Glorifying Autism

Keep Your Cures

Writing my second novel has been challenging. In fact, getting to the point where I was ready to consider writing this story has been a long journey. My work in progress is about an autistic family. Put away your torches and pitchforks. I’m not talking about families who insist on defining their collective identities based on their autistic child/sibling. Almost every member of the family in my story are autistic.

What qualifies me to write such a novel? This is a serious question. The market is flooded with stories written by autism adjacent authors. Social media is full of parents shouting at people like me, accusing us of stealing focus from their children.

I am autistic. My dad is autistic. My grandfather was autistic. My aunt and two uncles were/are autistic. I have autistic cousins, nieces/nephews, and siblings. With all this family and personal experience, I was still terrified of speaking someone else’s truth, and not doing it justice.

Do I think I can write a story that encompasses all autistic experiences? Of course not…. But it’s taken a long time to overcome the mental barrier created by the idea any story with autistic representation needs to encompass the entirety of autistic life experiences.

The hardest part about convincing myself I’m allowed to write this story has been weighing what I want to say against the overwhelmingly negative representation of autism in the media. Can I write something that’s honest, without adding to this negativity? If I avoid portraying anything challenging in the lives of these characters, would the story be a shell of what it should be? If I focus on triumphs, will I be accused of glorifying autism?

If you don’t believe these concerns are founded, type “Glorifying Autism” into Twitter’s search function. It is disturbing. For some people, the only acceptable narrative is that autism is scary. These people refuse to accept any story about autism that isn’t founded on the idea autism is a tragedy and burden.

Having reached the point of being ready to write this book, the process is turning out to be extraordinarily difficult. I keep thinking I’m not being honest enough, but it is my characters who aren’t cooperating. They resist exposure at every turn. I can’t blame them. People have accused me of glossing over my struggles by focusing on the positive aspects of my life. I’m not obligated to convince people I’m qualified to write about autism by spilling out stories of my hardest days. This prejudiced, ableist world is the same one where I have to find a way to make a living and raise my children.

In order to write this story, I will have to force my characters to do what I avoid. They will have to expose insecurities hidden in the darkest corners of their minds. Since the book will not be devoted to a narrative of the tragic lives of a family cursed with autism, I’ll probably still be accused of glorifying autism. If this qualifies as glorifying autism, let the pride flags fly, because I’m all for it.

I Abused Children And SO DO YOU: A Response To An ABA Apologist

There’s so much to say about this. When she cited the woman saying she looked at her child’s diagnosis as the baseline of progress, I understood the degree to which the woman’s opinion of her children has been damaged by deficit based diagnosis. If I believed my diagnosis the way it was written, there’s a good chance I might have killed myself.

Diary Of A Birdmad girl

This was written in response to this article which was written in response to my first article:
http://www.singingthroughtherain.net/2017/04/aba-not-abuse.html

You can read my first article here:
https://madasbirdsblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/i-abused-children-for-a-living/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

*CW: ABA/Autistic Conversion Therapy, abuse, torture (including graphic images and video of), mention of “awareness,” “recovery,” Autism Speaks, filicide, and links to all of this and other material that many people may find triggering. Please proceed with caution…

*CN: This is a very long read so settle in for a while (or save for later)…

Dear Condescending ‘Autism Mom,’

I’m assuming that’s what you call yourself since your views seem to be right in line with those who prefer that title. I also think it’s fair to make assumptions since you’ve made plenty about me.

Still, I wanted to sincerely thank you for writing your article, “True ABA Therapy Is Not Abuse: A Response.” You see, despite the fact that my article contained language…

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Capaldi: The Doctor We Needed, But Not the One Everyone Wanted

listen

Adjustments must be made in the minds of viewers with each new Doctor and companion. Tonight we get the thrill of being introduced to Bill, which comes along with the work of understanding what makes her tick. Personally, I have been holding out hope she’s a transgender character. I doubt that’s the case.

All Doctor Who fans remember their first Doctor. For me, it was Christopher Eccleston. I’m not English and didn’t realize his casting was somewhat controversial; not that I would have understood a northern accent could be the subject of snobbery. My grandmother was a Yorkshire girl, before she married a Canadian soldier during the war, so it’s the kind of accent I am used to hearing.

Christopher Eccleston drew me into the Whoniverse, but it was David Tennant who made me fall in love. I grieved at the loss of his Doctor. Making room for Matt Smith was a bittersweet tragedy. Despite the feelings of loss, I fell in love with Matt Smith’s Doctor at first sight.

Then came Peter Capaldi.

I bet you think I’m going to go on a Capaldi hater spree. Nope, that’s not going to happen. The cadence of his speech was a huge adjustment for my Canadian ears, but his character speaks to me on a deep level. While I haven’t watched every version of the Doctor, I did take time to watch the original. His arrogance was infuriating and made him difficult to appreciate, yet William Hartnell somehow brings the audience around to a place of grudging acceptance. Eccleston, Tennant, and Smith only reveal the Hartnell at their core in their darkest moments; Tennant more than the other two.

With Capaldi, Hartnell’s Doctor is always near the surface. He lurks in the shadows of his face, and in his reactions. The brilliant thing is that all the other versions are right there as well. Capaldi doesn’t exactly seem to bring a brand new personality to the mix. I know many of you would dispute this idea hotly, so let me explain. More than any other Doctor I’ve seen up to this point, Capaldi makes you remember how many men dwell inside of him. He’s lightness and dark, soldier and pragmatic abstainer, bold and insecure, man and child.

What he’s not is a romantic distraction from the deeper questions; at least when it comes to anyone except River Song. While Peter Capaldi is very attractive, he’s an older man. For a large segment of the audience, this fact strips him of the potential to be a romantic lead. His Doctor seems unable to distinguish between male and female, and comes off as supremely uninterested in any sexuality. This detracts even more from the temptation to ship. He’s also a widower. Capaldi’s Doctor still wears his wedding ring, constantly reminding us of River Song; who is both long dead and alive.

The things that remove our temptation to ship Capaldi with every female around him allow us to focus on bigger questions. “Am I a good man,” is chief among them.

In recent episodes with Maisie Williams, we’re given an unromantic view of what eternity would really look like. Unlike the Twilight version of immortality, where everyone seems to improve with age, we’re reminded what it would be like to watch everyone you love blow away like dust in the wind. With this reminder, you can’t help loving the Doctor even more, despite the fact that he often makes flawed choices. The decisions he makes still come from a place of compassion. His character arch has spanned over fifty years, and started with him being arrogant and indifferent. Over many lifetimes, he’s actually managed to become a better man, rather than becoming hard and bitter. He might not see his own goodness, but we do.

 

 

Evie and the Expulsion from Jarden

evie

There will be SPOILERS for Season two, episode 9 of The LeftoversYou’ve been warned. 

Meg has been on a fascinating journey. Until Ten-Thirteen, my assumption was that Meg’s issues stemmed from her mother passing away on October 13, the day before the mass departure. Suddenly her pain was overshadowed by loss on an unfathomable scale. It would be like a New York city resident having a parent pass away the day before 9/11. Would anyone have time for such a typical loss after that tragic event?

Ten-Thirteen gives us new insight into Meg’s mindset. When we witness her go to the washroom twice to snort cocaine during a brunch with her mother, we know she already is struggling. She seems cold and disconnected; her smile anything but genuine. She barely reacts when she comes back from the bathroom to find her mother dead. It’s hard to tell if that’s because of shock, being high, or some deeper level of emotional disconnection.

Meg takes a trip to Jarden, a place that seems to have been spared the departure. She goes to see a man named Issac, seeking insight into what her mother’s last words might have been. She becomes angry at his answer; probably that people don’t prepare profound last words if they don’t know they’re about to die. She’s been hoping her mother’s words, which she cut off by going to the bathroom to get high, might have given her a way to make sense of the loss she feels. Isaac warned her she wouldn’t find what she was looking for if he told her, but she asked for them despite his warning.

It’s always been unclear exactly what Meg is capable of doing. When she throws a grenade into a school bus full of children and bars the doors, the audience isn’t sure if it’s a fake intended to terrify. That action turned out to be a perverse play, but other things she’s done have been grotesquely violent. She kidnaps Tommy, has him beaten, ties him up, and rapes him. She lets him go after all of that, unlike the boy she has stoned to death for nothing more than seeing something he shouldn’t have in a barn.

When Meg shows up outside the gates of Jarden, we fear what might have brought her there. Matt confronts her. She tells him the people of Jarden were spared, as if that is an offense against the rest of the world. She tells Matt the people waiting outside the gates of Jarden aren’t looking for safety inside. They could get in any time they want, if that’s really what they wanted. They’re waiting for someone like her; someone to teach the people of Jarden about loss, and help them understand there’s no such thing as a safe space.

My sister’s phone kept autocorrecting Jarden as Garden, highlighting the metaphor. Evie is a girl from Jarden that has gone missing. By this episode, we know she’s with Meg’s group. She was what the boy saw in the barn; the reason he was stoned to death. If we follow through with the metaphor, Evie is Eve from the Garden of Eden. Her destiny becomes bringing damning knowledge to the people of Jarden that will result in them being expelled.

 

My Eyes Aren’t Mirrors

image1 (8) (2)

 

It’s starting to feel like another day, another article or media piece to be frustrated with. Maybe this is a sign of my increasing awareness, and unwillingness to let things slide. Awhile back I read a piece in The New Yorker called Seeing The Spectrum: A New History of Autism by Steven Shapin.

The art is the first thing I would like to comment upon. I interpreted the picture as a depiction of a whole community of adults in the process of constructing a child. It might be an artistic depiction of the concept that a whole community is required to raise a child. That’s not the first thought that popped into my head.

“Look at all these adults fixing this broken child,” was my first (sarcastic) thought. Maybe that comes from a cynical place.

The article starts out by pointing out how the world is an unpredictable place, and normal people just deal with it.

Sure they do.

Moving on, the author throws in an example of how someone might accidentally buy their boxers at J.C. Penney instead of Kmart. This is a clear reference to the film called Rain Man. He goes on to specifically reference this movie as a cultural tipping point in understanding autism. The movie is based on a real person who was named Kim Peek, who wasn’t autistic, although inspiration was also taken from another man who was.

The article goes on to say the world has always been this way; there have been people who deal with changes and those who impose order, but autism hasn’t always existed. The author means that autism was only identified relatively recently.

When a tree falls in the forest, and nobody’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? If a doctor hasn’t diagnosed you, does that make you less autistic? According to all the people who attack self-identified autistic people in online communities, I’m thinking they believe a person is only autistic if a doctor says they are. What a pile of crap.

My cousin was diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and depression. This is despite ALL of her siblings being autistic. The doctor told her that she cared about other people and what they think of her, so she couldn’t be autistic. This was in the last five years! If doctors are making diagnoses based on stereotypes, I’m more than willing to accept that a person might understand themselves better than the doctor. I’m not about to argue their assessment of themselves as autistic. The author warns against posthumously diagnosing famous people in history, and he has a point. I do it all the time, but it’s speculation rather than fact.

The part of this article that has many autistic people upset is as follows:

For parents of autistic kids, awareness is desperately important. It’s a 

searing experience to have a child who doesn’t talk, who doesn’t want 

to be touched, who self-harms, who demands a regularity and order that 

parents can’t supply, whose eyes are not windows to their souls but black mirrors.

Public recognition is vital, both for its own sake and as a means to mobilize 

resources for care, support, and a possible cure. 

My eyes are not mirrors. If they were, they’d reflect back the ableism of this statement. I don’t lack a soul. Furthermore, I wouldn’t choose to be cured if that was an option. In my opinion, the focus needs to be on finding ways to relieve aspects of autism that make living in the community difficult. Autism Speaks spends most of their money finding ways to test for autism in-vitro. If this is successful, it will lead to many fear-based abortions. They also spend a lot of money on curing autism, with the primary focus on wiping out the genome.

OUR SOCIETY NEEDS AUTISTIC PEOPLE! I’ve said it many times, in many blog posts, and I’m not going to stop saying it.

The author goes on to discuss brave parents who refused to institutionalize their children, and insisted on treatment options, changing the view of autism. It might be true, but it leaves out autistic people.

He discusses Applied Behavior Analysis as if it’s a thing of the past. I wish it were. I understand the approach doesn’t use cattle prods anymore, so I feel like I need to explain my reluctance to embrace it. This is especially true since Mr. Shapin  said that high-functional autistic people like myself are picking on the parents of severely autistic children by saying that we shouldn’t try to treat autism. (italics are his words, because I HATE functional labeling)  I’ve never said anything like this. I want people to have relief from symptoms that impact their daily living, without destroying autism.

I watch a show on CBS called Scorpion. To my dismay, I’ve watched it become increasingly ableist. I wince whenever Paige delivers lines to Walter like, “You’re becoming more human.” She’s saying he was less than human before that point, and she the one who gets to judge his humanity. This is what autistic people face all the time with behavioral modification approaches.

In one episode of Scorpion, Walter acts out a piece of Romeo and Juliet. Paige asks him why he doesn’t act all the time. What she means is she can’t understand why he doesn’t put on this show every time he has to deal with people. It’s exhausting and shouldn’t be necessary. Why should autistic people expend so much energy trying to accomplish trivial things? Why can’t neurotypical people just accept our stimming, if it isn’t causing us harm? Steven Shapin took the time to explain how great neurotypical people are at adapting. Put those skills to to work by adapting to the idea that we aren’t the same as you and we aren’t going to pretend to be, just to make you more comfortable.

 

No One Laughs At God

No Room At the Inn

This post contains SPOILERS for Season Two, The Leftovers


No one laughs at God in a hospital

No one laughs at God in a war

No one’s laughing at God 

When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

Laughing With, Regina Spektor’s song, is the perfect highlight to The Leftovers episode, No Room At The Inn

No Room At The Inn explores one man’s struggle to keep faith in a world that’s shifted beneath him. Faith is something that has fled the grasp of most people in this new world. People are desperately searching for new things to guide their life, now their former beliefs have stopped making sense.

Matt Jamison is a minister to an empty church. He is mocked and physically attacked on a regular basis. Through all this, the audience are led to believe he’s a good person at his core; until his catatonic wife becomes pregnant. We are forced to face the possibility Matt might have raped her, despite his memory of a day where she miraculously woke from her catatonia. We must consider he made up the memory to justify a repugnant action.

Mary and Matt Jamison had been trying for a long time to become pregnant, before the accident. Matt is sure Mary woke up long enough to become pregnant by miracle, and will wake again before the child is born. The people closest to him seem to have doubts; as they’ve come to doubt most things in life since the departure. It’s disturbing to see on their faces that they think he might have had sex with her while she’s unable to consent, while simultaneously seeing a lack of willingness to judge him for the action. It is a reflection of a society that teaches us to think of a person in Mary’s condition as a little less than human. When Matt can’t get back into Jarden, the people who originally sponsored him don’t come to his rescue; a passive aggressive condemnation, but the only one he receives apart from questions at the medical clinic.

 

Matt’s sister Nora has a neighbor named John Murphy, who’s mission to prove miracles don’t happen, provides a juxtaposition for Matt. Jarden has renamed itself Miracle, because of the belief they were spared from the departure. People believe the water has mystical powers, and residence in the town will protect a person from future departure events. If Matt is proved a rapist by the end of the episode, John’s position that miracles don’t exist becomes more credible. That doesn’t happen.

Matt has to betray some of his core value in order to get Mary back into Jarden; on the belief she will lose the baby if he doesn’t. Nora saves Matt out of loyalty to her brother and sister-in-law. Matt chooses to she her as an instrument of God’s will. A freak accident kills the man who stole Matt and Mary’s wristbands that would have allowed them reentry into Jarden. It’s possible Matt might see this as God’s punishment, if not for the child left without a parent in the accident. He decides God wants him to take care of this child, in order to repent for beating a man with a boat oar earlier in the evening, while he was trying to get his wife back into Jarden. He is standing in judgement of himself, as proxy to God.

Is Matt only repenting for the beating he gave that man earlier in the evening?

 

Does Matt know Mary’s revival was a lie? Does he really believe it happened?

Did it actually happen?

Faith is personal. Our attempts to explain our faith to other people often ends in mockery and disbelief. With this in mind, it seems appropriate we aren’t brought any closer to a definitive answer to these questions by the end of the episode.

This last line of Laughing With is, “We’re all laughing with God”. 

This is an appropriate sentiment to end on, for an episode that doesn’t bring us any answers to the many questions of faith it evokes. In the circumstances presented in this episode, laughter wouldn’t be the result of happiness. What’s there to be happy about? Bitter recognition of irony would cause laughter in the face of tragedy. The song reminds us the world these characters are occupying is an ongoing tragedy. In such a world, compassion and empathy compel us to set aside skepticism in favor of mutually respecting the things that give people comfort.

No One Is Spared

erica

 

Season Two SPOILERS for The Leftovers. 

Some of the things I speculated on for the season finale of The Leftovers, Season Two happened the way I anticipated. Some of them played out in unexpected ways. Season Three is set to begin soon, and I’m really excited to see where it goes.

It was a relief they gave clarification of what happened between Matt and Mary in No Room At the Inn, that it was about loss and holding on against overwhelming odds. I was starting to question if Matt raped his wife while she was in a catatonic state. Christopher Eccleston was my first Doctor, which is probably why I want to think the best of him, and was really disturbed by this possibility with his character.

The people waiting outside the gates of Jarden behaved as I expected. Meg asked Matt what he thought they were waiting for. She nailed it. They didn’t want to feel safe. They wanted a chance to watch the people of Jarden learn that no one gets to be spared from grief and sadness.

Meg’s question to the guard is both cutting and narrow-minded. She wants to know how Jarden has the nerve to shut down on the anniversary of the departure. She suggests it’s like closing for Christmas when you don’t believe in the divinity of Christ; as if these people are disconnected from the pain of the world.

Not only do the residents of Jarden have to deal with losses outside of their community; they have to deal with overwhelming survivor’s guilt. Evie understands why the people outside the gate need to storm the gates of Jarden. She sees how the residents of Jarden hide from their understanding of the truth, that they weren’t chosen for a miracle because their hearts were pure.

No One Is Spared.

The particulars of Meg’s plan are different than I anticipated. I thought there would be more violence. Maybe that’s still to come. I thought they might use explosives on the bridge, or set off a gas-line explosion. On the other hand, I wasn’t shocked when they just walk in. Meg implied all they ever had to do was want in badly enough. But it does make the decision to stone the boy to death, who saw Evie and the other girls were alive and well with The Guilty Remnant, even more shocking. If he didn’t see a bomb, they only killed him for seeing the girls. Worse yet, Meg might have killed him for no reason at all. Her motivations are often opaque.

Evie brings truth and knowledge to the people of Jarden, much like Eve found truth in the Garden by biting the forbidden fruit. The result of Eve’s action was eviction from the garden. Even if the people of Jarden aren’t physically evicted, the result is the same. Paradise is spoiled; if only by making people see it was never real.

Here’s my nagging problem: Why is Kevin Garvey spared? He drowns himself, and the Earth cracks open and drains the river to save him. He is poisoned and buried, but the Earth expels him alive. He is shot and should bleed out, but he sings karaoke in purgatory and earns back his life. He says he deserves to live. I suppose he deserves it as much as most people, but death isn’t something most of us get a choice about.

In the midst of this huge lesson about how no one is spared, Kevin Garvey gets to walk into a house filled with pretty much everyone he loves waiting for him. Maybe that’s the key. Maybe he wasn’t spared at all.

 

Our Cave Collapsed

the leftovers

Initially published on my Blogger account in 2015. May contain spoiler for The Leftovers, and C.S. Lewis’s novel, The Last Battle 

I could probably write about International Assassin (The Leftovers, Ep.8, Season 2) each day for the next month and still not have covered everything . This show is densely layered and richly written. With that in mind, I’m going to focus on one particular aspect of this episode.

Season two starts with in Earth’s ancient past, with a group of people sleeping together in a cave. A pregnant woman gets up in the night to relieve herself. An earthquake happens while she’s outside, resulting in the collapse of the cave opening. Whether the rest of the cave collapsed is unclear. The shock sends her into labor, forcing her to set aside her grief and focus on survival. She delivers the baby, and sets out search of other humans. It doesn’t end well for the woman, but she succeeds in finding safety for the child.

The episode shifts to Kevin, speaking to a woman who looks exactly like Patti, although she appears not to be her. During this conversation, the Patti-duplicate tells Kevin that their cave has collapsed. Since the characters have no way to know the events that too, place at the beginning of the episode, we must assume the allusion is for the benefit of the audience. It is meant to trigger our memories of something we may have come in contact with in school and other facets of entertainment and culture: Plato’s comparison of our understanding of reality to people watching shadows on a cave wall.

When I was about eleven-years-old, I read C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. The final book of this series is called The Last Battle, and the last chapter of this book is called Shadowlands. Aslan returns to Narnia for the last time. He calls Narnian’s to follow him. On Earth, the Pevensie’s hear his call, with the exception of Susan. Some people have cynically suggested she was excluded because she wore makeup, while I  tend to think Lewis was trying to say she’d become too caught up in the trappings of the world to hear Aslan’s voice.

Aslan is a metaphor for Jesus, so the implications are clear. Shadowlands is a description of the Rapture. Christopher Eccleston’s character, Matt Jamison, spent all of season one having his ass kicked for telling people what happened when so many people disappeared at the start of the series wasn’t the Rapture, because bad people were taken and good ones were left behind. The fact remains that both the title of the show and events are meant to evoke questions about the Biblical concept of the Rapture. In the same way Patti referenced Plato’s Cave, Shadowlands also is built around this concept.

Plato, a Greek philosopher born around 428 B.C.E., used metaphors to make his ideas more accessible. He told a story of people sitting around a fire inside a cave. They watch shadows dancing on the wall, and believe what they’re watching is reality. It’s only when they step out of the cave and see the sun and real world that they realize they’ve been watching shadows their whole lives.

C.S. Lewis was trying to say that Earth is a shadow land of something much better. Even Narnia, always described as magical, is a shadow land of Aslan’s kingdom.

When the Patti-copy tells Kevin our cave has collapsed, it reinforces what The Guilty Remnant have been saying all along. The world ended. But if the world ended in Rapture, we come back to Matt’s struggle: Why have horrible people disappeared while innocent people have been left behind?

I keep picturing the dwarfs in The Last Battle; who put closed their eyes and put their hands over their ears when Aslan returned. They had lost faith because of a donkey who went around in a lion skin pretending to be Aslan, and wouldn’t risk being fooled again. They were left in a burning cabin that they refused to acknowledge was on fire, while Aslan took other Narnians to his kingdom.

I had many questions for my dad when I read this book at the age of eleven. My dad brought my attention to the lands the Narnians passed as they traveled with Aslan to his kingdom. He quoted this verse from scripture:

John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I 

have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 

The lands they passed were rooms in his Father’s house prepared for other people.
Thinking about this lead me back to fake-Patti’s words. She told Kevin the people inside the cave, the ones who disappeared, might have found another way out. They might have exited and continued on with their lives. The people left over would have to do the same. In this way of thinking, nobody are the leftovers. They are simply in a different room of the same house. But it’s hard to accept this way of thinking because it seems cruel. Why keep loved ones away from each other? It only becomes more acceptable if you believe it isn’t a permanent condition.

People on the Asperger’s / autism spectrum are *not* “undomesticated humans”

The psychology tradition of treating autistic people as less than human clearly continues in modern psychology.

the silent wave

Recently, a lovely commenter and friend (whose identity I won’t mention here, unless given specific permission to do so) notified me of an article published in Psychology Today, by a certain “Dr” Christopher Badcock, that made the bold claim that “autistics” are “undomesticated humans”.  Although I had seen the article when it first appeared and mentally spouted off a hot, snarky retort back then, vowing to write a post about it at some point, time intervened, and the post had gone unwritten.

Until today.

My amazing friend deserves the all the credit for this post (thank you!!), because they rekindled the fire not only by providing a link to the article, but also encouraging me to write a rebuttal.

And so it is.

Note to the psychology/psychiatry “experts”: we need to get one thing straight, right now: people “with” Asperger’s/autism are not – and I repeat: not – “undomesticated humans”.

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