Sunday, 31 August 2008

Outing the famous

This kind of relates to my post about painting negatives as positives, but I'd like to know about any famous people that have Asperger Syndrome (AS). The problem with this task is that people with AS think that anyone who has ever done anything good ever, must have AS. Even people who were alive before AS was invented are not safe from posthumous diagnosis. People with AS are supposed to like spinning things and I'm sure Einstein is spinning in his grave.

It seems that "outing" successful people seems to pander to some people's delusions that you can only be a free thinker or innovator if you have AS. It's as if people without AS can't possibly be good at anything, and having AS grants you membership to some club that means you'll probably make something of your life. that other famous AS sufferer Barry George.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

The daily grind

One aspect of people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) is that we can have rigid, inflexible routines. The thing is...everyone has routines, it's normal. Having a routine is important for anything you need doing consistently. For example when you get into your car you probably follow a routine, when you do the dishes you probably follow a routine, and at work you probably have a whole load of routines. However you get people posting on forums - "OMG I think I have AS cos in the morning I get out of bed, I put my underwear on, I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth, then I wash, then I put my clothes on, then I put my shoes on, then I go to work. Does this mean I have AS cos I always follow the same routine?" The answer is, of course, "No". It's normal to have routines.

So what's an AS routine? To be honest, I'm not that hot on routines, it is one of the things I don't register strongly on. I do have them, though. You know your AS routines from your NT routines as they are needlessly rigid, and give you a sense of ease and comfort. You don't follow the routine as it means a task is done consistently, you follow it because it makes you feel calm and safe. My big routine is the gym, I go three times a week and I've had the same exercise plan for over a decade. Ask any body builder or personal trainer and they'll be horrified that someone has had the same plan for so long. The reason being is that you need to be constantly "shocking" your body and pushing it out of its comfort zone, as that is what builds muscle. I know this...I understand it. I've just explained it to you. I know it's bad, so why do I do it? Cos I have AS, that's why.

It's more than just keeping the same routine...if I'm on, say, my third exercise for that day and the machine is busy, I won't do exercise four and come back when the machine for exercise three is available, I'll just wait. If I get bored of waiting I'll just leave and go home. For me the routine can not be broken. Don't ask me to explain why, I just get anxious when I think about breaking the routine. It goes further too. I go to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In that order...always. If I can't make the Wednesday for some reason I won't go the next Friday either, or the next Monday, but it'll continue the following Wednesday. I have to go on a Monday, then a Wednesday, then a Friday.

That's an AS routine. It is needlessly inflexible and causes anxiety when broken. I have other minor routines too. At the weekend there is a cafe I like to go to and have a breakfast and a large coffee. I can't go anywhere else; looking at other cafes to have breakfast makes me feel anxious. You know you have AS when you rarely have to ask for anything, when the servers always know what you want before you ask, you might have AS. There is also a kebab place when I buy my kebabs from; I walk in and the guy asks "Large doner?" AS routine? No...they just do amazing kebabs, the best in the area and their chilli sauce is to die for. I don't feel anxious buying kebabs elsewhere, I just buy from this place cos they are the best in my area. Not every routine you have is due to your AS.

I won't buy apples that aren't Empire apples. I won't buy jeans that aren't Levi 501s. I know they are AS routines as I feel stressed an anxious if I have to consider buying anything else. I also hate taking time off work as it is a break in my routine.

Anyway, back to the gym. Another AS trait I don't think I have (*) is the issue of personal space. I like personal space, I worship it...but some people with AS have problems appreciating it and can invade the persona space of others. The gym, for me, is a bizarre situation where it seems that everyone else has the personal space issue and not me! I don't like being next to naked fat men with small penises. When I return to my locker and find a gaggle of jiggling man-flesh, I get my stuff and move to a bench where there is no-one else standing around. However no-one else seems to do this. If my locker area is empty when I get to it, but people subsequently turn up, do they think to move elsewhere? NO! They just get all fat and naked inches away from me, bending over as they dry their disgusting crevices. Yuk.

* one of the issues of AS is that you don't appreciate your own symptoms or how annoying they are. If you do, you might not have AS. You tend to only know when you're "breaking social norms" cos someone else has told you your behaviour is unacceptable or unusual.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Physician, heal thyself

I sometimes wonder if I'm the only person in the world who actually has Asperger Syndrome (AS). You see I went to a psychologist and underwent testing to obtain a diagnosis. The only other places you get to "meet" people with AS are on the internet...but they're all "self diagnosed". How can you self diagnose such a thing? If your car engine won't start do you "self-diagnose" what the issue is? Then go around telling everyone that your widget has broken? If the central heating stops working in your house do you "self-diagnose" the issue and go around telling everyone your gromit has split? Of course not...cos if you're not a professional in the field then your diagnosis is worthless.

Yet there is a massive movement of people out there who claim to have AS because they did some pop test on the internet. These tests just ask basic questions and assume that AS is black and white and if you're fascinated with dates you have AS, and if you're not you don't. What rubbish. And how can an on-line test assess the impact your symptoms have on your life? None of these tests ask your background or attempt to eliminate other possible diagnosis. Basically…they're rubbish.

However people post their results on forums with pride, as if being AS is a sport and he who is "most" AS is the winner. Who is to say they didn't take the test a few times until they got the result they wanted? And they don't just stop there. Again I am seemingly the only person in the world who has not only diagnosed myself, but everyone in my life with AS. "My brother, who I'm sure has AS" "This guy in my class, who I'm sure has AS" "My mother, who I'm sure has AS". These are things you'll see plastered all over the internet. If diagnosis of such a complex thing is so simple then maybe I'm in the wrong job? Maybe I should take up psychology instead, and walk around dousing all and sundry with my armchair diagnosis.

As well as the self-diagnosers the other most common posting on internet forums is people asking complete stranger laymen to diagnose them based on a few traits they think proves they have AS.

Why are people seemingly so keen to wear this label? Is it an emo thing? Are people looking to justify their perceived failings in personality? Do they think that if they have AS they can stop blaming themselves and maybe even gain sympathy?

Another extension of this issue is the number of women who "have" AS (I put that in quotes as again they are always self-diagnosed). Official statistics tell us that it is rare for a women to have AS, but a quick search on the internet paints quite a different picture. There are almost as many women who claim to have AS as there are men. Either the professionals have got something terribly wrong, or these "self-diagnosed" women do not have AS at all. Maybe it is self-diagnosis that is wrong?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Sex, lies and YouTube

Isn't YouTube great? It gives you access to copyrighted material that you'd otherwise have to pay for, let's you see all the music videos you never knew existed, and allows you to find out that Thundercats was actually a bit crap.

It is also being used as a video version of the web based version of the log. You'll find lots of Asperger Syndrome (AS)-focused users airing their thoughts and opinions, as well as general users who also happen to have AS but don't make it the focus of every video they post. And aren't they all boring? People bleating and whining about their problems. People posting complete misinformation as fact. "There aren't many videos on YouTube about ass-burgers so I thought I'd make one" is the mantra they all start with, followed by descriptions of their woes in life and what ass-burgers means to them. You can tell they're all American as Americans are determined to destroy the English language. Why do they pronounce it "ass-burger" when there is no "b" in Asperger? Are Americans really that obsessed with McDonalds?

My favourite piece of misinformation is contained in one of the more popular AS videos on YouTube. In it our host explains that if you have AS you have "half autism". You're half autistic and half non-autistic so have some autistic traits and some normal ones. Geez guy, buy a book and read it.

As well as the people posting the videos you get people who post responses to the videos. These responses are usually from people who think they are "more"AS than the person who made the video, or that the person who made the video does not have AS at all.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Power to the people

Continuing from what I was saying about using the term "aspie" as a gateway to paint Asperger Syndrome (AS) as something positive, I only wish it could end there. I've spent some time looking at AS forums, web sites and videos, and much of what I see and read leaves me feeling a little uneasy. There is a sub-section of people whose delusions that AS is something that makes us "better" is so strong that they seek to personify it. They think that there should be a special educational system to teach people with AS to be the future leaders of the world. Or think that people with AS should form some sort of uber-society of elite individuals. Yeah, and I bet the AGM will be a laugh riot with a bunch of folks milling around not wanting to interact with anyone. The only thing I don’t know about these pro-AS zealots is their stance on gassing Jews.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

What's in a name?

Self reference seems to be an issue with people who have Asperger Syndrome, and rightly's a bit of a mouthful. Personally I use the universally accepted standard of abbreviation, loved the world over by organizations such as NATO, NASA and the USA. To keep in such illustrious company I refer to Asperger Syndrome as "AS" and I refer to myself as "someone with AS".

Alas I am seemingly alone in this practice. The preferred language on the internet is to use the term "aspie". To me that's just a cutsie name and you give cutsie names to dogs and cats, not to mental disorders. It's like calling AIDS "aidsie" or referring to a heart attack as a "harkey". It seems to be another facet of people with AS (do you see what I did there?) to dress up something negative as something positive. The only thing more apt of the phrase "you can't polish a turd" is actually attempting to polish a turd.

AS is a disorder, it is an impairment, it excludes you from the large section of society that is called "normal", it forbids you from interacting with the world on the world's own terms. Why give it a cutsie name like it's a good thing, or a positive thing? Like it's something you should be proud to have, something you want to have curled up at your feet.