10/24/2014

What should a blogger do with their old posts when they change their mind?

I recently reread some old entries from 2009 and winced.  I still stand behind the main ideas of these posts, but would now express them very differently.

For one, my attitude towards autism and other disabilities has changed immensely since beginning this blog.  When I began, I was just starting to read both autism research and blogs by autistic people and their parents.  Although in the abstract, I thought of disabilities as traits that could be positive, negative, or neutral depending on the situation, I viewed autism in particular as entirely negative, as a source of disability only.  This perspective came from watching my brother struggle with the disabilities themselves, the way others treated him as a result, and the anxiety produced by both.  I saw his positive traits--his brilliant, independent mind, his sardonic humor, his sense of justice and compassion for others--as completely unrelated to autism.  They were just part of who he was.  But I didn't see autism that way.  As Zoe Gross would put it, I was still partially seeing autism as a sort of add-on, like the detachable cape on a Magneto action figure.  Granted, I was seeing it as an add-on that affected the way people perceive, move, think, and feel in various ways, but I still saw it as a basically negative add-on.  When I first started reading autism research (the first papers I read were from the Yale group), a lot of it rang false, and the coldly clinical writing style made me wonder if the writers knew and loved anyone autistic.  But the deficit-focus and deficit-language used didn't bother me yet--I just thought that they were focused on the wrong disabilities and were too far removed from the people they studied.

Then I learned more about the up-sides of autistic ways of perceiving and learning.  Autistic people can quickly hone in on details within a complex visual display.  They have reduced attentional blindness.  They can better perceive and appreciate pitch in music than most.  They can learn challenging skills like reading without being taught, often at a young age.  They're immune to various illusions, including the one where moving triangles appear to carry out intentional actions like "chasing." And it's not like these are anomalies unrelated to the disabling aspects of autism, either.  These positive traits are likely related to the traits that are disabilities.  A bias towards focusing on sensory details can be positive or negative depending on whether the situation demands perceiving the details (e.g., when drawing) or the configuration (e.g., when perceiving faces).  The ability to learn rapidly through self-teaching is the flip side of a difficulty learning from being taught by typical educational methods.  Lacking the neurotypical mind "bug" of perceiving everything as intentional could contribute to missing social cues.  And you can flip it the other way, too--disabling traits come with up-sides in the right situations and with the right support.  Thus, parents, teachers, clinicians, and researchers have an ethical imperative to seek out and build on the positive. 

So now, I would talk about autism very differently.  This poses a problem: should I edit the posts to bring them in line with my current understanding, or leave them unchanged as a testament to the process of change itself?  Perhaps I should edit them, as the technically-savvy can find old versions of most webpages anyway?  What do you think?  What would you do--or, if you've had a similar change in perspective while blogging, what have you done?