Sunday, June 28, 2009

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

On this week's "Autism Friendly Sunday" post, Gonzo discusses something she calls the "my 2 cents"* phenomenon: everyone knows autism is a Very Bad Thing, and thus the idea that autistic people might want to be left alone to be autistic really sticks in most people's collective craw**.

This notion --- that, since it's self-evident that autistic people have lots of trouble living in the world, it must be that autistic ways of doing things are maladaptive, and thus the best way to help autistic people is to teach them to do things the way non-autistics do --- leads to a lot of obstreperous bickering within the autism community***.

As an example, Gonzo cites this comment on Sarah's post criticizing Athletes Against Autism:
My2Cents said...
...[W]hat you, speaking to [previous commenter] specifically, seem to be forgetting are the children with autism that (sic) can't speak, don't hold eye contact, are unable to function and may never be able to take care of themselves. By just fighting FOR people with autism, it is basically a resignation and acceptance of the condition. "Oh shit, he's autistic, nothing we can do now. Let's just accept it." Yeah, I think I'd rather fight it.
Notice the list of Horrible, Life-Altering Serious Impairments that come with autism. Not holding eye contact? Really?

Even taking its inclusion at face value --- i.e., accepting that presence or absence of eye contact does make a significant difference to a person's quality of life --- the presence of such a minor, superficial detail on such a list would seem to argue far more strongly for a significant role for social biases predisposing autistic people to lives of disability and dependence than anything else.

*What would that be in Euros?

**Yes, Gonzo and I both owe a lot to Twisty Faster in terms of writing style.

***That phrase is really contentious; many autistic bloggers use it to refer to the community of parents, doctors, educators and careworkers who are the experts most frequently consulted on matters of how best to help autistic people. This "autism community" is often contrasted with the "autistic community" of self-advocates. Here, I use the phrase "autism community" to refer to both groups, although this is a fairly nonstandard usage. The commenter I go on to quote, for instance, uses it in the more exclusive way I just described.


Gonzo said...

"**Yes, Gonzo and I both owe a lot to Twisty Faster in terms of writing style."
The lobe blowing it sure does rub off.

Damn and I just answered on the eye-contact thing, but forgot the source, where I read about it.
It's the ABA crowd that's so obsessed with eye-contact.
Apparently the whole basis of ABA is making eye-contact, it's the first thing kids must learn and considered an essential part in learning.
As soon as I find the source I'll back up this claim.
(It's my new browser it doesn't crash anymore, but I lost all the tags to my bookmarks.)

Lindsay said...

I had noticed the eye-contact thing in a lot of articles about early detection of autism, too.

Apparently we don't learn to attend selectively to faces (and, more specifically, eyes) as infants, so people are looking into using eye-gaze tracking as a way to diagnose autism in infants.

Alderson Warm-Fork said...

Interesting - the throwing in of eye-contact with stuff like 'incapable of speech' reminds me of how, in arguments for burqa-bans, you often come across a blurring of 'greater freedom for oppressed women!' and 'it really creeps me out when you can't see someone's face'. Like one comment by some French politician that 'well, you would hardly ask someone in a burqa for directions, would you?'

In both cases, it really brings out how the line between concern for the other and concern with the other isn't being clearly stuck to - people are justifying their own unease (or even in a sense 'possessiveness') with the idea of it being for the benefit of muslim women/autistic people.

thinkingdifference said...

my2cents is that it would be "my2eurocents" ;)

Sparrow Rose said...

Right now, .02 U.S. dollars = 0.0136490821 Euros