And Stimming With Rainbows of Every Design

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Disclosure and Being an Autistic Cog-Sci Major

[[Crossposted from my Tumblr.]]

Well, I’m out as autistic in the group for disabled students at my university.

I wish I could be out everywhere. But I’m in a major that’s happier with us being studied than being the ones doing the studying. I’m at a university with a professor who describes autism as “a cruel disease that afflicts children;” who claims that we “completely withdraw from the world socially;” who asserts that mirror neurons are behind what makes us human while claiming that autism is characterized by a loss of mirror neurons. I know this professor is famous and respected around the world, and only rarely criticized for his rhetoric.

He’s not in my department’s faculty, but he works with someone who is. It’s a small, close-knit department. What would the rest of the faculty think of me if they knew?

I’m not certain.

I’m not asking. I don’t need my fears confirmed. I don’t need my identity torn away from me by people who have spoken to me for five minutes. (Because that’s what being told “You can’t be autistic!” feels like to me. It’s not a compliment. It’s not a relief. It’s “You’ve been lying to everyone you trust for seven years and you never belonged at the one place you felt halfway safe.”)

And if I were believed? I want to go to graduate school. I need research experience. Given what they think of us, how likely would I be to get it?

But if I have to conceal why I’m interested in this field, am I really better off? I don’t want to lie outright, so all anyone gets when they ask me why I’m a cognitive science major are evasive, overly general statements. I can’t answer questions about which particular aspects of the major I’m interested in.

They think we’re not whole people. And because they think that, I can’t be. Not in public, anyway. I’m all facades and plausible-sounding excuses. People tell me I should get more involved in things — that new experiences will bring me out of my shell. And all I can think is that I should get involved — the experience will give me more stories to tell, more fuel for conversations, more ways to talk about what I’m doing so I can escape talking about who I am. It’s how to succeed.

Right now, I don’t want to succeed. I’d rather be. But I don’t know how to do that.

2 Comments:

  • Wow, as a fellow Cognitive Science major, I find it totally cool that you're studying the mind. Good for you, I bet it's hard and I don't know what it's like with autism, but good for you all the same.
    Wish you all the best,
    Heather

    By Blogger HeatherFairwyd, At 7:43 PM  

  • Danechi, I was a cog sci major too and think I know who you're talking about (big name in the neuroscience department, I'm guessing?). Doing cog sci at UCSD must be really hard sometimes.

    You haven't posted in a while. I hope that doesn't mean you've turned away from the field. Cognitive science and autism research in particular need more people like you. Of course what's right for you is more important, but it would be a shame if people like this particular professor drove you away.

    By Blogger Emily Morson, At 9:39 AM  

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