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Roger N. Meyer "...of a different mind "
Puzzle Pieces Image

ASA/ASSN International Conference 2005 'Talking with Us'
AS Parents and Other Family Members in Denial

Day 2, Morning Workshop I
Brisbane, Australia
Copyright © Roger N. Meyer
All Rights Reserved


Good Morning. I hope that you've had a chance to review my biography in the program guide. Because this workshop is so short, I'm not going to draw things out with a Power Point slide show. Because my presentation touches some pretty raw areas in our community, I'd like to try to get through it. If we don't get to questions, please note that your handout has questions you can ask of yourselves and each other after you leave this room.

Let me start by aluding to two huge elephants in this room that no one wants to discuss:

Autism in our families, and autism in our organisations.

AS IN THE FAMILY

The first elephant in the room is AS in the family.

After several years of developing social security cases for my adult clients as though they existed in a vacuum, I began to conduct full family histories as I did intakes with them. These histories demonstrate the effect of the family's autism, rarely acknowledged, and often denied or hidden.

Why family history is important

Adds to decision-maker understanding

Provides context for current and later work

with and by the individual

Takes skeletons out of the family closet

For my client's claim to be awarded, I ask an analyst or administrative law judge to look at my client in the context of their family in denial, a family often engaged in very dysfunctional behavior. Since autism is a condition where the individual's response to others is often determined by the social context, I ask decision makers to look at the entire context, not just a behavioral snapshot of my client in the hearing room or as of a certain date on their application. I do not exaggerate the picture. I let family members and third parties who know the person intimately do the talking.

When decision makers open their eyes to the everyday universe the client lives in, this bigger picture helps them overcome stereotypical assumptions based only my clients' visible behavior. By understanding the pervasive nature of autism in the individual over the person's life-span, decision-makers aren't as inclined to think of my less able clients as malingerers not trying hard enough to find gainful employment, or as students in training or adult education who could make it if only they'd concentrate and work a little harder. When I present the whole autistic picture to decision-makers, program gate keepers are less likely to impute a negative moral makeup to my clients.

FAMILY TREASURES/FAMILY SECRETS

AS individuals marry each other and NS persons

We have children

We run into our kids' diagnosticians unwilling to diagnose us. WHY?

From what we've learned about Asperger Syndrome, we know that our kids don't just fall off Asperger Syndrome greengrocer carts. There's a family connection. Careful looking finds it in our other children. It's in close relatives, siblings, parents, grandparents. When we view the family's history, we trace eccentric and misdiagnosed mental health conditions back several generations, often on both sides of the family.

Here's the clinker: We now recognize that with more and more kids being diagnosed early and accurately with AS, that as their parents, we see some of those features in our kids as our features when we were their age.

We know that men and women who may both be somewhere on the autistic spectrum are attracted to each other. We marry and we have Asperger Syndrome kids. Conflict between Asperger Syndrome parents often revolves around the differences of perspective of a more able partner and parent and the less able partner and parent. In the Asperger Syndrome partners group I've been co-facilitating for five years with my clinical social worker colleague, our partners struggle with this all the time. As a private case manager for persons with developmental challenge, I experience this same split in parental competence as family members manage their family's business.

Many professionals in the autism industry are untrained to look at what's happening with our families.

OSTRICH HEADS IN THE SAND

It's ironic that the further back you go in writings about autism and Aspereger Syndrome, the clearer is the writing by medical professionals about both conditions. I'm not saying 'correct,' but I am saying Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger wrote well. How many of you know that when Kanner wrote his 1943 article in English, that he was very explicit in describing the family backgrounds of his young patients? He talked about parents, grandparents, and their eccentric behaviors and highly specialised interests. His original journal article in Nervous Child, a now-defunct journal, can be found in a slightly edited version on the ASPIRES web site under Articles, with Kanner's original title: 'Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.' It's a clear, fast read.

The URL for Kanner's article is:

http://aspires-relationships.com/articles_autistic_disturbances_of_affective_contact.htm

Asperger wasn't so lucky. He couldn't study the parents of a much smaller number of kids who were institutionalized in his special hospital clinc in war-time Vienna. Had his activities been discovered earlier by the Nazi's, his kids and their parents would likely have ended up in extermination camps. By the time his paper appeared, the Nazi's were on the run, closing camps and destroying evidence of their foul deeds in Eastern Europe and Austria. It's unfortunate that his original paper has been available to us in English only since 1991, when Uta Frith published it in her edited Cambridge University Press book, Autism and Asperger Syndrome.

How did the medical community deal with Kanner's first article when if first came out?

Two bad things happened. First, the 1940's were awash with Freudian psychodynamic claptrap. Second, Bruno Bettleheim, another medical fraud, produced 'his' unique and influential concept of the cause of autism. Both of these influential men corrupted two whole generations of physicians with myths and lies.

By the 1960's parents of autistic kids had enough of medical arrogance. Their demands for answers produced a growing industry of non-medical child development and educational professionals. Together, they forced medical practitioners to look at the whole family, not just the child or adult patient.

Even today, the average medical professional is reluctant to look beyond the individual patient and do a comprehensive family history. We're lucky that other professionals aren't so blinkered. 

WHY ARE WE SO SQUEAMISH

Family stuff is private business

You know...that's private. It's family business. And yes, it is, but its also OUR business, in the autistic community, to look for problems and treasure where they're more likely to be found -- in the extended family. Professionals slice and dice persons into little pieces, treating the medical patient, the counselling client, the benefits recipient, the student with learning problems, but none of them feel comfortable putting too intense a light on the family.

Even if there's interest, they often run into a closed family, a family in denial, a family with very weak connections in the community at large.

Autistic families close themselves off to avoid outsider's reactions to their behaviorally challenged members. They wall off their own family members from one another. There's also another dynamic working to close the family. Other family members can't handle the overwhelming complex social challenges of real life 'out there.'

So, how do we get to enlightment, to understanding of autism as a family condition? Why do we keep looking in the wrong places?

Story of the lost wallet

I'm reminded of the person who lost his wallet somewhere back on the unlit portion of the street. He's looking for it under a street lamp, not even close to where he lost it. When asked why he's looking for it here, rather than where he most likely dropped it, his answer is, 'Because the light's better here.'

Ignorance is compounded when autism diagnostic experts can't observe the autistic person in real life contexts. The family home is just one of them. The person's responses to real-life, real-time challenges out in the community are other such contexts. At one time, doctors used to make house calls. They were far more out and about in the community than they are today. But now, our health care system has changed. Doctors' time is rationed. The see us only in their offices and clinics. My question to all such shut-ins of the medical establishment is:

'Is the light really better there?'

So we have to be real about AS not just in our children, whether young or mature, but we also in our whole family. This is something that many of our long-established national autism organisations haven't dealt well with at all. It's the 'third rail' of 'don't go there' in many of our meetings together, more the topic of whispered private conversations rather than open acknowledgment in mixed company.

I say we must deal with it, and deal with it openly. What's preventing our doing that?

Denial

Fear of Change

As we all know, folks just don't like change. Human discomfort with change isn't just an autistic phenomenon. Plain folks dislike change too. In fact, resistance to change is so strong in our cultures that there's a saying that the only person who looks forward to being changed is a wet baby.

OUR 'OTHER FAMILY'

Now I'd like to turn to our other family, our autism organisation family. Autism in our organisations is the other 'third rail,' our 'don't go there' elephant in the room

We have organisations over forty years old, now a part of the autism industry, that insist on only representing less able autistic persons and their families and providers. We have organisations such as this one, much younger, that address the concerns of more able children and adults on the autistic spectrum. As organisations, we don't get along very well with one another.

Here's what the public sees:

Feuding, animosity, fear and jealousy

'My kid's more special than yours'

We dislike change

We have our own control freaks big-time

Some of us more able folks occupy token positions on boards and committees in the older national autism organisations. While organizational old-timers reassure us we're not there for mere window dressing, they haven't made headroom for our inclusion and shared power. Out of frustration, we've started our own separate organisations.

As a student of organisations, I realise another reason for our non-inclusion. People long in power don't willingly relinquish it, but there's something more going on in those organisations. There's a barely concealed element of control-freak-ism in the way the organisations are run in the United States, from the top down, that exposes autistic leaders' need to control everything, not just minor details. Their need to hold on no matter what their conduct is doing to local chapters gets stronger the more they're in denial. One thing is obvious about our long-standing national autism organisations: you don't see their members or leaders vying for seats on our boards of directors or membership in our local or regional AS organisations.

DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?

Let's look at the activities of our long-time established and our newer autistic spectrum organizations. Here's what autism and AS/HFA organizations do. We both....

[READ THE LIST BELOW]

How would you characterize these these duplicated activities? One thing comes to mind when we I view both of these organizations:

PARALLEL PLAY

You've heard the term parallel play? What better example than this list of organisational parallel play functions and activities? Is this not autism writ large, in both our houses?

Self-absorbed parallel play is the first thing diagnosticians look for as an indication of autistic children's lack of awareness of others. They look at kids playing in a playground sandbox. They observe them during recess and in-class during creative activities times. They see our kids in our own worlds, doing our own things, oblivious to what's going on around us. That's what I mean when I state that our organisations, all of them, act autistically. We're all engaged in parallel play.

I suggest that the reason why this is so, why we haven't come together under one roof, as one family, is because there's a lot of denial going on in our organisations. We have a lot of undiagnosed folks on the spectrum in charge of them, at all levels.

Another reason, of course, is inertia. Once organisations are set up, it's hard to change directions, and it's hard for established organisations to become more inclusive. And let's face the ultimate problem. Once ensconced in power, individuals in power don't willingly shift to make room for others or step down when their contributions ultimately turn out to be more honorary than real.

THE POWER OF WORDS

Let's return to getting serious about what stands in our way from joining hands, from healing breaches of understanding in our own house, from bridging the divide between so-called lower functioning and higher functioning autistic folks.

'Person With Autism'

Some of the reason why we remain so disconnected from one another has to do with words themselves. Let's take the phrase 'person with autism.' The phrase 'person with' also seems to have attached itself to High Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome.

Think of this for a minute: How many sight impaired persons refer to themselves as 'persons with blindness'? Do paraplegics or quadraplegics refer to themselves as 'persons with paraplegia; with quadraplegia?'

How do persons in the hearing impaired community refer to themselves? They certainly don't refer to themselves as 'persons with deafness'? No. None of these three groups' members commonly refer to themselves as 'persons with.' So something's going on here.

Shame and Embarrassment

The phrase 'persons with' in our community comes more from embarrassed parents whether they're on the spectrum or not, and from others, not us. Some people say that the term 'persons with' is politically correct. To that, I ask, 'correct for whom?' Whose politics are involved here? If you're embarrassed by a condition, what better way to dance around it than to pad your discomfort with the 'A word' with feel-good laundry softeners?

What better way to hide your shame than to adopt a phrase given to you by others who are also embarrassed about their condition as well as yours?

Mind you, I'm not ultra critical of autistic folks who use this phrase, but if and when I get to know them better, I often find that they aren't completely comfortable with being autistic.

Well, neither am I, but you won't find me walking around muttering to myself that I'm uncomfortable with something I can't really change. I expect others who are uncomfortable with the word autism to flinch inwardly when they use the phrase 'person with.' Or, when they hear other's use it.

'Words can never Hurt Me'

OH YES THEY CAN!

Words do harm all the time.

It's that discomfort with the 'A' word I'd like to see folks shed, and what better way than to come right out with it and use the term neutrally, as Eugen Bleuler did, nearly a hundred years ago in Zurich when he coined and first used the term autism. Bleuler recognized that autistic conduct and autistic thinking involved a range of conduct and thinking. He did not apply the baggage of moral disapproval when he used the term. Neither did Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. Incidentally, Asperger's use of the German term 'psychopathie' was not, I repeat, not the same, as that term's meaning in English medical practice.

FALSE DICHOTOMIES

Low Functioning..........High Functioning

Our mutual separation from one another, our denial of our obvious commonality along this spectrum, is very costly to us in several ways.

HERE'S THE HARM

First high cost: We play into the hands of the autism industry. Our organisations rely on industry vendors and providers to sponsor our events and contribute to our coffers. I can't say that we should stop, but we should be more sensitive to the phenomenon of Greeks bearing gifts.

Marketing problems including false hope

By maintaining a false dichotomy between low funtioning and high functioning rather than acknowledging autism as a spectrum condition, we allow clever marketeers to sell questionable product or techniques to our two markets. If one of our markets rejects it, that's no big deal, because marketeers count on our other market, whose customers may be either more gullible or desperate, unwilling to bad-mouth something that didn't work for them but that just might just work for others. I call this the marketing of false hope.

Perpetuation of Ignorance and Stereotypical Myths

Maintaining the false dichotomy between low-functioning and high-functioning perpetuates ignorance and stereotypical myths about autistic children and adults. As new treatments, educational approaches, medications, licensed techniques arrive on to the market, their developers and adherents cling to them out of greed and desperation.

These new treatment approaches quickly become sacred cows

Another high cost: By insisting on our low-functioning, high-functioning dichotomy, we perpetuate ignorance among professionals who should know better. They give lip-service to the notion of autism as a spectrum phenomenon; but they provide actual assistance only to limited classes of us. They see our exceptional behavior, yet they convince themselves that our conduct and thinking isn't 'typical' for their type of patients or clients. They dismiss us for not fitting into convenient boxes for high-functioning or low-functioning people. This has devastating educational implications for our children, and is equally worrisome when it comes to diagnosis of adults.

False dichotomies breed lazy thinking. Professionals are overworked. They don't have time to stop and avail themselves of knowledge that doesn't quite fit into their narrow scope of practise. While greater specialisation does occur, there is also room for common-sense to seep in.

Isolation of disciplines and individuals

Another high cost: Our low-functioning, high-functioning dichotomy prevents the cross fertilization of knowledge between low and high providers, between low and high parents, educators, and other community services for our children, to say nothing of our adults.

Ignorance thrives in darkness. As one innovative person walks ahead turning on the lights, three others follow to make sure those lights are extinquished because of the threat that additional knowledge represents to their practises, their increasingly limited view of the complete human beings they see in their offices. We see power struggles between various interests within the provider community, and within our organisations built around petty squabbles about treatments, the cause of autism, and bitter arguments about our children and our adults' very personhood, our capacity for independence. They withhold supports we need to learn to manage ourselves to maximise our potential for full adult lives.

Throttling Development of Universal Knowledge

Another high cost: Thwarting universal knowledge. Dichotomising autism into low and high functioning slows down the advance of knowledge. There's no question that it contributes to vicious infighting within the research community and amidst so-called academic experts. Like Attwood, professional advocates point to no real difference between autism and Asperger Syndrome except the spelling, yet others not out in the trenches with us who remain within the academy rail against clear thinking. Instead they circle their wagons and their colleagues around their own academic argot and arcane theoretical models. What a waste of brainpower, some of which sounds a bit autistic to me.

Rodney King and the O.J. Simpson Trial Riot

an allegory

Finally, the highest cost: I'd like to remind folks of the real impact of the divide within our family. When race riots broke out in Los Angeles following the jury verdict in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial in 1995, blacks called one another every name in the book, and white racists folks also joined in on the fray. It wasn't about guilt or innocence. It was about courtroom theatre, 'made for TV' posturing, and when the whole thing was tried and found by a jury, the bonfire all set to burn, built up by hysterical media coverage, caught fire in a post-verdict conflagration leading to millions of dollars of senseless property damage and the loss of lives.

Rodney King, a black truck driver pulled from his vehicle and beaten by a riotous crowd, asked, simply 'Why can't we all just get along?'

Indeed, why can't we?

'WHY CAN'T WE JUST GET ALONG?'

How can we heal this split within our family?

Unless we're willing to turn the spotlight on ourselves to determine whether the differences between our so-called low-functioning community and our high-functioning community are all that real, we will remain divided. We will continue to devour our young.

Healing the Split within the family by...

To start to heal the wounds we constantly scratch open by using the terms low-functioning and high-functioning, perhaps we should look at other spectrum-spanning conditions labeled as disabilities and see how they've managed to get their act together.

Learning from Others

In my submission for the proceedings to this conference, I refer to a number of these conditions. Here's the list:

I'll repeat the two points I made in the proceedings submission. First, they are other complex, well-understood conditions with hidden differences. This means that just as with autism, individuals who share these other conditions also have lots of hidden challenges that aren't obvious just by looking at them or hearing them. I also made the point that we can learn much from how individuals with these conditions view the world and how they make their way in it.

Make new friends; cease sparring with old enemies;

turn your back on provocation

In my proceedings submission, I alude to one thing that differentiates us from these other spectrum conditions. That's our isolation from others and our fierce pride in being lone wolves. I don't suggest that this can be overcome easily. But I think we can and should work on it.

Our solopcism is what others are concerned about, and for our public persona, we should care about it as well. Yes, there is that element of I-centeredness that distinguishes us from others. However, we all have to live in the real world, and if we want real results, we have to stop singing the Frank Sinatra song of 'I did it my way.' There are some things we can do like Frank Sinatra.

There are many things we can't.

I also believe there's value in self-sacrifice. By this I mean, doing something with or for others for their sake or just for the Hell of it, and not only just for our sake. That, after all, is one of the defining characteristics of adult friendship.

THE POLITICAL SENSE OF SELFLESS GOOD WORKS

Autistic book keeping

When you give and don't receive, do you always lose?

Self-sacrifice's connection to adult friendship

Deep down, many of us autistic folks believe that if we give something away to someone else, that we are diminished by that act. Our I-centeredness is at the core of why we don't cooperate well with others. We want an absolute tit for tat. We give, we get back exactly the same as we've given. And, over these matters, we hold long, deep-seated grudges. What isn't OK is an uncompromising expectation on our part that for every 'give' there is a take. In some exchanges, we aren't entitled to repayment in full. The real world doesn't work like an accounting ledger.

Many of us think instrumentally about our relationships with others. We use other people. That's OK, as long as we're aware of it, and the other person is as well. Politicians do this all the time, and although they're not held in high esteem, we still find them useful creatures to have around. They get things done.

With strangers we may have an interest in befriending to move our interests ahead in the real world, we shouldn't expect a tit for tat dynamic in our relationships. Especially when we're making our initial contacts and working on our first projects together.

FENCE BUILDING

SPITE FENCES

Let's talk about the present state of affairs within our autism community. We're divided by spite fences. What do spite fences do?

Send a negative message: Keep Out!

Divide People - You do your thing - I do mine

But it's more than that. They really say: Stay out of my business.

Negatively affect the whole neighborhood

They create a negative environment way beyond their actual property boundaries. People may not know exactly what led up to someone's building a spite fence, but they know one when they see one. Spite fences set a sour tone in their whole environment.

Create long-smoldering resentment

Let's look at another kind of fence, and another reason for building the fence.

GOOD NEIGHBOR FENCES

Good neighbor fences in the US are built right at the property line.

Built upon an agreement between neighbors

The person building the fence will often place the finished slats on the neighbor's side rather than his own. The fence does a number of things:

Secures each owner's property from intrusion

Sets safe limits for children and pets

It prevents children and pets from wandering away by setting limits and boundaries on their behavior.

Symbolizes good will by putting a finished side on the neighbor's side 

Symbolizes the virtue of good neighborhood relationships

by starting with good communication

It symbolizes a cooperative effort and selfless consideration of others by the builder.

It is a symbol of good citizenship in that it pays heed to good community values of consideration of one's neighbors.

A lesson for children: why and how to build good fences

Good neighbor fences are wonderful lessons for our children.

When asked why mommy or daddy is building the fence, parents explain the reasons, but also demonstrate a real life lesson of valuing a positive relationship with a stranger.

A second lesson is that the child learns both the values and techniques involved in how to construct a good neighbor fence - this is all the more easy because all of the details of the construction are placed on the builder's side, not the neighbor's side. The child then has a graphic example, a permanent example of sharing as well as a 'how to do' lesson.

We can learn much from this example. While our self-interest is obviously involved, the value of the lesson to our children in contacting our neighbor, getting their agreement, and mutually benefitting both of us can be taught during each step of the building process. If the child wishes to help, so much the better.

A LESSON FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Consideration for others becomes a part of the family's history

Working on a project of common benefit teaches everyone an important life lesson through doing, not just 'saying' or lecturing.

Building with one's hands creates a lymbic

memory building block for life

A project of this kind, using multiple senses, builds understanding about complex tasks through repetition of a hands-on experience. It also may create a life-long skill set for a young person.

On balance,good work benefit strangers more it may benefit ourselves

Building a fence is not an accidental project. It takes thought, planning and perhaps a change of attitude. It's a lesson about intent, self-interest, and interest in the greater good for everyone.

Of course, here I'm speaking metaphorically. The 'whole family' we're considering is the autism community, as a whole, despite the fact of our being a divided camp. By engaging in concrete, small acts in the outside community, such as volunteering to help a neighbor, doing work on a Habitat for Humanity project, participating in a fund-raising community activity for causes other than autism, supporting a cause just because we think it's right, and that it taps into our strong sense of justice, we strengthen ourselves, we strengthen the community, and by our very extension of interest and effort to others, we start to question the reasons for arbitrary divisions within our own extended family.

INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH COMMUNITY BUILDING

I've learned that in order to get a building project completed, it takes many trades, with different tools, styles of learning, and techniques that I alone don't have. I think we can first learn about some of these skills and pick up some of these tools from those considerably different than ourselves. The first two letters of 'alliance' do not have the same meaning to them as the first two letters of 'alone.' One person I know of whose whole professional persona was wrapped up in

I Vont to be Alone 

was Greta Garbo. These five words from a 1932 film became her trademark. She had such an edge to her intense desire for privacy and living a celibate life that even the movie studio she worked for didn't have her telephone number. She became a sorry, unhappy shadow figure as a result of the way the movie industry capitalized upon her beauty and her sadness.

Building together always involves

clearing the deck

In building alliances, all partners must have a healthy self-interest in first knocking down walls in order to build ones that work better. Some of these partitions are in the exterior, while others are outside walls. I have yet to hear of two quite different groups working together in a reciprocal manner so as to benefit each of them, without each of them having first undergone a kind of mental clearing of clutter in their minds. I think we're capable of it, just as we should know that others are as well.

HELPING OTHERS HELPS OURSELVES 

In my town, Habitat for Humanity is building community by building common wall structures, condominiums. Strangers who've lived hard lives as renters always subject to the control of others are coming together to work on their own places and those of other Habitat owners. They are building their community from scratch.

When Habitat first started out, its volunteers worked on as many rehabilitation projects as they did new structures. Of the two kinds of work, remodeling -- rehabilitation -- is much harder. But they learned, and they learned together.

So can we.

+++++

With this concluding pronouncement that in order to make alliances with other, we have some mental housecleaning to do, I've just come to an end with my formal, stand-up routine.

Now, let's get into the 'workshop' portion of this session. It's going to consist of questions and discussion. If we get to answers, that would be great, but lets see how far we can push our thinking first.

________________________________________________________________

Questions for the audience:

Some of you may wish to know more about me, things in addition to what's printed in your conference brochures. Chances are, as topics come up in this portion of the time we have together, I'll be able to slip in some personal details. At the end of this session, I'd like us all to leave asking more questions of ourselves and others, rather than coming up with quick answers.

There are no easy answers to the quandry that I've posed today. But I do think there are questions we can and should continue to ask of ourselves and others when we leave this room.

So, let's start the questions.

Before we begin, may I have a show of hands from those of you who are

        parents of an autistic individual

        siblings of an autistic person (brothers and sisters, half brothers and sisters)

        other family members - grandparents, aunt/uncle, cousins

        educational professionals in elementary and secondary education

        persons in the counseling professions

        connected with non-profit community service agencies

        connected with non-educational government programs

        elected or appointed leaders in autism organization

        Others....for the rest of us, please tell us what you do or who you are

After folks have raised their hands, I'd like to start our discussion by asking questions of autistic folks, followed by their family members, and then others in the room. Once you've responded to the question, I'd like you to address one another, and I'll help you in that process. It's my belier that this is where real learning and understanding happens.

1. What are your thoughts about the way I describe AS in the family? Are my statements accurate?

2. Have you experienced others' denial of their autism in your family? Show of hands yes/no.

3. If you raised your hand to say 'Yes, there is denial in my family,' how has that affected your

relationships with extended family members

schooling

acceptance in communnity

your ability to apply for or use government services

relationships with counsellors and others wishing to help you

 

4. What do you think about the labels low-functioning or high-functioning, first as they apply to you, and then as they apply to people you know?

5. How do these these labels keep us separated, unable and unwilling to talk with each other?

We have hidden aspects of our condition that others don't know much about. So do other people.

6. What do you think about making connections with others who aren't autistic to learn about how they've worked to have people understand them better?

Finally, I'm going to throw in a very weighty question here, and it applies specifically to Australian history. I throw it out not to encourage discussion here, today, but to get you to think more about barriers to understanding, righting wrongs, and building community alliances.

7. What if, instead of working with other individuals with a spectrum condition involving hidden characteristics, some folks here were to actively join with others in the cause for full restoration of human and political rights for this country's first inhabitants?

I know this is a hot potato to throw to you, but I ask you to consider whether our non-recognition and disparate treatment of individuals within our own autistic community bears a relationship toAustralia's legacy of prejudice and stereotypical thinking about this country's first inhabitants? I think there are lots of intellectual connections to be made, but for the moment, I pose this question to help us take swing our eyes away from gazing at our own navels within our autism community for just a moment. We have a similar kind of racial blindness and prejudice in the United States not only regarding our own original inhabitatnts, but all persons of color, starting, of course, with African Americans. That same blindness shows up in our autism community as well.

I do want you to think outside of the box, and in this case, outside of the disability box, into what kind of a community you'd like to see for us, without our climbing on others' backs to get there.

 

Copyright Issues

 

This article is copyright, all rights reserved by the author, Roger N. Meyer.  It may be reproduced in single copy once for personal use, and in no more than ten copies total for educational purposes.  Fair Use is authorized for all purposes and under conditions established by US Statute and the International Copyright Convention, to which the United States is a signatory nation.  No person shall publish, distribute, copy, or by other means make this material available to others for purposes of personal gain or professional self-aggrandizement.  Individuals wishing permission to exercise other than fair use or limited distribution as outlined above must contact the author, in writing, and receive explicit written permission from the author prior to engaging in further use of this material.

 

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