Aspie or NT? The Pros and Cons of Acting Neurotypical
I met Maja (and a lot of other cool aspies) while speaking in Århus, Denmark at the AspIT conference. This is her first column:
Hi, I’m Maja and I live in Copenhagen, Denmark and I’m a 25 year old woman diagnosed with Asperger’s. I’m a singer/songwriter and a student.
I always knew I was different and started learning social skills before I was even diagnosed. When I was 12, I realized that I wanted to be a part of the world and started to mimic and learn social skills from others. Most of my social skills, however, come from character based roleplaying.
Many other aspies say that I bend to the will of NT society, by acting as if I am an NT. I, of course, don’t think so because I only act NT when the situation calls for it. But let’s start at the beginning. . . .
Listen to a song by Maja entitled “That Moment”:
I’ll keep my story somewhat short, in order to get to the point. Like many other aspies, I’ve known since very early childhood that I was not like the other kids. I ‘ve felt different, weird, and it truly does feel like being on the wrong planet. For everyone else, the expectation that I behave as them was natural, and for me, impossible. I’m fairly sure that any aspie will know what it’s like.
I think I first realized this when I was three or four years old.
I never went to special schools, or had any help. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16. So not only did others expect me to act “normal”, I expected it of myself. It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 that I realized that I would have to really work for it, if I was going to achieve it. Also, it wasn’t until then that I started wanting to be a part of society, after years of being bullied by classmates and teachers.
So I worked at it. I observed, tried to repeat what the others did and I failed miserably.
When I was 17 or so I got invited to play a roleplaying game, which has since become much more focused on character play than anything else. And that is where I really learnt something.
I see it as speaking two languages. To use a metaphor, I speak Danish and English. Danish is my native language, it’s the language I grew up speaking. Danish is good to be able to speak, because even though it’s a small country, it’s where I live. The relatively small number of Danish-speaking people, mostly prefer to speak Danish. And many of them don’t know English very well.
But lots of people in the world speak english, and most of them don’t know how to speak a word of danish. However, because I speak english so well, I’m able to share ideas with other people who speak English and befriend them. I’m able to translate danish for them, and even – with those who are willing – am able to teach them a bit of danish.
It’s exactly the same with the languages “NT” and “aspie”. There are lots of aspies in the world, but most people are NT’s. What I want to do with my life is reach out to the NT’s and teach them to speak a bit of “aspie”.
I’m aware that many who are on the spectrum, have had horrible experiences with NT’s, and many see non-autistics as horrible people. We want to avoid them as much as possible. But the reason we have horrible experiences with NTs, isn’t necessarily because they or we are horrible people. It’s just that we have such a hard time communicating.
And that’s what I’m doing. I’ve learnt to communicate with neurotypicals. It gives them benefits – because I’m slowly teaching them a new language that will make a few situations (or many) much easier, because they now understand a bit of what’s going on. And it gives me benefits – because I’m able to tell them what I want, and need from them. I’m able to make friends with them.
And the NT friends I’ve made, have learnt to speak so much “aspie”, that I no longer have to speak “NT” with them if I don’t want to.
So it’s not about conforming to the NT way, it’s about communicating with them. And being able to communicate makes my life easier.
Maja started writing songs when she was 9 and released her debut album, Live, Acoustic & Stripped less than a year ago. She has also released quite a few singles, available online.
Maja also has a youtube channel where she talks about Asperger’s and Autism.