Using a puzzle piece as a symbol for autism awareness encourages the idea that our society is interested in support for autistics. Not only is this not helpful but the way the campaigners are falling short of the supposed goal is only the beginning how this causes problems.
Disability rights activists have done much to encourage a better view of disability but bigoted traditions are deeply rooted in our culture. The ways that pity is not only hurtful but dangerous is not something society's leaders have been willing to accept. If you describe a problem in order to provide a solution but then don’t provide one, you have instead defined the people with the problem as needing to be eliminated. This is what promotes autism awareness, and the abuse and neglect of autistics has been encouraged as a result of the campaign.
The puzzle piece symbol encourages people to believe that autistics are mysterious, and that we have some strange disorder. It's believed that there is an epidemic of autism similar to an alien invasion. The way our society deal with an alien invasion is similar to what is taught in science fiction movies. We attack with the goal of eliminating the aliens. Some would claim the goal is to eliminate the source, but this is not the way our culture deals with these issues.
Empowerment is such an obvious concept to people who need it most. It's similar to how someone who is dehydrated in the desert can envision water when there is none. In order to encourage inclusion, we must first accept that our society is not geared to include more people at all. The dominate goal is exclusion and disenfranchisement. When we are willing to accept that we are exclusive and that our traditions encourage presumption and bigotry; we will be in a position to work on changing it.
Similar to the way activists within the disability community have attempted to alter the ablism our society encourages, some autistics have attempted to use the Internet to alter the view of autism. The message has been ignored, politicized, and otherwise exploited in all the traditional ways. This is not only harmful to autistics but it's a sign our society is more willing to choose the convenience of hatred for any uncomfortable differences than to support people who exhibit the difference.
The more fashion conscious politicians would like to change our name, eliminate all labels, or only look at autism in a medical/professional way or for how policies are created. Unfortunately, all these ways of dealing with the how people are being exploited due to something that is disguised as support are following the same tradition of exclusion. Mainly, the people who are leading the way in what is described as a revolution are the professional politicians, educators, and mental health workers.
In this way, every attempt at supporting people’s rights have failed and there is no movement or attempt at revolution that we can follow. It’s wonderful that there are a few people now working to support inclusion for autistics but there are many traps. We don’t need better advocates, and we don’t only need more. We certainly don’t need to show how some can pass the exclusion test or how autism is just a bad part of an otherwise acceptable exclusionary system. What we need is for more people who are advocating to embrace a type of advocacy that is truly revolutionary and one that unlike any other such attempt begins to create real inclusion. Otherwise, we will continue to be objectified as puzzle pieces and attacked as aliens. Any attempt at inclusion that gets co-opted by any group with a more important agenda will instead promote exclusion.
Recently, the mainstream media has once again depicted murders of disabled people in a completely irresponsible way. Both George Hodgins, an autistic man, and Daniel Corby an autistic boy, were killed within the past month. Rather than only suggest how unfair the decision of those who ended their lives was similarly to the way other murders are reported; the focus was instead on how these people’s burdensome disability must have contributed to their killer's choice.
It is wrongly assumed too often that our culture is sophisticated enough to demonize the disability without doing the same to the person with the disability similar to the way some describe hating the sin but loving the sinner. Despite each individual’s spirit, we as a culture cannot safely assume that the way we depict particular disabilities will not encourage abuse and even murder. For we who are targeted in this way, the correlation between the two is obvious.
Despite the popular impression of how our justice system operates, people with disability and inconvenient cultural diversity aren't treated very differently than criminals. In fact, there continues to be many opportunities to the people with the power and inclination to do so, to criminalize the ways the people of these categories are different.
Convenience is the most valued commodity for many people, and therefore, it is often also the most exploited. Unless the category of people you are defined as fitting is seen to help create more power (or at least the illusion of more power) for the most powerful people; those people are probably working to create laws that will encourage the belief that you are a burden on society.
The categories encourage a place, and a duty for every individual based mainly on how they are seen to add value or the lack of it to the collective. The leaders of industry have the power and opportunity to set these laws which determine your place and therefore, your supposed value. Having a disability means that your ability is completely inconvenient for them. It means that you are seen as needing care and therefore, the care giver (and similarly, the rest of society) will be seen as deserving sympathy for having to tolerate you.
One example of how cultural exclusion was made legal in early America is the way that physician Samuel A. Cartwright defined the desire of a slave to be free as the psychiatric disorder called drapetomania. Black slaves were defined by law as only partially human, and it was claimed that their skin color indicated less sensitivity to pain. This, of course, made their physical punishment appear less cruel so it could then be applied more severely.
The harmful ways the reputation of the medical establishment lent credibility to the descriptions of slaves in order to protect the financial interest of plantation owners is similar to how people with disabilities are cruelly defined by the main-stream media in order to only promote the value of care givers rather than those described as their burdens.
Today slavery in America is mainly only described in terms of our history. However, although the ways that utilitarian attitudes are encouraged may appear more subtle now to most, we still have some extreme ways of discriminating and punishing inconvenient people that our mainstream media refuses to accept responsibility for. Our industry leaders demand that the media continue spreading propaganda, which shows people whom the leaders find inconvenient to have no value at all.
Despite the promises of finding causes and cures for autism, there is little proof. The fear of having to deal with the burden of the autistic person encourages people to treat autistics in the worst possible ways. The spread of lies about our lack of empathy, contributing to financial burdens, and divorce of our parents is what has truly reached epidemic proportion.
The people who can’t understand and appreciate people’s value beyond the strict utilitarian view that industrialists encourage through the mainstream media shouldn’t be involved in promoting societal values. I hope that everyone who does appreciate people's value and can avoid these unfair judgements will work to end the harmful lies being told.
Ability isn't more important than happiness. Besides, emotional stability is an essential foundation to learning. Therefore, nothing is more important than how disability is viewed. If someone's value isn't understood; it's the result of an oversight. To view it otherwise ensures that we as a culture soon won't have enough compassion (which is our greatest resource) for our species to continue.
Disclaimer :I give my permission for this post to be reprinted in order to raise awareness of this issue.
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)
Though the ideas from early American Putirtan culture are hundreds of years old, some of that type of thinking can be found in today's culture as well with regard to how disability is viewed and more specifically how autistics are treated.
The authority during the Salem witch trials was practically in a state of paranoid frenzy due to the fear of having their authority challenged. They were not only concerned with punishing the accused but wanted no trace of them if the accusation proved false. This would prevent the potential for them being charged with falsely arresting people or with abusing their authority.
It says here:
"Dunking is a form of torture and punishment that was applied to scolds and supposed witches.
In a trial by ordeal, supposed witches were immersed into a vat of water or pond, and taken out after some time, thus and given the opportunity to confess. This process was usually repeated until the victim drowned or gave up and confessed, leading to them being executed in another way, usually hanging or, more rarely, burning. Also, if they had their hands/feet tied, they would be left under water. If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway."
After the notorious Salem witch trials:
"Reversals of attainder and compensation to the survivors and their families
Title page of A Modest Enquiry Into the Nature of Witchcraft by John Hale (Boston, 1702)The first hint that public call for justice was not over happened in 1695, when Thomas Maule, a noted Quaker, publicly criticized the handling of the trials by the Puritan leaders in Chapter 29 of his book Truth Held Forth and Maintained, expanding on Increase Mather by stating, "it were better that one hundred Witches should live, than that one person be put to death for a witch, which is not a Witch". For publishing this book, Maule was imprisoned twelve months before he was tried and found not guilty."
Although, today's courts are often described as favoring the presumption of innocence, factors such as economic status, race, and the presumption of ability and competency heavily influence the outcome of a court trial (being viewed as less competent encourages a guilty verdict). Even social skills and how likeable someone is cannot be ruled out as being influential.
With the overwhelming influence of modern technology and the opportunities that present for networking, communication on the Internet largely impacts cultural views as well as how people vote on public policy. Furthermore, the fear encouraged by eugenist in the past century has greatly influenced our cultural bias against disability. This bias is even more pronounced with a disability relating to competency and mental stability. All this combined with the fear-mongering recently from autism advocacy groups such as Autism Speaks, causes autistics to receive a lot of negative attention.
Similar to the ways supposed witches were presumed guilty of crimes and sentenced without an opportunity to defend themselves, autistics who assert themselves on the internet regarding public policy which affects them are often treated with no respect and little if any opportunity to express themselves.
With that in mind I've written some ideas/questions regarding cultural views about disability and more specifically how this influences the experience of autistics that advocate their rights on the Internet. Here are the questions:
How often has the person living with someone who has a disability ( a parent, caretaker, etc.) had more opportunities to voice their view about the disability than the person most directly affected?
How often have non-disabled people been justified in harming a disabled person due to the public's empathy of what is seen as the able person's burden? How often is this done in relation to the frequency of the disabled person having the way they were being abused, understood and validated?
How often are the expressions of frustration from the abused disabled person accepted in a public discussion? How often is it ignored? In contrast how often does the person living with someone with a disability (parent, caretaker, etc.) express frustration for their perceived burden and have that be accepted and validated? What crimes against the disabled has this acceptance led to?
Based on what is known about something, in particular, that can be called autism (that which can be cured/removed/fixed), how often are people with conditions with a similar amount of information known about that solution (or the lack thereof) asked if they want that condition cured?
How often does a discussion that involves issues that are most relevant to a particular group of people include having them provided the least opportunity to express their views and have that view be respected? How much more often does that happen when this is related to a disability? What about with a developmental disability? How about in relation to autism?
How much is understood about the lives of adult autistics when they were children? How much effort goes into learning about that and how much is simply presumed? How do convenient presumptions affect communication? What does making convenient presumptions reflect about the person making them when someone they live with has a communication disorder? How much better could they (the person with the disorder) communicate with the people in their lives if those people weren't making convenient presumptions?
What role does shame play in someone's emotional development? What about academic development? How much is being done to ensure that autistics will not need to be ashamed in the future no matter how competent they are perceived? What are children learning about the importance of competency and will they feel proud when they arrive at the standard cultural expectations (or the ones of their family) or will they always be ashamed of what they haven't achieved and try to degrade others in order to achieve that sense of pride? Who is ultimately served by this striving to achieve?
What do the money and time spent on the gambling everything on the fix or cure in relation to what is spent on encouraging self-esteem and empowerment reflect about the value others place on these people? What does the money and time spent on the gamble to fix them in relation to what's spent on education and vocational training reflect? What about nationally? globally? community efforts? individual households?
Note: Nothing encourages injustice more than the false claim that justice is being served.
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.