Is Asperger’s a Disability?

Recently I answered a question from a young man named Gabriel. He had asked if Asperger’s Syndrome was a disability. Here’s my response:

Gabriel, would you believe your question welled me up? To some, this alone would disqualify me as having Asperger’s.

I so wish I had an easy answer to your question. I don’t. But you might begin by allowing for the possibility that each and every human being, including you, is unique. Amazing. Talented. And filled with possibility. But because you’ve been taught to imitate normal all your life, this amazing you has been trapped inside a hard shell made of you faking you.

Your question is reminding me of one 26 y/o man I helped. The first time he came to see me, he came with his mom, dad, and sister. A dozen therapists, schools, and such had failed to “make him normal.” And his mother was bitter at all the times someone had told her they could help. None did. He was still stiff and fake and nervous and desperately trying to discover the rules in my office. And to not do anything wrong.

The thing is, in my office, there are no such rules. So just as I can’t offer you a simple answer, I couldn’t offer him one either. But after 40 minutes of me failing, I asked him if he had a dog. He did. Named Hudson. I then asked him if he could picture Hudson. He could. Then, with his eyes closed, I asked him to imagine his dog and to describe what the dog was doing. And as he did, without trying, he began to stop imitating normal. He stopped monitoring himself. He stopped thinking. He then got drawn into the picture and in every discernible way, he was happy, free, and himself.

His mother, his sister, and I cried. The difference was palpable. It was also the first time in his entire life that they’d seen him like that. And yes, it lasted only a few moments. And yes, he immediately lapsed back into imitating normal. But in that moment, they, like me, saw hope. And the way out.

Hope, Gabriel. Hope. And don’t ever stop. And remember, your fear of doing things wrong is because of how others react. Learning to see past this would be a big part of the solution. And to see what this would be like, try imagining a movie wherein we Aspies are the majority and the neurotypicals are the one being made fun of. Ironically, I’d feel mostly compassion for them, just as I feel it for you and me. Ironically, while we Aspies often miss the subtle warm fuzzy things, we are also often the ones with the most compassion for humanity.


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