Why the “rest” of the world is largely unaware of people on the spectrum

Today marks exactly–and only–3 1/2 months since I discovered my membership on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.

Before that, the possibility had never even so much as crossed my mind.

Being that I’m in the healthcare field, I’m embarrassed to admit just how little I knew about Asperger’s and the rest of the autism spectrum.  Sure, I was “aware” that it existed.  I even knew how to spot some of the more obvious autistic “behaviors”.  I knew about the “desperate” “plight” of mothers of children on the spectrum (who can miss that??).  I was familiar with several of the proposed causal/correlative/associative theories of autism, such as gut bacteria imbalance, methylation issues, sensory processing issues, and toxic overload.

All I knew about Asperger’s, though, was the (unfounded and completely inaccurate) claim of a “cold” and “detached” personality.

Since I had never even entertained the idea that I might be an Aspie myself, and I didn’t have any patients on the spectrum in my practice, I had never seen a need to research the topic much further.

Truthfully, I did (and do) want to care for people on the spectrum in my office.  However, I only knew that which is touted among various healthcare practitioners, and I was operating from the conventional (and ridiculous) standpoint that “spectrum disorders” are a developmental pathology (read: “something wrong”) and I wanted to “free” “those poor people” (mainly children, because that’s the population segment I was most aware of) from the clutches and the “cage” that was this Spectrum Monster.

But since I had other training scheduled, training that would help me care for people with health issues I could currently see, and I knew that spectrum “disorders” were much more complex and would need far more time to research, any further Asperger’s/autism-related education/research would have to be included on a more “long-term projects” list, and thus, would have to wait a while.

Thank goodness.

My, my, my, how things change.

Personally, I had been “deaf” or “blind” toward Asperger’s and the rest of the spectrum because I didn’t think I knew anyone on it.  (Ha!)  None of my friends or family displayed those characteristics.  None of my patients seemed to, either.  And it’s not like I pay much attention to the people around me when I’m out and about; I mind my own business.  I do my own thing, preferring not to notice, and preferring not to be noticed.

So the spectrum culture and its members were largely invisible to me.  It’s not that I didn’t care.  It’s not that I was a narcissist or an ableist.  It’s not that I was determined to remain oblivious.  Like I mentioned, it just didn’t cross my mind.

What I’ve written so far probably sounds really bad.  Ignorant, at the very least.  (It’s okay to think some very negative things about me at this point; although my viewpoint wasn’t on purpose and I’m not sure what I could’ve done differently with the information I had at the time, but I still think it sounds kind of bad.)  I wouldn’t blame you if you’re saying to yourself, “oh, here she is, an oblivious sheep who wouldn’t have given us the time of day one minute and is now a preoccupied and passionate advocate the next….now that she knows how it feels!  Ha!  Oh the irony, the poetic justice.”  If anyone was thinking anything along those lines, I seriously couldn’t blame them.

My previous (non-)stance was not based on an uncaring sentiment; I do think that if I had come into contact with anyone I knew to be on the spectrum, I’d like to think that I would have given them the time of day.  In fact, I hope I would have given them compassion and a listening ear.  And in fact, it dawned on me that I know I would have.

How do I know this?

Because the millisecond (literally!) that I found out about my own situation, I researched and reflected…a lot.

And I came to realize that some of the people I already knew in my life, are also on the spectrum after all, even though no one had known (not even themselves).  I can count six (!).  Two are cousins (blood relatives; one closer to me on the family tree, one more distant), two are good friends, one actually is a patient (!), and the last one is a patient’s child.  Only one of these people is actually aware that they are on the spectrum.

And throughout my entire relationships with them, I have sensed a “different-ness” about them, and even though I didn’t know the basis of this difference, I gravitated toward them.  They’re my “favorite” extended family members, patients, etc.  Not only have I always been friendly to them, but I had also felt like I really understood them, felt very comfortable and “safe” with them, and “clicked” with them in ways I intuitively felt they hadn’t been related to before.  I felt like we shared something deep and inexplicable in common, or that I “got” them in ways no one else around them/us did.

I didn’t know why.

I didn’t know at the time that I was one of “them”, too.

We exist, in the world and sometimes above it (in a way).

I no longer blame the rest of the world for failing to notice us.  After all, our Asperger’s/autism can be tricky to spot 🙂

We, the people on the spectrum, are all around, dispersed far and wide.  It’s easier for us to blend in in public these days because we can comfort ourselves by looking at our smartphones or iPads, just like everyone else does.  We’re the gifted or struggling kids in school.  We’re the kids (and adults) with collections.  We’re the “homebodies”.  We’re the quirky, intelligent, awkward people who stare at the ground but smile and love just the same.  We’re the computer geeks and animal rescuers and scientific researchers working on a PhD.  We’re the professors, the ditch diggers, and the night-time inventory clerks.  We’re the stay-at-home moms or dads, who may or may not have children, children who may or may not be home-schooled.

We, the people on the spectrum, are everywhere.

Sometimes, we’re aware of our place on the spectrum; usually, we’re not.

Like I said, I had no idea that I was (am) one of “them”, too. 🙂

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22 Comments

    1. Omg! Tonight I’ve started a process of reviewing all my posts and realized I hadn’t yet thanked you for the reblog! Please forgive my tardiness 😳😳. I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate it, even if my gratitude is expressed embarrassingly late 😍💖

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Sweet! The more I read from others and write on my own, the more I realize that people like you and me are not alone! (OK, I totally didn’t mean for that to rhyme, but I’ll roll with it lol!). Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂

      Like

  1. Reblogged this on Aspergreatness – Defiant Hopelessness and commented:
    As I may have mentioned before, I’m about halfway through my next degree, this time in Mental Health…
    And exactly as the post’s writer, I’m a healthcare practitioner, who’s come to learn about Asperger’s after one my lecturers kindly (and I mean it…) asked: “Aren’t you just a tiny bit autistic?”
    And looking back, I can see his many reasons 🙂
    And for those reading this, wondering why my blog’s name/title changed together with my area(s) of interest, rest assured, it’s still the me you’ve known for a while, with one MAJOR difference, as it looks that I have found a part of myself I didn’t knew about, a part which the more I explore, the more I understand, and the more I understand, the more I learn to accept and respect.
    I know it may sound silly, but I always felt like having had a lost twin brother without whom I felt incomplete. And strange enough, it feels like this unknown part of me might be exactly what, or better whom I missed. Further more, it becomes obvious that for minds always looking for all the pieces of all the puzzles constructing each detail of our perception of reality, the unknowing of ourselves leaves us scattered within, unable to find all the senses we need to exist.
    So, I am deeply grateful for all the time you have spent reading and following my humble writing efforts, but please, and take it from my heart, feel absolutely free to stay around, or should you chose so, remain a kind memory 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’m definitely sticking around – both as a writer of my blog and a faithful subscriber and avid reader of yours 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the compliment! 😊 I’m using the Rebalance theme – it’s feature-rich and lovely to use 😊

      Like

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  5. Thanks for finally talking about >Why the rest of
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