Author Archives: sgrit96

Grit, Analysis 5

When I began reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, I noticed the incredibly accurate depiction of an autistic character in regards to the discomfort with variation. The first indication I found of this representation of a fixation on control was on page 13, when Christopher says “But I have decided to give my chapters prime numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 and so on because I like prime numbers”.  He prefers numbers which are predictable and follow a precise pattern, which is much like my uncle in his routines as he lays out his movies and books in a distinctive arrangement I still cannot understand. Christopher also seems to find comfort in numbers and familiarity, showing his discomfort with the unfamiliar as is seen through his continuous statements throughout the book that he dislikes strangers because he does not know them.  Christopher also indicates that he prefers structured rules as are common in mathematics as he describes on interaction with a teacher saying “He said I liked maths because it meant solving problems, and those problems were difficult and interesting but there was always a straightforward answer at the end. And what he meant was that maths wasn’t like life because in life there are no straightforward answers at the end” (77). His inclination towards mathematics is not merely played off as a savant-like ability, but as a coping mechanism which I found refreshing.

Christopher also has a strong aversion to lies because there are too many variables in lying as well. He says on page 24,

“A lie is when you say something happened which didn’t happen. But there is only ever one thing which happened at a particular time and a particular place. And there are an infinite number of things which didn’t happen at that time and that place. And if I think about something which didn’t happen I start thinking about all the other things which didn’t happen.”

Christopher portrays this unique view of autism in this moment which reveals a truth many never consider about autistic individuals, that sometimes they can be overwhelmed by the hypothetical. My uncle has shown extreme discomfort when he tries to consider an intangible idea because he begins to picture all of the variables instead of focusing on just one. I applaud this book for trying to provide an accurate depiction of life on the spectrum for the autistic individual and their family.

I was also very impressed with the realistic portrayal of the treatment of autistic children by others as Christopher relays that “Terry, who is the older brother of Francis, who is at the school, said I would only ever get a job collecting supermarket trollies or cleaning out the donkey shit at an animal sanctuary” (32). This moment truly upset me because of the reality behind it, my uncle does collect carts at a store, and the fact that this book recognizes the limitations applied to people on the spectrum by their peers is hopeful for me. I decided to research the diagnostic requirements for autism once more to refresh my memory and found that this depiction contains examples of every indication used in diagnosing ASD. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book because I felt that the depiction was highly accurate and that the depiction was executed without stereotyping and dehumanizing the autistic character.

Lord, Catherine, and Susan Risi. Frameworks and Methods in Diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders. Chicago, University of Chicago, 1998, pp. 90-96.

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

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Grit, Analysis 4

When I was concluding my reading of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I found myself wondering about the process of diagnosing mental illness and how that can relate to social and cultural norms which could impact our view of people who contradict those “norms”. I was first drawn to this idea when reading through the section when McMurphy is returned to the ward as is described saying “The ward door opened, and the black boys wheeled in this Gurney with a chart at the bottom that said in heavy black letters, McMurphy, Randle P. Post-Operative. And below this was written in ink, Lobotomy” (278). After all of his time rebelling against the system Nurse Ratched developed in the hospital, he lashed out and in a sense took the power away from Nurse Ratched for a moment and that led him to be lobotomized. In fact, all of the “treatments” received by the patients follow acts of rebellion against the psychiatric system they are all trapped in. This led me to consider that perhaps they are receiving these treatments merely because they are not adhering to the system and their non-conformity is considered the stem of their mental illness.

The concept seemed intriguing to me and I considered if perhaps our diagnosis of what we perceive as mental illness could be considered a mere reluctance to adhere to the social standards and regulations of society. Harding is a prime example of misdiagnosis in the novel because he is not, in fact, mentally ill, but merely does not adhere to the societal norms of the time because of his homosexuality and is therefore institutionalized for being different. When I decided to look further into this concept outside of the novel I found an article entitled “Defining Normal: Constructions of Race and Gender in the DSM-IV Casebook” in which this idea is described stating

“Social constructionists contend that the discourse

on mental illness that guides psychological theory and practice, and thus

the diagnostic categories presented in the DSM-IV, are shaped by 1) definitions

of ‘normal’ that stem from a partial and elite perspective, and 2) stereotypical

notions of gender, race/ethnicity and sexuality.” (2).

Social constructionist theories apply easily to the novel as it is clearly portrayed that those who are not identified as “normal” in society are institutionalized and labeled as mentally ill. When McMurphy challenged the rules of society in the institution, it became attributed to his “mental illness” and consequently he was given “treatments” which to the patients are viewed as punishment for not following the rules.

Billy is another excellent example of misdiagnosis as he is institutionalized due to his immature nature and stutter which can both be attributed to an inability to conform to gender norms at the time. Viewing his diagnosis from a social constructionist point of view, Billy was institutionalized due to his lack of masculinity which is expected of men, just as Harding is institutionalized for his sexuality. Both characters do not conform to the gender norms and sexual norms of society and therefore are considered mentally ill.

Cermele, Jill A., Sharon Daniels, and Kristin L. Anderson. Defining Normal: Constructions of Race and Gender in the DSM-IV Casebook. , 2001. Accessed 31 Oct. 2016. fap.sagepub.com/content/11/2/229.short

Grit, Analysis 3

When I began reading the assigned chapters, I was glad to learn about the approaches that were taken by the Heilpadagogik Station to better understand behavioral patterns in neurodiverse children. Their approach allowed the children to live with little structure and therefore allowed them to study the behavior of the children without stifling their natural inclinations with strict regimes of institutional living. The studies they pursued were not to change the children or merely provide data about their habits, but to ensure a better understanding of how the children learn and the methods of teaching which would best suit these children. This emphasis on striving to meet the needs of these children without trying to force conformity is described stating, “The best teachers for these children, Asperger observed, were willing to meet the children halfway, instead of insisting that they act like everybody else” (106). Asperger advocated for these children and strove to speak out for them as is indicated in Neurotribes as “Asperger was speaking out with the “force of his whole personality” for the sake of children all over Europe who had not yet been murdered by a monstrous idea of human perfectibility- an idea that his supervisors, who were fervent Nazis, had imported from America” (109).

This disheartening shift into the idea of Eugenics truly infuriates me and I found that as I read I had to stop frequently to take a break. Once the topic of Eugenics was introduced, I began to view science, specifically genetics and the study of hereditary traits, in a negative light due to the extreme emphasis on perfection and neurotypicality. When I read Osborn’s statements about the “worst elements of society” followed by his comment to his fellow scientists after this speech that he formed a “new appreciation of the “spiritual, intellectual, moral, and physical value of the Nordic race” (111) I was struck by the extremely unscientific racist and elitist views which influenced his scientific views.

I was further shocked by the lack of scientific ethics in experimentation as I read that Darwin’s son Leonard actually “hailed the American Stock Breeders’ Association’s experiments with sterilization by X-ray as a promising development” (113). Compulsory surgery violates every ethical boundary in scientific experimentation and truly disgusts me because not only does it violate the rights of those involved, but it dehumanizes them as well. My disgust was only increased as I read that “One of the institute’s primary interests was congenital disorders of the psyche” (113). When I researched Eugenics further I was disgusted to find that “Euthanasia has been described by eugenicists as the painless killing of an unworthy life” (The ‘Science’ of Eugenics: America’s Moral Detour 123). The implication that people who may not be neurotypical or perfect in every way are not worthy of life makes me absolutely sick. I apologize for my lack of a better term, but the idea that eugenicists could consider a fellow human being as an “unworthy life” horrifies me, especially when I consider the stigma which still surrounds mental illness. As someone with personal ties to mental illness, I struggled with this reading because while there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness, there is still the threat that a similar “scientific” campaign could resurface.

Singleton, Marilyn M. The ‘Science’ of Eugenics: America’s Moral Detour. N.p.: The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 2014. 122-25.

Grit, Analysis 2: Sherlock Holmes

When I first read “A Study in Scarlet”, I never considered the possibility that Sherlock Holmes exhibited several defining traits of autism and viewed the character as merely eccentric. As I began to read it again for this assignment, however, I found that I could identify several specific instances where the description of Sherlock’s behavior appears to indicate that he represents an autistic character.

Sherlock displays an obsession or dedication to one specific field of learning as is commonly found in those on the spectrum. As his character is first introduced, he is celebrating his forensic discovery of a solution which only produces a precipitate when it comes into contact with blood, which is the first indication of his obsession with crime. Then as he explains his discovery to Watson and Stamford, he displays an extensive knowledge of past crimes and the potential for forensic evidence to have altered the outcome of the trials to which Stamford remarks “You (Sherlock) seem to be a walking calendar of crime” (7). When Watson accompanies Sherlock to the crime scene on Brixton Road, he describes Sherlock writing “So engrossed was he with his occupation that he appeared to have forgotten our presence, for he chattered away to himself under his breath the whole time, keeping up a running fire of exclamations, groans, whistles, and little cries suggestive of encouragement and hope” (16). Sherlock becomes completely enthralled in mystery and the solving of crimes through his methods of “deduction”.

Along with his dedication to deduction, Sherlock has a tendency to play his violin when he is troubled and needs to think. This repetitive behavior could be considered an indication of autistic ritual, while each case is different (my uncle sways from side to side when he is troubled or upset), perhaps Sherlock’s way of coping with disturbance is to sit with his violin as he reflects on the particulars of a case. When Sherlock describes his “shortcomings”, he tells Watson that “I get in the dumps at times, and don’t open my mouth for days on end” (7). This silent period could also be an indication of autism as it seems to be a routine for Sherlock and a coping mechanism.

Watson also describes Sherlock as lacking in social graces as he writes after a conversation with Sherlock “I felt rather indignant at having two characters whom I had admired treated in this cavalier style” (12). Sherlock details the faults of these two character’s in conversation with Watson, seemingly oblivious to the offense he may have caused Watson in his statements. This slight social lacking could be indicative of autistic characteristics in Sherlock as well. In an article I found which discusses the idea of Sherlock as a potentially autistic character Dr. Lisa Sanders describes this phenomenon as “mind-blindness” defining this term as “difficulty in understanding what others feel or think and thus in forming relationships” (3). She also describes Sherlock’s incredible skills of deduction saying “He (Sherlock) demonstrates what Asperger called ‘autistic intelligence’- an ability to see the world from a very different perspective than most people, often by focusing on details overlooked by others” (3). With both my observations and those of Dr. Lisa Sanders, I can now see that Sherlock Holmes is very likely an autistic character.

Sanders, Lisa. Hidden Clues. N.p.: The New York Times, 2009. 1-4. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

Grit, Analysis One

Chapter 9 of Silberman’s NeuroTribes revealed to me the common misconceptions that people commonly have about autism and the many ways in which mental disorders seem to dehumanize people in the eyes of society. The movie Rain Man provided many people with a basic capacity for sympathy towards those affected by ASD, but unfortunately the movie also promoted the idea that institutionalizing people with ASD was the best viable option. According to Silberman’s text, “Mutrux’s experts were adamant that few autistic people would be able to survive outside institutions” (375). I was perplexed at the idea that the character of Raymond Babbitt was based off of two separate people with ASD who were not institutionalized and were, in fact, capable of surviving outside of the institutional setting (with the support of family). Based on my personal experience, it is difficult to provide assistance to those affected sometimes, but institutionalization is not necessary for those affected by ASD to survive. My uncle has been living outside of an institution for his entire adult life and he has a secure job and his own apartment (which he shares with his cat). In the article “Autism Spectrum Disorder” a similar case is described involving a man named Paul who, with the help of family, is a successful computer software specialist living outside of an institution. Although I may be mildly irritated by the representation of people with autism as being incapable of living a non-institutionalized life, Rain Man has made a mainly positive impact on the views of society towards autism.

Rain Man brought attention to the human aspects of autism and influenced the views of society to be more sympathetic towards people with ASD. Silberman discusses this change stating that “The character of Raymond Babbitt made autism recognizable and familiar even to those who had no personal connection to the subject” (378). Several examples throughout Chapter 9 discuss how families in which a child is affected by ASD have found others to be more sympathetic to the condition. One mother wrote to Morrow describing that normally when she took her son out in public and he had a meltdown, people would believe him to be an “out-of-control child”, but after the film was released, she could more readily explain her son’s situation to people by comparing him to Raymond Babbitt (377). By humanizing those affected, Rain Man brought new understanding and attention to autism which was once diagnosed as mental retardation, but can now be more accurately diagnosed. People became aware that people with autism are not inherently less capable of intellectual pursuits, and the diagnosis of autism became more efficient (for lack of a better word). Rain Man even depicted the slightest details of interaction with people affected by ASD, mannerisms which might be slightly unusual, the discomfort with change, the strictly structured daily routines. While the film cannot possibly portray the vast spectrum of the disorder, it provides society a basis for understanding.

Frith, Uta, and Francesca Happe. Autism Spectrum Disorder. N.p.: n.p., 2005. Web. 12 Sept. 2016. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982205011036&gt;.

Silberman, Steve. NeuroTribes. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 355-80. Print.