Autism – Absurdities and Atrocities

Artwork by JudasArt

Artwork by JudasArt

Voltaire once wrote: “ Those who can induce you to believe in absurdities, can induce you to commit atrocities.”

Nowhere is this statement more relevant than when looking at the many perceptions of the causes of Autism.

For example, consider the following two statements regarding Autism.

  • People with Autism experience the world differently due to the impacts of a disease process. This disease process can be cured. Therefore Autism is a condition that we, as a society, have a duty to either eradicate or overcome.

  • People with Autism experience the world differently due to neurological variances that are hard-wired within them at birth. Autism is not the result of a disease process which can be cured. Therefore Autism is an aspect of life that we, as a society, have a duty to seek to understand, respect and accommodate.

Which of the above statements do you believe to be the least absurd?

If you agree that the first statement is the least absurd and therefore, (in your eyes, most likely to be true), then chances are that you will do and try almost anything to either cure or rid yourself or your child of Autism.

The past 50 years have shown that attempts to cure “the autism” out of a child or an adult have had disastrous results.

Yet attempts to cure “the autism” out of a child or adult continue. Some involve relatively harmless and repetitive therapies that do appear to help assimilation.

However, some attempts involve subjecting children and adults with Autism to debilitating, humiliating and ultimately mentally and physically harmful forms of abuse.

Such as forcing persons with Autism to drink bleach, delivering painful punishments, such as kicking, punching, whipping or starvation, to persons with Autism for displaying undesirable behaviors or subjecting them to intense isolation and deprivation of liberty by locking them in rooms or cages.

All of which should be considered crimes against humanity and therefore seen as atrocities.

If you agree that the second statement  is the least absurd and therefore, ( in your eyes), the most likely to be true, then chances are that you will do and try everything you can to be better understand and accommodate for either your own or your child’s Autism.

Over the last 50 years the voices of those with Autism have continuously cried out for understanding and acceptance.

A key aspect of accepting the potential that children and adults with Autism process the world differently involves making the attempt to understand what those differences are, how they impact the individual with Autism and then accommodating for them respectfully.

Accepting and making accommodations for adults and children with Autism , whether that be providing them with safe, quiet places , pressure blankets, clothing without tags, or specialized educational programs, is both respectful and beneficial.

The practice of providing acceptance, respect and accommodation breaks no laws, perpetrates no crimes against humanity and therefore does not induce anyone to commit atrocities.

I prefer statement 2.

How about you?

P.S  I am aware that some may argue the possibility of a third statement in which Autism could be considered a curable disease whose sufferers should be treated with both consideration and respect whilst they are experiencing its disease effects. However, the propensity of those who support statement 1 toward the overall aim of ‘curing autism’ places many adults with Autism, who not only accept their differences but are increasingly proud of them, at odds with such beliefs.

Autism – Let Them Shine

the seventh sense

They wait to plead their case,

Unknown,

Cast aside,

I’d love,

To see their faces,

Can we spare the light?

These beautiful minds,

Trapped inside,

Bring them to life,

Let them shine,

So dark,

But I see sparks,

We gotta let them flame,

Let them speak their name,

Let them reach up to the clouds,

Where stars flicker in the distance,

So lonely out in space,

They sing out,

But we’re not listening,

‘Cause we don’t see their face,

But we can’t let them die,

Not when we can make them high,

Hold them like the little miracles,

That live inside,

Let them shine,

Let them live,

Let them read,

Let them grow,

Let them love,

Hold them close,

Let them know,

They’ll get through the darkness,

Ordinary people,

Can be hero’s,

Don’t blow out their light,

Cause they can’t eat if we don’t feed them,

They can’t read if we don’t teach them,

There is no life,

If we just hide them,

Don’t just let them die.

Let them shine,

Let them shine on,

Be an ordinary hero,

And let them shine on.

These words are not my own. They are lyrics adapted from John Legends  beautiful song “Shine”. Although this song wasn’t written about Autism, the moment I heard it, it made me think of my son and of all the other children with Autism out there who deserve to be treated with love, understanding, respect and most importantly, to be allowed to “shine”.  It also made me think of all the ordinary every day Autism parents, the everyday, ordinary hero’s, who do what they do, not out of a sense of duty, but out of  pure love for their children.

You will always be my hero’s for helping your children to shine.

The Price of Conformity

conformity

“I think the reward for conformity,

Is that everyone likes you,

Except yourself.” -

Rita Mae Brown

If this quote speaks to you then speak out,

Because the price that we are all paying,

For our continued silence,

Is simply way too high.

It’s time to teach our children,

That being different,

Isn’t the same,

As being bad.

It’s time to teach our children,

That it’s okay for them,

To be,

Exactly who they are,

In whatever way,

They are,

And that no,

One,

Particular way,

Of being in this world,

Is more valid,

Correct,

Or worthwhile,

Than,

Any other.

“The Extreme Male Brain?” Questioning The Gendering of Autism.

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“In 2005, autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen opened a New York Times article with the following statement: “By studying the differences between male and female brains, we can generate significant insights into the mystery of autism” (Baron-Cohen). What makes this statement possible, rhetorically, is a process of gendering that has made autism spectrum disorder (ASD) into “The Male Condition”—the title of Baron-Cohen’s piece.”

“Autism is an example of what Judy Segal calls a rhetorical disorder: in the absence of clear biological markers for autism, “discourse fills the space that certainty in medicine leaves unoccupied.”

“in 2010 the APA released working notes for the DSM-V, which offered new criteria for autism and placed Asperger’s syndrome (heretofore a separate disorder) within the umbrella category of ASD. Such a shift would be fundamentally rhetorical, in that it is enacted through language, persuading practitioners to categorize individuals in a new way.”

“Autism is shaped in part by “social meanings, symbols, and stigmas” attached to it. What makes this process unique, in the case of autism, is that these social meanings do not merely demarcate the “normal” (or neurotypical) from the “abnormal” (or neurodiverse); instead, they also differentiate between men and women, in such a manner that the “male condition” is pathologized alongside the autistic condition.

“ In the case of the EMB theory, this commonality stems from the fact that more boys than girls receive autism diagnoses, by a ratio of 4 to 1. These statistical facts, though, are extended to the disorder itself, where maleness is applied to the brains of individuals with autism. In the process, researchers espousing this theory construct a scale, drawing on the rhetorical figure of incrementum, or scale, which positions women, men, and people with autism along a continuum according to the degree to which they possess some quantified trait.”

“An incrementum is simply a scale, but one that can be used for rhetorical purposes. For instance, if we claim that men tend to be heavier than women, who tend to be heavier than children, we have constructed an incrementum, ordering those three groups according to weight. This claim might seem noncontroversial, but imagine constructing a scale in which we measure intelligence, instead, and order individuals according to sex. That type of scale can support a range of unsavory arguments for policies of all sorts, and would be fundamentally rhetorical both in its construction and its use.”

“Sex and gender offer readily available lenses for understanding autism because they are “present” and by referencing culturally specific notions of sex and gender, researchers make those elements hyper present, and, in the process, obscure others.”

“Late twentieth-century rhetorics of technology, gender, and the service economy make it possible to order individuals along new scales, including technological ability and emotional intelligence.”

“ These scales have shaped scientific understandings of autism in ways that direct the attention of researchers to some aspects and deflect attention away from other important issues, including alternative scientific theories, the interests of girls and women with autism, and the issues deemed most important by autistic people themselves.”

This article consists of excerpts from an academic paper written by J. Jack and published in 2011.

 

Sometimes, when you’re busy being a special needs mum, you need a gentle reminder……

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Sometimes, when you’re busy being a mum, you forget how keenly your words and actions impact on the lives of  your children.

Last night my lovely daughter reminded me of this in the nicest possible way.

You see, over the course of the last week , we’ve both come down with a truly horrible flu.

My daughter came down with it first and after two days of coughing and feeling utterly blue she woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that her head felt like it was exploding on the inside.

Without thinking twice I jumped up out of bed to check her temperature and then gave her some juice and some paracetamol.

Once those few things were done I invited her to snuggle up with me in bed and promised her that I’d watch over her all night.

Not long after she’d settled into my bed she rolled over and said;

“Oh mother…. I do believe I may well be in my final hours”.

As dramatic as her words sounded, instead of denying her the right to speak her feelings by rushing in and trying to tell her that she was wrong, I once again reassured her that I would be watching over her all night long and then asked her if she’d like me to get her an icy pole to soothe her dry, sore throat.

She agreed to the icy pole immediately and not long after eating it, fell into a deep, sound sleep.

By the time the morning arrived I too had begun to come down with the same dreaded flu.

So we both went off to visit our local doctor who found that my lovely girl had developed an ear infection on top of the flu, which is why she’d felt like her head  was “exploding on the inside”.

As for me, well I’d already been in the throes of fighting  off a sinus infection, as well as catching the flu, so antibiotics and lots of rest were prescribed for both of us.

Later that night I developed a massive migraine as a side effect of the antibiotics.

In response to my migraine misery, not only did my daughter make a point of coming in and checking on me all through the night, but each and every time she came into my room she would ask me:

“What can I do to make you feel  better mum? Can I get you a glass of water? Would you like an icy pole? Do you want me to hold your hand?”

Each time she did this I thanked her for being so kind and thoughtful and each time she would say “It’s okay mum, I know how bad it feels when you’re head’s exploding on the inside.”

The next day, after the migraine had washed away, I once again experienced those same feelings of both extreme love and gratitude for the way my daughter had chosen to love and support me throughout my own night of “final hours”.

When I tried once again to thank her for being so wonderful, she looked at me in confusion and said;

“Mum, why do you keep thanking me? I was only doing  to you what you did for me when I felt like my head was exploding?”

Her words really made me stop and think, not only about the importance of the way I had responded to her when she had been feeling so ill, but the importance of the ways that I respond to her on a daily basis and how all of the small kindnesses that I shower her with are now coming out in her personality, despite the fact that many believe that children like my daughter are incapable of showing  empathy towards others.

You see, my lovely daughter has High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome and many mistakenly  think that children and adults with HFA/AS aren’t able to either experience or express empathy for the suffering of others.

Well, I’m here to tell you that my daughter and many like her, can and do experience empathy towards others.

Especially when they grow up being surrounded by both the benefits and the acknowledgement of having empathy shown towards the unique ways in which they experience every aspect of their lives.

So even though sometimes, when you’re busy being a special needs  mum  and you forget just how keenly you’re words and actions impact on the lives of your children, you may just discover that your children will find their own unique ways to remind you of just how important your words and actions are to them.

And hopefully you too will experience this reminder in the nicest of all possible ways.