9/23/2011

Insert Deep, Insightful Words Here


"It's always darkest before the dawn."
No shit, really?
My replacement: "It's always darkest in a room with no windows and no lights on."
Useful, huh?

The textbook I use with my composition students advises them not to use overused phrases, seriously, like "According to Webster's Dictionary." And you know, if there's one thing I've read too many times, it's "According to Webster's Dictionary."  There are other phrases, of course, and the admonition to avoid cliches in one's writing, but cliches exist because they allow people to express something quickly in a manner that is meant to convey instant communication and understanding between those using it and hearing it.

It doesn't always work, though. And our children often show us the truth of that in ways that have laughter ringing out. Yesterday, Lily was complaining that her ribs hurt. And I responded (we were at her grandparents), pointing at the right side of my chest, that "it hurt over here while I was teaching yesterday." She promptly responded that I wasn't teaching over at her grandma's yesterday.

Communication is such a bitch between people in general that some dusty old dead dude named Wiio came up with rules for it. Rule number one? "Communication usually fails, except by accident." Watch a married couple discussing who's going to do what, and you'll see it's a freaking miracle when both parties hear the same thing.

And yet, in the autism community, many act under the assumption that communication is going to be understood just like it would be in the general population. Are people ignoring all the messed up communications in the larger world? It's frakked everywhere; it's just that some folks have an even harder time with it.

There are myths about autism, to be sure. The myth that people with autism will have no empathy is one. Some may not have empathy. Some may have difficulty expressing it. But for every stereotype of empathic failure, there are undoubtedly hundreds of autistic people proving that stereotype a lie.

But there are also myths about neurotypicality and these need to be knocked down, as well. There is no such thing as neurotypical. Yes, there's a bell curve where the mythical average exist. And yes, there's no doubt that some people have more advantages than others, but everyone has issues. Everyone has weaknesses. And many of us walk around with invisible disabilities. We don't talk about them. We don't share them because we've seen what happens when we do. Many of us may have DSM diagnoses, too, that we choose not to disclose. Parents may be guilty of making functional assessments of autistic bloggers based on their blogging abilities, but it's just as true that autistic bloggers have assumed functional levels of parents based on their blogging rather than on knowledge of their neurologies. In fact, if there's one universal, it's that everyone in the autism community is constantly making assumptions about others. It's what we do as human beings to allow us to make decisions. We can't do the latter without the first. Sometimes those assumptions are incorrect, and if we're humble enough we correct our assumptions and adjust our behavior accordingly.

Everyone suffers from communication errors at times. And everyone lacks empathy at times. The autism community doesn't have a stranglehold on this. There's a reality in the debate between parents and autistic adults that is being ignored when it's to the advantage of those who identify on the spectrum: that there are parents who are undiagnosed autistics or at the very least BAPpy, and yet any consideration of their difficulties in communicating is often missing from the conversation equation, especially when it's more convenient to ignore that reality.

Here's another reality that is interesting: parent advocates arguing that autistic voices need to be heard and respected who then ignore those autistic voices they disagree with because of the cure issue (Jonathan Mitchell) or the vaccine issue (Jake Crosby). If all autistic voices are important and need to be listened to, then arbitrary exclusion of those whose positions you dislike is inappropriate. But maybe that's because we don't really mean that, not really.






12 comments:

Christine Zorn said...

Thank you for making the point about what is "neurotypical". I've been thinking about this for some time. I think there are a lot of misconceptions in the autism community about what it means to be NT. Just because a person is NT does not mean that their life is a walk in the park.

Lizbeth said...

Thank you for letting me see them many sides of communication and now often who says what fails. And the sarcasm? I'm loving this side of you. ;)

farmwifetwo said...

Let's see, anxiety, OCD, high bp and enough ticks that according to my kid's Dev ped to hit the Aspie dx on the IV... There that's my biggies. #1 reason I didn't want to go to the parents today... the drive.. but we're going. Ever been startled and you drive around and around in circles making certain you didn't hit anything... that was me in highschool. Ever learn to watch faces so when you say something wrong you shut up fast... that is still me. Ever been glad you live in the country so you don't lock your door and don't have to check it a million times or have to make certain there is nothing on your stove before you'll leave the house...

Assumptions... are grand.

Difference is, do you let it stop you, do you wallow in it, or do you move forward and live with it.

I've opted to deal with it and keep moving forward. We don't live for autism in this house. The word never comes up except when we deal with the outside world. I find the online autism world full of people that view things from their POV and refuse to view it from others... btw... that's a lack of ability to empathise... I may not agree with someone's POV... and I've been know to say so and hopefully give my reason's why not just a snark... but I do get annoyed at the "holier than thou" the "I belong to this org" the "I wrote this book so I know better"... that goes on within the community. Guess what... you don't know better than I.. and most people don't even know you exist nor care.

So, I've been advoiding the online world and it's antics. The real world is more important.

kathleen said...

Lots of great points...assumption is huge online...The thing that I have learned is-(and that is ESPECIALLY online) that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...it ISN'T always a duck...sometimes it is just a duck impersonator.

Eric said...

"Is the problem the ignorance or the apathy?"
"I don't know and I don't care"

Lindsay said...

"It's always darkest before the dawn."

I have no idea if this is even literally true!

(I have stayed up until dawn a few times, but usually haven't been outside all that time. So I haven't been able to pinpoint when it is darkest.)

melbo said...

I take it you've found your words again? =) Excellent post. Loved it.

sharon said...

I really like this post Kim. I have not been able to bring myself to comment on the current discussion taking place at TPGTA. One of those reasons is fear of being misunderstood because I don't always trust I can convey my thoughts well enough. And that's as an NT who is high BAPpy.
And to be honest I have felt a touch worn down by the arguments. Despite their validity.
In this one post you have captured, quite remarkably, my own thoughts.

KWombles said...

@Christine, thanks. I think many people in the community equate not autistic = neurotypical, which leaves out the reality that there are many other different neurologies. And yes, even those people who are "normal" still deal with a lot. We all do. Life is often difficult and painful.

@Lizbeth, thanks. I had missed my snarky side. :-)

@fw2, yup.

@kathleen, hah, precisely.

@Eric, :-) Indeed!

@Lindsey, would depend on whether there was no moon, right, cloud cover, whether you lived in the city or out in the country, if you had a street light...so many things, which means I just overthought on that. :)


@melbo, yup, poured out of me; it's nice to have them back.

@Sharon, thanks. I understand the worn down and the whole having people misunderstand you, or worse, use your words in a way you never intended (or flat out mischaracterize you).

Karen V. said...

To me, in my own little BAPpy, paranoid, obsessive-compulsive world, I am now wondering how many assumptions I make per day, whether I have left the stove on, how many people I offend daily and whether I can possibly keep all your words in mind to self-edit my next post...

I wonder what grade I'd get in your class.

I think I better stick to looking at your lovely roses... ;)

Elise said...

Communication...words have so much meaning and carry so much weight...one little misunderstanding and people are ready to hang you out to dry. It really is too bad that everyone carries such a chip on their shoulder.

On the other hand, do not forget that words do alot of damage. They can be used for good or for hate. It is important to understand that you are responsible for the words you do use and how they come across.

autismandoughtisms said...

Another excellent and insightful post, that says a lot of what I've been thinking but was struggling to find a way to communicate (and isn't that just the point sometimes). Thank you for finding the words.