Jim Hines recently posted about his son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, as a response to a comment someone left on his blog. It’s a good post – and you can never go wrong with photos of kids dressing up as Mario, right? Oh, the memories…
Still, I was nervous to venture into the comments. I sometimes struggle to read online discussions on Asperger’s, ablism, and related topics, because I know I’ll be twitching two minutes in. Most people are wonderful, but inevitably, a few things will be brought up.
(These aren’t in reference to Jim’s post specifically; I’ve seen these things a lot over the years, in many different places, and I just wanted to gather my thoughts on why it bothers me so much.)
* Someone is autistic, not stupid/drooling/insane/etc.
Depending on context, this can be pretty insulting towards people who do have certain mental problems. Ablism is always bad, not just when it’s perpetuated against high-functioning people. It’s really not cool to distance oneself from people with the “icky” disabilities.
(Note: If someone is stereotyping Asperger’s and making incorrect assumptions, jumping down their throats is totally cool. But often I see this used as “I have Asperger’s, but I’m not like those people!” Slamming other disabilities = just as ablist as people slamming Asperger’s.)
* But you don’t notice anything!
This is not always the positive thing it’s made out to be; it can be intensely stressful to be pressured into cutting down on stimming and similar ‘noticable’ autistic traits. So what if someone flaps their hands? It’s not inherently negative.
The thing to strive for shouldn’t be acting neurotypical; it should be minimizing difficulties.
* S/he’s very successful!
Again, it depends on context here, but often I’m not entirely sure what’s expected of me when I’m confronted with a story like this. It’s okay to be autistic as long as you can do everything that non-autistic people can? S/he’s a credit to her/his diagnosis? A lot of these ~*inspirational*~ and ~*awe-inspiring*~ stories of these mythical successful autistic folks are kind of creepy.
And here’s the thing: I’m on government benefits. I can’t hold down even a part-time job. I never finished high school. Does that mean someone who does manage to do those things is worth more than I am? That we’re both autistic doesn’t mean our brains work the same way, it doesn’t mean we can handle the same things, it doesn’t mean we had the same opportunities.
(Note: again, I’m OK with this being used in a context to refute stereotypes. If someone says that all people with Asperger’s are jobless losers, it’s totally cool to point out someone with a job who’s very successful at it. It just bothers me when these people are focused on and used as something to strive towards; it’s saying, “Your having Asperger’s is no excuse to be jobless/difficult/whatever,” when, in fact, sometimes it is.)
* Oh, he’s not really autistic – he just self-diagnosed.
A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to get a professional diagnosis, or tried and had incompetent doctors. Are there people who wrongly self-diagnose? Sure. But random strangers on the Internet aren’t the ones who gets to decide that.
Many people who self-diagnose do their research beforehand, the same way psychologists diagnose anything; there isn’t any blood test for this shit. They look at behaviour and thought patterns and that’s it. Given that Random People Online don’t know how much research someone did or didn’t do, they don’t get to claim ‘false’ or ‘true’.
Some realize this, and have taken to interrogating people about their symptoms and how much research they’ve done. Protip: this is none of your business. Stop policing people.
Having a diagnosis can be very validating, but it doesn’t mean that undiagnosed Asperger’s is any less real. And given that people who complain about self-diagnosis often say they’re trying to help the people with “ACTUAL Asperger’s”… please realize the implications of what you’re doing. For every five people you’re right about, there’s one you’re wrong about, and that’s not worth it. An asshat is an asshat. How they identify shouldn’t matter.
In addition, claiming you have Asperger’s isn’t as useful as a lot of people think it is. Even those of us with an official diagnosis often struggle with disbelief and dismissal. People really don’t have as much to gain as is often thought. A lot of the attention gained is negative attention.
* Some Asperger’s idiot –
I will not go into detail here. In short: Fuck you very much.
* Person [X] has some Asperger’s traits –
Autism of any kind does not begin and end at social awkwardness. I’d even say it’s the least noticable of my Asperger traits. What I notice a lot more of is this: Lack of self-discipline. Obsessions. Struggles with certain foods and textures. Inability to handle certain sounds. Stimming. Inability to look people in the eye. Mental exhaustion after social affairs. Difficulty planning ahead. I could go on and on.
Yet, the moment someone on TV is socially awkward and/or particularly interested in a certain topic, they must be autistic.
Honestly, insta-diagnosis by complete strangers bothers me a heck of a lot more than self-diagnosis of any kind.
These are just a few of the things I could think of off-hand. I welcome discussion, but the standard no-asshattery rules apply.