Before I get properly started, I’d better explain the words and terms I’m using:

AS = Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition that is sometimes defined as a form of autism and sometimes as a separate condition very closely related to autism. The ‘classic’ form of autism is known as Kanner’s Autism. I consider Asperger’s a form of autism, so I use the word ‘autism’ as an umbrella term for both.

Aspie = Slang for ‘person with Asperger’s Syndrome’. Some people instead use the word ‘Asperger’ (pronounce it out loud and you’ll see why I don’t) or ‘AS’ (normally this is used as an adjective, as in “I do this because I’m AS”).

AC = Autistic Cousin, a term used about those who wouldn’t qualify for an AS diagnosis, but who are very similar to aspies. ACs are sometimes also referred to as ‘geeks’.

NT = neurotypical, i.e. ‘person with a normal brain’. Of course it can be argued that normalcy is a very fabricated term/concept, but in this context, ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ simply means ‘does not qualify for any kind of permanent diagnosis’.

Basically, if you put the human race on a spectrum, you can say that it would go like this:

NT — geek/nerd (still falls under NT) — AS — Kanner’s Autism

(There’s another end of the spectrum to the left, but I don’t know what’s over there, because I specialize in the geeky end. :P)

Asperger’s is sometimes called a mild form of autism. This makes sense if you see autism as a kind of disease or disorder that doesn’t hit aspies as hard as it hits ‘properly’ autistic people. If you, like me, consider the condition simply a different kind of wiring in the brain, the word ‘mild’ seems a bit strange to use. But it’s good for understanding the difference between Kanner’s and Asperger’s autism, I guess. I’ll try to define AS and autism in more detail in my next post.


8 thoughts on “Words

  1. I think people with Aspergers have an easier time understanding those with Classic Autism. A good educational video on classic autism is seen on You Tube, titled, “Classic Day with Classic Autism.” It shows a good day. Other videos on this same channel show very disturbing days where autistic person is punching self or having seizure activity.

    • I don’t know if aspies have an easier time instinctively grasping what people with classic autism are going through… have you seen any interaction where that has been the case? For me it’s hard to figure out anything from watching the video you refer to – I don’t know what’s going on in his head, he seems just as different from me as neurotypical people are.

      One question: Why do you phrase it as “autistic person is punching self” instead of, say, “the autistic guy in the video punches himself” or using his name? Is there a conscious choice behind the word use? (Not trying to correct you or say there’s anything wrong with your choice of words, just curious.)

  2. Dear Cecilie,
    I enjoyed reading your blog, and it made me ask this question to myself: Am I an aspie, or just an introvert? So here are some of my reflections (after your statements in quotation marks) – maybe some of them may be of interest.
    “For aspies, any social interaction requires huge amounts of mental energy.” For me, many social interactions – but not all – require huge amounts of mental energy. But why do they take so much energy? Is it because I try so hard to translate social cues? This explanation does not immediately “ring true” for me. I can imagine a number of other possible explanations: For example, sometimes I don’t fit in, because I don’t share the same interests as the others, or I don’t feel like interacting in the same manner as they – telling stories, for example. If I still try to adapt to the situation, despite this, then this will drain me of energy. So, maybe my loss of energy is simply due to being an introvert trying to adapt to an environment of extraverts without being able to do so?
    “To an aspie, the point of conversation is to share information, not to be sociable or make a connection on some other level.” Do I talk only to share information? There is definitely some grain of truth in this, but I also very much enjoy being with people I like, and with my cats. I definitely like to communicate non-verbally with my woman and with my cats. But when I use verbal language, I guess I do it very much to share information – so when I don’t have so much to share, I often get very quiet. I often find this difficult for others to accept.
    “We shut down sometimes. We get overstimulated and, as a consequence, simply have to leave or become vacant and unresponsive.” Yes, this is familiar to me. Sometimes, in social contexts, I try to accept that I have nothing to say, thinking that I have the right to be that way and still be around. But this can provoke others. For example, in the context of an extended family meeting, a relative who had been speaking at length about one of his interests turned to me and said, quite upset: “You have not been listening, you are not really interested in this, are you?” I responded that I had indeed been listening (which was true, although not with great interest). After that, I excused myself as being tired and went to bed. And, indeed, I was extremely tired, but more mentally than physically – and I went into some kind of weird “autistic” state where I felt unable to respond. When my girl-friend came to my bed a little later and asked how I felt, I was somehow “immobilized” and could hardly respond to her. Like I was no longer connected. The feeling also included an experience of “not having any right to exist as myself”. This does seem to me to go beyond just being an introvert – but is it aspie-like?
    “I learned early on that expressing myself naturally got me nothing good, and so from late childhood onwards, I concealed every part of my body language like someone could come and steal it from me if it became visible… I have a feeling that both the alleged emotionlessness of autistics (casting us in the role of the purely rational intellectual) and our alleged lack of a natural body language could stem from our actual emotions and body language being ‘voted down’ and/or ignored by our surroundings from early childhood.” It seems I could have written this myself!
    “I think most aspies have a problem with crowded rooms where everybody’s talking at once – even if they don’t have to be sociable with anyone:” Yeah, that is true for me too, and I seem to have much more of a difficulty than others to understand and follow one voice in such a crowd.
    I guess it doesn’t really matter if I am an aspie or merely an introvert – maybe these categories are not optimal at all. But I think something may still be gained from sharing and comparing experiences in this way.

    • @Andrew:

      Thanks for the long comment and sorry for the late response! I value your input, and I hope I’ll find the time to write some new posts soon.

      Indeed I think you’re right that it’s not that important if you’re an aspie or simply an introvert – but defining the categories and yourself in relation to them can give some insight. You learn so much from realizing what you’re NOT, as well as what you are. And I still sometimes get something out of trying to figure out if I’m an aspie or not – even though I know I am.

      I have this idea that the diagnosis for Asperger’s (and autism at large) is still in its infancy, and will branch out into a bunch of different diagnoses over time. After all, people only started getting the ‘label’ in 1989. Also, there’s a spectrum – a big grey area between the ‘perfectly normal’ and the unequivocally autistic – just like there are a lot of ‘combo diagnoses’ where people are diagnosed with several other things, like OCD, ADHD etc., alongside autism. The only important thing in any case is if the categorization is useful to you.

      I think there’s an overlap between symptoms of autism, symptoms of ‘extreme introversion’ (I dunno if introversion is actually a diagnosis or even an official ‘thing’ in terms of a personality definition?), and symptoms of depression. It seems to me that your examples move around in that general area. So I can’t answer the question of whether you’re an aspie or ‘just’ an introvert. Have you seen the tv series ‘The Big Bang Theory’? Sheldon and Amy from that series seem to be the ultimate classic aspies, so maybe comparing yourself to them would be interesting (there are a bunch of clips on youtube). Personally I can say I was definitely Amy some years back, and I definitely dated Sheldon. 🙂

  3. Thanks for another interesting post! I find the notion of a spectrum – a big grey area between the ‘perfectly normal’ and the unequivocally autistic –quite thought-provoking. And I like your formulation: “we all move back and forth on our own little autism (or NT) spectrum. Most of us can probably be found to exhibit autistic traits once in a while, because personality isn’t a constant.”

    Actually, although never having classified myself as an aspie, there is one type of experience that I had spontaneously labeled as “going into an autistic state” already long before I had ever heard of Asperger’s. This hasn’t happened to me that many times, but the word “autism” struck me as fitting, because in this state it seems I cannot be reached by others, and I am not able to reach out to them. Although I observe everything, it seems that I just can’t manage to speak or move or make contact with the world. As I remember it, I have entered that state in particular when feeling under verbal attack from others, feeling that I have “no right to exist as I am”. I guess that kind of experience would fit into the autistic spectrum, and I have sometimes wondered how commonly it is experienced among people in general.

  4. Pingback: Letter to Tony Attwood | Schrödinger's Aspie

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