Monday, 31 December 2012

Internal / external

One thing that is probably a common source of frustration to people with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) are the difficulties in dating, finding a girlfriend or boyfriend. It's annoying in two ways...first, we all want someone special in our lives, maybe people with AS more than others as someone with AS' significant other is probably the only person in their life they feel close to. Second, it's annoying that the things that other people seem to find easy to do is impossible for us to do. My own personal philosophy on this is that I am working to recognise my strengths and my weaknesses in this area. I have come to accept that I'll never be the type to go up to a stranger in a bar and start talking to them, or to approach someone in the other common dating hunting grounds. My own strengths tend to be with women that are in my life anyway, the getting to know people as friends first as a segue to something deeper, as that timeframe gives me time to get comfortable (and therefore, "myself") with these people. I also tend to do better with women that communicate with mainly through electronic mediums. It is this system of strengths and weakness that I try and manipulate in my favour. Basically, I have always seem my AS as my problem that I have to deal with.

However, I have been spending time analysing the behaviours of other AS sufferers on dating sites and relationship forums, and it seems that there is another way of looking at things...that your AS is actually everyone else's problem, and that everyone else should make allowances for you, they should "give you a chance" when they wouldn't normally. That people who can't "see past" your awkwardness and deficiencies are somehow shallow or bad people.

It made me think back to when I used to attend a support group and one of the members was a mother whose daughter had AS, and she would go into detail about all the help she is given from the school, the local authorities, universities and so on. I remember thinking at the time, "What about when she gets into the real world and people stop making allowances for her?" I grew up undiagnosed so no-one ever made a single allowance for me in my entire life. I grew up "the hard way". It's great that increased awareness of the condition means children are diagnosed early and get support, but is this frustration in dating the result of all that support?

Schools, the council, the police and so on...they often have legal obligations to make allowances for "disability" (in the UK, autistic orders are classed as disabilities when it comes to legal matters), but private individuals don't. Have these children grown up thinking that all through life everyone will make allowances for them? Now that they are old enough to live outside of the system, they are probably experiencing culture shock...for the first time in their lives, someone is not making allowances. A private individual, be it a friend or a potential partner, is treating them the same way that they would treat anyone else.

I think it demonstrates the balance that has to be maintained. There is nothing wrong with giving children support, but we have to be careful it doesn't become mollycoddling, that we're not wrapping them up in cotton wool. When children are given extra help, we should ensure that it is equally made clear to them that when they grow up and enter society, not everyone is going to make allowances. That private individuals are going to treat them the same way they will treat everyone else. That life is going to be hard, and sometimes unfair, but there is no point in whining about it and blaming everyone else.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

What's good for the goosestepper...

I was reading the following article on the BBC's website about Hitler's personality

and a few things caught my eye. His avoidance of small talk, his annoying voice, his general social inadequacy. Normally when people mention these things about the famous dead, they are quick to follow up that the person must have had Asperger's Syndrome (AS). I didn't read that in this article though, and now I come to think of it I've never seen Hitler's name on any of those internet lists about all the great people who "must have had" AS. After all, it's such a gift, such a wonderful thing that makes you an exemplary human being...right? ;)

Hitler does feature on the Wikipedia article about famous people posthumously diagnosed, but I see he has a special note that indicates people disagree and think there isn't enough evidence for a diagnosis. Yet we know more about him than many other distance historical figures as he has only just passed from living memory.