No, My Autism is NOT a Superpower or a Tragedy, It’s Neutral

Controversial, no? That I can see my condition as neutral? I guess I’m really different from other people. Let me explore the ways both values can be right and wrong, and show you how I reject both of them.  

Autism as a Superpower: This is not a viewpoint shared among many autistic people, though many non-autistic people think we do. Why people think we hold this is a mystery to us. Are we that arrogant to you? We certainly are not to ourselves. There are many things many of us cannot do without support, such as go grocery shopping. Perhaps the reason they think we hold this so-called belief is – maybe those dumb T-shirts saying “Autism is my Superpower.” I do not know of an autistic adult that actually owns a T-shirt with that message. The difficulties given to us by autism make us humble. Basically, it is arrogant to think that you are better than another person, simply because you are different from them. This pattern of thinking goes down a slippery slope to prejudice and scapegoating.  

Autism as a Tragedy: This is the other extreme viewpoint we try to ignore. This is ableism in a nutshell. Basically, a disabled person is tragic, and the only way they can make the world a better place is to remove themselves from it. In movies such as “Me Before You,” suicide for the disabled person is seen as good! How disgusting is that? It infuriates me. Just because we operate on a different level is not a reason to advocate for suicide! We are denying autistic people the basic right to live! Another slippery slope appears: If we kill off all the people who are different from us, whoever wins that war would be the last person on earth. I’m not going there. One person can only do so much. 

Why do people assign value to neutral events? Is this another symptom of the Power and Control addiction?  

I have decided to reject both viewpoints, because they are gravely erroneous. They both lead to the same conclusion: prejudice, scapegoating, and eventually, death to the autistic. I want to live. I want to be able to access the rights that only White Men!!! can currently: the rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I want my life to matter.  

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Selma Blair: More Gracious than Me

I’m noticing something on Twitter concerning Selma Blair and her fabulous Vanity Fair Oscar Party appearance. Many people tend to use certain words describing her and her MS revelation: Courageous. Brave. Tragic. Inspiring. All words which are highlights of ableism.  

She seems to be handling it better than I would.  

Unfortunately, I am often a ball of outrage and anger, especially when it comes to ableism. That’s all I’m saying about me.  

Let’s get back to Ms. Blair, shall we? I heard her say to another (cameras caught this), “It took a lot to get here.” So, she has limited spoons and probably used them all up in those days? Well, I appreciate her efforts, especially when she came out looking like she did. Personally, I think the whole ensemble, including the cane, made her look regal.  

And I would like to applaud her for her interview with Robin Roberts. It is rare that people give an interview when they have trouble speaking. It is a possible effect of the MS. (I learned a little of the symptoms some years ago when Montel WIlliams revealed his own diagnosis.) Her vulnerability showed her strength. It’s hard for me not to describe this in an ableist manner, for that’s what I’ve absorbed from society. What I mean is, when you have a disability, you live with the disability, and it’s a part of you. You will most likely be fine with it, as I have learned among us fellow disabled.  

Most people cannot find an example of living with a disability or condition, of a world that will not adapt to you, but I have. I remember, back in California, a small section of Santa Ana where everything is in Spanish. (Spanish speakers are here. Get over it.) I have had trouble learning Spanish, so spending time there was strange and uncomfortable, but it opened my mind. It made me realize that for many people, middle America is a strange and uncomfortable place. For the autistic, for those with chronic conditions, for those with skeletal dysplasia (dwarfism for the uninitiated), for those who speak a different language, for persons of color…even for women. Maybe even for you, middle America is a strange and uncomfortable place.  

I just wish that people would try and see the whole person, and not just fixate on the cane. It’s kind of like focusing on one little hand or arm when there is a whole person to look at. That is what creates the stigma surrounding disabilities. That is what makes the disabled feel unseen and marginalized.  

So, I’m pretty sure Selma Blair is resting now, as much as a mother can. I think she deserves it. Take care of yourself, Ms. Blair. You’ve done a lot for your causes recently.

New Amsterdam and Stigma

I’m watching an episode of New Amsterdam – and one patient attempts suicide. Fortunately, she survives. Trouble is, there is so much stigma surrounding the family that the patient is worried she will lose her mother’s love if she undergoes therapy.  

Here is how the stigma is dealt with: 

  1. A judgmental mother. She does not even acknowledge her daughter’s attempt. “She slipped,” she says. 
  1. A culture which describes illness as “weak.” I’m not sure if it’s the Asian culture (which is not specified), or 21st-Century American culture. Both are equally hateful of the ill.  
  1. They are trying to wrangle around her getting therapy with lies.  
  1. Now, the doctor is talking to the mother. He brings up another point: that the mother might have blamed herself.  
  1. Now the psychiatrist talks to the patient. She is describing symptoms of anxiety and depression. 
  1. Now the mother is admitting she needs help too, after her daughter apologizes.  

Anyway, there are a lot of sadness and shame associated with the daughter’s depression. Fortunately, there is a lot of love, and burgeoning understanding, between the mother and daughter. Love wins out in the end.  

Do not dismiss this case. Stigma is real. Thanks to stigma, people are not getting the help they need. Thanks to stigma, there have been people in psychosis causing chaos on the roofs of buildings. Thanks to stigma, people are suffering in silence. Thanks to stigma, people have died by their own hand. Why is it not enough that people are suffering and dying to fight stigma? How many people have to die?

Show More Little Persons of Color!

Just a little thing to grind my gears a bit….

Well, “The Little Couple” is on TLC right now. (Should it now be called “The Little Family” because they have two kids? I don’t know.) I like the show a lot, since it follows a couple that’s pretty typical. She’s a doctor, he’s an entrepreneur. The thing is, they’re Little People. Sure, they have needs and whatnot due to their being of short stature, but it is just a part of them. Being Little People does not take over their lives. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. I also noticed they’re white and generally upper class. It would not bother me so much, except that I do not see a lot of Little People of different races or classes a lot on TV. I mean, it would be ridiculous to say that Little People of Color don’t exist. The TV family’s son is Chinese, and their daughter came from India, so of course people of color are being secretly represented.

But this is often not the case.

The only other time I saw a Little Person of Color was on Cops. He appeared in two segments – one ending with his arrest, and the other ending with a job offer from a nearby nightclub that employed Little People. (The segments took place in Las Vegas.) I wonder if, being white or upper class, would the guy from Cops have had a better shot, and not needed a job offer from the nightclub? He might have been a doctor or entrepreneur. Perhaps this intersection of race and limb size has increased his suffering and decreased his chances.

The Problem with Comparisons

An autistic person of color recently brought up a really valid point: many times, when persons of color bring up racism in the world, and even in autistic circles, many white people come up with “But you can’t condemn us! We’re LESS RACIST than neurotypicals!” or some other self-gratifying comparison. Here’s the problem with comparisons: they expose that you’re still affected by the same thing as the person you’re distancing yourself from! If you’re “less racist,” you’re still racist. If you’re “more open-minded,” that doesn’t mean your mind is completely open. You can’t excuse yourself from improvement. Just because you’re ahead of somebody in the race, it does not mean you are at the finish line. Self-improvement and tolerance are marathons, not the long jump. There is still work that needs to be done. Hitler was and is not the only Nazi, David Duke is not the only member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Speaking Out and Blame

You may be wondering why I haven’t spoken out against separating children from their parents at the border. Well, I’ve been in a fight with someone very important about it. Make no mistake, I believe that separating the children from their parents, who usually have little to no choice in the matters of their parents, was a horrible idea.

However, I am square in the middle of Trump Country, where many people here tend to act as though Donald Trump died on the cross for you, and God raised Donald Trump from the dead. (No on both counts; that was Jesus.) I had to engage many people gently, even some very close to me. I had to simply had to agree to disagree.

Now, I know that they were illegal immigrants, which complicates matters. What I do not know is whether it will soon be illegal at all for people of color to immigrate now that Trump is president. I firmly believe Trump is telling his supporters that “illegal immigrants” and other persons of color are to blame for their lot in life, which is not entirely true.

When You Die

NOTE: This is in response to a recent blog post written by a parent of an autistic child. 

“What will happen to my autistic kid when I’m gone?” “What will happen to my autistic kid when I die?” Well, if you hog all the autism care and concern and leave none of it for them, they will probably die alone, possibly killing themselves.

Have I got your attention now?

An isolated, dependent, and short lifespan is the current fate of most autistic people. Do you want to stop that? Don’t hog all the care and concern. Remember, the autistic person is suffering the most. NOT YOU!!!!!

Also, I have a few questions I want to ask:

Here’s my question: Can they learn to adapt and live?

Some autistic people need round-the-clock care, but I believe many do not. You must learn where on this care spectrum this person falls, and make the proper arrangements. You might be surprised where this person falls, and where he functions highly. Also, get him some autistic friends. I don’t have any close autistic friends right now, except on Facebook, and there are times I feel all alone.

Here’s my next question: Can they be autistic around you?

There is a LOT of pressure to fit in, to be acceptable, to conform. Autistic people, because they are bullied, left out and ostracized, feel this pressure more than most people. Holly Robinson-Peete’s son once declared “I don’t want autism” to his family at one time in the course of conversation. This just broke my heart. I could not put a finger on it at the time, but I realized it meant that he feels he cannot be loved and/or accepted until he can conform to neurotypicality. I could not watch another episode of their reality show.

Another question: Is there somebody they can be autistic, and therefore themselves, around?

If not you, the autistic person NEEDS to be autistic. It’s a fact of life as of May 29, 2018. If they are not themselves around you, they need to be themselves around somebody. They need somebody they can trust. Not you, them. You might be surprised who they trust, and it may not be the people you trust. Remember: many times, they have learned to not trust themselves or their instincts. I have gone through this behavior, and have re-learned to trust my instincts in my thirties. By then, it was almost too late.

I am currently forty years old. By some estimates, the average death age of an autistic person is thirty-six. (By some, it could be as late as fifty-four.) This means I may have already outlived my lifespan by four years. Not much time on this world where we face rejection, is it? Most autistic people still may be doomed to die alone, but you can help change it. There is a group of people who can help your child, because they know what your child is going through. They are going through it themselves. These are what we call autistic adults.