A Touch of Alyricism

Dedicated to the equally fascinating topics of autistic advocacy and the 'sisterly sophistries' of radical gender feminism. Other topics may occasionally crop up. Contactable at alyric@gmail.com


Polemicist since Grade 8

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Guide to Idiots Parenting

Ms Judy Singer and the select coterie [1] of ASpar have provided the parenting world, or at least the autistic parenting world with a handy little checklist for the dual purposes of identifying the weaknesses in your autistic parent, or indeed, your own autistic parental lapses, should you be wearing the right label. Ms Singer’s objective is that this list should serve as a basis for future research into the problems of parenting where the parent has Asperger’s Syndrome. But why stop there?

In the spirit of normal isn’t necessarily wonderful, it is apparent that parental frailties are not confined merely to the presence of a label to be found in the DSM IV. Lapses in child rearing practices are legion among the very population, which although it has never been seen anywhere near the psychiatrist’s bible, can be found described in the alternate register, the DSN-IV (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of 'Normal' Disorders), published by the Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical.

Using the following diagnostic criteria for 666.00 Neurotypic Disorder, the potential impact of ‘normal’ characteristics on parental praxis can be delineated.

A. Qualitative impairment in independent social interaction as manifested by the following:

1) Disorder of empathy marked by inability to separate the feelings of self from others.

The child is seen as an emotional extension of the parent [2] and therefore serves as an appropriate mirror for parental emotions and an outlet for fulfilling parental aspirations. Saturday morning at the local soccer field is a suitable venue to view the manifestation of this phenomenon in the large

(2) extreme or abnormal seeking of comfort at times of distress

After many years of modelling that in times of trouble, there should be a grand collective of sympathy and group therapy rather than an appraisal of the actual problems, children will get the idea that when things go wrong, it’s not up to them to fix it. Victimology, courtesy of engineering external loci of control, is rife.
3) Constant imitation

This is the first step in conditioning the child to conform to social norms even where this, rationally, could be considered unwise. An afternoon at the local mall observing the ‘hooker look’ as modelled by the pre-teens and the body piercing of their teenage elders is the perfect way to observe imitation in action.

4) Excessive Social Play

It has long been the contention of the autistic community, that the only perseveration indulged by neurotypicals is socialising. A parental over-emphasis on socialising has the unfortunate side effect of denying children the benefits of solitude; the time to be quiet, to think and to dream. This echoes C.S Lewis’s:[3]
We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship

5) Impairments in peer friendship

Along with conditioning to imitate mindlessly, the child is also taught to make ‘suitable’ friends. This is seen by the parent as crucial if the child is to succeed in life, by attaining the best possible place in the pecking order. Parents regularly sanction those of their children who attempt friendship with weirdos or anybody deemed different, just in case some of the weirdness rubs off. A medium sized school or bureaucracy is the ideal spot to observe the natives in their hierarchical habitat.

B. Qualitative impairment in verbal and nonverbal communication, and in imaginative activity, as manifested by the following:

1) &2) blatant overuse of all modes of communication.

Modelling their parents, children are taught at an early age to over-communicate, possibly as a means of social obfuscation, where if the recipient can’t read the body language because of all the static, so much the better in the standard power game.
3) excessive imaginative irrelevant activity

Parents encourage their children into trivial leisure activities, probably because they themselves can’t see past the Hollywood mentality and the 30-second sound bite style of news programs on television.

4) Abnormalities of speech

This is really a failure of parents to stem overly florid verbal displays. The correct venue to observe this phenomenon is the playground of an all-girls high school, first day back after the term break. Observers are cautioned to wear noise-cancelling headphones to avoid hearing loss from exposure to squeals in the upper register.

5) Distortion of speech content

Here a child is firmly indoctrinated into believing that the packaging is just as important as the contents if not an integral part of the message and with an enormous emphasis on obfuscation of the message to ameliorate any possible disagreement. Political Correctness is the obvious destination of these linguistic acrobatics. Taking the ‘if it sounds good, it must be good’ model just a little further and one ends up in the cloud cuckoo land of postmodernism.

6) Distortion of conversation.

On no account must a child get the idea that conversation is about the exchange of ideas. Conversations, like practically everything else are subordinate to socialising. The topic under discussion must be inclusive of all participants whether or not they have something to contribute, so the more superficial the topic, the better to allow for everyone to have their say. It is considered a faux pas to discuss any one issue for longer than five minutes, less if at all possible. Religion, politics or any issue, which might be considered controversial are out of bounds because someone might get upset at being disagreed with. Of course, the rationale is that the social façade must be maintained at all times, and besides, all ideas have equal validity.

C. Markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests, as manifested by the following:

1) Obliviousness to details

Children will be taught that it’s only the big picture that really matters. The pesky details can be ignored along with things like accuracy or consistency. The forest is the thing even if all the trees are infested with termites.

2) Process myopia.

Not all parents do this, but I have seen a number insist that how you do something is just as important as the result, which I think must be highly correlated with the desire to conform. Acting always to be a good member of the herd, children will be taught very early that the way the group does things is the ‘right’ way to do it.

3) Pre-occupation with status.

From about four years of age, children are indoctrinated into having the most popular or socially desirable dolls, action men, games etc, so that when they grow up they can be just as competitive as their parents in terms of houses, cars, jobs, fashion or any other one of the gazillion markers of ‘success’. Architectural monstrosities of environmental nihilism, the McMansions, dominating the suburban landscape are superb exemplars of the status game, run riot.

Gentle reader, if more than 10% of the above applies to you, get thee to a therapist. Your offspring is in danger of becoming a lying, passive aggressive, manipulative, emotionally blackmailing, social climbing moron.

1. It was always assumed that Aspar was an entirely legitimate enterprise of those seeking to gain a better understanding of self in the light of their terrible childhood experiences. Unearthed during Aspar’s foray into public policy advocacy, was the fact that if your childhood was not particularly dreadful, then your participation in Aspar was not particularly desirable. A former member wrote:

“The data on children with autistic parents is going to be skewed if you're getting any of it from ASpar.
They have instituted policies barring anyone who is particularly identified with autism, anyone who finds blanket bigoted and extremely rude statements about autistic people offensive, and anyone who finds it hard to gauge social situations from the list. This basically blocks anyone who is autistic and anyone who is NT but cares about autistic people enough to be bothered and say something when these blanket statements are made.
I was on the list near its inception. I have an autistic parent, and I wanted to know what I might appear like to my children if I ever have NT children. My experiences of my (quite compassionate, by the way, more so than most people I've ever met, and extremely faithful to his ethics which include compassion) autistic parent were much more positive than my experiences of my non-autistic parent, and I wanted to be able to share those experiences as well as listen to others', be they positive or negative.”

Realistically, the coin of the realm in Aspar is hatred. Whether it started out that way is a moot point, because it was inevitable that when censorship set in and only the negative gained legitimacy, that negative would be reinforced. There is a kind of macabre element of competition in the social dance for acceptance especially if the correct answers are strictly limited.

2. Singer’s checklist includes the following, which oddly enough raises the same issue across both lists

“Can the AS parent recognise that the child is a separate entity from themselves?”

This checklist is apparently a compilation of the members of Aspar, admittedly a bunch of amateurs with an agenda. Even so, it is the height of lunacy to assign this characteristic to a group renowned for autonomy – and isn’t that the basic problem? This does raise questions about the authenticity of these parents’ diagnoses.

3. C.S. Lewis, Fern-seed and Elephants, Collins, Glasgow 1980, p 12.


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