Saturday, 7 September 2013

Some words about words

I've always been good at stringing words together. Reading and writing have always been a source of immense pleasure for me, and now they're what I do for a living.  My word-wrangling and my ability to mimic a writing style (just like I unconsciously take on someone's style of speech if I hear them a lot) got me through a wordy university degree.

But it doesn't really gel with the usual Aspie stereotype, does it?

To a lot of people, 'autism' still means a small non-speaking child, and 'Aspergers' an awkward teenage boy maths-genius.  Some people genuinely don't realise we come in female, we come in adult and middle-aged and elderly.  And some of us are word-clever, rather than maths-clever.  (And some of us are nothing-in-particular-clever, and that's OK, because we shouldn't have to justify our existence.)

But you can't judge an Aspie's intelligence or ability to get by in everyday life by how or whether they use language.

One of the things about Aspergers is it tends to bring a really uneven skills profile.  So, the hypothetical teen boy genius might be able to understand a complex diagram of an obscure molecule, but be at a complete loss to understand or explain a simple poem.  Being able to write well doesn't mean I'm able to fill out Centrelink forms or do my own tax.  And neither of us, for all our skills, are necessarily able to work or live unassisted.  You just can't extrapolate one from the other.

I've encountered people - usually people who know me only through my online writing, and often people who know me only through a single article or blog post - who argue that I can't have Aspergers because words.  Some have been really quite unpleasant about it.  I've seen the same thing happen to plenty of other autistic people.  An articulate adult just doesn't compute with the haters' idea of what an Aspie is or can be.

Here's a thing: when one is confronted with evidence that one’s assumptions are incorrect, examine one’s assumptions before arguing with the evidence.

Because there's more to a person than their words.