In recent days I have experienced two very liberating revelations about autism. First of all, I was speaking to a close friend who has major medical problems. Her blood clots don't fall into any of the standard causes for blood clots. Thus, even the world's top medical specialists cannot identify the sources of her blood clots.
I think that my situation is similar with regard to autism. I think that the reason the system never diagnosed or identified my autism is that I don't fit the standard profile for a person with this neurological condition. I believe that autism is a neurological difference and not a disorder, defect, or syndrome. Not autistic people graduated from Ivy League colleges in the 1990's, and even fewer autistic people are highly verbal like me.
Once I realized why the system was unable to diagnose my autism, I began to heal from the traumatic effects of my past in the job world. I realized that the system didn't mean to hurt or destroy me. It simply lacks the tools needed to diagnose and help me. Society has good intentions toward me and wants to help me but simply doesn't know how to do so.
My mother figured out that I had autism, then known as Asperger's, in 2002. I figured out that I am autistic in early 2011. I was officially diagnosed with Asperger's in January, 2012. And once I received the diagnosis, I was immediately pressured to return to an office job. The professionals in the field tried to convince me to work in another office job with two changed conditions:
1. Instead of interviewing for a job in the competitive marketplace without disclosing my condition to employers, I would interview for a job with an employer who is aware of my condition and willing to hire and promote an autistic person. The interview process would be supervised by an organization that specializes in employing autistic people.
2. Once I got a job, I would receive the support of a job coach who would explain to me how to handle social situations and help me resolve social conflicts and misunderstandings with my boss and colleagues.
This solution sounds nice on paper, but unfortunately it doesn't take into account several important factors which are specific to my case. One, in the past fifteen years, I have tried to earn a living in three different socially driven fields without success: international relations, business, and tax accounting. In all three cases, I found that the social demands of the job were impossible for me to meet, and I ran into the same basic obstacle: a lack of social skills.
Two, I am severely traumatized by a pattern of repeated rejection in the office world. As a result, I have come to realize that office jobs are simply not for me, and that even changing the conditions of my office employment would not do anything to ease my fears about working in an office.
The basic problem is that the system is suggesting a standard solution to a complex problem for me. Having placed me in the autism box, they are now trying to convince me to accept the standard treatments for autism. These solutions include social skills training and office-based employment with a job coach. These solutions may work for some autistic people, but I know instinctively that such approaches are totally unsuitable for me.
As a result of my experience, I have a two-fold goal. The first is to help adults on the upper end of the spectrum to diagnose themselves. I see from my personal experience that the mental health system is not capable of identifying and diagnosing adults on the upper end of the spectrum. I attended six years of counseling with three different psychologists and two psychiatrists from 2002 and 2010. Not one of these five professionals ever suggested that I might be autistic. My experience shows that adults on the upper end of the spectrum first need to diagnose themselves before seeking a formal diagnosis from a qualified professional.
My second goal is to work with other autistic people and with autism professionals to develop better and more effective tools for people on the higher end of the spectrum. I believe my case shows that the standard solutions for autism are often harmful to people on the upper end of the spectrum. Thus, we need to create more effective tools which are specifically targeted to help this sub-set of the autistic population. I believe these tools must include helping members of this sub-population to identify career options which allow them to work from home and not be subjected to the unnecessary social pressures associated with working in an office. We can flourish in careers that play to our intellectual strengths once we are liberated from the traumatic effects of attempting to function socially in office environments where we do not belong.
My second major revelation is that although autism has been a disaster for me in the career arena, it has been a powerful strength in anothear important area of my life. In particular, I am learning that as a result of my autism, I can cut through the most common rationalizations and justifications for domestic violence and child abuse. As a child, I was subjected to psychological child abuse by both parents, particularly my father. I am also a witness to my dad's ongoing campaign of psychological terror against my mother. I knew from a very early age that child abuse and domestic violence were morally wrong and absolutely evil. Unlike my neurotypical mother, I never searched my behavior to determine what I might have done wrong to provoke the abuse. I never tried to fix my behavior in an attempt to appease my father and end the abuse. I also never justified and rationalized child abuse and domestic violence.
My clear and strong sense of morality allowed me to grasp that my father's abuse was motivated by a deep desire to exercise absolute power and control over his female relatives. This clear understanding of the difference between good and evil empowered me to stand up to my father from a very early age on my own behalf and my mother's behalf. I knew that my dad's abuse against me and my mother was inherently wrong and had no justification. I also realized that it was completely unconnected with my actions and my mother's behavior. I never wasted time looking for my dad's approval or hoping he would change or believing that he would stop abusing me if only I could develop better table manners or social skills or make any other changes in my life.
I believe that I can make a contribution to the fields of domestic violence and child abuse by presenting my perspectives on these issues from an Asperger perspective. I think that my autistic point of view is a powerful strength when it comes to addressing these problems. I believe that the autistic viewpoint can help victims and survivors of domestic violence and child abuse to understand that they should stop rationalizing the behavior of their abusers. They should stop trying to fix their conduct in a vain attempt to gain their abuser's approval and put an end to the abuse. They should realize that their abuser is only interested in establishing and maintaining power and control over their victims and is unrelated to the victim's behavior. Thus, the only way to end such pathological and
sadistic abuse in most cases is simply to end the relationship. One should not
negotiate with or attempt to appease a hard-core abuser who is engaged in
patriarchal terrorism. A total separation from the abuse is the only viable
solution in such situations.