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
Spectrum

Lines – Amber (Part 1)

Continuation of the series:

As a person with developmental disabilities, I get a lot of autism stereotypes and a lot of intellectual disability stereotypes thrown my way. That means some people expect me to be a heartless mind and other people expect me to be a mindless heart.

And they actually believe those expectations to be honoring my strengths.

But that’s not necessarily how it works. There are autistic people with huge strengths or interests in social areas. There are people with intellectual disabilities whose main strengths or interests are intellectual. We don’t have to have a stereotypical set of strengths. […]

And people will either doubt your disability or doubt whether you really have the strengths and interests you do.

They’re always trying to prove that autistic people’s empathy isn’t real, that the intellectual achievements of people with intellectual disabilities isn’t real, that autistic people can’t be compassionate and people with intellectual disabilities can’t be geeky or nerdy or have cognitive talents.

And they’re always trying to say that different disabled people are allowed to have certain things and not others.

Each type of disabled person is supposed to be missing one thing and have something else: Body, mind, heart, whatever.

So we have bodiless minds, mindless bodies, heartless minds, mindless hearts, and whatnot, and that’s supposed to be a good way of looking at us!

The truth is that however you divide it up, every person really has a mind, a heart, a body, a soul, whatever you want to call these things. I don’t personally divide people up that way, but if you’re gonna, those things are universal. Disability doesn’t mean one of them is missing.

Mel Baggs

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The idea of some shared humanity is just that: an idea. One that is too often used to exclude and dehumanize people. But I do think that it can be a useful idea if it’s deployed just so. When it comes down to it, we are all just animals fumbling around on a rock. That is what it means to be human. We do not always make each other feel at home here on Earth, but none of us is truly an outsider, either. We all belong here. None of us are strange visitors who can only hope to be tolerated and accommodated.

Caroline Narby

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Abnormal is often shorthand for extreme. Ah! they say, you simply fail to understand the spectrum! Yes we all experience a little of this and of that, but until you’ve seen mania full blown, an acute psychotic episode, someone so debilitated by anxiety they cannot leave their house, you simply can’t appreciate what real mental illness looks like. This definition seems to work until you look at other examples of ‘extreme behaviours’, at social activists who put their lives at risk for a cause they are passionate about, at kids moving across the country to have a chance to train in the artform they eat and breathe, all the hope and joy and optimism of a couple in love and about to get married. Extreme can be dangerous, can be horrifying and destructive. But it’s also the place of hope for so many, their centre, their joy.

Sarah K Reece

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I don’t know who invented the idea of a carefree childhood, but such a myth has never been the case for the majority of children in the world.

I never felt cheated out of a childhood, despite experiencing some of the things that a lot of people seem to whine on and on about in that respect. […]

Just as some parents believe they’re entitled to a perfect child (where perfect is defined by some pretty biased standards of perfection, at that), some people believe they’re entitled to perfect (again, pretty biased standards of perfection) relatives in general.

I have to believe that this sense of what the stages of life are supposed to be like, and what people are supposed to be around for others to relate to, that somehow excludes the experiences of probably the vast majority of people on the planet, is relatively recent, and entirely mythical.

Mel Baggs

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‘Normal’ people still get sad.
‘Normal’ people still have self-esteem issues.
‘Normal’ people still wish they were someone else.

There’s this misconception among some people that ‘normal’ is this beautiful land of milk and honey and double rainbows, where nobody has any problems or is ever made to feel inadequate.

Chris Bonnello

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[We’re not only autism, but] an intricate amalgam of our innate character traits, our strengths and weaknesses, our personal histories, our thoughts and desires and fears and embodied experiences of the world.

[Like everyone else, autistics have] many of the common experiences and challenges of growing up that most adolescents and young adults experience. […]

People learn and grow and are affected by their histories as they age. People become competent at dealing with the circumstances of their own lives. […]

Just because we’re new to many non-autistic people’s conception of the world, doesn’t mean we’re actually new to the world.

chavisory

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[…]  I have this niggling suspicion, though, that there are an awful lot of people in the world who have been told that they don’t count, don’t get to be in the stories, things were never quite bad enough, or maybe they were too bad to be real. I have this feeling that there are an awful lot of us, and that if we just stopped keeping ourselves a secret, we might blow that lie out of the water.

Julia Bascom

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In recent years, I’ve noticed that we tend to divide the world up into ‘trauma survivors’ and everybody else. But I’m not sure this distinction is entirely real; I think what we’re actually dealing with is people who know they’ve been traumatized and people who have forgotten. Or maybe the division is between people who are visibly shaken by their trauma and those who look solid; after all, we live in a society that places an extraordinarily high value on appearances, where people get a lot of credit for acting as if everything is fine, and a lot of criticism (or pity) for letting their pain show. […]

Lundy Bancroft

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Isolation from support and reassurance is the essential part of the trauma. I was surprised when I first learned that people who are put thru traumatizing experience, if they immediately get support, comfort, reassurance and love, both during the trauma and afterwards, they mostly don’t develop post traumatic stress disorder, they’re able to process and incorporate it. Basically, a human’s ability to accept and survive trauma largely depends on how supported they are, on having a strong community and knowing things will once again, be okay. […]

Furious Goldfish

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Categories
Spectrum

Lines – Glass (Part 1)

Question:

Why do some neurotypicals stim? Do they realize they are stimming?

They do. I don’t think they know they do, but they do. […]

Watch people overcome with emotion, an emotion that they can’t process, and they will stim.

Watch the news after a disaster or some horrible accident and you will see people holding their heads and rocking back in forth in grief.

Watch game shows when someone wins a big prize and look at their hands. Fingers extended, flat palms and shaking very fast in excitement.

Once you key into it, it is hard to miss.

Ben Rodda

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Kids love repetitive stuff. I used to work as a teacher assistant with 1-4th grade. Trust me with younger kids, if they like a video, they’ll see it 200 times in a row without getting bored.

LadyNoir93

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I know many adults without disabilities that enjoy child-like things like cartoons or toys. People with Intellectual and developmental disabilities are treated differently for liking the same things. It’s funny when I meet with non disabled people and they geek out over my little plushy wookies I carry as comfort items. It shows me that adults can enjoy things that children enjoy without people assuming that they are mental children.

Ivanova Smith

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The sheer amount of people who look at me and view me as ‘unresponsive’ when I’m very responsive, is impressive. And the things they do when they view me as unresponsive, seem a lot more like unresponsiveness than anything I do to them.

It’s like they only see a tiny, tiny number of the possible human responses as ‘response’. When those responses are present, even if totally fake and out of context and plastered-on to someone who’s really not all that responsive to someone, they view it as ‘responsiveness’. When those responses are not present, even if every other possible signal of response is happening, they view that as ‘unresponsiveness’. And they call us oblivious?

Mel Baggs

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I definitely know that lots of non-ASD people are terrible at judging how people with ASD are feeling.

If you just noodle around the Internet for a minute, you will find quite a lot of ASD people describing how someone thought they were nervous or sad when they were calm, bored when they were having a panic attack, uninterested in things they were actually very interested in, and so on.

In fact, sometimes police officers will harass or physically hurt people with ASD because they misinterpreted the person’s behavior.

Amanda Forest Vivian

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Hacking emphasizes that the divide between autists and non-autists is ‘symmetric.’ He attributes this divide to the fact that autistic people cannot intuit non-autists’ feelings and intentions, and vice-versa. “We are fellow humans in that we grasp each other’s intentions, feelings, and wants,” he argues. Because autists and non-autists cannot immediately grasp each other’s interiority, they see each other as alien. They do not share the “bedrock” of a common humanity, nor do they “share a form of life,” Hacking claims, borrowing two turns of phrase from Wittgenstein.

Hacking does ultimately try to gesture toward inclusion, and I do think that is laudable. However, I disagree with many of the premises of his argument, and I wholeheartedly reject the idea that autists and non-autists must be fundamentally alien to each other.

Caroline Narby

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(Why repeat lyrics?)

Seven time seven is 49. The pearl is in the river. Mr. Turkey is two times good for you. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck? I believe Fielding Melish is a traitor to his country. Badadada. Badadada.

Along with many many other stock phrases, these are integral parts of my thought process. Sometimes I say them out loud around people I am comfortable with. Each one indicates a type of thought and keeps me anchored enough in language to figure out what it is I need to say.

I suspect that NTs do this somewhat with songs, though they don’t usually respect or recognize these other forms. […]

Bev

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when I am feeling very bad, usually I’ll latch onto some song extra hard.

Noelle Stevenson

Is she NT? I don’t know.  Should it matter? It’s up to you.

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[…] folks will often assume the speech is meaningless if they know the speaker is autistic and they recognize that it’s an echo/reference. (As opposed to neurotypicals apparently being clever when they make references?)

Alyssa Hillary

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Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.

Out of context, Theodore Dreiser

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Categories
Spectrum

Labels (Part 2)

I have never heard either of these labels [high-functioning and low-functioning] deployed to mean anything but “still not quite, you know…one of us.”

That’s what “____-functioning” means.  “Not one of us.”

Dani Alexis

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In addition to being ableist and grading against a neurotypical standard (which is its own, major issue), functioning levels attempt to reduce all the complex information about a persons abilities and needs over time and across a variety of contexts down to one dimension. That’s always going to be inappropriate dimensionality reduction, simplifying what we know to the point that it’s useless. Talking about low, medium, or high support needs isn’t going to fix this problem. Neither will talking about low vs. high masking as if either of those means a single thing. Those still use a single dimension, and you can’t shove enough information about what those support needs actually are, or what the specific effects of masking are into a single dimension for it to ever work.

Alyssa Hillary

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For many of us, engaging with an amorphous diagnostic group-think entity is the first step towards getting a solid conceptual foothold in who we are […] It’s also a first step towards securing a place in society. Especially societies which have low tolerance for divergence […]

It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? […] You want it, pursue it, and then can be used against you. But if you don’t have it, you run the risk of getting stamped on. […]

Ultimately, it’s really up to each of us, how we engage with our identities, how we understand ourselves. How we navigate our social worlds.

VisualVox

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Semantically speaking,
         autistics are outsiders by definition.

Because autism, basically, is defined by divergence.

Based on two articles by Caroline Narby

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Just because it’s not information you need, that doesn’t mean it’s a useless word.

Alyssa Hillary

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Labels are Tools – They can be used for good or bad things

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When labels become boxes, that’s bad. But sometimes labels are road maps. Guidebooks. They show you how to find the information you’ve needed but never knew how to find or even if it existed.

Jess Mahler

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Calling disabilities by their right names isn’t about labeling, it’s about breaking isolation and making important things speakable.

Ruti Regan

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[T]hey think the problem was that they treated their child like they were intellectually disabled, and they weren’t.

But that’s not the problem.

The problem is that they thought their child was intellectually disabled, and so they didn’t treat them like a person.

Julia Bascom

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It would be great if labels like autism weren’t necessary.

It would be great if ableism didn’t exist, but that’s one hell of a hypothetical.

Ableism is an extreme and far-reaching problem that can’t be solved without labeling the specific disabilities of the people being harmed.

In a world where most people speak with their mouths and assume everyone else does too, I need the autism label to explain why typing is better. In a world of sensory assault, where “I don’t want to” is not a sufficient excuse, I need the autism label to justify my self-protection.

Alix Ditto Au

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Yes, labels may bring prejudice and ignorance, but they can also bring understanding and much needed support.

Laura Rutherford

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