TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING: Discussion/Use of functioning labels,
Well, if it isn’t another method of discrimination I’ve just learned about. The Shiny Aspie has come to minimize the perception of autistic suffering.
Well, let’s see…what is a “Shiny Aspie” in the first place? Well, the Shiny Aspie is a supposedly high-functioning autistic person who throws shade at a person who strives to pass for neurotypical as much as possible, while passing judgement on “lower-functioning” autistic people. Basically, a Shiny Aspie feels they are fine, while wanting a cure for “lower-functioning” autistic people. A Shiny Aspie tries to separate themselves from their tribe to be better than their tribe.
I used to be a Shiny Aspie, mostly because I was encouraged to appear neurotypical by every society I was ever in. Family, school, church youth group, theatre students…all either tried to Make Cambria Neurotypical Again, or ostracized and made fun of me for being different. The message was clear: “Be neurotypical or be kicked out!” “Be neurotypical or be mocked!” “Be neurotypical or die!” (Hey, the last one was the title of a previous post!) I had to, for survival, become a version of a Shiny Aspie, to strive for neurotypicality, and put down others like me. In other words, for lack of a better scenario, I was like a Jew being a Nazi, or a person of color in a Ku Klux Klan hood – a hypocrite.
But here’s the problem – I was once a “lower-functioning” autistic person. The doctor told my mother to prepare for me to never get any “better” than I was at age three. I was obviously behind other kids at that point. (Tells you how much doctors know about bringing the hope!) I had to change one stim for another at several points in my life. I spoke stiffly until my thirties. The persecution I suffered throughout my school years was nearly nonstop. I only felt that I fit in during Grad Night, the last night I would ever see any of these people. I still don’t know why most of them are my Facebook friends. I’m still shocked they contacted me.
Anyway, to think that I am “better” than any other autistic bothers me. We are being segmented and pitted against each other in petty squabbles in order to keep us down and out. The Shiny Aspie has drunk the poisonous Kool-Aid, not knowing they are being plotted against as well. I hope they wake up from their sleep soon.
As I was watching Sunday Today, there was an announcement that the Paralympic Games were starting up in South Korea. The commentators were saying something about how wonderful it is, and then somebody said, “It’s inspiring!” No offense, but as a disabled person, that word is tainted with the notion that we are only there to make other people feel better by being…how do I put it? The loser in a one-sided fight? A kick in the butt for the non-disabled? An object?
Is it too much to ask to just be athletes without being objects to make you feel better about yourselves? Do you look at us and see things? Or don’t you know that we are people?
I don’t know. You think you get to be seen as a full human being, finally, and then you realize you don’t.
You have to scream the title like a horror movie final girl to get the full effect.*
How many times have you dealt with somebody who was a little different from you? Many times, I am sure. Trouble is, many of us have not dealt with different in our lives as much as others. And the sad thing is, dealing with different may just be the key to overcoming different. And yet, with the trend toward dividing up and shrinking back into racial and religious divides, fear and hate helps different keep us apart.
Now, I know that the rich, white and powerful have most of the prejudice and hate on lockdown. That is a fact. That is how they stay in power. What I am saying is, there are people on all sides, not just black and white, need to overcome the prejudice inside their own heads in order to function.
I’m not even talking about Black Lives Matter or antifascists at this point. I do not believe they are a terrorist group. It’s a shame that it only takes a color of skin to designate one group terrorist and another group not. It is a shame that I even have to waste space on this declaration.
What I am talking about is the person who shuts their ears to another person, simply because there is a different trait. I am talking about the white person who closes his ears to the understanding person of color, as well as the person of color closing his ears to the understanding white person. I am talking about the person who says “You are just a ______” and name that difference. With a closed mind and a cold heart, they become part of the problem of hate that is about to destroy the United States of America.
How does this manifest in my own life? I am glad you asked. This manifests in my life with a chilling precision; I fear these words will not get to the people who need to hear them, because I am autistic, and white, and cisgender, and female, and fat. I have just listed six reasons people shut out my words. I am sure there are many more.
Now, I know this comes a bit late for some families with autistic children, but here it comes anyway. It’s an open secret that Halloween is tricky for many people on the spectrum. However, I have come to love Halloween just as much as any other holiday. I am autistic, so I’m going to pass on some tips that have helped my particular hue of the spectrum.
- Let the autistic person choose the costume – early on. The anticipation and buildup were key in my case, and coming up with costume ideas that were either accepted or substituted for better ones was key to my preparation. I had, and still have, a vivid, active imagination, and could come up with a bevy of ideas. From an angel, to a medieval peasant (substituted for flapper later on), to a witch, I always had chosen my costume early on.
- Don’t even mess with a mask. Growing up in the 1980s, the only masks available were those terrible plastic ones that left a line around the face because they were so small, and the breathing holes were barely there. “Was that even legal?” I thought half the time. So I never wore a mask. And the question of makeup? Well, that is an individual thing. Your kid knows if they can handle makeup. Let them help you with that answer. But, I digress. The point is, just don’t even mess with the mask.
- Keep it Simple, Silly. One year, all I needed was a black sweater dress, tights and a witch’s hat. That was the costume. That was a modern (1980s) witch. Maybe the costume is a simple pun. One time, a sibling went dressed in black, with various (small!) pieces of clothing pinned to them. What were they? Static Cling. The point of this? Don’t stress too much. You’ll stress out your kid by accident!
- Early celebration helps me. Nowadays, Halloween is stretched out to begin on midnight, September 30. Helping to plan the entire month actually helps autistic kids. If you won’t listen to us autistic people, listen to the parents who give dry runs for trick-or-treating.
- Make sure the costume fits the rules of the party. Many times, I would go to a “Harvest Festival” or “Fun Zone” at the church I was attending at the time. I would have to go as something non-scary, which was no problem to me, because I could be a huge number of things. What a tragedy it would be for your autistic kid to be turned away from an event because their costume did not follow the pre-set rules! Honestly, who would want to relive that every Halloween?
- Do not restrict movement! This was discussed a little bit in Tip 2, but restricting movement is horrifying to an autistic child, especially one that has suffered the abuse of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). If the movement is restricted, the child will be uncomfortable, and therefore will not want to participate. So, ask yourself a few questions with the costume you might be forcing on your child:
-Can you sit in the costume?
-Can you go to the bathroom in the costume?
-Can you run from a creepy sex predator in the costume?
- Do not force a child to do something they do not want to do. This is the most important rule, and the one which will give the child the most pleasant experience they can have. If the child does not want to wear the mask, do not force the mask on them. If the house is too scary with the decorations (or the barking dog), don’t force them to go up to it. If they do not want to go in the scary maze, do not go! Would you force your neurotypical child like this?
I hope these tips can be helpful, even if they are delivered a little late.
As I’ve been roaming around online, I’ve come across a disturbing thing: A person faced what has been called infantilization of autistic people. The commenter got a flat-out accusation of lying because she was not “innocent” and “sweet” like an autistic should be. I wanted to go to this person and ask whether or not she understands that autistic children grow up, but sadly, I can’t. This is a problem among people who think of autistic and other disabled people as children. This usually denies us rights that neurotypical adults enjoy all the time.
Now, what are these rights supposed to be? Well….
THINGS CHILDREN CAN’T DO THAT ADULTS CAN, UNLESS ALLOWED
- Make Decisions
- Hold Bank Accounts
- Have Sex, Even in Marriage
- Get Married
- Anything Sexual
- Have a Relationship outside Parent/Child unless allowed
- Control their own finances
- Dress themselves
- Feed themselves
- Have their viewpoints considered
- Be listened to
- Answer their own questions
- Have their own interests, including Special Interests
- Vote their own way
…And the list goes on and on.
Now, I don’t say we ought to let those who clearly can’t take care of themselves be loosed upon the world with that responsibility. What I am saying is, teach the children age-appropriate responsibility. And do NOT assume that the person is not “getting” the concept now means they will not get the concept later, or even sooner. What I am also saying is, ask yourself if it is appropriate to the person’s age to handle the responsibility you are trying to teach them. Most of the time, it usually is. Adulting should be taught to autistic people. Adulting, that is, handling adult tasks and responsibilities, is usually appropriate to the autistic adult.
Back to the “innocent” and “sweet” way that autistic adults “should” be, according to the person who thinks they should. What makes you an expert on autism? Why do they have to be children? Don’t you know every child eventually grows up? You don’t think an autistic person can be forty years old? Boy, you are in for a shock. I was born in 1977. Do the math.
I don’t need to tell you how I carry myself as an adult. Besides, you would probably think I am lying when I say I am autistic because I am not some sweet little baby you can put in a cradle and control. Why do I even have to justify my autism to you? You won’t listen, anyway.