Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tim Page: a life with Asperger's

Tim Page, a critic and writer, tells his personal story of 52 years with Asperger's / high functioning autism:
Personal History: Parallel Play: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

.... I received a grade of “Unsatisfactory” in Social Development from the Mansfield Public Schools that year. I did not work to the best of my ability, did not show neatness and care in assignments, did not co√∂perate with the group, and did not exercise self-control. About the only positive assessment was that I worked well independently. Of course: then as now, it was all that I could do.

In the years since the phrase became a clich√©, I have received any number of compliments for my supposed ability to “think outside the box.” Actually, it has been a struggle for me to perceive just what these “boxes” were—why they were there, why other people regarded them as important, where their borderlines might be, how to live safely within and without them. My efforts have been only partly successful: after fifty-two years, I am left with the melancholy sensation that my life has been spent in a perpetual state of parallel play, alongside, but distinctly apart from, the rest of humanity...
Mr. Pages's pre-college years were particularly difficult. He reiterates the truism that life improves for most atypicals when high school ends -- the adult world has far more latitude than the world of early education. He believes were he a child today that things would have been much easier -- I think he's right. It's not that we have great "treatments" for Asperger's or high-functioning autism, but I do think we have much better ways to accomodate and manage atypical minds.

I don't share Mr. Page's faith in a clear dividing line between "high-functioning autism" and "Asperger's". Were he to start over today he could be as easily given one label as the other. I think his story will be of particular interest to teachers, parents, friends and caregivers of persons with high IQ autism and/or Asperger's. His ongoing functional improvement, even in the absence of specific interventions, is noteworthy.

1 comment:

Jane Strauss said...

I agree, there is a really floppy way of labeling us, and I too was finally labeled at 52. Even tougher if you are female as there seems to be some deal against admitting that Girls can be neurodiverse too.