The Big Bang Theory came in handy yesterday. In a group of four 19-year-olds with AS, we were discussing how to disclose their diagnoses to a girlfriend (which none of them have just yet). One of the boys had just debuted his lengthy speech to the group for their review. His proposed setting for this disclosure was in the office of his psychologist. His rhetoric was over-the-top, apologetic, and (as the guys noticed) almost-embarrassed. To say they objected quickly is an understatement.
As we discussed the major points of contention — location, timing, and, most generally but importantly, what to say — one thing became very clear to me. Each of the guys had a very different “attitude” about their diagnosis, which many had since before kindergarten. As I began to understand each guy’s particular stance, I made a quick chart on my whiteboard.
AB — BFD — ??
PH — OMG — ??
JP — NBD — ??
If you are not familiar with the “text” language, you might find this a bit elusive, but the guys got it. The point of our ensuing discussion was not to change their attitude about their diagnoses, rather it was to highlight the impact on others — making those ??s real. One of the guys felt the “OMG” attitude lead to unnecessary panic on the part of the other person. He felt that it reinforced some of the stereotypes of AS. PH stood by his attitude, believing it was a relationship changer. JP then said, “It’s not like it’s going to be a revelation, dude, just a disclosure.” PH was dumbfounded, initially confused by the statement and ultimately offended. “What do you mean that she will ‘already know’? I’m very high-functioning.” And he is, for whatever that means.
We’ve touched on this topic before in group — what elements of their diagnosis are apparent to others. It’s a difficult topic for them for reasons related to the struggles of AS, such as perspective taking, and related to their own self-confidence on the issue. For this topic to return at this point was logical but oh-so-difficult. We talked about how girls have the ability to recognize subtle differences, and that girls might not have a name for what they see but they will recognize something.
JP said, “It’s like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. You know he has Asperger’s as soon as he walks in the room.” He couldn’t articulate specifics, so I pulled up a two-minute clip of Sheldon at the movie theater. Providing a short synopsis of that two-minute clip won’t do it justice, so I suggest you view it if interested. Sure enough, I just “knew it” and JP just “knew it”. “Who talks like that?” laughingly asked JP.
“I do,” PH said. And, without skipping a beat, JP replied, “Then she’s just know, dude, and you’ll just need to name it. Like I said, not a revelation.”