Susan's Blog

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Speed of Dark

Thanks to Jessamyn, I am reading Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark. So far I am finding it highly enjoyable because I am learning a lot about what it is like to be autistic, and it gives me an idea about what life might be like inside my autistic teenage son’s mind. It is a story set slightly in the future, when the 1 in 166 have grown up and many are high functioning enough to have jobs and live independently. The protagonist is Lou, who is very high functioning, and we are treated to his thought processes, much like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, but even more “typical” and “normal.” We learn things from Lou, like the way “the real people” (neurologically typical) speak sloppily and imprecisely, rarely saying exactly what they mean. (A woman calls another character, Don, a “heel,” and Lou hates this because he knows she is simply angry at Don, so she should simply say that. A heel is a part of a shoe, after all.) Or the way “the real people” don’t see things in patterns or have the crushing need to bounce. His matter-of-fact acceptance of the autistic way of seeing gets us to see it that way, too, which is what I love about it.

Autistic people have to learn to live in the NT world so that they can have jobs, have friends, and be happy. So they need to learn how to express themselves, listen to others, guess at meanings, control disruptive behavior. They must learn “a time and a place for everything.” But they should NOT be learning that their ways are bad. Their ways are just different. The only bad aspects of autism are the parts that hurt others, or the person himself. But autistic thinking is another way of thinking and must be valued for its different perspective. NTs need to learn to accept autistic ways the way we accommodate any minority. Moon, whose teenage son has autism, presents us this simple fact of life — neurodiversity, the art of different wiring — and without hitting us over the head with it, shows how important acceptance is in order for all of us to be civilized.

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