Questions for neurotypicals (tongue in cheek)

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Note: This is not my actual attitude to neurotypicals (I’m using that term specifically because it’s more precise than non-autistic here). But it mirrors the way autistics are often addressed.

How have you learned to compensate for being nearly incapable of directly perceiving your surroundings?

Why do you think your life is worth living if you don’t have an intense area of interest? Don’t you miss it? Are you in denial or something? Don’t you understand this is a fundamental aspect of the human condition?

How do you deal with your dependency on social information? Have you done anything to reduce that dependency? If not, why not?

Surely you must miss the all-encompassing joy of simple perceptual experiences. Don’t try to tell me that all your canned, pre-filtered experiences of sunsets and the like hold a candle to watching a tiny spider crawl across the carpet or rubbing a fuzzy blanket on your face. Nobody would believe anything that ridiculous, you’re just trying to romanticize neurotypicality.

How do you feel about being most likely to give birth to children who have your own limitations? Don’t you think that’s irresponsible?

How do you compensate for your inability to perceive body language? What do you mean, you have a kind of body language of your own? Nobody’s buying that, that’s just silly. Science hasn’t proven that.

How do you deal with being unable to perceive minds different from your own? Doesn’t that limit you socially?

Have you considered LSD for your perceptual deficits? If you haven’t, don’t you think it’s just a little bit ridiculous to say you’re against all parents giving LSD to their children? I know you talk about distorted thinking, hallucinations, sensory overload, and other minor side-effects, but isn’t that a small price to pay for being able to perceive the world more directly? Don’t you want to enjoy a normal life, or at least have the next generation able to enjoy one? Aren’t you just a tad rigid? You shouldn’t apply your experiences to everyone you know, every child is different.

What? You’re against LSD in children? I bet you just want to let kids have seizures, too. Would you deny a diabetic his insulin?

Speaking of which, you shouldn’t be saying that behavioral therapy is a bad way for neurotypicals to learn. I know that you say you have your own ways to learn, but we have all this proof that we can at least make you indistinguishable from your autistic peers. Don’t you want that? If you’re indistinguishable from your autistic peers in your every movement and word, then how can you continue to claim you’re not autistic?

Don’t you think you ought to stop speaking for all the severe neurotypicals out there? They’re different from you, they can’t even carry on a proper conversation with an autistic.

Have you learned to make real conversation with strangers instead of just measuring them up socially and moving on?

Why do you think you should have any say in the treatment of neurotypicality? You can’t be saying you want to let it fester untreated. You know what can happen then, and besides when you want to learn about a disorder, you go to a real expert, not someone with the disorder.

How can you say that neurotypicality is not devastating? Lots of autistic parents feel devastated by their neurotypical children. Can’t you understand that means it is devastating, even if in your one solitary single case you don’t think it is?

I feel so sorry for you, you poor thing. I have no idea what it’s like to have such awesome limitations. You’ve overcome a lot just to be able to talk to me, I’m sure.

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About Mel Baggs

I am a highly sensing person. I am a child of earth and water, I was born into a redwood forest and I left the forest but it never left me. I'm 34 as I wrote this. If I had an alignment like in role-playing games and MUDs, I'd be chaotic good all the way: I don't think it's possible to fill ethics into a moral code, the world is far too complex for that. I let the world be complex and chaotic and try to respond situation by situation from a small number of principles of right and wrong. My responses may seem to contradict each other, but that will be because either the situation has changed, or I have changed. I am a poet who is trying to practice more every day, hence the poetry blog. I am a cat lover and live with a wonderful elderly cat. I am a painter when I have the time, energy, and resources. I have multiple cognitive, physical, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities, and my health is not usually stable. Put all together, I'd be considered severely disabled. I get a lot of assistance throughout the day. I am a real living cyborg, part human part machine: I have a GJ feeding tube to feed me through one tube and drain my stomach through the other,, an InterStim implant for urinary retention, and a port (a permanent central IV line). I love life. I think Love (not the sentimental emotion, but the property of the world) is the most important thing that human beings can offer each other. Being near death enough times has taught me that, and has also taught me that I have no time for bullies or pettiness. I'm involved in disabilty rights and other causes that people these days would call 'social justice', but I don't consider myself part of the 'SJ community' or the 'anti-SJ community' because of that thing I said about pettiness -- they're more about one-upmanship than fixing the world. I wish they had not taken over the words 'social justice', which used to mean something else. I love talking to just ordinary people about fixing the world, they have far more realistic ideas and more likelihood of putting them into practice. I'm a Hufflepuff to the core, with some Gryffindor tendencies and even a little bit of Ravenclaw. I admire some Slytherins but I don't have much ambition or cunning at all. I still think the Slytherin common room is second best, with Hufflepuff coming first. My favorite color is brown, especially when combined with a bit of yellow or blue. My favorite music is country, and my favorite country artists are Kathy Mattea, Lacy J. Dalton, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, Merle Haggard, and Loretta Lynn. I don't like most new country but i occasionally hear something on the radio I like. At an early age, my family listened to country almost exclusively to the point where I thought all the different types of country were all the different types of music! I couldn't put Lacy J. Dalton, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson in the same category. Although now that I've grown up I can hear that they are all country, but as a kid my ear was trained more for minute differences in country styles, than for recognizing country from other types of music. Country isn't all I like. Some other bands and artists I like: The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Rasputina, Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, Rich Mullins (I'm not Christian but some Christian music is amazing), ), The Raventones/T.R. Kelley, Planet P Project/Tony Carey, Sinead Lohan, Donna Williams, Suzanne Vega, Phideaux, and Jethro Tull, to name a few. I love the Cocteau Twins in particular because they are everything being sensing is about: Words are chosen for their sound, not their meaning, the voice becomes yet another instrument rather than a conveyor of words, raw emotion pours out of them, there are layers upon layers, and they were around for long enough there's lots of their music in a variety of different styles -- including their later stuff where the words have more meaning than just sounds. Each period in their music has its benefits and drawbacks but I love them all, or nearly so. Their music comes as close as any music can come to conveying how I experience the world, as what Donna Williams calls 'pattern, form, and feel'. And Elizabeth Fraser has a beautiful voice, I once had a teenage crush on her. As I type this, I have a cat sitting on my shoulder, cheek to cheek with me, peering around and occasionally rubbing me. My relationship to her goes back 15 years to when she was six months old, and we've rarely been parted since. It's been an honor to watch her grow into a wise but crotchety old lady cat. She knows she's technically older than me and tells me so sometimes, especially during arguments. She has trouble with the fact that there are parts of the human world I know better than she does. She sees me as her big, dumb kitten who needs protecting, and is beside herself with worry if I end up in the hospital (which seems to happen frequently these days). I don't experience myself as having a gender identity, I call it being genderless. You'll sometimes see the pronouns sie and hir in my work, they are gender-neutral pronouns pronounced 'see' and 'hear'. I was raised female, which gives me both disadvantages (outside the trans community) and advantages (inside the trans community). You don't have to remember my pronouns, lots of people have trouble with gender-neutral pronouns. I won't be upset with you. People make mistakes, and some people just can't get the hang of new words, and that's okay. I have vocabulary problems myself (mostly comprehension), I'm not going to penalize other people for having vocabulary problems of their own. Right now my father is dying of cancer that's metastatized so many places they can't figure out where it started, my mother has severe myasthenia gravis that can land her in the ICU (and she's my father's primary caretaker), my "second mother" (who took over when I grew up and my family didn't know how to prepare me for the world) has endometrial cancer, and my cat is getting old. All of this is bringing death to the forefront of my mind and my poetry. In fact I think I've been able to write more poetry because of all the feelings about so many people dying or with precarious health. It was easier to handle when it was me that was going to die (averted by diagnosis and treatment of severe adrenal insufficiency that'd been going on for years). It's harder when it's someone else, someone you love. My other hobby is crocheting, and a lot of the time if I'm not writing, it'll be hard to find me without a crochet hook or occasional knitting needles in my hands. I love to be able to make things. I have been making hats and scarves with spare yarn (which I have a lot of), and putting them in City Hall Park wrapped in plastic, with notes saying "If you're cold, take this." I know what it's like to be cold in the winter, and if anyone takes them and stays warm I'd be overjoyed. You may have noticed I'm long-winded. This is actually the result of a language disability that makes it difficult for me to leave out details, to see two almost-identical things as perhaps something that doesn't need repeating, and to summarize or condense down my writing. I know this is a flaw in my writing, and it even prevents me from reading it sometimes, but I've found no solutions. Sometimes on my longer posts I'll put a "TL;DR" ("too long; didn''t read") summary at the end in bold letters for people to skip down to.. But even those don't feel adequate, even when I can do theme, which is not always. I think I'm getting better though. Learning haiku and other short poetry forms helps me condense my words better. Anyway, I hope that gives you enough idea of who I am. At my most basic, I care about Love more than anything (whenever I come near enough to death, I feel like I get asked the question "Did you Love, and did you express that Love properly?"), but like everyone I get sidetracked into things that are much less important. I try to make my writing an expression of Love. Sometimes I succeed.

30 responses »

  1. ok

    “Don’t you think you ought to stop speaking for all the severe neurotypicals out there? They’re different from you, they can’t even carry on a proper conversation with an autistic.”

    made me laugh out loud.

    you’re my hero.

  2. I learned a lot on this blog and even linked to it in a blogpost today. But this came across as bitter. Then I realized that you forgot the (unspoken) one about “Am I not amazingly liberal, tolerant, and broad-minded just to listen to you and sort of understand?”

    heh

  3. Great post.

    Was talking a while ago with another NT who works in the area of autism, and we got talking about flapping. So we tried flapping – and it’s incredibly calming and catharthic (well, to us it was). Being open to new experiences that are defined as ‘weird’ and ‘wrong’ is difficult, but very interesting.

  4. I’m not sure whether you were serious or not when referring to this post as “bitter,” but if you were, that makes no sense to me. These are certainly questions I get asked and see other autistic people asked, I was just turning them around to show how ridiculous they were.

  5. Figure I might as well comment at the original source, bumping into Autism Diva’s link. :)

    Great post. Puts things in perspective. Reminds me of people who praise some topic I find silly, disgusting, or otherwise not worthy of my interest, and then say “You don’t know what you’re missing!”

  6. I found out about this blog entry from *two* degrees of separation away: Susan Senator said she’d seen mention of it on Autism Diva’s blog. There are only a few excerpts on Susan’s blog (but also a link here, at least).

    People need to see the whole thing, to understand how *true* it is, not just how funny it might sound.

    (Someone needs to invent something like a GNU “copyleft” for blog essays, so that essays that really need not to be partially quoted out of context can identify themselves as needing to be read in their entirety.)

    Anne says: “Nah, I just go to Vegas.” Glad I was not drinking coffee when reading that…

    Joel says: “You’re my hero.” I second the motion.

    — Phil, standing carefully just beyond the range of your throwing arm :-PPP

  7. Yeah you’ve had experience with that throwing arm too. :-P

    Although I’m actually getting better at not throwing stuff these days. I threw my glasses the other day but I hadn’t before, done that in awhile.

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  9. This is superb. Sorry I missed it the first time. Turns the tables on those addressing us.

    “Don’t you think if you were more autistic, you’d grow up without the pain of autistics being aggressive towards you?”

    “Don’t you think you can go to sensitivity satiation therapy for that fingernail on the chalkboard problem you have? That way, you could function in society and in classrooms better?” (btw, chalkboard scratch doesn’t bother me like neurotypicals).

    “Don’t you think that you could finally realize your self worth if you were better able to focus?”

    “Don’t you think you’d be better adjusted psychologically if you could stim at least once in a while? I have so much difficulty getting my neurotypicals to stim. They seem to lack all desire for this exercise. It can’t be healthy.”

    “How can you tolerate not being able to go out with the autistic girl or boy at the prom, getting a job in the autistic world and becoming part of the online text communities?”

  10. M, I tried flapping after I figured out I was
    autistic. The way I like is to hold my middle finger
    with my thumb and rotate the hand/s really fast. It
    feels like the stress flies out through the (loose)
    fingertips, though I am sure this is not accurate. I
    don’t do it all the time, but sometimes it is just the
    thing that makes sense to do.
    (Hah, what I was missing when I didn’t know my
    autism!)

    Amanda this list is great. I would have been laughing
    but it was making me think too much.
    I forgot that you haven’t written a book yet. You
    should, if only because you should be paid to write.
    This blog is so useful.
    Is this an awfully materialistic thing to say? But in
    our society money is a symbol of giving value to
    effort and the product of the effort…

  11. Excellent! My son is on the autism spectrum somewhere (I consider him Asperger Lite) and I feel his greatest gift is his ability to concentrate and focus, and block the world out for hours..

    And I do find stimming very beneficial; if they encouraged neurotypicals to do this in classrooms, there would be a whole lot less disciplinary problems…

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  14. You are right.
    I wonder why we never question nt’s ability to feel empathy.
    I mean take a good hard look at the world around us.
    We’ve been sold a lot of total and utter nonsense here.

    Well, I don’t buy it anymore and anyone who does is vouching for a life of misery in my opinion.

    Very well done.

    I do not hate nts but they should take a long hard look at themselves .

    • It was not too long ago that criminal tendencies were thought to be genetic and that criminals were sterilized along with non-anglo (espicially non european) so called “races,” people with cognitive or physical disabilities, etc.

      You should also realize that the American Psychological Association was essentially founded by “insane asylum” superintendents. In other words, the people who invented autism were knee deep in this stuff.

  15. Many of these questions actually reflected some of my thoughts as I read more and more about the experiences of so many nontypical individuals. I am so much aware of my limitations, and I wish I could experience your world for just a little while. I don’t wish for the barriers you face, of course, but I… you know how people often say autistic people are in their own worlds? I think that’s more true for NTs. I am mostly trapped in my head. Sometimes I’m comfortable, sure, but there’s so much to experience beyond what you called idea land. I don’t know, maybe I’m not making sense, but your blog has helped me understand autism as, you know, another valid way of being or… something. I’m going to shut up now.

    • I think everyone lives in their heads. Some types of autistic people a little less than most maybe. But there are ways out, they’re just incredibly hard. I am barely starting to make my way out of my own version of being trapped in my head, and I can mostly only do it for seconds at a time. But it makes me able to see how far there is to go. Everyone tells themselves stories, even people who are more sensory than idea based. And stepping out of those stories and taking even a brief look around is hard. Apparently the way forward from there is to learn to look at yourself and dig out the layers upon layers of stories and habits that keep you inside stories. But at the stage I’m at it’s hard to even know how accurate your self assessment is. So yeah. Difficult.

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