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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the tag “autism”

A Meeting of Two Autistics

I go outside to take out the garbage and meet my autistic neighbor.

“Thank you!” I blurt out.

“Merry Christmas!” he echoes.

We exchange a knowing stare and continue on our respective ways.

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Nominating Simon Baron-Cohen for the Best Comic of the Year Award

In his recent article on the bugbear of autism, a trashy journalist Michael Hanlon mentions that Simon Baron-Cohen is a cousin of the comedian Sacha Baron-Cohen. I don’t know, in my opinion Simon is such a great comedian that Sacha must find it very hard to compete.

Simon Baron-Cohen’s most recent theory on the horrible and terrifying rise of autism is so hilarious that one can use it to entertain people at parties for years. As an autistic who is always on the look-out for material to discuss at social gatherings, I, for one, feel grateful to Baron-Cohen for his latest exercise in idiocy.

Baron-Cohen begins his comedy routine by introducing the concept of a “male brain.” If you think that a male brain is a brain possessed by a male, think again. Something so straightforward and logical wouldn’t be funny, and Baron-Cohen never allows reason to stop him when he is trying to fashion his latest theory. In the bizarro land this comic inhabits, a male brain is that of an autistic. Even when the autistic in question is female.

Real autistics have “extremely male brains”, whatever that means. For Simon Baron-Cohen, “male” and “extremely male” are terms that stand in lieu of everything positive. Which means that “female” and “extremely female” . . . I’m sure you can continue this simple thought on your own.

You don’t have to be an autistic genius with an extremely male brain to figure out where this comedy routine will go next. The next step down this road is, of course, blaming feminists for women getting smarter and upgrading their stupid female brains in the direction of becoming male. Or even, oh horror, extremely male.

I just imagined a woman’s brain growing a penis and realized that Baron-Cohen is a comedic genius of an incredible range.

So imagine what will happen if two owners of extremely male brains marry. Wait, is gay marriage legal now? That would be good news. Until that happens, though, maybe we should have the courage of our society’s anti-gay convictions and prevent the owners of extremely male brains to marry, what do you think?

And then, the real horror takes place. The owners of extremely male brains can end up reproducing. Baron-Cohen searches valiantly for the best term to describe the abomination such two folks end up creating. Soon, the word is found: it’s an autistic, of course! The mystery is solved. Evil feminists conspired to rob women of their well-deserved position of subservience, and the world has been punished as a result by the advent of all those horribly damaged autistics.

Hanlon finishes his article with,

It is a fascinating theory and we await the results of the new study with interest.

I couldn’t agree more. Baron-Cohen should sell this stuff to a cable network and get a weekly comedy show. Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien never came up with anything even remotely this funny so effortlessly. Baron-Cohen, however, churns out these theories like hot cakes.

Thank you, marc2020, for bringing me this great link!

How to Argue With Autistics

1. If an autistic presents a logical argument that appeals to reason, say “You are just saying this because you are autistic. We all know you guys are incapable of empathy and your emotional range is limited.”

2. If an autistic appeals to emotions and shares what s/he feels about certain things, say “You are just reacting like this because you are autistic. Certain things that are easy for the regular people are very hard for you, which is why you get so emotional about this.”

3. Whenever an autistic says something you dislike, share a story of an autistic you met (or your friend’s neighbor’s acquaintance met) who was a total jerk.

4. If the preceding piece of advice doesn’t manage to shut the pesky autistic up, share with him or her a bit of wisdom about autism you gleaned from an article you read (or your acquaintance’s sister’s girlfriend read and told you about).

5. Never miss an opportunity to explain to an autistic what autism is really all about.

Two Sides of Autism

Today, I had to record an audio of a lecture for my students. For ten minutes, I struggled with the microphone because I had no idea how to put it on. I used a mirror, I turned it every which way, I stared at it, trying to understand how it worked. Nothing helped. Finally, I had to ask N. to come and put the earphone with the mike on me.

Here is the microphone I struggled with

N. found my struggle with the mike impossible to understand. He thought I was kidding when I said I couldn’t figure out how it worked. For me, however it was truly a daunting task. Now that I have taken it off, I still have absolutely no idea how to put it back on.

However, I then managed to record my lecture from beginning to end, using no notes or memory aides, never stopping or pausing (except where the context required it, of course). I wanted it to be about 30 minutes long and it ended up being 33 minutes long, so no editing will be needed. It came out exactly as I wanted, and the effort that went into it was minimal.

This is how autism works, people. A task that involves a minimal degree of manual dexterity and a basic understanding of left and right is impossible for me to carry out. At the same time, a much more complex intellectual task is effortless.

Deodorants and Autism

Somebody alighted on my blog via the following search:

link between deodorants and autism

My response to this weird creature is: just get a grip, buddy. As somebody from a family with generations of hereditary autism and absolutely no deodorants till very recently, I can tell you there is no link.

What next, autism being “caused” by vaccines?

There is all kinds of stupid in the world.

On Self-Service Check-Outs and Autistics

Before you start celebrating the reduction of the number of self-service check-outs in grocery stores, please think of the many autistics for whom a self-service counter is often the only way to purchase food in a non-traumatic manner.

A supermarket cashier can at least try to find another job. An autistic can do nothing to stop being who s/he is.

What’s Your Address?

You know what I really don’t enjoy? In many stores, when you are trying to pay, they start asking you for your phone number and address. I’m autistic, so when I’m put on the spot this way, I immediately forget my address and phone number utterly and completely.

So then I start getting nervous, especially when the cashier looks at me expectantly.

And, of course, I start inventing weird phone numbers and addresses just to get the cashier to leave me in peace.

And then the cashier starts telling me that they don’t sound right and if am I sure this is, indeed, my address.

And, of course, I get even more flustered and start cursing the moment when I had the silly idea to go into that store at all.

And the cashier picks up on my nervousness and starts examining my card very closely.

And this makes me feel like I’m some kind of a suspicious individual which always leads me to lose my speaking faculties altogether.

All this, just because I decided to buy a new hair-brush. Seriously, people, I don’t know what I would do if I online shopping didn’t exist.

There had also been a few occasions when I was asked unexpectedly for my first and last name and I blanked completely. I just stood there, staring at the person who was asking me, at a loss as to what my name could possibly be. It usually helps to fake a fit of coughing in these situations.

The Jerk of the Week

And the title of the Jerk of the Week goes to this weird creature who equates Libertarianism with autism, and in particular with Asperger’s:

That’s why this Brain on Drugs public service announcement about heroin seems comical to libertarians, but makes sensible people cry.  Gift networks are very emotion-laden.  I haven’t worked it out yet, but I think this ties in with the idea of  libertarianism as applied autism.

And then this illiterate creature continues his unenlightened musings:

I’m talking about the fact that many autistics (for example some Aspergers that I know) do not “get” certain types of emotional signalling such as raised voices, angry faces, body language, etc. I would guess that they might not perceive and thus not empathize with the emotion in the video. That’s why I’d compare a laughing libertarian to them.

See? He knows “some Aspergers”, hence he is an authority on autism. I don’t know if the stupid individual who wrote this trash is capable of “getting” certain types of emotional signalling, so I’ll spell it out for him: such jerkwad freakazoids like yourself disgust me with their smug belief that they are somehow entitled to judge things their tiny little brains are incapable of processing. Right now, I feel a lot of empathy for everyone who has had to spend even three minutes in the company of such a bizarre loser as yourself.

I hope this is emotional and empathetic enough for this pathetic autism-basher to shut the fuck up about us, the supposedly non-emotional autistics.

Thank you, n8chz, for bringing this to my attention.

An Autistic at a Party

I had what I call “a bad autistic day” today. On a bad day, I feel like my head is filled with wet cotton wool, I lose all peripheral vision, my language skills and hearing get impaired, and I can’t perform many of the very simple, basic tasks. I was trying to work on my translation but I had to keep looking up in the dictionary words like “smooth” and “eternal”.

And this, of course, had to be a day that I had to attend a departmental party.

This was a baby shower for a colleague I really adore, so missing it was out of the question. Besides, I had promised to bring a dish, and the person who was organizing the party – and who is a colleague I adore even more – was counting on me to bring the dish.

Honestly, it took all I had to make the shepherd’s pie I wanted to make tolerably well and deliver it to the party.

Autism gives one many amazing gifts but it also limits you a lot on what you are and can do. I even have to tell N. regularly, “I’m autistic, you have to accept that I will do XYZ.”

So this was one of the bad days.

The moment I got to the party, a colleague to whom I speak to every day at work exclaimed, “Oh, so this is your husband! You have to introduce me to him!” And, of course, at that point I didn’t remember anybody’s name, including hers. I felt completely humiliated.

“This is N., my husband!” I announced. “And these are my colleagues.” The colleagues (all of whom were instructors and adjuncts) must have surely thought I was snubbing them for not being “real professors” and, therefore, worthy of being presented by name.

I know that I should have discussed my autism with my colleagues who are instructors by now, especially since one of them, according to the departmental rumor, has two autistic sons. However, it has been quite a trial on my patience to discuss it with people I hang out with more often. Some try to pretend I never mentioned it and just talk over me out of a sense of discomfort. Some start treating me like a have a terminal disease to the extent of leading me to a chair. Some get so uncomfortable that I start wondering whether, instead of autism, I might have said I have three heads, two of which are growing out of my ass.

Nothing makes me happier than discussing autism but it’s hard to do when people just clam up whenever you mention it. So I stopped bringing it up in a professional context.

During the party, a colleague came up to me, put her hand on my forearm and said, “Look, I just heard about your predicament, and I have to say that I’m very very sorry. My husband and I had to go through the same thing, so I totally get how you are feeling right now.”

N. and I recently were told that the green card process will be delayed for moths yet again. For us, this means N. will have to stay unemployed for at least 6 months more. Of course, we are understandably distraught. I had no idea how my colleague had found out about all this, but I was grateful for the compassion.

‘Thank you!” I said. “It is very hard on both of us.”

“You know, my husband and I had to keep trying for ten years before we got there,” the colleague said.

‘Ten years?” I thought. “OK, that’s just horrible. Nobody said it could last this long for us.”

“And you know what happened?” the colleague continued. “We finally got what we wanted. And – believe it or not – just nine months later we got another one!”

“This is getting too weird,” I mused. “Why would anybody want a second green card 9 months after the first one?”

So I wandered off and then a second colleague accosted me.

“I have just heard you’ve been trying to get pregnant forever,” she said. “This must be so hard on you!”

Before long, another colleague approached me to share his compassion with my supposed conception issues.

Finally, I realized that somebody must have started a rumor that we’d been trying fruitlessly to get pregnant and were suffering as a result. It’s good that I don’t mind this specific rumor, but just imagine a person for whom this is, indeed, a sore point. What kind of emotional damage such rumors could have caused?

When my sister got pregnant but was still unwilling to share the news, her colleagues practically hounded her with endless “Are you pregnant? I know you must be” questions. Finally, she snapped and said to her most insistent colleague,  “Please try to concentrate on what’s going on between your legs rather than what’s happening between mine.”

This is a piece of advice many people would be served well to heed.

Autism-Friendly OB-GYNs

Nominatissima just published an absolutely fantastic post that provides a list of what OB-GYNs could do to make gynecological services more autism-friendly. I hope that as many people as possible read this post and then forward it to others, link to it or quote from it.

Visiting an OB-GYN is torture for an autistic person. I always keep putting off my appointment for as long as I can. I know that I’m placing myself at risk by doing so but the whole thing is very painful exactly for the reasons listed in Nominatissima’s enlightening post.

In grad school, I had on OB-GYN who kept making jokes during the whole process. Probably, she thought she was going to help me relax this way. However, I need a lot more time than an NT person to process a joke even under the most propitious of circumstances. In a high-stress environment such as an OB-GYN’s office, I’m really in no condition to process humor.

“Why aren’t you laughing? It’s funny, just laugh,” she kept saying. Honestly, it felt like badgering. And the problem is that when I feel badgered, I can’t speak. So you can imagine how much I enjoyed the whole situation.

The OB-GYN I got after I asked to be switched from the comedian was a chatty type. She was like one of those hair-dressers who seem to think that entertaining the customer with inane questions is part of the job description. Believe me, the last thing an autistic person wants to do when she lies there with her legs spread open and a stranger rummaging there for non-sexual purposes is to be questioned about stuff that has nothing to do with gynecological health. “So what are you doing for Labor Day?” is really not a necessary question to ask in this situation.

The next OB-GYN was an exclamatory type. You know those people who put an exclamation into every sentence? They are definitely not the kind of people you want to let anywhere near your genitals. “Ahha!”, “Ay yay yay!”, “Wow!” and “Ouch!” are not things you want to hear from a person who stares into your vagina. Comments of the “Hmmm. . . Interesting. . .” variety are also not necessary.

It would be great if people acquainted themselves with Nominatissima’s post and a conversation about how to make gynecological exams more bearable for autistics began.

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