Day 40: Standpoint

trance2You have to find multiple and competing perspectives, I told my students; the aim is to look at your chosen issue from a variety of standpoints. But, a student asked me, what if I can only find one? What do I do then? Perhaps, I replied, you try to imagine another point of view?

We have been looking at visual sources of information this week, analysing them for content but also discussing their reliability as a way of knowing. Sources based on visual rather than verbal data, it is claimed, can be helpful as a way of understanding those whose ‘voice’ it might otherwise be hard for us to hear: very young children, for example, or people who (for various reasons) don’t use language to communicate.

Inevitably, while discussing this, I thought of Dylan. Without recourse to language I have had to understand him through a sort of visual anthropology. I have scrutinised videos and photos of him and observed his actions and interactions. I have watched each body twitch and facial gesture, logged his outbreaks of frustration and anger. It is with these visual sources of information I build my theories of Dylan: how he feels, what makes him anxious, why he sometimes becomes aggressive. It is by such methods I make my claims.

One of the claims I have made recently is that three factors have been crucial to the success of Dylan’s move to residential care. The underpinning assumption that Dylan’s placement is going well is based on empirical observations of the sort made by anthropologists or ethnographers; in this instance, that there has been a significant reduction in Dylan’s ‘challenging behaviour’ and an increase in his positive behaviours. What evidence is there, however, that the three factors which I cite are responsible for these changes in behaviour?

This week, as I urged my students to find ways of considering competing perspectives, I asked myself whether I had really done this in relation to Dylan. If I were to test my claims, I reflected, I might need to look at what Dylan has lost as well as what he has gained. It may be the case that he is calmer because of the benefits his new placement brings. Another way of looking, however, might consider whether there was something in Dylan’s life, previously, which was causing him distress? And that, I told myself as I cleared my desk for the weekend, would be a challenging standpoint.

7 thoughts on “Day 40: Standpoint

  1. Another way of looking at Dylan’s transition might be to examine transition as a potentially good thing in itself. Although it can go wrong, a change of scene can also free us up for renewed behaviours, as well as releasing us from old patterns. Especially, if the transition is handled sensitively. So, it’s not necessarily that there is a huge contrast and one situation is better than another but more that change has enabled the positive expectation that is embedded in the meaning of transition. However, I have a sense that you may have said this in many different ways previously and more eloquently than I have here!

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    • Hi Caroline – I definitely do think of transition as a good thing in itself, and for the reasons you mention. I suppose what I’ve been mulling over, since Dylan moved to care, was what have been the enabling factors in it. Until yesterday I had only really considered positive factors in the care home setting, i.e. things which they had introduced or were doing in a particularly helpful way. Now, however, I’m mulling over the possibility that there might have been something in D’s life previously which he is now free from. Does that make sense? That there may be things which have disappeared from his life rather than appeared? I’m sure I’ll go on thinking about this. Why does it matter to me? I suppose because I find it useful to understand what helps Dylan – so that I can go on supporting him with these things rather than inadvertently removing something he finds helpful (or re-introducing something he finds unhelpful). Just batting ideas around really, x

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  2. Remaining stuck in binary thinking seems to be an issue too. One can think themselves, just like someone with a delusion and then progressing from there, as a right beginning, also consider everything that follows supports or detracts from the initial delusion.

    When I choose a point to support or to disprove, I can create more of the same.

    For example a stim is simply a stim. A stim at my house could simply be like the automatic blink of the eye. I could create all sorts of stories about it because I need to control it. I need to find reason in a thing I might view as a sort of chaos. A stim here, looks like distress however I know that often it is a show of being engaged, learning, sorting inputs. I am grateful that as my son went from nonverbal to expressive with assistive devices, to verbal I got better answers.

    Often times when he was away from me, he did not get that oppressive observation from me. He did not feel the need to follow in the pattern of helplessness that I managed to create because I thought what I understood was true.

    Often times for autistic persons, they do strict rules and ways of being in each environment, not carrying one place over to another. They then can appear unpredictable. Perhaps the new environment provides him a way to simply be. To invent or reinvent his day. (and yes while they could be true those last two things are story)

    I found it difficult to stop micro-thinking my son and to just let him Be, like others. They have preferences because they do. They change their desires because they do. It would be an illness of my own if I had to follow along behind them keeping track of it all, so that I could feel in control of it, so that I could keep my place, or my role.

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    • Some of the things you say here resonate Elisa. I think a move from ‘non-verbal’ to verbal must help enormously – the answers may still need decoding, but at least they’re their answers. Without those, you have to be attentive in other ways; not oppressively hopefully, but respectfully. I do agree about things being context-dependent, however; Dylan has carried some things over but has established separate things too.

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  3. Pingback: Day 41: Like Home Used To Be | Living with/out Autism

  4. Pingback: Day 43: What Parents Don’t Know | Living with/out Autism

  5. Pingback: Day 64: Obscured | Living with(out) Autism

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