Note For Anyone Writing About Me

Guide to Writing About Me

I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

APA: Hillary, A. (Year Month Day of post.) Post Title. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://yesthattoo.blogspot.com/post-specific-URL.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Alyssa Reads Uniquely Human: Part 4

The saga continues! Part 3 is here, and if you want to go back to the beginning, that's here.

Chapter 3 is titled "Enthusiasms."

I feel a bit odd about the listing of "special" interests, here called enthusiasms, though it's mentioned that many call them "obsessions." (I tend to call my own "Autistic obsessions" but I'm the kind of twit who throws themself into a wall hard enough to shake the stage to protest the idea that indistinguishability/loss of diagnosis is an optimal outcome so take that with a grain of salt.) I've never felt weird about autistic people listing the interests themselves, which is fairly common: there's an entire Tumblr blog dedicated to sharing our interests! I think part of the difference is that when we do it, we get to explain how the interest makes us feel and why we have it and how we expressed it, and here it's just a list. Like in David's article for Knots. (You need to make an account to read the article online, but it is free.) I think that extra detail makes the difference for me between behaviorizing and humanizing when we describe the interest.

I like how Dr. Prizant points out that our interests are a source of, well, interest, plus happiness, and that this is on its own an argument against discouraging them. Yes thank you we have internal thoughts and feelings and what makes us happy matters on its own merit. Glad you pointed that out.

I also like the example of how a teacher was able to use a students enthusiasm in order to design an alternate assignment involving reading and writing that he completed happily because it fit the interest. I like how he points out that most people have interests and hobbies (and admits that we tend to get more intense in ours, because we do, but it's not the act of having an interest that's autism-specific.)

There's definitely a problem with the idea of "splinter skills" or "savant skills" though, in dividing us up into the parts you find competent or valuable and the parts you find worthless, and frankly a problem of applying improper standards when you think the neuronormative "overall profile" or "developmental level" is going to be a useful measure for us to have abilities or support needs that stand out from a "profile" we didn't really fit anyways. I say this as someone who hasn't had a single coherent developmental level (as defined neurotypically) since I was about five months old. Possibly longer. Doesn't mean I'm a savant or have splinter skills. It means autistic development is what happens here, rather than accelerated or delayed neurotypical development.

The "Remarkable" tales of passion are stories with happy endings that come from having encouraged, supported, accepted, and sometimes taken advantage of our interests, which is cool. The accounts definitely lean behaviorizing rather than humanizing (if you haven't read the behaviorizing and humanizing link yet, it's to Disability in Kidlit and the idea applies just as well to describing real autistic people as it does to describing autistic characters.)

The use of an interest, bringing supplies to education meetings so the student can engage with the meeting when they want and engage with their interest when they'd rather do that, is a good idea, and since involving students in their own education is important, I really like that idea.

He does address times when an interest can get us into trouble -- the key is when pursuing an interest could violate someone else's boundaries/consent, we don't get to do that. (He doesn't put it in those words, but it is the common thread between the examples given.) Which is legitimate.

Teaching time and place can be useful, but I'd like to add one more piece: supporting us in our choice, if we make it, to spend most of our time in the places where our special interests are accepted and are how we connect with people anyways. In autistic spaces, taking turns sharing lots of information about our interests is considered social engagement. (The taking turns so that we all get to do it is part of what's great about it.) Plus we can find folks with the same interest. The other thing is that many interests will have clubs or interest groups: heck yes we may want to join those! Arranging to spend more of our time in the places where we already fit is very much a thing.

In the section on teaching time and place, Dr. Prizant notes that a common problem in people's responses to our interests (and how we express them, which absolutely can be in infodumps) is focusing on behavior to the exclusion of motivation. Yeah, that's an easy mistake to make when all you describe is the behavior, even when it's behavior that you think is OK, isn't it? (Yes I'm pointing out that you are narrating behavior over motivation in your book, Dr. Prizant. Please follow your own logic and suggestions better.)

The idea of using interests to support engagement in school I think is useful. I'm a bit wary of thinking a career might come out of these interests, for reasons Dani's expressed well. Turning an interest into work can burn the interest out, and besides, some things just need to be for fun. That doesn't mean it can never work -- he gives some examples where building an interest into a career seems to have gone fine, at least from the outsider perspective, but keep the caveats in mind before suggesting someone else do it.

You can read part 5 here.

1 comment:

  1. Jessy Park calls her interests "enthusiasms". or maybe her late Mum - Clara Claiborne Park - did. [She appears in the Schopler/Mesibov books - and Exiting Nirvana was great. Nearly typed EXCITING NIRVANA which would be a good autistic interests blog inventory].

    I've never felt weird about autistic people listing the interests themselves, which is fairly common: there's an entire Tumblr blog dedicated to sharing our interests! I think part of the difference is that when we do it, we get to explain how the interest makes us feel and why we have it and how we expressed it, and here it's just a list. Like in David's article for Knots. (You need to make an account to read the article online, but it is free.) I think that extra detail makes the difference for me between behaviorizing and humanizing when we describe the interest.

    Glad Prizant is on the "intrinsic benefit" kick.

    I like how he points out that most people have interests and hobbies (and admits that we tend to get more intense in ours, because we do, but it's not the act of having an interest that's autism-specific.)

    I know! A lot of uninformed or minimally informed people do assume the "having an interest thing". Another clarifier is Francesca G E Happe at the end of "Autistic Autobiographies" - she does use a long cognitivist explanation which is accessible as she takes us through the theory.

    He does address times when an interest can get us into trouble -- the key is when pursuing an interest could violate someone else's boundaries/consent, we don't get to do that. (He doesn't put it in those words, but it is the common thread between the examples given.) Which is legitimate.

    ***

    In autistic spaces, taking turns sharing lots of information about our interests is considered social engagement. (The taking turns so that we all get to do it is part of what's great about it.) Plus we can find folks with the same interest. The other thing is that many interests will have clubs or interest groups: heck yes we may want to join those! Arranging to spend more of our time in the places where we already fit is very much a thing.

    ***

    That doesn't mean it can never work -- he gives some examples where building an interest into a career seems to have gone fine, at least from the outsider perspective, but keep the caveats in mind before suggesting someone else do it.

    ***

    Dani has a great current post on "Satire and Ability". Which does talk about how poor we are at evaluating the motivations of others. ;-)

    ***

    All the bits about "Enthusiasms and Learning" are good.

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