TRIGGER WARNING: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE and ABLEISM
For those who don’t know me from my online presence, I tend to be outspoken against Autism Speaks. No matter what changes in course the organization makes at this point, the damage has been done. Autism and people with autism have been demonized by Autism Speaks. These direct quotes from I Am Autism, an Autism Speaks commercial, prove my point:
*sinister male voice plays while the image of children flashes in the background*
I am invisible to you until it’s too late. I know where you live. With every voice I take away, I acquire yet another language. I work faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined. If you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails. Your money will fall into my hands, and I will bankrupt you for my own self gain. I don’t sleep, so I make sure you don’t either. I will make it virtually impossible for your family to easily attend a temple, birthday party, or public park without embarrassment. You have no cure for me. I derive great pleasure out of your loneliness. I will fight to take away your hope. I will plot to rob you of your children and your dreams. You are scared, and you should be. I am autism. You ignored me. That was a mistake.
If you don’t believe me something so offensive exists, watch the video. I won’t link that garbage, but you can find it on YouTube under I am Autism. (VERY TRIGGERING)
People with autism are regularly abused in the media. Autism Speaks have only added to the problem by giving the impression it is alright. We are called sociopaths, burdens, homewreckers, and worse. Sometimes the portrayals are upfront about their intentions, and sometimes they give the cloying sense of having the best wishes of people with autism at heart. My assertion is that I’d rather have articles written by people who are unapologetic about their prejudice. Readers might see them for what they are and take their words with a grain of salt. The real damage is done by spouses and parents who start out saying they love an autistic person, and go on to blame them for everything wrong in their lives.
To demonstrate my point, I am going to discuss articles written by two bloggers. One is a bitter woman who has decided autism is the reason her former partner was abusive. As a person who had an abusive spouse, I feel for the pain she suffered, but know it’s a mistake on her part to blame autism. People with autism are far more likely to be the victims of spousal abuse than the perpetrators. I should know. The second person is a spouse who talks about loving her husband, but proceeds to rip him to shreds. The first blogger does not make appeals to an audience interested in issues surrounding autism, unlike the second blogger. If you read the comment sections of both, you’ll see the second blogger has many other spouses of women with autism reading her work. She also has readers who are spouses unhappy in their marriages, looking for a way to blame their partner for everything. The first blogger is so openly vitriolic, most of her comments are in defense of people with autism. Again, that speaks volumes.
Blogger #1 normally writes about Mental Health issues. Considering the way she writes about Autism, it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s equally cruel towards all varieties of Mental Illness. In fact, she uses the fact that only the topic of Autism caused any blow back on her blog as proof that we are wrong to respond in anger. Here’s the problem with that theory: Mentally Ill people are one of the most marginalized groups in any society. In order to resist negative portrayals she might offer on her blog, they have to publicly admit to being mentally ill. This can have real life dangers, including loss of jobs and friends. Why would anyone want to expose themselves this way, when they know it won’t make a difference?
Please take that into account if you’re tempted to reach out to Blogger #1. It won’t make a difference, except to make her even more sure she’s correct. She appears both unable and unwilling to have even a speck of empathy towards people with autism, who she portrays as less than human. It will be a waste of your mental and emotional resources to engage or think about her.
The article I am referring to from Blogger #1 is as follows: Psychopathy… Or Asperger’s Syndrome?
Please be warned: THIS IS VERY TRIGGERING.
Here are some horrifying examples from her post about autism:
“…if you get involved in a relationship with an “Aspie”, as they’re called, you will get hurt. Badly.”
“…a key feature of their disorder is the inability to understand their disorder.”
“Aspies are very similar to sociopaths, with the most obvious exception being that sociopaths are socially charming and aspies are socially awkward. Despite the lack of empathy, one of the core traits of a sociopath, aspies are treated as totally legitimate in our society.”
“…get it tattooed on your f**cking head or whatever, I don’t care what you do, just stick with your own kind and stop destroying people!!!”
“…life’s too short to deal with assholes, no matter what their hangup is… Just because you clueless dumbasses don’t mean to hurt someone, doesn’t mean that you don’t.”
“…go back to tracking weather statistics… stick with your own kind is all I’m saying.”
She is bound and determined to prove ALL people with autism have ZERO empathy. She starts by quoting David Finch, from his book called Love is Blind – Marriage is the Eye-Opener. Why does she use this quote? Hint: David Finch is autistic and he blames this fact for the destruction of his marriage.
She repeatedly writes about how they try to censor her. They stalk her online. It’s entirely possible she’s including me as one of her stalkers. I have written about this article, but otherwise avoid her like the plague.
It is depressing to see someone who believes they know so much about people on the spectrum, but fails to understand we are not a homogenous group. The disability community has intersectionality of race, religion, language, culture, nationality, socio-economic background, gender etc.
She claims everything she writes is protected under free speech. What does that have to do with what people say in response? Isn’t that also protected under free speech? Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you will be free from backlash.
For this next point, I am going to use a direct quote because it so precisely demonstrates the position I am arguing:
“Now if you do a Google search on “Asperger’s and Empathy”, you’ll see something strickingly at odds with that fact (the “fact” she refers to her is that people with autism have ZERO EMPATHY) – you’ll find an endless stream of links to articles claiming “not only do Aspies have empathy, we have much more of it than neurotypicals!” All these articles are written by Aspies themselves, and they should know, right? Don’t believe it for a moment! Remember what I said above – a key feature of their disorder is the inability to understand their disorder.
She goes on to clarify her opinion that an autistic person’s self-assessment of being empathetic can’t be trusted unless it is verified by non-autistic people in their life. This is the feedback loop – the very act of claiming to have empathy is proof you do not have empathy.
She really loves to quote Simon Baron-Cohen to prove her points. He suggests a better source for accurate information about whether a person with autism is empathic is to talk to the people around them. He encourages people not to trust the self-assessment of autistic people when it comes to empathy.
Blogger #1 wants to prove a point, so she finds material that proves it. I can do the same with the idea that people with autism DO have empathy. It is called a CONFIRMATION BIAS.
I would love to hear about articles you’ve read. If you have links, all the better.
Now for Blogger #2. As I’ve already stated, her spouse falls on the autism spectrum. She refers to him as having Asperger’s Syndrome. The post I am commenting upon is:
I am going to list words/sentences/phrases she uses that were insulting/incorrect:
- “High-Functioning” – People really need to quit using this. In my experience it is used to silence people on one end of the spectrum by suggesting they aren’t quite “autistic enough” to have the right to talk about autism. It is also used to suggest that people on the other end are incapable of having opinions worth listening to, and gives permission for people to feel free to speak for them.
- “Notable lack of common sense” – Have you watched Youtube?
- “Brain disorders” – While not technically incorrect, in context of everything else, it really bothers me.
- “More common in men” – Nope. It is more diagnosed in men. Research is trying to draw attention to ways autism looks different in men than women, but even this is too simplistic. What about people who describe their gender and sexual identities outside of straight, male, and female?
- “The shortcomings of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have been camouflaged beneath layers of coping strategies and defense mechanisms.” – Yes, people on the Autism Spectrum have coping strategies and defense mechanism. Seeing these described as ways to camouflage our shortcomings made me throw-up in my mouth just a little. Our strategies often are the result of years of torture through Applied Behavior Analysis techniques or simply having to live with the hypocrisy and double-standards of a society that lays the blame at our feet for any social interaction we’re involved in going sour.
- Behavior comes off as “odd” or “eccentric” but is “passable” because they offer something special to society in the way of specialized skills or intelligence – This attitude is the bane of marginalized groups. It isn’t enough for a person of color to be good at their job. They have to be the best. It isn’t enough for a person with Autism to be gainfully employed. If they are anything less than extraordinary, someone is going to call them a “burden to society”. I recently wrote a blog about how terrifying the word “burden” is for people with disabilities. If you want to read it, click on this link: Burden – A Heavily Weighted Word
- “Appears normal” – The context of this was that her friends see her spouse as “normal”, so they don’t understand her “suffering” and won’t give her the sympathy when she expresses these thoughts. She says this leaves her “isolated”.
- “Spouses play an abnormally large caregiver role” – She says that her spouse doesn’t do his share of chores and isn’t emotionally available. Right, because that is something no spouse of a Neurotypical man has ever accused her husband of. My sister is married to a man who does no chores. He doesn’t even do the things that are typically considered “man’s work”. In his opinion, he goes out to work and everything at home is her job. The really crappy part of all that is he gets days off and holidays. She never does. She also doesn’t have a quitting time, unless you count the moment her head hits the pillow. Chances are she won’t ever get to retire from what he considers her job, where he will. My ex-husband was completely irresponsible in every aspect of life. I was the only reason we ever had food on the table, bills paid, and a roof over our heads. I am autistic and he is Neurotypical.
- “Although people with Asperger’s Syndrome do feel affection towards others, relationships are not a priority for them in the same way that it is for people who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome.” – I can’t help thinking of the Doctor who asked my cousin if she cares about other people, and what they think of her. When she answered that she does, he told her this is proof she isn’t really autistic. Jackass. In my experience, we spend so much time thinking about relationships and interactions, we wind ourselves up into big balls of anxiety. Sometimes we have to walk away from it just to be able to get our minds and bodies straight again.
- “Afflicted” – Ugh. It’s like she thinks we are diseased. Gross.
- Lack of Empathy – In my experience, which is increasingly being reflected in research, many people on the Autism Spectrum are Hyper-Empathetic. They feel responsible for the whole damn world, which often is why people with autism are left-leaning and social justice activists. We feel people’s emotions like a physical assault.
- In many cases, the Asperger partner analyzed the partner prior to marriage and assessed them as being capable of filling a compensatory role for his own deficits. – This sentence is so repulsive, I feel like it speaks for itself. She goes on to say the non-Asperger partner takes on the role of a personal assistant in a business relationship rather than a marriage. She also says this spouse will feel betrayed by not having their expectations of a mutual/equal relationship met.
- “Sacrifice” – It ranks right up there with “burden” on the obnoxious word list for people with disabilities.
- “Flexibility is exploited” – Got to love that language of the person with Autism abusing the Neurotypical person. It is rich language coming from someone who is writing about her husband this way. She goes on to talk about these things damaging the Neurotypical partner’s self-esteem. Seriously? You wrote THIS BLOG about your spouse and you want to talk about your self-esteem and empathy?
- Suggests the Neurotypical partner evaluate whether there is enough value in the marriage to continue, while also suggesting they keep all their financial affairs separate. I would love to suggest to her husband that he do the same.
The comment page for this blog was full of people thanking her for such an enlightening article, and for affirming what they’d been feeling. I wonder if this woman knows how many people in bad marriages try to armchair diagnose their “difficult” spouses so they can blame everything wrong in the marriage on them. When she suggests a person will resist diagnosis, she is basically giving people permission to harass their spouse to get a diagnosis (which they’ll use to explain everything that goes wrong in their life). There were comments that mirrored a tamed down version of the first blog referenced (Psychopathy & Love). At least one of the anonymous comments could have been the author of that blog. Equally disturbing was at least one person with Autism accepting what was said, and believing she must be unfit for a romantic relationship.
My suggestion: Start reading with a discerning eye. Start questioning the message put out in the world by articles. Stop supporting toxic representation of autism.