Tag Archives | differences

New Infographic – Demystifying the Puzzle

Colored jigsaw puzzle pieces with a question mark in the center

The ubiquitous symbol of autism, proudly and compassionately displayed by parents, caretakers and professionals, is the multi-colored jigsaw puzzle. It is an apt symbol from that point of view. Some of these people, though, as well as a much larger percentage of autistic individuals, believe the symbol objectifies a class of people. It associates them with an illness, in the same sense that a pink ribbon does so regarding breast cancer. Autism is, in some sense, and to varying degrees, a disability. Autism is much more than that, though. It is a difference—with challenges, delights and surprises as much as any other human variation, especially those involving the most complex object we know about in the universe: the human mind.

This new infographic makes clear to the world of humans that there is much more to autism than can be captured by a puzzling symbol.

Making Sense

derived from <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/kermitfrosch/5376271001">"Time Expired"</a> by kermitfrosch/flickr, used under <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">creative commons by 2.0</a>

It was 1971. It was nearly four decades before I knew I was autistic. It was 25 years before soccer moms. It was the year, on one particular day, I discovered magic inside my brain.

I had orchestra rehearsal that day. I played string bass. Both the bass—quite a bit larger than my slight thirteen year old body—and I needed a ride home when practice was over late in the afternoon. We both made our way to the doorway of the school, to wait for my mother to pick us up and drive us two and a half miles in time for one of us to have dinner.

My mother had six children. Keeping up with them, even keeping track of them, was quite a challenge. This time, as was typical, the other orchestra kids had already been picked up. The staff had locked up the school for the day. A cold, rainy evening was settling in. In this age there was no handheld wizardry to occupy me. It was too dark, too wet, to read. So I retreated into the only truly comfortable place I have ever known: my mind.

Tune That Name

Words are important to humans. People can be offended by words alone. Humans especially value names. The quickest way to insult a person is by intentionally using the wrong name, or a diminutive form, or mispronouncing it. The same applies to names for groups of people. Humans are expert at grouping populations into specific named collections (see Boundary Issues) and then defending the names of their own group while finding inappropriate names for others.

I have difficulty being offended by words or misused names. I depend much more on a person’s actions than words, but I have learned through a lifetime of careful observation that humans are different.

The Seventy Percent Solution

derived from <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/tag-luggage-label-blank-price-309129/">unnamed</a> by   ClkerFreeVectorImages/pixabay, used under <a   href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0</a>

I am wrong 70% of the time. Don’t ask me how I know it is 70%. I recognize numbers the way you recognize faces—a matter of familiarity and unconscious association, not calculation. I have a holistic understanding that 70% of all the decisions I make are incorrect. Even when I am not paying attention, my brain is keeping track. Just as you might say, “Oh, that’s Arnold. He changed his eyeglasses.” I will tell myself, “Yes, 70% feels right.”

I wouldn’t have had much success in life if I failed at 70% of everything I attempted. What I needed was a mechanism to overcome my intrinsic tendency to make the wrong call. 

Look to the Autistics

The autistic brain is not malformed nor diseased. It isn’t something to be pitied or corrected. Our brains just happen to be different from yours. That doesn’t make the autistic brain wrong. It does, however, make it somewhat incompatible with a world, a society, constructed by human brains.

Is it any wonder that the autistic brain–and the person containing it–can sometimes struggle? We’re plaid, trying to exist in a striped world. We clash a little. Both patterns work. They’re just slightly incompatible. And there’s a lot more of you guys.

When you go out looking for a chicken and you find a duck, you wouldn’t say, “Well, that’s an odd looking chicken. Poor thing.” It’s not wrong. It’s just not what you were expecting.

Embrace the duck.  Listen for the quacking. It can be a nice change from all the clucking going on in the human hen house. Not only that. We may not lay eggs as efficiently as you. But man, can we swim!

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