Thursday, January 9, 2014

It Was as if I Didn't Exist

Parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychiatrists, behaviorists, and other helper individuals see the problem of Asperger's children backwards to how the child experiences life. To the child, his or her differences, some of which are praised, such as intelligence, success in school, the ability to focus on a task, persistence of attention and novel manipulation of ideas, are then used to isolate or even exile him or her from society. How does one explain this ‘intelligence is good, but you are bad’ contradiction to a smart child?

The social person’s view is that this child does not conform to the scheduled physical, emotional, and mental behaviors that experts have decided are normal and necessary to being human, and therefore this child is abnormal - an unhappy and unnacceptable situation for the socially- obsessed majority. Variation from expectations (very narrow expectations at that) becomes the problem, and the child’s intelligence is judged to be strange, aberrant and a big part of the problem. The child’s intelligence, not as a thing-in-itself, but as a minority condition in society, is not seen as distinct from the emotional difficulties that an Asperger’s child does experience.   
In my case, teachers, the school principal, and our pediatrician briefly discussed what to do with me. Should I be bumped up a grade, be sent to a special school, or remain where I was? Their conclusion? Because I was socially backward I ought to stay with my age group in public school. Confinement among normal children would advance my behavior to some acceptable level and this would make me capable of functioning as a wife and mother. As for my intellectual abilities, these might be useful if I needed a job someday, that is, if my husband were to die.
This astonishing train of thought confirmed my observation that adults can be extraordinarily stupid and that their thinking cannot be trusted solely on their status as The Adult. The idea that contact with normal children would by some property of contagious magic make me normal, was ludicrous. The assumption that a female was fit only for marriage and motherhood, with a teaching job as a fall back to misfortune, sent a shockwave through my mind. The expectation of parents and teachers that I ought to be content, or even thrilled with such a future, demonstrated that none of these people knew anything about me. I was nothing but a source of irritation. Once a decision was made about ‘my problem’ I could be ignored.  
My internal experience of myself and my particular connection to the world around me were nonexistent for them, and I was ‘dealt with’ as if these personal experiences didn’t exist – as if I didn’t exist. This is profound isolation, and in my view, is more devastating than the Asperger preference for spending time alone.
Too often the story is presented as one-sided, with the ‘problem’ located within the Asperger child or adult, who must be trained to perform social skills that satisfy society, with little recognition that the unhappy situation is the result of a failed dialog between the individual and society. This dialog, which is social, seems an odd concept for the social majority to fail to recognize and understand.  

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