Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Monday, March 06, 2006


Will everyone please stop talking about the so-called amazing miracle of the autistic kid who scored several times when he was given a chance to play for his high school basketball team? Before I exhaust my supply of barf bags?

It's painfully obvious that if a non-autistic kid had come off the bench and played the same way, he might have gotten 15 seconds of fame on his local TV station, or possibly a short article in the newspaper, if it happened to be a slow news day. But instead, it's all over the major media, with journalists gushing about his fantastic accomplishment in about the same incredulous tone they would have used if he had been a trained chimp.

This is what I have to say to those lower-than-pond-scum bigots at the media companies: Our high schools have always had some number of students who would have been considered autistic under today's broad diagnostic criteria and who played sports. But until recently, they weren't patronized as amazing freaks of nature who overcame the "Berlin Wall" of their autism and miraculously were able to play sports. We had other words that were used to describe them. Like basketball players. Or student athletes. Or team members. "Human beings" would do quite nicely, too.

As another disgusted aspie wrote in a forum post... gee, what'll they do next, start letting blacks and women play basketball?

I just want to whap those yelping mutts over the head with a rolled-up newspaper. Or better yet, a rolled-up Celebrate Neurodiversity poster. Or maybe flood their inboxes with a few thousand copies of the Neurodiversity Chain Letter.

How many times do we have to say it... when an autistic person accomplishes something, it is not a miracle.

Whap. Whap.

A pox on all their houses.

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  • You're absolutely right. I feel silly for some of my discussion of this now. It's not a miracle, they were good shots, period.

    By Blogger Do'C, at 5:06 PM  

  • Dad of Cameron, I wasn't including you (or any other blogger) among the culprits in need of a good whapping.

    Propaganda of that sort is especially insidious because it is framed in such positive and enthusiastic language. When contrasted with the usual swamp of gloom, it naturally evokes a reaction of "wow, they found something good to talk about!"

    But it actually has the effect of restricting opportunities because it portrays them as extraordinary.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:12 PM  

  • I'd been feeling that way some myself, but hadn't said anything. Thank you for saying something.

    By Blogger Julia, at 12:01 AM  

  • Okay, I would have deserved that whap whap at the time I viewed it...I was succumbed by the Hollywood rendition of the story -- "special ed kid beats all odds" kind of story -- "kid beats challenges and triumphs on shoulders of others happy ending"

    I definitely recongized the frame of the story, that cheap tug on my heart.

    However, we can also look at it as long overdue praise. I also considered that he might not have needed "special ed" classes, but something likely more specific for him, yet challenging? I don't know him, but can only presume.

    If it takes us in one step in the right direction, even if it wasn't perfect in its representation, I wonder if it's better than nothing. Change happens slowly. What I worry about is that 15 minutes of fame will fade quickly and people will start treating him the same way as before -- just let them sit on the bench so they don't get in our way.

    This is the way praise runs in America (and Canada). Then we need a little reminder from people like you.

    Whap Whap.

    Great great post!


    By Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond, at 7:40 AM  

  • What I appreciated most was the kid's response to all the attention:

    'I'm not really that different,' he said. 'I don't really care about this autistic situation, really. It's just the way I am.'


    By Blogger Brett, at 11:48 AM  

  • Autistic people have always been able to play sports and always will play sports and succeed in them and enjoy them. One day an autistic person will be in the AFL (Australian Football League) and the NRL and nobody will blink an eyeball or eyelash.

    Go Jason!

    By Blogger Bronwyn G, at 4:44 PM  

  • You're right. A lot of what happens is low expectations.

    I was part of a thing where they were using us (disabled people, mostly DD of various sorts) to train college students in teaching gym to disabled people.

    I was crappy-to-mediocre at most sports, and I got a lot of condescending praise. (Like being the slowest person in a relay race and being told how fast I was. I don't need to pretend to be fast to enjoy a sport.)

    Then when I started beating the non-disabled college students at badminton (from my wheelchair, mind you), without having ever played before, they quit the condescension but not quickly enough to hide their amazement. (There were also people there who were being viewed as "low functioning" who were better at basketball than the college students were.)

    The bottom line was they were amazed by us only because they didn't really expect us to be capable of being athletes in the first place. Which is just strange.

    By Blogger ballastexistenz, at 2:13 PM  

  • Ah, it's even worse for me, because "J-Mac" lives nearby, next town over. Bush was in the area a few days ago, and met the kid. "Photo opportunity" at the airport deal. Bush said that when he heard about his exploits, "tears came to my eyes". Barf!

    Worse, there's going to be a movie about him. At least the movie rights should pay for his college education.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:58 PM  

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