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Late Night Ruminations

August 11, 2010

I can’t sleep. I tried. I did. Really. But thoughts are in the way. So, I’ll work them out here.

 I recently finished reading Rodney Peete’s book to review for Lisa Rudy’s About.com site on autism, and I’m working my way through a couple more books right now that have my mind turning over and over. Now that might be because one is Thomas Armstrong’s Neurodiversity and the other is Kim Stagliano’s book. Hah, try reading a chapter in one before switching to a chapter in the other! But they’re both, on balance, good reading. Doesn’t mean I agree with either one, but they make a person think and stew and apparently, not sleep. Peete’s book, while I was in the midst of it, did the same, made me think, turn things over in my mind, ask big questions.

You know, big questions like the divisions in the autism community, between parents, and where there needs to be divisiveness and where it flat out doesn’t matter that there are different ideas about causation and different ideas about treatment, and where it really does matter.

The Peetes are doing some good work. Their tremendous love for their children shines through, and Peete demonstrates on page after page that he gets the important stuff: the need to love and accept the child for who he is while you bust your ass to help that child reach his potential. That matters way more to me than the belief that their son is autistic because of vaccines. After all, Jay Gordon’s their pediatrician. I enjoyed reading Peete’s book and I think it’s worth the time, especially if you’re looking for a dad’s voice. It has practical tips, too (and I can say this while declaring I am not paid for these reviews, not even in scooby snacks; I am however provided with the book).

It adds another dimensionality, another layer to the community, to understanding where parents are coming from. It was well worth my time. If you’re looking for tips, it’s worth it for you, too. It’s worth it if you’re just looking to understand folks better, too, if you want a bit of the larger picture.

I suspect that when it’s said and done, I’ll feel the same way about both Armstrong’s book and Stagliano’s, and it won’t have anything to do with liking something. One thing I work hard with my students to get across is that liking, approving a work (fictional or otherwise) isn’t really important. What I want to know is was it worth your time, was it valuable information, did it make you think? Doesn’t matter if what you’re thinking about is the work, either. Did it make you reflect, question, wonder? Did it involve you?

I can guarantee that I’m definitely involved in the Stagliano book. And not all of it is a negative reaction. Some of it is; I’m aware I’ve got biases. I’m working to work around them, to give the text a fair shake, to try to both read it with what I know about other work by Stagliano in mind and at the same time, not in my mind. She deserves, and certainly her book does, a fair shake. So does Armstrong’s book. So does any book I read, whether I’m doing it for a review or for my own learning.

All too often, we don’t give texts a fair shake, an attempt to be balanced. Even more often, we don’t give people that fair shake. We see them flatly, all or nothing, when that is not how it works. It just doesn’t. People are complex, intricate, messy individuals and they (not a one of them) don’t deserve to be pigeonholed because it’s convenient to think in blacks and whites, with no room for shades of gray. Yeah, the real world is a technocolor mess, and it’s absolutely beautiful in that complex, apparent chaos.

It’d be easy to hate. It’d be easy to judge. It’d be easy to close the book on people before you even opened it. But you’d be robbing yourself and others the chance to experience humanity in its true glory: an infinite diversity of people, of splendor in midst of the shadows. It’s worth it to be open, to be compassionate.

Even when, perhaps especially when, that compassion, empathy, and respect isn’t returned. Perhaps that’s something more folks should consider. True compassion requires no reciprocity; it flows from the person as an act of fundamental altruism.

Oh, and if you were wondering; I have indeed laughed at times (where it was absolutely the emotion she was going for) in reading Stagliano. I’ve also gotten pissed, too. I’d say that shows one thing for sure, at least: her writing at the most basic of levels works: she elicits emotions, she makes readers care enough to feel. What more could a writer want?

Ummm, other than sleep? And cake? Maybe some chocolate? 🙂 Oh, and a finished glowing positive review? Ah well. I don’t know where I will wind up on the reviews, but I do know this: I will be as fair as is possible. I will be as unbiased as possible by acknowledging my extreme disagreement with so much of what is done at AoA. I will be honest.

Now, I’m gonna get some cake, I think. It’s not good cake; it’s a swiss roll, so doesn’t hardly count, and I’m gonna eat some  snickers ice cream, too. Then I’m going to sleep.

The rest will take care of itself. Won’t it?

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