I Outgrew My Autism but It Took 70 Years

 

Mrs. Pessimist started a new steaming show last night that we watched together: “Extraordinary Attorney Woo.” It is a South Korean show about a young female lawyer with severe autism but a total recall of anything she reads. Her struggles to approach the court and make an argument dominate the narrative. It is melodramatic, but the young lawyer’s struggles are credible and inspiring.

I didn’t know the extent of my autistic tendencies until I was well into adult maturity. I blamed everything on a dysfunctional family and a mother who suffered from chronic paranoid schizophrenia. I was terrified of her and afraid of being touched by anyone. My earliest memory was being ordered by my father to give my mother a hug at Christmas and being unable to comply.

“It’s OK,” my mother finally said.

I did not attend kindergarten with my friends and my teachers tried to hold me back in school after both the first and second grade. My schizophrenic mother said, “That is not happening, we can handle this.”  She induced my older sister to read to me every night and I fell in love with the Hardy Boys books she read. The first book I read by myself was Old Yeller, and my life was changed forever. I entered an alternative universe where I found some sense of control.

I never felt ostracized growing up, but that may be because I was so oblivious. I remember the extent to which my best friend’s mother went to make me feel part of her extended family. Her choice to look out for me blessed my life in ways I can never repay.

I managed to fit in with adult life by marrying a woman who appreciated my awkwardness and enjoyed my quixotic humor.  I guess I was nonthreatening and basically kind. (Being very handsome probably had nothing to do with it.) I was blessed by her outgoing efforts and relied on her to establish lasting friendships.

Strangely, our roles have become somewhat reversed. Mrs. Pessimist is getting tired of making new friends and is discouraged by how poorly our old friends keep up with us. Through the magic of pickleball, I have found that it is actually easy to introduce myself to people and inquire about their life. The blessings that have come from that have astounded me.

I feel like Sally Fields in her Oscar acceptance speech, “You like me! You really like me!”

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  1. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    The Extraordinary Attorney Woo I should have said.

    • #1
  2. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Huh.  I asked my wife last week if she thought I was autistic.  Without a hesitation she said, No!

    That’s good.

    • #2
  3. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Southern Pessimist: Mrs. Pessimist  started a new steaming show last night that we watched together.

    I’ve watched a couple shows that were real steamers…

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    One of my favorite books is “Born on a Blue Day.” I think his autism was more difficult than yours, but I was moved by his family’s love and acceptance of him.

    • #4
  5. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Good on you!

    Don’t know how accurate the show’s portrayal of autism is, but it was an entertaining series, without some of the tropes you see in most Korean dramas.

    • #5
  6. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    Living in a house where I am the only non-Autistic person, it can be interesting.  But honestly, I wouldn’t trade my wife and kids for anything.  They are all very smart, and if we have issues with emotions, or anxiety, or executive processing, it’s all good.  Heck, I am super ADD as is my son and that is more of a burden at times than his Autism.  Then again, they all really have Aspergers, which doesn’t exist in the US according to the DSM.  I have a friend who’s son is non-verbal Autistic and its honestly a totally different condition.  Calling them the same isn’t really correct.  Asperger’s made more sense.

    • #6
  7. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist: Mrs. Pessimist started a new steaming show last night that we watched together.

    I’ve watched a couple shows that were real steamers…

    Typos fall somewhere in the spectrum.

    • #7
  8. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Living in a house where I am the only non-Autistic person, it can be interesting. But honestly, I wouldn’t trade my wife and kids for anything. They are all very smart, and if we have issues with emotions, or anxiety, or executive processing, it’s all good. Heck, I am super ADD as is my son and that is more of a burden at times than his Autism. Then again, they all really have Aspergers, which doesn’t exist in the US according to the DSM. I have a friend who’s son is non-verbal Autistic and its honestly a totally different condition. Calling them the same isn’t really correct. Asperger’s made more sense.

    I agree. I never considered that I was autistic when I was caring for kids with severe nonverbal autism when I was a pediatrician. There was no spectrum at that time and although Asperger’s was given a name during WWII, I never heard of it until the 90’s.

    Maybe there is a spectrum for every malady and we just need to be better at including everyone into something.

    • #8
  9. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    There clearly is now a spectrum for sexual identity and behavior that is not only condoned but promoted. We are now all on the spectrum in some form or fashion.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    There clearly is now a spectrum for sexual identity and behavior that is not only condoned but promoted. We are now all on the spectrum in some form of fashion.

    Hey. I’m a girl–or a woman. That’s it. No spectrums for me!

    • #10
  11. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    There clearly is now a spectrum for sexual identity and behavior that is not only condoned but promoted. We are now all on the spectrum in some form of fashion.

    Hey. I’m a girl–or a woman. That’s it. No spectrums for me!

    I think that is similar to what the last Neanderthal said.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    There clearly is now a spectrum for sexual identity and behavior that is not only condoned but promoted. We are now all on the spectrum in some form of fashion.

    Hey. I’m a girl–or a woman. That’s it. No spectrums for me!

    I think that is similar to what the last Neanderthal said.

    I think the spectrums for Asperger’s (which was the condition of the fellow in the book I recommended) can be helpful. But the gender stuff is silly.

    • #12
  13. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    There clearly is now a spectrum for sexual identity and behavior that is not only condoned but promoted. We are now all on the spectrum in some form of fashion.

    Hey. I’m a girl–or a woman. That’s it. No spectrums for me!

    I think that is similar to what the last Neanderthal said.

    I think the spectrums for Asperger’s (which was the condition of the fellow in the book I recommended) can be helpful. But the gender stuff is silly.

    It is hard to tell what is helpful and what is silly if it is all part of a spectrum.

    • #13
  14. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    There clearly is now a spectrum for sexual identity and behavior that is not only condoned but promoted. We are now all on the spectrum in some form of fashion.

    Hey. I’m a girl–or a woman. That’s it. No spectrums for me!

    I think that is similar to what the last Neanderthal said.

    I think the spectrums for Asperger’s (which was the condition of the fellow in the book I recommended) can be helpful. But the gender stuff is silly.

    I had a girlfriend who said to me “I think you might be on the Asperger spectrum. Take this test.”

    I said “If it’s a spectrum, we’re all on it.”

    I don’t think she got it.

    • #14
  15. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    There clearly is now a spectrum for sexual identity and behavior that is not only condoned but promoted. We are now all on the spectrum in some form of fashion.

    Hey. I’m a girl–or a woman. That’s it. No spectrums for me!

    I think that is similar to what the last Neanderthal said.

    I think the spectrums for Asperger’s (which was the condition of the fellow in the book I recommended) can be helpful. But the gender stuff is silly.

    I had a girlfriend who said to me “I think you might be on the Asperger spectrum. Take this test.”

    I said “If it’s a spectrum, we’re all on it.”

    I don’t think she got it.

    It is better to be on the spectrum than on the speculem.

    • #15
  16. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    I would commend the French series Astrid to anyone who is enjoying the Woo series. The actress is really convincing and affecting. 

    • #16
  17. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Southern Pessimist (View Comment):

    There clearly is now a spectrum for sexual identity and behavior that is not only condoned but promoted. We are now all on the spectrum in some form of fashion.

    Hey. I’m a girl–or a woman. That’s it. No spectrums for me!

    I think that is similar to what the last Neanderthal said.

    I think the spectrums for Asperger’s (which was the condition of the fellow in the book I recommended) can be helpful. But the gender stuff is silly.

    I had a girlfriend who said to me “I think you might be on the Asperger spectrum. Take this test.”

    I said “If it’s a spectrum, we’re all on it.”

    I don’t think she got it.

    It is better to be on the spectrum than on the speculem.

    True.  So I’m told.

    • #17
  18. Marjorie Reynolds Coolidge
    Marjorie Reynolds
    @MarjorieReynolds

    This is fascinating thanks. My job which is administrative, relates to providing an educational scheme to children with autism primarily but it’s ever expanding. I’m still taken aback at how more prevalent it is. Can the rise all be put down to early intervention screening? Or do lifestyles today create more children on the spectrum?

    • #18
  19. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Marjorie Reynolds (View Comment):

    This is fascinating thanks. My job which is administrative, relates to providing an educational scheme to children with autism primarily but it’s ever expanding. I’m still taken aback at how more prevalent it is. Can the rise all be put down to early intervention screening? Or do lifestyles today create more children on the spectrum?

    Utterly ignorant here, but I guess that like many things, it is entirely a matter of increased diagnosis.  Now some of that is good (better detection of real conditions) and a lot of it is nonsense (labelling for comfort).  I’ll bet that any actual increase is dwarfed by the increase in diagnoses.

    • #19
  20. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Marjorie Reynolds (View Comment):

    This is fascinating thanks. My job which is administrative, relates to providing an educational scheme to children with autism primarily but it’s ever expanding. I’m still taken aback at how more prevalent it is. Can the rise all be put down to early intervention screening? Or do lifestyles today create more children on the spectrum?

    Possibly it’s people having kids later.

    • #20
  21. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Marjorie Reynolds (View Comment):

    This is fascinating thanks. My job which is administrative, relates to providing an educational scheme to children with autism primarily but it’s ever expanding. I’m still taken aback at how more prevalent it is. Can the rise all be put down to early intervention screening? Or do lifestyles today create more children on the spectrum?

    Possibly it’s people having kids later.

    Mostly it’s that we know what to look for and attempt to get people who aren’t neurotypical assistance.  When I waws growing up ADD wasn’t something that people had.  You were a discipline problem, or unruly, or fidgety and the sisters kept an eye on you with their ruler to keep you from disrupting class.  Of course, we also moved around a lot more back then and had real time for recess to burn off energy.  But for HFA, they often just got shoved into the corner and ignored.  Maybe they were seen as odd, weird, or unusual but it took a concerted effort by the psychologists to realize that there were traits that they all shared and that if you teach them things like pragmatics, it makes their lives easier.  It helps that many autistic people are quite smart.  Many succeed by using that intelligence to cope for their lack of emotional intelligence, especially women.  That is a big reason why female diagnosis of autism has lagged so far behind men.  Only now are doctors realizing that most women who have autistic traits fake emotional intelligence unlike men.

    • #21
  22. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Only now are doctors realizing that most women who have autistic traits fake emotional intelligence unlike men.

    Isn’t faking emotional intelligence the same as emotional intelligence?

    • #22
  23. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Only now are doctors realizing that most women who have autistic traits fake emotional intelligence unlike men.

    Isn’t faking emotional intelligence the same as emotional intelligence?

    What if “normal” is just weaponized faking it?

    • #23
  24. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    BDB (View Comment):

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Only now are doctors realizing that most women who have autistic traits fake emotional intelligence unlike men.

    Isn’t faking emotional intelligence the same as emotional intelligence?

    What if “normal” is just weaponized faking it?

    I do wonder about that. 

    • #24
  25. David C. Broussard Coolidge
    David C. Broussard
    @Dbroussa

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):

    Only now are doctors realizing that most women who have autistic traits fake emotional intelligence unlike men.

    Isn’t faking emotional intelligence the same as emotional intelligence?

    No it isn’t because it requires you to analyze and think about every emotional interaction as opposed to just understanding it. My son has dysgraphia and hamdwriting for him is very difficult. As a result, his IEP allows him to be given preprinted notes in school. The reason is that when he is writing by hand it takes (my guess) between 60 and 90% of his brain to deal with the difficult act (for him) of moving pen on paper to make words. When he is doing that he isn’t able to listen to what is being said and thus misses part of the lecture. Having to fake emotional intelligence is the same thing. 

    Look at it this way, let’s say you are talking to another person sociall that you meet in the park. You say hello and they respond the same way. Then you casually mention nice day today and they respond, yes, but a cold front is coming tonight. For the vast majority of us (neurotypicals) we recognize that as the end to the conversation with our response being something to the effect of yes, or that’ll be nice and on we walk. But to a neurodivergent person, does the mention of a cold front mean that they are interested in meteorology and want to talk about the specifics of said cold front? Does it also mean that having a discussion about the new satellite weather station and its IR coverage and how that can assist in predicting weather events is warranted. Do a neurodivergent person they actually have to ponder those things because they don’t get the normal social cues. 

    I remember hearing about a tween neurodivergent boy who gotten trouble at school for cussing in class. His friends were using that language on the playground and he used it in the classroom. He didn’t get that it was OK around other kids and not around adults. His Mom actually asked a neighbor’s 18 year old son to teach her son how and when to curse because he had to he taught those rules that neutotypicals just got. 

    There is a common trope (that has a much basis in reality) about Autistic individuals and their adherence to rules. They adhere to rules because it’s difficult for them to know social rules. Thus they learn pragmatic speech by following rules that they don’t understand, but can follow. Thing like, a person saying hello, how are you isn’t really a request for your actual current state, but rather just a request for an empty verbal response “fine” as opposed to an actual explanation. 

    • #25
  26. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    David C. Broussard (View Comment):
    There is a common trope (that has a much basis in reality) about Autistic individuals and their adherence to rules.

    I think a post on the neurodivergent would be very helpful, David. Yout probably focusing on a particular aspect would be great.

    • #26
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