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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Sunday, June 24, 2007


The Robin In The Window

There is a robin that keeps banging into our window. For nearly a month now, it must be, but I’ve really noticed it lately. I thought the robin would be gone by now, failing to get into the house. Perhaps, I thought, he sees something he wants to get to in here, or more eerily, as Margaret Laurence once said in her novels “a bird in the house means death in the house.” Is some kind of death knocking at our door?

I heed "hidden" messages.

I am beginning to get worried about the bird. He seems no less affected by his beak-banging. I considered that something might be “wrong” with the bird. But knowing better, I turned to google to look up the meaning of the behaviour.

Birds, particularly robins, repeatedly bang into windows because they see their reflection. They are trying to fight the “other” bird for the territory. It’s perfectly understandable given the bird’s perspective. And then, I came to think about the irony of my interpretation: of fighting against our own shadows and came across the term egophrenia as I found written by Paul Levy: [It is the ] ‘ME disorder,’ for short. If ME disorder goes unrecognized and is not contained, it can be very destructive, particularly if the person is in a position of power." (Please note that I do not agree with how he makes references to "illnesses" in his article, but the over-riding idea of it is interesting in the context I have quoted here).

Apparently President Bush is egophrenic. I would venture a guess that he is somewhat delusional, and a collective manifestation of the way North Americans have come to think about their place in the world. We see it in everything, including autism advocacy. We have come to live the big lie, chasing the perceived enemy, that which lies outside of ourselves because we no longer want to take responsibility for what we do and how we contribute to injustice and the world in which we live. Autism Speaks is egophrenic and not self-reflective in the least at the moment. It is but one example.

We fight what we create. We fight ourselves, as the robin does its own reflection. If a polemic gets created, it does so with the creation of an “us” and a “them.” Fighting autism, fighting in the name of getting children services by creating an evil which is the other– the evil which is our own true reflection.

The robin reminds me of pushing myself constantly to avoid kitsch and rhetoric -- to consider myself as contributing to the polemic. The robin reminds me that what is out there is me. It is us.

Now what do I have to do to change it? What about all of us?

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Anonymous -Brian- said...

The effects of reflection on the robin are parallel to the mirror philosophy that I often use. I imagine a full-length mirror in front of me, facing towards where I am looking.

When a person comes forward and points a finger at me, in the mirror, the finger is pointed right back at the other person. This was very applicable when social workers and medical professionals tried to tell me to "behave yourself"--the message went right back to them to behave themselves. It was the same with the idea that I, as an autistic person needed "treatment"--the message was sent back to these "pros" that they were the ones needing treatment, in learning how to understand, appreciate, and respect what I (and other autistic individuals)had to offer for the benefit of society and humankind.

Likewise, when a person did offer empathy, support, and time (which, in today's world is a very valuable gift), they had it handed back to them, by this "mirror", and all the goodwill that I could conceive was forwarded to them, by reflection.

It's all akin to such age-old sayings as "what comes around goes around", or "we reap what we sow".

Those who sow hatred towards autism as a "devastating" illness will reap the devastating affects of their hatred; but others who sow seeds of support (affection, affirmation, and assistance) for autistic individuals will reap the same in their own lives.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Maya M said...

Estee, I may be right about autism, but I strongly disagree with you about the North Americans "chasing a perceived enemy".
I live in Bulgaria, a small postcommmunist country. I am 36 now, so I remember well the pre-1989 era. I assure you that the Communist regime was not just a perceived enemy by North Americans in order not to look at the injustice they do. It was a reign of evil and I am happy that Pres. Reagen chased it and it's over now.
I think the same is true for today's perceived enemies. A year or two ago, a Bulgarian guest worker in Israel was driving a truck with bottles of water for the workers at a construction site. He was mistaken for a Jewish settler and shot dead. So for me, the most distinct face of the enemy is that of a masked gunman reading an apology: sorry, we thought the guy was a Jew.

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Estee, I understand your point. The conventional thinking of the past by the Americans was a tragically misguided view that has led to war. No country can meet the threats of this century alone and we must lead by example and deeds. The world shares a common humanity in a world that in some ways is more complex than we have come up against in the past. Susan Carter

1:22 PM  
Blogger Aspiegirl44 said...

Wow Estee. This was an awesome blog.

I have said to my roommate many times that I feel there is some kind of "illness" out there that has not been "labeled" I call it "The Control Freak Illness" Heee

I have been around for awhile and over the years I have run into many people like this and they all seem to have some personality traits that are identical. They all seem to be in the people caring fields, from health care to law enforcement to mental health fields, etc.

I am not saying all therapists or health care people are like this but amongst the good ones are these certain people types. They cannot see anything wrong with themselves, they get very angry very quickly if you disagree with them and they will turn what you say back at you as your own problem, they seem to get a sadistic like rush from controlling others, etc. They even have the same kind of look on their face. They really stick out to me because their personality traits are so much alike.

This one guy was told he could not have a glass of water once in a hospital I was in. Much like what Amanda shared in her blog. What point is there to not give someone water other than the sadistic thrill to control. Try telling them that = I have. It pisses them off. I guess I am non-compliant. :)

Well a day came that I realized I was more sane than many of the people I had reached out to for help. At least I can see my faults although I am far from perfect and have made many mistakes.

Brians quote:
"This was very applicable when social workers and medical professionals tried to tell me to "behave yourself"--the message went right back to them to behave themselves."

I think Brian is right on here. I have said very close to the same thing myself. Great comment Brian.

PS: Don't say it to one of those "personality types" though. They get mad. Heeee

Just another note that I know there are very good people out there helping people. I am only focusing on a "certain" group here in this comment.

5:52 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

"I would venture a guess...and a collective manifestation of the way North Americans have come to think about their place in the world."

I understand the point you are trying to make; but, being an American whose views and beliefs could not be further from those of President Bush's, I feel attacked by that comment and insulted. Perhaps a "some" should have been inserted before the words North American, as there are many Americans like myself who cannot understand how George Bush was not only elected, but reelected.

As well, I am sure there are numerous North Americans who don't agree with what Autism Speaks has to say. While I was always nauseated by the "woes me, the parent of an autistic child" theme that Autism Speaks continuously shovels out, I think one of the biggest reasons that there are parents of autistic children who do listen to what Autism Speaks has to say is that they have only heard one perspective. There needs to be more education. Unfortunately, right now the LOUDEST voices being heard are from organizations like Autism Speaks. The neurodiversity message needs to be equally voiced.

I found the Autism Hub by chance and feel blessed that I did. It helped me see the perspective of my child by reading the views and thoughts of autistic adults. Sadly, there are so many parents who have not been so fortunate...YET.

Since finding the hub I am trying to tell as many people about the hub as I possibly can. And you know what? Every single person who I have turned onto the hub has felt enlightened. It has changed many a preconceived notion about autism.

It's all about education.

9:42 PM  

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