Asperger's,Autism Spectrum Disorder

No, I Am Not Rain Man

We all have a tendency to generalise whenever we can, this happens with ASD as well. The diagnosis covers a far greater spectrum than most expect, and yet again do we generalise – all of us. It’s a shame, because we are all different. Just like there is many different types of neurotypicals in the world, there are many different types of atypicals.

When I tell people I have been diagnosed with ASD, generally one of two things happen. And yes, I am very much aware that am generalising as well. It’s on purpose. I don’t think it is a problem to generalise in itself, it is only when we forget that we are generalising we risk getting into trouble.

Anyway, they either stare at me with disbelief and respond with something like this: “Oh, but you seem so normal.”, “I am so sorry, that must be very difficult.”, or of course the winner “Well, you must be high functioning, so it can’t be that bad.” Most responses like this make me really sad, because they all make me feel a little ashamed of myself.

The last one is particularly hurtful to me, because being high functioning does NOT mean that we have it easy. It’s more like we hide it well. Everyone on the spectrum have challenges, but the challenges are different for everyone. Sure, some forms of ASD are much more visible to others, and as much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes feel envious of those.

People tend to repeatedly forget I am on the spectrum and, when that happens, I am the one who ends up hurt. I was bullied a lot as a kid because I didn’t understand the things people expected me to understand. As an example, they called me “Blondie” in high school because I was stupid like a blond girl, in spite of being a brunette. Thinking back, I can’t help but wonder if my life would have been different, had others been able to see what I am. It doesn’t really matter now, and I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, not all of them bad. The bad ones are often more memorable than the good ones, unfortunately. It may seem silly now, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t hurtful before.

Of course, there is also the response that makes me smile, because I think it’s so silly: “Oh? So, what is your thing? What can you do?” They ask it in reference to the popular belief that all of us on the spectrum have a special power, almost like a superhero from a comic book. I am going to be honest with you now and freely admit that I do wish I had superpowers of some kind. If I could read thoughts, for example, then it probably wouldn’t matter that I can’t read faces. Or maybe my life would just make more sense because I would have a feeling of being different with a purpose. As much as I would like to put on a cape and fight crime, that’s just not possible. Not just because I would obviously not wear a cape if I were a superhero, but because what those people often do is mix up two things: ASD and savant talent.

So, No, I am not like Rain Man. Rain Man was a savant. I am not. Most of us on the spectrum don’t have a savant talent, even though some do. The mix-up does actually make sense, because a lot of those on the spectrum that we hear about, or see on TV or in movies have both ASD and savant talent. The thing is, those two don’t always occur at the same time.

On the spectrum we tend to mostly have few and specific areas of interest. And yeah, I definitely have that. I am not that smart though, and everything that I do know, I learned through hard work. If people asked me that question in a different context, and not because I just came out of the spectrum-closet, I would respond differently. But then again, the question would be phrased rather differently in that case, I think. Something more along the lines of “What are you passionate about?”

In the end, I guess I like it when people ask about what it’s like being on the spectrum. When people ask I feel optimistic about the future because it means they are curious, rather than judgmental. I also get worried, and scared, when people ask me what it’s like, because I am not sure what they want to hear, or how to best explain the atypical experience of life.

Of course, I don’t blame others for not knowing. How could I when there is so much I don’t know myself? But to me, at least, sharing my diagnosis is sometimes difficult, just like it can be difficult to be told that a friend, family member or significant other is on the spectrum. Asking difficult questions, and giving the best answers we can, help us not get caught up in the stories we all have in our heads.


Life with Autism Spectrum Disorder is not always easy, but it doesn't have to be impossible. Since I was diagnosed myself, I have been trying to raise autism awareness and share my own experiences and thoughts about life as well as my search for a happy and fulfilling life.

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