12 April, 2010

a public service announcement

(because I told Todd I was sorry for being mean, but if you're not Todd you might just read this exchange and think I'm super mean): everything [Dawn Eddings Prince] wrote is really beautiful and I feel the same way as some of it. But I feel really uncomfortable about anyone ASD who goes around saying they're not disabled. I understand that's maybe not what she's doing but I guess I'm just really sensitive to that.

This is how her article is described by Ethos, the journal it appears in: "Dawn Eddings Prince, who provides an emic or 'native' point of view, sharing her experience as an anthropologist with Asperger’s Syndrome and illustrating autism as a different way of being, rather than merely a medical condition."

??? Well, first of all, ASD is not a medical condition, it's a developmental disability. It's not a medical condition "merely" or in any other way. It's not a medical condition at all.

Second, all disabilities are ways of being.

I know that people with disabilities are alive and that we feel stuff. I think that assuming that people with disabilities feel really awful all the time, or feel terribly incomplete, is wrong. I think that a lot of the bad things that happen to disabled people come out of an idea that a)we're always in pain, or b)we feel things, especially happy things, with less vividness than everyone else. And a total refusal on the part of nondisabled people to listen to that.

So...when I hear people talking about how autism or any particular ASD is a "way of being" my question ends up being like...duh? And...why just ASD? Why not other disabilities too?

I am very very oversensitive to this kind of thing, I know. The truth is, fallacies about ASD not being a disability are my very favorite fallacies to tear apart, and I guess I try to sniff them out more than is entirely necessary.


  1. I enjoyed reading her stuff and I feel like I sort of understand what she means. I personally do feel like I get a lot of good stuff from having NLD, and I can see why ASDs in general would be useful to anthropologists. I've spent a lot of my life studying and trying to understand [neurotypical] human beings anyway, and maybe she had the same experience and that's what lead her to anthropology...?

    I'm not sure if she's trying to say that ASD is not a disability, or if she's trying to go all social model and point out that it's society's emphasis on people having certain skills and not having other skills that "disables" us -- in other words, that makes our abilities seem less worthy than those of NTs.

    I think I get where you're coming from though, because it also really annoys me when people say that [insert disability here] is not a disability because people who have it can be successful, or can be happy, or can pass, or can be smart, or whatever. I feel like when some people say "I don't experience [insert whatever disability they have here] as a disability," what they're really tring to say is "Having this disability doesn't make my life bad." But by equating that with not being disabled, they're basically saying that "real" disabilities always make people's lives bad. Which is untrue and also icky of them to say.

  2. Oh you weren't mean, let alone super mean.

    I haven't read her books but did browse in the electronic version of Expecting Teryk, the book she wrote to her son while she was pregnant with him.

    Her first and best friends were gorillas, and she regards them as people.

    What would "disability" or "autism" mean in a gorilla social context?