Bookworm: To Siri With Love by Judith Newman

boycotttosiriMy mom gets Reader’s Digest each month. In the October 2017 issue, they published an excerpt from Judith Newman’s book To Siri With Love. The excerpt piqued my interest, so I borrowed it from the library. On the exact day I started reading it, I saw a campaign on Facebook using the hashtag “#BoycotttoSiri” I read the articles about the book and was heartbroken.  This mother can’t be this bad, can she? Spoiler alert–she is.

There is a type of mother in the autism community called the “autism mom.” This is a mother who sees herself as a martyr because of the “suffering” she goes through for her child. She will complain endlessly about how terrible it is to raise a child. They rarely, if ever, celebrate the joys of motherhood because they don’t see it as joyful. They see it as a burden.  That is my first problem with this book. She even has the audacity to ask if her child is thinking and say she is unsure if autism should be cured. (The correct answer to that question that should never even be asked is NO! Not yes, or maybe, or unsure–NO!) The reason this is a problem is that these parents don’t seem to realize that EVERY parent has difficulty raising children, even the ones who aren’t autistic can be difficult! This does NOT make you a martyr.

My second problem is how she treats autism advocates. She is very condescending about them, almost as if she doesn’t value their opinion. In fact, when autistic YouTube personality Amythest Schaber called her out for calling her a “manic pixie dream girl” (a derogatory term for overtly cheerful women. Because autistic women can’t possibly be cheerful), Newman didn’t apologize–she gaslighted her! She made it seem as if, by not asking for her permission to be quoted, she was doing her a favor. A “nice surprise”, she called it. She then called her a brat because Schaber still persisted to criticize her dehumanizing book. In short, if you don’t share her POV, you’re not worth her time.

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The Fictional Spectrum: Dr. Shaun Murphy

shaun murphyABC has a TV series that I think will be a force for good in autism advocacy: The Good Doctor. Based on the Korean TV series of the same name, its main character is Dr. Shaun Murphy, played by Freddie Highmore. Dr. Shaun Murphy is an autistic doctor who is working at St. Bonaventure Hospital.

Now I want to stress a few things. First, I have no knowledge of the Korean version of this show.  Second, medial dramas are not something I normally watch. I tend to watch science fiction, superhero, action, and fantasy programs.

I’ve heard this show has been accused of being “inspiration porn”, or at least a borderline example of it. I’m not sure if I agree. When I think of “inspiration porn”, I think of something that presents a disability as an obstacle, as if to say “If only the main character was normal, his/her life would be better.” Or “Look how cool this person is because of his special disability!” I don’t see either of these.

Dr. Murphy got his position because of Dr. Glassman, the president of St. Bonaventure Hospital. Dr. Glassman has been a mentor for Shaun since his teen years.  Shaun did not have an easy childhood. He was often bullied or ridiculed by both his peers and adults.  Glassman, however, saw potential and nurtured that potential into the man Dr. Murphy is today. In the pilot, the other staff members are unsure if they should let him work there, but Glassman reminds them that there was a time when black people and women also had difficulty getting medical careers. To him, Shaun is no different.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah

jannah

This is my first interview with an Eastern Orthodox Catholic. Thank you, Jannah Leah.

1) How was your childhood?

Fairly average, I guess. About the biggest thing that impacted me was my parents’ divorce when I was six. I was also bullied all throughout school, which affected my self-esteem. To this day, I still suffer from self-esteem issues.

2) How did you become a Christian?

Really it was a combination of a few factors. I have suffered from depression for most of my life and in some ways faith has aided with that.  I also have an interest in history, theology, etc.  Religion is a subject that I’ve always found quite fascinating despite my family’s own irreligious background.

To give the short answer, I chose to become Christian because the messages were appealing to me.  I also found the historical evidence for Christianity, particularly Orthodoxy, to be overwhelming. No other religion can claim their historical figures performed public miracles.

3) How has your family taken your conversion to Christianity, given that they do not share your beliefs?

It’s been mixed. My mother is of the mindset that it’s a good thing if it’s what makes me happy. Others still don’t really know since they’re not particularly fond of religion.

4) You said that you used to be somewhat of a troll. What led to the change?

I guess the easiest answer would be that I simply grew bored of it and matured.  It also got rather tedious to have to constantly create new Facebook accounts.

5. When were you diagnosed as autistic?

I was fourteen I believe. Somewhere in my early teens.

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One Faith, Many Paths: Lamar Hardwick

lamar hardwick

For my latest interview as part of my “One Faith, Many Paths” project, I’m interviewing Lamar Hardwick, an autistic pastor in Lagrange, Georgia at New Community Church. Their website can be reached here: http://www.ncclagrange.com/contact-us

1. What was your childhood like?

My father was in the military so I grew up traveling around the world. We moved every 3 years and sometimes we lived outside the country. I spent a few years living in Germany when I was in elementary school. My father was also a minister, so we grew up going to church every Sunday. As a child, I rarely understood my peers. While I had a few friends, I don’t remember having really strong friendships because we moved so often.  I have three siblings, but I was always the quiet one and spent most of my time alone reading books.

2. When were you diagnosed autistic?

I was diagnosed in 2014, when I was 36 years old.

3. What made you decide to become a preacher?

In 2001, after graduating college I began to sense a calling from God to dedicate my life to serving the church.  At that time, I was becoming regularly involved in my church and I had a sense of fulfillment in the work that I was doing.  It took me nearly a year to understand exactly what my calling was, but by that time I was sure that God had called me to become a preacher.

4. Does being autistic present a challenge in your profession and in interacting in your congregation?

In some ways being autistic does present challenges for me because I have to spend extended amounts of time around larger crowds and it can sometimes become overwhelming to me.  Autism can also present a challenge when communicating with people because I often don’t read social cues and body language very well.  There have been times when people misinterpret things I say or vice versa.  Now that everyone in my church understands me better, they know that the best way to communicate with me is to be direct and to expect me to be direct as well.

5. I’ve often seen autistics who are either disdainful of Christianity or atheist. What reason do you think may cause this?

I think there are many reasons for this and most of the reasons that non-autistics are atheist is the same reasons that many autistics are atheists.  I think that most people who are atheist base their beliefs on a negative life experience that they believe cannot be reconciled with the existence of God.  Autistics tend to be very literal, so this can even provoke a stronger resistance to the idea of God. The problem with most people who come to the conclusion that God does not exist is that they are basing their rationale on very limited existence as well as a very subjective point of view. Most people don’t believe in God or have a disdain for Christianity because God doesn’t cooperate with them, but lack of cooperation doesn’t necessarily disprove that someone does not exist.

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The Child Behind the Glass

autism-kid-behind-glass

As someone who uses Facebook, I see many articles about autism shared around, and often from an ableist perspective. One way to tell if the article you’re reading is going to be full of misinformation is if you see the image above. I hate it. HATE IT! Allow me to explain why.

First off, it conveys the image that autistic people are isolated from society. They are not. Yes, many are extremely introverted, or in some cases they may even be non-verbal. But neither should be a barrier to communication. There are more ways to communicate than with words: hugs, handshakes, giving someone a “high-five”, waving, etc.

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The Fictional Spectrum: Adric (Doctor Who)

adric

Three years ago on this blog, I celebrated Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary by introducing my readers to each era. Then I created a blog that I recently revived called Jelly Babies and Reversed Polarities, where I review the show and audio dramas from Big Finish. But in looking back in the show, I’ve noticed that there may be a character in the show on the autism spectrum: Adric.

Adric first appeared in the episode “Full Circle”, during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. In this episode, we learn that he is exceptionally intelligent because he receives a badge to commemorate his skills in mathematics. Two episodes make use of these skills: “Logopolis” and “Earthshock”. It’s also a plot point in one of Big Finish’s Destiny of the Doctor plays Smoke and Mirrors.

Despite his intelligence, Adric is gullible. In quite a few stories, he is duped by the villain, such as “State of Decay” and “Four to Doomsday” (in “Four to Doomsday”, the Fifth Doctor gets especially cross with Adric for this reason) As someone who also has Asperger’s syndrome, I can attest that I am also pretty gullible. I have often been made a fool by people I thought were my friends, only to learn the truth to my embarrassment.

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The Fictional Spectrum: Linus Van Pelt (Peanuts)

linus

“I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand!”

As many of you know from my other two articles about Peanuts, it’s one of my all-time favorite comic strips.  My favorite character is Linus Van Pelt, the middle child of the Van Pelt family. In fact, I think he may be autistic.

Of all the characters in the strip, Linus seems the most intelligent. His dialogue is often prone to monologues. He will go on talking about any topic he is most interested in, especially the Great Pumpkin, baseball, or the Bible.  In the Christmas special, he’s the only one who still knows the true meaning of the holiday–everyone else is too wrapped up in the frivolity and consumerism.  In Halloween stories, he’s the only kid who believes in the Great Pumpkin, and the rest of the kids often ridicule him for this. His interest in baseball rivals that of Charlie Brown’s.

Linus’s biggest weakness is his “security blanket”. He’s rarely seen without it, often sucking his thumb while holding it. Perhaps holding it gives him comfort, like holding a stuffed animal does for some children. Whenever Lucy tries to break him of this habit, he will become anxious and panic. Lucy is the only person who even tries to separate him from his blanket. (Well, there’s Snoopy on some occasions, but he just does it as a prank if nothing else.)

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