Dan Swearingen | June 18, 2009
Are many of the issues we identify as part of Autistic Spectrum Disorder really just typical male or typical teenager/young adult behavior? Emily Bracken recently posted an article at the Huffington Post Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) Or Typical Male Behavior (TMB)?
Now, I don’t mean to belittle those with Aspie -as it’s known in the lay-community, but to me, these “symptoms” sound a lot like the characteristics of your average, red meat-eating American male.
As I read Bracken’s article I was intitially irritated and then increasingly amused because she actually identifies some painful truths. When we meet with others and discuss our experiences with ASD I almost always hear back:
“But *I* (“normal” person speaking) do [insert ASD behavior] too.”
Which carries the obvious unspoken:
“And *I* am not handicapped by this behavior — so what’s the problem??”
Bracken’s article is doing the same thing, point by point.
Bad social skills?
Intense focus on things or activities (or work) at the expense of relationships?
— Typical Male Behavior (I add: Typical Teenager Behavior.)
This is funny because it is painfully TRUE.
It is a question of degree and success
Here’s the thing: Typical Male Behavior is SUCCESSFUL. It is rewarded. the guy gets the girl. The guy gets the promotion. The guy builds a company.
When someone has ASD what we are talking about is how these behaviors occur to an extent and in a way that they cause the man or woman to be completely UNSUCCESSFUL.
To me the most painful thing about ASD is that it very often causes complete failure in the very things the person with ASD may want the most and in areas the person clearly has talent.
These failures are not only painful for the person with ASD but these failures in areas where the ASD person clearly has interest and talent are what family members, teachers, and friends find the most frustrating and confusing.
A person with ASD may love drawing or painting or building things but cannot manage to complete (or even start) any real work.
A person with ASD may feel very lonely but is unable to initiate or negotiate healthy relationships.
Autistic Spectrum Disorders are real, they cause real failure and real unhappiness.
“But, ASD is just a label. Surely you just need to try HARDER and everything will be fine.”
ASD *IS* just a label but it gives you insight into where the difficulties will lie and where you should push to be the most sucessful.
I like to think of ASD as a fortess around the mind. The ASD diagnosis gives you a diagram of where the walls will be thickest — where you will be wasting your time. The ASD diagnosis also tells you where you can push and gain entry and make progress.
We have always felt that the student’s interests are the best place to make progress and work hard. The students WANT to succeed at what they love doing.
Our attitude in our work with teenagers and young adults with ASD at Autistry Studios is that focusing on gaining success in the activities where the students have interest and talent is the path toward happiness and success.