Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: We've Been Here All Along: Autistics over 35 Speak Out in Poetry and Prose

We've Been Here All Along: Autistics over 35 Speak Out in Poetry and Prose
Edited by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

Last time on this blog I lamented the "epidemic of autism" and the fact that it promotes flawed concept that autism is only a relatively recent "difference" in our society.

In fact Autism has been with us for a very, very long time, some say since the dawn of humanity.

We've Been Here All Along is a collection of stories and poems from 22 people with autism who are over 35 years of age. People born before the late 1970s. Before the "epidemic of autism" and before Asperger's Syndrome was even recognised as a possible diagnosis.

This is a collection unlike any other, full of amazing stories of men and women from all walks of life coping and not coping with the "curve-balls" that modern society throws them. It contains some amazing displays of empathy, so long considered impossible for those in the spectrum and the stories often highlight the ways in which society meets or misses the needs of individuals with autism.  I was particularly impressed to see so many stories by females on the spectrum - a group which is sadly under-represented in most books on autism.

Many of these stories and poems are about how these individuals have all found happiness, satisfaction and acceptance on their own terms and the hurdles they have had to overcome to get there. Not one of these individuals is resentful of their autism and all seem to have benefited greatly from knowing and understanding their label.

This is a very positive book which parents of children with autism should most certainly get. It provides a very clear roadmap to success and it closes with a chilling example of exactly how the wrong social mindset can destroy the life of an otherwise perfectly capable young person.  Each of the people in this book could well have met similar fates if our society hadn't become more mature and more tolerant in recent years.

I would urge everyone to pick up a copy of this brilliant book. It offers so much that other autism publications simply do not.

We've Been Here All Along is available as a paperback or a kindle ebook from Amazon and as an ebook on Kobo.

Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg blogs at: http://www.disabilityandrepresentation.com/

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Epidemic of Autism

In general, I feel that I'm more "easy-going" than many of my colleagues on the spectrum in that the language of autism generally doesn't faze me.

There is however one phrase which really "gets my goat". It's "the epidemic of autism". There is so much fear, inaccuracy and segregation hidden in this phrase that it passes through all of my barriers and actually manages to offend me.

First of all, there's the negativity associated with comparing autism with a plague. An association which brings to mind words like; avoidance, quarantine, cure and eradication.

Then there's the concept of rapid and uncontrolled spread, suggesting that autism is a new "disease" which has only recently appeared and is "spreading like wildfire".

All of these concepts do damage to the work of autism advocacy and to the support networks of children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. They build on the concept of fear and target those who need our help.

Unfortunately, fear is a common tactic employed by some "autism organisations" and political platforms as a means of increasing revenue or votes.

If you hear this language being used, please take steps to correct the speaker. After all, if autism is part of your world, you need to advocate as well as care.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Article: Teaching your Special Needs Child to Swim

Today I'm blogging over at Special-ism.  The topic is;

Teaching your Special Needs Child to Swim.

If you're in the process of doing this, then this is good article to read.  My kids had a lot of trouble with swimming but they're swimming well now.  They just needed an entirely different teaching method.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Poor State of Social Acceptance

Recently I was looking at Music Videos on YouTube when I found some videos by Adele, a singer whom I only recently discovered sings several songs that I like.  I watched the video and happened to glance through the comments. There were a couple of positive and negative ones, after all, not everyone likes the same music.  Then I found the unacceptable; "she's fat", followed by a few cries of dissent then a whole lot more "trolls" repeating the mantra.

It's reading comments like this which really makes me despair for the future of the human race.  We think that we're so far evolved from the haters of the 1940s but in truth we're not. We're every bit as judgemental and unaccepting as those we strive to distance ourselves from.

It didn't help that shortly afterwards, there was some kind of US political debate about an overweight politician and then our local radio station here in Sydney, Australia started having a discussion about why "fat" mothers were not acceptable parents.

It just makes me sick - and here's why....

So much of our bodies is determined by our own particular genetic heritage. You'll find that families have major similarities not only in facial components but in general body shape as well.  You'll discover that twins separated at birth grow into the same sorts of people even though they live in entirely different circumstances.

You'll find thin people who eat more and exercise less than many "bigger" people so what gives them the right to be judgemental? Getting the "normal" body shape is the luck of the draw.  Why do these so-called "winners" feel that they have the right to pass judgement upon the "losers"?

The Relationship to Autism
So, the real question is why am I talking about weight issues on my Aspergers Autism blog?  Well, it's because there's very little difference between the two when it comes to the concept of "demonizing the genetically different".

Like "bigger" people, those with autism didn't choose to be the way they are.  Many people with autism are fighting their condition, trying to pretend to be "normal" as a way of fitting in - this pretence is no different to trying "diet-after-diet" as a means of "becoming" socially acceptable. Again, similarly, there's a shark-pool of quacks, offering expensive, ineffective and dangerous treatments -- and then there's bullying and stigmatizing. There's the social pressure to conform.

Hand-in-hand with that pressure of course comes depression, torture and at its worst, suicide. Many people with weight issues go through some very dark times indeed, as do those on the spectrum when bullied. While others comment, laugh and point, they smile weakly and try to pass off the taunting which does permanent psychological damage. Friendships are damaged when "friends" turn for no apparent reason and anger often ensues.  Why are we so quick to judge when a bigger person lashes out at their bullies?  Why do schools place the blame on our autistic kids for doing the same?

The fact that many people who are "bigger" are that way because of genetics rather than lifestyle choices is not well understood by the general public.  This is the same as misunderstanding autism as "having been dropped on your head".  Muscle-brained cures for weight include suggestions to not be so lazy and to stop eating - how different is that from the suggestion that people with social difficulties simply "get over it".

There are drawbacks to the condition. Many tables and chairs in public areas are designed for "normal" people, just as our classes in school and our noisy shops are "designed" for those without sensory difficulties.

I could probably go on forever but I think I've made my point.  Acceptance isn't about "tolerating" a particular subset of people because you think they deserve your sympathy.

True acceptance is the understanding that in humans, there is no such thing as "normal", there is only diversity.  Everyone has things they do well and things they do badly.  Everyone has feelings and everyone has the right to be treated as an equal without predjudice or judgement.

It's ok to like or dislike someone's work but if you feel that you need to make negative comments about their person, then clearly YOU have an issue with tolerance and with not knowing when to simply "shut up".

It's my hope that one day we'll throw off our human shackles and leave our 1940s selves behind but until then, at least we can all TRY to be accepting.