Thursday, July 22, 2010
It's the first conference for a while where I wasn't presenting, and the first conference that has had nothing to do with either autism, disability or education so it made a refreshing change.
In fact it was a conference on research ethics in the generality, my interest in attending being informed by my increasing concern over the ethics of autism research in particular, as has been reflected here and elsewhere.
It was certainly worthwhile for me to attend for a variety of reasons concerned with my academic development, career and of course campaigning effectiveness.
Firstly and foremostly I was there to learn, to learn more about what the current discourses in ethics are, from the various philosophical, practical, legal and medical perspectives and to understand them in the context of "doing ethics" that is to say the usual procedure that any research student has to go through in order to gain approval for their particular enquiry.
Secondly it was an opportunity to step back from my current fields (although of course there are the obvious overlaps) and realise here is a new and exciting area for me to take an interest in with a variety of opportunities presented in terms of both future involvement or possible research.
And finally an opportunity to realise that I do not have to remain a "one trick pony" in terms of how I can ultimately progress beyond my doctorate, which having provided me with the tools for academic enquiry and discourse does not necessarily have to progress in the direction of autism. I have much more potentially to offer than that, and indeed given the current climate in the higher education sector I do need to consider as many alternatives as possible when looking for what follows as I certainly cannot ensure getting a post involved in education and autism specifically.
Not that I leave my autism behind particularly, because it is always there for those who have the ability to recognise what they see, and some of them certainly did see it.
The session in the pub afterwards was as instructive as any of the formal sessions (as these sessions usually are) but had to be tempered with a certain amount of curiosity about me. For instance: the following progression of beer fuelled questioning: - "I hope you don't mind me asking but ...... I hope you don't mind me asking an awkward question but .... I hope you don't mind me asking another awkward question but ..." Me: - "no I don't mind because you are obviously going to ask it anyway"
Or elsewhere the inevitable social enquiry as to what one is studying and why one is interested in it, where although it is not my intention to overtly "out" my diagnosis it does emerge as my reason and motivation for having an academic interest in autism to be followed with the sometimes inevitable comment "
"You must be very high functioning then, because you are nothing like x's autistic child I know"
Oh woe is me, out comes a long line of explanation, and the unstated response "Of course I am not like the child you know, you are obviously a very high functioning neurotypical to be at University because you are not like y's neurotypical child I know"
Children and adults, never the same the thing so why the comparison... Ho hum, that I suppose is one thing I will never escape even if I do escape into an alternate academic engagement.
Well I am Larry Arnold, I am autistic (with a better knowledge of what that means than the armchair diagnostician, or the person who has only seen one autistic person)
I am not Temple Grandin, or the rain man, or even Shakespeare's stereotypical infant "mewling and puking in the nurses arms" Have you got that yet?
My success is nothing to do with Autism, it's what I do, and if I didn't would it matter to you ?
Posted by Larry Arnold PhD FRSA at 2:06 pm