Back when The Simpsons was actually funny and relevant, there was one episode in which Homer formed a bowling team and led it to a certain level of success. This is so far irrelevant to the subject except one small detail. One team where the Italian member makes broad, sweeping hand gestures as he speaks and says things like “mama mia” as he speaks, and several other broad-stroke characters with well-known racial characteristics of that kind, turn and reveal their team name as The Stereotypes. It drew a laugh of a size proportionate to the groans I make when I see people crapping on about how autistic Lisa Simpson is. For the record, I once dated an Italian woman, and the amount of gesturing she did as she spoke, especially to her elder and far larger brother, put me to shame.
But the thing is, the brother I mention never did anything of the kind. If I heard him say the word “mama”, it was never in conjunction with “mia”, and it was only in this particular woman’s presence. He also was very still whenever he spoke, and the way his voice sounded when he did speak had more in common with Brad Garrett or Peter Steele than a castrati.
The point is that whilst stereotypes exist because they have a sufficient degree of truth to be applicable in a shorthand way, they are not universally applicable. That’s a weird statement, I am sure some will agree, so I will explain my meaning in two parts. First of all, we all use shorthands in thinking and conversation in order to simplify communication. When we talk about Texan Americans, for instance, many of us immediately see what I will call an asshole in a cowboy hat who speaks like he is having some motor control issues with his mouth and thinks that everyone should just work on farms. If you watch this video, however, it might come as a shock to you that at least one of the people featured were born in Texas.
The same is true of people all around the world, in fact. Stereotypes depend both on the person making them as well as the person who is the subject. The stereotype that all black Americans consume prodigious amounts of fried chicken, wear tennis-brand clothing, and listen to rap is as invalid on a group-wide scale as the stereotype from the 1980s that all Swedish women are named Inga and take twice as long to say the name Sweden as I do to say the word “pulchritudinous”. Sure, you can find people who do match the stereotype, but you can find at least a thousand other people with all the defining characteristics of the group who do not. The people who repeat the stereotype to their peers do far more to perpetuate it than do the small portion of the group who put it into their head in the first place. After all, when you do match a stereotype, often you cannot help what you are, anyway.
Which brings me to the central point of this text. Stereotypes can be very hurtful to the people who do not conform with them. The Japanese woman who has perfectly American enunciation gets it in the neck when she fails to mess up her words in just the right way to amuse the hicks around her. The Irishman who does not drink himself into a coma every week gets suspected of being too drunk to care for his one child because the Irishman next door is sober less often than drunk, and has problems feeding his five brats as a result. We all suffer for stereotyping, to one degree or another. Autistic adults (and children) are no exception.
I am autistic. I hate mathematics. No, let me put this in the right terms. If you come to me with a mathematics book or test and ask me to explain/do it for you because I am autistic, I will take the paper off you and shove it up your arse, one page at a time. There are a number of reasons for this, so I will go in chronological order.
Number one, my numeracy skills developed at a far slower rate than my literacy skills. I could read at what you jokers call a university level when I was young enough to not have to attend compulsory schooling. But I was twenty-five years old before I could add a string of three-digit numbers (specifically, prices), and be confident in my assessment of the result. I suffered for this. It was assumed by teachers who were too ignorant and stupid to know better that I was just faking my inability to point to any part of a wheel and tell them what multiplying the number there by the one in the middle would result in. This is just one of many cries for help I made as a child that went ignored, by the way.
Second, in a society and species where interdependence (that is, people with strengths using such to help cover the weaknesses of others) is a factor in thriving, even without autism being a factor, such an expectation is utterly ridiculous. It is symptomatic of a much-complained-about quality in teachers that I think still permeates the education system even today. Basically, all math teachers think their students will automatically be accountants, all English teachers assume their students will be speechmakers or authors, and physical education teachers all assume their students will all be champion athletes. Sorry, but no. Somewhere, at some point, a person has to say “no, I am not going to excel in this subject, or even succeed in it to a point that benefits me, thus I need to drop it”. Forcing a person into that subject more and more in response will only traumatise them (if you are a teacher, this is called a hint from someone who would enjoy punching you in the face).
Another big problem is that just because a person shows an aptitude for a subject does not necessarily mean they want to be doing it for the rest of their lives. No amount of encouragement or forceful persuasion can make a person want to pursue something past the point where their heart is in it. Prison guards are a good example of this. Although it takes a very tough and situationally clever person to keep watch over a large group of criminals, even the most mindless, hardcore man desires the path of least resistance. Hence, conversations with people in that line of work tend to revolve around what they plan to do once they have done enough of the guard thing to have the resources to go elsewhere. Even if I enjoyed stringing numbers together to make other numbers, to put it plainly, I would still find things like making a picture of how my own anal passage ripples when I break wind more interesting.
I am autistic. I am not spindly and weak, although my physical health has come into something of a sorry shape lately. If you try to push and shove me, I will punch you, and I will continue to punch you until you either flee or start wishing that I had never been born, whichever happens first. If you think about stopping me by physical force, then bear in mind that I consider my own life to be so unlivable that I feel no compunction about making it a matter of who dies. As Linnea Quigley said so well, “Do you ever fantasise… about being killed?”. All the time, Trash… all of the fukking time.
In fact, there was an article that I wish I could find about “types” of people on the autistic spectrum. I wish I could find it now, but the words I remember best from it are “Powell aspie”. In the description, one phrase stood out, “may have been abused as a child”. Which is part of the point here. Just as not all Italians, Texans, or Asians have an identical experience of life, neither have all autistic adults. This is a critically important point. Although I work hard to restrain myself, being violent comes naturally to me. I feel sick to my stomach when I find myself contemplating it, and I often have to subliminate my rage into things like videogames or viewings of RoboCop, but the nature is like my crystalline blue eyes or wide shoulders. Trying to deny it does not make it go away. Hence, when I tell you that characters like Roy Batty or Leon Kowalski do a far better job of describing my experience as an autistic Child Of The 1980s than does any of Ronald Bass’ bullshit, arguing with me is only going to make me even angrier.
I am autistic. I am not a child. I never wanted to be a child. I did not enjoy being a child. When I was a child, I awaited the time when I could at least physically resemble an adult with bated breath. If the above paragraphs about my Powell nature did not give you a big enough hint, being a child sucked runny Rhino shit through a straw for me.
When you propose to serve the needs, whether the real ones or the ones you perceive, of the autistic, and then every word out of your mouth is “children” or “child”, you hurt people like me. Contrary to what ignorant little retards like Jenny McCarthy would like you to think, there are autistic adults in abundance. In fact, just as the overwhelming majority of populations in general are adults, such is also the case with the autistic population of the world. Contrary to the scaremongering such morons perpetuate, the percentage of people within the populace of the world who are autistic has not changed one iota since the dawn of the species.
I do, however, have a family that want to keep me as much a child as they possibly can for as long as they can. Even when I tell them I want them to stop doing this and will respond violently if they do not comply. So if you do not say the word “adult” in conjunction with autism at least three times for every time you say “child” or “children”, I am going to get upset with you. A lot.
I am autistic, and a sentient creature with feelings. If you are not autistic, that means that my say in what I call myself, how I describe my situation, and what I have to say about how that situation is addressed, is not overridden by yours. In fact, it means that what I have to say about whether I be called by the right name or subjected to inhuman treatment pretty much invalidates what you have to say unless it builds upon or agrees with what I have to say. If you do not like it, there is a big crowd of people whose views mean nothing to anybody you can go and join. They have names like the Ku Klux Klan or the Flat Earth Society.
My autism is not a separate entity to me. It is a name for mutations within the structure of my cerebral cortex that have shaped my experience of life to such a great degree that removing them is essentially removing me. Proposing to do that when you come to my door will get you mailed back to your home in pieces.
I am Dean McIntosh, and I am autistic. I hope that my words here make you understand why I get angry with you if you follow this statement with words like “oh, like in Rain Man”. If not, you have no business being here, and no business involving yourself in any of the affairs of an autistic Human being.
If you have read this far and understand why seeing the autistic through stereotypes instead of actual knowledge is a bad thing, thank you.
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