We are getting ready to move to the DC metro area in a couple of months. The move talk has been exciting and I will miss the people I have come to know in the Dallas/TX Autism community (even if we disagree on some/many things). But it’s thrown a whole new conundrum in my face it seems. And certain articles, stories and projects (of ASAN, such as The Loud Hands Project) have not helped me think of it any less (and in most cases more) This partially goes back to my earlier blog (Are You Standing in Their Way?), which if you’ve read my blog very often, know that’s very rare.
What are we teaching Autistic kids, preteens, teens and young adults today?
1. Autistic people are very literal minded.
2. Autistic people see things in black-or-white.
The Attwood blog got a lot of response, some of which criticized me for being “too literal” and seeing things as too “black-or-white.” I get the impression most of these people did not read my commentary after the transcription (Thank you, nicocoer, for stating this fact.). If they had, most would see that I wasn’t upset at the PYSCHOLOGICAL and CULTURAL and SOCIOLOGICAL “phenomenon” that children pick up characteristics of those they were around, but how that notion was presented. So was I being literal when quoting “Asperger’s Syndrome is infectious”? No, but that doesn’t mean that rhetoric doesn’t *hurt* Autistic people, and in this particular case, Autistic parents.
As for black-and-white thinking, apparently you can’t think a notion of human conditioning, persay, is perfectly ok while thinking rhetoric to present it is wrong without being called a “black and white” thinker. Rhetoric says more than a message at times.
3. All Autistic people have sensory issues they need to work around.
The phrase here that’s a total myth is “work around.” Yes, all Autistic people have sensory issues, but sometimes we need to find a way to work THROUGH them. Around is an avoidance strategy that can work for some things and not for others.
Lindsey and Dave are awesome people (They also have a new NPR interview that’s not nearly as thorough as the 2009 piece.). I have yet to meet Kirsten, but have met Jack, and he seemed like a nice person. However, you can see the differences in their relationships and how they “cope.” I’m not going to get into the other issues with the 2011 piece, including the theory of mind and ableist actions of the ex-boyfriend.
However, you can see how both relationships seemingly “work.” Jack and Kirsten come from a younger generation of Autistics where they have been taught to avoid their sensory issues. Lindsey and Dave, from the slightly older generation, that work together to find solutions to their sensory issues.
As a married woman, I know my husband loves giving me light touch. I tolerate it because I know it makes him feel good. I let him know if it’s hurting any particular day (usually when I’m in overload/overwhelmed mode). I know my husband prefers noise around him, so if I cannot concentrate, I will go to a different room to do my work. At the same time, when I need it, he will take care of the kids for me to decompress and will give me deep pressure when I need it. These are work throughs, not work arounds of daily sensory challenges. (Feel free to say I’m nitpicking on the terminology.)
4. Autistic people have a hard time gaining and keeping friendships.
Maintaining friendships when you’re the only one working to do so is going to be difficult on anyone. Friendships are not friendships without give and take. Friendships are another type of relationship and is ignored in modern “social skills training.”
A lot of social skills training revolves around scripted exchanges. Sit in on a elementary group speech session.. Is it really that customary during a turn taking game for the next person to ask for the (example) dice each and every time it’s their turn? Is it really “normal” for the prior person to not give the dice until the question is asked?
When you see someone, anyone, do you always walk up and say “Hello ____. How are you today?” Would you do that every single time you saw that person? Does this help gain and maintain a relationship with that person?
In short: NO!
Yet, this is what social skills training works on (there are flavors that work on more like MGW’s Social Thinking and Jed Baker’s program). It doesn’t work on gaining or maintaining relationships.. It works on normalization of communication which is not the overall issue at hand. (BTW, I prefer Baker’s approach because it equally takes into the account the NT peers social skills as well as the ASD child’s skills. MGW is a good program if you have a good practitioner for people who struggle with reading emotions.)
You bundle this together with parents who want their children in a segregated classroom. What you get is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You teach a child for so long that what they say is “wrong”, that they are black-and-white, literal thinkers, with “mindblindness”, what you are going to get are adults who cannot work in a typical environment and must be sequestered to maintain a job.. you’re going to get adults who cannot maintain relationships.. you’re going to get adults who believe so deeply in what they’ve been told that they cannot escape a literal, black-and-white, mindblind mindset.
We are dooming a whole generation to failure, in a sense, by perpetuating these “truths.” And so, I do fear for the next generation that will be going into adulthood because they are not being given the skills to get support and accommodation to meet their needs. They are being spoon-fed the lie that they will never work or live in the community, will never find love, and will have to rely on “the government” for their needs.