I posted a, what-turned-out-to-be, thought provoking statement on social media yesterday (on my Facebook author’s page and Everyday Aspergers page). Thank you for all who partook in the discussion. I had angst after I made my post, and started to stim and move into OCD behaviors. I had to modify one part of my posted statement, as I’d unknowingly caused upset to a minority member by making a comparison of one minority to another. That was quickly dealt with in a mature discussion, and no harm done.
I am still getting used to uncomfortable conversations.
I am still getting used to not being the ‘nice’ person who tries not to make waves. This last fourteen months has been all about getting out of my comfort zone, even as it’s extremely scary and unfamiliar. I’ve always been a bit of a wave maker, I suppose, baby pool waves; and the way I see it, I am making larger ones now, like highly sought after surfing waves . . . but not tsunamis.
I just got sidetracked by looking at surfing terms. (Some things never change!)
Even as I state my insights, I always, without a doubt, hold in the back of my mind that my lived experience is only ONE lived experience.
The first entry of my book Everyday Aspergers reads:
Here is my commentary from yesterday (5.18.19):
Is it okay to congratulate an autistic for milestones that indicate conforming to mainstream standards?
Identifying non-autistic norms as accomplishments is a form of discrimination.
We are neurologically wired to be different.
It’s no different from clapping for a deaf individual who speaks up and tries harder to ‘listen.’
There is a difference between giving support and love and encouragement to assist in everyday life over expecting someone to change to conform to narrow cultural standards.
The best we can do for autistics, is the best we can do for any individual on this planet: let them be their authentic self.
“Now she can make eye contact with the other employees and her boss!”
“He is so accomplished; when younger he couldn’t even speak!”
“They stopped most of the stimming; thank goodness!”
It’s time to stop celebrating becoming ‘normal.’
After I wrote the comment, there were several community members who offered their thoughts (in a mature manner), mostly parents of autistic children and adults. I sat back and read and read and responded.
At the same time, an autistic gentleman messaged me on LinkedIn about a situation he is facing, that of a vocational counselor ‘badgering’ him ‘about making eye contact during our first meeting.’ This got me thinking more and looping more. And on my high horse more.
And then I had to step away from the computer, and essentially get on with life outside the Facebook vortex. Breathe. Move on. Relax. And ignore the impulse to delete the entire conversation.
I stopped myself from impulsively typing: I am taking a Facebook break for a week.
Because I thought: I can’t wait that long to read others’ insights and ignore feasible mini-fires that might need attending.
So Sunday morning, here I sit, attempting to remedy my jumping-bean thoughts and bring closure and clarity to my initial statement.
This morning I posted on social media this little beauty (for lack of better words/substitute your own adjective, based on your own opinion.)
Here is what I wrote:
The conversations on Facebook (on this page and EA) about autistic norms and others celebrating when autistics break those norms, such as stimming, speaking or speaking more, and eye contact, were very insightful. Thank you! I have greater clarity.
These are my thoughts:
1. Celebrating FOR someone is different from celebrating WITH someone. < (a community member pointed that out)We celebrate with someone when both parties agree something is beneficial and for the betterment of the individual. Celebrating for someone implies separation, disjointedness, and less choice and agreement.
2. Celebrating the accomplishment of goals set together and worked hard through together is different from celebrating a sudden change.
3. Acknowledging gratitude for a change in behavior toward the better, a behavior that was previously damaging or harmful to the autistic person’s self or another person, is par for the course and to be expected.
4. There is a difference between autistic norms and those behaviors that cause disrupt and upset in life. Autistic norms, that are part of the way an autistic exists in comfort, such as stimming and not making eye contact, need not be changed unless it is the individual’s choice. These changes should not be mandated by authority figures, including vocational counselors, therapists, bosses, and parents. (my opinion) Modifications, such as try stimming this way so it’s easier for OTHERS to tolerate or practice looking at your boss at the top of his head, might work for some when entering workforce to be more successful vocationally, but again, these modifications ought be an individual’s decision and choice. (I decided to start making eye contact with strangers in my 40s for personal reasons.)
5. Individual behaviors that cause disrupt and upset in life ought be worked through with care and support like one would work through with anyone, autistic or not, and not be highlighted as ‘autistic behavior.’
6. Coexisting conditions, such as OCD and Tourettes and mood disorders, are not autism, and even as there is a fine line, and we have much to learn about neurology, setting goals to make life easier based on coexisting conditions is different from setting goals to appear less autistic.
7. When the media celebrates the success of an autistic person because they can now speak, stim less, or make eye contact that is degrading to autistics who have no choice in how they present or who choose to present in a way that feels natural to them or who are proud of the way they are.
When an article is celebrating the doom of autism now being lifted because a child can speak and socialize like a non-autistic and make eye contact, these actions denote that overcoming autism is the goal. It sends a dangerous message. It teaches autistics that they are made wrong.
This was what triggered me yesterday:
The article headline reads: ‘He couldn’t speak as a child. Now this autistic student is giving a commencement address.’
It goes on to say:
“I could not cope with the idea,” said . . . “I couldn’t have a child with autism. Never talk. Never have a job. Never get married. You lose all those dreams for your child at once. I couldn’t go there.”
“In another class on Congress, Youn was able to work in a team and read and react appropriately to other people — social skills, Pitney said, not normally associated with people with autism.”
8. While celebrating is justifiable when considering mutual goals that diminish endangerment or isolation or coexisting condition challenges, at the opposite end, celebrating the escape of autism, the diminishment of autistic traits, the cure of autism, the blossoming into less autistic into more non-autistic is simply put: not okay. Not okay to write in an article this is what success looks like: to be less autistic.
The goal ought never be to blend in and not be autistic, unless one believes autism is bad. And if one believes autism is bad then that is a terrible way for the autistic individual to exist.
I’m not here to convince anyone; I outgrew that need years ago. Only to shed some light on my perception; a perception that is constantly shifting with the times, as I am a believer in the collective unconscious and to a degree the 100th monkey effect.
You can learn more about me by looking at this blog, Everyday Aspergers blog, myspectrumsuite.com or Googling Samantha Craft and Traits. For now, I’ll be trying to enjoy the drizzly Washington State weather and take note of all the beautiful flowers blooming in my garden, and try not to scratch my nine mosquito bites.