Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Why the planets spin: on neurodiversity

Crossposted at My Left Wing, Booman Tribune, and Daily Kos

Recently, I started a blog featuring various Cafe Press designs. I was just exploring the popular search topics there--the number one most popular search is for "humor"--and stumbled onto this Autism and Hyperlexia Awareness store. Since Son in Ohio has Asperger's Syndrome, I have more than a passing interest in that topic. I featured some of the designs from that store at this blog, and then searched specifically for Asperger's. That's where I found this design. It reads "I know of nobody who is purely Autistic or purely neurotypical. Even God had some Autistic moments, which is why the planets all spin."

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This design caught my attention, before I'd even looked at it close enough to read, because Son in Ohio was absolutely enthralled with the planets when he was around 3 years old. For Christmas one year, Demetrius made him a planet shirt, creating the planets out of fabric paint on a black sweat shirt. I also like the choice of the word neurotypical rather than "normal". The quote is attributed to Jerry Newport. I'd never heard of him before, so I did a search and found this...

When Jerry Met Mary
Lesley Stahl Revisits A Couple Who Both Suffer From Autism

The Poetry of Jerry Newport

Exclusive Interview with author Jerry Newport

Why am I posting this? A couple reasons. On the most basic level, this is an issue that touches my life. Also, one of the things I have learned as the mother of a child who is classified as both special needs and gifted is that "things are not always what they seem", and that it's often necessary to look beyond what others consider to be the "obvious" explanation for something. (One of the designs I found reads "I'm not trying to be naughty. I am autistic. Please have patience.") Also, "normal" is overrated. Einsteing, for example, wasn't "normal". Neither was Thomas Edison, and the world is richer for the contributions that flowed from their "neurodiversity".

But I suppose the point that relates more directly to a progressive/Democratic blog is this. When candidates campaign on "tax relief", most of us know that what that necessarily means is cutting services. Well, these are some of the kids who can end up losing much needed services, and that has a direct impact on their ability to grow up to be happy, well adjusted, tax-paying members of society.

It's tough, because the "Taxes bad!" meme is drummed into people so effectively that even many Democrats fall into the trap of talking "tax relief". We need to find a way to talk about necessary services, and the real human lives they change for the better. And we really need to take to heart the idea that "Democrats believe that we're all in this together". Because the alternative is the "You're on your own" message that the Bush administration has been sending for the past six years. I think that message was at its most stark in the response to those affected by Hurricane Katrina, but the message is sent in smaller ways every day. Those may not make the news, but they can still wreak havoc in individual lives.

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