Thursday, 26 May 2011

We are not the same

When the book ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’ first came out (the main character, Christopher Boone, has high-functioning autism), I was glad. Finally, autism was getting acknowledged, finally people would begin to learn, begin to understand.

Turns out that I was wrong, though. If I had a penny for everytime someone said “Oh, so your brother’s autistic, is he good at maths then?” I’d certainly be able to buy myself something nice. Or “Oh, you can’t be autistic, you don’t see people as objects”. I had a doctor tell me this once; another time my CBT-practitioner asked if I have friends, and when I replied that I do, he said that I was unlikely to be autistic.

So, it seems that there are some misconceptions about what ‘all’ people with autism and Asperger’s have in common. I’m not a savant, like Rain Man. I don’t see people as objects, like Christopher Boone, or like Linda Freeman in the film 'Snow Cake'. I don’t have a meltdown if I don’t keep my schedules to the minute, like Jacob Hunt in ‘House Rules’. And even compared to the people I personally know with autism/Asperger’s/suspected ASD, we’re all different to each other.

One person commented to me that people with autism have no capacity for love. Let me get this straight: I can love. I love my brother dearly, I love my parents, I love my friends, I love my pets, I loved my ex-boyfriend, and I love God. I feel these kinds of love in different ways, like any ‘normal’ person. My diagnosed friends and family members can love, too.

I’m not sure where I’m going in writing this. I guess I just wanted to clarify that having autism and Asperger’s does not mean that everyone with this diagnosis/suspected condition is the same. ‘Normal’ people are different to each other, so why the assumption that all autistic people/Aspies are ‘good at maths’ and ‘completely egocentric’ and ‘unable to love’?

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