I refrained from writing this post until now because I felt it was important that I let my emotions calm down before writing this. If I had written what I was thinking after the events of Tuesday and Wednesday, it would not have done much. In my next post, I will be pasting the notes that I took during it.
So, what is this “it” with which I speak? In either March or April, I had an “awesome” idea, I was going to get my master’s certificate in autism. The program is offered by Saint Cloud State University’s Special Education, Psychology, and Communication Sciences and Disorders departments. There is one class in each of these areas and they focus on that field’s approach to autism treatments and I am currently taking the Special Education portion of the program.
The class started off as classes are wont to do, with introductions. The first five questions were: “What is your name, where do you live, why are you taking this program, where do you teach, and what population do you teach?” But the last one was…I don’t know what word to use, but it didn’t sit right with me. “What is your autistic characteristic?”
I went first because I am the only male in the class and I said that “socializing is difficult for me” because it is. I could have gone on for a very long time if I had wanted to, but I just stuck with that. No one else commented on socializing being difficult for them, almost 2/3 of the answers were “anxiety.” Other answers were “hyperactivity, obsessive compulsive, and annoying repetitive behaviors (like curling hair with their fingers).” Hyperactivity, anxiety, obsessive compulsive, and such that they described are not necessarily autism characteristics. They are comorbidities (other “disorders” that are associated with autism, but are not part of autism), but they are not autism in and of themselves.
Once we were all done introducing ourselves, the teacher said, “I guess we’re all autistic” and everyone laughed. Let me tell you the population of this class, they are all teachers who are going to be teaching students with autism. And they are laughing that “we are all autistic.” To me, this seems like a white person saying, “I guess I’m black” because of some singular characteristic that they share with what they assume an African American would be. The laughter, therefore, is a laughter that says while they share a similarity with this minority group (I don’t like the way I worded that, but I couldn’t think of any other word to use. It is supposed to be the opposite of the dominat group, but I can’t remember what it’s called. I think it starts with an “a”) [update 8/12/2015: The word that I was looking for is subaltern], they still fall under the dominant group and are protected. “I have characteristics of autism, but thank god I’m not actually autistic” is what the laugh really said.
I recognize that probably not everyone in the classroom was laughing, many may have been laughing while cringing inside, but still, this sets up a very dangerous environment for this class.
If this happened once (laughing after someone says, “we’re autistic”), I would chalk it up to a mistake or a singular event that won’t happen again. But this recurred on the first and second day where someone would mess something up and then say, “Well, I’m autistic.” And everyone would laugh.
Personally, it makes me sick to my stomach. I am trying to use language here that could not be taken as offensive about the students in my class because I’m sure they are great people who really care about the students they work with. However, this is a disturbing, if not disgusting, precedent over a career of working with autistic students in the PreK-12 system.
Over the next nine weeks (that’s how long this program is), I will be writing on different topics in an attempt to logically analyze what I’m experiencing and “learning” about autism (a lot of which I can cite articles that actually contradict what I have “learned” and what they are teaching). I would like to take this opportunity now to say I will probably mess up and use language that is not objective. I do apologize for that now, but some of this stuff that I am learning is such (pardon my language) bullshit. There I went and probably messed up. But I will try and logically analyze the things I learn, but be aware that emotions will be a part of it because I am a emotional human (even though theory of mind logic says that autistics are not human and cannot experience and know their own emotions).
Yeah, that’s kinda all I’ve got for now.
I feel like I may have made comments that were offensive, if so, I’m sort of sorry, but I wrote the way I feel and, honestly, that’s the best I can do.