The autism paradox

Is it a disorder to be diagnosed, or an experience to be celebrated?

To know more about this paradox and brief history of Autism, read the article here.

What’s your opinion on this paradox readers? Looking forward to read your comments.


17 thoughts on “The autism paradox

      1. My opinion would take an essay’s worth of words because it’s a complex topic that most people don’t bother to think through. I’m still in the process of picking it apart, but for a purely personal opinion, celebrating being on the spectrum makes about as much sense as celebrating the fact that you have green eyes, the first time you see yourself in the mirror. I don’t even consider autism a “thing.” So whether it is or isn’t a disorder is irrelevant. Certain aspects of being on the spectrum can be thought of as disabilities, depending on how they impact on your life, but I reject “disorder” entirely.

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  1. I totally agree about disorder. There are days where it can be disabling. Personally I think that what needs to be appreciated is that there are people who perceive the world in quite a different way to what is regarded as normal. Just because it is a minority does not mean it is less valid. Society would prefer us less autistic to fit in with their bias. Were you to insert any other minority be that colour, sexuality or gender into that statement it would be regarded as totally unacceptable and offensive. So it might be worth looking at the neurotypical tolerance paradox rather than autistics. We at least are able to follow rules when they make sense

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    1. Thank you for your valuable input. One if the argument is that if Autism is not considered as a disorder or a disability, then the government is not liable for any special education or support services. What’s your opinion on that?

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      1. True, but then there would then be the legal argument that the entire education and and social care system is built to discriminate against a minority on no other grounds than they see the world differently. Let’s be honest that discrimination is already there and thriving in education and the workplace. Society can’t even manage equality between gender and colour and that’s an obvious difference, in spite of legislation. It’s not going to change for autistics in a hurry.

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      2. Thank you very much raising this issue of discrimination against minorities. Do you mind giving an example or two on how to tackle the issue of discrimination in education system and workplace etc?

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  2. As someone who is autistic (and has only realised this very recently), I would say it can be both. I have experienced it as both throughout my lifespan, too.

    Celebration: in my childhood, when my life was not very stressful (countryside, nature, mom taking care of all practicalities) I would say that the things I now recognise are considered part of autism were mostly a pleasure and in some ways advantage – such as a heightened sensory sensitivity that let me appreciate and connect with nature and the physical world more than other people do, I think, and gives me innate skills for art and constructing stuff. My insatiable curiosity and ability to focus for hours/days, and typically deep and original thinking also let me succeed academically (up to PhD level) without really doing anything for it except having fun and following my natural inclination.

    Where I experienced it as a disability (and finally found the label, too) is outside this kind of secure and structured context focussed on intellectual achievement. Which is basically adult life outside university. Which is managing chores, organisation, emotional aspects of relationships, having to find your way in a world that lives by other rules that are mostly invisible to me (or so illogical, from my way of thinking, that sorry – i just can’t pull them off unless i really bend myself like crazy, and sometimes i don’t have the energy to).

    On top of that, the challenges of adult life in an neurotypical world have also increased my stress levels, and (as is natural in autism) in consequence my sensory sensitivity has increased to a point where I can’t tolerate much of civilisation (supermarket lighting, engine noise, big flickering screens, crowds) without a lot of discomfort and the need to decompress afterwards. Some days I can’t go shopping.

    These two things – genuinely not “seeing” the neurotypical rules (even after a decade of reading psychology books) and having to put such extreme effort into playing along with them (a major energy sucker, and I believe i can only do that cause i pulled a lucky card with even having the capacity) and not being able to tolerate a world that was built by neurotypicals with their stimulation tolerance levels in mind – is in practice a disability.

    I think the social model of disability is the major keyword here.

    Also, I’m aware that many autistic people don’t happen to have the perks (natural academic interests) that let me sail smoothly initially with my differences being mostly lauded, or have sensory thresholds / profiles that won’t let them tolerate a classroom much less learn in the standard way (I could, even though I had to dissociate in part to do that). I would assume though that they find their special and unique joys in life, too, when given the chance.

    Ok, this got too long, I’m probably going to write an article on this. The main points I thought were: 1) social model of disability 2) that depending on the setting, especially the social (and self) attitude and accommodations available, the subjective experience for an autistic person can be of either (gift or disability), neither, or both together.

    And I do think accommodations are necessary and desirable (unless society wants to deal with more profoundly broken people who could be happy and thriving), although it’s a pity that the term “disability” is so heavily stigmatised – having to pay with a potentially shame-inducing label to get understanding and simply a chance to live and work the way one was designed to.

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    1. Dr. Sasha,

      Thank you very much for sharing such a thought provoking perspective. I read your post more than 3 times to grasp the depth of your perspective.

      After reading your post, my belief that each individual is unique and can’t be labelled in simple terms was solidified.

      I wanted to ask you a couple of things if you don’t mind.

      1) You mentioned that you found out having autistic characteristics very recently. May I know how you did find out?
      2) What are some of the neurotypical rules you find the most irritating? And are there any rules according to you which can be modified to accommodate more diverse population without completely reforming the societies?

      Eagerly looking forward to your response and your article. I am also looking forward to learn new languages from you 🙂

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      1. 🙂 I believe part of that is answered in my newer blog posts.
        Briefly, 1) many coincidences, but the main thing was probably getting together with a partner who is diagnosed with Aspergers, and realising that part of why we communicate so incredibly easily is that … we’re the same with respect to autism-spectrum related habits / needs / abilities / the way we use language. a psychologist and bunch of other people also just asked me frontally whether i’m autistic, so at one point i had to research it and especially autistic online groups confirmed that yes, i totally and constantly have many experiences that autistics have (and NTs don’t; such as overload, meltdowns), manner of communicating (i rarely use language in strategic ways, to imply things, create appearances, lying is extremely burdening and difficult, etc.), etc.
        2) my problem with rules is mostly that i don’t notice many. when someone gives me an explanation, i often don’t mind following them. the ones that irritate me are mostly related to things like judging someone by their dress code, or things related to gender interactions / stereotypes; or finally assuming that if someone is more straightforward/factual than polite, that is shows carelessness or is intended as an offence (rather than just being a straight … and somewhat autistic style of speaking).
        i don’t think these can be changed “at will” though, because these reactions are often instinctual / emotional. i tend to think they only shift when someone gets enough direct exposure to autistic people (plus explanation) – at least since i’ve realised i’m autistic, i’ve also realised that most of the NT people i get on with either had extensive previous exposure to other spectrum people, or are just exceptionally tolerant and compassionate and “human” (don’t judge by appearance but by heart, i guess).
        hope that answers your curiosity 🙂

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      2. Thank you for your detailed response. It surely did satisfy my curiosity.

        Looking forward to your upcoming blog posts. I hope you enjoy your time on this blog too 🙂

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    2. As a relatively recently diagnosed autistic (18months) I can honestly say I agree and identify with pretty much everything you’ve put here. The only exception being that when I went to uni in 93 I was totally unequipped to cope with life on my own and had my first proper breakdown and had to leave.

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    1. I love long responses. So thank you 🙂
      And thank you for finding the content here interesting. I am brand new here (only 10 days old) so I would love to hear your feedback.

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  3. As a relatively recently diagnosed autistic (18months) I can honestly say I agree and identify with pretty much everything you’ve put here. The only exception being that when I went to uni in 93 I was totally unequipped to cope with life on my own and had my first proper breakdown and had to leave.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. True, but then there would then be the legal argument that the entire education and and social care system is built to discriminate against a minority on no other grounds than they see the world differently. Let’s be honest that discrimination is already there and thriving in education and the workplace. Society can’t even manage equality between gender and colour and that’s an obvious difference, in spite of legislation. It’s not going to change for autistics in a hurry, as generally you’re dealing with people who think Occam’s razor is new brand of shaving product. It is interesting that while I’m considered socially “disabled” I consider most neuro typicals to be logically “disabled” as they can’t see the trends and patterns I do in data. So it does come back to the majority set the point of perspective something is judged from. Just in the same way the victor writes the history.

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