Star Ford

Essays on lots of things since 1989.

A Field Guide to Earthlings: An autistic/Asperger view of neurotypical behavior

This blog post exists for comments/discussion about the book “A Field Guide to Earthlings: An autistic/Asperger view of neurotypical behavior.” The book has a separate web site, where you can read the first part of the book.

I’m interested in hearing what readers have to say.
-Ian

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Beating at Albuquerque RTC

In the parable of the sheep and the goats, recounted in Mathew 25, the people of the world gather before the King and he explains to the first group “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” They don’t remember ever doing those things for the King, so he clarifies that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I heard this as a child, and it meant a lot to me. I’ve since visited a half dozen prisons and another half dozen lockdown treatment facilities. I feel I need to know what is going on with the least of us – those in greatest need. I doubt we can move beyond war and torture if we cannot also move beyond the primitive ways we treat the least of our own people. In facilities everywhere, we are relying almost exclusively on powerful drugs and authoritarian regimes of reward and punishment to normalize those we cannot live with. And in some cases still using electric shock. And in some cases still beating them.

And in some cases, after doing all this, we are hiding in secrecy, and hiring a PR firm to create a positive “spin” on it, possibly to protect shareholder interests? I cried about the beating, but I’m almost as sad about the fact that management appears to distance themselves from responsibility, and the system of accountability is failing.

This news report shows a beating and a possible cover-up at Camelot RTC in Albuqerque.

Here are five questions I want answers to:

1. Is residential treatment the last resort? When is it the right choice?

2. Are the other ways of growth and healing that we should be using, other than drugs and behavior coercion?

3. How can the system honor the spirit of each person involved, accepting that a child’s path of development may have a higher purpose and may not be evident to those around him?

4. What is the proper place of the profit motive in RTCs?

5. What is the correct balance between transparency of operations and protection of individual privacy when children are outside the home?

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Neurotypical indirection

There are several kinds of indirection employed in neurotypical communication.

Indirection using metaphor

The dimension of metaphor runs from LITERAL to METAPHORICAL, and indicates the degree of substitution in communication. Metaphor is a manner of speech using a substitute or proxy for the intended thing. A great example from Look Me In the Eye is when a taxi driver approaches an apartment complex to drop oft the passenger, and asks “Where are you?”, which is a substitute for “Which apartment is yours?” An autistic passenger said “I’m right here,” because she missed the metaphorical indirection. In order to decode metaphor, the listener has to test multiple meanings and determine which is the suitable level of indirection for the current situation.

Indirection using ambiguity

The dimension of ambiguity runs from UNITARY to AMBIGUOUS, and indicates the degree to which multiple meanings are included in one expression. The sentence “I’m not going to be there until you get there” does not specify the reason for being late. It leaves open the possibility that the lateness is an invitation to go together, or a threat of some kind. A statement that has a tone/inflection or gesture that doesn’t match creates an ambiguous way of saying it. A message given as a question or with a “maybe” (or some other noncommital word) or in the subjunctive mood can express vagueness, or a range of possibilities without nailing down one of them. An autistic listener might be confused, and not seek out multiple meanings, or might assume the simplest one. (In the example above, the autistic might understand that the speaker has a prior commitment until the approximate hour when she happens to be going, and nothing more than that). In order to decode ambiguity, the listener has to understand all meanings at the same time, without discarding some of them or settling on any one.

Sarcasm is the particular case of ambiguity that includes two opposites in the same expression. Read the rest of this entry »

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