On Black And White Thinking and Other Annoyances

When I state my opinions about some things if the audience knows I am autistic I sometimes am rebutted not by their own opinion but that my thoughts are the product of black and white thinking.

This baffles me on a few levels really. While I understand someone out there (well numerous someones) has characterized autistic thinking that way do they think we are incapable of seeing the views in between? Or for the sorts of things people go around having opinions about that some waving around between positions is even a good thing?

Here are some things I am black and white about –

You can’t kill people because they have a “horrific” label like autism

The group I call Voldemort Speaks needs to disband.

The world needs more acts of love and less talking about love

Honesty is the only policy.

Every human not only deserves dignity and respect but society needs to make sure they get it.

Most people are smarter than the experts think.

Speech is not the sum total of all communication.

Being able to speak does not say anything about other competencies.

Well that’s the short list. I could go on of course but I would enter the realm of my own life to a degree that would leave people a bit too baffled.

My main problem when I get dismissed by this method because labeling it black and white is a fast way to end the conversation is that just because someone thinks it is so, and even if it looks that way on any issue I care a lot about it is apparently so hard to make another case that we need to queue the oh poor her she can’t see other opinions.

I wish that were the case. I have had other opinions acted out on me. I have seen them acted out on others. Since they did harm I would think people need to be a little more shades of grey overall. Perhaps it is some terrible neurological affliction that the unlabeled masses have that they sway all over the place over fairly short spans of time. I don’t really know but I do know that being dismissed on things I think a lot about with any reference to my autism is frustrating beyond words.

Just like if there is a communication problem that involves me I am not always the problem. This one comes up a lot. Granted sometimes I cannot communicate by the usual methods. Sometimes I need break from those ways but when I do communicate very clearly about some issues I doubt it is my problem if someone spends 8 days trying to change my mind. Good luck with that would seem a bit flip I guess. But is it so radical a notion that having lived as me for 45 long years now I might just have a better sense of what is possible for me any given day than someone who has the joys of managing me as a case? I think yes but majority opinion says no. That I will never sway any of them to my position does make me wonder who exactly is more firmly entrenched in if not black and white thinking at least normative institutional thinking. I am the one with more labels than seems reasonable so of course I have no clue about what is good for me or what is possible. All health care and service provision seems to operate from this stance even though when I was a service provider I am pretty sure respecting the client took up a good chunk of the handbook and the attitudes questionnaire and screening essay questions.

There really is a right and a wrong for more things than humans tell themselves. Sometimes it can be fun to be a little bit “bad” of course and those sort of behavioural deviations from the straight and narrow as they call it are not a big concern. What concerns me are bigger moral issues.

I have written about lying before. People I think refuse to give me credit for being honest as in theory I would be a terrible liar. Yet I could have learned to tell the kind of social lies people tell if I believed that was a good route to go. I spent years actively resisting social scripts deemed useful and even enlisting converts to the whole living honestly.

At this stage in my life the only way it has backfired if you can call it that is people often seek my opinion who otherwise may not have. Rather tangentially related to my life people suddenly want to know things out of their confidence that I will tell the truth and other people will be nice when being nice won’t be helpful.

I do not consider it a bad thing that my integrity is not eroded by the accumulation of social lies and the slide into more ambitious ones. I don’t think it is a product of my autism as I have been lied to be autistic.

When forming opinions past the information gathering stage, which too many people seem to skip, I do consider the extremes of the issue and work out my stance sometimes over years. If someone then sums up my opinion as not worth entertaining because it is black and white then yes I will question this whole how useful is to socially engage thing.

I belong to a group that has been catastrophized to a degree I didn’t even think possible. People’s notions of autism when I was young were not that accurate but the kind of hate that is directed at the label now should really be considered criminally unacceptable. Many countries have laws against hate speech and yet it continues to go on. It inspires violence against autistics and when the worst case scenarios happen, that is when autistic people are killed society tends to champion the killer.

We could use a lot less grey here I think. Sometimes my autistic peers have a laugh at the whole society seems to have forgotten we are actually human but there is an underlying sadness in our games. Games that the experts also say we are incapable of but hey my opinion on anyone thinking they are an expert on matters pertaining to people other than themselves is not exactly high.

I try to live in a way that does good. Sometimes people are offended by it but I take the long view to that as occasionally in being offended it sparks off a thought process. I know I am not right about everything as that would be very obnoxious and like a good debate but on matters that boil down to the application of ethical values it is hard to see how firmness is a bad thing.

In matters less vital of course I slip and slide. If I applied my mind to making a position on everything I would run out of time for pretty well everything. The dog in my life knows my positions with regard to him that are thought out are I do not own him and he is not by being a dog entitled to less thought about his needs than I am by being human. He does milk these positions a bit much as he seems to think that means he can get away with just about anything but ours is a close relationship so of course there is give and take. I have told him that he should try and support himself but he plays the dog card there. It’s a work in progress.

Opinions on autism change and will always change. What cannot happen is for the masses to forget yes we are still people. We are still entitled to any right or protection normally given to people in our areas and so on. If someone wants to call those opinions black and white go for it. I will still hold them. Even when actions by the society around me make me pretty sure they forgot some of this I will keep underlining those positions.

If you want grey here’s grey. Currently most aspects of my life are pretty catastrophic. There is o denying that. That does not mean that I am though. There is a distinction. It is a source of hurt that some aspects of my life are artificially difficult. That is the means exist to ease some major stressors almost instantly but the powers that be or society at large doesn’t do it.

For 23 months and 1 day my life seems to have plotted how to break down in as many areas as possible. My body is it’s main co-conspirator but it was ever thus. Most people who know even half of how bad or plain weird or almost absurd it gets can’t quite wrap their minds about it but in all of this there are times of joy. Less than I might like but they exist.

I laughed doing my work in the wee hours of the morning. I laughed at a few other things. I also cried because life is not easy but it is a life. A human life. While a colleague did say I could be an AI the other day that wasn’t dehumanizing so much as a product of my distance from my place of work so while a few people have spoken to me no one has met me. We shared a good run of AI related jokes and I went to sleep.

Whatever happens one stress I do not need is the steady clamour of propaganda telling me how awful autism is. Telling me all sorts of lies. I will give them my life is hard but as they are about 18 percent of my current stress if they would just shut-up it would get slightly less so. As they feed too many opinions who knows how much of the rest might go away?

I have seen my blog mentioned in a few random places to support ideas I do not support. That is by granting yes I have a disability and yes my life is hard at times, even very hard somehow everything else I have said about my life doesn’t matter.

I studied psychology. I had to study the DSM for longer than anyone should have to I suspect so my notions of what can be said about any person’s autism and still have them fit diagnostic standards may be a bit rigid but it is a rigid format. I will never be someone who says my autism is only a good thing because if that were the case technically I would not have it. Currently since the issue that started my 23 month cruise with instability is most certainly a byproduct of autism, and some of my more major bodily malfunctions are not aided by it I can’t swing to that extreme.

I guess the only good function of Voldemort Speaks may be that it makes me a moderate. By saying I am autistic but I am human. My life matters to me. I should not have been prevented. I struggle but show me a person who doesn’t. I struggle harder than I need to so please society try harder to remove barriers and problems that don’t need to exist I am moderate in comparison. I know they view all those statements as radical but that is their problem.

It gets gritty in the trenches of being me. They are most certainly trenches right now but it is fun as well. Chanukah just brought me more days in a row of being dragged from my home than seemed fair but also laughter and latkes.

I suspect any day now that an accident I had and didn’t know about for too long and then couldn’t cope with what it takes to get it seen to will require surgery. So will several other things simmering away as I said earlier by body is my life’s main co-conspirator but while definitely lacking the capacity to deal with it today I either will or dealing with it will be thrust upon me.

In the meantime there is my dog, the internet, my work and tomorrow. I suspect all four of them will serve up a spectrum of delight and agony and everything in between collectively. I enjoy the dog, the internet and perversely my work so I guess tomorrow is the main suspect in the lineup for the gritty bits but not a lot of point of subtracting any happiness from today just because eventually a lot of unpleasant things will need to be dealt with.

Since I am being radical what with the liking my work and insisting that my life has value despite the indisputably hard parts would it be too radical to suggest that for the issues that matter most everyone try to be a bit more binary? There is a place at the table for dialogue but not propaganda I think. Attitudes are a potential thief of joy and the world needs more joy.

People often think my own attitude needs adjusting for some reason but it’s about right for the life I currently have. For some reason many people also regard me as a pessimist but on the things that need to change front I think I am pretty optimistic. While there has been no sign that society as a whole will suddenly see me as just part of society as a whole say the bits could improve for that to be normative behaviour.

In my city locals do this thing that people often ask about. When it started I was perplexed too. I had to defend it to several people when I was still thinking okay it is illogical but it seems to increase happiness phase with it. People on exiting the bus say thank you. Everyone does it unless they are distracted. It’s not rational behaviour in a way as of course the bus driver is paid for this exact thing but it makes the bus a better place. Which in a weird circular logic makes the bus driver (or the population at large) worth thanking.

So what if people could change normative behaviours about autism? Stop reflexively supporting Voldemort Speaks because of all that good they supposedly do. Stop believing my life is not valuable. Start doing something as radical as treating all people in ways that recognize their humanity?

I don’t really see how any other position makes sense of course but then again I have a “problem” with black and white thinking,

Well he's black and white some days.

Well he’s black and white some days.

Why I Keep Trying in a World that Would Prefer I Don’t Exist.

A commenter for my flash-blog called it a rant. Hard to read and so on. I am the first to admit that my writing is nearly entirely generated by just starting and carrying on and in that specific case I gave up when WP restored unedited versions over and over again.

I would call this explanation of why I keep at it an uncomfortable truth but it’s not about climate change so someone might object.

The commentator later said it was her own issue for losing attention but I know there are others out there who I wish could hear my ideas but who can’t wade through them. Both in real life where I either talk not enough or at a frantic pace, and here. It was also too late to keep my deepest inner demon from fully surfacing and concluding only saying that demon is a huge part of what drives me would be honest.

I cry when I admit the full truth of what I see as the danger is in the whole making a label into a global crisis thing. When I was young autism was seen as much rarer but also in terms that set us apart from pretty well every human out there. Our fundamental deficit was seen as an inability to love.

That’s pretty bad science really, getting to a notion of an emotional state or lack of it based on observed behaviour but that the bulk of people identified as behaving autistically back then grew rigid at human touch, screamed and so on if the issue were pressed. It was not seen then as perhaps some sensory issue that made all those things so unpleasant but an inability to love period. Now they dress it up as a deficit in empathy which is just as absurd but maybe a less painful notion for a mother to take in.

I’ve written that my mother improved at unconditionally loving me in the years leading up to her death. What I left out was while that improvement was happening her mind was being changed not by anything I said or did, but by cancer eating away at her brain. I have lived with having to wonder how much of what finally did amount to my experiencing unconditional love from her, was a result of cancer eating up previously held notions and inhibitions that had until recently led to behaviours in my mother that made it obvious while she did love me that love was tinged by shame.

It doesn’t actually diminish how wonderful being with my mother was when her mind was more literally changed was, to understand the brain well enough to know cancer munching away was helping all of what should have been there from the start. It’s less painful to tell myself I came to terms with things and certainly since she is now gone from the planet less painful to not admit this core motivating factor fully.

I’ve seen how ineffective words are in changing people’s opinions about autism. I cannot really live with notions that other parents wind up thinking thoughts that are downright wrong about autism and then more people get to grow up knowing pretty well any second they dare to observe too closely, how much their parents are ashamed of them. I can’t live ethically with not pointing out when a huge leap of logic is being made that could be destructive. I can’t because for me the things people knew about autism caused a complete parental surrender and some pretty horrific things which I will not write about here.

So yes I do tend to ramble. It beats truly facing that very fundamental pain that comes from knowing not that I could not love my mother because of my autism but that she could not, the way love is most fully defined love me. That it ironically took the presence of pathology in her own brain for her to finally look at me with the kind of love a few other people do possess for me.

If I am lacking in empathy for having spent the better part of my life fighting for a better handle on what people meant when they say love then I guess I would prefer to lack empathy than to be so sure I knew what either love or empathy looked like across the full spectrum of people that I said such and such a group is deficient in either.

I don’t think I am actually deficient in my capacity in either case and certainly what I have seen the so called “normal” population do while claiming to be good at empathy would make me wonder about how they define it.

Imagine knowing the people you care most about are often embarrassed by you. Listening as they start explaining you, just in case, before you even get a chance to screw up socially. That’s the less painful present the past was so much more horrible.

In the end I think my mother did experience more unconditional love from me than most. I didn’t hold the pain of knowing what it took to get there against her but more the world that shaped her and that’s why I am passionate about the narrative about autism. I am 45 years old. My life is more than half over. I don’t need to spend time writing things that get summed up in a way similar to my being summed up was. I do it because if society as a whole adopts toxic visions that link autism to horrors that are not scientifically supported, there would be little point in walking the planet. I do it though most of all in the hope that no little human ever is written off by their parent before they even got a chance to show them in a way that made sense to them that they did indeed love them.

It’s not news to me the world views me as strange and bizarre. There are worse fates than not fitting into a world that has some pretty weird values though. The largest good I am capable of is making people wonder if they are right about what autism is so I try. If people can’t find my message in a sea of words I am sorry but I have to try.

The world is a horrible place to go about in any sort of an obvious different way as it is but I don’t really care about changing the world as a whole. I just have to hope some parent of a young child does wade through my clumsy words and question. In real life I have been there to make people question notions they otherwise may have believed in destructive ways, but in theory you can change more minds on the internet. It seems largely a theory right now as I don’t think I have seen one change in a measurable way through my writing on my blog.

I say young child not because I am confused about the longitudinal nature of autism but because parental fear and misconception needs to be altered before it can do incredible amounts of damage to both groups. I cannot see as a type as the tears that started when I began this document have been a tad unrelenting. You can come to terms with damage like knowing for most of her life your mother doubted your ability to love but you can’t run a nice scan on your brain the way you can your computer and fix the impact of that.

When groups set out to make me less human for profit, at this point in my lifespan on some level I wish they were correct. It would hurt so much less if I was as completely lacking in common emotional ground. I may show it in different ways but I am very much human. My life is not less valuable and it darn well isn’t something for people to profit off of demeaning.

The uncomfortable truth is I was barely an adult before I had to think that this world could only be made better for the next generation of autistic people. Those of us emerging into adulthood in an era when only the classical looking were being labeled at all were already shell shocked by a lifetime of narrow misses with presumed incompetence making some horrific things possible.

When I see the gains that were made for awhile being erased so that pretty new children are subjected to therapies and views that we keep hoping were relegated to the past, and this erasure isn’t even being fed by science but by unethical fund raising yeah I will rant. I don’t like it when words hard come by are dismissed as one since I know when I have been. I am only sorry my message may get missed in a real rant.

This in case anyone is wondering isn’t rant but my own uncomfortable truth about what it has meant to be autistic. The most uncomfortable truth in my past. The most uncomfortable truth in my present is that people still think these things. I’m not that great at throwing myself into the gap created by different neurology clearly but I do have to try.

I won’t stop as long as there are people anywhere using disability of any kind to justify those people not being allowed to live, or having lived being described in ways more suitable to plagues and natural disasters. I am stubborn that way. My tenacity in the face of what others would take as defeat may be the best gift of my autism.

Autistic Behaviour has a Purpose: –

Or How Being a Social Skills Holdout Resulted in a Richer Life.

It feels like I have been warning people against eliminating autistic looking behaviour for the sake of it without recognizing it’s functionality for many years now. I wrote about it over 12 years ago even but had spent several years cautioning parents about choosing therapies that had this as a central premise. a The drive to value being indistinguishable from peers over being functional has dominated the market that is autism treatment for far too long. Autistics behave as they do for similar utilitarian reasons that “normal” people do. Behaviours have a use for the way our brain is wired.

Today someone posted http://pdresources.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/encouraging-eye-contact-may-disturb-autistic-kids-thinking/ Which for the holy grail of social skills treatment- eye contact actually demonstrates this. Granted the subject pool is a bit small but I would guess anyone thinking about their thought process can do a micro-experiment and get similar results.

Autistic people need more processing time on a lot of situations that are “easy” for the typically wired. It would then make sense there was more gaze aversion overall. If your face tells me nothing useful about what I am processing looking there is a waste of available processing capacity.

Eye contact is something I have refused to fake. If I feel comfortable with someone and the situation is not overly taxing it will happen. If not it won’t. I have never been cooperative with those helpful hints to look at the forehead and so on and since I spent 6 years studying psychology I have enough of a neuroscience background to know that those hints – often complied by educators and job coaches don’t make good sense on a neurological level.

Not a single time has my lack of eye contact been an issue unless I have been with the kind of professional type person who really cares about eye-contact in i’s own right. I have never not gotten a job I interviewed for. Granted one of those jobs was in university where my autism was not exactly a well kept secret but my lack of eye contact has not had the impact darkly predicted. People do tend to trust me and not once has anyone ever expressed concern about it beyond medical types. I recently even asked some people why and most responded along the lines that I had some other hard to describe qualities that conveyed a sense of honest and decency to a high degree. I suspect indeed that were I inclined to force myself whatever is coming through to the relevant people might be compromised.

For all the years I was ashamed of my autism I still wasn’t very tractable when it came to certain things. Before I made an uneasy peace with it (I say uneasy only because while I have come to terms with my autism, I am not always at terms with it’s sometimes catastrophic impact on my life) I still routinely told people why they were wrong to include some things in their social skills programs. My biggest one wasn’t eye contact though. My huge burning autistic behaviours that shouldn’t sought to be changed were a lack of social lying and self stimulatory behaviour. Because stims are a big topic of more interest to the average person than social lying I will save that for it’s own post or posts and let myself write about the big issue in my own mind.

My BIG, issue is the whole social lies as useful, teachable and desirable. This is such utter bologna. If one stops to think how much more confusing and labour intensive polite, lies make the world I am really shocked more people don’t stand up and say to heck with all our ritualized niceness. It would be an autistic paradise if one could be certain you were getting an honest response to some enquiries on the first go at it.

If you are neuro-typical think about how many times people who don’t know you or care about you ask how you are. If you are North American and complying with social norms you probably say fine. In all European countries I have been in there is some variation in the ritual but a range of socially acceptable answers all the same. Indeed in Europe the ritual is slightly more informative as there is more than one answer considered normative, a range is technically okay here but fine is very dominant as the correct answer, the more interesting issue is why are random people asking? Why do we engage in this ritual that strips sincere enquiries by actual friends of the liklihood of getting useful information?

My transformational I am absolutely never even going to pretend to go along with this ritual happened in my 20s. I passed a good friend on the street. I already was strongly inclined to only ask if I cared and considered the data I got back to be valid. This encounter would change that.

I had been in group therapy with this particular person. In that, especially aggressive form of therapy they even discouraged the use of the dreaded “fine”. As a result of being considered socially isolated I had been allowed to break one of the cardinal rules of the group which is while friendships were normally discouraged in mine they were encouraged. That made me a handy person to be friends with I guess as only by doing so could you have permission to carry on hanging out with others you got along with. So for a surprising number of years afterwards a group of about 8 of us met regularly for cards and similar activities. I became quite close to a few of them and the person in this encounter was one of my closer friends at the time.

I asked her how she was and she responded fine. I took that as valid information and carried on towards my bank. I heard her call my name. I turned to see her burst in to tears, clasp her face, and exclaim, “I can’t believe I just said that.” It turned out her mother had killed herself that very day.

Surprised that even a person who had had so much conditioning towards good communication I had to take action. I engaged in a couple year process of experimenting with the whole “How are you? I am fine.” ritual. I experimented with leaving out any answer at all over 2000 times to determine to a high degree of certainty that people actually usually respond as if you have said fine. You don’t even have to voice it. Most people either hear it or at the very least automatically respond with the next line. (It would taint the spontaneous experiment to question which so I still don’t know) I haven’t performed any recent studies on it but I suspect it is not that different. For the benefit of the few people who would notice and be uncomfortable with the lack of answer I experimented with humorous but still true answers. Overall simply omitting any answer at all moved things along faster. Perhaps my humour was geared a little too much in the direction of science but if the goal of a forced, ritualized encounter like at the grocery store, or bank is a fast return to the business at hand simply not replying worked best.

The problem is all around you are people like my friend. If you actually care about them the habit of an automatic fine response and other similar socially done, sometimes nonsense scripts is they generate an invalid response by default. Since I only ask if I actually care I don’t want to have to ask really. I sure don’t want to have to ask that a second time, yet for the most part if my question was motivated out of a concern I do. Asking a third time gets annoying but is still sometimes useful. If I care about keeping a friendship I eventually have to spell this out to people. I want to be a good and caring friend but the switch in my brain is a bit stuck on literal and since by virtue of being my friend I expect you to know that I will only dig around so much before I go back to either considering your answer valid or not asking if you want me to actually be a good friend then you should comply with the expectation that you return good data. It’s not blatantly lying to participate in a prolonged exchange where you fail to get a real answer but it is not something I want to encourage others to do or to participate in myself.

It’s the same with the classic social skills story line about say Aunt Edna. You are shopping with your somewhat massive, entirely hypothetical, Aunt Edna and she asks you if the pants she is trying on make her look fat. In reality your aunt is actually fat, the pants have nothing to do with it but the pants in the scenario are not helping matters. The taught social behaviour tends to either be to reassure her they don’t or to compliment some other aspect of the pants. “That shade of blue looks good on you.”

Pretend you are Aunt Edna. (It cracks me up that the people who come up with these programs test out normal on the empathy scale and I get a 3 to 4 depending on how I interpret the questions any given day – I don’t think they are actually measuring practical empathy) If you are Aunt Edna you probably know you are overweight. You actually do want to do the best you can with the clothes you buy to emphasize your good points. You have just received bad data about these pants. You may act on that data and buy them and wear them. People will think they are hideous on you and so on. How is it more caring of your hypothetical aunts feelings and experience to encourage her in this folly? Obviously it’s not, yet scenarios very similar to this one abound. (I know because even at my ancient age the occasional very keen person tries to get me into a social skills program)

The Aunt Edna situation where your “white lie” is used to spare someones feelings is the usual explanation given to kids about when you can lie. What a slippery slope. I would think so especially for people who tend more towards seeing things in black and white which I have no problem admitting I do. (Honestly who cares to deal with shades of grey anyway? Aren’t they just confusing and annoying in pretty well every situation where an obvious answer doesn’t exist?)

Look beyond autism even. We have a society where the routine thing to do is lie. You will if you are an average person who works in an average workplace probably participate in more meaningless, devoid of good data chatter in a day than real authentic exchanges. What does that do over the long term to what we view as okay? We expect people in certain professions to basically be liars and corrupt. One of the biggest places we expect that is in government. Hmm… Is there a chance if everyone treated honesty as a binary situation we would have better communities? If we didn’t desensitize people to lying by expecting it and teaching those without a typical sense of social norms how valuable they are. Could we actually attract and keep honest politicians on board? What kind of society could we accomplish if we expected and tolerated nothing but the truth?

I live like this. I refuse to be anything but honest. Like eye contact none of the disastrous consequences in the rationale for teaching social lies happen to me. I am typically viewed as polite not rude. (With a tinge of abrupt I can’t quite get away from because I sometimes have to terminate an exchange before I lose key skills) People seek my opinion out more than normal not less. They don’t get hurt by doing so because I suppose they self-select. You learn to ask other people when you want a dishonest answer I guess. I don’t seek to hurt people so I nearly always remind people that they will indeed get an honest opinion. The result has never been a withdrawal of having sought my input. More and more often I am told that’s why they ask me. The only “bad” side effect from my point of view is that the circle of people who will seek my opinion extends past the usual rings of acquaintanceship. This would not be viewed as bad really overall. I don’t even view it that way most of the time as I am fully aware being a hermit isn’t healthy. So people make it a point to come to me because unique among sometimes a large number of known people they could ask they trust me to be honest. In literature about developmentally delayed children an option parents are given to encourage friendships is to make it attractive for children to seek our your child. (Cool toys, better than average snacks and so on…) Have I hit upon an adult equivalent out of sheer obstinacy? Well okay obstinacy combined with ethics and a value placed on logic that makes behaving inconsistently with those values not something I can tolerate.

I’ve explained why honesty should be binary to a lot of people. I only have one actual neurotypical convert to the cause though as far as I know. Well maybe not so typical if having listened to my 20 minute mini-lecture on it the response was that I was on to something important that he had not given much thought to so he would try it. Who knows? It works for me it, it appears to work for him. It could work for you even. It takes a bit of training of the people around you but less so if you are actually on the spectrum and people secretly fear you are a social skills hold-out. Still even if you are “normal” I suspect you could adapt this with relatively little training to those around you without anything but good consequences. This would be especially true if you love someone with autism. How great it would be to be a person who that person doesn’t have to spend a lot of time and energy trying to decipher. Still I suspect it has payoffs beyond that.

I know this honesty issue is described by some clinicians as part of my deficit. The degree of black and white thinking to fully flesh out the societal implications for going along with a keep Aunt Edna from wearing nice pants model of behaviour is probably pretty extreme but is it harmful? I am a person like other people who has certain values in my case honesty, integrity and rationality. How would it improve my life outcome to try to take me down a few notches there? How does it improve the quality of life of those around me? I think the answer is it doesn’t. The benefit to having me in a social skills program is being able to write in my chart that I am attending one. For those teaching these “skills” to be able to bill my government and so on. The only real benefit to me is satire. Any social skill that doesn’t conflict with my values I already know.

My binary theory of honesty, however black and white is still a conscience choice. I am 44. I could have learned how to fake all sorts of social scripts by now but what would it achieve? A magnitude shift towards insincere illusory closeness with people? I would seem more social and more like other people but it would be entirely artificial. To reject that is a conscious choice. It’s not driven by my “disorder” at all. It may have set my factory pre-sets a bit but I could have chosen to be otherwise to some degree by now if it seemed one bit logical or useful to do so. Ah pragmatics I guess I left out a core trait.

You may think I am deluding myself but as I am honest and do make conscience decisions about living honestly I am also authentic. While around me I see people have goals of being authentic and sincere if one avoids participating in rituals that would subtract from that I would guess it should be a default state. The thing is being real scares people. If you present a false you to the world you have less at stake. A lot of people enjoy Hallowe’en and Purim because the costumes are a concrete expression of the unrealness we live with day in and day out. That polite, insincerity that keeps your innermost thoughts and feelings safely stowed away and hidden under a babble of meaningless scripts and in some ways the world is more manageable. More manageable but not better.

I have a surprising number of very good friends at this point in my life. They all have a strong tendency towards being of the more genuine variety although perhaps not to the furthest extreme. I suspect other kinds of people would be too taxing to interact with in the long run. Even with those friends say at a dinner party my processing delay while I work out if something is a joke is a source of benign amusement. I don’t know why but I have yet to learn to put my tongue on pause while I process the content so I inevitably have responded to the literal content of a joke and then having heard my response it dawns on me that it was a joke. I am not stupid. Depending on how people react I sometimes wind up feeling stupid when this happens. Among my friends they don’t exactly try to hide they find this funny (which is good as that would be insincere) but that is covered for by a genuine affection for me so I can do the unthinkable and be at a party for 14 and realize hmm everyone here is an actual friend. Since I am selective about how I use words like friend that’s a shocker for me and not an expected outcome but I actually do think part of the reason for it is I am who I am.

My autism causes chaos for me at times. I am a great source of stress for my friends and family at those times. But like any real friends they are there for me. Should they need me I am there for them. I understand that is how it is supposed to work and that is the outcome for this totally social skills defiant, black and white thinker who won’t even pretend to humour you on the eye contact issue. Could we really hope for more? Could you hope for more if you changed your opinion on some of the classic “deficits” in autism and instead of teaching that autistic in your life to be more like you tried it the other way around at least for a little while out of fairness?