Springingtiger's Blog

Autism Awareness: Spasticus Autisticus

This is not the post I intended to put up today, but as I was looking through my old posts it caught my eye, particularly as I was just looking at a post about the language we use. I think what I am saying is that I will define myself, thankyou.

“Spasticus Autisticus” is the name of the song Ian Durie wrote as an anthem – a war cry for the disabled –for the UN Year of the Disabled. There is a wonderful scene in the film Sex, Drugs an Rock and roll. Where Durie played by Andy Serkis is arguing with the (able bodied) representative of The Spastic Society – Gooddess, that sounds so dated! – because the song is not getting played. The response is that some people find it offensive to which Durie replies that none of the disabled people he knows are offended. At this point it is made clear that it is offending the sensibilities of able-bodied supporters and Durie shouts back, “I didn’t write it for them!” Durie goes on to point out that the disabled,”don’t want sympathy we want respect”. Earlier in the film Durie is criticised for his inappropriate language, he says that he uses stereotypes because it saves time. Much of the film is a study of how limited and limiting stereotypes are even when the evidence reveals their emptiness.

There is no stereotype that can cover the autism spectrum so the proposal to remove some diagnostic labels and have a catch-all diagnosis of “Autism Spectrum Disorder” or whatever the form of words ends up being will cause stereotypical problems. Just now there is a stereotype of autistic people as being silent and graceful whereas those with asperger’s syndrome ain’t. We may not be able to walk a straight line but we will tell you how many degrees we are off, how we calculated it, how we might also have calculated it, how historically it would have been calculated and how improvements in computational technology will change how we do the calculations. Pretty soon you will wish we were silent and graceful. There are good reasons not to divide the people on the spectrum but these labels also help to give definition to the elements of the spectrum. A spectrum is multi-coloured not beige. Perhaps there should be name changes but for whom are these changes being made? They may help carers claim benefits and services, they may be convenient for the psychiatrists, we don’t really enter into consideration. I look at warring groups of parents, advocates, therapists and researchers each stridently attacking anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint. Perhaps people should start by realising they can’t see into the minds of other people, they don’t know what we are thinking and feeling – I don’t know what I’m thinking and feeling most of the time – we are human. We are not chess pieces, we are not puppets. We may not want to be cured, we are who we are. Nowadays it is generally considered offensive to talk about people in wheelchairs in the third person – “does he take sugar?” – the same goes for us. If I can’t answer your question I can ask my wife but I prefer you ask me first. Still it is good that so many people care regardless of their points of view there is lots of hope plenty of “Reasons to be Cheerful”.

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