This week, I went along to an Asperger’s support group. There were about 12 people there, I think: 3 Mums, and the rest were Aspies from various points along the spectrum, mostly young people but a few around my age. There was a lot of comparing notes: I actually spent more time talking to the Mums than to the Aspies, because I wasn’t sure who was who and whether there were ‘rules’ about who sat where. One of the Mums was describing her son’s experience of AS/A levels after good GCSE results (in the UK, GCSEs are school exams taken at 16, then there are AS levels and A levels taken at 17/18). It’s common for people with Aspergers to struggle in secondary school (post-11) because of the need for more organisation, and study skills that they might not have needed in junior school (up to 11). Many still do fine at GCSE, particularly if they’re bright, but A levels are another thing altogether.
Post-16, I really struggled to get to grips with the content and the organisation needed, and to follow what was taught in class. My A level results aren’t that bad, but they certainly aren’t what intellectually I might have got if I’d had NT learning abilities and organisation. And I had a chat with a Mum whose son has had a far more dramatic struggle to bridge the GCSE-A level jump than I did.
I felt lucky to have my brain. It might not be wired as it ought to be, but I’m very fortunate to be high-functioning enough to get through stuff. I can live independently, but most of the people there couldn’t, even though they came over as being bright and articulate when we chatted about their interests. There wasn’t really anyone similar to me there that evening, but the Mums were saying that there were other members who weren’t there who were comparable. I’m definitely going back to more meetings. It’s nice to have a social event where it’s OK not to talk all the time (although some Aspies are quite chatty: I find that hard, but part of that I think is because I’ve often had negative responses: I bore people, or lose track of where the conversation is and get weird looks).
At the end of the evening, we talked about diagnoses. Some people there had been diagnosed, others weren’t planning on getting one because they didn’t want the negative connotations of the label. My response? I said I wasn’t sure, because of possible negative reactions, because in many ways it’s a positive thing, not a disability. Although there are some things I find tough, I don’t think I’d be completing my 6th degree (which is also my 2nd PhD) if I wasn’t Aspie.
I’m still undecided, though. I applied for a job the other day where, if you met all the essential criteria and ticked the disability box, you were guaranteed an interview. Would that mean I had more chance of getting the job? Or would it mean that I had to spend the time preparing for and going to the interview despite there being other, better candidates, and me not having much chance of success?
This weekend, I’m off to visit my parents, so it’ll be interesting to see what their view is on all this. I haven’t told them yet, although Dad and I had a chat about the Uta Frith documentary a few months back. They’re generally OK about stuff like this; I think they’ll find my theories interesting, and perhaps be able to make better sense of some of the stuff I’ve done in the past. As a child in the 70s, Asperger’s was pretty much unheard of, so there was never any likelihood of a diagnosis back then. But what about now?