The other day, I saw this YouTube video called, What Kind of Asian Are You? It's funny, but also painful, as it exposes many Caucasian stereotypes of their Asian Americans in the United States.
Rudy Simone, Aspergian author, comedian, and songwriter, exposed some "neurotypical" misunderstandings in an article she wrote. Here's part of that article -
Imagine a world where Aspergers was the norm, and non-autistics or neurotypicals were the minority. Let's try it: Those who feel the need to constantly be with a variety of friends are considered fickle. Those with no propensity for computers and science are called geeks. Those with no special interest are thought to be ungrounded and lost. Those without obsessive focus have to take classes to cultivate it.
Those who insist on saying ‘have a nice day' and other polite exchanges of fairly empty niceties are taught to be honest and say what they think. People who go to shake hands are simply thought unhygienic. And of course, you would never be expected to hug someone just because they shared an ancestor or a common acquaintance.
None of us deliberately create myths about Asperger syndrome, but these stereotypes can come up.
My goal in this article is to move you from MythUnderstandings to more accurate understanding, so that you can better respect and relate to Aspergians in your life. Read and understand these myths, so that you don't make some of the same mistakes I've made along the way.
You don't look like you have Aspergers, so you must not have Aspergers.
Autism is a spectrum for a reason. While there are some common hallmarks, we must be careful about saying "all" or "always" when meeting someone with Aspergers the first time.
Aspergers can be an invisible difference to neurotypicals. Many adults have learned to "hold it together", acting in ways that "look" neurotypical. However, these same adults struggle with sensory sensitivities, noise sensitivities, and overall stress that you and I would not even consider.
What you can do - Realize that autism is a spectrum. One Aspergian may deal with differences that another one might not. Study autism blogs that help you see Aspergers from Aspergians' point of view.
Teens who live for the mall are not as cool as those who read, write, draw, invent and play instruments all day. People who feel the need to dress like others are conformist and unimaginative. Girls who spend hours a day straightening their hair are recommended for counseling. People who never rock or squeal in public are considered repressed. People who talk about what other people are up to are gossips, while those who monologue are fountains of knowledge to be shared by anyone who cares to listen.
People who hold conversations over loud TV sets and who install fluorescent lights in their homes are insensitive and coarse. People who need soft fabrics and heavy blankets are revered, like the girl in the story "The Princess and the Pea". Those without strict rituals are disorganized and chaotic. Those who come early, work hard and don't hang around the water cooler are gurus to be respected and emulated.
Are you offended by this post? Does it sound strangely bigoted to you? Why? We aspies are expected to take social skills classes. We are expected to be team players. We are called geeks because we can throw together a system after just reading a manual or watching one Youtube video. We are weird because we can recite the entire script of the Holy Grail, or name every saxophone player of consequence in the history of jazz.
We are expected to say hi, nice to meet you, shake hands and even receive hugs and kisses because NTs (neurotypicals) think that is appropriate. We are expected to look, sound and act like our peers to some degree, and to repress our most innate urges to stim because others think it is creepy. I'm not saying Aspies are perfect, far from it, I'm just providing a different vantage point.
I wonder how much of this social skills stuff is really necessary. I sing jazz, so I understand the value of being a team player when it's called for; listening and respecting the role of others is crucial to being a good musician. But I'm talking about the little rituals that NTs seem to require with a mindless zeal. I can put on the happy face, I can say and do what is expected of me for a short time, but eventually the real me must come out. I wish everyone would read about Aspergers, stop judging those who are different just as different races have had to learn to respect one another, and just as men had to learn to deal with women when they entered the work force and demanded respect and equal rights.
I would suggest to therapists, parents, and "experts" that we keep these words in mind.
If an Aspergian truly wishes to learn more about relating to neurotypicals, I would suggest that we take the Asperger Experts' approach, and help the individual deal with sensory stress and overload, helping them learn how to self-soothe, before teaching social skills, so that the Aspergian can hear and absorb what we have to say.
We all have differences: race, religion, culture, and neurological. We each yearn to be respected and accepted for who we are. Whether you are a parent, teacher, therapist, or "coach", I hope you'll keep these Aspergers mythunderstandings in mind, and be humble and open to learning from Aspergians.
If you are autisic or Aspergian, please help us out! What are some myths you encounter from neurotypicals, and how can we neurotypicals correct ourselves?
Stephen Borgman is a psychotherapist who frequently works with neurodiverse children and adults.