Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Is autism just another Identity" Response

Recently, someone shared an article, written by Sandy Starr, about the autism spectrum that touches on a controversial aspect of autism: is an ASD diagnosis a disorder or strength?  After reading some of this thought provoking article, I have to admit that I felt threatened by some of the ideas in there.  Most of all, I felt threatened that the author, who was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, still thought of autism as a disorder and questioned the validity of his own autism diagnosis.  After taking some time to reflect on the words, I was able to overcome the emotional defensive response and look at the content more objectively.

Perhaps my initial response in is light of the time and effort I have put forth in the past year to raise autism awareness by sharing my own story.  That decision alone to come out and share my autistic journey is motivated, on my part, by two reasons:  first of all, I want to help others to understand autism, something that had been suggested to me repeatedly ever since I first started writing at age sixteen; secondly, I hope by raising autism awareness, I would initiate my own presence as a writer and begin to build a writing platform that I could use to launch my published fiction and nonfiction work in the future.  By raising autism awareness, I am finding that I am rather possessive of my autism diagnosis.  I have come to view autism as a large part of my identity.

Looking at the article more objectively, I was able to identify something that I had been semi-consciously aware: that I have all but completed a shift in the way I view my ASD diagnosis: previously, when I had less understanding of autism, I was more prone to view autism as a disorder.  That was perhaps the result of my low self esteem when I entered my teenage years or the fact that I had so many difficulties growing up and I needed to blame it on something other than myself.  After sixth and seventh grade, I was more than ready to accept that my behavior was not entirely my own fault.  Although I still needed time to recover and grow further.  Most recently, ever since I have started to raise autism awareness through blogging and eventually Blog Talk Radio, I have come to view autism as an identity rather than a disorder.  This explains why I was threatened by the writer of this article, who stated otherwise.  

Another practical example of this shift lies in the way I treated my ASD disorder when I was in high school.  After coming out of my difficult middle school years, I had many friends that, for the first time in my life, praised me and accepted me for who I was.  They had no idea of the difficulties that I had dealt with during the previous years.  Therefore, I found myself in the position where I could hide my autism from my classmates for two reasons: the first reason is that my PDD-NOS diagnosis is a very high functioning form of autism to begin with; and two, I am such a quiet person that it was really no problem for me to conceal my black and white perspective and my social anxiety, for the most part.  The fact of the matter was I still viewed my autism as a disorder at that time which was not helped by my own lack of understanding of the autism spectrum at that time.  I was being accepted by my classmates for who I was and had no desire to reveal my ASD disorder condition to them, out of fear of rejection.  I don't know for sure whether I would have been rejected.  I am certainly receiving a lot of support from those friends and a few new friends as well in light of my efforts to raise autism awareness.

To read the article discussed in this blog post, click here.

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