Autistic People Should . . .

This post is part of today’s “Autistic People Should” flash blog where Autistic bloggers are writing about positive things that Autistic people should do. Why? Because if you type “Autistic people should” into either Google or Bing’s search engine query box, the autocomplete results–the most popular searches starting with those words–are disturbing and upsetting, especially if you’re Autistic or love someone who is.

Trigger Warning:  I’ve posted a screenshot of the text from Google’s autocomplete at the end of this post and as I said above, it may be very upsetting if you are Autistic or care for someone who is.

——

Autistic people should: question everything.

When we’re given an autism spectrum diagnosis, we’ve also given a model of what it means to be autistic.

Question the model.

Start here:

A wordmap of Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnostic criteria

A wordmap of Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnostic criteria.  The larger the word, the more frequently it appears in the diagnostic definition.

What does your word cloud for autism look like?

Question the assumptions.

Is there a right way to play?

To learn?

To think?

To love?

To communicate?

Question the research.

Who says?

How do they know?

Who paid for it?

Now what?

Question the stereotypes.

Nonverbal headbanger?

Idiot savant?

Inspirational angel?

Boy genius?

Lovable eccentric?

Unloveable recluse?

High-functioning aspie?

Dangerous loner?

Question the experts.

How do they know?

Are they sure?

What if they’re wrong?

Question the language.

Disorder, deficit, disability, difference?

Cured, recovered, coping, adapting, passing?

Label, slur, identity?

Person with autism, autistic, Autistic, aspie, autie?

Locked in, trapped, uncommunicative, nonverbal, nonspeaking, unvoiced?

Question the hype.

Epidemic?

Tragedy?

Burden to society?

Really?

Says who?

Question the fundamental fabric of humanity.

What is empathy?

What is love?

What is communication?

Question

every

single

should

must

can’t

won’t

never

always

Question this:

An excerpt from promotional material for a college textbook about Autism.

This textbook author says that Autistic people don’t recognize that other people have minds.

and this:

The lead for an article in a UK newspaper.

This Uk newspaper devoted an entire article to an autism expert who wants us to believe that autism is an “exaggeration of male habits.”

and this:

Excerpted from the "signs of autism" at a popular autism information website.

This popular autism information website wants you to believe that Autistic children play the wrong way because they lack imagination and creativity.

and this:

Autistic people rarely get married or have children? That's what these experts at Yale and  want you to think.

Autistic people don’t get married or have children? That’s what these experts at Yale and UC-San Francisco want you to think.

Question everything.

Question what you read, what you hear, what you see, what you are told.

Question what you think.

Most of all . . .

Question the hate.

If you type "Autistic people should" into a Google search box, these are the results that Google suggests based the most popular recent searches.

If you type “Autistic people should” into a Google search box, these are the results that Google suggests based the most popular recent searches.

48 comments

  1. arianezurcher

    I hesitated to “like” because i hate how misunderstood autism is by most people, but I love your post and bringing this to the light. I am sharing this widely. Thank you for being you!

  2. thevampirelock

    Wow, just wow. It’s incredible how wrong they all have it. People act like we have some deformed perception of society when really it seems they are the one’s with the completely morphed perspective of us.

    • musingsofanaspie

      I was shocked by the autocompletes. And the media snippets are some of the more infuriating ones I’ve stumbled across but they’re definitely not isolated. It’s all quite aggravating. >:[

      • thevampirelock

        Do you watch the show Touch? I feel like while it is a show about the supernatural (this is the central plot), the characters that are the brilliant ones that move the plot along are either autistic or aspies. I feel like it helps to show autism in a better light, and that our minds aren’t broken and possibly they work even better than an NT mind because we see things they cannot.

        • musingsofanaspie

          I’ve seen the previews for “Touch” and have heard good things about it but I haven’t watched it yet. It’s on my list of things to check out, for sure, and now I’ll move it up a notch in the queue. :-)

    • Karen Varga

      This blog entry has just caused my daughter to break down, it has upset her enormously; she saw it on my FB wall and she is very angry with me for sharing it on Facebook. I think you need to be careful pointing out things like the google autocomplete- some people with autism don’t realise how much hate there is in certain ill-informed sections of society, because often as parents we do everything we can to protect them from that (whether people think that is right or wrong is a completely different discussion). Ignorance and fear breed hate, fed by the fuel of the lazy and irresponsible press, but sometimes I feel that in trying to defend ourselves we feed the monsters. It’s a tough call whether we should challenge them or ignore them, and right now in our house there is too much emotion too close to the surface to really want to think about it. I do applaud you for posting this well constructed argument – apart from the google bit , I think maybe that was a step too far. We all know the idiots and the trolls are out there – do we really need to hunt them out and torture ourselves with them??

      • musingsofanaspie

        I’m so sorry to hear this. I just strengthened the warning at the top of the post to reiterate that the autocomplete is very upsetting and may be triggering. Please pass along my apologies to your daughter. It wasn’t my intention to traumatize anyone and I feel terrible that it happened.

        I was shocked when I first learned about the autocomplete–shocked and saddened and horrified that people think this way. And not just a few people, but enough to make these the most popular search terms for this phrase.

        You make an excellent point about how we go about defending ourselves against hate. I thought a lot about whether to include the text of the autocompletes and in the end decided to use a graphic so that the actual text phrases wouldn’t be picked up by Google or other search engines (and wouldn’t contribute to the hate in that way). I’m still not certain that including them was the best choice, especially in light of your comment.

        Again, I’m so, so, so sorry that your daughter was upset by the inclusion of the autocomplete phrases and that’s made her upset with you.

      • outoutout

        It’s unfortunate that your daughter was upset by this article, but I have to disagree that pointing out the Google autocorrect search is “a step too far”. It’s really not the same thing as an identifiable troll wreaking havoc; these search algorithms are indicative of something far more pervasive in our world. A world that (as you know) already believes Autistic people are broken, damaged, need a cure, capable of violence, incapable of leading a happy life, destroying their families, etc etc. For all the progress we’ve made in “Autism awareness”, we’re still vilified by mainstream society. As a 30-something Autistic adult, I can tell you it’s not something I actively seek out and torture myself with. It affects me every friggin’ day of my life. And these pervasive attitudes will *never* change, unless we bring them to light and call them out for what they are.

        For now, I am truly sorry if you think it’s inappropriate (and I really do get the triggering aspect, too, but that’s a separate issue IMHO), however I think musingofanaspie’s post is extremely important, and many thanks for it. :)

        • musingsofanaspie

          It was the pervasiveness of this kind of thinking about autistic people that led me to include the search terms. Sadly, it’s not an aberration and I think it’s important for people to understand and think about and get angry about. It’s so hard to talk about these things in responsible ways because the underlying content is triggering and it’s impossible to both all attention to the awfulness of it and protect readers from being triggered, short of saying “don’t read this.”

          I appreciate your kind words and your support. There are some harsh realities about being Autistic and you’re right, we don’t need to go looking for them because they find us.

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  4. liberatedape

    Good post. I read all the others on the flash blog too. Have to say that you folks have it tough in America. Here in the UK autism seems to be pretty invisible really. Most people I know only know about autism from the film Rain Man and Asperger’s from the tv shows Community and Big Bang Theory. In the States it seems to be a really big thing, I wonder if that is because of the evangelical rantings of Autism Speaks? Or because famillies with disabilities don’t seem to get government support, so maybe the fear of autism that seems so prelevant in the States is money related?

    • musingsofanaspie

      That’s interesting about the UK. I’m not sure why things are so different here. There is a lot of alarmist publicity in general (about the autism epidemic, etc.) and every time a new research study comes out, there is all sorts of media coverage. Then there’s the negative stuff, like the media hype around the Newtown shooter having Asperger’s. I guess media plays a big role in general and not often in a positive way because positive stories don’t really sell?

  5. aspiewriter

    This comment came from my 13 year old Aspie Teen in regards to there being no parents with Asperger’s. He said if autism has genetically link traits then it does not make sense that there are no parents with autism. Something genic is passed down from parent (or grandparents) to their children. If there were no parents with autism, and it is genetic, then there would be no children with autism. There must be parents with autism. Now THAT is an apsie mind at work…immediately trying to work out the logic behind that statement.

    • musingsofanaspie

      Exactly! Why is it so hard for people to believe we reproduce?! :-)

      And the “experts” who think we’re so socially incompetent that we can find partners are the same ones pointing out that autism has a genetic component. Sheesh.

    • Elizabeth McCoy

      *was linked to this blog just, well, today*

      My daughter is diagnosed with Asperger’s. Her father, undiagnosed, shares almost all of her traits in that area. (And his mom lends one or two others.) I think the argument that “people on the spectrum don’t have relationships/children” is… Really, really misinformed. And/or stupid.

      Let’s add another stereotype: that people with autism/asperger’s are introverts. LIKE HECK. My spouse and I are fairly introverted, but the kid? Good lords, no! She’s charged up by interaction, not “me-time.” She takes that stereotype and breaks it like a piñata.

      • musingsofanaspie

        I sometimes think that researchers and mental health professionals see what they want to see when it comes to autism. Autistic people having relationships and children doesn’t fit with their model so they assume we don’t exist? Actually, I have no idea. The good news is, things are starting to change.

        I have a regular commenter who is on the spectrum and is also very outgoing so your daughter is not alone in that. Personality and upbringing, I think, play as much of a role as AS traits.

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  7. Beccy

    I did a little experiment, and it seems that going by google searches, it is okay to be gifted, skinny or tall, but not autistic, depressed, short or fat. The “should die” option came up scarily often. Makes one wonder about people.

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  11. Hydrogen

    I was on facebook not too long ago, and I seen a post about the Google option being deleted. It was posted by Autism Speaks, but somehow I’m still having those results, and begun to think about something else. Why the heck non-autistic people would want us dead? Do we want neurotypicals dead? There is really people who’ve got nothing better to do than searching on Google for way or reason to kill autistic? Somehow, It’s not the fact that Google bring up stupids comment or research which surprise me, there is always stupid things on the web. It’s rather the fact that people seem to make statement without testify if they’re based on truth fact or not that astonish me.

    • musingsofanaspie

      The real story is that Google has promised to delete the hateful autocompletes but they also said it would take some time to do. So while the article made it sound like it’s a done deal, it’s not yet. We’re (the flash blog organizers and participants) keeping an eye on the results and will do our best to hold Google to their word.

      • Hydrogen

        I look forward to this! Thanks for this post, by the way (I was pretty angry when I wrote the last comment, and forgot the good side of it…). Even my psychology teachers agree the stereotypes about autism are far from reality!

    • ratherunique

      I have a real problem with Autism Speaks making that post, and so should everybody participating who participated in that flash blog. We made this change, we did this work for ourselves and by ourselves. It was none of their business. They do not participate in the advocacy of autistic adults. It is silencing, disrespectful and insulting.

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