30 March, 2010

Good Behavior and Psychoanalysis

Jelly told me about this person named Smockity Frocks who is a Christian homeschooling blogger and apparently never heard of disabled people before in her life. She took her post down and replaced it with a link to Autism Speaks (of course, because it's better to eradicate people with disabilities than treat them with charity and understanding) but it's cached here: http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B5C2Ta2YGCfTYmRhOTliZTUtNjQ5ZC00MmNjLWJmYzItNWU5MjNlYzU4ZTc3&hl=en

Basically, her post was about how she was at the library with her kids, READING THE BIBLE (for some reason that's my favorite part), and this other kid was waiting for the computer that SF's daughter was using. The other kid got very frustrated by waiting and started flapping her hands and saying, "I'm being really patient," to which her grandmother would reply, "Yes, you're being very patient, soon you'll be able to use the computer." So SF made a post about how no one understands how to treat kids anymore, and this kid was majorly spoiled and wasn't actually being patient at all, or something.

Then a bunch of people commented on it and were like, "This kid obviously has ASD and you fail at being Christian." Smockity Frocks was like, "Well, her grandmother should have made her read a book instead." Then the other people said, "That might not have worked with a kid who has ASD," and it all climaxed with Smockity Frocks declaring, "Well, YOU'RE not being very Christian YOURSELF, because what if I have a disability that keeps me from being able to tolerate kids who are BRATS??"

Oh, boy. There is a collection of response posts here from people whose kids have disabilities: A Message for Smockity Frocks. I haven't read them all but I like Kristina Chew's post a lot. Jelly also wrote a post, which is really good: Oh the joys of judgmental people. From my not especially thorough skimming, it seems like Jelly is the only ASD person who has written a post.

This was striking to me because I've been having a lot of trouble with waiting lately. I've said I've been having shutdowns but that's not really true because they're not really a state of bluntedness or distance, which is how I think of shutdowns; at the same time I don't want to call them meltdowns because I don't actually do anything. They're like proto-meltdowns, and they happen in situations like this, when I'm waiting for something to happen, or something to be over, and I get so tremendously agitated that I feel like I'm going to have...well, a regular meltdown. Which isn't practical since I'm 21. To stop it from happening I start trying to scratch myself with pens and stuff.

I'm sure that if someone looks around the room when a class is running long and sees me gritting my teeth and scratching my arms with a pen, it probably looks to them like I'm being a jerk and trying to tell everyone how much I don't like the class, but this isn't the case. Trying to judge other people's morals is a terrible idea, and CS Lewis explains this much better than I can in the chapter of Mere Christianity called Morality and Psychoanalysis. (I think this chapter isn't that specific to Christianity and can still be useful and interesting if you're not Christian.) CSL points out that you don't know what is happening to a person inside and it's not fair to just judge them by what they do because you don't know what they're fighting against.

[Note: I know that CSL equates homosexuality with having a phobia of cats. I think this is actually pretty charitable given his time period and culture, because he understands that a person can't help being gay and a gay person can be moral, or at least move in a moral direction. Obviously your mileage may vary, but I think he has a good attitude given his raw material.]

This is part of why instead of saying "high-functioning," "low-functioning," etc., I like to say "severely affected," "mildly affected," and so on. This means that instead of thinking about what the person appears to be doing, I'm thinking about what they are working against or around. This seems like a fairer and more accurate way of thinking about people.

The greatest story ever told: At the ASD school where I interned last summer, they used to take the kids on the subway. A lot of the kids had trouble taking the subway and their aides would try to make things easier, for example they'd hold a big clipboard in front of the kid showing how many points the kid was earning by being well-behaved. Also some of the kids would wear iPods on the subway.

Another thing that made the experience easier was being able to sit down. If people didn't offer their seats to the kids, the aides would sometimes ask. Apparently, one time they asked this woman if she could move over so one of the kids, who not only disliked standing, but also had a cold, could sit down. So she very slightly moved over and sat there glaring at the kid, who was squished in next to her. AND THEN HE SNEEZED ON HER FACE.

1 comment:

  1. I read that Smockity Frock's post, too... my favorite part is definitely that she was all into catching up on her Bible reading.

    I love that story about the subway! Almost the exact same thing happened to a kid I was working with, only it was on a Trax train and the kid got snot EVERYWHERE.