12 November, 2010

2. What this is not

Before I start I should say that I'm not trying to write about what autism is and outright deny that there are social issues. I have in the past made the argument that social impairment in autism doesn't exist--that minorities, especially people who perceive reality differently, can be socially isolated without having an impairment that is objectively social at heart. However, I put forth this argument without being sure I was right. It's an extremely complicated question.

What I'm trying to do in writing this piece is destabilize the idea that people with autism (or, for that matter, anyone else) have "impaired social skills" or "no social skills." I think that's a very vague and dangerous thing to say.

When a person is labeled as "lacking social skills" this can cause other people to treat them as less than human. Many people with autism have stories of expressing their feelings or opinions, only to be told that their feeling or opinion is a result of their poor social skills, and therefore isn't valid. (This is a good example of what I mean.)

Another problem is that when you look at a person who isn't fitting in and say, "This is happening because they have bad social skills," you don't acknowledge the fact that everyone contributes to one person's social isolation. Basically, I'm trying to present something called a social model of social failure. The truth is that no one is naturally fated to be socially unsuccessful based on who they are.

This is not a tightly written argument where each section leads to the next. It's a collection of loosely related arguments, many of which are in the form of anecdotes.

1 comment:

  1. I like your argument. I think you are calling attention to something that's usually neglected in discussions of autism and other developmental disabilities --- other people's behavior toward the person who is different.

    I am excited that you're writing about this, and I've never read you as denying that objective social impairments can exist. (I have them! Doesn't stop me from also considering the other half of the social-interaction equation, though).