Thursday, February 2, 2012

On having Asperger's, briefly

Benjamin Nugent, author of the wonderfully titled American Nerd, has an essay at The New York Times up called "I Had Asperger's. Briefly." In it, he recounts having grown up as a nerd kid who was diagnosed by his psychology professor mother as having Asperger's. Yet by the time he was an adult and had found a more congenial group of friends, most of the symptoms of the disease had vanished. In the NYT essay, he grapples with what his experience implies for the new diagnostic standards that are likely to make Asperger's diagnoses rarer.

Nobody has ever slapped the clinical label of Asperger's on me. I've found a few online quizzes on which I test positive. But that depends on how much weight one should give to my Emotional Quotient ratings; I'm pretty happy to admit to liking maps or dinosaurs, but I get nervous when asked to confirm that all of my friends think I am awesome. Do they, really? Is it possible that I'm being socially inept and they're just too polite to tell me? Would that explain what was up with so-and-so  re: such-and-such weird gossip?

The bottom line is that I think I fall somewhere on the fuzzy border between merely eccentrically nerdy and clinical. And I'm not sure how much good it would have done me if somebody had swooped down from the sky when I was twelve and decided that I belonged on the clinical side on the line. It's possible that some course in how to read people might have helped me overcome these weaknesses earlier in life. On the other hand, maybe it just would have felt stigmatizing or become a self-fulfilling prophecy that I could never learn to socialize. Maybe, too, learning how to socialize through talk therapy would be like trying to learn how to bike by listening to lectures about biking. Maybe the best thing is to try bike riding, albeit on an easy course, like a beer-soaked nerd paradise in the woods.

(By the way, I never spoke like an E.M. Forster character.  That would have been, like, way too Edwardian. I was mostly channeling Thackeray or George Eliot as a teenager.)

I think I'm repeating things I've written on the blog before. But Nugent's take on all this is quite interesting, so I highly recommend checking it out. 

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