Autism and what it means to me.
This past year (1999), the last of the century has been for me a gradual realisation and coming to terms with the fact that I am Autistic.
I started out acknowledging problems and embarked on a search that ended in diagnosis at the end of October.
I already feel part of a wider Autistic community whom I have met through the Internet and feel particularly grateful to those people on the news groups and mailing lists who have guided me through this process. I would not have made it on my own without them.
According to the researchers, we are supposed to be weak on Theory of Mind, that is to say we cannot put ourselves in the position of others to know what they are thinking, and so supposedly lack empathy. It is supposed that much is communicated between people by eye gaze and gesture, which communicates state of mind, mood etc.
How this relates to me is that I am never sure of how I am being understood in conversation or how to modify what I am doing to maximum effect in social relations. On the other hand I have the capacity of reason and logic, and can determine in other ways what I am lacking in NT (neuro typical) intuition.
Borrowing the popular analogy of a jigsaw puzzle, we are not supposed to be good at seeing the complete picture but are better at seeing each part as seperate in its details. It is my belief that seeing only parts of the "picture" gives me the opportunity to make different connections and come to radically new conclusions that people who see it otherwise will not be able to. Sometimes I will be mistaken in this but I hope that it pays off sometimes in that I have some remarkable insights not being clouded by convention or social thinking.
The social animal is always led to majority conclusions, going with the flow, following the crowd. The Autistic thinker comes to his/her own conclusions and does not care it they are not socially acceptable. All progress has come through being unafraid to differ in opinion from the majority, look at Galileo, and Einstein.
Nonetheless I do not seek out isolation deliberately. I do need others to exist and many of my troubles seem to come from being rigidly independent. We are all interdependent whether we are aware of the fact or not and if each of us persists in being the centre of our own existence we are all doomed to suffer at each others hands. Nonetheless I reserve the right to follow my own path to the universal human goal.
Copyright © 1999 Laurence Arnold
This page was created Monday 3rd January 2000 (first page of the millenium)
revised Tuesday February 6th 2001 (addition of better photo)
Latest revision Wednesday August 1st 2001 (minor corrections to text)