Posts tagged ‘Crackerbarrel’

June 3, 2012

The Difference Between Aspergers and Neurotypical

“Quit complaining. There’s nothing to get.” — Dear ‘Ol Dad.

I recently had a conversation with my father where, to my surprise, something happened that I have been trying to accomplish my entire life. I was understood. Before going much further into elaboration, the situation unfolded in the following manner: My father and I were traveling towards the Crackerbarrel, which is a hybrid restaurant and OldTyme country store that apparently has chains all throughout the south(I will not dwell on my opinion of the Crackerbarrel, though I can assure that it is not high). We were going to the restaurant in order to pick up a wooden rocking chair that we were going to present to my mother for her birthday, which, incidentally, is just four days away from fathers day.

It was during this drive that I stumbled upon an explanation for Aspergers that I feel sums up quite completely my experience with the world: It went thus:

“Dad, do you know what a definition is?” He shoots me a look.

“Well, sure I know what it is. It’s when…the words, when you explain a word’s meaning.”

“And can you explain the meaning of that?” He shoots me another look, then after a pause,

“No, you can’t do that.”

After which, I give this explanation:

“Actually, dad, I can define what that means. I can explain it perfectly and explicitly. meaning is a set of symbols associated with some phenomena in the world, which is shared between two individuals. You, see, that’s the difference between you and me, Dad. With you and the rest of the family, you pick things up without realizing them. All the knowledge is there, underneath the current of the river. But myself, I can’t access that knowledge. I can’t reach down and pick it up. It’s invisible to me, but, but–Once something is made explicitly clear, defined with hard, rigidity, not only to I immediately pick it up, but I become better at it than anybody else. Once I learned to speak, I mastered language. Once I learned to draw, I mastered drawing. One mouse-click, and I take off on the computer like a rocket.”

I pause here, then add:

“The thing is, I don’t do intuition, Dad. When everyone is seated around the table, there’s reams of information, and I don’t pick up on it. So when you are all sitting around, you’re having loads of fun. Me? I’m bored out of my mind, cause everyone is exchanging looks, but not a single soul is talking. I’m not diseased, Dad, and my wires aren’t crossed. The truth is, I’m an entirely different CPU, an entirely different Architecture. And all I want to do is to be able to set up an interface.”

And then it happened. I could understand that my father understood me, and through his reply, he acknowledged me in the best way he could. He didn’t spout off anthologies of Elizabethan poetry, but he didn’t have to. In his own special way, fumbling with the words like a dropped football, I had made the first connection of my life with another human being.

At the root of the Asperger’s mind is the same desire as any other human. Just like neurotypicals, we want community and solidarity with others. But here’s the trick: Solidarity, community is based upon mutual understanding. Normal people have fun with each other because they understand each other. And once I felt that somebody understood me as well, the sharp divide between myself and others became that much less stark.

This does not mean the end of myself as an Aspergic Individual. I am, and probably still will, have to struggle to find myself, to find communication with others. But hey, that’s life.

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