Monday, March 27, 2017
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Friday, February 10, 2017
First off, I should start with the elephant in the room - to those who study it, 'Aspergers' no longer exists. Starting with the release of the DSM-V in 2013, Aspergers was dropped as a diagnostic label, instead replaced with the wide-reaching category of 'Autism Spectrum Disorder.' While this represents a good move overall - recognizing Autism as a spectrum that impacts everyone differently is nothing but beneficial to all those living with the condition - it does bring up an interesting question; what about those of us who've lived with and identified as Aspergians since time immemorial? Are our experiences now illegitimate? The DSM would say no; in fact it goes to great lengths to tell us that anyone who previously had a diagnosis of Aspergers - whether historically or currently - should automatically be considered to have Autism Spectrum Disorder without significant language or cognitive delays. Even still, that feels like cold comfort for the fact that a personally significant label has had its legitimacy removed. It's not that I have anything against being referred to as Autistic, it just doesn't feel as comfortable for me to wear as a label as Aspergers does. Others are certainly free to disagree; its no different than preferring queer over gay, Indigenous over Aboriginal, and so on. People should be free to self identify with preferred terms, and I prefer Aspergers.
Aspergers also takes on a different meaning to members of mainstream society. For such people, it is often - as illustrated by the comments of both my friend and many others - considered to be something separate from a person. It's something to be grappled with, dueled with, and reckoned with daily. This isn't a surprising stand to take; after all, our model of medical science is inherently cure-based. We identify maladies, find solutions and eliminate the problem. This has worked wonders in the realm of physical health, but it falls short in certain areas of mental health. Aspergers (and by extension all Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD and some others) is after all a pervasive developmental condition, and this means it impacts every bit of who a person is. What I like, how I think, how I interact - all are affected by it and molded by it. When Aspergers is referred to as something separate from who a person is, it does an inherent disservice to the person themselves. It implies that we can cure Aspergers and find a complete person underneath, when in fact the reality would be more akin to gutting a person and rebuilding a more socially acceptable one.
If there's one thing I hope this blog post makes clear, it's how the term Aspergers can mean many things to many different people. For me, it represents a core characteristic; no more or less a part of me than my Italian heritage, brown hair, sexual orientation or anything else. It's not separate from my deep personal self but rather an integral part of it, with its tendrils in every aspect of who I am as a human. As much as we may all wish it wasn't so, labels are a key part of how we form our own identities, and this is why it is important to move away from our traditional view of mental health as a cure-based exercise. Diagnostic labels in psychology go far beyond being mere medical terms; they actually tend to become internalized as part of who a person is because they deal with such intimate and deep-seated aspects of a person's character. Therefore I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, while Aspergers may mean many things to many people, the most important opinions in this regard are those of Aspies themselves. We're the ones living with it and seeing the world through its lenses, so how we choose to self-identify should be the most important thing to consider. In light of this, I'm declaring that - DSM be damned - I will ALWAYS be an Aspie. I do not 'suffer' from it, I embrace it as part of me instead of something separate, and most importantly, I'm comfortable with it. Everyone's self-identifications should be accepted and respected equally as part of their journey - no exceptions.
I am an Aspie, and proud of it!
Yours in Diversity,
Thursday, January 26, 2017
The Aspie Adventures of Commander Shepard: Neurodiversity, Moral Dilemmas and the Power of Gaming Narratives
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Today is a day I honestly never thought we'd see in our lifetimes. It's the day that hatred, bigotry, sexism, ableism, and homophobia have won a major victory in the western political landscape. Indeed, today is the day that Donald J Trump has won the Presidency of the United States of America...and I think I speak for all of those who are not straight, white, neurotypical males when I say that the world weeps.
Strictly speaking, this isn't a post entirely about neurodiversity, nor is Donald Trump my president since I'm a Canadian citizen. Nevertheless, this has the potential to affect us all. During his campaign, Donald Trump ridiculed women, gays, people of colour, the poor, and those who are disabled, either mentally or physically. He has shown no respect for anyone different from himself and his supporters. He employed the rhetoric of one of the most hateful, violent and dangerous ideologies ever conceived by a human mind (fascism) and...perhaps most terrifyingly of all, he won. Whether you're American, Canadian or from any other nation on this planet, this should terrify us all. A dark chapter in human history is about to unfold.
And yet I urge all of you to stay strong! Band together! Those of us who are part of marginalized groups are no strangers to struggle; indeed we've been defined by it in the past! Molded by it! Members of our communities have endured concentration camps, apartheid, eugenics, mental hospitals, police brutality and even run of the mill ableism, and yet through it all, we've always emerged stronger, more united than ever. Today marks another one of those days where we need to take such a stand.
The beauty of humanity has always rested in our diversity as a species. We've always been at our best when we've celebrated those differences (be they physical, mental, cultural, sexual, or spiritual) and used such celebration to unite us in our common humanity rather than divide us. Today, Donald Trump stands poised to tear down everything we've worked so hard to achieve in the western world. We can't let this happen. Let this be a rallying cry; today, Neurodiversity activists must stand tall, not just for our own needs and self-representation, but alongside our brothers and sisters in the feminist, LGBTQ, racial equality and other movements. Today, our resolve must not falter, nor must our hope waver.
If Donald Trump is going to attack the liberties of every American directly, and every human indirectly, then we need to make him and others like him pay for each bigoted step backwards they take.
As always, yours in diversity,
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Thursday, October 20, 2016
For those who aren't aware, Autism Speaks is one of the biggest players in Autism advocacy. Unfortunately, they've also traditionally been one of the most damaging organizations in the public eye, promoting a dangerous vision of Autism as a defect and something to be both pitied and cured. They have run hurtful PR campaigns which have presented ASD as an epidemic and tragedy, and in so doing have alienated those of us on the spectrum in big ways. At best, many of us simply dislike AS for the things they have said...at worst? Psychological damage has occurred. The average person has no real concept of how bad Autism Speaks is for Autistics, however, since they've basically become the de-facto Autism charity. Everything from "Lighting it up blue" to the puzzle piece have all been created by this organization...often without even consulting Autistics themselves.
And yet...last week things have shown signs of getting better. Autism Speaks reworked their mission statement and removed any trace of cureist language from it. Gone are messages promoting the elimination of autistics; in their place Autism Speaks has made a great fuss about providing the support Autistics need to live full lives. It's a really nice and inspiring thing to see, and I'm hopeful that this means real change is on the way.
Ultimately, do I trust that this organization will do the right thing? I'm sorry...but no. The damage has been done and all of us in the Neurodiversity community feel far too burned to ever give Autism Speaks an ounce of our trust. Even still, I do hope that this means clearer waters ahead for those of us who are Neurodivergent. Autism Speaks is made up of humans after all, (and neurotypical ones at that)...isn't change supposed to be something we are all capable of?
As always yours in diversity,