An Aspy’s Liberation Manifesto
– Andrew C. Stone 3/20/2020
The genesis of this short essay was one simple question posed to me by my wife - we’ve been happily married 27 years. My emotional reaction was so overwhelming that I burst into tears, and my eyes fill even today remembering that one moment - instead of answering her, I sat down and wrote this, and I hope it’s useful for you. She simply asked “Do you self-identify as a person on the Aspergers Syndrome Spectrum?”
If you are like me, then it might not surprise you that I was in my 50's before someone alerted me of my place on the Aspergers Syndrome spectrum and well into my 60's before I owned it enough to try understand what that even means. For one thing, great personal forgiveness for my botched attempts at trying to fit in with “normal society”. For another, I wish someone had warned me not to try so hard to conform when I was young.
Luckily, I found a career - software - where most of my colleagues were also very focused, very intelligent, very driven, socially inept but “great with computers and worlds of logic“ individuals. As we say in New Mexico,
En la tierra de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king
Among more affected Aspys, I can pass as “normal”, and I've always been a bridge for my colleagues. I had just always assumed I was an Asperger Whisperer.
I grew up with a younger brother who was so misunderstood and almost blamed by our parents because they did not understand that the genesis of his recalcitrance and perceived misbehavior was not willful or hostile but truly just the effect of a different framework for evaluating reality. One that makes perfect sense to the Aspy, a worldview free from the nagging nuances that seem to plague and incapacitate the general population, but allows a self-respecting Aspy to have peace to pursue our focused interests.
Knowledge of Aspergers was virtually nil in the ’50’s and ’60’s when it could have helped my parents understand my brother, but was quite mainstream by the time my son was 2 in 2001. He has had social training and understanding parents and he is a classic high functioning Aspy. He blew my mind when he helped me realize that “he was just like me”. Wow, just like that, a real diagnosis from someone who would know. Luckily, I grew up thinking I was just fine (smart and emotional) and that has given me a huge edge. My parents taught me to believe in myself.
I think it is helpful to evaluate the societal framework that conflates autism with Asperger's even though superficial similarities may exist. That feels like a form of “Cancel Culture” - a way to dismiss and downplay really smart people by considering their gifts a disability, a “less than”. The kid that easily gets the top grades is ruthlessly picked on by his classmates, differences are punished not embraced. Learn to fit in is society’s message, Learn to be who you are is my message.
Embrace your difference and others’ differences, too.
A spectrum means that every person is on it
These times need solutions only Aspy’s can think of.
It's a gift that only you can unwrap
Realize superior intelligence is not always wanted or rewarded.
Be compassionate to people pretending to be normal
Remember and harness the power of emotions.
Develop your emotions’ intelligence, too
In conclusion, an Aspy’s freedom comes from understanding that we are normal and the rest of society is playing catch up.