The only way to get the best of an argument…

… is to avoid it.

That is the first of 12 suggestions from Dale Carnegie on how to “win people to your way of thinking“. A couple of the others that I really like are:

  • Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, “You’re wrong”.
  • If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Begin in a friendly way.
  • Get the other person saying, “Yes, yes” immediately.
  • Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.

In many ways, these remind of what I understand to be the basic attributes of diplomacy and negotiation. Obviously, there may come a point when these efforts fail and other, more drastic, approaches need to be taken.

Some would say that we are already beyond the point that these types of approaches can be of value in ongoing debates surrounding autism and autism advocacy. But I don’t believe that.

What about you?

Different? No doubt. But disabled?

In a recent post suggesting the formation of an Alliance for Autism, Mike Stanton raised a few issues on which parents and adults with autism as a group may need to come to some sort of agreement.  One of those issues are the questions:  Is autism a disability or a difference? Can it be both?

More than just an academic debate, the answers to these questions have very definite real world consequences.  Disabilities are covered by various laws, policies, etc. etc..  Differences, on the other hand, are not.  This was brought home to me when I read the aspie:talk post an adult trying to get accomodations. Although his her issues were more related to not having an official diagnosis, the situation presents a good point of comparison.

If treated as a disability, supported by the proper diagnosis, then the company needs to provide appropriate accommodations to allow the employee to work.  If, however, autism is seen as a difference, then the company is under no obligation to provide this employee any unique accommodation.

In a comment to the post, Al had this to say:

i would lay out what accommodations you need in the workplace without referring to the medical issue… which is unsolvable at this point. just state what you need item by item as matters of personal preference, in terms of “developing a comfortable working environment” and “ways they can help you be happier and more productive.” many of the social problems you have are probably going to exist at any workplace, i would guess, i’m not sure to what extent a diagnosis would alleviate the “micro-social” situation.

Obviously, this is an area where parents and adults with autism may have some differing opinions.

Difference, or disability?  What do you think?  Me, I’m still trying to figure out what I think.

Just the way it is (but don’t you believe them)

Frequent readers of this blog know that in my attempt to understand autism better, I have a tendency to see connections in things that aren’t always directly related to autism.  A lot of times this will come in the form of a song, a TV show, or a main- or sub-theme in a movie (like the X-Men trilogy).

My post yesterday brought to mind Bruce Hornsby‘s (excellent) song, The Way It Is (from the album of the same name).

They say, “Hey little boy you can’t go
Where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do”
Said, “Hey old man
How can you stand to think that way
Did you really think about it
Before you made the rules”
He said, son

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Ah, but don’t you believe them

“Don’t you believe them.”  Don’t listen when someone tells you that you can’t change things, that this is how it was meant to be.  Nothing is “meant to be”, that is the wonder of being human, that we determine what is for ourselves.

Well they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law don’t change in another’s mind
When all it sees AT the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
That’s just the way it is, it is, it is, it is

Note that in the chorus after the last verse, Hornsby never says “don’t you believe them”.  I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but it is definitely true.  You can make a law, you can tell people what they have to do, but you can’t tell them how to think about others.  That takes education, persistence, and persuasion.

And that, I believe, is the challenge we all face in gaining more understanding and acceptance for autistics, indeed for all people who are different.

They’re not normal, whatever you say

This is the fourth of three posts of excerpts from Elizabeth Moon‘s novel The Speed of Dark. (Part one – How normal are normal people?,  part two – What does it meant to be “me”?, and part three – Do I need to be healed?)

Like any good story, The Speed of Dark has an antagonist that provides the main character his dilemma and challenge.  I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of Mr. Crenshaw’s thoughts on Lou and his co-workers.

“Your guys are fossils, Pete.  Face it.  The auties older than them were throwaways, nine out of ten.  And don’t recite that woman, whatever her name was, that designed slaughterhouses or something —.

“One in a million, and I have the highest respect for someone who pulls themselves up by their bootstraps the way she did.  But she was the exception.  Most of those poor bastards were hopeless. Not their fault, all right? But still, no good to themselves or anyone else, no matter how much money was spent on them. And if the damned shrinks had kept hold of the category, your guys would be just as bad. Lucky for them the neurologists and behaviorists got some influence. But still…they’re not normal, whatever you say.

“The law does not require a company to bankrupt itself. That notion went overboard early this century. We’d lose the tax break, but that’s such a tiny part of our budget that it’s worthless, really. Now if they’d agree to dispense with their so-called support measures and act like regular employees, I wouldn’t push the treatment – though why they wouldn’t want it I can’t fathom.”

As you might be able to gather, Mr. Crenshaw’s motives for pushing a cure are somewhat less than altruistic.  But it is quite obvious what he thinks of autistics.  Not all that different from how many view autism, and autistics, today.

Why are we so intolerant of differences?

One of the key sub-plots in Elizabeth Moon’s book The Speed of Dark involves some corporate intrigue and an almost stereotypical management vs. labor conflict.   At the heart of the issue is a question of the efficiency vs. effectiveness of the autistic workforce.   It’s probably because of my recent reading of the book that Jack Vinson’s post People still say these things? caught my attention.  (Attention, what attention?)

In that post, Jack references a quote that “amazes me every time I see it used in real life”:

Regrettably far too many executives remain firmly convinced that the only way to increase productivity is for their employees to work harder or faster. A chief executive in Northern Ireland was quoted in his company magazine as saying; “Any employee not producing value-added work all the time is a waste”. This attitude stems from the continued misunderstanding of productivity…

As I read this quote, what occurred in parallel in my thinking was the following:

Regrettably far too many people remain firmly convinced that the only way to be of value to society is to do more faster. A ‘normal’ person might say; “Any autistic (or other disabled person) not keeping up with me and everyone else all the time is a waste”. This attitude stems from the continued misunderstanding of an individual’s value to society.

If you are different, your difference has to be accounted for.  Doing that takes time, throws a proverbial wrench in the works.   And people with a plan to follow and schedule to keep don’t like those wrenches.

I don’t know where this attitude has come from, but I’d guess it has its deep roots in the Industrial Revolution and nourishment from the teachings of Scientific Management, Business Process Re-engineering, Total Quality Management, etc ad infinitum.

The mentality of work in our society has permeated our mentality of community.

Is truly objective research possible

The debates within the world of autism are nothing if not contentious, with claims by one group very often countered by another group as based on “flawed research” or contaminated by conflicts of interest that taint the results. I think we all like to believe that we are objective when we come up with our ideas, and collect data to support those ideas. (I know I do.) But maybe we’re not. Maybe we can’t be.

Here are some thoughts on the “relative” nature of research methodolgy from Lilia Efimova, currently engaged in research for her PhD (completely unrelated to autism or anything to do with autism).

…the validity of scientific claims is always relative to the paradigm within which they are judged; they are never simply a reflection of some independent domain of reality (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1994, p. 12)

…methods rest on philosophical presuppositions. These remain embedded in them, even if they are not taught or discussed or attended to explicitly. (Yanow & Schwartz-Shea, 2006, p. 370)

No context is value-free. Academic disciplines promote particular ways of observing, dissecting, measuring, interpreting, and otherwise making sense of the phenomena under investigation. One’s decisions may emerge within or resistant to these disciplinary structures. One’s decisions also derive from one’s research goals, which are seldom acknowledged in research reports but which meaningfully affect the design, process, and outcome of a study. (Markham, 2007)

…all research is a practical activity requiring the exercise of judgement in context; it is not a matter of simply following methodological rules (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1994, p. 23)

Visit Lilia’s original post for complete source information of the citations.

Stop assuming you know best

I came across the following in Michael Dowd’s Thank God for Evolution:

To have a powerful relationship with your own intuition and instincts – and thus to have a clear channel of communication with the creating, sustaining Life Force of the Universe (whatever you may choose to call It/Him/Her) – one must cultivate humility in this sense: Stop assuming that you know best how things are supposed to go in the world. Rather, try on an attitude of gratitude – not just for what is easy to be grateful for, but also for those challenges and difficulties in life for which you cannot yet detect a silver lining.

Having faith and being in integrity means trusting that each and every one of us is doing the best we can, given what we’ve got to work with at the time. It’s trusting that, from the perspective of the Universe, everything may be “right on schedule.”

Just thought I’d share.