Today's blog is inspired by the fact that I am facing two Sociology exams on Friday Afternoon.
Now I took up Sociology because I wanted to widen my perspective on this phenomenon called Autism, as much as for any other reason to add another "ology" to my qualifications.
I think most of those blogging on the Autism Hub are sociologists of one kind or another whether they acknowledge it or not, for what I see is an acceptance of autism that goes beyond medical labels and descriptions of traits, to an understanding of how we deal with autism either as individuals or as parents, is sociological. How autists are educated, diagnosed, discriminated against, stereotyped; that is all sociological, and those who look merely on the "disaster" of autism, and accept every fly by night explanation or offer of a cure are missing the context of their own being as a participant in a wider society that has structured their beliefs, their faith (or not) in medicine and science and their belief that something must be done to relieve them of the guilty burden they feel (whoops straying into another "ology" here)
As a youth, I looked down on Sociology as a "wooly" discipline, studied by those who couldn't think of anything better to do, but "wooly" though it is, it certainly has helped me to realise that Autism is whatever people think it is. The very traits of Autism and its diagnosis by behavioural observation with its corrollory, the frantic search for biological and neurological indicators, shows that we do not have any definitive answer to the question.
How autism is diagnosed, how it is treated(clinically and educationally) and how we are treated (by our peers and administrators) is governed not so much by the autism, its severity or its cryptic qualities, but who we are in society, and what society we are in.
Both socialised medicine and insurance based medicine favour those who have the education and the social status to challenge peremptory decisions. That goes not just for Autism but for any medically diagnosable condition.
Those who don't have the status or the income find themselves accepting whatever is available, and often there is very little growing lesser the further into the third world you go (which is as much present in North American and European cities amongst the disenfranchised poor as it is in Calcutta or Rio.)
I am writing to you, because I am educated, I have welfare, and I have an attitude too. Otherwise I would just be another lost soul on this sink of an ex Council Estate, living in a condemned flat.
Who is the voice for all those disenfranchised autistic people I wonder? Certainly not the curebies with their "me me me" culture.
If you are a parent on such a nightmare estate, or maybe even a lately diagnosed "aspie" or whatever, you are the victim of just about every piece of misinformation out there, particularly on the web (assuming you have any access to it at all)
Too many spokespeople on both sides of the Autism divide come from comfortable middle class backgrounds, the well heeled and the well educated, whilst the basic struggle for survival leaves you with little surplus energy or cash for such things.
I spend an inordinate amount of my money on my internet access because it allows me to escape the confines of this existence and to "punch beyond my weight"
You don't expect many fellows of the Royal Society of Arts to be living in my circumstances, it is not the kind of organisation that most working class people join.
Well there is a sociological thesis about participation in such organisations waiting to be written, if it has not been already, for the critics of pluralism, would allege that even the interest groups are run by self selecting elites.
Sadly in my adventures into such territory I often find that to be the case.
Makes me wonder how we can ever set up an authentic and credible grass roots group for autistic advocacy that does not rely on the relatively advantaged to give it credibility and therein instant lie the dilemma, which is the curse of being able to remedy it. You need leisure and income to devote to such causes, and the leisured and wealthy often do not understand what it is not be of their company.