Susan's Blog

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Through the Looking Glass

Autism Diva clued me into this fantastic bit of — poetry, observation, what? — from the Ballastexistenz blog, from which I have pulled out what I think are the most poignant and mind-blowing bits:

Questions for Neurotypicals

How have you learned to compensate for being nearly incapable of directly perceiving your surroundings?

Surely you must miss the all-encompassing joy of simple perceptual experiences. Don’t try to tell me that all your canned, pre-filtered experiences of sunsets and the like hold a candle to watching a tiny spider crawl across the carpet or rubbing a fuzzy blanket on your face. Nobody would believe anything that ridiculous, you’re just trying to romanticize neurotypicality.

How do you deal with being unable to perceive minds different from your own? Doesn’t that limit you socially?

Have you learned to make real conversation with strangers instead of just measuring them up socially and moving on?

And here is my own send-up to all those who insist that autism is less than, that autistics can’t connect, and need to be fixed. This, for those who don’t know, is Nat, my 16 year-old who has a pretty severe degree of autism, embracing, quite willingly, his teacher, Maureen:


Well, of course he is…she’s a cutie!

C has five different therapists (4 ABA and 1 speech) and they’re all in their early 20’s, thin, gorgeous. My husband calls them “C’s harem”.

Those questions for NT’s are great. Really thought provoking.

— added by Wendy on Thursday, March 16, 2006 at 6:12 pm

Awwwww, I love this photo! Nat is very handsome and his teacher is cute. Nat looks like a tall guy:)

— added by KCsMom on Thursday, March 16, 2006 at 7:02 pm

Nat is one good looking dude (to use the terminology Jeremy has recently acquired, in one of his occasional mini-quantum-leaps into assertion of adolescence, though I think Jeremy and his peers spell it “d00d”). His teacher looks like a sweetheart :-).

You know, I sure as heck hope it’s not a looking glass between the NT and AC worlds. (NT = neurotypical, in particular non-autistic; AC = autistic and Cousin, the latter being the informal term in the autistic community for people in the broader phenotype or who otherwise have a significant overlap of experience with folks on the spectrum.) The reason I hope it’s not a looking glass is that (as the ancient elementary-school joke goes) I would end up with a pane in my stomach: I live in both worlds, as an Aspie and as a parent.

I actually think of “the big NT world out there”, and my seeking of refuge from it in the interstices of my life, as if it were another country, just across a very close border and inundating me with its hustle and bustle and communication and commerce.

Maybe as in the script of Sherman Alexie’s wonderful film “Smoke Signals”, in which the young protagonists, about to leave the reservation for travel across the US west, are warned by their peers:

— “You guys got your passports?”
— “Passports?”
— “Yeah, you’re leavin’ the Rez and goin’ into a whole different country, cousin.”
— “But… but, it’s the United States.”
— “Damn right it is! That’s as foreign as it gets. Hope you two have your vaccinations.”

Or maybe I am a little like Canada, with most of its population within 100 km of the US, which overwhelms it in numbers and media and economics. Back in the ’60s when I was a kid living in the Detroit area, the Ontario tourism bureau used to advertise Canada as “Friendly, Foreign, and Near”.

Maybe that’s what we spectrum folk who live on both sides of your looking glass are. On good days.

— added by Phil Schwarz on Thursday, March 16, 2006 at 10:24 pm

I love what you say here. I think you span both “worlds” beautifully. I think that we are all one world, really, and that Ballastexistenz really just makes people like me think harder about my biases and assumptions. You do that, too. Thank you.
O, Canada!

— added by Susan Senator on Friday, March 17, 2006 at 6:56 am