cute stories about verbal people with ASD (usually adults) "learning to do things" (such as: flirt! go on a date! go to a party!).
I don't exactly know for sure what it is that bothers me so much, but let me just explore a possible reason, which may be wrongheaded.
The thing is I am probably way biased in being annoyed by this--you know, maybe I have a nonstandard experience in terms of what's hard for me and maybe the only reason I find these stories so stupid is that's not how my ASD is. But on the other hand, I don't know anyone like the people in these stories. If I'm an exception, it seems like exceptions are more numerous than people who follow the rule.
This may be a generational thing, since most of the people I know were diagnosed as kids--so maybe people diagnosed as kids were aware enough of social problems they had or might have had that they picked up on everything they could be taught?--and also most of the people I know are women--so, same thing? So you can take this with a grain of salt, I guess. But I just find myself reading the word "Asperger's" in some cute story or other, and what follows doesn't resemble anyone I know who has an ASD diagnosis.
I know some people, and if you'll just let me do a brief rundown of what verbal people with ASD, of my acquaintance, are like when they socialize:
1. Some people try really hard to respond to everything in a normal/"appropriate" way. Which can be kind of a painful reality to live in, and isn't actually that cute or simple.
2. Some people are themselves and that's okay with them; and maybe the way they think about themselves isn't "am I doing something odd?" so it isn't so much that they mistakenly think they're normal when they're doing weird things, but that they aren't asking the question.
(Obviously there's switching between these two modes, for some people. There's also a ton of variation in which mode actually leads to a certain person being seen as "wrong.")
I just don't really see all these "weird" people who are doing things "wrong," who upon given the right kind of help, or upon deciding to put their nose to the grindstone and "learn how to do things" (what were they doing before, hibernating in a cave?), are totally shocked to discover all the wrong things they've been doing and start doing everything properly and life is better.
A related trope that bothers me is the idea that people with "Asperger's" are like aliens (or humans raised by aliens) coming to earth. The problem with this simile is obvious: an alien has trouble fitting in to earth culture because the alien has actually grown up and lived a whole life in a different culture. So this has a few problematic implications:
1. The alien may be perfectly capable, with time, of learning to do everything just the way people do it on earth.
2. Again, if someone with ASD=alien, and becoming aware that they behave differently=coming to earth, are you saying that this person wasn't a part of the real world for the whole time that they were un-self-consciously different from other people?
More on problematic implication 1, which is really my biggest issue here, because it very much oversimplifies social problems (and erases emotional and functioning problems) faced by people with ASD. If people with "Asperger's" are just normal people who don't know how to act at a party but can be taught, then how is it actually a disability? Just learn how to act at a party, then. In addition to not being a disability, pop culture "Asperger's," when we come down to it...basically requires nothing from other people. If people who are different aren't just naturally innately different, but have just for some reason not learned how to be the same, then there's no reason for society to accept them. Society can give them a little extra time and smile at them fondly while they "learn how to do things," but just being okay with someone who's different and is cheerfully living as different? That's too much to ask.
Am I totally off base? I mean, I think I mostly am, but I also think I have a little bit of something here.