Apparently, there are a lot of people who fake Asperger’s on the internet. Or, at the very least, apparently there are a lot of people who, whether or not they have Asperger’s, use Asperger’s as an excuse for ridiculous behavior. Key word: apparently.
Enter Luke McKinney’s The 5 Most Retarded Causes People Are Actually Fighting For on cracked.com. The title itself cues readers into the sort of rhetoric that McKinney abides by. Item #1 on his list is the Asperger’s Pride Movement:
Asperger’s is a real disorder for some, but has turned into a kind of “get out of self-improvement free” card for legions of socially awkward Pokemon fans. This latter group doesn’t care about your “medical credentials,” “basic common sense” or even “knowing people who actually do have Aspergers.” This syndrome they read about on Wikipedia once is their winning lottery ticket to a life of never having to learn how to interact with other humans. Welcome to the Aspergian Pride movement.
I’m really at a loss as to where this attitude toward Asperger’s comes from. It’s an attitude I encounter quite a bit online. In aspie forums, we often discuss the difference between using Asperger’s as an explanation versus using Asperger’s as an excuse – but the dominant NT perception online seems to be that Asperger’s is an excuse about 90% of the time, or that Asperger’s is a largely mythical disorder.
Per my own understanding, Asperger’s as explanation involves disclosing in such a way that communication and understanding are more easily achieved for all parties, regardless of neurological wiring. Conversely, Asperger’s as excuse occurs when the goal involves getting out of or getting away with something, e.g., Mom, I can’t clean my room because I have Asperger’s and am resistant to change.
I don’t think that the latter example, Asperger’s as excuse, is as problematic of a phenomenon as people on the net make it out to be. Who hasn’t used something as an excuse to get out of something? Moreover, there is a fine line between explanation and excuse, I think. While there is very little I “cannot” do, there are many, many things that I have extremely great difficulty doing, just as there are many, many things that I “can” do, but can only do very poorly. (For example, I can physically make eye contact. However, in forcing myself to do so, I stop paying attention to other things, and I also maintain eye contact in a very obviously forced, unrealistic fashion.) The aspies I’ve met generally don’t use Asperger’s as a way of excusing themselves for being manipulative jerks, as cracked.com would have people believe.
This whole debate — the excuse versus the explanation — goes back to the ADA, I think, especially to issues of accommodation. If we judge PWDs based on “r*tarded causes” (ugh) and fakery claims postulated by internet sources, then accommodations for largely “invisible” disabilities like ASD or LDs become unsubstantiated complaints made by a pack of faking whiners.
As an example, I think to my own documentation that sits in my university’s office for disability services. One of the suggested accommodations involves class participation, a request that I be entirely absolved from verbally participating in class. Now, I know how to speak, and do speak, despite having difficulties. Does this make my accommodation an excuse made by a lazy whiner?
I should also mention that I’ve rarely asked disability services to contact my professors. I am fearful of being perceived as lazy, even though, legally, I shouldn’t experience such backlash. However, I’ve generally found that telling my professors of my difficulties — without invoking the disability/autism label — has worked as well as (and sometimes better than) asking disability services to intervene. One negative experience with disclosure comes to mind: my ODS counselor contacted a professor of mine, mid-quarter, and informed them (I’m being gender-neutral on purpose) that I was registered with their office and had communication issues. My professor, in response, said, “Melanie has a disability? But she’s smart!” My professor treated me differently after this point, and tended to be very patronizing.
I wonder how it is that we identify these so-called fakers who take excessive pride in their fraudulent disorders, disorders which, when real, supposedly cause “extreme suffering.” Because that’s the point, isn’t it? Unless we hate ourselves, we don’t have a real disability.