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neurodiversity, expanding

June 14, 2015

So, I’ve been wondering if I might have Asperger’s/be autistic for years and years. I recently found the results of an online quiz I took in 2003: it said I had too much empathy to be autistic.

Apparently, that’s no longer valid as a diagnostic.

I’ve had several Twitter-friends in the past few years that are autistic, and I don’t know, maybe I finally have the spoons to try to figure it out.

{I will take “autistic” in a heartbeat over “unlikeable weirdo”.}

+++

I’ve been reading blogs written by autistic people, about autism, since yesterday.

At Unstrangemind, here’s an excerpt from a post that really resonated for me:

Have you ever heard someone called a savant because they collect bus transfers (as I used to do in my early teen years) and know every detail about the transfers and the use of them? Or what about someone who has memorized every detail of every episode of Dr. Who, all the way back to 1963? No, I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard those folks called savants and there’s a reason. “Savant” is code for “can do something society finds useful.” That’s why people called savants do things like make music or art or count fast, memorize well, calculate very large numbers accurately and so on.

To say that someone is a savant is to say several things:

  • that they are incompetent in every area of their life except one
  • that they have value that is contingent on their heightened skill in that one area
  • that others who are judged incompetent and do not have a “savant” skill are not valuable
  • that this person is a “freak,” a social outsider, an Other

When someone can do a thing that you find amazing, do not discount their competence in other areas of life. They may need guidance or assistance from friends and other helpers. That does not mean that they are incompetent. If you value their ability to multiply five digit numbers in their head and devalue the rest of their life because they are unable to work or because they need accommodations or assistance, you are setting yourself up to miss the very real humanity and joy of knowing that person. You are commodifying their mathematical abilities and dismissing their personhood. You are reducing them to a biological adding machine.

 

{emphasis added by me}

I don’t think anyone I know, besides Spouse and besides the few really good therapists I’ve had, would describe knowing me as a “joy”. And while no one has called me a savant, I did actually have someone describe me to myself in a way that made me feel like a machine. Like a thing. I’m guessing she thought it was a compliment, but I felt like I’d been slapped.

And… that was one of the few relatives I was still in contact with. {I’m not anymore.}

It’s so rare for someone (besides Spouse) to tell me anything about myself that’s positive. To mention any strengths that I have. But drawbacks, deficiencies, weaknesses… plenty of people have always wanted to tell me all about those. {As if I didn’t know that I’m not like other people. People have been treating me like I’m radioactive since at least 1973; it has not escaped my notice that I’m different.}

Which brings me to another thing I was musing on yesterday. I’m not sure it’s gonna make sense.

So, “indistinguishability” is a thing in disability stuff, I’m learning, where, I guess like “mainstreaming”, everyone is supposed to try to act neurotypical, try to “pass”.

When I was a kid, I knew I wasn’t like everyone else, and I… had no interest in acting like I was. I wanted to be seen and celebrated for Being Different. {I’m still like that.}

But… my mother had all these weird issues about sameness and differences between people. So, on the one hand, supposedly I’m just the same as everyone else, therefore we can’t accommodate your preferences, or let you say No to things that don’t bother everyone else, or even have preferences. But on the other hand, you are definitely Different, in a Bad Way, and that’s why you don’t deserve nice things — because you won’t behave right. You’re Defective. You’re Abnormal. That’s Why No One Likes You — Maybe You Should Change Your Whole Personality!

But, on a third hand, I can’t be “special” either, because “special” could be construed as a compliment. And then… I don’t know, I might start thinking maybe I wasn’t a waste of oxygen, and we can’t have that!

So, how is that I was the Same as Everyone Else, but also Defective, but not Special (because Special Can Be Good)? That doesn’t make any sense.

+++

Another post, by the autistic blogger foxtears, that really resonated for me (as anyone who’s been reading my blog could guess):

Love, love is a strange feeling. It’s like the feeling in your chest just before you have to laugh. It’s a pressure like when you take a deep breath in. It’s very close to the excitement special areas of interest can bring. It does not, however, exist in a vacuum. It doesn’t come out of nowhere, for me. It comes from being understood, and respected, from having things in common with someone, from feeling supported and from knowing someone has my back. It’s about trust and sharing and the all important having something in common.

I do love. I do connect. I do feel. I just express it differently.

I don’t love people irrationally. I don’t love people because they share characteristics with me, because of proximity, or because of some socially perceived debt I’m thought to owe them. So I don’t automatically love my family.

 

Pullout quote: “I don’t love people because they share characteristics with me, because of proximity, or because of some socially perceived debt I’m thought to owe them.”

Juxtaposed with: “[Love] comes from being understood, and respected, from having things in common with someone, from feeling supported and from knowing someone has my back. It’s about trust and sharing…”

I don’t know what I have in common with most people I’m related to, besides DNA, and I have rarely felt understood, never mind respected by almost any of them.

~~~

I just took the Autism Spectrum Quotient Test online (which was definitely not the test I took 12 years ago), and my score was 39.

From Musing of an Aspie’s blog post about the the AQ test:

The possible scoring range is 0-50. The 2001 study found that 80% of people with Asperger’s who took the test scored 32 or higher. A subsequent 2005 study proposed a cutoff score of 26 be used when screening adults for Asperger’s in a clinical setting. The second study found that of 100 people who completed the AQ, the test correctly classified 83% of them as having Asperger’s or not.

+++

Same relative that made a comment that made me feel like she was saying I was a machine, also compared me to Sheldon Cooper, on Big Bang Theory. I rarely watch TV, and had never seen the show, although I’d picked up from pop culture what it was generally about. I got upset with her about the comparison because I thought it was just another example of how men are allowed to be geniuses and Weird In A Good Way, while non-men aren’t allowed to be either.

I had never heard any of the questions and concerns about whether Sheldon has Asperger’s or not.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2015 03:58

    Welcome to the community :). Might I suggest Radical Neurodivergence Speaking at http://timetolisten.blogspot.co.uk/? That’s where I got into all this, and Kassiane’s angry blog posts asserting her rights to be a person give me the energy to keep going some days.

    • June 15, 2015 04:19

      Thanks for the link – I’ve added her too! Lots of lots of reading in my future, but finally, I feel like I’ve found people I can relate to.

  2. June 14, 2015 14:51

    Reblogged this on mgwebbuddy.

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