Sunday, July 28, 2013

Presuming competence: not just about what I *can* do.

As a disabled person, I have experienced failure a lot in my time. I have experienced the kind of failure that can be turned into success by fine tuning the failure. I have experienced the failure that comes from being sabotaged by low expectations or unreasonable demands. And I have experienced the kind of failure that comes from just not being able to do what I am trying to do.

What does this have to do with presuming competence?

Well, the first part of presuming competence is presuming capacity. Presuming that the ability to learn and understand and do new things is there. This is good. I like this. Please, keep believing that I can do things, or at least should be able to give them a good honest try before doing them for me or moving on and putting it in the permanent failure pile. Assuming what you are asking of me is possible here in reality land (deciding to not have a seizure in face of triggers doesn't fall in this category, FYI. And is the inspiring events, plural, for this post), let me try it. I want to try it. I want to fine tune it. Probably.

So, presume I can learn. If I tell you I can do something, or may be able to do something but I need to try it first, run with that. Allow me to try. Help me fine tune if I'm close but not quite. Rephrase. Demonstrate. Whatever. If I think it's in my eventual capacities, and you support that, that is presuming competence and is good.

But. I have failed a lot in my day. There are things I just cannot do. It doesn't matter that I can speak usually or can do a backflip or follow complicated written down chemistry lab instructions or calculate gymnasts' trajectories preternaturally fast, I still cannot hold more than 2 auditory directions in my head on a good day. I still can't read a map in any useful fashion. Whether I can make food without setting it on fire is iffy. I cannot just block sounds out. I cannot sit still and think at the same time. I cannot always make decisions without substantial field narrowing. I cannot always write a thing on demand without significant scaffolding. Et cetera.

When I tell you I cannot do something, presume that I am competent to understand my own limitations. I am not being lazy. I am not manipulating others into doing things for me. I have legitimate support needs. I have workarounds for most of the things I listed above. Slow, ponderous, time and spoon consuming workarounds, but workarounds nonetheless. But the truth of the matter is there are things I cannot do and I know that I cannot do them.

Assume that when I tell you something is not in my skillset and never will be, that I know from experience, or am making an educated guess. If you want me to cross an unfamiliar city on transit using nothing but maps and paper timetables without getting lost? You are dreaming. That is not going to happen. Have I tried this in recent memory? No I have not. But I know:

-I cannot read a map in realtime
-I am significantly time agnosiac
-My ability to navigate places I know very well is pretty iffy, much less new places
-I know the above well enough to struggle deviating from any initial plan, even if the initial plan deviates from me.

So it isn't a stretch at all to say that this is a thing that is not going to happen. This is an educated statement based on my knowledge of my skills and skill holes.

If I say I cannot do something, I do not need to prove to you, and myself, yet again, that I cannot do it. To demand that I show you my inability is presuming incompetence: you are telling me that I am wrong about my inabilities, and my ability to know them, until you determine otherwise. This undermines both my own agency and the ideal of presuming ability. We all have inabilities. It's ok to have inabilities-unless, it seems, you are disabled. Acknowledging a difficulty is not the same as presuming global inability. It's part of seeing me as a whole, really real person. Really real people are allowed to not be able to do things.

Proving yet again that I cannot do something so that you can say you presumed competence, even when I told you something is not a thing I can do doesn't do wonders for me, either. The chances of me waking up one day with that set of skills in infinitesimally small. Forcing me through that particular failure above rather than meeting me somewhere or giving me detailed written directions for several options? That's anxiety attacks. That is an anxiety attack squared, because being late makes me panic, not knowing where I am makes me panic, and plan changes that I have no good way of dealing with? Those are near inevitable, and also make me panic! Putting me through that because maybe I magically obtained abilities heretofore unprecedented? That's actually really mean. Don't do that. It sucks.

The ideal of presuming competence is lovely. I am all for it. But one of the skills we need to develop, and have acknowledged, is knowing where we struggle, where we fail again and again. Do not undermine this very important skill by telling us we are able to do everything but describe our own inabilities. That's not presuming competence. That's something else.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The helper personality scares me...

Some of the scariest people I have ever met are people in helping professions. They're teachers, or therapists, or alt med healers, or whatever. And they have nothing but the best of intentions.

This sounds lovely, but is actually very scary. See, they mean to do good. Often, their entire self concept is built around being a Good Person and their mission in life being Helping People. These are noble goals and all, but when you make them your whole Who You Are, you can become a scary person.

These helpers just cannot wrap their head around the idea that they can mean well all the live long day, but that doesn't mean they are doing well. Some people who are helpers? Their chosen method of helping actively hurts people. And they cannot process this-they are Good People and Help Others, they can't possibly be doing damage! That's the other social skills therapy or whatever, not theirs! They mean well, you see. They are Doing Good. They couldn't possibly be accidentally hurting people!

And they take it as a personal attack. People do not react well to what they perceive as a personal attack, especially against their very core, in this case the idea that they are Good People who are Helping Others. Rather than evaluating if, from the perspective of their victims...uh, clients...they are causing harm, they lash back. They can't wrap their heads around the idea of anything but their intent, as if trying is the same as doing. Their self concept seems to be more important than actually being helpful. It's like it doesn't compute that they could be wrong.

This is really scary. You never know what people are so caught up in this idea, so you don't know how they react if the harsh truth that their chosen therapy hurts people. Unpredictability is scary, as are people who would rather believe I am trying to hurt them because I am an asshole then believe that maybe, just maybe, their intention is not magical.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Classic Neurodivergence: You aren't autism. We are. Shut up and listen.

This was originally posted Sept 23, 2009. I stand by the swearing. Not so sure about the drive off a bridge implied suggestion. Go drive over it and far away, sure. I no longerst would choose to make the ageist comments about juvinility or adolescence either. But I totally stand by the swearing. And have not edited the post in any way.
This was a reaction to that awful "I am Autism" video. Simply ghastly.

**Profanity ahead. It's well earned,**

I saw the new Autism Speaks video shortly after finding out they've got a fundraiser in my stay-weird-pride-and-hippies-and-nonconformity city. And all I have to say to that is:

Autism Speaks, shut the fuck up and get the fuck out. There are a number of bridges here. You like driving off bridges, right? Go pick one but leave us the hell alone. And do the right thing, the responsible thing, and leave your children with a responsible adult (you are neither of these things, either as individuals or a collective) while you do so.

The vast majority of the autistic community utterly LOATHES you, Autism Speaks. Why? Because you purport to speak for us. YOU DON'T. You don't speak for your children either. You speak with the voice of spoilt parents who don't want children, but puppets. You are SPOILED.

Now, there is NO acceptable, none whatsoever, NO acceptable justification for anything in that video. "Faster than cancer and AIDS", REALLY? REALLY? I'm in my mid 20s and haven't died yet. What the hell? Oh wait. Autism doesn't kill you. This is profoundly disrespectful to people with fatal diseases. STOP DOING IT. It's also disrespectful to autistic people. Haven't you heard? We are people. Yep, that child who embarrasses you oh so much (oh poor you. Be a grownup and get over it) is in fact their very own person, and spreading that kind of hate is disrespectful.

No one kidnapped us. We are not the destroyer of hopes and dreams-as awesome as Kassiane, Destroyer of Dreams sounds, that's not how it is. Children do not exist to live your dreams. We have our own dreams. Time to get over the myth of the perfect child--everyone has to, not just the parents of autistic children--and learn to accept that your children are their own people. Time to let them dream their own dreams instead of wanking for DECADES on the fact that they aren't the child you wanted. It's disgusting. It's juvenile. It is narcissistic and it is tired. Your adolescence is over.

Shut the fuck up and go away. Let AUTISTICS speak. Stop trying to rob us of the communication which we fight so hard for. You don't speak for us. You don't fight for us. You fight against us, with lies, hate, bigotry, and your own self centered lack of empathy. I feel for your children, but not because they're autistic. Because they have to live with such monsters for parents. Monsters who fight the very core of their childrens' beings, demonize them to everyone, just to make it all about mommy. Screw that.