Extemporary Sanity

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Month: September, 2012

I Read the News Today (Oh Boy)

The other day the New York Times scooped other publications to break the startling news that Autistic people are frequently bullied. (Gasp) According to the article as many as 46% will likely become victims.

Some may read this statistic and note that “lots of kids” get bullied. They might even call it a “right of passage.”  Heck – even Mitt Romney was bullied.  Oh wait, no.  He actually was a bully.  (Sorry.)  Others, (especially professionals), may wistfully posit, “if only Autistic kids had better social skills training so that they fit in better this wouldn’t happen.”  There might even be one radical out there who notes that bullying doesn’t necessarily stop at graduation and it occurs in the workplace too. My reaction?  Only 46%?!  Are they out of their (bleeping) minds?!

I may have mentioned this already, but I am Autistic.  I also know many other Autistic people.  Being individuals, we have many differences.  (Go figure) Everyone who I have EVER met on the spectrum, however, has one thing in common (no, not STAR WARS – another thing).  We were all bullied.  It’s a forgone conclusion when you meet someone Autistic.  The only question is to what degree.   Even if we just limit it to kids, (since everybody does that already anyway), I would have to guess that the number is probably closer to 96%. (The other 4% are homeschoolers.)

This article also shared another key piece of information.  Apparently “high functioning” kids or in their words, “those who also hold the most promise for leading an independent life” (yes, it really said that) are almost always the targets.   Why?  Because they end up in mainstream classes.  It is true that when you are denied access to other kids, your chances of being bullied by other kids does decrease.  That’s why school staff members (classroom aids, teachers etc.) so frequently take it upon themselves to fill that role for kids in special ed classes.  Anyone who doesn’t believe me should read the news more.  Tabasco dipped crayon anyone?

The point of this latest little diatribe is that bullying is a very serious problem for almost all people across the entire spectrum and throughout our lives.  Something needs to be done about it rather than yet another (bleeping) study.  How about we start by calling it what it is.  Abuse.  Then we should maybe educate people about how to treat others with respect and dignity and stigmatize the bullies instead of the victims for a change.  And if all else fails maybe we should make sure there are serious consequences for abusers who hurt people, especially people who are more likely to be victimized because they are devalued by society already.  I think that in other contexts they actually have a name for that already – hate crime.

The Outsiders

So I was at a neighborhood block party the other day, minding my own business perusing the sixteen varieties of potato salad represented to attempt to guess which might be the least crunchy, when an explosion sent  me to the pavement making what novelists would likely describe as a “keening wail.”  After a moment of complete silence, a hand reached down to help me up, and the kid who had popped the stupid balloon five feet away from me was dragged over by her mom to apologize. Everybody went back to talking and before long the beer fueled karaoke was in fill swing and the the whole thing was forgotten.

Later, while pacing before bed, (helps me to relax), I thought about how amazing it actually was.  It had happened so many times when I was growing up.  A noise that hurt my ears and scared me caused me to have an extreme reaction and in response I had been laughed at, made fun of, “redirected,” punished, studiously ignored, you name it, but nobody had ever helped me up and apologized before.   Who ARE these people living on my block I wondered.  Why did they in particular treat me with more dignity?

When I moved to this neighborhood I was a little nervous.  I don’t really fit in anywhere very well but I knew that I didn’t have much in common at all with the people on my street.  There are all kinds of folks here.  They represent a veritable melting pot of nationalities and racial backgrounds.  There’s a family with two moms; there are a few with no dad; there’s a couple who I am pretty sure used to be bikers and a guy who I think I saw manning a Lyndon Larouch table once.  It’s an interesting bunch but I wasn’t sure that they would “get” an Autistic person, so even though I can “pass” I was a little hesitant to even attend this party.  I’m glad I did.

I think that the key is that all of these folks could possibly have been considered “outsiders” in some way.   They were members of minority groups and even though they were different groups they still “got” what it feels like to be on the outside.   Or maybe they just thought I was drunk, but I personally prefer the first explanation.


If Only Autistc Adults Could Get ABA! (Not Really)

Guess what I saw today!  Hint – it was very rare. No, not a feminist member of the Tea Party donating money to a homeless shelter – even rarer.  It was an article discussing the radical idea that maybe society  should acknowledge that Autistic people over the age of ten might need a bit of support.  Don’t worry though, like almost every other article about autism, it just suggests that we give researchers more money for “studies” and give Autistic people better “interventions” and more drugs.  Don’t want to get too radical after all.

For the most part it was just your usual “1 in 88” kind of piece citing CDC statistics, using verbiage one would apply to the discussion of a disease etc.  Everyone in these pieces is always “suffering” from autism and the intended audience in never Autistic people ourselves (because everybody knows that we can’t read) but rather our parents.

Two things make this article worth mentioning, though, the fact that somebody finally remembered grown up Autistic people, and the fact that people still just don’t get it.   It’s not just the author of the piece though,  judging by a comment after the article that one member of the intended audience made.  Apparently “these kids” need to have access to ABA just like little kids, because that’s how “they” learn.  Well, as a former member of the “these kids” club I would like to share another suggestion.

Now, I know that this may sound kinda wacky, but maybe instead of giving us better drugs or access to rote memorization in an artificial environment you could give us the following:  the opportunity to learn age appropriate information, however we as individuals learn best (hint: we are not BORG), in a sensory-friendly and safe environment, the opportunity to “obsess” as much as want about subjects that interest us,  and the right to self-regulate in any way that works well for us (even if it looks weird and embarrasses you.)  Maybe, if you’re feeling particularly generous you could even stop assuming you know exactly what we can’t do and start presuming that we know and understand much more than what you realize.

If you want to help Autistic people have a successful and happy future, the way to do it is not through more studies, drugs and ABA.  It’s through respect, acceptance and empathy.  Still, I guess the fact that someone wrote something that acknowledged us is a start.  Who knows, maybe someday somebody will even figure out that most of us can read.