What’s the Deal With Us, Anyway?
So…Cracked.com’s Robert Evans sat down recently with several high-functioning autistic folks. Since I wasn’t one of them, I get
to offer my own perspective Potshot Privileges.
Oh yes, many of us are either unemployed or underemployed, friendless and/or alone. And that’s not really represented on screen, eg, “The Big Bang Theory”.
(As for sarcasm…yes, that’s hard for many Aspies to detect. So are lies to hurt others’ feelings. I’d say both of these are about as easy (difficult?) for any given Aspie to learn.)
Remember the first big black sitcom, “The Cosby Show”?
Now, “Good Times” did a fairer job of representing how many black families were actually making out. Inner-city housing project, welfare (including an older woman actually living on dog food), gangs, even violence. Fairer…and way more depressing. Some would say even prejudicial…people may have started to think (or think even more) that blacks are just poor folks who live off welfare and roam the streets in gangs.
Whereas “The Cosby Show” was full of upper-middle-class blacks whom you’d love to go to dinner or even on vacation with. Whatever its shortcomings — including, ahem, whitewashing many black people’s suffering — it helped the rest of us feel more comfortable around blacks.
Basically, people have a hard time understanding, in their heart of hearts, that bad things can happen to good people. So when they see people in low-level jobs, low-rent housing or the bad part of town, they wonder: How did they go wrong?
And hence, if John Q. Public now sees Aspies with college and graduate degrees behind the counter at McDonald’s (or unemployed altogether), staying home seven nights a week and living there all by themselves, he’s likely going to figure that Aspies are lazy ne’er-do-wells. Better to pave the way first with shows like “The Big Bang Theory”.
That’s really the main reason why Autism Speaks sucks. They portray us as burdens who will never get married or lead anything close to normal lives.
I get that they’re trying to show how individuals and families with autism suffer…but if they made a similar film about black people or GLBTs, they’d be boycotted en masse and their CEO would get fired.
Autism Speaks wants a cure…and I know there’s a divide among Aspies on that. It depends on whether you see autism as more like homosexuality or more like cerebral palsy.
Where their money goes, and their Aspie-free board, we all know about. Booo!
Speaking of money, that’s a big obstacle to getting an actual diagnosis. Health insurance costs, specialist bills and all that. Another obstacle — a much bigger one sometimes — is just knowing that it might apply to you. So sometimes self-diagnosis is vital.
About a dozen years ago, my then-girlfriend Emily Googled some of my more…interesting traits and came up with “Asperger Syndrome”. Then she told me about it and made me read articles and books on the subject.
By the time I did get diagnosed, several years after that (by which time we were married), it was anti-climactic. And many other Aspies have experienced it the same way. It’s not like, say, a diagnosis of cancer or diabetes.
One of the things my diagnosis helped me deal with was my lifelong problem of people complaining about how cold I was (in their perception). Knowing that AS makes it tough for us to (appropriately) express our emotions, now I’ve been able to both work on my tone and manner* and also explain my situation and ask for understanding.
So, thank you Cracked for spreading the word on that.
More broadly, yes indeed we do tend to focus on stuff neurotypicals (NTs) don’t, and so we interpret things very differently and express ourselves very differently. And yes, it helps to be very direct but not personally attack us for not reading your minds.
As in, if an Aspie you don’t particularly like asks you out: “Thank you for asking, but I’m not interested.”
Not: “Oh that’s so sweet of you, and I’d love to go, that’s great…I’m going to be out of town that weekend.”
(Or for that matter: “Oh sure I’d love to go. Let’s meet there at 7:30″ and then not show up…or call him at 7:00 to cancel, agree to a new time and date, cancel that on similar short notice and repeat until he gets the hint.)
Also not: “Not just no but hell no! I’m not that desperate.”
(Never mind Bigfoot. One of life’s great unsolved mysteries is why people — but especially women — have to swing to one extreme or the other, instead of just refusing in a matter-of-fact way.)
And, thank you very much for pointing out that we sometimes have problems at work. Sometimes our traits cause problems for people. Other times, people have a problem with the condition itself.
As I always advise people, at least in the U.S. if you do decide to disclose, only do so after you’ve gotten a firm job offer. At a minimum, it should state what your title will be, when you will start and what you will be paid, and it need to be in writing and signed. If the employer doesn’t do written offers, wait until you’re already on the job and have filled out your paperwork.
“What? Aren’t there laws to protect me?” Yes — exactly. Precisely because most U.S. employers are required to accommodate disabled employees — which can be an expensive proposition in money, time and even stomach lining — they have every incentive not to want to hire anyone who’s disabled. And if they find out you have a disability before finalizing your hire, they can turn you down and good luck proving it was because of your condition.
(This may also help explain why some blogs, websites and social media pages by Aspies are pseudonymous or anonymous.)
[*] ProTip: Sometimes people just want to “make conversation,” and they expect a response even if they didn’t literally ask you a question and even if you don’t care about what they’re talking about.
What do you think?