some notes on neurodiversity

don’t you think it’s the most glorious articulation of liberation politics ever?
i feel like  the ‘neurodiversity’ movement is not beyond criticism, if only because there is a multiplicity of movements there, as ever, with aims and principles varied and contradictory. But, even in the most liberal of its expressions, neurodiversity still asks for something incredible – a recognition of difference that is embodied, but not necessarily performed to the stage-directions of the diagnostic manuals that continuously reproduce the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) identity categories as legally recognised disabilities, as disorders of neurological development still gathered under the umbrella of the disorders of the mind.
neurodiversity, in its worst and best iterations always seems to ‘demand the impossible’ – it’s a cliche but works right – to validate and invalidate the diagnosis, to secure a right to a fair assessment, to claim a belonging to a ‘spectrum’ that is fast losing its once binarist epistemology – from the ‘classical’ Autist to the more palatable ‘Aspie’ (DSM-V abandons Asperger’s Syndrome totally), fast-shedding its associations with the decidedly neurotypical culture of fascination with ‘savants’ (as distinct from geniuses proper because can’t ‘show their workings-out’, therefore receptacles of human nature’s mysterious workings, therefore automata) and ‘splinter skills’ (how many toothpicks have i just thrown in your face?). Even the ‘high functioning’ pole has gotten into the habit of reporting the failure to function at all. How long until the anomalous accounts connect into a culture of the appropriate degree of severity to warrant clinical attention? Perhaps, some advocates (brave, blogging, book-deal breaking Ted-talking parents) speculate, due to continuous official revisions, autism will no longer be a useful concept or word at all, its ‘original’ (Kanner’s strict, austere, beyond-all-reasonable-doubt) specificity stretched beyond recognition.
And yet – a classically stubborn thinker  – neurodiversity says ‘We are all Autistic’, whether we flap or bite or hiss or hit or shit ourselves sometimes or all of the time, whether we speak the language of normalcy with exceptional precision or with selective mutism or not at all, whether we had ‘behavioural’ problems at school or were rule-followers. Neurodiversity says, ‘We all’ share a neurotype that is not the one that makes it easier to do neoliberalism. Neurodiversity is not afraid of neuroscience, but wants a clean break from state psychiatry, and, perhaps more pressingly in an ‘age of de-institutionalization’ that has been associated with the proliferation of ASD diagnoses aka ‘the Autism Epidemic’, it wants at the very least a democratic regulation of state psychology and its ‘early intervention’ in childhood doxa.. But really I feel like even then that is just a temporary measure before neurodiversity will abolish every last one of those Applied Behaviour Analysis [NO HANDS!!!] programmes, of the governmental care-complexes that exploit the free labour of the (parent) mother to over-privilege the diagnosis and discipline and you guessed it punishment of the kids (citizen-identity-at-stake), which somehow coincides with the cuts to the services for adult Autistics (citizen-identity-failed) that may require them. After all, says neurodiversity, you still characterise the developmental disorder as ‘pervasive’, so why do you only seem to care about white middle-class cis boys which show the correct early signs of an ‘extreme male brain’?
Neurodiversity says, Autism is not a disease, but nor is it a Szaszian metaphor for how shit life is under the relentless and violent imposition of state forms. Autism is a disability, but only insofar as the disabling conditions persist. And yet, it seems Autism will exist after capitalism, whatever happens.
And that is because neurodiversity has conceptualised the possibility of Autism as joyous life. Beyond the ‘triad of impairments’ – communication, social interaction, ‘stereotypy’ – there is a way of being, a way of braining, a way of wor(l)ding the ‘intense world’ that is still being discovered by the ActuallyAutistic, still being written, typed up in-between individuals a lesson to be carefully, ‘pedantically’ planned that may one day just wreck all the oppressive, obsessive economies, (socio)ecologies, stereotypies, taxonomies and theories of mind.

trust exercise 1

I find it hard, and have always found it hard to read people. I know this because I am told that I’m flirting, I try too hard, come on too close or too strong. Or maybe I won’t remember your face and name, again and again.

Sometimes – that thickness, numbness – it works.  If I feel like I should tell someone something urgent, like when I have a secret and everyone is drinking and I need to tell you,  I can just pull you aside when I want to talk. I don’t feel anxious about the telling, all I know is that I want to talk, that it is you I want to talk to, that I want this right now.

But sometimes it kinda fucks me up. Sometimes I trust someone, first thing in the morning, last thing at night. I trust with my proximity. My feelings, my body. My secrets.

My feelings, most of the time, are strong and singular. If I feel something, I have trouble stepping back. I fight for it even when I shouldn’t. Sometimes it’s stupid. Sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes, I think scenario A is going on, but then I realise it’s been B all along, figure it out when I’m in too deep. I think you are my friend, but maybe you are not and you are trying to fuck – me – up – and I just let you and don’t say anything or do anything to stop it until it gets too close.

I have trouble saying no when something like that happens. I don’t know whether I am comfortable with something. If I have ‘mixed’ feelings, they all tend to be strong. Pulling me in lots of directions. I freeze, I shut up, paralysed.

It’s like shopping for food when anorexic. I stand in front of things and I don’t know how I feel, I don’t know what I want. I look at boxes of the same thing, reading the back although I know what the label will say already. I walk away with nothing, paralysed. When simple, strong feelings clash, I can’t tell them apart anymore.

When anorexic, food to me is animated. It has a kind of force field.  You could say it’s a ‘mental’ force field, for lack of a better word. Mental makes it sounds like there’s something not quite real about it, ‘airy-fairy’ as some philosophers like to put it. And yet all the same, it pulls me, it pushes. It has a power over me in the sense that it is manipulating me and I don’t even know it. I just feel the effects. Delayed, when it is too late.

Maybe an eating disorder is just a deeply unequal relation to food, where food controls you & you get more and more rigid, developing rules to protect yourself from its control. I fear food because I don’t know what it will do to me. I struggle to ‘predict’ its actions, I struggle to predict what it will ‘decide’ to do to me so  I try to make up for that in other ways, by setting more rules, by learning more facts.  I’m not obsessed, just Taking A Special Interest. I know that we – food and I, you and I – are already connecting, connected somehow but I just can’t see it. A radical machinic panpsychism is desire that works fastest at zero ‘theory of mind’.

People can be like food. I want to touch them, but I can’t. I want them so much but I can’t cos I’m scared to be played like a pack of cards so I chew and spit, but still, they cling onto my teeth, my nails, my fingers. They try to play me by biting my ears, by trying to kiss me first thing in the morning, or was it already last thing at night. Or was it instead a secret they told me that I took a bite of and spat out but I can still feel it in me, playing hop-scotch with me, churning me in the stomach, reading me like a book.