“If it’s so serious, why don’t they call it meningitis?”

March 7, 2011

Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger published his first findings on autistic children in 1944, but the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” wasn’t coined until 1981, in a paper by British researcher Lorna Wing. The eponymous doctor’s original work wasn’t even translated into English until 1989, and didn’t gain much notice in the English speaking world until the early 90’s.

Which means that, by the time my condition was even being discussed in my native language, I had already managed to, among other things:

– alienate most of my peers with my idiosyncratic behaviour and complete failure to understand and respect boundaries

– embark on a lifelong struggle to tell time on an analogue clock

– develop a number of meticulous and bizarre obsessions with shipwrecks, dinosaurs, natural disasters and, um, a certain eighties television and Coke commercial phenomenon

– utterly fail at every sport I attempted in gym class, thanks to my stunning lack of coordination and boundless disinterest in team dynamics

– ace every cognitive test I was given, scoring well past University level in everything except fucking geometry

– conclude that adults were better than kids because they were nicer, they seemed to enjoy it when I talked about dinosaurs and shipwrecks, and they understood bigger words

– tell a picture of my favourite shipwreck, the RMS Titanic, in between hysterical sobs, that it was my only friend in the world

By the time Asperger’s appeared in the DSMV IV (the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), I had been forced to transfer schools because of bullying.

With no knowledge or proper diagnostic tools in place, and no proper way to explain the creepy little child awkwardly running around and talking like Alia from Dune, I was called everything from special, different and smart to weird, too smart for my own good, off-putting, and unlikeable. And, with no other information coming to light from my educators or support systems, that was how I saw and understood myself for the rest of my childhood and adolescence.

I was eighteen or nineteen when I first heard about Asperger’s, and I wasn’t particularly interested in the idea at first. My life had, finally, taken a turn for the better in many respects and a diagnosis seemed less vital than it would have been a few years earlier. I was emerging from the cocoon of a largely positive home-tutored experience (necessitated by further bullying) into a world that seemed a lot less cruel than I had expected. I had somehow managed to maintain three friends from childhood and was starting to cultivate a new one, making for a personal record of four whole peers who wanted to hang out with me and were seemingly free of ulterior motives to torture me. I had stumbled into an internship that not only tolerated my abnormal fixations and pedantry, but actually seemed to encourage them. The symptoms of Asperger’s sounded almost exactly like a six-year-old version of myself, but I wasn’t sure that the term really applied to me anymore. I was curious, but didn’t think that it was too important to pursue it.

Eight years, three careers, and all of the wonderful straight-from-a-Weakerthans-song disenchantment that comes with adulthood later, an official diagnosis and an appropriate method of treatment became a little more necessary. And, in the summer of 2009, I was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

I think I expected a little more relief to come with the diagnosis, but I’m still happy enough to have a name to put to my bundle of issues. I might have preferred that said name didn’t sound like “Ass Burgers,” and didn’t inspire a thousand well-meaning but repetitive puns tossed out kindly by well-meaning but repetitive neurotypicals (non-autistics) but it’s certainly better than “loathsome” or “that fucking weird bitch.”

It also would have been nice to know about all of this so much sooner, but then I always have been ahead of my time (I was all over that Titanic shit years before James Cameron, dammit). And an early diagnosis probably would have robbed me of a lot of the material I intend to exploit for this blog. Because aspie kids these days with a proper support system are probably a little less likely to enter into fights with the helper moms at their preschool who won’t let them sign their artwork as Max Headroom, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.


One Response to ““If it’s so serious, why don’t they call it meningitis?””

  1. […] “If It’s So Serious, Why Don’t They Call It Meningitis?”- a not-so-brief introduction […]

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