An After-Christmas Smorgasbord: Rhetorical Questions, Political Correctness & Tone Deafness: Rejecting the Angry Places

Twitter, facebook, various blog directories, Yahoo and Google news alerts are all familiar ways to most readers to get caught up with the world, and specifically for us, the autism-related world. This morning I read Susan Senators' serious post about the way the world views her two oldest sons and Autism and Oughtism's piece on when it's okay to laugh and when it's not. These are heavy pieces and speak to our human frailties, tendencies to inaction or covert action. They both speak to the pain we can feel as parents and to our darker moments. They're not light reading, but they're thought-provoking and worth the effort. It was not a bad way to start the morning, just a serious way to start it.

What came next in my things to read  this morning came through Wrong Planet's twitter feed: "Asperger vs NT war.: Who would win?Why? Assume that the Neurotypicals and ASD in the war are both equal in terms...." There are a few answers to the thread, most saying NTs would, and one saying whoever had the most money. And all I could think is what the heck kind of question is that to ask the morning after Christmas, any day for that matter?

What is with this way of framing the world two dimensionally that we all do it? The haves and the have-nots, the in-group and the out-group, the disabled and the non-disabled. It's not that cut and dried. It's not that black and white. And as long as we focus on false dichotomies, it's going to be incredibly difficult to build a truly supportive, inclusive community.

The personality traits (when we remove aspects of crippling disability that are involved on the severe end of autism) that are involved in autism are spread throughout all of humanity; there is no clear dividing line between a fictional neurotypicality and Asperger's, and neither state of being is superior or more worthy. I look at my children and see my husband, my parents, my brothers, and myself reflected back from them. I see shared personality traits and quirks and issues that make us the complex, interesting people that we are. I see the adversities that my children work to overcome, some of which I've had to overcome as well. The idea, the very notion, of positing a war with Asperger's and NTs is absurdity. 

I get that my kids are literal thinkers; so many who are not on the spectrum are literal thinkers as well. That isn't something the ASD has the corner on. I get that many on the spectrum have difficulty with theory of mind. So do a whole lot of folks who are not on the spectrum; drive through a school parking lot and you'll see lots of evidence that most folks aren't using their theory of mind. There is a tremendous overlap of traits, attitudes, and behaviors between all people, so that we have more in common that not. We must focus on these areas of commonality in order to build community. We must see the humanity in others and recognize that it is the same humanity within ourselves.

We must be willing to join our friends in their darker, sadder ponderings, as I did with Susan and Autism & Oughtisms this morning, so that we can be a support, so that we can bear witness, even when we're not quite certain what to say in response, so that we are none of us alone on this journey. 

But I think we have to reject the kind of rhetoric displayed, even if in jest, on Wrong Planet this morning. I think it's easy, terribly easy to set ourselves up as one side in a battle against an implacable enemy, and I have no doubt that many in this community do indeed set themselves up in this way: bitter enemies on a battlefield, each certain of their mental superiority and the righteousness of their cause. 

I read them hammer down the other, time after time, day after day. There's no exchange of ideas, no transmission of information, just an incessant, pointless hammering, with people thinking it perfectly acceptable to call pediatricians "Propaganda Prostitute for the Vaccine makers" and another to cast me as her "old foe, KWombles, hi Kim, speaking out in deception on the side of toxic vaccines...Good thing people aren’t duped by you here working to do so as most are awake now a days & those in the dark or on the fence are soon to meet reason & logic once they start paying attention." The one thing I can say absolutely is that I've never considered this particular individual a foe.

Reading blogs and forums in our community can be landmines waiting to be set off, setting us up to take a tailspin if something connects too painfully, or if we read something so utterly off the deep end that we wonder at both the moral compass and sanity of some of the people we come across. And I wonder, when I read those so far entrenched, what must the weight of their burdens be to be so utterly lost and devoid of hope, of light, of reason? I do not consider them my enemy, my foe, or an outsider; I am not naive enough to think we can change those people, reason them out of positions they didn't reason themselves into in the first place, but keeping a check on them is a good thing to do. There is an underbelly to this community and at any moment, it can reach out and try to tear us down into it.

But it is an underbelly, not the whole beast, not the entire story, and there is so much love, so much light, and so much beauty in the midst of pain and heartache that the journey of being part of this community is well worth the price of admission. Heather writes about embracing Christmas, this first one without her daughter, and I am overwhelmed by her grace. Eric writes about his son and celebrating Christmas and the issues they face with his son's seizures, and I am honored to watch this father battle for his son's life and well-being. Born 2b Me wishes his readers a merry Christmas, as do many of the bloggers on the directory, and there is joy and peace and love on most blogs this holiday weekend. Corina offers a lovely drawing at her blog, and Clay shares some coca-cola videos at his blog. Matt has a cartoon on Rudolph that will make you smile. 

And so this morning, I end my reading on an upnote, amazed at the grace, the fortitude, the joy, and the compassion that is out there in our community, just waiting to be found and shared. I have seen into the dusty corners where our fears lay, I've seen into the closet where the monsters lie in wait, and I have pulled the shades to the sides of the windows and let the sun in. All these things are a part of our world, our community. And we must face them all, ideally together, so that we are none of us alone and without hope.


Aspergirl Maybe said...

Thanks for sharing those links. I enjoyed reading them (well, most of them).

The question about the war is a very odd one, and I'm glad to see it doesn't seem to have generated too many responses.

I guess in that war I would be like Switzerland - a person who feels like she has quite a few traits that fit the definition of Asperger's but who probably doesn't qualify for a clinical diagnosis.

I feel like I am somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of neurodiversity, if there is such a thing, or perhaps a bit closer to the Aspie end than the NT end.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said.

There clearly are very passionate (to put it kindly) people out there who would have us at war with each other.

I have very strong views about autism, which I always try to base on science and sound reasoning, so it can be hard sometimes to not get annoyed at others with equally strong views based on bad science or simply gut-feeling. I actively remind myself that we are all just doing our best to cope with a difficult condition, and to try not to make each other's lives harder than they already are. It's hard to remember that though when views being put forward cause un-necessary harm to children and adults who can't speak for themselves..

Christmas is a good time to remind ourselves to take a deep breath, pat ourselves on the back for making it through another year, and try to find a bit of joy in the mess.

I'm glad you liked my blog post by the way, and thank you for sharing it with your readers :)

Anonymous said...

Re: "The personality traits..."

You and I see these the same way.

(I'll be looking for an opportunity to include "false dichotomies" in a post - thanks!) Barbara

farmwifetwo said...

I guess I have less sympathy for the Aspies and NLD's b/c I didn't have the luxury of a dx as a child/teen. When startled while driving I'd drive around and around the block b/c I was afraid I'd hit someone. These kinds of OCD behaviours didn't have a name, nobody believed me and I - nobody else but I - had to learn to stop them myself. I use to write out my Univ schedule - Engineering has 30hrs of class not 15 like everyone else - and fit in my studying or I was completely overwhelmed. I still have lists and schedules - but they are flexible - to help me through the day. To this day I watch people when I talk, when I have overstepped my words or manerisms I shut my mouth and back off. I have to force myself to make eye contact and do since I want people to take me seriously.

I was too smart and had crappy social skills. I knew they were crappy and I worked hard to fit in, to learn, to make friends. I was actually kicked out of the reading corner in K and told to go play. I was hyperlexic and shy.

My eldest is 11 and has not been told he has a dx. I think someone has but I won't allow him to use it as an excuse. I'm hoping at Gr 8, we can change it to NLD and remove the IEP. He should be able to handle general (college entry level) courses without assistance, his social skills are passable and I refuse to let him use "autism" as an excuse.

So... unless they have true learning disabilities.... like the eldest's poor short term auditory and visual recall - which BTW is coming along with a lot of hard work - and work hard to master "the real world"... I just can't sympathise when there are so many children/adults like my youngest, so many children/adults with such severe difficulties... If my eldest and I can do it... they can too.

Kim Wombles said...

Aspergirl Maybe,

I was relieved to see few comments on that question, as well. It continues to raise questions in my own mind, was the writer being literal: a violent struggle for control? a war for cultural supremacy? What kind of war? Why a war? Why ask that kind of question? Sigh.


Thanks. Yup, it's a rocky road where woo and dangerous untested and unreasonable therapies are being used. I try to write about the science or lack of evidence and avoid direct action with the specific individual, as it seems to only entrench the person more firmly in her convictions.



Farmwife Two,

You raise interesting ideas. Certainly there are individuals who suffer greater impairments than some on the spectrum; my oldest is the most severely impacted and won't be living independently.

I think, for me, it isn't a matter of feeling sympathy, but of empathy, for the difficulties we all struggle through and our own desires to overcome those issues that prevent us from achieving our goals. The needs of each individual and the degree of assistance will vary, but our warm regard for the person should cut across the boundaries. Easier said than done, at times.

Having overcome or learned one's way around poor social skills puts you and many of us moms and dads at an advantage in helping our children understand the potential pitfalls. It may not make our children's journeys entirely smooth, but at least maybe it won't be such a jagged road. :-)