Something Different – A Review

My life is so limited lately that to continue to only blog as a way to howl into the universe that I am still alive despite all failures of things meant to make that more certain, despite the total complacency of people who accept money to ensure I am not at all sorts of risk I that I am in fact at risk of.  Well, I knew this planet was not for me from my earliest days so moving on.

One of the ways I pass my life where I feel like I exist outside of time is to watch too much Netflix. It actually does the least harm if I get stuck in it as I am not typing or attempting something dangerous or which will result in days without sleep and sore joints.

Their offering “Atypical” was one I watched when it came out. Wondering how another teen with autism would be portrayed.

I am mostly reserving judgement in how the show does use functioning categories because there is some challenge too them as well.

I found the show to go heavily on the everything is somehow okay side though.  The protagonist is 18. Has a part time-job which he apparently holds without much issue although he has a side kick and an understanding boss.  It is in an electronics store so having sometimes contemplated that as bliss if I could stand better it’s a maybe. I would have liked if employment as an issue came up somewhere though.

On concluding he would like a girlfriend, Sam proceeds in a methodical manner. I have no issue with that as I found that very me.   I kind of did have one about the outcome.  Realistically while his younger sister gives some sense of needing to be there for him, having needed to be there for him he is not seen being bullied ever.

He concludes he wants a girlfriend and gets one. He makes some understandable missteps along the way but this is high school.. He not only gets a girlfriend but he allows her to train him to talk about penguins less.  This was perhaps one of the most clearly problematic bits about the show.

The other big issues in autism get skirted because the father says of functioning labels they don’t really use them.  When Sam has a bad melt-down on a bus there is the well that’s life with a “high-functioning” kiddo”.   No clear shots across the bow at them get made but the promise of some one hopes.

Although Sam’s therapist has gone into it motivated by a sibling who remained non-verbal and his mother is very into all of everything that one might consider the negative kind of “autism mommy”.  Again it is the father who suggests towards the end of the season one that an identity beyond that would be a good thing.

The show is a comedy so the kind of heavy-duty why it is not just a good thing but a necessary thing is not going to happen.  You have the one character occasionally challenging the whole way autism is framed by those who are not autistic.

The actor portraying Sam is not autistic. A sore spot of late within the autistic community and a familiar one for the disability community overall.   It’s not that he didn’t do a good job. It was a role he wanted and one he feels is his favourite thus far but this does suggest that they were not looking to cast an autistic actor.  Is this ever going to change?

So it is high-school with all the potential horrors and yet in ten episodes Sam has one day where he winds up under a lab station for part of it. For those of you who know me I do keep saying under is the superior place to be for all forms of distress.

His girlfriend who perhaps could have been used to explore some of the things Sam has done that upset her like his pro and con list. Lists are lovely for the kinds of things that seem big.  Neurotypicals likely proceed through all sorts of things without them but I have made lists and plans for getting just a regular friend. I used the best that science had to offer the second time I did it as I knew more about what science had to say on the matter.

That a list is a way to make the impossible seeming slightly more probable.  It also takes something which at 18 is harder most of the time than at 49 – the whole social arena and contains it. You have a plan. You can proceed with your plan. I used to have plans for every area of my life that I evaluated at least annually — some quarterly.  This was especially true for the difficult parts of life.  A plan. A list.  These are real tools and they are mostly things which are fodder for comedy when someone Sam’s age who is also on the spectrum is enthusiastic. Perhaps the comedy wouldn’t be diminished if a sentence or two of why they are so wonderful happened. Maybe none of the experts the show consulted knew why.

So having gotten a girl who openly behaviourly conditions him to speak about his passion less which sure you could say this is a lesson in compromise but what it says to the autistic viewer is that life is always a trade-off where less of what makes you who you are is what the world wants.  If you become less you then you may be rewarded with acceptance. It is a long shot. That too is not portrayed in the show.

Another long shot is when said,  girlfriend wants to go to the winter formal and this would be too overwhelming for Sam.  She goes up against the PTA and when all sorts of incentives rain down on those who want a dance of the kind where you can hear the music booming  versus one where the music could be delivered through headphones. See aforementioned job of Sam’s.  Still who thinks this would happen. That the mother’s on the PTA who oppose it strongly didn’t peak in high school and were the mean girls then and have not changed much.  Maybe age wears down their talons but they have fixed notions of what a dance should be.   I am guessing these formal this  and that being much bigger deals in the US and I never attended a single dance in high school. We didn’t live in town and gas by then was tight and well the 5 minutes I spent at a Junior High one so my computer matched “date” could get in for free ( who knew they weren’t all free)  was about enough.  Much like my 10 minutes at a toga party my second day in residence before most had arrived filled my toga party requirement of university.

Then there is Sam’s other desire. To have sex. Again approached methodically he improbably pulls this off at the winter formal. I mean it would have been probable if there had not been some drama ahead of time.  He handles the loss if his girlfriend, however temporarily by being convinced a quest is needed and the logical one leaves him soaking wet but having won fair maiden. No one mocks him for being soaking wet in formal clothes.  Right.  Was the author home-schooled?

It works and he and his beloved do the deed right there in an igloo his father made for him (not out of snow so surprisingly Sam does not deduct marks for this).   I was disappointed  by this bit.  It acts as many books and oh so many expert writings on the topic as if in 18 years nothing has been picked up about what would be appropriate or not.   Having sex for the first time in a display in a public place would seem like it would not only be something Sam would know is not appropriate but given it isn’t a real igloo and much of the other comforting things from his Antarctica themed room are not there. Just the fakee igloo which while Roald Amundsen, fresh from his North  West Passage exploration did indeed use.  This, skiing, sled dogs, and being willing to eat those dogs (this comes up if you ever seriously consider applying for a job in the North in the why dog sleds are still better than snowmobiles section of things to consider) no penguin ever set foot in them.

Consider too if you remove the sound of music blaring, and everyone has their own headsets, hopefully set at hearing friendly volume this might be rather hard to do at a silent dance.   If it is something that either teen would consider appropriate. I would think it would present larger challenges for Sam but given his girlfriend’s previous efforts on shaping him in the way things are done also a huge let down for the whole love those you can change model citizen.

Snow may have silencing properties which I appreciate when it actually snows here but this just looked that way. It also looked like something I couldn’t touch but they leave Sam with just the standard set of sensory issues so things he can’t touch don’t complicate his tryst.

Overall ten episodes isn’t enough to judge if it will get better or not. The issues the show skirts around would really have to be tackled in some substantive way for it to be a semi-win.  It isn’t horrible and it did leave me wanting Sam’s room very badly  but it isn’t a realistic portrayal of high school period let alone autism and high school.

It leaves too many key things as just side bits the Dad hints at and given he is alone there people may think he has the issue for not “doing” functioning levels.  Or thinking of autism that way. Then again so would the DSM V which pretty well point-blank states the numbers for each category in terms of functioning can fluctuate and they are defined with the premise that support is provided. It could take 20 years for that filter into the minds of even the “experts” let alone the general public so we can only hope that either this show or some other handles things a bit more head on that are issues largely because an inaccurate way of looking at autism hard set and is tricky to shift.

While never a diagnosis I have a report that say my previous diagnosis was “High Functioning Autism”. I did like the report though as the next paragraph my “Very low functioning” on  those lovely scales of adaptive living is noted.

So here’s hoping if Netflix wants to tackle autism they do it both head on and with some insight from those who are actually autistic.

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Invisible Lives

Pardon the poetry but some months are so awful nothing else will work. It has been decades since one would mistake me for a poet but the most raw subjects will not be formed into sentences with ease.

 

Invisible people leading terrified lives
Unheard as well as the words we summon are taken as other
When words will not come dismissed as having issues
When they come slowly they are again issues.
It is a terrifying thing to walk among those judged as people
To depend upon them and know that you are in fact a hostage
They can and have hurt you.
They will again

A word sends you flying blinded by all but the desire to get away
Words you were taught do not hurt. They do.
You do not have to fall down a case of stairs because of this blind panic
The panic that comes from being seen as less worthy of anything useful
The fleeing to most confirms that.
If you could speak easily you would spit out the relevant research
No one actually cares that if a word you have heard often sends you so fast
You are in fact already hurting more of the time than not
Dismissed again with less than a proper exam as you are not worthy
Not of the care those unlike you get
Not of concern that your constantly over—aroused state needs looking into it

It is, after all for those who understand brains a sign that calm has too long eluded you
Brains are your area but they who can sneer the words of dehumanizing would not think this
You will be dropped off
Without proper care, lie in pain and terrified
Wonder what it would be to be an actual person
Perhaps just as bad you think as that seems a process of trading truth for something else

Those that do it control your care though
You want someone to know but have never been able to call strangers
Your request is refused, you point out the dubious legality of this
They decamp to the truck to follow the edict that nothing you want done will be.
A hostage of disability or the smug feeling that you are others too control and spin.
Wrong has been done but if they can get the their version out first …

No one comes of course.
This feels like re-run
To make it worse levels of how little you count have kicked in
Fired by your pharmacy you try to create enough of a balance of things so that this is not fatal
Invisible lives so unworthy that the potential for death a fairly clear ethical line
Need not apply to you

Devalued lives, unvoiced fears, where is my voice?
Tears are shed into the dog.
Accustomed to licking them from the face he performs the service again.
Choke out a few words for him on how sorry I am that he is stuck with me
He could have a happy human.
One viewed as a full person with the rights of others
Then again they might consider him their owner and likely have others to help when tears flow
The sensation of panic will not go away on its own and looking at the medication left
The worried math of evoked potentials
The work that should have been done by he who felt he could indeed deny something vital over profits.
I have for years sent back the form he demands I fill out.
So sudden action seems cruel as I am used to kindness in a pharmacist
In the former owner as well
Red faces and stabbing the air he has spit out he is both
The new owner and a pharmacist this enraged bully confronting me at the door
Of what passes for my home.
The stress and fear apparently not his concern other than in theory they are
That I may not be able to cope with any of the ways too work around this firing
should probably concern him but why would they?
Many professionals have ethics but they apply not to the likes of one such as me
The death sentences fly in

Society trends in a direction so horrific that this is one of many similar incidents
The worried math of how to prevent death is my concern
Another gash in any facade that I am a person
The progress through which you become a non-person is ongoing
You sometimes forget.
Sometimes in the brief joy of being among people who see you as you
You are lulled into thinking this is a view that might catch on
In the days that follow you will reflect on how often you have made this mistake
Chiding yourself for blaming yourself for the natural desire to lean into a better identity
To believe others may not be blind whatever caused the quick dismissal
You are wrong though.

Asking for a phone call to be made you are refused
Autism is something you feel like blaming for this form of hostage keeping
That would hardly be fair though
As society has in theory provided support based on what you cannot do
Then never really monitored if they comply
So now they too are terrifying as one cannot be supported by those who will cage you
Who are alarmed that the agency who has every right to know and thus they will not.

Invisible, unheard, damaged and scared
Not by the neurology that allows so many to discard you
By the many who have to view you as less than to get on with …
I have no real clue what drives this desire that some must be so much less than
It is common but it’s utility is lost on me

Invisible, unheard, hurt and terrified.
Sobs hit keening levels but no one will ever hear or come
This is not a reality with a place for the likes of you
You are paying the full cost of having forgotten ever that this was the case
Rocking as the dog likes the salt from your face you croak out Bill-C-24
The dog no more like other dogs than you like people wages his tail
If you had croaked out good-boy he would have barely noticed

Days go on
The dog not afraid of course as you are a reality he is used to
The fear escalates and escalates
The math of thresholds and evoked potentials has you hoping most of the risk has passed
So too has anything that might help with the terror

On the day I was born a party was held
I wonder why as the 49 years that followed do not support it as joyous event.

 

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