Autism and the Arts Festival (University of Kent): 10 Things I Learned

These burgeoning, fragile, necessary autistic spaces may be the foundations that can help explorations to, and with, allies, companions, partnerships. However power imbalances within and outside these spaces must be acknowledged and respected. Being able to be there was a privilege not available to all. (That shouldn’t be taken to mean that the path to being there wasn’t differently hard for so many of us). It is always better to be done “with” than “to”. Luckily autistic people (can have) strengths in clear, direct, honest communication. What could be more useful (& endangered) in a post-truth world?

Autism and the Arts Festival (University of Kent): 10 Things I Learned

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The time has come – the Autism Arts Festival 2019

There was also something quite meta at play, I now realise. In the delightful yet serious game of self-identification with the group, there also exists the teasing possibility of intuiting what autistic culture/s might be collectively speaking. Not wishing to be divisive, or pin down a beautiful butterfly, it matters greatly to know this and to be able to articulate it. Yet it is a very tricky area precisely because of the double empathy problem.

The time has come – the Autism Arts Festival 2019

Autism and Feminism

On top of that, among the things that autists tend to be no good at conforming to are gender norms. It is increasingly widely recognised that there is an intriguing correlation between autism and variant gender identities, but this is a far broader thing. Boys are expected to be competitive, in social games that are often beyond us. We are expected to enjoy team sports, when teams are baffling and most of us are dyspraxic or at least clumsy. We are expected to be part of a universal boys’ club by default, when for the most part other boys are no less alien to us than girls are.

All of this means that the average autistic boy suffers a good deal from the patriarchy. Male privilege means something quite different for someone able and willing to dominate others than it does for a socially confused autistic boy who just can’t get a handle on masculinity. It’s something else again for someone who’s got enough of a handle on masculinity to reject it outright.

Many of the things that men do, to the detriment of women, are things that autistic people are particularly prone to. Men too often talk over women, and fail to listen to what they say; autists tend to find it hard to know when to stop talking on topics of personal interest, and can be slow to process what other people are saying. This can manifest as extreme forms of what men do to women all the time. On the other hand, in autistic women and, to be fair, a large number of men, it can go the other way: staying quiet for fear of imposing or offending in some way.

Autism and Feminism

The Problem With Autistic Communication Is Non-Autistic People: A Conversation With Dr. Catherine Crompton

I think, particularly from our study, it shows the importance of things like autistic-led spaces and the value that can have, and that the need to create these spaces where autistic people can be comfortable amid themselves and talk to other autistic people is really important—whether that’s as part of schools and education, whether that’s in post-diagnostic support, opportunities for adults, things like that.

I think it’s really important to make sure that opportunity is available for people. The last thing I want people to think we’re suggesting is that we should ghetto-ize autistic people. “You go and talk to the people who are like you.” That’s absolutely not what I’m saying and not what we would want at all. But I think creating these spaces that aren’t led by someone who’s telling you what to do, who doesn’t know what your experience is, is really, really important.

The Problem With Autistic Communication Is Non-Autistic People: A Conversation With Dr. Catherine Crompton

Taking ownership of the label

Differences in ways of being social

Autistic collaboration involves sharing of knowledge and working towards a shared goal of generating new levels of knowledge and understanding. The individual innate moral compass mediates the tension between the desire to assist others vs the desire learn about the world.

These inclinations are reflected in the cultural transmission of new discoveries from children to parents

Education of parents by the children focuses on teaching about the focus and boundaries of individual areas of interest

Sharing of knowledge and asking probing questions is seen as a “natural” human behaviour

Adolescence is a period of intensive knowledge acquisition, where individual areas of interests are explored in great depth, and where in the absence of autistic peers with compatible interests new knowledge is often shared with parents

Taking ownership of the label