An Autistic’s Thoughts On To Siri, With Love by Judith Newman

I’ve never made a ‘thought post’ like this before, or a discussion post, or anything like this, simply because I haven’t come across something that I’ve felt I was passionate enough about to write about. But this week, I have found it, and it’s for all the wrong reasons.

If you didn’t know, recently, the autistic community has been outraged by a book called To Siri, With Love by Judith Newman. The book is a memoir from a mother of an autistic boy, Gus, and her thoughts on bringing him up. Sounds like a nice, uplifting read about a mother’s love for her child, doesn’t it?

Wrong.

It’s a disgusting, dehumanizing and downright dangerous book, perpetuating stereotypes and applying 1950’s thought to 2017. I have not read the book myself, only seen quotes from it, but the quotes alone made me feel physically sick to my stomach. If you want to see a live tweet from an autistic author, reviewer and editor reading the whole book, I would check out Kaelan Rhywiol’s twitter thread. This blog post is more of an explanation of just how wrong Newman’s thoughts are, and just how dangerous they can be.

You’re probably wondering what qualifies me to make these observations and explanations. I’m just a 21-year-old blogger, what qualifies me to comment and say that these views are wrong?

For starters, I’m autistic. Aspergers, to be exact. Secondly, I’m a writer myself, and hold a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. And thirdly, I’m a human being on planet Earth who actually has a shred of compassion for others with Aspergers, autism, and everything else to do with neurodivergence.

So, personally, I think I’m a little qualified to talk about this, even if I’m not, I’m putting my opinions out there because people need to see that this book is not in any way acceptable or correct.

For starters, the author has not gotten permission from her son to write this book, so he has had no control at all over the content of this book. This takes away his agency and his chance of privacy. The author happily writes about everything, including this child’s toilet training, and she didn’t seek his permission first.

She sought permission from her neurotypical child, but not her neurodivergent one. It’s not like either boy is a child either, they’re 13 at the time of writing, and 15 at the time of publishing, and therefore more than capable of knowing exactly what they want to be published for the world to read. If that doesn’t already warn you of her opinions on her autistic son’s agency, I don’t know what will.

Newman goes on to talk about how:

“One, every person with ASD I’ve ever met has some deficit in his “theory of mind.” Theory of mind is the ability to understand, first, that we have wishes and desires and a way of looking at the world—i.e., self-awareness.”

Now, I can immediately call ‘twaddle’ on that, because I know that we autistics are more than capable of being self-aware. In fact, we’re probably too self-aware. We all know that others have wishes and desires, we understand that the people around us are people, that everyone has thoughts and feelings and emotions. We’re not robots, we may not totally be able to read a person, but we damn well know that they have emotions and thoughts.

To say that we don’t is so dehumanising, it equates us to robots, to automatons with no understanding of the world around us. We understand the world just fine, and we understand that the people around us do not understand us and that we are seen as ‘outsiders’ because of our neurodivergence. And guess what? It makes us feel awful, we feel scared and anxious, because people actually think that we do not have self-awareness.

This is also followed by the so-called conclusions of an undated study, which states this:

Several brain-imaging studies on autistic kids show a pronounced difference in blood flow in the areas of the brain that are thought to be responsible  for certain kinds of story comprehension—the kind that allows us to know what the characters are feeling, and predict what they might do next.

Which is such blatant ignorance and so utterly wrong I want to cry. Do you know how many writers out there are autistic? How many autistics love stories, TV shows, films, and theatre? You’re reading the words of an avid writer and reader, one who loves the written word loves guessing what’s going to happen next and loves writing about character emotions.

Every autistic I’ve ever known loves to read, or loves watching things on TV and generally loves storytelling. Some other people on my creative and professional writing university course were autistic, and guess what? We didn’t fail the course, we didn’t fail to comprehend the books we were reading, we were able to guess character emotions, discuss what may happen next. And we managed to write our own stories – using well-known characters as well as our own – and we were brilliant at it. I got a 2:1 personally, other’s got First Class Degrees. Could we do that if we couldn’t comprehend, predict and understand characters? I think not.

And, on another note, this study has no date, no additional information, not even a researcher name. So the audience cannot look this study up for themselves and see just how far the researcher was talking out of their backside. Never, ever trust a book which talks about scientific studies unless it has references you can look up yourself. That’s how the ‘vaccines cause autism’ myth still lives on to this day.

The author then goes back to the theory of mind rubbish, say that her son loves music, but can’t perform because:

It doesn’t matter how good he gets; I can’t imagine him performing in any way. Or, rather, before he does, he has to have that thing he has yet to develop, that theory of mind, so that he understands he is doing this for others, not just himself. You can’t be a good performer if you haven’t mastered the concept of audience, of playing for the enjoyment of others.

Excuse you, he does have the theory of mind, and would perfectly understand that he would be performing for others not just himself. I’m sure he could be an amazing performer if he wanted to. Ever heard of Mozart? Yeah, he was autistic. Tim Burton? Not a musician, but a writer and director, autistic. Dan Aykroyd? An actor, who has to convey emotions and have comedic timing, autistic. Screw you if you think autistics cannot perform well on stage and screen, or any other creative venture they wish.

Lack of theory of mind can, quite frankly, kiss my autistic ass.

A few chapters later, we come onto the more damaging rhetoric. The rhetoric I cannot believe was allowed to be published in 2017. I’ll only write about this one point and the most damaging part of this book, so I don’t go on forever, but these points have to be pointed out.

What could be worse than what’s already been said? I hear you ask.

Simple, the idea that autistics with ‘odd’ interests become criminals.

Yes, you read that right. This author, a mother of an autistic child, who she supposedly loves and understands, thinks that autism + odd interests = criminality.

What. The. Actual. HELL is this woman thinking?! Who in their right minds decides to write, with absolutely no evidence whatsoever that autistics with odd interests become criminals? Honestly, who decides to write that in a book?! And what kind of editor actually lets it get through the editing process and allows it to be published?!

What kind of editor lets any of this get published?!

That’s an entirely different story quite frankly, but seriously, who thinks that autistics become criminals because of odd interests? What even counts as an ‘odd interest’ anyway?

Does this author have any idea how much damage she can cause by saying something like this? Does she have any idea how many neurotypical people are going to read this book, believe everything she says, and distrust everyone with autism for the rest of their lives? We are already misunderstood enough, let alone without having the idea of being criminals implanted in people’s brains.

We have special interests, some of them are not as ‘normal’ as others, so what? We like what we like, it doesn’t mean we’re going to start stealing things, murdering people, or anything of the sort. We’re probably going to research our special interest, and if we can, use it to make a career of it. I’m using my love of writing to create a freelance writing business, others may use their great interest in crime and criminals to become a police officer or a criminologist.

We’re not going to start stealing, or anything like that, we understand the damn law and the difference between right and wrong. We are not toddlers with no concept of how the world works.

Finally, I reach the worst point possible. The worst, most disgusting, heinous, part of this book. The most dangerous, abhorrent and vile part of this book. The part that made me literally want to throw up in disgust that someone could possibly ever think this, let alone about her own child.

I’ll put a trigger warning here – if you are at all triggered by eugenics, yes eugenics in 2017, stop reading now. This will do nothing but cause more damage to your mental health than this woman is worth.

Because, Judith Newman, mother of an autistic child she supposedly loves (and I highly doubt she actually loves him at all, judging by this book), wants to sterilise her son so he can’t have children. You read that right, this so-called loving mother, doesn’t think her child should have children, simply because he is autistic.

Don’t believe me, here are the quotes on the subject from the book. Go and get a sick bucket before you read them though:

No, the medical issue that really makes me hyperventilate is fertility. It’s a question all parents of special needs kids wrestle with, whether they speak of it or not. What happens when you discover a lack of social skills isn’t a surefire method of birth control? That the kid you think would be entirely unable to find a partner does just that, though his or her ability to understand what it takes to raise another human being is limited?

Not feeling sick enough? Try another one:

Nobody wants to visualize their child that intimately, but when I think of Gus in a sexual situation, it generally has a Benny Hill soundtrack. And anything with that music does not end well. A vasectomy is so easy. A couple of snips, a couple of days of ice in your pants, and voilà. A life free of worry. Or one less worry. For me. How do you say “I’m sterilizing my son” without sounding like a eugenicist?

You don’t. BECAUSE YOU’RE A EUGENICIST WHO SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ANYWHERE NEAR ANY NEURODIVERGENT PERSON EVER AGAIN YOU AWFUL, DISGUSTING HUMAN BEING.

First of all – who the hell thinks about their child having sex? Second of all, who is this woman to decide whether her child should be allowed to have children? That is his choice, and his choice alone, it has nothing to do with his mother and her wishes, it’s about his. She has absolutely no right to decide to make that decision for him.

Judith Newman doesn’t think her son is capable of finding someone who could love him, capable of loving someone else, or capable of raising a child. She mocks the idea of her child having sex by comparing the idea to a Benny Hill sketch. It is dehumanising, abhorrent, and so utterly wrong it makes me want to throw up.

There are so many autistic parents out there in the world, so many autistic couples out there raising children. Neurotypical people are not the only ones who create children and raise them. Neurodivergent people do too, and they do it damn well. They certainly do a better job than Judist Newman does, especially when they too have neurodivergent children.

Neurodivergent parents are the best people equipped to raise neurodivergent kids, why? Because we understand what they’re going through, we lived through it ourselves when we were their age. We know how to get them diagnosed, we know what kind of help they’ll need if they need any, and we know how to support and love them just as they are. We do not neglect our children, we do not fail to love them, and we certainly do not need our choice decided for us.

Yes, some of us don’t want kids, I’m one of them, but some of us do. And we do a fantastic job at it. We certainly do better than Judith Newman, because we do not think any of the things she does about her autistic child.

If you got to the bottom of this mammoth post, I applaud you, and I hope you agree with me now if you didn’t already. At the very least, I hope you see why To Siri, With Love is a dangerous book. It is filled with stereotypes, outdated information and just plain horrendous opinions. It should not be on the shelves, it should not be read at all. Whoever greenlit this book, and everyone involved in it should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.

And Judith Newman, you should be the most ashamed out of everyone. How dare you think any of this about your child, how dare you spread this disgusting rhetoric in a world that already misunderstands autism, how dare you make it worse and profit from it.

And how dare you ever open your child up to such ridicule and bullying, you have given everyone he ever meets in his life the perfect ammunition to demean and bully him, to know all of his darkest secrets, and what you really think of him. You may have just ruined his life more than your awful parenting already did. Congratulations.

If Gus Newman or any other autistic person who faces this kind of prejudice ever reads this, I want you to know that you are brilliant. You are human, you are capable of love, you are capable of being loved. Everything in this book is a lie and should be completely ignored.

You can do anything you set your mind to, including parenting.

You are not a criminal.

You are nothing like what this woman purports you to be.

If anyone tries to tell you that you cannot be something, prove them wrong, if anyone tries to take away your autonomy, fight back, if anyone dares to stereotype you, show them exactly how fantastic you are.

There’s a lot of idiots out there in the world, and you are not one of them. You are loved, and intelligent, and a person. Never let anyone take that away from you.

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Live Blog Of Marvel’s Punisher

Live Blog Of The Punisher

Friday 17th of November:

Episode One:

A bit of a slow start – Frank Castle has gotten his revenge on those who have killed his family, he’s under a different name, working as a builder. But when other builders get into trouble with a loan shark, Frank gets involved. New characters have been introduced, and the plot is slowly being revealed. Took me a while to get into it, but I’m invested now, so bring on episode two!

Episode Two:

The plot thickens – Frank’s family were not killed by accident, it was on purpose. And Frank is not happy about it. He’s being threatened, Micro is somehow involved, time to track him down and get some answers. Murders have increased now, things are getting a bit more violent like I wanted from this show. Getting excited now!

Episode Three:

Frank has found a ‘man in the chair’ – someone who can help him find the people responsible for all of this, the people who used him as a hitman, and everyone in between. This series is a lot more hard-hitting than I expected it to me. I was expected a lot more violence and less plot, but this is very plot-heavy, and really zeroes in on PTSD and the effects of war on a person. I have no idea if this is accurate to PTSD in the real world, but I like the attempt to highlight it at the very least.

Episode Four:

I don’t trust Ben Barnes’ character, at all. There’s something about him that screams ‘don’t trust me, I’m up to something.’ Even if his army friends trust him, I don’t think I do. Think I’m missing something about why Frank has highjacked a Homeland Security operation, but that could be explained later. That or I’ve missed it because the main TV is on and it’s louder than my laptop, so I keep on missing bits.

Episode Five:

Some good, bloody fight scenes in this episode, which I thoroughly enjoyed. One thing that’s getting to me though is the completely inaccurate medicine or lack thereof. Frank is shot in the shoulder with an arrow, and shot with a bullet in the side, yet manages to run through the woods and taken down several soldiers, before dragging his injured friend through the woods. Frank should surely have died from his injuries, or at least not been able to shoot and fight, yet he managed to take down an elite squad. It was an awesome scene, but medical accuracy people, it is a thing. You can get away with it when you’re talking about Demi-God’s and Hulk’s and superheroes in super suits, not so much with completely human characters.

Episode Six:

PLOT. TWIST. ENDING. But now I sadly have to stop watching for the day because it’s time to get dinner and settle down for some Strictly – It Takes Two, Children In Need and The Last Leg.

Current thoughts – Punisher is a pretty good show, and totally not what I was expecting. I was thinking that this was going to be a lot of mindless blood, guts and gore, but instead, I’ve been given a complex storyline. I’m not totally taken with it, as I’m not really into shows about the army, war and conspiracy theories, but I’m enjoying it well enough. I think Frank needs a superhero like Matt to bounce off of though, that could just be me though, but he felt a lot more interesting and human in Daredevil.

Monday 20th of November:

Episode Seven:

Things are starting to spiral for Frank and several other characters, things are not going to plan at all. The plot twist connection is being explored more in this episode and leaves it on a bit of an ‘oh dear GOD’ kind of moment. It took me a minute to get back into this again, due to a two-day break, but still really enjoying it.

Episode Eight:

It’s really interesting to see how Frank interacts with kids, especially after losing his own. It’s also really interesting to watch another father struggle to be away from his family, especially when they are struggling with his ‘death.’ Billy is a complete psychopath though, and I think he may be my favourite character, simply because he’s constantly murdering people, which is what I expected from this show most.

Monday 27th of November:

Episode Nine:

An episode all about consequences, bombs, and grief. Things are twisting together a bit more, and in other ways, things are hitting the fan. Some people are teaming up together, others are causing more trouble for Frank, and Frank himself has either made a big mistake or has one hell of a plan.

Episode Ten:

More death and violence in this, literally explosive, episode. One threat is gone, other’s villainous nature has been exposed, and everyone, apart from Karen, is gunning for Frank. Really loved the timeline of this episode, showing the different points of view on the situation, and how people use their own goals to change a narrative.

Episode Eleven:

Sweet holy mother of God, The Punisher has arisen! Seeing Frank in the skull-emblazoned bulletproof vest, shooting the living daylights out of the bad guys is absolutely incredible. This is what I wanted from this show – Frank Castle being the famous Punisher, killing the bad guys with never ending bullets and grenades. Best scene of the entire series so far, if the finale has something like that in it, I will be a happy, happy girl!

Friday 1st of December:

Episode Twelve:

Families are rescued, people are captured, and the noose around Billy Russo’s neck tightens. Lots of blood in this episode, which is completely at odds with Frank’s flashbacks to his final morning with his wife. It’s an incredibly interesting contrast, one a thoroughly enjoyed watching playing out. I’ve loved the flashbacks throughout the entire series really, it gave me such a good insight into Frank’s previous life, and exactly what he’s mourning, and why he’s so hellbent on revenge.

Episode Thirteen:

This is it, the conclusion, the final showdown. Frank V Billy, and Billy isn’t playing nicely! Full of blood, dirty fights, and pure violence, Frank’s final showdown is one to watch. What I really enjoyed about this one, was that it wasn’t like the bullet and explosion-heavy fight of episode 9, this was pared down, just two men and their skills, facing off against each other. There was gun use, but it was nowhere near as much as usual, this was more about fists, knives, and skill. In short, I loved it!

Conclusions:

Punisher as a TV series was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting little plot and more mindless violence. Instead, I got a heavy, twisting plot with twists I really did not see coming. I loved the insights into Frank’s time at war, and the contrast between who he is now, and who he was with his family. Billy Russo was a complete psychopath, and watching him come undone was great fun.

While the themes (war, army and government cover-ups) aren’t really my thing, I did still very much enjoy this series, and I will definitely watch more if it ever comes. Personally, I would have preferred more on-screen violence, and maybe some more things tying Punisher to the MCU, but on the whole, this was a very good series. Wonderfully acted, brilliantly scripted, and generally just plain fun to watch! A must for all Marvel fans who don’t mind a whole lot of blood!

Uproarious Thor Ragnarok

 

Uproarious Thor Ragnarok (1)

Loki is on the throne of Asgard.

Thor is having visions of the end of worlds.

Hela has escaped her prison.

Ragnarok is upon us, time to fight!

And what a fight it is! Thor Ragnarok is the third solo adventure for Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, and it is most probably the best one.

This film see’s Hemsworth really come into his own as Thor, as he tries to stop  The Goddess Of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), from destroying Asgard. There’s only one problem – he’s stuck on Sakaar, forced to fight The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) for the entertainment of The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is of no help, and neither is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a fellow Asgardian stuck on the planet.

It’s entirely up to Thor to bring his team together and face down the Goddess, to save his people, his planet, and possibly the galaxy, from Hela’s wrath.

What follows, is a brilliant, uproarious thrill fest of fights, high stakes and laugh out loud humour, reminiscent of Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Taika Waititi really took a risk with Ragnarok, while not everyone liked the previous formula for Thor solo films, they still worked brilliantly, and possibly fit better with the classic Norse Mythology. But Taiki utterly flips this on its head – Ragnarok is bright and full of jokes, Thor doesn’t take himself as seriously, Loki doesn’t get all the oneliners, and even Hulk gets a chance to shine outside of a battle scene.

But despite all the humour, you still feel the gravity of the situation.

Hela is on the warpath, Asgard is unprotected, and there’s nothing stopping her from destroying everything in her way. The danger is very real, and while this film is hilarious, it never forgets that it is supposed to be about Ragnarok. The tone takes a little while to adjust to, but once you do, this film propels its audience through every second and never lets you go.

I loved every second of this film, it was fantastic from beginning to the end. From the storyline, the humour, the new characters, and the cameo (Hiddlesbatch fans will be reasonably pleased with Doctor Strange’s appearance, though we will have to wait until Infinity War for a possible magic fight between Stephen and Loki), it was all genius. Definitely a risk work taking.

Thor finally got his chance to shine and become The God Of Thunder he was always supposed to be. Norse Mythology was given its due, and while a lot was changed to fit more comic book elements into it, the essence was still there.

I feel like Thor’s journey has properly begun now, I cannot wait to see where it takes us from here!

Golden Kingsman

The Kingsman Are Golden

Suit jackets are buttoned, ties are tied, the Oxfords are on, not the Brogues. That can only mean one thing – the Kingsman are back!

Last night, the second outing for the Kingsman debuted, and what an adventure it was!

Robots, psychopathic villains and character resurrections define The Golden Circle, in one of the maddest, out of this world films I’ve seen this year.

Think Kingsman 1, but bigger, better, and all round crazier, and you have the vaguest idea of this film.

The Golden Circle follows Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Rylance), the only surviving members of the Kingsman, after every hideout is blown to pieces, as they travel to America to find the US version of their organisation – The Statesman.

The two could not be more different, the Kingsman are the definition of stylish, discreet, and gentlemanly. The Statesman are quite a bit louder, brasher, and just about every stereotype an American secret service organisation could be – but with some very cool toys.

Naturally, Eggsy and Merlin clash terribly with Statesman agents Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), Champs (Jeff Bridges), and Tequila (Channing Tatum), but have to work as best they can to take down The Golden Circle, who have a plan to kill millions with infected drugs.

Sound like enough to be dealing with? Well, there’s another thing to add to that list of problems – Harry is back. That’s right, Harry Hart (Colin Firth), Eggsy’s mentor, previously shot-through-the-head-and-dead agent of Kingsman, is alive. Missing an eye, and all of his memories, but he’s alive. And Eggsy has no idea what to do, he has to complete the mission, but he needs Harry back to his old self, so the old crew are back together.

Hilarious, insane, and ruder than the first, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an unforgettable thrill ride. Anyone who says it was too long, or suffered from thinking ‘bigger is better’ is entirely wrong, and clearly don’t know what the Kingsman franchise is all about. It’s about massive fight scenes, far-fetched plots, insane characters, it’s escapism in it’s truest form.

I laughed, I nearly cried, and loved every damn second of it. As Eggsy would say – it was fucking awesome – and well worth seeing several times over.