Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Specialist

The goals that I've seen people to have for me and other autistic people often seem to vary between the strict lines of the boxes they know how to control. Some of these peoples ideas sound like this to me:

"I'll treat you as a well behaved higher functioning autistic until or unless, you show me that you are a lower functioning autistic who needs to have their behavior managed by me."

"I'll treat you as though you want no contact with others until or unless, you show me that you do in a way that I can conveniently recognize." or "I'll keep you in the environment that you claim is overwhelming to you but just right for the rest of us until you claim that you can't handle it."

"I'll treat you as though you have no sense of humor until or unless, you show me that my jokes make sense to you."

and this is the one that really bugs me "If you want to be seen as special, I'll treat you in the condescending, patronizing, and pitiful ways that special people get treated. Otherwise, say goodbye to your terminal uniqueness and hello to the mediocrity the rest of us know and have learned to tolerate."
Excuse me,but are there any other choices? Adding cheese to road kill and putting a fancy French name on it still doesn't make it very appetizing. I know it's the excepted diet around here but I really didn't "choose" to become a vegetarian for the glory that comes with individualism.

One of the most inappropriate suggestions that I see too often as being described as a part of who autistic people are is the view that we are not concerned enough about the needs of others. I don't see this as a behavioral problem that autistic's have nor do I see it as a lack of maturity. It is however these things to all people (autistic and not) at different stages of their lives and certainly this would apply even more to when we are young, small, weak, and vulnerable and in the most need of assistance.

I think there are many reasons that an autistic person is seen this way more often when the opposite may be true and the reason for others' misperceptions are not explored often enough.

The best example that I can think of that illustrates the difference of how an autistic's behavior can be completely misunderstood is how our eye contact has been described. If one of your most firmly held beliefs was that honesty was revealed by one particular type of eye contact, and you now know that this is not the case when you evaluate the eye contact of an autistic person, can you also see how vastly different an autistic's diverse thinking patterns may compel people to not have a solid base for evaluating our behavior due to autistic's with what is considered inappropriate eye contact also seen as being more honest?

I would hope that this reminder of how behavior is sometimes misperceived would help people to understand that what they may see as a person who is aloof, indifferent, or even uncaring about others may not be showing you a behavior that you can relate to that would appropriately indicate how that person is really feeling.

Some of us who are older than the average autistic (as age is described by the statistics) know very well, that life is about choices, we know the joys of loving, caring for, and providing for others, and we know the benefits that accompany our being responsible. I don't think anyone at any age can be fairly evaluated as not knowing these things or not being willing to be caring and responsible until they have also been given an appropriate opportunity that would clearly indicate that.

Autistic's not being given the opportunity to show more clearly who we are and how we really feel is the result of often being confined to only being seen by evaluators who continue to insist on using some very old and really wrong thinking to view us. I would like to believe that since there may now be a better understanding of autism, this would provide more opportunities to be viewed in better ways.

Unfortunately, the rise in the numbers of autistic diagnosis's has instead often encouraged many doctors , teachers, therapists, and specialists (who are just oh so special), who are prone to being irresponsible in their evaluations of those people who are more likely to be seen as inconveinient, (based on how they are taught) to repeat and/or continue this ignorance and avoidance of reality by continuing to go around who autistic's really are.

The older methods of avoiding who autistic's are may have been more convenient for many people because fewer of us were labeled autistic. Now avoidance seems to be packaged by spreading propaganda and showing in detail every specific part of our labels (along with some that don't even apply to us but that they decided to throw in any way) and how those parts should be fixed, cured, and eliminated. Since no disease or its cure has been identified, eradicating the people that they can't find a way to fix would of course be the ultimate plan within a world where that's the way things are done.

Unless school systems, therapies, institutions, and agencies, are using dramatically new, more understanding language to empower autistics (which absolutely includes the acknowledgment of how the current most dominant view of autistics in the media is WRONG) are guilty of causing the problem, if not in any other way, by continuing to avoid what needs to change for our very survival (and by that I mean everyone's survival). Often their most common and encouraged language indicates to me a much more active role in causing the problem.

If special is how you describe someone or something about someone that you resent and feel the need to ostracize and belittle, and you can't be more creative with how you evaluate others, then yes, it's best to see us all as special or no one as that way (which then makes the word special similar to the word inconsistent.... it cancels itself out....) If you can't use the label respectfully maybe it's better not to use it at all. However, if you do decide to evaluate someone as trying to obtain the benefits of being special that isn't willing to pay the price, it might be in your best interest to investigate further why they are even in the position that would indicate to them that they needed to make a choice about such matters . You may also want to look at why you think any such attainment such as being described as special could provide someone with a free ride. If you don't understand that, you may want to explore your personal definition of responsibility more thoroughly.

If you want to really do something that's special, try evaluating what's good about someone and how you can make them feel more special rather than how they need to be fixed, isolated, and eliminated if necessary to suit and protect your convenient, exclusionary, peace-through-dictatorship hold on your mediocre environment.

Friday, May 30, 2008

When Advocates are Called to Protect

As I have been learning about the recent story of Alex Barton, I have been disgusted by what has happened and concerned about why such treatment of children is allowed.

As I read this account on Christschool's blog of how this teacher and other officials who were looking into the matter were describing these events, I was reminded of my biggest concern. I am concerned that the attitude this teacher displays is not new, and it has been woven into so much of our cultural fabric, that it can be glossed over much too easily.

I'm so glad that there are so many who have spoken up and said how wrong what this teacher did really is. It bothers me that so many people have been unaware that this attitude is as prevalent as it is. For something so wrong to be described so innocently by these officials reminds me that we are too often using our sophistication to cover how we act in ways that are primitive and shameless.

The human race is not moving forward when compassion is not our top priority. The goal of everyone being safe must include emotional safety, especially for our children. Every type of inappropriate violent act begins with someone feeling emotionally vulnerable. Therefore, all safety needs to begin with the emotional safety of children.

Alex and every five-year-old child needs to know that they can trust those who are in authority over them. They need to know that they can grow and learn in an environment that allows them to be free from feeling the need to protect themselves.

Right now Alex needs to know that teachers are provided for him to assist his learning, people wearing law enforcement uniforms are available to protect him, and whenever the educational system misbehaves or treats a child wrongly, that the public will step in and advocate for children. His mother needs to know that many of us really do care and that she and her son will not be alienated when the system they depend on acts inappropriately.

We need for teachers and people who work within the educational system that are doing a good job in the right way to know that they will not be micro managed or wrongly accused. That can't happen if the public looks the other way when an injustice has been done.

Children will identify adults by the roles we play in their lives. They will know what the teacher looks like because they guide and protect them when they are at school, protectors of the law will be wearing police uniforms, and the public who advocates for them and protects them when any of these officials do wrong will be known by us showing up when they need us. They will know what we who are advocates look like by us showing them that we care, that we won't look away when they need help, and that we will be there to do whatever we can when they need us.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Paper Factory

Sometimes agencies are developed and maintained for no other reason than to allow a certain part of the population or advocacy groups that represent that population to feel secure that what they are seeking help with is being worked on.

I have heard these agencies referred to as paper factories. The idea is that as long as they produce enough paper that contains the right words they can postpone (too often what seems like forever) doing anything about what they were assigned to do.

In order for a paper factory to really work some people's needs must be met. Politicians and political groups that create these paper factories try to appease a part of the population that will provide them with support and they in turn will assure them that some parts of their population that the agency is supposed to serve (and by that I mean the most visible and loudest part of that population) are given all they need and sometimes all they want as well.

This creates security for not only the politicians who create these agencies, but also for the agencies themselves to survive as an agency. Then the "one hand washing the other" and "political backscratching" creates a situation where the majority of unwashed hands and unscratched backs are ignored, blamed, and sometimes descibed as the casuties of a necessary evil.

I remember hearing Bill Clinton speak extensively about how many student loans go unclaimed every year. By saying that, the point that he was trying to get across was that the government was doing their part but that people were not making the effort to get these loans. What he failed to explain was how many other reasons there were for these loans and even similar grants not being applied for. The reasons are many and there are many barriers that the US government knowingly creates to prevent these kinds of programs from being accessed by the majority of the population. As is the case with agencies, the way to secure the false claims of unlimited access to these programs is by parading the few who have been successful at using these programs in front of everyone else and have those people tell everyone else how great these programs are and how anyone can access them the way they did.

The way such things work (or rather don't work) for those claiming to be promoting education are very similar to the ways things are tried with in these agencies or paper factories that I'm describing. Unfortunately they have been successful at preventing real progress by promoting the illusion of success for too long.

This illusion is also very prevalent in how many public agencies are claiming to attempt to serve the disabled. Acknowleging neurological difference is one of the biggest threats to hiding the failures of agencies claiming to serve the disability community in the United States and hiding how the old system that has not worked for so many for so long.

If the US government truly accepted that disability was, in most (if not all) cases, an issue based on a lack of an appropriate job being offered to a person who is capable in ways that were not being acknowledged by the government and the public at large, they would need to change the core of their belief system and how they do things.

I don't believe that the US government is organized enough to create the massive conspiracies that many people claim. I do however think that it is safe to say that somebody somewhere who is making major decisions about government policy knows that such things such as glamorizing mood disorders and blaming hyperactive kids while feeding them amphetamines will reduce the population of those they see as unwanted without being blamed for it.

But how can autistics who are known to have a neurological difference be contained and maintained by the old-fashioned governmental paper shuffling rules and rulers? There will need to be a strategy to train the next generation of autistics to accept what the rulers (so to speak) describe as being their defects before the older autistics get the word out and spread their ideals that describe an "autistic culture".

Of course behaviors have to be given pathological reasons and treated with behavioral therapies. Some of those therapies will be brutal but can be justified by claiming that they prevent self injury if enough influencial people describe them that way.

The claims of outside sources such as vaccinations and inapppropriate foods causing autism will allow for the growth of the industry described as "therapies" along with marketing more of the lethargy and confussion causing toxic drugs that promote the pharmaceutical industry.

The one thing that will make traditional methods of isolation and exclusion look bad and ultimately less effective is allowing people to believe that differences can actually be accommodated. Tradition is protected by describing things as dis ease so that ease can be marketed based on the claim that this ease (or answer to the dis ease) will come in the form of fixing, curing, and possibly eliminating differences that we find it to be uncomfortable and/or inconvenient to support or encourage.

The accommodations that have been provided for people with all types of disabilities within the United States to be more productive has increased in an alarming slow rate in comparison to the rate of expansion and development of the products and services that we as a nation offers. Our traditional paper shuffling and ignoring people who are seen as inconvenient has created nothing but an enormous debt and a larger part of the population than ever who is seen as unproductive. While it may be difficult for some people to recognize, these kinds of inappropriate and irresponsible management practices have a way of catching up with everyone.