“Autism” as a tool rather than an identity.

I’ve been making my way through a book which is a compilation of the life stories of successful autistic adults, written by themselves. The compilation is brought together by Temple Grandin, and is called “Different… Not Less.” Once I complete the book I’ll do a full review, but at this stage I want to write about a particular recurring aspect in the stories, which is already impacting on how I view autism and my son.

These successful adults were typically diagnosed late in life, even though their autism (and associated conditions) were impacting on their lives from childhood. Late diagnosis of these adults is no mystery, considering the huge rise over the past two decades in awareness and recognition of autism, and the changes in autism criteria during that time. I wouldn’t simply say their autism was too mild to allow diagnosis from a younger age; that doesn’t accurately reflect what I’m reading about their childhood experiences, and it does a disservice to the enormous amount of effort they put into making their lives what they have become.

The stories of the impact diagnosis had on them, is interesting in a number of ways. Typically it was that the diagnosis allowed them to better understand themselves and their behaviours. As a “tool” you might say; something of explanatory value both of the past and their present. But it did not (at least in the stories I have read so far) become an identity per se (in the way that I have read many people refer to autism online).

Autism is a useful truth about them, but it doesn’t give them excuses or reason for personal restriction. These adults have been successful because they expected much of themselves and others expected much of them too. They didn’t have preconceived ideas as youths about what jobs they might be suited to because of autism, instead they tried many different jobs – doing well at some, poorly at others – but always learning something new about themselves and the world from even the failures. They didn’t all end up in predictable autism occupations (such as working with computers); they sought out and took opportunities as they arose, and ultimately followed their passions to success.

Something Temple is clearly keen on herself, is the idea that autistic youths not get too caught up in their autism; that they don’t make autism itself their passion. There are, after all, only so many jobs available for autism advocates, and few people who write about their own autism are guaranteed a living from it. Indeed, she has expressed that her own ability to be an advocate and speaker on autism issues, came around secondarily to her passion and success with cattle.

I think there are some important considerations in there, and its slowly changing how I view autism too. I wonder how healthy it is to identify very closely and essentially with a term that is at the mercy of the DSM and ICD scientists; to identify intimately with a word that is still under redefinition. I wonder too about how identifying too closely with “autism” may encourage some to think autism pre-determines what they can do successfully with their lives. That taking it on as an identity would limit a person’s view of who they are and what they might one day be capable of.

I think it might be best then to think of autism as a “tool,” as I mentioned above seen in these adults stories. As a way to better understand themselves and a helpful guide to how to make your way in the world, for example by careful planning and being aware of issues with reading others’ body language. In this way “autism” is a helpful rather than limiting concept. It is a piece of information rather than an identity.

These thoughts are also impacting on how I’d like to talk to my own son about autism, going forward. In the past I have talked to him about autism as a part of who he is, as something that affects his mind – in both good and bad ways. I’m tending now instead to think I shall work towards him seeing autism as a word that helps him to be aware of how best to approach new situations (for instance), and how to encourage success more generally. Instead of – for example – perhaps one day telling him that autism makes it harder to read others’ body language (which it does), and thereby avoid situations where this might be expected of him; I would focus instead on telling him that because autism can make it harder to read others’ body language, he needs to be more aware of others’ body langauge and work harder to understand it. Again, that autism is a helpful piece of information, but is not definitive of who he is or who he could be. It’s an important difference. It’s also making me less inclined to personally refer to someone as “autistic,” preferring instead the phrase “has autism” (but I still wouldn’t go around telling anyone else what term to use for others or themselves in this regard).

Of course accepting autism as an identity doesn’t doom or necessarily limit someone’s self-image; for many it is indeed empowering. I just think there needs to be real caution about how we particularly encourage our children to view autism as an intimate and essential part of themselves, especially at a time when the definition of autism lies in strangers’ hands. The constant of my son – his identity – is more than autism. Autism makes his life harder in a multitude of ways, and easier in some, but who he is and what he will become is ultimately up to him; autism is just along for the ride.

My views on this topic are still evolving. Even though I’ve had my son’s diagnosis for almost four years, I am still – and will probably forever be – learning what this means for him and for me as his mother. I know writing about “autism as identity” tends to invite passionate and sometimes aggressive responses. I only ask that if you respond to this post, you keep in mind that I am still learning and am ever willing to learn; teach me instead of attacking me, if you’d like to make me see things differently.

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36 Responses to “Autism” as a tool rather than an identity.

  1. sparrowrose says:

    “Instead of – for example – perhaps one day telling him that autism makes it harder to read others’ body language (which it does), and thereby avoid situations where this might be expected of him; I would focus instead on telling him that because autism can make it harder to read others’ body language, he needs to be more aware of others’ body langauge and work harder to understand it. ”

    I was diagnosed in 2001 and that used to be my approach — working harder to understand body language. In fact, it was my approach all the way back in 1979, years before I knew why I was so different and struggled so hard. For several years, I studied every body language book I could find and tried to apply what I’d learned to the people around me.

    Simply put, it was a disaster.

    I abandoned that project around 1982 and went back to just trying to avoid people. It was easier. The therapy my parents sent me to was useless — every time i couldn’t do what was asked, of me whether it was describing my feelings or interpreting body language or discussing things in what I now understand to be a non-autistic manner, I was told I was being passive-aggressive, resistant, employing avoidance techniques, and not co-operating with the therapeutic process.

    Fast forward to 2001 when I finally got properly diagnosed. I took up the body language studies again with a fervor. I failed equally dismally. I was quite depressed about it until I ran into Brian King online. He teaches children and adults on the spectrum (and the supportive people in their lives) how to flourish with autism. It was such a relief when he said that I could stop all that pointless body language studying! I was wasting my time, frustrating myself unnecessarily, wasting cogntive overhead, and setting myself up for failure and depression.

    Instead, I learned various new techniques from him, including “check in.” He pointed out that no one can *really* read minds and that rather than futilely studying body language, I should just learn how to check in with others and let them tell me what they think and how they feel. What a revelation! Seriously! Learning new ways of meeting the world with my autistic brain instead of wasting all my energy and brain power on trying to function like a person with a non-autistic brain has been nothing short of life-changing for me.

    I’m not trying to plug Brian (though he deserves it!) and I don’t get any kindof kick-back from him for saying any of this. My point is not to sell Brian but rather to point out that, at least from my own cexperience of 45 years spent living in this autistc body/brain, telling your son to work harder at understanding body language is a recipe for frustration, not a recipe for success.

    Naturally, his experience may be totally different — we are not made from cookie cutters. But struggling to learn to read body language intentioally the way that other people do it naturally was such a bad idea for me that I feel compelled to speak up now.

    • Hi sparrowrose. I think it’s so important to hear these personal stories. One of the stories in the book included an adult who studied body language at university level and found it made an immense difference to their life. Clearly your experience is very different. Both experiences are important to hear and think about. I think the best approach is to respond to the individual of course, but I think it makes sense to at first presume an ability to learn these things (since that is possible for many) and when that doesn’t work – which it didn’t for you – to be open-minded to finding new ways to find success. I am glad you found that success, and I appreciate your sharing how you found it. Thank you.

  2. Twitchy Woman says:

    I count as one of those successful, “diagnosed late in life” Autistics (although I had numerous diagnoses before I had an Asperger’s diagnosis). I think of autism as an identity, but don’t think that that’s incompatible with thinking of it as a useful piece of information. I very rarely assume that I can’t do something, but when I do, it’s often for good reason and can itself be adaptive: for example, I can’t have meltdowns and also have a professional career, so I have to be very careful to ensure that I don’t get so gung-ho about my work that I skimp on sleep or food, even though it’s something that many of my coworkers can pull off. I have to calculate the benefits and risks.

    I don’t know how much it came across in the book – it’s possible that a lot of successful autistic people have a hard time admitting this – but trying to succeed WHILE working extra hard to compensate for every deficit is not a good idea. You end up spending too much energy on playing on other people’s terms and have too little left over for actually getting work done. So instead you have to figure out how to “work around” it – look for shortcuts, carve out self-accommodations, figure out ways to optimize different kinds of performance as needed, etc. Being able to “pass” is still extremely useful, but I can’t be thinking about “passing” all day and get any work done.

    • Hi Twitchy Woman. I agree that seeing autism as a useful piece of information is not “incompatible” with seeing it as an identity. But there is a difference between seeing autism as inherent and essential to one’s being, versus seeing it as a useful piece of information but not necessarily dominant or essential to who one is. And the more general point I was trying to make, was that seeing autism as identity may not be necessary or best (for example, because of DSM / definitional changes).

      I am fully sympathetic to the issue of passing, and it’s an important point. The adults in the book talked a lot about the importance of having co-workers and mentors who accepted, encouraged, and helped them. I suspect (or hope that) being around these people would lessen the burden of passing too. A supportive work environment is perhaps just as important as finding the “right” type of work for the specific individual.

      Thanks for your comment, and for sharing your experience.

      • sparrowrose says:

        I don’t see my autism as my SOLE identity, but having a differently-wired brain is such a pervasive thing — it touches every aspect of my being. My boyfriend said that he can’t really say where “autism” ends and “Sparrow” begins because the two are so tightly knit up together.

        So the DSM may change, the label may change, but the fact that there is something that is as seeped through every fiber of my being as dye seeps through every fiber of a cloth is undeniable. The cloth is not the dye. But if the dye is red, the cloth is red cloth. I am not autism. But I am an autistic person. I am many other things: texile artist, graduate student, musician, girlfriend, daughter, friend . . . but I am also autistic. And someone can change the name of the color red, but that won’t change the bolt of fabric that’s been dyed that color.

      • I completely understand what you’re saying, I in fact used to hold the same view about my son; autism affects him in so many ways – affects his mind and body – that how could I talk about or understand him without it? I don’t so strongly feel this way about him anymore though: I don’t see autism as part of his identity per se, just as something true about him.

        How he grows up to see his autism is up to him, and I wouldn’t think any less of him – nor do I you or anyone else – if you choose to say it is part of your identity. I happen to think that it would be best for his future and his open-mindedness if he chooses not to define himself by his autism though.

        As I said in the post, I’m still getting my head around all of this, I’m still nutting it out. But at this point in time – with my current understanding of my son and of autism – I think it is for the best not to view it as “his identity.” I’m still interested in listening to why people think it is important or essential to view it in such a way though, perhaps there’s a powerful positive argument in favour of it that I simply haven’t encountered yet.

        • sparrowrose says:

          I guess the only real world parallel I can make is that being female is also part of “my identity.” It’s enmeshed down to the level of what pronouns I choose to use to identify myself to others. To call my femaleness “just something true about me” would be disingenuous.

      • I don’t agree with the parallel. “Femaleness” is objectively defined and verifiable, autism has no known biological or similarly “objective” test. It varies as the DSM (or whoever) scientists say it does. It exists, absolutely. But it’s not in the same category as something like gender.

        However, my objection to your point goes deeper. I don’t think we should define ourselves by our gender either, and many people choose not to. They see a focus on gender (or race, or whatever) as arbitrary and restrictive. They see their identity as self-defined, and as deeper than such “constructs.” If you like, you could say that I want my son to be defined by himself. To be known by his actions and own efforts and individual personality. By those things which were not simply given to him, but by who he is, and ultimately who he chooses to be.

        As I said, if this ends up including “autism” for him – if this is integral to how he views himself rather than just a piece of important information about himself – then so be it. But I’d prefer (for the reasons I’ve given) that he doesn’t; I think it will help him be more open-minded about who he can become and what he can achieve with his life.

        • sparrowrose says:

          Your objection to my point is not an objection to my point but rather an objection to extrapolating my point to your life.

          Notice six instances of the first person pronoun in my point — I was talking about me, not about you and not about other people out there who are not female or do not identify with gender.

          If you want others to tell you how they feel and think, try not to shut them down like this, I feel really unheard and dismissed now. You’ve basically just told me that my life, my thoughts, my views, my identity do not matter.

          Why would I continue to read and participate in a blog where I am simply waved off as irrelevant?

      • Gosh, that wasn’t my intent at all sparrowrose, and I am genuinely sorry that I came across that way!

        I was merely trying to argue what I have argued through-out: I don’t see taking autism as identity as in the best interests of my son, for the reasons I’ve stated more than once. I have also said multiple times that I can see why others might take it as an issue of identity, and I have even said I would accept it if my own child eventually chose this. I didn’t think that could be taken as a personal attack at all.

        I have tried to be respectful, and have taken in and thought about your arguments as you have presented them, and you’ve reacted with outrage at me. I do think it would be best for your own state of mind not to converse with me further on this point if you are taking this as a personal attack; it isn’t.

        I apologise again for your upset, and I genuinely wish you the best.

        • sparrowrose says:

          I apologize for my harsh words.

          They stemmed from a misperception on my part. You said you wanted to know how people felt about their identity and I told you. Then I perceived your response as telling me that my feelings were wrong. I understand now that I was mistaken as to your message and intent, but at the time I felt set up and became over-excited as a result.

          I regret my words and hope that you can forgive me for being so reactionary.

          Sparrow

      • Twitchy Woman says:

        I agree with sparrowrose – I think there’s a bit of a conflation here between “essential part of one’s identity” and “the dominant part of one’s identity. I certainly don’t see autism as the “dominant” part of my identity. In fact, if someone were to ask me what the most important single aspect of my personality was, I wouldn’t be able to tell them. And I can certainly say that I’d be pretty upset if my obituary were titled “Twitchy Woman, Autistic Person.”

        BUT, it is “essential,” in the sense that I can’t really imagine what I’d be like without my neurology. Because it affects at a rather fundamental level how I think, feel, and interact with others, it’s actually probably even more fundamental to my identity than other “identity-level” aspects of me, like my nationality or sexual orientation.

        I disagree with people who find labels inherently arbitrary and restrictive. Certainly people shouldn’t be just boiled down to a set of labels, but they’re still useful. They describe socially relevant facts about people, and attempts to ignore labels often, in practice, results in ignoring ways in which people differ from the norm (see, e.g., the many blog posts out there about why you shouldn’t say you “don’t see race”). Attempting to understand people’s differences without resorting to labels actually takes a lot more cognitive effort – something that you might (and should) be able to pull off with your son, but not with the majority of people you interact with on a daily basis.

      • I don’t have a problem with lables per se when they’re used to inform and guide, as “autism” is. My issue is with the idea that autism is best thought of as identity. I wasn’t just saying that because I’m concerned about it being a dominant part of his identity, but rather that I’m now doubting that it is useful to see autism as part of “identity” at all. “Identity” here is more than just facts about a person, it’s deeper and more essential than that.

        You mention that you wouldn’t know yourself apart from your neurology, but I must ask, do you wonder how much of your neurology is actually because of autism, and how much is simply you independent of the autism? Autistic personalitiees are not all of the same sort, there are gentle and loving autistic people, and there are hateful and indifferent autistic people. Autism isn’t so deeply entrenched that it affects every aspect of how someone is and how they think, and I think that saying it is is ignoring the way our experiences and beliefs structure us and how we see the world. The families we grow up in, the countries we live in, even our gender and our religioius up-bringings can be very powerful influencers quite apart from autism. Autism is not completely determinate of who we are.

        I do appreciate and respect your insights, and again, thank you for sharing why you hold the view that you do.

      • Twitchy Woman says:

        In that case I’m not really sure what you even mean by the term “identity.” When I say “autism is part of my identity,” I mean that it’s something that deeply influences me, at least on the same level as other “identities” such as gender, sexual orientation, nationality, etc. Neither I nor pretty much anyone else who’s called autism an “identity” think that it’s “completely determinate of who we are.” We all have other influences as well, and those influences are also identities. Nationality is an identity. Religion is an identity. Gender is an identity.

        The word “identity” does not mean “thing that completely determines what you are.” When people use the term “identity group,” for example, they aren’t trying to say that traits like “lesbian” and “Puerto Rican” describe anyone’s innermost soul, or that different lesbians don’t have different personalities. When people say “gender identity,” they’re not trying to imply that they don’t have any other significant personality traits other than, say, “female.”

        You asked how much of my neurology was autism and how much is simply me independent of autism. The fact that I can’t answer that question is exactly why I wouldn’t want to think of autism as “separate” from my personality. Autism doesn’t determine every aspect of how I am and how I think, but there are very few ways in which my personality hasn’t been affected by it, just as there are very few ways in which my personality hasn’t been affected by my socioeconomic status growing up, or my parents’ personalities, my value system, etc. All these factors affect different people in different ways, but that doesn’t mean that you can easily separate yourself from them. They’re all tangled up.

        I think you’re running into risky territory where it sounds like you’re trying to school people on how to see themselves. I know that’s not what you think you’re doing, but it sounds like you don’t grasp that pretty much every autistic adult already knows that “Autism isn’t so deeply entrenched that it affects every aspect of how someone is and how they think,” or that “Autistic personalitiees are not all of the same sort, there are gentle and loving autistic people, and there are hateful and indifferent autistic people,” or that “The families we grow up in, the countries we live in, even our gender and our religious up-bringings can be very powerful influencers quite apart from autism.” This isn’t news to ANY autistic adult. It’s not even remotely in conflict with seeing autism as part of one’s identity. The whole point is that it’s impossible to extricate ANY of those influences from our “real” personalities, so they all become a part of our personalities.

      • The simplest asnwer to that is that you are right about one thing: You have not understood what I mean by identity. Your explanation of what I mean by it is not correct. That just means I perhaps need to (or should have) started off with a strong explanation of what identity means. It would have greatly lengthened the post so I didn’t want to do that – and I didn’t think it was necessary when I wrote the post – but I can see now that there’s confusion around the term so I may need to address that next time I mention identity.

      • Without hesitation Sparrow. I do that sometimes myself, I fully understand. And it was good of you to come back and express what you just have, it makes me feel better too. I want you to know that I was being genuine when I said I never meant to upset you, and that I felt bad for doing so. I’m quite relieved that you’re feeling better about the whole thing now, and can see that I meant you no ill will. Thank you again, for your comments and for being open enough to share your experiences in those comments.

  3. The thing about it is, any success your son has may well be because he is autistic, not in spite of it. My son objects to labels, and I object to the objectifying of him by science or psychiatry. They find a label and then they have to make it fit. That’s the way it is, that is why they are so “smart”. Frankly, it’s pretty depressing to follow that schema, and I think this is your objection to the label. Things I remember that are absolutely absurd and don’t fit him at all are attempted to be made tenets of the gospel of the APA. We are talking real people here, who seldom fit in boxes. He is funny, loving , empathetic, and kind, in his own way. He makes me laugh so hard I cry. In a life where things can really get you down if you let it, that’s a tremendous gift!

    I have a friend who is an uncommonly adept artist. He is quite dyslexic. He sees his dyslexia as hampering his career, friendships, etc. I say his gift is because he is dyslexic. If you took away his dyslexia, he’d just be a normal dude, possibly a ditch digger, as his high school English teacher implied. A brilliant ditch digger, perhaps.

    We can’t forget those who suffer, whose autism is too much to overcome, whose autism hides any gift it might bring. They have so much in common with each other, with our children.

    • See I’m stepping right out of that “gift versus disaster” model in the way I’m talking about approaching the issue. I’m talking about autism as a truth that he must work with or work around as need be, in whichever way can bring him to what he views as success (whatever job and relationship and happiness he wants from life). I’m not calling autism a “tool” because I think autism is all bad. Neither am I solely concerned about changing labels (though that is part of the picture). It’s true that he is autistic – and frankly will still be autistic under the new definitions – the label is accurate, but what I’m trying to say (perhaps poorly?) is that I don’t think it’s best for him (or completely accurate) to take it on as part of his identity (regardless of whether autism is a good thing or a bad thing).

      Perhaps a comparison will help: I was considered gifted at high school, this is a good thing, but I didn’t take it on as part of my identity, it’s just a “truth.” By which I mean, saying it’s not part of his identity to be autistic, doesn’t mean I think autism is horrible, that’s not my point. Or “I am Jewish” but that doesn’t matter to me, it’s not an essential part of who I am, it’s not part of my identity (I am Jewish by the way, and it doesn’t mean anything to me as an adult, it did though as a child). That doesn’t mean I think being Jewish is bad or good, or that it isn’t part of someone else’s identity, but it isn’t part of mine either.

      And to go further, it was my experience that no longer considering myself Jewish as part of my identity, was a positive step in my life, but it may not be in everyone’s and I’m not suggesting everyone do the same. It’s just not some all-consuming truth that “being Jewish” is identity for all people or in all people’s best interests, or completely accurate for all Jewish people either. The same for autism.

      Does all this help to clarify my point, or am I just making things worse!?

    • Wow. Next time I’m getting you to write what I mean. That was just right :)

  4. EK says:

    Regardless of whether I see autism as part of my identity, what is common to autistic people (something akin to a certain profile of cognitive strengths and weaknesses, which does not translate straightforwardly into what one “can” or “cannot” do at a larger scale) is, for example, far more essential to me that is my gender (female) or nationality (I’m an immigrant). Even in instances where autistic people can perform the same tasks, at levels similar or equivalent to that of nonautistic people, we perform them in measurably and characteristically atypical ways. I’m not sure what could be more essential to a person than pervasive atypicalities in both low- and high-level cognitive processing, across cognitive domains (something we have less evidence for in the case of gender, for example). With respect to definitions, even biological sex is not binary – one only needs to consider intersex individuals, so there are no terribly simple or non-shifting definitions in any of these instances (and a multitude of criteria that one might use or choose to give priority to; again, even in the case of biological sex).

    What I’m slightly bothered by is that even if regarding autism as an identity is deleterious (I don’t think there is clear evidence that it is; the success of people who don’t seem to regard it as an identity says little if anything about those who do), and even if we still have a rather poor idea of what autism is and what makes someone autistic, it still says nothing whatsoever about how essential it is, in general, to someone’s person (at least relative to other characteristics that one might regard as ‘essential’). And whether someone cares to make something a vital part of their ‘identity’ or not (this is all a bit high-level for me, unfortunately) is maybe of uncertain value, but in my opinion is likewise questionably informative as to how essential (vs. important on a purely personal level) a certain characteristic is to them. If unclear, I think that this (at least the part of this issue that I’m trying to address) is to at least some extent an empirical question, and not something that can be decided on the basis of perceived or expected utility.

    • Hi EK. I agree that autism affects much of an autistic person, including my own son, but that doesn’t necessitate seeing it as part of his identity. It just means it’s an important truth about understanding him.

      I already understand your point about gender / sexuality, that in fact was part of my argument to sparrowrose: That these things are often constructs anyway, and even if they weren’t, it remains up to an individual whether to accept it as part of their identity. That I prefer my son’s identity turn on what he does and who he is, to repeat what I said to sparrowrose: “you could say that I want my son to be defined by himself. To be known by his actions and own efforts and individual personality. By those things which were not simply given to him, but by who he is, and ultimately who he chooses to be.”

      Your last point about the value versus empirical accuracy of something when it comes to identity, is an important one: Identity is something more than facts about a person. It is how we choose to define ourselves, it is something more essential than “I have blue eyes.” Empirical truths often come first (“I have autism”) before identity, but even then, not necessraily so. For example, whether someone belongs to a cultural group or has a certain condition can be considered part of their identity independently of whether it was first empirically verified, so it would seem that personal preference and perceived value is absolutely vital to questions of identity. It’s an interesting and highly relevant off-shoot conversation that I may give further thought. Thank you for bringing it up!

      • EK says:

        Hi,

        Thanks for the reply – but to clarify, I was specifically trying to steer clear of questions about identity, although I did bring it up. I think ‘identity’ is quite separate from what traits or characteristics may be considered essential to a person, and that the two may not even necessarily overlap. Both were brought up in the original post, and part of my point was that they are not exactly the same thing, and may in fact be thought of as independent of each other. I am not particularly concerned about identity (i.e. how a person chooses to self-identify; how they are identified by others in a social context; both are relatively arbitrary, and subject to individual whim), and that’s not what I thought can/should (maybe) be addressed empirically.

        Re: gender and biological sex, I was responding to this statement that you made in a reply to sparrowrose: ““Femaleness” is objectively defined and verifiable.”

      • Well yes, but the rest of my comment went on to undercut that point, I said: “I don’t think we should define ourselves by our gender either, and many people choose not to. They see a focus on gender (or race, or whatever) as arbitrary and restrictive. They see their identity as self-defined, and as deeper than such “constructs.” ”

        Ta for the reply though, I better understand what you were trying to get at now.

  5. My brother has Aspergers and he says he can go for ages without thinking of himself as different, so long as he’s around friends and cool people, but then he’ll find himself with a stranger and it’ll be incomprehensible. He’s pretty successful, and I think his secret is confidence, so that he sees ‘himself’ as the person he is with his friends.

    • I think confidence is a big part of the picture of success, definitely. And surrounding ourselves with supportive accepting people is so important for all of us, but even more so for those on the spectrum.

      Thanks for your comment Julian :)

  6. Oh, also, when talking about identity and autism, it could be useful to bear in mind things like this: http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/133/2/611.full.pdf+html – basically, “identity” works differently in autistics. What makes us us is different to what makes them them.

    • Looks like a highly relevant and useful read, thank you, I’ll definitely read it when I get a chance (looks a tad long, but clearly worth the time to read). I’ll come back and comment here again again reading it.

  7. Ann Bell says:

    This is an excellent discussion and I am glad to have stumbled into reading it. I am an elderly autistic woman; married to an elderly (late diagnosed) autistic man. We have a son, also autistic; diagnosed late. Throughout my entire life I knew that I was always different — and far different from most persons who said the same thing about feeling different. I tried desperately to “pass” — feeling so alien and incomprehensible to others and to myself. Sometimes I think that I fooled myself into believing that I “passed” occasionally, but now I am not so certain. I think of autism as “neurological storms” crashing around inside of us that we are not really aware of because we are the only person we have experienced. To me, it is “normal” to not understand what the heck other people are saying or getting at. I would rather be labeled autistic rather than labeled as difficult, cold, lazy, obstinate, weird, and any of the other unattractive labels bestowed upon me because no one had an understanding of what it can be to be autistic.

  8. Matty Angel says:

    = ) Thank you, just to many unsafe people who maybe reading this posting =)

    You can always email me though = ) to talk about it morer, or why I wanted it deleted.

  9. This is an issue on which my own position is still evolving as well. I really appreciate your post as you flesh out your thinking. And wow, what an amazing discussion! I love seeing everyone being so respectful of each other’s opinions and remaining polite in the face of disagreement and initial misunderstanding. It’s something I see too infrequently on the internet in general, and in autism discussions in specific. Bravo to everyone!

  10. I just found your blog and I found this post very encouraging. I just was writing about acceptance of my daughters Aspergers. I also struggle in teaching her about herself as she gets older. I never want her to think less of herself but to grow stronger. Thank you for this post and your great way of viewing it.

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