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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Slippery Slope

Of all the social situations that occur there is one event that always creates a behemoth-sized level of anxiety. If I know a person long enough the time will come that I will mention this and the reactions are always different. Some are understanding, but others are mixed. Whatever the reaction may be, I will, at some point in time, let the other person know that I am on the autism spectrum.

There is NO easy way for me to say it. When I was first diagnosed in 2003 I had an instantly difficult time as one of the first person's reaction I told that I had Aspeger Syndrome was, "Asberger's, is that a new hamburger at McDonald's?" Sadly, that is a 100% true story.

Since 2003 the public awareness of Asperger's and autism has gone up to the point that I have had no more misunderstandings regarding food, but that still doesn't make the task easy when I let someone in on this little secret of being on the spectrum.

The processing it takes to decide to tell someone is mammoth. There is just so much to think of; Will letting another person know change the way they think of me? If I don't tell someone early on will they think I hid it from them? After they know will they treat me different? Job wise, before where I am now, I shook, literally shook with anxiety at the thought of needing to tell whomever I was working for that I am on the autism spectrum.

Don't take this as I am ashamed of being on the spectrum as I am not. With this slippery slope of letting people know the problem isn't on my end. Some people's reactions are misguided as some people associate autism with just the extreme cases, or perhaps "Rain Man".

I have lost a couple friends, a couple girl friends to this slippery slope. At some point in time I will have to let another person know. It is easier now that I have a book, a job, and this blog, but for people that are oblivious to all three I will still have to say, at some point in time, that I am on the autism spectrum. When I do I won't be looking for sympathy, I won't be looking for a hand out, and I won't be looking for life to be easier. What will I be looking for? A simple nod of understanding and that's it. My life is challenging enough and having people react negatively doesn't help. I have had people look at me differently once they heard I was on the spectrum and this confused me because I had not changed.

Someone once said that I should just hide it and never mention it, but then if I avoid all eye contact, or do a "Dance of the Fingers" the explanation will have to be given. I'm open about it, but it will always be a slippery slope letting people in on what I have. That's all I can do. If a person takes it to the extreme, debates me on the autism spectrum (it's always an interesting when someone says, "you can't possibly be on an autism spectrum, you aren't autistic. What's a spectrum?") or changes the way they think of me the problem isn't on my shoulders, but on theirs.

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P.S. I have been wondering about my "Great Sunglasses Experiment" and I don't know if I like the name I have given it. Is it okay, or should I go back to the think tank and try to come up with something else?

5 comments:

  1. I would put "the" in front as in
    "The Great Sunglasses Experiment." Otherwise, it sounds as though you are saying your sunglasses are great. Make sense?

    There was a song in the 80's "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night" and this experiment reminds me of it!

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  2. Hi, Aaron. I saw you tonight and I thought I saw my younger brother in you. My name is Brandon. I am 35 years old, and just moved to Poplar Bluff, MO this spring. My parents have been divorced since 1994. From 1992 to 2003, my dad didn't believe that I was autistic and thought my mom made it up just to put words in mouth. He left my mom and a few years later married the other woman in 1998 and are still married. Last Christmas, even though he never admitted any wrongdoing, he finally said I'm sorry to me and my family.

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  3. Always
    Unique
    Totally
    Interesting
    Sometimes
    Misunderstood?

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  4. Disclosing the diagnosis itself is a social skill. You DON'T need to tell everyone. You just need to tell people you trust (friends and helping professionals), people who controls your fate in life (teachers, your bosses), and other people you want to raise autism awareness to.

    For me, I dodge the subject when I am with my relatives. All they will ever hear is that I am an OT who does great work with autism. If they want to find out more, that's their business, not mine.

    However, I do it to a lot of my OT peers for a few reasons. First, I want them to accept me for who I am. Second, I am providing information to improve their practice as OT practitioners. Third, to give hope to families dealing with autism who might come their way.

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