Do We Expect Too Much?

Okay hang onto the end folks, this could get rocky. Plus I can’t edit stuff that upsets me. Sorry!

I am seriously going off the therapies for autism.

The messages are confusing and don’t work together.

There seem to be a couple of broad types of high functioning autistic types.

  • The type who do want they think is right, get it wrong and then get frustrated and or stuck in their behaviour. They eventually alienate most of the people in their lives with behaviour that is unacceptable. And because they don’t realise it their behaviour is genuinely not something people should have to put up with.
  • The type who put so much emphasis on not hurting people that they are constantly hurt, exhausted and sick.

Actually I think most probably careen between these two types.

But it is not all our fault.

The great message of the professionals dealing with us is:

  • Autistic people have the right to be treated like normal people.

Yes, it is obviously true. But what use is that.

Much as everyone goes on about not dis-abling people, this stupidly PC world of ours is creating a more and more homogenised concept of what it means to be a person. That’s right homogenised! Gender and racial equality have not resulted in a greater variety of what it means to be normal, right, acceptable. Out of political correctness we are not allowed to talk about differences, learn about variety, make informed decisions. Everybody is expected to be able to measure up against the same gradient.

And nobody, in the therapeutic profession, ever looks at the benefits of the disability, or the drawbacks of normalcy.

I know none of us are normal we are special snowflakes. Okay sarcasm got the best of me but we are.

But lets look at some biological facts. The human brain can not think of everything consciously at the same time. I mean we all know heat beating, temperature regulation etc, but actually because social interaction is so vital to humans, it is believed that many social and especially communication pathways are biologically predisposed to become routine. This is for both the autistic and non autistic brain, but the difference seems to me to be what is made routine.

To put this more simply I believe that autistic people learn/know many of the same things but get there differently.

Imagine two kids looking at something, working out what it is, so fast neither notice how they do it:

  1. Four legs, waggy tail, bigger than a cat, barks, it’s a dog.
  2. Droopy ears, fur, smells like a dog, it’s a dog.

Both equally valid, and an observer would have no way of knowing that they worked it out differently, and usually neither would either kid.

But if teachers and therapists etc. don’t keep in mind that autistic people process differently they are going to continually make the mistakes they are making.

Autistic people have poor social skills, its part of the diagnosis. So that must be remedied.

Why?

Why can’t we just have poor social skills?

Well there is a good reason, we do need to fit in, make ourselves understood and form relationships. I know, sometimes I don’t want to either but you do need relationships.

But the secret that the therapists don’t tell us, which is the pinnacle of inequality and disabling, is we need to adapt because normal people have limitations on how they can process information. We have limitations but so do they.

I mean that is not a bad thing. Both autistic and non autistic people are biologically programmed to have short cuts, we have to in order to survive.

But nobody admits it. So immediately after telling us we have the right to be treated well, they immediately start teaching us how to seem normal so we will be treated well. And because so much human behaviour is subconscious, they don’t even teach us right. We seem normal but our motives and mood are often misread. Great so I’m normal, but I’m grumpy or judgemental or easily upset. What’s the point? And its exhausting.

So I don’t have the energy to create, to think, to achieve, because I’m wasting my last ounce of strength pretending to be a normal person who people don’t even really like, but they don’t know why.

Plus teachers and some therapists are so used to dealing with ‘normal’ kids that creating aspirational goals is automatic for them. Many autistic people respond very literally to rules. So if we are taught the aspirational polite manners:

  1. We get taken advantage of, even by nice people who don’t even realise they are doing it.
  2. We  get even more frustrated trying to communicate with the additional rules.
  3. We just can not cope with everybody else breaking the rules. Because they are rules.

But they are not rules. They are aspirational goals, and a lot of them aren’t universal anymore anyway.

But lets get realistic here. All people need to understand a situation before they can respond. And the hidden shortcuts of the normal mind mean that unusual situations are more likely to be handled ‘badly’.

My solution:

Equip our kids with an understanding that ‘normal’ has its drawbacks. Empower them to understand that all kind of prejudices arise from the way our brains work and teach them to navigate through it.

Okay, I’ll admit it I am paranoid about physically disabled people, I feel like they are going to think I’m prejudiced, do I offer to help, do I ignore them, will they mistake my autistic tics as insulting, will the blind guy even realised I have fallen and I can only make strange noises. Oh my God what happens if… Oh no I’ve been silently staring.

When I was a young mother and my husband collapsed other mothers often thought he might be drunk. Big men can be dangerous when drunk. Expecting them to respond in any way, except polite fear is unrealistic. And yet therapists told me that this was prejudiced, wrong and that I had the right to be angry.

How was that supposed to help?

Tell kids, any kids, not to be judgemental about the instinctive reaction of a stranger. Tell them that most people are nice but that fear and confusion are powerful emotions. Empower them to push past that initial uncertainty.

I had a really good encounter with an optometrist. Alex was very stressed and was having her head and eyes fiddled with, this was additionally confronting with her sensory issues. So Alex was making noises and baby talking. Alex tried to ask questions about the procedure and the optometrist baby talked back.

Did I get angry and demand my teen’s rights?

No, why? The very nice lady in all innocence thought that my gibbering daughter was intellectually challenged. But Alex was getting frustrated because she couldn’t get her questions answered.

I said, “Actually Alex is a genius and is particularly interested in medical science. She’s stressed and that effects her speech but she understands science to quite a high level.”

“I am so sorry,” she said, quite upset at herself.

“Not at all,” I said. “How were you supposed to guess that?”

The lady smiled and for the rest of Alex’s appointment and mine she answered Alex’s questions, Alex gradually calmed down and could communicate her questions more clearly. We had a wonderful experience.

OPSM by the way, all the staff were absolutely fabulous with 6 agoraphobic autistics with complicated eye problems, except Tasha, the git. I would never go anywhere else.

But back to the point. I couldn’t care less if a stranger treats me like a baby. They may think I have an intellectual disability and they may not know how to handle that situation. I revel in the knowledge that the nice person is trying to be nice.

I object to people who I regularly communicate with won’t accept that I am equal but different.

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘paying your dues’. There are certain things that are expected of employees, students, everyone new, it can be different. And failure to meet the expectations of cheerfully doing whatever it is that is ‘just part of the job’ can cause severe resentment. A young person who doesn’t seem willing to ‘pay their dues’ is arrogant, after all ‘we all went through that’. This insanity is the biggest block to integration there is. But it is so common that I have to believe it is ingrained. The only way to combat this is to face it, acknowledge it and then negotiate.

At the moment there are pathways, jogs or hobbies, that carry a history of eccentrics or even diagnosed autism. Autistic people often flourish in these areas. Not necessarily because of their skills, yes these areas do tend to be academic, scientific or computers, but possibly because the others in the industry have seen and positively interacted with ‘people like that’ before. That’s all it takes. It’s not even conscious. But put an autistic especially a female autistic at the bottom level of a arts based hobby, and she is doomed. She will be babied, or she will be expected to ‘hold her own’ and ‘take responsibility for her self’ which basically means act like everyone else.

We can’t have an ideal world tomorrow. We all need to work together. Accept each others limitations and see each others strengths.

Because as long as there is only one measure of personness we are all going to fall short.

 

2 thoughts on “Do We Expect Too Much?

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