Those of you who have read my previous posts have probably got a feeling I am over-glorifying autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. There’s not a single article in which I would not state how having Asperger’s can be awesome, how autistic people have special talents and amazing abilities. These statements, however, have to be considered in a context. I know all to well that living with autism, either as an autistic person or a caregiver is a struggle. But being through what I have been I have no other option than to take a stand that I am taking.
I never intended to diminish the difficulties of living the life of autism. There is no doubt that for autistic person some goals are extremely hard to acomplish. Some seemingly unimportant and everyday tasks can require extreme effort. But for every negative aspect there is also a positive one. As if fate gave us one or two special abilities as a compensation for screwing us over. I might be lacking social skills which makes it impossible for me to have lasting friendships, but then I have also way above average intelligence and extremely good memory. However, it is remains debatable, to what extent are these traits even positive. Sure I was flattered when I learned the result of my IQ test and when I received my invitation to join Mensa. It is also kind of awesome to win every single game of Memory and to win it big time. On the other hand, it is frustrating to be having to deal with people who are not the sharpest pencils in the box and struggling to explain my point when there is little chance they will ever get it. It is also frustrating remembering stuff with great accuracy, either things one would rather forget, or things that others do not remember that well which creates a discrepancy in the ways different people remember the past. Not to mention how frustrating and tiresome it is having thousands of thoughts in my mind at the same time. And how devastating it is to know that my numerous oddities that I have no power over prevent me from obtaining a job or a friendship. My life would be much easier if I were your Average Jane, all plain and simple, baking cookies and handing it out to co-workers while inviting them to my barbecue on Sunday. It would have been so much easier. And so… non-me. I can not even imagine it. It makes me irritated even thinking about it for a while. However difficult my aspie life might be it is still my life. It is who I am and I am happy with that. In other words, I choose autistic and odd over neurotypical and boring anytime.
There are mainly two ways of looking at autistic people. They can be viewed as a burden to society, as a punishment to their parents or other caregivers, as poor disabled and mentally ill people. Or they can be valued for their special abilities and helped to overcome their shortcomings. Personally I prefer the second version. If you (or your loved one) are an autistic person there is a chance you might agree. As I have learned recently, there are societies in certain areas of the worls that are already embracing that kind of view. Sadly, in the country where I live, a small country in Central Europe, autism is viewed as described in the first version. Autistic people are considered pitiful, no one cares about their abilities, the school system concentrates on whatever their deficiencies are and try to make autistic children as mediocre as possible. My son, for example, is above average intelligent. He was professionally tested. He was never recognized as such in school. The school system classifies children as gifted, average and special needs. Since he is a special needs child, this excludes him being gifted. In other words, our school system does not allow the possibility that a person is autistic and above average intelligent at the same time. Autistic person is not supposed to be gifted, if he or she is average intelligent it is good enough. What is important, according to the school system, is that they greet politely, look people in the eyes and make friends easily. Everything is oriented to overcoming any weakness, but only after it has been blown completely out of proportions. Strong points are at the same time left neglected if not even deliberately suppressed.
Taking all of this into consideration, you can now understand my overwhelming urge to emphasize the positive aspect of autism. If we keep emphasizing our stuggle, or keep telling ourselves and everyone else how horrible everything is, we might evoke symphaty or pity, but it will end there. We might get solace and validation of our hardship, but the positive aspect of autism will remain unnoticed. If we, autistic people, will not recognize it ourselves, then no one will. And if that happens, everyone loses.