Someone I know, a thoughtful person herself, complained recently about my “reinventing vocabulary” in reference to how I write and speak, and it triggered a number of thoughts about vocabulary in general and mine in particular, which in turn triggered thoughts on issues I have had in my development as a whole.
Not that I do, or do intentionally, reinvent vocabulary (well maybe sometimes I do prefer my own terms for certain things, such as “absolute enslavement” 😛 ). I have a fair background in both phenomenology and the philosophy of language, particularly with reference to Hegel, Heidegger and Derrida, and so the language that I most naturally use includes terms and structures that are not unusual in these writers but are not so commonly used. But along with this I have some Asperger’s traits, and fundamentally for me all language is in the first place a foreign language, English as much as symbolic logic, and am often non-verbal for long periods, so language that is unusual and seems foreign to other people doesn’t seem any more foreign to me that what is deemed common parlance. I developed my sense of language despite, rather than because, language in general is a natural or easy thing for me. But I developed enough of a sense of language to serve me decently in what I do because I also had an ability for languages, whether foreign or not :).
My aspies traits have been a concern for me very recently in general. I’m not unhappy about having them – I enjoy the abilities I have as a result and I’m not upset by having had to make a slight extra effort with things like language. I learned language quite well in spite of aspies, and learned other things – such as how to judge people’s perceptions of oneself – that are more difficult for aspies people than for the general population. Overall I’m quite content with the combinations of abilities I have developed – I was lucky enough that my aspies traits weren’t so severe that I couldn’t overcome things that I found necessary to overcome, and I learned many of the things I learned when I was too young to actually notice that it took me more or less effort than other kids.
The reason it has been a concern, then, is not particularly regarding myself, but regarding emmie and her son. Both of emmie’s sons are diagnosed autistics, but the younger one really fits the description of someone with aspies more than autism, while the older one fits the description of a medium to medium-high functioning autistic more accurately. I haven’t spent a great deal of time with her older son, who lives with his father in another state, but her younger son lives with us and is currently 9, which seems to be an important age for a kid with aspies. According to child development guidelines 9 to 11 is the age when children generally become social personalities. Up to that point children are an odd combination of self absorption and parent-centrism, they don’t come across as completely self-interested, simply because their “self” is still integrated with those that raised them, usually their parents in this society.
But between 9 and 11 years this changes, and kids suddenly take an avid interest in one another. Peer pressure first really develops at this age and so does the need to be close to other kids, rather than first looking for parental/teacher acceptance and only later for acceptance by peers. Along with this comes the development of, not self-awareness, but awareness of how one is perceived by others. Aspies and autistic kids are often labelled not self-aware but this is a mislabelling of the fact that they are not aware of how others perceive them. They are aware of their actual “selves” quite strongly as far as I can tell. A striking difference between a fully autistic child and an aspies one, for me, is the difference between not knowing that one is perceived as “ different” or “odd”, vs. knowing it, but not necessarily understanding it or being able to change it.
So her son is having difficulty integrating with other kids at the age that they are all beginning to do so with each other. This could be a very temporary thing, where her son is delayed developmentally and will start to develop that kind of other-kid-awareness a bit later, or it could be a fundamental short-circuit in his wiring – I simply don’t know enough about aspies or her son to be able to judge. From being aspies myself, in a less apparently severe way, I know that an aspies kid “can” learn that kind of awareness even if it’s not altogether natural or easy. But I don’t know if that’s true for every aspies kid or just for some. And if it can be learned by any kid that is by definition aspies and not fully autistic (if there is a hard-and-fast line, which seems doubtful) I don’t know about the best way to go about helping a kid learn it. The kid has ample reason to learn it – at present he gets picked on and his reactions to things – or more precisely how he allows people to see those reactions – makes it all the more likely he will continue to get picked on. Kids are sensitive and emotional creatures. It’s not that “normies” don’t get sensitive or have emotional reactions to things, but they learn more quickly than an autistic child what reactions are acceptable to show in front of whom, and what reactions will cause them to be made fun of or treated as “weird”.
This kid has it both good and bad when it comes to the severity of his difficulties. From the limited exposure I’ve had to his elder brother, he has much more of a chance than the elder sibling of living an apparently “normal” life. Where the elder child will always be treated as disabled in certain functional ways, the younger one may be treated as having been “developmentally” delayed, and may always be “odd” in certain ways, but will likely generally be treated as having “caught up” with everyone else. I use scare quotes on “caught up” because, as with many aspies kids, he has definite abilities as well as disabilities, and overall is very intelligent, so much so that despite an obvious learning disability he is in a regular school at the right grade for his age and is on the school’s honor roll. There are many ways where he will always be “ahead” of the average kids in his classes. Not that you have to have aspies to be intelligent or have abilities, he is simply one of the lucky kids that despite whatever problems and issues he might have, he has these abilities to fall back on.
I hope that with further study, partly of aspies syndrome, mostly of emmie’s son himself, we’ll be able to figure out ways to help him overcome the areas where he does have difficulties. The extra effort it takes him will be worth it in terms of living the life that he will eventually want to choose for himself, and with certain other things being relatively easy for him, he should have spare energy to use on overcoming his issues.