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Rise of the Aspies
November 8, 2012 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Is Everyone on the Spectrum? "In the nineties, clinicians began reconceptualizing autism from a singular disorder to a cluster of related conditions on a spectrum of severity; as the criteria broadened to encompass less acutely impaired people—such as the more verbal group diagnosed with Asperger’s—prevalence rose dramatically. Before 1980, one in 2,000 children was thought to be autistic. By 2007, the Centers for Disease Control were reporting that one in 152 American children had an autism-spectrum disorder. Two years later, the CDC updated the ratio to one in 110. This past March, the CDC revised the number upward again, to one in 88 (one in 54, if you just count boys, who are five times as likely to have one as girls). A South Korean study from last year put the number even higher, at one in 38. And in New Jersey, according to the latest numbers, an improbable one in 29 boys is on the spectrum."
posted by bookman117 (66 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
This suggests to me a set of behaviours that can more easily be constructed as an identity
posted by PinkMoose at 10:46 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


there are 919 letters in this post.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:52 PM on November 8, 2012 [29 favorites]


I don't see why lots of people being on the spectrum is a horrible thing unless you turn being on the spectrum into a disaster. Lots of people have depression and anxiety. They probably always did, but now we can say, "Here, try one of these interventions, maybe you'll be able to be more functional!" Maybe that 1/29 is more likely to be a kid who twenty years ago just would have been "weird", but if this can get the kid access to help to learn to function better in the world, why not?
posted by gracedissolved at 10:55 PM on November 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Of course everyone is on the spectrum. And it's not one-dimensional, either. There's a lot of different dimensions, with little clusters and peaks and lots of shades of grey.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:56 PM on November 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


I know for a fact that I don't think normally. I also think this is a feature, not a bug.

So, so happy I didn't have to go to public school. Who knows what they would have diagnosed me with if they'd seen four-year-old me spelling words in the air with my nose.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:00 PM on November 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


I wasn't on the Spectrum when I was growing up. I had a Commodore 64.
posted by eriko at 11:12 PM on November 8, 2012 [34 favorites]


I suspect that part of it is the rise of geek pride. Now we lack a non-clinical word to say 'There's something off about that guy.'

Also, “If you’re going to perp, the best place to perp from is the victim position.” Yeah, that. I'm close to two families with sons who have Asperger's - as in, genuinely medically diagnosed Asperger's. One of them is a nightmare; one of them is a sweetheart. Because they're, y'know, people, and people are different from each other. I'm very tired of hearing it used as an excuse for being a selfish jerk - especially that nowadays the diagnosis itself allows you to be a passive-aggressive guilt-tripping selfish jerk as well.
posted by Kit W at 11:21 PM on November 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think a lot of people will feel a lot better when we all start to understand that there is no 'normal'. Everyone is different, and just because you can't wake up at 7am like the rest of society, or you can't follow authority very well, or you can't stay awake during class, or you act out in your social environment, doesn't mean that you necessarily have a disorder. You're just human.

Don't get me wrong. People have disorders, sometimes they need to be medicated. Some people need medication to get through life, and with others medication seems to make it worse.

But one in 29? What is normal, then? The answer is that it doesn't exist, and we keep trying to constrain ourselves into what 'normal' is 'supposed' to be, and the more we try to shove everyone into a box like that, the more people aren't going to fit. That box is getting smaller and smaller, and it's making more people miserable.
posted by Malice at 11:30 PM on November 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


“If you’re going to perp, the best place to perp from is the victim position.”

who uses "perp" in casual conversation
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:38 PM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


who uses "perp" in casual conversation

'A Colorado-based couples therapist', in this case. More generally, I assume people for whom law enforcement overlaps with their job, as would be the case in spousal abuse.
posted by Kit W at 11:43 PM on November 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is normal, then?

I know a guy with pretty severe Asperger's, on my university track team. It's not a guess - a girlfriend was doing her doctoral dissertation on it and diagnosed him on the spot at a party. Didn't tell anyone but me of course - this was 20 years ago. We've all just known him as the extremely odd guy who's never had a date, never kissed anyone, did an MBA hoping to get ahead and still works solely in data processing.

The difference between some asshole who thinks he's on the spectrum because he likes baseball stats is that he can still do the things he wants to do.

My buddy can't. He has had woefully inappropriate relationships/interactions with very, very attractive women that he desires but has zero skills with which to back up this desire. He can't get ahead at work. He's not particularly attractive, and still competes at running at 42 like he's 21 - still hoping to get better, still clinging to that lifestyle, and will run himself into the ground a confused mess.

That's the difference. I roll my eyes at these twee special snowflake fucks that self-diagnose and brag about their differences. It's not significant.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:57 PM on November 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


If there's a pill to treat it, "it" will be diagnosed. Pharmaceuticals are a growth industry.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:02 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


> Pharmaceuticals are a growth industry.

You might be surprised at the degree to which this is rapidly becoming less true, at least for mental disorders.
posted by belarius at 12:05 AM on November 9, 2012


You might be surprised at the degree to which this is rapidly becoming less true, at least for mental disorders.

I would be surprised, personally, considering every single person seems to be on medication these days.

I have a hard time going to the doctor without one of them trying to throw pain pills and mental meds at me. (What am I gonna do with 120 Ultrams? I don't want to mask the pain, I want to fix the problem!)

Seriously though, I am in the camp that tends to believe that mental disorders are over diagnosed and medications for it are over prescribed.

(And on the other end of the spectrum, I see people who are UNDER diagnosed, the ones who depend on the local MHMR to help them when they have no insurance, and not given the right medications.)
posted by Malice at 12:11 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would be surprised, personally, considering every single person seems to be on medication these days.

You know, considering the stakes - ruined lives for people who need treatment and don't get it, possibly ending in suicide; ruined lives and health for people who get treated wrongly - you'd think you might want to be a little more thoughtful about sweeping generalisations. This isn't about 'camps'; it's not a political issue, and smearing your supposed opponents is not the way.
posted by Kit W at 12:15 AM on November 9, 2012 [22 favorites]


In the utilitarian, no-small-talk idiom of texting, he sees an autistic style of communication.

...Right. Because nobody's ever used texting to flirt, or to send a message of emotional support, or to say 'Love you'. Nobody's ever texted somebody multiple times in a row to have a chat.

For goodness sake. I've texted to comfort bereaved friends because the easy-access format means it's no stress for them to get the messages and because, unlike the phone, it frees them not to reply if they don't feel up to talking. I've texted my husband just to keep the sense of emotional connection going. No small talk? FFS, I've shared a crossword through texting.

For goodness sake. Just because a communications technology can be used in an 'autistic style' doesn't mean it's inherently autistic. You might just as well say speech is an autistic style of communication because it allows you to go on about your hobbies at length.
posted by Kit W at 1:21 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


The real question is, what's most helpful? A very broad conception of the spectrum or a narrower one: and unfortunately that is not a simple issue.

It's absolutely right and important in some respects to say that there is no normal and that everyone is on the spectrum, and that will help some people who otherwise might not have understood their own issues or been able to get them handled better.

At the same time it risks minimising the really severe difficulties experienced by some, and representing them as just part of the same kind of thing we all go through - which may not be helpful. At the other end it risks an unnecessary medicalisation with all the stress and potential problems that can raise.

Not accusing anyone of overlooking these points.
posted by Segundus at 1:21 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Take four red capsules. In ten minutes, take two more.

Help is on the way.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:31 AM on November 9, 2012


Segundus - I quite agree. I'd suggest that the other problem with minimising the difficulties is that it can also exclude the idea that some behaviours, even if you don't call them abnormal, are still inappropriate. If some guy refuses to wear the colour purple and spends all his spare time cataloguing houseflies, that's entirely his own business whether it's normal or not. If a guy has a tantrum every time he's asked to do something he doesn't want to do, then again, whether or not it's normal, it's not okay, because other people suffer when he does it. Maybe he needs more support in learning how not to do that, but it's still not the barista's job to deal with a customer freaking out because she asked him to wait his turn.

I think 'normal' is a red herring, and can blur the discussion severely. Better to consider what helps both the people who seem to have problems and what one can reasonably expect other people to put up with. But regrettably, conversations on the subject very often seem to swing to one extreme or the other.
posted by Kit W at 1:35 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


How come we can't make it normal to be raw-info-oriented and make all those people who look at tone and context and who value interpersonal harmony over pursuing individual interests into the weird ones?

Joking, joking. Some of my best friends are socially sensitive.
posted by subdee at 1:39 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Foucault would have something to say about this study though.
posted by subdee at 1:41 AM on November 9, 2012


Diagnosed here. The more people get diagnosed the better: I spent my whole life making the wrong decisions, and was not diagnosed until my 40s. I wish I had known as a child, it would have changed everything.

I had a high IQ, a great family life, and was very active at church (i.e. highly structured social activities), so I naturally assumed I was good at everything. I went to two universities and took subjects that required social interaction. Passed easily, but could not use the skills in the real world. Ran a successful business but had to give it up when it became necessary to devote more time to networking. Got fired from my next job for offering unwanted advice (I warned they would go bust if they did not do X, so they fired me - and then went bust). Married the wrong person (a great woman, still good friends, but the marriage was a disaster). I now stack shelves part time.

When I add up what I could have made in a more appropriate career, the lack of diagnosis has literally cost me a million dollars (and cost the state a big chunk of that in lost taxes). Plus lost the chance of meeting somebody. Whatever anybody says, age and income do make a difference.

The worst part is that I know people who have it much worse than me but are not diagnosed. I can only imagine what they are going through. Maybe I should suggest seeing a specialist to them, but that could also make things worse - the guy I'm thinking of is holding on by his fingernails, still has a marriage and job, and I'm no expert so maybe I have completely missed the point. As an aspie my success rate at understanding how others are really feeling is near zero, and one thing I have learned in life is that no matter how bad things get, they can always get worse. So I don't tell him. Telling him would presuppose some kind of communication anyway.

Anyhow, knowledge is power. I suspect that in 100 years I would be diagnosed with something else (and so would every person on the planet: everyone has something) but knowing I have aspergers is a great help. I no longer feel I have to compete in the rat race. Sure, I stack shelves, but I work with a great bunch of people, I have no money worries, no stress of any kind, and have plenty of time to think, or just watch the world go by. How many people can say that?

My hero is Diogenes.

I reject the desire for wealth, and spend every moment I can on my projects, my art. I am free to say and think what I want. I have more intellectual freedom than any professor. When I lose myself in my studies for days on end then I am at peace. Sure I'm lonely as heck, but I learned in my marriage that there are worse things than being lonely. Every other part of my life is perfect (and will be even more perfect when I'm dead - I never said I was happy) .

My other heroes are Paul Dirac, Grigori Perelman and Temple Grandin. One day the spectrum will be better understood, then people like me will not be alone. To me the neuro-typical view of love is so shallow. People hook up because they are the same on the surface, but there is nothing underneath. They fall in love, then out again. Love should not be based on such fleeting things. Where is the depth, the shared vision, the intellectual passion, the commitment to something bigger than yourself? Marriage should be based on shared obsession, on needing the other person like the leg of a three legged stool needs the other legs (the third leg is the shared world view). Aspies understand obsession. Socially, aspies may be very narrow. but we are deep.

The turning point for me was finding wrongplanet.net If anybody reading this thread has never been able to connect with other people, if you don't fit in at r/foreveralone or alonelylife.com then I recommend wrongplanet. Spend a few months there. If it's the only place where you fit in then that's a better guide than any diagnosis. And like I said, I was later officially diagnosed.

Well look at that. My plan to write a pithy one liner turned into a full rambling page, all about me. Who would have guessed.
posted by EnterTheStory at 2:42 AM on November 9, 2012 [37 favorites]


Coincidentally, I just read this post about assortative mating, and how it may be contributing to the rise of autism. I'm sure it is more complex than that, but I definitely see (in my tech and quant circles) a tendency for geeky, quirky people to find geeky, quirky mates, and have geeky, quirky children, some of which cross the line into problematic in terms if interacting with "normal" society.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:23 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Perhaps we just overestimate the uniformity of the population. 1 in 29 doesn't sound improbable when one considers the range of vision impairments in the population. Until we developed vision tests and established 20/20 as thw standard for normal vision we had no idea.
posted by humanfont at 4:33 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


I sort of thought the whole point of a spectrum was that everyone was on it. Some people might be really far away to the other end of the spectrum from what would get you a diagnosis, but everyone was on it to one degree or another. There's no need to treat people because they're on a spectrum, there's a need to treat people if they feel like their brains quirks are preventing them from living the life they'd like to be living.

Talking about people being on the spectrum as if that's talking about people who "have" autism seems like it's missing the point of spectra.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:57 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


This sounds like a "Now There's A Name For It" thing. There have always been people who are "different", but we just chalked it up to the expected variability you find in large populations. Now we feel like we've discovered something but in reality it's always been there.
posted by tommasz at 5:07 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Perhaps we just overestimate the uniformity of the population. 1 in 29 doesn't sound improbable when one considers the range of vision impairments in the population.

Yes, that's a good point. Especially if we question where they draw the line; if it's drawn broadly enough to include people who are high-functioning enough to get by in a lot of situations, it might not be that extreme a number.

I don't know. I know three families, two of whom are good friends and one who's a more casual friend, who have sons with a clinical diagnosis of autism. If I'm a reasonably typical person, statistically speaking ... well, I'm sure I know more than 87 people, but three people is still a non-negligible number, especially as I'm not a Silicon Valley Girl and my friends mostly tend towards the arts rather than the sciences side of life.

And I said before, the behaviour of the two boys/men I know best varies widely. One of them couldn't possibly come across as 'normal' under any circumstances: his social interactions range from the awkward to the illegal. The other stood out at school as a child and the poor kid got bullied, but the older he gets, the more he seems to improve his social skills, and the last time I saw him his manner and behaviour were completely - well, I probably shouldn't say 'normal', so I'll say 'unexceptionable.' If you didn't know the diagnosis, all you'd see is a teenage boy with nice manners. Which isn't to say that he doesn't still struggle, just that he can 'pass' in certain situations.

Now, he was lucky in many ways: he was diagnosed as a child, his family immediately threw themselves behind him and brought his school on side too, so he's had support and been loved for who is is from very early on. (Though mind you, the other guy was diagnosed early too and his parents broke their backs for him. They're just unlucky.) Doubtless this is an advantage, because autistic or not, growing up with everybody reacting badly to you is not going to help your social development. But if there are a proportion of autistic people like my nice young friend, it might partly explain why the numbers sound unexpectedly high.

Or maybe, of course, they're wrong. That can happen too. :-)

--

Talking about people being on the spectrum as if that's talking about people who "have" autism seems like it's missing the point of spectra.

I think the idea is that 'autistic' is at one end of the spectrum and 'not-autistic' is at the other end. Crudely, you might plot it like this:

Low-functioning autistic / High-functioning autistic / 'Geeky' but not autistic / Socially skilled

So there are non-autistic people up the other end of the spectrum. It's just that they're often not relevant to a discussion about autism, so they don't get mentioned.
posted by Kit W at 5:10 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is normal, then? The answer is that it doesn't exist, and we keep trying to constrain ourselves into what 'normal' is 'supposed' to be, and the more we try to shove everyone into a box like that, the more people aren't going to fit. That box is getting smaller and smaller, and it's making more people miserable.

Except for that last bit, I see this as a good thing. If we can accept that "normal" is an illusion, a moving target, and it's okay to not be normal, and then just concentrate on fixing things that actually hurt people, we will be a better society to live in.
posted by Foosnark at 5:29 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Perhaps this will inform educational methods. It always seemed to me that teaching is aimed squarely at the neurotypical, or even at whatever the opposite of autistic is. Very narrative based, very social, very authority-based. So even kids who are normal, or just barely on the spectrum, have struggles with fitting in and learning well, because educational theory seems to be biased toward the very social rules followers.

Because one of the other things about autism-like disorders is that learning styles are different. I read some papers by Temple Grandin way back when, and one of the things she emphasized was that while she failed in school, it wasn't because she couldn't learn (obviously). It was just that she couldn't learn the way she was being taught. Her mind works visually, as does (apparently) most people's who are on the spectrum.

I discovered this myself, because I am most definitely a visual thinker. After reading that, I sort of went back over my own educational history, and sure as shit, any classes or teachers that taught visually were the ones at which I was successful. Geometry? Great. Chemistry? Great in high school, where the book was full of pictures of chemical reactions and molecules with their energy levels and almost gear-like interactions. Not so great in college where it was much more lecture-y and just memorization and math. Yuck.

Anyhow, I think that reforming education with this in mind will help everyone. Just simply by combining different learning styles into single lessons, where all the different styles are combined into the lesson. More kids will learn things on the first try, reducing their stress and increasing their chances of fitting in. I note that this is already what the good teachers do perhaps by instinct or experience.
posted by gjc at 5:43 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Today my (Aspie Diagnosed) husband and I had to write a very concerned email to the team dealing with my son's Asperger's. For 4 years now we have been managing to keep him in mainstream education at huge emotional and financial costs because he loves his school and just, just, about manages to not be bottom of the class in everything.
One small but significant difficulty he has is slow and poor writing skills. We were assured that he would get additional time in tests.

we have been knocking our heads against a brick wall and keep having to jump through additional purely procedural hoops. After 4 years of these hoops, bottom line, his GCSE exam modules are already being done and he does not have the additional time.

His future is being decided without the simple support steps he needs to be allowed to shine. It is heartbreaking trying to explain to him that his awesome Q1 and really good Q2 of the 3 questions on his Chemistry paper won't help as no answer to Q3 means a medicore result. I am so angry right now at a system faliure which will lock out the potential of this young man in further education.

My husband, while a fully functional Hospital doctor, has falied to progress in several important (to him ) ways and again at huge emotional and financial cost to this family. His story reminds me very much of EnterTheStory above except he found me at an early age. I say this without guile, without me he would be stacking shelves and would be happy pursuing his myriad interests on other things (ranging from military history to designing mechanisms for drug delivery mucosally ) but intensely lonely exactly as you described EnterTheStory

To all outward appearances we are a wonderful, loving and "normal" family because their particular combination of difficulties are not immediately obvious. There are huge advantages to their Aspergers from my perspective, (honesty loyalty, intense intellectual curiosity to name but a few) but the sheer hell we go through to keep the show on the road is impossible to explain to anyone without experience of coping with Autism spectrum conditions.

I work in surgical policy development and training and a large number of the surgeons I relate to are somewhere on the spectrum. I have no doubt that with the new revaldation mechanisms just introduced in the UK quite a number of these surgeons will enter the so-called remediation. We calculate anything between 10-15% of surgeons will need remediation and when we analyse the cases to date we observe that their technical skills are not the issue: real behavioral and communicative issues are and they are not very easily dealt with by the Comms courses we have developed for Neurologically Typical people. I have recently counselled two brilliant young surgeons as their careers effectively ended due to their ASC.

So both professionally and personally I see examples all the time of quite horrendous suffering and real losses to society as we are poorly equipped to unlock the potential of those on the spectrum.

There are huge gains to be had for us a society in normalising ASC, in acknowledging that a spectrum is just that. Current mechanisms for unlocking the social & professional potential of people on the spectrum are woefully predicated on an illness/disability model.

We need more tailored interventions and supports all across the spectrum so perhaps when we realise that this is actually more common that we suspected we might be able to achieve that. The awfully frustrating fact is, these supports and interventions need not cost much. Just awareness, and empathy. So many interventions are already availible through ASC groups, charities and individuals, EnterTheStory mentioned the fantastic Wrong Planet.

/rant over/
posted by Wilder at 5:50 AM on November 9, 2012 [11 favorites]


Just simply by combining different learning styles into single lessons, where all the different styles are combined into the lesson.

I hear this a lot on Metafilter, and the fact that people talk about it as if it's not something we're doing already tells me that they're not educators. Teaching to different learn styles, differentiating for different levels of ability, using a mixture of visual arts and music and written work; all that stuff is incredibly in vogue now. Seriously, find a group of ed students somewhere and there's a good chance that learning how to differentiate for different groups of students is what they're doing. It's a challenge (the reason we haven't always done it is, in part, that it requires teachers to effectively develop three or four lessons instead of one), but it's a challenge that we're working on.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:53 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


My son has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS, which is an autism spectrum disorder. There is something really clearly going on with him. He very much needs help. But here's the kicker:

His particular diagnosis may not hold true over time.

Some number of kids diagnosed with this particular disorder go on to be just fine. Some other number of kids diagnosed with this particular disorder go on to continuing needing help and support through their entire lives.

But you don't know which kid you have until you pass the critical point for services, so I would not be surprised if some of these diagnosis numbers are because it's clear a kid needs very real, very concrete help for a particular part of life and a a PPD-NOS diagnosis makes the most sense for that child's particular struggles.

My son does not have Asperger's, and he does not have autistic disorder. So he was thrown into this much needed but still kind of catch-all diagnosis.

What would be really interesting is a breakdown in how many of these ASD diagnoses are Asperger's, how many are autistic disorder, and how many are PDD-NOS in a given year, rather than a lump statement that autism in general is on the rise.
posted by zizzle at 6:04 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Just simply by combining different learning styles into single lessons, where all the different styles are combined into the lesson."

My late mother, a first grade and reading teacher for 44 years, was doing this years ago on her own. She always said one system never worked for all children, and tried to use what worked with each child in her classes. She is still remembered and loved by the many people she taught in this town, both the brilliant, the weird, and the slow. She loved them all and helped them all.
posted by mermayd at 6:08 AM on November 9, 2012


@ Bulgaroktonos
find a group of ed students somewhere and there's a good chance that learning how to differentiate for different groups of students is what they're doing.

I really hope so. One of my disastrous career choices was becoming a physics teacher. I love physics; not so good at crowd control. But the worst part was the training. It was a conversion course for graduates of other disciplines, and we were told "you are adults, you already have the life skills, we'll just teach you the physics." (And whether they did that was another story.) I'm just one data point, but my experience supports every negative stereotype you have ever heard about teacher training.

So I really hope you are right, and either my experience was unusual, or modern teacher training is dramatically better than in the past.
posted by EnterTheStory at 6:09 AM on November 9, 2012


I hear this a lot on Metafilter, and the fact that people talk about it as if it's not something we're doing already tells me that they're not educators. Teaching to different learn styles, differentiating for different levels of ability, using a mixture of visual arts and music and written work; all that stuff is incredibly in vogue now. Seriously, find a group of ed students somewhere and there's a good chance that learning how to differentiate for different groups of students is what they're doing. It's a challenge (the reason we haven't always done it is, in part, that it requires teachers to effectively develop three or four lessons instead of one), but it's a challenge that we're working on.

That's great that people are finally realizing it. Hopefully it spreads out to all the existing teachers who weren't lucky enough to have been taught these methods.
posted by gjc at 6:18 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I really hope you are right, and either my experience was unusual, or modern teacher training is dramatically better than in the past.

To clarify my own experience, I am not a teacher, but I'm married to one, both my parents were teachers, and my work brings me into contact with teachers.* Those transitional programs for career changers are a different kettle of fish than Education schools; the fundamental premise of educational school is that the pedagogical skills are fundamental and the content area can vary. Some transitional programs work this way, but others take people with content area knowledge and shoehorn in the pedagogy more or less as an after thought.

My father was switched to teaching after years of working for IBM and his program required him to take a ton of higher level math (differential equations, non-Euclidean geometry) in order to finish a program design to make him a high school math teacher, and honestly that's bonkers. He needed to be taught classroom control and lesson and unit preparation; he knew math, at least well enough to teach Algebra to ninth graders. My wife did a Masters program at an Ed school and got a much better education in the actual skills of teaching.

The alternative certification route fills a need, especially in places where teachers are hard to come by, but there's not really a substitute for learning how to teach, since that matters a lot more than being good at science if what you're doing is teaching high school kids about the Krebs cycle.

*I sue school districts for a living.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:44 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the idea is that 'autistic' is at one end of the spectrum and 'not-autistic' is at the other end. Crudely, you might plot it like this:

Low-functioning autistic / High-functioning autistic / 'Geeky' but not autistic / Socially skilled

So there are non-autistic people up the other end of the spectrum. It's just that they're often not relevant to a discussion about autism, so they don't get mentioned.


This is such a frustratingly misleading way to think of autism. It makes me wish the phrase "autism spectrum" had never been invented. It's not a straight line with orderly progression up the "functioning" scale. All autistic people (like all people) have strengths and challenges along many, many different axes. There are people like my son - very high IQ, extremely verbal, not much empathy, and almost no impulse control. There are people like some of my son's classmates - non-speaking, difficulty with reading and writing, but not violent and impulsive. There are people who have intense challenges on almost every axis, and some who you'd never know were autistic because they've learned to pass. The phrases "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" are convenient stereotypes, but they have basically nothing to do with the reality of autism.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:57 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


To me the neuro-typical view of love is so shallow. People hook up because they are the same on the surface, but there is nothing underneath.

This is so offensive. I hope you recognise your prejudice for what it is.
posted by The Monkey at 7:26 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


gracedissolved: "I don't see why lots of people being on the spectrum is a horrible thing unless you turn being on the spectrum into a disaster. "

This is one thing that's always bothered me a bit about anti-vaxxers (besides the obvious "YOU ARE SO FUCKING WRONG ON YOUR WEIRD ASS THEORIES!"). It sort of makes makes the people who are on the spectrum seen as aberrant and needing "fixing" which undoes a lot of the work people have been doing for decades on the rights of people who are differently abled (I had to catch myself a few times writing this in terms of how approached the issue, as well -- it's hard to overcome a lot of our social habits with issues such as these). We can start by recognizing the inherent dignity of every person regardless of their abilities, we can start by realizing that maybe zOMG autism isn't something that must be "stamped out" or "cured". They are humans and have their own unique traits, just like all of us do, whether it's autism or OCD or anxiety or schizophrenia or being a Republican.
posted by symbioid at 7:33 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well look at that. My plan to write a pithy one liner turned into a full rambling page, all about me. Who would have guessed.
posted by EnterTheStory

heehee

I'm not weird; I'm just different!
posted by BlueHorse at 7:53 AM on November 9, 2012


Is Everyone on the Spectrum?

Of course everyone is on the spectrum.

Seriously. That's why it's a ... spectrum, i.e. infinite variety.

The phrases "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" are convenient stereotypes, but they have basically nothing to do with the reality of autism.

That's a very good point. One of my closest friend's brother would be labeled a "low functioning" autistic, but then in some ways he seemed capable at very specific things. Extrapolate that times x, and yeah, it's a multidimensional spectrum.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:02 AM on November 9, 2012


Love this conversation. One of the ongoing projects/challenges of the disability rights movement is to include everyone within the promise of inclusion and nondiscrimination (people with traditional disabilities, people with nontraditional disabilities, people without disabilities, people on various spectrums) while simultaneously fighting for the particular and often more intensive needs of persons with significant or severe disabilities.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:16 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just because there are many different dimensions doesn't mean terms for overall ability to function as an independent adult are invalid. There's a very real difference between someone who can live their life entirely without help beyond that which is afforded to all normal, functional adults; and, on the other hand, those who require around-the-clock care. A broad label such as "low-functioning" is obviously just a first step, the next steps being mapping out the exact difficulties the subject has and which measures are needed to help them overcome those challenges. But it seems that people have this knee-jerk reaction to the terms as if they imply a value judgment, which is not the case.
posted by simen at 8:22 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was going to ask about the connection between autism and schizophrenia when I told myself to JFGI.

Study Links Autism, Bipolar, and Schizophrenia

I've always associated a sort of extreme and dangerous overbeanplating or sorta of a self-vs-world disorder with all three of those conditions, so the genetic connections make sense, but it seems like a limited connection.

I wonder how "simple" shyness fits in ... really struggling with my daughter about it right now. There are times when she just will. not. talk. and I can see her just shut down.

A counterargument: "We are only all on the autism spectrum, if you completely redefine what is meant by the autism spectrum." 1 in 100 or 1 in 30 is still not everyone by a long shot. That's like the percentage of furries out there.

It's still a good article, even if spun like chum. Thanks.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:38 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is so offensive. I hope you recognise your prejudice for what it is.

I am sorry it is offensive. I didn't mean it to be. I guess I'm just being literal again. Yes, it is prejudiced. It is pre-judice, pre-judging. I have never experienced a deep romantic connection with somebody so my understanding is necessarily limited to observing from a distance.

In my defence I referred to "neuro typical" which refers to the typical person only, insofar as the word has any meaning. If it helps I could try to show that the word "shallow" was defined by its context and must be true by definition, but I suspect that would not help at all.

In future I will try harder to be more considerate of others' feelings.

Back on topic, I think you have identified a good example of autism at work. Posting in social forums is really, really hard work for some of us: it's not our native language. No matter how many times I rewrite a post it's like playing Russian roulette. I watch in amazement at folk who seem to find it easy. Some people even seem to enjoy it. I am in awe.
posted by EnterTheStory at 8:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Posting in social forums is really, really hard work for some of us: it's not our native language. No matter how many times I rewrite a post it's like playing Russian roulette. I watch in amazement at folk who seem to find it easy.

For me I have the hardest time with text messages - so few characters, so open to interpretation, so hard to figure out how it will be read. I've gotten to the point where I edit once or twice and hope it comes off well and usually just call if it doesn't (to avoid trying to explain everything in the same limited format again).

This concept in general is something that's really apparent on wrongplanet (thanks for the mention, haven't been there in a few years). I mean, if the other people on that forum weren't AS, some of those threads would go even more terribly wrong than they still sometimes do. The bluntness is just pretty unmatched, but unlike many other forums, combined with a sort of naivete. It's an interesting place, though, and although I'm not diagnosed, I feel pretty comfortable there, for what that's worth. I got the ADHD for sure (so sayeth every psych I've ever been to since I was 12).
posted by nTeleKy at 9:31 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really feel for you EnterTheStory, I actually spend a lot of time coaching my husband how not to sound Aspie, and how to modulate his delivery to sound more polite because if you catch him while distracted by one of his intense interests he really sounds curt.
(I realise that is not what happened above I'm just giving another example of how ASC interaction is frequently recieved poorly)

I have found it fascinating to observe in practice what happens to him in the workplace as in my own professional capacity I have to go there sometimes to observe the standards of surgical training. You would expect him to get on poorly with the nursing and ancillary staff where social skills are important and better with the peer specialists where technical skills seem to be more important but the reverse is what usually happens and this has detrimentally impacted his career progress.
It is actually very useful for an anaesthesiologist to have his kind of intense focus, when he's engaged in something as tricky as a peribulbar block [warning: not for the squemish eyes & needles involved!] and nursing staff will hand him equipment and keep very quite while it's happening. If another specialist drops by he'll try to engage my husband in small talk about the Golf, Football whatever. Some times he literally does not hear it, or if he does, he'll reply in a way that sounds really short, curt. So the kind of people who can influence his career progressions think he's odd. What's even worse is his inability to stop shareing the latest knowledge he has acquired which his seniors in particular find quite threatening.

At the same time because the interactions with ancillary healthcare workers are pretty much always the same he has learned (with help) the scripts that work. I frequently hear nursing colleagues and midwives say how wonderful it is that he will get all his own equipment ready and not lord it over them expecting them to do it all for him. Of course that just his control freakery but they see it as him treating them with respect and since he does actually respect all members of his team but doesn't tend to be able to convey that, this is a win-win.


Lisa Blakemore Brown prefers the image of Tapestry to spectrum to get away from the linearity and emphasise the individual blend of strenght and challenges these children have and I found her book useful in that respect, especially the overlap with elements of ADHD.

another interesting link between child prodigies and autists has been published (D'OH right?) and I think we are beginning to see far more of a shift in emphasis to strengths.

But one of the things that worries me greatly, especially in healthcare delivery is an often overlooked aspect of ASC.( I refuse to call it a disorder, I prefer condition)

People on the spectrum demonstrate an extremely strong sense of natural justice. When you allign that with poor communication skills, an inability to read faces or social nuances/situations you often end up with a whistleblower. And what systems do to whistleblowers is horrendous to watch. Not only do we suffer through scandel after scandel, money and effort is expended in shooting the messenger rather than in fixing the problems, again with huge social, emotional and financial cost.

The cost to society from not engaging with people on the spectrum is far, far more than simply caring for the more severely affected people with the condition.
posted by Wilder at 9:36 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


To me the neuro-typical view of love is so shallow. People hook up because they are the same on the surface, but there is nothing underneath.

You need to explain what you mean here. Are you generalizing your failed relationships into the "neuro-typical view of love"? Are you generalizing your ideal relationship into the "aspie view of love"?

It reads like you're saying baseless things about how other people's relationships work.

In my defence I referred to "neuro typical" which refers to the typical person only, insofar as the word has any meaning. If it helps I could try to show that the word "shallow" was defined by its context and must be true by definition, but I suspect that would not help at all.

Please do explain.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:15 AM on November 9, 2012


Such a fascinating story, and the article covered it well. I have been interested in autism since encountering the character 'William Anti-Aut' in an Asimov story. A few years later, in the early 80's, I began to find work providing community support to people with autism (I only heard of Aspergers after the turn of the millenium).

‘If someone has their secretary call, don’t call back. If they have a secretary, they don’t have Asperger’s.’?”

This was more-or-less been my position as the prevalence of autism has apparently increased over the years. I, along with many others, have had trouble accepting the self diagnosis of high functioning individuals who think of themselves as austistic. Temple Grandin is considered an advocate of autistic people, yet I recall a great deal of skepticism from other people working in the field about her even being autistic.

I do like Tyler Cowan's suggestion that:

“understanding human neurodiversity in terms of impairments is fundamentally misleading.”

But I watched Tyler for years on BloggingHeads.tv, and it never occurred to me that he could be on 'the spectrum' that he places himself on (with some pride). I could nominate several other BHTV contributors as having more clearly autistic traits.


“If you were to get rid of all the autism genetics, there would be no more Silicon Valley,”


There doesn't seem to be much evidence for a genetic etiology for Aspergers, despite this assertion. I wonder whether there might prove to be a completely different set of causes for those who manifest severely autistic behaviour, versus the collection of traits characterized, but poorly operationalized, in the DSM IV description of Asperger's. The spectrum referred to in the phrase 'autistic spectrum' has, at one end, those who are profoundly affected, typically non verbal

"ruined lives for people who need treatment and don't get it, possibly ending in suicide"

I know your comment was intended more generally, but I cannot imagine any of the severely autistic people I have provided support to committing suicide.

The spectrum is not applied to the whole of humanity, it is a spectrum of degrees of autism. I'm not sure there is much value in a medical diagnosis of: human. Rett's syndrome, it seems to me (and others), should fall completely outside question of autism, as genetics are clearly implicated in Retts. Rett's is very very tough thing for a family to encounter.

Thing is, I wonder if my interest in working with severely autistic people doesn't stem from empathy, which is itself based on the fact that I have a number of autistic traits myself - I'm more convinced of this after reading this excellent thread.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:16 AM on November 9, 2012


Wilder, Thanks for the kind words. My ex is a nurse who specializes in ophthalmics, and she absolutely loves anything with needles and eyes. And we get on great now that she only sees me for a few hours a week (for the children). I hope your hubby appreciates you, though I think I can take that as read.

People on the spectrum demonstrate an extremely strong sense of natural justice.

That's me. Exacerbated by being raised in a very intense religion. I cannot bear the idea that injustice exists anywhere on earth, and have spent my whole life working out practical solutions to all known problems. (It's not as impossible as it sounds: most problems come down to economics, I am standing on the shoulders of giants, and assimilating vast quantities of data is my favorite thing.) But it came as quite a shock to realize, in my 20s, that most people do NOT lie awake at night thinking about all the people who are hungry or unjustly imprisoned.

When you allign that with poor communication skills, an inability to read faces or social nuances/situations you often end up with a whistleblower.

How true. The only time I ever spent in a police cell was for taking an ethical stand. I learned that confronting vastly more powerful organizations (e.g. the state) is not productive.
posted by EnterTheStory at 10:20 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just because there are many different dimensions doesn't mean terms for overall ability to function as an independent adult are invalid. There's a very real difference between someone who can live their life entirely without help beyond that which is afforded to all normal, functional adults; and, on the other hand, those who require around-the-clock care. A broad label such as "low-functioning" is obviously just a first step, the next steps being mapping out the exact difficulties the subject has and which measures are needed to help them overcome those challenges. But it seems that people have this knee-jerk reaction to the terms as if they imply a value judgment, which is not the case.


Well, that hit the nail right on the pointy end. Seriously, "high" and "low" functioning are not useful concepts when dealing with people with disabilities. It does a disservice to everyone on the spectrum. Those who are called "low-functioning" often have their basic humanity denied - some autism "advocates" will refer to people with intense autism as "stolen children" or "empty shells". Particularly when one has challenges with expressive language, attempts to communicate are often treated as "behaviors" to be "extinguished". Those who are called "high-functioning" on the other hand are denied assistance and services that would help them to live better lives, because their disabilities are "invisible" and they get people saying, "he's not autistic, he's just rude, there's no excuse."
posted by Daily Alice at 10:20 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The phrases "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" are convenient stereotypes, but they have basically nothing to do with the reality of autism.

Yes, they're pretty unhelpful phrases, aren't they? Just from personal experience (again, because being no scientist that's all I really have to go one), both the guys I know are technically 'high-functioning'. One of them is friendly, gentle and well-presented; one vandalises cars and threatens people with violence when he's worked up and needs daily supervision from a carer to make him stick to even the most basic self-care. (Not as in, 'If you don't brush your hair, you look scruffy.' As in, 'If you don't brush your teeth every day, your gums get infected and you get very ill.') One of these guys is not 'functioning' as well as the other.

That said, I do think Simen has a point in saying that whether or not someone can basically 'function' - by which I think we mean 'cope on their own without getting sick, getting into trouble or starving to death' - is a factor worth considering. It's just that the way I've seen it applied, they're so broad - and apparently sometimes not used in the common understandings of the phrase - that there's a lot of room for confusion as well as vagueness.

--

I know your comment was intended more generally, but I cannot imagine any of the severely autistic people I have provided support to committing suicide.

I'm glad to hear it. In context, as you observe, I wasn't referring to autism specifically - which, after all, is not a disease one treats with medication - but in response to Malice's comment about how 'every single person seems to be on medication', which I took to be a general swipe at the treatment of mental illnesses. And having been mentally ill myself (postnatal depression severe enough to involve regular thoughts of death, which cleared up very fast when given medicine and which would almost certainly still be eating every part of my mind that I think of as 'me' if I hadn't had any) ... well, that pissed me off. It struck me as an unprovoked attack on people with mental illnesses which wasn't even particularly relevant to the subject under discussion, and as such, I thought somebody ought to point out what was wrong with it.

If I seemed to be suggesting that autistic people are unusually prone to suicide, let me here and now retract the unintended implication. I have no information on that subject, and consequently no opinion, and am happy to learn from those who actually know what they're talking about. :-)
posted by Kit W at 10:33 AM on November 9, 2012


More on functioning labels from autistic people:
A Person Is Not A Function
If you can't...
Tired (of autism misrepresentation)
Autism and Function: An Autistic Boy's Perspective
Living the Least Dangerous Assumption
posted by Daily Alice at 10:35 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Daily Alice thanks for those links! and I agree language is so important!

(I recall my horror many years ago when I discovered that women who suffered through mutiple spontaneous miscarriages were known to medicine as "Habitual Aborters" and this was on their medical notes. You can imagine how that went down in Catholic Ireland on the odd occasion when they were actually allowed to see those notes. Thankfully that term was dumped.)
posted by Wilder at 10:45 AM on November 9, 2012


Reading this thread, I recognize a lot. I see a lot of problems, pitfalls, and difficulties interacting with others that I have encountered myself. Thank you all for taking the trouble to write this down, I find it very difficult to do so myself..
posted by DreamerFi at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2012


>> To me the neuro-typical view of love is so shallow. People hook up because they are the same on the surface, but there is nothing underneath.
You need to explain what you mean here. Are you generalizing your failed relationships into the "neuro-typical view of love"? Are you generalizing your ideal relationship into the "aspie view of love"?
Please do explain.

That last line feels like you are dangling a piece of meat containing a very large barbed hook. But I'll bite.

First, let's use different words. "Shallow versus deep" is plainly offensive and I should have spotted that. Can we use "broad versus narrow" instead? It comes to the same thing. NTs have a broad range of abilities, aspies have a narrow range. My claim then is that Aspies tend to have narrow thinking when it comes to relationships, and as an aspie I think that can sometimes be a very good thing. YMMV.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that in most cases, broad/shallow is good. Think of shallow water. You don't drown, you can move easily, it's usually warm, you can see everything, there's a huge beach full of other similar people, and so on. Shallow is fun and laughs and sunshine and holidays. In contrast, deep is narrow (because despite the width of the ocean you must keep close to the boat). Deep water means sharks and pressure and expensive equipment and strict safety rules. So very few people venture into the water to explore oceanic depths, and why should they? People go into water to have fun. But my feeling is that people should explore the depths of this particular ocean (life). We need to go narrow/deep, because this ocean seems to be killing a lot of people on the other side of the island. And let's be narrow/deep together. But that's just my view: the counter view is that for most people, swimming off into the depths is likely to increase the death toll rather than reduce it.

I reach my "broad/narrow" conclusion from the definition of autism. Hopefully what I mean by broad (or shallow) will become clear.

Autism is defined by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. This means that an autistic person (I'll say aspie for short) is less likely to start a relationship, but also less likely to end one: the aspie has more to lose. The only way an aspie can turn autism from a weakness into a strength is to use the ability to focus. On the partner, as much as possible, but their real strength is in focusing on a shared goal.

It seems to me that the most successful aspie marriage would be one based on a shared goal, a mutual obsession, with well defined parameters. I concede that this is just a theory, but it's one I hold to in my naivety.

I further suggest that this would be a Good Thing. Nay, a noble and romantic thing (taking romance in its original meaning of a journey or quest). With so many problems in the world there is a real need for people who can embrace some inspiring goal and work on it together. A life spent together doing some great work to save the world is so much better than a life spent at movies and parties. Hence I am shocked that all the sociable people I see (i.e. the NTs) seem to prefer holidays and restaurants to evenings working on some grand project.

Thus my poorly worded original comments.

tl;dr: autistic folk are good at focusing. Focusing on a shared goal is a romantic and noble thing. In theory.
posted by EnterTheStory at 12:59 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of my students, his mother mentioned to me recently, is "on the spectrum." The moment I knew that, I swung into gear communicating with the other teachers, and all of a sudden the kid is not considered massively disruptive, rude, or sarcastic any more, because the teachers aren't reacting to his interjections as if they had a hidden meaning. And he's smiling a lot more, and raising his hand to make comments, and generally seeing more success, because the teachers understand they need to be really clear about procedures and need to stop reacting when he doesn't get what they think is obvious.

So do I care whether or not Asperger's has a genetic basis or a clear functional cause? Nah.
posted by Peach at 4:17 PM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


>Particularly when one has challenges with expressive language, attempts to communicate are often treated as "behaviors" to be "extinguished".

This is true, however anyone who is (ethically) trying to decrease an "aberrant" behavior of any kind will always look to replace it with a functionally equivalent, more appropriate one. I think the comment above speaks to that.

But I guess regardless of a diagnosis, if someone is "acting out" or being rude or disruptive an effective educator will always attempt to identify the function and teach that individual to engage in a more socially appropriate means to the same end.
posted by chela at 6:31 PM on November 9, 2012


We're all devo!
posted by Nomyte at 6:51 PM on November 9, 2012


It seems to me that the most successful aspie marriage would be one based on a shared goal, a mutual obsession, with well defined parameters. I concede that this is just a theory, but it's one I hold to in my naivety.

Multiple family members on the autism spectrum, including myself, suggest that in practice getting people who love each other the pull together on mutual obsessions is not as easy as you might think. About the best you can hope for is mutual understanding for the need for obsessions.
posted by Phalene at 8:06 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I admit I have stopped believing (or recommending) a literature out there for romance, dating, marriage and Asperger's because of the Tapestry nature of the individuals involved.

It's easier to recommend Ehrlich's antigen theory where a pretty sophisticated set of keys find their equivalent lock. The chemical magic bullet. But that model is idealised because the reality is the antibody doesn't have to lock in every single possible way to the antigen, it just has to be good enough.

Like every relationship success is predicated on respect which is a function of acceptance. Acceptance of different behaviours and modes of expression can only be a good thing. It's interesting sometimes to view the kick-back against the idea that the spectrum covers more of humanity than we thought. I find it similar the the early backlash against feminism (but I would).

I have to ask myself when I hear people saying "for for God's sake, yes we're all special little snowflakes!" and "little Tommy's acting out in class is a"thing" rather than poor parenting and poor impulse control, my foot!"

If in widening awareness and modifying education to unlock the potential of the many, a few individuals get a "pass" (whatever than means!) what are we losing?
posted by Wilder at 3:52 AM on November 10, 2012


This means that an autistic person (I'll say aspie for short) is less likely to start a relationship, but also less likely to end one: the aspie has more to lose.

You have your experience, of course, but this does not tally with what I've seen in my own life. I'm thinking of the aspie guy who is not only unable to manage a romance, but has had lifelong difficulty keeping friends, including other aspie friends. He has no empathy and reacts very badly when someone inadvertently crosses one of his 'deep' preoccupations. An innocent remark has in the past led to him instantly recategorising a friend as an enemy. Once the police had to be called.

I see your point about feeling the question was a trap, but I'd suggest this: as you don't know what it's like to be neurotypical, you are probably often going to get it wrong and cause offence when you generalise about the neurotypical experience, just as I would probably offend you if I generalised about what it's like to be autistic. It's best to stick to talking about what we actually know.

I'm in a relationship. It is not shallow to me; nor do I experience it as sunny water all the time. The stakes always run into deep water because this is my life: you say aspires have more to lose, but the father of my child is not interchangeable, and anyway neediness does not keep a relationship healthy. The connections I have to my husband are intense, and some are shared interests; you might even say that they all are if you include 'each others' wellbeing, social lives and character' as areas of interest'. Our 'shared goal' is the relationship itself, and through it the happiness of our family.

Changing our terms doesn't change the fact that you're generalising about what it's like to be me, which you acknowledge is something you probably can't understand, any more than I can fully understand what it's like to be you. Mutual respect is better served by not doing that.
posted by Kit W at 4:30 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


@Kit W
Fair enough. I am the proverbial drowning man grasping at straws. I spent my whole life believing that it is possible for anyone to find love, if they try hard enough. So I construct a fantasy world wherein it can happen because my problem is not really a problem but an advantage. It may be in analytic areas, but for relationships, no. There is no silver lining.

There is also another far bigger issue at play that explains my anger with the world an impatience with people. (Which I don't show in real life: I never get angry with people, and always try hard to be polite.)

Warning: completely off topic tangent ahead. Hopefully some mod will delete this post.

People are dying for the want of pennies. My personal obsession is global poverty. 21,000 children starved to death today. One thousand died while I was typing this. And it's all so avoidable. So trivially avoidable if people just place a slightly higher priority on fixing it. Avoidable at a profit, too - I'm not even asking for sacrifice. Just awareness. But that seems to go against something in human genes. For the past 35 years (since age 9) I have thought of little else. I find it very hard to accept that other people have other priorities. Loving relationships are the hardest to see. I can accept that people have different priorities if I can tell myself they are selfish or mean, but loving couples contradict that. Or do they? The selfish gene argues otherwise. Consciousness is how we explain our actions, it is seldom a cause.

People direct most of their energies to themselves and their significant other, plus close friends and family, instead of to the person dying at their feet. I find that so hard to accept. How can a good person make that choice? I feel like I'm in Kafka's world. The world is surreal. That is why I kid myself into believing the nonsense that aspies are different, because the alternative is to be truly and irredeemably alone, and anything I say will make me sound like an enemy. Trapped on the wrong planet, except I do not have my own planet and never did. Why do I even type this? For the lulz I suppose. To combine those three jolly crowd pleasers condescension, arrogance and self pity. Oh and let's add envy for the cherry on the top.

Yes, I know all the old counter arguments. We are Good People. Everyone is a Good Person, Ask Idi Ahmin, he was Very Good Person. We do what we can, we do not have to choose between being good and spending effort on each other, utopias cannot work, life is not as simple as people think, bla, bla bla. These are the exact same argument the rich have always used to justify their position. You know the ones, the Jane Austen arguments: Mr Darcy really is a caring good person, despite living off the backs of the rent paid by his suffering peasants (I am sure he treats them better than his neighbors so that's OK then), and Elizabeth Bennett really is a good person and there is nothing she can do about her parasitic lifestyle; it's all society's fault and she is working to change it but cannot possibly give up that income and oh look there's a ball tonight yada yada yada. I am just tired and angry. Anger and frustration is common on the spectrum. This thread is pretty much dead now so I hope that nobody reads this rant. Replying is too exhausting, and I always regret it. I really should know better than to talk to others, but I'm like Charlie Brown kicking that football. Again I am sorry for causing offense. And now whining in self pity. Gahh.
posted by EnterTheStory at 6:39 AM on November 10, 2012


Okay, EnterTheStory, I'm going to take a step back, and I think you should too. I wasn't saying that you'd never find love, nor that neurotypical people reserve the right not to care about the suffering of anyone outside their family. I was just saying that it probably wasn't the case that aspie love was inevitably better than NT love, and suggesting how you might avoid causing offence in online conversations, which was something I thought you might find helpful.

Clearly you're very unhappy, and I don't want to make you more so. I hope you have some support in your life; if you aren't seeing a counsellor of some kind to help you cope with these feelings, you probably should, because while I quite agree that human suffering is a serious problem we must all try to combat, getting overwhelmed like this helps neither other people nor you.

But having this conversation seems to be upsetting you, and I don't want to make it worse, so at this point I'm just going to stop discussing with you and hope that the future holds less misery for you and for all of us.
posted by Kit W at 9:28 AM on November 10, 2012


Wilder, if you were in the US, I'd tell you to lawyer up. Schools have an obligation to educate, but often take the path of least expense/resistance.

One of my best friends has stated that he probably has Asperger's. The combination of analytical skill and a passion for justice, combined with hard-won adaptive skills, has earned him a good life.
posted by theora55 at 12:22 PM on November 10, 2012


People direct most of their energies to themselves and their significant other, plus close friends and family, instead of to the person dying at their feet. I find that so hard to accept.

If it helps at all, I think about this problem many times every single day, and I too have lived most of my life nonplussed by it. Although you seem at odds with the rest of the world, you're not. We're just in the minority. That does not prevent us from doing good things ... it's just really depressing. Getting past that is hard, and I don't have many good suggestions for you, other than don't give up.

A life spent together doing some great work to save the world is so much better than a life spent at movies and parties.

For me (a non-aspie), I've found it helps to avoid such (crushing) universal ratings of "worse" or "better". A life spent at movies and parties has as much value as any other (IMO). A person doing "great work" might also make one person's life miserable. To me, life differences are never that binary as to easily define one as "better" and one as "worse."

Anyway, hang in there. You're not alone in your frustration with the heartlessness of human civilization. (Imagine if you felt the same way about poor innocent cows, pigs, chickens.) If I thought a virtual hug would help I'd give you a big one. *hug*
posted by mrgrimm at 4:32 PM on November 12, 2012


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