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The U.S. Forest Service may be in hot water after a report by the Los Angeles Times revealed that it ordered the use of firefighters reduced just before the outbreak of the Station Fire.The Forest Service, according to...
I have been absent from posting in here for a while. I do want to say that I am honored to have surpassed 6,000 followers on my blog. I am still honored and slightly flabbergasted that many people think I am interesting. In a few days I will write a longer post about where I have been in the past few months. Believe me, there has been a lot going on in life.
Filed under: Autism
Part one of a series looking at the ways the media represents autistic people.
UPDATED WITH THE 2010 CENSUS INFO AND THE CDC 2012 AUTISM DIAGNOSIS RATE
There has been much discussion online and in the news about the connection between the Connecticut school shooting and the fact that he may have been diagnosed with autism. As our families and our community discusses this issue and tries to find a reason for this heartbreaking tragedy, I feel that it is very important to remember the following: There is no connection between planned, violent behavior and an autism spectrum diagnosis of any kind.
The problem at hand though is that the more all the news media reports on the possibility that Adam Lanza has Asperger’s the more that correlation will be made despite various efforts to prove that autism does not make a person more violent. In fact far from it, but the genie is basically out of the bottle. It seems that it is convenient to look for a disability diagnosis whenever something tragic happens. That is what happened with the shooting in Aurora, Colorado when there was much speculation as to the diagnosis of James Holmes and it is what is happening here as well.
Autism is not a mental illness; it is a developmental disability. Many autistic people may have emotional regulation problems, which are impulsive expressions of frustration and anger, that are immediate and disorganized. They may lash out with threatening statements or behaviors, but these behaviors are impulsive reactions, they are not deliberate or organized plans. Once the situation has been diffused, the behaviors will stop. Most of us are law abiding, but the picture that all news media has been painting is that we all are dangerous mass murderers. That narrative needs to be rewritten. What happened in Connecticut required methodical planning of a deliberate and tremendously violent act; this is not typical behavior of an autistic person.
As a journalist, what is most troubling is that the fact that Lanza may have had Asperger’s was mentioned by the news media on the day of the shooting without having been confirmed by anyone. That information came from a police officer who apparently interviewed members of the Lanza family. The officer spoke on the condition that he remain anonymous. The problem with anonymous sources is that often they are misleading and often incorrect or lying. Take for instance the case of Maureen Dowd. Because of an anonymous source that later turned out to be Vice President Cheney we ended up starting a war in Iraq on the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. One might think that the news media had learned its lesson. Apparently not. When did ratings become more important than actual facts in reporting the news?
The autistic community is sadly in the uncomfortable position of having to participate in the game of apologetics. One the one hand explaining that autism does not make a person more prone to violence while on the other we have to explain what autism is to people who have been made to feel afraid of us. All the while dealing with an intense level of attention most of it negative and hostile. This has left many of us uncomfortable and a little scared.
I have friends whose children are autistic tell me that schools have tried to have their autistic children expelled and other families have had Child Protective Services called on them for the misunderstood behaviors of their children. In fact that seems to be typical thinking in the neurotypical world. if you don’t understand something that person and anyone associated with it should be castigated. It seems that neurotypical people are more prone to acting on assumptions of fear than on actual fact. I have come to associate neurotypical with being grossly ignorant of autism and making assumptions out of ignorance and fear. In the first few days after the shooting in Newtown. I have heard people discussing the fact that Adam Lanza has Aspergers despite this not being confirmed by any news organization. Some could be heard saying that they thought having autism made us dangerous. One person went so far as to say that we should be locked in cages. People have also told me that this was the first time they had ever heard of Asperger’s Syndrome, but were afraid of us.
Also statement such as this have been made:
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 2978 murders in 2011. Statistics for 2012 are not out yet. About 5 of those 2978 people were autistics murdered by their own relatives. Still, given those numbers who is the greatest danger. If Adam Lanza had Asperger’s, it was more than likely he had a co-morbid disorder as well. Most likely he had a mental illness and that illness was the cause. I have Asperger’s Syndrome which is a form of autism. The CDC says that the diagnosis rate of autism is about 1 in 88. If these numbers are correct autistic people make up 1% of the US population. The population according to the US Census in 2010 was 304.745,538 people. If the CDC’s numbers are accurate there are at least 3,508,472 people with autism in the US. The number is likely lower than that but still, that number, if right, is staggering.
As Ari Ne’eman the president of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network wrote in Jewish Week:
“While opining on the still unconfirmed diagnosis of the shooter may make for good television, it is hardly a productive way of informing the public. Moreover, there is something horrifically exploitative about announcing to the world that one’s child is a future mass murderer by virtue of psychiatric problems experienced in his preteen years. The son of the writer who penned “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” (published with his picture and his mother’s real name) returned to school this week surrounded by people who will inevitable look at him as a ticking time-bomb. Thanks to his mother’s choice to use him as a prop in her writing career, he will forever be associated with the worst mass killers this country has ever known. It is hard to imagine what a 13-year old boy could have possibly done to deserve something like that.”
Ne’eman goes on to write that all of the focus on Adam Lanza’s diagnosis is a distraction from more important issues like gun control.
“Not only does the focus on mental illness and disability distract from more productive lines of discussion on how to deal with gun violence, it also plunges into a horrific swarm of stigma and stereotype those of us who deal with the consequences of pundits’ willingness to demonize people with neurological and psychiatric disabilities.”
Read the rest of Ari Ne’eman’s article here: http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/national-news/grief-stereotyping-mental-illness.
An example of that distraction Ne’eman discusses the story of the James Holmes who shot up a movie theater in Colorado. After Holmes shot those people in Aurora. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said he was on the “autism scale”.
What Ne’eman wrote is happening to Liza Long’s son as a result of her blog “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” has also been done to those of us who have Aspergers on a grander scale. The narrative that has been playing out is not only that of a national tragedy but it has also been one that has thrown a group of innocent people under the bus for no better reason than we just happen to have the same diagnosis as Adam Lanza. Like Liza Long’s son people with Asperger’s will forever be associated with the tragedy of Sandy Hook regardless of Adam Lanza’s diagnosis even if it turns out not to be autism.
Filed under: Autism, Journalism Tagged: Adam Lanza, Asperger's Syndrome, Aurora, Autism, Colorado, Connecticut, Iraq War, James Holmes, Joe Scarborough, Joseph Plame, journalism, mass shootings, Newtown, Robert Novak, Saddam Hussein., Shady Hook, TV news, Valerie Plame
Today I went to my first meetup for autistic people. It was both eye opening and interesting, I honestly had never spent much time with other autistic people. In fact I have never met any other autistic people in real life before. All of my friends and coworkers are neurotypical. So it was like meeting me for the first time. The last time I had ever spent any time with an autistic person was when I met Temple Grandin at an autism conference at UCLA 20 years-ago. Yes that Temple Grandin and yes 20 YEARS AGO.
The group was fairly diverse in ethnicity and age. As I looked around the room I saw myself being reflected back at me. That was not something I could ever experience with my neurotypical friends and coworkers. I sometimes felt that they did not understand me. That was probably because they are not like me at all and could not identify with me. Humans tend to socialize in groups with people that are like them. We call those similarities culture, religion and so on so forth. I guess there is some sort of autistic culture with its own body language and behaviors and the manner in which we perceive the world. I never noticed that until tonight. When I walked into the room I knew that I was in a room full of autistic people just like when I know when I am in a room full of neurotypical people. There was no criticism just acceptance and the freedom to be who we were without the need to conform to neurotypical norms. It was perfectly appropriate for one attendee to wear headphones to protect himself from noises. Some autistics are sensitive to noise. There was no pressure to act normal we could just be ourselves.
When I am with neurotypicals there is this pressure to conform to societal standards and to peer pressure which was the topic of discussion for tonight. When asked if anyone had an experience as to whether or not a neurotypical person had all pressured us into doing something we didn’t want to do, or try and take advantage of us or bully us, we all had a story to tell. It reminded that we all have had to struggle as a result of our autism. That commonality binds all autistics together in a way that I can’t with my neurotypical friends and coworkers. I think it is because no matter how well-meaning they are they don’t realize that they are part of the problem. They don’t understand us and we know and they don’t always know that we know it.
I believe that neurotypical people should take classes in how to behave like an autistic person and then act like one of us for a day and see what people say to them or how they are treated.
Either way being able to spend time with a group of people with whom I could identify with in manner. With this group it was perfectly acceptable to be socially awkard and miss social cues and not make eye contact with each other if we didn’t feel comfortable doing so. In fact, it seems we were expected to be that way, It was both freeing and fulfilling. It was a type of freedom that neurotypical people could not comprehend. I was free. I was just me.
Filed under: Autism
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.
Filed under: Uncategorized
Too often people confuse personality with disability. I’m a person. I am not a disability. Autism is as much a part of me as my love of writing. I can do things much like everyone else. It’s sad that I have to say those things to people. It’s not enough to be aware of Autism. You must understand it. You must understand it affects all of those who are autistic differently. To be understood is something that every person on the planet wants. I want to be understood. I for one enjoy being around other people. Other autistics prefer to work in solitude. We are all different as the colors of the rainbow. We are not like Xeroxes where we all look alike or think alike. Humans are all different. And human is what we are.
- Disclosing Autism at Work: Strategies and Supports from Karla’s ASD Page (30daysofautism.wordpress.com)
- Autism & Sharing Social Skills Insights (squidalicious.com)
- Depression & Autism Parenting (squidalicious.com)
- UK News: Website to remove MMR autism claim (walesonline.co.uk)
- Mother Petitions For Autism Awareness (krextv.com)
- 6 Common Myths About Autism (everydayhealth.com)
- “Neurotypical:” For want of a better word. (autismandoughtisms.wordpress.com)
- Not Quite Everything Parents Need to Know About Autism Spectrum Disorders (lizditz.typepad.com)
Filed under: Advocacy, Autism, Life
I have decided that unless you are autistic or are the parent of an autistic you should be banned from discussing it, writing about it or holding conferences about it. Your ignorance pours out of your lips like a stale wine. You spread ignorance and stereotypes as if it was truth and then you post it online for the whole world to see and write books about it. All of this without actually taking the time to really get to know an autistic person without raising one without marrying one without befriending one? Of course. Its easier to treat that which you don’t understand like a lab specimen to be experimented on and talk about us as if we are not human but mice in cages. Its easier to run psychological tests on us as if you are testing our rationality and credibility and then presenting your findings at an Autism conference. It’s easier to do that than to just be our friend. Its easier to read about us in a book written by a person who is not autistic and full of stereotypes and over generalizations than it is to just actually talk to us. If you did you would see just how different we are. We are not space aliens yet you treat us that way. We are not crazy yet you treat us that way. We are not stupid yet you treat us that way. We are human yet you don’t treat us that way.
Filed under: Autism
I became a journalist because of an innate sense of curiousity that I had since I was a child. I always wanted to understand how things worked. I wanted to help people. It is like a calling where the light burns inside brightly. That curiousity morphed later on when I was diagnosed with autism. I wanted to understand other people. I wanted to understand how they worked and report on their world and what they did so that I could hopefully understand my own and help others understand theirs, Then I discovered that as an autistic I was a bit of a curiosity to fellow journalists. As I spent time learning about their world, I was surprised that they were trying to understand me. I guess that is the way life works. When you see something you don’t understand as journalists we are compelled to figure it out and share what we know with others. That light it seems burns brightly in all of us who call journalism our profession.
Filed under: Autism
I was reading this blog Asperger’s at Work: 5 Ways To Be Less Annoying. In it Penelope Trunk outlines 5 way Aspies should fit in while on the job.
1. Spend less time with people.
2. Don’t Tell Your Boss.
3. Be Great at What You Do and A Little Odd.
4. Do Office Politics by Being Totally Direct
These can be great tips to follow.
But as a friend pointed out it did seem like it was being suggested that I should hide who I am and in her words put on black face and put on a minstrel show for the world. Isn’t that we all do to some extent? Don’t we all put on masks that we wear publically so we can all fit into some standardized version of humanity?
- Baby, you are rocking my world… Stop it! (catastraspie.wordpress.com)
- Fitting In vs. Being Yourself (eoghann.com)
- Hiding in plain sight (aspieside.com)
- Being an Aspie is exhausting (secretaspie.wordpress.com)
Filed under: Autism
Being honest and telling people that you are autistic is a lot like coming out of the closet. Its not an easy thing to do. People don’t always know what to make of it. It’s funny how when you do tell people some of them who you thought you were there friends shun you out of ignorance. Then there are the people who treat you as if you have a disease and claim they want to cure you. They don’t accept you for who you are.
I have to choose how and when and if I tell a person that I am autistic merely out of self-preservation than by a desire to be understood. The truth is telling people is never easy and I never know how they’re going to react. Sometimes I get the oh my friend/child/neighbor has it response. When that happens I feel a lot more comfortable. Even those people may not understand Autism. I don’t expect them to understand it. I expect them to understand me. We are all different. I am not like your friend/son/neighbor who is autistic. I am me.
Filed under: Advocacy, Autism, Life Tagged: advocacy, Asperger's, Autism, coming out of the closet, cure
When I come to work I have a simple philosophy: Do my job. Don’t complain about anything I am asked to do. Be on time. Greet my coworkers and not gossip about them. I leave any personal issues at the door and come to do my job. I try to be friendly and say hello when necessary because having a good relationship with your coworkers is as important a the work you do. I do this every time I come to work. I don’t gossip or create drama that just creates unnecessary strife. My job and my career are too important to me to let unnecessary strife ruin it. I try my best at work and give it my all. If I don’t do as well as I had hoped I come back the next day and try harder with a smile on my face and without complaint. Work is a source of joy for me and I eagerly wait for the days that I am scheduled to work or for calls to work when I am not scheduled. I am not concerned with being the best at the job I have but I am concerned with doing my best.
Filed under: Autism