Archive for December 1, 2014

Cultural Diversity thru Autistic Eyes

One of the reasons I, as a person with white-skin privilege, enjoy and prefer being in culturally diverse environments is because I’m autistic. One of the reasons for this is that, when you are in a culturally diverse setting, everyone’s a little more autistic! That is, since people are coming from different backgrounds, with different social norms and expectations, everyone is going to feel a little awkward, and the shared culture that develops has to be more flexible by necessity in its expectations. I find the diversity functions as a slight “camouflage” to my social oddities. I’m a bit of a “foreigner” within my own culture.

The problem is when teachers and other professionals are teaching socially “normal” behavior, that using eye contact, body language, tones of voice, small talk and so forth are default neurotypical universal human behavior, when in fact they are specifically teaching *white middle class American* neurotypical behavior. When I go to autism conferences and organizations, this is very much the dominant cultural viewpoint, from both teachers, therapists and parents alike. Autism groups are typically about as white (racially & culturally) as the cast of Friends. In terms of training of professionals and education of parents on how to deal with autistic students and adults, this creates a very troubling paradigm for children and adults on the spectrum ¬†and their families who come from other cultural and class backgrounds. Being “color-blind” and “culturally neutral” is a giant joke when the population of special ed teachers and autism therapists is overwhelmingly white (and female for that matter). I strongly support making an active effort to recruit people of diverse cultures into special education, therapy, social work and other professions that work with people with disabilities, not just for shallow skin-deep diversity points, but to actually include and integrate different cultural ways of thinking, learning and ways of being into these very culturally white professions. I also figure families and communities of color care just as much about their disabled members as white folks do, but we don’t hear from their voices enough in the mainstream media or disability-focused media and organizations. That really needs to change!

*There are also differences in how Black, Latino and Native children are labelled and treated, as compared with white and Asian children- I will discuss that further in another post.


December 1, 2014 at 11:44 pm Leave a comment


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