Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rain Men or Retards

This exchange popped up in my Facebook newsfeed yesterday. Let's ignore the possible over-sharing on the part of Red (though as over-sharing goes, this was relatively tasteful) and look at Blue's response.

Depending on Blue's analysis of the technology in question, Blue's use of "autism" could either mean "genius" or "brain dead." Not knowing what sort of phone Red has, and judging from Blue's lack of grammatical skills, I assume Blue is not using the word "autism" to mean "super smart," but I admit I do not have enough information to decide if I find this comment funny or offensive. In response to my seeking clarification, Blue said he was "trying to be funny," though that doesn't explain what he thought the punchline was. Maybe Blue's phone constantly makes funny noises or insists on calling the same number over and over...

These are two of the wildly different ways people on the spectrum seem to be portrayed in the media: "Rain Men" or "Retards," brilliant or defective.

Neither caricature is accurate, of course, because all people - autistic or otherwise - are individuals, but some assumptions can cause more harm than others. Why does it matter? Because people's attitudes and actions are usually linked, and if you think folks on the spectrum are less than human, you'll probably treat them that way.

Case in point: this week an Illinois Republican running for state congress said in a public interview that autism and dementia are Divine Punishments because “God is angry. We are provoking Him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions.” Now, if she believes Autism is Bad - like, plague of locusts and striking of the firstborn kind of bad - what kinds of laws might she support for her autistic (not to mention gay/demented/pro-choice) constituents if she were elected (God forbid)? Would you expect her to help maintain special eduction funding or to cut it and divert that money to something God would like better?

I would like to think that Blue has a way-better phone than Red, but most folks don't throw around the word "autism" as high praise.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Catching up

So, um, Happy New Year. I know I've been scarce around here, what with all the personal demons to wrestle with, so I feel a catch-up post is in order.

The Nutcracker was a tremendous success for all involved. Miss Debbie really pulled the troops together. Ryan was in three dances, and was very proud of his three different costumes. First he was a solder battling the Rat King.

Ryan is the tiny one at center.
Then he got to do his beloved Russian Dance.
Photo by his teacher, who had much better seats than we did.
 And finally he was a melting snowflake.
Again, tiny one at center.

He was rightfully proud of himself.

After Nutcracker, there was another week of school, and then the dreaded Winter Break began. I am not a fan of school breaks, because the sudden change in schedule makes it really hard for Ryan to regulate his behaviors and emotions, and when Ryan feels distress, we all feel distress. This break was especially hard for me because I was still distraught over that whole never-being-able-to-play-roller-derby-again thing. Put me in a stressful situation and take away my primary coping mechanism, my mind goes to some pretty dark corners.

Then, after a full year of anticipation, Christmas finally came.
Then more vacation. We took a couple of train rides into the city, first to see The Gazillion Bubbles Show, and then to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Ryan loved them both, and most especially enjoyed riding the train. And there was sledding and playdates and meltdowns and a birthday party, interspersed with daily pleas from Ryan to back to school. (Yes, my kid WANTS to go to school.)

Then when school finally resumed, there were 1 1/2 snow days and some tearing of hair. Then I started taking classes at a boxing/kickboxing gym to see if that will fill part of the derby-shaped hole in my life. My therapist has advised against relying on aggressive sports as a substitute for feeling my feelings, but I'm not yet convinced that it would be better to sit and mindfully observe my own sadness than to throw a solid punch.

We now return you to my regularly-scheduled life.

"I like to dream about the alphabet."

Once when Ryan was around three or four he woke up in the middle of the night screaming, and when I asked what was wrong, he said "Dinosaur" with a tone of both terror and bewilderment. That's the closest he's ever come to revealing the contents of a dream.

I've always wondered, of course, what he dreams about. I've asked him, but he doesn't yet have the capacity for that kind of storytelling.

Last week, Dream was one of his spelling words. At school he used it in a sentence:

Of course.

He likes to dream about the alphabet.