As of last week, I discovered a character that was admittedly autistic. His name is Dr. Isidore Latham. He seems to have a good amount of the traits of autism – difficulty with reading emotions, struggles with change in routine, social awkwardness. I’m sure there is more to come. I’m sure there are blogs and posts specifically designed to pick apart the characters and inaccuracies, so I do not intend to do that. What I wish to do is support the character. As I have said in a previous post, the fact that he is played by Ato Essandoh and, as I have learned, is Jewish as well, is a step forward in portrayals. Previously, they have usually been, intentionally or not, portrayed by white men who go by the dominant religious affiliation of the series. I would applaud the trend of varying portrayals of autistics. I am watching Chicago Med for its treatment of Dr. Latham’s treatment concerning autism. He is an adulthood diagnosed who struggles with it. I am watching because it seems like a good portrayal. I do not want to be disappointed. The big thing is, I want a performance that is not stereotypical. I mean, early portrayals of autism have been extremely narrow and stereotypical, as dictated by Raymond “Rain Man” from the famous movie. I guess what I want is the portrayal to be accurate…and, maybe, another autistic can come into the show to display how it is on a spectrum – how it varies. Hopefully, this is not more than the Chicago Med people can give.
When I reveal that I am autistic, or my mother does, we often get this response: “But you don’t look autistic!” Yes, I do. I got my formal diagnosis from the UCLA Medical Center as a child. Do you think I would lie to you? Why don’t you believe me? What does autism look like to you?
According to popular media, autism is usually depicted by a white cisgender male, and usually a child. They are often portrayed as some sort of savant as well. That is an extremely narrow and stereotypical view of autism, and it is not helpful when you reveal it to people to spread understanding among them.
Is it because I am a woman? I can assure you, autistic women exist. They often go into adulthood without their formal diagnosis, often waiting until their fifties to get this diagnosis, often when researching their own children’s or grandchildren’s diagnosis. Just because we are a smaller group does not mean we are nonexistent. That is just ridiculous to think.
Is it because I am an adult? Usually autism is given a child’s face. Also, that person is in meltdown or other extreme distress. We are not always having meltdowns. Meltdowns are usually caused by a trigger. It could be a sight, sound, smell, taste or touch. If you need something to compare the trigger to, look not further than an addiction. Or PTSD. Or various other dynamics which involve avoiding triggers to stay sane.
(The following does not apply to me, but this is often a reason people do not “look autistic.”)
Is it because of my race? There may be more formal diagnosis among white people, but there is also an existence around every known society. I recently saw an episode of Chicago Med with an autistic doctor played by somebody who was black. (Yes, I do say “black.” It’s perfectly OK to see what race a person is. What is not OK is to assign a lesser or greater value to that race.) I applaud Chicago Med for that casting choice. It gives a sort of face to an entire race of autistic people not represented in media. Not to mention that most races are given say, one token representation, and it certainly is usually not with neurodiversity. You usually have to be white for that.
Is it because of my gender identity? Is it my sexual orientation? I could go on and on about how a narrow stereotype locks many people out of perceptions of autism, or various other conditions for that matter.
(Back to what applies to me again…)
Open your minds, people. Autism is not equipped with a specific physical “look” or “act” to be obvious. A specific facial expression or profile does not exist in the autistic spectrum.
When one specific trait, such as autism, is used to describe a group of people, try not to be surprised when the traits not used to describe them vary widely. It would have to call on other traits to be mentioned in common to get a grasp of the people you are describing. Don’t put people into boxes. They don’t fit.
Alright, I admit it. I’m not a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist or employed worker in the brain field of study. I’m not one of these people who have book-learned autism from indirect experience. That does not mean I am completely worthless considering the experience of autism, even though the vast majority of people, including autism parents, think I am worthless because I am autistic.
I can tell you about the shame I feel when people will not vaccinate their children to make sure they are not like me.
I can tell you about the hate I feel when I hear people wanting to “cure” the world of me.
I can tell you about the times I was taken advantage of because nobody wanted to actually teach me how to navigate social situations.
I can tell you the countless times I was awkward because everybody else learned social skills by osmosis, or so it seemed.
I can tell you about how I was forced to sit with the teacher at recess because I would get too frustrating for untrained people to run and play.
I can tell you how your attitudes toward autistic adults will negatively affect relations with your future autistic adult, aka your autistic child.
I can tell you the shame of knowing that there are people who, in the words of one of those people, say I “suffer from nothing,” aka my experience does not count.
I can tell you why I would rather spend my time online, talking with other autistic people, instead of trying to explain my struggles with those who stop up their ears and refuse to listen and understand.
I can tell you about the times I cried from childhood bullying.
I can tell you about the abuse I suffered at the hands of my siblings, who would insist I deserved every bit of financial, mental, emotional and sometimes physical abuse.
I can tell you of the rejection when said siblings finally sent me home to my mother, because I did not satisfy every monetary greed enough for them.
Fortunately, I can’t tell you of a time I was raped. Unfortunately, many of my autistic sisters can. I was lucky there.
I can tell you of rejection.
I can tell you of the wish for me to be a recluse, away from the world.
I can tell you of a time I wanted to die.
I can tell you now that I crawled by myself out of the hole of despair.
I can tell you of finally learning I was not quite so alone.
I can tell you that I have finally learned to accept myself as a lovable, worthwhile person.
I can tell you that I have a true and acceptable experience, no matter what society thinks.
I can tell you that acceptance has been the only thing which has given me permission to go on living.
I can tell you now that I understand how rejection from family members has nothing to do with me, only with them and their baggage.
I can tell you that I now understand people love me, that I’m worth loving and caring about.
Would you tell a flying bird that they do not understand how to fly? That’s what you are doing when you are telling me I do not have a good enough viewpoint with autism.
I’ve been looking over this new Sesame Street character, Julia, and know she has autism. She carries some of the traits of autism, including sensory issues and social troubles. What I have also come across is the strange stance that there is a giant conspiracy afoot, apparently to hide the “vaccine injury” (I am NOT making this up) known as Autism. Oh, there’s a conspiracy alright. The conspiracy is to save the people from dying from Infantile Paralysis, Measles, Mumps and Rubella. The anti-vaccine people say that Sesame Street in general, and Julia in particular, are puppets of Big Pharma, and are trying to get this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing known as Autism “normalized” into the public. The anti-vaccine lobby is extremely ableist, which means they will hate any effort to bring acceptance to people with so-called “vaccine injuries,” including those with disabilities. Their aim is to cure people of the Autism Tragedy, which cannot possibly have any positive effect. (Even though Dan Aykroyd, Daryl Hannah and Temple Grandin are all wonderful individuals due to their Autism, hmmm?)
First, of all, let me say that much of anti-vaccine agenda is based on false and misleading data. You can Google any source and defend both sides of this vaccine issue, but let me tell you that most of the anti-vaccine lobby boils down to two people: Andrew Wakefield and the Ableist, Emotional Parent. Andrew Wakefield produced one study, whose results were not duplicated, and which was retracted by Wakefield himself, admittedly corrupted, motivated by his own vaccine patent, and who finally got his license revoked. The Ableist, Emotional Parent usually believes that vaccines cause autism because they happen at about the same age. My example of this, Jenny McCarthy, noted that after her son got a certain vaccine, he had a certain look in his eyes, saying “no soul.” Let me give you a note: saying an autistic look means “no soul” is extremely prejudiced. Do I have no soul? Also, to note, the story with Ms. McCarthy is very emotional, so it seems rational in her own eyes…and she talks frequently about the “motherly instinct,” especially when it counters established scientific theory. My question to Ms. McCarthy is: Have you never been wrong? Are you omniscient when it comes to your son? Now, I doubt she knows absolutely everything. But she acts as though she is wise in her own eyes, which is to me a very dangerous thing, especially since she seems to regard autism as worse than the “f***ing measles,” as she once said the autism parents would rather have.
Of course, regarding autism worse than measles is blatant ableism. Ableism is rife within the anti-vaccine lobby, which is why they consider autism a boogeyman to fear and fight. Have you heard of anyone lauded by Autism Speaks as a positive influence? Does Autism Speaks tell you that Dr. Temple Grandin is a top authority in the beef cattle industry, particularly when it comes to leading them to where they are supposed to go? Do they even mention Dan Aykroyd, who has spoken about his particular flavor of autism, and his work in comedy and film? No, they simply say autism will destroy any semblance of a disability-free, and therefore model, life. Ableism is simply looking at anything that makes a person abledly different and counting it as a loss, or a strike against that person’s humanity. Ableism says that the autistic MUST be cured of their autism, or they are not a full human being. Ever.
Where does this leave poor Julia, and the autistic children that Julia can relate to, according to the Ableists? That leaves Julia and autistics alike in a sort of invisible no-man’s land, in a place where the only appropriate response is pity and shame. Of course, that will eventually lead to locking them away in jails, prisons and other institutions, where the poor, pitiful things belong, according to the ableists. Of course, it also romanticizes the murders of autistic children, too, and encourages them to suicide, I’m sure. The truth is, the anti-vaccine lobby hates autistic people succeeding, because it has chosen to hate autistic people. I have decided to applaud Sesame Street’s little creation, Julia. It comforts me to see that there is someone like me on the screen, despite the fact that the anti-vaccine lobby hates her, and me in extension.
OK, let me talk about “10 Perks Kids With Autism Get From Bullying,” the article from Autism Daily Newscast that has autistics up in arms. For starters, I ran the title by my mother, who said it was “foolish.” Her word, not mine. Let me say for now that it is like saying “10 Benefits African Americans Get From Racism.,” an article not written (yet) that would cause an extreme outrage and protest all its own. You can google the shameful, ableist article that justifies ostracizing kids through physical and mental violence, which is the textbook definition of bullying.
What I Learned From Bullying:
1) Avoid anyone my age. No one relates to me.
To this day, I do not have any close friends who were born between 1974 and 1983. (I was born in 1977, in case you were wondering.) All my classmates live far away, and I can only contact them through Facebook.
2) Authority does not look out for you; in fact it eggs bullying on.
Everybody knows sensitivity training and anti-bullying programs are simply legal and societal alibis, used to shield any responsibility for the eventual school shooting that comes from the eventual loneliness and isolation that bullying creates. Also, when I went to school and church authorities about the bullying I was enduring through the social circles of the time, I was told “Ignore them,” and “Maybe he likes you.” How do you ignore something which gets into your face and threatens physical harm? I hate to say it even now, but one of my youth counselors would join in on the jokes to win the bullies over.
3) Autism Hatred Every Month
For example: much of the bullying was due to me liking New Kids on the Block. I got most of this in seventh grade. I was so bullied, I ended up feeling this was a horrid secret I was supposed to keep away from the general public, as if liking NKOTB was on par with pedophilia (wanting to sex up kids). I eventually learned Autism = Pedophilia as well, so I kept that a secret until my senior year.
4) My skills I developed were subterfuge, lying, and reclusion.
TRUth and TRUst begin with the same three letters. I learned I could trust no one. The only things I learned were to fight dirty, lie, sabotage, and hide. I was a filthy animal as far as anyone else was concerned.
5) Built an Abuse-Accepting Pattern of Being Controlled
This eventually led me to believe that abusive behavior was okay. I did not expect any better from people, because I did not know any better. Another maxim I have to still shake off: People are basically evil, and must be controlled by another force. I mean, I expect the worst in people now. Maybe that’s why I am pushing 40 and still single. This leads to:
6) No Friendships, and Extreme Suspicion of Good People
Again, I have nobody my age I can relate to, except on Facebook. In my first post, Facebook and the Mellaril Nightmare, I have expanded on my confusion as to people wanting to even be my Facebook friend. I mean, bullying is a way to ostracize the undesirables out of society. You make fun of the people you hate. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. These people made fun of me to my face and behind my back, and the only thing which made me even want to consider clicking on that Accept button was an apology from one of them.
7) A Decline in Overall Well-Being
With all this swirling around in my head, I was cut off from any help, unless it came through therapy. I hated myself for years, and am only now getting to like myself again, though it still only comes in spurts. Only in the past nine years have I showered regularly without being forced to, for instance. I was not worth it, I thought.
8) Abusive Relationships, because I was a Freak
I’m not going to name names, but I was abused for years because I thought deep down I deserved it. I was an undesirable freak who was lucky that person was in my life to protect the world from me. (That was what the abuser said to me, in so many words.)
9) Decreased Life Skills and Life Appreciation
Why would I take care of myself? How could I love my neighbor if I did not love myself? Was I even worth getting out of bed, and even worth living?
10) No Self-Esteem, and Suicide Ideation
Eventually, this led to not having any appreciation for anything life had to offer, and a general hatred of life. I began to imagine what it would be like if I was dead, and I wrongly concluded that it would be better without me. I also began to formulate a plan: I would find a room or toilet with a drain, and slit my wrists. The blood would be disposed of.
WHAT EVENTUALLY SAVED ME
I learned that the world would be a worse place for my mother, and a few others, if I died. I could not go through with it, once I learned that my mother would be screwed. She should not be responsible for keeping me alive, but God keeps reminding me that if I die, several other people would be screwed, both physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I eventually also learned that bullying is wrong, and I would be letting the terrorists in my life win if I removed myself from living. I could not let that happen. I have had to tell myself daily that I am worth the fight.
Autism Does Not Cause Shootings, Autism Does Not Cause Shootings, Autism Does Not Cause Shootings….
Smooth move, CBS, CNN, NBC and other outlets. By putting autism in the headlines of the news concerning the Oregon Shooter’s mother, you have inexorably spread fear and hate against people with autism, like me. Your penchant for bodice-ripping headlines has made me even more hateful towards you. I am feared and hated as ever, especially now, that I have been linked to a man who killed ten people, including himself. Here’s a twist: I would have been shot for admitting I am a Christian, too! So what do I do? Where do I go for help and assurance that I am not going to get killed or run out of town a la Frankenstein’s monster?
First of all, I must say this: Autism is not linked to violence. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/12/16/aspergers-autism-not-linked-to-violence-experts reports this fact. As a matter of fact, it is more likely that I would be the victim of crime, not the criminal. Here is an article about the continued stigmatization of autism, perpetuating the likelihood of being murdered for my autism. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelle-sutton/autism-stigma-and-murder_b_5211817.html
This brings me to another point: Do you think because I am autistic, I am going to go get a gun and shoot people? I hat guns. I know that is an unpopular opinion among my peers, especially among fellow Republicans, but I am just absolutely frightened that we have to invite an instrument of death into our houses in order to feel any sort of power over our situations. Do you think I want to involve an instrument of death and harm in my everyday life? I am not going to deny you your right to self-defense, but I am not going to be made to wield death because I am feeling a little cowardly. Even as I go about this world mostly alone, I am constantly reinforcing my bravery to live in a world which is afraid of me.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is one thing I must admit: I am the only autistic my age that I know. That troubles me. I feel so alone in all this. All the people who seem to understand me are on the internet, and most of them seem far away. This troubles me, because the distance makes me feel all alone in this world. I know that is not the case, but there are no people here with autism to dispel my loneliness that I know of. This also makes me fear for my safety.
Do I have to pick up a gun and show that I will not use it for you to believe I am not a danger to society? To end the fear of neurotypical people because I am different from them? Being feared like this is shameful, it is discriminatory, it is the textbook definition of prejudice. I’m sorry, I did not know I had to cower in the corner to appease it.
But if you want my opinion on the subject of shootings and autism, read the title again, and again, and again…until you believe it.
Contrasting: the act of seeing how different two or more events or people are. It’s usually good when used on events in order to create a better outcome, but not when it’s used to determine if a person is really worth listening to. Contrasting two people to determine which one is more “worthy of life,” or more “human,” is wrong. It is exactly what led to such atrocities as slavery, genocide, and much of the police brutality we see going on even today. But if we ignore it, contrasting and assigning lower levels of humanity to the different is going to continue, like a deadly mold allowed to grow and take lives.
Here are a few things people compare to decide how “human” a person is:
- Sexual Preference
- Ability to function “without difficulty”
- Adherence to gender norms
- Moral standing
- Income Level
- Adherence to Beauty Standards, especially in Body Type
*(Note about moral standing: I adhere to a Christian moral code, but I know not everybody does. However, a British-based Protestant Capitalist is generally the description of those in power, so their codes are usually the ones used to compare their so-called humanity levels.)
Anyway, I have determined that these levels of humanity lowered because of difference is just plain harmful to society, no matter who is doing the comparison. What would an alien race decide to do with us if they discovered this intersectionality among us? Would they allow humans to live, or would they eradicate us because our thinking would be determined a detriment? I shudder to think of the consequences. All people, no matter how different, are humans, and not one is “life unworthy of life,” as those advancers of intersectionality the Nazis put it.