Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bigotry and #Autism Advocacy- The (undefined) line we all think we avoid crossing

If you follow me on my page, or on this blog you will know that I am passionate about autism, civil rights, and just plain advocating for the equality for all, because to me, everyone matters. I tend to limit these views to my own space, because I try to not go around imposing my opinions on others. I am low drama, because  my brain doesn't really understand it very well. I freely admit this is a limitation that Asperger's has enabled within me. It's not necessarily a bad one, either. My self worth is not dependent on who likes me, who agrees with me, or any kind of group collaboration. One saying that I have had since I was in my teens before I have ever knew about AS is "I do what I do, and you do what you do." What I have always meant by this is that I am who I am, and I'm okay with my choices. As long as you're doing what makes you happy, and aren't hurting anyone, your choices aren't any of my business. My ability to remain neutral is usually logically intact before, during, and after any disagreement with a person.

I do however, occasionally get into disagreements with others about various things. This isn't hard in the autism community where the atmosphere is generally tense between opposing beliefs. What I have found that is different for me than others is how I am often treated differently due to my neurological status, if said status is disclosed to the other party.  In other words, if I am known to be autistic while I debate share my thoughts, and refuse to admit that I think I am wrong I am often accused of not understanding the social situation, or the proper social protocol.  They may insinuate that I was not sufficiently stocked with the right social stories as a child, because obviously I don't understand their point of view. I was not taught manners. Or, maybe I am just too rigid in my thinking.

Yes, that must be it, many NT parents claim. I must be too pedantic, black, and white, and stuck in my own world to see just how wrong I really am. It can't be that they might be wrong, or mistaken, or possibly that we just disagree. This is especially ugly when we are talking about a disorder that I actually have. They aren't wrong about autism. By default, I am. I can't possibly understand their higher level of understanding, due to my deficits in social capacity. 

Does that seem like discrimination to anyone else? Or am I just misguided, again?

This sort of thing has occurred a lot lately.  It's a form of gaslighting. Not that I am a victim of abuse, but rather one of discrimination. Parents will insult me, then tell me that they didn't. They would never hurt an
autistic person, because they have an autistic child. I must have misunderstood their comment, or perhaps I being too sensitive.  Perhaps, it's because I'm autistic, and my brain just can't quite reach the level of sophisticated understanding that they're talking about. It's the equivalent of patting me on the head while telling me that I wouldn't understand.

I literally saw someone the other day post that 'autistic bloggers cannot understand why I would hate autism, but love my child, because of the very disorder that they have.' That is paraphrased, but that is what he said.  In other words, his level of thinking is so complicated, that someone with my deficits in social cognition would be unable to understand it. He was nasty, rude, and made no sense when he didn't think that one of my kind would pop up, and speak on my own behalf. He began using curse words, and hate speech when I confronted him (logically, and without hate, or any profanity). His comments were ultimately deleted, and he got a nasty talking to via pm by the page owner, which happens to be my friend. He did not think autistic people hung out on her page, so he was letting it out.  Instead of admitting that maybe what he said was insulting, he just tried to bully his way through it, using his caps lock, and curse words.

What would make a person behave that way when confronted with data that obviously disproves their position? At the very least, it proves that their assumptions about me might be wrong, so why do they dig in becoming more desperate to prove they're right?

Cognitive Dissonance and Confirmation Bias

The gist of cognitive dissonance is that it's hard for humans to hold two conflicting beliefs, or viewpoints in their mind at once, because it causes discomfort. We then come up with reasons to justify the one that makes us happiest, is the easiest, ect... to ease the discomfort of the having to reason with the other idea, or viewpoint. Smoking is the most common example. Smokers are not dumb. They know that what they are doing is bad for them, but it is an addiction.  A very bad one, at that. So, they are stuck with two conflicting pieces of info in their mind. The threat of bad health hovers over them in the back of their mind nagging, causing discomfort.  To ease the discomfort, they tell themselves things to feel better, contrary to evidence that proves otherwise.  Maybe, their Aunt Hilda smoked 2 packs a day, but lived to be 99, or the good ol', maybe I'll get hit by a bus tomorrow, so I should just do what I like today, since there is no guarantee on life.  If you don't smoke, you know how absurd these things sound. It doesn't matter, because these arguments don't have to make sense. They just have to ease that discomfort that we feel when we think about opposing information that suggests to us that we need to think, feel, or do something different than we already do, or are,

Another example:

On one hand, you have an autistic child. You hold a certain amount of beliefs in your mind about what autism is, and what it isn't.  You have been told it's this criteria, or that deficit.  You have emotions about how that makes you feel as a parent.

Then here comes autistic advocate me, or other autistic people who shake all that up. We tell you something completely different than you were led to believe, or taught. We might even tell you that that belief is harmful to us.We might even show you by typing, communicating, or any other number of things that really just defies all that you thought you knew about autism. Now, you have to rework this new information into your mind.  If you accept it, then that means that some of your old beliefs are wrong. Your can no longer assume those things about every autistic person, but then some of your other beliefs are challenged, too, since they rely on the ones you have just ascertained as not truthful. What do you do? You have to accept that you don't know what you thought you did, and set out to learn, grow and change, or you get upset, emotional, and create justifications to remain in the same framework of beliefs now that you have been shown, told, or proven different. You can change your mind, or explain away what doesn't make you feel comfortable.

The choice is yours.

31 comments:

  1. This is a powerful piece! I will be sharing widely!
    ((Hugs))
    Leah

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  2. so well written, I often have the same feeling

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  3. that "everyone thinks you might be wrong when you disagree with someone" resonates with me the most,

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  5. (Sorry about the deleted comment above - was an error)

    Just wanted to let you know that I followed Leah@30daysofautism to find you. Fantastically written article - good stuff! Thanks for sharing :-)

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    1. Thank you for your comments! Glad you liked it!

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  6. This is very very well written thank you! As an advocate for autism service dog reform I can relate completely. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming

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    1. Thank you for reading! I think you found me through Sheila's page. I will send you a friend request.:)

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  7. Raising a kiddo with asperger's has taught me that NT in no way have the market cornered on social skills and manners.

    This is a great post, well explained and so very true!

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    1. Thank you! And, thank you for being a great mom, and advocate for your child by allowing yourself to grow, and learn from different viewpoints. It's one of the most valuable things a parent of an autistic child can do! Presume competence, and equality.

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  8. This sort of thing has been one of our biggest challenges. For me, it is my outward appearance does not match my inner mood, and so people tell me that I feel a certain way when I don't, and then tell my I'm in denial when I tell them otherwise. My mother was the worst offender, and I was totally messed up about what feelings are until I went through some counseling to reconnect from dissociating in order to survive. The condescension and jokes are horrible, especially with the verbal "head patting" that follows.

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    1. It feels awful to be dismissed, and invalidated all the time. I am glad you are growing confident in yourself now. :) Thanks for your comment!

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  9. Thank you for saying this so eloquently. It's such a frustrating thing to run up against over and over.

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    1. Thank you for reading, and commenting. I'm hoping that others reading this might begin to change their views a bit, thus making the world a little more accepting of us, and others that feel discriminated against, as well. I see it happen to people with mental illness, like bipolar, for example all the time.

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  10. For whatever reason ppl need to hold into their beliefs even in light of being wrk g. So many are invested in their perspectives that to change their minds would mean to reevaluate their entire lives.

    Now that being said I have had my share of run ins with self-advocates but each time I find it a learning experience. In fact one if the best things about self advocate is that they CAN explain how your child feels when the child can't.

    Just keep doing what you do.believe you me there r more appreciative parents out there than meanies. Personally I want to thank you for what you do.

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    1. Thank you! Most of all, thank you for listening! I think you hit an important point, which is, even if you might not agree with an autistic person's POV, it's still valuable in possibly being a glimpse into how your child thinks.

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  11. As an autistic adult, I do a fair amount of headshaking over the problems you have described. I think of myself as being very open minded and willing to listen to other views. I may not agree, but I don't try to shut people down or act offensively.

    I have wondered why people act this way, and you are very astute, it is cognitive dissonance. Why am I immune, or not as deeply affected, I have always wondered. I suspect it is because of my autism--I am so accustomed to discomfort and anxiety that having two ideas in my mind does not bother me so much.

    Thank you for your article, for making me think and accept even more.

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    1. Thank you for reading, and always listening! I think I am always uncomfortable in a lot of ways, too. Maybe it doesn't leave any room for cog. dis. when we're already so full of discomfort?! lol

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  12. The article for most intents and purposes is a good one with great points.

    As a parent of an autistic child I do hold different views from some and I have been harshly attacked for my positions.

    A large part of that problem is because often (and even I can do it too) people both on and off the autism spectrum forget that autism is a spectrum disorder.

    Basically no two individuals are the same. Some can operate and function alongside any NT and many would not even know, others will never be able to fend for themselves daily (for various reasons including lack of interest in learning what is needed to function on a daily basis)

    Without us all stepping back occasionally and realizing that the autism that I deal with is not necessarily the same autism that you deal with.

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    1. Autism is a wide spectrum. I do talk about that in this entry http://inneraspie.blogspot.com/2012/01/my-response-to-john-robisons-blog-post.html if you'd like to have a look. I'm not always popular in the aspie community, because I'm a parent of a severely autistic child, and see firsthand how different the spectrum can be, and don't always regard it as pure evolutionary genius. I am always learning, though. Thanks for your comment!

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  13. This is great stuff. I'm going to bookmark it, and share it on Facebook. Many in my groups will be interested, i'm sure. I can only admire your bravery, in interacting with those autism parents who are the way you describe. I have done very little of that - mainly becos i don't have an autistic child - but what little i have done, i've noticed, has been studiously ignored.
    Don't know if you noticed the link on my FB page, to an 'opinion piece' i wrote that was published in the online version of a newspaper here, but one of the comments on it was how the author found aspies 'rude, loud and verbally aggressive', and asked were we even capable of learning some manners, and how on earth did we form groups or manage face to face contact as opposed to online, and so on. A bit nasty in other words. I guess if i want to continue putting my writings 'out there', i will invariably attract more comments like that. Sigh.
    Also recently, i've been reading a book called "A Field Guide To Earthlings', a guide for auties on NT behaviour, why they do the things they do, hold the beliefs they do. It's... interesting, but i also got the feeling "Geez, if it's that complicated, i'm not sure i want to know!" LOL!

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    1. Yes, there are some people that are really ignorant about AS, and will never understand that they are. There is no changing that kind of mind set.

      Some of the rest, is like you say..complicated social stuff that I don't know about, and don't care to! I think it will be easier to just continue to be a loner!

      Thanks for sharing my post! :)

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  14. Maybe it's just me. I'm thinking, that father sounds like a bitter autistic. Cursing at someone kind of shows a lack of social decorum. Some say autism is genetic. Whether it is true or not, it's kind of fun to see things from that angle. I bet you could have lit his gaslight!

    There are good and bad people of every stripe. You sound as if you have made the choice to be reasonable. Good for you.

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  15. This is excellent! Thank you. Exactly how I feel. This happened to me the other day (Autism, Motherhood and Advocacy) and it was quite hurtful. I soon realised it was the other person's projection and issue not mine so refused to own it.

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    1. Good for you! It's hard to do in the heat of the moment.

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  16. Very well said. I am still a little bit under shock whenever I read how disrespectfully parents of autistic children discard the valuable input from autistic adults. no one says they are just like their child. but if someone can give me a perspective that makes it easier for me to understand how my child might feel and think about this world.. why would i NOT want that?
    I am really sorry each time I read things like this and I want to tell you that I am also finding an increasing number of parents who are not stuck in their own beliefs and opinions like that and want to listen!

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    1. Glad to hear from a parent who wants to hear! I think there is more of you than not. It's just like almost anything else the louder ones get heard more, but there aren't necessarily more of them!

      Thanks for your comment!

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  17. Great! This is a good information of the autism services articles and really like your site, Please keep sharing more and more information.

    autism ireland & gheel

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