Saturday, March 21, 2015

#HighFunctioningMeans I'm Still Not Normal...

In a fellow aspie writer's blog, "Aspects of Asperger's," Capriwim's posts are very articulate and interesting, and he has a good following. Many may even question whether he's on the spectrum or not, since he has the capability to write so well. However, while Capriwim is a talented writer, he doesn't make posts all the time. He explains that the culprit in his lack of regular posts is his everyday struggles with being on the autism spectrum; like his "difficulty multitasking when other things are going on, difficulty switching from one task to another, and difficulty getting organised."

So why do many NT's—and even aspies themselves—question or deny an Asperger's diagnosis?

Why even?
Here are some common statements you might here from the doubters:
  • "Are you sure you have autism? You seem so normal!"
  • "You can't have autism. I know someone who has it, and they're nothing like you."
  • "How can you have autism if you have a good social life?"
  • "You don't LOOK like you have autism."
  • "Why do you have a job if people with autism can't work?"

It all boils down to two factors:
  1. Everyone on the spectrum is different. Personality, symptoms, and level of functioning all vary. Quoting an expert on AS, "Once you've seen one aspie, you've seen one aspie."
  2. A lot of us are really good actors. We can mask many of our symptoms, but it uses up a lot of energyand once we're out of energy, the symptoms can resurface with a vengeance.

I am fortunate enough to have just the right blend of traits and symptoms to get by. On my best days, I have a willingness to learn, carefully-measured humor, political correctness, acceptance of anyone, and the ability to adapt to another person's style. For this reason, I can fit in among NT's as well as the neurodiverse community.

I have also been told that I'm physically attractive and my presence is pleasant, which comes in handy for first impressions. ( So people won't know I'm crazy until they've joined the Alyssa fanclub. :P )

I also happen to be ambitious. I've survived school and college so far, discovered my dream of being a filmmaker, produced one full-length film and many short films, and I'm currently finishing up a documentary on Asperger's that has already accumulated a small audience.

You might be thinking: "Okay Alyssa, you've made it clear that you're pretty well-off. So what's your point?"

My point is: this is the Alyssa that everyone else sees. Ambitious, pleasant, and cheerful.

What they don't see is my anxiety, depression, and exhaustion. They don't see my OCD tendencies, perfectionism,
and mental blocks--
--nor my overstimulation when I'm out in public.

They don't know the level of dread I experience at the thought of leaving my home to attend classes or run errands, wearing u.n.c.o.m.f.o.r.t.a.b.l.e clothing and/or interacting with people. They don't see me flapping my hands from nervousness or excitement when I'm alone in my room. They don't hear me repeating the same words or phrases over and over to get my brain back on track. They don't even see my happy aspie moments when I squeal and laugh freely, talk to myself or my fictional characters, and play with my favorite childhood toys.

That's why there's a helpful new #HighFunctioningMeans hashtag on Twitter (as Capriwim mentions in his post), which is there to help others understand the complex nature of being a high-functioning individual on the spectrum.

Check out the Aspects of Asperger's blog post for more info and examples.

If we continue to educate our friends, families, teachers, colleagues, employers, and everyone else about what it means to be on the autism spectrum, perhaps we'll all be able to forgive the aspies on those days when they just can't keep up the act anymore. Let them show their autism without fear of being judged.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I am considered "high-functioning" by most, though I have accomplished nothing beyond high school (reisde in an institution, never been employed, etc.). In this sense, I don't know that this hashtag fits me, but I want to thank you for educating the public about (seemingly) more capable autistic people's lives.

    1. And thanks for reading it. The question is, what about you seems normal? I think most aspies have one or two "normal" things about them that make people question their AS. Even if it's as simple as looking like anyone else physically, or having the ability to speak.

  2. I tend to easily get into conversations with strangers, interestingly some of them tend to work in special education, and my conversation style usually points out to them that I am an Aspie. Indeed, that fact often comes up "organically" in my conversations.