A very ‘neurotypical deficit’.
April 5, 2017 § 28 Comments
This post modestly observes that the deficit model for autistic people is neurologically biased.
For me one of the clearest differences between myself and the neuro-majority is one of pace. In comparison my processing speed can appear snail like – but is this bad?
Generally, I like significantly less volume of input in my life than my NT contemporaries. And I’ve noticed that I like to go deep into the kind of ‘information bank’ I prefer.
In this state experience and thought tends to the profound and considered. Like so many autistics I know I go full on in and bask in the kind of immersion that generates my favourite state, that of flow.
Once in flow I turn what I’m handling this way and that. I see the object of my interest from many angles as I strive to understand it in perfect detail.
What I notice most is the NT habit of fast crawling (ant-like) in a purposeful direction over the surface of things (not saying that profundity is lacking but that the focus appears to be speed and reach). So there is a general hurry to move across the surface and to go wide extending outwards. New places and new connections are made endlessly it seems. They want more and more of this – so that the web of interactions unfolds exponentially, growing larger each day.
I’m talking about tendency with variation of course – there will be NT who like quiet and slow too.
But I hear NT reminding themselves quite often to slow down, go back to base and value the small things and the people who ‘really matter’. In a corner of perception NT know that they can tend to overdo it.
These are two vastly differing vantage points. And that is all they are.
I think this is a perhaps one very good reason why NT can seem to to ignore autistics and don’t quite register our presence.
I write the above in the context of World Autism Awareness Day 2017 – which being deep in a flow state – I missed!
But it’s been an interesting week.
As April rages on unnoticed in my immediate environs I haven’t seen much autism awareness on the streets of Oxford. Not one person I know has mentioned autism.
In a way I’m relieved. I’m tired of all the misinformation.
Autism to me is a language and a culture. It’s my identity. But I am yet to fully realise that, or rather what that means in my life.
As the internet groans with blogs and videos, articles and debates this month, I turn to practical matters. I have to live in a neurotypical (NT) world. I have survived all these years. But I want an equal footing in this crazy scrambled world.
While NT life has powered on this week there’s been a quiet revolution in my autistic soul.
I’ve gone from feeling weighed down with the enormity of my task to locate myself as an autistic woman in a world that doesn’t suit my neuro-type, to feeling freed. Its as though I’ve absorbed another level of my difference and come into a clearing.
I know what I want because I have experienced what I want.
Miraculously, l’ve connected with a community of autistic women. This is a new kind of sisterhood.
And suddenly I have the information I need to understand the distinction between friendship and the rubbing along of convenient relationships that can so often masquerade as friendship. Those fickle, brittle ties that are quickly made and broken as convenience moves on elsewhere.
As I analyse this truth I begin to see that the trouble in truly grasping this before has lain in the mismatch of pace and intention. It is perhaps because NT are almost constantly engaged in a subtle form of mapping and networking that autistics can so often become confused about relationship.
NT like this practice enormously but (as an aside) it can cause no end of confusion in terms of purpose and getting things done.
Perhaps I’ve never seen it this clearly because the foil of autistic sisterhood was missing. Isolation from your group is clearly a bad thing from an informational point of view.
Without this knowledge of my group I have been less discerning, but I can at last see things more clearly as I discover more what kind of social shape my neuro-type fits.
I can suddenly see with 20/20 vision that in relationships of convenience (no matter how friendly they seem!) people don’t necessarily have my interests at heart even if I’ve been generous and giving.
So I don’t need to give all those breaks and benefits I tend to rush in with (autistic people can be unusually kind). I’m too helpful by nature and that is frankly exhausting.
Returning to the differences in processing with which I began my piece, it seems to me that as NT move speedily onwards to the next person and the next opportunity they may fail to notice many examples of autistic kindness.
What an unfortunate processing deficit that would turn out to be.