Saturday, March 22, 2014

Photo Of The Day

Vintage black and white photo of a girl with two prosthetic legs standing for a portrait.
From The Perks Of Being Disabled Tumblr blog.

Best Explanation Of Autism

Nick Walker, Neurocosmopolitanism - March 1, 2014

Since I am neither autistic myself, nor educated on all of the various views and facts about autism, I call this the “Best” only in the sense that Walker’s piece is the explanation of autism that is the most consistent with my general sense of what autism might be, and which I believe helps to answer some of the lingering questions I have about autism … questions that I rarely see addressed by advocates of the “neurodiversity” movement. Above all, it goes a long way towards answering one question:

What do autistic people experience that is different from non-autistics?

Walker writes:
“ … the central distinction is that autistic brains are characterized by particularly high levels of synaptic connectivity and responsiveness. This tends to make the autistic individual’s subjective experience more intense and chaotic than that of non-autistic individuals: on both the sensorimotor and cognitive levels, the autistic mind tends to register more information, and the impact of each bit of information tends to be both stronger and less predictable.”
Of course, I can't say from experience whether this is correct. However, it is a direct, coherent, grounded answer to the question, and it sounds like a very plausible explanation for the various things that autistic people do that are different from what most non-autistic people do. Autistic “behavior” is a rational response to a significantly different sensory experience. That is far less sinister and mysterious-sounding thing how autism is described by even well-meaning autism “experts”. It also suggests that autism really is like other disabilities, which involve doing things differently in order to adapt to different physical or mental input or settings. When you are disabled, it is irrational and maladjusted to NOT do things differently. It seems like the same can be said of autism.

Do read the whole explanation. I have yet to see a better one.

Simpler Than It Sounds

For all its hyperbole and occasional descents into doctrinal nit-picking, Tumblr still has some of the deepest, most interesting disability discussions on the Internet. However, there still seems to be a lot of unnecessary anxiety and trolling around the word “Ableism” and its variants, like “Ableist”. Nobody appointed me King of Terminology, but I do think that this is one of those rare “issues” that really is less complicated than people make it out to be.

1. “Ableism” is simply a more efficient word for disability prejudice, no more, no less. The word is somewhat new, but the phenomenon it describes is not. As far as I know, it wasn’t invented on Tumblr, or in the Disability Studies Department of a major university. It is a perfectly simple and common-sense word that likens disability prejudice to racism or sexism, the types of prejudice experienced by people of various races or genders.

2. The most important thing about ableism is not that it hurts our feelings, it’s that ableism leads to harmful policies that affect disabled peoples’ ability to live fully and independently … even, in some cases, our ability to live, period. Ableism can certainly be annoying, insulting, or even degrading, but these feelings are only the tip of the iceberg. Ableism would still be a problem if we all had some ideal degree of “thick skin” and perfect rationality.