Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another View of Behavior Management

Although I am aware that my dissatisfaction with how a computer works is my own personal issue, I sometimes have to remind myself that the computer doesn't have the ability to do something other than what I tell it. I really wish that it could be blamed for being abhorrent, deceptive, and manipulative but of course these behaviors are human.

People are always much more complex than computers. We act and think in totally random ways, have a multitude of inconsistencies, and often insist on including others to help with punishing ourselves in whatever ways we ourselves feel we need to be punished. All people are that way to some degree even if they reason in a different way than is considered typical such as may be the case with an autistic person.

I don't think that humans are ever more complex than when we choose to hurt others within our own species. Although I don't completely understand it, it seems to have something to do with someone's internal process of protection that gets acted out in a twisted way against those who were more convenient, vulnerable, and accessible rather than against their true enemy. Sometimes it even seems that their enemy is revered in a way that promotes their repeating of that person's behavior.

The need to do this seems like the most complicated and detrimental aspect of our humanness.

I guess no one who is involved in interpersonal relationships can completely avoid that kind of communal grooming but when it turns into a pattern with harmful and even destructive consequences, I think people need to discourage it (even go so far as to write a blog post about it).

If autistic people really were less than human and soulless shells (as it seems we are too often described), I don't believe that we would really bring out strong emotions in others at all. I think it would be quite easy to ignore us and exterminate us.... and I don't see that as being an easy task at all. : )

I don't know what it would look like for the majority of people in charge of promoting the best behavior for autistic people if they primarily had our best interests at heart because that isn't what I have seen and experienced.

My best way of understanding why someone wants my behavior to change is by looking at which behaviors they choose as the ones they feel need to be changed, what their motivation seems to be when they attempt this, but mainly what seems to me to be what really aggravates them about what I'm doing and why they believe that anyone else would be aggravated by this.

The majority of behaviors that people seem to want to change in autistic people are not what is best for us but what makes the people we are directly involved with uncomfortable and maybe even what they are convinced that others will be uncomfortable with. This lack of their comfort is puzzling. : )

How ever it may seem that we are not understanding situations that involve other people does not mean that we don't understand the world. Sometimes it means to me that someone's actions are completely contradictory to what I feel would be practical and effective behavior. Not understanding something also does not mean that the responsibility to learn to interact with others needs to be completely ours anymore than it is with anyone else.

I don't see how anyone who wants to interact with another person can place the entire responsibility on the person they want interact with and not be willing to have some introspection about how they themselves may be acting that may seem to that person to be impractical, indirect, or contradictory to what they claim is their purpose. To punish someone for what is seen to simply be "their" lack of understanding crosses some serious boundaries for me.

So, why do people take such extreme measures to get rid of behaviors that don't look good or are uncomfortable to those around us? What values is this kind of treatment encouraging in anyone? Are those who are receiving this treatment really being spared the kind of pruning and exclusion that the rest of society will ultimately subject us to otherwise or has the means of the objective of this treatment been lost within an unreasonable amount of effort being used to eliminate a problem in a convenient way? Are people choosing that convenience rather than taking the extra time and effort to evaluate their own emotions and objectives to see if they are really doing what is best for everyone?

I think some people who take unfair advantage of others can only learn if they are being aided in punishing themselves. Sometimes it seems like this is the only language they understand. Their understanding of life often seems to me to be very shallow and their means for dealing with life seems very temporary and convenient. Their lack of understanding what they see seems to be more of a deficit of compassion rather than of intellect.

The shame that results from their cycle of abuse seems to be the primary motivating force for their lives. The only lasting change comes when they are able to look past the flat-isms of their unrealistic beliefs and overly strict performance evaluations that obstruct their view and limit their understanding of the real world.

I believe that those of us who are most directly affected by the maladjusted views of these people who have been infected by their personal and often unbearable emotional turmoil need to closely examine the effect their misbehavior has on us as well as on themselves. If they cannot be saved from themselves, we cannot allow them to infect the rest of us.

If those who abuse others can't adjust to healthier ways of expressing themselves, and we don't find a way to adjust their behaviors or avoid them, we may all be subjected to the designs of their prisons.

Monday, June 23, 2008

How Good We Ought to Be

As the organization Autism Speaks continues to use their political and financial muscle to silence the voices of autistic people (as seen here), I am reminded of just how misleading their claims to serve autistic people really are.

While many people who are seen as having different types of mental impairments are often lumped into the same group for many purposes, at times I've seen people who are primarily diagnosed as having mental illness or learning disabilities being more likely to have their mistreatment justified as punishment for their behavior that is described more in pathological terms as bad or wrong and sometimes those with disorders that are seen to be more neurological in origin will be more pitied for what is seen as their misbehavior.

However, once anyone shows themself to be overly able to interact personally with those who need to convieniently keep anyone with substandard behavior at arms length, their behavior automatically gets described in pathological ways and therefore punished accordingly. Some people don't want us to get too close for fear they will see in us too many aspects of themselves.

When so many children were seen as having ADD beginning a few decades ago, it was decided that amphetamines and dietary changes would aid in their learning and behavioral problems. In many ways I see this as a gateway to how so many autistics are seen and treated now.

Also, in a similar way to those drug and dietary treatments, behaviorism isn't a new way to treat autistics at all. It's now just more isolated, defined, and marketed as being a more humane form of treatment than it was previously.

Punishment therapy however has been the primary means of dealing with the entire population of people who are considered mentally impaired (in whatever ways) for a long time. However it sometimes gets sugarcoated, behavioral treatments begin with the negative aspects of what others see in someone rather than who any person really is which one can only see by looking beyond how they are responding to their environment at any given time.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, we don't become people only after we have had our behaviors evaluated and adjusted. It seems like some people tend to forget that all people really start out being people when we are born. There aren't any standard methods of any behavior that a child can exhibit that make them more that way.

Whatever goals may be achieved by working backwards from the outside in (so to speak) I think we need to discourage any means of attaining behavioral changes that can be terribly abused and justified by defining it as a means of some sort of treatment.

Whenever I hear the story of Helen Keller it is usually described in a couple of ways. One way that it is described is by emphasizing what a triumphant and overcoming hero Helen was. The other is by emphasizing what a patient and diligent therapist she had. While both of these women are due this respect, I think they miss the boat entirely when they confine what is important about her story to either one of these descriptions of these people. To me the most important thing about Helen's story that should be emphasized is that people who are seen to have impairments have so much to offer that is often not accepted or understood.

The key to understanding people is to keep our humanness first and foremost as the priority for how we should be viewed and therefore worked with. Too often we who are seen as disabled are not at all like people think or we don't become what we want to be and could be because it can be difficult for any oppressed population to break out of a stereotype weather those within that population have impairments beyond societies view of them or not.

So the question that I have is: Does society want this population to be empowered? If so, how many methods of discouraging this empowerment that are currently being used are others within the general population willing to accept as part of the problem and how willing are they to work toward changing them?

Mentally impaired people are more likely abused than other populations of disabled people. What I am reminded of though, is how few number of incidents of abuse that are carried out against this population are ever reported. If we are ever even listened to (which is rare), we are taught in harsh ways that we should never report these things and how we will be further punished if we do.

I often wonder if many people have any idea how good a person must look and how refined their speech must be as a part of this population in order to report how we are mistreated. Of course the other problem is that if we look too good, sound too good, or write too good we are often seen as someone who couldn't possibly know about or be a victim of the kinds of situations that we are reporting.

Whether or not abused people breaking out of this cycle is difficult or not isn't really doesn't need to be focused on as the primary issue, as long as there are so few efforts being made by others to correct the problem.

The efforts to silence the autistic population such as the ways Autism Speaks is doing are becoming more blatantly abusive and therefore more clear to the general population, and I hope that this kind of awareness will create the campaigns that are really needed to change things.

What's the point in claiming that some autistic people can't speak for themselves when so many efforts are made to prevent so many others of us from doing so?

We don't come and neat packages. We don't come without pathological problems or even bad attitudes. The next time you simply don't like what an autistic person thinks or says remember how often they may have been ignored, and what they thought didn't matter at all to others. Whenever you see an autistic person whom you think dresses too nice for speaks too well for an autistic person, please remember that often them being seen as autistic in the past may have also meant them being seen as someone who wasn't supposed to look or sound very good and consider whether or not you only want autistics to be seen in negative ways and how your views may affect our future .

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wherever You Go

Sorrow and sympathy are necessary parts of the emotional spectrum. When either of them begin to overwhelm and thereby control too many other aspects of our lives they can become diluted as well as delusional and therefore very harmful.

Charity serves our humanity more than anything. However, how we define what charity is and then how we express that charity to others is what is really important.

So often it seems to me that people begin with the right intentions about how we want to treat people and then somehow we express those intentions in a very different way then we began wanting to. We seem to lose our way.

Some hurting is important and even necessary to everyone but so is denial. We have eyelids for a reason. Since we don't have ear lids, humans have found a variety of ways to adapt by tuning out what we can't deal with or don't want to hear.

It's difficult to say what another person "should" not be in denial of because no one really knows another person's circumstances or where they are in terms of their emotional development. Still there must then be standards of ethical treatment that discourage the ways someone harmfully treats others as a result of that denial in order to protect what for them has become a safe haven. Once people manipulate or otherwise hurt others in order to protect their own thinking that may have just become misdirected at some point, they are then participating in the cycle of abuse that was most likely originally dealt to them.

Sometimes I view someone's artwork and become very saddened and or hurt. I think about the courage that it must take for the artist to experience what they do and then express it in such a bold way. How people express themselves artistically with words or in other ways can make me feel like that also.

Experiencing such a painful zone isn't always a choice, and whether it is or not, I often find that people who can experience what seems to me to be so much of one end of the emotional spectrum can also experience the other end just as richly.

Too much avoidance doesn't allow for either. Being able to courageously enjoy life comes from the progressive understanding of what ones own choices are and realizing why joy is so important. Otherwise, we get stuck in a state of melodrama that never really takes us (in any kind of real sense) where we want to go.

The term neurodiversity to me means encouraging the real and progressive means of looking at and dealing with adversity as well as learning to be accepting of thinking or behaviors that are just different. It's a decision that first comes from understanding your choices and then making the best choices that will help those around you and in turn you yourself to experience life in the best and fullest way.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Agendas Matter

I know that many ways of describing any spectrum can be empowering to everyone who has been otherwise mistreated, wrongly evaluated, and misunderstood. I too often see ways that people counter this view of the autism spectrum with the claim that the inclusion of too many people being described on this spectrum makes things difficult for those who are more autistic being evaluated or treated appropriately. I have experienced the opposite as being true.

The best way I can describe this is that from what I've seen, when a treatment is thought of as being needed by people who also need to be sympathized with, the treatment isn't sympathetic at all. It's actually just pathetic at best, but usually it's worse. There can't be too much of an understanding for who people are, and what they may be experiencing to better know how to treat them with respect.

The next step after identifying more autistics needs to be to provide more realistic supports for students by being able to better identify how they learn and what they CAN do best. Also, the number of ways that I think the autistic label can be empowering for all autistic people is limitless. Unfortunately, western medicine and the most recognized western belief system that I refer to as "The Church of Modern Psychology" often make sacrificial lambs of anything or anyone they can use OR that stands in the way of what they call progress. Sometimes it's either one of these and sometimes it's both.

I don't think that the benefits of any progress can be properly evaluated until or unless people also take a close look at what kind of progress is really being promoted and what wrongs are being justified in what is considered a progressive ideal. It is equally important to look at what ways people may be being abused in order to make what is seen as progress look good.

Something that I feel is very important is that while I understand the need for teachers and employers to describe a person based on an evaluation of how well they can perform, I see little if any reason for anyone else to evaluate people this way. I see no need for anyone else to describe anyone as low functioning, especially if you don't also specifically describe what areas they are less and more capable in. The term low functioning too often seems to reflect someone's view that a human being should only be defined by their ability to function within overly strict societal evaluations.

This term often seems to imply that a human being is in a static place and won't grow or change (which actually seems worse to me than the way the term retarded was originally meant to describe someone as being). Of course, if this really were the case what else would autistic people need to learn how to do other than learn to tolerate standing in line for the latest medicine or therapy?

Here are several examples that I see as other times that more needs to be explored to make better decisions:

1) I have many personal reasons to disapprove of how psychiatric medicine is used inappropriately by the pharmaceutical industry. Few positive changes are made to medicines or therapies within a really old and really bad mental health system. This system was never meant to serve patients or consumers. The public outside of that system is who it's designed to serve.

However, it bothers me a great deal when someone says that all psychiatry is inappropriate and should be abolished without taking into consideration how the people who are dependent on those medicines would be affected by this abrupt change. Such views actually support the current system rather than encourage positive, effective, and lasting change.

If you abolished all psychiatric medicines tomorrow without careful consideration of all the people who are taking these medications and what alternatives will at that point be available to them.... well, I just think lots of careful consideration should be given as to the consequences of such changes.

2) I consider taxes on cigarettes in a similar way. While I don't know how many people actually quit smoking due to the cost, I know that those people who are already the most disregarded by society pay the highest price for the higher taxes and price increases. Those who pay the most or are most affected by price increases, have seen how this has directly caused violence and even killings. I think that better ways to discourage cigarette smoking needs to be explored.

Again the agenda is disguised to create positive change but that's not what I think it really does.

3) I can see how someone who works in a factory may be more concerned with the paycheck they use to eat and to feed their family than about the environmental toxins that their factory also produces along with its products. That doesn't mean that environmental issues need to be ignored, but it does mean for me that people are our most valuable resource and should be considered above everything else.

Causes often don't have the best goals and sometimes their goals are really bad.

The point I'm wanting to make about more careful consideration as it relates to autistic people is that when it comes to providing the best for autistic people what you try and how you try it needs to come as an addition to first seeing people as people. It's also important to look at the trends of how autistic people are being seen by the treatment and therapy promoters and make sure that this is their top priority. For instance, most institutional behavioral treatments I've seen were not focused on this at all (to say the least).

If a label is being used to encourage and promote what's best for autistic people that have similar characteristics or even symptoms (if they must be categorized as such to acquire and maintain supports) then I feel the label is being used for the best purpose. However, when people start adding too many extra symptoms, purposely trying to make those symptoms sound as terrible as possible, and claiming that they are presented this way in the majority of autism cases for the purpose of creating one-size-fits-all programs for medical and behavioral treatments this automatically makes me suspicious of what the real motivations are for these program and treatment providers and their promoters.

This is when I think people need to carefully evaluate whether those whom they look to for answers and support for themselves or the autistic people they care for really have their goals focused on what is best for autistic people who are in need of support rather than on another agenda that may just be disguised that way.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Outside of No Where

I've heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who believe that there are only two kinds of people in the world and those who believe there are more. The more I think about that statement the more the hardware between my ears starts to rattle and smoke. Meditation and contemplation be damned! There's just no reason for that kind of talk! : /

Or what about this phrase: "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." The way that someone defines what that means is one of the ways that an intelligent person is supposed to be able to find out whether another person is intelligent too. What I have never understood is why someone asking the tester the question, " Why is someone throwing stones inside of a house," makes a person less smart. It seems to me that if the person asking the question won't look at and explore the reasons for what the person taking the test may see as the inappropriateness of asking someone to explain the meaning behind what they see as an inappropriate metaphor (or at least one that the tester can't better explain) as a way to define someone's intelligence, how are they smart enough to judge the intelligence of the person taking the test?

Just because children have questions doesn't mean that adults have answers and no longer need to ask questions because now they're smarter. Sometimes it just means that adults who are now in a position of authority over children can get away with answering their questions with, "Because I said so." rather than being vulnerable enough to think and ask questions anymore. This is also not just something that happens between someone considered as an adult and someone who is considered a child. Many people in positions of authority use the same method of avoiding what isn't convenient for them. Such expediency demands too much of a price from everyone.

If all children learned the same things at the same times and in the same ways as all other children there would be little wrong with defining progress in a strict way. However, that doesn't happen. I, and many other adults, could define the time when we were seen as unable to learn as also being the time that many people gave up on teaching us. I can tell you that this does not always get better as someone gets older. Teachers are a terrible thing to waste.

I see the ways that the media depicts autistic children as being not present and unaware is a ruthless despicable act. Not understanding why children who appear this way are different can't be justified when so much of those children's positive future depends on people seeing them in a very different way. This also doesn't stop when many autistic children reach adulthood. Whether we will learn to communicate better by having our way better understood and accepted or whether we also learn more typical methods of communication as we get older, it is important that no one be seen as not present or aware.

The phrase, "Of course you are special, just like everyone else is" again doesn't factor in what kind of views are depicted in such a statement or the conclusion that the statement might suggest someone to draw. Therefore, the truth or validity of any part of the statement in any isolated situation can't be used to validate the statement without more of an explanation. There are typical standards and guidelines that have been made unreasonably strict, and we don't all fit into them.

If someone can better define the words they are saying and chooses not to what they say can be used as a form of manipulation. This method of deception is very harmful to everyone including the person that uses it and none of us can afford that.

The nature of who people are includes a mind and the soul beyond any description of a mechanical brain. Furthermore, a set of brains anywhere can't be seen and taught within an overly strict set of guidelines.

We all see things in different ways, we learn things in different ways, and the unique ways that we express ourselves are not only valid, but they are very important. Also, diversity is more than just something that is important to recognize. It must be accepted and promoted as what has been the essential means of our past and future survival and every aspect of truth (and that includes the ways it is more uniquely seen and described or those who take longer to describe it) needs to be recognized, respected, and explored by everyone for diversity to be honored.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Diversely Defended

Sometimes I think that people stay confused about what motivates people to do what they do instead of trying to find out the reasons. It seems we tend to describe people within our society as losers based on a game that is considered standard and allows little room for difference. Sometimes people seem way behind in a race simply because they are focused on an entirely different finish line. Strict societal standards often leave people who can't or don't fit into the boxes that are defined for us, having to work really hard at finding appropriate goals. We also have to work hard at understanding how others see us, how we can fit into society, and how much of that we need in order to survive. Beyond survival, we have to choose how much of that we want.

How we defend ourselves as individuals, and as we relate to the labels that society gives us, also often presents a real difficulty for us when so much of what we see describes our difference as inferior, unwanted, and unworthy of respect. When we feel engulfed by this way that society sees us, it's often difficult to see how to defend ourselves because the attitudes that are our enemies are too close for us to see. We often don't have a lot of resources for where to learn about such things.

That's one reason why I think that blogging is such a valuable resource for autistics and our friends and family. The autistic population can also make a big difference in how many other diverse populations are defended, taught, defined, respected and how their rights are protected. We cannot only learn from other diverse populations that have had to fight for their civil rights, but I think we have something to offer as well.

We have to be able to hear from more people to help us know the best ways to empower those that society tends to disempower. Too often societal standards allow for and encourage the view that the discarded and unseen are a necessary evil that is the only way to ensure progress. Few castles exist without dungeons so we need to be careful of the ways we honor or promote what we call our royalty.

This often reminds me that if what someone says may help someone to understand something better, I wish it didn't matter so much what credentials they had or what label society has placed on their validity as a person. Unfortunately, too often it seems people are too busy trying to decide whether or not someone is valid enough by society's standards for them to take the time to understand what actually IS credible about what they're saying.

It seems that often when I'm trying to get across something that I know really does have value, people are evaluating my societal status instead of the point I'm trying to get across. Sometimes it sounds to me something like this: "Who are you and why should I accept anything that you say has value." or "Who has given you the appropriate credentials that makes what you say valid". and "How do I know whether or not what you say is valuable if no one who has been described as valuable has ever valued you."

This political, status seeking game continues to fight against itself and make losers of most players and eventually causes the group who is seen as the elite winners to dwindle in size.

Claiming that victims see themselves as victims and cause their own victimization is a type of victimization itself that encourages the same in others and creates a vicious cycle. Aside from my personal view as to the moral aspects of why that is wrong it also seems completely impractical. When someone does become an achiever by society's standards if the attitude they are surrounded by encourages toxic emotions that damage their esteem, they sentence themselves to the bottom of the ladder that they may be under the false impression that they have climbed.

I've heard it said that sometimes we are less respectful, gracious, and appreciative of those we are closest to. There's something about that pack mentality that motivates us to over-groom until we taste blood. Then our responsibility gives way to our more temporary primal need to eat. We tend to eat our young (so to speak). What's sad is that humans are the one species who have the most capacity to care and yet we are the only species that kills for no reason.

When more restrictions are placed on the public and less are placed on the public's government, this creates more opportunities for there to be a corrupt government. It also encourages the laws that are broken by the public to be described among those in power as the biggest problem. While this is convenient, it makes many of the problems that need to be addressed more even worse. Furthermore, it promotes the idea that might is right.
"The little kid on the playground was pestering the bigger kid." is too often seen as the reason for the little kid being hurt by the bigger kid. Often the bigger kid has been given more opportunities to create allies AND sometimes little kids aren't as visible on the playground, so they are more easy to ignore and later be seen as inconvenient to the overall progress for the goals of playground activity by the teacher or playground activities director. OR
"The deputy sheriff had just cause to shoot the suspect first." This is defined this way for the protection of nothing but the sheriffs department....Unless the suspect was the mayor's son or daughter. Then the protection goes to the highest bidder. AND "The teacher who abused the child is also a victim....and the school system is a victim of poor funding"....because the school system must be protected....unless the child was the mayer's son or daughter....where does it end?

When we advocate for the more vulnerable populations among ourselves, we often meet with the same type of barriers no matter what that population is. Too often these barriers and unfair treatments don't need to be right in anyone's moral or ethical view as long as those with enough political power can find a way to temporarily avoid or stamp out what is a problem to them.

Difference isn't just an excuse to ask for accommodations from those who have the ability to provide them and don't. We who are different (contrary to what often seems to me to be the most popular belief) are more than just consumers. We have lots to offer that gets overlooked and we want and need to provide that.

If those with resources really want to solve the problem of what they see as a drain on what they feel are *their* resources by the rest of us whom they see as useless eaters, the best way to do that is to look for and encourage what we have to offer. The games of exclusion that may at times seem harmless, can and often do lead to the ideals that promote eradication. The winners in the game that ultimately eradicates its losers will meet with nothing more than an empty and temporary victory. The sweet taste of temporary success will meet with the eventual bitter taste that accompanies having lost at the game that they created and/or promoted.