I’m autistic and normal…REALLY???

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By Kenneth Justice

~ What is normal?

At coffee recently I met with a young mother of a 12 year old boy. Her son is autistic and she’s been instructed by her son’s teacher to enroll her child in special classes to help him deal with his autism, “I guess I just don’t really understand why it’s necessary because I think my son is awesome! I feel like the problem isn’t my son; the problem is people who expect every child to act the same” she said

Let’s be honest, in Western Culture the people who tend to rise to the top of the pack are the extroverted and outgoing; those with charisma and charm. Do you want to be President of the United States; then be charming like John F. Kennedy and you’ll beat your opponent.

For those people who weren’t born with a natural proclivity towards extroversion; the world can be an unfriendly place. The young mother I was talking to said as much, “My son is a little bit more introverted than the other children but I feel like that is okay. So what that he is a tad bit socially awkward at times; why does he have to conform and behave exactly like everyone else?” she said

On a recent trip I took to Boston I met with a psychotherapist from the Midwest who specializes in Asperger’s, “I have four therapists who work under me and we work with Asperger’s clients by helping them learn how to acclimate themselves to the world around them” she said. While I appreciate the woman’s dedication and energy toward helping others…..I’m left wondering; isn’t it society that should change and not the people with Asperger’s?

—-) Shouldn’t people be more loving and accepting of those who don’t act and behave exactly the way society dictates?

—-) Shouldn’t our culture become more understanding regarding the concept that everyone is not a natural extrovert?

I have a couple good friends who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s and I accept them as they are and I can’t imagine ever putting any kind of limits on my friendship with them. I would never say to them “You can only be my friend if you learn how to better interact with me”, that’s downright silly! Yet isn’t that what we are doing when a teacher says to a parent, “You need to enroll your child in special classes so that they can learn how to better overcome their disorder”?

Obviously I’m not suggesting that children should be allowed to behave badly or to be unruly. But Asperger’s has nothing to do with unruly behavior; it’s merely an indication that we aren’t all born with the same personality. If society were more accepting of people with different behavioral attitudes, then the simple fact of the matter is that Asperger’s would no longer be a label that we put on people.

As a Christian, I’ve often been inspired by the message of Jesus and his acceptance of all people from all walks of life. If you look at the dudes who hung out with him it’s easy to surmise that some of them had anger problems, some were very egotistical, and others may very well have been classified as having “Asperger’s” or “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” ….yet Jesus hung out with them regardless. He was no respecter of person and accepted everyone as they were.

One of the reasons I abandoned counseling and the field of psychology is that I began to develop a growing awareness of my distaste for the philosophy behind psychology; instead of recognizing that many of the problems that exist in Western Culture are actually societal problems…..and not problems with the individual; psychologists instead, are creating disorder after disorder out of thin air.

Rather than tell people ‘you have a disorder called Asperger’s’ wouldn’t it be more relevant and important to begin changing society and teaching people to accept others who are different from them? Everyone is not born with charm and charisma. Everyone is not born with a natural ability to emotionally connect with random strangers.

We are each different, each born with different unique qualities….and that is okay. There is nothing wrong with diversity and I believe the time has come to begin embracing diversity rather than trying to force everyone to look the same.

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,

Kenneth



Categories: Culture & Society

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107 replies

  1. society enjoys branding, and when we are deemed “not like them”, we are deemed abnormal, or in a nutshell, if they can’t coral you, they label you, and it was the same way with early day Christians, and
    today we live in a world that considers pornography as mainstream and normal, unlike a few years ago, so to all the experts out there, do they really understand anything, blessings for your fine post,

  2. I think this is my very most favorite post you have ever written! Celebrate the “abnormal” and “socially awkward” people…they (we?) often have lots of nifty stuff swirling in their heads and shouldn’t have their brains beaten into submission in the name of “normal.”

  3. I was told by a woman that was diagnosed with Asperger’s and receives disability, that they have removed that diagnosis from the book.She says they are afraid that too many people actually would quality, thus economics prevail. Teaching people with social anxiety how to cope enough to find a job so that they can support themselves, are services we need more of. Educating employers about the high intellectual capacity of these people and their willingness to work hard, despite their nervous quirks, is also needed. There are many jobs that they would function well in of only given the chance.

    • If it’s been removed form the book won’t they cut her disability pension?

    • No. Social Security can’t undiagnose patients but they won’t test and allow new applicants that are highly functioning to qualify. My daughter was tested and they said she made “too much eye contact” and used her hands when she talked sometimes. They are not allowing funds to help these people.

    • This must be a very new change– or just for the Asperger’s end of the spectrum. My son has high-functioning autism (but not Asperger’s) and his claim was approved pretty fast.

      (We applied mainly as we didn’t have enough money for food under food stamps. Really.)

    • That is good to hear. I believe that a person has to be proven to have had delayed speech at a very young age. Social anxiety seems to be a developmental brain problem of young adults.

    • They removed the diagnosis of Asperger’s, but they didn’t make it so that people who used to be diagnosed with Asperger’s would now not get a diagnosis. They just made it so that autism, Asperger’s, and PDDNOS are now all diagnosed as one thing, Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The things people are saying on this thread about them “cutting off the high functioning end of the spectrum” didn’t actually happen. They just merged three diagnoses into one and changed the criteria a bit.

  4. Kenny,

    Three cheers for accepting others as they are!! I agree our culture judges the shy. And that is bullshit. Shy people are often the most creative, thoughtful and observant people and very few give them a chance to embrace their gifts.

    Beautiful, meaningful post indeed.

    Peace ~

    Allison

  5. Like I have always said, we are all the same, the packaging is simply different. Humanity as a whole, (with the exceptions of the goofballs trying to take over the world), all dream of love, peace, acceptance…etc. We all aspire to find our purpose, to learn, to grow as individuals, to love and be loved, to simply ‘be’. Life is pretty darn simple, it is society that makes it difficult. Ah, humans, we are a flawed bunch. 🙂

  6. Good Morning/Evening Kenneth:
    I agree we need to accept people for who they are, but few people recognize this concept. They want to continue with labels and if this person does not fit within a criteria/rules then they want to avoid or exclude that person. This society has always lacked empathy, but the lack of empathy is growing more and more intense.
    I love this article, it’s a constant reminder we all have our quirks and instead of hiding and conforming with the norm so to speak we should really appreciate and embrace ourselves and also accept others.

  7. What a great post, I love the idea that we as society should adapt and change. But, as kids we do everything we can to “fit in” and then we spend a good portion of our adult lives trying to stand out and be different – it doesn’t make sense to me at all. I think that as a culture we have a lot to learn and lots of areas in which to grow!

  8. I agree. Yet, I also know that there are extreme cases – my neighbor’s son being one of them. I’ve seen it first hand: when unattended – he wanders away and also wanders into people’s homes. I’ve seen him violently beat his mother – he’s in his teens. There are those that do need special attention and help. Some behaviors are never acceptable no matter what.

  9. It’s interesting. On one hand society has overcome a lot of prejudice, but still has a long way to go. A lot of people with things like high functioning Autism, such as with Asperger’s, or some people with downs syndrome do feel alienated. They know exactly how others perceive them.

    On the other hand, these are conditions which do make aspects of life much more difficult for these people. They want to be accepted, like we all do, but conversely also would like to change. They are usually fully aware of their difficulties and comprehend them in much the same way we do.

    Acceptance is great but solutions should always be fought for also. Better medications, social therapies, societal support and cures are all attainable and should all be sought after in equal measure.

  10. Yes!!! We are all different, and we don’t all have the same personalities, strengths, or weaknesses. Just because some children (many in fact) do not flourish in traditional classroom settings or conform to society’s standards of how children should act, aka: normal, does not mean the child is bad, is a problem or is not normal. It makes me mad and rather sad than society calls for everyone to conform to some standard, and ostracizes those who don’t fit in.

  11. I honestly don’t know enough about autism or Asperger’s to make a quality comment. And I certainly don’t know the degree of autism, or how it manifests itself, that this woman’s son has. But I’m wondering if the teacher who recommended that she put her son in special ed did so in the interest of the rest of the “normal” kids in her class. My wife used to teach special ed classes and many of the kids in her classes could not be “mainstreamed” into regular classrooms because their behavioral problems were severe enough to have caused considerable disruption. They needed a lot of extra time and attention that the “regular” teachers could not give to them without taking away from the education of the other students.

    Just another perspective, for what it’s worth.

    • Well said! I’m all for accepting people as they are but some kids need extra attention and special care.

    • I was in special ed for part of my high school years, and I always had this question when people used that rationale to put people in special ed:

      You have an expectation that nondisabled students should not have to put up with certain ‘distracting’ students in their midst.

      Yet you also have this expectation that disabled students, who tend to have more difficulty learning and are more susceptible to being distracted, should all be put together, including the ‘distracting’ students. So ‘distracting’ students should be put with the students who are the most easily distracted.

      Which is exactly how it worked. Nondisabled students were entitled to a distraction-free school day, even though they had better resources to cope with distraction than disabled students did. Disabled students just had to put up with the distraction, because we were all put in together regardless.

      Which seems to me like not an actual attempt to make education easier for anyone. It’s just a matter of, nondisabled students feel entitled to an education where they don’t have to deal with people who rock, or flap, or occasionally run out of the room screaming, or other things like that. Disabled students are not given any such sense of entitlement.

      And guess what? Despite the fact that we had disabilities that made us more easily distracted, disabled students pretty easily learned to put up with each other’s idiosyncrasies. We had no choice. We were the last stop.

      When you have no choice but to be around someone, you learn to deal with them, distractions and all.

      Nondisabled students shouldn’t be given that choice when disabled students don’t get that choice. It’s not fair. Classrooms should be made so that anyone can learn in them, or they should be totally done away with and something else come up with instead. But never pretend that special ed is this wonderful place where everything’s tailor-made for disabled students. Most of the time it’s just the place they put us when nobody else will put up with our presence in their classrooms.

      The world would be a much better place if people put up with our presence in their classrooms, and did not teach nondisabled students that they are entitled to an education free of our presence. That sense of entitlement carries through into adulthood, where they believe they are entitled to a workplace free of our presence, a neighborhood free of our presence, a household free of our presence, a life free of our presence. And that is why we have to live in nursing homes and group homes and ICF/MRs instead of living in our own homes. It’s all tied together.

  12. I agree with your overall point that we should be accepting of all people. However, I want to point out that “introverted” and “autistic” are very different things. I’m not an expert on autism/asperger’s, but my understanding is that children with these disabilities often do need expert guidance and teachers who understand their needs. Putting the children in a different class is not meant as a punishment, but a way to meet their needs.

  13. Bingo! I will say as some already have there is a difference in high functioning Asbergers and how deep autism can go. I know some who are usually great kids but can turn in an instant they do need real help. Those who are able to function tend to be extremely smart and can and should be a part of productive society.

  14. Kenneth, Have you read, “The Mismeassure of Man” By Stephen Jay Gould. I think it might apply to this topic. It doesn’t suggest an alternative (I don’t think), but it does debunk some things like the IQ test.

  15. I just finished the book Just Alice. Great book. Highly recommend it. If you haven’t read it, it’s about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s. One of the conclusions of this book is also your conclusion – our acceptance of others is too narrow. As one with a number of illnesses/issues that set me apart from the “normal” I know all about this. Oh, how I wish people were more accepting! But they aren’t. They just aren’t. This isn’t an ideal world. That come in the next world. Meanwhile, we have to put up prejudice/judgment and work on being more accepting ourselves. Cuz we are all prejudice in on way or another. And I’m afraid that mom with the son with autism is setting herself and her son up for a lot of disappointment and disillusionment. The educational system, especially is set up for the “normal”. Anyone who deviates – even the highly intelligent, believe it or not, will have problems. Been there. Done that.

  16. Kenneth…good post and I agree wholeheartedly.

    For the sake of “money” we have abandoned exceptional people and classified them as disabled…so that we don’t have to deal with them in our blase society. How sad that certain individuals have cut off some of the most beautiful, loving, people in the world just because a few think they don’t fit.

    For a society that calls itself educated and enlighten, I think we are pretty shallow. There are far greater riches in life than money…one of them is people.

    Regards ~ Dave

    • “for the sake of money we have abandoned exceptional people and classified them as disabled”

      Awesome sentence, you said it better than me Dave

  17. the more I hear/read about this subject, the more I think that most people are somewhere on the spectrum and that ‘society’ seems to be doing a very good job of hiding it

  18. You make a good point, Kenneth. I hope I can be more accepting of the differences in others.

  19. I have a friend that I lost contact with years ago. We first me in out late teens.
    Lately, thanks to FB we got in touch again, and recently met up for the first time in years. There was always something slightly different about him that you couldn’t quit put your finger on. He was telling me that he had got married and had a kid, but had had what he thought was a breakdown, and did a runner. They managed to track him, and got him to a doctor, and he was diagnosed with Aspergers.
    Since his diagnosis, he says he is able to cope a lot better than before, as when he now knows what’s causing him to feel the way he does.

    It was great catching up, and knowing that he has Aspergers, explains the the sometimes different take he had on things in the past.
    He’s a great guy, and it’s great that we’re back in touch. His Aspergers is neither here nor there as far as I’m concerned, he’s just my friend, and a good one at that.

  20. As a relatively outgoing Brit, I felt bulldozed by the over-familiar extraverted Amercians I first met in my early twenties. Maybe Asperger’s was standard British behaviour back then, before we all got caught up in the swinging sixties. In the meantime, many of us have lost our natural British reserve, as we have had more interaction across the Pond. But perhaps there is really some truth in the old myths about national stereotypes? I don’t know the statistics for autism/Aspergers in the UK as compared to the USA, but I wonder if they are measured by the same standards?

    • Cat,

      Wow, I love the cross-cultural comparison between Brit’s and American’s…. its exactly the type of example I was looking for, it beautifully describes the differences in personality that are nothing more than natural organic differences…. and they should be embraced rather than labeled as disorders.

    • At the other end of the spectrum, we have exuberant kids being given ritalin and classed as ADHD … many just need to let off a bit more steam than others.

  21. Yes if a child/adult doesn’t act the “norm” they are considered an “outcast”. I went from being an introvert growing up because I felt no one would get me. As an adult I have come to embrace who I am and many now call me an extrovert but to me I am just being me and not trying to be liked. I am a mother to a special needs child and it is hard to take the looks sometimes. My daughter is perfect in my eyes but in others she is that kid that doesn’t talk, walks funny, drools, and whatever else. Yes she tends to talk with her hands (hitting) because can’t use words. I always feel that I have to give a disclaimer. With my oldest child I always taught her to love everyone no matter what so to her, her little sister is just a spoiled bratty sister. I encourage parents to let their children play with everyone and if they see them being mean to sit down and talk with them to help them understand. I have many friends who have children who are diagnosed with Autism. It is just that a diagnosis not the whole child. Until we change our way of thinking then they will continue to think anyone who behaves outside of the norm should be placed separately away from the “normal” people.

  22. Ask yourself; don’t I want others to accept me? And for all the wrong things I say sometimes?? They do to.
    Caring for a child with autism is definitely a challenge. I hear a lot of debates about autism, trying to find a cure or more someone to blame about it. My heart goes out for those autistic children and their parents.
    It’s hard for everyone to understand what’s really going on in others mind and health, tired excepting their behavior; takes skills, compassion and patience dealing with any person with behavior issues or disabilities. I always try to be a good role model towards my patients by smiling and excepting their behavior and painful life. If all of us would add little kindness, a bit of understanding and less bullying the world would be happier and peaceful planet.
    Great topic! 🙂

  23. I am in tears as I read this post. I tto, am a mother of a beautiful son who has been diagnosed with Aspergers. He is my gift. He is a special little boy who is brilliant academically, yet is socially challenged.
    I am reposting this on my blog because the words that the mother spoke are the exact same words I have spoken myself when I have had to defend my son against society.

  24. Reblogged this on HUMPTY DUMPTY MURAL MAGIC and commented:
    I had to reblog this from The Culture Monk’s blog. I was so touched by this post about Asbergers.
    We all need to read this post, and listen to what he is trying to say about people with differences in our society.

  25. As a classroom teacher for 38 years, I taught all kinds of personalities. We humans come in a wide range of varieties. It makes life very interesting and rich. One of the more interesting and capable students I had in physics was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. He functioned as well or better than most of the rest. I wonder what he is doing today as an adult.

  26. I couldn’t agree more Kenneth. What the world needs is not any more diagnosis, prognosis or labelling, but a little more kindness, acceptance, understanding, compassion and a whole lot more loving towards each other.

  27. Hi,Kenneth. Would you be so kind to give as a comment to my “JF’s Challenge: Bloggers Thoughts” your thoughts below and the link to this your post?

    “Rather than tell people ‘you have a disorder called Asperger’s’ wouldn’t it be more relevant and important to begin changing society and teaching people to accept others who are different from them? Everyone is not born with charm and charisma. Everyone is not born with a natural ability to emotionally connect with random strangers.

    We are each different, each born with different unique qualities….and that is okay. There is nothing wrong with diversity and I believe the time has come to begin embracing diversity rather than trying to force everyone to look the same.”

    Best to you!

  28. Kenneth, you hit a sore spot with me today. The other day I reached out to my son’s school counselor because he’s been dealing with some shame stuff (he feels shame when he gets in trouble, and we want to figure out why). Her first question was, “Does he like to be alone?” I said, “Yes, but so do I. I’m a writer, an observer of the world.” Her next words were, “I think you should have him tested for Asperger’s.” WHAT? Just because he likes to be alone?
    My son is also a brilliant, highly gifted child, and I think sometimes the school doesn’t know what to do with these kinds of children, so they feel they need a label on them. There is not anything “off” with him socially (he has four brothers he plays with every single day, for God’s sake), and he has one of those creative minds that is constantly seeing the possibility of everything. This makes his teachers uncomfortable, because they don’t know what to do with him. It burns me up. Really. He knows how to have a normal conversation, he feels when people are sad and mad and excited, and he lives fully present. He shares two of the hundreds of characteristics of Asperger’s kids: high intelligence and a preference for books and only two or three friends. He is not an extravert, so he must, therefore, be labeled.
    By today’s standards, both my brother and me would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s when we were in school. I feel very deeply, and so does he. So does my son. I just don’t understand how we can label people just because they’re different than the “normal societal standard.” Normal is an illusion.
    There’s my rant. You can read the emotional side of it on the blog I posted yesterday (hope you don’t mind my sharing the link): http://racheltoalson.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/labels-cannot-tell-you-who-i-am/

  29. Great post. Acceptance is key, yet its difficult for people to understand and empathize with others that are different from them. This is why I believe a lot of intolerance is born out of ignorance instead of a desire to simply hurt and exclude others. Hopefully it changes!

  30. Wonderful post, Kenneth. As the parent of an Autistic son, I appreciate you pointing out that these children shouldn’t be seen as people who need to be fixed. Their differences are what makes them so special. Are they like the typical person? No, especially not my son. He’s not high functioning my any means and struggles a lot with very simple things, but what makes him being ‘different’ a bad thing? I’m glad he’s not ‘normal’. I’m glad he sees things differently than most other people do. If you ask me, he has a gift, not a disability. I wrote this a few months ago. It’s my perspective on the matter: http://mewhoami.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/free-from-similarity-autism/
    Personally, I don’t believe that everyone needs to be put into special classes. Socially awkward people can gain more benefit by being in a mainstream classroom setting. Of course, there are those who *need* to be in special needs classes or at the very least require speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc. There is no way that my son could be successful if he were placed solely in mainstream classes. He may enjoy it, but he would be completely lost. Special needs has its place, but it certainly should not be a requirement and/or recommendation for everyone.

  31. There’s a lot I want to say but I won’t. Generally speaking, I wholeheartedly agree. Labels/stereotypes, etc., are bad and are counterproductive. However, there is something to be said for being able to recognize what the differences are in processing so as to be able to better take care of oneself – that’s not the same as bending to society. I would say though that asperger’s and autism are not the same as JUST being introverted. It’s about processing and they process differently than most therefore they react differently than most – is that bad? Absolutely not. Should they be labeled or feared or put into little corners? Absolutely not. The rest of us can afford to be more educated, be more willing to open our minds and hearts to difference and quit being so fearful of different. Different can and usually is beautiful. We just have to be wiling to see it. I would also say that just because someone has been diagnosed with something, that doesn’t mean they should be labeled. I think that’s where the problem lies – not with the diagnosis but that we put labels, prejudices, fears, etc., on the diagnosis, therefore the person. That’s unjust. A diagnosis can be helpful – helps people to know how to handle certain real issues like being bipolar or schizophrenia (extreme example but you know what I’m getting at). I do absolutely agree that even if someone has been diagnosed with either of those or other health issues, that the rest of us need to learn to open our hearts and minds and not be so prone to labeling those folks simply because their minds work differently. At the end of the day that’s all it is. Some behaviors associated with those two diagnoses do need to be reined in, but again, being fearful or labeling folks is unfair, unjust and even cruel.

    • I love that you have distinguished between diagnosis and labelling. I have read so much lately about how having kids ‘labelled’ is a bad thing. I think people are forgetting that in many cases, diagnosis is the very thing that can lead to understanding, emotional and financial support and much needed intervention. It can be a positive thing. The negative stereotyping is a whole other story.

    • Thanks! 🙂 I’m glad someone else understands my thinking haha.

    • another +1 to you for clarifying the distinction between diagnosis and labeling. A diagnosis can help lead to good treatment, but it shouldn’t be limiting like a label can be.

      Why do I say this? I’ve got bipolar. I have friends with schizophrenia. My son, my nephew, and my niece all have autism. My son, my wife, and my daughter have ADD (only Sonny Boy shows hyperactivity). But these diagnoses are not the whole of who we are. (However, when people in the autism support community use the word ‘neurotypical’, I say: ‘Ain’t a one in my family that’s neurotypical!’)

    • I agree that a diagnosis doesn’t dictate who a person is or isn’t. In my mind it’s meant to be a tool, not disabling. 🙂

    • Yes, bingo, I 100% agree.

  32. Reblogged this on Jean Reinhardt and commented:
    Excellent post on autism from The Culture Monk. I just had to share it.

  33. I was so glad today, when I took my son to see his neuropediatrician. I told him that the ritalin had a horrible effect on Caue (my son) and I took him off it. The neuro told me that the what’s really going to make the difference in his life is the way we raise him. Not that we let him get away with anything, but that we understand that his mind works a bit different than ours and that we need invest in him with affection, etc. Thank God. A doctor that doesn’t just want to hook him up on meds (although he’s still on resperidon). At any rate, what the heck is up with people wanting to find a ‘cure’ for autism/asperger’s? They’re not sick. It’s not a disease. I really wish that the whole education system was a lot more open and diverse in teaching styles and focus. Like one that would appeal to different ways that people learn and all.
    🙂

  34. Great post Kenneth and some really good comments, too. As for introverts, I thought this article was bang on, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201008/revenge-the-introvert

  35. I hear where you are coming from. There is a little boy in my kids’ pre-school class with autism. He’s a little darling, but he needs one-to-one care constantly. He has been enrolled in a specialist school on our doorstep. I don’t know a huge amount autism, but I do know it is a spectrum disorder, and where possible, I think a child should be in mainstream school and other kids encouraged to understand why the child learns differently etc.
    I tried to explain to my kids why this little boy was different as they were becoming frutrated with him, but it was next to impossible. The little boy is quite disruptive and my kids can’t understand why they have to be patient with him. They’re only 4 year’s old so I don’t expect them to understand! I’m glad they’re in the same class at this young age. Hopefully they will be more understanding of people who are regarded as ‘different’ as they grow older.

  36. You make me think of an old friend’s brother. He is a high functioning autistic and had his share of social issues. He and his sister open enrolled in our school system during middle school because the other school had called him stupid. Many other things had occurred up to that point and their mother had just had it. He did have his issues and took special classes from what I understand…. but not the same classes as the children who were mentally handicapped. I just remember he had a hard time socializing and that I was one of the few people he would open up to. He was very nerdy and a bit odd, but nothing that should have prevented him from success.

    Unfortunately, society failed him. Always told that he had a disorder and given little assistance in this manner, he was convinced he would never be able to live alone. He told me one day he would probably die if he ever had to live on his own. He was told he could never had a job that required him to socialize. He went to college where he struggled through classes, eventually taking only one a semester before dropping out and moving into his parents basement. That is where he is today.

    It’s sad, because this kid is really smart and genuinely a great guy. I feel like over the whole course of his life, all he was told was what was wrong with him. Society won’t change over night, but there are ways he could have learned – without medication – to be successful, hold a job and live on his own. I know there are more extreme forms of autism where this isn’t possible, but it was possible for him. He just needed some encouragement. He needed to be taught in a different way because he thought differently that most kids.

    I guess I’m ranting here now. My point is, I think too many people give up on people with autism thinking they can’t function in normal society. If we just put a little more effort into them, most would become just as successful as the rest of us.

    • I think you’ve got a right to rant, TK– it is frustrating because resources for individuals with autism have improved SO much in recent years and things should NOT have to be this way.

      In fact, the reason why we got my son into services so quickly was because we had seen how well my nephew did with them, and we cared for him for a short time (my sister and B-I-L are librarians). My son actually had the same teacher at the developmental school as my nephew did and so there was that familiarity already there. He has been in a self-contained classroom for kindergarten and 1st grade, and I still talk with his teacher on a regular basis to apply classroom strategies at home.

      Moreover, most clinicians today do not use medication at all to treat autism– approaches today are strictly behavioral. My son does take medicines, but they are for other diagnoses and it was only after very careful consideration and a lot of input from the specialist, pediatrician, and (mostly) his classroom teacher. (His teacher felt that his other symptomatic behavior– not autistic– was delaying his usual progress, and so far, I’d say she’s right.)

  37. “I have a couple good friends who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s and I accept them as they are and I can’t imagine ever putting any kind of limits on my friendship with them. I would never say to them “You can only be my friend if you learn how to better interact with me”, that’s downright silly! Yet isn’t that what we are doing when a teacher says to a parent, “You need to enroll your child in special classes so that they can learn how to better overcome their disorder”?”

    You are right. It is silly and yet it is exactly what people do.

    “Rather than tell people ‘you have a disorder called Asperger’s’ wouldn’t it be more relevant and important to begin changing society and teaching people to accept others who are different from them? Everyone is not born with charm and charisma. Everyone is not born with a natural ability to emotionally connect with random strangers.”

    Yes, that is the relevant thing to do. Until we learn to connect with strangers. They will remain strangers.

  38. Bravo to diversity in all its forms.

  39. Reblogged this on yadadarcyyada and commented:
    Wonderful post. Had to share.

  40. Oh what a fine post, and how so very true. I think normality is akin to my definition of a fine wine that I used to giove to trainee resturant staff. I would say that there is only one fine wine in the world and that is the wine the punter wants to taste in his or hers mouth. Nornality, for me is the same. It is different for everybody and I agree we should fully embrace diversity, and open out our blinkered and shuttered minds

    Please keep on posting, the blogosphere (if there is such a world) needs an indeopendent mind and view point like yours

    • Thank you so much 🙂 its an important subject and that’s why I’ve dedicated the next week to an ongoing discussions of everything related to mental illness and how we can better address the issue.

  41. Awesome piece, I am moved to tears because what you say is so very true. I know so many people who have children who are a little different. I have always thought it so cruel to expect them to be like everyone else. I know I wouldn’t be very happy if I was expected to turn my basic self inside out to make everyone around me happy.

  42. Add this to the list of all the other things we would like to see end. Things like racism, agism, sexism, gender orientation, gay bashing/murder, violence against women and children, incest, discrimination of EVERYONE, based on whatever, including how someone looks or acts or what they do or do not believe in.. Getting rid of all that “bad” stuff is a good idea but hatred, prejudice and lack of understanding is embedded deep in our society. It’s handed down from generation to generation. It’s taught by our institutions, by the media, by our whole culture. While society constantly changes, it doesn’t always change in ways we would like. Many of the above problems are no longer “politically correct,” so they are practiced more covertly and pushed underground, but the problems themselves, exist all the same. Individuals may have utopian thoughts but our society, as a whole, does not, and that’s why our problems never truly go away. It would be nice to able to just stop all the depression and suicides that come from bullying in our schools. But we can’t even do that. It’s getting worse all the time. Until we are willing to look at our society as it truly is, we won’t be able to change anything. Society will continue to change, of course, even as it remains the same.

    will continue to change, even while it stays the same.

  43. Another absolutely super post. For all the right reasons from beginning to end.
    I can but only agree with you on every level spoken of here. Thank you for your views. It is kinda like you are writing stuff that is in my head that I struggle to give words to. I LIKE that a LOT! 😀
    Cheers.

  44. Thank you so much for this very insightful post. My 21 year old daughter was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when she was 18 but I see her not defined by this but as the beautiful, creative, intelligent, smart, honest and thinking outside-the-box young woman that she is. The fact that her severe social anxiety, so common in females with Asperger’s, prevents her from leaving the house without me and so from having a social life, working, doing anything in fact, means that Asperger’s defines her. I believe that she will find a way to live a fulfilled life with the right support. The last three years trying to find that here in the UK have been a nightmare. Only now I believe she is on the right path. She has so much to offer and so much to accomplish and I’m so proud of her 🙂

  45. Both my kids and I have Aspergers….thanks for sharing this awesome post! 😀

  46. Re:
    “isn’t it society that should change and not the people with Asperger’s?”
    Why? On what criterion have you decide who shouldn’t change — and why should?
    As one autistic to another — as one _human being_ to another — I want to know just how you decided who “should” change.

  47. Reblogged this on the tao of jaklumen and commented:
    Tuesday Kenneth touched on the topic of autism– which is important to me, as my son, nephew, and niece all have it– and I see how it all affects them differently. His opinion of neurodiversity, so to speak, reminds me of many I saw at The Icarus Project– it is a view that does not get much attention (but should get more).

  48. You are indeed correct Kenneth.

    Yet I’m preparing my child how to deal with the rest of society to decrease the amount of stress that comes with being “atypical.”

    If only our society would open its eyes. We are uniquely created, our stresses arise when we strive to live an existence we were not created to carry out. Just my two cents.

  49. I enjoyed reading this piece.
    I think as a whole we need to stop trying to figure out what is considered ‘normal’, be that autistic, disabled, purple with yellow stripes!
    There is nothing normal about any of us, it’s just how well we are able to act the way society expects us to be.
    Only the people who get to know us and our uniqueness get to see the real ‘un-nornal’ us. 🙂

  50. In principle I totally agree with you Kenneth, (as I am have some of those eccentric character traits and am very solitary most of the time), but I genuinely DO think some children need extra classes to help them realise the need to adapt or ‘fit in’.

    Purely and simply……….. because we all need to work, earn a living and learn to co-exist with ‘normal’ society.
    We have to. ‘Man is not an island’. We are all interdependent. Even someone like me who is a solitary individual who prefers their own company. We have to learn how to speak, work and behave in an acceptable manner. We can’t just tell our Employers exactly what we think of their ridiculous work ethics or their bigotry (if we want to retain our job).

    Unless you’re born into an extremely wealthy family in Western society and don’t need to work at all, you have to get a job (or career). Therefore, as a child/teenager, you may need extra help in learning how to get that job to support yourself.

    The sentence below is simply ‘worded’ incorrectly.

    “You need to enroll your child in special classes so that they can learn how to better OVERCOME their disorder”?

    You don’t need to ‘overcome your disorder’. You need to learn how to interact and live in an average ‘normal’ community (WITH your disorder, or eccentric personality traits). You need coping skills. Sometimes you need help with things like getting insurance, filling out forms, applying for jobs, finishing your education, getting to know which behaviours are acceptable in order for you to co-habit with others. You may be better off finding more people similar to yourself so that you can develop either friendships, or help each other.

    I do feel that unless you are able to develop contacts (not necessarily friends) and learn how best to develop and interact, you will end up being shunned. Its not nice to be shunned because of your individuality.

    But that’s Western Culture.

    One has to be realistic.

    If your child has Aspergers (or similar), they DO need a little extra help. Especially when their parents and siblings are no longer around (to help them).

  51. I had to think about this for awhile and whether or not I wanted to post on it.

    Autism (Aspergers is a part of the syndrome) and introversion are totally different things. You might want to read up on Myers-Briggs.

    There are many different classes for different kids. My daughter hates reading and had a reading delay and was in a special class for one year. She hated it so much that she made sure she gained the skill needed to never be in it again. She’s in her 30’s now and still hates to read, but she can do it and is a skilled writer if she needs to be.

    To say that we need to adapt to everyone is a nice pie in the sky sort of thought, but unrealistic. The blind need braille and the deaf need ASL or CART or other adaptive needs. Kids with childhood schizophrenia may be unable to cope in a “normal” class. People with an IQ of 75 need special services – and so on and so forth.

    A special needs child in a regular classroom often uses up resources that the teacher can’t afford to provide. That’s why we have special needs classes. Also, kids on the Autism spectrum actually do need to learn to interact with the rest of the world. The rest of the world cannot be expected to adapt to all situations at all times. I know a severely Aspie kid who is a college student who may well end up in a headline someday because he feels entitled to girls, sex, and inclusion even though he’s totally out of control. He has no idea he’s totally out of control and he’s been kicked off every deaf/hoh list I’ve run into him on. He needs someone to plant his *ss in a chair and force him to learn coping skills before he goes off like the Rodger kid or rapes some girl.

    People who are on the far ends of the bell curve of society need to learn how to at least get to the slightly thicker parts of the curve. Parents who deny their kids need help are a part of the problem, not the solution.

    I’m Hard of Hearing. I don’t expect everyone to know ASL. Today parents with Autistic kids seem to feel it is the norm because they don’t know anything else. It is not. My late husband was probably an Aspie and I have friends who are Aspies and they are not mainstream people. Occasionally I want to throttle a few of them, but I don’t. I do tell them that they have totally missed the point, wildly overstepped the bounds of what is acceptable, and quietly curse the fact they never got the help they needed to learn what is and is not acceptable in society.

    JMO

    • I think there’s a difference between forcing people to pretend they’re normal and do things the same as everyone else, and teaching them how to cope with the world and get along with others and understand what kind of behaviour is expected of them. Too often, people are expected not to do things that are helpful for them but seen as maladaptive, and the worst you can say about those things is that they might be distracting or disruptive for someone else. (I’m talking about stimming here.) Unless it is truly disruptive or overly distracting, does it really matter if someone is flapping their hands or rocking back and forth? And honestly, rather than force them to stop, it is much more beneficial to figure out what they’re getting out of the behaviour and teach them an alternative that will get them what they need.

      The acceptance movement in the autism community is being led by people who actually have autism, not by parents, though they do have a place in said movement. And it’s not about allowing autistic children to do whatever they want, it’s about teaching appropriate behaviours while allowing them to be who they are and do what they need to do.

      I have ADHD and being on time for things is really hard for me. That doesn’t mean that I think everyone should just let me show up whenever I want for appointments. I work really hard to make sure that I’m on time or early. I try to schedule my appointments for later in the day so that I have more time to get there, and I have been known to set reminder alarms that go off an hour before I need to leave for the appointment and then again 15 minutes before I need to leave and again when I actually need to leave. I have also employed the assistance of other people, who were generous enough to phone me when I was supposed to be out of the house on my way somewhere, to make sure I’d actually managed it. But my friends all know that I will probably be up to half an hour late (sometimes later) and that I will text them if I am running late (I don’t do phones unless absolutely necessary) to let them know how bad it is. And so they bring stuff with them to do while they wait, and I always apologize for being late and sometimes I’m early and sometimes they’re late and I don’t get mad at them for being late because I know how much that sucks. I have so much trouble meeting non-work deadlines that I have one friend who regularly asks me how different projects are going, not to tell me that I need to do it (because I know that) but to help me think about it some more and make more of a plan to get it done. I didn’t even ask her to do it, she just started doing it one day and it is really helpful.

      I probably had more of a point when I started, but it’s gone now and that’s part of my ADHD, too. If I remember what it was I’ll come back and post again.

  52. I agree with the first half but as soon as you start talking about getting rid of labels, you lose me. I have ADHD and I am proud of it. However, all the acceptance in the world is not going to magically turn me into someone who is not disabled. I will always have executive dysfunction and struggle to do MY things on MY timetable.
    I’ve written about this over at my disability-related blog, Disability Thoughts (http://disabilitythoughts.wordpress.com/); there aren’t tons of posts because I post when I have something to say. But in particular you might be enlightened by reading my latest post, which is about acceptance and labels. http://disabilitythoughts.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/acceptance-ii/
    And please note that I am not the only disabled person in the world who thinks this way. Lots of people agree with me.

  53. Thank you Kenneth for another insightful look into ourselves. I am reposting this on my blog at http://Riding2horses.Wordpress.com as well as my Facebook page.

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  1. I’m autistic and normal…REALLY??? « The Culture Monk | Gr8ful Bugger

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