Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Comments by Daniel Au Valencia

Showing 4 of 4 comments.

  • So glad to see Mad In America recognizing the natural allies in the Autistic rights movement and the neurodiversity movement! Autism is still considered a “mental illness” in society just as much as people who hear voices or who have extreme states, and these sorts of proclamations are the same result. I’m excited to see our communities collaborating more in the future.

  • At first I thought this was going in the direction of intersectionality, criticizing people who say things like “I’m Autistic and mentally ill”, applying critical thinking to autism and nothing else, and as a result throwing the Mad community under the bus. That’s exactly the sort of presentation we need to bring into Autistic spaces, such as at the Association for Autistic Community conference, but that’s not this article.

    What quickly tipped me off that this was going in the wrong direction was the phrase “more autistic”. I was really hoping the title was ironic. To use such a phrase indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what autism is. In this case it’s not the “autism=toxins” line of thought but rather looking at someone who’s having fewer meltdowns because their gluten-free diet no longer triggers their celiac disease and describing that as “less autistic”. The problem isn’t that cutting gluten wasn’t beneficial, in fact it WAS- the problem is perpetuating the notion of a linear sliding scale of autisticness, and implying that sliding the scale in one direction is automatically preferable.

    The author claims, in a sort of repeated disclaimer-y way, the belief that autism is not inherently bad, yet by conflating disease and injury states with being “more autistic”, asserts the opposite. If “more autism” is intrinsically worse than less autism, then you’re saying autism is intrinsically bad.

    I also noticed that the anti-DSM rhetoric is immediately followed by an assumption that meeting more DSM criteria is the same as being “more autistic”. As with the previous observation, this is a clear case of cognitive dissonance. In fact additional marks on the DSM checklist indicate that you are perceived as more broken or more “severely” disabled, not more autistic. If you define “psychotic” as someone who either hears voices or commits murder, then of course serial killers are going to meet the criteria for psychosis, but only because you wrote the definition that way! If the DSM criteria for autism were accurate, then having unrelated microbial issues would have no effect on how psychiatrically autistic you are.

  • There IS a word, ableism, and it’s been around for decades.

    The simplistic definition you give to someone who asks “what does that word mean?” is that it’s like racism or sexism, but instead of race or gender it’s applied to disability. Except “disability” is socially constructed just as much- nay, more so than race, sex, or gender; so if you truly seek a deeper understanding then it inevitably gets more complex.

    The foundation of ableism is the belief that some bodies and minds are better than others, and therefore are deserving of more rights. If you think about it, that is also the foundation underlying all the other “isms” too. Racism assumes that white bodies and white minds are better than the rest. Sexism assumes that male bodies are better than female or intersex bodies, that male minds are better than female or nonbinary minds.

    I’ve also encountered the terms sanism (from labeling people sane or insane) and neurobigotry (from the people who brought you the words neurotypical, neurominority, etc.) to specify that mental things are the target of discrimination. While that’s a useful distinction, especially around under-the-bus-throwing “our minds are fine” disability advocates, ultimately it still boils down to ableism. The assumption that “sane” and “mentally healthy” are legitimate factual categories, distinct from “insane” and “mentally ill”, is really the same as the assumption that neurotypical minds are better than neurodivergent minds.