A quick note before I begin…Please understand that this post is not meant to brow-beat the good allistic parents/friends/significant others of Aspie/autistic people, just those who are intolerant of our spectrumhood (“bonus” points if they’re also vocal about it). And on that note, moving on… 🙂
I’m an Aspergian.
I know what that means.
I’ve taken the quizzes (all of them that I can find).
I’ve researched the official “diagnostic” criteria.
I’ve identified with the more well-informed checklists developed by our more contemporary clinicians.
I’ve nodded in vigorous agreement with the firsthand blog posts written by other Aspies.
I am the way I am. I always have been. I was indeed born this way.
The same goes for other Aspies around the world.
The vast majority of us do not see our neuro-type as a “disorder”, “disease”, “pathology”, or “disability”.
Being a relatively straight-forward person, I’ve usually shunned “political correctness” as an alternate Newspeak to assuage over-sensitive peoples’ feelings. Even my partner, who is physically handicapped, always scoffed at the term “handicapable”; he always felt that that word (and the spirit behind it) had a patronizing, condescending vibe to it.
But when it comes to Aspieism and the autism spectrum, since it’s not a “thing” that’s “wrong”, it’s not a “disability”, but rather, a “different ability”. (Sure, on some days or in certain environments or situations, being on the spectrum may seem or feel like a disability; I certainly don’t find fault with that sentiment. But it’s not like we’re mentally challenged in general.)
We’re simply star-shaped pegs living in a square-pegged world.
We don’t need a “cure”. This statement takes the wind out of the sails of the allistic family members who lament about the challenges and hardships they face while attempting to interact with, relate to, (and in the case of parents with autistic children, raise) autistic people.
Those allistic family members don’t usually like to hear from people like us. I’m sure that some of them would like to do away with the internet, because it’s one of our primary–and most powerful tools–for being heard firsthand. Yes, firsthand. Not through the eyes of the ICD-10 or DSM-V diagnostic system. Not through the eyes of so-called “experts” and “professionals” and people with fancy accolades who claim to know us better than we do.
There’s one (big) drawback to doing away with the internet: they would lose their global voice, too. Gone would be their support networks, discussion forums, “autism resource” and “advocacy” entities, sympathy, venting spaces, and so on. So, they don’t dare speak of such an idea.
But I’m sure some (not all) would like to shut us down. Or at least, shut us up.
Why? Because here we are, Aspergian/autistic and everything, having “miraculously” survived into adulthood, many of us becoming independent, functional and productive, some of us even having achieved success in our chosen fields. Here we are, in relationships, with or without children, in our own homes, happy with who we are. Here we are, NOT having “outgrown” our autism. And…
…We’re OK. We’re largely OK with ourselves. Most of us are just fine, at least in terms of who we are and how we live. (Sure, we deal with stress and sensory processing issues, who doesn’t from time to time? I mean, who doesn’t deal with depression at some point in their lives these days?) Most of us don’t want a cure. We get nervous, and for good reason, when people start advocating for “cures” and “prevention” of this “epidemic”. The entities championing those ideas do not speak for us. There’s a reason they’re not asking us. We would tell them the truth. The truth would mean that their “cause”–and the “need” for it–would instantly disintegrate.
I get it. We’re different. We’re wired differently. We operate differently. Therefore, we’re Inconvenient to those people. They might have to take special steps to interact with us successfully, or create a calm environment to prevent sensory overload.
As children, we require consistent, gentle patience, and extra benefit-of-the-doubt insight. We might not know how to say what we want, think, or feel. Many of these desires, thoughts, or feelings can evolve quickly into complex webs that might be beyond the capability of some to recognize, understand, and interpret. As children, we also might be more emotionally and environmentally sensitive; we might learn differently. We don’t know how to express those quirks, so it’s up to the adults to figure it out during our development years. Lazy, authoritative, or limited-skilled parenting will not work here.
That is Not Convenient. That is why there are so many entities (websites, discussion forums, support groups, etc) catering to these people.
As adults, we still might not realize when we’re approaching our sensory processing limits, or stress on the job. We might require more specific communication. We might need a nudge to do some housework. We might appear to be “obsessed” with our special interests. Spectrum-Allistic partnerships are indeed “mixed marriages” in which both people involved come from different “cultures”, in which each has their own way of communicating. Each has their own set of customs.
That is Not Convenient, either. And again, that’s why there are so many resources, especially for allistic females who are interacting with Aspie males.
Inconvenience may breed desperation. Some of the allistic people in these situations are crying for a “cure”. They want to “fix” us.
When we speak, those entities–and their members/supporters–get taken a little less seriously about their “need” for a “cure”. (The “need” is for them, anyway; it’s not for us.)
The only possible outcome of such a cure, if it were even possible, would be a more convenient life for themselves. It’s natural and human nature to want to alleviate your own suffering, but if doing so would impose suffering on or create suffering for the other person, that’s incredibly selfish and damn near abusive.
And such a “cure” would probably create suffering for the Aspie/autistic. Basically, when people talk about a “cure”, they’re talking about changing the very fabric that is deeply woven into the foundational makeup of our core identity. In the event of such a “cure”, there would be a huge spike in the suffering of these peoples’ children (or significant others or loved ones), as a major part of their very identity is denied and driven underground.
Yes, you read that correctly…
“…a major part of their very identity is denied and driven underground.”
Read the above sentence again. And again. Because our spectrum neurotype influences every aspect of our Being.
My own place on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum probably makes me a better doctor than I would otherwise be.
I’m actually proud to be on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. Some people think that’s ridiculous. I’ll discuss all that in the next post, so stay tuned for Part 2.
In the meantime, allistic parents, friends, and significant others, please keep your laments on the down-low. Everyone experiences frustration. I understand and respect that your situation and its challenges are unique; you’re dealing with a completely different brain-type, after all, and that is indeed challenging and downright trying at times.
But guess what: your spectrum child/friend/significant other is struggling to relate to you, too. They’re (we’re) trying to communicate effectively, get taken seriously, and to understand what you’re saying. They’re trying to exist in a world not built for them, without the benefit of being a member of the majority.
Thus, the challenges faced are not entirely their fault. It takes two. When people aren’t able to relate well or reach common understanding and acceptance, it’s not always the Aspie/autistic’s fault.
Often, you’re not perfect, either. (Nobody is.)
What it is, is a true language barrier. For example, in a summit of global leaders, we wouldn’t blame the Chinese representative for not being able to communicate fully with–or for inadvertently committing a cultural faux pas in front of–the representative from Egypt. They just speak different languages. They also probably think differently and do things differently. Well, so do we all (whether on the spectrum or not).
The message you’re really sending when you complain about those of us on the spectrum is that you really don’t like us the way we are and that you would selfishly change us if you could. What if we said that about you?
What if we tried to “cure” you by making you more like us?
That’s where Acceptance comes in. And I don’t mean “acceptance” as in, “well, I’m broke as hell but I’m a college student, so I’ll just have to accept a crappy apartment or a beater vehicle, etc”. I mean Acceptance as in, “I wholly accept you and everything about you because it makes you…well, You, and I love/like you unconditionally the way You are, because You’re You.”
Now that is a solution. And a solution sure as hell beats a “cure” any day.
If this post offended you, that was not my original intent. But as I continued to write it, maybe it did become a…well, not a primary, but perhaps a secondary goal. If this post made you mad, maybe that’s a good thing. It means I got through. It means you heard me. Maybe it means these words may haunt you. It definitely means you’ve got some research to do and some understanding to gain. 🙂