Monday, June 29, 2009

“D” Words

Autistic individuals are frequently characterized by an assortment of “D” words: diseased, disordered, dysfunctional, disabled, dire, doomed, etc. I myself find none of these characterizations to be accurate, and indeed given the complex nature of autism, I doubt any one word is sufficient to capture the essential nature of the condition. But if I had to choose a word, if I were forced to pick a single adjective that best depicts the important characteristics of autistic individuals, I would propose an “A” word above all the “D” words: I would propose “askew.”

To be askew means to share much in common, and yet to possess enough distinction that the difference is consequential. This is the way I prefer to characterize the relationship between the autistic and non-autistic populations.

Askew is a strong enough word to underscore the challenges autistic individuals must face, how the efforts they must undertake to align with the larger portion of the human population are bound to produce great difficulties and some occasional pain. But askew also highlights that the relationship is reciprocal, and that the non-autistic population too has been impacted by autism's offbeat presence. When two mutually askew populations encounter each other, the force of their collision must change the outcome for each.

The non-autistic population primarily perceives its surroundings socially and biologically, in alignment with traits handed down via evolution. The autistic population primarily perceives its surroundings through the lens of non-biological structure and pattern, in alignment with the inherent form that organizes the physical world. Humanity now perceives its surroundings as a blend of both modes of perception, and has departed severely from its former way of being.

This sudden change in humanity's circumstance—a change defying every known principle of evolution—is the result of two askew populations coming rapidly together, each influencing each, with the consequent impact sending mankind off in an entirely different direction. And if I had to choose a word, if I were forced to pick a single noun that best depicts the important characteristic of this sudden alteration in humanity's course, I would propose a “D” word above all else: I would propose “destiny.”


Steve D said...

I like your choice of "askew",not least of which becuase it is not freighted with emotional baggage. It is a way of saying "unexpected" without assigning value.
I also would mention that you forgot a "D" word - "devastating".
As well, I would have ended up choosing a "D" word as a descriptor - "dynamic".

Alan Griswold said...

Hi, Steve. How appropriate to have Steve D comment on a post about "D" words!

And you are right -- "devastating" gets quite the workout in the autism press. Perhaps I should remember more often to remind my wife and myself of how devastated we must be, but I'm afraid I keep forgetting because of how dynamic our life has become with an autistic child (not to mention, delightful!).

By the way, a hearty thanks to you, Bev and Do'C for your efforts in San Diego again this year. In a sea of inappropriate "D" words regarding autism, it's encouraging to hear such a positive message being delivered with such tremendous grace!