19 January 2014

Autism Acceptance, not cure. Be on the right side of history.

On the subject of curing homosexuality.
Let's establish the facts:
- Some people want cures for their gay children.
- Many people (particularly gay people) are offended by this.
- People who want a cure are frequently offended by gay people being offended at cure rhetoric. They think gay people should calm down and let them want their right to a cure. After all, their burden is greater, because their child's homosexuality is extreme, so they should have the right to relieve their suffering and the suffering of those around them.

On the subject of curing autism.
Let's establish the facts:
- Some people want cures for their autistic children.
- Many people (particularly autistic people) are offended by this.
- People who want a cure are offended by autistic people being offended at cure rhetoric. They think autistic people should calm down and let them want their right to a cure. After all, their burden is greater, because their child's autism is extreme, so they should have the right to relieve their suffering and the suffering of those around them.

------------

I'm sure you can see what I am trying to demonstrate there. Put any minority group where cure rhetoric has been part of their history, and you can see how offensive and bigoted those statements are. Sure, find ways to alleviate suffering, but recognise that being pro-cure means eradicating an entire neurology, with its own set of strengths and wonders. Sure, it has challenges too, but so does every person on this planet. Your child would no longer be the same person if they were cured. It's that simple. When you say you want to cure them, that's conditional love, and nobody wants to hear that from their parents.

Sure, some people want to be cured. Just because that want exists, doesn't make it less offensive. It just means they have been conditioned, by society, family or whoever, to uphold that same bigotry towards themselves. My belief is that it is our job to help these people feel more self-accepting, and more self-loving.

When a minority group tells the majority that they are being offensive, it is not okay for the majority to then suppress that message, no matter how much you disagree. It is time to sit up and listen. 


I have created the following image for people to copy, use and distribute far and wide. Let's get this message out!



06 January 2014

Inclusion - Indistinguishable from peers?

I have seen the following graphic around at times, and it's a perfect representation of what these various words mean.

 

Exclusion is when access is not granted.

Separation is when access is granted to something else.

Integration is when access is granted to be present in the room, but not to participate as part of the group as a whole.

Inclusion is when all students are granted access to the same opportunities, regardless of abilities, in the same environment.

With proper inclusion in a classroom setting, each person should feel that they belong in the group, they are not being segregated, and they should be provided with equitable access to whatever is needed in order for them to learn.

So in an obvious example, if a student needs their wheelchair and various technological tools in order to learn, those would be readily available. It's a no-brainer, right?

A new graphic is needed to describe what very often happens to students with autism. Here's one I prepared earlier:


In the case of these students, the meaning of inclusion has become distorted. Teachers call it inclusion, but really, the focus is making these students as indistinguishable from their peers as possible. The more indistinguishable, the higher "functioning". The purpose is, in theory, to prepare those students for the "real world".

However, as you can see represented in this graphic, those students will never really be completely indistinguishable from their peers, because they are simply wearing a mask and hiding who they really are.

The equivalent for the person in the wheelchair is having that wheelchair taken away and being told, "No, but you must work on being like the rest of the students. You must walk, at the expense of all other activities and learning." You can imagine the amount of wasted energy and angst experienced by this student.

And the amount of energy and anguish that goes into maintaining the "indistinguishable" mask is extreme. This means that very little (if any) academic learning occurs. In fact, the primary lesson these students are living with, day in and day out, is that they are not adequate, and they must be more like other people in order to be deemed adequate - and that this is the most important thing on which to focus.

So not only are these students not benefiting from academic opportunity, they are also taking a battering at the physical and spiritual level. There is no equity in this. It is harmful. It is wasteful. It is self-defeating for all concerned.


The job of teachers is to teach individuals, each with their own learning requirements. It is not to force the students to conform, to any arbitrary ideal of "normal", nor to a generic one-size-fits-all model of education. Teachers often say there is no time to do more, but I would have them realise that while they are wasting immeasurable energy on making their autistic students pretend to be indistinguishable from their peers, they could be putting (much less) energy into adapting their teaching style to accommodate those same students, without trying to change who they are.

Autistic students are different, not defective, and certainly not less. 

If those students are allowed to be who they are, they will be much happier, they will be much easier to manage, they will be learning more - and perhaps will even be reaching their true potential. And a little bonus is that happier autistic students are actually more likely to naturally develop social skills.

What kind of teacher would you rather be?

03 January 2014

Stimming - socially inappropriate?

If stimming is socially inappropriate, who gets the privilege of making that decision? And what about people who stare or laugh at stimming? Or worse, what about people who find stimming somehow discomforting, and consequently try to control the innocuous behaviour of others (ie: suppress stimming behaviours), in order to restore their own comfort?

When my child was 6, an "expert" told me I needed to pin his arms to his sides to stop him from hand-flapping. That was when I first realised so-called "experts" often have no idea what the hell they are talking about, and are also often just imposing their opinions on others.

Don't accept "expert" opinion as gospel, people! If it doesn't feel right, don't do it!

Click the links below to further your insight into stimming and social "appropriateness".
Socially appropriate.
"This innocuous phrase has turned obnoxious for me. Here’s an example of why: I’m reading a book about teaching social skills to children with Asperger’s and I come across a sentence stating that children should be allowed to time to engage in stress-reducing activities, including “self-stimulation in socially appropriate forms.”"
 ------------------------------------------

About Stimming
"Looking normal worked well for me for a few years, and then it made me miserable. I find it ironic that when my teachers and parents told me to stop stimming, their goal was the same as when they taught me social skills or took me to occupational therapy: to help me live in the world with the minimum of suffering. But I suffered more when I couldn’t stim, and I came back to it like it was a wonderful hobby I had forgotten about."
 ------------------------------------------
An interview with Emma about Stimming
A:  Do you like the word “stimming” ?
E:  No.
A:  Is there another word you’d prefer?
E:  Yes, but words are not as meaningful to me as they are to those who talk all the time.
A:  If you could choose any word other than stimming, what would it be?
E:  Self-care
  ------------------------------------------

Your child is not stagnant...

Don't worry. 

The child you have at this moment, age 2, or 5, or 9, or whatever, is not stagnant. Your child will not be at the exact same stage of development into the future. They will grow up, and along the way, development will occur.

Don't look at your child now and think of what they won't be able to do when they grow up, instead think of the things you have yet to teach them, and figure out how to get them where you hope they can be.

Imagine the possibilities, not the limitations. 

It will be the greatest gift you can give. And as a bonus, you'll enjoy them so much more!