February 1, 2012

"I Had Asperger Syndrome. Briefly."

Writes Benjamin Nugent:
As I came into my adult personality, it became clear to me and my mother that I didn’t have Asperger syndrome....

I wonder: If I had been born five years later and given the diagnosis at the more impressionable age of 12, what would have happened?...

The authors of the next edition of the diagnostic manual, the D.S.M.-5, are considering a narrower definition of the autism spectrum. This may reverse the drastic increase in Asperger diagnoses that has taken place over the last 10 to 15 years....

The definition should be narrowed. I don’t want a kid with mild autism to go untreated. But I don’t want a school psychologist to give a clumsy, lonely teenager a description of his mind that isn’t true.
I see that Nugent has a book called "American Nerd: The Story of My People." Great title. I'm going to download it right now.

29 comments:

edutcher said...

The way he puts it sounds like Asberger's really is the new ADD.

Carol_Herman said...

Sorry, but it's the IQ. If a kid is retarded you get "other words" ... so that the parents don't have to say "retarded."

Anything else? It's not something you'd categorize as a deficiency of any sort. PERIOD.

It's like saying Albert Einstein was autistic.

There used to be a time they'd stick leeches on your back. Didn't make it right. Didn't help the patient at all. But doctors hate feeling useless.

Oh, while I'm at it, there's no such thing as "normal" either. Everybody's different.

And Mort Sahl, in my book, owns the best line. Because back in the 1950's psychoanalysis became very popular. Patients went to the doctor every day, and talked to him for 50-minutes. (Which was called an hour.) It was very expensive. And, during the six or seven years a man would go ... he was told "not to get married."

Anyway, Mort Sahl was asked if he had gone to a psychoanalyst back then. And, he said no. And, then he added: "But if I did, I'd ask for a refund."

Peter said...

What's the loneliest job in the world?

Condom vendor at a science fiction convention.

m stone said...

Peter may have Asperger.

Unknown said...

Aspergers has some severe disfunctions associated with it.
hand flapping
obsession with spirals
obsession with pipes
abstract thinking is delayed or different.
Often times it a normal kid in there but just with expressive abilities different. The IQ can be high, the focus of learning narrow and not practical to a person considered normal.

Schools don't want to adjust to kids like this. They just try to house them for the duration as it is too expensive to give them the one on one attention they need constantly to achieve an education. Very expensive emotionally and financially for the family. With government resources almost impossible to get.

Lem said...

His writing style reminds me of David Foster Wallace.. a little bit.

traditionalguy said...

Aspergers can be a feature and not a defect when around other highly intelligent people.

It is their retardation in Social Intelligence which makes them difficult for most folks to handle them.

The only remedy is focused training in social skills, especially in listening and waiting skills.

But dosing them with amphetamines is so very easy.

Unknown said...

I can identify with Nugent's experience. If Asperger's can be described as an empathic deficiency, somewhere on the continuum between autism and normality, I was just a little farther on the continuum toward normal. Empathy and nonverbal social communication did not come naturally to me. My social breakthrough came when I realized empathy could be faked - "How to Win Friends and Influence People" literally changed my life.

Of course, when I was an awkward child ADD was the fad diagnosis. No one ever told me there was anything wrong with me. But today, as I watch my 9-year-old exhibit some of the same empathic difficulties I endured, I am afraid that he will be labeled with Asperger's. So I teach him, in plain language, how to read emotions in others, how to show others that you care about them. He's doing great, and he's a great kid, and he's no more abnormal than kids who aren't natural math whizzes, or natural athletes.

Carol said...

I hate the way the shrinkery establishment undermines kids' confidence in their own psyches. I'm glad I never let 'em stick a label on me, though I'm sure they could have.

el polacko said...

if your kid is hyperactive: he has autism. if your kid is lethargic: he has autism. if your kid is very sociable: autism. reclusive: autism. bright: autism. dumbass: autism. if EVERYTHING is autism, then NOTHING is.

traditionalguy said...

I loved the Title of his book, "American Nerd: The Story of My People."

My brother and my father were definitely in this too intelligent syndrome. They did well getting help with learning to handle social customs.

They always called me the one who escaped. But that was relative.

wyo sis said...

I recently diagnose myself with Aspergers. Now I have a reason for people to give me extra leeway when I screw up. Everyone is special and now I am too.

themightypuck said...

American nerds do fine with the ladies. It's the Japanese nerds that are the problem.

David said...

"The biggest single problem with the diagnostic criteria applied to me is this: You can be highly perceptive with regard to social interaction, as a child or adolescent, and still be a spectacular social failure. This is particularly true if you’re bad at sports or nervous or weird-looking."

Well put.

Unknown said...

nerd does not equal aspergers. not even close. The fact that people confuse the two reveals a different problem

Carnifex said...

I was a sensitive, intelligent boy who was alternately ostracized and teased in school, when there, for being too smart, and locked in a camper alone while my dad hunted or fished.(had to be his "lil' huntin' buddy" but was too young to hunt or fish) At night I got let out to mingle with the other hunters, and various dogs. No women or other kids. That didn't damage my psyche in the least. Or my social development.

We do more damage to the normal children than we ever acknowledge. Lord knows how fucked up we make the handicapped children.

Pogo said...

The great thing about psychiatry is that all the definitions change every 10 years or so, and the past gets repudiated.

Like People magazine for Freudians.

Craig said...

I only get Assburgers when I'm on the golf course.

Tari said...

I love reading things like this, because when I look at my slightly odd 12 year old son I can tell myself, "nope, there's nothing wrong with him whatsoever." Because really, there isn't, and I have too much other stuff to worry about without thinking my kids need labels stuck on them so I can remember how to parent them. Oy.

Ralph L said...

I have a lot of old maids in my ancestry. I ended up this generation's.

Aside from being weird looking, my voice sounds odd, though not in my head.

Thankfully, I missed the trendy diagnoses.

madAsHell said...

hand flapping..wow, I didn't know.

Yeah...I work in software. I see that all the time.

John Lynch said...

I'm tired of hearing about successful people with autism. It's not much of a disability if you're a big shot writer or going to an Ivy League school. I wish the NY Times writers would try a little harder to find people who they don't know personally.

I'd like to hear more about the kids who grow up to be janitors, cooks and delivery drivers-- if they can work at all. That's what autism really does. It's not glamorous, it's not cute, it's not nice.

So, I agree it's not a disability if it doesn't actually prevent you from doing anything.

John Lynch said...

If there's a question of something being wrong with your kid then there isn't anything wrong.

If there is something really wrong you know. And you wish you didn't.

Dan in Philly said...

I was worried about my son so I learned quite a bit about autism and aspies a few years back. I think it's quite likely that I would have been diagnosed with mild autism if I were born 30 years later. And yet I was able to learn who I was and learn to use it and am doing quite a bit better than the average guy.

Just my experience, of course, but I agree with the tenor of this excerpt

TMink said...

I have never seen a hand flapping Aspy or the whole body movements mentions in the DSM. I have seen some hair twirling with Apsys, but most of their difficulty comes from either an extremely narrow focus of interest (professional fry machines for instance,) social skill deficits, empathy deficits, and great trouble reading social cues. Some Apsys are cueless. 8)

But I have several friends who are Apsys and I find them to be loyal, good, and interesting friends. You just can't expect them to negotiate all the social niceties very well. On the other hand, I appreciate their bluntness.

While ADHD and Asperger's are often comorbid conditions (along with OCD and Tourette's)I have not seen stimulants used to treat just Asperger's Syndrome or Autism. I can't even see how that med would help either condition.

Trey

TMink said...

Carol, there are huge differences between retarded people and autistic or Asperger's folks. Many Aspys are above average intelligence. There is really little overlap between the diagnoses and they are really not just euphemisms for mental retardation.

Trey

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

TMink said...

I have never seen a hand flapping Aspy or the whole body movements mentions in the DSM.

My 17 year old stepson is an Aspie. He doesn't flap, but he constanly rocks himself by bending back and forth violently at the waist. He seems to have grown out of it, but he used to put himself to sleep by bangning his head on the matress.

While ADHD and Asperger's are often comorbid conditions (along with OCD and Tourette's)I have not seen stimulants used to treat just Asperger's Syndrome or Autism.

My stepson is ADHD. He gets along fine taking Concerta, although we've started tapering off.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

el polacko said...
if your kid is hyperactive: he has autism. if your kid is lethargic: he has autism. if your kid is very sociable: autism. reclusive: autism. bright: autism. dumbass: autism. if EVERYTHING is autism, then NOTHING is.

It's become a fad/catch all diagnosis for nervous mothers who don't understand why little Egbert is as perfect as they want him to be.

Peter said...

" You can be highly perceptive with regard to social interaction, as a child or adolescent, and still be a spectacular social failure. "

Perception and analysis of many activities surely can be more of a handicap than a help.

One doesn't learn to ride a bicycle or hit a baseball by thinking about it. Ultimately you have to learn to "just do it" and not think about what you're doing too much.

Surely everyone who's played a sport has learned that thinking too much about what you're doing is the surest way to make your performance go to hell.

And just as surely this applies to social interaction- at some point the severely introverted have to learn to "just do it" and not think about it too much.