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A Very Brief Look at A Very Few Aspects of Autistic Culture As I See It (Part 1)

Posted Nov 10 2008 4:51pm
Note: This post is about the shared culture of a vague and loosely defined group of autistic people and their allies. It is not a statement that autism isa culture or a lifestyle or any such thing. The distinction betweenhavinga culture andbeing a culture should be noted.
Sometimes I can’t be bothered to get upset when, for example, someone who knows practically nothing about me, accuses me of being trivial or unloving. I know that these words do not reflect truth, but embody the fear of a parent who just wants the best for his or her autistic child. As a non-parent, I am not supposed to have opinions about what children might need. As a person who is able to write, drive a car and go to college, I am not supposed to have opinions about the needs of autistic persons who don’t do these things. You’ve heard the old adage, “Children are to be seen, not heard.” Autistic adults are expected to do neither.

I won’t go into a lot of detail on this. I don’t need to, because there is a well known statement available on this which says what I mean fairly well. I can refer you to this article at Frank Klein’s website and add a thought or two of my own or subtract the parts I don’t fully agree with. Since everyone has read this before, I can reference it as a shortcut to the right “neighborhood” of ideas, without having to take the listener on a long drive past multiple distractions.

What’s that you say? You haven’t read this before? Well, then, I’ll pick another starting point. Remember the article called “ You Are Not Autistic” from Joel Smith’s This Way of Life? No?

Well, what I’m trying to tell you is kind of like what Amanda Baggs once said about certain people who want nothing more than to teach autistic children to speak and autistic adults to shut up. Never heard of it? You can find it here at My point relates to a number of articles on this site, including the letter about autistic people with unpopular opinions.

No, I’m not trying to be difficult here. I’m referencing a few of the recent historical documents of my culture. There are many others, including this and this by Jim Sinclair. The statement on person-first language is something I give all my professors along with the first paper of a new semester. Otherwise, I could get into trouble with the authorities for using the “wrong” words to describe myself. I use this essay by Jane Meyerding to explain why “shy” is not the right word to describe my personality. I sometimes refer to this piece by Amanda Baggs to help explain why some things are more difficult than they used to be. There are research papers I consider a part of autistic culture. Of course there are many, many others.

Documents and written history are only one tiny aspect of culture. Another is the stories we tell about our shared experience. These become a part of a community’s fabric as they are passed on to illustrate points about the group’s collective reality.

Here’s an example, a true story of something that happened recently. There is a well known blog about autism and hate. The writer regularly posts vile and libelous statements about specific autistic adults and attempts to bully people into silence. His tactics have included impersonating a child and various unfounded accusations of fraud.

Not long ago, this man made a post asking for help for his son, a seemingly sincere plea for assistance. Along with his regular commenters, several individuals who have been verbally abused by this person came to his aid with suggestions for strategies to help the man’s autistic son. They had nothing to gain; they knew that this man would return to calling them liars and child abusers. I wasn’t one of the ones who reached out to the man; I’m not that magnanimous. But I saw the names there of people who had been ridiculed, accused, threatened and libeled, reaching out to help an autistic child, the son of someone who had purposely tried to hurt them.

I may be wrong, but that looked like love to me.
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