Autism Spectrum and the Philosophy of Paradox

F Scott Fitzgerald said that "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

Paradox is everywhere in the world of Autism.  It is embedded in the name Autism Spectrum itself. A diagnosis, autism, coupled to spectrum, a fierce rejection of the very idea that a diagnosis can define or describe. 

As director of an organization that provides social skills coaching, I am confronted with one of Autism's most vexing paradoxes. I struggle to balance my strong belief in pluralism which insists that each person is perfect in their inconsistencies with the basic goal of social skills training which is a shift towards normative behavior patterns.

The answer is also a paradox.  By learning the rules of how to be comfortable with others and removing the barriers to connection, we can open up a space to more authentically express ourselves. Like the fox in the Little Prince, in our taming we gain freedom.

From the Little Prince:

“I am looking for friends. What does that mean -- tame?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties." 
"To establish ties?" 
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world....” 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince