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More than a Little Spectrum in all of Us

01 Oct

Everyone always says, “There is a little spectrum in all of us.” Some simply have a higher salience of atypicality — a clinical description for “irregular”, “not conforming to type”, or unusual — than others. Society dictates what is salient and how salient these “atypicalities” are, with deviations reflected/categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

This little phrase got me to thinking. Why not document the spectrum in all of us? Why not create a list that others can endorse with the ways in which supposed NTs are similar to Aspies and auties? My naive, vain hope is this will create awareness and perhaps understanding.

My five “aspie” qualities:

1. When I’m angry, it is all gobbleygook. When my negative emotions flow, my ability to think clearly and articulate those thoughts disappears without a trace.

2. When others are upset with me, I hear the noise but not the words. The noise is the emotion — the anger, the disappointment, the frustration — that I know not all Aspies can recognize, but recognizing the emotion doesn’t really help. It just confuses. I don’t know even know how I feel, why do I care how they are feeling at this particular moment?

3. I have “collections” — Indianapolis’ Colts hats (that I never wear), old basketball cards and baseball cards, coins, fossils, toy Mini Coopers. I know without a doubt that if I were a kid today, I’d be obsessed with Bakugan and Pokemon.

4. I have two self-stimulatory behaviors: Twirling my hair and biting my cuticles. The severity of these two behaviors wax and wane with my mood.

5. I can totally forget about the thoughts and feelings of others when I am talking about a preferred topic. I recognize that some auties and aspies don’t “forget” the perspective of others because, as Simon Baron-Cohen argues, they lack the capacity to even know it exists (i.e. mindblindess). The reality for me is that I get caught up in Peyton Manning’s stats with reckless abandon.

The vulnerability and trust that is required to “disclose” an autism spectrum diagnosis is not something I will ever exprience. Revealing my five “aspie” qualities is as close as I will come to putting a few of my atypicalities out there for the world to judge. I hope others engage in this experience.

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