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This blog is associated with The Emancipated Autism Project™.

Lying

August 17, 2012

Lying is actually a social skill (though not a particularly good one). There are two issues, I think:

First, when Autists lie, it is often obvious. We generally make lousy liars. Now, like anything else, social skills, including lying, can be learned. Social skills are challenges, not impossibilities.

Second, Autists are frequently honest to a fault. I had to learn how to be tactful. It did not come naturally.

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Subculture

August 11, 2012
It is possible that an Autistic subculture may emerge. However, I think it may be too soon to say. What I mostly see is division – Autists attacking other Autists over just about everything.

Autists are a very socially fragmented pre-subculture. There are several major ideological divisions in the online Autism community.

The biggest issue is whether Autism should be “cured” (either partially or entirely). I used to be in the anti-cure camp. Since I changed my mind, the anti-cure people have removed me from their email lists.

There are other differences, as well. A small minority, but highly vocal, segment of Autists believe that Autism represents some kind of “super race.”

In order for subcultures to be stable, certain traits will distinguish them from the rest of the culture. There needs to be a shared identity.

I don’t think that the “subculture issue” will be clear for several years. Some of the factors which now divide Autists would need to be resolved on some level.

If a fixed subculture does emerge, in the libertarian direction I see it, many Autists (including me) will likely drift away.

The Cosmic Envelope

August 10, 2012
One of my observations is that many (maybe most) people in the online Autistic community are libertarians. While libertarianism may be the path of least resistance for Autists, I think it is a harmful choice.

Autists, perhaps more than anyone, need to move beyond individualism/libertarianism to what philosopher Roy Bhaskar calls the cosmic envelope – that is, to unity.

Sustainable development, focusing on the needs of others and of generations to follow, is, to me, a practical application of the cosmic envelope.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1

July 28, 2012

Level : ‘Requiring support’

Social Communication: Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments.  Has difficulty initiating social interactions and demonstrates clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful responses to social overtures of others.  May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions.

Restricted interests & repetitive behaviors: Rituals and repetitive behaviors (RRB’s) cause significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts.  Resists attempts by others to interrupt RRB’s or to be redirected from fixated interest.

Problems with the term “high functioning”

July 25, 2012
From a linguistic perspective, the term “high functioning” is offensive to some people. If there are high-functioning Autists, there must be low-functioning Autists, as well.

All Autists, no matter where we fall on the spectrum, can function well in some areas and not in others.

Autism and Social Movements

July 13, 2012
As a sociologist (a college professor) and an Autist, I have looked into the Autistic community quite a bit.

In a sense, there are two communities: The Autistic community (Autists) and the Autism community (the infamous Autism Speaks and similar organizations). They have little to do with one another.

However, the issue is really even more complicated. There is not just one Autistic movement. There are several. For instance, without naming names, some groups of Autists oppose cures. Some favor them (at least in some cases). Others are interested in providing supports. They avoid taking a position on the issue of cures.

Exactly five years ago, after being re-diagnosed (correctly diagnosed) on the Autism spectrum, I joined the anti-cure movement. These days, I am more interested in support issues. I also hope that it will, someday, be possible to cure certain Autistic problems (like social difficulties) while leaving the more positive traits intact.

Autists are also disproportionately poor. There is such a thing as “other people’s money.” Monetary systems are arbitrary or conventional arrangements. There is nothing innate about private property.

The Unity Model of Disability

October 7, 2011

The Unity Model of Disability

For Immediate Release [first published on October 7, 2011]

This unity, or essence, of humanity is not, to my understanding, merely an abstract concept. As we discover and acquire the magnetic attributes of human unity, that unity can be practiced in our daily lives. Decisions will be made consultatively or selflessly. Diversity, on the other hand, is a given. Each of us is an individual soul. We have particular capacities which can be developed throughout our lives. However, diversity by itself, like Autistic identity politics, can easily become a trap. If we focus upon the diversity, and neglect the unitying essence, societies, communities, and hearts may begin to fall apart.

Identity politics is rooted in various Marxist perspectives, especially critical social theory. The focus of many of these critical perspectives is upon conscious raising or conscientization, which is the process of developing an awareness of oppression. The idea originated with Brazilian educator Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy. After recognizing oppression, people join together with others facing similar problems. Together, they struggle for freedom. Therefore, in identity politics, there is some unity, but it is limited in scope, not universal. Inevitably, people will divide into camps of “us” versus “them.”

The online community of Autists and the mental health community have been relatively disconnected. This unfortunate separation has mostly been a result of the neurodiversity movement and its focus upon creating a unique Autistic identity. There are, however, movements related to Autism and to mental health, which, to some extent, run parallel to one another. Descriptions of a number of them are provided on my Brief Outlines of Liberation Movements page. Bridging the gap between these two disability communities, United Against Neurelitism  has developed a Unity Model of Disability.

The Unity Model, while similar to the Empowerment Model, changes the focus from the individual to “humanity.” In both models, however, a medical client  is expected not to be merely a passive recipient of health care services. The attitude, “We know what is best for you,” would be unacceptable. Not only could she choose, or refuse, a particular health care provider. She has the right to reject any  treatment. An example of the Empowerment Model is the recovery movement. It was influenced by the similarly American twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous® and the Civil Rights Movement.

As far as I know, there is no specific  recovery group for Autists. While I differ with many of the assumptions commonly made within the recovery movement, such as the claim that powerlessness  is related to an absence of will power, this popular self-help philosophy can be interesting to study. Essentially, it has medicalized the diversity of human experience, including procrastination. As a caricature of the Empowerment Model, the movement has turned ordinary human struggles into fictional pathologies. Personal life stories then become the novels of recovery from nonscientific diseases.

The Unity Model also borrows from the Social Model of Disability. In the Social Model, the term, “disability” refers to social oppression or discrimination based upon social disadvantages. Disability is not the same as simple human differences. In other words, once the oppression is removed, the disability is eliminated. In Five Kingdoms, disability is also defined as oppression. However, the medical oppression which results from having a number of usually undesirable neurological traits, especially the difficulties with processing empathy, is incorporated, as well.

As a practical application of social justice, the Unity Model is not utopian. Simply, each of us should, working together, advocate for one other, not only for ourselves. The development of unified communities and societies is the heart of the model. Identity politics, or movements supporting the partisan interests of individuals with particular disabilities, are discarded. They are replaced with an awareness of the unity of humanity. If we share, together, the physical attributes, the qualities, of the essence of humanity, we are literally, not just figuratively or metaphorically, related to one another.

For example, our global community might, working in unity, develop better treatments, perhaps even targeted cures, for Autism. With a dear Autistic father, I should always  have known, better than most people, the importance of discovering scientific medical cures. Second, we Autists, as uncommonly odd individuals, are often bullied. Due to a lack of social skills, we also have much higher-than-average unemployment rates. Cooperatively protecting Autists from all forms of oppression and discrimination, is, I feel, crucial. Every human being has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

Unity, in diversity, is, as I see it, always  preferable over division. In my opinion, the unity of humanity is a reality. We are not cats or dogs or cattle. We are members of the same biological species, homo sapiens, and members of the same subspecies, homo sapiens sapiens. Classifying us by race, ethnicity, and nationality is a human invention. Defining us through our skin color makes no more scientific sense than distinguishing between us based upon hair or eye color. Each of these three traits were evolutionary adaptations. Through natural selection, they developed from variations in climate.

Similarly, separating Autists into types, such as classic Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome  (Asperger’s Disorder in the United States), has been used by some individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, or “aspies,” to distinguish themselves from other Autists. Thank God, the label, Asperger’s Syndrome, will, most likely, be officially eliminated from the new diagnostic manuals. According to the proposal, Asperger’s Syndrome will become Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1. The psychiatric community has recognized that we are all Autists, and that the similarities between us outweigh any differences.

Respectfully submitted,

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D.

Servant,

United Against Neurelitism

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