The set of social, political, cultural, and personal rules favors a particular way of thinking, feeling, behaving, and communicating as superior to others: the neurotypical form.
Our parents are ashamed of our differences, and we notice it. They continually repress us when out of instinct we obey our neurology. They deny us reasonable adjustments because according to their own neurology, our differences are meaningless and no one has explained to them that it is a right.
The vast majority of medical interventions around autism are not accepting of autism as one of the many biological possibilities of human diversity. Without evidence, they pathologize our differences, dehumanizing us.
The authorities force us to submit to systems that do not take into account our differences, making access to our human rights difficult.
The neuronorm forces us to camouflage ourselves when it is possible (at a very high cost in health and dignity) and when it is not possible we are denied the presumption of competence and the most basic rights are taken away from us: dignity, freedom, education and even the right to live.
We are the rare ones, the strangers, those who do not share the codes that unite society. We are the epitome of what it means to be “the other,” our way of being considered “not valid.”
NEURONORM: The Neuronorm is the set of social, political, cultural and personal norms that privilege a particular way of thinking, feeling, behaving, and communicating as superior to others.
Forty hours of look at me/quiet hands? No more fluttering your hands in a language only you know, no more flapping your hands watching golden drops of happiness fly from your fingertips as you hum … no more angry bolts of lightening flying from your nails as you shake your hands so hard your wrists pound.
No more you.
Twenty accessible pages on autistic minds that I recommend to every educator.
Recently, I coined the neologism ‘psychsplaining’ to try and account for the way those categorised by psych-professionals are often reduced within such relationships to that of the ‘sick role’ (Parsons 1951), with one’s own interpretations of oneself undermined by the ‘expert knowledge’ being projected upon the autistic person, who by default is positioned in a relatively powerless social position of medical ‘patient’.
An essential component of my journey was an identity transformation from being a patient to being an agent.
We’ve built this whole infrastructure about fixing folks, about turning people into passive recipients of treatment and service, of turning people into patients. But being a patient is the most disempowered place a human being can be.
We need to cultivate a sense of agency in people which is the opposite of patient hood.
We have a medical community that’s found a sickness for every single human difference. DSM keeps growing every single year with new ways to be defective, with new ways to be lessened.
When I meet other people, ‘autistic’ or not, there is something instinctive in me that looks for where systems in them match systems in me.
When I am around non-autistic people I soon know they function according to a generally alien system of functioning that makes little match with my own. I know this is because they are essentially multi-track and I am essentially mono.
See also: Posts tagged monotropism
The Trump administration is a continuous reminder that racism is “the most slovenly of predictive models”.
Needless to say, racists don’t spend a lot of time hunting down reliable data to train their twisted models. And once their model morphs into a belief, it becomes hardwired. It generates poisonous assumptions, yet rarely tests them, settling instead for data that seems to confirm and fortify them. Consequently, racism is the most slovenly of predictive models. It is powered by haphazard data gathering and spurious correlations, reinforced by institutional inequities, and polluted by confirmation bias. In this way, oddly enough, racism operates like many of the WMDs I’ll be describing in this book.
It’s easy for people to dismiss online activism as somehow fake, or at least not significant. When it comes to disability in particular, that’s a mistake. Twitter is the most accessible real-time conversation. It is not perfectly accessible, but its text-based public nature allows people to talk to one another who have radically different modes of interacting with the world. People who have difficulty leaving their homes for reasons of physical or social disabilities, people who are blind or deaf (or both), who do not speak verbally and communicate by typing (regardless of appendage used to type), and those with other disability-related access needs can all use Twitter to talk to each other. I have been in wildly accessible physical spaces, with captioning, ramps, sign, and warnings about a lack of scent. It is possible to make accessible spaces, but Twitter brings us together by design. It’s a space, therefore, where the disability community can manifest as a powerful constituency. And it doesn’t hurt that both journalists and political operatives also hang out on Twitter.
The joyful celebration of pluralism through song perks me up when the world gets me down. I started an inclusion song playlist. What should I add?
- Your stims are stupendous; your happy makes me happy
- I would talk on the phone for you; please don’t make me
- You’re on my red list; let’s get out of here
- I want to know everything about you; do you mind if I take notes?
- I want to spend time in parallel existence with you; let’s be alone together
- Your echolalia is enchanting; let’s back and forth
Selected quotes on the ableist framing of “normal”, “natural”, “defectiveness”, and “overcoming” from the opening of Eli Clare’s “Brilliant Imperfection: Grappling with Cure”.
On “overcoming” disability
Overcoming bombards disabled people. It’s everywhere.
To pose individual hard work, rather than broad-based disability access, as the key to success for people with dyslexia is absurd and ableist.
Sometimes disabled people overcome specific moments of ableism—we exceed low expectations, problem-solve lack of access, avoid nursing homes or long-term psych facilities, narrowly escape police brutality and prison. However, I’m not sure that overcoming disability itself is an actual possibility for most of us. Yet in a world that places extraordinary value in cure, the belief that we can defeat or transcend body-mind conditions through individual hard work is convenient. Overcoming is cure’s backup plan.
Declaring disability a matter of social justice is an important act of resistance—disability residing not in paralysis but in stairs without an accompanying ramp, not in blindness but in the lack of braille and audio books, not in dyslexia but in teaching methods unwilling to flex. In this declaration, disability politics joins other social change movements in the ongoing work of locating the problems of injustice not in individual body-minds but in the world.
On “normal” and “natural” and cure
As an ideology seeped into every corner of white Western thought and culture, cure rides on the back of normal and natural.
First, cure requires damage, locating the harm entirely within individual human body-minds, operating as if each person were their own ecosystem. Second, it grounds itself in an original state of being, relying on a belief that what existed before is superior to what exists currently. And finally, it seeks to return what is damaged to that former state of being.
The vision of me without tremoring hands and slurred speech, with more balance and coordination, doesn’t originate from my visceral history. Rather it arises from an imagination of what I should be like, from some definition of normal and natural.
At the center of cure lies eradication and the many kinds of violence that accompany it.
On “defectiveness” and eradication
Defectiveness wields incredible power because ableism builds and maintains the notion that defective body-minds are undesirable, worthless, disposable, or in need of cure.
Cartwright and the rest use the ableist invention of defectiveness in order to explain and justify the practices of enslavement, imprisonment, institutionalization, and state violence. In essence, they fortify white supremacy by leveraging ableism.
The list of body-mind differences, illnesses, and so-called defects that the medical-industrial complex wants to eradicate goes on and on. This kind of elimination benefits some of us in significant ways—saving our lives or increasing our comfort. At the same time, it also commits damage, routinely turning body-minds into medical objects and creating lies about normal and natural.
as a widespread ideology centered on eradication, cure always operates in relationship to violence.
On the bright side
We take constraints that no one would choose and build rich and satisfying lives within them.