Do we have a distinctive look? A distinctive sound? A smell?
You’re probably expecting me to say, “No, we look and sound and smell just like everyone else!” But I’m not saying that, because it’s not true. We are distinctive.
Most middle-aged Aspergians grew up in isolation, not knowing any others of our kind. That’s what it was like for me. Now that I’m out of the closet, it seems like I meet Aspergians and autistics everywhere I go. And you know – we seem to recognize each other.
It’s the strangest thing. I’ve written before about talking with Temple Grandin. When we spoke, I was immediately struck with the realization that she sounded just like me. Her pauses between words, her manner of delivery . . . very similar to my own, enough so that I noticed. Since then, I have made the same observation with other intelligent Aspergians.
At another level, autistic people seem to see something in me. And I often recognize them as kindred spirits. I’m thinking of little Antonio, a six-year-old Aspergian I met last year, and the autistic teenagers I meet at events like the Lifespire reading I attended back in May.
I am not exactly sure what’s being recognized there. Temple suggested it’s a very basic, animal kind of thing. I really don’t know. But it’s there, because I’ve seen it and I’d wager that the moms who observed me at those events saw it too. I wish I knew more.
So what does all this mean?
It means that we do indeed have distinct behavior patterns, but we are only just now learning what they are. We also have this low-level manner of recognizing each other, but I can’t say how it works. Maybe new research will give us answers.
Can members of the neurotypical public recognize us? I don’t know. The fact that I went to a dozen or more therapists and mental health professionals for thirty-plus years and none of them suggested I had Asperger’s makes me a bit skeptical. Life experience says that most people’s classification skill is limited to a few terms: retard, freak, misfit, or normal. Some people have a wider range of descriptive words and phrases, others a narrower range, but few include Aspergian in their repertoire.
So if you’re an Aspergian, and you feel handicapped in society, be careful, because you’re not gonna get the same consideration as a guy in a wheelchair. Unless you get a wheelchair, too. But if you don’t feel handicapped, rejoice, because you can make your way in the world and no one will ever know.
Time will tell if announcing my Aspergianism to the world was a good move for me. I hope it was. I’m sure of this – there are a lot more Aspergians in the closet than out, even today.
I guess this is sort of a rambling post, but there it is. When you’re forty, all that matters are results. So if you have dreams, and you have legs, run for them. And if you have a net gun, use it.
Monday, July 30, 2007