People who have rare developmental disabilities are often misdiagnosed with autism. This happens in part because a lot of disabilities look similar in early childhood. When kids with undetected rare genetic conditions start ‘missing milestones’, they are often assumed to be autistic.
When people are assumed to be autistic, autism stereotypes get applied to them. They’re often assumed to be uninterested in people and communication, and they’re often put into ABA programs prescribed for autistic people. They face the same kind of degrading and damaging misunderstanding that autistic people do.
When advocacy organizations address the issue of misdiagnosis, they tend to say some form of “It’s important to distinguish between autism and Not Autism Syndrome, because demeaning autism stereotypes only accurately describe autistic people.”
Here’s a Rett Syndrome example:
“The child with RTT almost always prefers people to objects, but the opposite is seen in autism. Unlike those with autism, the RTT child often enjoys affection.”
And a Williams Syndrome example:
“Unlike other disorders that can make it difficult to interact meaningfully with your child, children with Williams Syndrome are sociable, friendly and endearing. Most children with this condition have very outgoing and engaging personalities and tend to take an extreme interest in other people.”
Statements like these suggest that the problem with autism stereotypes is that they’re applied to the wrong people. The thing is, demeaning autism stereotypes aren’t true of anyone. We all have feelings and thoughts and the capacity to care about things and relate to other people. Accurate diagnosis matters, but not as a way of sorting out who is and isn’t fully human. We’re all fully human, and no one should be treated the way autistic people are treated. We shouldn’t pass around stereotypes, we should reject them.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of variations on a story that goes “Autistic people love detail, and it makes them naturally well suited for repetitive jobs that most people find intolerably boring.”
This is usually said with great fanfare, and described as a step away from stigma and towards celebration.
But — autistic people don’t all have a convenient love of tedious tasks. Some of us find them as boring as everyone else does.
This model of “autistic strengths” celebrates us doing jobs everyone else hates. It has no room for us to pursue jobs that others want. We’re supposed to stay in a special place for special people, doing the boring tasks the ideology says we love — and making no trouble for the normal people who do the interesting jobs.
This isn’t ok, and it isn’t acceptance. Some of us like things that others don’t, but none of us should be forced into a box. Autistic people have the full range of interests, talents, and skills that anyone else does. We shouldn’t be tracked into jobs based on stereotypes. We have the right to decide for ourselves what to pursue.
Electronic books can be an important disability accommodation for a lot of people, including some people with normal vision. If you’re having a lot of trouble reading, or not reading as much as you’d like to, it might help to use electronic books.
There are a lot of steps involved in reading a print book. Some of these steps can be difficult or impossible for people with impaired executive function, autistic inertia, fatigue, chronic pain, or other conditions. Some difficult steps can be eliminated with electronic books.
In order to start reading a print book, you have to be able to do all of these things:
- Have the book in a place where it’s available to you when you have time to read.
- (Which can involve remembering to bring with you somewhere.)
- (And keeping track of the book and not losing it.)
- Decide to stop what you’re doing and do a different kind of task.
- Figure out where the book is.
- Go get the book.
- Avoid getting distracted by other things as you find the book or get the book.
- Figure out where you are in the book.
- (Which can involve things like remembering the place.)
- (Or using a bookmark, which comes with its own multi-step challenges like remembering that bookmarks exist and having one available.)
- Open the book to the right page.
- Avoid getting distracted by other parts of the book.
- Get into a position in which you can read, which you can also sustain long enough to read for a significant among of time.
- Actually start reading the book.
- If you want to take notes or highlight, you also have to gather all your note-taking tools.
- And not get distracted and forget what you’re doing.
- And not forget where you put the book in the process.
- That’s a lot of steps, any one of which can sometimes be difficult or impossible.
- Using electronic copies can eliminate some of these steps, or make them easier.
- This can be game-changing.
Some ways in which electronic copies can eliminate steps:
- You can store your entire electronic library on one device (or synced to multiple devices).
- If you know where your device is, then you know where all of your electronic books are.
- This can mean you don’t have to physically search for anything.
- (Electronically searching to remember where you put something can be much easier.)
- You also don’t have to remember to bring a specific book. You just have to remember to bring one device.
- (Which can be a device like your laptop, phone, or iPad which you’re in the habit of carrying with you anyway).
- If you’re already using your computer, you don’t have to get up to go get your book.
- You also don’t have to change positions.
- Being able to stay in the same position and location can make it much easier to start reading.
- It can also be easier to remember your place. A lot of software will leave the book open to the same place as when you were last reading it.
- Searching can be easier, faster, and less distracting than flipping through a print book. (This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for some people).
- Electronic bookmarks may also be easier to use than physical ones.
- You don’t have to look for highlighters, pens, pencils or notebooks, all of that is right there in the book-reading software.
- Eliminating these steps can make reading a lot easier.
- Making it easier can make it possible.
This isn’t the right strategy for everyone; computers, phones and other devices have their own executive dysfunction pitfalls. But for some people, it makes reading much more possible.
Short version: Some people have trouble reading print books, even if they have normal vision. Sometimes the reason for this is that executive dysfunction (or another disability) makes some of the steps involved in starting to read a print book difficult or impossible. (Eg: people with ADHD might get distracted looking for the book.) For some people, using electronic books instead of print books can make reading much more possible. Scroll up for some specific reasons that electronic books can help.
A reader asked:
A question about emotional abuse: Is it possible to be emotionally abused by a friend or somone who you aren’t romantically involved with? The person in question isn’t in my life anymore but when I think back to our relationship it seems abusive to me.
Yes, it is definitely possible to be abused emotionally (or otherwise), by someone you aren’t romantically or sexually involved with.
Friends can abuse friends. It’s not rare, and it’s often not taken nearly as seriously as it should be.
For some reason, most conversations about abuse seem to assume that abusive relationships are romantic (and that the abuser is male and the victim is female.) But abuse happens in all types of relationships, and among people of all genders.
Abuse isn’t romance gone bad. Abuse is someone pervasively mistreating and harming another person.