Friday, September 23, 2011

Blogging on Autism for Autistics, Parents, Educators, or...?

Today I was asked for whom do I write this blog. The individual asking said that I don't write much for autistics, and yet that should be my primary audience. So, was I writing for parents? And if so, which parents?

You'd imagine a writing instructor would have an "audience analysis" ready. Any good author is supposed to know his or her audience, we tell our students. I must have a target in mind when I write… right?

No.

I write whatever comes to mind. This is a blog, a personal reflection on daily life, and I don't pretend that it is a focused work with a consistent rhetorical purpose. Some days, it is a place where I write about science and research. Other days, it is where I record the way I feel about my wife, family, and pets. This blog isn't a planned literary work — it simply happens as it happens.

When I write, I'm not trying to offer my experiences as "the autistic experience" of life. I'm aware that I have limits, but I don't embrace them or celebrate them. I focus on my strengths and try to adapt around (or ignore) my weaknesses. You want to know what it is to be autistic? I can't tell you. I can tell you what is to be me, but even that is only from my perspective. I'm sure my mother and my wife have different perspectives than I do. I am not writing "THE" experience because I know there isn't one experience.

I have simple advice for autistics: you are not anyone else, so don't fall into the trap of embracing too many stereotypes. You are probably not Temple Grandin, Stephen Shore, or any of a dozen well known autistic writers and public speakers. You are not a character in a television show. You are not a checklist in the DSM. You are a person, no more or less likely to agree with me than most other people. I don't get to define you and neither does anyone else.

I have no clear idea of what parents and educators get from this blog, but many seem to read it and comment. I know I've offended plenty of parents with my writings and public statements over the last five years or so.

Parenting is about balance. I know that only as a teacher and a son, not as a parent myself, but I can tell you that I see too many children who were pushed like they were tiny adults and others who were coddled and protected like fine glassware. Sorry, but a child is neither an adult nor a fragile collectable. You have to balance expectations, while accepting that your child will get hurt emotionally and physically at some point in life. Protecting a child from life is impossible and trying to do so only shelters the child from reality.

When I write here, I admit that I fail — and I have had some spectacular failures. I often write so I can reflect on those failures and learn from them. I write for myself in those moments. I'm not writing to teach anyone other than myself. Today a student told me that writing about failure helps other people realize they aren't alone. I like that idea. Maybe it does help when I write that failed at something, but went right back to living.

If I could reach any audience, I'd like to reach educators. I have a lot I'd like to tell teachers and administrators. Some of it would be popular, some of what I would tell educators would be extremely unpopular. I'm more comfortable dealing with education issues because that's supposedly my "expertise" as a university professor and researcher. But, I didn't create this blog with teachers in mind.

I'm going to continue "just writing" on this blog. Most days, this blog is whatever comes to mind, and no planning is involved. If you want a specific topic, feel free to ask (there's a "Ask the Author" link in the menu).

3 comments:

  1. Have I mentioned how much I love reading your blog?
    Very well said :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for the kind words, Stuart and T.O.

    As the site gains followers, maybe more will embrace the notion of dialogue and support instead of conflict and anger. We can discuss and disagree without the vitriol. At least I hope we can.

    ReplyDelete

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