There have been many blog posts dedicated to the ignorant things said to Autistic Spectrum Individuals over the years. Most of these posts are incoherent with rage… With good reason… Many of the things that are said are ignorant, which is not the fault of NTs… they don’t know any better… but many of these ignorant things are arrogant, elitist, rude and downright condescending.
However, several of these statements are more problematic than others… They all hinge around a central misconception – that “Asperger’s is not a real thing.”
Let’s start with one of the glaringly obvious issues – over-diagnosis. According to statistics, between 1-110 and 1-88 children in the United States is diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The media depicts this as an epidemic of Autism. The concept of an epidemic is a bit absurd. Personally, I do not feel that the incidents of Autism have actually increased, but that the diagnoses have become more prevalent as Mental Health Professionals have become more aware of the condition and as pressure from parents has eased.
Yes, I said pressure from parents… and I meant it. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I have done work in the Mental Health field for a time. I will not go into what my position was as it was essentially menial, but I was privy to sensitive information. One of my best friends was a director of the clinic I worked at.
As such, I witnessed (on more than one occasion) the pressure parents placed on the Mental Health providers. Our current culture has led to a lack of responsibility on the part of parents for their children… I am not condemning parents, but our culture had come around to blame the parents for the actions of their children. This wasn’t the case 50 years ago… back then, raising your children correctly was a source of pride… Now, raising them wrong is a source of shame… it is a subtle, but MAJOR difference. As such, parents are DESPERATE to have the cause of their children’s issues assigned to anyone but themselves. As a result, they put an amazing amount of pressure on Mental Health Professionals to diagnose a problem.
I have personally witnessed this… in person…
|I saw it with these round things in my head!
The problem with this is that some Mental Health Professionals feel that there is little harm in an Asperger’s diagnosis if it will shut the parents up. After all, what does Asperger’s mean, really? It means that the individual is awkward in social situations, has mild obsessive tendencies and is a little weird… right? Right?
You may have an issue with these statements, but I have seen it happen… on more than one occasion.
In many situations, making a diagnosis is more of an art than a science. Part of this is because of the prevalence of mental conditions which leads to Mental Health Professionals only being able to spend very limited time with patients, so diagnosis can be challenging. Diagnosing any mental condition requires that the professional spend time with their patient to observe, and that is just not possible in today’s health care climate. Further exacerbating the problem is that different mental problems often have overlapping diagnostic criteria.
That means that it is, in many cases, possible to make a mistake because sometimes there is more than one condition that matches the symptoms as presented. There are additional complications… language is an imprecise tool when attempting to express what one is feeling and experiencing; people find it hard to believe or accept that someone feels differently than they do and will question different perceptions; (I have been told that professionals did not believe that I was capable of what I was thinking, feeling or experiencing.) and medical professionals are often skeptical of people seeking a diagnosis. They encounter people who are trolling for drugs, and the drugs used to treat many medical conditions are psychotropic in nature and as such are valued as recreational pharmaceuticals.
Many nerds and geeks will look at the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s and feel they have it. They have a need to fit in. They crave an Asperger’s diagnosis… so that they can do just that. They don’t want to just be weird. If there is something wrong with them, then there is a whole new community that they would belong to. And this leads to individuals with a surety of an Autism Spectrum Disorder due to self-diagnosis.
In spite of all this, Autistic Spectrum Disorders and (more specifically) Asperger’s Syndrome are very real. Let’s put aside the cases of misdiagnosis and self-diagnosed individuals. (There is no such thing as self diagnosis… Period… ONLY a Mental Health Professional can diagnose a mental condition. That is why we can’t go to the pharmacy and ask for prescription medications and they require a diagnosis by a trained doctor.) There are a large number of Autistic and Asperger’s Syndrome individuals out there.
NT perceptions are skewed in favor of the NT modes of thought. One thing I have noticed about the NT mode of thought is that if something is not visibly wrong, then it is hard for them to grasp that something is ACTUALLY wrong. This leads to statements like “You don’t look Autistic!”
All of these things lead NTs to believe that Asperger’s is a fake condition. It leads people to believe that anyone who claims to have Asperger’s Syndrome is making excuses, is just an asshole or looking for sympathy.
Honestly, that is why I started this series… Autism understanding and awareness can only be achieved through information and education. And that is precisely what I am doing… educating the NTs around us… ALSO… to educate US.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a very real thing… And I hope by sharing my experiences and perceptions, I hope that I can make someone’s life easier… Yet, I am hoping that some people receive a wake-up call from this series. People who are self-diagnosed need to wake up… If the issues described within do not sound like you at all… then please reconsider. You are harming the Autists around you, and yourself. If these perceptions feel accurate and true for your situation, then please… PLEASE run to a trusted Mental Health Professional and procure a diagnosis. This is the ONLY way you can hope to receive proper treatment.
That being said… If someone you know has Asperger’s Syndrome or any other Autistic Spectrum Disorder, you need to accept that… Especially if they have a diagnosis. If they claim to be self-diagnosed, please refer them to the above paragraph… If they refuse, they know deep down that they are not and are afraid of the ridicule associated with that, but do not let your eyes deceive you… Many conditions, especially those affecting mental health are silent, invisible, and will sneak up on you like a ninja.
Images in this issue SHAMELESSLY stolen from the following sources: