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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Femmo analysis.

When I put my feminist hat on and consider Autism via that perspective two issues jump out. Firstly, when Autism was formally identified as a cluster of behaviours, the next obvious step was to trace a cause. Psychology of course, asssumed it had the answers. And it seems very little brain power was utilised in coming to the conclusion that mothers were to blame. The term applied was 'refrigerator mothers'. The theory went that cold, hard and uncaring parenting by the mother led to the child withdrawing from the world. Essentially in a constant state of regressive dissociation. The problem with this idea, is that parents often had several children all of whom were cherished and happy. Mothers were taking their children to seek help for them, hardly the act of the uncaring.

This theory has since been put to bed well and truly. Sadly however it must have caused untold confusion and pain for those families seeking to comprehend their childs behaviours. Furthermore, how far might we be ahead in research and understanding the legitimate aetiology of Autism had mother blaming not been allowed to prevail for so long?

Secondly, some of the primary behaviours in most ASD people are inability to communicate effectively, inability to read social cues, to anticipate the feelings of other people based on presentation, amongst others. When you compare these difficulties with gender expectations you can see how challenging growing up as an ASD woman would be. The quirks mentioned above fly in the face of what we expect socially of women. Growing up in a society that tells you empathy, caring and compassion are essential personality traits for your gender, yet not relating to them, must be particularly difficult.

It has often been females on the ASD spectrum who have been able to bridge the Autism-NT gap. Writing autobiographies and other texts to explain their internal experiences. They have become effective at helping us 'normal' types get a glimpse into the ASD mind. Probably the best known is Temple Grandin. Her books are well worth a look. There are extracts on the web.

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