Aspification

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The following is all I managed to write about aspification (at least all I can find at the moment), in a file dated June 2004:

Aspification is many-lookinged thing. Aspification is a stereotype. It first takes a stereotype. First stereotype. First stereotype is. Of stereotype aspie. Aspie meaning not word I believe in. Aspie meaning stereotype. Stereotype aspie social awkward quirky brilliant person. Stereotype aspie has job. Stereotype aspie is geek. Stereotype aspie has good verbal skills. People not want autistics speak up for ourselves. All autistics speak up get aspified. Aspified is to make in head like aspie stereotype. Aspified is erase me. Aspified is even erase people more fit stereotype. Aspified erase all. Aspified is erasure.

Obviously not one of my best days for constructing full sentences, but that’s what I wrote. I did not get into all the complexities, and never seem to have been able to when writing about the topic, but that’s what I’ve got on it so far. I didn’t mean it as only something imposed from without, though, because the autistic community is plenty good at aspification in its own right (although it probably wouldn’t be without other pressures). But that’s what I’ve managed to say about it.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

17 responses »

  1. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Please forgive my ignorance, as I do not personally know anyone with autism (or Asperger’s). Since you communicate so well on your blog, and are clearly very intelligent and literate, why are you unable to communicate verbally? Is is that you are physically unable to speak, or do you just not wish to speak? Again, please forgive me if this is an impertinent question. Thanks.

  2. What I find interesting is this. “autistic” children are almost always called “autistic.” But, autistic adults are almost always “asperger’s”… that’s how it seems.

    So what if the majority of “autistic children”
    –the ones getting services now, for instance under the California DDS who are more properly classified “PDD,nos” in many cases–
    will tend to grow up to be more like stereotypical “Asperger’s” people, they talk, they have collections of stuff and collections of facts they like to talk about.

    Hmm. What I mean is, many people have a disconnect between a given ASD child and a given ASD adult… they can’t imagine that a particular “Asperger’s” adult might have been an “autistic” or “PDD,nos” child… and vice versa.

    Like Laura Tisoncik (did I get her name right?). She’d be very easy to classify as “totally Asperger’s” based on a minimal meeting with her or on a few minutes of video… how many people would guess that she had serious issues around speech? I think I was more like a “classic” Asperger’s kid, no problem with speech… but maybe I’m more of representative of a minority of “Asperger’s” adults… and the majority of “Asperger’s” adults were really quite impaired as children…

    So maybe there are lots of autistic adults who have been “Aspified” because it sounds nicer or seems more reasonable because the person now seems like they must have not been too extremely impaired as a child… Like Frank Klein on that radio interview. He told the interviewer several times that he wasn’t “Asperger’s” he was “classic autistic” by official diagnosis and the interviewer couldn’t get his mind wrapped around it.

  3. Aspification is what Lenny Schafer does, right?

    I’m someone who fits the aspie stereotype fairly well, except for the good verbal skills part. But I see what you mean. Aspification will be used to invalidate even those who fit the stereotype.

  4. Suzanne: You can probably find the rest of that answer in reading more of my blog. But, no, I didn’t sit down one day and decide that I just didn’t like talking. Imagine asking of a dyslexic person why it is that they have so much trouble with the printed word if they are so eloquent in speech and clearly intelligent, and then reverse speaking and writing, and that’s kind of the answer too.

  5. Even when someone is able to speak, writing ability does not necessarily translate to speech ability. There are different brain parts involved. In writing, there’s not as much time pressure and so forth. The novelist Vladimir Nabokov has said “I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.”

  6. One problem is that the “aspie” stereotype also to focus primarily on interactions with other people while totally ignoring the fact that yes, we’re still autistic even when we’re not “trying to socialize”. There are aspects of being autistic that have nothing to do with social interaction or how one relates to other people. Cognitive differences, sensory differences, perceptual differences. The stereotype perpetuates the myth that “autistic” is a personality type rather than something deeply structured in someone’s neurology.

    It’s like there’s this idea that all brains are basically the same…so that is used as justification for why it’s “okay” to try to force or “train” autistics to act nonautistic. People are still putting way too much stock in external appearance and demeanor. The fact that an autistic person can sometimes “look” like the aspie stereotype doesn’t mean that the underlying structure is “less autistic”; it can frequently mean that the autistic person is putting in huge amounts of energy without even realizing it…or that the autistic person has figured out a way to do something that can look “typical” though it is achieved through an entirely different mechanism.

  7. There’s an equivalent to “aspification” going on on the lj-multiplicity community right now. I mean, we’ve seen it crop up in other places, but there seem to be a whole heck of a lot of people yelling about it *now* for some reason.

    It’s… well, similar to both the “I am a high functioning aspie, but the low functioning autistics need a cure and/or to be made high-functioning like me” and “Can’t you high-functioning aspies who are happy with yourselves just as you are understand that some of us are too severely afflicted to ever be happy with ourselves and need to have a cure” lines of reasoning. In that we’re being portrayed as playing an equivalent role to that of the “high-functioning aspie” and lectured about “you can’t understand the plight of those who are really suffering and REALLY NEED TO BE INTEGRATED.” (Again with the “you never really suffered” assumption. How does anyone think they can possibly tell from someone’s online presentation whether they have ever “really suffered” or not? And we’re being assumed to have some kind of fanatical anti-integration stance which we don’t actually possess at all.)

    We should probably make this same topic into a separate entry in our journal, someday. “Functionalsystemification”? Hm, that’s a little awkward…

  8. I understand your terse moments very well and I’ve seen them on occasion before. If I may paraphrase, it is saying that aspie is just a stereotype that erases the reality like most stereotypes do. They become super words that point to nothing. Words are not the thing and stereotypes are even less the things they represent. They are a handy mechanism that enables prejudice that denies difficulties and assumes certain talents while possibly denying many other unique talents in an individual. I imagine, that if every autistic were forced/coerced into a computer programming job and forced to live a geek life and be expected to have their cellphone fully programmed with everything and connnected to everything and have all the latest toys, we’d have something on the order of a 95% suicide rate. Yes, the stereotype is that bad if fully realized. Ms Clark expounds on it nicely about how it just sounds “nicer” to people who don’t want to have to confront a person’s atypical “baggage” instead of realizing it, dealing with it and appreciating people regardless of whatever ugly-to-society thing there may be behind the geek face.

  9. I sometimes feel stuck with the term aspie and feel like I will be correcting constantly but maybe that’s what is needed. I feel like Asperger Syndrome is nothing more than autism and while people might want to play IQ comparison games, it’s not really much of anything different. “No significant verbal delays”, “desires socialization”, “high IQ” are not universally negative in autistics nor universally positive in those with Asperger’s Syndrome, hence the distinction is really kind of moot.

  10. The stereotype perpetuates the myth that “autistic” is a personality type rather than something deeply structured in someone’s neurology.

    *nods* And people’s attempts to establish “aspie solidarity” with me based on a diagnosis have always rung false and hollow to me. I get really irritated when people start doing the “fellow aspie” thing with me and it’s inevitably people who identify with that particular stereotype/personality-type and think I must identify with it as well: computer geek, socially indifferent, hyper-rational, logical, etc. None of those characteristics particularly apply to me, actually, which is not to say anything against people who do identify with the stereotype, except that I think there’s a certain danger in assuming “I respond to every situation with logic; therefore, every conclusion I draw must be reasonable and based on logic.” (Which is essentially the same as “I am a good moral person, therefore I can do nothing that is not good” with a different hat. And we’ve had enough of having our minds twisted around and backwards by “logical” types to automatically be suspicious of anyone who believes in the absolute logic of their own thought processes.)

    …oh, and it’s ‘special’ when let’s-all-be-aspie-together types try to forge solidarity with you on the basis of the assumption that you’re irritated by emotional expression, or similar things. Not that we haven’t had people try to manipulate us with lots of overplayed crying and pleading and so forth, or insisting that their feelings justify everything, but making the a priori assumption that I see something illogical in, say, people having emotional reactions to major disasters, and that I would feel kinship with anyone else on the basis of that, is… peculiar, to say the least. (I might not show my emotional reactions in the way most people would, in this culture, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.)

  11. Well I am the ultimate cynic and pessimist cos I think aspification has permeated this hub somewhat deeper than some would like to admit.

    I feel it is so bad that there are outright attempts to rewrite history like Stalin did, to write difference out of the picture except the difference that leaves some autistic people as “not us” in the Aspie glory trail of mythical superheroes created from dubious biographies.

    I am definitely feeling tonight, that there are some here amongst us who are not so much promoting diversity as creating a new normal and woa betide you if you don’t come up to the specification.

    “Hey look at Larry over there, we can’t let him be one of us, he is way too wierd and would show us up”.

  12. Yes I am more than ever convinced that there is a section of the autistic community who are as busily socially constructed autism as only what they want it to be, as much Lenny Schafers autism community are socially constructing it as what they want it to be.

    Both sides are equally appalling to me, and both are subject to the same social forces that constrain thinking in such ways.

    This “aspie liberation” culture is no such thing as it seems to deny what is essentially autistic by virtue of being part of a binary set of thinking, a reaction rather than a revolution in thinking. Antithesis rather than synthesis if you want to get Hegelian about it.

    There were people who were different and despised who were not “aspie” but aspification culture has no place for that. Aspification culture is setting itself up as its own straw man. I see herd mentality amongst a class of people who deny they can possibly be subject to it.

    The belief sets of aspification mentality seem to be formed from the same clinical stereotypes as the curebies and give the curebies all the ammunition they need.

  13. I’ve noticed that most people who believe they’re incapable of doing some common thing that people do wrong (such as herd mentality), or else people who take their not doing that thing in one situation as meaning they never do it, seem especially prone to doing whatever it is, being so convinced they don’t.

  14. I think we’ve been involved in too many groups which all seemed to believe that they somehow, and they alone, had this complete immunity from prejudice or deliberate meanness or group mentality or just about any other bad thing that tends to happen when human beings gather together in groups. It led to some pretty bizarre and surreal moments with people making lengthy speeches about how they couldn’t grasp the mentality behind a certain thing, and then turning around and doing it to other people in that same group, just not necessarily in the same context that it might typically be done in. It ended up being an interesting way to mess with the minds of other group members, often– asking them to believe that whatever you were doing couldn’t possibly be That Thing, even if it looks like it, because we don’t do That Thing, so anything we might do that looks exactly like That Thing can’t actually be it.

  15. I have the Asperger diagnosis but do have significant difficulty with speech, though sometimes I can go on and on. Mostly it’s trouble initiating, though there are many things very different about how I produce and use speech to non-autistic people. I think that’s why the psychologist is considering me to be regressing (or in his words, “degrading”), because these difficulties before were only internally apparent, masked by a tenuous system of scripts and speech rhythms and pretending that I have comprehended words that just mushed together. Now that I’m in high school going to college, I can’t afford to just smile and nod when it comes to instructions or study materials; I have gained the ability to request help when needed and to explain – even through speech sometimes – what is going on. That’s an almost totally new skill for me that I’ve gained, and a useful one at that, and yet they see it as regression. *sigh*

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