Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Streaks (Part 3)

When social communication fails, this does not mean the person we are trying to communicate with, trying to reach intersubjectivity with, trying to extend our own agency with… does not have a mind, does not have agency, is not human. What we think of as the ability to mentalise, to ‘read someone’s mind’ then, is perhaps the rather less impressive coincidence of happening to possess a similar mind, and what we think of as intimacy and a shared-humanity is nothing more than mirror-gazing.

Sophie Vivian

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If we start from the assumption that neurotypicals are ‘normal’, and Autistics are ‘disordered’, then poor connections between neurotypicals and Autistics inevitably get blamed on some ‘defect’ or ‘deficit’ in Autistics. If an Autistic can’t understand a neurotypical, it’s because Autistics have empathy deficits and impaired communication skills; if a neurotypical can’t understand an Autistic, it’s because Autistics have empathy deficits and poor communication skills. All the frictions and failures of connection between the two groups, and all the difficulties Autistics run into in neurotypical society, all get blamed on Autism.

Nick Walker

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But the way that things like this normally go? […] When nonautistic people can’t read autistic people, it’s either because nothing is there to read (we’re just assumed not to be giving off nonverbal cues because the cues we give off aren’t always the same as nonautistic people), or because autistic people have a global social skills deficit […] Even though it’s the exact same problem going in both directions: A difficulty reading people whose experience of the world fundamentally differs from your own, which may be a nearly universal social skills deficit in both autistic and nonautistic people.

Mel Baggs

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No one is born knowing the rules. Everyone has to learn the rules, and everyone has to learn some of the rules explicitly. […]

For neurotypical people, the need to learn social skills [e.g.: in business, in personal relationships, and in the area of disability] is treated as normal, expected, and honorable.

For autistic people, our need to learn social skills is treated as disgusting, defective, and in need of normalizing therapy.

Ruti Regan

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Stop romanticizing neurotypicality

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Learning to be good at social interactions isn’t a matter of Learning the Rules; it’s a matter of learning to develop your judgement.

Ruti Regan

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I don’t think social skills exist. Or, if I do, I think they exist like God exists – in everyone. They just may not always be apparent. […] Social skills are not contained in a person – they require the right other person.

With work, I think a lot of people can learn to develop their mindfulness and modulation skills so that they can have good social skills (i.e., capacity to connect) with more people – or, so that more people can have good social skills with them. It’s the same thing.

Some people – disabled or not – may not be able to learn how to do that, but they will still sometimes meet a person who is exactly like them, or who is very good at mindfulness and modulation, and they will have good social skills when they are with that person.

Other people will just not let other people in. […] Such people may have good social skills when interacting with people who aren’t different. But with people who are different, they [as well as the person who is different from them] will always have no social skills […]

Amanda Forest Vivian

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Snowflakes (Part 3)

Theory of mind does violence to autistic people.

Autistic people lack a theory of mind (ToM), so it is said. Autistic people can’t know that other people are people. That they have bodies, unique mental states, lives, experiences. That other people know, want, feel, and believe things.

To have a ToM, it is believed, is a very human thing. To know that other people are people, and that you yourself is a person. To know that people are not mindless bags of skin moving through space.

On one hand, are the humans who do have a ToM. On the other hand, are those distant Others who do not.

ToM is always a binary.

ToM is always a dichotomy between the human and the neurologically impaired.

Autistic bodies are violently absent. The absence of a body suggests that violence cannot be done to it. The absence of a body is the erasure of the violence done to it.

ToM is defined by a negative. ToM relies on a circular logic. We know that autistic people lack a ToM because non-autistic people have a ToM; we know that non-autistic people have a ToM because autistic people lack a ToM. This is what we know – what we think of as fact and hold onto as true.

Non-autistics’ failures mean they are simply human, but autistics’ failures show their impaired ToM. Autistics never have natural ToM. Any ability they demonstrate, however, means they are merely hacking, passing, faking.

In the same way that autism is the boundary for the (in)human, ToM is the boundary for the (non)story.

ToM, it is said, is based on absolute, on empirical fact. ToM represent where a story cannot be trusted.

There are plenty of dichotomies. Theories about ToM represent truth; theories about autistic personhood do not.

Autistic people have come to represent the limit of the inhuman, all in the name of facts, in the name of ToM.

The autistic is not trusted, is not reliable, is not accurate. Any claim coming from a ToM-impaired autistic body can be refuted by everyone with a ToM.

Theories about ToM tell stories about the violence against autistic bodies. They enable the violence, explain the violence, defend the violence.

What matters are the feelings and attitudes of the non-autistic. What matters is what the non-autistic thinks of the autistic.

The autistic body is nonexistent; the autistic body’s story is told by the non-autistic.

Based on an article by Melanie Yergeau

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Nevertheless, even if intelligence is only a matter of appearances, appearances matter. […]

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In-group, out-group:
The place of intelligence in anthropology

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1

(status)

Disputes about intelligence are disputes over status.

Status is usually seen as a two-tiered structure:

  • at the upper level, an abstraction of social goals;
  • at the lower, any concrete evidence or collateral one might have for claiming it.

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2

(bidding)

Intelligence is not itself concrete collateral: it brings no offering to the great god Status except the promise offered by the word itself.

That is because it is wholly internal to the game of bidding for status […] It belongs in the realm of appearances and mutual recognition alone.

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3

(self-referential)

[Intelligence] connects status at its higher level, as an abstraction of values and goals, to its lower level, as concrete collateral to be used in support of a bid.

This is why […] people claiming status will talk about their intelligence as if it was self-evident when actually the term is purely self-referential.

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4

(claim to status)

Intelligence, [like honour and grace], fills the round hole of individual human uniqueness with the square peg of abstract hierarchy.

Like them, it creates not just an in-group but an out-group that is definitely disqualified from entering the bidding in the first place.

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5

(sanctity)

Intelligence sanctifies the person. It confirms the legitimacy of an individual’s behaviour by referring it to an external authority.

[The psychologist allocates IQ scores (to the intelligent, as a sign of intelligence). Similarly, it is the king who disburses honourable titles (to the noble, as a marker of honour), and it is God who dispenses grace (to the elect, as a confirmation of grace).]

Although this authority is arbitrary, in receiving its blessings we abnegate our right to question it,

thereby binding ourselves to accept practices which a different generation, in different historical circumstances, might regard as utterly wrong.

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6

(exchange)

Intelligence is a form of apparently equal exchange amongst creatures who are actually inequal. […]

The relationship between the intelligent and the intellectually disabled is one of exchange, inasmuch as the credit of the one could not exist without the debit of the other; it takes place without the awareness of either, or perhaps only with the awareness of the latter.

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7

(randomness)

We have already seen that the procedure for establishing intelligence as a scientific concept consists first in conjuring up the notion of a mean purely as such. Subsequently, and only subsequently, this mean becomes something concrete […]

Intelligence [is] what those with the power say it is, as were honour and grace: a dummy category, a magic hold-all into which they can pack whatever they like according to purpose.

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8

(biological hierarchy)

Nevertheless, [intelligence] does have one constituent that covers all contexts: intelligent means better.

The word can only function as a disguised comparative. True, so do all descriptive terms in the human sciences. None is neutral.

But ‘intelligent’ is not only value laden, it is content free. […]

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9

(merit)

Status by its very definition consists of ranks; and if that is the case, then abilities too must come in ranks, otherwise there would be no way of pegging one to the other. […] But [what] constitutes the merit of one sort of ability against another?

[…] Meritocracy (some abilities are more equal than others) is at one with conservatism (hierarchy is natural). One’s level of intelligence both determines one’s vocation or calling and is that calling, one’s place in a natural social hierarchy […] Meritocracy cannot favour ‘ability’ over bloodline or wealth without passing hierarchical judgements that involve matters intellectual and their concomitant social and political interests.

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10

(consensus)

In […] confusion, the purely nominal classification of certain abilities as intelligent or intellectual is passed off as real.

I may be especially able at maths, for example, or ironic humour, or orienteering, or recognizing another person’s concealed emotions. The only thing they have in common is that I can be judged as being better or worse at them. That judgement may in some cases be real enough.

But to be useless at maths or orienteering is a chosen characteristic of intellectual disability, to be useless at ironic humour or perceiving hidden feelings is not; and in fact some people labelled with severe intellectual disability are better at ironic humour and perceptiveness than some people classed as highly or just normally intelligent.

No distinction between intellectually better or worse can exist unless some temporary, subjective and purely human consensus has been reached as to which particular abilities ‘intellectual’ or ‘intelligent’ covers and which not. Talking about emotional intelligence, which might seem to cover humour and perceptiveness, does not solve the problem, since exactly the same point can be made here too.

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11

(nature)

One might [think that, surely, the intellectual hierarchy] cuts out at some point near the bottom of the scale, where the selection of certain abilities as intellectual becomes no longer merely consensual but is indeed objective, separating off a discrete set of really intellectually disabled people who are therefore exempt from an otherwise historically constructed group. Surely there must be some such creatures.

But the exemption would only work if one were already assuming that they exist separately in nature as some biological subspecies, which is indeed the historically contingent premise on which the modern notion of intellectual disability has been built. They are exempt from egalitarian principle only because that principle, in order to exist at all, has already exempted them.

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C.F. Goodey

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Compass Sailing

What does it mean to be on the spectrum?

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Pivotal words generally used in defining and presenting autism:

A

ability to
affinity with
difficulty with
disconnection of
easier to
find challenging to
hard to
have control of
have trouble to
need to
take longer to
unable to

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B

abnormal
alternative
atypical
different
distinct
exceptional
noticeable
special
unusual
variation

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C

absence
additional
decreased
excessive
extra
extreme
heightened
high
hyper
hypo
increased
intense
lack
less
more
reduced

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D

affected by
comfortable with
content with
dislike
distressed when
enjoy
overstimulated when
overwhelmed by
stressed by
tired by
uncomfortable with

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E

deficient
failure to
impaired
poor

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F

fixated
inflexible
insistence
obsessive
perseverative
repetitive
restricted
rigid
specialized
stereotyped

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Usually paired up with things falling in those categories:

behaviour
body language
changes
cognition
communication
daily living
development
emotions
focus
information processing
interests
language
learning
movement
sensory experiences
speech
socialization
thinking

etc.

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Extras: