Saturday, November 3, 2007


Autism seemed to be the main focus in these readings, but I also related them to a mind and its secrets. With the readings of Sizer I was really placed in a world outside of myself. I have many questions and to things I am not sure I'll find a way to understand as much as I would like. I really respect Sizer for sharing her story, it takes a lot of courage and I look forward to her speaking. Last week in class we talked a lot about the spectrum of austim, that is the part that is so difficult, it is not completely one thing, its many things that make up an idea of something because even the 'common' characteristics aren't universal.
I liked Sizer's writing style, we are placed in her situation but from a different angle, and maybe that also has to do with the ambiguity of autism. It is about a mother, a person, who has questions about a continuing life. She has similar questions that we would have about our own lives, but they are transferred not to someone else as advice, but to someone else through thought and out of hope. I wanted to know more about how autism is accepted, how taboo it is in society or others' reactions to the disorder. There are many other disorders that have reputations for being associated with other things, where in society it is easier to place them into boxes. For example children with down syndrome, questions pertaining to the age and health of the mother arise. ADD,schizophrenia, depression --- I know these things don't fall into the same categories, but they accompany ways of dealing whether it be through diet, attitude, approach, treatment. It seems with autism education and communication is key to development and nourishment -- maybe that is why I have such hope, because it is so mysterious.
In the LeDoux chapter about the amygdala, I thought about this secret mind, and the question of whether or not the amygdala has anything to do with emotions. Maybe I didn't read it correctly, but wouldn't fear be based on nothing if the amygdala didn't have some sort of a relationship with emotions?
'The advantage of the emotions is that they lead us astray.' - Oscar Wilde
This is key in the question linking emotion and fear because we are led astray because of the emotional attachment people have to fear. Then this lead me to a question about autism; can people with autism react to fear? How many places in the brain are affected or does that vary as well? I guess the thing I realized with these readings is how many questions I still have about these ideas. I have been thinking a lot about SLC and the way that the school works and the way the people work. As a school SAT's are not required, we are smart kids with or without them, but for most people it makes them nervous. Why wouldn't these tests, over and over again, make a child with autism nervous, having them perform worse in a disorders eyes? What is a true representation of autism? Is it like gaining a memory where things will continue to come and go and situations arise and opportunities are taken for no rhyme or reason?


Hilary said...

It is indeed interesting to examine all the variances in autism, and thus far, it seems to be the disorder that allows for the most "range" out of the ones we've studied. As I've mentioned in other comments, it really seems as if they have their own parallel universe that occasionally intersects ours, but as a whole remains very separate and self-sufficient. I especially agree with your comparison of SAT tests for normal students and the rough equivalent for autistic kids -- nobody is comfortable taking a test like that, it's just a necessary evil we have to put ourselves through, so why would that accurately represent what an autistic child feels or represents? It seems to call for a less clinical and more humanistic examination, and as Ryland Sizer shows, not all autistic children are necessarily opposed to connection and contact. Since doctors have still not isolated a specific genetic cause for autism, why continue to make its sufferers labor under an unfocused microscope? Of course we want to find the biological and neurological correlates for such a puzzling disorder, but is it possible that neurology's "deficit" labeling might have gone too far? They are different from the rest of us, and isn't it the sad truth that we tend to categorize those people as "wrong..."

Matt N said...


The idea of a spectrum is an interesting one because the definition is so vast in a world (science) that tries it’s damndest to peg everything down to the last atom. It’s quite like humanity in that, we’re all different shades of the same being, composed of different experiences, ideas and motivations. But you are right, there is something in Lyde’s writing that binds us all to her perspective. It wasn’t hard to substitute Ryland with a member of our own family or character of our own imagination. There was such an enveloping sense to her writing that you really understood her own grappling with the disease and understand what it must be like to surrender new connotations of a disease. Perhaps he will never be an excellent student, a quick witted driver or marry the person of his dreams. This whole idea of capitulation reminded me of that of coming out stories and how a person (and subsequently their family) must shift their idea of what life will become and discover as they do. And that isn’t an easy thing to leave behind the wedding dresses and grandkids. Like you, I wanted to know a bit more about what that process was like adopting this “taboo” lifestyle—and perhaps she’ll even talk about this tomorrow. But frankly even ten years ago, brain damage and mental disorders were tucked away. Hidden. Unspoken. It was easier than facing the issue but, in my opinion, I think that our generation has begun to break down the stigma around mental illnesses. As a society we once feared the “crazies” for they were unknown and not understood but now with shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Samantha Who?, a greater acceptance and understanding has overtaken the general public. We as an audience have gleaned a better grasp on the ill’s mentality and that dispels the fear—or so I think. I hope that this greater understanding (and sympathy for the position of the ill hopefully) can lead to more studies of the fears on those suffering with illnesses. With testing, with schooling and with mearly surviving in a world that they might not feel completely connect to.