I am sick and tired of the "Bill Gates has AS" and "Big Bang Theory is about a group of people with ASDs" lines of advocates who think they are helping. And yes, I've mentioned this to the other Ph.D.s with autism… of which I am one.
It is rare to be a genius or a great artist or a professor. It is rare to be on the Fortune 400 or to be performing on Broadway.
Autism is not a superpower. It is a difference.
I've met people with AS and PDD-NOS diagnoses who feel horrible about themselves because they aren't "smart like Temple or special like Tammet." The reality is, few people are! We should not be making people feel guilty for not living up to a mythology.
Only ten percent of people with any form of autism display savant abilities. Ten percent. Yes, that his much higher than the general public, but it is still one in ten, not three-fourths, on half, or even a quarter of people with ASDs.
And those of us with "special talents" are not necessarily able to function without assistance. I'm useless without my family and my wife. I would never leave the house, never meet a deadline, and would certainly forget to see doctors for important issues.
I am not "independent" in the traditional sense. I admit it. The truth, as my wife reminds me, is that most humans need help. Success is usually a team effort. In my case, my wife, sister, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and so many others make sure I am able to use my intellectual curiosities for something meaningful.
Feel good about what you or your child or your friends with autism can do and don't expect them to be superheroes. I should not feel like I have to live up to Tammet's math skills, Wiltshire's paintings, or Perner's analytics.
When people tell me that my Ph.D inspires them, I cringe. Don't be inspired by me. Be inspired by my mother or my wife. Be inspired by the people who make my life possible.
It has gotten harder with time. I know my wife struggles and deserves so much more. I am glad she takes time for herself, and I encourage her to pursue her hobbies. (She's better at them than she realizes.) Admire her, because she's the special person on this team.