Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Being autistic compared to being neurotypical

I heard a wonderful interview last night on National Public Radio with Lisa Daxer, an autistic biomedical engineering student. It is worth listening to, here.

But Lisa also has a blog, Reports from a Resident Alien, which is also worth reading. Here's a lovely excerpt:

Most neurotypicals (who aren't artists or children) will probably never notice the beauty in the patterns on a cracked sidewalk, or the gorgeous way the sun reflects off an oil slick after the rain. They'll probably never know what it's like to immerse yourself in a subject and learn everything about it, and the beauty of having all those facts lined up. They'll probably never know what it's like to flap their hands in happiness, or lose yourself in the feel of a cat's fur. There are lovely things about being autistic, too, just as there must be about being neurotypical. Oh, make no bones about it: It's difficult. The world's not set up to operate with autistic people in mind; and autistic people and their families face prejudice every day. But being a happy autistic person isn't "being brave" or "making the best of it". It's quite simply being happy. You don't have to be normal to be happy.


Anonymous said...

This is to take nothing away from the author, nor the difficulties she has overcome - but I continue to take issue with the practices of those who choose to identify themselves via a label of popularly perceived "disability" - and go on to use a means of valuing themselves that simultaneously devalues others. The term "neurotypical" - if I understand it correctly - is quite offensive, and would seem to strip certain abilities from those not sharing the diagnoses the author ascribes to herself and her peers.

Self worth and identity should never be tied to the inabilities of others, regardless of which side of a spectrum one may find themselves.

Perhaps the author should be more careful with her assumptions of what those around her can and cannot experience, learn and feel - where she may be sensitive to the same assumptions being made about her on the basis of her diagnosis.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:32;

I did not interpret the author's post in anywhere near the same fashion as you did; I see no harm nor foul.

You may find illuminating, by way of analogy, the Kevin MD blog post to which Paul refers in his "Hope be not Proud" post below, where certain commenters were offended by e-patient Dave's statements in his book - an interpretation which was not intended by him at all.

IMO, these examples simply point out the inadequacies, even dangers, of blogosphere/written communication, without visual cues or opportunities for immediate clarification. We should all be cautious and inquire rather than accuse.


Anonymous said...

I agree with nonlocal, all the more so here, where an aspect of the writer's autism may include a manner of expression and communication somewhat different from the norm.

Anonymous said...

"Neurotypical" is not an offensive term; it's strictly factual. It's meant to be an alternative to the word "normal", and an opposite to the term "neurodiverse", which means "people who do not have the standard brain configuration".

I most certainly am not devaluing anyone when I use the term "neurotypical" or "NT". I just don't like using "normal", because that still comes with so much baggage that it completely overwhelms any message I'm trying to communicate... at one point, I jokingly called myself "not normal" and got a ten-minute lecture on how I was insulting myself and how I should have better self-esteem. The phrase, "people without autism or any other condition that deviates from the average neurology of the human brain" gets awfully long every time you try saying it. We needed a shorthand, so "neurotypical" was coined.

Analogues for the term "NT" or "neurotypical" are words like "heterosexual", "nondisabled", "cisgender", "typical", or "mainstream"--that is, it's a term created to denote a group of people who do not belong to a certain minority group.