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Dangerous Assumptions

Photo © Lucy Downey | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: Two Canada geese swimming with a fluffy baby gosling.] Julia Bascom juststimming.wordpress.com There is this thing that happens sometimes. Parent has an autistic child. Autistic child doesn’t speak, or their speech isn’t an accurate window into what they are thinking. Autistic child is presumed to be very significantly intellectually disabled. Years later, a method of communication is found that works for the child, and it turns out that they are in fact very smart. Very smart! The parents are overjoyed. They begin talking about presuming competence, the least dangerous assumption, that not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say. They are so, so excited. And they start talking about all the incorrect assumptions they had. If we’d known, they say, we wouldn’t have done X. If we had known they could read, think,…

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Autism Is Not “Behavioral”

Cal Montgomery Photo © Teresa Alexander-Arab | Flickr / Creative Commons [Image: A green buoy on the surface of a body of water on a sunny day.] Autism is not behavioral. Atypical behavior is not autism. It is a consequence of autism. It is surface markers by which what is underneath may be suspected, diagnosed, and investigated. Altering behavior doesn’t alter autism. Everything we recognize has surface markers. Fear, for instance, may look like a cold sweat, breathing hard, and dilated pupils, but that is not what fear is. ABA, the most popular monopoly for interacting with autistics, denies the “underneath.” It says that the surface markers are all that matter. It is profoundly dehumanizing. It is also a worldview that is almost impossible to maintain. When you call autism a behavioral disorder—and I am not touching the “disorder” part right here but I also do not accept it—you are focusing…