AKA "sh*t NTs say about us"

Usually, as the single autistic person in the room, I am the subject of much discussion and good-humored ridicule as I make a lot of social mistakes. I am always up for this and even find it funny, but little do they know that I find them just as funny.

I have been invited into ASD professional circles in the past year and have had the honor and privilege of working with the some of the "top" names in the industry. And while I have the utmost admiration for the passion and effort they all put into helping autistic people, sometimes the disconnect we have with one another just leaves me completely with chin on chest and I have to give them "that look." And other days, I just need to vent when I see how much of the curriculum and stereotypes really can hurt autistic people as a culture. This page is dedicated to my personal experience and also some experiences by others. It is designed to show the humor but also to make you think about how the words and paradigms that are being used today might actually perpetuate some harm. Stop and ask if you would you say this stuff about another race or culture like you say about autistic people? If not... ya probably should not say it or should find another way to say it.

Also please keep in mind that I am hearing from more than one professional that ASD kids come to them thinking that they are broken. These kids are getting this information from somewhere. I think we don't really have to look far to see how this might happen, even from the best and most well-meaning of professionals.... Heck, I was almost destroyed (self-esteem wise) going through private social skills sessions last year.

"It would be interesting to see if you and Temple could actually sustain a conversation since neither of you have ablities with social skills."
—Michelle Winner to me as we were walking along the river in Tacoma. I told her that I had plans to fly to see Temple Grandin since I was writing a chapter (my memoirs) for her next book, Different ...Not Less.

(Gasp) "You have humor!!"
—numerous psychologists and one OT, with eyes wide open and sometimes with a gasp as if it could not be true.

"I don't think that you have a need to know that information. That is not important here."
—my "Little's" SLP teacher to me one day in a local jr. high school (I was acting as his advocate, mind you) after I asked why he needed to be in SLP therapy and how that was different than the behavioral therapy that he was doing privately. I wanted to see the specifics and make sure they were teaching the same thing, etc.... The most ridiculous thing is that she was trying to get me to help her convince my "Little" that he should cooperate with her in these sessions.

The following was on the wall of a classroom that was designed just for autistic people. The teacher was very proud of this classroom and very excited to show it to me. I was excited to see it and to see what role models were on the walls. But all the walls were decorated with posters like this:


The stuff they studied was all about the deficits. I shutdown almost immediately in that room. Yes, there are 20 rules I have to memorize to partake in a conversation. 10 for listening and 10 for speaking. This is real life for these kids in the "prized" local classroom. Biggest surprise and gap yet.

And what classroom would be complete without the Social Thinking language telling me about how "ALL PEOPLE" are supposed to think and act if they want to stand ANY chance of being a part of humanity? (My comments alongside.)
Posters like these are found in almost every place I go. The commonly accepted words of "EXPECTED" behaviors, in context that often makes no sense to me as an autistic person. It is expected by YOU, maybe, but....

"You are only mildly affected, so you can pass as normal."
—a parent about her child at one of the parent meetings I attended recently. This parent was quite proud that she had given that advice to her child to help her accept her diagnosis....

(You know, 'cause nobody would actually WANT to appear autistic or anything....)

“[T]he chief diagnostic signs of autism are social isolation, lack of eye contact, poor language capacity and absence of empathy….”
—Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Lindsay M. Oberman in the Scientific American article Broken Mirrors: A Theory of Autism

Autistic people have abnormalities in the empathy circuit in their brains” resulting in “zero degrees of empathy.”
—Simon Baron-Cohen in his latest book, The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty

“Teaching empathy to someone with autism/Asperger’s is almost like teaching a pig to sing — it is a waste of time and annoys the pig (at least most of the time).”
—physician Roy Q. Sanders, Medical Director of the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, GA, in a truly shameless display while reflecting on a TV show with an autistic character

All of the above are from this brilliant post by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg in her blog: Autism and Empathy

The following is from a really good teacher who just sort of misses the mark here in the "sensitivity" department. The worst part about this slide is that he justified this language with me after I called him out on it. He just could not see why these words would insult anyone as they were (after all) technically correct.... (So, who exactly you calling "literal" here?) LOL!

(Again, my comments alongside)

“It’s as if they (autistic people) do not understand or are missing a core aspect of what it is to be human” (Falcon & Shoop, 2002).
mong too many to list from a column in a professional publication, On Not Being Human, that one stood out to me as the most "fun." Oh, we could go on and on and on about the research. It is pretty awful....

Check just one of hundreds of really stupid research conclusions done about Autistic person. In this one, it was discovered that Autistic people did not lie about their opinions of somebody's work because that person was there. In real life, we call this honesty. The NET result is that the Autistic people are MORE honest than NT people. But could the researchers actually use that as their conclusion?
Heck no! That would be making Autism into something positive. Instead they concluded that a disorder existed in the Autistic people. But what disorder? How could they do this. Ah HAH! Let's create a new word. The problem is that Autistic people have diminished "Social Motivation" and therefor have deficiencies or problems in "Reputation Management." I am waiting for the Reputation Management therapies and specialists and certifications to start springing up.

Seriously, these scientist (so called) suck,.

Now, here's a quickie glimpse into the autistic adult culture that I have personally experienced over the past 18 months here in the Portland, Oregon, region. Having this group of friends reset my expectations of autistic people, too. I learned that:

  • We have feelings!!! We have friends. We have ToM. We have empathy. We even have sex!!! (serious)
  • We do not have this need to do a bunch of small talk in order to relate to one another.
  • We do not dance around topics with one another.
  • We always assume good intentions of one another and do not take offense at statements, even if they could be taken more than one way (default is good way).
  • Our communication style is more interruptive, but we simply queue people up in our group conversations so that everyone gets a chance to speak.
  • Our conversations have little to no ego but lots and lots of passion.
  • Our views on gender are more open.
  • We are funny as hell.
  • We do not have to talk. We can just be with one another to share.
  • We are more accepting of differences in each other and more patient with different abilities.

From others: (I will gladly add your favorites. Give me quote and source on my Facebook page....)

‎"Wait a minute... we've been signing for physical therapy for four years. Do we know why?"
—daughter's pediatrician during a visit for a referral for PT and OT, going into the 5th year in a row. (from Alissa S.)