I've been reading a lot about autism and advocacy and those amazing autistics who manage to ascend their autism. This is what I've learned so far:
1. Funny thing about curing autism or 'ascending' past it; it looks an awful lot like a compromise of Self. Learning to join the human world is no less than an acknowledgement that you aren't, and never will be, lovable. What you are inside is something dark and scary and they want you to sugar coat it and be presentable their way. It's a sure and certain knowledge that affection is a reward for good behavior. There is no such thing as unconditional love. Nothing is freely given.
You can show affection. They can know you are showing affection. Yet while you must accept their terms, their 'right' version of interaction, they will not accept yours. So, you'd best learn to talk, and lie, and keep your fears well hidden, cloaked in social games, or they'll never love you or care about you. Keeping your fears hidden your way is wrong. Stimming, spacing out, tuning in, and all the other autistic methods of dissociation are wrong. Dissociating their way is right. Dissociating into a social persona and masking yourself with the right words and right clothes and right actions, that's a good thing.
2. They'll advocate for people to let you exist, but not to live. Strangle out every purity in you until you are filthy with social aptitude. Integration into their world is a resignation of yourself. They call it freedom, but we've seen how one people free another from barbarism and it seems to result in plagues and massacres. But you don't have to massacre autistics. Humans naturally withdraw from things they fear, and they fear autistics, and any child will do anything to get their needs met, including fighting to get to your world to get the affection they'd starve without.
3. Advocates are pompous and insulting. "She is to autistic people what Jane Goodall was for the wild chimpanzees." This is the praise on a book on autism. Between Their World and Ours, by Karen Zelan, isn't too badly done. It holds tight to the us versus them the whole way through, and making us more them, because NT is the right way to go. But she does acknowledge that communication requires NTs to bend to the autistics if they want the autistics to follow them back to the good world. It's really just that quote that bothers me. Or perhaps I missed the part where wild chimpanzees have integrated into our society?
4. Getting "past" autism negates the autism. If you learn to function you are cured. You used to be autistic. You used to have difficulties. You used to be difficult. But now you are normal and speak and do what you are told. Now none of the pain you fight through daily to be good and be right counts, because now that you function, you are fine and probably always had been. Just a tough little stage.
By this theory, if you break your leg and learn to walk again, it was never very broken in the first place and it is not more likely to break again because there are no scars and no other damage done. You are cured from having had a break. If you learn to read after being dyslexic, your dyslexia is cured. Never mind that you read with a ruler under each line, that's just a silly thing you do because you have no more reading problems. It's just adaptation and learning to cope. If learning to adapt turns all your effort to shit by proving you were never unadapted, or that you now have no future difficulties, why "advocate"?
Most adult autistics adapted enough to work will never get the diagnosis and never have anyone appreciate their efforts because "beating" autism means you are cured. All effort negated. And who the hell cares that you fight non stop to cope? You don't get used to it all, you learn to deal with feeling like you are dying, all the time. You accept always being afraid. You adapt to the nonstop adrenaline and cortisol and function anyway and I am certain that there is no association between that and the statistics that show autistics have a very high tendency to develop seizures in their early twenties.
Stories on autism all seem to stop when the person communicates enough to be integrated into school. Whistles and bells if they manage to graduate. End of story.
5. NTs don't know what matters. You were right growing up: you don't matter. But if you want to live, just live. You'll never be good enough or human enough. You will always be judged. NTs treat one another like dirt, too. We learn to differentiate between Human and Person and learn to despise them as much as fear them. Curing autism through forced human socialization is cruel and breeds anger, resentment, and despair. They work so hard to make sure we know we'll never quite fit in or quite get it. And how many will be strong enough to throw off the shackles of freedom, ascension from autism, and learn that your world doesn't matter?
Friends matter. Those few individuals who care beyond the number of words you articulate. You can't have honesty and social mores. Most social mores depend on lies.
6. We don't go through anything NTs don't go through. The only difference is the pace. Developmental delay. We're just really really slow and we plod through what we can, as we can, in any way that we can. The issues you have, all NTs have had. They probably just did it before kindgarten while you are an adult and still trying to get there.
Everyone panics, gets overstimmed, and is in a fairly steady state of fear. The poison is in the dose. They have built in shock absorbers: filters and structure. NTs fear themselves and others and the world around them and they dissociate into their little worlds too. The difference is they agree upon a world and live in it together, a world of social constructs and all those weird little things they evidently find important that baffle us entirely. Kinda nice to know it's mutual.
It's just that it's easier to empathize with your own sort than another. Cross cultural empathy is actually very difficult and we are acultural. We never picked it up. It's a natural knack NTs have. So they can't empathize with us easily because we're not in the cultural context that allows it.
7. They really think we don't have feelings. I'm not sure how this works but it seems to follow along with their Theory of Mind game. Since they aren't communicating with us, we have no thoughts or feelings. I think it's the same theory that allows them to say they have souls but "animals" don't.
Some day, an advanced alien race will meet humanity and since they don't speak english and write english and use the same gestures as humans, they will be discounted as illiterate barbarians.
Okay, so I haven't learned much, but I'm starting to learn how they think about us. That is probably not a good thing. I'm not sure it's going to help me really want to learn to communicate with them on levels they're capable of comprehending. The more I learn about NTs the more I think they aren't capable of those basic things they accuse us of lacking: empathy, communication, bravery (pushing past fears), intelligence, theory of mind...
It makes me question how hard all of us fight to get "beyond autism".
I think rising above autism has three stages. First you hide from OutSector in yourself. You hide from yourself in yourself. Then you emerge from your dissociation into the social world by locking more and more of yourself away - you hide yourself from OutSector to interact with it. Finally you have to decide whether to integrate the two and in what way. Do you hide in yourself and from OutSector and become a hermit? Do you emerse in OutSector being the perfect docile puppet and lose yourself? Do you somehow manage to pull your self into OutSector and be you while interacting? What are you going to do?
Will you implode or explode under the strain? I've met very few happy autistics.
No one has thought very far beyond a cure. People only now seem to realize their children that are so difficult will some day be difficult adults. All the focus is on children and early intervention. There is very little "then what" being discussed. Those around us might feel good about a successful rescue operation, but then what? It's great you conquered enough fear to hang out with the humans, but what next? You are still autistic. They still fear you. You will never be wholly comfortable with them nor they with you. So now what? Sit and be awkward with other between world autistics and hide in one another's neuroses? Wrap yourself in isolation or isolate yourself in social constructs you don't grasp? If you are more than a mimicking monkey, what are you? Advocacy asks: how are you going to make yourself useful and survive in this world? I ask: what's beyond survival?
It's well and good to learn to hold down a job. It's one of the most important things there is. And it doesn't matter at all. Why exist if you are miserable?
Why aren't there more happy autistics? Why do "successful" autistics have a list of career achievements, and not much else? Why are autistic support groups so full of self pity, self loathing, and complaints? I tried joining a couple, expecting hints on how to cope, and maybe some smug gloating that all the cool kids were autie (we claim tesla, einstein, mozart...), perhaps sharing frustrations on interactions and dissecting it into sense. Yeh, not so much.
What makes so many people so miserable? Is it the interaction we fought so hard to be capable of? Is it the daily living tasks we fought to do? Is it the words we fought to speak? The proper gestures and appropriate motions we fought to mimic? Or is it this constant fighting that doesn't seem to get us what we started all of this to achieve?
What makes any child fight so hard to get out of their world enough to interact in OutSector where all the inner worlds collide in relationships?
Probably the same thing that makes the NTs so miserable. This shining picture of what should be, if you are normal enough and good enough. But we're all just folk. And no one is good enough. And if you don't find your own way, you're just going to stay lost. At some point, the autistic hits the stages that all children do and, like all children, they get the idea in their head of what should be. It's perfectly normal. And it draws them from InnerWorld to OutSector and from there there is no going back. You cannot make yourself smaller or younger. You can only go on. Choice after choice after choice.