It’s been out there now for 14 months, but it recently has come back into play on some blogs of autistic adults who have no love for neurodiversity. When Kristina Chew and Ari Ne’eman were interviewed on Good Morning America in June of 2008, Diane Sawyer spoke with Deborah Roberts at the end of the segment. I’ll admit I’m not at all fond of news anchors and interviewers and their canned way of conveying emotions. The more you watch them interview people you get a sense of how formulaic and disingenuous their emotional displays are. You also can get a clear sense of where they are completely ignorant and ought to know better, like Anne Curry and her inability to keep psychotic and psychopaths separate. But I digress. Deborah Roberts talks about the new word, neurodiversity, and Diane, as one poster wrote, with her “screwed up face of pity“ (1) says “I mean you keep wondering is it in someways a beautiful way of justifying heartbreak.”(2)
The comment has garnered a fair amount of posts in the last year plus, and Mitchell, autism’s gadfly recently added it onto his main page as has Stephanie Keil, a talented young artist. (3, 4, 5)
Now, I’d wager, having read a fair amount of Mitchell’s blog, that he does not mean this in a nice way. He has a rather significant distaste for neurodiversity and has elevated it to a status that begins to take on mythical proportions, so he isn’t using this as a compliment, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t view it as beautiful way to do anything, let alone “justify heartbreak.”
Lots of bloggers, including Kristina Chew (7), wrote on Sawyer’s comment. Neurodiversity is a beautiful idea. It is the idea that we are all equal in value and dignity, that we all have something worthwhile to contribute in our own ways, that we deserve to be treated with respect, that we are worthy of love and assistance. That is beautiful. It is accepting of the sanctity of human life, of the inherent value of life. So, yes, for all Sawyer’s seemingly falsely generated feelings of pity, neurodiversity is a beautiful way.
What about the idea that it is justifying heartbreak? First off, let’s look at what justify means. According to an online dictionary, it means the following:
1. to show (an act, claim, statement, etc.) to be just or right: The end does not always justify the means.
2. to defend or uphold as warranted or well-grounded: Don't try to justify his rudeness.
3.Theology. to declare innocent or guiltless; absolve; acquit. (6)
Justify heartbreak? Is neurodiversity showing heartbreak to be just or right? No. Is it defending it as warranted or well-grounded? No. Is it absolving heartbreak? Maybe. I don’t think that’s how Sawyer’s using it, though.
Heartbreak? Whose heartbreak? The parents’? The child’s?
The entire sentence, short of thinking of neurodiversity as a beautiful way, makes no sense. Heartbreak is a choice. It is an attitude made by individuals to cope maladaptively to a situation.
I’m well aware that having a child with a severe disability can hurt one’s heart, often on a daily basis. If your heart is hurting for the child’s hurdles and difficulties, I’d say that’s all well and good. And the right emotion, especially if it acts as a catalyst to get off your ass and make the world a better place for your child and other children like your child. If it’s hurting your heart because of what it cost you, well, you’re not high on my list of favorites. I get it, you were thrown a wrench in your plans. Put on your big girl panties and deal with it. If it gets rough, reach out and get some support going. Raising Autism and Countering are there for you. We will support you on your journey to help your child reach his or her potential and to help you cope adaptively. We’ll be compassionate, caring and respectful; it’s just that I personally have a limit on the depth of pity parties allowed as well as outright woo. Occasional forays into the depths of darkness are unavoidable as a parent. We’ll be here to give you a hug and an occasional constructive suggestion to get on up and over that bump. And I am well aware that some of those bumps are mountains. It’s why we’re all about the hugs.
I’ve decided my sign off should be Kumbaya since I use it as much as I do.
So, Kick-ass Kumbaya, mothers and fathers out there dealing with children with special needs as well as to my ASD readers. I’m happy to have you all here. There’s a place at the table for just about everyone.
Cue the tambourines.
Sources, all fancy like: