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James Durbin on American Idol: The Tale of Fitting a Square Peg in a Round Hole

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Know what  you get when you try to fit a square peg in a round hole? James Durbin. Or any person with Asperger’s really. I could lecture, ahem, inform you on all of the ways Aspies just don’t quite squeeze into that hole, no matter how we position and rotate and twist and turn. Mind you, that assumes our hole represents neurotypicality (and, not to mention, that the pegs want to be shoved into the holes, which they don’t). But, poor James, he doesn’t even get that. He gets people, this blogger included (Fact or Fiction: James Durbin and AS?), questioning his square peg status. He has people telling him, “No, James, you are not a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. You are a round peg trying to fit into a square hole.”

All of this because he disclosed. He pronounced a rather unfortunate word with an attempt at a sophisticated interpretation — one that’s not all that uncommon, mind you. And, then, he acted too “normal”, other than that squinting. Too much eye contact, and coordination, and appropriate facial expressions.

All of this because he preempted possible comments about his mannerisms by giving us an explanation that should have lead us to say, “Ohhhhh, now I get it” or “Good for you, James” or “What a positive example for us to point to”. But, we have to find some way to judge, right? After all, isn’t that the point of the show he is on? If James hadn’t told us, we’d wonder why he was “weird” or “squinty”. If James tells us, we doubt his authenticity, his purpose. Joseph Heller might be tempted to rename his book, James.

This Catch-22 was echoed in my office today with two male clients who have very different views on disclosure. One sees no shame. In his words, “I look normal until I talk or write. Like when I write a check and it takes forever, and others start to wonder, ‘What’s up with this guy?'” The other struggles to admit the diagnosis even to long-time friends. “It will change their view of me. I can’t control that.” James is at the crosshairs of both problems. He’s looked normal, until he hasn’t. He’s disclosed and lost control.

So what’s a square-ish round peg to do in a static world? To start, I suppose, win American Idol.


Posted by on April 30, 2011 in ASD in the Grand Scheme


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Fact or Fiction: James Durbin and Asperger’s?

Tonight, Jesse, a nineteen-year-old client with AS, asked me to watch James Durbin. By now, I’m sure you have heard of him. The twenty-one-year-old unemployed singer on American Idol who has a small child and a supportive girlfriend. I hadn’t heard of James Durbin, nor had the four other guys in the group, all with AS. So, we viewed this clip:

Watching the clip was easy. James Durbin is an excellent singer, more likable and less polarizing than Adam Lambert. He has a story that AI loves — no job, big dreams, complications. For James, these complications are even diagnostic: Tourette’s and Asperger’s. But, watching was only the first part of what Jesse wanted.

“I don’t think he has AS, Jeanne. I think he is working that situation for the show. What do you think?” That’s where the hard part came in. So, I asked the guys to make a case for why he might not have AS; here were their arguments:

“Um, I don’t know many Aspies who frequent bars. Especially at that age. I mean, he’s barely legal.” (James might be breaking a rule, an Aspie no-no.)

“I have Tourette’s. The stress of singing would make me start ticking.”

“Yeah, well, I have Asperger’s. The thought of being around that many people would make me more than nervous.”

“I thought Aspie’s don’t make good eye contact. He just looked his son in the face.”

“That much crap in my hair would make me freak out.”

“His clothes look itchy.”

“I didn’t look at the camera when I was in pictures.”

“I don’t call it AUS-pergers.”

Then, I asked the guys why he would “lie”?

“I don’t lie.”

“I don’t know.”

“To get on tv.”

“To get on tv.”

“To take advantage of the situation.”

I ask you, my reader: What do you think?


Posted by on February 11, 2011 in ASD in the Grand Scheme


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