24 November 2007

Autistic Self-Advocacy Myths

The following is from a post I made on the Autism Speaks forums. I addressed it to the parents of autistic kids who have only seen neurodiversity and autistic self-advocates as being against helping their kids, to demonstrate the realities of what it means to be against cure, to show that we're not just some highly successful math geniuses who think autism is just a difference rather than both a difference and a disability. Don't think it was very effective, though, considering nobody has replied besides me (only 36 views, too).

I hate to see the polarization between autistic self-advocates who are against cure and the people of autism speaks and cure autism now. Because the truth is that we are all out to help improve the lot of autistics, and it's a shame to see people so easily become divided.

It happens when an aspie writes cocky that they are superior to NTs. It happens when accepting autism becomes dirty words with implication that we are to ignore people's difficulties that are due to disability and pretend that they don't struggle.

These, of course, are the more extreme of the both sides, and they do not represent the true motivations behind the causes - which, as stated already, are for the bright futures of autistics who are all too often left in the dust.

The truth is, accepting autism doesn't mean letting kids bang their heads and pretend that autism is a wonderful, positive thing that everyone should want. It means looking at the various limitations and disability and helping the person to adapt to the world and, where reasonable to adapt the world to autism. Most people I have read on this board seem to already fit this description of loving their kids as they are and wanting to help them get along, except that they also express the desire for a cure.

Autistic anti-cure self-advocates support helping people to talk, or if that doesn't work, to help them to communicate by typing or signing or such. And of course to also try to help with self-help skills (I myself am 17 and can't brush my own hair that is about shoulder-length by myself. I have, however, learned toileting skills and how to wash myself).

So I identify as autistic (Diagnosed Asperger's age 10). However, I am not so reactionary that, just because I am adamantly against cure for autism that I would deem anybody who supports it to be some "conformist NT" or some such nonsense. I want to write on behalf of autistic self-advocates who, like me, reject these extreme views. (The extreme people tend to be far more proliferate (is this a word? I tend to use words that I have no idea what they mean) and so are more noticeable.

I understand that there are many people whose needs for supports and services far outweigh mine. I speak, have the self-help skills I mention, and such things. In fact, I for a long time, while completely against curing Asperger's/HFA, wholly supported curing LFA autistics. It wasn't until this summer that I reevaluated my views and realized that I had been misguided.

Through the Internet, I got to converse with and read from autistic people who are considdered classically low-functioning Kanner's type autism. People who were, variously, mentally retarded, or nonverbal, or lacked in many "basic" self-help skills. Usually fit more than one of these descriptors. And they are against cure, too.

I am only asking that you reevaluate your views of autistic self-advocates and the goal of a cure. I will not try to use scare or sympathy tactics to try to sway you. Of course autism isn't easy. And even though I am what would be called high-functioning, I don't feel any advantages or special gifts that I attribute to autism. My heightened senses, they lead me to sensory overload. It is a foreign concept to me what it is to derive pleasure from this sensitivity.

So I don't feel I have any "autistic gifts" and most certainly not savant abilities. In any case, it is my whole point that people of all opinions and backgrounds and experiences need to tone it down, consider the perspective of the other side, and to look at things a little less narrowly.

After all, some of the deficits of autism (theory of mind, perspective-taking, self-absorption) are also as commonly universal in NTs, except that the deficits are expressed differently and to different degrees (such as, a NT who would pass the Sally-Anne test but doesn't understand why her sister could possibly prefer strawberry over chocolate, or the autistic who fails miserably the Sally-Anne test but considers the differing views and experiences of a cyber-audience - such as me).

I want to add that the last example gives impression that it is meant to categorize NTs as unviersally having the skill of passing the test while not considering other people's different perspectives or autistics as universally being unable to pass the test but being able to see other people's point of view. I was just trying to show how it is dangerous to oversimplify the categories and in doing this did the same. I have known online and in person many NTs and autistics who are the opposite of the example, which was intended to be a randomly selected (apparent) contradiction of the definition of the skills and deficits that NTs and autistics are presumed to have. To show that it is not so cut-and-dried as professionals sometimes make it seem.


Ari said...

I admire your intelligence and your insight. Your views are similar to my own. If you can find the time, I'd love to speak with you in further detail. What's your preferred means of online communication?

ASAN (www.autisticadvocacy.org) could use the support of people like yourself in helping to bring the autistic community's message to the general public.

Anonymous said...

Your views are also similar to my own too. I belived that it is their personal chorce to wanted to be cured or not to be cured instand of judging each other no matter if they are FHA, AS, MFA, LFA, or whatever.