Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Autism and Who I Am

I posted this in an email group I belong to for women with Aspergers and thought I'd share it here.

I agree that a focus on specific challenges that need to be addressed is the most effective way of helping people instead of obliterating them.

In my opinion parents who (seem to) want to obliterate autism (and autistic people) are wanting their child to have an easier/better life, but also on some level they don't accept not having a normal child. There is such a pressure to conform, it seems, such faith in the technological fix, an expectation and entitlement to "happiness" in some cultures in North America.

Recognizing the potential for even non-verbal people to advocate for themselves and agree or not agree with specific treatments. An AS friend of mine had ECT that did yucky (understatement) things to his memory and affect.

Neurological change CAN happen, though, but it does take work. There's no pill for that which does any good for the real challenges of autism (unless there is a comorbidity which is extremely hard to tease out). I see some "treatments" like ECT, drugs, or other more brutal therapies as something like gastric bypass surgery. Yes, most people CAN, through effort, help themselves heal. There can be social supports to do so. But understanding what the problem is, is huge.

Again with the empathy question. People, including Robison, seem to be saying 'you can't make generalizations' but then make just that when it comes to ASD ability to empathise. Sigh.

The disability/diffability question of what makes us who we are is such a fundamental argument to all of this. There are the people who think that the autism is keeping people from being who they are (or could be), others see that autism has shaped who they are and is inextricable from that. I'd kind of say that I see it both ways for myself.

People in wheelchairs can simultaneously wish their legs/balance worked better, and believe that being different from most people around them has given them strength, empathy, an understanding of the human condition that makes them who they are today. And if you took away their difference, who knows what their perspective on the world would be?

And I feel that way -- growing up different/odd/eccentric has involved pain, suffering and isolation, but has also made me very concerned with social justice, not quick to dismiss people and treat them badly because of their difference, not assume the meaning of behaviour in an individual. Aspergers is not necessary to having these qualities, but in my case, I think my differences because of aspergers has shaped who I am, and I like who I am.

But I do NOT like having problems with executive functioning, anxiety, or sensory processing. I do NOT think that I need to eliminate all the features of aspergers to have less difficulty with those things. Sensory processing disorder has shaped the way I see the world. I think there are valuable things about the way I see the world. I paint, and the way I paint is shaped by that. I see colours a certain way, I discern shapes and understand objects in ways that informs my art. I would NOT take that away. It makes me cry to think I would lose that.

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