02 September, 2010

addendum to explain why I'm being an asshole

I was badly affected by autism pop culture for several years. When I was 14 I received what I thought was my first ASD diagnosis. In some ways the diagnosis pissed me off because I felt like it meant people had a right to treat me badly because I thought the definition of Asperger's was being a person other people didn't like. But then I got interested in belonging or identifying with the diagnosis, which in its own way was just as bad.

Now I dislike armchair diagnostics but I do sometimes note to myself that a particular person seems kind of "DD," by which I mean there is something in their movement or emotions that I respond to. When I was 14 I was totally gay for armchair diagnostics but it didn't have anything to do with my own feelings, it just had to do with whether someone's behavior fit into an autism pop culture/autism pop science stereotype. I annoyed people by telling them they seemed "autistic" at the very slightest hint of social problems or rigidity. I also read books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and was convinced that I was just like the characters with autism, even though I wasn't like them at all. It was very important to me to identify things I did as being symptoms of autism, even when it didn't particularly help to do so and even when it meant denying my own experiences.

As I got older, I realized that I wasn't much like an autism stereotype and it was dumb to want to be one. I started working harder on talking to people, keeping myself out of messed-up situations, and doing things that I had anxiety about. The way I learned to do things was often different from the standard, and I certainly knew that I was working around or against something that made it hard for me to do them the conventional way. But I didn't think of that thing as autism or Asperger's. In fact, I felt guilty that I had even said I had either of those things. People with Asperger's were socially impaired in a different way from me, and people with autism couldn't talk or look after themselves.

Sometimes I found it necessary to explain to people why I was having trouble doing stuff or why I was different. I would say, "I used to have Asperger's" or "I was diagnosed with autism when I was a kid." It didn't occur to me that my impairments could be referred to as autism or Asperger's because I thought that there was only one highly specific way that verbal Autistic people could be, and I wasn't like that.

This wasn't useful. Eventually I found out it wasn't even true. I found that out by being with people with ASD, and reading books and articles that actually centered the experiences of people with ASD. All of which were pretty unpopular compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.


  1. One of the reasons I like reading your blog is because a lot of the stuff you talk about I can really relate to, far more than the autism books I've read. So if I'm on the spectrum, I'm not 'typical' either.

    You don't seem like an asshole to me.

  2. I really like having the PDD-NOS diagnosis to swing around because it feels more like me than saying Asperger's which just calls up all those stereotypes--but really I don't have that diagnosis because I'm "atypical" I don't think, it's just luck which one you get. And as cheesy as it sounds I feel like we're all NOS.

  3. also: it's the only ASD diagnosis that has its own energy drink, which means it is also the only one I will miss once the DSM gets itself straightened out.

  4. I think if I were going to try and get a diagnosis (which I would, someday, if only to get some sort of 'official' validation for my entire life story), I'd go for NLD, since I think it's the one I can make the strongest case for, and at this point I'm so far from the stereotypes of Asperger's or ASD that I think it would be less confusing to people to just say I had a learning disability than to try and explain why I'm not a cold-hearted genius like those aspies they see on tv.