accept AS persons as contributors - something of a rarity - is to get non-AS people to accept that our "inability to cultivate friendships" is not a crippling condition to us. Once we have our one or two friends - friends as geeky and weird as us, generally speaking, we are done. My personal limit is two, and what NT's call "friendships," I now interpret as "Acquaintances." Yes, of course that has profound effects in terms of my ability to sustain a social network, and that has cost me many opportunities; indeed even jobs. I try and work things so that one of my two has the social skills I lack and the willingness to use them on my behalf.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of very bad advice out there and some very bizarre ideas as to what will be helpful to people such as I, who are on the spectrum and who are nonetheless potentially articulate and intelligent beings. Mostly this revolves around the idea that a bad job of conforming to the expectations of others is superior to a good job of being me. Here's Lennie Schafer on the topic of "fake autistics" like me.

(What about "high functioning autism" and how does that fit in? Simply put, it doesn't fit in anywhere. High functioning autism is not clinically defined and is not in the DSM-IV, and for good reason. High functioning autism is an oxymoron. If one meets the criteria for a diagnosis of autism, by definition one cannot be high-functioning. It would be as silly as the term sharp-eyed blindness.) (1)

So why would a handful of people, amongst a few others, who apparently are for the most part Aspergers, if anything, want to identify themselves autistic? Perhaps because autism is a profound disability and Aspergers is a disorder that is mostly not. Autism thus carries more moral weight than Aspergers and therefore has more moral clout for self-esteem building political and social agendas. "We autistics don't want to be cured" carries much more punch than "We Aspergers don't want to be cured", especially given the reality that there is no movement anywhere that seeks to "cure" those with Aspergers into being anything else.(2)

Aspergers-labeled alone, they would be ignored by the press and would be denied the juicy sense of empowerment that would come with a high-profile "oppressed minority" movement article like the one in the liberal New York Times. (3) (4)

The New York Times reporter failed to do a journalist's most basic homework. She failed to check the credentials of those doing the complaining, despite my urging. Anyone can call themselves autistic and write cranky letters to the editor. So how does someone determine if a person is truly autistic,or is an autism imposter with Aspergers? Ask to see their diagnosis. If someone claims to have autism for purposes of making some political statement, ask them to prove it. In any of the correspondence I have had with the autism "imposters", not one has ever supplied such documentation. (5) Of course, it is highly unlikely to ever see it. The irony here is that if someone has enough language skills to effectively complain about the treatment of autistics, then they themselves cannot be autistic.(6) Apparently more than one big city newspaper has failed to see through this deception, so eager are they to get an unusual victim story into print. Can we afford to allow the interests of our autistic children and everyone else "on the spectrum" to be pushed out of the public eye and displaced by a handful of imposters crying a contrived victimhood? Who speaks for autism? Not this bunch.

Note that he, and those like him don't like being quoted, even under "fair use" constraints.

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Of course, if I committed so many foolish rhetorical errors in public, I'd prefer not to be used as a hideous example either.

  1. Argument from Authority. Of course, the process of determining what goes into the DSM-IV is pure and objective science .
  2. Aspergers is, in fact an autistic spectrum disorder and has quite a range of effects. As a step-parent of a diagnosed Aspie, I'm very aware of the fact that there are very significant issues involved. They are not so inconvenient to US, as parents. They are going to affect HIM quite significantly unless we find some adaptive strategies that work for him.
  3. As opposed to the entirely legitimate empowerment that comes from suffering the hideous, horrendous burden that is Autism.
  4. Of course, it's a liberal thing to be concerned about the civil rights of children being abused and neglected for the sake of the convenience and social comfort of their conservative parents. This is the root host for "Autism, A Debilitating Disease, not a Culture," a page that links to both Free Republic and Free Dominion, while telling Canadians they a vaccilating, unpatriotic fools for not joining the "Coalition of the Willing." Snark aside, the fact that this site, is associated with Authoritarian Right Wingers explains a lot about the entire, very authoritarian "curebie" movement.
  5. For myself, I want to see Lennie's MENSA results, his HIV status and full financials proving he's not unduly profiting from his activism before I deign to speak with him. I suspect he's unworthy of my attention, but if he proves otherwise, I will of course listen.
  6. Factually untrue.

Unpuzzled is my most militant anti-curebie design, with the slogan, "help find a clue."

I know, it's rude and confrontational, but I've found that sometimes you need to swat people with a clue-by-four in order to startle them enough so they actually listen.

Those "seeking a cure" tend to ignore everything from those of us who ARE on the spectrum because it doesn't fit into to their mindsets, just as they reject "inappropriate" responses to communications from their autie and aspie children.

This is especially true of issues about communication style, reasonable accommodation and most importantly, the concept that a difference need not be AS disabling as it seems from an "NT" perspective. And, speaking as someone who's gone round and round on this at various times and under various circumstances, those who most boldly wave the "puzzle ribbon" seem at times to be making a point of their puzzlement, and their inability to understand to be the issue of auties and aspies.

See point above about how many friends and relationships an autie or aspie needs in an emotional sense. We do not absolutely require a relationship with the biological parental units. It's a nice thing to have, but we cannot and some quantity of will not be as easily coerced by family emotional ties as neurotypicals can be. This is not just because we have a "faulty" connection between emotions and reasoning. Our reasoning is not emotional, and our emotional responses seem to be quite different - across the board. Put two aspies in the same room and they will communicate quite well indeed - but their body language, topic choices and intuitive negotiations of "status" will be starkly different - and one of the greatest differences is the relative lack of huge tooth-bearing grins with full eye-contact.

To an aspie, to most sensible primates and all cats I've ever met, bare teeth and a full-on gaze is, at the very least, a statement of territorial or situational dominance, inviting a ritual contest of wills to determine who will be in charge and who will submit. Your typical aspie doesn't wish to play that game, having no need or real desire to join your pack, so if you do see them bare their teeth - it's probably in the context of a genuine, non-ritualized warning that Bad Things Will Suddenly Occur If You Do Not Go Away NOW.

What part of "Agggh! [flap flap flap] [throw object] LEAVE ME ALONE" is unclear to you people?

The Chrome Unsmily FaceThe "Unsmily" design honors the "aspie smile," a neutral expression that essentially means "hailing frequencies open." That look of slightly blank attention is a sign that an aspie or autistic is willing to let you talk at them for a while. Indeed, oft-times we are listening so hard that we are not thinking about what we will say next.

No pointless social noises please! Talk about something that is both objectively important and something within the realm of my interest and ability to have an opinion on. Make a full statement, then shut up and let me talk at YOU for a while. Then it's your turn.

Appalling, isn't it?

Well, that is the way aspies and auties communicate best - asynchronously. The full give and take of an NT conversation is difficult for us, and those of us that can manage it are doing it because we realize that style of communication is important to our NT friends all out of proportion to anything actually communicated. Mostly we grunt and make what experience has taught us to be socially appropriate noises at the expected times.

We are quite unlikely to put up with attempts to get us to conform to your expectations of what people like you should be. We are not 'like you,' and while we do very clearly appreciate that you have social advantages we do not, and we all understand that any parent would wish their child to have every possible advantage - we also know that many of those "advantages" come with a price. Some of those prices are ones we cannot pay - and for many of us, compromising who we are or being less than honest about what we know to be true is a price we will not pay - no matter how politically incorrect it may be to point out that the emperor has no clue.

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