Monday, April 25, 2011

Fake Asperger's Syndrome

I was surfing Cracked.com today. I find a lot of their stuff funny and interesting, and most of the psychology stuff (the only topic I'm informed enough to judge) is pretty accurate. But today, I found something different.

This article is about stupid causes. I was sort of questioning their inclusion of PETA campaigning against boiling lobsters alive, since being boiled alive is a pretty inhumane death and even very primitive lifeforms are capable of pain (it's rather basic to survival). But I was willing to shrug it off, because I don't think my cat is bad for torturing mice to death. (I believe killing other species is fine as long as you have a good reason to do so and they're not endangered.)

But at the very end, they listed the Asperger's Pride Movement. Citing Aspergia.com, they commented that:

"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."

There were several comments by offended aspies, of course. But several comments were along the lines of 'well, this is true for jerks who self-diagnose with Asperger Syndrome in order to get away with being jerks, but not for people who really, truly have Asperger Syndrome.' For example:

"The article may be a bit confusing on the matter, but it's only taking a horribly offensive crack at the people who DO NOT in fact have it, but pretend they do in order to get away with being a dick."

There has not been any studies on how accurate self-diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders actually is. I know there are people, like myself, who self-diagnosed and then later got an official diagnosis. There are undoubtedly also people who self-diagnose as autistic but are probably not actually autistic - most of whom probably have some other condition instead.

But people who use self-diagnosed AS as an excuse to be a jerk on the internet? This I have not seen.

And not from willful blindness. On several occasions, I have asked people to show me a person who was trolling and used Asperger Syndrome or autism as an excuse. The only example anyone could point to was Christian Wesler Chandler, who has an official diagnosis. Another person mentioned a person long ago on some forum they frequented, too long ago to find the posts now.

Yet, to hear people talk, these people are so common and so vocal that they're making all the 'real' autistics look bad. Which only makes me ask: where are they? If they're so common, how come I've never seen someone like this on any forum I frequent? How come no one can show me posts made by such a person?

Could it be that they're simply a stereotype? Possibly invoked to discredit autistic self-advocates?

11 Comments:

Blogger A. Lee Firth said...

I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome two years ago, aged 47. I now attend two social/support groups and I think I'm possibly the only person in both groups to actually be diagnosed. I think many of the other people I encounter do indeed use their self-diagnosis as an excuse.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

As an excuse to be a jerk? Or an excuse for other things, like not having a job or whatever? Because those are totally different.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Adelaide Dupont said...

Would never have seen this aspect of Cracked if I hadn't been surfing some Tumblr first.

The article is three years old, and Aspergia.com was already down a long time before that.

Yes, pain is basic to survival.

And, no, most mice are not endangered.

Probably you've shown a lot of discernment over the years in the forums you hang around in.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

If it's just discernment, someone should be able to point me to a forum where such people are commonly seen.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Adelaide Dupont said...

In both Psychforums.com connected to Autism and Asperger Syndrome respectively.

Probably the Asperger community on LiveJournal.

In 2002 alt.support.autism had several. (and in 2003 and 2004 I remember the "excuse to be a jerk" coming up several times, with several people). This was on Usenet, so the posts would be relatively easy to find.

The Psychforum on Asperger Syndrome

The Psychforum on Autism

And probably a few places on Delphi Forums. (Aspie Hangout and also the ASSISTANCE forums).

Also look for support versus information forums.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

So, can you point to specific posts on those forums that you think are examples of this?

On a brief scan, all I found was a Holocaust-denier, but he actually seems to believe what he says.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Ole Ferme l'Oeil said...

I have not seen a lot of these "fakers using Asperger's as an excuse to be a jerk" either... but the only forums where I go are forums where there is respect... but still I don't have the feeling that there are so much of them.

But I'm not so astoniched you find it on cracked... ther are fun and funny stuff there but there is also so much ableism going on on the posts:
ableist language: I'm sure I could make the experience that it's very difficult to navigate three posts without encountering some of these terms:
r*tarded, moron, idiot, lame, crazy, insane, psychotic and so on.
Just plain ableist ideas: yes it's not only the vocabulary, there are a lot of "scientific" articles that express seriously the worst of ableist idea (ok, maybe not the worst but not so far) about the notion of intelligence, worth, evolution and so on.

3:04 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

It may also be a problem with overdiagnosis. Perhaps there is a perception of this problem with little backing because there are people who want to be able to diagnose something that is unusual or weird, to give it an excuse. I can imagine a parent of a less-than-empathic child going into a sort of hypochondriac mode in order to make it easier to bear for whatever reason, and autism not being well enough understood by certain doctors that they go along with it.

I just know I have a friend who recently did start using his diagnosis as an excuse, because although he is pretty totally functional he wanted people to give him a break because he was having a hard time getting over a girl he dated once and was complaining to my entire friendgroup about it constantly. I personally wonder if his diagnosis isn't slightly misguided, but I suppose this is still an emerging field- and Autism is, after all, a spectrum disorder, so we can't really say who makes it and who doesn't.

Out of curiousity, and completely unrelatedly, do you accept guest contributions for your blog?

3:35 PM  
Blogger Mr. Chambers said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Sasuke Uchiha said...

As an excuse to survive, some people don't have much of a choice but to take advantage of their disease... Society can screw you over pretty easily and not think twice about how it may destroy your life, like i said, some people don't have much of a choice other than to use the disease like a sheild to protect them against the giant vulture that is life...

10:02 AM  
Blogger Norah said...

I used to be on Aspie Hangout a lot 10 or so years ago, and I don't remember anyone using Asperger's as an excuse to be a jerk. If they had, the other Aspies on there wouldn't have stood for it, since they too were Aspies and weren't being jerks.

I've never been able to get diagnosed, but still am sure I have it, because social situations have always been hard and I don't seem to be able to figure out how to act in many situations.

7:46 PM  

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