And Stimming With Rainbows of Every Design

Friday, April 13, 2007

This shouldn't be amazing, it should be *normal!*

I do intend to write in this blog, it's just that I got occupied with other stuff, then the internal drafts and templates for the posts that I had planned became inaccessible over time. So, here's an attempt at a new post. I've been having segments of it appear in my brain at various times, so hopefully I should be able to work off of those to finish it. Anyway, I don't know how to post topics to ease readers in, so posting will probably be about whatever is accessible for me to write on at a given time.

I think I managed to find a decent psychologist. One of the things that's scaring me about this experience is just how happy and wondrous the experience of finding a psych who had actually read writing by autistics, who doesn't believe that we lack empathy and humor, and who doesn't seem to view being autistic as being of less value, or needing to be repaired is making me.

I'm imagining a neurotypical wandering into a psychiatrist or psychologist's office (for the purpose of this section, the psych professional isn't NT, and medicalizes neurotypicality), trying to deal with anxiety and depression. I'll call her Renae, and she's thirteen years of age, so most of the control over her psychological "treatment" goes to her parents. She's evaluated during five forty-five minute sessions. The diagnostician uses both the DSM and the DSN to diagnose Renae with Neurotypic Disorder and Mood Disorder NOS. Renae is trying to figure out how to deal with anxiety first and foremost, but first receives specific instructions on her diagnosis of neurotypicality. [Note: the following is not at all intended to claim that autistics generally try to force NTs into becoming autistic or that being an NT raised in an autistic family is necessarily negative. This is essentially a flip of my experiences with a psychologist/cognitive behavior therapist to show how bizarre it should seem.]

One of the only informational sources the psychologist permits her to view is the Institute for the Study of Neurotypicality's website. Stuff on the Society of Americans with Neurotypic Disorder's website (just ignore that the group only includes one token neurotypical for every other chapter) is also acceptable, as are some other autistic-written pages about Neurotypic Disorder. long as she has a parent to watch what it is. Anything written by other neurotypicals is off limits, since they are either more or less severe (though the psychologist can't imagine anyone less severe according to her narrow ideas of functioning) and nothing they say applies to Renae's specific case. Only professional non-NT researchers know about how this person should live and function. It's dangerous for the person to read anything written by other neurotypicals, and if they do, it's absolutely necessary that they read it with supervision by a non-NT so they can be informed what, if anything, pertains to their experience. Chat rooms are maybe permissible, but it's especially important that supervision is given in that case. It's highly important that Renae understands that she is a very high functioning neurotypical, even though only her aptitude at science and math is being used to determine this (and even though mathematical talent isn't necessary to be autistic and doesn't necessarily indicate that a person is autistic), and that what low-functioning neurotypicals say doesn't validate her experience.

Renae ignores this, and keeps reading the websites and books she has been reading, because none of this outsiders' perspective stuff makes sense. She's grown up mostly around family members, and most of her family members are autistic. The writing that she's been reading is easy to find, and makes so much more sense than what she's always heard and read before. She figures that she can just try to ignore what the psychologist is saying, but keep visiting to help her recover from the anxiety she's developed over time.

However, the most visible NT behaviors get in the way of the cognitive behavioral therapy that the psychologist wants to try out on her. Before any real progress can be made, it's absolutely necessary that she learns to stop making the natural eye contact that she has made with the NT friends she's managed to find. She needs to learn to re-modulate her voice, and to constantly evaluate the angle of her body in relation to the therapist, so as not to appear hostile. This constant self-monitoring leads to crashing during "therapy" sessions, and on a *good* day, she can go through a session without bursting into tears. She becomes more depressed than ever before, and can't understand how this is supposed to help alleviate, and not contribute to anxiety. In fact, they never get to any of the anxiety stuff, because everything is focused on learning autistic social skills and learning to act autistic at all times. When she tells a parent, she's told that therapy has to hurt to help. Finally, she convinces the parent that she wants to leave, but the psych informs her that a relapse of her depression will lead to a decrease in volume of a certain part of her brain, and therefore continuing this therapy is imperative. Luckily, the parent is disorganized enough to forget to make an appointment, and eventually, it doesn't even seem worth returning. This progression is ordinary for patients with Neurotypic Disorder at this clinic, though most are persuaded to stay, and never actually get to the very final step.

This should seem wrong and bizarre. However, a flip of this is essentially what I experienced during the short time I visited a psychologist. In my case, it was NAMI articles that I was supposed to be restricted to reading (ASA was sometimes okay too, IIRC, though I had to remember that I was "high-functioning"), though I disobeyed that instruction. (I had self-dx'ed autistic two years before through reading Moggy's archives at her old MovableType blog, and had been anti-cure since I had discovered that I was autistic. I got through that year of "therapy" by reading articles at the library and blogs of anti-cure autistics over and over again.) I didn't include the stuff with the psychiatrist trying to convince me to take Risperdal to "improve social connectedness." It was my grades and grades alone that were used to describe me as "very high functioning" despite not being nearly so high-functioning in other areas. I didn't believe in functioning labels anyway.

I'm posting this now because, though I stopped seeing a CB therapist like the one I mentioned in this article, her husband is still my psychiatrist, and still does medication management for me. Appointments with him manage to make me only slightly less depressed than appointments with her did. However, I think I managed to find a good psychologist in my area recently, who's read autism-positive books and given them good reviews, and who may even be willing to help me deal with my psychiatrist, or to recommend a decent psych for managing my psych meds. (Neurontin is the only thing I'm on right now.) Among other things, she doesn't believe the all-too-common myth that we lack empathy or a sense of humor.

Over the past few days, I've been thinking about my initial elation at discovering this person, and realizing how unnecessary it should be. Ideally, what I experienced would be considered as bizarre as the situation I created earlier. Currently, however, one would be described as right, and as an excellent therapy technique, and one would be described as very wrong. They're both equally wrong, it's just that right now, one type of person (neurotypical) is more valued in society, so trying to change them in such extreme ways would be regarded as highly inhumane and immoral. That's how it should be with autistics as well.

What I wrote of is mild. It's nothing compared to autistic kids receiving 40 hours a week of ABA therapy, and it seems very insignificant compared to what a lot of other autistics have been through. I often think that initially self-dx'ed autistics are lucky because they have the chance to find out what I discovered first and are then better able to notice the prejudices of others and determine that those people are wrong.

The prevalence of more extreme ways of treating autistics doesn't make the stuff like the example I gave any more acceptable, it just means that we have even more to try to change. I want the world to become autistic friendly, and I wish it were possible to just create a cure for prejudice, but failing that, I hope that one day, preferably soon, autistics will be able to receive help for anxiety, depression, and PTSD resulting from abuse by prejudiced NTs without the people supposed to be providing the assistance furthering the problem. Right now, it seems like the safest thing is discussing stuff with peers online, and not every autistic has access to that, or is confident enough socially to try to meet people online. (It took me almost 2 years to actually interact with people on the web and start posting myself, before that was just a lot of reading and learning.)

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  • I agree completely. I remember discussing this with you after the social worker decided she couldn't deal with my case.

    By Blogger unashamed, At 10:45 AM  

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