Tag Archives: disability

Special Minimum Wage

So there’s this thing. It’s called “special minimum wage.” It’s part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and it means that employers with a “special wage certificate” get to pay disabled people less than minimum wage. Some people call it a “loophole” but it is not. A loophole implies a method of evading the law. This is explicitly written into law – specifically, section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In this country, disabled people are literally second class citizens, not always even allowed the right to work for a fair pay.

Not only that, but people really defend this. There is an assumption that being disabled, especially having a “severe” disability, means that you somehow cannot work. That you’ll require lots of hand holding and oversight and it means that it would be simply impossible to pay you the way everyone else is paid. The way non-disabled people are paid.

And we find ourselves in a position of needing to prove that we can work the same as everyone else before we’re even allowed to try, and companies have a financial incentive to make sure we can’t. Not always, but often enough. It shouldn’t happen at all, but it does.

And it’s not getting a lot of attention. Goodwill, an ostensibly non-profit organization that nonetheless has executive directors making huge salaries, regularly pays disabled employees less than minimum wage. Sometimes not even $1 per hour. You cannot tell me that Goodwill would not be able to employ disabled people if they paid us fairly – that’s so ludicrous I cannot even imagine how someone could say it with a straight face.

This article talks about another aspect of the issue. Michael Grice has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. He used to work in marketing and as a customer service representative – jobs that don’t require significant physical ability. But now he’s working doing menial labor for ridiculously low wage. And it’s true that his disability means he does not do that job very well. So why can’t services find him a better placement, doing a thing he would be good at?

Well, I have no idea.

But instead he’s doing a job he’s poor at for wages that would be illegal for an able-bodied person. Yet people continue to justify “special minimum wage” with noises about how we just can’t employ disabled people the way we can employ able-bodied people. Because basic accommodations or placing people in jobs that cater to our strengths is, apparently, just too hard. This is why it is so important to create a culture where it is only natural and normal to see what a person’s strengths are, and to help us use those strengths. Because right now, not only do we not have that kind of culture, we have a culture where that is simply dismissed as not worth bothering with.

Oh, but there’s more. There are organizations that do this regularly. Sometimes I see people talking about how it’s important to try to buy american-made, if you can. That we shouldn’t support overseas sweatshop labor, even if it is cheaper. Yet right here in the US, we have companies employing large numbers of disabled workers with their special wage certificate, making and selling things like tablecloths or napkins or rugs or whatnot. The companies claim that they simply wouldn’t be able to employ so many workers if they had to actually pay a fair wage. A human wage. You know, a wage that would treat us as human beings equal under the law. People keep going after Goodwill, but Goodwill is far from the only company doing this. We need to attack the law that makes this legal, not a company that is (however skeevily) benefiting from this law.

The National Federation of the Blind has this to say about all that:

Although in recent times some sheltered workshops have begun to pay disabled workers the minimum wage or higher, other shops still claim that they would be unable to continue their operations and would have to fire their workers with disabilities if forced to pay the minimum wage.  This claim is demonstrably false. In addition to the revenue generated from the labor of the worker, these entities are primarily non-profit organizations that receive very lucrative federal contracts.  Even those workshops that are paying workers competitive wages should not have trouble maintaining their operations while remaining quite profitable; indeed, many are already maintaining successful business operations while paying competitive wages.

Equal rights needs to include everyone. And while I see lots of noise about equal rights for LGBT individuals, and how we also need to remember issues of race and voting rights, I’m not seeing much about this.

People who talk about intersectionality sometimes, occasionally, remember to include disability. But mostly we’re quietly ignored, left off to the side, not talked about or mentioned or even really noticed.

This has to stop. The idea that we’re sooo hard to employ needs to stop. Forcing us into jobs we’re bad at while ignoring our strengths needs to stop. This is not ok.

It is, please pardon my language, fucking bullshit.

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Another reason why disability rights is so important

(fair warning – I am writing this post rather last minute, without the usual editing process that my posts usually get. If it seems rough or raw, that’s why)

Allow me to introduce Amanda Baggs. Amanda is an autistic self-advocate and is fairly well-known in the disability community. The above video is from her youtube channel and is one of the first I ran across when I was looking into autism. Amanda also has a number of other conditions, one of which has become life-threatening.

So, naturally, she has gone to the hospital and is working on getting necessary, life-saving treatment.

Key phrase there. “working on.” Not just getting the treatment, working on getting the treatment.

Why is that?

Because she and her advocates are finding themselves in the position of needing to fight various doctors (and med students) who think that she would be better off dead.

I’m not exaggerating.

On her tumblr Amanda has been writing about her experiences with doctors and the hospital. In one instance she was consulting with a specialist. The specialist kept saying that instead of getting the necessary (and minimally invasive) treatment, she should look into “alternatives.” Her DPA spelled out, explicitly, that “the alternative” is, in fact, death. Her condition is life-threatening. She needs treatment.

Now, I want to make this next part really clear. The doctor, in fact, agreed with this assessment. Yes, the alternative is death.

After doing so, he continued to push for “the alternative.”

In essence, he was saying that she should seriously consider dying as a better option than not dying. That maybe her life isn’t really worth living.

THIS IS NOT OK. Seriously. I shouldn’t even have to say that. Amanda should not have to fight her doctors just to convince them that, actually, she’d rather keep on living. It’s bad enough that we have to fight just to be allowed to go to school. Fighting to live is supposed to be about getting the treatment and fighting whatever illness or condition is threatening your life. It is not supposed to be about fighting your doctors just to get treatment at all.

The only person who gets to decide if Amanda’s life is worth living is Amanda. Clearly, Amanda is quite confident that she wants to keep on living. THIS SHOULD END THE DEBATE. Actually, there never should have been a debate in the first place. No one should question this, ever.

Now, things are getting better for Amanda. She is well known, she has her DPA, people are pressuring the hospital to, you know, do what they’re supposed to do. However, not everyone is so lucky. This is something that has happened to people in the past. It is happening to people now. It will happen to others in the future. We really need to make this stop.

What Amanda needs:

Make noise. At some point I really should write up a defense of the “slacktivism” thing that gets so much scorn, but for now I’ll just say – I believe in noise. Sharing and showing support are useful things to do.

From webmuskie‘s tumblr:

It may be time to add angry phone calls to the hospital to the prayers come Monday morning. (the switchboard # is 802-847-0000 FYI, though you won’t be able to find her in the directory for reasons of privacy. Not a problem because come Monday the hospital administration will surely know who we are).

Fair warning – if you go that route, she is apparently checked in under a different name, which has not been shared with the public. The hospital administration knows this.

What we all need:

For disability to stop meaning “less.”

For everyone – including and especially doctors – to stop thinking they get to determine if other people should keep on living.

And, to throw in a quick line about it being Autism awareness month – this is why awareness isn’t good enough. We’re not being greedy or uncooperative or whatever when we say we need more. We really do need more.

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Cut it Out: An Open Letter

Dear World At Large,

Stop using “autistic” as an insult.

Maybe you claimed that a certain politician must be autistic. Or maybe you used autism as a metaphor to describe the problems of a particular country. Or maybe you laughed at someone and said they “look autistic.”

When you use the word “autistic” as a way to insult someone, the message received by those of us who actually are on the spectrum is not that the object of your insult is bad. It’s that being autistic is so completely awful that it’s a good way to belittle someone. It’s saying that autistic is synonymous with stupid, or unworthy, or rude, or whatever else you mean to imply. It’s showing what you think autistic people are like, as well as showing that you think it’s so inherent to autism that it makes sense to sling the word around as a way to insult people.

Of course, this is nothing new. People have been taking their prejudices about various groups of people, loading those prejudices onto certain descriptive words, and then hurling those words as insults for a very long time. Words like retarded and gay have also been used in this way – and all too often still are. It’s a problem.

Personally, I find it dismaying that instead of reducing the number of words we’re doing this with, we’re increasing them.

Of course, I say words, but it’s not just about the words. It’s about the people. Real, autistic people who are dynamic and interesting and strong and so much more than a collection a deficiencies, being used wholesale as a way to insult people. It reduces our entire reality into little more than a way to say “you’re bad.” It may be a by-product of the fact that it is socially acceptable to blatantly mock and belittle disabled people, but I maintain that neither of these things are in the least bit ok.

I have Asperger’s. I’m on the autism spectrum. I have friends, a significant other, hobbies, skills, interests, humor and so much more, and I am NOT an insult.

Thanks
me

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“See the person, not the disability”

“See the person, not the disability” is a phrase I see around sometimes, often said by disability advocates. I believe their intent is to encourage people to not judge a person on their disability, but see them as a whole person. I will admit, there certainly is a problem in our society where many people will see someone with a disability, and simply stop there, failing to see anything else.

That said, I don’t like this phrase.

First of all, and most glaringly, it sets up a false dichotomy. It implies that we must see either the person OR the disability, but we somehow cannot see both, and that if we are seeing the disability we must, therefore, not be seeing the person. How insulting. Now, as I said, I do recognize that there is a problem with just this sort of thing out there. However, I do not believe the solution is to see the person instead of the disability. I believe the solution is to see the person as well as the disability. Disability is real, it’s there. Pretending that it’s not there does not actually help anyone.

Personally, I cannot be separated from my Aspergers. It is simply impossible. So to view me as somehow separate from my Aspergers, seeing me instead of seeing Aspergers, is to, in fact, fail to see me. By this I don’t necessarily mean that I have to go announcing that I’m an aspie to everyone I see (though personally, I do tend to be very open about it), but more that I have a large number of quirks and oddities that can be attributed to my being on the autism spectrum. Whether a person conceptualizes them as part and parcel of my being an aspie, or simply as a bundle of quirks does not matter so much as the fact that they are there, and ignoring them (seeing “me” instead of them) simply means that they are failing to see who I really am. This is especially problematic given that many of my oddities have a not-insignificant impact on how I interact with people.

Random story time! Not long ago I went to a restaurant with a few other people to have some social time. We headed to a table against a wall, but then two of the people I was with slid into the seats by the wall, leaving me to sit with my back both to people and to a flow of traffic (servers, people moving around, etc). For this to make sense you’d have to know that I really hate having people behind me. In a restaurant I make a point to sit with as few people behind me as possible, and tolerating people-flow behind me is more or less impossible. I am embarrassed to admit that at the time, I simply froze and not-quite-panicked as I tried to sort through my options. Sit where I know I won’t handle it? Go somewhere else to sit? Ask if I could please sit where one of them were sitting? One of the two people then noticed that I was looking a bit freaked out and asked if I’d like to sit where they were sitting, and I gratefully accepted. I do very much wish I had managed to handle the situation more gracefully and have since been trying to figure out templates on how to handle that sort of thing if it happens again in the future. However, it does rather illustrate that you can’t really see me without also seeing my strangeness, at least in anything but the most superficial of interactions (and sometimes not even then). It is simply impossible to see some non-existent idea of “me” without also seeing my aspie oddities, so really, don’t even try.

Ok, now I want to talk a bit about that graphic I used at the top. Not only is the wording a problem, but so is the picture. We have an able-bodied person standing (presumably what we are supposed to “see”), with people in wheelchairs as shadows (presumably what we are not supposed to “see”). Here’s the thing – everyone is a person, regardless of their ability to stand. I think they are trying to say person vs. disability with that graphic, but what they are actually saying is able-bodied person vs. person in a wheelchair. Apparently “person” directly means able-bodied/not-disabled. Seriously uncool. Just to hammer it in more (hopefully excessively), imagine if it were another group on that graphic. Such as “see the person, not the color” showing white people with shadows of various ethnicities. That would never be ok, because it would be implying that “person” means “white.” Similarly, implying that “person” means “able-bodied” shows prejudice and is not ok.

People are going to see me. That includes the fact that I am an aspie and all of the ways that makes me who I am, from the frustrating to the wonderful.

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Melora

I have a confession to make. I’m a nerd. One of the things I’m nerdy about is Star Trek. Even now, years after they have aired, I like to re-watch the various Star Trek series that I particularly like. Of course, I say “confession” but I’m not actually ashamed of it. I like Star Trek! woo hoo!

Anyway. I’ve been re-watching Deep Space 9 for the umpteenth time, and I want to talk about one of the episodes. Specifically, an episode that dealt with disability.

In this episode, we have a character named Melora. Melora comes from a planet with very low gravity, which means that she finds “normal” gravity extremely challenging to cope with (and yes, ST totally ignored things like circulatory problems and just stuck with mobility issues). She needs a wheelchair or a special mobility suit doohicky along with various accommodations in order to function.

All of which is fine and dandy, but what caught my interest was the presentation that while she has a disability in the context of normal gravity, she has particular abilities when you change that context. Due to where she comes from, she is far more functional than everyone around her when the gravity is turned low. Of course, she wants to be able to function in the world most people are in, which means she has to cope with a gravity that is too high for her. It’s either that or don’t leave her planet at all.

However, in the episode she is suddenly offered a cure. She could be “fixed” if she wanted to be, she could have her body changed so that she could handle the gravity that most people consider normal. However, she also has to contend with the fact that it’s not as straightforward as just being a fix. She would lose something in the process. She would never again be able to go home beyond short visits. She would completely lose her affinity with low gravity environments.

In the end, she decides that the price is too high to pay and she would rather stay the way she is, challenges and all. Personally, I really liked this model of disability, and I like the idea that sometimes a change in perspective can make the difference between ability and disability. It matches my perspective on ASDs, so it was nice to see.

Of course, there are requisite disclaimers. Melora works as one model for some disabilities, but it does not work for all of them. In some cases, trying to apply this model would be incorrect or even harmful, like the myth that blind people develop a “sixth sense.” There are also people who disagree with me regarding ASDs, people who view their own spectrum disorder as simply a collection of problems, with no accompanying abilities. While I certainly disagree with them, they have the right to self-define in the way that works best for them.

In the end, you cannot have one model or narrative for disability, as disability is not a monolith. What works for one will not work for another, and it is very very important to remember that. But Melora worked for me, and I found that pretty cool.

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on passing

Recently I wrote my blog post “How out to be.”  In it, I briefly mentioned that I can pass most, but not all, of the time, and much of it’s premise was on the fact that sometimes passing just isn’t possible.  (also, please note – in my blog when I talk about “passing” I am specifically referring to hiding disability)  While I never explicitly stated it, I imagine it would be entirely reasonable for a reader to assume that if I could pass 100% of the time, the question on being out would have a lot less pressure.  Not only that, but if I could pass 100% of the time, I would.

It’s not even something I had really thought about.  It was implicit in that post because it was implicit in my thinking.  Of course I should pass if I can, of course I should try to hide my differences, of course I should make my disability non-obvious.  Then, in an entirely different context, a friend of mine shared this here link.  Now, this blog is really not about my situation at all.  It speaks of disability in terms of masculinity and feminism, and possibly importantly, it spoke of physical disability.  My disability is only physical in that it is neurological.  There is nothing wrong with my body, and it only shows to others in my behavior.  Still, as I was reading I got to this part:

“It also feels like I have spent years betraying other people with disabilities, by hiding mine, and trying to avoid as much ableism as I could, which, much like any sort of passing and any sort of systematic oppression, is always a losing game.”

The author was speaking of passing as able-bodied (not-disabled) and eventually no longer being able to.  And that really struck me.  I thought (well, not in words since I rarely think in words, but this is how it would roughly translate into words), ‘waitaminute, you mean to say that not passing is an option?  And that it might be the right option?  What?’

It actually took a few days for my brain to work through that one.  Who would have thought that deliberately not passing was an option?  Now, I have seen plenty of discussions on the perils of passing.  I have seen people talk about how challenging it can be to pass, how it can feel like never being allowed to be oneself, how they are worried that their ability to pass may be going away, how annoying it is that when you pass people think that means you don’t have problems anymore, and on and on and on.  Never once have I seen someone say that maybe it’s better not to pass.  Because of course you pass if you can.  It’s better that way.

Importantly, there actually are good arguments in favor of passing.  AS does not always get a lot of respect.  I have seen some say that the increases of “mild” autism is making the public think that autism isn’t a big deal, and that such people are taking away much needed resources from those on the more severe end of the spectrum.  I tend to feel ashamed and guilty when I see such statements and I have yet to figure out how to resolve the inner conflict that comes up when that happens.

Additionally, there are people out there who use AS as an excuse to be assholes.  I have no idea how many of them are actually on the autism spectrum as opposed to people who think AS simply means “socially awkward” and decided that it would be a good excuse.  In any case, that has also shaped public opinion.  I don’t want people to think that about me.

Yet another thing – as I mentioned, AS isn’t physical.  Even people with physical disabilities face challenges that they should be able to do what everyone else does if only they want it badly enough, or if they’re just willing to try hard enough.  With a disability like mine, that attitude becomes so much stronger.

Plus, the fact of the matter is, society only tends to tolerate differences so far.  There are accepted ways to be non-conformist, and if you don’t conform to those ways society tends to punish you.  Having AS means that I am different in ways that many people really do not accept.

All that seems to add up to my prior implicit assumption – that if I can possibly pass, I should.  But then I think about the blog post again.  And I wonder if maybe letting myself be who I am might be the right choice in another way.  I could try to reduce the stigma around mental illness.  I could be an example that disability does not have to be physical.

Or in a less grand, societal way, I could think in terms of bettering myself without mashing that up with also hiding myself.  When people use language metaphors I could let it show that I need a little time to decipher them instead of trying to race my way through the logic to figure out what they mean while not letting on that I need to do so.  I love the idea of not being ashamed of being different.  That would take a lot of courage, though.  To be painfully honest, I’m not sure I have that kind of courage.  Especially not in the face of the challenges to not passing I mentioned above.

I feel it is important to mention – this is not simply a matter of being out.  I can be out and still work on passing for normal, or conversely I can refrain from trying to pass for normal but not be out.  In any case, people intellectually knowing that I have AS is a very different thing to people actually witnessing the ways that I struggle, or even spimply witnessing my oddities.  Heck, even stimming in public is a thing aspies try to hide.  Even nice people will look at me funny and avoid me if I’m rocking in a public place.

I don’t really have an answer to this one.  It is a very new ponder for me and I have barely begun to wiggle my way around it.  Still, I find it interesting to think about, and the idea of simply being my literal, strange, stimming self without trying to hide it all the time is very appealing.  Scary, but appealing.

Thoughts would very much be welcome.

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My childhood

This is going to be a somewhat more personal post.  Shortly before I went for my assessment, I talked to my dad a few times about the fact that I was doing it.  Among other things, he also informed me that my childhood did not match up with what he read about Asperger’s, so if I have it, it must be “adult onset” or some such thing.  Yeah, there’s no such thing as adult onset AS.  It’s a developmental disorder.  Of course, he also only bothered to research for one day, and informed me that he wasn’t able to find any information about AS beyond someone trying to sell a book, so I’m not sure how he wound up so convinced that nothing showed in my childhood.  In any case, it’s something I’ve been feeling defensive about ever since (yes, my dad can still have a significant negative emotional impact on me.  I’m working on it).  So I’ve been slowly putting together notes on what I remember of my childhood that does indicate AS, and I figured I’d write a post about it.

1. I can recall, quite distinctly, that I struggled with metaphors.  I can remember asking my mom was “read between the lines” meant and not getting a satisfactory answer.  In fact, it took me years to figure out what that phrase meant.  The explanation “read what isn’t written” just relies on more metaphors and is not helpful for a person who needs a literal answer.  I still struggle with metaphors, by the way.  I have no idea how people can have intuitive understandings of them, largely because I don’t have that intuitive understanding.  At all.

2. I did not make eye contact.  Ok, confession time.  I have trouble knowing if people mean “looking at someone’s eyes” or “looking directly at a person” when they say “eye contact.”  That said, regardless of which they mean, I tended to lack it.  In fact, I lacked it so much people would scold me for it.  Eventually I learned to force myself to look at people despite my discomfort, and sometime after that I learned to force myself to look at faces.  I still don’t look at eyes if I can help it.  Anyone’s eyes.  Not even my boyfriend’s eyes.  I think they’re brown, but I’m not sure.  As it is, I am only comfortable looking directly at people if I am very comfortable with them as people.

3. Also from a very young age I engaged in a lot of black and white thinking.  I can remember seeing a therapist when I was quite young who told me I thought in black and white and I needed to see shades of gray.  I had no idea what she was talking about, as the spectrum involves colors and I’m not color blind.  It took me a while to figure out that it was a metaphor for absolutist thinking, and far longer to start recognizing how I engaged in it.  In any case, it was a lifetime thing.

4. Directly related to the last point – I viewed anything I did or made as only having two options of success – it was either perfect or it was horrible.  Any error, however slight, meant that it was worthless.  This is another issue that I still struggle with that definitely stretches way back into my childhood.

5. Also mentioned above – I was seeing therapists from a very young age.  Even as young as elementary school.  Clearly, my mom knew something was off about me.  However, no one figured out what it was, so I just bounced around therapists on and off and no progress was made.

6. I was, and am, very literal.  To the point that I can remember once being scolded for it.  When I was very young, my mom did the usual mom thing and told me to not talk to strangers.  So I did what she told me to and refrained from talking to strangers.  At all.  It turns out what she meant was that I wasn’t supposed to run off and start conversations with random people.  If a stranger simply said “hi, how are you?” while she was around, I was still supposed to reply.  Not knowing that, I said nothing any time a stranger addressed me at all, and my mom gave me a minor scolding for it.  As can be predicted, I was mostly confused.  It’s hard for me when I get in trouble for doing what someone instructed me to do.

7. I had trouble with playing pretend, though apparently there was an exception for that when I was playing with my brother.  I can remember trying to play the way I saw other people playing, like having imaginary friends or tea parties with their stuffies or some such.  It never worked well for me.

8. In middle school, I wound up with an ED diagnosis.  As it turns out, at about the time that happened (late 80’s, early 90’s) it was not uncommon for people who turned out to have AS to be diagnosed ED.  Once again, it was very obvious that something was wrong.  It was not so obvious what it was, since nobody knew about AS yet.

9. In school I was bullied.  A lot.  Badly.  Well, maybe not TOO badly as I was spared most of the physical violence you hear about sometimes.  Still, it made school very horrible for me.  Needless to say, kids tend to target those who are different, and those who are vulnerable.  I was both.

10. Even as young as kindergarten, I had few friends and a great deal of difficulty in socializing.  I was socially ostracized by all but a very small number of people in elementary school, and as the years passed that number of people dropped, basically to 1.

11. I had tantrum problems.  For me tantrums were never about manipulation, despite that accusation being leveled against me.  They were meltdowns, and they were about feeling overwhelmed and/or triggered.

12.  People seemed to have a difficult time reading my emotions.  For example, once when young (elementary school aged, I think) I was entered in one of those childhood beauty pageant thingies.  Mostly I remember not understanding what was going on in the time leading up to it, when there was clothes shopping and explanations as to what I was supposed to do.  Then it was time for the pageant itself, and I absolutely froze in terror.  I managed to mechanically walk to the different points on the stage, but I wasn’t able to make myself to the pirouettes and such things as cute little girls are supposed to do.  Afterwords, I was informed that I was angry.  None of my protestations or explanations that I was afraid were heard.  Looking back, I view that as a rather significant example of how I apparently projected my emotions incorrectly.  I have another example or two, but this paragraph is getting long.

Having now written that list, I think overall it does indeed add up to indicating AS even in my childhood.  I suspect that if AS was known then as well as it’s known now, I would have gotten a diagnosis in either elementary or middle school.  And now if my dad tries to tell me that I couldn’t have had AS in childhood, maybe I can reference this list.

ETA:  Oh! I thought of another one!

13. I had incorrect facial expressions while young.  I do not remember if it happened all the time or if it’s more that my expressions were erratic (probably the second one), but I know it was a thing.  At one point, someone scolded me for having incorrect facial expressions and pointed out that I was smiling while angry and frowning while happy.  My initial response was anger – how dare this person tell me that my facial expressions are wrong!  They’re MY expressions!  Eventually I figured out that facial expressions serve a communicative purpose so it was counter productive if they substantially differed from the norm.  So I put a lot of effort into correcting it, but I still sometimes lapse if I am particularly tired or particularly stressed.

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benefit or disability?

On an Asperger’s mailing list I’m on, there was recently a small amount of talk about whether AS is a benefit or disability.  One person complained that it seemed the same people who averred that AS is a benefit also wanted to have access to AS disability services, and claimed that it couldn’t go both ways.  That AS is either a benefit or a disability, but it can’t be both.  That is actually a beautiful example of the kind of black and white thinking that aspies are known to have, but that is not the point of this post.

I pondered that a little bit, and I decided that insisting on believing one or the other was too limiting for what AS really is, or what it can be.  Ultimately, I think it is both.

It would be difficult to deny the difficulties that AS causes people.  Autism spectrum disorders tend to be defined by deficiencies – by focusing on what aspies or auties lack.  It’s true, I do lack things.  I have intense difficulties with socialization, and have had those difficulties my whole life.  I faced social ostracizing as early as elementary school, simply because of how different I was, and how difficult I found people to be.  I get overwhelmed not only by people, but by bright lights and noises and smells and the constant barrage of sensory stimuli that happens when I am out in public or in a group of people.  That’s just life for me, and I’ve learned to avoid my triggers.

On the other hand, I think AS is a benefit in some ways as well.  When I say that it is not that I want to claim that AS does not involve difficulties, because clearly it does.  Instead, I want there to be more focus on the good things that AS can involve, on not defining it purely by deficiencies.  While it’s true that my tendency to obsess can cause me problems, overall I rather like my obsessiveness.  It means I can learn things quickly when I want to, and overall it can just be fun to randomly obsess about one thing or another for periods of time.  Lately I have been learning how to spin yarn.  I only actually practice for small amounts of time every day, but I think about it a lot.  A whole lot.  I watch videos, and then I replay those videos in my head over and over and over again.  I ponder how my previous practice spinning went, and play with ideas of how to do it better next time.  I mentally play with how to position and angle my hands to think of new things to try.  And most importantly, I really enjoy all this.  Eventually it will probably taper off and my brain will find something else to work over, but if all goes well I’ll end up with a new hobby to work on, enjoy, and improve.

Much the same thing happened when I first started horseback riding.  For probably around a year, horseback riding dominated my thoughts.  It has tapered off at this point, but it is still something I do every week and enjoy with great intensity.  In fact, now that I think about it, I think ‘intense/intensity’ might be a better word than ‘obsess.’  In general when I do things, I do them really hard, and I like that about myself.  My ability to focus and learn and do the things that fascinate me are all benefits that I hope to learn to better capitalize on.

So ultimately, if a person were to ask me if AS is good or bad, I would have to answer ‘both.’

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