A Knight is not a disabled Rook
First a disclaimer: The thing about autism is that it’s an incredibly diverse condition. We’re like fish. A goldfish is a fish. But so is Jaws.
Autism can range from people who seem completely normal (Key word “seem”. Normality, like perfection, is an impossibly unreachable ideal, which is lucky, because like perfection it would be incredibly boring) to adults with the functionality of a two year old child.
I can’t speak for others on the autism spectrum, so this post is purely my own perspective.
See, I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until I was 19, so I didn’t grow up thinking of myself as autistic. Instead, from a young age, I was given the label of “gifted”. Now, as a 6-18 year old kid, you can imagine how freaking awesome this made me feel about myself. I felt like I had superpowers, like a mutant off X-Men; I could be called “Pen-tacost” or “The ObLiterary”. (Stan Lee, I beg thy forgiveness for such lame names. Three hail Marvels)
Of course, I was aware that some things came harder to me than they did to everyone else, but I figured that they were just things I wasn’t good at, like how my teachers had an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject they taught, yet the classroom’s TV and DVD player were like a Klingon Rubik’s Cube to them.
While some of my autistic symptoms went untreated as a result, this was overall a very positive approach.
Now, I’m not saying I’d rather I hadn’t been diagnosed; on the contrary, my diagnosis helped me to understand my condition and get effective treatment. But the legacy of my upbringing was that instead of seeing it as a disease to be managed, I was just as aware of its positive side as its negatives.
Despite my many difficulties, I have never thought of myself as disabled, but rather just differently abled. I may find it a terrifying ordeal to go to the toilet, but on the other hand, I’ve been writing novels since I was 12 years old. I may struggle with social situations, but I could tell you the year and location of the final case of each strain of smallpox, or explain the inner workings of the Wii’s graphics chip. (Though I imagine that to most of you, this would be about as appealing as a lemon juice bath after an acupuncture appointment)
Here’s how I see it; in Chess, a Knight is not a disabled Rook. Sure, it’s harder for the Knight to cover long distances , but on the other hand, a Rook can’t jump over other pieces.
If there was a cure that could eliminate my autism overnight, I wouldn’t take it. Think about it; would you take a pill that would erase your fears and difficulties, but also your passions and skills? Of course, I’m not saying non-autistic people don’t have passions, skills, fears, and difficulties, but my specific ones are an intrinsic part of my autism, and my autism is an intrinsic part of me.
This is who I am. I am not a victim, and I am not disabled. I can learn social skills; it might be harder for me than for others, but I refuse to accept it as something that I just can’t do because I’m autistic. And it’s working; friends often point out to me the progress I’ve made on that front over the years. The same is true of my fears; seven years ago I could barely leave the house, now I can travel on public transport without much trouble.
Of course there’s times when it’s tough, but it’s a lot like those video games that are difficult, and sometimes frustrating, but on the whole great fun. (Ever play Donkey Kong Country Returns, or just recently, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze? Yeah, it’s like that)
I may spend a lot of my time and energy (and a lot of my entries to this blog) tackling the hardships of living with autism, but I make a point of never forgetting how blessed I am to enjoy its benefits. I consider myself an incredibly lucky person; besides having a roof over my head, enough food to eat, and clean water to drink, I have a functioning brain with just a few treatable glitches and some pretty fun perks.
The glass is half full, and it’s a hell of a cocktail.