Whew, I’m doing a marathon today lol. I didn’t expect to do a Part 3, but, well, I know I get long-winded. Let’s see how my brain holds up; please forgive any spelling or grammar mistakes or other typos; I’ll edit properly later 🙂
Small Talk Sucks(TM) so we’ll just jump right in. 🙂
Myth: Asperger’s/autism is a mental illness.
Actually, it’s not. Not at all. It’s technically a “neurodevelopmental disorder”. I’ll certainly give them the “neurodevelopmental” part; I take issue with the “disorder” part. But what it’s not, is a mental illness.
Myth: Asperger’s/autism can be suddenly developed, or conversely, can be outgrown or somehow overcome.
Asperger’s/autism is something one is born as, and it lasts the person’s entire lifetime. Nobody can jump on or off the spectrum spontaneously. You can indeed realize you are on the spectrum after being previously unaware that you were (and thus assuming you weren’t), but if you are on the spectrum, you have been all along.
It’s also a neurodevelopmental/neurological orientation that can’t be outgrown. The popular Twitter hashtag “AutismDoesn’tEndAt5” refers to the fact that Aspie/autistic kids grow up to become Aspie/autistic adults. Because all of the spectrum-related attention is given disproportionately to autistic children, the adults on the spectrum are forgotten and overlooked, almost completely (save for a few particularly-astute counselors, college professors, or the occasional employer; additionally, whether or not these people are supportive and knowledgeable is another matter entirely; unfortunately, many aren’t).
I need to make it clear that I’m not bitter, jealous, or resentful that children “get all the attention”, but I am annoyed that adults get none. And as adults on the spectrum, we remain in need of acceptance, support and support systems/strategies, accommodation, and recognition, just like spectrum kids do. Because we’re adults, our needs may be a bit different, but we have those needs regardless.
Myth: Vaccines caused our autism/Asperger’s.
I’m a doctor, so this may sound a little strange: I’m not universally in favor of vaccines. I’m not universally against them, either. I know they don’t “work” quite the way the public believes they do. (That’s not to say they don’t work, just that the effects aren’t quite what people often assume.) I’m well aware of their barrage on–and manipulation of–the immune system, the overpowering effect that the added adjuvants often have on that immune system, and the current considerations in the immunology field that have begun to associate vaccines with autoimmune disorder activation.
I’ve also attended a shit-ton of conferences of many types and personally met dozens of PhDs who have conducted research and published in scientific journals, and I’m well aware of the censorship and sponsorship that goes on at the university level, and the bias that occurs at all levels, from the academic research facilities to the independent review boards of the journals themselves. I also know that the vaccine and pharmaceutical industries are not a committee of angels; they’re a powerful for-profit entity, and power corrupts. Unfortunately, much of the scientific field is determined by the size of an entity’s pockets. So let’s just say that science/research isn’t perfect.
But now that I’ve properly disclosed my background and context, I will vehemently say that I’m pretty damn sure vaccines do not cause true autism. I used to believe they did. I knew a lot about vaccines. The problem is, I knew very little about autism. And I knew next-to-nothing about Asperger’s.
Once I began to probe into the Realm of the Spectrum, I realized that there were plenty of people throughout history that were more than likely on the spectrum. How well some of these people fit the profile is almost eerie. They lived and died long before the concept of the vaccine was even thought of.
I do have a close personal friend whose son developed symptoms and exhibited odd behaviors immediately after receiving a round of shots. He was diagnosed with autism. But this is fraught with questions…
- What behaviors was he exhibiting?
- What other pathologies or dysfunctional physiological processes can result in those behaviors?
- Were any lab tests done to rule out other pathology?
- Who made the diagnosis and what were their qualifications?
- What other co-existing health issues did this child have?
There might have been other health issues that put this child in a fragile physiological state, the vaccine might’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the behaviors observed might not have even been autism. The trouble is, we don’t know. But as an Aspie/autistic person who also loves history, I can tell you that spectrumhood is not the type of thing a vaccine can suddenly trigger.
Myth: We’re all pro/anti-vaccine.
If you’ve met one person on the spectrum, you’ve met one person on the spectrum. Congratulations 🙂 We’re all different. There seems to be a general trend on the vaccine-supportive side, and that’s fine. A few of us are much more cautious when it comes to vaccination.
Personally, I’m pro-vaccine-choice. A vaccine is a medical procedure, like having surgery or having a lumbar puncture or an x-ray. I’m getting something injected into my body. A medical procedure must be agreed to with informed, written consent, with full disclosure, and a clear explanation of the benefits, the risks of the procedure, and the risks (potential health consequences) of declining the procedure. It’s my body; I would raise holy hell if someone had forced me to have an abortion, or prevented me from getting one, or tried to force-feed me medications, etc.
There are consequences of having–or failing to have–medical procedures; without certain mood-stabilizing medications, there are some people that may go off on a road rage rampage, but if they’re living independently, they’re not obligated to take their meds and nobody force-feeds them. Well, the same goes (or should go, in my opinion) for vaccination.
The wisest and soundest approach: Spend time–lots of it–researching both sides. Because of the research institution censorship, you’re not going to find a lot of studies calling vaccines into question; even if the studies had been done (and done well), they’re not going to get approved by the journal review boards unless they can further a corporate interest. The best thing is to research the individual vaccine ingredients on PubMed.gov or EuropePMC.org and see what their effects are on humans, or at least rats, monkeys, or guinea pigs.
But good god(dess), don’t go with the anecdotes of moms who say their kids “came down with” autism from a vaccine; my heart goes out to them for whatever their child is suffering from, but it ain’t autism. I approach with an open mind and a healthy dose of neutral curiosity; that’s what science truly is, after all. 🙂
(All that being said, however: my pro-choice stance also includes some fine print: whatever it is you decide after you’ve informed yourself, I advocate full responsibility for any expenses you accumulate, as well as any harm done to anyone else, as a result of your choice, whatever that choice may have been. But since vaccines do bring benefit, then if you and your children are up to date on their vaccinations, you’ll be safe even if someone else is unvaccinated.)
Myth: We could be “normal” if we just tried harder.
We’re doing our best already; what the world sees of us is the best we have to offer on any given day. We couldn’t try to be more allistic/NT any more than an NT could try to be more autistic. It’s like sexual orientation; if you’re same-sex-oriented, you couldn’t try to be opposite-sex-oriented or vice versa; some people try to deny or hide their nature and live a lie, but it doesn’t bode well. Just like sexual orientation is part of one’s nature, so is neurological orientation.
Myth: We’re immature/childish.
There’s no sense in giving up a childhood game, pastime, hobby, or other preference (such as a type of music, for example), if you still like it and you’re not harming yourself or anyone else. Funny part is, the same people who would criticize us for continuing to do something we did in childhood, as if they’re somehow superior to us because they do “normal” “adult” things, are the same people that complain about feeling old and wish they were young again. My response: bed, made, lie. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.
I prefer the term “child-like” or better yet, “youthful”. Just because we play Nintendo, that doesn’t mean we’re childish or immature. It just means we’re doing something we like to do, we’re honest with ourselves about what that is, we’re true enough to ourselves to go ahead and do it, and we’re secure/comfortable enough with ourselves that we’re fine with that.
Myth: We’re careless/stupid.
We may run into things (or drop things, spill things, knock things over, lose things, etc), but that doesn’t mean we’re careless. We do care–a lot. But we’ve got an amazing central processor with a shitty stick of RAM. We may not remember that we’re holding something. We may not remember where we put something. We may not realize something’s there, and we’re about to collide with it. I’ve lived in my apartment for more than 4 1/2 years. I still knock my shoulder into the wall when I’m turning a corner.
We may also misinterpret something someone says. That doesn’t mean we’re stupid or careless, either. What’s actually happening is that we take messages literally and we don’t read a lot of unspoken/unwritten context into them. The message is what it is, and that’s what we’ll receive.
Some of us also have auditory processing issues, which creates another potential pitfall when someone is trying to say something to us. We may not understand fully what’s being said at first. It may take us a little extra time.
Myth: We’re obsessive.
Actually, what we have are special interests, or areas of intense focus. There’s a difference between a special interest and an obsession. It’s subtle, but it’s there. The difference I’ve found is, obsessions cause anxiety and emotional upheaval. They also tend to interfere (negatively) with the rest of one’s life. A special interest typically has the opposite effect; it can be very calming, anxiety-reducing, and emotionally-stabilizing.
Myth: We all flap our hands, squeal, “stim” (self-soothe) in weird ways, etc.
I don’t flap my hands; I’m not even sure exactly what it looks like. I might squeal, except that my voice is pretty low and it doesn’t go high enough. Self-soothing doesn’t have to be noticeable; it can be very subtle, and there are a variety of activities that fit the bill. I’ll write a post in which I focus on mine, in hopes that others don’t feel out-of-place for lacking a “typical”/common self-soothing activity.
Myth: We’re nonverbal.
Actually, a lot of us are quite verbose and talkative. Yes, I talk about as much as I write (but only when I’m comfortable with the person, and I’m hanging out with either just that one person or in a very small group of people I know very well; otherwise, I go mute for a while). One can only imagine…and then probably shudder in horror LOL.
Myth: We’re all into science and technology; we’re all computer nerds.
Well, a lot of us are. Computers are often comfortable for us. They don’t need to be impressed or interpreted. Their programming language is their programming language and their function is what it is. But many of us are not into computers and technology. I like computers and technology just fine; the problem is, they hate me. Technological Mishap are my middle names. Aspie/autistic people are into a variety of interests and have a variety of talents, strengths, and skills.
Myth: We all hate to be hugged or touched.
By now, you’ve probably realized that any sentence that starts with “we all…” is probably going to be suspicious, because the truth is, each one of us is an individual.
Personally, I love being hugged and I don’t mind being touched. I’m rather selective about who gets to do this, and there are times when I’m just not in the mood, but honestly, I’m actually more prone to being touch-deprived, which actually results in a deep sadness and loneliness for me.
There are a few circumstances in which I don’t want to be touched, let alone around anyone, but they’re not too common (or maybe they’re a bit more common than I thought? I’m still discovering.) I do know that I dislike feather-light touch; it’s too intense a sensation for me. Counter-intuitive, I know.
Others of us can’t stand being touched or the one who wants to touch should ask the recipient-on-the-spectrum first. I’m all about respect for whatever preferences that person has.
Myth: We’re arrogant know-it-alls.
What we have is some expertise in a particular subject area or two (or more). What we also have is an intense desire to share that information, especially if it could help someone. What we also are is nervous, especially when we start talking with someone. What to talk about? Small Talk Sucks(TM), after all, so we talk about that which comes naturally to us. Because many of us may not be aware of our vocal tone, we may come off sounding arrogant or superior, when that wasn’t actually our intent.
Myth: We all have superb hearing.
For many of us, that’s true. Strangely enough, my hearing sucks. My immune system has been conveniently taking my hearing from me since I was pretty young (by attacking my inner ears). Up until pretty recently, my hearing loss was a source of depression and anxiety for me. Sometimes it still gets that way, but the bouts of depression or anxiety happen less frequently and they don’t hit me as intensely. When I realized I was an Aspie/autistic, I thought, “boy, I’m actually glad I don’t have normal hearing; imagine how much more fatigued and ‘brain-fried’ I would be if I did!”
I will say, though, the hearing loss is not uniform across the sound frequency spectrum. That means that I do hear some things like a person with normal hearing. Only certain ranges “drop out” (i.e. show larger losses). However, a noise that gets through is likely to startle and overwhelm me, no matter what frequency it is. The hearing loss is only a buffer for noises of some frequencies, and that buffer has its limits.
Myth: We’re weak-willed.
Most of us prefer to be passive and refrain from drawing attention to ourselves. But just because we don’t talk a lot or strut around macho or girly-loud, that doesn’t mean that we’re somehow pushovers. It does mean we can have a tough time standing up for ourselves, especially if we endure criticism or bullying that threatens us, scares us, shocks us, or paralyzes us. Often, we don’t know how to react or what to say in a given moment.
We also may not be able to start a project or initiate an idea without help. We may be anxious about talking to someone, smoothing out a detail, negotiating a contract, or reviewing a plan. Hell, just being interviewed for a job can throw us for a loop.
But none of this means that we’re weak or wussy.
We, the people on the spectrum, are actually quite strong.
We survive going out into a world that was not engineered with us in mind. We deal with people who “speak” a totally different mental language. We play by rules that were tough for us to grasp. We learn to function in a system that usually doesn’t make much sense.
We weather the storms that pour down on us every day–the storms of ableism, of criticism, of ignorance. The storms of elation, joy, sadness, pain, and sensory input. We learn to meet the “rest of the world” on their terms, terms that were never ours. We make our way through our lives every day, most of us without support, appreciation, recognition, or acknowledgment. Without accommodation, respect, or interest.
We push through, without being pushed over. Sometimes it’s all we can do to make it through the day and collapse at home. But we do it, again and again. Our “Tribe” is amazing. 🙂 ❤