Tasia writes wisely about her son Nick, whose science teacher is worried that he does not socialize more at school:
I told his teacher that there should continue to be zero pressure on Nick to connect socially in school. Nick uses school for academics only. Everything that does not lead to him getting a diploma we have eliminated—no homeroom, no assemblies, no pep rallies, no non-required electives. His custom school day uses up way fewer tokens than a regular day would, which allows him to thrive at school and get his education. If we added in social expectations, he would be overwhelmed.
She knows that Nick can interact socially when he has the resources:
Yesterday we were in Vernonia, a small town about an hour’s drive from home with a lake that has just been stocked with 3,000 trout. Nick had been planning this day for weeks, and while we waited for Karla to meet up with us, Nick connected with a handful of boys who were out here for the same reason. They talked about the best spots on the lake to fish, what kind of bait they were using, and who had caught what so far. None of them knew each other but they were instant fishing buddies. The old coots who are always around advised the young ones, and the young ones heeded them with respect. I watched him interact and wondered if his science teacher would even recognize him. The awkward, seemingly antisocial kid who ignores his classmates was demonstrating stellar social skills to anyone holding a fishing rod. This happens every time he goes fishing and there are other people around.
So what’s going on here? Does my autistic son lack social skills or does he not? The answer is that context matters. Socializing costs a lot of tokens. When Nick is in a situation that is already difficult for him, he won’t have those tokens to spare. He will need to focus on what really matters to succeed in that situation (in science class, success = learning science). When he’s engaged in a special interest like fishing, he is rebuilding his token supply, so he has plenty to spare for non-necessities like socializing. Because he does crave social contact, connecting with his fellow fishermen at the lake is a priority, unlike making friends in school.
Amelia Hill has written for The Guardian one of the smartest and most hopeful stories about autistic adults in the workplace that I have ever read. One of her chief subjects is Jonathan Young, who is a business analyst at Goldman Sachs:
"When I arrived, this role was a part-time job but I built it up into a key, full-time post and made it my own," he said. "Autism doesn't hold me back because I have had the correct support from a young age. It's key to have that support, both in education and in the workplace, but I don't require anything complicated: people just have to understand that I'm different."
For all his confidence, Young admits that he considers himself fortunate. "I never lose sight of the fact that I'm lucky to have a job that allows me to use all my intelligence and stretch my potential," he said.
Hill shows us a broader range of autistic workers than we often see i stories like this, talking about women (librarian Penny Andrews is the subject of the above video) and people who need assistive technology to speak:
William Thanh has such severe autism that he can only communicate through his iPad. But his work at the Paul bakery in London is of such high quality that the manager, Salina Gani, is keen to increase his hours.
"When we decided to take on three young people with autism last year, we thought there would be limits to what they could achieve," said Gani. "But these young men have shown us that we shouldn't assume anything on the basis of their autism alone. Yes, they need work that's repetitive and structured, but much of the service industry is like that anyway. We would gladly take them on full-time and increase the numbers of people with autism working for us across all our outlets."
By Steve Summers
I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (part of the Autism Spectrum) as an adult. I was diagnosed following my 11-year-old son’s diagnosis with Aspergers. I am happy to have my diagnosis. It was like a light being turned on that illuminated my entire life in a new way. Now I understand why I never really ‘fit in.’ It is like having a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders to have my diagnosis.
I don’t feel that people should make divisions between parts of the Autism Spectrum. I am autistic and I want to work to make the world a better, more understanding and accepting place for all autistic people. We need to work together for the benefit of all on the Autism Spectrum.
Autistics often say "Nothing about us without us." This is important because parent perspectives have dominated the conversations about Autism for a very long time. Autistics can be included as well with no real trouble. It is not a question of either one or the other. How about both being included? Autistic voices should be included when speaking or writing about Autism.
Neuro-Diversity -- All minds are welcome. It is not an exclusive club. The key word here is DIVERSITY. We are not all the same and we should accept and celebrate our diversity.
Neuro-Bigotry -- Bigotry against someone, based on their neurology. Prejudice is a two-edged sword and it cuts both ways.
Elitism -- Some try to claim that they are better than you so their voice counts more because they were doing this longer than you, or something bad was done to them more than you, or they are more disabled than you, or they are more popular than you, etc. Nobody should make assumptions about someone else's life. You don't know a person's life story without asking them. This is not a contest where you should have to prove that you have a right to speak. Every voice should be allowed to be heard. Every voice, whether spoken or typed, counts.
Sarcasm -- I see the use of snarky and sarcastic comments as exclusionary. It is a well-known issue that many Autistic people have difficulty with sarcasm. Using sarcasm in a forum that involves Autistic people is disrespectful and exclusionary to those who have difficulty with it.
Function Levels -- Some try to exclude Autistic voices because they don't accept that Autistics can type or speak for themselves. This is incorrect. Always presume competence. Some try to make comparisons between their very young children and adult Autistics. You don't do that with non-autistics. Don't do it with Autistics. It is not a fair comparison and it is never a valid reason to silence the voice of an Autistic. Many of us reject the use of 'function levels' because they are divisive and not accurate. Many of us find function level labels insulting and misleading.
In many years of experience as a web-forum moderator and an administrator I have seen the damage unchecked squabbling and fighting can do. It silences a large number of people who don't want to be attacked as well. This is why most forums won't allow personal attacks, etc. These attacks ruin things for many more people beyond the ones directly involved in attacking one another. Shy people, or some people who have had a hard life, will be watching from the sidelines and will not speak up because they see a hostile environment and don't want to be attacked.
Social anxiety is a real big issue for many Autistic people. Imagine having the feelings of severe stage-fright making it difficult to engage in any social activity. Now imagine someone with social anxiety watching from the side-lines as small vocal groups chase each other all over cyber-space viciously attacking each other or anyone with a different opinion. How inclined to speak up do you think they will be after seeing all of the nasty attacks and cyber-bullying that happens? They are not likely to ever come out of the shadows if they are concerned that they may also be attacked. This should be a concern for all of us. We need to ensure that everyone's voice gets the chance to be heard.
Good people need to speak out against rude or bad behavior for the sake of those who have too much social anxiety to speak out in the face of so much hostility.
Free speech is not about always agreeing on everything. It is about valuing everyone's right to speak. I may not agree with other people all of the time but I do value their right to speak their mind.
I often say that Autism $peaks doesn't speak for me. Now, I also feel the need to say that Parents, or Autistics, who are deliberately nasty and rude don't speak for me either.
I think a lot about black people.
I also think a lot about black people because lots of my favorite media right now is coming from black people. I like Melissa Harris Perry on TV and Ta-Nehisi Coates on the web and This Week in Blackness on my iPhone. Black voices are resonating a lot with me right now.
Part of this is because of a backlash against black Americans in the wake of President Obama's re-election. I don't care if you don't like the President, but it sickens me that this sad clown Uncle Sam lady is a pretty accurate picture of what part of my country looks like today.
Racism is still a huge American problem.
Slate recently posted a piece in which a mother talked about her gay son that reminded me a lot of the kind of media we about autism. And I noted at the time that gay people would not care about it because it was not representative of how the media usually depicts us today.
But this week Philadelphia Magazine piece answers the question "What if the media treated black people the way they treat autistic people?"
And people are mad.
People who work at the magazine are mad.
Because this is an entire article where white people talk about the problems with black people:
Fifty years after the height of the civil rights movement, more than 25 years after electing its first African-American mayor, Philadelphia remains a largely segregated city, with uneasy boundaries in culture and understanding. And also in well-being. There is a black middle class, certainly, and blacks are well-represented in our power structure, but there remains a vast and seemingly permanent black underclass. Thirty-one percent of Philadelphia’s more than 600,000 black residents live below the poverty line. Blacks are more likely than whites to be victims of a crime or commit one, to drop out of school and to be unemployed.
What gets examined publicly about race is generally one-dimensional, looked at almost exclusively from the perspective of people of color. Of course, it is black people who have faced generations of discrimination and who deal with it still. But our public discourse ignores the fact that race—particularly in a place like Philadelphia—is also an issue for white people. Though white people never talk about it.
Everyone might have a race story, but few whites risk the third-rail danger of speaking publicly about race, given the long, troubled history of race relations in this country and even more so in this city. Race is only talked about in a sanitized form, when it’s talked about at all, with actual thoughts and feelings buried, which only ups the ante. Race remains the elephant in the room, even on the absurd level of who holds the door to enter a convenience store.
Huber talked only to white people. And praised their courage and frankness for saying shockingly bigoted things:
On a warm Sunday in October, I buttonhole a woman I’ll call Anna, a tall, slim, dark-haired beauty from Moscow getting out of her BMW on an alley just south of Girard College. Anna goes to a local law school, works downtown at a law firm, and proceeds to let me have it when we start talking about race in her neighborhood.
“I’ve been here for two years, I’m almost done,” she says. “Blacks use skin color as an excuse. Discrimination is an excuse, instead of moving forward. … It’s a shame—you pay taxes, they’re not doing anything except sitting on porches smoking pot … Why do you support them when they won’t work, just make babies and smoking pot? I walk to work in Center City, black guys make compliments, ‘Hey beautiful. Hey sweetie.’ White people look but don’t make comments. … ”
That’s the other surprise: If you’re not an American, the absence of a historical filter results in a raw view focused strictly on the here and now. I meet a contractor from Maine named Adrian, who brought his Panamanian wife to live here, at 19th and Girard, where she saw fighting and drug deals and general bad behavior at the edge of Brewerytown. It all had her co-nvinced there is a “moral poverty” among inner-city blacks.
Which is the way autistic people are usually shown, right? We mostly get neurotypical people talking about the problems we cause. And frequently being praised for how brave they are when they slander us.
Huber is what real bigotry sounds like. We have this false idea that racism is always expressed through hostility, and that's just not the case. Sometimes it is expressed through concern trolling, as he does at the end of his piece:
The problems seem intractable. In so many quarters, simply discussing race is seen as racist. And so white people are stuck, dishonest by default, as we take a pass on the state of this city’s largely black inner city and settle for politely opening doors at Wawa, before we slip back to our own lives.
We’re stuck in another way, too. Our troubled black communities create in us a tangle of feelings, including this one: a desire for things to be better. But for that sentiment to come true—for it to mean anything, even—I’ve come to believe that white people have to risk being much more open. It’s impossible to know how that might change the racial dynamics in Philadelphia, or the plight of the inner city. But as things stand, our cautiousness and fear mean that nothing changes in how blacks and whites relate, and most of us lose out on the possibility of what Jen has found: real connection.
What, I wonder, would that look like? Claire, the widow I talked to in Fairmount who was walking her terri-poos, doesn’t worry about saying the wrong thing in her neighborhood, about offending her black neighbors, because she’s confident of her own feelings when it comes to matters of race. But like many people, I yearn for much more: that I could feel the freedom to speak to my African-American neighbors about, say, not only my concerns for my son’s safety living around Temple, but ho w the inner city needs to get its act together. That I could take the leap of talking about something that might seem to be about race with black people.
This piece makes me a lot angrier than most of the things I read that are bigoted against gay or autistic people, because I don't think there's any excuse for it. Attitudes are changing quickly toward gay people, but one political party is still opposed our having legal equal rights. The Fourteenth Amendment was passed over a century ago. People really should have had time absorb and make their peace with it by now.
More similarities to Autismland: this piece of overt racism came from what editor Tom McGrath acknowledges is "a magazine with exactly zero people of color on its full-time editorial staff." Clearly a more meaningful way for this publication to address the issue of race would be to examine its hiring practices, which include hiring the infamous white creep who wrote "If I Were a Poor Black Kid"-- after he wrote it.
There is a surge of feelings about "reverse discrimination" in America today. And Wanda Sykes is right: what people call reverse racism is actually karma.
One of the reasons I can't respect Reddit is that I don't think men's rights are actually a civil rights issue.
The Huffington Post recently had to run a piece explaining why they have a "gay voices" section and not a "straight voices" section:
If the question comes from a straight person, I explain that every other section on The Huffington Post other than Gay Voices is filled with (mostly) "straight voices." It's an admittedly prickish answer delivered with a healthy helping of eye rolling, because I have no patience for the notion that straight and/or cisgender people are marginalized or unheard or invisible in the media and mainstream society. We know that just isn't true. Unless otherwise stated, or unless there's some obvious identifying characteristics (and even then, looks can be deceiving), the assumption is always that a person and his or her viewpoint, or "voice," is straight and/or cisgender, and therefore there's no need to collect or highlight those views; they exist everywhere and happily reign supreme.
Last week, I guess I was not careful enough when I mentioned on the thAutcast Facebook page that when people send in pictures it's important to me to show that there autistic people who are not white. And people accused me of reverse racism.
And I banned them.
And then there was this, which pretty much IS "Being Neurotypical in Autismland."