Friday 28 April 2017

30 Days of Autism Acceptance: Day 28


Day 28: 

Talk about autism as a disability.  Do you think autism is a disability or a difference? Or both?  Do you feel more disabled by society than by your autism?

Short answer: both. It's very definitely a difference and they've been able to demonstrate that clearly through CT and MRI scans comparing autistic and non-autistic brain activity. The differences are apparent in everyday life: how we think, how we react, how we approach things, how we behave and so on.

The big debate is around whether autism is a disability or not. This is where it gets much more complex, and yet again, I'd like to explore it in more detail once I've had a chance to do some reading about it (and when I'm not feeling drained and exhausted).

In many ways it isn't a disability on its own, because if you apply the social model of disability (which considers the environment and circumstances to be disabling rather the condition) in many ways it isn't disabling. Adversely affected by too many noises inundating and overloading you? Remove that auditory assault and the problem has gone. Can't/don't speak for whatever reason? Typing, sign language, Makaton, communication cards, AAC, etc are just as acceptable and viable - one of the big reasons Deaf people (big-D Deaf are those who use sign language as their preferred language and communication, as opposed to little-d deaf, which is anyone with less-than-fully-functioning ears/auditory nerves/etc) don't consider themselves disabled: if everyone used sign language, the communication barrier would be nonexistent. As a wheelchair user, I can do pretty much everything I could do pre-wheelchair, if the environment is right - if I want to go somewhere and there are ramps, lifts, etc I can access it; the disabling part is if those facilities don't exist, such as steps only. If the environment is right, if our needs are met, there is no reason why we cannot do something. It is the circumstance that disables us, not the neurology/physiology. Amy Sequenzia (I know, I mention her a lot, but that's because she's amazing and has written extensively on many subjects) says similar in her article on Universal Design and Disability Acceptance.

But then, what about those who cannot take care of themselves, those labelled "low-functioning" (see previous post on functioning labels)? Yes, their condition and lack of or dysfunctional sensory integration in some cases disables them. We shouldn't be afraid to say that.

And if I'm honest, all the accessibility in the world is not always going to stop me being disabled by my conditions. If I'm tired, I can't process things properly, I can't think, I can't comprehend the words I've heard/read, my sensory sensitivity is even more heightened, I can't speak (certainly not articulately or coherently!) and self-preservation kicks in.

I was going to write more and I'll probably come back and edit this when I'm not so utterly exhausted, because there were several other things I was going to say but they've completely gone out of my head.

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