Sunday, July 16, 2017

Academic without portfolio

It is just over a year since I graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy but my shibboleth access to online journals had been turned off almost as soon as I had submitted. My academic email lasted a little longer, but that was eventually replaced with an alumni one marking the transition from Doctoral candidate to what I have since seen described as "early career academic". That is to say I had transitioned from the highest status  for a University student, to the lowest rung on the professional academic ladder

Indeed it was somewhat strange to consider myself in this position given that I am presently less than 5  years away from age at which I can expect to draw my pension and realism has set in when you consider that only a lucky few PhDs walk into a well paid post doctoral research position within a year of graduation, and that times are getting tougher for academics, what with Brexit, and neo liberalism, notwithstanding that social research into autism is pretty much the cinderella of autism research at this time as the National Autism Project report says amongst many other things.

However am I really an academic without portfolio? One thing is for sure I have no funding to follow my interests further, and have to rely on what tidbits I can pick up in the way of expenses to attend conferences and seminars.

Nonetheless and surprisingly for me, I have kept my hand in, not just with the National Autism Project where I was one of a truly outstanding team of autistic advisors, but with such things as the Participatory Autism Research Collective,  the Shaping Autism Research seminars, and even more surprisingly being invited to present on my Thesis at the Annual Conference of the British Sociological Association. I have also found time to become a research subject (something I swore I would never do again) and seminar particpant concerning autism and the criminal justice system.

Finally perhaps I am not entirely without portfolio, as I after all the principal editor and founder of Autonomy which must count for something.

However in terms of actually undertaking any further research, the opportunities are simply not going to come my way by just waiting and persusing the academic vacancies. For someone like me, who struggles in this world, I have to take the dictum of Hannibal and make my own way, and I think I have actually found one, (which does not include elephants, {in the room or elsewise})

As my blog of some moments ago indicates, I have an interest in diagnosis, it is not a new interest either, as I have spoken on the topic at Autscape and elsewhere before, particularly in terms of what means for identity, the contradictions of it all notwithstanding.

I think I have a very good opportunity to put together a research project, for which there is currently no funding, but would not either be impossible to fund or undertake, and as with all good criminals, I have both the motive and the opportunity at the moment, so it is all looking up.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Disentangling diagnosis.

Diagnosis is a difficult concept for the radical autist to deal with. It is so enmired in the medical model (which for people like me serves only to identify and remedy where possible broken bones and physical maladies) It has always seemed wrong to me that Doctors of Medicine (who are not even real “Doctors” in the sense that I am, Doctor being merely a conventional appellation, but I digress) that Physicians, should have such a powerful goal in gatekeeping those important definitions that have an impact both on selfhood and on social and legal “realities” in the world beyond that having nothing whatsoever to do with bed rest, medication and surgical intervention.

A lot of us talk not about diagnosis in our personal self constructs so much as about discovery. Diagnosis from the Greek means a learned opinion, discovery means the uncovering of something that was not known before, and usually discovery leads to  change in some way or another.
I am not sure Martijn Dekker agrees with some of the things he wrote about many years ago when I was on that discovery path of exploration but they meant something to me then, so I keep the ideas alive. The ideal was of peer validated diagnosis. In common speech you might put it as “it takes one to know one” or you might see it as the Autistic analogue of Gaydar. (Which incidentally I wrote about in my Thesis) for to me the diagnosis wasn’t enough, I wanted to know other people like me and to see if we really did have anything in common beyond the label, and I think we do.

However from the realm of ideal societies and utopias to what can really change, there is certainly a clear and present problem that is being exacerbated by Austerity.

A recent quick survey of the news revealed these two articles. .

Those concern children, but believe you me, the failure to discover the inner autistic is going to have a major impact on that childs education and everything that follows after that.

For adults it is no better, there is a movement, not a new one alas, but increasingly justified by the bean counters that there is no point in referring adults for diagnosis when there are no services available for them. You could say it is a total dereliction of duty, given that the NHS at the moment whether or not they are the right or wrong people to administer the diagnostic process because they are at present the de facto gatekeepers.

What I am ultimately coming to is the change I would like to see, and the change I would hope I can influence in some small way, and that is the demedicalisation of diagnosis that is actually possible within the current constraints of our society, without having to evoke those revolutionary changes towards the ideal world, where like in William Morrises Nowhere it never rains.

I think at the very least that Autism is within the capability of a decently trained psychologist to evaluate, indeed at a practical level you don’t even need that prior qualification (other than as a socially constructed gateway) to train in the current diagnostic schedules, lay people could easily do it.

Dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties (to use the conventional terminology whether I approve of it or not) have long been the domain of suitably qualified education psychologists to evaluate, Autism isn’t any more complex, and if you say it is, well you know if you identify in the course of the process something that needs another specialty then of course you refer to it, just like an optometrist who comes across glaucoma or macular degeneration in their practice.

I am writing this because of what I know about processes going on in the NAS at the moment, and I want to be both a catalyst and a part of this change. I am hoping if I am given the cold shoulder, that you will all be behind me when I come back from the ropes for another round of boxing.

Watch this space folks, Dr Larry is back in the blogging business.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Twenty years ago today (12th July)

This is a significant day, as this is the twentieth anniversary of my mums passing, and rarely does a day pass when I do not think of her, but she is a long way away now.

I look with regret at a world that seems to be going backwards, as so many of the rights she fought for are being disregarded by Governments obsessed with penny pinching austerity and to heck with the lives of the people who depend upon them acting with equanimity on matters of equality instead of rushing ahead with knee jerk policies without a proper audit of the consequences.

Still what does it all mean to me, I am a changed person, I have not abandoned the fight but I have done something neither of us would have dreamed of back in the day, that is I got my doctorate, and I earned it with a piece of research that fully recognised the participants as my equals.

My mum I hope is not only alive in my memories, but in my activities, seeing through my eyes as history gives way. I wanted to do right by her, not knowing what I meant by that phrase, and I think I have. She was only a couple of years older than I am now when she passed, and she was beginning to engage that academic world I since took on, in delivering a lecture to a group of masters students at Warwick University. I was not allowed to listen to that, but I prepared the slides for her. Back then it was transparancies. 

Here is the text of one of them:

Discrimination then, is any act which diminishes a person’s status, rights to do anything, or go anywhere which would be normal for a person in similar circumstances without the impediment of: disability, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or class, which are cause of prejudice.

She was ahead of the game in the intersectionality of rights, and I wish she had have had time enough to follow the academic path I have.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!-
For, the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
'Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, - act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on, the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow