Thoughts

One of the things I love about TV news is the team aspect to it. I love the ability that it gives me to interact and work with people.  We are all human beings and on some level we all want to be a part of a group. Even autistics gather together in a group that we call the Autism Community. It doesn’t mean we don’t have our disagreements, but that is part of being human and of working and socializing with others… humans are not designed to work alone.  Why would anyone assume that because I am autistic I want to work alone? I am a human being. We all want to be social in some way.  Autism is just a part of me but it is not all of me.

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We Must Rise Above

As a disability rights advocate I have come to a simple conclusion…we must rise above. What I mean by that is simple…we must rise above the rudeness. We must rise above the personal attacks. We must rise above the mudslinging. Our job is not to act in the scurrilous and often disreputable manner that many people behave like towards us. We must always be better people. The lens of society is always scrutinizing our behavior just looking for any reason to disqualify us from the assumption that we are all capable human beings and we must use that to our advantage.
We must lead by the example we we set. We cannot let those who do not understand or those who do not know or those who fear us get to us with the often mean and degrading things people will say. Our job is to be better and to inform people about our particular conditions in a manner that is polite and we civil. We must rise above the muck and live our lives with both class and dignity. How can we ask for respect if some of is cannot show it? We must rise above the need to bully and treat with scorn people in our own community those who are more severely affected than us. Are they not our brethren? Do they not want the things that we want in life?
We must rise above the ignorance that we face day in and day out and not return people’s ignorant s scornful remarks with equally scornful remarks. We must return fear and hate and ignorance with compassion, love and knowledge. Knowledge is our ally. Knowledge and the ability to spread it is how we can spread our wings and fly.  If we don’t do that all the time we will crash and burn and all our work will be for nothing. We must rise above.

A Failure to Communicate Part 3: Autism and Intelligence

When I first read Emily Titon’s satirical post “A Person With Autism Manages To Do Something” I was drawn back to a post I wrote a while ago about Autism and relationships. While Emily’s post is satirical it is effective at pointing the general attitudes people have towards Joe Autie and the wonderful thing he did the one what I noticed the most was the surprise that Emily Expert had at Joe Auties ability to do something wonderful. I imagine if Joe Autie had been quoted in this satirical article his response to all the amazement would have been “Well duh! I have known I can do that my whole life.”
This got me thinking about how we perceive intelligence. So I posted a question on my Facebook to get an answer:

“I have often wondered why people associate interaction skills with any other skills or with intelligence? Autistics struggle with their interaction skills but that does not mean we are incapable of doing anything else. To assume otherwise is incorrect. We can be team players or a part of a group. We don’t interact because we don’t want to we don’t do it often because we struggle with it. Often people only have perceptions of what they see and hear to make assessments of what others are capable of based upon those factors. I was hoping a person who doesn’t have Autism could respond to this.”

Three of my friends answered. The first to answer was Matthew Gilbert. Gilbert is an adjunct professor of business at National University. Strayer University, and UCLA extension. His son is autistic.

“I think because it is hard to grasp someone’s intelligence until he/she communicates or applies it — otherwise it is really impossible to understand. Like the difference between potential energy vs. kinetic energy perhaps? My son, who is on the spectrum, is very intelligent but until he could talk (after lots of ABA) it was really hard to “see” that. Now, he is very sociable and uses wordplay to engage people as well as his love of bad jokes and math.”

I responded simply:  Seeing is believing then?

Gilbert responded:

“Then again, think about celebrated artists from hundreds of years ago who we can’t interact with (or there are no audio or video recordings of them). We make assumptions about their intelligence and abilities by their art, which I suppose is still communication (literally, as you wrote, seeing).”

What Gilbert said had a hollow ring of truth to it. Intelligence is not just a number or a score. It can’t be measured accurately in an exam. People cannot be quantified by numbers. Society in general makes assumptions about a person’s intelligence all the time. As Gilbert said what about those long dead composers where our only way to assess their intelligence is to listen to their music? Too much emphasis is placed on how a person sounds or the phrasing that they use. Their is a distinct difference between a person’s written and spoken vocabulary. As Louis Pugliese a lecturer in Educational Psychology at California, State University told VideoJug.com, “There are many ways to be smart and there are multiple intelligences.”

See link for Pugliese’s complete interview.  http://www.videojug.com/interview/types-of-intelligence-2

Still the idea of the societal value we place on good communication skills is problematic to me even though there are several types of intelligences and not just one general intelligence. As Pugliese points out Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence is only one type of intelligence.

Autistics are often discriminated against because of the confusion that exists in society as to the difference between Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence and general intelligence.

Cecily Arambula who was the second person to answer my question on Facebook had this to say about the difference between communication skills and intelligence.

“I think society tells us that anyone diagnosed with something is different from those NOT diagnosed with something. If you can’t interact with me, you must not be able to do anything correctly. Societal ignorance.”

Arambula is right. I have noticed that many people who are diagnosed with disorders that affect their speech communication skills such as stuttering are often ostracized for being stupid or incapable. Some autistics are nonverbal in other words they cannot talk. Because of this they are assumed to be retarded. Yet put a typewriter in front ot that person they can write very effectively. Written commiunication is one part of Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence. Carly Fleischmann is perhaps one of the most well known autistics that cannot speak but can write.

The type of discrimination that Fleischmann and other autistics such as myself have faced is something that is of great concern to Pia Prenevost whose son is autistic told me via Facebook that this type of discrimination is the greatest fear she has for her son.

“He struggles with communication (he also has apraxia of speech) and is far behind in his language skills. However, I know… and can see concrete evidence… that he is wicked smart. His problem solving skills are off the chart, and he demonstrates great ability to learn… even with the significant challenges he faces in communicating and socializing. I am so very afraid that he will be judged as being not able to learn because of his obvious difference instead of his actual ability.

He is 5 and is going to kindergarten this fall and I just don’t even know how to handle the school people, to be honest. They look at the ‘label’ and make assumptions and not really get to know his abilities and unique learning style…. Anyway, I guess I will work it out but I can say in no uncertain terms I dread it.”

Prenevost has a right to be concerned.  He will be judged. It’s what people do. We just have to teach our children to ignore the naysayers and keep living their lives and to do what they love to do. By doing that he can be happy and educate the ignorant.

The Advocate – Love and loneliness

The column for which I won second place for best personal experience story from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in 2007.  A fact I am proud of.  The Advocate was the first weekly column in a campus newspaper, The Daily Titan, describing life with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Love is perhaps the most commonly discussed, pondered and philosophized subject in the world. For those involved with
the treatment of Asperger’s, as well as those who have it, love is still a topic for discussion and thought.
The city on a hill is the perfect metaphor to describe the Daily Titan newsroom. With its location on the sixth floor of College
Park, it is like that city ona hill where students, through hard work, can enjoy the fruits of their labor and all the academic and personal
successes. Yet it can definitely be lonely at the top. Success, in my estimation, is meaningless when there’s no one to appreciate it.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, love is on the minds of everyone.With Asperger’s, the discussion is less philosophical in nature. The conversation is more about “can we love?” as opposed to the very nature of love itself.

The question is irrelevant.

Can you breathe?

We are capable of love like any other human being. The ability to love by both Aspie, (adiminutive name for someone with Asperger’s) and non-autistic alike is what makes us human. Aspies such as myself choose to express love in a way that does not fit the ordinary definitions of love. Even those who are not autistic differ in the ways they express love and show affection, but it does not make the feelings less real or less wonderful and beautiful. Love created the universe, which is reflected in the eyes of those we love. Being a male student on a campus that is 64 percent female does have its advantages – to which the remaining 36 percent can attest – but on the other hand it has its disadvantages.

Let’s face it, most autistics are men and most men never really understand women, least of all autistics. I choose to express myself through words and actions, and I have found saying “I love you” is much more powerful than giving out candied hearts on Valentine’s. Words are more powerful than any gesture. Yet love is something that anyone wants and deserves. People assume that whenever a disabled person mentions the things they deserve, they often mistakenly assume that we deserve those things because we are disabled.

In contrast, it is not because we are disabled but because we are human.
As I spend my time in this city on a hill, the world seems that much bigger and just that much more isolated. Perhaps being such an extreme man has had a part in that. But that discussion will have to wait.

Love life and be gentle: Megan goes to college. And oh yeah, she rocks her extra chromosome.

This girl Megan is an inspiration. She has Down’s Syndrome and Type 1 Diabetes and attends Kent State University.
http://lovelifeandbegentle.blogspot.com/2012/05/megan-goes-to-college-and-oh-yeah-she.html?m=1

Aspirations

I have a dream for myself. I will not give up on achieving my dreams. Everything I do is to achieve that dream.
Film school is a dream of mine and I will accomplish that dream no matter what it takes. I’ve already completed one dream now on to another.
If I get accepted to film school, I will complete the program for the MFA in documentary filmmaking while continuing to work at ABC News.
Once I am done I am going to apply for jobs with ABC News in New York and make documentaries about autism and LA history. It will happen!