I was diagnosed with autism at age 27. But I was “diagnosed” with Being an Indigo Child some twenty years prior to that. My religious upbringing was a bizarre melange of neo-Wiccan 101 books, canned organic pumpkin, crystals, Goddess-based swear words, and A Course in Miracles.
Since reaching adulthood I’ve shed nearly all of it, except for a fascination with Tarot cards. Which I love both for the vast range of artistic interpretations available and the fact that the Tarot structure itself is one hell of a storytelling tool. (Ask me about my marching band show design concept focused on The Tower!)
All of which I bring up now to say: Between being both diagnostically and culturally a/Autistic and well-versed in New Age divinatory practices, I find myself exceptionally qualified to review the following product.
I wish I were more surprised by the price tag ($30.00), but I’m not. If there’s one thing I learned from twenty years of charlatans and marks, it’s that prices on “New Age” trinkets are always inflated, because we live in a culture where people invest their “energies” by investing money. Or where a sucker is born every minute. Whichever.
But hey, whatever, right? Let’s check out the actual product.
The text on the deck’s “explanation” card, and on its website, reads:
This deck of cards is to help parents, siblings, teachers, therapists, health practitioners and others better understand what is happening for the non-verbal or low-verbal autistic child.
The child’s energetic vibration will come into resonance with the energy of the card that most expresses their message in the moment. This is what they want you to know about them right now.
Pat attention. Listen. Check it out.
And as a result, be in greater connection and understanding.
Enjoy. Learn. Be amazed!
at the brilliant being in front of you.
Feedback is welcomed: cardfeedback (at) autismtransformed.com. Thank you!
*Aaron Burr voice* Sweet Jesus.
First: I didn’t spend thirty years of my life learning to read Tarot, runes, pendulum, palms, and I Ching not to discover one very important thing about divination: It literally does not matter which vehicle you use.
Which is to say: if autistic children have “energetic vibrations” that enable them to communicate meaningfully by picking an object from an offered selection, then it doesn’t matter which objects you offer them to pick.
A regular Tarot deck would work for this. A regular AAC board or PECS deck would work for this. And, unlike the “Autism Expressions Tarot Deck,” Tarot cards, AAC boards, and PECS decks are available for free online.
Okay, now I’m pissed off at that $30.00 price tag.
Second: Whether or not you actually buy the idea that autistic kids have “energetic vibrations,” it’s a well-established fact that autistic kids also have motor difficulties. Motor difficulties that make certain tasks difficult. Like, say, pointing to a card.
Third: It does matter what selection of communicative options you offer to an autistic kid, insofar as their ability to respond is going to be limited by the options given. So let’s check out the options given.
Amazon and the cards’ website both display the same five sample cards, in addition to the “explanation” card and an image I’m assuming is the cards’ back. I’ve pulled these images from the cards’ website.
…Why is the kid wearing a Care Bear costume? What’s with the spiral galaxy slash black oil alien?
More importantly, why is the text “I’m in here even if I can’t show you right now,” and not the far more likely “I’m in here even though you’re so resistant to seeing me that you bought a $30.00 card deck instead of learning to communicate with me”?
*calming meditative breath* It’s okay. They can’t all be this bad.
Autistic kids are into teddy bears, I guess.
The text on this one bugs me less than the fact that this “child” looks like a grumpy old Inuit man. I bet he’s actually Raven trying to escape this enchanted hoodie so he can resume his bird form and run off with the sun again. What a trickster.
Fun Fact: I am a complete sucker for anything that evokes my groovy 80s childhood. I watch Stranger Things for the bedsheets and candy wrappers, not the plot.
So I’m kind of in love with this card, because it reminded me immediately of the cover of the Care Bear Cousins Christmas coloring book I had as a child:
I mean, the bear on this “Autism Expressions” card even looks like a Care Bear. We can’t see his tummy, but his nose and ears are heart-shaped, just like the originals. I bet it’s Good Luck Bear. That scamp.
Boy howdy, card deck, yes you do.
PRO TIP FOR AUTISM PARENTS: If your child is holding their head and crying, the time to slow down is waaay behind you. You missed it. You were not paying attention. You done fucked up.
Now it is time to apologize, abort immediately to a quiet, safe location, and refrain from messing with your kid or letting anyone else mess with your kid until the meltdown resolves itself. And stop using a goddamn card deck to tell you what your kid needs instead of learning to communicate with your kid yourself.
…Also, the artwork on this one bothers me. I drew a Tarot deck at age 17 that was better than this, and my drawing skills are legendarily nonexistent. If I’d known I could sell my adolescent chicken scrawl for $30 a pop, I’d be a lot richer today than I am now.
B for understanding that messing with our routines is bad; F for understanding why. This is the most neurotypical crap I’ve seen from these cards so far. Surely you could have found one autistic person with an understanding of divination and some mediocre art skills to help you create a deck that didn’t push tired-ass stereotypes.
(That’s not a question. I know several.)
This card is the hottest mess of the five. First, that text. Second, that mediocre-ass “artwork.” Third, I swear to $Deities I’ve seen this before.
I wanted to like this card deck. I really did. I have a major soft spot for Tarot-related items, especially when they feature original artwork.
But the longer I look at this thing, the worse it gets. The images are badly drawn, and the longer I look at a few of them (the imitation Care Bear and the last two, in particular), the more derivative they appear. The text is unacceptable. Actually-autistic professionals and their writing are remarkably easy to find and consult from anywhere in the world with Internet access; failing to do so is lazy in the extreme.
I repeat: *Aaron Burr voice* Sweet Jesus.