The Autism Awareness Campaign continues to mislead the public about the supposed beneficiaries in a way that is very harmful. There isn't much good that can come from making people aware that a specific group is in need of particular support or accommodation, unless there is also an attempt to provide it. Aspiring to make people aware of a vague goal (which is how I see these campaigns) without also providing the needed support will teach why the acceptance is instead harmful to the supposed important segment of the population.
I often hear people describe a better life which includes some types of people being seen as inferior and the wishes of these types are shown to be insignificant in many different ways. This is indirectly a way to define those who are the most vulnerable as having little or no value. Of course, these standards are always originally set by the least vulnerable people, and their justification is based on the claim that they earned the right to set them.
Overt exclusion is based on the view of limited resources but vague pity, and the subtle way that people are deprived of determining how they are treated also results from that type of view. The people encouraging the myth of limited resources aren’t doing so in order for them to have enough. They can’t comprehend the meaning of enough. They just want more. However, they can’t acquire more unless the rest of us adopts their values. We must engage in the same ranking system in order for their agenda to be realized. We are too many to conquer externally. This must be accomplished by each of us adopting an exclusionary attitude which ultimately serves our oppressor.
Too often the best effort is made only trying to show why yet another group should be accepted. This doesn’t address the more subtle ways that exclusion is accomplished and blatant exclusion is easier to challenge. Understanding and mutual respect are the resources we have plenty of and is the easiest to renew. This is unfortunately the type of resource that our culture sees as the most limited. Once something is seen to be occupying the supposed limit to the amount of time and energy for our limited supply of compassion; people won't seek to do more.
We can't simply support the existing campaigns or hope that the acceptable people getting involved can alter the agenda. The approach that will make things different doesn't fit with the present one. The people who need to be getting involved continue to be seen as insignificant objects, which provide society with the sense their charity obligations are being fulfilled. Once people who need support are also seen as worthy of dignity and respect, we will begin striving for an inclusive society based on equality and respect. Until then, what gets labeled charity is serving the agenda of a few whose ultimate goal isn't charitable at all.
My goal as a disability advocate is to challenge the current standards which are unfair. The need for this is shown in how both the words ableism and disabilism are used interchangeably. Both are sides of the same coin (so to speak). It is because we live in an ablest society with unfair standards that we have people who are limited due to their inability to meet those standards.
Within what is referred to as the online autism community, the response of some advocates to unfair standards is not helpful. It can discriminate against autistics for no other reason than attempting to validate a few.
When people use the term autistic, it can refer to a diagnosis given by a professional. That can be extended to include more people and can be used constructively when it refers to a social rather than the medical model. However, once autism becomes Autism, a new set of standards are set in place so that once again some will be excluded and discriminated against.
Politics (the environment public policy is decided) is an extension of the law which demands more attention be paid to subtlety and nuance. There must be a method of differentiating between what roles, we who are in need of support need to assume, and ones we need to either delegate or make exchanges in order to obtain. Without recognizing this, autism politicians (both the autistic variety and the guardian) have built a wall (metaphorically speaking) around the arena where policy is decided, which excludes mainly those who are claimed as being the benefactors.
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." ~Audre Lorde
I wish that the guardian portion of the online autistic community (the parent, professionals, presumed supporters, etc.) would realize that by following the medical model tradition of separating autistics into categories of levels of functioning and adhering to age appropriate standards, they create more unnecessary pressure on everyone. These standards were never meant to help the majority of people succeed, and they do more to demand unreasonable level of performance by a particular age and have people ignored or accused of abhorrence or laziness if they don't meet the standard. It also supports needless labels of high or low functioning in order to dismiss people so that they are conveniently considered unable or too disobedient to be taken seriously.
Furthermore, in the same way as a church will dismiss and/or exclude those whom they find inconvenient as being in possession of bad spirits, medical professionals and therefore, other supports available to the general public will demonize a person who is considered to have behaviors that result from exposure to environmental toxins. Because people with a diagnosis that includes inconvenient behaviors are devalued in society, claims of disorders being caused by environmental toxins are publicized though they have little or no scientific support. Again, this also leads to more people being labeled as either high or low functioning and either will be used interchangeably in different circumstances to justify ways your rights are denied.
All this indicates to me that autistics need (based in part to the label and in part the behavioral differences that our culture will recognize as inappropriate) to have exclusive standards challenged. This does not mean that we need to make a place for ourselves (metaphorically speaking) at an already established exclusionary table. As long as we are working toward equality, there is a morality involved in our efforts, which will provide us with rights. However, if instead we create exclusive clubs and follow similar exclusionary practices at the expense of others in similar ways as what was done to us; I see little value in our efforts.
“"First they came…" is a famous statement attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.”
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Many during this were too willing to allow neighbors and even family to be persecuted because they were among those who initially passed the acceptance test. Unfortunately, when a category that defined them was also included as one which was seen as unacceptable, all those who would have been there to protect them had already gone. I hope this can serve as a reminder of how fragile our privileges are and how important it is not take them for granted. It’s important not to do things, which provide for what are considered our own rights, which ultimately come at the expense of someone else’s.
The most important thing I've learned from newspapers, television, and the Internet is that only a few people are being discussed. Most are thereby defined by this discussion as insignificant. Of course, the standard for a persons significance is constantly changing because the people which have the distinction of being important need to maintain the illusion by exclusive means.
In the discussion regarding diagnosis such as autism, I believe that nothing is more important than finding more ways to include the voices of people who have been disenfranchised. As I see the leadership in the United States has recently voted to launch more powerful weapons in the war against the poor, I'm reminded that nothing defines the economic poverty more than disenfranchisement, and a behavioral diagnosis is similar to a box that allows others to place you on a shelf where you can be more easily criticized and ignored.
The most critical problem I see with this exclusion is that when people begin to advocate against it, they tend to set up a similar standard. This becomes even worse when the methods of exclusion are copied from those who are described as opponents of their goal. Political agendas often become more important than the people the agenda's leaders claim they are aiming to help.
So much of our culture influences the belief that success is always earned.The way this is taught tends not to include the details of how our standards of success are based on commercial branding.Too often the belief leads to the humiliation and distrust of people who fall below the standard. Most are even ignored altogether as a result. Unfortunately, the standard is rarely explored and criticized, and therefore, many myths are maintained and used as weapons.
This makes learning how to encourage each other very difficult. We tend to imagine a commercial price tag on every human attribute and expression and rank each other accordingly. Many expressions which could be accepted and even celebrated as eccentricities are instead judged as substandard. This encourages recovery and overcoming of too many aspects of the human experience. It even happens to such a degree that it can lead to us forgetting how to enjoy life and appreciate each other.
Our guidebook of standards is like a product catalog that ranks our worth similarly to the way price tags are used. We then can't appreciate each other appropriately and because the value is seen in such a narrow context, our communication is very limited. Therefore, since we tend not to trust what we don't understand, we become unnecessarily defensive rather than empathetic and compassionate.
The cultural divide many of us experience is very real. It's important to recognize how these divisions occur so that realistic solutions can be found. To avoid acknowledging this often encourages simply another political agenda that widens the gap even further and excludes those who are in the biggest need of inclusion. The problem with identity politics isn't identity, it's the politics.
Human communication always includes labeling and ranking. Although the writers of the DSM and the industry that supports them cannot be trusted to do what is in the best interest of the people who are diagnosed based on their suggestion, I can't think of any system of labeling and ranking, which deserves unreserved and unregulated loyalty and trust. We can, however, use any label far beyond the intentions of those who have formed standards, which create harm.
Too often, people who are caught by the predominant labeling and ranking systems get ranked as insignificant and are therefore ignored by people with an anti-labeling political agenda. This is very unfortunate as well as unnecessary. Advocates can instead use what others meant for harm (or what became harm due to negligence) to empower an otherwise disenfranchised (and unrepresented) group.
Being involved in a society that is so driven by consumerism and bombarded with commercial images has a way of teaching us as individuals that we are also products. What is implied indirectly is that our cultural standard for significance defines most people as less valuable than the food and water we consume. If we as a culture don't begin to recognize the standard and the subtle ways it's taught, we can't begin to combat it.
Viewing things in a different way shouldn't lead to being excluded from discussions. In order to have a more inclusive society, we need to encourage more people to express themselves in diverse ways and thoughtfully consider a broader set of options. In this way, we can begin to introduce new ideas and show less interest in standards, which are designed to empower only an elite few. What these few would like to hide about the rest of us is important to understand, and we are important to everyone's future.
Every time activists in the U.S. have sought to reform the mental health/developmental disabilities/ mental retardation/etc. system, their efforts (which always became compromises) ultimately strengthened the system and made it more difficult to stop.
Dorothea Dix came along when a change was obviously needed and set a president for how reform was to take place. Mainly, this reformation put the determination of rights for those mainly affected by the system in the hands of political opportunists.
The response to the public recognition of the abuses in places like Willowbrook included the creation the Protection and Advocacy agency which protected the system from being independently investigated.
In the same way, that sterilization was originally sold as a right, forceable institutionalization law are sold as the way to ensure that those who were in the most need of care could be assured adequate support.
Today it's obvious to those who are treated the worst by this system that it was never designed for their benefit but is instead an unfair weapon in the class war for allowing the judicial system to incarcerate misfits and promote the careers of politicians.
There is no mystery in why such low standards are used to evaluate science regarding autism or why the pharmaceutical companies have started a new propaganda campaign to promote their new products due to the ritalin campaign getting old.
Of course the behaviorists are getting away with more abuse than ever (including murder) and the solution is described as impossible due to the severity of the behavior problems. The abuse is being exposed mainly by those who are advocating more formal integration of standard behaviorism in schools by using laws that claim that children will be safer.
A class war is determined by hierarchy. The people at the bottom of the ladder know very well how the system works and are listened to the least. If you don't yet see that compromise is not an option it's mainly because you aren't at the bottom yet. However, if you review the history of the system and analyze how quickly the system is expanding to include you, you'll understand that either you or someone very close to you soon will be.
Posted at 10:39 PM in ABA, attitudes, autism, autistic advocates, big pharma, commercialism , disability, empowerment, eugenics, human warehouses, learning disabilities, medical model, mentally ill, neurodiversity, PBS, politics, psychiatry, public programs, Science, social Darwinism | Permalink | Comments (0)
People receiving accommodation and accessibility pursuant to policy changes regarding disability does not negate that the intention of the original policy design was meant to provide a convenience for what gets described as the "general public" more so than for aid to those who receive the label. This is especially true for disabilities that refer to intellect and behavior.
The increase in the number of people labeled is in direct proportion to an increasingly exclusive and bigoted society as well as an increase in population. It doesn't seem productive to me to protest the labeling except for the purpose of opposing the harmful treatment. Usually though, such objections are more geared toward the ideal of encouraging people to overcome weakness. Unfortunately, the language associated with overcoming is often used more to promote the derogatory stereotypes than it is anyone's empowerment.
There is not much of a dividing line in regard to cultural understanding between intellectual deficit and mental instability. The judicial system has greatly influenced these beliefs. The majority of people are hurt by these assertions and are either institutionalized or completely ignored and denied any type of aid as a result.
Since the broader awareness and understanding of deficits are not creating better accommodation and accessibility for the majority of people(and often the bigotry encouraged from broader awareness causes the opposite response) the goal of promoting the more positive cultural perspectives is essential to inclusion and acceptance. It's irresponsible to attempt policy changes without the preservation of dignity for the person labeled with the deficit being the top priority.
The current cultural understanding of behavior in the U.S. as it relates to intellect, mental stability, and character was greatly influenced by the Eugenics movement and more specifically by the efforts of the American psychologist Henry H. Goddard.
"Henry Herbert Goddard (August 14, 1866 – June 18, 1957) was a prominent American psychologist and eugenicist in the early 20th century. He is known especially for his 1912 work The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness, which he himself came to regard as deeply flawed, and for being the first to translate the Binet intelligence test into English in 1908 and distributing an estimated 22,000 copies of the translated test across the United States; he also introduced the term "moron" into the field.
He was the leading advocate for the use of intelligence testing in societal institutions including hospitals, schools, the legal system and the military. He played a major role in the emerging field of clinical psychology, in 1911 helped to write the first U.S. law requiring that blind, deaf and mentally retarded children be provided special education within public school systems, and in 1914 became the first American psychologist to testify in court that subnormal intelligence should limit the criminal responsibility of defendants."
"By the late 1920s, Goddard had reversed many of his early opinions, declaring in multiple public forums that he had been gravely mistaken in many of his most famous conclusions (Zenderland, 1998, pp. 324-326). He had begun to question the validity of the tests that were used to detect morons, and he stated emphatically that his former belief that morons could not be educated satisfactorily was wrong. In addition, he frequently voiced his new opinion that feeble-minded people should be allowed to have children, if they choose to do so. He asserted in a 1927 article for Scientific Monthly that the concept of segregation colonies had been a bad idea (Zenderland, 1998, pp. 324-326).
However, Die Familie Kallikak was printed in Germany in 1914 and reprinted in 1933 shortly after the Nazis came to power. Goddard never intended for his book to be connected with Hitler, Nazism, and the Holocaust. In 1938 and 1939, he tried unsuccessfully to use his influence to help the daughter of a Jewish colleague escape from Austria (Zenderland, 1998, pp. 333-335). Subsequently, a psychology text by Columbia University psychologist Henry Garrett (1961) provided a brief, and rather embellished, overview of the Kallikak study to bolster his eugenicist arguments. Although these interpretations stood at odds with Goddard's opinions later in his life, these and related events have helped to paint the rather negative picture many people still hold of Goddard and his work."
I think it's very important to understand that the most prevalent views regarding these issues are anything but liberating.
Bigoted views result from people's dependence on convenience, their unwillingness to explore the history of language, and the constant submission to shame-based behavior, which encourages us to seek ways of belittling rather than empowering each and rather than staying focused on doing our individual best.
There are people who are so removed from the majority of people and have therefore become completely indifferent to common struggle that they intend to relieve hardship (their own hardship, but it's conveniently described as ours) by eliminating part of the population. Too often people continue to echo the language which was designed by them as well as encourage their agenda without paying much attention to how the attitude continues with a snow-ball effect.
The way we use language regarding intelligence and mental stability is very important and oppression would never survive if the people behind oppressive agendas were unable to depend on the ways we encourage language subtly that support their efforts. If we were more careful to watch the way we contribute to our own demise, their efforts would not be nearly so successful.
This is the worst of times: :(
Note: Sarcasm warning
For an autistic person to advocate regarding public policy,social norms, disability rights, etc ., they must sacrifice autonomy as well as any independent ideas they have about these matters and submit to the goals of a single community or ...advocacy group. The leaders are the most qualified to decide what's best for everyone and can make all the important decisions. Anyone who challenges these ideas is a threat to everyone's liberty.
This act of solidarity serves the collective because it reduces the challenges they face with the broader segment of the population. It also empowers the individual because, as everyone knows, autism robs a person of the ability to socially interact appropriately. Submitting to the will of the group in this way teaches compliance (which they need to survive in the real world) and gives them a sense of belonging.
The standards of intellect and appropriate social behavior are set to provide the majority of people with the best possible future. Development is based on a persons ability to meet these standards by the correct age so that the schools can provide the appropriate aid. Appropriate development is essential within 18 years. Otherwise there is little hope for someone's future.
Autism is a developmental disorder. It is divided into two strict categories. Some are low functioning and live devastatingly awful lives and others are high functioning, have a little of autism and are socially awkward geniuses.
The goal of advocacy is to either prevent the birth of autistic children, cure them by any means necessary, or help get behavioral treatments that help them be as normal as possible.
Low functioning autistics can play no role in advocacy. High functioning autistics (most all of them use the internet and are advocates because it's such a friendly environment for them )can be supportive by either being a shiny role model for what the others can one day achieve with the appropriate treatment or instead show the world what a terrible tragedy autism is without proper support.
Is this the what everyone believes?
During Autism Awareness month of April 2011, Robert MacNeil promoted his perspective of autism on television. I'm sure Mr. MacNeil's views on autism will be popular and well received but unfortunately there will be little if any nuance added to this mainstream view that traditionally prevents the educational and vocational opportunities for autistics and promotes the fear campaigns that encourage the worst stereotypes.
In the same way that the views of groups like Autism Speaks and the funding campaign efforts of the Jerry Lewis marathon are exploitive and disabling, the oppressive nature of the psychiatric industry and other medical abuses will go practically unchallenged due to the influence of commercial advertising. Anyone presenting rational alternatives and attempting to discuss practical ideas in a non-threatening environment will be either attacked or co-opted so that the issues which are important remain polarized.
Politics, political agendas, and bullies (and the politics and political agendas of bullies) consistently discourage rational views from being expressed on the internet whenever issues that concern disability are discussed.
This is a tradition that has always provided an ample opportunity for greedy politicians and corporate executives with an insatiable apatite for power to determine the policy that affects people with disabilities and encourages exclusion and negative stereo types.
My impression of online discussions is that we as a society are losing our ability to trust our neighbor, and we often tend to objectify and stereotype each person we meet. This begins by polarizing every discussion and seeing alternative viewpoints (however slight) as a threat to our self-esteem. It's difficult to know what we really believe because our thinking is so attached to the image we display and who we are that an objective view of our expressions is impossible.
Of course there will always be a mainstream view of what autism is ( MacNeil is just one celebrity who will present this narrow view) and due to unregulated commercial advertising and the impact it has on the views of people who want to "make a difference", nuances that are more accepting of diversity will be practically absent from the discussions where that view is presented. However, commercialism and mainstream politics is not what determines the truth. If we truly are interested in becoming a more accepting culture that is promoting diversity, we will find more ways to encourage the voices of individuals without regarding their category or status to determine the value of their expressions, and we will find value in what we hear them say.
In order to create and/or maintain a closed society the people in command must control the information AND the entertainment. The messages that get regularly reinforced will teach people to believe that there are limited resources which more important than many of the people who use them. In other words, that some people are worth more dead than alive.
One group need to believe that they are entitled and therefore become active in their community and in politics so that what they see as their rights will be preserved. The other group needs to be shamed into believing they are unworthy and taught shame-based behavior. This confirms the beliefs of the first group and keeps the second fighting among each other rather than uniting and working for change.
If exclusion was just the result of flaws in the system, the plans for change would be practical and possible and more of them would be implemented. Until more people who aren't being favored are allowed to make unique contributions to society so that they believe they are worthy of inclusion and the rewards that follow, they won't honor and respect any of their so-called provisions. Even worse, they won't feel that way about themselves or anyone else.