An image of a grey pluche kangaroo, being held by Jorik in a café next to Fosse Way School. His name is Kevin (of course it is).

Monday 4th April 2022: Autistic and on Holiday 1/2 – THEN SOME OTHER STUFF OCCURRED!

Hi everyone,

Sorry for being a bit early off the mark for this week’s blog – but since last week’s one was delayed and next week’s one is not happening I thought I’d give you a blog on the Sunday. I was going to write about holidays. You know – the nice fuzzy cuddly kind of blog that warrants a cuddly toy kangaroo on the front.

CW: hate speech, transphobia, medium to high-level swears.

Fosse Way

On Friday, I had a wonderful day in sunny Radstock at Fosse Way school, a school for autistic students. I never went to a special education college when I was young – as self-hating as I was, that would have destroyed my tenuous grip of existence. My brother did, for dyslexia, but that story is his to tell.

In any case, you may remember that I was interviewed by an autism specialist for their newsletter back in the autumn. That interview appeared in their December newsletter, linked below. Please share it about – I’ve asked and the Specialist Autism Support Service (AKA SASS – my favourite acronym) has told me to spread the word as much as possible. I’m on pages 6-7. My mother loved the interview, and you should all trust her judgement.

What did you think?

Last month, I was invited to speak for the students at Fosse Way, where the Specialist Autism Support Service is also housed. I spoke to two groups. Having had a shit night’s sleep (reasons later), I was on the bus early and had coffee with Sarah in their wonderful café, where I acquired the friend you can see at the top of this blog. His name is Kevin and he’s an Eastern Grey. Of course he is.

I was asked by Sarah to be mindful of swearing. That was hard, I was tired. Swearing is something I do quite quickly when I’m tired. Then you’ve also got the fact I had to be on. I was in a new environment, in front of new people. It was a relief to not have to mask (as much) in front of the students, though I did at the staff. I’ll explain that in a bit.

The first group was years 10 and 11, with three members of staff present. I was going to be asked questions about being autistic in the workplace. We first introduced ourselves and said what our interests were. Then, I was asked the first question. “What 3 words would you use to describe your autism?”

I laughed at the first three words my tired brain threw up.

“Do you really want to know? They’re rude.”

Yes across the board.

“Really Fucking Sexy.”

Big laugh.

The adults in the room got very tiny eyes for a brief moment, but they soon recovered. I dropped an F-bomb in the first five minutes. Great start, genuinely. I somehow answered more questions from the students, who were 1000% on board.

During the break, I spoke to the three adults in the room, 1 teacher and 2 TAs. I explained what I meant with having to work harder for them.

“Don’t feel like you can’t be yourself.” – That’s the response I always get from NTs when I explain masking. The words they say are not coherent with a. my experience due to being autistic and b. the double-empathy problem. I have become very good at mimicking people, particularly people’s voices. I could have been another Alastair McGowan, if I looked a bit more like Sam the Eagle from the Muppets (joke trademark: Richard Herring, PLC).

The reason I got so good at this is that I cannot intuitively access the emotions of neurotypicals like I can those of autistic people. I had to play two different rooms all at once – one the autistic students, the other the neurotypical staff. We have to have that double consciousness every time there are neurotypicals present. I become incredibly aware of my own voice, posture, movement and physicality, as well as my voice and my eyes. This could still be a remnant of occasional behaviourist approaches used on me when I was a child and teenager – it is more likely a logical consequence of living in a world that was frightened by me. Why? Because

More tiring is the reading of the NT’s body language and voices. I have to constantly calculate my sense of safety based on how they respond – I cannot intuitively understand this, like I can with autistics. I need instead to make probabilistic approximations based on their exact movements, their eyes and their hands. It makes me come across really creepy, but it’s an excellent party trick. Part of the masking is hiding when I do it.

This is due to the Double Empathy problem, as defined by Damien Milton in 2012’s A Mismatch of Salience (find it here). Our intuitive sense about other people’s intentions does not function in the same way as that of neurotypicals. A piece of research I often cite is one Thin Slice Judgements, a form of testing the efficacy of marketing materials. This is the Double Empathy Problem in action. View the research paper here:

(PDF) Neurotypical Peers are Less Willing to Interact with Those with Autism based on Thin Slice Judgments (researchgate.net)

The students, despite me desperately trying not to swear while answering their questions, did really enjoy it. The second group did too, even though my brain was already running a bit dry. This was a group of sixth formers, so I was allowed to swear. Still, Sarah was a bit taken aback when I dropped the C-bomb. I said it about Andrew Wakefield, so she agreed it was, in this case, absolutely warranted.

The responses were pretty incredible, including an idea to put “My Autism in 3 Words? Really Fucking Sexy – Jorik Mol” on a poster. If anyone’s got t-shirt printing capacities – my size is M-L. I haven’t had time to process all the things that people said to me. Hopefully someday I’ll have the time to add some quotes when I get them. I just hope that next time I’ll have slept better, so I’ll be less sweary. Apart from that, I’m super pleased with how it went.

Instagram ads

Another thing – the day I published last week’s blog, I started receiving ads for free autism training on instagram. Find them here: Understanding Autism – Free Courses in England.

Now, as someone with lived experience, trying to make a living that’s pretty rough – a course free at the point of use, since government funding was already released? That’s impossible to compete against, however high the quality of the work of me and my friends can produce.

But! If autistic people were teaching this course – brilliant! This would be a way for our community to be directly involved in educating neurotypicals on our lived experience. However, this isn’t my first rodeo. I know that the power base in disability education is still with neurotypicals and that harm against our community (often with excellent intentions – despite the harm caused by their effect) is the norm.

So, if the teachers weren’t autistic, then at least the resources themselves might have been created by autistic people – if not, they might at least be co-developed?

Then, worst case scenario, neurotypicals all the way down and the resources used not based on the Core Capabilities Framework or another system created by our community. Instead, it’d be full-on conversion therapy. ABA practitioners are dime a dozen, as you know.

I called the phone number that was given in the ad and got in touch with the customer service team. The boy I spoke to was lovely and he did a great job. He asked me to call back the next day, since he’d never been asked these questions. I spoke to his colleagues on Thursday, then on Friday. The answers:

  • No, there were no actually autistic teachers teaching this course.
  • No, the autism awareness courses were not created by autistic people.
  • No, there was no co-development with the autistic community.

So, financially, this was totally neurotypicals profiting over us, doing the work about our community that should really be done by us.

  • The basis of the course was probably not the Core Capabilities Framework – but the people I spoke to hadn’t heard of that, nor of ABA, PBS or behaviourist methods.

I did get the chance to send an email. I can however say that it’s important when you’re looking for autism education to ask for Actually Autistic people. As I said at Fosse Way on Friday, there is quite a bit of money in the autistic community – unfortunately, 99.9999999999% of that is owned by… er… Elon Musk.* Our community is highly economically discriminated against. Why should non-autistic people make money over us, even if that money is received (funnelled?) directly from government funding?

It’s particularly asinine that this is happening right before what’s known as “Autism Awareness Month.” This is a month-long advertisement for Autism Speaks and related industrial groups, during the month of April. It presents a neurotypical audience with a neurotypical “deficit” view of autistics, as being fundamentally worse than neurotypicals rather than, y’know, different. Which is what we actually are.

Online, the autistic community has to put up with a lot of blue “pro-autism” filters during April, as well as parents waxing lyrical on the merits of early intervention, for instance. Unfortunately, that included Keith Duffy on this week’s Blindboy Podcast. This is a massive shame – Duffy and Blindboy have such massive platforms, particularly in the Republic of Ireland. I don’t think either of them intend anything else than complete love and acceptance for autistic people – Blindboy is currently working through his neurodivergences himself! But to say, as Duffy did: “Early intervention is vital,” what you mean is: “if you don’t put your child through traumatising conversion therapy, you are a bad parent.” This is toxic stuff and, understandably, 20 years ago, Duffy had no choice but to drink the kool-aid, as it were. It was (and mostly still remains) the only available support available for parents of autistic children. It’s either that or nothing. It’s no choice to have to make. Instead of celebrating the abuse of our community, autistic activists use the hashtag #RedInstead and #FuckAutismSpeaks while avoiding puzzle pieces (a trademark of Autism Speaks) and the colour blue when discussing autism. If you’re neurotypical, maybe rethink your approach to celebrate our community and what imagery you choose to use.

In the meantime, please do not start harassing the workers at Free Courses In England – they’re just in the call centre. They have zero control over the policies from the higher-ups. They just have to answer the phone for 8 hours a day and deal with nonsense from people. They have no fault or responsibility here. Don’t punish them for things they had no hand in. Instead, my experience with all three agents was excellent and I expect any further contact with workers to be the same. Same with Keith Duffy and Blindboy. They are very much not the problem. Their paychecks aren’t coming from abusive fake therapies.

I sent an email to Free Courses In England on Friday, which will have been forwarded to the course designer today. I’ll let you know when I hear from them. In the meantime, #ABAisAbuse #BanConversionTherapy #FuckAutismSpeaks #RedInstead. To be continued.

Conversion Therapy. Again

Thursday saw some horrible news. I was made aware on social media that the UK Government planned to quietly cancel the ban on conversion therapy. As you know from the blog I wrote last June (it’s here if you’ve forgotten), I am of the opinion that the proposed conversion therapy ban didn’t go far enough. It should include bans on ABA, PBS, Teamteach, TEACCH and other rebrands of conversion therapy, rather than limit itself to the conversion therapies used on neurotypical queer people.

The government’s plans were aggravating and cynical. I was fuming. But it’s completely within the realm of what conservative politics is about. Open homophobia is back, I thought. Then, when I didn’t think they could, they made it worse.

Instead of rolling back the entire conversion therapy legislation, they did a partial U-turn and stated that the ban should only apply to gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Conveniently, this threw everything the bus that the queer community has been working towards and specifically targets trans and non-binary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people. It’s worse than fatuous and wrong: it’s actively, viciously transphobic, singling out a community they don’t like and pinkwashing their eugenicist agenda. The person who shared this story with me lives in America and shared two tweets from the LGB Alliance, an anti-trans hate group that does not represent the queer community in the slightest. They were crowing.

You know what was the most cynical aspect of this? The day. It was Trans day of Visibility. Horrible. I will not give up, neither will others. The UK should ban all forms of conversion therapy, whatever the brand name – not just the ones for neurotypical cis gays and lesbians. To be totally continued, in rage, in solidarity.

Phew. Now that’s out of the way…

Holiday

Holidays are always a difficult thing – yes we can absolutely adore them, but…

Oh dear! It seems we’ve run out of time. Well, we can’t have it all. Clearly.

I can however, because I’m going on holiday until 12th April. It’s going to be amazing. I’ll see you back on the 18th, with that actual holiday blog. Sometimes, waiting for something nice will be all the sweeter.

In the meantime, I

Love to you all!

xxx

Jorik

* What a vile man.

Categories ABA/Autistic at Work/Education/Gender and Sexuality/Healthcare/Institutional Barriers/Money/On Neurotypicals/On Pride/On Radicalisation/On Resilience/Protesting/Speaking/Uncategorized

Post Author: jorikmol

Professionally Autistic

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