Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Snowflakes (Part 1)

Yes, I have social problems, but honestly I feel that the idea that autism is a ‘social disorder’ is putting the cart before the horse, and really missing the point. Autism is primarily a sensory and information processing and filtering difference, and the descriptions of autistics written by allistics are simply descriptions of the differences that allistics can see, and think are important.

Kirsten Lindsmith

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Differences in sensory processing do of course affect what might be called ‘social skills,’ for example many autistic people don’t integrate incoming visual information in a way that allows them to easily notice the tiny subtle differences in body position and facial expression that are used in neurotypical communication […]

Sensory integration also affects motor movements, and so many autistic people may not show the body language that non-autistic people expect for the way they are feeling. […]

Quincy Hansen

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In recent years the narrative has shifted from saying that autistic people feel too little – usually due to a purported empathy deficit – to saying we feel too much.

Perhaps the most worrying thing here regards how this new framing leads to autistic suffering being blamed on autistic oversensitivity.

In this regard it is worth drawing attention to a form of psychological domestic abuse sometimes called ‘gaslighting’. What this refers to is the systematic undermining of the victim’s sense of reality in order to make them think the abuse is their fault rather than the fault of the abuser. Very significantly, one of the core ways to do this is for the abuser to convince the victim that they are just too sensitive, meaning that any hurt they feel is not down to their abusive environment but rather due to their own inability to cope with the world. […]

With this in mind, I am wary of all accounts that frame autistic suffering and disablement stemming from us being hyper-sensitive. Far from reversing it, all this does is make the pathologisation of autism more subtle, more hegemonic.

In fact, the issue is that the sensory world is designed for the neurotypical, and so has by and large failed to accommodate the autistic sensory-style. That is, whilst it is true that we suffer from ‘too much information’, this stems from the neurotypical-centric way in which the world is organised – not due to how we process the world as such.

Robert Chapman

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So I’m sort of bad at figuring out how I feel about things, or just how things are, objectively. This is probably due to growing up with gaslighting although I also think that not being able to identify your feelings is supposed to be normal for people with ASD.

Although maybe it’s normal for people with ASD as a result of gaslighting.

Amanda Forest Vivian

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[…] But it is also a context where many of the things – such as eye contact and physical contact – often used by parents to show affection for their children either panic us or cause us physical pain, and where our ‘emotional growth’ might be measured by others in terms of how much we can deaden our bodies and emotions and allow ourselves to be subjected to terror and pain on a regular basis.

Imagine growing up somewhere where to be hit upside the head and locked in a room with a large predatory animal are the two highest forms of affection, and your emotional development is gauged on how well you learn to put up with those situations.

To people who experience certain kinds of touch as pain and eye contact as a predator-style threat, that is some part of our experience growing up. And that is an experience we can have in the most loving and caring of families, if our families don’t understand what those experiences feel like to us (and not all of us show pain and discomfort by pulling away, either, so it’s not always possible to gauge our reactions by that sort of thing).

Mel Baggs

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Neurotypical kids’ social development is fostered by feedback from their parents, who mirror their behavior and thus model reciprocal interactions from an early age. As Morton Ann Gernsbacher and her colleagues pointed out, autistic babies don’t give the usual cues their parents are expecting, and the parents don’t necessarily mirror them or give them the social feedback that helps neurotypical babies.

So how much of an autistic person’s social disabilities come from their own characteristics, and how much from early differences in their interactions with caretakers?

Emily Morson

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culture, class and disability play such a huge role in how we show emotions

Mel Baggs

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Many autistic traits are a result of being so in tune with other people’s energy that it literally hurts.

Shutting down to others emotions and taking them on without discrimination are two sides of the same coin.

Briannon Lee

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Breeze

[R]ight from the start, from the time someone came up with the word ‘autism’, the condition has been judged from the outside, by its appearances, and not from the inside according to how it is experienced.

Donna Williams

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On how autistic people have to waste so much time trying to explain that our actions and behaviors don’t necessarily mean what other people assume they mean. And how people will actually argue with us about what our behaviors mean, because they erroneously believe body language and psychology are universal and are arrogantly intent on projecting the meaning of their own typical behaviors onto everyone else.

Twilah Hiari

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We say a child has autism if he displays a combination of traits and behaviours that are deemed to be problematic […] Professionals observe these ‘autistic behaviours’ and then assess the people who display them by using a sort of circular reasoning: Why does Rachel flap her hands? Because she has autism. Why has she been diagnosed with autism? Because she flaps.

Barry M. Prizant

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But it’s the research with typically developing babies that truly suggests we should take social attention theories of autism with a large dose of salt.

Too often, researchers assume a specific trait, such as social disability in autism, and then reach backwards looking for something to explain it. Or, they might see two traits – social disability and avoidance of eye contact – and link them together, because intuitively, eye contact seems related to social functioning. This is not good science, and the flaws of this approach become especially obvious when it is done without reference to how the trait [for instance, social (dis)ability] typically develops, as happened here.

Emily Morson

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For seventy years (at least), people have been making assumptions about autistic people based on outward behaviour.  Even the diagnostic criteria for autism is based on what is easily observable by an onlooker. They think that the stranger we act, the ‘more autistic’ we are.

C.L. Lynch

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Autistic being is predicated on un-being. In order to claim an emotion, we need to have it empirically validated.

[…]

An autistic person cannot experience abuse, cannot feel her body being shoved against the cold wall of a hospital psych ward – an autistic person cannot experience systemic violence unless a non-autistic person validates those claims.

Melanie Yergeau

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In my experience, the autism spectrum diagnostic criteria are frustratingly incomplete.  They paint a picture of that which can only be seen on the outside, by an observer who knows nothing about the firsthand experience – I.e., “what it’s like” to actually be on the spectrum.

Laina

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Silhouette (Part 3)

In her 2005 book Constructing Autism, Majia Nadesan provides a useful but woefully under-recognized definition of autism.

She writes that autism is “a nominal category useful for grouping heterogenous people all sharing communication practices deviating significantly from the expectations of normalcy.”

In simpler terms: autism is a label for people whose social behavior is very different from what their culture expects. […]

Autism does not reside a priori within my body.

Autism is an idea, a social category. Autism is the meaning that we project onto certain modes of behavior. It is made up of society’s collective anxieties around what it means to be ‘normal,’ to be fully human.

There is still a stubborn essentialism that pervades the entire discourse around autism […]

Caroline Narby

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Autism is not a thing. It’s an abstraction.

The only concrete reality is the existence of the people who get called autistic.

So when I say what autism is, I mean how my particular brain, that is called autistic, works.

Amanda Baggs

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I think that my ‘story,’ though intensely personal, is not at all singular.

Beneath its idiosyncrasies lie vast strata of commonality, communality

Out of context, N. Mairs

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For many years, ‘autism’ and ‘autistic’ were also used descriptively: […] autistic disorder is a disorder characterised by autistic features, ‘autistic’ being an adjective that describes behaviour

Since 1979, a different use of the word ‘autism’ has crept into general use, and even into specialized use.

It’s now used to refer to an underlying medical condition that is assumed to cause autistic behaviour.

Why does that matter? It matters because what has also crept in is the assumption that if people meet the diagnostic criteria for [autism], that means they have the underlying medical condition that causes autistic behaviour – that everybody’s autistic characteristics must have the same cause.

Sue Gerrard

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A lot of autism research begins with the premise that even though there are [over a thousand] different ways of getting an autism diagnosis, being in the autism ‘gang’ makes you (a) fundamentally similar to all the other gang members and (b) fundamentally different to everyone that doesn’t make the grade. That’s a big, big assumption.

Jon Brock

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We acknowledge the heterogeneity within autism, but our intuitions still drive us to seek a common essence of autism.

The essentialist view of autism goes hand in hand with the way autism research is conducted and reported. […]

By always beginning with autism and working backwards, we have invested too much significance in the label itself.

Jon Brock

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Critics […] pointed out the circularity in Spearman’s argument.

Intelligence tests were assumed to measure intelligence, but because no one knew what intelligence actually was, the tests also defined intelligence – even if they varied considerably.

logicalincrementalism

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No true Scotsman / Appeal to purity

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[T]here is no consistent underlying ‘essence’ to those ways of being we now classify as autistic; rather, in each case, the underlying difference is idiosyncratic and unique. […] Of course, this is not to deny that autistic cognitive and behavioral profiles tend to overlap in specific and interesting ways.

Robert Chapman

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The problem with calling {something} ‘biological’ is that biology is complicated.

Hardly anything in biology fits into […] neat categories

Partial quote, Luz Delfondo

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Just because something’s a social construction doesn’t mean it’s not real […] Now, is it based in biology? Influenced by? Completely unmoored from?

That’s a different argument, and one we can’t get to until we stop conflating it with this one.

Sam Killermann

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Categories
Definitions & Characteristics

Atmosphere – Silhouette (Part 2)

Each individual who has an autism spectrum diagnosis got that diagnosis based on deficits. That isn’t good or bad, but rather, simply the way diagnosing works […] based on the social and expected norms exhibited by the majority of people.

Judy Endow

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[T]he way information is presented influences our judgement and decision-making: the framing effect. How we ‘frame’ information has an impact on how we treat it, and thus on outcomes. So if your research project is based on the assumption that your subjects have a disorder or a deficit, that presumption will be reflected in both your process and your results.

What we see in research involving autistic subjects is that autism is frequently framed as ‘non-neurotypical’, i.e. autistics are measured against people who are non-autistic and thus end up being defined by what they aren’t.

For a comparison, imagine a linguistic study of a Swedish-speaking community by French academics where the conclusion is “they can’t speak French”.

If ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture, then what we often see in these papers is a kind of neurocentrism, judging another neurology by the capabilities and standards of one’s own neurology.

In regard to these research biases, it’s revealing to look at how the same academics frame outcomes differently depending on whether their studies involve autistic subjects or not. […]

So, if you’re non-autistic and more rational, it’s because you’re good at regulating your emotions.

But if you’re autistic and more rational, it’s because you’re deficit in recognising your emotions.

Peter

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Our current biomedical approach to autism, which scans, studies, and reports on autistic people in terms of their differences, deficits, and disorders is actually making autistic people’s lives more difficult and their futures bleaker because we’re teaching people that autistic people are not like us.

Karla McLaren

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The underlying attitude [of some professionals] sometimes appears to be: “How dare you continue to attempt to think for yourself when I am here before you with my obviously superior knowledge, status, judgment, and insight?”

Out of context, Lundy Bancroft

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[W]ithin psychiatric theory, it does not matter whether a psychological difference is considered ‘hyper’ or ‘hypo’: either way, it is taken to be a matter of pathologically falling outside the norm.

‘Too much’ may be different to ‘too little’, but it is still considered just as inherently bad.

Robert Chapman

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how do we measure Schizophrenia, Autism, ADD/ADHD, other than in juxtaposition to normal[?]

how does one quantify normal?

Jenna, Elijah, Tamarjay, Derrick

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