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The Same Message

EnthanasiePropaganda as_prevalence_vs_costchart-01

On the left is a propaganda poster for Aktion T-4, the systematic extermination program for people with disabilities in Germany before and during WWII. The poster reads: ‘This disabled person costs the public 60,000 over his lifetime. Comrades, that is your money, too.’

On the right is a propaganda poster for Autism Speaks, the ‘charity organization’ which calls for the systematic extermination of autistic people through the development of genetic testing in utero. The poster reads: ‘Along with the rise in autism prevalence comes the increase in cost to society.’

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Imagine.

Today, I showed the Autism $peaks commercial ‘I am Autism’ to my marketing class as an example of ‘unethical advertising’. I gave a short background on the company in order to set up for the intense rhetoric that they were about to hear, so they could know exactly what they were about to see. I’ve mentioned before that I was autistic, so I didn’t feel the need to do it again.

They watched the video in silence and darkness, and I instructed the professor to stop the video before A$’ half-assed attempt at making up for the hate that had just been spewed could take place.

The faces in the room were mostly blank. I’m sure it was out of shock for what they had just heard. If that hadn’t been enough, I decided to give them one sentence that would completely change their perspective on the whole thing.

‘Imagine if the person that commercial was talking about was you.’

If that isn’t all it should take to get people to finally start looking critically at this sham of an organization, I don’t know what is.

~Sam

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On Perspective, Storytelling, and Representation

Alright, I’m posting on this blog again.

It’s not because I had some stroke of inspiration or some intense life event that convinced me I needed to blog about it, it’s because I’m required to. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try and make this interesting, and to take it beyond the ‘academic’ point of view. I’m responding to readings from a book called Berlin at War by Roger Moorehouse, as I will be travelling to Germany at the end of this semester in order to learn about the events of World War II in the very places in which they occurred.

The first thing I noticed as we were being lectured to at our first meeting was the mention of eugenics in relation to Nazi society. The idea that as humans we should be classified and ranked according to usefulness and strength, and that the least-useful people should be prevented from proliferating so that the human race as a whole could continue to thrive and better itself in perfect health and purity.

My mind immediately wandered to the fact that there is an organization that champions a similar idea right at this moment, albeit much more subtly and under the guise that the population in question that needs eliminating is experiencing a ‘public health crisis’ and is ‘missing’ from society.

I am, of course, talking about Autism Speaks. (The hyperlink here will take you to a more thorough explanation of exactly why I am making this connection, if you are interested).

The idea that autism is an abhorrent disease and that autistic people should be ‘cured’ or at the least prevented stems from massive PR campaigns from organizations like this, who have convinced the public that autistic people are somehow lower on the totem pole. This has largely been accomplished through the systematic exclusion of autistic activists from the conversation, through the championing of non-autistic representation and opinion as fact, and through the slander of any dissenting opinion that makes it through this blue-tinted smear campaign as an ‘outlier’ from someone who ‘just isn’t autistic enough’.

But enough of my soapboxing, what in the world does this have to do with World War II and this book I’m reading?

According to the author of this book, ‘…the story of civilian life in Berlin during the war–is one that remains curiously unwritten’.

Yes, I know. Berliners weren’t the marginalized people. These connections are very weak. But I have to write this blog post somehow, don’t I?

The point I’m trying to make is that representation from all sides of a story, in history, in the present, in happiness, in discrimination, in oppression, in activism, is incredibly important to understanding what’s going on at a certain point in time.  And Moorehouse thinks so, too: ‘…eye-witness testimony has a vital role to play in history; personal accounts and anecdotes can bring a fresh perspective, colour, or context to even the most hackeyed and well-trodden narrative.’

Why am I making all this fuss over autism advocacy in a time when autism is seen as a ‘crisis’ and a ‘tragedy’?

Because you’re reading the narrative of an autistic, whose testimony and representation is being constantly devalued in the face of the great and powerful organization which silences us.

And why haven’t we heard enough from those citizens of Berlin who had also lost much of their livelihoods during the war? Why does an organization which resembles, scarily so, the entity I’m going to be studying in-depth for the next few weeks hog all of the attention from those who were and are actually experiencing the very thing that a society wants to examine systematically excluded from the conversation?

I’m going to have to read the rest of this book to come up with an answer.

~Sam

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Day twenty-nine.

Goals for the next 30 days.

–Finish out this internship well

–Get some savings put aside

–Get decent grades on my midterms

–Eat lobster and chowdah as soon as I’m home in a couple of weeks

–Try to get over being alone

–Make it to Disney and Universal a few more times

–Survive

~Sam

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Day twenty-eight.

Something that you miss.

Cuddling. Hugging. Physical contact.

If you know autism basically you know most of us are comforted by being firmly wrapped. That’s why pressure blankets and spandex hammocks are commonly sold to parents of autistic kids.

Same goes for adults, but for me specifically, it’s being with another person who will hold me like that that works. And I haven’t had it for weeks.

Now, I won’t be attempting to get back with my ex OR to find someone else in order to meet this need. But I do think a pressure blanket or even a super long full-body pillow are in the cards for me.

~Sam

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Day twenty-seven.

A problem that you have had.

I’ve mentioned this before. I suppose it deserves a bit more detailed of an explanation.

I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. Before the DSM-V (a volume of diagnoses for mental health professionals), I would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome…if I had ever had the chance to be diagnosed at all.

Socialization was never my strong suit as a child. I grew up ostracized by my peers for being strange and different. I suffered through adolescence and young adulthood without any knowledge of why there were so many things I did that made people angry or upset. For the longest time, my parents would always say that I ‘needed to mature’.

I first started looking into possible mental illnesses when I was in high school. I knew there was something different and wrong with me, but I had no idea what I was looking for. My search finally narrowed down when I was a senior. I had been fired from my position as class treasurer after some students reported that I had argued with them in our Facebook group. My frequent, sometimes-offensive outbursts online betrayed a lack of cognitive filter, but I was used to thinking that I was ‘immature’ and simply needed to wait for this magical ‘maturity’ to appear. Yet, as my searches led me into this particular form of disability, I started to realise that more and more of the bullet points actually did apply to me.

I have intense, tunnel-vision-like obsessions that can come on at any point in time, over essentially anything in the universe, and stay with me for life. I am a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the show Cats, my first real obsession, and several other subjects.

I never really understood the nuances of social interaction until I was much, much older–and by then, it was more a matter of me learning how to ‘fake’ neurotypicality than it was me really learning how to naturally converse. I hate to make eye contact and I often offend people, either with overbearing talk about my points of view or by speaking in a tone of voice that to me, means exactly what I want it to mean, but to them means something different. I always notice that I’ve spoken too much or for too long after it’s too late to really stop. I interject at the wrong times, and it makes people unhappy.

I also have sensory overload. I cry very, very easily if I am taxed emotionally. If made to stand in one place for a long period of time, I will experience blurred vision, auditory processing issues, and dizziness. I hear most sounds at the same volume if they are not totally blasting loud or pin-drop quiet.

Those are some of the disadvantages. But there are a few advantages, too. I am fiercely loyal to my friends (if not a bit clingy, but if you can deal with it, you can stay). I have an IQ of over 140 and my academic skills are beyond compare. I have enough of a brain to get me so far in terms of faking normalcy so I can maintain employment. And I have found a community that truly accepts me for who I am, because we are all in this boat together.

I remain undiagnosed, because I fit a profile of ASD that is relatively new and not well-researched, that being an adult female presentation of Asperger’s. It is also incredibly expensive for an adult to seek diagnosis due to insurance companies refusing to cover it past childhood. But my research is solid, I have taken most of the diagnostic tests given by psychologists and scored well within the range for diagnosis, and I have grown into this identity to the point of some form of self-acceptance. There are a couple of leads I am currently following for professionals in Canada and Australia who may be able to give me a diagnosis via Skype, but that is also uncertain. For now, I keep my identity pretty public, but I keep my undiagnosed status private unless it is necessary to reveal it. There is considerable stigma against people like me. I have claimed a few assistance accommodations but in general I am capable of ‘normal’ function…but that’s just me.

If you meet someone with autism who has comorbid disabilities, is nonverbal, or is otherwise not functioning in the way society would expect them to be, don’t pass them off. I may be lucky enough to be successful, but it has come at the cost of hiding a lot of who I am in public. Everyone who lives with autism is valuable. Everyone in general is valuable. ❤

~Sam

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Day twenty-six.

What kind of person attracts you?

In terms of friendship, I value those who can take my words at face-value instead of thinking ‘she’s autistic, that explains things’. Sure, there will be plenty of times in which my friends will have to pass off my behavior as being a part of my disability identity. My best friend here at school seems to be doing incredibly well with my constant pleas of ‘are you working today?’, ‘How’s your homework load?’, ‘Can we go somewhere?’.

She probably noticed long ago that each of those questions is really a statement–‘I want to go to Disney/Universal/Publix/Target/etc and you always drive me and I have not become bored of you or these places (and never will). You complete me! Let’s go!’. But she still answers the question, because it’s part of the conversation and part of my thinking and it’s important. And I value it more than she knows. I get to feel normal despite us both knowing that the kinds of interactions I’m starting up aren’t. She is my best friend, and she probably has no idea of that. (Hello, dear! You’re probably reading this. Can we go somewhere? 😉 )

In terms of romance…someone who can deal with me. I don’t give a shit about ‘oh, I don’t deal with you, I love you unconditionally’. Unconditional love does not exist. Humans have a specific set of parameters for the humans they like to interact with, and if I don’t happen to be within them, it’s not going to work out very well. I don’t change for anyone. I learned that lesson long ago.

I appreciate someone who can connect the dots with me. If you know that autistics love to be wrapped up, and that one of my exes used to cuddle with me for 6-8 hours at a time (we’re talking days in bed here, not nights), you can infer that I love to cuddle and will be very happy if I can. You can also notice that so much cuddling is counterproductive to homework…and so, the logical next step would be to explain that frankly to me and to then plan the cuddling around the homework. When both partners are autistic, this just happens, I’ve found. When one is neurotypical, it’s a bit harder. So either way, I value the ability to adapt to not having that innate knowledge.

Hard work is the basis of any relationship. It sometimes has to be thought out and feel like work. In other cases it isn’t noticeable but it’s still going on. So I guess I value people who are willing to put in the effort to learn about being with me, since I put in the effort to learn about being with them.

~Sam

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