Search for:
More on Zeno’s Paradoxes and the issues with Autistic to non-Autistic communication

As you may have noticed from my most recent blog post, I am somewhat down a rabbit hole at the moment. In my previous article I discussed Zeno’s paradox of plurality and how it applies to the dehumanisation of Autistic people and the double empathy problem.

Today I would like to consider another of Zeno’s paradoxes and how it applies to the double empathy problem.

This particular paradox was known as the Dichotomy Paradox. Essentially, it explains that when travelling from point A to point B, one must first travel to the halfway point between the two. To then travel from that point to the destination, you must travel half way again. This continues infinitely when travelling towards a fixed destination and thus Zeno argued that you can never reach point B.

When considering communication across different neurocognitive styles, one must also consider what the goal is. If we presume that the goal is “successful communication” then the double empathy problem tells us that this is very difficult due to the different styles of communication. Despite this, Autistic people are always expected to be the ones to put the emotional labour into communicating. This has been discussed by Rachel Cullen, a recording of a livestream with Aucademy featuring them can be found here and here).

We then encounter the dichotomy paradox. Neurotypicals remain a fixed point in the goal of successful communication, while we as Autistics are constantly expected to move towards the goal by accommodating their preferred communication styles. It is as if we are constantly reaching the halfway point, and never reaching our destination. No matter how well we accommodate neurotypical preferences, we are caught in an infinite regression of distance, not achieving the aim.

This to me, highlights the deeper issue of dehumanisation and objectification of Autistics. Neurotypicals (perhaps subconsciously, sometimes consciously) consider themselves the pinnacle of humanity, a goal that all should be striving for. We know from the existence of the various compliance based behavioural interventions, that Neurotypicals do believe this in many cases. Evidenced by the fact that it is considered “gold-standard” to teach Autistic people to hide their Autistic nature.

As Dr. Monique Botha mentioned in their recent seminar, there is a reason why researchers and professionals insist on person-first language. “I want to eradicate autism” sounds much less like genocide than “I want to eradicate Autistic people”. However, both of those statements mean the same thing. This is justified because whether or not they overtly see it, neurologically queer behaviour and experience is seen as non-human. Remi Yergeau argued this dehumanisation was due (at least in part) to a perceived lack of rhetoricity in their book Authoring Autism.

Autistic people are viewed as husks, mindlessly performing nothing, controlled by an abstract spectre called autism. This then is perhaps why so many neurotypical people insist on person-first language, and ignore our preference of identity -first language. Why would they take a step towards the all consuming spectre? Surely it is better to leave such a thing trapped in that infinite journey towards a goal that is never to be reached.

This, then, is the appeal of neuroqueering to me. When I embrace my neuroqueer self, I no longer have to be trapped in the infinite journey towards performative neurotypicality. I escape the dichotomy paradox by abandoning societal expectations, and being true to myself. True to what nature intended for me. I am Autistic, I am divergent, and that divergence is a thing of beauty.

We need to raise up our fellow Autistics, high above the dichotomy of neurotypicality and neurodivergence. We need to embrace a world in which these words are redundant in meaning because no one group has the power to oppress another; and when our fellow Autistics are lost in the dark, we need to shine our own light, and guide them back to the daylight.

Is Autopia possible? Realities of an Autistic homeland

At Aucademy we often talk of a perfect Autistic homeland, affectionately dubbed Autopia. Conceptualised as a place in which all Autistics can lead peaceful and comfortable lives, it sounds like a dream come true; but what are the realities of such a place? Is such a place even possible?

This evening I was discussing such things with a good friend of mine, and one thing became clear. Accommodating Autistics does not necessarily mean all disabled people are accommodated.

Let’s use the UK supermarkets “autism hour” as an example.

In the UK, many supermarkets have an hour a week where they reduce sensory stimuli, and encourage only Autistic people to attend to their shopping in order to reduce crowds. It helps, but there is a wider conversation about only doing this for an hour a week that needs to be addressed another time. We can, however, look at why this can’t be done all the time.

Lower lighting is great for Autistics with no particular intersections of other disabilities, but what of those with conditions of the eye that make seeing in dim light difficult? In our attempt to grant privileged access to one minority, we have removed access for another minority.

This really is the crux of the issue with creating Autopia. Autistic people live at many intersections of experience, and any attempt to accommodate everyone together, will likely marginalise another minority.

A true Autopia would require an individual approach, where each person’s living environment is adapted to there individual needs. It would require a bespoke design.

This however presents an issue with shared spaces. Autistic people represent a great deal of intersections with race, gender, disability, and so forth. The creation of a truly inclusive and safe space for Autistics would require more than sensory rooms and a living situation outside of the grasp of capitalism.

The complexities of creating shared space for all Autistics, both physically, and virtually, is still something that needs to be addressed.

Minority groups from all intersections have been telling us about the bigotry they face within our online community. Non-speakers getting attacked for their use of language when they have no access to Autistic spaces, black and trans Autistics having their experiences ignored and invalidated.

These are just a couple of examples of things that need to be addressed if Autopia is to ever become reality.

Whether we care to admit it or not, the Autistic does have unwritten rules, and some in our community react poorly when newcomers do not understand the nuances of our community. This in itself creates issues of accessibility.

This is personally why I adore neuroqueer theory. Should we not live a life true to our natural selves? We need to encourage Autistics to live authentic lives, not exclude them from our spaces.

This is not to excuse the intentional perpetuation of pathology paradigm views and bigotry, but a comment on the fact that we were all raised with problematic ideas of what it is to be Autistic. Was it not access to the community that helped us change those views, and embrace the neurodiversity paradigm.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to a neurocosmopolitan society. That approach is provincialist in nature, creating privilege for some while marginalising others.

On the whole, I constantly see a great deal of positive growth and evolution from the Autistic community, but like any societal movement as it reaches maturity, the Autistic rights movement has some creases that need ironing out.

Autopia is a beautiful goal to shoot for. It’s time we came together and made it a reality for all Autistics. Together we can build a neuroqueer future, and on that basis, a neurocosmopolitan society.

Isn’t that something worth fighting for?

Autopia: The reality of accommodating Autistics

At Aucademy we have long talked about our vision of a perfect Autistic utopia, affectionately called “Autopia”. The vision is of a collective living scenario, away from the pressures of a world that puts neuronormative standards and culturally accepted neurotypicality, ahead of any neurocognitive type that does not fit into its restrictive box. We often imagine a world with sensory safe spaces, collaborative living arrangements, and a distinct lack of hierachy.

Such a world would be brilliant, and beautiful. However, the reality of creating a world where Autistics can live in peace and comfort as their authentic selves is more complicated.

As discussed in a previous article, we are at a transitional point for the world. The neurodiversity movement fights every day to ensure equitable and fair treatment of all neurodivergent people, but we are still some way off from a world in which no one is given privilege, and all can access the world comfortably.

What would such a world look like?

The world we wish to create is not as simple as safe spaces and collaborative living. It first must do away with the pathology paradigm. Currently, neurodivergence is treated as a medical issue, with any associated disability often being viewed through the lens of the medical model of disability. Converse to this we have the social model of disability.

Our first steps towards Autopia require us to understand the ramifications of the social model. Under this model, disability can be considered to be the result of oppression. Rather than arising from a medical deficit within the person, the social model suggests that we are disabled by a society that fails to give us equal access to the environment. Thus, this failure can be considered a form of oppression. In some cases the oppression is a direct thing, with those responsible intentionally refusing access to disabled people, in other cases the oppression is more indirect, caused by a lack of understanding that inadvertently perpetuates the oppression of the disabled person.

Ableism is also another consideration. Once society has effectively oppressed and disabled a person, it then discriminates against them. Many disabled people are forced out of the work force by such ableism, forced to survive off of whatever money their government decides is appropriate (often with little care as to whether or not that money is enough to survive on). People are judged by societies standard of what a disabled person should look like, and what they are capable of, with little interest in what the disabled person has to say about their experience.

Understanding the ramifications of the social model, and the ableism that follows societies oppression of those who do not fit into culturally accepted standards, allows us to start seeing the pathology paradigm that has kept the neurodivergent on a lower rung of the ladder for quite some time.

This is where the neurodiversity movement comes in, and where an understanding of the neurodiversity paradigm becomes paramount.

To create Autopia, we must do away with cultural neuronormativity, and accept that human minds are diverse and beautiful. We must understand that no single neurocognitive style is superior to another. Ultimately, we must create a world where words like neurotypical and neurodivergent become irrelevant. This bold new world would not need such words, because no one is considered “normal” or “typical”, and no one is considered “different” or “atypical”. It is a world in which we all simply co-exist. No one has privilege over another. The world and society at large are accessible to all.

Unfortuantely, such a world is quite some time away. There is a great deal of work to be done to achieve it. The current world we live in traumatises Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people on a daily basis. For more reading on how society harms Autistics, please see the Creating Autistic Suffering series housed on this blog, the series is authored by myself and Tanya Adkin.

To achieve Autopia, we must challenge our beliefs and thoughts. Society has done a good job of forcing the pathology paradigm on us. Now is the time to unlearn those lessons.

Verified by MonsterInsights