Saturday, July 13, 2013

More Adventures In Autism

Blog more about being autistic, they ask me. Okay:

You may be wondering how many other autistics I've known. Yeah, I wonder that too. Please keep in mind that the great majority of middle-aged and elderly autistics in the US are undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed. (Diagnosis of those age groups is much better then in the US in some other countries and much worse in others.) One person I knew very well, who died a number of years ago, was one of those misdiagnosed people, profoundly autistic, it is clear in hindsight. I've spent some time in chess clubs, and it seems to me that the percentage of autistic people among serious chess players must be higher than among the general population. I'm thinking in particular of one gentleman who ran a chess club I belonged to, ran it very well.

That is, he ran it very well in my opinion, but then, I'm autistic, and if you asked several other people you might possibly get quite different answers. Things which annoyed me, such as too much noise during club meeting -- including too much whispering during tournaments -- were dealt with well by him. It could be that for neurologically-typical people, his strictness was much more annoying that a great deal of noise would've been. In any case, he and I got along very well, he was very kind to me, and the best chess mentor I've had. And he didn't charge for the lessons. Chess coach is a profession.

I used to participate in an Internet forum which was very close-knit socially. I always felt like a bit of an outsider, and eventually left because I felt I was causing too much annoyance to another member of the forum -- who had Asperger's Syndrome. The thing is, since leaving that forum years ago I've begun to wonder whether perhaps most or all of its members had an autistic-spectrum condition. Or at least, more of us than just he and I. This was the forum I'd been urged to join by members of another forum, urging which caused me to call myself The Wrong Monkey, as I described in this post. I was The Wrong Monkey in that forum before I had this blog, and before I even really understood what a blog was. It was a member of that forum who explained to me how blogs worked and suggested a blog might be for me, thank you very much again for that, former fellow forum member.

The thing is, I sometimes forget that many autistics are much, much, much, much less reticent about saying "Hi there, my name is ______, I'm autistic, how are you?!" than I am. Well, that's just one of the things. Another is that one of the things I probably could've done better at that forum is that by the end I had put way too many of the others on ignore, so it's entirely possible that a lot of them had tried to tell me that they, too, were on the autistic spectrum. It's quite conceivable to me that one of them had explained to me that the forum was basically designed as a meeeting-place for Aspergers and asked me how I had managed to miss that, and also that the folks from the first forum, the extremely-polite one had suggested I look into the second one, had recommended the second one because it was known as a gathering place for Aspies, and that they hadn't been suggesting I leave their forum at all.

So in answer to the question of how many autistics I known or have know, there are two potentially huge unknowns: lack of proper diagnosis, and lack of people necessarily wanting to share that diagnosis with me. Well, three factors: the ignore function on certain forums. I've really overdone it with the ignore function, so it's entirely possible that people have told me a great deal of very useful things and mistakenly assumed I heard them. Live and learn! Excelsior.

So I've been watching a lot of "The Big Bang Theory." Between CW and TBS it's on TV A LOT. (Because of a huge fanatical autistic fan base, many of whom don't suspect in the slightest that they're autistic? Just guessing.) Some big differences between Sheldon and myself: I've never taken an IQ test which scored as high as 185 if you ace it; Sheldon is very successful professionally; I have had to fend for myself much more than Sheldon, and so never developed habits of dependency such as demanding that he be chauffeured around by friends and associates. I believe I'm more self-aware than Sheldon, but that's very difficult to gauge. Isn't it? Isn't self-awareness difficult for oneself to gauge? Similarities between myself and Sheldon: difficulty understanding when people are being sarcastic and when they're not; annoying people without understanding what we did wrong.

Then there's the eye-contact thing. This is interesting. IMHO most fictional autistic characters on TV and in movies -- for example, the title character in "Bones," and Chloe and Edgar in "24," make much more eye contact than most autistics do. They make almost as much eye contact as the neurologically-typical characters. *LOUD BUZZER SOUND* Wrong! Notable exceptions: Rain Man, Claire Danes in the title role of Temple Grandin, the little kid in Mercury Rising, although many other details of that character were very unrealistic -- and Sheldon Cooper in part of one episode of "The Big Bang Theory," the flashback of when Leonard moves in and the elevator gets destroyed. When Leonard and Sheldon first meet, I was all: Ah-HA! Yes, there we go! That's a convincingly autistic avoidance of eye contact on Sheldon's part, wonder why TV shows and movies, including this TV series, don't get that right more often? Maybe the producers judge it to be too distracting and/or creepy. Maybe they just missed that detail, just plain got it wrong. Maybe Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon (and does a splendid job) got that detail right, but only after several episodes had already been filmed, and so he -- and/or the producers -- decided he could get it right, but only in the flashback, so as not to disturb the show's continuity.

Maybe I have a degree of difficulty with eye contact very unusual even among autistics, what do I know, why're ya buggin me about it?

(Yes, I know Sheldon's not real, thank you.)

Then there's the controversial topic of which famous people of the past were autistic. Surely James Joyce and Ludwig Wittgenstein were. In Einstein's case -- I realize that everybody wants to claim Einstein as one of their own, and I'm not immune from such fallacies. Also, Einstein seems to have had a very active sex life. Many autistics do -- but not most. Most are all *DON'T TOUCH ME* most of the time. But there was undeniably something very unconventional about Einstein' way of thinking, and it seems quite possible to me that he was autistic. But I'm not going to go out on a limb and flatly assert that he was as I do with Joyce and Wittgenstein. I'm unusually open about my autism, so if you were assuming I'd express myself in an equally public manner about my sexuality, the ending of this post may disappoint you.

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