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Showing posts from May, 2013

Autism and Love (or Like or Want?)

Love (Photo credit: praram) My wife and I were discussing the fact that many of the adults with autism spectrum disorders I've met are, forgive me, but obsessed with finding love. It seems "love" is an overriding concern to them. This interest in love didn't seem like the interest in dating I've heard among other groups. No, this is a quest for "love" as if there isn't a (few) steps between meeting and love.

Two of the self-described "Aspies" I've met were asking me to help because they were accused of stalking on college campuses. They both told me they were trying to let girls know they wanted to date because they were in love.

Someone needed to explain meeting people, dating, and what "love" is — and what it is not. It turns out, they really didn't know what was "acceptable" and what was "unacceptable" when trying to meet someone and/or ask that person on a date.

Polite rejections were not unde…

Writing and Autism: More Group Work Thoughts

I want to thank several autistic self-advocates for asking me to address the topic of collaboration and "peer work" more often and more forcefully. To challenge dominant pedagogies is no small risk in academia. I'm not rejecting group work, because we do need to foster interpersonal skills, but I am arguing the social skills must never dominate how we grade another academic discipline. If you teach science, grade science. If you teach writing, grade writing. Don't make "plays well with others" the major source of a grade.

My students do group projects and work in teams (pairs). But, I do not make that collaborative effort part of the grade. I value teaching students to work well with others, yes, but grading social skills? I am the least qualified person imaginable to evaluate social skills. I facilitate collaboration, but I am not going to try to grade it on a "A-F" or point scale.

Outside of teaching, I am a freelance writer and editor. I als…

Writing and Autism: My Views are not Universal

As I continue this irregularly appearing series on writing and autism, I hope that some readers form connections from some points to others — and reach conclusions about how we might better understand autism's affect on academic writing. This post is a good point to consider a challenge many autistics face when writing:
Failing to explain conclusions, assuming readers share the author's experiences and views A fair amount of autism scholarship focuses on issues of awareness of "self" and "other" when analyzing situations. Many of the instruments screening for autism include measures of how well, and how consistently, an autistic person can evaluate the emotions, needs, and desires of others. But, academic writing asks us to connect to the experiences of others — an impossibility.

Some writing instructors will say, "Don't assume your readers know anything." Of course, that's not really good advice. You have to assume audiences have some prev…

The Autistic Me Isn't Funny, Darn It!

"You're funny when you give a talk, but your blog isn't funny. I really wanted to like it."

You don't like the blog?

"Don't you read funny blogs? They deal with serious topics, but still make me laugh. You're too serious, darn it."

My wife and I do read the funny blogs. We were discussing two of the better blogs tonight:

http://thebloggess.com
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

When someone expects The Autistic Me to be funny after hearing me speak or reading some of the other things I have written, I feel like I've let down that visitor.

You just saw this (apparently) funny guy on stage and he was all witty (with a dose of sarcasm) so you rushed home to read… this blog. No wonder you're disappointed. This blog isn't like the public appearance. Maybe, just maybe, someone else writes the blog. Maybe you got the address wrong. This can't be that guy with the tolerant wife!

Sorry, but this is me. Yeah, I get it. You wanted f…

Autism and Creative Writing

I have met, in physical and virtual spaces, many autistic creative writers. A good number enjoy fan fiction, some are poets, a few prefer stage and screen, and others write non-fiction — creatively conveying knowledge and experiences. The sheer number of blogs and forums dedicated to autism indicate the community outputs a significant number of words daily.

Writing is always a creative act. There are non-verbal writers, and there are loquacious individuals like me. Autistic traits affect communication, presenting some challenges, but autistic writers find ways to adapt. I love writing on paper, but that can be painful. When I cannot write, I type. When I can't type well, I dictate. When I can't dictate, I type… slowly.

I consider myself a good writer — not great, but good. That's not false modesty, since I have earned a few acknowledgments for my works. However, I also know my works are far from timeless masterpieces. There are many writers I admire, men and women with …

Writing and Autism: Audience Analysis

This will be one of the shorter posts in my writing and autism series.

Students with autism spectrum disorders can analyze situations and audiences, but they are more prone to mistaken assumptions about their audiences. The challenge for students with ASDs might be summarized as:

Assuming audience familiarity with information, generally assuming too much prior familiarity with the topic addressed
I tend to forget that not everyone shares my interests. This is not uncommon among people with autistic traits. I cannot comprehend why other people aren't fascinated by computers, history, music, economics, theater, typography, and a dozen other topics. If there's something to be learned, why would anyone not want to learn it?

When I write about various topics, I forget that not everyone reads and researches compulsively. My wife, who edits most of what I write, often identifies the "leaps" I take and reminds me to fill in the gaps. That's not always easy, since I ha…

Question from a Reader

This question was asked by a reader of The Autistic Me:
I just stumbled upon your blog today as I was seeking out feedback from other people regarding residential support programs for my 21 year old HFA son. He desperately needs, wants, and deserves the opportunity to live a more mainstream life — he has isolated himself from the world and I know he's unhappy and frustrated. Unfortunately, my finances are such that I cannot afford to take risks and the fees I'm finding to be prohibitive. Any insight you could offer would be greatly appreciated. We are in the DC suburbs. Does anyone have any thoughts? I don't know much about residential programs, other than what parents and individuals have told me. The programs are expensive — and no two programs are the same.

I have recommended college residential programs. The programs were $30,000 or more per year and they work well for only some students. That's a lot of money to risk on the hope that a program helps an autistic …

Writing and Autism: I vs. One

One of the challenges for autistic writers is the artificial nature of "academic perspective" in college writing. Instead of the concrete "me" and "you" of other genres, academic writing uses the distant, artificial, and abstract, "one" — or nothing at all. Academic writing avoids the first- and second-person point of view vigorously.

Emphasizing the personal instead of the general, leading to a "first-person" perspective when inappropriate to the genre
Readers of this series of essays will recognize that abstractions pose a problem for many, if not most, students with autism spectrum disorders. Since a diagnostic criteria for ASDs is concrete thinking, writing teachers need to resist the impulse to "fix" the autistic perspective. Instead, I argue that it is academia with the problem, not the students.

Writing and literature classes discuss the "constructed author" (or some variation of that phrase). The notion that …

Need for Scholarship

In the past, I've written that I do not want to be boxed in as "autistic autism researcher" when I am interested in other aspects of communication that have nothing at all to do with autism. No matter the topic, as long as autism is involved someone will hate the research(er). Yes, people are passionate about other topics, but the "rhetoric of theater" or "rhetoric of fiction" isn't going to lead to quite the same animosity. (However, I do admit that writing about "philosophy and fiction" leads to some pretty nasty emails.)

But, the more I read about "autistics and writing" and "autistics and school" that doesn't have anything to do with my experiences or those of other autistics with academic skills, the more I must admit that we need autistic scholars to express their experiences, theories, and to conduct scholarly research.

I'm not about to stop pursuing my creative writing, computer programming, or many …