Thursday, January 5, 2012

A little rant from the mom of an Aspie

On Boxing Day, the New York Times published a really lovely article about two college students with Asperger's Syndrome, Jack Robinson and Kirsten Lindsmith, and how they are navigating the difficulties of a relationship in which both of them have similar problems reading social cues. I don't say "lack of empathy, because as the mother of an Asperger's son, I've found him to be extremely empathetic. It's just that he has a hard time reading faces and social cues, so he doesn't always know when you're upset unless it's VERY CLEAR. (Crying hysterically is usually a dead giveaway, but I try not to do that in front of my kids too often.)

I mean let's face it. It's hard enough to manage relationships when you're allegedly "neuro typical." How many of us have misinterpreted our partner's expressions or actions? *raises hand*

When my son was going through the diagnosis processes at age five, I pretty much knew it was Aspergers because it explained everything I'd been worried about since he was 18 months old perfectly. I read everything I could get my hands on, and although in some ways it was comforting, because I finally knew what I was dealing with and could take action to help him, instead of having all these amorphous worries, in other ways it created a whole host of new anxieties. I woke up at 3am, crying, and asking my now ex-husband, "Do you think he'll ever get married?" It wasn't the actually married part I worried about - it's that I want my son to have connections, because to me, human connection and relationships are the most important part of being on this planet, and I could already tell from observing him on the playground at school that unlike kids perhaps further along the spectrum, my son wanted them but couldn't figure out how to initiate them.

So I loved this article. It gave me hope.

But then I started seeing people making jokes about a correction that the New York Time posted afterwards.

Okay, I admit. It's kind of funny to see a "My Little Pony" correction in relation to a front page New York Times story.'s the thing. I don't think the a lot of the people who are laughing about this understand why this correction is so important to Kirsten Lindsmith, who referred to Twilight Sparkle as the character she visualizes to cheer herself up when she feels sad or anxious. What they need to understand is that a person with AS could perseverate about a mistake like that for days. Months. For my writer friends, imagine you were featured on the front page of the New York Times and they got the name of your book wrong! Do you think you'd be laughing? I think not. I can just imagine the angsty phone calls to publicists and agents. "THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEW YORK FREAKING TIMES AND THEY DIDN'T EVEN GET MY BOOK TITLE RIGHT!!!" *sobs* *reaches for tissues and chocolate*

So imagine you're Kristen and you have this safe place, a strategy that you have to help calm yourself and you just told the world about it and then...some reporter effed it up!! And now people are laughing about it when you try to make it right.

All I'm saying is, it's okay to have a chuckle. But at least while you're chuckling make an effort to understand.


  1. I hadn't read the article, but wow, people can be pretty insensitive. I've known a few people with AS and the fact that this little mistake would drive them nuts makes sense to me. (It would drive me nuts, too, actually...) Thanks for the update and perspective!

  2. If you click on the words "a really lovely article" in the blog post it links to the NYT article. It's worth reading, just to see how they negotiate the problems of not being to read each others signals. We can all learn a bit from it, I think!

  3. It looks like the person who first called the error to their attention in the comments is also an Aspie. I didn't read the comments that you did (this really has popped up everywhere). All I can say, living with two boys on the spectrum who refer to me as Twilight Sparkle makes me think this was worth the correction, yes.

    I'm a lot more concerned about the attitude of the commenter (ID'd on the thread as "So Predictable") who said that Aspies shouldn't reproduce because it will lead to extinction. Really? Eugenics much?

  4. Guess "So Predictable" doesn't realize that some of the greatest minds of all time were supposedly Aspies - Albert Einstein, Alan Turing (cracked the Enigma code in WWII, thus helping turn the tide of the war for the Allies) Satoshi Tajiri (creator of Pokemon), to name just three.

  5. The article was inspirational, but I thought it was poorly written and a little incoherent - or maybe that's bad editing.

  6. My Middle School (where I am the librarian) has been the top recommended middle school by the Autism Spectrum Parents Group in my school district for years (for a number of reasons). Suffice it to say, the need for the correction was perfectly obvious to me. But not having worked at my particular school? I probably wouldn't understand either. I'm just glad they were willing to post it.

  7. I'm a huge Brony, favorite pony being Rainbow Dash. Although I am an even bigger fan of an obscure anime series called Kimagure Orange Road. I am "neuro typical," but I am considered the foremost expert on this anime series outside of the creator, and have been given opportunities to speak on it, and recently, to go work with the creator as a translator and assistant. If I had had a NYT piece done on me and they screwed up a detail about KOR which has had a significant impact on my life, including my bilingual ability, my MA thesis area, and the country I live in much of the time (Japan).

    I'd be livid. Absolutely livid. Just because an animated show is what influenced you to make the most of your life as opposed to a piece of literature, or a religious outlook, or a political view doesn't make it any less important. It is a part of what makes you who you are, and if you are the subject of the article, they'd darn well get that detail right.

    Well deserved fit by Kirsten, and undeserved mocking by commenters.

  8. I don't think it occurred to anyone about the Aspie-ness of the correction. It's just funny that the New York Times has to mention the words "My Little Pony," really. Kinda like when they had Bill Clinton on NPR and asked him about that show. It's the clash of staid newspaper + geek kid trend that makes us giggle.

    It was an adorable article though.

  9. This IS the newspaper that refers to the members of Led Zepplin as "Mr. Plant" and "Mr. Page." Pretty much everything they do is adorably quaint. Still: Point well taken, and I'm glad they issued the correction.