Last year, Diary of a Goldfish instituted Blogging Against Disablism Day, in which she invited bloggers to write about their experiences with disability, whether personal, as a parent or caregiver, or otherwise. So it reminded me of a post I wrote for the Silicon Valley Moms blog a few months ago about the incredibly fuzzy line between neurotypical and atypical, between personality and pathology. We live somewhere on that line...some days a little to the East, some days way out West. Here it is, in honor of Blogging Against Disablism Day:
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers
Tony Attwood, an internationally-known expert on Asperger's Syndrome, is a smooth guy. He knows how to work a room--how to put 500 anxious mothers (mostly, let's be fair) at ease. He begins his talks with an anecdote about how, when he is lecturing around the world, he plays "Spot the Aspie"--looking for the most likely candidates among his audience. And how, when he's giving a talk in front of a group of software engineers, or mathematicians, say, he looks for the one person in the room who doesn't have Asperger's. (They call us "neurotypicals," by the way, or "NTs." Someone once told me that was the genesis of the name "Windows NT"--Windows so easy, even a neurotypical could use it. But that could be suburban legend. Let me know if you have verifiable info on this.)
Living here in Northern California, it's easy to understand why autism is considered a spectrum. This is a place where many of the diagnostic markers--social awkwardness, intense specialization, disinterest in or unusual patterns of communication--are, well, valued. In fact, there was an article in WIRED six years ago that speculated that the reason our autism rates are so high here is that we genetically select for each other.
As the wife of a man who keeps a running tally of the number of minutes he exercises each year and who multiplies large numbers in his head for fun, and the mother of a three-year-old, diagnosed on the spectrum, who likes counting by eleven and thinks that the height of hilarity is to recite Goodnight Moon by replacing the first letter of every word with the letter "D" ("Din de dreat dreen droom..."), I have a profound love and respect for what I can only think of as "neurological diversity."
Where it will lead us, I don't know. But as I drove back to work a few months ago after yet another of my son's endless appointments, I heard a story on National Public Radio about a cheesemaker in Somerset, England, who decided to train a Webcam on a wheel of farmhouse cheddar--for an entire year, mind you--so interested parties could watch it ripen. I'm not sure if that's personality, pathology or simply brilliant marketing, and, to be quite honest, I'm not sure I care.