Posted in Autistic Identity

I Don’t Know Any Autistics: Thoughts On How We Hide in Plain Sight

A lot of people are familiar with Autism from the movie Rain Man, and while the Tom Cruise-Dustin Hoffman film is not an inaccurate depiction of Autism, it is one type of “white male” version: Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond, has clear social skills abnormalities, but gifts in his numerically-based interest of recalling, by memory, baseball stats and telephone information.

There’s also the story of Temple Grandin, touted as the female version of Autism.  She is known for thinking in pictures, and being able to envision complex systems before they’re produced.  She can also empathize with animals so she can tell when they’re scared.  She has used her interests to revolutionize the meat industry to make it considerably more humane.  Movies and biographies tell about how her sensory issues make it difficult for her to be touched.

The trouble with these two being the primary representatives of Autism is that it’s hard for people to realize they may very well know Autistics in their lives, but neither they, nor the possible Autistic person, is aware of their possible difference because they’re not “Rain Man” enough or “Temple Grandin” enough.

But we have a saying in the Autism community: If you know one Autistic…you know one Autistic.

So, let’s look back in time at your school experiences.

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Posted in Autistic Identity, Parenting

Empathy and the Autistic: Learning the Words to Match the Feelings

While this post is from my archives and happened about a year ago, other than the fact that my husband no longer works with many neurotypicals, this post is effectively still true.  Hope it helps someone!

Funny thing happened that got me thinking.  Technically, a pair of funny things, close enough together for me to notice this.

Empathy is a skill people are somewhat overtly taught as a way of telling people you care about them.  This empathy thing matters a LOT to neurotypicals.  I remember learning about it in the (quite fabulous) book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish, which can ordinarily be quite helpful.  I say ordinarily, because a lot of people are neurotypicals and expect this.  Or, they’re Neurodivergent types like me who have been socialized to believe that this empathy stuff indicates caring.

 

[Image: Book cover of the Faber & Mazlish book. It’s yellow with two conversation bubbles on it]
My husband’s boss recently tried to empathize by telling him that she got “anxiety,” too, and my teacher tried to empathize by saying everyone hates construction and driving in the rain in the dark.  Well, yes, these are true facts, but they disregard our Disability as no big deal.  I get that commonalities are a way to bring us together, but if you’re actually saying the panic you get from driving in the rain, in the dark, will stay with you for hours upon arriving home, rendering you potentially unfit for work in the morning, okay, you get it.

But I suspect that’s not what you meant.

But it wasn’t my teacher, or my husband’s boss’ fault.  This is what we’ve all been taught to do: to focus on what makes us same.

This comes along with the idea of “empathy” where, even if we can’t sympathize (know what someone else is feeling), we can try to imagine ourselves in your shoes and go with it.

After coming to terms with my Autistic self, I realized that I don’t really give a damn about empathy (or even sympathy) because both assume that my FEELINGS are what I want validated.  I know that feelings are feelings; they are neither right nor wrong; rather, they just are.  This is the post in which I unpack empathy.

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Posted in Autistic Identity, higher education, intersectionality

Practically Theoretical, Theoretically Practical: Ableism in Higher Education

Lydia X. Z. Brown , also known as Autistic Hoya, tweeted this recently: “It is absolutely, indisputably a privilege to get to higher education.  But for the marginalized who do get there, it’s so intensely violent.”

I retweeted and added to it that when I was at public university, this was incredibly true.  In Catholic circles, however, which are still every bit as racist, sexist, ableist, classist (etc.), they are at least, by and large, open to learning they are being ableist, racist, sexist, classist (etc.) and learning from that.  There are exceptions, such as the ones who think our current Pope is not actually our Pope due to a complicated story that basically consists of saying “I hate Vatican II and you all suck.”

I’d like to tell you it’s more complicated than hating one council, but it isn’t really.

For those who don’t know, this is the council where we stopped being so “out of the world” and talked more to people in the world (ie. not Catholic) and stopped doing a bunch of racist, ableist, sexist, and classist stuff (yes, we still do those things, but we try not to now).

Let’s just say I don’t have a lot of patience for that group.

HOWEVER, most Catholics I’ve worked with in academia are not that group.  Instead, Catholic academia is an environment that is less like the shark tank of the public academe and more like a family that consists of a whole lot of weird uncles and aunts who do stuff you don’t like, but you put up with them anyway because after all, they’re family.  A few people who hate Vatican II can typically be offset by a bunch of hippie-type Catholics so, by and large, you all manage together.

In other words, it’s not perfect, but no family is, right?

Anyway, this is my long way of going around to reintroduce the blog I wrote called “Practically Theoretical” about why I struggled (and still do) in Academia.  It’s got more editing than usual since it was an early blog piece and I’ve learned a lot more since then, but here it is!

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Posted in Catholic education, leadership, School governance

Tired of being Pollyanna

One of the things my pastor and I are known for is being so positive even when something is clearly not going well at the school.

A teacher quits?  Well, we’ll find another.

An aide quits?  Well, we’ll save money.

The same aide comes back?  Well, we missed her.

Kids leave?  Well, at least they’re trying another Catholic school (or: well, there are counselors at that school, at least).

That sort of thing.

The Director of Religious Education is floored by our ability to say, well, we’ll try this instead whenever something goes wrong or to spin anything that happens as another facet of God’s will, and keep trying.

The trouble is, we’re not really doing that so much anymore.

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Posted in Advocacy, Disability in Education, Teaching

How (Not) to Discuss Disability in 2016 (or 2017, or…)

This happened within about two weeks of my return to teaching last year.  Given all of the flak I get for talking about taking Disabled students now that I’m a principal, I imagine this blog to be still relevant.  In interacting with the one group dedicated to inclusive education in Catholic schools on Facebook which is only run by parents and insists on person-first language and fills my feed with inspiration-porn…very little has changed.

So, let’s explore how NOT to discuss Disability in Catholic Education (or in any educational or religious circles)…

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