Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Productive Whining

Thanks to Zilari for providing some food for thought with her post On Whining versus Productive Discussion, in which she writes about unproductive whining by parents and makes the point that when a child is first diagnosed as autistic, the parents often are not aware of any other perspective—any other language to use—than the stereotypes of devastation and tragedy.

Such parents are emotionally overwhelmed and seek sympathy, believing the Internet to be a harmless outlet for venting (and indeed, it's better than complaining about a child's behavior in front of the child). They don't stop to consider the cumulative impact on society—the tremendous amplification of prejudice—when large numbers of parents are talking only about the negative aspects of raising an autistic child.

Zilari also notes that such parents, even if they initially seem hostile to the notion of acceptance, often are willing to engage in productive discussion when they discover that there are many positive and constructive views out there. This is indeed a very good thing.

In other contexts, though, whining and productive discussion aren't necessarily opposites. Not all complaining is unproductive, not all discussion is useful, and not all ideas deserve a thorough hearing. Not Mercury just posted a hilarious illustration of why certain kinds of harmful ideas need to be summarily junked. When we're talking about quack-cure fraud, or eugenics, or child abuse, we can do a lot more good for society by screaming about it at the top of our lungs, rather than having nice quiet civil discussions with the perpetrators. Evil thrives in the dark. Sometimes we need to put on our steel-toed boots, kick over a few rocks, and stomp real hard on whatever crawls out from under them.

As I've said before, I have only four words of "discussion" for Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now and any other sicko bigots who think that a global genocide would be an act of charity: Kiss my autistic ass.

And what's more, I have a very specific goal when I'm writing about their repulsive ideology, which is to make their research and their other activities so controversial—so totally radioactive—that when they send begging letters to corporate donors, the recipients will pick up the letter with protective gloves and circular-file it in the nearest hazardous waste bin.

Sometimes you just gotta do some whining.

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  • Joseph, I know you use those terms when you're debunking specific claims of recovery and the like, but in other contexts it doesn't seem all that hard to avoid medicalized language. Changing the terms of the discourse is an essential part of changing autism into a different sort of construct (cultural, sociological, etc.)

    I believe that diversity language, rather than medical terms, will become more widely used as parents see more of the pro-neurodiversity view and become more familiar with the terminology that goes along with it.

    By Blogger abfh, at 5:18 PM  

  • Well, I am a person who aspires to be a physician. I feel that no matter how we change the language of the discourse about autism, it will still remain within the scope of medicine. However, I believe that we should not use such dehumanizing language to describe autism. Rather, if autism is still so deeply rooted in medicine, the language of diversity could be changed to foster autism as an alternative developmental pathway more and more IDENTIFIED children are taking. I feel that as a physician in the future, the job of me and my would-be colleagues working in the field of autism should seek to map out this new developmental pathway, including new milestones and developmental needs. Application means respecting the dignity of autistic patients and giving parents the whole story about benefits and difficulties. I think that would be a better use of medical resources for autism than how it is used now.

    By Blogger MeridiusMD899, at 12:40 AM  

  • Meridius, I agree with your comment in part and disagree in part: although mapping neurological structure is indeed within the realm of medicine, I don't believe autism should be any more of a medical construct than any other neurotype.

    Yes, doctors need to be more informed about autism, just as they need to be more informed about all of the cognitive types and genetic combinations that they are likely to encounter in their practice. And yes, in the future, there should be specialist doctors who focus on working with patients who have particular identified genotypes.

    That doesn't mean medicine has to dominate the discourse of autism, though. Education, social acceptance, career opportunities and other meaningful activities, all of these are important for an autistic person (and for any person). We need more awareness and study of all the things that make for good outcomes in autistic lives, rather than just focusing on the medical aspects.

    By Blogger abfh, at 3:25 PM  

  • You are right of course abfh. What I am saying is that I think autistic citizens should get every opportunity that anyone else should get. If they want to develop friendships, then they should have the opportunity to. If they want to get married and have a family, that should be available too. Education and career opportunities should be there too. I want to advocacte for all these things as well. It's just what tends the be the gateway to the world of autism today for most parents is through a physician. I just feel that as a physician-to-be/aspie myself that I can give parents a new perspective on autism and at the same time give a balanced view of every aspect of autism that is involved. Medicine is an integral part to many things about autism, but like you said it isn't the only important thing.

    By Blogger MeridiusMD899, at 6:45 PM  

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