Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On Changing a Culture

When I first read the young adult novel Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry, it didn't immediately occur to me that the blue thread in the story was a metaphor representing the social contributions of people with disabilities. I won't describe the book in too much detail because I do not want to spoil it for anyone, but I'll say briefly that the setting is a post-apocalyptic village where anyone with a serious illness or disability is thrown out of the village to die, and the plot has to do with a girl's quest for blue thread to repair a damaged historical tapestry on a ceremonial robe. As I understand it now, I believe the author means to say that the diverse groups of people in a society, and perhaps individuals as well, are like the many colors in a tapestry; as such, neither the ceremonial robe nor the village could be made whole until they were all gathered together and made part of a shared culture.

The tapestry metaphor came to mind after I read a comment that Amanda wrote last week in response to my argument that the word "meltdown" should not be used to describe the behavior of an autistic person because it has melodramatic connotations of nuclear disaster and perpetuates a stereotype of autistics as violent and irrational. Amanda disagreed, pointing out that the word has been used within the autistic community for the past 15 years or so, and going on to say:


I would never attempt to join a culture and then say within a few years of joining it, that the culture's longstanding words are inappropriate and just now being defined, just because the wider community doesn't know them yet.


I take this to mean that because I have only been blogging for about three years, I am a relative newbie in the autistic community, when compared to those who joined listservs and support groups in the 1990s. This characterization seems to suggest that belonging to the autistic community is analogous to coming out as gay: that is, a person first discovers that he or she is autistic and then makes a conscious decision to associate with others so identified, thereby becoming part of a culture to which he or she did not previously belong.

With all due respect, that's not how I see it at all. The autistic culture did not spontaneously appear when psychiatrists noticed that there were enough autistics to start putting them into group therapy sessions, or when the first online support groups were formed. We didn't just recently develop a cultural identity as a consequence of getting diagnostic labels stuck on us. Our families existed and had a culture long before there were any online communities or support groups; before the psychiatrists invented the label; before there was such a thing as psychiatry; and before the Industrial Age gave rise to the concept of sorting people, like manufactured products, into the normal and the defective.

As I have mentioned before on this blog, I did not grow up with the label "autistic" because my parents did not believe that it would be helpful. That is not to say, however, that I did not grow up with a culturally autistic identity. My father is clearly on the spectrum himself, and my mother has some traits. The way they raised me was determined to a large extent by the resulting experiences, values, and perspectives that they shared.

When my parents noticed that I had a strong interest in letters as a baby, they filled my room with children's books and read to me every day. They started taking me to the library and, when I was two years old and could write my name, they gave me an application to sign so that I could get my own library card, which became a prized possession.

My bedroom had a small cupboard above the closet, which could be reached by climbing on my sturdy bookcase. I put a pillow and a straw-colored blanket in there and pretended that it was the loft where Heidi slept in her Alpine cabin. That was my favorite quiet spot for reading. My parents obligingly put on a show of never noticing that I used the bookcase as a ladder.

One year my birthday presents consisted of an electric typewriter and an office surplus desk for my bedroom, complete with drawers full of paper, marker pens, and a stapler so that I could write and illustrate and "publish" my own books.

I remember walking barefoot through damp grass at midnight, wearing a long nightgown and imagining that it was a medieval lady's dress and that I could walk forever along a stairway of clouds in the misty moonlight. I was about eleven or twelve years old. My mother told me the next day that it was not a good idea to walk alone at night, but she avoided saying why. I suppose she didn't want to take away too much of the magic.

What would I do at college, I asked, some years later. It's for broadening one's horizons and becoming a well-rounded person, was the answer. So I wandered through the course catalog and picked whatever looked interesting at random, blissfully unaware that other people went to college to prepare for jobs. In retrospect, there probably was an undertone of "find a good husband" in there somewhere, but if so, I never noticed it at the time.

This was the world in which I grew up—a world of curiosity, exploration, fantasy, and infinite possibility. This was, and is, my autistic culture. This is what I seek to preserve for future generations. I started writing my blog with the express intent of bringing about far-reaching social change; and there is still just enough magic left in my world so that I can believe it to be possible.

To make myself completely clear, I do not mean to suggest that the online autistic culture is in any way less valid or less worthy of respect. I would not presume to pass judgment on the relative value of two cultures. My point is simply that the online autistic community also should not presume to declare itself the exclusive autistic culture for all time.

It's just another strand in the tapestry.

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33 Comments:

  • "I would never attempt to join a culture and then say within a few years of joining it, that the culture's longstanding words are inappropriate and just now being defined, just because the wider community doesn't know them yet."

    That doesn't sound like a culture, that sounds more like a club. I've never been invited to a club before and wouldn't join even if invited because I'm forever breaking unknown rules.

    By Anonymous CS, at 7:28 AM  

  • Sort of reminds me CS of Groucho Marx's line - " I wouldn't join a club that would have me as member". I think that was his:)

    By Blogger Alyric, at 8:34 AM  

  • "This was the world in which I grew up—a world of curiosity, exploration, fantasy, and infinite possibility. This was, and is, my autistic culture."

    If you day that enjoying imaginitive roleplay games as a child is something unique to autistic culture, you are saying that only autistic children enjoy imaginative roleplay. You are also sayingll autistic children enjoy imaginative roleplay. I have done a lot of voluntary work with young children, and am the odest of a family with six children (five non-autistics and one autistic who doesn't currently have an official diagnosis but will maybe get one soon). If you spend a lt of time around children, you will find hat most of them (autistic and non-autistic) enjoy imagnitive roleplay games, but a significant minority of children (autistic and non-autistic) don't enjoy these games. These games are not part of an autistic culture. They do not sem to be cofined to any articulary race, country or neurological group. They are part of most human childoods.

    The same gos with your assertion that learning to read much faster than average, and loving books, is part of autistic culture. There are plenty of non-autistic early readers and not all booklovers (autistic or non-autistic) were quick readers in childhood. I also know some autistic people who find reading extremely difficult, and other autisticpeople who can read well but don't enjoy it (or only enjoy it if the book is about a particular interest.)

    Perhaps the most hurtful generalisation was your insinuation that only autistic people study things because they are interested in them, rather than because the study of those things is likely to make them wealthy. I am a non-autistic disabled woman and one of the things I enjoy most on the world is studying "dead" languages. You also seem to imply that no autistic person has ever studied a subject because they thought it would help them get rich. I simply don't believe that. Why would autistic people be any less interested in earning a high salary than anyone else?

    I get your point about being in an autistic culture without being aware of the word, or even that your brain structure was not typical. I just think that most of the things you mentioned were experiences plenty of non-autistic people had in their childhoods. I don't want to say what things I think ARE autistic culture, because I feel that that would be trespassing on something autistic people should decide. But I will say that, in my experience and the experience of people I've discussed this with, disability cultures aren't s much about experiencing different things as experiencing the same sort of things in a different way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:37 AM  

  • I enjoyed reading about your childhood. It is true that we have our own family culture, and yours was autistic though you weren't aware of the word, as your parents both have differing levels of autistic traits.

    Anon, where has Abfh said that any of the scenarios she described are unique to autistic culture? She simply wrote about her individual situation. Where did she say all autistic children enjoy role play? And I wonder how you can feel hurt by an insinuation she did not make?

    By Blogger Sharon, at 8:56 AM  

  • Anonymous,

    ABFH describes a very different background than my own but I have always found her description of how attitudes toward a disability can make a big difference as some of the best I've seen.

    Her methods of describing things the way she does is very needed within the disability community. This is also very needed within the autistic community now that parents are so in need of alternative ways to viewing autism.

    Unfortunately the voice of people describing things the way she does has too often been silenced as unrealistic when it isn't at all.

    What we need to do is learn from how autistics are so often having thier voice silenced by people claiming that someones outlook is too positive because of what we assume have been their experiances have been and how we assume they relate to other people with disabilities (including those who describe them otherwise or being more about societal resrictions and restraints)and look at what they have to offer, what damage has been done by that voice being absent and find way to start accepting it and promoting it for the ways they and their voice can benefit us all.

    By Blogger Ed, at 11:07 AM  

  • Anon: No generalizations were intended. I'm just a thread in the tapestry too.

    Thanks everyone.

    By Blogger abfh, at 2:47 PM  

  • Anon,

    Cultures can have attributes that are not exclusive to them. For instance, the Jewish religion is not the only religion that practices circumcision. Does that mean that circumcision is not a part of Jewish culture and religious practice?

    By Blogger Ari Ne'eman, at 3:24 PM  

  • What you are describing sounds like mainstream intellectual culture to me. My parents were both profs and many of my friends when I was a child were also the children of profs. For almost all of them, what you are describing sounds pretty typical (except for the age at which you began reading and writing -- although I do have one friend who started reading at that age, and is definitely not autistic).

    That, of course, does not make what you describe any less a part of autistic culture, but I must admit that I don't see it as a distinct aspect of autistic culture.

    I agree that the autistic experience obviously existed log before there were ready labels for everyone. It would be interesting to explore to what extent it is a culture in absence of the label.

    By Blogger VAB, at 4:47 PM  

  • I don't know that intellectual culture is all that mainstream; most people aren't all that intellectual, focusing on relationships instead. I do agree that it is quite hospitable to autistics--why do so many end up as college professors? I imagine it could be quite inhospitable to an autistic person who didn't have an intellectual focus, though, and you could have all the disability prejudice that any community has.

    By Blogger Chaoticidealism, at 7:01 PM  

  • "Perhaps the most hurtful generalisation was your insinuation that only autistic people study things because they are interested in them, rather than because the study of those things is likely to make them wealthy. I am a non-autistic disabled woman and one of the things I enjoy most on the world is studying "dead" languages. "

    Anon, lots of people have interests but that isn't the same thing as a perserveration. For instance, my interests have been all consuming at times that I may fail to sleep, bathe, and eat for days. Do you study dead languages like this? Probably not. Does your interests consume every waking moment of your life at times? If not, then you can't really understand what an interest means to a lot of autistic people. Do people around you unnecessarily worry and become anxious as a result of your interests? Do you become anxious when you don't have every book ever written about your interests?

    Having interests and having perserverations is very different. I have perserverations, but I really don't have interests.

    By Anonymous CS, at 8:52 PM  

  • I'm sorry I wasn't more clear. I belong to no clubs, and do not even consider myself a member of the culture in question (there's too much antipathy towards people like me for that -- but I do consider myself to have gotten this particular language usage from that culture, and not from professionals or parents), and if people will spare a moment to read what I meant (instead of reading in some cases the most offensive possible meaning into it they could) I would really appreciate it.

    ABFH had said if the word were longstanding it'd be different, and I was trying to explain how in some contexts it was. That was all.

    The analogy I meant, which has been taken in a very different way from intended, had to do with many cultures in the United States. There are many American cultures, not just one unitary one, and even cultures that come from a particular nationality can have more than one culture within that nationality.

    Anyway, there are a lot of cultures here, most of which use the English language as at least one method of communication. There are also other cultures overseas from here that also use the English language, and American English is in fact an offshoot of the British isles linguistically.

    So anyway, one word, one totally ordinary word, can have totally different connotations in one culture than another, sometimes even different definitions, not just connotations.

    In most forms of American English, "pants" is an acceptable word for "trousers", and "knickers" is a kind of somewhat shortened trousers.

    In most forms of British English, "pants" is a word for what we'd call underpants here in America, and "knickers" is a word for women's underpants.

    In both mainstream British and American cultures, underwear is considered private, and references to it are considered impolite in some contexts.

    So anyway... I think it'd be pretty offensive for someone who used "pants" to mean "underpants" to come over here and chastise people for talking about underpants all the time without taking the time to realize we didn't even mean underpants. I think it'd be downright rude for a British person to move to America and start telling Americans to all adopt British usage to avoid offending them.

    So... that analogy doesn't require anyone to be talking about exclusive clubs. It doesn't even require me to believe that underwear ought to be an offensive topic of public discussion. It's just a cultural difference in the usage of two words, that people ought to know about before they continue complaining about how offensive it is when people say a word that the person doesn't even know the usage of in the context it's being used in.

    Yes, the size differences are different than the example, but it would apply just the same if it was a small little-known culture using the word this way. And doesn't require any clubs. Plus, I only mentioned this when ABFH said that the thing was not longstanding, which seemed to betray a lack of knowledge of the history of the word in parts of the autistic community, parts that are where a lot of us have gotten the word from.

    I hope this clears matters up. I don't want to go on indefinitely arguing whether my analogy was a good one. But I do want people to know that my analogy had nothing at all to do with clubbishness or even a culture I consider myself belonging to really. It's just a culture that is where I got this usage of the word from, and that does have a history with the word that has nothing to do with the histories ABFH keeps claiming it is (the culture in question also has nothing to do with support groups).

    I have no problem if you continue to find the word offensive, but it's good to know the meaning and context before you make those decisions. And I'd appreciate if people think I mean something outrageous like a club, that they ask rather than proclaim on the matter. I'm sure all of us have had things we say completely misread as meaning something totally different, and wouldn't want to do that to each other. Looking back I wouldn't have said the "joining it" part because that isn't exactly what I was trying to get at -- I was trying to explain that the linguistic heritage online here is not just from "support groups" nor from non-autistic people.

    Anyway, I have a deadline to write to and enough stress going on right now I don't need to further argue these things. Just please understand that what I've said has been misunderstood and mischaracterized as a much more offensive thing than what I actually meant -- and if you find something similar in this comment, please think twice before taking that in a really offensive way either, because chances are I don't mean it in one and I am experiencing a lot of expressive language randomness at the moment that makes it trivially easy to pick the wrong phrase and very difficult to pick the right one (for instance I substituted "right" for "wrong" before I corrected it, and I'm sure there's other things like that I missed, I don't tend to make typos with letters, I make them with entire words and phrases, please keep that in mind and ask me if I meant something awful before you think I really did).

    BTW my own family had an autistic culture very different from the one I'm describing too -- doesn't mean the one I'm describing doesn't exist, or that the words it uses are irrelevant to a discussion of people whose linguistic heritage often includes that culture among many others.

    By Anonymous Amanda, at 8:59 PM  

  • Blogger just ate my comment -- but basically: perseveration was changed into CS's meaning, from several inaccurate and pejorative professional meanings (either autistic interests being assumed to be the same as pressing a button several times without wanting to but because your brain made you even if you hate it, or else autistic and other DD people's efforts to do our own thing despite professionals believing something else was best for us, so our desires and interests were pathologized in this manner), by the same people who came up with the usage of 'meltdown' as I tend to use it.

    I would defend CS's usage though because he obviously got it from someone who had been exposed to the meaning that this particular autistic community created for it.

    I'm beginning to wonder if CS and I would agree, if it weren't for the fact that CS uses perseveration more than I do, and I think I use meltdown more than CS does. Not sure though, and being clear about this uncertainty to avoid reading anything in.

    But perseveration has far more of the history that ABFH ascribes to "meltdown", than "meltdown" actually does. And was changed into a positive meaning by the same people that ABFH thinks are irrelevant to criticizing the term meltdown, and CS thinks are clubbish.

    If someone said CS oughtn't say perseveration because it didn't have the longstanding meaning that CS uses it in, and did have the longstanding professional meaning, I'd still advocate for CS's right to use the term without being considered to be using the professional meaning, and I'd stlil mention perseveration was a longstanding term in that particular part of autistic culture. (Not the only one, not the one I belong to, but the one we both clearly got the word from somewhere down the line.)

    I really again am guessing that the argument is either personal (I hope not) or because of which words we happen to prefer using and which ones we don't (I hope that's the one, because "personal" is over my head). Remember how much personal preferences can distort rationality without even realizing it, either way.

    By Anonymous Amanda, at 9:23 PM  

  • Oh also, if I said it was the first autistic culture, I didn't mean it as in the first culture of autistic people ever, I meant the first time autistic people came together on a large scale to create their own culture while consciously making it autistic. I believe self-advocacy started in ancient long-gone history, but actual intentional self-advocacy groups started far more recently.

    Also the "autistic culture" I belong to is actually more of a "neurodiverse culture" than anything, since not everyone in my family is autistic but we're neurodiverse in many different directions, and I frankly find our form more refreshing than the autistic community sometimes given that it tends to include me without as much of a fight.

    Sorry for again not using words clearly enough. Now I swear I'll get back to work or I'll be in trouble in the morning. Maybe a good thing coming out of all tis argument is clarification of what we mean by things.

    By Anonymous Amanda, at 9:33 PM  

  • I have learned a lot from this discussion. I had a problem with the word "meltdown," too, and am reconsidering based on what I've learned here. After all, I use "perseveration" and understand it as a form of reappropriation, taking back the language that describes my people from the clincians and putting a more positive spin on it. Maybe the use of "meltdown" can be seen in a similar light? I'm not familiar with that usage or the history, but I see now how it could be true.

    Since discussion of words and their connotations is a special interest of mine, I'll be doing some more thinking and reading about this. Thanks for bringing this up, ABFH, and everyone else who explained from their own points of view.

    By Blogger Bev, at 11:30 PM  

  • When I wrote about longstanding usage I didn't mean words used within a small group. I was thinking of words like "seizure" that had lost their original context in mainstream usage.

    My objection to the word "meltdown" doesn't have anything to do with whether the word is offensive or how it is understood by the autistic community. Rather, I am concerned about how it is understood (or misunderstood) by society in general, in the context of a dangerous stereotype, and the potential consequences (employment discrimination, etc.) that could occur.

    By Blogger abfh, at 11:59 PM  

  • Sounds like plenty has been said here already, but just to add another voice to the tapestry, my interpretation of Amanda's comment was simply that the word "meltdown" has a history of use in non-melodramatic ways by people who are themselves autistic.

    And this is significant not because those particular autistic people were/are active in the "online" community specifically, or in anything resembling an exclusive club, but because there are simply enough uses of the word "meltdown" by autistics in a way that communicates, usefully, something other than the "FAAAS connotation" you (abfh) rightly highlighted as inaccurate and damaging.

    Whether anyone privy to this discussion goes on to keep using a particular word or not using it is up to them of course.

    Words are just really tricky sometimes.

    By Blogger AnneC, at 12:53 AM  

  • AnneC: Yes.

    It might even be the case that it originated in that context, along with shutdown, but I would need to ask the people involved, and I'm busy writing (gotten a lot more done now and know where I'm going with it so I'm a lot less frantic).

    I really want to start interviewing people about that history before more of it is lost. I know I got... I think Jim Sinclair's permission years ago, but never even got around to writing up the interview questions. And it'd be much more interesting and accurate and tapestrylike to also include the voices of people who weren't considered 'leaders' or anything, and of dissenters, and the like.

    Just requires actually having both the will and the ability to follow through, and lately it's the 'ability' that's getting to me, energy-wise.

    ABFH: Yeah, that makes sense to me. I might end up disagreeing with you overall about using the term, but I certainly think it could be up for examination.

    By Anonymous Amanda, at 1:39 AM  

  • I've never understood the word "meltdown". Partially because I think of "nuclear meltdown" whenever I hear the word.

    I think I prefer the words " very frustrated" or perhaps even "inertia", though inertia and frustration may be a bit different, the causes are often the same for me.

    By Anonymous CS, at 6:43 AM  

  • "Anon, lots of people have interests but that isn't the same thing as a perserveration. For instance, my interests have been all consuming at times that I may fail to sleep, bathe, and eat for days. Do you study dead languages like this? Probably not. Does your interests consume every waking moment of your life at times? If not, then you can't really understand what an interest means to a lot of autistic people. Do people around you unnecessarily worry and become anxious as a result of your interests? Do you become anxious when you don't have every book ever written about your interests?

    Having interests and having perserverations is very different. I have perserverations, but I really don't have interests."

    I'm not denying that obsessions are part of autism, or that they are different from the ways other people think. What I object to is the insinuation that when an autisticperson chooses classes, they choose them based on interest, wheras a non-autistic person chooses courses purely based on which is likely to lead to high future salary.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:43 PM  

  • "I object to is the insinuation that when an autisticperson chooses classes, they choose them based on interest, wheras a non-autistic person chooses courses purely based on which is likely to lead to high future salary."

    Anon, I think thou protest too much. If I read this correctly, and I think I did, ABFH was referring to the tendency of how an autistic person reasons at times differently. For instance, in my undergraduate years, I found that because I picked classes in a half hazzard way based on my interests, I found my self with 120 hrs of credit in a hodge podge of disciplines with no regard to the course requirements for any particular degree. I wound up having to take another 60 hours of course requirements for my degree once I figured out that my credits weren't leading to a specific degree. An "autism expert" may label this executive disfunction. But I think ABFH's point is that most people don't find themselves in this situation because they have gone along with what the required courses were for a degree/job whereas some autistics naturally are inclined to pursue a more eclectic education without regards to a predetermined and arbitrary rule book. I could be wrong but this is how I interpret it.

    Anon, I think your insistence on being offended is misplaced.

    By Anonymous CS, at 1:01 PM  

  • Anon:

    "What I object to is the insinuation that when an autistic person chooses classes, they choose them based on interest, wheras a non-autistic person chooses courses purely based on which is likely to lead to high future salary."

    ABFH didn't say that. She said [emphasis mine]:

    "I wandered through the course catalog and picked whatever looked interesting at random, blissfully unaware that other people went to college to prepare for jobs."

    The wider (American, at least) culture encourages people to think of college as a financial investment. That's why all those statistics are published that say "College graduates make such-and-such percent more money annually than people who haven't graduated from college."

    Also, individual colleges/universities have their own cultures as well, depending on the school's mission, the student body demographics, etc. (I went to a women's college, so I doubt anybody was there to pick up guys and get a husband ;-)). ABFH is saying that her motivations for going to college were different than a lot of people she went to school with--the culture of the school. They were different partly because of how her (autistic) family thought of college.

    It's nothing as simple as "Autistics go to college because ___, and non-autistics go to college because ___"

    By Anonymous Tera, at 2:04 PM  

  • I'm not autistic, but career wasn't a factor in choosing my courses. In fact, only an handful of English Lit. or Philosophy majors intend to make a career of it. I don't take any offense at abfh's including choosing courses based on interest as an element of her autistic culture, because I don't think that it implies all people who are not autistic choose with careers in mind. Just as eating potatoes might be reported to be part of Irish culture, but that does not imply that, if you are not Irish, you do not eat potatoes.

    My interest here is whether or not it is in fact possible to have a culture, per se, without self identification. I'm not sure that it is, but I'm open to being convinced.

    By Blogger VAB, at 5:07 PM  

  • I actually don't necessarily disagree with any of the conceptual framework behind how abfh defines autistic culture, but I do disagree with some of the content. At least some variants of autistic culture and how some of us behave are about finding rigid frameworks through which to process information through, for instance, not necessarily fluid, intellectually free-ing ones. It depends on the individual, but in a broader sense there are specific phenotypes even within the broader autistic community. One might say that there are several variants of autistic culture - just as there are several variants on many other types of cultures.

    By Blogger Ari Ne'eman, at 6:06 PM  

  • "At least some variants of autistic culture and how some of us behave are about finding rigid frameworks through which to process information through, for instance, not necessarily fluid, intellectually free-ing ones. "

    I think this is especially true at a younger age (i.e. under 30 in my case). Less so as we age, but still more than our "typical" peers I think. This is very evident especially even in some cure parents, this "rigid framework through which to process information through". I believe a very well known hater of autism especially demonstrates this precise way of being that many of us learn to adapt to and can actually be used as a source of strength and creativity.

    However, for others, they do not necessarily need a "rigid framework" and can process more freely (not me however). Sometimes I can process freely in certain aspects of my life but in others I need a very very "rigid framework".

    By Anonymous CS, at 9:02 PM  

  • Rigid frameworks are things that happen to me if I am forced to use ways of thinking that are truly non-optimal for me.

    Not so at all otherwise. It sometimes makes me wonder if some other people who take up a rigid framework are like that because the thinking style doesn't suit them, not because they're just innataely "rigid".

    By Anonymous Amanda, at 6:58 PM  

  • "It sometimes makes me wonder if some other people who take up a rigid framework are like that because the thinking style doesn't suit them, not because they're just innataely [sic] 'rigid'."

    I have no idea what this means. Can you explain this to me?

    By Anonymous CS, at 8:02 PM  

  • A while ago I received a message from someone claiming to be someone who has some prominence in the world of AS book publishing who I had criticised (and who I wont name), informing me that there is some online club that includes quite a few of the more famous names in the world of AS (who I won't name either), and I think this person either wrote that I could join if I would stop being critical, or I wasn't invited to join as I was too critical. I think you can guess what my reply was. ;-)

    There are power-trippers who appear to wish to control everything and everyone associated with autism or AS who is online or in the media. There's only one way to deal with a control freak; tell him or her to go get *@#$ed.

    Every family that has more than one autistic member in it who has a healthy self-esteem will give rise to it's own autistic culture. It might not be harmonious or united, but some kind of distinctively autistic culture will develop inevitably, and it will inevitably draw other outsiders and different people to it. I was raised among an unsual collection of my friends and friends-of-the-family. I can identify at least two genetic syndromes and an unrelated case of
    AS within this group. No one person or organization could ever control all of the isolated islands of autistic/outsider culture and resistance that exist out there.

    Ari wrote:
    "At least some variants of autistic culture and how some of us behave are about finding rigid frameworks through which to process information through, for instance, not necessarily fluid, intellectually free-ing ones."

    In my experience, some autists have their intellectual and emotional lives determined by the dogma of mainstream or fringe religions. I think this is a sad thing, but perhaps inevitable.

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 1:46 AM  

  • CS:

    I wish I could explain easily.

    I have tried in a post I wrote a while ago, but it might be just as confusing, just longer. Here it is if you want to read it, though.

    By Anonymous Amanda, at 5:40 AM  

  • VAB: That's an interesting question, whether there can be a culture that doesn't self-identify. I'd guess that there were many such cultures in prehistoric times, when many people lived in small isolated tribes and rarely came into contact with other groups. People don't think of themselves as having a distinct culture unless they are contrasting it with something else. Autistic families tend to be identified as belonging to subcultures within mainstream society, for example the intellectual culture, as you mentioned; but I don't think the overlap makes autistic culture any less valid.

    Ari wrote: One might say that there are several variants of autistic culture - just as there are several variants on many other types of cultures.

    I don't think we're in disagreement on that point, Ari. There are several variants of autistic culture within my own family, for that matter. I just talked with a young person in my family about his choice of university courses; he's an engineer, and he was quite enthusiastic about taking an advanced programming course for engineers, but he was sulking about the uselessness of being required to take electives in the humanities or social sciences. That's totally different from my view, but I would say it's part of autistic culture in a broad sense because there are plenty of autistic engineers who have that attitude. (And yes, there are non-autistic engineers with that attitude too. In today's world, many cultures overlap.)

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:16 AM  

  • You have been given an award!

    let me know if you want a 200-pixel wide graphic for your sidebar,
    andrea

    By Blogger andrea, at 12:20 PM  

  • In a word:

    Electricity Pylons..

    Oh dear that's two words

    Did anyone call the Spanish Inquisition?

    By Blogger laurentius rex, at 5:40 PM  

  • Maybe if we all bought the "Countdown to Midnight" CD by Elyse Bruce and requested to have it played on the radio, the autism fund-raising CD would drown out Mr. Savage.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:34 PM  

  • Hi, ABFH.

    I had some trouble with the "Blog This!" button, so I am using this comment to tell you I linked this post and its predecessor in my response.

    Good posts, and very thought-provoking, BTW.

    By Blogger Lindsay, at 3:00 PM  

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