Friday, October 30, 2015

The Autism Learning Curve is Intimidating

It's really amazing how much I've learned in such a short time, and how much more there is to learn (I'm sure).

Like, first there's someone you know who has Asperger's or autism and it starts to click that you, an adult or thereabouts, have  an awful lot of stuff about you that reminds you of them and vice versa.

Then you start to read about it on the internet, starting with the medical sites. WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Medline, all the basic starting points. You move from there to the sites like Autism $peaks, and maybe some regional or local groups come up in your search. These things might take you hours, days, or weeks to peruse depending on how long you have, how much it's eating away at you, and so on. Eventually you probably come across articles and blogs written by people who identify as having Asperger's, or being Aspies. You read from their perspective, and identify more and more.

Somewhere along the lines you start to research the DSM criteria, and start taking online quizzes and tests. You might find or even join message boards or chatrooms for people who are, or think they are, autistic or have Asperger's or ASD or whichever terminology someone is using. By this point you're starting to notice there's a lot of variation in terminology, and some people feel pretty strongly about which term you use. Some people only have a preference when you refer to them, some people have a preference so strong that they go to great lengths to tell people how to identify. Some people are bothered by that kind of lecturing about terminology, but only when the lecturing goes against their own preferred view on the matter. Others are bothered by all of it and wish people would just say what they please about themselves, and what others please about themselves (it's a matter of respect, after all, to address someone how they prefer to be addressed), and move on with their day to worry about larger issues in the autism community.

At this point you start to form your own opinions about stuff like this (I prefer to be called an Aspie or autistic, not a person with Asperger's or autism). Then you start to go back in time and re-read what you had written previously and see all kinds of things you didn't know about back then. Like, I didn't know of Aspie supremacy before. I didn't know about the reasons people who dislike functioning labels feel that way. I didn't know that simply by identifying as an Aspie when it's all an autism spectrum now, and that distinction only serves to passively identify oneself as "high functioning" and thus separate themselves from the "truly affected" autistics, I was offending a certain group of people. I had no idea about all of this.

But it's like when someone goes to a psychiatrist and spills their guts and then the psychiatrist replies with something truly revelatory about why they do the things they do, and the person can then really grow from that new understanding. By reading about these issues and the reasons people bring up for feeling strongly about them, I understand better the hidden/subconscious motivations that they're saying become apparent when you dissect certain terms or ways of speaking about autism and autistics. That leads me to further realize that there may have been that underlying, subconscious desire to separate myself out by identifying as an Aspie specifically, and that feels wrong now that this has been explained/pointed out to me. Now that I know better, I want to do better. So I would rather be called autistic than an Aspie at this point, I think, because that seems to be the thing that is going to serve the greater good of the community, and that's the thing that I want to do - whatever is best.

So if I do or say something here that doesn't line up with that desire, I hope someone would point it out to me and explain why it is, gently because I"m way too sensitive, so that I can learn from that and grow from it.


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