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Slow News Day: Changeling Syndrome

Slow News Day: Changeling Syndrome published on 41 Comments on Slow News Day: Changeling Syndrome

Bennet: Other shows recently have been talking about workplace accommodations for people with changeling syndrome! . . . That sounds complicated.

My show will just ask people whether you think the term “changeling syndrome” is problematic.

Hazel Cherieshnya, Student, Amateur Artist: Me, I never liked it. Makes it sound like I used to be something else, and then I “changed” into this? When, no . . . this is who I always was.

Atarangi Neinekura, Tiny Magical Girl: The term’s been good enough for everyone to use for decades. Why drop it now? Ugh — I don’t see why we can’t just settle on one, consistent set of rules for what words are offensive, and then follow that forever.

Kale Romarin, Humble Translator: It’s a little confusing, I think. If (hypothetically) someone goes through a trauma that changes them, so now they’re tense, averse to trying new things, easily overwhelmed, and struggling to understand what’s expected in social situations . . .That’s not what it means?

But if you have those traits because you were just born with a neural difference that makes them natural, that’s “changeling” syndrome? See? That’s just not intuitive.

Ivy Muscade, Magical Prodigy: Ooh! Did you know, in Sønheic it’s called “autism” — which literally translates to “self-involved”? So there was a big debate in Ceannic-speaking fandoms for Sønheic shows, about whether that was offensive, and whether we were allowed to use it — or whether it was presumptuous and culturally insensitive for us not to use it! Do you want links? I have soooo many links!

Larch Lavande, Choir Teacher: You should probably limit asking this question to people with changeling syndrome?

Bennet: . . . Kinda thought that’s what I was doing.

Larch: Oh, no, I’ve been professionally evaluated, and they said I didn’t qualify! Unlike my son. Or my sister. Or my uncle. Or two of my grandparents. Or maybe three of my cousins . . .

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As an autistic whose gender is faery personally I’m all for referring to it as changeling syndrome. Yes in fact the Gentry did abandon me here as an infant and the allistics will just have to Deal With It. No you can’t send me back, I’m your problem now. Oh, you thought you were getting a human girl? Psych. Changelings only.

My best friend’s best friend from high school’s parents seemed to think she was a changeling.

But she has his eyes, his hair, his build, his math aptitude, his organizational aptitude,
her face, her hands, her chest, her social aptitude, her cooking aptitude.

They found someone who completed them, and then they had a daughter who realized all of that. To be fair, their daughter is far from perfect, but a lot of those flaws come from the abuse that she suffered because her father thought her mother cheated on him because “no way no child of mine has it together that much” and her mother thought the hospital gave them the wrong baby for more or less the same reason.

And I though faery is species, not gender.

I believe some people who don’t identify as male or female use words to describe their gender that are more commonly used in other ways; that’s how I interpreted the gender=faery statement above.

Well I did used to identify as otherkin and I still lowkey think of myself as nonhuman, but it’s also the lens through which I parse both my gender and my autism, and it influences my experience of my sexuality as well. I am nonbinary and I also identify extremely strongly with changelings. My gender can be faery if I want it to be.

That’s uncommonly sensitive for Bennett. (Did he get a fabulous new boyfriend recently who’s educating him on this stuff?)

Also, wow, Atarangi – I also hate the euphemism treadmill, and you’ve *still* got me disagreeing with you!

Haha, I understand why it doesn’t work that way but at the same time I feel *exactly* where Atarangi is coming from on this one. Trying to learn and juggle all the conflicting social rules between all the people you know is hard enough without those rules changing all the time!

And it’s even harder for autists. Changelings.

And … the euphemism treadmill is not really working either. The only result of euphemism treadmill for sex is that you can now get the point across using just words so general you can’t change them. I mean, what do you think “they are doing it” means?

Probably, I doubt I’m the best or worst at it among the pack.

The reason it doesn’t work isn’t really so much because of euphemisms, though that’s a related part, but because when people come up with words for things, they don’t actually do it in an objective and well-reasoned manner (which would be nice), they do it in a highly subjective manner based on what words they’ve absorbed what kind of social connotations of into their own language that makes the term feel appropriate for what they’re trying to convey, and as society shifts over time, some of the pieces of society that got stuck to those words become less (or more, but usually less) acceptable and result in terms being dismissed or even made taboo in exchange for other, possibly new, possibly old, but definitely more contemporally appropriate terminology.

And that doesn’t even begin to take into consideration the fact that those language shifts happen at different speeds in different directions in different subcultures of different societies that speak the same language, and when you have such a large venue of communication between all those subcultures you get even more language clashes and conflicts and ultimately it all boils down to

People Are Confusing

Hell, I seem to recall in our world, only a decade or two ago, all but the most incapacitating cases of autism were all but exclusively referred to by a term that’s now gone out of fashion so thoroughly I won’t repeat it.

If I were in this world, I wouldn’t like it for reasons similar to Hazel. It implies that there was a non-autistic child who was “supposed” to be here, but they were cruelly stolen away and I’m an unnatural being who was left here in their place.

Too close to real-world people who act like autism is a disease that’s locked your “real” child away, and if only you could get rid of the autism, your kid would become conveniently neurotypical and you wouldn’t have to deal with that difficult autistic kid that you ACTUALLY have anymore.

Or alternatively that the hospital mixed up a couple of babies, therefore the one they have isn’t really theirs and therefore doesn’t deserve their affection… despite ample evidence that the child is in fact theirs. Also, they were just as problematic when they were kids because guess who else has changeling syndrome but just wasn’t diagnosed?

To be clear, while this is applicable to my response to someone else above, it’s totally more general, as I’ve known other people whose parents similarly wished to wash their hands of their child situation but did not have any in front of their child while their child was old enough to remember it accusations of infidelity. Most of these parents were less abusive to their children, but they were all neglectful.

On an unrelated note, Larch’s response reminds me of, uh, a LOT of my family, haha. So much probable undiagnosed autism going on in my family tree. Too real.

People on spectrum tend to tolerate people on spectrum better. Also, it’s genetic. These combine to form a lot of autism power families.

On the one hand, Larch could genuinely not be on spectrum and just appear to be on spectrum due to some learned mannerisms, or maybe like most people have some traits just not enough for diagnosis and those traits happen to be visible ones.

On the other hand, Larch could also have it but just picked up masking techniques from relatives well enough to evade diagnosis. One of my cousins did this. Around family, he behaved normally – meaning like most of the members of our very autism-spectrum heavy family. Introduce one person outside of the family to the scene and suddenly he acted neurotypical.

Huh – Atarangi, Kale, Ivy, and Larch are on the “changeling spectrum?” (…Hazel, on the other hand… suffice to say in her case I’m not exactly surprised.)

Also, “humble translator” has me thinking of a certain “humble tailor,” who may or may not have killed a half-dozen people in San Francisco.

Humble tailor makes me thing about certain “humble tailor” who likely killed much more than half-dozen people while working for secret service. Also Romulan senator.

“Truth is in the eye of the beholder, doctor. I never tell the truth because I don’t believe there is such a thing. That is why I prefer the straight line simplicity of cutting cloth.”

Yeah, that’s the one I was thinking of. “Did I fire five bullets or six?”

(EDIT: I assume you know this, but Garak and Scorpio are the same actor. Hence the joke about killing a half-dozen people in San Franciso.)

It appears probable that Bennet mistook Kale’s PTSD for autism – part of the point of Kale’s answer is that there’s substantial overlap in symptoms.

So maybe Bennett was wrong about Atarangi, too – is there an overlap in symptoms between being in a system and changeling syndrome?

There’s a lot of overlap between being in a system and having PTSD, at least in real life. Like every system I’ve met that indicated one way or the other indicated they had PTSD. One of those systems studies mental health and has asserted that they also have noted a very high correlation. There are many people who have PTSD who are not systems, but there are few systems that do not have PTSD.

That said, people with both autism and PTSD exist. Getting an autism diagnosis after getting PTSD is very difficult, even when ones PTSD is from abuse suffered due to potential abusers recognizing their otherness and thus probable low support in the face of abuse. The frequency of that happening is fairly high, which can be a problem.

To be clear, I don’t know how frequently that happens today. But back when I was in school it seemed part of the universal autism spectrum experience. The only question was, would one get PTSD from it or not.

I suspect that but for Kale’s aptitude for mind magic, without the PTSD, Kale would likely get a changeling spectrum diagnosis. However, given the mind magic, his masking skills are through the roof, and this isn’t even something that he’s conscious of. He’s also aware of how much “fitting in” so-called normal people do, so if you ask him he would deny doing this more than normal. The big difference comes in regarding what he would do without masking verses what normal people would do without masking, not the fact that there is masking happening at all.

Pre-Trauma Kale does show some symptoms, I feel – he’s socially isolated; he walks off an assassination attempt without realising that’s what it is; and both Hermosa and Northwind play him like a fiddle.

Buuuut growing up in a Northwind town with incurable hallucinations in the family, there’s no way he’d be *diagnosed*.

Doublepost: come to think of it, I probably shouldn’t have been all that surprised by Ivy, either.

(Five-minute edit: probably worth noting although I’ve never been officially tested, just about everyone figures I am. Sort of like that arc where Mae Dean gets tested for ADD.)

Bits of worldbuilding like this are a big part of why I love this comic so much. It just delights me on such a deep, visceral, level to see characters grappling with an issue that is obviously 100% fictional, and yet at the same time so incredibly relatable and down-to-earth that it feels like it MIGHT AS WELL be an issue you actually see getting discussed on the news regularly IRL!

Just for a minute, can we give props to Bennet? He’s trying to be better with his reporting by asking people with the syndrome. He’s certainly developed. To note, he still has further to go, but I like to charitably interpret the first panel; he recognizes it’s outside of his wheel house, so he’s engaging the topic from an angle his more interview based style can handle, and those he interviews are relevant to the topic at least to a degree.

Incidentally, am I supposed to be getting the impression from the last panel that Larch’s doctor screwed up somehow? Only I definitely am.

It is within the realm of possibility that Larch IS changeling spectrum and just good enough at masking or he wasn’t ‘symptomatic’ enough for that particular physician to stamp him with the “Changeling” brand.

It’s equally possible that Larch is a different type of neurodiverse which shares “symptoms”, e.g. ADD/ADHD-types ALSO do hyperfocus and Special Interests, both of which we’ve seen Larch partaking in.

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