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Unities of All Things

The Unific Model of Disability

Introduction | Defining Autism | Social Model of Disability | Meditation | Curing Autism

This book is being gradually revised. My clumsy writing, later in the book, makes it difficult to read.
I. A Personal Introduction

O Glory of the All-Glorious!

I was born in 1956 and entered the Baháʾí Faith in 1970. From that point on, it would take me forty more years to become a lover. Everything, without exception, which I, as an Autist, had experienced to that date, the moment my heart opened in 2010, had, I now recognize, been merely the groundwork, an illusion, and a shadow. As analogies, by changing my mental wiring, perhaps just flipping on a switch, the change was instantaneous. All the praises, of course, go to God. I can take no credit. I also believe, and feel, that souls I have known, now in the hereafter, especially my father, were interceding for me.

I have experienced my own (Arabic1, al-Tawāḥud) as a lack of certain common human attributes, including empathy and other social skills, and, as compensations, acquiring an overabundance, sometimes an immoderate amount, of other attributes. In coping with my Autism, my relations with others were often on a rational level. Throughout my life, I have dedicated myself to daily rituals and routines and to a sequence of special interests, which may be misinterpreted by some Autists as addictions, one of which led to my Ph.D. work in the sociology of religion. In measure, any one of these attributes could be useful, but, presumably due to my Autism, they were rarely balanced properly.

On August 25, 2013, someone accused all religions, on a message board, of practicing “love-bombing.” The following was my response:

You are being factually incorrect. Speaking as a sociologist of religion (my profession), love-bombing was a practice sometimes used by the Unification Church (now the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification) and the Children of God (now Family International). You are making a hasty generalization (a logical fallacy), based upon two dwindling movements, to all the religions of the world. What I have noticed over the years is that some Autists do not understand “love” (though I am not referring to you personally). Therefore, they confuse genuine love and concern with deception.

When I say that I am an Autist, which I do frequently, people will often ask me to define the word. This work will, more so than the previous ones, largely be reflective. My first thought, even though I have rarely expressed it, is, “Autism is me.” Similar feelings are shared by many of us. Autism is, intimately, my  Autism and one of the multiple dimensions of my individuality. I am  an Autist, but I also have  Autism. It is a category, or a name, for some of my neurological attributes. Due to the vast expansion of the Internet, Autism has also developed into a culture.

Autists of my generation belong to the history of Autism. Only yesterday, Autism and schizophrenia were thought to be inseparable. Before Autism became a distinct diagnosis in 1980, Autists were placed on the schizophrenic spectrum. My own diagnosis, using the first edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1952), was “schizophrenic reaction, childhood type.” Although My parents were given my diagnosis when I was around six years old, no one told me. Perhaps the silence was common in that era, but I had to literally, and successfully, demand to know. I screamed repeatedly, “Am I a schizophrenic?,” when I was around twelve or so.

Some Autists can make sounds in their mouths, but they are unable to verbally communicate. A close Autistic friend of mine only “grunted,” as she put it, until the age of six. I began speaking, I am told, at the usual age, but I would frequently have difficulty expressing myself. For instance, my thoughts might not connect with the proper vocabulary. Then, no matter how hard I tried, I sounded cold and annoyed. Into my early teens, my stuttering was so bad, outside of home, that I could barely hold a conversation. Until 2011, the unempathic wordiness of my writing, often intentional, made it almost unreadable.

Fortunately, I figured out, on my own, a particular “technique” to address and to manage the stuttering problem. Briefly, I deliberately, or intentionally, began to focus upon each and every word that I said. At the beginning, I would often slip up. Gradually, however, this once conscious method has become a habit or, in effect, one of my routines. I rarely need to think about it anymore. Looking back, the issue became especially important to me after I began lecturing as a professor. In my work, I teach, a bit like chanting mantrās, the same classes over and over again. I love  the monotony and routine.

Since, as an Autistic man, I have never been a man-about-time, I was obliged to closely study people and the rules, or reasoning, they follow. In my religious life, I was, by a turn of phrase, rationally spiritual. My approach to matters of spirit was most always ruled and disciplined. Admittedly, the field of sociology appealed to me, in part, because it, like my earlier interests in theatrical acting, made me a more careful student. Approaching others as a student not only encourages humility. It may limit suggestibility and the tendency to negatively “react” to the statements and behaviors of others. The chances of being caught off-guard can be reduced.

Understanding human rules, or “social norms” as we call them in sociology, has, in my own case, picked up the slack, at least to some degree, for a scarcity of empathy. Even so, during the first fifty-four years of my life, experiencing the heart-centered sensation of empathy always appeared beyond my grasp. Like many other Autists, I also disliked being hugged, kissed, and touched, especially on the head. A chiropractor once told me that he had never worked on a body as stiff and as rigid as my own.

Thankfully, my ability to study human behavior has been reasonably good. Not all Autists have been blessed in this way. My capacity to pay attention to others seems to have been joined with skills I acquired as a sociologist. Eventually, through close observation, I learned a certain number of relatively automatic “tricks.” By playing them, I could publicly perform  as an empathetic and caring person. Remarkably, I was fairly successful at it, too. Yet, rarely, perhaps never, did I actually feel that way. Although I do not blame myself, I was, emotionally, a fraud. I could not even mourn my own parents’ deaths.

Mindfulness, as I have just described it, came relatively easily to me. It was, simply put, my path of least resistance. Indeed, I have been mindful, to one extent or another, throughout most of my life. No effort and no study of any formal techniques, whether from a book or from a teacher, were ever necessary. Mindfulness meditation was simply my way of dealing with the world. Long before I ever heard the word, I was mindful. This fact of my “unintentional” mindfulness only occurred to me, however, as I was writing this paper. I never defined myself in those terms before.

To say the very least, it became painfully apparent to me, over the course of my life, that heartfulness was what I actually needed. From my readings and informal observations, I have noticed that Buddhist practices of mindfulness appear to be somewhat common in the Autistic community. These disciplines involve an ongoing awareness, even an analysis, of one’s body and physical environment. Instead of Buddhist compassion or rational sympathy (imagining how others feel), Autists may require heartfulness or empathy (actually feeling). Among many Autists, logical thinking, sometimes resulting in “mechanical” behavior, can function as social adjustment to a lack of empathy.

... he [the Tin Woodman] walked very carefully, with his eyes on the road, and when he saw a tiny ant toiling by he would step over it, so as not to harm it. The Tin Woodman knew very well he had no heart, and therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything. “You people with hearts,” he said, “have something to guide you, and need never do wrong; but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful.”
L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

My heart-based meditations have been transformative. The sentiments stirred by Heartfulness Inquiry have reminded me of two fictional characters: After the Tin Woodman was finally given a heart, one “made entirely of silk and stuffed with sawdust,” he discovered the feelings which he had actually possessed all along. Even more relevant to my own experiences, Data, the android on Star Trek: The Next Generation, initially found his “emotion chip” to be intolerable. Since he could not, based on his programming, logically control his newly acquired passions, he wanted the chip removed.

Similarly, in order to avoid being overwhelmed, particularly by emotional empathy, I have attempted, during my meditations, to keep my attention on drawing closer to God. Gradually, the ritualized repetitions, often observed in Autistic behavior, have, as remembrance, become centered in my heart. While my tendencies to over-analyze are being redirected to a deepening tranquility, I am more open to my own insights and feelings and, especially, to the sufferings of others. In 2011, a close relative was stunned when I, without thinking about it, said that I loved her. I had, apparently, never spoken those words.

A kind, but anonymous, woman2 told me, many years ago, that the very thing I least wanted, I might need the most. At the time, I resented her advice. It was unrequested, and I thought she was simply a bully. (Being an Autist, I have known many of them.) However, it is only since beginning my devotional meditations, becoming wholly entranced with the pure soul of my dear guardian angel, the magnificent Ḥaḍrat Sulṭān Bāhū, and being completely surprised at the unexpected life changes, that I can understand, and appreciate, her wisdom. I am not on yet another meditative “head trip.” My heart is truly being healed.

These next few paragraphs might seem out of place, but I feel compelled to write them. After my heart was opened, through Bāhū, I have been learning to trust my inner guidance on these issues. After an unusual turn of events, I was diagnosed, or rediagnosed, as an Autistic shortly after my mother’s death. In two years, my father received the same diagnosis. At first, I felt bad at not having that information while she was still in this world. So much now made sense. However, I later had a strong intuition that my mother’s prayers, from the next world, led to both diagnoses. I will just need to wait a brief time to discuss them with her.

My father once shared his sadness with me about the passing of his wife or my mother. I asked him to “trust” me that there was a life beyond, and that the two of them would be reunited. He died a year or two after that conversation. Within months, my newfound passion for studying Ṣūfism inspired me, seemingly out of curiosity, to try a simple word meditation. It developed into Heartfulness Inquiry. Since then, my love for my father has been increasing. I actually perceive him as a pure spirit with a warm, soft smile. My father’s intercession, I strongly  feel, is responsible for my renewed heart.

My parents died physically, but they live with me. While they were still alive in this world, I would need to call them on the phone or fly into the New York City area in order to remain in contact. Obviously, I could pray for both of them. If my heart were in a different place back then, I might have even inwardly communed with their human souls. Whether they would have been aware of it, I have no way of knowing. Now, the story is different. My mother and father are around me. They are closely connected with my spiritual heart. I look forward to this relationship intensifying when I pass over to the other side.

Over these many years, I have adapted to Autism. It belongs to my inherited character. For someone to take my Autism away from me now would rob me of an important dimension of my individuality, especially my dogged determinism and way of thinking. I would, in effect, become a stranger to myself. Today, I love being an Autist. That is why, in my opinion, any cure should take place either before birth (prenatally) or very soon afterwards. My own willingness to adopt the anti-cure philosophy for a few years was, I think, the result of this basic self-realization: Not being an Autist is unimaginable to me.

Psychiatry and abnormal psychology are relatively new fields. In many traditional societies, children and adults with cognitive or behavioral differences were not treated as patients of clinical practitioners. Before the rise of the pro-eugenics (sterilizing patients), yet comparatively humane, mental (or social) hygiene movement, which gave birth to psychiatry and abnormal psychology, conditions like Autism would, indeed, have been literally treated as cases of demonic possession. In some hospitals, holes were drilled in heads to discharge evil spirits. Although I was, fortunately, spared an exorcism, the electrical convulsive therapies I received were, metaphorically or poetically, close.

According to Dr. D.K. Shute, Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), one of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence, began reforming the treatment of “the insane”:

It will do no harm to recall the fact that an American, Benjamin Rush [1746-1813], started [a] ... reform in treating the insane, not as demon-possessed individuals who should be chained and locked in cells, but people, simply, who had a disease of the brain.
Dr. D.K. Shute, “American Medico-Psychological Association: Proceedings of the Sixty-third Annual Meeting.” May 5, 1907. The American Journal of Insanity. Volume LXIV. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press. 1907-1908. Page 162.

From 1918-1980, Autists were “officially” placed on the schizophrenic spectrum. Sadly, the memory that single historical fact, lifted from the long and thorny path of Autism diagnosis in the Western world, is being all too rapidly lost. Autists must not forget. When I have raised the issue on Autistic online message boards, I have been often accused of fabricating the idea. For instance, someone responded that Autism, unlike schizophrenia, is not a psychosis which is, of course, beside the point. Fortunately, many Autists of my generation are still alive to remember. We will not, however, be around forever.

The American Psychiatric Association (1921) was founded in Philadelphia as the Association of Medical Superintendents of the American Institutions for the Insane (1844). It was later renamed the American Medico-Psychological Association (1892). The organization published a diagnosic manual in ten editions between 1918 and 1942. Its title changed, chronologically, as follows: Statistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for the Insane (1918), Statistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for Mental Diseases (1920), Statistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for Mental Defectives (1934), and Statistical Manual for the Use of Hospitals for Mental Diseases (1942).

The 1918 release of the first edition, Statistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for the Insane, was announced on page 288 of The American Journal of Insanity (later changed to The American Journal of Psychiatry) and is included in this volume. According to that first edition, Autism is a characteristic of dementia praecox (New Latin, dēmentia praecox, madness premature), the original term for schizophrenia:

15. Dementia Praecox
This group cannot be satisfactorily defined at the present time as there as there are still too many points at issue as to what constitute the essential clinical features of dementia praecox....
... The term “schizophrenia” is now used by many writers instead of dementia praecox....
Appearance of autistic thinking and dream-like ideas, peculiar feelings of being forced, of interference with the mind, of physical or mystical influences, but with retention of clearness in other fields (orientation, memory, etc.).
Committee on Statistics of the American Medico-Psychological Association (now the American Psychiatric Association) in collaboration with the Bureau of Statistics of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene (developed into the National Association for Mental Health and, later, the Mental Health Association), Statistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for the Insane. New York. 1918. Page 24.

Through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association, my own diagnosis has changed, in both name and description, several times over my life:

  1. The first version of the DSM (1952), which was initially used to diagnose me, was a revision of the previous manual (1918-1942). In the DSM, dementia praecox was changed into a schizophrenic spectrum. Autistic children could be diagnozed with either schizophrenic reaction, childhood type (my original diagnosis and, I believe, the diagnosis of most Autistic children) or schizoid personality. On the other hand, Autistic adults could be diagnosed with either schizophrenic reaction, paranoid type or schizoid personality. At the time, Autism was commonly regarded as a reaction to living with a refrigerator mother.
  2. In the DSM-II (1968), two out of the three designations changed slightly: schizophrenia, childhood type (my own diagnosis), schizophrenia, paranoid type, and schizoid personality.
  3. The DSM-III (1980) represented a sea change in diagnosis. The old psychodynamic model was giving weigh to newer behavior approaches. Using ththis manual, my guess is that I would have had childhood onset pervasive developmental disorder. Schizoid disorder of childhood or adolescence, which was not regarded as a category of Autism, is also, I suppose, a possibility. However, I was not diagnosed with schizoid personality under the DSM-I and DSM-II. Infantile autism appears a bit too extreme.
  4. Based upon the DSM-III-R (1984), my diagnosis might have been either autistic disorder or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS). The DSM-III-R eliminated schizoid disorder of childhood or adolescence. Its symptoms were reinterpreted as indistinguishable from a pervasive developmental disorder. Since singling out a pervasive developmental disorder based upon age of onset was determined to be invalid, childhood onset pervasive developmental disorder was merged with infantile autism, also from the DSM-III, to create autistic disorder in the DSM-III-R.
  5. The DSM-IV (1994) and, subsequently, the DSM-IV-TR (2000), continued using autistic disorder and divided PDDNOS into multiple types, including Asperger’s disorder and the new PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified). I was diagnosed by my new psychiatrist with either Asperger’s disorder” or “Autistic disorder.” For highly functional adults, he regarded those two categories as functionally identical. As things turned out, in the DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association ended up agreeing with him. In the ICD-10 (from the World Health Organization), Schizoid disorder of childhood is used as an alternate, or outdated, term for Asperger’s syndrome.
  6. Finally, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the new classification used in the DSM-5 (2013). That term, with its three levels (1, 2, and 3), has replaced all of the previous types of Autism, as well as pervasive developmental disorder. Presumably, I was at level 2 as a child. For the first time, with the DSM-5, developmental criteria can be considered when diagnosing an Autistic adult. The DSM-5 authors also recommended that anyone with a prior diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and PDD-NOS now be given a diagnosis of ASD. Now, at last, there is just one ASD. Having lived through the whole drama, I am, I must admit, pretty happy about it.

My comments are obviously not intended to demean those who are legitimately schizophrenic. However, even though I recognized, a long time ago, that I was obviously not delusional, learning that I was, diagnostically, an Autistic, not a schizophrenic, made me sigh with relief. Since the “Asperger’s Disorder” construct did not appear in the literature until long after my original diagnosis, rejecting it was not a big deal. I also did not care to be identified with people who believed that, somehow, “Aspies” (Asperger-types) were superior to “Auties” (Autistics). For individuals whose original diagnosis was Asperger’s Disorder, the transition may be more difficult.

Of course, many non-speaking Autists with normal or high intelligence were, for many years, diagnosed with an intellectual disability (previously called mental retardation):

It is true that autism does appear more frequently in the mental retarded population, but the converse is not true. Autistic children do not generally have diminished cognitive functioning. They have normal, even above normal intelligence....
Often, a child that is labeled as autistic is unable to communicate with the outside world, using language. They cannot process the world in terms of letters and sounds; they do make their wishes known, however to their caregivers, often in nonverbal ways. They score normally or above normally on standardized intelligence tests.... Times have definitely changed in the educational system, an autistic child; even as long ago as 10 years ago [from 2012], often was labeled as retarded, because there was a shortage of empirical data on how to classify these children; or how to teach them for that matter.
Autism vs Mental Retardation. Blog. August 27, 2012. Retrieved on July 13, 2013.

I doubt that I am an Autistic savant. However, I found a reference to “damage to the left brain.” My repeated EEGs (electroencephalograms) have shown abnormalities, indicating a seizure disorder, in my left frontal lobes:

Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist, wrestled with the problem until one night: “I saw in a dream a table where all the elements fell into places as required. Awakening I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper. Only in one place did a correction later seem necessary.” The resulting table was so accurate that the properties of unknown elements were correctly predicted. Mendeleev’s dream is reminiscent of the autistic savants who just see the answer to a mathematic equation rather than work through the calculations. Not surprisingly, autistic savants have brain activity that shares characteristics with dreaming....
Autistic savants are a prime example of people who obtain information through heightened perception rather than the usual analytical channels....
Functional MRI studies of autistic individuals and IQ-matched controls are consistent with the proposed shifts in dominance. When both groups were given identical memory and attention tasks they performed at equal levels, but used different sections of their brains. The controls activated several areas of their left and right neocortices in an integrated fashion, whereas the autistic subjects preferentially activated a small portion of their right neocoztex or both sides of their visual cortex. This fits with the evidence of damage to the left brain in autism, and also with how Grandin describes her thought process as primarily visual....
... Dreaming,meditating, synesthesia, astral projection, and the minds of autistic savants are all conditions or states of consciousness in which psychic abilities can be enhanced; all show a shift away from the usual dominance of brain activity in the left hemisphere and from the cortex to the limbic system.
Diane Hennacy Powell, M.D., The ESP Enigma. New York: Walker & Company. 2009. Kindle Edition.
One of the things that Autistic savants have taught us is – just think about what Autism is and why an Autistic savant can do what they can do. What they do is they see the world without the encumbrance of the parf of the brain that is evolutionarily the newest. That part of the brain is usually compromised. And, as a result, they see information as much more raw data. In other words, it’s more like they see the code, and we see the icons on our iPad. And so, we’re [non-Autists] missing a lot of information that they [Autists] see. And it’s part of what makes life so challenging for them – because they’re so sensitive. They get over-stimulated extremely easily. It’s like they’re seeing the order of the universe. They’re actually seeing it – or they’re experiencing it in some way – and, I’m using the word “seeing,” but it can come to any sense.... And it’s because they don’t think conceptually.
See, when you have an Autistic savant that is artistic, what they do is they’re drawing three-dimensional objects – three-dimensional beings – horses gallopping when they’re three years old, when other children are drawing stick figures. They’re actually drawing what they see; whereas drawing the stick-like figure is a more conceptual way of drawing. It’s not drawing what you actually see. That’s that whole drawing through the right side of your brain kind of thing.... They have such an undistorted perception of certain things.... They have this ability to detect order in ways that we (Non-Autists) can’t pick it up.... Many of them [Autists] can [do telepathy] – absolutely. They can do telepathy, precognition – they can.... A lot of them can lead fairly normal lives....
There’s something called the acquired savant syndrome. And usually what has happened is that there has been an injury to the left temporal lobe.... If it [a particular injury] starts in the temporal lobe first, they you’ll start to see the savant syndrome. And what’s happening is that this most recently evolved part of our brain ... – that’s what gets in the way of certain abilities. And a lot of savant abilities are right-brain abilities – things like art and music [and] intuition....
One of things that’s fascinating is that they [Autistic savants] can have knowledge without knowing.... This kid [an Autistic savant] actually drew a periodic table [of elements], and put in all of the elements where they belonged, and their atomic weights. And he even put in ... the initials for the elements. .... But he had never see one [a periodic table of elements]. So, maybe that is remote viewing.... Where is that information stored? That’s what fascinates me.... It’s as though their brains are almost like that [a smartphone app] sometimes.... Stephen Wiltshire [a British Autistic savant] couldn’t communicate very well at all. For a lot of the ones [Autistic savants] who become, their artwork becomes a form of communication for them – the same thing for the music.... Most of them [Autistic savants] are men.... Savantism is found more often in Autism than it is in any other kind of disability. If you’r Autistic, the odds of you being a savant are about 10%. The difference between a savant an a genius is that a savant has abilities that would be considered a genius if they otherwise had everything else [were not disabled].
Diane Hennacy Powell, M.D., “Savants & PSI Phenomena.” Coast to Coast AM. George Noory, host. March 26, 2013. Retrieved on March 27, 2012.
II. Defining Autism

Based upon my own views and personal experiences, Autism can, on balance, be seen as a difference of the heart or as spiritual heart disease. As a result of our uncommon brains, many of us, in our daily interactions with others, have trouble with affection or empathy. Although people, whether they are on or off the Autism spectrum, may be out of touch with their hearts, for Autists, this condition is devastating. Likewise, the self-discovery of an Autist’s heart can be revolutionary. One could go through life, I discovered, experiencing emotion, without having a heart. For a lifetime of inner oppression, I have cried many times.

Within the Autistic community, there has been a longstanding debate on “person-first” versus “Autist-first” language. In person-first language, the individual has  Autism. With Autist-first language, the individual is  an Autist. The supporters of person-first language argue against labeling the individual as  the disability. Advocates of Autist-first language, pointing to such unquestioned terms as “right-handed person,” assert that objections to Autist-first language are, in fact, objections to Autism. In my opinion, both of these descriptions are valid: I am  an Autist because I have  Autism or Autistic attributes.

From my observations, the rejection of person-first language is usually based upon the assumption that Autism is a real thing. Autism, according to that view, would be a single “essence,” a universal core of being, which appears in every Autist. In academic terms, this approach, as mentioned earlier, is called, essentialism. To my understanding, we can know that essences, like “God” and “humanity,” exist, since they are referred to in the Baháʾí Texts. We then accept these essences both on faith and by observing their attributes. Autism, however, is a “triad of impairments,” not, as I see it, an essence:

Dividing Autists into separate types, such as classic Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome  (Asperger’s Disorder in the United States), has been used by some individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, or “aspies,” to distinguish themselves from other Autists. Thank God, the label, Asperger’s Syndrome, will, most likely, be officially eliminated from the new diagnostic manuals. According to the proposal, Asperger’s Syndrome will become Autism Spectrum Disorder, Level 1 (perhaps ASD 1 or Autism 1). The psychiatric community has recognized that we are all Autists, and that the similarities between us outweigh any differences.

Return to the table of contents.

III. The Social Model of Disability

I will preface this chapter with a brief explanation. Those of us who have been particularly blessed to obtain doctoral degrees, such as Ph.D.s, are trained to be unusual. Since most Autists are unusual anyway, there is little surprise that many of us would receive higher educations. To most people, faithfulness to a particular way of looking at the world is seen as a virtue. In the academic world, the opposite is true. We academics or professors place a high value on regularly and carefully questioning our current assumptions. The thoughts I will express here are a result of this process of inquiry.

Autism has become political hardball. Most of the individuals involved may be well-intentioned, but there has been little unity and cooperation between the various factions. Some organizations are operated by parents, without any Autists, and promote nonscientific “cures” for Autism. Others are run only by Autists and, while advocating for support, oppose cures at all. Then there are minority views. Many transhumanists, for instance, believe that Autism, especially Asperger’s Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1), should be taken as a model for the generalized improvement of the human species.

In 2007, I accepted, though with lingering doubt, that while Autists, much like anyone else, should be assisted when needed, curing Autism, to make us more like neurotypicals (neurologically typical people), would be oppressive. “Unity in Neurodiversity” (neurological diversity) became the motto for The Emancipated Autism Project. These days, however, if someone asked me whether I accepted neurodiversity, I would respond, “Neurodiversity is a fact, not a belief system. Because each of us is neurologically different, no human category with similar neurological attributes should be oppressed.”

Neurodiversity, therefore, is a given. Objectively, any form of diversity, including neurodiversity, is the human condition. Each of us is like a divinely created snowflake. The attributes or qualities of the unity of humanity, the human essence, are individualized. Even clones are not really clones. Although the diversity in all the conditions of existence should, of course, be enjoyed and appreciated, over-emphasizing diversity will inevitably lead to separation, strife, and alienation. In other words, without a recognition of universal human unity, a focus upon diversity is like watching a pretty slide show.

Raising capacity among these protagonists [the individual, the institutions of society, and the community] will require a thorough reexamination of assumptions about human nature. Notions of “us” and “them” deserve particular attention. Discourse in development circles, for example, is often rooted in notions of the “empowered” members of society assisting the “disadvantaged” or “marginalized.” The impulse to rectify social inequalities is unquestionably noble, but us/them dichotomies only perpetuate and reinforce existing divisions. Careful thought needs to be given to ways in which empowerment can be approached as a universal and shared enterprise and not something the “haves” bestow on the “have nots.”
Baháí International Community (United Nations Office), Empowerment as a Mechanism for Social Transformation. November 15, 2012. Retrieved on March 17, 2013.

I talked myself into neurodiversity. With the traumas of my childhood nagging at, and reminding, me, I was never a true believer. When Heartfulness Inquiry first opened my heart, and extended moments of empathy were regular events in my life, one of my first thoughts was: Perhaps now, some others may also become empathic Autists. It dawned on me sometime later that social challenges, which are frequently interpreted as difficulties experiencing empathy, are a major defining feature of Autism spectrum disorders. My original conclusion did not make sense, and I had to be honest about it.

Jumping onto the “anti-cure” bandwagon appealed to me as a sociologist, but this decision, I now believe, was made in haste. ADHDers (individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are, like Autists, an oppressed minority. Yet, to my knowledge, there is no ADHD anti-cure movement. I swallowed the common assumption, in the mainstream Autistic activist community, that Autism should be seen or even privileged as a dimension of neurodiversity, until I became more in touch with my heart. Seeing no other options, in August, 2011, I rejected the view that Autism should not, even partially, be cured.

Buying into neurodiversity divided me in two. My Autism comes through my father, and my OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) is from my mother. Both my mother and I obsessed on noises (misophonia), but differently. Oddly, this similarity never occurred to me until after her death. Although the OCD gave my mother insomnia, noise obsessions traumatized me throughout the day. In my own mind, believing in neurodiversity forced me to accept a cure for my mother’s attributes in me but to reject one for those from my father. Autists, however, often have noise sensitivities, so my OCD is an extension of my  Autism.

Identity politics is rooted in various Marxist perspectives, especially critical social theory. The focus of many of these critical perspectives is upon conscious raising or conscientization, which is the process of developing an awareness of oppression. The idea originated with Brazilian educator Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy. After recognizing oppression, people join together with others facing similar problems. Together, they struggle for freedom. Therefore, in identity politics, there is some unity, but it is limited in scope, not universal. Inevitably, people will divide into camps of “us” versus “them.”

The Autistic identity politics of the neurodiversity movement were inspired by the Deaf community’s position on cochlear implants. Deaf individuals frequently grow up around one another, attend the same schools, and so forth. To many Deaf individuals, these implants are an attack on Deaf community and culture. Both would be wiped out by eliminating Deafness. Since the mainstream Autistic movement defines, in a similar way, Autism as a culture, curing Autism is often described as genocide. The Emancipated Autism Project, however, supports the unity of all humanity, not the divisions of identity politics.

In our socially fragmented civilization, diagnostic rates for Autism are also, reportedly, on the increase. In the online Autistic movement, libertarianism, as a path of least resistance, is, from my own personal observations, rampant and widespread. It is, at the same time, a socially alienating perspective. Autists, like myself, generally struggle with issues of interpersonal interaction and spirituality or empathy. Although unity can be beneficial, ideologies of individualism and libertarianism are spiritually damaging. Thus, the idolatry of personal liberty, or the deification of the self, is, deceptively, the enemy of Autists.

In my version of the social model of disability, the Marxian dialectic (or contradiction) of oppression and other dialectics and dualisms are resolved through unity and inclusion, not through identity politics. The Golden Rule, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, should, I feel, make any partisanship by the disabled unnecessary. Once oppression, injustice, and social inequality are recognized, the community or society must, as a unified whole, give preference to that discriminated population until the conditions are remedied. The formation of adversarial “in-groups” and “out-groups” would, ideally, be prevented.

u·nif·ic [yoo-NIF-ik]
unifying; uniting: the unific influence of a common language.
Dictionary Definition of Unific. Retrieved on September 26, 2012.

Unity, in diversity, is, as I see it, always  preferable over division. In my opinion, the unities of humanity and all beings and things are realities. As humans, we are not cats or dogs or cattle. We are members of the same biological species, homo sapiens, and members of the same subspecies, homo sapiens sapiens. Classifying us by race, ethnicity, and nationality is a human invention. Defining us through our skin color makes no more scientific sense than distinguishing between us based upon hair or eye color. Each of these three traits were evolutionary adaptations. Their variations, based upon climate, resulted from natural selection.

The variety of inherited qualities comes from strength and weakness of constitution-that is to say, when the two parents are weak, the children will be weak; if they are strong, the children will be robust. In the same way, purity of blood has a great effect; for the pure germ is like the superior stock which exists in plants and animals. For example, you see that children born from a weak and feeble father and mother will naturally have a feeble constitution and weak nerves; they will be afflicted and will have neither patience, nor endurance, nor resolution, nor perseverance, and will be hasty; for the children inherit the weakness and debility of their parents....
Hence it is evident that inherited character also exists ....
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, Some Answered Questions. Page 213.

However, oppression–based upon disability, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and so forth– is a disunifying pattern of exclusion and lack of accommodation. Oppressed populations are deprived of prestige (social respect), wealth, privilege (equal opportunity), and power (control over social policies). Victimization might be a result of oppression, but it also might not. For instance, some victims of crimes are simply unfortunate. However, any remedies for oppressive exclusion must reject violence. We should recognize the universal web of interdependence which connects us. Exclusion is then resolved through inclusion or unity.

And the claim of the philosophy of meta-Reality is that all other beings are enfolded within myself, or at least the alethic truth of all other beings, and I accordingly am enfolded within all other beings too. So the distinctiveness of beings remains, you are different from me, you are spatio-temporally, karmically and constitutively different from me, but you are nevertheless enfolded within me. The fact that all beings are enfolded within me enables me in principle to discover the alethic truth of those beings, such as the molecular structure of a crystal or the nature of gravity or what it is like to be a dragon.
Roy Bhaskar, Reality: The Philosophy of meta-Reality, Volume 1, Creativity, Love and Freedom. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage Publications. 2002. Page xviii.
In his new book, Reflections on Meta-Reality (RMR), Roy Bhaskar claims to articulate a new philosophy that transcends critical realism, while preserving its insights. And indeed it proceeds by immanent critique of critical realism, thereby extending critical realism’s systematic attempt to think being. With the demise of historical socialism and the rise of bourgeois triumphalism in the late eighties and the nineties, the deficiency, absence or lack Bhaskar has pinpointed in the discourse and practice of critical realism and the Left in general is that insufficient attention is being paid to the spiritual dimension of human life, with the consequence that the Right is hegemonic in that area. So he self-consciously set out to remedy this lack, embarking on “the spiritual exposition of being.” ...
Its basic line of argument is that a non-dual world or ultimate zone of being underpins and is co-present in an occluded way in the dual world of alienation and contradiction in which we live, as a condition of its possibility, and that this requires a new philosophy of identity for its exposition. Realism about this world, about transcendence, thus entails the self-transcendence of critical realism itself, which is a philosophy of non-identity or duality. Bhaskar calls this non-dual world the cosmic envelope (in which the deepest natures or ground-states of all beings sit and are connected), describing it also as Bohm’s implicate order of pure enfolded being, of pure potentiality, of “Platonic anamnesis,” involving “a level of consciousness beyond thought itself.” Other key figures ... are generalised co-presence or synchronicity and the inwardness of being (everything is implicated or enfolded within everything else); and transcendental identification in consciousness between entities and beings within the explicated or become dual world we inhabit.
Roy Bhaskar, “The Philosophy of Meta-Reality, Part I: Identity, Spirituality, System. Interview by Mervyn Hartwig.” Abstract (excerpt). Retrieved on November 24, 2011.

It seems to me that Roy Bhaskar’s cosmic envelope as the end objective of emancipatory or self-realized projects is a pretty universal experience. I might be wrong, but I cannot conceive, at this moment, of a liberation apart from unity. Hopefully, others will be drawn to the larger body of Bhaskar’s work through this simple concept. For me, the cosmic envelope has provided a way to express, using intuitive and commonsense language, the transformative experience of discovering empathy and interconnectedness. As a result, I have been referring to myself as an emancipated Autist. I informally define emancipated Autism as including individuals who:

  1. were diagnosed, at sometime over their development, with an Autistic spectrum disorder.
  2. have discovered unity, empathy, or connectedness through spiritual experience.

As I have reflected on the past, my personal emancipation from Autism began, I feel, in January of 1971. Through my spiritual mother, Elizabeth Thomas, I began studying the work of two dear souls, Marian Crist Lippitt and Henry A. Weil. An immersion in the ideas of these three wonderful Baháʾís gradually led to the development of The Unicentric Paradigm™. Then, in 2010, my spiritual heart was opened by the intercession of my beloved guardian angel, Ḥaḍrat Sulṭān Bāhū, a seventeenth-century Punjabī Ṣūfī. My inward, spiritual encounters with Bāhū, which have been ongoing, resulted in Heartfulness Inquiry™.

The online community of Autists and the mental health community have been relatively disconnected. This unfortunate separation has mostly been a result of the neurodiversity movement and its focus upon creating a unique Autistic identity. There are, however, movements related to Autism and to mental health, which, to some extent, run parallel to one another. Descriptions of a number of them are provided on my Brief Outlines of Liberation Movements page. Bridging the gap between these two, and other, disability communities, I developed The Emancipated Autism Project.

The recovery movement, as a caricature of the Empowerment Model, turns ordinary human struggles into fictional pathologies, and it transforms personal life stories into novels of recovery from nonscientific diseases. The wide diversity of human experience, such as procrastination, is medicalized. Although I continue to differ with many of the core philosophical assumptions commonly held within the recovery movement, such as attributing powerlessness to an absence of will power and the “diseasing” of life, there is, as far as I know, no specific Autistic recovery group.

Therefore, becoming emancipated through the cosmic envelope is not, in my opinion, the same as recovery or finding a cure. Neurologically, I am presumably still an Autist. Many of my personality characteristics are Autistic, including my daily rituals and delight in routine. However, through prayer and meditation, I have discovered, or perhaps uncovered is more accurate, the attributes of a multi-layered enfoldment of unities as the fabric of existence. Fairly regularly, my level of empathy has continued to develop. Perhaps, in time, medicine will become more effective in addressing this issue, too.

Furthermore, any deficiencies in individual attributes should, in my view, be worked on, not celebrated. The concept of Autistic pride is frequently associated with preferences for Autist-first, over person-first, language. Similar views of “pride” are found in several disability communities and elsewhere, as in national pride and within the Deaf and other marginalized communities. I have often been proud of other Autists, but, to me, humility is preferable. Although Autism is a part of me, it was not a personal accomplishment. I am, however, thankful to my Gracious Lord for assisting me to survive the disorder.

In the Social Model, the term, “disability” refers to social oppression or discrimination based upon social disadvantages. Disability is not the same as simple human differences. In other words, once the oppression is removed, the disability is eliminated. In Unities of All Things, disability is also defined as oppression. However, the medical oppression which results from having a number of usually undesirable neurological traits, especially the difficulties with processing empathy, is incorporated, as well.

In my view, identity politics, a term for movements supporting the partisan interests of individuals with particular disabilities, should be discarded. I replace it with an awareness of the unity of humanity. If we share, together, the physical attributes, the qualities, of the essence of humanity, we are literally, not just figuratively or metaphorically, related to one another.

For example, our global community might, working in unity, develop better treatments, perhaps even targeted cures, for Autism. With a dear Autistic father, I should always  have known, better than most people, the importance of discovering scientific medical cures. Second, we Autists, as uncommonly odd individuals, are often bullied. Due to a lack of social skills, we also have much higher-than-average unemployment rates. Cooperatively protecting Autists from all forms of oppression and discrimination, is, I feel, crucial. Every human being has the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

The unity, or essence, of humanity is not, to my understanding, merely an abstract concept. As we discover and acquire the magnetic attributes of human unity, that unity can be practiced in our daily lives. Decisions will be made consultatively or selflessly. Diversity, on the other hand, is a given. Each of us is an individual soul. We have particular capacities which can be developed throughout our lives. However, diversity by itself, like Autistic identity politics, can easily become a trap. If we focus upon the diversity, and neglect the unitying essence, societies, communities, and hearts may begin to fall apart.

The Emancipated Autism Project, which was discussed earlier in the chapter, is a social and economic development (SED) activity, not a formal association. Rather than criticizing Autism-related organizations by name, I prefer to simply mention the ones I feel to be most beneficial. Although the entire Autism issue has unfortunately become highly politicized, both the Autism Society and The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP™) have managed to be inclusive on many issues. The focus of both groups is upon helping Autists, not upon partisan agendas or “us versus them.”

I am not making a direct comparison between Autism, as a developmental disability, and homosexuality, as a sexual orientation. Nevertheless, I think that a similar principle of nature and nurture is involved. The concept of sexual orientation, sexual preference, or sexual identity is new. Just as heterosexuality was a portmanteau, or coined expression, inspired by a greater social acceptance of Lesbian and Gay rights, homosexuality itself was, until the 1980s or later, generally regarded as a behavior, not as an identity. In a historical context, Baháʾuʾlláh would not, in my view, have been addressing the issue of orientation but behavior:

...We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys [ġilmān, servant boys or pages]. Fear ye the Merciful, O peoples of the world! Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet, and be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires.
Baháʾuʾlláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Page 58.
The word translated here as “boys” has, in this context, in the Arabic original, the implication of paederasty. Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations.
The Baháʾí teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Baháʾí law thus restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married.
Note by the Universal House of Justice in Baháʾuʾlláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Page 223.

Similarly, these next two statements were made before homosexuality was commonly perceived, by the general public, as an identity. In my opinion, the “best medical assistance” refers to sexual conduct. The highly controversial, unethical, oppressive, pseudoscientific, and empirically unsupported conversion or reparative therapy is not advocated. That is to say, issues of Lesbian and Gay sexual identity and attraction are not, to my understanding, addressed by Baháʾí Law:

A number of sexual problems such as homosexuality and transsexuality can well have medical aspects, and in such cases recourse should certainly be had to the best medical assistance. But it is clear from the teaching of Baháʾuʾlláh that homosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled, but is a distortion of his or her nature which should be controlled and overcome. This may require a hard struggle, but so also can be the struggle of a heterosexual person to control his or her desires. The exercise of self-control in this, as in so very many other aspects of life, has a beneficial effect on the progress of the soul. It should, moreover, be borne in mind that although to be married is highly desirable, and Baháʾuʾlláh has strongly recommended it, it is not the central purpose of life. If a person has to wait a considerable period before finding a spouse, or if ultimately, he or she must remain single, it does not mean that he or she is thereby unable to fulfil his or her life’s purpose.
From a letter, dated January 12, 1985, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1222.
No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Baháʾuʾlláh, and homosexual relationships he looks upon as such, besides being against nature.
To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.
God judges each soul on its own merits. The Guardian cannot tell you what the attitude of God would be towards a person who lives a good life in most ways, but not in this way. All he can tell you is that it is forbidden by Baháʾuʾlláh, and that one so afflicted should struggle and struggle again to overcome it. We must be hopeful of God's Mercy but not impose upon it.
From a letter, dated March 26, 1950, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1223.
I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy. I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals.
Robert L. Spitzer. M.D., Robert L. Spitzer’s Letter to Ken Zucker, M.D.. Retrieved on June 29, 2013.

My personal view is that adults, of whatever gender and number, should be legally entitled to a civil union. Marriage, as I see it, should be privatized. If people with a civil union wish to represent themselves as being married, that is their own business. Where appropriate, issues of marriage can be addressed by religious organizations, including any appropriate wedding ceremonies. Although the Baháʾí laws are intended, ultimately, for all humanity, only Baháʾís are obligated to follow them. In my opinion, that basic principle applies to homosexuality just as it relates to Obligatory Prayer and Fasting. I am not, therefore, an activist against same-sex marriage.

Baháʾí teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Thus Baháʾí law restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married.
Thus, it should not be so much a matter of whether a practicing homosexual can be a Baháʾí as whether, having become a Baháʾí, the homosexual can overcome his problem through knowledge of the teachings and reliance on Baháʾuʾlláh.
From a letter, dated March 4, 1973, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 1225.
Let there be no compulsion in religion ....
Muḥammad, Qurʾān. 2:256. A. Yusuf Ali translation.
Care, however, should, at all times, be exercised, lest in their eagerness to further the international interests of the Faith they frustrate their purpose, and turn away, through any act that might be misconstrued as an attempt to proselytize and bring undue pressure upon them, those whom they wish to win over to their Cause.
Shoghi Effendi quoted in a letter, dated January 3, 1982, written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual Baháʾí, Lights of Guidance: A Baháʾí Reference File. Number 2004.
IV. Meditation and Autism

Spiritually, the ideal lifestyle for many Autists may be that of a mystic: one who, through prayer or meditation, spends considerable time and effort in drawing closer to one’s Beloved. Within some religious movements, monasticism, the life of a nun or monk, may be an option. Since cloistered, or secluded, communities are not found inside my faith tradition, I often refer to myself as an inner monk. Being home, alone, is  my vacation. Although I interact with others at work, by telephone, over the Internet, and in other limited contexts, I mostly engage in solitary actitivies, especially communion with God.

I am in good company. Meditations, heart-centered and otherwise, have positively affected the lives of these Autists, too:

Silently repeating the remembrance during my daily routines, as an Autist, keeps me spiritually centered. With others, practicing the remembrance during “stims” (repetitive body movements) may have a similar result. In fact, “getting tired” of sounds or songs I like has never made any sense to me. The redundancy in itself is comforting and quieting. I also find it helpful to reflect on subjects such as, Autistic self-advocacy, civil and other human rights, personal behavior, and, especially, empathy.

Some Autists may also attempt to compensate for their social challenges by relating to people and ideas more intellectually than emotionally. At least for me, a college professor, heart-centered devotional meditation is correcting that imbalance. Although empathy, which is one of the attributes of the unity or essence of humanity, might not be innate or natural within many Autists and others, it can, based on scientific research, often be acquired. Evidence of a relationship between empathy and meditation may be of special interest to many individuals on the Autism spectrum:

This might already be obvious to enlightened souls, but researchers are discovering that meditation may permanently change the physical structure of the brain. Neural circuits linked to focus, happiness and empathy may be strengthened through long-term meditation, effectively rewiring the brain and “lighting up” certain sections with a life-long capability for stronger activity in those regions, scans have indicated.
Mary Papenfuss, Newser  staff, “Om My! Meditation Changes Brain Structure.” Oct 27, 2010.
Autism is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder of unknown cause that affects approximately 1-3 percent of children and four times more boys than girls. Its prevalence is global and its social impact is devastating. In autism, the brain is unable to process sensory information normally. Instead, simple stimuli from the outside world are experienced as overwhelmingly intense and strain the emotional centers of the brain. A stress response to the incoming information is initiated that destabilizes cognitive networks and short-circuits adequate behavioral output. As a result, the child is unable to respond adequately to stimulation and initiate social behavior towards family, friends, and peers. In addition, these children typically face immune-digestive disorders that heighten social fears, anxieties, and internal conflicts. While it is critical to treat the physical symptoms, it is equally vital to offer an evidence-based holistic solution that harmonizes both their emotional and physical well-being as they move from childhood into adult life. Here, we summarize evidence from clinical studies and neuroscience research that suggests that an approach built on yogic principles and meditative tools is worth pursuing. Desired outcomes include relief of clinical symptoms of the disease, greater relaxation, and facilitated expression of feelings and skills, as well as improved family and social quality of life.
Sonia Sequeira and Mahiuddin Ahmed, “Meditation as a Potential Therapy for Autism: A Review.” Autism Research and Treatment. Volume 2012 (2012). Article ID 835847. 11 pages. Retrieved on July 28, 2012.

Many spiritual and religious experiences are governed by feeling and empathy, and relating to God is a social skill. More acceptable, or understandable, are, for example3: Atheism, Agnosticism, Ignosticism, Apatheism, Rationalism, Transhumanism, Beingism, Sea of Faith, Polydoxy, Brightism, Universism, Apollonianism, Objectivism, Religious Humanism, Ethical Culture, and Yoism. In fact, this observation, along with my meditative experiences and some other factors, eventually led me to reject the strict anti-cure position within some segments of the online Autistic community. In my opinion, many Autists need a devotional system which takes us out of our heads.

In short, I lived most of my life without empathy. Even my relationship with God was intellectual, not emotional. After I discovered empathy, through meditation, I realized how much Autism had damaged, handicapped, my life. However, my peak experiences are not a proof of anything. Anyone can claim to have had inner transformation. Therefore, I will refer to the research. If the closely related constructs of poor theory of mind, mentalizing, and empathy disable a considerable segment of the human population from having an intimate relationship with God, that disability should be healed and corrected as soon as possible.

We found new evidence for an inverse link between the autism spectrum and belief in God that was explained by mentalizing, as predicted by cognitive theories of religion ....
... the effect of autism on belief in God remained significant after controlling for religious attendance ..., and disappeared only after controlling for mentalizing. This demonstrates that the effect of autism on belief exists even after removing the considerable overlap between belief in God and religious attendance. Relatedly, the relationship between the autism spectrum and belief cannot be solely a by-product of the more challenging social circumstances of autistic individuals, as identical patterns emerged when autism was measured as a continuous variable in a non-clinical sample of university students sharing similar social circumstances ....
Ara Norenzayan, Will M. Gervais, and Kali H. Trzesniewski, Mentalizing Deficits Constrain Belief in a Personal God. May 30, 2012. Retrieved on August 12, 2012.
The cognitive science of religion is a new field which explains religious belief as emerging from normal cognitive processes such as inferring others’ mental states, agency detection and imposing patterns on noise. This paper investigates the proposal that individual differences in belief will reflect cognitive processing styles, with high functioning autism being an extreme style that will predispose towards nonbelief (atheism and agnosticism). This view waw supported by content analysis of discussion forums about religion on an autism website (covering 192 unique posters), and by a survey that included 61 persons with HFA [high-functioning Autism]. Persons with autistic spectrum disorder were much more likely than those in our neurotypical comparison group to identify as atheist or agnostic, and, if religious, were more likely to construct their own religious belief system. Nonbelief was also higher in those who were attracted to systemizing activities, as measured by the Systemizing Quotient.
Catherine Caldwell-Harris, Caitlin Fox Murphy, and Tessa Velazquez, “Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism. Abstract. Cognitive Science Journal Archives. 2011. Retrieved on August 12, 2012.
The strongest connection between atheism and autism before now was a paper presented at a conference last year by Catherine Caldwell-Harris and collaborators at Boston University. Survey respondents with high-functioning autism were more likely than control subjects to be atheists and less likely to belong to an organized religion. (They were also more likely to have religious ideas of their own construction ....) And atheists were higher on the autistic spectrum than Christians and Jews....
That’s where the new paper comes in. Ara Norenzayan and Will Gervais of the University of British Columbia and Kali Trzesniewski of UC Davis report on four studies....
First, people with higher scores on the Autism Spectrum Quotient ... [a Autism test developed by Simon Baron-Cohen] had weaker belief in a personal God. Second, reduced ability to mentalize mediated this correlation.
Matthew Hutson, “Does Autism Lead to Atheism?: Belief in God Depends on Theory of Mind. Psychology Today (magazine). May 30, 2012. Retrieved on July 31, 2012.

Unfortunately, intelligence can sometimes be used to compensate for religiousity:

A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity. The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than college age; it was also stronger for religious beliefs than religious behavior. For college students and the general population, means of weighted and unweighted correlations between intelligence and the strength of religious beliefs ranged from -.20 to -.25 (mean r = -.24). Three possible interpretations were discussed. First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.
Miron Zuckerman, Jordan Silberman, and Judith A. Hall, “;The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations.” Abstract. Personality and Social Psychology Review. August, 2012. Volume 17. Number 3. Retrieved on August 23, 2013.

In the best of possible worlds, no human souls would ever be disabled in their empathy. Nevertheless, being an Autist, with the right perspective, can be treated much like the other tests and struggles of life. If responded to wisely, Autism can become an opportunity for spiritual development. Unfortunately, by defining this Autistic lack of empathy as acceptable human neurodiversity, Autism, the spiritual test, has been turned into Autism, the moral ideal. To some Autistic individuals, which partially if indecisively included me at one time, Autism is considered to be no more than a different way of being.

The name of the most popular Autistic support website, Wrong Planet, is a good illustration. Many Autists I have known experience an ongoing sensation of inward otherness. To me, it has sometimes been a bit like constantly being lost. In my opinion, the routines or ritualized behaviors, common among Autists, are coping mechanisms. The basic issue, as I see it, concerns the spiritual heart, empathy, or dialogue. In other words, the problem is relational and dynamic. Literally speaking, I could not, feel love. Well, sometimes I thought I felt it, but the experience was practically foreign to me. Somehow, it was blocked from my awareness.

I am now falling in love with people who, in times past, I have liked or respected or admired. Many of them are deceased television personalities. Although they brought me great joy, I was unable to translate that sensation into love. I often pray for them and, while speaking with them inwardly, I express my affection for them. To me, each one, without exception, is a great soul, and I say so to my Lord. Generally speaking, I will pray for, love, and address, almost anyone who crosses my mind. As a result of this startling discovery of interconnectedness, rejecting the anti-cure position was, perhaps, inevitable.

Comparing this lack of empathy with the delusions experienced by schizophrenics would be foolish. Yet, neither, in my view, is necessarily less catastrophic than the other. In the modern, secular societies of the West, a life without significant empathy may appear, on the surface, to be less troublesome than paranoid delusions. Spiritually, however, the absence of empathy is a personal tragedy. I also feel, inside my heart, that ever-increasing rates of Autism, depriving souls of our empathy, are among the great disintegrations of this world order.

For Autists, and for those with similar neurologies, some of the objectives of remembrance appear to resemble those of music therapy (an audio discussion), such as sensory stimulation and improved emotional communication. Music therapy, which often involves sound in general, is an allied health profession and one of the creative arts, or expressive, therapies. Other approaches within this field are writing (including poetry), drama (psychodrama, sociodrama, puppet therapy, etc.), dance/movement (with Authentic Movement and Expressive Movement Processing), and art therapies.

Following some reflection, I decided to craft a tailor-made and shortened version of Heartfulness Inquiry™ which, I believe, may be suitable for many Autists and the similarly dissimilar (the developmentally disabled). The Echoing Practice™, the name which I coined for it, belongs to my spiritual activism website, The Emancipated Autism Project™. Both practices are devotional and ecstatic. In neither practice is a mantrā conceived, unlike in some traditions, to be a type of “sound magic.” Remembrance is the habit of loving devotion. It is not a mechanical method for obtaining something.

Unities of All Things and The Emancipated Autism Project are intended for different audiences. Each one, along with its practice, presents an approach to the deep mysticism of the heart. However, United Against Neurelitism is, along with The Echoing Practice, a personal project in social-and-economic development and Baháʾí teaching. Since most readers will likely not be Baháʾís, referring to topics such as prophecy would be confusing or distracting. On the other hand, subjects of interest to many Baháʾís, along with a greater discussion of different techniques of meditation, have been included with Heartfulness Inquiry.

The term “echoing,” in The Echoing Practice, carries, for me, a significance which goes beyond the meditative sound repetitions. As a child, I was absolutely petrified by musical reverberations and by any other echoes. Even when I was in complete silence, I obsessed over them. Being in school gymnasiums was utter torment. I also experienced panic attacks while walking through a tunnel from the parking lot to a section of Jones Beach in suburban New York City. Taking a concept which once terrified me and developing, or owning, it as a devotional activity has been personally empowering.

V. Curing Autism

There are many aspects of Autism which will, hopefully, be cured. Perhaps the most basic one are the gastrointestinal issues. Both my father and myself suffered from them to varying degrees. I remember losing about 50 pounds back in the 1980s. No one could figure out what went wrong. I, on the other hand, suspected the problem began with taking two antibiotics (for different issues) at the same time. My self-diagnosis was dismissed by the physicians I consulted. They all suspected I had developed some form of cancer. Fortunately, all the tests came back negative. One holistic practitioner (mis)diagnosed me with candida. Finally, I saw a Gastrointestinal specialist who agreed with me. He asked me to take Citrucel (a fiber laxative). It quickly worked.

I have always loved Autistic ritualized behavior. It feels to me like ecstatic meditation. However, the vast majority of what I did  experience, during my childhood, as Autism, I did not like. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop behaving in an extraordinarily odd manner. My pain and discomfort had little to do with issues of neurodiversity. The major issues in my life were neurological. They were not cultural. Even the highest degree of social acceptance and tolerance would not have resolved my problems with interpersonal communication. The terrible stuttering, just by itself, constantly tormented me.

Curebie, within the Autistic community, is a disparaging term, an insult, for someone who wishes to see Autism cured. Perhaps I have now become one. Clearly, I do not wish to see anyone, like myself, go through most of his life, confusing empathy with sympathy. If I am a curebie, however, I am not an ordinary one. Autism frequently includes many desirable attributes, such as long-term detailed and focused attention, visual memory, and rationality. Cures for Autism would, ideally, be selective, not absolute. I would like to see negative traits, such as poor social skills, targeted but positive traits left alone. For spiritual healing, devotional meditation might be a complementary treatment.

Although, as I said, I would like to see cures for Autism which pinpoint specific perceptions and behaviors, to fix what is wrong but not what is right, I do not know if that degree of precision will be possible. For instance, the same chemical in my brain which permitted a few individuals, during my youth, to refer to me as the “human encyclopedia” might have resulted in my awful difficulties with social interaction and empathy. If so, looking back on my life, I would much rather have had the empathy. Love is eternal. Rationality and the gathering of many facts about a topic, common among Autists, are temporary.

Cures, or treatments, must, in my view, be rooted within solid scientific research, not in pseudoscience (make-believe science) or anecdotal data (personal testimonies) or medical quackery. Most currently available approaches, including an avoidance of vaccinations and various dietary restrictions, have little or no support from peer-reviewed journals. Perhaps, however, the major problem with present-day Autism therapies is that there are so many of them. Bluntly, if one approach, in particular, worked well for most people, clinics using any of the other treatments would be rapidly driven out of business.

On the one hand, I view the online Autistic community very positively. On the other, I also need to be honest with myself and with others I have known in that community. For me, Autism has become a wonderful divine blessing. Much of my individuality is based upon Autism. Without it, I would not be the person I am today. Autism has shaped my character and defined my personality. I also appreciate the man that I have now become, especially since I have started meditating. Nevertheless, I do not wish to see others, due to similar problems with empathy, struggle to survive in an alien universe.

The negative views I have of medical quackery come partially from being a professor, but that is not the major reason. My very well-meaning parents, God bless their souls, brought me to a clinic which practiced orthomolecular medicine. In addition to the usual medications, the clinic’s psychiatrists prescribed huge dosages of vitamins (“megavitamins”) for me. Even as a ninth grader, in my middle teens, I was extremely skeptical about this approach. Fortunately, my previous child psychiatrist later said to my mother, over the phone, that orthomolecular medicine was not supported by the research data.

Therefore, I could never join or endorse most, but not all, of the mainly parent-run Autism associations. I do not question the motives of these individuals. They are, as were my own parents, driven by a loving concern for their children’s welfare. Still, using quack therapies, or even insisting that there has been a massive pharmaceutical conspiracy against them, is, in my view, misguided. Megavitamins, chelation, and avoiding vaccinations can also be dangerous. Like many Autists, I feel that raising money to “fight Autism” through fear and pity is offensive and demeaning. You do not help people by hurting them.

The mainstream Autistic activist movement, represented by organizations such as The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and Autism Network International (ANI), does a great deal of excellent work for Autists. When my childhood diagnosis was clarified in 2007, placing me on the Autism spectrum, I immediately plowed through the Internet and found the mainstream movement. Breaking away from it was emotionally difficult. After a lifetime of simply being “weird,” to be told that, instead, I was just neurodiverse (neurologically diverse) was a symphony to my ears.

I am an inconspicuous fellow. I would never stand out in a crowd. I am well practiced and can play the game of life just like a pro. However, I eat alone, live alone, spend holidays alone, have talked to myself since I was a boy. Still, despite my reclusive habits, inflexible online routines, and a sliver of social awkwardness, I am, as I move through my fifties, remarkably content – even blissful.

Yet, I wear a mask. As a tenured full professor of sociology at a Kansas City area college, born and raised in the City of New York and its suburbs on Long Island, I have, in feigning the prescriptive deportment, enjoyed a string of academic accomplishments. Even so, many of my gains were realized despite an ample diligence to cure me. By the same token, one of the more salient motifs within my biography may be characterized as a recurrent failure at conforming to expectations. In my professional life, for instance, it took me roughly 25 years, in the end through an instructional consultant, to enhance my effectiveness at relating to students.

If I have learned anything, it is that an acquiescence to one's distinctiveness should not be mistaken for a preoccupation with one's limitations. At 14, an adult declared, I would likely identify with a human reared by Martians, Valentine Michael Smith, the lead character in Robert A. Heinlein's popular science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land. From my early childhood years, my life experience has staunchly situated me as the self-conscious performer, the outsider, looking in while crafting a repertoire of multiple impersonations through the upstairs bathroom mirror.

In graduate school, I instantly identified with the depictions of University of Chicago sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929) on the looking-glass self. In summary, I had observed the presentation of my own self in the deleterious image of how, at that time of my life, I believed others viewed me. Still, even while accounting for these literal and metaphorical reflections, my temperament, distressingly, rarely matched my intent. Once, I embarrassed myself when, in the presence of a role model, Tom, I accidentally called myself "Tom." Thenceforth, given my perpetual state of personal insecurity, I attempted, with mixed success, to avoid him entirely.

"All the world's a stage," I am, more so than the majority, well aware. Life's scripts, I have frequently observed, always seem more second nature to others than to me; but scripts, the prepared kind, furnished an escape to an otherwise unavailable world. My acting interests began after watching The Paul Winchell Show on ABC, not the later and syndicated Winchell - Mahoney Time. I actually disliked that second program and hardly ever watched it. Though not quite like Kukla, Fran and Ollie, which ended in its first and major run while I was still in diapers, the arrangement of the syndicated version impressed me as a series of intermittent puppet shows rather than ventriloquial routines. The great Winchell himself was rarely on set, and the time devoted to Jerry Mahoney and Mortimer Snerd was considerably surpassed by cartoons.

At 8 years old, after triumphanty persuading my mother to purchase a Jerry Mahoney look-alike figure for me, I became a ventriloquist myself and, over a period of several years, won numerous local talent contests. Subsequently, I performed, rather skillfully I would say, following a sequence of method and other acting classes, and I was a radio newscaster, writer, and producer in my teens and then again in my thirties. Being able to play to an audience has continuously served me well. While my social insight may still be somewhat astigmatic, my acting acumen has, over time, become a corrective lens.

A conscious and intentional praxis can be understood as a relatively stable pattern of reflectively animated social action. To reflect is to theorize or philosophize, with particular reference to the relativity of a concrete situation, and, in order to transcend a spurious consciousness of culturally majoritarian worldviews and advantages, one reflects on the situated exigencies of an oppressed demographic. Consequently, a liberationist struggle for human rights and social justice must be embedded into the emancipatory consciousness of a truly reflective individual.

The objective of such a struggle should be the attainment of what educator, Paulo Freire (1921-1997), referred to, in Portugese, as conscientizacao (conscientization or critical consciousness), which is to say, an awareness of the social contradictions of domination and of the emancipatory strategies for subduing them. Indeed, from a Freirian standpoint, the collaborative character of the educational process is encompased by a model of critical pedagogy, namely, an educational praxis which encourages students to explore the agents of domination and, ultimately, the instrumentalities of emancipation.

Although Freire developed his critical pedagogy as a tool to enlighten students, its applications have extended well beyond. The Autistic community, too, is unjustly dominated. Unemployment and poverty rates are commonly well in excess of averages. This subject has been competently addressed by Autism researcher, Simon Baron-Cohen:

... the biggest risk is GPs [general practitioners] not realising how adults with Asperger syndrome may become suicidal from the secondary depression, which is common. This depression is associated with social isolation, the high levels of unemployment, the lack of close friends, the lack of a partner and the abuse that adults with Asperger's may experience on the bus or in the supermarket or in other everyday situations. GPs need to give reassurance to adults with Asperger's that just because their disability is invisible, they recognise the patient is suffering underneath and will help them find the right support.

In addition to poverty, Autists are routinely denied many supports which are simply taken for granted by most persons. For instance, it remains legal in most U.S. states to deny medical insurance to persons with an Autistic spectrum disorder (or to individuals with numerous other pre-existing medical conditions). Autistic children are also frequently subjected to a variety of physical abuses, including by school personnel. The abuses have, on occasion, resulted in death.

These social facts have galvanized me. Given the circumstances of my long-term self-identification with the status of nonviolent revolutionary, and my cartography of its jurisdiction, I emulate Freire who was, not unlike myself, a spiritually oriented, neo-Marxian educator. As an academic, I dare say that my cultivated posture toward all forms of Autistic praxis, including self-advocacy and activism for others, could indeed be summarized as fundamentally instructional and heuristic.

Correspondingly, I would rigorously resist the utilization of conventional constructions of apologetics, marketing, and propaganda in an educational setting, and I once attended a series of workshops, run by a salesman, which attempted it. Most intellectuals with whom I have broached this subject share my distaste for confounding the artistry of teaching with one or more modes of salesmanship. To me, an intentional exercise of the latter within an educational environment might even approach academic dishonesty while suggesting a want of integrity. Although the merchandising of products has in its proper place, and there are many ethical sales representatives, that place is not in the lecture hall.

Conscientization was clearly influenced by an analogous construct, Karl Marx's class consciousness. Just as Autistic activism may be reconstituted as an expression of conscientization and class consciousness, another version of conscientization was popularized by the 1970s American women's liberation movement as consciousness raising. Briefly, the territory of conscientization frames the perimeters of knowledge or consciousness concerning the forces of domination or oppression and the subsequent struggle, by conscious individuals, for emancipation or liberation. Here it is, in Freire's own words, taken from Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968):

One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual's choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber's consciousness. Thus, the behavior of the oppressed is a prescribed behavior, following as it does the guidelines of the oppressor....
Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.
To surmount the situation of oppression, people must first critically recognize its causes, so that through transforming action they can create a new situation, one which makes possible the pursuit of a fuller humanity....
However, the oppressed, who have adapted to the structure of domination in which they are immersed, and have become resigned to it, are inhibited from waging the struggle for freedom so long as they feel incapable of running the risks it requires....
The central problem is this: How can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation? Only as they discover themselves to be "hosts" of the oppressor can they contribute to the midwifery of their liberating pedagogy.

As in Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva grounds her own quest for enlightenment as a preceptor to others, so the critical pedagogue, by deconstructing dominative narratives and constructing emancipatory ones, imparts her conscientization to a tyrannized population. Approached in a thoughtful manner, praxis can, I believe, become a normative framework for disability activism and self-advocacy. Thus, by way of emphasizing the strategic importance of critical reflection to praxis, Freire, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (chapter 1), wrote:

Reality which becomes oppressive results in the contradistinction of men as oppressors and oppressed The latter, whose task it is to struggle for their liberation together with those who show true solidarity, must acquire a critical awareness of oppression through the praxis of this struggle. One of the gravest obstacles to the achievement of liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within it and thereby acts to submerge human beings' consiousness. Functionally, oppression is domesticating. To no longer be prey to its force, one must emerge from it and turn upon it. This can be done only by means of the praxis: reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it.

Freire's article, Cultural Action for Freedom, echos this assertion:

Critical consciousness is brought about not through an intellectual effort alone, but through praxis - through the authentic union of action and reflection. Such reflective action cannot be denied to the people. If it were, the people would be no more than activist pawns in the hands of a leadership that reserved for itself the right of decisionmaking.

Freire believed that oppressed persons internalize their domination. Turning once again to Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he wrote, "The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom." Thus, the oppressed person must not only fight the enemies external to her being, those who rob her of her freedom and autonomy. She must also fight the oppresser within. If a socially, politically, or economically dominated individual believes that she deserves her domination, or that she must in some fashion become resigned to it, then that inner phantasm must be defeated, as well.

In other words, the self-advocate must first, in her methodological praxis, attain a critical consciousness of her oppression and of the factors which serve to perpetuate it. She must also reject the internalized domination of defining herself according to the values and norms of power elites and even replicating that domination against others. The battle for human rights cannot be merely a series of mechanical, nonideological responses to events. Any nonviolent revolutionary struggle, such as this one, must, if it is to have a chance of success, be principally proactive, not reactive.

Not unlike Freire, the Martinican revolutionary and psychiatrist, Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), in the third chapter of his The Wretched of the Earth (1961), identified praxis with class consciousness:

The living expression of the nation is the collective consciousness in motion of the entire people. It is the enlightened and coherent praxis of the men and women. The collective forging of a destiny implies undertaking responsibility on a truly historical scale.

The differences, however, between praxis, as conceived by Freire, and praxis, as imagined by Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) in his Rules for Radicals (1971), are simple and straightforward. Superficially, Freire was an educator. Alinksy was a community organizer. Freire was a Roman Catholic who developed a system not terribly at variance from Latin American theologies of liberation. Alinsky was an atheist who demonstrated his willingness to work with various groups, including those in Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

In reading Freire, I could not help but feel his compassion for the poor and his overriding desire for them to recognize their dominated statuses and, through conscientization, to ultimately become emancipated. Alinsky, on the other hand, was a political pragmatist - a proponent of realpolitik. To abuse an analogy, he turned Machiavelli upside down on his head. Even a superficial reading of of Alinsky makes his position evident that dominated groups, in the course of their organizing, must utilize similar tactics and expediencies to "the prince." By such means will they accomplish their objectives over and against their oppressors.

As I have already stated, I find Freire's approach to be much to my own liking (and much like my own). However, I substantially reject Alinsky's rules as exemplary of the sort of consequentialism often characterized as "the end justifies the means." In my view, the ultimate revolution in human rights and social justice, whether pertaining to Autists or to other socially dominated populations, will come through an education into conscientization, not through the ruthless exercise of disparagement and dissimulation.

Within this narrative, I shall make little distinction between my praxis, my activism, and my research methodology. Praxis, for me, is an intensely personal activist, self-advocative, and transformative process. Attendant to my professional capacity, as an academic, it is cemented to both my radical pedagogy as a sociology professor, in my Introduction to Sociology and Social Problems classes, and to my membership in the National Education Association (NEA). While, admittedly, I have not been particularly active in the college's chapter of the NEA, the mere fact that I belong to an association approximating a union reinforces a significant dimension of my self-identification.

By means of my emancipatory research methodology, I will recount, through self-advocacy, the taken-for-granted narrations of knowledge and power in my own social contexts. Consequently, as I progress through the passionately engaged and phenomenologically driven praxis, such as I have enacted in this reflexive historiography, I will explore the many stages of life through which I have till now journeyed. Thus, I shall describe, as graphically as possible, the fifty-one-year occultation of my voice, one chronically fearful of a universe of unknown consequences, and, in consideration of my ultimate activism, will present a culmination in that voice's special revelation and intimate unveiling.  

Accordingly, information which may frequently be assumed to be simply commonsensical is often a residue of influence, suggestion, and oppressive power. Occupying elite statuses confers dominance in defining that which is real, while escaping the resulting mass hypnosis is a necessary, though rarely sufficient, cause of emancipation. In my own case, the process of emancipation has involved an acknowledgment of the trance of oppression into which I had fallen. It has also required a deep reflection on the biographical agents of my domination.

Inspirational dialectics of oppression and liberation have captured the imaginations of people in many societies and through numerous histories. They tell us the tales of the possible or, as sociologist Karl Mannheim (1893-1947) described, they map out the paths from ideologies of dominance to utopias of transformation. As European Americans and men have historically been positioned to redact the identities of, respectively, racial minorities and women, so the parameters of disabled individuals have been contoured by others. Herein, I contemplate my own experiences with this process.

The Third Awakening

When I was a child, my problems must have appeared insurmountable, and I was seen by several psychiatrists. Collectively, in the process of serving up, and then force-feeding me, their mind-numbing neuroleptics, antidepressants, and electric shocks, they circumscribed my societal context through disability and disempowerment. Consequently, I had, over the intervening years, sworn to myself, many times over, that I would never again darken the door to a psychiatrist's office. However, in March of 2007, following the recommendation of my family practitioner, whose prescriptions of a sleep medication and, subsequently, a mild tranquilizer were ineffective at resolving my symptoms, I visited a psychiatrist for the first time since I was 14 or 15.

The complaint was direct and specific: I trembled when attempting to lay down for the night, felt dazed and stoned for most of the following day, and compulsively scratched my scalp. The cause was self-evident and repulsive: My apartment was infested with cockroaches. They would crawl into my bed, onto my back, and into my hair and rectum when I was asleep and going to sleep. It was perhaps my most intensive experience with sleeplessness but by no means my first. I have often laid awake, or paced back and forth, panicked with sinus congestion or angered by background noises (possibly hyperacusis).

I was not seeking a diagnosis, but I received three of them. The verdict was Autism, as the primary condition, with comorbid obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and comorbid chronic insomnia. Statistically, OCD is dependent, more prevalently, on Autism than the reverse. As to the insomina, both Autism, perhaps due to its nearly universal association with anticipatory anxiety, and OCD, encompassing intrusive thoughts as well as undesired behaviors, can often be unequivocally implicated, but, regardless of the culprit, a seemingly interminable focus on those vile cockroaches kept me awake night after night. As a child, I suspect that I also had comorbid developmental coordination disorder.

While the insomnia has now passed and the OCD is barely negligable, the diagnosis of Autism has, for me, been the unraveling of a neural koan, where the one hand clapping, in a sequestered silence, has, at long last, encountered the other hand. It came a few weeks after the other diagnoses and was, my psychiatrist said, deduced from my self-reports, not from my demeanor in his office. That is to say, based solely on our dialogue, and on my appearance, he would never have suspected it, he said. Moreover, although not all clinicians differentiate between Autism and some other categories of Autism, among a portion of those who do, I would, owing to my normal verbal and cognitive development as a toddler, be considered Autism.

The Autism factor shed light on my eye contact practice sessions, at a time when gazing straightaway into the eyes of others, which I can best describe as emanating the incandescence of miniature suns, would commonly burn my eyes. Additionally, I am unaware as to whether there was any relationship, even though I do know that I would often make unintentionally unusual faces, but many years ago, on a commercial break during a taping of The Joan Rivers Show, Ms. Rivers, staring directly at me, comically parodied my facial expression by crossing her eyes. At the time, her behavior made no sense to me.

Autism also explained my rote memorizings of long lists of items, my off-beat jokes, my frequent catastrophizings, my insecurities regarding addressing certain people by their first names, my lengthy tangible and online catalogings of information, and my carefully cultivated prosodies. There were then my pedantic monologues with my never-ending analyses, prompting some adults to call me an encyclopedia or a computer, and my emotional meltdowns, which have sometimes resulted in suddenly discontinuing most email correspondences for long stretches, as many as three years, at a time, or not answering the telephone and ignoring messages.

My perseverations, defined as the reiterations of words or actions even after their initial stimuli may have vanished, and my routines or rituals have varied considerably throughout my life. If, in autoecholalia, turning a particular phrase delights me, for whatever reason, I may repeat it verbatim, aloud (when alone) or silently, over and over again. Moreover, I frequently recite, or mull over, a sentence or a paragraph until i subjectively get it right. The use of words, their proper use in my judgment, has been a perpetual source of personal fascination.

Ritualistically, since I was, ages ago, uncertain of how to handle a coin-operated washer and dryer, I had fallen into the revolting habit of never washing my clothes. Even though the catalyst has long since vanished, I have, for decades, been piling up dirty clothes while purchasing brand-new ones. As a child, I stridently whined if I could not sit in my favorite seats. Among my other routines have been stimming for relaxation (as contrasted with fidgeting as a sign of nervousness), such as pacing and chewing my tongue as a child, special interests, and OCD. Given the high comorbidity rate of OCD for Autistics, my psychiatrist considers the OCD to be a dimension of Autism.

For my entire childhood, my egodystonic, or self-repugnant, OCD manifested in such modes as a fear of heights and in compulsions to manually "make it even," belch, curse, chew on pencils, and step on sidewalk cracks. The OCD was both comorbid with my Autism and aggravated by it. What is more, given my introversion and limited social facility, I coped with the OCD largely on my own. Admittedly, I still, to this day, have small traces of OCD, including my obsession over not driving into parked vehicles and a lifelong picking at my scabs and nails, but I credit the rationality of the Autism with helping me intellectualize most of it away.

Fabricating voices either ventriloquially or otherwise, mimicking or echolalia, concocting puns, and then regurgitating all of them pacified me. I mastered a radio call-sign: 60,000 watts, clear channel. This is the flagship station of the National Broadcasting Company, WNBC, New York. I also reprised my own sign-off ad nauseam: WHPC now concludes its programming for the day. Up next, WBAU carries you over till 1 in the morning. Then WHPC returns tomorrow at 9. This is Mark A. Foster reporting for WHPC news. Have a pleasant evening and a better day tomorrow. The soothing predictability sterilized ambient babel.

JFK, UFOs, dictionaries, helicopters, the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics, constructed languages, news and weather, theme songs, and consecutive plays of a Triumph of Man record (a souvenir from the Travelers Insurance pavilion at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair) are an autobiographical sample of my Autism interests. They are egosyntonic, or self-consistent, repetitive, more trancelike than hobbies or pastimes, and may confound some persons not on the Autism spectrum. Their determinateness is my custodian of untold joy and my architect of resolute percipience. Their want is my harbinger of inward privation. With television shows, such as Superman, What's My Line?, and Babylon 5, missing a single program was invariably disquieting.

Many of my interests and activities have been shaped by a convergence of my academic involvements and my Autism. Beneficially, my marginalization, and derivative alienation and introspection, have, while I earned a Ph.D. in sociology and history and pursued an academic career, provided relevant texts for personal reflection. Sociology may seem an odd field for an Autistic. However, I have, as a sociologist, examined subjects which, interpersonally, I could never satisfactorily apprehend, and, by specializing in social theory and religious studies, I tailored my youthful absorptions with conceptual systems construction and the study of religions into my full-time livelihood.

In a similar vein, my hoardings of books, domains, listservs, and other items, costing me several fortunes, have always coincided with my infatuations du jour. As a testament to my procession of fixations, I currently own 25 domains, run 23 websites, operate about a dozen listservs, and possess in the vacinity of 25 ventriloquial knee figures (dummies). Meanwhile, as the years have gone by, my library had grown so prodigious, incorporating well in excess of 30,000 books, that, in 2007, I was pressed by the apartment manager, under threat of my lease not being renewed, to move most of it into a storage facility.

I had previously ascribed my rituals and routines, such as the endless book acquisitions, to having an addictive personality, but I no longer utilize that narrative. While I have been a long-standing critic of the recovery movement's discourse on the loss of willpower and its essentialist reification of addiction, treating addiction as a real thing, I was, at the same time, unable to decipher my inclination to become thoroughly engrossed in behaviors, and, in all candor, I fell short when fighting to eliminate, or even moderate, them. Since cognitively restructuring them as Autism preoccupations, I find myself strangely in control.

My fascinations with a concatenation of elaborate, logically masterminded doctrines have forged a rational order out of my social chaos while simultaneously providing an ideational map to my inward search for meaning. With each and every one of them, I have become proficient and loquacious. Transmodern Critical Realism, Structural Dialectics, the Neoplatonic framework of Alethionomy, the popular neuroscience of Mental Energetics (at 15), and the bidimensional, occultic, idealist philosophy of Soulology (at 12) have been counted among my prior narratives.

The twin perspectives I use currently have each progressed through sequences of designations. These name changes have sometimes expressed slight modifications to emphasis, organization, or format. Alternately, they were simply dictated by tacit fluctuations in my personal preference. Emancipatory Constructionism (EC) is a term I selected in 2009 in order to make explicit the grounding of my present sociological perspective in critical social theory. Beginning in 2004, it was initially developed as Dialectical Constructionism and, later that year, as the Structurization Paradigm. The axiological subtext of EC, ASMÁ, was renamed in 2008 from Structurizing. It is an emerging, or postmodern, practice of spiritual transformation.

Once inwardly selected and then outwardedly rendered in text, each paradigm, comprising parts adopted and parts invented, has been transformed into a comprehensive taxonomy. I remain undecided as to whether it might be more fitting to describe these explanatory frameworks as individual or as the consecutive stages in the formalization of a single perspective. Either way, without the standardization, the routine, and the constancy of an integrative outlook on the many categories of our human experiences, as my unwavering ground and serene center, I have struggled against an unrelenting encumbrance and unease. In addition, I will, to this day, spend hour after hour, immersed in angst, laboring to logically relate some new idea to my framework.

In search of contextuality, I have designed many alternate universes. My aforementioned ventriloquism, in which I have played all the parts, has conspicuously been among them. It also provided a comedic escape from my life's tragedies. Futhermore, I created a Bajoran Star Trek figure, Vedek Pagh, and developed a rabbinical Society for Creative Anachronism persona, Moyshe Arn der Faygnboym ben Herschel der Leyvy. These chimerical self-portraits, one set in the past and another in the future, have functioned as expositors for my shifting stances. Telling their stories, largely to conduct reified thought experiments, has taken precedence over meeting with other enthusiasts.

Additionally, an animated banner, one I designed nearly a decade before my Autism diagnosis, vividly headlines the portal to The MarkFoster.NETwork, the title I have given to my ensemble of domains and websites, and greets visitors with the salutation, Welcome to my universe! This Internet network, as the electronic avatar of the multiple facets of my inward and outward being, remained incomplete without the subsequent accession of The Collective to Fight Neurelitism. More than a merely modest intellectual attainment, joining the Collective to the network has, in symbolizing and manifesting the integration of my personality, suffused me with a spirit which might be described as rapturous.

The approaches I applied for studying my own religion have attested to the continuity of modifications to my worldview. Utilizing a didactic, formulaic, and arcane metaphysics, I had become poignantly fixated on classifying what were, I then believed, the Neoplatonic conditions of existence into an extensive compilation of quotations. Earlier in my life, I referred to this ritual as inspired categorization. Classification has always been comforting. With my subsequent reformation into a critical theorist, social constructionist, and poststructuralist, I have, while retaining an ostensibly similar model, refashioned the conditions into relative names, categories, and conveniences of language. In other words, I no longer take my framework so seriously.

Although I was born into a minimally practicing Jewish home, attended Hebrew school, and became a bar mitzvah at 13, I undertook investigations for a new faith about one year earlier. Considering I chose to briefly continue going to Hebrew school following my bar mitzvah, if the Jewish renewal movement were around, I might well have stayed in Judaism. However, after briefly practicing Sikhism, Eckankar, and, when had few heard of it, Wicca, I became active in yet another religion in 1970. As a member, the confidence and support I obtained for my special interests may account for my scholastic attainments and academic career.

Throughout the course of my life, I have, thus far, undergone three momentous and transformative awakenings, attaining the first, when I was 14, by embracing my current religion and immediately embarking upon an exploration of the conditions of existence, or worlds of God, and my spiritual faculties, such as inner vision and faith. The second awakening, at around 40 years old, was in the abandonment of my ontological realism, or essentialism, for a nominalist, or an anti-essentialist, critical theory. The third awakening, which produced my long-sought class consciousness, was in the decoding of my neurological riddle, at the age of 51, through the dual diagnoses of Autism and OCD. Presently, I strive for a consummate awakening through faná, the mystic annihilation of the prison of self.

By the same token, I have had to resolve certain conflicts between my religion and other areas of my life. For instance, although I am a socialist, not a social liberal, I have been a cultural liberal on most issues for as long as I can remember. Since my diagnosis as an Autistic and after, subsequently, achieving a degree of conscientization concerning my autobiographical status in the matrix of social domination, my commitment to cultural liberalism has been even more pronounced than before. Thus, an awareness of my own contexts of oppression has increased my sensitivities to the human rights struggles of other oppressed populations, particularly women, racial and ethnic minorities, and, most relevant here, the LGBT community.

I had once encountered a personal dilemma regarding a reconciliation of the official positions of my religious community, which disallows Gay marriage, with my own personal beliefs in support of it. Indeed, I would like to see marriages, of any category, taken out of the hands of governments altogether. In place of marriage, I have proposed that adults, of whatever number or gender, could receive, unceremoniously, a civil union license. While, legally, it would be equivalent to a present-day marriage contract, the determinations would be left to those persons, or to their religious organizations, as to whether, ceremonially or otherwise, those unions should be designated as marriages. In this way, marriage leaves the public sphere and becomes a private matter.

I have digressed a bit. As I said before, my concern centered around being culturally liberal on sexual orientation when my religion was not. I resolved it, as a nominalist, by refusing to conflate my religion, as a voluntary association, with the secular arena to which sexual preference belongs. In other words, I am able to acknowledge the requirements of my religion as covenantal obligations, binding only on believers, while simultaneously affiming my personal views, in support of Gay rights, as a private individual. Similarly, although I would like to see the elimination of gender categories, I accept them within the framework of my voluntary religious association.

Given my nominalism, my view that categories of particulars are only relative names and willful social constructions, I am not an existentialist, nor do I believe I could ever be one. The universalization of the search for meaning, as in Viktor Frankl's logotherapy, is far too idealist and essentialist for my tastes. Yet, if I were an existentialist, I would then, without much difficulty, portray my insomnia as an existential crisis, a personal realization of the pinnacle of angst, succeeded by its resolutions in the diagnoses of Autism and OCD. As things stand, however, I can only see, in my newfound awareness, the opportunities for new language games.

Even if the etiologies, the origins or causes, of the Autism spectrum are not yet fully mapped, I am thankful that my own route has been charted. My earliest memory is that of lying in a stroller as a baby. I can curiously recollect my late mother wheeling me around the park area which, at the intersection of Wallace Avenue, divided the two sides of the Bronx's Pelham Parkway. At one point, a woman, who had been conversing with my mother, dared to look into the carriage and smile at me. My immediate reaction to this invasion of my personal space was, I plainly recall, a pronounced sense of irritation.

In addition, I have lived alone, and never married, since leaving my parents' home in 1976. Even though I have taught the class, Marriage and Family, about two dozen times and possess good technical understandings of romantic and other relationships, my predicament lies in applying them to myself. Time and again, I miss social cues, become anxious, play dumb, or lack the competencies to respond. I think back upon my fret and bewilderment at not knowing if I loved anyone or if, discernably, anyone loved me. In my late twenties, around 1983, my first date was arranged by a therapist. My last was in 1993.

As one chiropractor called to my attention, my back is the most rigid he ever adjusted. Beyond my choices in words, in my teens, I became acutely aware, through observation and from what others had told me, that an unwelcomed and unintentional formality, with an absence of spontaneity in body language and inflection, resulted in comportments both dispassionate and austere. The more I craved to be emotionally intimate, particularly with women, the more woodenly I acted. My loves have all been unrequited. For a time, my best efforts to present myself as less affected in my pragmatics came to no avail, even while I wrestled with the glaring contradiction between genuinely being natural and my exertions to be so.

Indeed, my seeming incompetence at cultivating successful romantic relationships was often front stage and center throughout adolescence and into adulthood. Periodically, and leading right up until my Autism diagnosis, I occasionally, and always unsuccessfully, pursued a resolution to this dilemma, and, in exasperation, I consulted, intermittently, with several clinical psychologists and counselors. I had once presumed that my difficulties in this area stemmed from poor peer relations as a child, and I still believe that may have been a contributing factor. I now recognize, however, that my willpower was, in essence, playing war games with my neurology, as I was, inadvertently, attempting to become a non-Autistic man. The battle is over, and I can be at peace with myself.

Birds of a feather do flock together, studies show, and I have pondered over individuals, past and present, whom I have counted among my friends. A few have, I suspect, been persons at various points along the Autism spectrum. From Ronnie, who asked the same questions again and again, mostly concerning his preoccupation with biblical translations, and twirled his pencils to calm himself, and his nephew, Tommy, who did not speak until he was 7, to Pat, an abrasive fellow with no social sense, to Richard, a brilliant, donnish, and chronically unemployed eccentric who once bit me on the ear and loves Woody Allen and Gilbert and Sullivan.

Furthermore, human relationships, their absence or presence, have had only isolated depressive repercussions, and being companionless has rarely been bothersome. Still, like many Autists, I have approached been suicidal a few times in my life (happily, none too recently). While residing with my parents, I lived, more or less, in a realm of my own making. Typically, I remained in my room or, whenever possible, trolled through my favorite bookstores in Manhattan.

During my childhood and teens, an unflagging difficulty with small talk accentuated my artlessness at social interaction. Nearly whatever my interlocutors would impart to me, I wound up comprehending literally. The very fact that I regularly missed the subtlety and nuance of everyday conversation made me a convenient target for many practical jokes. I recall one particularly humorous incident, in my middle to late teens, when someone persuaded me concerning the existence of a small Latin American tribe whose members were endowed, through natural selection, with a third eye on the backs of their heads.

Decades before learning I was on the Autism spectrum, I branded myself a solipsist. Lecturing to students has moderately reprogrammed me. My infelicitous smiles, which sometimes caused offense, resulted from "living in my head," as I have often remarked, to daydreaming, or to simple social perplexity. Over time, and through experience, I have ascertained that, to most people, my passions are plainly boring. Not having much to say, I tend to be laconic, more or less, in social situations. Fortunately, weaving one's interests into lectures is normative for an academic, and it makes that process enjoyable for me.

I will admit to being self-centered, fastened on my thoughts, but not to being very selfish. Like many  Autistics, my staple, and hardly egotistical, pursuit has been for social justice. In 1968, while in the seventh grade, I embraced the New Left and joined the Students Democratic Coalition. Through it, I attended a Humphrey-Muskie presidential campaign rally featuring Sen. Edmund Muskie, opposed anti-ballistic missiles, and picketed a supermarket and distributed petitions in support of a boycott on California grapes. As a professor, a critical social theory informs my lectures. I consistently respond to racial and other bigotries with righteous indignations.

In terms of sensory and movement difficulties, I have, since I was just a boy, rarely felt at home in my clothing and, when younger, pulled at my garments around my neck and, to this day, near my middle. I often ritualistically wear clothes again and again. While alone, I have preferred to be undressed and have cut my own hair to avoid my outer ears. In my physical education classes, I had ungainly coordination and literally no concept of sports. I was ordinarily the last one picked for teams. When little, I was terrified of eye drops. To administer them, the opthamologist and both my parents were required to hold me down. Year round, the room temperature, even now, needs to be just right, namely, about 83°F. My parents constantly harassed me about turning the heat or air conditioner up too high.

Then, as a child, or a bit now when highly fatigued, I have had panic attacks from hearing, even thinking of, noises, like echos, barking dogs, bouncing balls, laughter, applause, and bursting balloons. While noises remain a distraction, gymnasiums were a nightmare. Due to my mental associations with ball and bomb, I was paralyzed by any b words, like boom and boy. Seeing bits of food on or about the mouths of people would make me nauseous. I was frightened by heights, wind, insects, and precipitively passing objects in my peripheral vision. My sinus fixations, which ended in three surgeries, may have been partially an Autism sensory problem, OCD, or both.

Further, I was, as a young boy, regrettably petrified of anyone atypical to my experience, such as little people, Blacks, and the disabled. I feared that my ears would permanently protrude when manipulated by barbers and froze in discomfort. I detested being hugged, kissed, or touched, including on the head. Overall, animals were less stressful, and better companions, than humans. My penmanship, shy of a draftsman-like lettering, has always been cacographic. I tirelessly protected the objects in my world from contact with others. Second-hand items all felt wrong to the touch. I raged until my parents made exchanges.

Perceptually, my prosopagnosia or face blindness, coupled with my poor personal name recognition, is, while somewhat remediated from my youth, an ongoing challenge. When people greet me, I am, more commonly than not, placed into the embarrassing position of being unable to identify them at all, not recalling where we met, or not remembering their names. As a student, I rarely knew, or recognized, my peers, and, as a professor, I am similarly absent-minded with my students. In frustration, I have tried some mnemonic techniques through the years. Unfortunately, I did not find any of them all too profitable.

The following statement from Syndrome Partner Information Australia Inc. (ASPIA) could have been written by me:

What many people will not be aware of is that there is a second wave of identification taking place within the adult population. For adults with Asperger's Syndrome, their behaviours since childhood have gone "underground" and layers of coping strategies and defence mechanisms greet the social world. These behaviours often give the impression of someone quite "together" - perhaps a little eccentric or odd - but passable because of their high intelligence, impressive knowledge, high integrity and particular flair or gift in an area or career, such as engineering, telecommunications, computers, art, religion and politics.

To make an incontrovertible understatement, I was a fish out of water. Rather than ask for a bathroom pass, I urinated in my pants, hoping against hope that neither the teacher nor the other children would notice the puddle I left in my seat or on the floor. In the seventh grade, on a bus trip to perform at Montreal's Man and His World with my band, the teacher saw the urine but protected me. I displayed an equable look of mystification as I sat at my desk or wandered down the corridors. In fact, I all too commonly got lost and was unable, without assist, to find my classroom or, for that matter, to track down my home while walking home from school. My surroundings appeared uniformly surreal to me.

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract issues are also classic Autism comorbidities. In the 1980s, I became terribly constipated and lost around 30 lbs. over three months. After extensive tests, all negative, a gastroenterologist intimated that I take a bulk-forming laxative, which resolved the problems. In addition, I continue to have periodic troubles with acid reflux as well as irritable, loose, and irregular bowels. Anecdotally, I often notice an association between an absence of GI symptoms and more generalized sensations of mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. How pedestrian is my testimony, in this regard, I am unable to postulate.

Likewise, I have retained a not-so-negligible cavillous, stilted, and convoluted vernacular speaking and writing style. To illustrate, I maintained, for a time, that my coming-of-age suburban Long Island home was the Township of Hempstead. As was pointed out to me, the proper name is Town of Hempstead. On the other hand, while I was being technically exact in casting my local community as a village, when most used town, I chided people. Verbal imprecision greatly troubled me. I still often specify, and recognize, medications predominantly by their generics, as in oxymetazoline hydrochloride nasal spray for Afrin. I similarly preferred terms such as, defecate and flatulate, over the more common colloquialisms.

I never liked my Long Island home. I remember it as a place from which I always wanted to escape – whether it was to other parts of Long Island or, whenever possible, back to my place of birth, the borough of Manhattan in New York City. I regularly took the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station on 34th St. in midtown.

Furthermore, as a child, I appear to have exhibited, like many Autistics, a touch of hyperlexia. That is to say, I acquired, largely through imitation, an extensive vocabulary, but frequently without sufficiently understanding a number of the multisyllabic words I had mastered, and I could read audibly with a competence well beyond my junior years. Fortunately, in time, any traces of hyperlexia from my youth had been substantially overcome, and my mental lexicon became associated with normative definitions. Although I retain a preference for sesquipedalian discourse, I have, though not to an extent I would deem sufficient, trained myself to moderate my enthusiasm by forcing my mind to consider the requirements of my listeners or readers.

In closing this section of these personal memoirs, I am reminded of the cockroaches, among this planet's most durable residents. They have, according to estimates, been citizens of our biosphere for some 300 million years. We hominids, by contrast, are, based on current data, shy of that figure by approximately a third. Those irksome and intractable creatures hid everywhere in my apartment, including my bed frame, my clothing, and an overflow drain, torturing my life and making it, for a time, a living hell. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my uninvited guests bestowed a cornucopia of glad tidings. Once, I hated them. Now, I am indebted.

The Original Diagnosis
While bigotry rallies in the "regular" guy,
Unable to cherish the mind walks of many,
The power of diversity releases the dreamer
From the prison of mediocrity.
- Mark A. Foster, Ph.D., from a 1990s poem

Having been to hell and back, I would not recommend it. As a child, I was the passive recipient of multiple drug and other therapies. In sum, they were founded on the supposition that I suffered from a psychosis, childhood schizophrenia. As best I can tell, none of the treatments actually helped me. However, I am, by and large, a strong-willed individual. Some, including members of my family of orientation, had even accused me of pertinaciousness. Still, given that many in similar straits did not fair nearly as well, my obstinance may have been a paramountly advantageous quality. One clinical psychologist actually irritated me in his repeated stupefactions at my accomplishments.

Preceding my nascent diagnoses in April, 2007, I did not know that the first edition (1952) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the DSM-I) of the American Psychiatric Association only specified Autism as a manifestation of schizophrenic reaction, childhood type, my child psychiatrist's evaluation. I came upon this knowledge through my web surfing over the summer of 2007. Autism was also placed under schizophrenic reaction, paranoid type and schizoid personality disorder. The DSM-II (1968), making few pertinent revisions, assigned Autism to schizophrenia, childhood type and schizoid personality disorder.

An initial exhilaration at my incipient finding, which I discussed with my current psychiatrist, turned swiftly to feelings of sorrow and anger that I did not have this information earlier, and, above all, that I had not been born two or three decades later into a somewhat more enlightened era. Indeed, had my Autism not been so undisguised as a boy, and if I had no OCD, I might never have been diagnosed in the first place. Moreover, considering both the striking incongruity in the quality of psychiatric care between the 1960s and the present-day and the nomenclature in the first two editions of the DSM, my situation was not at all peculiar.

As a side note, marking a massive paradigm shift, the DSM-III at once signalized a critical reappraisal of the biological and genetic nosology by the founder of modern scientific psychiatry, Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926). First published in 1980, it distinguished infantile Autism from schizophrenia, childhood type, but I definitely did not meet the established criteria for Kanner's Autism. It was not until the DSM-IV (1994) and the DSM-IV-TR (2000) that disorder had supplanted schizoid disorder of childhood or adolescence, an archaicism in the DSM-III, and childhood-onset schizophrenia was assessed as very rare.

Taking into account these nosological modifications, I had, in effect, been diagnosed with Autism, using the DSM-I, by my principal child psychiatrist. Since there was no separate DSM Autism entity until 1980, my earlier remembrance, from my mother, that he changed the diagnosis from Autism to childhood schizophrenia was likely either inaccurate or she misunderstood the situation. However, perhaps my mother meant that, contrary to the ideas and expectations of the clinicians we consulted earlier, the Autistic symptoms of childhood schizophrenia, as the category was then constructed, were not so prominent.

Now, in all fairness, I was generally excluded from the conversations between my child psychiatrist and my mother. That being the case, I am unaware of which details in my diagnosis had been meted out to her. Yet, I can still visualize, when I was about 13, standing inside the hallway of the main floor within our house while asking, "Am I a schizophrenic?" She then acknowledged it.

I vividly recall that I was, in one of our sessions, disturbed at some comment made by my psychiatrist to my mother regarding an element of my behavior. When I attempted to interrupt, he snapped back, "See, that's the schizophrenia." I was, after all, just a boy, welcomed only in silence and subjection, and could have no say in statements made about me. Indeed, if my routinized impuissance in our triad was in any doubt before this disparagement, it was now crystal clear. While yet callow, I was not dense.

In fact, virtually all of my social actions, and whatsoever I ostensibly failed to accomplish in my life, were attributed, ecumenically, by my psychiatrist to an apparently omnipotent childhood schizophrenia. As, to Herbert Marcuse, an entrenched class of capitalist elites engendered a one-dimensional man, so I became, as a constructed objectification of this psychoanalyst, a transpicuously depersonalized one-dimensional boy. Yet, antithetical to his fatalism, getting better, he puzzlingly insisted, was my own responsibility. Thoroughly marginalized, my redemption was found only in a temporary extrication from the system.

Maybe it was for peace of mind. Perhaps it was simply to resolve a prolonged dilemma. I am not certain. However, within a week of the Autism diagnosis in 2007, I phoned my old child psychiatrist for the first time in 18 years. I was polite, while the encounter itself was, from my standpoint, exceptionally fruitful. At first, he counseled me to focus on my future, not on my past, which struck me as more cliché than practicality. I am unable to so rigorously insulate my life's past from its future tense. He then assented, ever so appropriately in the royal we, "Yes, if you were walking into our office today, we would probably diagnose you with  and OCD." Psychiatric diagnosis, I have reflected, is not only more art than science; it cannot be legitimately extracted from its sociohistorical purveyance.

Years earlier, in a 1989 telephone conversation, my child psychiatrist had affirmed that I "obviously" did not have schizophrenia but, alternatively and yet inexplicably, some type of "developmental delay." Prospectively, the DSM-IV, the first version of that manual to subsume Autism, would not be published for another five years. In any event, although I was, in a way, grateful for his candid admission, I was also now unable to make sense out of my assorted odysseys and, for years to come, felt as if stranded, enigmatically, in a neurological limbo. Whether in television shows and the cinema, or in my own life stories, I have never cared for open endings.

After reflecting on my child psychiatrist's words, the only conclusion I could reach was that I had been dreadfully neurotic or, in current parlance, that I had an anxiety disorder. Indeed, in light of the subsequent diagnosis of comorbid OCD, this assessment was both impressively accurate and radically incomplete. My 2007 discussion with that psychiatrist resulted, for all intents and purposes, in a second medical opinion, and, since his views were consonant with the perceptions of my present psychiatrist, they became eminently adaptive for me. Indeed, from that moment on, I have felt genuinely at peace with myself.

Well, then there were the seizures. I had one tonic clonic, or grand mal, seizure in 1982 and a second in 1985. As a child, however, I would frequently lay down on the floor and exclaim, "It's happening," with concurrent feelings of disgust, a bad taste in my mouth, and a mental image of crumpled and burning paper. Although these symptoms were, if I recall correctly, imputed to my "schizophenia," a neurologist I consulted in 2007 advised me that they were, in actuality, simple partial seizures.

The left frontal lobes, the area of atypical electrical activity spotted on my often-repeated electroencephalograms (EEGs), are connected with empathy and with rapid and efficient mentalizing. While notations on my neurological reports do indicate a seizure disorder, a currently influential viewpoint, in citing correlations of anomalous frontal lobes with the Autism spectrum, posits that variations in frontal lobe development can be associated with some emotional control difficulties, a propensity to become upset at small changes, compulsivity, intransigent approaches to problem-solving, and black-and-white thinking.

Breaking my silence and, to borrow an expression from the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) community, coming out as an Autistic have provided considerable solace. However, as I was growing up, my now antiquated diagnosis of childhood schizophrenia, as well as my psychiatric control in general, were, by my steady and stern directives, maintained as the closest of family secrets. If I merely suspected, justifiably or not, that outsiders may have been apprised of my condition, I would become absolutely livid and often throw one of my customary and ritualized temper tantrums. Properly staging my self-presentation had evolved into a full-time, and largely ineffectual, occupation, even as my oft-repeated attempts to dissimulate the diagnosis were hindered by an unyielding social inaptitude.

For me, life has been a succession of culture shocks. What should be prosaic and native is, instead, occasionally exotic. In many ways, blending into my diverse social settings has often been accompanied by the uneasy feel of an acculturation through ethnography, as I will strain to comprehend the peculiar values and norms of my seemingly antipodal surroundings, while attempting a bit of mindful fluency in its foreign tongue. The pages of the phrase books are ever-present in my thoughts. No matter how well I can now function in most situations, some still, customarily, bring with them the noir ambience of the alien.

Family and Kinship Relations

As far back as I can trace my Autism is to my father's maternal uncle. He died when I was only a little boy, and I scarcely remember him. He was, I have been told, regarded as an unusual individual. A bachelor, he worked as a mail sorter and spent his entire adult life with his sister and brother-in-law, my paternal grandparents. Whenever I would visit, I sat on his lap, while he seemed lost in a world to his own. He was always in the same chair, next to the living room window, and he was constantly fiddling with one thing or another. The  diagnosis did not exist in those days, and my knowledge of him is scant.

My fervent bonds to objects, as to my ventriloquial knee figures and to a polished agate stone I owned, are commonplace among Autistics. Holding the agate and looking at ivory were immensely pleasurable. Consequently, whenever my family went on vacation, I wished for my most treasured possessions to come, too. If refused, seeing them again, upon returning home, was like a family reunion. I still mourn for a Tommy 7 (TV show) clown nose, stolen by a neighboring fellow preschooler.

The aggregation of moments through my lifespan, primarily over the course of my junior years, has been vexed with manifold contradictions. Relentlessly, in my boyhood and, at times, into adulthood, I was told, time after time, that I cared for no one but myself. If, she insisted now and then, my coreligionists became wise to my conceit, they would shun me. Yet, in attempting to be empathetic, my stiffness and plasticity left me exceedingly frustrated; and despite being verbose in deportment, I hardly ever seemed to utter the right words.

I often was an abhorrent person, I could not figure out what had gone wrong. Why, considering my general spiritual orientation, my devotions, my meditations, and my studies of religious texts, was I still so self-centered? I wondered whether I had failed to live up to my Lord's expectations, or if, perhaps, I had embraced a false belief system.

Early in 2009, an old friend recounted a story in which my mother, when I was still a teenager, expressed her misgivings regarding my future as an adult. She was, my old friend reported, apprehensive concerning my means of subsistence once unable to return to the family home. This anecdote of her affection, pleased me given the difficulties I caused her in my childhood.

Kinship Diagram

In hindsight, I have attempted to be understanding. Setting my own issues off to the side, my family maneuvered through multiple obstacle courses. To cite one of them, our lives were left unsettled by my mother's insomnia. It was, I began to surmise within months of my own diagnoses, a disturbance secondary to OCD, which also exhibited in her phobias of heights and escalators, and hyperacusis. Obsessions on noises - whether anticipated, real, or imagined - permitted her a modicum of sleep.

I willingly concede that living with certain individuals on the Autism spectrum can be arduous. In addition to myself, and the stresses and strains which my Autism imposed upon my family, my mother contended with my father, an eye care professional and the oldest child of a semiprofessional boxer and, subsequently, a successful grocery store owner. He, like me, was a diagnosed Autist

My father's brother, alleged by his wife to be very weird, told me in a March, 2008, phone call that their maternal uncle, markedly after retiring, and my father were both decidedly odd. My mother was a talented woman who, if not obligated to help support her family during the Great Depression, might have become a physician.

My father thrived on his routines and rituals, despised certain clothing fabrics, and was captivated by counting, waiting by the window, and being on time. Indeed, the latter was so much so that, whenever he got his way, we unfailingly arrived at events well ahead of schedule. Privately, he preoccupied himself with science fiction novels, "the garbage," the science and technology magazine, Popular Mechanics, and his huge and omnipresent collection of American flags. He told and retold his tales of being a medic in World War II.

After first hearing about Autism in 2004, I immediately thought of my father and hypothesized that he, but not myself, was an  Autistic. That same year, while my mother laid dying in her hospital bed, I broached the possibility of my father's Autism with my parents' physician, but he was, at the time, principally unfamiliar with it. Later, because of my father's dimentia in his new assisted living community, I phoned the physician, in late 2007, and asked him to arrange for a psychiatric assessment. While the process dragged on more than I would have preferred, eventually, my father was assigned a psychiatrist.

In February, 2008, my father's psychiatrist told me he has Autism symptions and (with mixed results) is treating him, pharmacologically, as an  Autistic. Although a formal diagnosis of Autism, the psychiatrist continued, is, due to the aggravating effects of geriatric dementia, no longer possible, he provided, in our two conversations, enough of a diagnosis to suit me. In a flash, my childhood made sense. Still, notwithstanding our common Autism, an undeniable asymmetry, whether in avocation, capability, or personality, has outdistanced, in considerable measure, any proportionality.

For as long as I can remember, my father, like myself, has had gastrointestinal problems, and its foremost symptom was a loathsome flatulence. Whenever he neglected to spray the bathroom disinfectant, the entire area came under a tacit quarantine. Subsequently, with his advancing age, he regrettably, developed both irritable bowel syndrome and an incontinence of the bowels.

I am doleful that my mother died prior to the revelations of my father's and my Autism. A mere knowledge of it would, quite possibly, have been of benefit. Now she is, I am confident, aware from the other side. Over the two years after the stroke, she also wondered, as did I, why I did not spend more time at her side, but the sensations, and cessations in routine, would have been unbearable.

Nonetheless, I probably did not languish over death, in the conventional sense, as much as most persons, if there is such standardization. Perhaps I thwart intense empathy to avoid being overwhelmed, but I am only guessing. In late 2004, when my mother died, following two lengthy years of suffering, I was grateful her pains had ended, and have occasionally missed her, but I did not mourn hardly at all.

As to my father's death, I was informed of it, over the phone, on the afternoon of December 15, 2008. He died that morning of, as they say, an apparent heart attack. Given that his quality of life was minimal, and he was barely conscious while he was awake, his passing was, in many respects, a blessing. Had he lived much longer, he would, according to his physicians, begin to experience tremendous pain. Still, knowing what I came to know about my father's Autism and my own, I had accurately predicted that I would grieve more at his, than my mother's, passing. Yet, by the same token, perhaps my sadness reflected the realization that both my parents, those who raised me, had left this world. It is a strange sensation.

At my father's funeral, only two of us addressed the congregation. Given the rabbi's preference, fearing an extreme emotion from family members which would prevent others from making their tributes, a friend spoke first. In amazement, I listened as this friend described a very kind man who was, by all measurements, a complete stranger to me. Subsequently, in my short, rather matter-of-fact speech, I referred to my father's shared Autistic diagnosis.

Nothing in life is ever perfect. If we imagine otherwise, we will, sooner or later, be jarred out of the delusion. I reject the trendy psychobabble about people doing their best. Since I have frequently failed to perform as well as I might, it would, I long ago concluded, be absurd for me, out of mere expediency or a desire for closure, to expect a pristine moral infallibility from others. What binds us together is that, in my genetic and social inheritance, I own both my father's Autism and my mother's OCD. I am their looking glass.

Other Social Contexts

The unceasing intimidations of my formative years are far too abundant to enumerate here, but I will provide some background. Outside of my family, I preferred the company and conversation of adults to playing with other children. Among my peers, I routinely confounded kindness with bullying and bullying with kindness, even as I grew increasingly more solitary. On account of putting on my mother's makeup, to cover my facial scabs (from constant picking), my top-buttoned shirts, my butterfly collars, my briefcase, and my unfashionable accoutrements galore, not to mention my stuttering, my rapid speech, and my generalized penchants for peculiarity, an anxiously anticipated bullying or teasing was repeated well nigh diurnally and almost like clockwork.

I had little comprehension of the prevailing tastes of my cohorts and, as a consequence, donned whatever attire seemed, to me, most rational. Since I despised the press of a wallet against my skin, I attached one of those green bicyclists' pouches to my belt. Although it was visibly soiled, I saw no point in having it washed. How would cleaning the pouch, I reasoned, improve its overall function? Although the teasing I endured could have, in this one respect, been easily nullified by no longer wearing it, I, for whatever reason, never connected the dots. Similarly, in the early years of high school, I frequently clipped a few religious buttons to my shirt and trousers. With barely a shred of social discrimination, pragmatism overshadowed common sense.

I was, discounting my usual oddity, well behaved, but my fourth-grade teacher, who must have been familiar with my psychiatric record, was evidently provoked by certain of my eccentricities. Along these lines, I once, perhaps wrapt in some improvised abstraction, politely asked her to repeat a question. She pulled back on my left earlobe and shouted it into my ear. Being an inordinately sensitive child, I felt totally humiliated. When I arrived home, I cried to my mother who, I am grateful, complained to one of the school's officials. Still and all, the next year, my former teacher would be promoted to assistant principal.

In the fifth grade, walking to and from school, I began focusing on a voice, slow in meter but mellow and deep in tone, inside my head. I recall asking myself whether I was losing my mind. Although I was aware that the voice was fanciful, and I controlled it voluntarily, it did, in fact, do little more than to recite my name over and again. In review, the unwise divulgement of these inner imaginings to my inimical psychiatrist may have reaffirmed his earlier diagnosis of schizophrenia which, in turn, culiminated in my being committed. Sorrowfully, I only read belatedly, in 2007, that obsessions on thoughts can be indicants of OCD.

I was only 11, and my first time away from home was as a state hospital inpatient for two grim months. The place had an awful turpentine smell and, as I imagined it, the aura of a prison. I was, in retrospect, unsuitably delivered a series of electroconvulsive therapies (ECTs). While painless, I recall being strapped down, drugged, and, in my peregrinations back to the ward with Mr. Watson, for me a grounding ritual, becoming lucid. On the one day he was busy, being escorted by another man was severely discomposing. I had bonded to Mr. Watson, and I would inquire about him, on his days off, from the other attendants.

One of the more burdensome side effects of receiving ECTs is, quite frequently, varying lapses in long-term memory. In the face of months of nearly total amnesia, I would arrive home, whether for a weekend stay, only after the treatments were completed, or at the conclusion of my hospitalization period, and fail to recognize practically anything in my surroundings. The overriding exclusion was, through it all, that I never forgot my parents; and they were forewarned I might not recognize them immediately. However, when each weekend home had terminated, I became, in anticipation of resumed lonliness, inconsolable.

To reiterate, the major problem was in psychiatric construction. Given an insufficiency of research into Autism, the boundaries of the schizophrenias had been demarcated far too broadly. Consequently, ECTs were futilely administered to individuals with Autism and, perhaps, a secondary or aggravating condition, such as my OCD. Barring blatant misdiagnosis, such a tragic state of affairs is, in the twenty-first century, unimaginable and could only be attributed to the most horrendous malpractice. Yet, lamentably, I am not alone and have interacted, online, with others, including the son of an  Autistic man, about my age, who suffers a continued memory loss from that interval of his childhood.

Sadly, I witnessed injudicious beltings by all the attendants in my ward. Even one attendant, who treated me kindly and was tipped by my father, flagellated others. Mercifully, I was beaten only once. After I told my parents, my father warned the woman never to do it again. Consequent to the reprimand, I received only the occasional dirty look. If the criminal battery by those monsters occurred today, and not in the psychiatric dark ages (1967 to be precise), I am fairly confident that the majority of them would be serving time. I later protested when events prior to the ECTs were discussed and became agitated while driving past the hospital.

Ensuant to a castigation by my dreaded and arrogant child psychiatrist that, absent some rectification of my illness, he might once again have me committed, as if I were to blame, I methodically and assiduously hid my thoughts and feelings from him. Even as a preteen, I recognized his threat to be counterproductive and diligently worked to defeat it. What is more, these difficulties had worsened, in my mind, after his brusque repudiation of my accounts of the abuse. Much as my mother interceded to support me, I remain doubtful whether, in his hubris, he gave them any credence.

By the summer following my hospitalization, I had turned 12. I spent one homesick month at Ramapo Anchorage Camp, now Camp Ramapo, in a luxuriant facility for special needs children in rural Rhinebeck, New York. (Supposedly, I had consented, but I did not recall.) Besides learning how to swim, I devoted as much time as possible to ritually wandering from end to end of the camp, by myself, and rowing around the lake. The multitudinous hours I lingered alone aboard those boats were immensely pleasurable. As usual, some of the boys bullied me, but I was clueless about how to associate with other kids anyway.

The camp counselors, disgruntled that I kept mainly to myself, insisted that I participate in some group activities, including softball. One of them, apparently acquainted with my psychiatric profile, expressed surprise, though pointedly no less than my own, that I had played reasonably well. Not to let him get the better of me, I incisively retorted, "Well, I may not like it, but I can do it." "You are smarter than me," he replied. When my parents arrived, I was astonished, given my well-rehearsed litany of complaints, that they inquired if I wished to stay for another month. Without hesitation, I inexorably declined, and we headed home.

More precisely, we were driving to our new home on suburban Long Island. I had visited the ranch house before, but only as we rode from place to place with various realtors. As I subsequently discovered, my endless victimization was the major reason for the move, and it was accomplished while I was at camp. Since I was completing the fifth grade, had we remained in New York City, I would have been bussed to my new middle school, and my parents were understandably concerned over how I might be treated. Although I was hopeful that, beginning afresh, I might at last be accepted, my optimism, I soon learned, would be unjustified.

I only attended my new suburban elementary school during the sixth grade, since, the following year, I would be transferring to one of the district's junior high schools. As my homework for Mr. Galluzzo's sixth-grade class, I penned a poem, morbid and melancholy, and I read it out loud. Even while other students giggled, Galluzzo appeared to genuinely like it. "Being able to write like that takes real talent," he asseverated. After some serious consideration, I rejected the notion that the poem was self-referent. However, more than I would care to admit way back then, its trenchant verses had encapsulated my abject wanness and estrangement.

A boy of youth was white with fear.

His death he thought was growing near.

In tears he sat right by the clock.

Awaiting till it came to stop.

His mouth was dry.

His feet lie still.

He listened, numb and clawed with chill.

He slowly rose, all crushed and sad.

That all the earth stood up and stared.

The angels sobbed, the devils gay.

A big dark cloud then cov'd the day.

But then more fright came to the lad.

The clock of death was going mad.

It turned at thrice the speed of time.

Then four, then five, then eight, then nine.

It then, yes, then, came to a stop.

But then the boy just smashed the clock.

And there it ended.

With a tock.

A year later, in the seventh grade, as I waited in the cafeteria line, I stood up to a boy my age, among my inveterate tormenters, and refused his demand to cut in front of me. After slamming me into a wall and breaking my sternum, he was suspended for no more than a week. I endlessly worried he would take revenge, but, for the most part, he avoided me. Some ten years afterwards, he saw me on a bus. As it turned out, we were both students at the same graduate school. He did not apologize, not that I had been counting on a mea culpa, but he was cordial and, in an indirect manner, may have sought to make amends.

In that same grade, a boy who, using the seating chart, sat right beside me in one class seemed to derive a sadistic gratification from repeatedly kicking me in the leg. Fearing retaliation, however, I complained to no one. This student was among the school's few evangelicals in a disproportionately Roman Catholic suburb with smaller Protestant and Jewish populations. Before class started one day, I asked him whether he thought Jesus approved of his behavior. He glanced down, appearing momentarily disheartened, but he responded with, "That's not what Christianity is about," and the persecutions resumed.

As a ninth grader, I began to stay home due to nervous stomach aches. (Tests for ulcers were negative.) The perpetual bullying had exacted its toll. I was physically and emotionally spent and consumed by anticipatory anxiety. At the time, I can recall, I simply wished to be left alone in my room. In retrospect, I believe that I was, quite possibly, experiencing the symptoms of a chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, there were not, as best I can determine, any treatment programs for PTSD in the 1960s. The term, shell shock, was in use, but PTSD was not coined until the 1970s.

Due to my excessive absences, and encouraged by the school, I was brought to an orthomolecular psychiatric clinic which dispensed megavitamins. One of their psychiatrists, whom I vehemently refused to ever see again, described me, while in his office with my mother, as "obviously very sick." However, on the first day medication, I noticed that one of the capsules handed to me by my mother appeared to be an old friend, thorazine. Although she was impressed with my perceptiveness, I only accepted the neuroleptic represcription after a rather heated argument.

My enthusiasm for attending the clinic was nonexistent. On the surface, it impressed me as medical quackery, and I am now somewhat astounded that my mother was sufficiently persuaded of its merits. Sadly, as a junior high school student, I had none of the requisite learning and background to formalize a reasoned objection. However, in negotiating with my mother, she yielded to my precondition that my father be assessed there, too. Once more, I fully expected him to receive a diagnosis and was shocked and incensed he did not. In those days,  Autistics without overt comorbidities, like my OCD, were simply quirky.

Some weeks or months later, my mother, owing to my displeasure, phoned my former child psychiatrist who, based on the literature, expressed a justifiable skepticism. Given my present-day access to an extensive online database, I believe that I have since read the article which gave him pause. In any event, since he saw no current need for any therapy, we simply discontinued with the treatments. Needless to say, the villain had become the unexpected hero. While this incident could never, in my mind, compensate for his having institutionalized me, my previous Manichean view of his quidditative evil had, nonetheless, softened. The surprise was also twofold in that my mother never presaged me on her plans to phone him.

Concurrent with the orthomolecular treatments, I was sent to a school for problem children. As the well-behaved victim, the change in venue made no sense to me, and, inevitably, the bullies multiplied. Most of them would today, I suspect, be diagnosed with ADHD or oppositional deviant disorder. Once, while being bussed, a boy rubbed nasal mucus on my pants. Later, after a month or so, on learning that I could now only test for a high school equivalency diploma, I vigorously protested and was, reluctantly, returned to my former school. The very first day, a former drama teacher dismissively inquired, "Why did you come back?" However, for reasons unknown, though perhaps age, the frequency of the bullyings precipitously diminished.

Auspiciously, any ill-treatment and duplicity has, during my succeeding years as a university student, and even well beyond, become even more sporadic though no less grievous. As a case in point, I altogether missed the cues when, in roughly 2004, one of my erstwhile best friends unexpectedly engaged in conduct, spinning a yarn about losing five friends due to my behavior and no longer desiring my attendance at his parties, which appeared premeditated to drive me away. Considering we had only recently initiated a project of recording podcasts together, his chastisements took me completely by surprise, and I initially found myself being apologetic. My ex-fiance, for her part, referred to me as "a poster child for nerds."

In September, 2008, I decided to phone a friend of mine of around 28 years. Although we presently live in different parts of the U.S., we continued to keep in touch. On this one occasion, however, after telling him about my Autism diagnosis from the previous year, he began to procedurally criticize me for a number of situations which occurred many years earlier. For instance, referring to a poor woman I dated in the early 1990s, he reprimanded me for not informing my psychiatrist about my attraction to "trash." When I expressed sympathy for his poor communication with his sister, he accused me of attempting to impose my value system upon him.

Predictably, I picked up on his modus operandi only while reflecting on his comments after the conversation. During out dialogue, I inappropriately responded logically to everything he said and, consequently, became frustrated with the irrationality of his comments. Given my failure to recognize that, ostensibly, his sole motive was to simply brush me off, it would appear as though my ability to read people, at least in this one respect, did not significantly improve from previous encounters of this type, and, moreover, that I seem to have considerable difficulty learning from past social experiences. Still, I wish that these individuals, instead of displaying such brazen cowardice, would have the moral backbone to express themselves more straightforwardly.

During the final phases of my Ph.D. work, in 1983, I audited a graduate practicum, in the Counselor Education Department, on group psychotherapies. When the professor, and my pro bono Gestalt and Rogerian therapist for a while, conducted an encounter group in his home, people attended from across the U.S. Given my sense of justice and fair play, I objected after, under the guise of "being real," one fellow excoriated a woman for being late, and I adamantly refused to participate in an exercise of designating the person we each most disliked. Foreseeably, virtually everyone, including the professor, chose me.

Perhaps my feeling about justice, as an Autist, explains my love for the dear Universal House of Justice:

The sacred and youthful branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God. May the wrath, the fierce indignation, the vengeance of God rest upon him!
ʿAbduʾl-Bahá, The Will and Testament of ʿAbduʾl-Bahá.

For years, I feared leaving the protective confines of my closet. Out, once and for all, I feel fortunate. Some Autistics, in addition to having difficulties with social relations and with such executive functions as planning, response inhibition (including temper), and decision-making, are confronted with considerable intellectual challenges. For them, an escape into the depths of reason and imagination may not come as effortlessly. While I struggled, in my youth, with exorbitant executive problems, I turned many of  them, as an adult, to my benefit and advantage. Currently, I would contend that I make decisions, plan, and inhibit my affect with a commensurate ease, or hardship, to most folks I know.

Many  Autistics remain unemployed, underemployed, or poor throughout their lives, but I have been greatly privileged to work in a profession which affords me considerable seclusion, flexibility, and tolerance of my eccentricities. Yet, I remain cognizant that functioning in most fields extrinsic to academia might be quite onerous. For all my problems in developing rapport with my students, issues with which I still struggle occasionally, I am deeply aware that, given my social challenges, I would, in the majority of other careers, have faired far worse. As a teen, most summer jobs were, to me, next to impossible. I either quit, performed poorly, or was, in one instance, terminated by a taxicab servicing company.

On November 21, 2008, I was, following a two-hour laboratory test conducted the previous day, diagnosed with diabetes. Since my father is also a diabetic, albeit one who was able to control it entirely through diet for most of his life, this condition would appear to be the second one I have inherited from him. I suppose that, technically speaking, the diabetes now places me into the hypernym, multiply disabled, which is defined as persons with two or more disabilities. Nonetheless, at least for me, the diabetes, when compared with the Autism, is a relatively light burden.

As I survey the unfolding panorama of my lifetime, in protocols defined substantively through stagecraft, I call to mind the exigencies I have consistently faced, some of them profoundly agonizing, which, in their instantiations, have often appeared tragic, possibly irremediable, and, especially concerning my own rehabilitation, I had grown progressively despondent and hopeless. However, with the passage of time, I accrued colossal dividends from my trying circumstances, or, if not, I realized some other, perchance fortuitous, profit. Even setting aside all determinative speculations, I can hope, needless to say, that such a well-pleasing serendipity will be an abiding characteristic of my future.

Empathy and Compensations

In my youth, I had genuine antipathy toward the strong and heart-felt sentiments which exuded from anyone nearby me. Unable to respond adequately, even less to identify with the other person's feelings, I characteristically froze to within a few degrees kelvin and, locating my point of least resistance, became instantaneously distant and illogically rational. Whether my interlocutor's passion could be categorized as positive or negative was beside the point. I had no baseline to react in a way which most might regard as equal to the occasion and became overpowered. Yet, even as my own anger and happiness came quite facilely, I stringently restrained myself from crying, in public, at the emotions of others, even in the cinema.

These days, having participated with, and observed, the virtual Autistic community, I find that there is frequently a sense of understandable frustration over claims that Autistics lack empathy. Significant confusions have often arisen due to differences between how medical and social scientists delimit empathy in their researches and professional publications, on the one hand, and colloquial usages, on the other. To humbly set the record straight, as the term is ordinarily employed, using informal conversation, to denote the human virtue of caring for others, anyone, whether she is Autistic or otherwise, can be empathetic.

On January 18, 2012, I stopped my car after a man in a wheelchair held out his hand in a parking lot. He wanted one or two dollars. Unfortunately, I only had a twenty. I apologized to him and told him that I hope he would be well, and he thanked me for stopping. Later, I wondered whether I had violated a Baháʾí princple. That same day, I reflected that a darwīš (from the Persian, Darvīš), is a needy one or a mendicant. The prohibition against begging and giving to beggars appears to refer, historically, to this class of individuals, not to the poor people to whom ʿAbduʾl-Bahá gave coins during His journeys through the West.

More technically, empathy is a myth or a cultural story. As folklore, empathy presents us with narratives through which social actors may, under specified conditions, engage with others. As a multidimensional construct, empathy, like any empirical variable, must be clearly circumscribed. Research metrics demand a consistency which is unfamiliar to the average person. In an attempt to shed some light this issue, I will, through my personal biography, present two distinct academic definitions of empathy. To begin, I will discuss cognitive empathy and take up the relevancies of methodological empathy afterwards.

Should I assert that a meager one percent of my book stacks consists of novels, I would be exaggerating. The majority of volumes, as artifacts of my rapturous preoccupations, examine religions, social sciences, languages, and, mountingly, the Autism spectrum. In the cognitive rendering of empathy, some persons might say that my nearly fictionless shelves signify a poor theory of mind, or capacity for intersubjective conceptualization, by Autistics. While my problems in this area had been sizeable throughout my childhood and teens, I am much improved now. I have, from my teaching, become a keen observer.

In applying theory of mind to my attitudes and feelings with respect to others, I tend to be concerned for anyone who has endured suffering, irrespective of my conversance with them, but seldomly have I worried about specific individuals. Therefore, as I am refining these terms in the present context, to care for people is sympathy. To care about them is cognitive empathy. I have cared for my parents as they became dependent, distressed, elderly, and ailing. In like manner, I care for, and only sometimes to a lesser degree, victims of natural and manufactured disasters. Yet, I am hardly ever, if at all, distraught about them.

Some contend that  Autistics can rarely lie convincingly. This proposition relates to theory of mind in that, deficient in empathy, Autistics may be brutally honest. Indeed, as a youth, I was consumed by ideals of transparency and equity in others and myself, was forthright and tenacious in my intolerance for whatever I regarded as mendacious, nonsensical, or nebulous, and was hypersensitive to authority and correction but judgmental and critical myself. Among my patented slogans were, "It's not fair!," "Is that true?," and "But why?" In my teens, I often unknowingly offended, as a house guest, with my comparative evaluations on the quality of food.

While these days, as a ripened college professor, much of my black-and-white thinking has pleasantly hued gray, my bluntness, especially as a backlash to antecedent evaluations of injustice or impropriety, may manifest in a righteous, perhaps occasionally self-righteous, indignation. Consequently, if I feel slighted, particularly by someone of higher social status, if I believe that performance expectations attendant to a circumstance are unsuitable, or if I witness race baiting, I may, in my response, be quite outspoken. Yet, my sense of fairness and impartiality has resulted in elections to chair of numerous groups.

Moreover, I have regularly sported far leftist t-shirts here in the red state of Kansas. (If you would pardon this brief aside, I must admit, given the historical association of that primary color with communism, to finding the more recent, and presumedly coincidental, attribution of that particular shade to the Republican Party quite humorous.) Additionally, when I openly objected, at a college-sponsored retreat, to selecting an object from the surrounding environment and then listening to it, I was, unrepentant during a private meeting with the organizers, effectively barred from future events in the series. To be entirely pellucid on the matter, I had no objection to the activity per se. My protest concerned its propriety in a academic context.

On the other hand, I would, as a teenager, oftimes exaggerate my parents' success, not to be deceitful for its own sake, but, rather, in order to make my distraught life appear more stable and, hopefully, to elevate the minimal level of esteem in which I was held by my peers. While plagued with guilt at first by my subterfuge, I slowly became accustomed to fibbing and was fairly good at it. The stories were believable, not fantastic, and, so far as I know, most people did believe me. Although such contrivances by  Autistics are apparently not all that uncommon, with my higher education, the motivation for prevaricating was eliminated.

An alleged deficit in cognitive empathy, in theory of mind, may be the overarching factor which predisposes many Autistics to logic and to a detached problem-solving. It is not by accident that Autism has many times been compared with the mentalities of various Star Trek series characters, such as Mr. Spock, the original Vulcan, or Data, the android, prior to his emotion chip, or Seven of Nine, the Borg, before surgery made possible a romantic affair with Chakotay. These days, when an identification with feelings is warranted, I will, rather than succumbing to my desire to analyze, practice my well-honed expertise at listening.

By the same token, in teaching my Social Problems classes, the only handout I distribute, a booklet which I wrote in the early 1990s, is The Sociological Thinking Map which is, substantially, a road map to logical and critical thinking. The first section navigates students through evidentiary issues. It also includes a paragraph on the sociological imagination, characterized by the late Columbia University sociologist, C. Wright Mills (1916-1962), as the recontextualization of private problems into larger social issues. The second section is a guide to some of the more common logical fallacies, or errors, in evaluating evidence. Admittedly, I have sometimes prided myself in possessing the ability to refute an argument, even concerning an unfamiliar topic, simply by pointing out its logical fallacies.

Expressively, I have had a proclivity for neologism, and my theorizings have afforded me reliable media to communicate this predilection including, frequently, during the long-winded verbal expositions of my youth. Besides neurelitism, I have coined, alethionomy (science of reality), pneumaticonomy (spiritual science), physiconomy (material science), and, though I subsequently discovered that others (including an old, now departed, friend) have employed it, soulology (soul talk or study of the soul), as well. Some researchers have claimed that neologistic usages by Autistics are symptomatic of possessing a poor theory of mind. To me, however, they have been a means of drawing attention to the ingenuity of my ideas.

Furthermore, I have discovered, in the wake of my education and in my decades spent as a professional sociologist, that, though my empathy is not of the superbly high calibre of many individuals off the Autism spectrum I have known, it has appreciably improved over the years. As I have pondered over this situation, I began to broadly distinguish between empathy, as a psychological and psychiatric construct, and empathy, as it has been developed and understood, over the last century, within my own field of sociology. These constructions of empathy, while not exactly antonymous, could not be regarded as synonymous either.

Growing up as a child, I had virtually no empathy for, or understanding of, the feelings of others. That I lived in my own world was partially a choice but mostly a product of lacking many of the most basic competencies to relate to others. Over the years, my adaptations to normative, so-called neurotypical, behaviors, while certainly far from being complete, have accelerated considerably. These have enabled me to be a full-time college professor since 1985, the head of a social sciences division in the 1980s, and a past president of the Kansas Sociological Society.

The word “neurotypical” has, in my opinion, become extremely problematic. From one perspective, it is certainly a pleasing alternative to “normal.” On the other hand, the common usage of “neurotypical,” by some people in the Autism community, as the simple antonym of Autist or Autistic commits the fallacy of bifurcation (the black-and-white fallacy). For instance, are schizophrenics neurotypical? What about someone with bipolar disorder or Down’s syndrome? All of us are just regular human beings.

Since my diagnosis, I have met other Autistic adults my age, from across the spectrum, who have not experienced similar educational and occupations successes to my own. Some have been on disability throughout their adult lives. Others have worked only sporadically. Still others have had bouts of homelessness. An Autistic woman I met online once remarked to me that, although many Autistics she has known have become economically successful, none, or virtually none, had the severity of problems I did as a child. Consequently, I have reflected on the reasons for my accomplishments.

I suspect that, whatever empathy I may now possess has been developed from two distinct sources: my religion and my education as a sociologist. It is difficult to say which of these two has been the greater influence. Their influences on me have been quite distinct. However, if I were compelled to choose between them, my first inclination would be to select the religion I joined. While I did not begin my graduate studies in sociology until I was 22 years old, I embraced my religious faith at the age of 14. By the time I was a graduate student, even an undergraduate student, I had already experienced considerable improvements in this area.

Through my religious involvement, I developed a genuine concern and love for others. It was in that context and in the cultivation of intense interpersonal sentiments, that I first developed empathy. This process has steadily increased up until the present day. My opening up to others and their lifeworlds has been a product of my prayers and devotional meditations. Through my religion, I served others even when I did not wish to do so. Gradually, an awareness, like an inner light rising, developed within me. God met me where I was, as an autistic person. From that place, He then gently drew me to Himself.

Proceeding to the more mundane, in the sociological glossary, the German verb Verstehen (to understand) has, substantially due to the influence of the German sociologists Max Weber and Georg Simmel, acquired a connotation of methodological empathy. Verstehen does not depend, for its successful implementation, on a putatively neuronal operation, nor does it rely upon the emotional discernment of theory of mind. Limpidly, it is not a hard-wired neurological trait. Verstehen is, rather, the bracketing of one's own values and beliefs and the subsequent examination of another culture, or of persons and artifacts of that culture, within that culture's particular and lived-in contexts. Verstehen is, approximately, cultural relativism.

As a cultivated methodological praxis, Verstehen can, much like numerous other dimensions of social scientific research strategy and design, be taught, learned, and eventually implemented. Whereas cognitive empathy requires a susceptibility to tone of voice, posture, kinesics (body language), and proxemics (spatial distance), Verstehen principally demands a willingness to abandon ethnocentrism and to deferentially approach another culture through its own social constructions and histories. Practically anybody can practice Verstehen. Theory of mind presents no critical impasse.

Previously, my worldviews, such as Neoplatonism, were my windows to the universe. Perspectives other than my own were to be deprecated and dismissed, assuredly not to be examined and penetrated. Even in journalism school, while I was an undergraduate, a sequence of think pieces I wrote prompted one of my professors to insist that I produce a standard news article. My boredom with regular reporting, and my unrealistic intention to become a columnist, is what at first induced me to pursue graduate studies in sociology. My minor for the Bachelor of Arts in Journalism had been sociology and English anyway.

It was, as a graduate student, that I encountered Verstehen. Sociology taught me about Verstehen, and, in addition to my religion and faith community, it was through Verstehen that I have approached cognitive empathy. As strongly as I resisted, I could no longer be engrossed only in my own ideations. Although I wished to write my Ph.D. dissertation on my own religion, as I did for my M.A. thesis, I was talked out of it, as potential employers might question my objectivity. So, in place of my religion, I chose pentecostalism. By immersing myself in the lives of pentecostals, in my methodological empathy, I had further compensated for a lack of cognitive empathy.

Besides Verstehen, my intellectual conversion, to borrow Bernard Lonergan's term, from essentialism to social constructionism has been instrumental in my compensations. As, initially, a Neoplatonist and, subsequently, a critical realist, I espoused the existence of universal essences, or ideal forms, and, therefore, doubted the cogency of independent human will and agency. Presently, however, as a social constructionist, I consider transpersonal essences and absolute, axiomatic truth claims to be no more than nominal categories, susceptible to deconstruction, even while I scrutinize these relative thought or social systems with my intentionally acquired empathy.

Analyzing the diverse morphologies of empathy vis-a-vis the Autism spectrum might yield, even on its own, some demonstrable benefit. From my informal observations of Autistspace, my term for the zone of cyberspace dominated by Autists, sociology is not among the more widespread occupational or avocational choices by  and other Autists. Academic majors in the hard sciences, computer programming, mathematics, and psychology surface with considerably greater regularity. Yet, if Verstehen, which was rooted in the epistemology of a rationalist liberalism, and social constructionism were salutary, indeed invaluable, for my own affective development, then perhaps other Autists, especially those at ease with logic, would find them to be similarly serviceable.

Finally, with regard to my empathy, intrinsic to my personal life philosophy has been the view that harmony, both in terms of an individual's ego integrity and modes of social interaction, can be facilitated through the progressive attainment of an integral balance between the cognitive and affective aspects of one's lived-in experiences. This conscious enterprise together with my deeply held sentiments of loving-kingness toward others, and their deliberate cultivation into acts of altruistic benevolence, have assisted both my intrapsychic development and my accommodations to a neurotypical society.

The Ideology of Neurelitism

Behavioral intolerance, like those based on race and other differences, should be openly and unambiguously censured. All quiescence is acquiescence. So, in my own story, the ignorance of the numerous, often nameless, individuals concerning both my Autism and my OCD is not only a feeble excuse for my years of mistreatment. It is irrelevant. Indeed, I myself had a clouded and distorted view of the plethora of issues I faced. An ubiquitous haze enveloped me until I was 51 years old. Clarity was then introduced only through the diagnosis. It was as if a fog light had been switched on. The brume abruptly dissipated.

Through my musings on the nearly ceaseless terrorism of my childhood, I had gradually constructed a conceptual model of institutionalized and internalized oppression, but I was powerless to entitle, much less to explain or even describe, it. Given the dismissal of my original diagnosis, neither my afflictions, nor the ordeals they so consistently produced, could be usefully contextualized. In short, without a label, I was impeded from achieving either personal insight or the shared wisdom of a community of peers. Toward these twin objectives, the diagnosis and fellowship with other  Autistics have been a noetic revelation.

Defined globally, ableism (British, disablism) might be encapsulated by reference to a social structure, a system or set of conventional rules, which justifies or enables actions detrimental to the differently abled. Notwithstanding that oppression has been an academic interest of mine for many years, notably within my Social Problems classes, I have only recently initiated a reflexive sociology of my own life history as a text for ableism. While typifications, such as Kanner's Autism and Autism, are merely linguistic conveniences, and devoid of essence, they can often function as helpful tools for private cogitation and personal development.

I considered several possible designations for neurological ableism. Among them, neuronism, neurologism, neurism, neuroism, and neuralism have, heretofore, each been employed to delineate particular subject matter. Of two other candidates, neurologicism impressed me forthrightly as entirely too cumbersome, whereas neuronormativity squarely embodied the phonetics of a tongue-twister. Another contender, neuricism, read more like a neurological disease or malformation. Since neuroelitism, with neuro- preceding a vowel, is bad English form, I ultimately, in October of 2007, settled on the appellation, neurelitism.

Recalling the writings of C. Wright Mills (1916-1962), a sociologist, on the U.S. power elite, incorporating the presidency, the Defense Department, and the corporatocracy, we may likewise observe a neurological power elitism, or neurelitism, in which a discourse of normality is constructed through the knowledge and power of the neurological majority. An illustrative comparison might well be situated in the ableist species of audism with the sanctioning of the disentitlement of the Deaf and hearing impaired. While oppressions will remain uniquely indexical, they can be associated in a grand web of joint resistance.

The mainline Autistic self-advocacy movement has, in its promotion of neurodiversity, many correlative concerns with the identity political wings of certain other movements. As Autistic self-advocates reject the pro-cure agenda of numerous, largely parent-run, organizations, so the intersex rights movement resists attempts to force a dualistic prototype of sex on their bodies, the LGBT rights movement has, consonant with mainstream psychiatry, dismissed the view that homosexuality is a disorder to be cured, and the Deaf rights movement has rejected the proposition that cochlear implants and lip reading are superior to medical nonintervention and signing. Thus, each opposes, not only the territoriality of exclusion, but the narrative of being cured.

However, the essentialist foundationalism of identity politics has been widely criticized by an array of academics and pundits from both Right and Left. Some on the Right consider identity politics to privilege  parochial interest groups over the nation weal. On the Left, the concept has at times been regarded as a category of false consciousness, namely, a dilution of efforts to dismantle the neoliberal hegemonies of global elites for the achievement of perceived short-term gains.

One solution to this dilemma, from a somewhat progressive perspective, has been proposed by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. In her recognition of the fictive character of identities, she at one time discussed a strategic essentialism in which organizations representing oppressed peoples would, for the attainment of certain pragmatic objectives, present themselves as a united front. In other words, they would address the public as if they were an ontologically distinct unit. Yet, to me, Spivak's utilitarian approach bordered on Machiavellianism or realpolitik.

I agree that identity politics, as generally nuanced, is largely unsatisfactory. However, by rejecting essentialism, identity politics can morph into a post-identity politics. Indeed, the online Autistic community has been bound together by self-identification, not by diagnosis. Participating in this community entails a presentation of self, not of one's medical records. Personally, I have many identities, many selves, and Autistic is but one of them. Moreover, some members of the community even consider diagnosis to represent a surrendering of one's own determinative power to the therapeutic establishment and have, on that basis, refused to obtain one.

Neurelitism, as with other oppressive constructs, is chiefly a collective, not an individual, phenomenon. In truth, neurelitism cannot only be objectified in the institutions of society, such as family and government. It can also be subjectified, internalized, or reverberated, in the consciousnesses of the oppressed, whether as self-hatred, a lashing out at others, shame, disaffection, and underachievement, or, in the affirmative sense evinced in my own odysseys, by an awareness of neurelitist tactics in struggles for liberation and, with an often coerced turning inward, an ardent soul-searching and appreciable accomplishment.

An everyday modus operandi by which neurelitism, and similarly oppressive ideologies, function is by means of marginalizing, or othering, specific demographic categories as outgroups. If persons occupying the higher statuses within particular social structures - such as NTs in neurodiversity, males in gender, and European Americans in race - turn a blind eye to those perceived, for whatever reason, as different from the norm, then, in the contexts of power, privilege, and prestige, the different become the other, their voices collectively silenced, and their very presence among us finally dismissed or ignored.

Doctor Foster

Went to Gloucester

In a shower of rain.

He stepped in a puddle

Right up to his middle

And never went there again!

~ Poet unknown

England, xiii c.

This nursery rhyme was purportedly written in

reference to King Edward I (b.1239 AD d.1307),

"Doctor Foster," after he tumbled from his horse

into a muddy puddle. Angered and embarrassed by

the incident, he refused to pay any further

visits to Gloucester. In a bygone era, the story

became a warning to children that the puddles

found on roads might be deeper than they appeared.

I knew that I wanted to be "Dr. Foster" from the first time I heard the poem as a young child in New York's borough of Queens. Fortunately, receiving a Ph.D. in sociology has afforded me the opportunity to be both a scholar-practitioner, a person who not only examines oppression academically but is actively engaged in combatting it, and a public intellectual and public sociologist, one who endeavors to communicate academic constructions of knowledge to certain publics. My higher education has provided me with a voice, and an idiom, through which to express my own experiences with oppression. Thus, in teaching my Social Problems classes each semester, I periodically, when relevant to course material, raise issues from my own life and personal experiences. From the first day of classes, all of my on-campus students know that I am an Autistic.

The fact is that I and myriads of other  Autistics, whether diagnosed or self-defined, have, as a consequence of our neurodiversities, been subjected to traumatic and sustained abuse. Healing the scars is heavy labor. This oppression of a neurological minority, as revealed in the stories we tell each other, conveys an ideology of neurelitism. Like homophobia and psychiatric normalism, two additional performance-focused social constructions, neurelitism cannot be explained away as mere individual harassment. Moreover, in identifying that which is good with the neurologically normative, neurelitism may be especially troubling to those  Autistics, like myself, with strong senses of social justice.

Deplorably, in the frame of popular psychological reductionism, fashionably promoted on daytime television talk shows, no one can be truly victimized. Being a victim is purely a mindset, and apparitions in air castles do not bite. This subjective idealist epistemology comes perilously close to blaming the victim for her own victimization. It also conflates two independent issues. Victimizations should be conceived as objectively measurable phenomena. However, while clinging to anger might hurt no one but the victim, whether to forgive can only be an individual decision. Speaking personally, I have tried to forgive.

During my years of maturation, neurelitism was, for me, the hidden curriculum. I was bereft of any data on the sociological construction of ableism, a neologism coined subsequently in the 1980s, but I learned it nonetheless. Neurelitism, and its impact upon my Autism, has been my experience. It was, is, a part of me. When I am asked concerning what has been, or so I am told, the unusual extent of my personal adaptations into a mainstream society, and my compensations, my response is inescapably generational. I adapted without knowing I adapted. I compensated out of necessity. The subject was, back then, never deliberated.

Initially, observers often notice the first-personhood of the Autism community. Many of us will say, "I am an Autistic," and not, "I have Autism." Any descriptor is limited, but why object when the topic is Autism and not one's job, religion, or gender? I recall, as a child, proudly identifying myself as a numismatist and explaining it to anyone who inquired. In adopting the first person, I am eschewing the marginalization or compartmentalization of my Autism and attesting to its integral character. Yet, calling myself an Autistic does not prevent me, in other contexts, from referring to myself as a sociologist or a ventriloquist.

So, to the query, "Am I defined by my  Autism?," I might coyly respond, "Am I defined by my Ph.D., by my I.Q., or by my Jewish ancestry?" Each of us is a mosaic. Autism is a guidepost to where certain of its tiles may, in some of us, be pinpointed. Considering that, due to my profession, I have been compelled to minimize my Autistic traits, much of what is recorded in this chronicle, I had long forgotten. By a, veraciously, self-centered reminiscence on this one back corner of my mosaic, memories, some painful, recurred to me in the composition. Writing has, for me, always been a meditation and self-disclosure.

Encountering Autistic Culture
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."
- Lewis Carroll (1832-1892), Through the Looking Glass

My preference for capitalizing Autism and related words has likely stood out. However, just as one is a Gambian, one is, in the first person, an Autist or Autistic. One does not have Gambia or Autism. This approach to capitalization, which is already being practiced by some Autists, has long been in use within the Deaf community. As explained on the Alternative Solutions Center blog:

Far from viewing "Deaf" as a way of excluding people, we see the term as an inclusive one. To us, "Deaf" refers to any people who happen to be Deaf. It has nothing to do with having Deaf or hearing parents, or using ASL, SEE, spoken English, cued speech, or any other communication modality. Neither does it matter if one was mainstreamed, educated at a Deaf school, or homeschooled. Degree of hearing loss, being Deaf from birth or being late-Deafened, using a hearing aid or a cochlear implant - none of these, in our minds, precludes anyone from being Deaf.
Capitalizing Deaf parallels capitalizing African American, Jewish, Hispanic, and so on, with each of these capitalized designations referring to a group of people with their own culture and physical characteristics (i.e., skin color, bloodline, hearing status). All of these terms are inclusive. Some Jewish people may be observant Orthodox Jews, centering their lives around their religion, while others may simply identify as Jewish through their family lineage and never set foot in a temple. Some Jewish people speak Hebrew, while others don't.

Similarly, capitalizing Autism and its forms emphasizes the culture of Autistics. While the Autistic community is certainly heterogeneous, or diverse, in its viewpoints on a host of issues, few cultures, even those which have functioned under extraordinarily rigid, authoritarian, or totalitarian political systems, have ever achieved a true consensus or unanimity. For this reason, a culture may better be appreciated, not as a system of uniform or mechanical behaviors, but as a way of life or as a symbolic toolkit for resolving problems and addressing existential challenges.

Furthermore, in accordance with the person-first movement, I am an individual with Autism. However, in the autism-first movement, I am an Autistic person or an Autist. Consequently, in person-first language, my Autism is a medical condition, an undesirable, and hence de-emphasized, appendage to my personhood. In Autism-first language, my Autism is among my different selves, one of the many subjective conditions, or lifeworlds, in which I think, feel, and operate. Hence, I, and not the medical and psychotherapeutic establishments, has the authority, or legitimate power, to define myself and, to the degree I have chosen, to present that self to others.

Human cultures do not arise without precedent. Their development, whether systematic or haphazard, occurs within historical frameworks of interaction and adaptation. Social groupings are, as sociologist Anthony Giddens has observed, ongoing accomplishments. That is to say, as willful agents, we need not be passive objects of grand cultural processes. Instead, we can, individually or collectively, express our voices concerning the maintenance, modification, or deconstruction of contemporary cultures. We can also become actively engaged in building new and emancipatory ones grounded on human rights.

A culture, in its nonmaterial aspects, incorporates a population's language, values, and norms. With respect to the first of these, language, cultures and subcultures are defined, in part, by a characteristic semantics or lexicon. A stranger on an Autistic discussion forum might have difficulty following most conversations. Moreover, opposition to curing Autism is, perhaps, the most ubiquitous value of the self-advocacy Autistic community. In establishing territoriality and appropriate social norms or rules of conduct, this value serves to differentiate self-advocates from many largely parent-dominated groups.

Cultures and subcultures move through stages. Given that Autistic online culture remains in its early phases of development, it would be patently unfair to compare its nascence with online culture as a whole. Similarly, it would be unjust to compare online culture with the cultures of Western industrialized countries. In other words, culture is not an object which a population "either has or does not have." It is, as a lifeworld, defined by its process - the lived-in experiences of a community. Perhaps, in my own case, that subculture is, considering my neo-Marxist preferences, closer to Theodore Roszak's construct of a counterculture.

Personally, when I first connected with other Autistics online, I had to learn the significances of various terms: neurotypical (NT), aspie, curebie, nonspeaking autistics (and not "nonverbal"), and so forth. I also had to study the values (and value debates) and norms in the online Autistic community. I have been involved with computers for many years and ran a dialup bulletin board service (or BBS) on a dedicated line in pre-Internet days. Even though I watched virtual culture, in general, develop, becoming a part of online Autistic culture required me to discover a new vocabulary, value system, and normative framework.

Howard Gardner (1943-present) has authored his continuing series of volumes on multiple intelligences. Although apparently developed separately, an ostensibly similar concept, neurodiversity, expresses an appreciation, on the part of many Autistics and others, for a model of multiple neurologies. While neurodiversity, as a segment of the earth's greater biodiversity, presents us with various human predispositions, the representation of typicality and disorder is human categorizing.

Take the oppressive and subjugating medical model of disability which labels, even tacitly promotes, disempowerment, aiming at defining who is normal and repairing all the rest. The emancipatory social model of disability, however, values collective empowerment and enfranchisement over compulsory cures. An Autistic may seek out palliatives, medically or otherwise, without necessarily wishing for her neurology, which contributes cardinally to her personalty and individuality, to be deformed to the psychiatric touchstone of normalcy.

Consider that all of us, Autistic or not, are in need of continuous assistance. We depend on the electric company to power our appliances or on the bank not to foreclose on our mortgages. Complete self-reliance, in health care included, is a veritable pipe dream. On the scale of dependence to independence, each of our lives is a matter of degree. Hence, the problem is not medicine, per se, but medicine as social engineering and eugenics. Rather than building more inclusive human communities, the ideal of the medical model, with its neurelitist emphasis on fixing the Autistic, is fitting her into a respectable society.

From the social model, I deduce a semantics of disability and typicality. Challenged, as a construction of disability, is acceptable but insufficient in scope. My Autism challenged me as a poorly adapted youngster to become, through my plentiful compensations, a generally well-adapted adult. I now rarely feel so challenged. However, I frequently observe a dialectic juxtaposing persons who are, given their tropes or empirical attributes, differently abled and typically abled and a power dialectic, framed around interactive syntaxes, between the differently enabled and typically enabled. The second dialectic becomes a substructure to the first.

Additionally, by opposing the ideal types of neurodiversity and disability, a third dialectic can be delineated. In this light, the portmanteau neurodiversity, as a largely descriptive construct, may be empirically formalized, neuroscientifically and sociologically, into useful categories and dimensions; while disability, as a relational construct, would be observed in conjunction with human agents of neurelitism and disenablement. Comparatively, an individual might, from an intrinsically descriptive standpoint, be depicted as an  Autistic but, from a relational and an instrumental perspective, not be substantially disenabled by it.

In a neurelitist structure, the differently abled and enabled would denote those on the Autism spectrum and with other developmental differences, like dyscalculia, whereas the typically abled and enabled would consist of everyday persons who are largely accommodated by present rules. Thus, in my own case, I am differently abled in that my strengths, such as my sociability, diverge from many typically abled persons. I had, more crucially, differentlial enablement, since, relative to the typically enabled, I once required distinct, and distinctly lacking, support systems. What I did get was generally oppressive.

Outside of disenablement as an externalization of disablement, articulations of disability can be hypostatization. That is to say, in the uncomplicated act of materially personifying and implanting disability inside a statistical category, its propagators might duly become, even without precalculation, the creators of a disabled other. The category, once spoken into existence, and outlined, by experts, can be transformed into a marginalized group of disabled persons. Yet, in coding for Autism, the authors of the DSM-4 and ICD-10 could never have predicted that they would be the progenitors of an emergent Internet phenomenon.

Moreover, the Autism spectrum may itself be differentially constructed under these models of disability. Within the medical model, a diagnosis is one's passport to variegated treatments and, sometimes, an eligibility for government benefits. Self-diagnosis, while incompatible with the medical model, can, from a social perspective, provide one with a previously unattainable sense of identity and belonging, such that an official diagnosis may even be irrelevant. Viably, however, strict distinctions may be impossible. Some  Autistics, like myself, not only subscribe to the social model but are formally diagnosed.

Subjectively, while my countless perpetrators outwardly buttressed my seclusion, they unwittingly, though propitiously in the long run, granted me time to explore comparative religions and theories concerning abnormal psychology, hypnosis, and Wilhelm Stekel's Interpretation of Dreams. These preoccupations, wedded to my punctilious and scholastic manner, opened a wide avenue to compliments and attention. Once in my new religion, negative, disabling social reinforcements gradually gave way to positive, enabling ones, which may partially explicate my grownup successes. Perhaps comparable enablements reveal why many  Autistics pursue pivotally cerebral occupations.

Some  Autistics object to the term, disorder, and its often euphemistic, but virtual medical synonym, syndrome, in the descriptors, disorder, syndrome, and Autism spectrum disorders. Given my personal narrative, my sociobiography, and the incalculable miseries I underwent, I share their concerns, feel a sense of commonality and camaraderie emerging out of certain discussions, and often identify with, sometimes even mirror, their experiences. Considering that victimization is all-around unremarkable to a legion of us, these labels pile innumerable insults upon untold preexisting injuries.

To be honest, as someone once diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia, in a generation when that characterization may have rivaled the current ADHD pandemic, I would have been highly relieved by essentially any other unmalicious label. Although I favor as much self-determination as possible on issues of psychiatric, occupational therapeutic, and other treatments, I am also, as an academic, interested in hearing the perspectives which contrasting voices, including from social constructions as seemingly incommensurable as the "pro-cure" and "anti-cure" movements, may contribute to a practicable dialogue.

Furthermore, several writers have proposed a more wide-ranging Autism spectrum. By augmenting the metacategory, symptom complexes displaying similar problematics in executive functioning and other areas can be consolidated. In addition to Autism, Kanner's Autism, and pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), an expanded rubric might incorporate such hyponyms as ADHD and some type A personality disorders, such as schizoid and schizotypal, while adjoining such non-DSM entities as semantic pragmatic disorder, sensory processing disorder, and, unless judged to be isomorphic with Autism, nonverbal learning disorder (NLD). Patently, labels can and do oftentimes matter, expressly to the child or young teen first being diagnosed. They can also be important for influencing, through a public sociology, how average citizens and social policy makers will relate to individuals on the spectrum.

The question of distinguishing between NLD, originated by neuropsychologists without reference to the Autism spectrum, and the more universally utilized Autism diagnosis remains controversial, and it may also be a case of splitting hairs. Given that even NLD experts disagree on the utility of distinguishing it from Autism, the chances of its inclusion in the DSM-V, other than as an Autistic dimension, would seem remote. Personally, if I were to quibble, I am more generally more proximate to Autism than to NLD. Although special interests, which have animated my life, are not in most NLD formulations, nonverbal challenges are assocated with both. Indeed, when someone directs me to MapQuest, or a similar site, I relinquish the map and select the written directions.

I read occasionally that  Autistics are brain damaged. Aside from being value-laden, highly offensive to some, and presumptive of injury, "brain damage" sets up an unnecessary dualism. Damaged brains imply undamaged ones. Dualisms are frequently employed to institute political dominance and self-serving standards of evaluation. Predicated on whose criteria are  Autistics, and not those with other neurologies, brain damaged? Neurodiversity, on the other hand, does not presuppose a foreordained set of neurological categories. Both terms are social constructions, but neurodiversity is value-neutral and socially inclusive.

With regard to the Autism spectrum, which can be extended to other neurological or psychological conditions, all views of normalcy are interpretations of observations. The appellative, norm, can itself designate: a statistical norm (a mean, median, or mode), a social norm (a rule of conduct), and, of concern here, a textbook norm. Persons who satisfy this norm for a DSM construct are labelled abnormal. Subsequently, the selfsame specialists who vetted the norm are privileged to treat those who match its criteria. This circularism demonstrates the salience of language games, or phrase regimens, in the social institutionalization of power.

Within the Autistic community, ostensibly in an effort to devise a genteelism for normal, the term neurotypical, often abbreviated as NT, has been widely employed. To a much more restricted extent, neurotypicalism has been utilized by others and, though fleetingly, by myself for what I am presently calling neurelitism. Neurotypical and its derivatives, even if improvements over normal, are not without their drawbacks. Principally, I find neurotypical, when used to exclusively identify persons not on the Autism spectrum, to be both erroneous, defaulting to all exceptional neurologies but Autism, and marginalizing, while neurotypicalism is, accordingly, not only unseemly but stereotypic.

On the other hand, perhaps most readers would concur that neurotypical is preferable to normal, a word which evokes its unsavory antonym, abnormal. Moreover, considering that we know so little about the possible neurological etiologies of conditions mentioned in the DSM-IV-TR, both neurotypical and normal inevitably become substantially informal, nontechnical designations. Although, for a brief period, I elected not use the word, neurotypical, after giving the matter more thought, I have once again adopted it, but only as the opposite of neurodivergent, referring to all classes of unusual neurologies itemized by qualified psychiatrists and psychologists, including Autism. (I actually prefer neuratypical to neurodivergent, but the latter is already established.)

Through my vision for a liberation narrative theology, promoting equitable redistributions of power has been a core religious praxis. In so doing, I dismiss those decontextualized hermeneutic methods which disfigure certain scriptures into a contrived conformity with Enlightenment constructions of science and history. Instead, the questions I have often raised concentrate on religious narratives as mythopoeia and, when appropriate, as tales and prophecies of social justice and emancipation. For Autistics, as for other oppressed peoples, ruminating on stories of struggle in our own faith traditions may be inspirational.

The liberty of self-definition must be accorded to each individual. As a boy, I would gladly have kissed the person's hand who offered to provide me with some hypothetical cure. Now, I would, politely, send her on her way. The issues, however, become substantially more complex when discussing the treatment of children or, from a futurist standpoint, prenatal genetic engineering. Here, I believe that medical ethics should, with due regard to situational variance, be both flexibly and inclusively formulated in close consultation between all interested parties, whether Autistics, parents, health professionals, or others.

Launching attacks on the pro-cure movement and its proponents is as counterproductive as it is unjust. I, for one, do not wish to see anyone deprived of medical options. Among the few parents of Autistic children I have come across, most impressed me, like my own parents who wanted me cured, as altruistic in their dispositions. A far more positive, and perhaps singularly efficacious, method for minimizing an interest in cures is to actively promote inclusiveness and neurodiversity. All Autistics must, without regard to levels of functioning, be appreciated and encouraged within the full range of societal institutions.

Whether the Autisms present some people with perspicuous advantages is substantially contingent on social indexicality. As an analogy, placed into American special education, some dyslexics might discover that, due to personalized tutoring, they eventually wind up as better-than-average readers, even if, in a signally divergent context, their dyslexia amasses no discernible benefits. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but, for Autistics, these can, relative to the general population, become exaggerated. The Autistic savant may excell in particular areas but be incapable of discharging certain daily tasks.

Differences are not inherently disorders, and whether to embrace or to discard the social constructions of reality by the mental health establishment, including its scholars and practitioners, is a fundamentally personal decision. While the multiple relations between neurology and environment, or nature and nurture, may ultimately take time to map, the basic proposition of our neurodiversity is not in dispute. If a medical category contributes to a framework of personal discovery, all well and good. However, labels should emerge out of dialogue, not neurelitist imposition, and, even then, they can be deconstructed.

In this connection, is a sociology of the Autism spectrum plausible? At first blush, it might appear to be an oxymoron, analogous to proposing a botany of antelopes or a mineralogy of squid. Yet, two Autistics, Temple Grandin and Sean Barron, have already tackled similar subject matter in their book, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships. Such a sociology, besides examining issues of neurelitism and the social model of disability, would present social constructions of reality from the standpoints of those, like myself, for whom any successes follow considerable perseverence and, often, outright imitation.

Indeed, the Autistic community and its knowledges are, like all communities and knowledge frameworks, socially constructed realities. In this regard, I would like to explicitly distinguish between the presence of particular Autistic traits, on the one hand, and the Autism spectrum with its posited categories, such as classical and  Autism, on the other. Communities, including virtual ones, are principally the products of shared identity and group negotation. The presence of common biological, genetic, or neurological traits is of secondary importance.

Paradoxically, even as a number of Autistic traits increasingly appear to be grounded in sound neuroscientific research and its peer-reviewed literature, there remains an assortment of Autism spectrums, or constructions of Autistic types, among various groups of researchers, clinicians, Autistics, parents, and others. Similarly, while one may discuss the biological evolution of racial traits, or geographically based biological distinctions, the so-called races, in their multiple global versions, are now acknowledged by researchers to be social constructions - and highly selective ones at that.

Many  Autistics refer to themselves either as aspies or, less commonly, as Aspergians. Although, in principle, I have no strong objections to either of these terms, neither have I been enthusiastically taken with them. Aspie, while generally used in a friendly and conversational manner, is, like autie (for Autistic), a bit too cutesy to suit my tastes. Nonetheless, with a bit of reservation, I eventually fell into the pattern of employing the expression myself on message boards, chat rooms, and email lists.

Subsequently, however, I abruptly stopped utilizing it, partially as protest but also because I genuinely like thinking of myself as an Autistic, after witnessing a number of posters on web message boards insist that they were aspies, not Autistics. I even met one Autistic woman who told me that, even though she is not an  Autistic, she nonetheless introduces herself as an aspie. I recognize not everyone uses the word hierarchically, or perhaps to escape supposed disgrace, but I wanted to be unambiguous in my rejection of vocabularies and syntaxes of exclusion. As to Aspergian, I am admittedly not drawn to the mythos, or thought experiment, of a forgotten civilization of Aspergia, which is, at least to me, implied by that word.

These days, I will refer to myself, conversationally, as an Autistic or, in those instances where more precision may be required, either as an  Autistic or, informally, as an aspie Autistic. I know of other Autistics, particularly other Autistic activists, who follow a similar convention. I also know a woman, diagnosed with classical Autism, who nonetheless introduces herself as an aspie to escape a perceived stigma. Yet, I consider it preferable to embrace a word than to run from it. There has been a history of oppressed peoples taking ownership over designations which had been historically associated with socially stigmatized statuses. On its most basic level, owning a word deprives the bigot of a portion of her power to hurt the targeted individual.

For instance, Quaker was at first a term of derision for members of the Religious Society of Friends, while Shaker was a taunting appellation for members of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing. Even the initial use of the word, Christian, was, in the ancient Roman Empire, gibelike. In recent years, the pejorative fat has been embraced by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. Some lesbians now openly speak of themselves as being dykes, and many Lesbians and Gay men routinely refer to themselves as queer. (There is even a queer theory in the humanities and social sciences.)

One may argue for a substantive, or at least mitigatory, value in calling oneself an  Autistic when others have tried to flee from the Autistic label. As I have grown ever more self-conscious in the biographical social alienation of my Autistic self, ownership has, to me, become a statement, an affirmation, of Autistic pride, a sentiment I would, nonetheless, immediately distinguish from a platitudinous arrogance or banal superiority. As I am proud to be an Autistic, I am, within the compasses of my other selves, proud of being a sociologist, a journalist, a ventriloquist, and so forth.

Moreover, if there is to be a reconstruction of our knowledge, absent the omnipresent specter of oppression, it will surely not entail, as some youthful  Autistics have conjectured, a separatist, escapist, and, indeed, neofascist social polity with Autism dominance; a Social Darwinist, internalized neurelitist and fascist dogma of evolutionary supremacy; or a cartoonish existence with mental superpowers over bullies. However, even in my unreserved forsaking of these triumphalist notions, and their reifying and demonizing of the neurotypical construct, I am not unsympathetic. Many teens have identity and self-esteem issues which, as Autistics, may be compounded by rejection. In my own teens, I, too, would likely have acceded to them.

Oppression, and its internalization, can, and often does, induce an understandable anger or even wrath. Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam and Dwight York's Nuwaubian movement, with their denials of caucasian souls, mirror some White racist teachings which dismissed Black Africans as the cursed and soulless progeny of Ham. Similarly, the male-bashing of the 1970s and 1980s, driven by the women's liberation movement and its consciousness raising, frequently attributed to men the same undesirable characteristics, such as helplessness, which men had for generations ascribed to women.

With this understanding, I have, for much of my life, attempted to contextualize, not to criticize. Indeed, in my recognition of stuggles against the oppressions which so many have faced, I honor the indignation which they experience and regard it as an early stage of consciousness formation. I see, in their dissent and in their resistance, the beginnings of a liberation even while hoping, simultaneously for dialectical resolution of the resentment and umbrage within a more encompassing inclusiveness. Conduct has its reasons, even if they are emotional ones. Moreover, I have come to recognize that the supremacists are not the other. They could have been me.

Despite the events which have thus far transpired, or perhaps more as their denouement, I endeavor to be sanguine. By enriching our shared frames of reference, as together we uncover the commonsense lifeworlds of Autistics from across the spectrum, I remain hopeful that the normative ethic of tolerance will be eclipsed by a transcendent ethic of active engagement and learning in all communities and societies with a radical democracy structured upon difference. Among the more outstanding features of this civil rights movement, as I presently envisage them, would be the inauguration of a universal human right to neurological autonomy coupled with an inclusive consciousness of neurodiversity and, vitally, an unmitigated renunciation of a false consciousness of neurelitism. Let it be.

1 I am not fluent in Arabic, but I can work with it. Unless otherwise stated, all English translations are from the Arabic or Persian languages (or, in some cases, a “Persianized” Arabic). There are differences, which will be evident, between the system of transliteration, or romanization, of Arabic and Persian words contained in official Baháʾí texts and the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) system (or the Tiberian system for some Hebrew words) adopted in other parts of this work. (See this page on verb conjugation.) Diacritics (the signs used in transliteration) for various languages have sometimes been modified in quotations. Focusing on both translation and transliteration has, from my perspective, been a way to draw close, in my heart, to the individuals and ideas being discussed. Perhaps your experiences will be similar. Learning any “tongue” comes through love:
Speak in the Persian tongue, though the Arab please thee more;
A lover hath many a tongue at his command.
From Mawlānā (Our Master) Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī’s Maṯnawī (Persian, Maṯnavī), quoted by Baháʾuʾlláh, “The Seven Valleys.” The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys. Page 58.

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2 As I recall, I briefly met this heart-centered woman at an Osho (Japanese, Oshō, a high-ranking Buddhist monk, similar to an abbot) movement meeting in New York City. She was encouraging me to participate in Nataraj Meditation (Sanskrit, Nāṭaraja, Lord of Dance), which involves free-form dancing. I successfully resisted. Osho was, at the time, known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Bhagavān Śrī Rājnīś).

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3 This large collection of movements and perspectives is provided only for identification purposes. Readers should recognize one or more of them.

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Copyright © 2012 Mark A. Foster, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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