Deconstructing Autism

April is the Autism Awareness Month

Autism is a neurological and cognitive functional variation with a strong hereditary base; yet is in practice very much socially constructed depending on both surroundings and how society reacts, responds and relates to autistic Human persons.

1. Pedagogic profile

Autistic Human persons at normal to high levels of IQ tend to be good at learning things found interesting and reversely much less good at learning things not found interesting. This is so of course even in non-autistic Humans, yet very often much more pronounced and polarized in autistic Human persons.

2. Sensory oversensitivity

Autistic people can be oversensitive to various sensorial impressions including light, sound, scent and touch and thus neurologically respond very negatively to such invasive stimuli.

3. Defense mechanisms

Autistic people generally have particularly strong defense mechanisms which are known as the autistic bubble. This can mean subconscious resistance to learning without there already being genuine individual interest, difficulties in forming intimate relationships (especially if under cultural pressure from conventional social expectations) and difficulties in performing simple necessary tasks in daily life without the appropriate individual interest or individual motivation such as group participation. Autistic Human persons typically become disabled in response to invasive social expectations.

4. Intelligence quotient

The level of functioning and performance of autistic people usually strongly correlate with IQ levels, meaning that high IQ autistic people can be high performers while still being sensorially oversensitive, having very strong defense mechanisms as well having autistic pedagogic profiles.

5. Bubble

The bubble as a psychological phenomenon is however not exclusive to autistic Human persons. This is what traditional religion refers to as the “soul” and prominently features in the artistic traditions of various religious traditions. A visible Human bubble is sometimes referred to as charisma. “Visible” bubbles can be observed in many public personalities, aptly described as “stars” as indeed literally referring to the so called “radiance” of the visible bubble. The purpose of the bubble is to filter sensorial impressions as this is seen as so normal that it is seen as a given for so called non-autistic Human persons. Autistic Human persons have however simply stronger filters. Having a bubble is perfectly healthy and the bubble should obviously be respected in every person.

6. Communication

The defense bubble also serves to restrict and limit inter-personal communication. Since the filter is relatively stronger, this means that communication can be slower and understanding therefore delayed. Human persons invariably ignore and focus at the same time. This is not exclusive to autistic Human persons but is something that is part of the human experience. It’s just that autistic Human persons focus stronger and ignore more while communicating. Yes, this may impair communication depending on context but not necessarily so provided that there is indeed appropriate focus towards the situation at hand

7. Habitual behavior

90% of behaviors are automatized in non-autistic Human person. The number is no doubt even higher for autistic Human persons. Social behaviors are mostly culturally learned and autistic persons simply learn more intensely by shutting out everything else. For autistic Human persons with very low IQs this may mean that they may shut out pretty much everything. It is therefore vital to avoid behaviors towards autistic Human persons that serve to inadvertently fortify their respective defense bubbles. Resistance to social behavior change is present in humans generally and is certainly part of what the defense bubble is about.

However, socially learned behaviors are certainly not carved in stone and although autistic Human persons may seem more behaviorally rigid, those behaviors can change in appropriate social interaction with others. The tendency to relative behavioral rigidity is certainly autistic but not necessarily the behaviors per se as those behaviors are socially constructed unless these behaviors are simply personal traits associated with autism such as being highly verbal.

8. Limitations

There are two kinds of limitations in autistic Human persons just as there are in persons generally. There are certain things that don’t change such as level of intelligence or the fact that someone is autistic indeed. These are objective limitations that must therefore be respected. However, there are also subjective limitations that are subject to change by means of social construction. This is relevant in a number of dimensions of life in autistic Human person. First, personal interests can and should be created, widened and broadened by means of providing intellectual stimulation that will ignite personal interest in any given issue; area or field of knowledge. Second, autistic Human persons should not be pressured to perform in various respects as this unnecessarily fortifies the defense bubble. Third, autistic Human persons should be stimulated to early specialize and focus at what they are good at performing rather on what they have trouble performing. It is very destructive for all children to informally learn by experience in school that certain school subjects are “boring”. This is even more destructive for young autistic Human persons as this literally develops disability rather than wisely focusing on developing what each child is individually good at doing.

9. Approach

Autistic people need to be met with high expectations yet little to no demands. Both low expectations and high demands can be socially and psychologically devastating for autistic Human persons. High demands typically serve to further fortify the defense bubble and low expectations make autistic Human persons feel that they are embodied deficiencies as opposed to assets for themselves and others. Autistic Human persons need to be embraced as they are, attempting to “cure” autistic Human persons is profoundly disrespectful. The secret to helping autistic Human persons succeed in various dimensions of life is to 1) stimulate the enlargening of their personal interests and 2) encourage them to focus on things in which they excel and assist them in respects where they don’t. The more fields of knowledge and dimensions of life an autistic Human person finds interesting – the smoother and better does her life therefore also function. Autistic Human persons should never be subject to professional psychological manipulation for the purpose of “normalization”. In fact, the worst oppressors of autistic Human persons are the professionals in education and psychology who shamefully make a living trying to normalize autistic Humans persons and should I add always unsuccessfully so.

10. Spectrum

All human persons are part of the Human autistic spectrum. Autistic Human persons simply represent part of the mosaic of functional cognitive variation and autistic Human persons should be appreciated for what they succeed in rather than mindlessly focusing on that in which they tend to fail. Every Human person is competent in that in which they excel and incompetent in that in which they continually fail. Autistic Human persons are simply not different in this respect from the so called non-autistic Human persons.

11. Learning from Autism

Rather than viewing the “extremes” on various cognitive human spectra as “aberrations” somehow external from normative so called “humanity”, those purported “extremes” offer much that society and science can, need and must indeed learn about the supposedly “normal” part of the cognitive continuum.

Education should thus be focused on the individual strengths of its students as opposed to currently on their weaknesses. Sensory oversensitivity is not limited to persons who can be diagnosed as autistic and so sensory environments need to be cleaned up. When a child starts thinking that a certain school subject is “boring” then that means that the school has unfortunately fortified the defense bubble in ways that makes learning much more difficult. IQ largely determines the individual pace of learning among autists as well as non-autists, yet the most effective way of encouraging learning is to ignite personal interest in any given subject matter. IQ difference is largely responsible for differentiation in grades and psychometric test scores. Persons with relatively lower levels of IQ should not be given up on but rather be provided with individualized education that is appropriate for their level of intelligence and individual interest. There should therefore be two kinds of teachers, the first should be devoted to igniting interest and the second should be devoted to cultivating those individual interests.

12. Understanding Autism

Very few humans seem to understand what autism is and improved understanding is therefore very much vital for understanding both autistic Human persons and the so called “humanity” at large. Autism is not a mere collections of “symptoms” as defined as supposed aberrations from a fictional, socially constructed “normality”. Reducing autism to “symptoms” is not only profoundly demeaning to autistic Human persons – it unnecessarily limits the understanding of the so called humanity itself.

Autism is a kind of largely genetically based cognitive and neurological profile regarding learning, defense mechanisms and sensory oversensitivity. That’s what it is. Rather than making autistic Human persons feel like aliens from outer space should autism become part of the global human norm in mainstreaming the autistic cognitive experience. Global human society can learn and improve so much by embracing autistic people and making them feel part of the human experience indeed as autism can help rethink social sciences and reinvent humanity indeed. Furthermore, autism most probably exists among non-human persons as well and so better understanding autism can also help improve understanding between non-human persons and human animals. Everything from psychology to economics should be rethought in light of the autistic experience considering that every human person is indeed part of the autistic spectrum.

13. Savantism

Savantism is to varying degrees found among one-tenth of autistic Human persons and about half of Human persons with savant skills are also autistic. Savantism means that parts of the brain have become activated in ways that is usually not the case among human persons. Savant skills are usually found in seemingly trivial areas of interest such as learning calendars and bus schedules by heart. This focus on trivia is precisely due to the failure of the system of education to develop the existing cognitive strengths of autistic persons. It should indeed be the task of the system of education to ensure that savantism is focused on areas of knowledge that are useful both to the autistic Human person and for society and economy at large. Savantism usually remains trivial precisely because savantism is usually disregarded as inherently trivial.

There could be many more geniuses and even universal geniuses if children with savant skills received appropriated educational stimulation. Being able to focus is certainly a gift (as savantism is about extreme focus) and ought to be acted towards and recognized as such by society. Savantism worldwide indeed represents incredible educational opportunities. Children with savant skills need to be treated with warm acceptance and embraced as they are. Indeed, education of children with savant skills should mainly focus on developing their savant skills in the fields of technology, mathematics and natural science where savant skills are more useful than anywhere else. Even persons with savant skills having low IQ can develop their savant skills in ways that become useful to themselves, society and the economy. We should all learn from autistic Human persons and focus on individual strength rather than exclusively on weakness.

14. Subconscious

It has been well-known since the time of Sigmund Freund that consciousness has two parts, the conscious one and the subconscious one. The brain is a vast repository of every sensorial impression ever received. The amount of information is so vast that it must be contained or the person will become psychotic. The subconscious is thus a vast library of documentation of which only a small part is consciously available.

In the future, humans generally will need to learn how to reconnect with their subconscious. Psychoanalysis represented a modest beginning in this regard. New advanced technology will be needed that will help connect the conscious with the subconscious without in the process causing psychosis or totalitarianism. People with savant skills (whether autistic or otherwise) should hence be respected and learned from in bridging the gap between the conscious and the subconscious.