Karla Fisher and Mark Robert Waldman on God… Big Ideas… the Brain and the connections to Autism

I like Ted Talks… and  I like Karla’s ASD Page on Facebook. When Karla was asking for perspectives on this Ted Talk by Mark Robert Waldman, well – that was a double whammy and much too much to resist!

I watched the entire talk and I found it very interesting. I had no trouble attending and getting through it. The focus was on how the things we think and the messages we process can positively or negatively affect our brains. It also explained how when we meditate on a big idea – whether it is God, or kindness, or peace – our brains are also changed. The connections between what we think, the messages we process, and the changes in our brains (the big concepts behind CBT and cognitive behaviour strategies) were made visual. I love that!

The connection for me to Autism would be how the brain is changed when faced with negative messages. It has me again wondering how much responsibility we need to take for the constant barrage of negative messages we give to those who are not a part of the neuromajority. (BTW… that is rhetorical: of course we need to give this more consideration and alter it!)

I look at my boy and reflect upon all of the times he has been treated as though he is bad or misbehaving by others because of his processing differences, and then the connection is that these these have had an ongoing negative impact. This can be changed – and we need to support the positive perspectives of his differences. Autism needs to be seen as a set of differences instead of a set of deficits. I suppose the connection I make to this video is that the deficit-based perspective is further disabling – but that we can work to positively change this.

Additionally, the thread on Karla’s page regarding this video, is a lovely example of multiple and differing perspectives – and the way in which all of our understanding is enriched when we can be involved is such respectful discourse.

Reading Karla’s thread deepens my understanding of the difficulties in connecting to content and ideas based on format, as a number of people who responded found that the intent and content of the Ted Talk was challenging due to the format and design, and lack of what Karla refers to as cliffs (I am assuming Cliffs notes).

Karla states: “Here is the kicker (and for others to hear/learn). IF you want me to comment or be able to follow on a video or something like this, PLEASE give me the “cliffs” of it along with places in the video that are meaningful to the points YOU want to discuss. Otherwise I get lost in an ocean of connections that never tie together. This has nothing to do with me not working hard enough… It has to do with me getting lost in an ocean of points that never tie together.”

As a parent of a child with autism/autistic child, wife of an Autistic person, and special education teacher – it always helps me to understand and be reminded of the connection between format and accessibility of content!

And too… I can’t help but notice that sometimes the neuromajority really lacks the perspective of others. I always appreciate the insight of another perspective (or two or ???) to nudge me into considering things outside of my own experience!!

If you have 20 minutes to spare, I would very much encourage you to check out the link to Waldman’s talk. If you do watch/listen to the talk, please consider leaving a comment here with your impressions afterward, as both Karla and myself would be interested in your perspective.


30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)

About Leah Kelley, Ed.D.

Leah Kelley, M.Ed, Ed.D., Writer, Consultant, Activist, Speaker, and Educator, working with Teacher Candidates at UBC. Authors blog: 30 Days of Autism. Projects support social understanding, Neurodiversity paradigm, Disability Justice, and connecting Disability Studies in Education(DSE)to Educational Practice. Twitter: @leah_kelley Facebook: 30 Days of Autism: Leah Kelley
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8 Responses to Karla Fisher and Mark Robert Waldman on God… Big Ideas… the Brain and the connections to Autism

  1. Definitely sounds interesting Leah – I’ll have to carve out a chunk of time when the kids are at school to listen to this!


  2. Before I knew I was on the spectrum, I used to try to describe my childhood to people and all the ways I was different, and I always used the word “meditator” to describe myself. “I was a natural born meditator”, I would tell people. Most of them probably didn’t understand the depth of what I was saying, of course. But for me, autism is not a disorder, it is a skill or a practice, just like meditation. And autism has all the benefits of meditation that were described in the video. You could almost think of autism as a special kind of meditation, what most NTs think of as “social deficits”.

    “the deficit-based perspective is further disabling”

    Yes!!! This has been on my mind a lot lately. Defining autism as a disorder is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Autism is one of the few conditions for which someone other than the patient makes the decision to see a doctor. I don’t think very many of them ask for treatment for their social deficits or their special interests, because autistics don’t see that stuff as deficits or a disorder at all. We all know we are different, but “different” doesn’t mean “deficit” to us. So as a society, we are helping people who never asked for help, who know they are different but don’t feel like anything is wrong with them. We are helping them because the overall society doesn’t understand the way they are. Autistics would love to be helped in certain ways, but our societies hardly ever help them in the ways they would like to be helped. Instead, we tell them how they need to be helped. So it isn’t really much help at all, it is more like social engineering. I think most of it is counter-productive.

    The self-fulfilling prophecy is that the label will prove itself to be every bit as disabling as people thought it would be.


  3. Leah Kelley says:

    (((AspieKid))) I hear what you are saying. I will likely take more time later to add to this as well… but I wanted to stick my first thoughts to the paper before I got caught up in the morning whirlwind and then headed off to work… so consider this comment a work in progress please…

    I love the way that you describe yourself: “I was a natural born meditator.” I have seen that in my own child as well, and for him I think it has something to do with attention to detail and being able to respond to his own need for space and pace.

    I agree with the negative impact upon an individual of a deficit based-approach, or trying to bend someone and squeeze them into somehow being typical. As well, I have serious concerns about the well-being of my child and his self-image when Autism is being framed as an epidemic and a tragedy.

    That is not me railing against autism or even the label. I think the label has been of benefit to my son and to my family. I see the word “autism” as an entry word into understanding the experience of my son. Understanding his experience is the beginning of my truest and best support, because when I know that he thinks differently and sees the world if a different way – it is then that I can work to support him in making his way.

    My son does face enormous challenges when he needs to interface with the rest of the world… I suppose there is no one right way or easy answer here… but at least I think we are considering the right questions.

    Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful and insightful comments.


  4. desparately trying to get this message accross to people on behalf of my 14 yr old son who has aspergers, he is so often misunderstood and rushed along in conversation by teachers and other adults, i find kids accept him much more as he has a “random” sense of humour. i find other parents of kids do not agree with me trying to have him accepted for his differences rather than trying to make him fit into the so called norm. it drives me crazy, why cant people live and let live, see the gifts in each other and just stop judging???!!!!


    • Leah Kelley says:

      ((Paula)) I hear you!! I maintain immense hope that we will someday be at that place where all of us can be accepted for our differences, and given the support we need to develop to our full potential… all of us!!


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