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Treatment

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Parental poop talk is perhaps the most affectively loaded of all poop talk, in large part because it relates smearing, eating, and rectal digging in graphically humanizing terms. Someone has to clean it up. Someone has to act, to intervene.

The humanization in autism poop talk, of course, is rarely about the human whose poop has been thrust into the spotlight.

And, especially in the case of parent blogs and other digitally born life writing, poop talk is often divulged without the full and informed consent of the autistic person being depicted.

This isn’t to deny the dangers or stresses associated with a loved one’s ingestion of harmful bacteria, or the distress involved in attending to the spread of literal shit, or the community and support a parent might garner from sharing intimate stories online.

My point, rather, is that these narratives are shittier than the shit they claim to represent. These are shitty narratives – rhetorical commonplaces that author autistic people as victim-captives of a faulty neurology, as rhetorically degraded and rhetorically suspect.

In these constructions, our shit holds more rhetorical power than we do.

Melanie Yergeau

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The idea behind “behavior is communication” is a powerful one

It is the idea that disabled people – even severely disabled people without the ability to reliably communicate through language – have perspectives, thoughts, and desires all their own and have the right to have those around them understand and respect it.

The sentiment is that a person never does anything for “no reason” […] The sentiment is also that there is almost no case where someone has “no way” of communicating distress, discomfort, etc

I want to be perfectly clear: I completely support this sentiment. I agree with it entirely.

But, and here is where my issues with the phrase begin, sometimes behavior is not communication.

What it means is that not everything I do – or any other person with a disability does – centers around you and trying to impart information to you and trying to get you in particular to do something. And this one of my problems with the phrase “behavior is communication”: it is very self-centered.

By re-framing someone’s actions as “trying to communicate something to me,” you are basically writing their entire existence to center on you – your actions, your thoughts, your feelings.

And the fact is, someone else’s life does not center on you. It centers on them […]

ischemgeek

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Rays (Part 2)

Before, I was me and autism was autism.

After learning that I have autism, I was no longer me and autism was no longer a label applied to others.

Suddenly, I was autism and autism was me.

After, everything I do, say, think, feel, and experience is autisticized. […]

Out of context, Cynthia Kim

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The problem lies not in the pervasiveness of autism in me as an individual, but in the pervasiveness of its use as an ‘explanation’ at the level of specific, observable behaviour – an account for everything that I am and everything that I do.

Gill Loomes

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They were conferring any and all agency to my supposed disembodiment, or my supposed disenmindment. I didn’t want this because I was autistic. I didn’t want that because I was autistic.

This is, to the best of my memory, when their ventriloquism started.

Suddenly, the experts claimed, I wasn’t talking. God, no.

“That’s your depression talking,” they explained. “That’s your autism talking. That’s your anxiety talking.

Really, it’s anything but you talking.”

Regardless of what I said, it was my autism saying it. My body became site for ventriloquist rhetoric, spewings that never were.

What did they write in their charts? I imagined […] that they mapped the ebbs and flows of my echolalia, in echolalia.

“That’s just her autism talking,” the clipboard repeats, like a running toilet. “That’s just her autism talking, talking, talking. That’s just her – autism talking.

Melanie Yergeau

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1

Whenever we talk about ourselves we tell stories.

Without these stories, our experiences would sit, unconnected.  They would be like a thousand tiny beads.  Telling our story helps us to weave connections between these beads.  It helps us link them together with different threads, to create a tapestry full of meaning.

This is a fluid and continually evolving process.

Each new experience, interaction or connection reveals new aspects of the picture we are continually creating.  It shifts and changes as we, ourselves, shift and change.

Reflecting our experience of the world, this process can be terrifying and confusing, as well as beautiful and rewarding.

***

In some settings, something profound happens to these stories.

It’s as if someone takes your tapestry, and labels it as defective.  Then, they give you the pattern you need to rectify your mistakes.

Unquestioningly, you unpick your tapestry.  You weave, instead, the beads of your tapestry together to form the pattern they gave you.  You weave their pattern, and you form the picture they showed you.

With each stitch, those around you nod and praise your keen insight.

After a while you forget you ever had a story of your own.

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2

For a very long time, you had been weaving your story your entire life.

At a point in your journey in life, this story overwhelmed you.

At this point, you were given an alternative – a new pattern to help impose some order on the chaos.  You were offered new, independently created stories that would explain your sometimes difficult, challenging experiences.

You met many kind people who gently reassured you that they knew exactly how to tell your story.

On adopting their perspective you felt relief.  It stripped your experiences of their power; it removed any need to further explore their meaning.

Content that your tapestry was complete, you put down your needle.

You focused on living with the picture you now knew you had.

***

Of all the beliefs that you have had about you experiences, the belief that has replaced your previous tapestry was the most damaging.

In adopting the story that others told about you, and abandoning your own sense-making process, you held on to a belief that rendered your experiences irrelevant.

As a reader, one may feel this was the lesser of two evils.  After all, the story you weaved for yourself overwhelmed you, to great extents.

Still, this belief was woven from the beads of your experience.  It contained truths of things you were unable to face.  It was something that, with the right support, you could work through and understand.

The perspective they gave you, however, led to a dead end.

***

You sometimes reflect on what it was that allowed their story to replace yours.

Every person that spoke to you about the picture of your tapestry only served to reinforce that which you were already primed to accept.  That, among other things, you were flawed, and vulnerable, and that your experience of the world was mistaken.

Their story offered you both condemnation and salvation.

It gave you validating answers and explanations for some of your unsolved beliefs and experiences.  It promised you the gift of living well with your reality, as long as you weaved and stitched your story and your experiences only in the ways they – wisely, unmistakably, reliably – pictured and weaved those (your) experiences.

It’s a powerful and seductive story, and one that has taken you a very long time to untangle.

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Adapted from a post by Rachel Waddingham

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iatrogenic effects […] power imbalances, vulnerability, adaptation, and living to labels.

[R]esearch consistently shows that people live to their labels – children treated as smart do great in tests, those treated as truants act out, those treated as caring are kind.

We know this, and have demonstrated [over and over again] the powerful effects of labels, obedience, authority, and adaptation […]

Sarah K Reece

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Snowflakes (Part 2)

[…] You describe introverts becoming rigid under stress.

Autistics who are under constant, intense pressure (as are many, by well-meaning parents and others who want them to function) become very rigid and black/white in their thinking, this is then taken as an inherent part of autism. If they are given less stress, their thinking ‘magically’ becomes more flexible.

Ettina

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[…] The closest analogy I can make is that what happens prior to initiation is like standing on the edge of a swimming pool with the intention of jumping in.

You know, that few minutes where you dip a toe in, check the temperature, adjust your suit and goggles, comment on how cold it looks, do a few arm windmills, bounce up and down, take a deep breath, then another. There’s no real point to all of those actions and the jumping in is inevitable. But not quite yet.

Cynthia Kim

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@neuroemergent_insurgent has an alternative perspective on EF (executive function).

She posits that EF is a set of values, not a set of skills.

Emmeline Tyler

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Autism parents often hear from the professionals that “kids with autism thrive on routine.” On the surface this appears to be true. Autism kids are drilled to comply with a certain routine and when the routine changes, they react loudly and sometimes physically. Ergo, they must need routine.

In my opinion, professionals like routine because it makes their jobs easier. I am not convinced that encouraging such rigidity is in a child’s best interest.

Amy Yardley

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To comply with a certain routine and needing to be prepared for something are not necessarily the same thing.

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is change a problem for autistic people?

They say Autistic people don’t cope well with change and unexpected events, insist on routine, and can be oppositional if they don’t get what they prefer.

It’s just not that simple.

Autistic people do struggle with change and unpredictability. But it’s not just because we don’t like change.

We struggle with change because of what it costs us in terms of increased demand on our sensory system, executive function resources and how it impacts on our energy budget.

If we are well supported during a change or unexpected event we find it much easier to navigate and to manage the increased demands the new situation places on our bodies, our processing and our emotional responses to all that.

Michelle Swan

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Self harm is complex and full of contradictions. Something I often remind people is that it is common in the animal kingdom. Animals and birds experiencing inescapable pain – loneliness, captivity in an unsuitable cage: too small, too stressful, too close to predator species, overcrowded, or physically ill and suffering, many will head bang, pluck their own feathers, chew or lick off their skin, tear out nails and claws. On one level, self harm is a nearly universal response to certain kinds of suffering. This is the context, the broad picture. We are mammals, part of the world, nervous systems wired this way.

Zooming right in, we get vast diversity in who, how, and why. Some find a single cause and many more a complex web of reasons, needs, struggles. […]

What it is not, and has never been, is the circle I hear so often. They self harm because they are mentally ill: we know they are mentally ill because they self harm.

We self harm because something is wrong, because of pain, because it is the best way we’ve found to meet a need we don’t understand or accept or can’t express.

Sarah K Reece

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In many instances, the discourse(s) of involuntarity governs autism as a condition. Most obviously, autism is not a voluntary condition – one doesn’t choose autism, per se.

Of course, framing autism as a neurological involuntarity is a false construct. After all, does anyone really choose their neurology? And yet, even though neurotypicality is as much an involuntarity as is mental disability or neurodivergence, the construct of involuntarity is culturally inscribed into autism as a condition. Autistics wrench and scream and rock their bodies, and they have no choice; they have no agency; they project little to no rhetorical or narrativistic purpose.

Within this passivity-centric framework, involuntarity might encompass shit smearing or body rocking; it likewise encompasses any act of communication, or what white-coat types might otherwise reduce to inappropriate behaviors; it encompasses embodiment; it encompasses how one dwells in the world. It signifies a lack of purpose, a lack of audience awareness, a lack of control over one’s own person – and under the banner of person, I’m including how we conceptualize mind, body, being, and self-determination. […]

Melanie Yergeau

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