Tuesday, 26 February 2013

How To Imagination

The philosophical roots of Empiricism as explained by John Locke is believed to be the first detailed theory of mind in western civilisation. Autistics are said to lack the theory of mind that is supposedly instinctive and develops normally among other people when they interact with others over time. I have to wonder about the origins of that notion considering how much it relies on ignoring Locke's arguments or assuming them to be wrong without addressing them. To Locke, the mind was a blank slate to begin with and what defines sentient conciousness is direct experience and nothing else. The obvious challenge someone can make is the behaviour of animals: migration patterns, play, inter-generational themes which offspring have never been shown by their parents or even met their parents, like turtles returning to the same beach to lay eggs or die as where they were born. They lack any direct experience of any of these, they do them because it's in their nature.

So it must be true for humans as well, but you can always identify a dogma or a fraud by the earnestness with which it asserts it's virtue as 'human nature'. The whole point of being human is that we have the choice to not entirely do what feels right or commit with certitude to something that is counter-intuitive. That is the closest I could imagine what human nature actually is and even then I can't be certain it isn't self-serving: an extremity of this trait is precisely what in my mind defines Autism. There's no way of saying that without it being a refutation of the idea that Autistics lack theory of mind, so I guess it is. Locke postulated that the blank slate meant 'man in nature' was the default and to be with people they had to agree to a social contract, creating a society that its members consented to join. Every connection makes me feel anxious, not safe. I feel very restricted and need the rituals I engage in to cope. Unable to seek the direct experience that would shape me into the person I'd rather be, I'm left having to manage with what is most readily available and it is no coincidence that Autistics began asserting their right to meaningful participation in Autism organisations following the advent of the world wide web. Direct experiences had suddenly gone from narrow and mostly controlled by others, to being very large, but still ultimately controlled by others. Progress of a kind but I'm still left in the same pattern of behaviour- I absorb what I see, it filters through and then I output it somewhere.

At the support group, I drew something I'd seen online. It was this.

http://memeblender.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/troll-science-meme-space-walk-300x225.png

Mine was with rubbish stick-men and was even more amateurish. It's an internet viral called 'troll science' for the obvious reason that every strip(made by many anonymous people using MS Paint) is an intentionally exaggerated misunderstanding of physics. Having had positive feedback though, I drew another but this time it was my own idea. It didn't stay with troll science for long though, branching out into lots of different subjects. The one thing I did keep was from this one panel beginning with 'find a bro' which I thought to be memorable. The rest was my imagination, which if John Locke was right is also nothing more than a lot of stuff borrowed from other experiences.








Thursday, 14 February 2013

How To Relationship

Loneliness is hurtful, aloneness is harmful, outright exclusion is dangerous. I never feel lonely by myself, but being alone too much means a vital human need isn't being fulfilled and I have no idea it's happening. I don't have whatever pain receptor others have that internally notifies them of the need to socialise. Consequently, one of the worst remedies some could suggest for me is to put me in a situation with a stranger or more than a handful of people. I never feel so alone as when I'm in a crowd. That is when I can definitely feel something wrong.

The support group I attend every week is called a 'social skills workshop'. At the headquarters of the charity in Bradford, they run all kinds of workshops and one of them is social skills. When they decided to set up in my town, someone made a choice that of all the workshops they had trained staff and timetables for, they picked social skills. We, the participants, were not asked about this beforehand. We had to assert ourselves and luckily we weren't all introverts, but nor were we extroverts, we were 'ambiverts', flipping between deeply contemplative listening and messy but interesting bursts of words constructing sentences that formed opinions which posited absurd conclusions that we then debunked ourselves before we'd finished. That resulted in us trailing off, our voices gradually fading to mumbles and having to re-think everything we had just said. In doing this, were we actually demonstrating the poor social skills that the charity staff had assumed made the workshop choice the right one? Not really- these were qualities we shared as Autistics that endeared them to us, they were why many of them were interested in their work- why 'correct' them? Only the most shallow and superficial observer would look at how we interacted and dismiss it as 'dysfunctional'. We know this because all of us agreed that it was; the word 'shambolic' is very popular at the group and we love it and what it represents.

What was explained was that many members at other venues feel a lot more comfortable when given structure, so this was an assumption that had to be made. Autism affects different people in different ways, so they were playing it safe. but they had ended up with a starting membership of this local meeting who were all in agreement that they also wanted routine and structure- as long as it was theirs. The time table for each weekly meeting went out the window and the structure started being determined by our habits, which we were free to engage in. Here, I was not surrounded by the crushing loneliness of family life, work or obligation, so in response to the virtually unprecedented opportunities to impress, to surprise and listen- I started drawing on the whiteboard. They weren't always the 'How To' sketches I do now, but they were often useful for explaining something there wasn't words for. Some Autistics try to compensate for communication difficulties by developing an extensive vocabulary, but I wish I'd never even started talking. I wish someone had encouraged me to draw instead.




Wednesday, 13 February 2013

How To Language

Case #1 is welfare stuff and there's not often much positive to write on it. The others aren't much better, considering that Case #3 is now defunct(the complaint has failed and I doubt the Trust will seriously consider an accusation that the BBC complaints process is systematically unfair) and Case #2 was started because where I live- North Yorkshire, is the last county in the whole of England which up until last year had done absolutely nothing required of them under the statutory guidelines following the Autism Act 2009.

But there is progress in that regard now. There has been some consultation for moving towards statutory Autism services(the first ever in this country), although I expect they'll try integrating it into existing services for those with learning disabilities. The consensus at our consultation meeting was that this would be a tremendously bad idea. A married couple even pointed out that unlike most local authorities, North Yorkshire is sitting on a lot of cash they're not making too much noise about. There is expected to be a semi-permanent consultation group formed in the near future and I'm going to try and get myself on it.

In the meantime, funding for my placement with my support group has been granted- against all expectations. It just needs a financial assessment to determine how much I must contribute towards it. My placement has been unfunded for two years and this has meant there has been a reluctance on the part of the Bradford-based organisation to expand their activity in our area. Now that things are looking a bit more secure, we organised a display in the local main library which went up last week, to raise awareness of both Autism and the weekly support group meeting. We might be having a new member come soon. But I am ambivalent about the effectiveness of Autism awareness- namely that it tends to explain Autism from the point of view of non-Autistic people. When it isn't written by non-Autistics, it is written by Autistics being directed by non-Autistics. My contribution to the display was a letter explaining my feelings about it, which predictably then had to be changed- demonstrating precisely my point about the unstoppable urge non-Autistics have to direct the activity of Autistics. I might post the notice, both as I wrote it before and how I had to re-write it afterwards.

The contributions I'm more proud of are my beautifully shambolic and amateurish illustrations. Since the group began I have had during the meetings access to 1- a whiteboard, 2- a marker pen and 3- an audience that 'gets it' or doesn't care if they don't 'get it'. For the next week I'll post the panels used in the display and explain what they're about. This one speaks for itself: