Yesterday’s post about not feeling great at work (or at life, I guess) was bleak, and I apologize for that.
Today, I guess I just want to write a little bit about how all that negativity about the limits of being Autistic has to do with the Neurodiversity movement, which I strongly support.
In our “outside” circles, I guess, we Neurodiversity folk get a bad reputation for focusing on the positives about what it’s like to be Autistic (or otherwise Neurodivergent) and I generally do try to do that. In fact, I firmly believe that what’s happening to me right now has nothing to do with me as a person or even the employers of the world out there as much as I believe it has to do with society; society Disables me and because I’m privileged enough to be white, raised middle class, and can hide my Disability if I want to (or, at least, I can try to hide it; it takes getting to know me before people might see it). Because I am so privileged, I end up acting sometimes like I don’t have the sense to realize the ableism around me and how it impacts my life.
But I am very aware of it.
If anything, I’m more aware of it because I still have that “manifest destiny” thing inside me (as racist as that is besides). I firmly believe I should be able to author my own fate and change everything.
But then I realize that despite it all, I can’t do it. I will always be less because my view of the world impacts me considerably.
A parent of a former student called me to check in. He’s had a hard time since he left. I agreed to talk to the psychologist about our experiences with him.
I can’t reveal too much (as usual!) about the details, but suffice it to say, if I believed in functional labels (high-functioning/low-functioning), I would say, absolutely, that he was a “high-functioning” Autistic (for new people to the site, I DO NOT BELIEVE in these labels, but I will say he is very skilled at masking; the labels I only mention to serve a point as to how people who others believe are “high functioning” can be overlooked even though there is no such thing as “high functioning”). He’s been skilled at masking his Autism since he was in a tiny school until this year, and as the demands of moving into the tween years get harder, he’s struggling in and out of school. He’s one of those problematic types who is both academically gifted and Disabled, which the public schools have historically had a heck of a time with.
The psychologist was not impressed with my observations. I suspect she will discount them, not recognizing what it looks like to be an Autistic who does not have “Educational Autism” (fancy language in schools for “too good at school to get help”). Without a corresponding academic struggle, he will not be diagnosed and they will continue to wonder what’s “wrong” with him.
But I know him. I knew him last year, and I also knew that his mom wanted him to stay with us this year since she knew he was finally, finally making progress both academically and socially. He struggled at school for years not because he didn’t know all the things but because he lacked the executive function to turn materials in, or the impulse control to do what he was told.
He made so much progress he was three years ahead on standardized tests by the time I was done with him…in less than a year.
And yes, we were actually able to measure him on standardized tests; I’d reduced the stress enough that he was taking them seriously and able to focus on them.
Lest you think I’m bragging about being a miracle worker, let’s be perfectly clear: I didn’t DO anything…but I let him be himself and reduced his stress levels. I removed the meaningless hoops of homework for the sake of homework and requiring my kids to sit in a desk, not move, and not talk. And I listened to him, and argued and debated with him.
When you talk to people in the Neurodiversity movement, one thing may stand out: Autistics may tend to focus on what we do well rather than focus on things we do not do well. This makes one wonder whether Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, or other brain-based differences are actual disabilities. So, let’s talk about that.
This is an edited version of a piece I wrote a year ago, around this time. It still holds (and irritatingly, I keep seeing Tweets from fellow Autistics that we would “get along” better if we’d stop promoting Neurodiversity) even if the specifics are different now.
I was going to write a little post about “random thoughts” and they sort of congealed, when I also thought about The Silent Wave’s post about Neurodiversity yesterday. I’ve written in the past that I believe that Autism (or really any part of Neurodiversity) is not in itself a problem. An exception I can think of is perhaps schizophrenia, and even then, it’s only an issue when the voices want you to harm yourself or others. The voices themselves may or may not be harmful otherwise (but this is an area of the Neurodiversity tree I don’t know as well, so I may be wrong on that). I’ve blogged about the Social Model of Disability before, and it bears peeking at if you don’t know the difference between the Social and Medical models of the world. The TLDR reason is that Disability is not a problem; SOCIETY is the problem and until society stops presenting barriers, we will remain disabled. The classic example is someone in a wheelchair is not “disabled” until he or she cannot find the stairs. That’s what society did, not the Creator. So once you start seeing the world as the problem, not you, you do get a whole lot more positive about Disability.
So, here are my random thoughts that somehow connect to this:
*This is an oldie that got inadvertently buried. Given its popularity around New Year’s Eve, 2016, I wanted to make sure people saw it.
I modified this absolutely wonderful piece by Peggy MacIntosh (which I remind you all to read every so often) to focus on Neurodiversity. I haven’t seen a Disability adaptation, and, while I’d like to make this broader to include more types of Disability, I only know my own area of Disability, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
neurotypical Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
(a modified list based on Peggy MacIntosh’s seminal piece on White Privilege)
1.I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my neurotype most of the time.
2. I spend money on electronics and “gadgetry” as a discretionary part of my income; if I can’t buy it now, it will not impede the quality of my work and/or social life.
3. If I find a tag in a clothing, I can wait until I get home to remove it and go on with my day as usual.
4. If there is a strong smell in the building, once I have recognized it, I will ignore it and go on with my day as usual.
5. If I struggle to speak, people will allow me to take my time to recover and will not speak for me unless I give them permission.
6. I can turn on the television, browse the Internet, or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my neurotype widely represented, not just in “inspirational” stories, fear stories, and/or crime stories.
7. I can browse the Internet without stumbling upon a group that would destroy people like me because my neurotype deviates from the norm.
8.When I am told about our natural heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my neurotype made it what it is.
9. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
10.I can swear, or dress quirky, or not answer telephone calls without having people attribute these choices to the lack of social skills of my neurotype.
11.I can speak in public to a powerful group without putting my neurotype on trial.
12.I can do well in a challenging situation without being called “more than my neurotype.”
13.I am never asked to speak for all the people of my neurotype.
14.I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my neurotype.
15.I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, or held at a distance.
16.I can disclose my neurotype at work without having co-workers on the job suspect that I get preferential treatment because of my neurotype.
17.I can disclose my neurotype at work without having to worry that my co-workers will be afraid of me.
18.I never have to worry about whether to disclose my neurotype at work since my neurotype is considered to be “normal.”
19.If I disclose my neurotype at work, I do not have to fear being fired as a result of that disclosure.
20. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my neurotype will not work against me.
21.I can tell friends, family, colleagues, and strangers about a condition I experience without being questioned about whether or not I really have that condition.
22. If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has ableist overtones.
23. When I talk about my special interests, people don’t call them obsessions or ask me to change the subject.
24. When I disclose my neurotype, people won’t tell me that I should hide it because people don’t need to know.
25. When I disclose my neurotype, people won’t tell me stories about other people with my neurotype and how they “know all about” my neurotype from those one or two experiences.
26. When I disclose my neurotype, people don’t compare me to a celebrity of my neurotype and ask how I’m like him or her.
27.I have a reasonably good handle on how much, or little, work I need to do at my job to avoid negative consequences.
28. When I try to talk about my neurotype and how it affects me, no one tries to tell me “everyone feels like that.”
29. When I make parenting choices, or any choices, my neurotype will not be used against me in judgment of those choices.
30. The number one group supporting people of my neurotype does not actively seek to eradicate my neurotype.