So, Is Meltdown When I Lose Control, or When I Seize It?


In a previous post I confessed that autistic meltdown is not really where I lose control, but where I seize it, in the same way that I might seize control of a steering wheel from a driver who has unilaterally decided to plow us both head-on into an onrushing truck. But I have also compared meltdown to the launch of a space shuttle, asserting that in response to certain kinds of contextual triggers I lose control over my own mind in the same way that NASA loses control over a space shuttle once lift off has begun (or an archer loses control over her arrow once she’s released it from her bow).

So which is it? Is autistic meltdown when I lose control or when I seize it?

Although this may appear to be a serious contradiction, it’s really not because it’s just an example of how we can switch back and forth conceptually between a personal view of disability and an environmental one. So, when I say on the one hand that for me meltdown is when I seize control, I’m adopting an environmental view of my meltdown disability, which is to say I’m choosing to view my meltdowns as an otherwise normal response to some serious design flaw in the environment (the driver is a lunatic). And when I say that meltdown is when I lose control, I’m adopting the view that my meltdowns are caused by some weakness or vulnerability on the part of my neurology (I’m the lunatic). With the environmental view it’s the environment that needs fixing — the car must be steered back into safety; with the personal view it’s me that needs fixing — some way must be found to shut down the space shuttle engines after ignition has begun.

Of course, that raises the question of why I would choose to view myself rather than the environment as the one who needs to be fixed. This is an excellent question, but alas it falls outside the scope of this particular blog post.

Image Credit: Shutterstock. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Although which view we adopt changes nothing about the actual facts of the matter — the water contains the same amount of water regardless — it does have an impact on how we think, feel, and behave towards the glass and its contents. Similarly, choosing to view a disability as an environmental rather than a personal attribute also changes nothing about the facts of the matter — one way or another the person remains disabled with respect to the environment in question — but the shift in perspective can have an important impact on how we think, feel, and behave towards the problem of the disability, and especially how we approach solving that problem.


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