Friday, July 11, 2008

Where I'm Coming From


I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) just over a year ago, in May 2007. That makes me an "Aspie". AS is in the autism spectrum, meaning that it's not as severe as full-blown autism but has many of its characteristics. Aspies may also be said to have "high-functioning" autism, which means they can often live on their own, go to school, handle money and pay bills, drive cars and possibly even maintain relationships and hold jobs.

You don't have to be officially diagnosed to call yourself an Aspie, as long as you think you may have it. However, I believe getting an official diagnosis (dx) really helps in many ways.

I'm happily married; that in itself makes me more fortunate than many Aspies (especially men, who are believed to comprise the great majority of Aspies). My wife does not have AS; as a non-Aspie she is a neurotypical, or NT.

I met her when I was 29 1/2, and at the time I had never had a girlfriend. My total number of dates could have been roughly counted on my fingers. Aspies (again, especially men) tend not to marry early, or even at all.

Aspies also tend to have few friends. Even granting the fact that I define "friend" much more narrowly than I believe the average American does, my friends can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I made my first real friend - who was also my very first date - in my second year of college. (Also, after my first semester of college, I never had a roommate.)

Aspies also tend to be unemployed or underemployed. According to one estimate, looking only at those Aspies who do have jobs, maybe 2% (that's right, 1 out of 50) work in those fields related to what they studied in school. I'm no exception to that rule; the great majority of my jobs have not required even a college degree, even though I first attended American University and then earned my BA in Government from Cornell University and my MA and PhD in Economics from George Mason University (where, incidentally, I met my wife).

There are reasons for these things. While full-blown autists may never want to socialize, Aspies often would love to be with people but have no idea how to go about it. We Aspies have great difficulty establishing personal relationships and working and living close to others.

Aspies also have distinctive strengths, including the ability to focus, step back emotionally from tough situations and pay close attention to detail.

Let's understand some more about what Aspies do and what makes them tick, compared to NTs...and vice versa. Hopefully, we'll all be able to love, work, live and play together better!


J. Willardston said...

Enjoy reading your intelligent, sensible and sensitive commentary. You have a rational way of discussing often irrational subjects -- e.g., the comments of Michael Savage.

Maddy said...

Especially play!