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.
When I'm around people a lot that perceive the world in a particular way, and when I take that same perspective, I see myself as worthless; it's important for me to remember that is only their perspective, and that I'm better than that. The particular perspective I'm referring to here is that of a politician. I don't believe that it honors anyone else either, but it certainly attempts to at the expense of myself and many others.
I was recently reminded just how narrow the vision of politicians really is. It’s easy to forget sometimes when the volume of their voice drowns out reason and compassion. It reminds me, of how I can look at the sky when I’m in the city and forget that the reason it’s blue is because most of the earth is covered by ocean. While we as humans may depend on the ocean to survive, it doesn’t require our involvement. Most of what people do in relation to the ocean does more to hurt than help it and most of the ways that people get involved in policy making hurt rather than help those who are claimed to be the beneficiaries.
Autism is something that affects people’s lives but once people begin discussing policies regarding those with the diagnosis; their minds travel into a strange and brutal realm where people, and their needs must be ignored so that politicians can participate in their sport.
People cease being people when what policy which will serve some group of people is decided in something resembling an athletic event. Money and rank are what makes someone less vulnerable, and these are the tools which are used to decide what policies are best for those who are most vulnerable due to their not having money and rank. Therefore, the best anyone can do in a political arena without the proper equipment (the money and the rank) is to find a way to side with the least exploitive team or accept the type of exploitation that is the least objectionable.
A politician will define themselves as pragmatic and describe anyone who challenges the traditions of politics as overly idealist and naïve. This protects their position at your expense. Unfortunately, it also protects the traditions which are harming the majority of people and instead of encouraging dialogue, which could lead to a better understanding of needs, the politicians become more aggressive toward anyone with a unique perspective when their own mistakes become more apparent.
Unique perspectives will also be defined by politicians as selfish. Solidarity is all that preserves their position so anything that is different must be defined in terms of the way it ranks accordingly. The only thing anyone can be seen as is someone competing with leadership in order to lead people in a different direction. By default, this direction represents to them a threat so it must be described as dangerous and the person, of course, must be defined as a villain.
Sometimes politics is nothing more than a fashion show. No one can survive the whims of political fashion without either becoming a bully or a victim of bullies. It's usually a combination of the two.
In this arena, the needs of the autistic person are decided by people who will assume a political position whatever that position may be. They will claim that nothing important occurs from outside the political arena. This ultimately defines those who are outside as also being outside the group that is important. If you are not important, you will not be seen as worthy of having your needs met. Politicians who claim otherwise are often trapped in a maze. Their own exploitation is foreign to them so the way they exploit others escapes their vision as well.
"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house " ~ Audre Lorde
We can either try to understand and accommodate people and find more ways to include them, or we can find ways that we can out rank them and show that they are insignificant. The ranking will always exclude those who are fashionably less popular, but fashions change. The more practical alternative choice is also the most compassionate.
People are more important than their tools. That includes the tools used to liberate them. If the realm where people are supposedly being liberated isn’t involved in listening to them, learning what they think and what they need because they are seen as worthy of thinking and deciding for themselves, the perspective this realm promotes will most likely cause them to be ranked as also not being worthy of having their needs met.
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.
Policy makers and their supporters claim that people's behaviors are becoming worse. More specifically they claim that children's behavior is becoming worse. However, these same policy makers and supporters are claiming that behavioral products, and the techniques are advancing.
For the purpose of my focus here; whether their evaluation of behavior is correct doesn't really matter. My point is the claim behavioral conditioning is advancing or that the products are become more sophisticated and humane doesn't fit how the attitude toward the people receiving them is becoming more desperate. This desperation is causing more severe and dangerous methods of control along with those who implement them often becoming less empathetic toward those receiving them.
The behaviorists in the U.S. are involved in turf wars, which include how Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is marketed. The kinder and gentler Positive Behavioral Support (PBS) is being marketed by some as the answer to outdated and no-longer-appropriate "old school" ABA. However, the foundational principals set by earlier behaviorists who found ways to market the application of this new science provide the newest products their legitimacy. Now that it's been established that people don't possess what their treatment harms, there are fewer objections.
You of course can't read much about how the entire approach of behaviorism is inappropriate at best and very dangerous at worst because there is no market for such criticism. In the same way that the mental health industry is designed to improve the lives of everyone but the one who receives treatment, behavior modification is evaluated by those who live with, educate, and implement the treatment rather than those who receive it. This means that professionals and other authorities are prohibited from knowing the harmful effects as well as prohibited from sharing views that would harm the marketing potential of the product.
It's important to understand how those who receive behavior modification are trained to be compliant. Therefore, it's likely that someone who would otherwise tell how abusive the treatment has been will be concerned about the likely punishment that results from doing so.
The work of behaviorists could not become more humane during the same time that the lists of types of people who are seen to need the service is growing, the behaviors being treated are seen to be more severe, and the laws which provide protection for the treated are increasingly aiding the treatment providers with protection instead.
There are reports that advocacy efforts have increased during this time. However, this has not been nearly sufficient to meet the demand for the protection needed. While institutions over the years have added carpet and air conditioning, this has been disguised as and substituted for the needed protection against abuse. Furthermore, protection agencies which have been developed during this time have primarily provided more power to a specific subset of parents of children with disabilities while providing the disabled with powerful sounding names like consumer as a substitute.
More people are being incarcerated now than ever before and there are a broader set of laws for which they can be punished. Behaviorists work toward providing children with particular grades and labels, which will determine their path at earlier ages. Their goal is to have more rules (and have only a single set) and have them be applied to a broader set of people. It's ideal to believe that morality and ability won't be lumped together, but it's not practical.
The same type of marketing specialists who promote Fruit Loops and Apple Jacks by using fruit names and describing how including oats will benefit your heart will use positive names and the endorsement of well compensated scientists to sell behavior modification. Until or unless those who receive the treatment begin to be consulted and continually monitored and questioned as to its effectiveness and potential for abuse, you can be sure that along with better behaviorism you are buying sugar-coated law enforcement at the expense of the heart, mind, and soul of the most vulnerable people.
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)