As some of you know I am on the autism spectrum. I am what is known as a highly functional autistic. Do I accomplish things? Sure. Do I have many of the traits autistics have, absolutely. Do I wish I didn’t? Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are days…but then there are days I think I’m just who I am.
My case is a little different than most. I didn’t know I was on the spectrum until I was older (in my 40s). How could that have happened? Well I can sum it up quickly.
About ten years ago I got married to a wonderful, very understanding woman. We have three kids. About the time number two came along we had kids to pediatricians as every parent does. We answered all the questions about a variety of subjects, well our second son is on the spectrum. Then, I called my mother (the child’s grandmother) with a “kid update” and the subject came up. Low and behold, my mother said something along the lines of you were diagnosed with that as a kid and we never told you.
What?
You what?
First, how could you not tell someone. But that’s not the point here. If I had known that years prior it could have saved me from making some huge mistakes in life, or at least allowed me to arm myself appropriately. Am I still angry about this? Well, in some ways, but I can’t change the past, and I can’t change who I am so I’m moving on.
Why put all this on my website, especially when you can see at the top that I have written some books that I hope you read and enjoy? Well, I came across this blog on wordpress called askpergers (askpergers.wordpress.com) that is realy well done. He deserves some thank you from me for helping me understand a few things.
The author had a post that deserves some attention. He listed out 7 different reasons for autistics being the targets of bullies, people who would take advantage of someone, or in general what I like to call assholes.
I will go into all 7 of his reasons and why I agree with him or can offer up some measure of personal example of how this happened and what might be possible to do to prevent it in the future.
Autistic people tend to stand out from the crowd.
He points out that bullies will pick on someone who is even the slightest different from everyone else. Personally, I have seen this, we all have. Here is the problem, as I have seen it, especially as it pertains to autistics in the workplace. Early on in my career it wasn’t a big issue. There were enough people at some levels, the “crowd” was so large, that it didn’t matter that much that I was different. Standing out in that crowd is ok, encouraged even. Then you advance a little and a little more and a little more, then you hit a cieling. What happened?
If you get up to a certain level in your career standing out isn’t all that great. You want to be “one of the in crowd.” The group that to get to that next level of your career is well connected socially, in other words, the person everyone likes. That is really very hard for an autistic because we suck at communication (yes I know the irony for a guy who, at least in part, makes his living writing books). Trust me when I tell you that a multi-edit pass at a book for an autistic is a great thing compares to a conversation where we must get it right the first time.
Back to my point. Some autistics have risen to great positions. Dan Akroyd is on the spectrum, I read somewhere Bill Gates, and I applaud each and every one. However, fitting in at these corporate networking events is not the same thing. This is the kind of thing that drives an autistic into a corner (or can). For me it is just exhausting and on the nights I think I did a great job with that networking I later find I didn’t.
So, what advice can I give? Simple, if you are like me, and on the spectrum, do your best to understand that you aren’t like everyone else. Are you better? Worse? Or just different? Well, who the hell knows, but different is obvious. Also, and I am finding this to be more true every day, let people know you are on the spectrum and they will be very understanding. It isn’t a disability, it isn’t something to hide from, it is what it is, people can be good. Others, can take advantage of you, and you just have to trust (sometimes) that you will be around good people. Then, learn how to spot the bad ones, or like I did, marry the right woman and listen to her.
Do people bully austistics? Find them easy scapegoats for a large problem when someone is trying to shift blame? Do the autistics become victims? That does happen. Does it happen because the victim is autistics or because some people are total jerks? Perhaps a little of both.

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