Extra section related to:
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
[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.
[…] 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.
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. […]
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. […]
There are two definitions for inertia: 1) indisposition to motion, exertion, or change (“I don’t like or fear change.”) and 2) a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force.
Generally speaking, people tend to be inert. We develop habits, and we stick to them. It doesn’t matter if the habits are good or bad. We like predictability (“I like my car and would like to keep it.”). We don’t want to be confronted on how we do things, what we think, or how we interact with others. If it’s always been done a certain way, then most people will continue in this customary fashion from the smallest habit to the grandest cultural traditions. In terms of inertia, this is called uniform motion. For the most part, we like to remain in a state of uniform motion and/or rest, and this is not necessarily bad. Society needs structure and uniformity to function from the nuclear family all the way to level of government.
In terms of health, this is called homeostasis. The human body requires a certain amount of sleep. We require vital nutrients, daylight, human interaction, physical touch, exercise, and clean air and water in order to maintain homeostasis. All of this is part of uniform motion. When an outside force acts upon this homeostatic inertia, that usually means a stressor has occurred like a virus, toxin, physical injury, genetic mutation, car accident, or the like, and homeostasis has been disrupted. We are no longer inert.
4. When you regulate your daily actions, you deactivate your ‘fight or flight’ instincts because you’re no longer confronting the unknown.
This is why people have such a difficult time with change, and why people who are constant in their habits experience so much joy: simply, their fear instincts are turned off long enough for them to actually enjoy something.
5. As children, routine gives us a feeling of safety. As adults, it gives us a feeling of purpose.
Interestingly enough, those two feelings are more similar than you’d think (at least, their origin is the same). It’s the same thing as the fear of the unknown: as children, we don’t know which way is left, let alone why we’re alive or whether or not a particular activity we’ve never done before is going to be scary or harmful. When we’re adults engaging with routineness, we can comfort ourselves with the simple idea of “I know how to do this, I’ve done it before.”
[T]here is something very different about how autistics react to novel and familiar things. There is something very different about their preference for, and reliance on, repetition and routines. But it’s not that they’re rigid while everyone else is flexible. Neurotypicals are so inflexible that they insist on their social rituals even when it would jeopardize others’ safety.
Neurotypicals misunderstand other people, and inadvertently treat each other badly all the time – often in more damaging ways than autistics do. Neurotypicals can be more rigid than any autistic about the rituals that matter to them.
The difference is that autistics and neurotypicals misunderstand other people in different ways and are inflexible about different things.
Because autistics are in the minority and sometimes lack the ability to explain or advocate for themselves, their way of misunderstanding and being rigid has been pathologized, while neurotypicals’ has been ignored.
[…] can we talk a little bit more about how much of autism therapy is about the therapist being rigid and controlling?
Autistic people don’t all have a convenient love of tedious tasks everyone else hates. Some of us have the audacity to want jobs others want.
How many times have you heard that you need to get the big picture? Or that you feel like you didn’t have the big picture? I’ve heard this phrase repeated too many times to count and each time I do the thought that runs through my mind is this: what exactly is the big picture and how can I get big picture thinking?
The fact is that the big picture depends on your point of view. I don’t believe anyone can truly have the big picture (serious emphasis on ‘big’) because it’s not possible to see the infinite number of influence points involved. In fact, the bigger the project, program or issue the more difficult it is for anyone – even the leader at the top – to have the big picture.
They are fully aware of their entire environment. We are talking about a multifocalized attention.
Whilst the attention of a neurotypical individual only focuses on one point at a time.
People with this multifocalized attention are hypersensitive and perceptual. Thus, they have the ability to perceive the overall picture of a situation including all of the details, even those that usually go unnoticed for the majority of people. Therefore, it is extremely difficult for them to perceive only one thing at a time and to concentrate on it, if there is no relevant interest in doing so. […] These people perceive the global nature of their environment in a very complex way. They are sensitive to ambient noise, light, people’s movements, etc. They see and feel everything, constantly.
(translated by Tanya Izquierdo Prindle)
Consider which two of these objects go together: a panda, a monkey and a banana. Respondents from Western countries routinely select the monkey and the panda, because both objects are animals. This is indicative of an analytic thinking style, in which objects are largely perceived independently from their context.
In contrast, participants from Eastern countries will often select the monkey and the banana, because these objects belong in the same environment and share a relationship (monkeys eat bananas). This is a holistic thinking style, in which object and context are perceived to be interrelated.
There is a set of powerful visual learning tools used in schools, universities and workplaces all over the world that can help us better organize our ideas. […] thinking maps are a rich resource when it comes to creative analytical thinking processes. They help us visualize even the most complex ideas and make them tangible.
I’d like to ask if we’re really more vulnerable to everyday emotional and physiological challenges or if we’re tired because we’re dealing with more of them. While I ask, I’d like to see how many neurotypical people can function while walking on an untreated broken foot. I’d also like to ask how many neurotypical people who unexpectedly found themselves unable to speak 10 minutes before they were scheduled to present at a conference would still present. Not more vulnerable than y’all, just dealing with more nonsense.
I think saying we are unusually poorly equipped to deal with certain challenges (lower threshold) and have fewer innate coping strategies is a simplification at best and wrong in places. We wind up getting into trouble more, that’s definitely true, but how would you cope in an environment designed for how I work? It’s often about mismatches.
Also, we have plenty of coping strategies. Noping out of bad environments (avoiding them) is an effective strategy when we’re allowed to use it, but it often gets called eloping because for some reason y’all want us there anyways. Covering our ears is a semi-effective way to deal with loud. Those things that get taken as signs that we’re getting dysregulated […] are often actually ways that we stay regulated, and that realization could (but only partially did) lead to the conclusion that we’re not so much short on coping methods as disallowed from using them.
[P]lenty of people make choices that others would find terribly limiting – not teaching their children multiple language, not having children at all, working in a career that is emotionally rewarding but not financially so, or the reverse, codes of dress or diet restrictions imposed by religious belief. What right, then, do we have to criticize someone’s preference for the comfort of repetitive activities?
Some people might be better at certain things, we even call some of those people ‘geniuses’. But their ‘intelligence’ is the product of a concept of the time and place they live in. It is possible that, in another time, in another place, their ‘intelligence’ would not be ‘superior’.