Asperger’s Syndrome is often considered a mental health issue. It is usually diagnosed by a well trained psychatrist, or therapist, and in the United States, is viewed as a brain deficiency. In actuality, Aspergers is a variation in the way a person processes and reacts to information and environment.
Asperger’s is described as a high functioning version of autism. People with Asperger’s rarely display the same intellectual disabilities as those associated with more severe forms of Autism, and are able to digest large amounts of ‘facts’ about any subject they are interested in.
There is often little or no delay in speaking. Most problems for high functioning autistics crop up with social interaction, and become visible in social situations. The symptomatic presentation of Asperger’s is so markedly different between girls and boys, men and women, that countless women on the spectrum are missed entirely.
By it’s very nature, Autism alienates and separates those who have it from the rest of the world. The tendrils of the way my brain works makes it twice as difficult for me to post something on Facebook as a NT/neurotypical person. My brain tells me that everything written for anyone else to read needs to be perfect. So, where most people write and post something off the cuff, I will ruminate, edit and re-write often for days before showing the world my thoughts.
Normally, by the time I get around to posting anything, I have lived with the words long enough to let them go out into the world with minimal amounts of fear about what will come back. I think if most people had as much fear about a simple FB post as I do, the world would be a quieter place.
Everyone is fighting, to be noticed, ‘see me’, ‘like my page.’ I struggle with the very exposure others crave. I do not want to be in the spotlight, I’m afraid of what the brilliance might reveal. I have been hiding in plain sight for years and ‘just being myself’ is a more complicated task than the average person can fathom. I rehearse before every meeting, dinner or important conversation. (See the ly adverb at the beginning of the last paragraph? I want to cut it, because ‘good’ writers are taught to delete the ly adverbs – but I’m fighting my nature, because I think that one, right there, is authentic, so I leave it).
Even though any post is only the rearranging the same 26 letters over and over, I have learned the necessity of having an editor. Everything I think doesn’t need to be in this one post. I never understood my fear of posting, until my counselor pointed out that people with Aspergers regard the written word as much more important than something spoken. However, knowing why you do a thing, doesn’t make it any easier to not do it.
I am an African American woman living on the Autistic Spectrum. I am high functioning enough that most people missed it, but not so high functioning that I didn’t wonder every day of my life why I felt like an alien in my own body.
Because I believe there are others out there like me, who are older and just finding out, I am writing down my thoughts. I am learning how to focus on one thing instead of many. To those who will read this and desire to comment, but who will not be able to do more than hit the ‘like’ button, because they are overcome with emotion – I feel you.
I will continue to write for those who need that one person who ‘gets them’, and for those who may never understand. I am a reluctant but passionate activist. It is impossible not to speak about my life in an effort to educate others.
The African American community is often hesitant to discuss autism. The thought process goes something like this, we already carry one label, why would we want to admit to another. This is especially true of those for whom the label is almost invisible. We are taught from the cradle to ‘blend in.’ To admit to autism is to stand out. Trust me, there is nothing worse than growing up with an almost invisible brain difference where you have more in common with the aliens on TV than the people around you. I am an African American woman with Autism who represents another piece of the spectrum puzzle.