"Mild" Autism?


People on the list were discussing the aggression they sometimes get from people who aren't comfortable thinking of "high functioning" (or AS) and "low functioning" autistics as being on the same continuum. Several people reported being rebuked for what was perceived as an attempt to equate "serious problems" with "minor difficulties." In a rambling and meditative mood, I responded:

I once posted something (can't remember what) on another list and got a sharp reposte from an AS/HFA adult who thought I was being too accepting of AS as a "permanent disability." He spends a lot of time and energy working with autistic kids, trying to get them to transcend the limits NTs assume exist for them. It's true that if the adults around you when you are a kid are giving you the message that you are limited and imperfect, you are likely to internalize that message about yourself. And I can see that he is doing Good when he tries to help young people refuse to accept passively the limits other people try to put on their minds.

But it's also true that an AS/HFA person living in the current world is going to have some deficiencies (i.e., will not be perfectly tailored to meet the requirements of a world/society designed for NT minds) that will cause problems and may be disabilities. (That is, our "differences" may disable us, more or less, in one area or another, from performing "adequately" by societal standards.) Are we obliged not to talk about that reality unless we can prove that we meet certain requirements of pitifulness?

Until we get to the point where everyone truly views humans as collections of points on innumerable continua, I guess we will continue having these misunderstandings. I mean, my eye sight is on a continuum that goes from 20/20 to total blindness. But the fact that I cannot function without glasses is not seen as a disability because so many people use glasses and because the glasses do enable me to function adequately.

Is AS/HFA in any way comparable? Hmmmm. There is no "glasses" equivalent, I guess. Nothing external to ourselves will ever make us function "normally" by NT standards. Many AS/HFA people can learn to develop and employ an NT interface. Some can develop and employ an NT persona (or personae) that will enable them to "pass" as NT in some times and places. But we'll never be non-stigmatized/handicapped entirely until other people broaden their understanding of what is "okay" (if not, strictly speaking, "normal").

I have no idea whether "other people" in any numbers are capable of doing that.



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