People have heard of autism these days, (not least because of the television programmes that have surrounded autism of late.) and some may even have heard of Asperger's Syndrome as a 'mild' or 'high-functioning' form of autism. For those that have not, I make no attempt to explain it in depth with symptoms and the like in here, let's face it... it's all been done before. Here, dear reader, I aim to help you understand how the Autism Spectrum (or whatever the preferred term for it this week) fits together.
If we take the world of cars as our example and let's face it, did you really think I would use any other looking at the title of this article? We have the neurotypical folk who live in a neurotypical world, in this example that can be Britain with the country lanes. Around here cars like the Ford Fiesta and Focus do quite well, frugal with fuel and handle well, these are the neurotypical cars living in their neurotypical world. Take them to the U.S.A. and they may not fare so well, not as soft as their cars and small in the engine department. You see, I'm treating the U.S.A. as the land of autism. (Don't be annoyed anyone, this has no bearing in the real world, just an image and no more.) Across in the U.S.A. cars like the Mustang and the Cadillac do very well, they are soft and have muscle but guzzle fuel and don't handle well, these cars could be used here as cars with Asperger's Syndrome. This setup would not bode too well on this side of the Atlantic, where the roads are illogically twisted and not at all suited to the Mustang/Cadillac.
Why not leave the Mustang/Cadillac over there you may ask? Well, imagine if the U.S.A. didn't exist, they'd have to come over here and do the best they can. Remember that these cars are no better/worse than our humble Focus and Fiesta, just different and tuned differently. The Mustang/Cadillac are in a world that makes no sense to them, "Why are the roads so bendy?", "It makes driving more fun.", "Makes life harder and therefore illogical." You can imagine the conversation I'm sure. Once again, these cars are no worse or better than the Fiesta/Focus that we have over here, just tuned differently (This is important so put up with the repetition!) Put yourselves in our shoes here, we're forced to live in a world that we don't fully understand, nor does it understand us. Here ends the car analogy.
I have Asperger's syndrome and as such find this world illogical, why do we bother with the small talk? It's not like anyone wants to. Why should I look you in the eyes when talking to you? It feels threatening, no other animal does it so why should we? I know that these things, in a neurotypical world should be done and that neurotypicals do them naturally (I think.) Imagine then dear reader that you are living in a world where the norm was to greet someone with a simple "Hello" then get down to business, not mentioning anything else. Imagine living in a world where looking someone in the eyes was considered a threat. Imagine living in a world where relationships were a complete mystery to you. Now do excuse me if I forget some of your customs but I really do try to engage in the small talk and get over the imposing feel when someone demands that I look them square in the eyes. I think I deserve a break here and there, but I am still intelligent, I have got a degree, I have achieved things that a great many neurotypicals have not. Why then, can I be looked down upon by people I speak to as being rude, by the DWP as having no disability (even though I am thoroughly unable to cope in this world) and by those who are plain ignorant and think I'm thick?
I lied about the car analogy ending, sorry. I knew someone would ask about people with low-functioning autism so I saved it for the finale. So how do they fit in here? Simple, dragsters! Think about it, highly tuned for a single purpose, I'm not going to beat a dragster in my Fiesta on a drag strip, introduce corners though and I should win by a country mile. Don't write anyone with autism off... we're all highly tuned at something and we will prove it given the chance!