50 Shades of Grey: Autism Style

The ProfessorI’ve noticed lately that there are a lot of folks who seem to believe that if you don’t agree with them about everything, then you are “the enemy” – even if you were best buds last week. My daughter pointed out something that should be obvious, recently, when I made it clear how much I hate Pink’s new song “True Love”: “It doesn’t matter if someone disagrees with you. Nobody agrees with all of your opinions on everything.”


And that is exactly as it should be. If someone – anyone – agrees with you about everything, you can bet that at least one of you isn’t thinking for yourself.

One of the beautiful things about humanity is that each individual little spark of the divine that is walking around in a “person suit” has a unique set of experiences and, therefore, a unique perspective. Another beautiful thing about being human is that it is possible to transcend the differences in experience by remembering that at the core we are all one – part of the same loving, creative energy of the Universe. When we do that, we do our best to understand another’s perspective. It doesn’t mean we agree, but it does mean that we recognize that differences in perspective do not automatically mean we are in opposition.

On my Facebook page, I’m pretty outspoken about gun violence and gun control. That’s partly because I live in a city where most of the gun used are used on other people. And, frequently, they are used by people who obtained the guns legally.

I expect to have a different opinion from a hunter who lives in a remote rural region, close to the Canadian border, where an encounter with a bear is always a possibility. That doesn’t mean that the hunter and I cannot find a lot of common ground when we discuss the topic, but, in order to do so, we have to acknowledge each other’s perspectives. I need to acknowledge that the hunter is not wrong to want a gun in an encounter with a bear, and the hunter needs to acknowledge that it is far too easy for an adolescent on psych meds to gain access to legally obtained guns and blow away my daughter and 10 of her friends if she has the audacity to say, “No thanks” when he asks her out.

I have actually found a lot of common ground with owners of guns. Unfortunately, I have also encountered a lot of people who think I’m silly, deluded, misguided, and evil – for even bringing up the topic. Wow.

To be a part of the autism community is to have your heart broken over and over again for many different reasons, but the saddest one may be the one that’s completely unnecessary – the one that comes from other people in the autism community.

You can’t be around people with autism for long without noting that there is a lot of disagreement among the various members and/or groups in the community. If you listen to the nastiness you get the idea that this is how the world looks:


Black and white. Good and bad with no intersection whatsoever. That’s how a lot of people see the world:  “I am on the side of good (or God), and, unless you see things exactly as I do, you are on the side of bad (or Satan).”

But is this an accurate picture of the world? Or, more to the point perhaps, is it an accurate picture of the autism community? Personally speaking, I say, “Not even close.” I know people on both sides of virtually every issue in the autism community – and most issues in the world at large for that matter – and I can say one thing is nearly always true: People have far more in common than they have in differences. All people want to live healthy, happy lives. Where we differ is in how we think that can or will be accomplished, and those differences come about because of our different experiences and our different ways of making judgments.

Most of you have probably heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, based on the sixteen different personality types described by C. G. Jung. I usually test as an INTJ, an introvert who uses intuition and thinking to reach judgment. I can have a great deal of difficulty conversing with an ESFP, an extrovert who relies on the senses and feelings to arrive at a perception. Does that make me right and that person wrong, or vice versa? No, it just makes it harder for us to see the commonality that surely exists between us. But the commonality is there, whether or not one or both of us can see it.

This is how we see the world if we can actually see that commonality:

Grey2Black, white, and a whole lot of shades of grey.

Setting aside any discussion of what is the “true” representation of the world for the time being, which viewpoint is the most practical for getting something done? If the world is divided up into “good” and “bad,” as in the first diagram, and you find yourself frequently finding out that someone doesn’t measure up to your definition of “good,” the number of “goods” gets increasingly smaller, while the number of “bads” gets increasingly larger.   Pretty soon, it’s “you and me against the world.” Let me tell you something: In that scenario, the world wins.

In the second scenario, you have plenty of possible allies in your quest to get something done. Many of them may not see things exactly the way you do, but there are any number of commonalities between you that you can appeal to when enlisting help for what you want to achieve.

We here at the Thinking Moms’ Revolution have a huge agenda: Not only do we want to improve the lives of people with autism (and other neurological disabilities) and their families (and, yes, we do consider the families important. Whether someone likes it or not, autism does not affect only the person with autism; it also affects every member of that person’s family, the schools he or she attends, and the communities in which he or she lives), we also seek to drastically reduce the overall level of chronic illness in current and future generations.

Some people in the autism community share only one of those goals: improving the lives of people with autism, for instance. Quite a few people with that as their primary goal have decided that we – TMR – are “the enemy” because that is not our only goal. To that I say, “Hogwash!” Just because I may not agree in all respects on the primacy of a particular goal or on how to achieve that goal, that doesn’t mean that I am not one of your best resources in accomplishing that goal.

I do have a broader view, though, that I am never going to apologize for. Yes, your life is important to me, but it isn’t the only one that is; so are the lives of every other person on this planet, those with asthma, allergies, ADHD, diabetes, etc., and those who are lucky enough to be truly healthy. The fact is that you cannot cater to one group without affecting the world as a whole. As Thomas Merton said, “No man is an island.” Quantum mechanics have proven that we are all part of a vast field of energy, and one cannot take an action that does not have an effect on the whole field. When we seek change, we’d better make sure that the change we wish to make is a beneficial one.

When it comes down to it, in order to effect positive change, we must acknowledge the humanity of all those other circles. We must see – and exploit – the beauty of the many shades of grey that exist, surrounding us all the time. I have a sneaking suspicion that, when we really achieve that, we’ll start to see the world more like this:


Perhaps after all this is a more accurate picture of how the world really is.

This holiday season I want to offer up a challenge: In the coming weeks do your best to see all 50 shades of grey – the whole spectrum! (Let’s start small. I won’t ask for rainbow-colored glasses.) Look for allies among the grey. You might be surprised where you find them. Then come back and tell us how it went. Offer any suggestions that helped you to see the grey. I personally guarantee that any changes you make in this direction will be beneficial for all concerned – in other words, for the whole planet.

Here’s hoping you have a very grey holiday season!

~ Professor (Grey)

Thanks to Bill Hampton for creating the graphics for this post. 

For more by Professor click here.

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14 Responses to 50 Shades of Grey: Autism Style

  1. DV says:

    thank you! I took a hiatus from the FB autism “community” in June, and am tentatively dipping my toes 1 or 2 times a Week (Down from having the comp on all day in between chores. No time for that now that I am homeschooling my autie.) Fed up with the divisive vitriol, I felt my soul was no longer nourished by the camaraderie I once sought. Insults are slung. Namecalling if you don’t follow “their” specific diet choices. Goodness, who would voluntarily want to waste their life taking verbal abuse? Again, thank you for pointing this polarized behavior.

    • ProfessorTMR says:


      I’m so sorry you’ve been experiencing that kind of vitriol. I’ve seen quite a lot of it, and it disgusts me. I agree, why would people voluntarily spend their lives taking verbal abuse? We hope to make this a place where ALL people in the community can come together without fear of vitriol.

  2. Haven DeLay says:

    With my son’s autism came chronic, debilitating illness. Do I think my son would have wanted to remain non-verbal and behaviorally out of control such that he would at some point one day been too big for me to control so that he could not remain in our family? NO. If I ask my son today if he glad to be able to to “have a conversation” as he puts it. He would say “Of course!” Did it come back all on its own? No. It took a lot of changes and a lot of hard work on both our parts, and I think HE is glad of the results. If you ask my son if he wants to be sick again, get pneumonia a tenth time or meningitis for a third time or any number of the various infections he has had since regression over again, then his answer is going to be a resounding NO. He appreciates the things i tell him we can do to try to keep him healthy. This is a wonderful article. I fear, however, that too many still view this disorder as only a behavioral one and they do not see the medical comorbidities nor how so many suffer from them. I fear these, like my son, just getting forgotten. I applaud those who have found happiness and success and have never known what it is to be chronically ill. I can only hope they find in themselves to know compassion for the moms and their children who are trying to heal broken bodies.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Thank you, Haven. Your comment spells out the situation nicely. The fact is that autism means very different things to the people who have it and their families. In some cases it causes very little disturbance, while in others it becomes life-threatening. Obviously, those people will not have the same needs.

  3. Cherri says:

    Perfect message of unity at a time it is most needed. As the parent of a significantly neurologically impacted teen, I find my attentions being drawn away from causation and towards quality of life concerns. This has resulted in increasing contact and interactions with the adults with ASD many of whom identify with the neurodiverse movement. While I don’t expect to ever give up on working with my son Ben biomedically to heal his injuries and to maintain his health, I have become more sensitive to the perspectives of folks who don’t believe this is related to his autism. However, we do share a very strong belief in full inclusion and participation for everyone, and I have much to learn from some very fine people , with whom I happen to disagree on other matters. Truly, it takes more effort to step outside the bubble of totally like-minded people, but my son will be better off as a result, and I will have grown as a human being.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Thank you so much for telling us about your experiences, Cherri. That’s going to be happening more and more as children who were severely impacted, but are much less so now, get to be teenagers and adults. As many people in the neurodiversity community do not yet understand, many people are HOPING that their children function as well as they do when they reach adulthood, and that they get to join them. I think, eventually, there will be more adults with autism who have been helped significantly by biomedical treatments than people who haven’t.

  4. Joy D says:

    I’ve followed TMR since its inception. Bravo for staying focused on the mission. Without firm guidance, growth can shatter. Appreciating the opinions of others and the critiques keeps one honestly in tune with the goal. You are all doing great work!

  5. I love this ProfessorTMR! This is when we will all work together toward common goals–while acknowledging that not all goals are common, and that this does not make us bad people. Everyone is entitled to their own reality, as long as it does not hurt other people. The autism community is now large, and has the opportunity to be a SIGNIFICANT VOICE FOR CHANGE. I hope that it can come together to realize its collective power. I’ll be hoping this happens sooner rather than later, and look forward to working to make it a reality with many allies.

  6. Nancy says:

    Great Post! Thank you. I think I’ve started seeing the grey with the whole “Suzanne Wright, Autism Speaks” piece. I was 100% on her side and I saw no problem with that piece. Then, after reading a number of comments, I started to get another perspective. Some have difficulties with autism that are not the same as mine. For some, reading the piece by Suzanne Wright brings up some painful things for them in a way they see has far more damaging than helpful. I am still FAR from being in the ND camp. I won’t sign the petition that asks AS supporters to withdraw their funding. I still think Suzanne Wright’s perspective is just as justified as anyone else’s. However, I gained some perspective and I hope that we all can lean to come together over time.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Thanks for your comment, Nancy! Yes, reading comments can be disheartening, but it is also a good way of getting to understand others’ viewpoints. Everyone’s experience with autism is different, and everyone’s needs around the subject are different as well. I understand that some people want to be “left alone” and I get that, but that doesn’t mean that it would be smart, kind or wise to “leave alone” everyone with autism. As Goddess pointed out in yesterday’s blog, if she had not intervened her son would not be nearly as healthy as he is today and on the brink of talking.

  7. Ca Lo says:

    Excellent post!

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