Friday, June 4, 2010

I Am Only Me...

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.

6 comments:

  1. My neice was just diagnosed with AS (at 12) and I'm popping around blogs to learn more. I really loved this post. Very real and encouraging for someone with AS (I would think) and for us families who want to help!

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  2. Family is definitely the key to success. It is good that you are researching various perspectives.

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  3. you are right. but it is more interesting to report about AutisticHeroes,than about the 'looser'. i have aspergers too and i know what you are talking about. i am an artist but i am not able to make my work by myself. i always need a guardian, a person who can give me the feeling, everything is OK.

    so, i am not a hero despite a high IQ.

    greetings from germany

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  4. Thank you for that post showing me that I am not alone with my opinion. Asperger syndrome doesn´t include high or special ability automaticly.
    But it makes life with autism harder if many people think that even that is not reality but only mythology.

    Greetings from Germany
    Sabine

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  5. Yes indeed only about 1 in six billion people is like me, in fact it's called "tiggerism" cos I'm the only one :)

    And when I have gone, people will doubt if I even existed at all, in fact they probably already do, I sometimes wonder myself!

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  6. This is a great post--I love it. It's hard to explain that to people but you've done a great job. I'm sharing this.

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