Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Don't You Believe Them

That's just the way it is
Some things will never change
That's just the way it is
But don't you believe them

Bruce Hornsby, The Way It Is

One of the saddest autism stereotypes is the one about inability to make friends. Every now and again, a parent will say something like, "My autistic son has never had a friend. It's part of his disability."

Well, no. I'm sure these parents are quite sincere, but they are wrong. It's part of society's disability. You know, the one that causes significant impairment in accepting the existence of minorities, appreciating the value of human diversity, and befriending anyone who looks different.

If a child with dark skin, or one of foreign origin, started attending an all-white or mostly white school and was met with bullying and social exclusion, there would be no doubt what was going on. Nobody would blame the victim for his own mistreatment.

But somehow it's different when we have psychologists cooking up scientific-sounding labels and throwing around half-baked pronouncements about "lack of empathy" and "lack of social skills." Somehow that's enough in many people's minds to transform blatant bigotry into a mysterious neurological disorder afflicting the victims of said bigotry.

Parents are misled into believing that it is inevitable their children will be social outcasts all their lives if they have any discernible cognitive differences. Even more tragically, large numbers of autistic children are being taught that anyone who does not have friends, or who does not have some arbitrarily determined quantity of friends, or who does not interact with friends in exactly the same way as everyone else, must be hopelessly inferior and totally unworthy of social acceptance.

It would be so much easier, the seductive voices of prejudice assure us, if we could all be just like everyone else, with no inconvenient diversity to bother anyone.

But don't you believe them.

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  • thatz brill and i think people should totally read that!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:59 AM  

  • Our children have many friends. They are caring individuals who really like our children. Heck, our children are funny and fun to be around.
    Because our children were always fully inclusioned, the "NT" know them only by their names and personalities, not by their autistic diagnosis.

    By Blogger Mom26children, at 12:58 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger n., at 3:42 PM  

  • i think i have seen that kind of uncaring in those 'friends' that told me the reason why i didn't have any real friends was that i was just not the kind of person that people were going to like or want to be with.

    i currently do have a few real friends (on and off the spectrum, on- and off-line) who accept that my ways are just that, my ways. that if i appear over-generous it's just my way of being friendly and not trying to 'buy friends', and that if i appear clueless it's that i really don't understand what just happened and if they tell me i will do something about it... etc.

    others have not had it even so easy as that, and feel paranoia with any potential new friend whenever there is any misunderstanding, assuming things will always be as bad socially as they usually have been. so it's even harder for them to get anywhere with friendships.

    when i was a kid i don't think i had any real friends, except maybe in middle school and high school (in among all the horribleness of the other kids at those schools) i had a few really cool friends, all of whom i have by now unfortunately lost touch with.

    i guess, to make a long story short: yeah, it's possible... if you have decent people to try to be friends with and also you can convince yourself that it's real, finally.

    [this comment is re-posted due to typos in first try.]

    By Blogger n., at 3:44 PM  

  • "If a child with dark skin, or one of foreign origin, started attending an all-white or mostly white school and was met with bullying and social exclusion, there would be no doubt what was going on. Nobody would blame the victim for his own mistreatment."

    Hmm, yes, they probably would, judging from what I've seen, heard and experienced.

    By Blogger elmindreda, at 11:34 AM  

  • elmindreda: Yes, people sometimes do blame victims of racial prejudice for going where they weren't wanted, not staying on their side of town, being too uppity, etc., but that's not the same as claiming that they are incapable of making friends. I think today's prejudice against autistics is far more extreme in blaming the victim.

    The only prejudice that I find at all comparable is Hitler's propaganda against the Jews, in which he claimed that the Jews were naturally greedy, uncaring, incapable of feeling genuine concern for others, and other such garbage.

    By Blogger abfh, at 4:44 PM  

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