Our Neurological profiles can be like the dressing on a salad; no matter what dressing you put on the salad, it is still a salad. Finding individuality inside oneself is a lifelong journey as we perfect the recipe for our particular dressing. No one strives to be a bland salad, though there are some salads I do not care for – believe me. Others can be a tangy dressing, or even bitter, and the really interesting ones make you take several bites before you can place the flavour. Wait, am I still talking about people?
Autistic people have a dressing too. We have aspects of our complete makeup that form our individuality. The difference is, people forget to see us as salad in the first place. Though a diagnosis is a wonderful set of tools for helping an individual navigate the world, the diagnosis can and does often erase the person. Everything from how we walk, to how we talk, to how we express emotion is under constant, intense scrutiny. Instead of seeing us as people (salad), with autism as the dressing, we are are viewed as fundamentally flawed and therefore not salad at all.
People do not mean to be that cruel, nor do they intentionally fail to see us as people. It really is due to the way we train society to ignore the 4th dimension of human existence, and accept only that which is directly in step with one’s own experience. It is a modern personification of the false consensus bias, entangled in parlour talk disguised as scientific understanding. Simply put, we are taught scientific concepts without being taught the critical thinking that allows us to fully apply our knowledge.
Logs of criteria, such as the DSM-V, exasperate this. The DSM-V is designed as an outline of symptoms to aid Psychologists in better identifying conditions in order to structure interventions that work for the individual. This book is available to the public and can be purchased at any major bookstore. However, the book available to the untrained public contains no preface or guide in understanding the books application. Since American public schools fall short in teaching us how to contextualize or approach the text with a scientific inquiry, textbooks are often quoted out of context, misapplied, and causes a spew of emotional reactions by those looking for answers.
It gets worse. Because of the diagnostic tools necessary to create systems, models, and research, society has accepted neurological profiles as static and unchanging. But that is short sighted. Autism is a fluctuating, nebulous diagnosis with unexplored fathoms of complexities. Aspects of our condition change as we age, and are subject to alternating stages of growth and regression. Therapies and interventions that work at age twelve may not work at age thirteen. We may solve certain problems, only to unearth different problems.
It must be accepted that there is no achievement altitude in autism – there really is no achievement altitude for anyone because we do not live on a two-dimensional developmental growth chart. We are four-dimensional creatures. Similar to how an aeroplane maneuvers, we need to use our neurological profiles to navigate and explore our amazing world. Educational systems and developmental interventions should serve not as repairs, but as inertial platforms helping us to stay on our individual courses.
Ok. Back to salad.
Everyone is born, and everyone dies. Other than that, life has no true meaning…until we add it. As unique creatures of earth we are able to look at a mountain and hear a song, watch a group of children and settle into our own nostalgia. We give character traits to colour, mood to sound, and causality to otherwise random events. We seek the abstract out of the concrete because it enhances the human experience. Contrary to popular assumption, Autistic people are born with a deeper understanding of this abstract world of sensory intelligence, taking ordinary senses almost to an ESP. A good friend of mine once described my experience in a very eloquent way. He said that most people are born closed and must work to open themselves to the world. They develop trust based on the leadership of their caretakers. But I was born wide open. I trust without example, and love without reason. I have had to learn how to put up barriers to protect myself, rather than pull barriers down as most people do.
It goes without saying, Phoenix, that I say this all in defence of you. You’re not the one who like to talk and that is ok. We are like salad, you and me, like anyone else in the neurotypical world. But I was born with bold, flavourful dressing of Autism already on. I didn’t select you Phoenix, but are are able to alter the flavour together. Why do people want to rinse the leaves and replace you, Phoenix? I try so hard to get the world to understand you – you in your fiery hot presense. We had trouble in the beginning when you were still learning to control your fire. You are my Autism, Phoenix, and I love you as much as I can hate you.
The neurotypical world needs to hear me when I say I wasn’t born with less, robbed somehow by autism. I was born with more, blessed and cursed to traverse the meidum of the fourth dimension of the human experience. Sometimes you burn me, Phoenix, I cannot lie about that. But the real struggle is in learning how to keep others from devouring me and putting out your fire.
Until next time,