The Danger of the Monster Myth

Originally posted on White Ribbon Campaign:

Tom Meagher

One of the most disturbing moments of the past eighteen months of my life was hearing my wife’s killer form a coherent sentence in court. Jill had been murdered almost six months earlier, and Adrian Bayley’s defence team were presenting a rather feeble case for a four-week adjournment of his committal hearing. Bayley appeared via video-link as I sat flanked by two friends and a detective. The screen was to my right, mounted high up and tilted slightly towards the bench. It was uncomfortably silent apart from the occasional paper shuffle or short flurry of keyboard clicks. I anticipated, and prepared for the most difficult moment of the day when Bayley’s face appeared on the big-screen TV, looming over the seat I then occupied. When that moment arrived, a jolt of nausea came and went, but the worst was to come, made all the more horrifying because it was…

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Judgement and Fear (#StopCombattingMe)

Originally posted on It's Bridget's Word:

Every day involves a calculation. I walk in a world that sees me as broken, less than. Whether I like it or not, the world is more dangerous for me because I have a developmental disability. When the public discourse is full of words like combat and warrior, and the real results of that discourse are poverty, abuse, discrimination, and institutions, we need to be prepared for battle. It’s not that we’re hostile or unreasonably angry, but the consequence of letting down our guard is too high. So we armor up. We pile on the pieces of objective truth as dictated by an able world. We are quick to mention, repeatedly, our degrees and career accomplishments in a way that is often mistaken for bragging. Rarely is this a prideful act. It’s a Faustian bid rife with internalized ableism. I can show you my credentials, so that you will give…

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What Is Autism?

by Nick Walker

 


 

How many websites are there that have a page called something like “What Is Autism?” or “About Autism”? How often do organizations, professionals, scholars, and others need to include a few paragraphs of basic introductory “What Is Autism?” text in a website, brochure, presentation, or academic paper?

I’ve seen so many versions of that obligatory “What Is Autism” or “About Autism” text. And they’re almost all terrible. For starters, almost all of them – even the versions written by people who claim to be in favor of “autism acceptance” or to support the neurodiversity paradigm – use the language of the pathology paradigm, which intrinsically contributes to the oppression of Autistics.

On top of that, most of these descriptions of autism – even many of the descriptions written by Autistics – propagate inaccurate information and false stereotypes. Some are so bad that they actually quote the DSM.

Of course, there are also a few really good pieces of “What Is Autism” text out there. But for the most part, they’re rather personal pieces, about the authors’ own unique experiences of autism, rather than general introductory definitions.

What is needed is some good basic introductory “What Is Autism” text that is:
1.) consistent with current evidence;
2.) not based in the pathology paradigm;
3.) concise, simple, and accessible;
4.) formal enough for professional and academic use.

Since I couldn’t find such a piece of text elsewhere, I wrote one. And here it is.

I hereby give everyone permission to reprint the text below, in whole or in part, whenever you need a piece of basic “What Is Autism” or “About Autism” text. Please do credit me for writing it (and of course, a proper citation is a must in academic writing). But really, as long as credit is given, anyone can go ahead and use this text for free.

 


 

WHAT IS AUTISM?

Autism is a genetically-based human neurological variant. The complex set of interrelated characteristics that distinguish autistic neurology from non-autistic neurology is not yet fully understood, but current evidence indicates that the central distinction is that autistic brains are characterized by particularly high levels of synaptic connectivity and responsiveness. This tends to make the autistic individual’s subjective experience more intense and chaotic than that of non-autistic individuals: on both the sensorimotor and cognitive levels, the autistic mind tends to register more information, and the impact of each bit of information tends to be both stronger and less predictable.

Autism is a developmental phenomenon, meaning that it begins in utero and has a pervasive influence on development, on multiple levels, throughout the lifespan. Autism produces distinctive, atypical ways of thinking, moving, interaction, and sensory and cognitive processing. One analogy that has often been made is that autistic individuals have a different neurological “operating system” than non-autistic individuals.

According to current estimates, somewhere between one percent and two percent of the world’s population is autistic. While the number of individuals diagnosed as autistic has increased continually over the past few decades, evidence suggests that this increase in diagnosis is the result of increased public and professional awareness, rather than an actual increase in the prevalence of autism.

Despite underlying neurological commonalities, autistic individuals are vastly different from one another. Some autistic individuals exhibit exceptional cognitive talents. However, in the context of a society designed around the sensory, cognitive, developmental, and social needs of non-autistic individuals, autistic individuals are almost always disabled to some degree – sometimes quite obviously, and sometimes more subtly.

The realm of social interaction is one context in which autistic individuals tend to consistently be disabled. An autistic child’s sensory experience of the world is more intense and chaotic than that of a non-autistic child, and the ongoing task of navigating and integrating that experience thus occupies more of the autistic child’s attention and energy. This means the autistic child has less attention and energy available to focus on the subtleties of social interaction. Difficulty meeting the social expectations of non-autistics often results in social rejection, which further compounds social difficulties and impedes social development. For this reason, autism has been frequently misconstrued as being essentially a set of “social and communication deficits,” by those who are unaware that the social challenges faced by autistic individuals are just by-products of the intense and chaotic nature of autistic sensory and cognitive experience.

Autism is still widely regarded as a “disorder,” but this view has been challenged in recent years by proponents of the neurodiversity model, which holds that autism and other neurocognitive variants are simply part of the natural spectrum of human biodiversity, like variations in ethnicity or sexual orientation (which have also been pathologized in the past). Ultimately, to describe autism as a disorder represents a value judgment rather than a scientific fact.

Words

Originally posted on The Third Glance:

I’m sitting with a group of people, not a huge group, but maybe 4 or 5 others. We’re chattering, or at least, they are – they’re chatting, talking, conversing. I’m listening, I have no other choice.

I hear a door open and shut. I hear their breathing. I hear the girl across from me shift from side to side. I hear their Words, and each Word means something, makes me think of something else. I put the Words into my brain, and try to organize them. Sometimes I even hear the sentences, but there’s so much going on that I have trouble figuring out what is being said.

I hear their Words, fumbled and confusing, with most things unspoken, nonverbal cues that are not Heard. I miss a Word, and lose the sentence.

Was that a joke? They’re all laughing. I guess I should join in, since they know I’m…

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Enlightenment Reactionaries: Sexism and Racism in the Atheist Community

Originally posted on Disrupting Dinner Parties:

This is a guest post by Robin Marie. 

In the beginning, there was “Elevatorgate.” Rebecca Watson, a feminist atheist blogger, politely explained how not to hit on women. Richard Dawkins, the most famous leader of the “New Atheists,” decided he needed to condescendingly explain to Watson that since she is not a Muslim woman, it was self-indulgent of her to speak about her experiences of sexism. Not coincidentally – as far as I am concerned – Dawkins decided this after sitting on a panel with Watson where she extensively explained how being a skeptic and a feminist netted her the delightful catch of dozens of e-mails every day – from other skeptics – offering alternatively to pleasure her like no one else had before (the “fan mail”) or, to rape her violently to set her straight (the hate mail). I think all this talk about sexism in the atheist community…

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Acknowledging Myself as Atheist – a Memoir by Djenne Thomas

Originally posted on Black Nonbelievers, Inc.:

****The following piece is an adaptation from one of my 16 year old daughter’s class assignments. I was unaware of her choice to write about this subject until she told me. She received a grade of 95, and of course, being so please with the outcome, I asked her permission to share. The content has been slightly edited, but her ideas and thoughts come through loud and clear. Please share this with others who may be feeling the same way, but may have trouble with open expression.**** ~ Mandisa    

 

Its half past 10 and my mom and I are headed towards her meeting she has every 3rd weekend of the month, I gazed at the stagnant gray clouds and counted the number of black cars that passed. 24….25….suddenly, I see a license plate with peculiar text on it. “God loves me”.

 I paused. Bewildered, I turned to my mother.

“Hey, did you see that?”

“See…

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Why I Do It

Originally posted on dimunitivediva:

Look, if you don’t want to believe, that’s fine. But why do you atheists have to talk about it? Just say you’re not a person of faith and leave it at that. You atheists need to understand that the majority of the nation is still faith based and always will be. 

As I’ve become more open about my atheism, I’ve had to deal with statements like the one quoted above from people. Oddly enough, it’s always outspoken Christians who say this to me. It is perfectly fine for them to wear their faith on their sleeve, to publicly declare their love for Jesus. But atheists are supposed to keep a low profile and accept their status as a lowly minority. I won’t deal with the hypocrisy in such thinking in this post(however if you’d like to read a brilliant response to such hypocrisy please click here). What I will do…

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