Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Iko Iko

Click to tweet: .  I want to say first of all that i'm very much a fan of the "disabling world" view of disability and not so much a fan of the medical paradigm of mental "illness", so that informs my perspective.  I also think the use of the term "neurotypical" on an equal footing with "autism" and similar such phrases is more useful than seeing Asperger's as a disorder and "ordinary" interpersonal behaviour as healthy.  Incidentally, it's not now fashionable to see Asperger's as a separate diagnosis but as a position on the autistic spectrum.

The traditional view of Asperger's is that it involves a low degree of empathy combined with clumsiness, stereotypical or obsessive behaviour and getting bogged down in details.  I would say that it's more to do with the blizzard of stimuli not being filtered for the appropriate interpersonal cues to be noticed, which means that people don't learn to interact empathically in the first place.  I have reasons for this but no time to go into them right now.

So the question is, am i Aspie?  I would say that i have some of the features of people on the autistic spectrum but also lack very many of them.  For instance, my approach to the Bible is largely figurative and metaphorical rather than literary, despite current appearances i am very much more an arty, literary person than a sciency person, and my work requires a very high degree of empathy with my patients.  I also experience sympathy pain and other symptoms a lot.  I am also frequently overwhelmed by people's opinions and feelings in a way which others seem not to be so much.  This suggests to me that i don't lack empathy.  At the same time, it is the case that i focus excessively on detail, am rather obsessive and also clumsy.

However, i see interpersonal behaviour as a challenge to which i rise and what's actually behind this is two things:  social anxiety and ageing.  I am in a sense lazy and try to avoid going into these things precisely because i feel them too strongly.

You might want to take a look at some of my other videos and decide for yourselves on this limited evidence whether my behaviour looks like that of someone on the autistic spectrum.  Then again, you also have to remember that, deliberately or not, everyone projects a persona on YouTube and you're also seeing a particular period of my life.

Let me know what you think.

Now to blog at a rate of knots!  Basically, i don't accept that ASD is ideally a useful category.  Whereas it outlines a set of characteristics which certain people have in common, we live in a disabling world and it's more about the interactions between that world and that of those people where the problems emerge.  In some ways the world is becoming friendlier to people on the autistic spectrum but as it stands, and as it has been for many millenia, perhaps forever, it has not generally done so, although presumably if it does reflect a lack of empathy, and i don't think it does as such, it may originally have been the state in which all our ancestors were.

Here's why i don't think it reflects a lack of empathy, or at least that if it does it's overdiagnosed:

  • A child who was diagnosed with autism used to take delight in winding up other people, and whereas it may just have been the excitement of the resultant sensory stimuli of shouting, screaming and running away, to me that reflects a desire for attention and probably a recognition that there are such things as other people.
  • A child who was expected to spend time with an estranged father would play up just before she went because she wanted to see it as a treat but was aware that her siblings got to spend as much time as they wanted with both parents, who were still together.
Both of those situations involved children who were supposedly on the autistic spectrum.  If they were, how would you explain that behaviour?  Am i just attributing this to them and imagining it or what?  I don't know.

This has had to be brief because i'm out the door in a couple of minutes, so there it is.  Bye!