Ade (agentfroot) wrote,

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I went to the autism thing that's going on at CMU this morning. I saw most of Temple Grandin's presentation on what it's like to have autism, and it was pretty neat. Of course, a million people were there, so I didn't get to see her directly, but oh well. It was interesting trying to follow her train of thought as she spoke. The two presentations after that weren't nearly as interesting. One was a follow-up about Hans Asperger's patients years later, but I could barely tell what the lady was saying, and the camera focus on the powerpoint slides was too blurry to read. Well, at least most of the people they talked to seemed to be doing just fine, so that's promising. The guy after that spoke a mile a minute about detailed genetic stuff, and it was rather boring. I also really didn't like how he referred to autism as a disease at one point, because it definitely isn't. You can't catch it, it doesn't hurt you physically, and you can't die from it. I think of autism and autism spectrum disorders (oh heck, and a lot of other neurological conditions) not as "disorders" necessarily, but more as categories people use to define and explain certain cognitive/behavioral differences in certain people. I don't think it's a bad thing to be labeled with a diagnosis, although there are so many stigmas and negative stereotypes. Some people are just wired differently. And the most you can do is learn to deal with them, encourage them to develop their strengths, and help them out in their weaker areas.

I find it problematic that society as a whole tries to "normalize" everyone and fit people into molds where they don't belong. Especially with kids. Whenever I research autism or Asperger's or Tourette's (yes, I research neurological conditions all the time, I find them fascinating), it seems like a lot of the stuff is geared towards kids with these conditions. And the whole public school structure just isn't right for these kids. I mean, when you're a kid in school, everyone tries to shape who you are and normalize you. No matter who you are. I think that's one of the reasons so many kids (neurotypical or not) have problems. They don't let you be who you are, you have to be what they want you to be or you get in trouble. They require you to follow the same curriculum, and if you're not so great at one subject, they punish you for it and spend more effort trying to help you improve your weak areas than develop your strong areas. And there are such strict codes for behavior, plus all the social rules. It's like being trapped in a room where the walls are closing in on you, and the more you try to escape, the faster the walls come in until you're squished with nowhere to go.

At least as you get older, people loosen up. I look forward to getting old, because people tolerate eccentric old people much more than eccentric kids. When you're in school, people call you "weird," and parents and teachers try to steer you in a more normalized direction. But when you're old, people see you more as a charming eccentric, I guess. I'm not thrilled with the idea of people expecting me to be a grownup now, but at least there's a lot less pressure to be squished into the mold society seems to want me to be.

Ok, that's enough. I've probably bored most of the people reading this to tears, even though I posted it as more of an outlet to get the thoughts out of my head.


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