Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Disobedience or Ethical Nonconformist?

I'm sure that many of you are aware of the Milgram Experiment where the subjects of an experiment thought that they were shocking someone in another room on the orders of a scientist, sometimes up to lethal levels. There was no real harm (no shocks were administered) involved, but the subjects didn't know that. The experiment was to see how regular people behave in the face of what they perceive to be authority.  The experiment was repeated recently in this program that I watched on the Discovery Channel How Evil Are You .  The subjects fared even worse in the realm of empathy for the person "being shocked" than they did years ago in Milgram's experiment.  They went further, questioned the scientist less, and only one (that I recall) stuck with their own ethics and what they knew to be the right thing to do.  All the rest said they didn't want to keep shocking the other person, but did so unless a peer was introduced at the same time to back them up. Almost none wanted to go against the grain and be a nonconformist.

I saw this type of thing play out on my own life about 2 or 3 years ago.  Every seven years or so we have to take the boys to get re-eveluated to keep their developmental disability services.  The state requires us to take them to a psychologist so that they can be tested for IQ and well as ASD.  Of course, they still have autism every time, so I find it to be ridiculous, but....not what this post is about!  We made an appointment with one of the approved psychs listed.

When we got there it was one of those older style Victorian houses that was turned into an office.  First visual clue to me that this might not be as professional of an operation as an actual office building.  We get paperwork started. As we sit in the waiting area a very old man peeks out and tells the couple sitting near us that he's done.  They go in and carry out what I assume is their daughter.  She has some kind of muscle disease and appears unable to really move her body willfully, or speak. Second red flag.  Why did he need to be alone with a child that cannot speak or communicate?  They had the same papers as we did, so they were there for the same reasons we were.  I doubt he had some kind of communication system set up with her and there was no keyboard or PECs or anything to suggest otherwise that I saw.This is was likely the first time he's met her.  The whole situation didn't make sense and my aspie brain does not like nonsensical things.When I encounter nonsensical things in my everyday environment it causes my brain to freeze and inquire as to why. Things that don't fit together have a reason, even if it's a small detail. My brain detects this and sees this as important. I'm am not a see the forest for the trees thinker.

He asks for me to come in without Bubby to asnwer some questions.  When I say that this man is old, I mean he is (and the secretary mentioned his age, so this is verified) in his eighties.  I was looking around to see if he still owned a copy of The Empty Fortress!  That was I'm sure the standard for autism when he was in school.  He asked me a few questions, and said he thought it was Asperger's.  I told him he had not even met my son yet. How can he know? Every answer I gave that pointed otherwise he would try to get me to change it back to verify his already made hypothesis!  I tried to politely explain that Bubby has a speech delay that is still present and should exclude him from an Asperger diagnosis.  He then asked for Bubby to come in. Hubby followed him in and sat down. The doctor asked us to leave so that he could be alone to ask Bubby questions.  My husband immediately hopped up to leave.  I did not.  I politely told him that I would rather stay in the room.  He told me I could not. My husband left in a nervous hurry at the doctor's very irritable insistence that we leave. I repeated myself.   He then exclaimed "What do you think is going to happen?" very loudly and angrily.  I repeated myself again.  I was not moving.  He went on to ask Bubby questions that were way above his level of language to answer.  He was also reading off of a sheet that he printed from a well known AS website. Not a real clinical checklist.  Nope. It was as if he read Bubby's file and decided it was to be AS before we even got there. 

When we left the office, my husband immediately said to me, "What did he do to make you distrust him so much? It must have been bad!"  My first response to this was to think, wow, so you know that this person did something seriously over the line, yet you were going to leave your child with him anyway?  He said he knew he shouldn't.  He said he knew if I said it was dangerous then it was a bad idea, but he said he didn't feel as if he had a choice.  He didn't know you could just refuse to do what the doctor said, despite his own judgment about the situation. He simply said that he was unable to explain why he did what he did despite the his ability to know it was not a good choice, even at the time.

I watch a lot of these sorts of social experiment shows. I like to people watch. I always find it fascinating that people do what they do in the name of social conformity.  Not that it is always a bad thing.  We would not be a society like we are if people didn't.  There are good and bad sides of conformity.  The same with being a nonconformist.  Us nonconformists question when others wouldn't.  We ask why.  You know how every kid goes through the why stage? I went through it something fierce.  My mother, who likes to pretend she has the patience of a saint said, and I quote "Your why stage was so bad that it would make anyone want to jump out of a moving vehicle to get away from the questions."  I never stopped, really.  I still question what doesn't make sense to me, and I will likely never stop!