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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.

Reflection on Texas school shooting from my Autistic perspective

Trigger warning: mass shooting, school shooting, murder, death of children and adults.

Today I woke up to the news that 19 children and two adults had been murdered in cold blood. This grotesque reality is a fear that parents in the US live with every single day.

Every time they send their child to school, they have to wonder if that kiss goodbye is the final kiss.

What of the bed sheets that will never be slept in again? Do their rooms become a mausoleum regret and indescribable pain? Do we just stand in silence while the United States of America, the supposed land of the free, is victimised by a gun lobby that cares more about its right to carry an instrument of death, than the death that is being inflicted upon the innocent?

When will the world step up and say enough? Sadly, I suspect not today.

My Autistic heart is broken. The shattered pieces speak of pain, and yet my pain is nothing compared to that of the parents who will never hold their children again.

Will we allow the memory of those whose lives have been stolen to be tarnished by those who would have you believe that gun control is not the answer? I say no. Blood is on the hands of the American gun lobby. The time has come for them to repay the lives they have stolen with their indiscriminate and misinformed campaign of death.

For the memory of those who are gone too soon, we must fight this campaign of terror, and say “no more”.

Not one more life can be taken.

Double empathy, solipsism, and neurotypicality

Why do interventions such as Applied Behavioural Analysis and Positive Behavioural Support exist? Why is it that our world uses neurotypicality as the standard from which neuronormativity is drawn?

Fundamentally, I believe that it comes down to the double empathy problem. Autistic people have a different style of communications to those with a predominant neurocognitive style in their culture. This creates a breakdown in communication, and due to the power imbalance in neuronormative culture, neurotypicality is considered superior, we are so often labelled as “disordered” or as having “deficits”.

But why is this happening? Where does this neuronormativity arise from?

I believe that to understand neuronormativity, we must first understand Solipsism. Solipsism is the belief that only the self and its experiences exist. A solipsist would believe that their experiences are the only experiences, essentially reducing others and their experiences to sub-human automations.

This is where I believe that neuronormativity arises from. A kind of strange solipsism.

In my opinion, while neurotypicals have been using ideas such as theory of mind to accuse Autistics of lacking the ability to know another’s mind, neurotypicals have been so unaware of the existence of neurodivergent experience that they will inflict pain on us to “help” us conform to their standards.

To put it another way, do most neurotypicals believe not only that their experience of the world is the “right” experience, but also the only experience of the world?

This means that when neurotypicals witness Autistic communication, they experience a kind of cognitive dissonance that results in their lashing out in the form of behavioural interventions, because they fully believe that the only way to exist is by the weird neuronormative standards that are enforced upon society.

What even is neurotypical?

That changes depending on the cultural environments, but in this sense it can be considered the predominant neurocognitive style in a given culture (Walker, 2021).

Neurotypicalilty is essentially a performance. It is a style of existing.

This effect has created a power imbalance wherein regardless of the number of neurotypicals in the room, they are still considered the gold-standard.

To me, it doesn’t seem like Autistic people are the ones needing an intervention.

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