A couple years back in a bookstore I leafed through a book by Temple Grandin. She suggested that people with Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning autism) should not make their Asperger’s Syndrome their special interest.
A ‘special interest’ is an obsessive interest that people with Asperger’s Syndrome have. I have seen a trend for people with Asperger’s to join Asperger-related Facebook groups, make accusations that people with Asperger’s are discrimination victims, and make vows not to have ‘neurotypical’ friends.
But our society is really plagued these days by people who make their other differences into their special interests— whether they have Asperger’s Syndrome or not. Like the students who created a racial incident in a university library, howling at students of a certain race who wouldn’t quit studying to join their protest. Or like the people who demand that we call a person with transgender feelings by a new name and the biologically incorrect pronoun.
I think we are missing out on most of real life when we take one aspect of ourselves and make it into the center of our lives. We not only are ignoring the rest of our complex selves. We are ignoring the fact that there are other people in the world.
Centering our lives around our selves— or a part of ourselves— used to have a name. It was called ‘selfishness’ or ‘being self-centered’. Now, this is an occupational hazard for us Aspies. When we are cut off from the world of other people by the poor social skills that are a part of Asperger’s Syndrome, we are left alone with ourselves. It can make us seem self-centered, and in time we can come to be somewhat self-centered.
But, really, we don’t have to understand other people to start being more other-centered. We can just make a point of doing little things for others. Donating two bucks to the town homeless shelter. Giving a couple cans of food to the food bank. Going to a local church even though the sermon or service is boring to you.
The point is to stop having a one-dimensional life, centered around our Asperger’s Syndrome or our skin color or our gender dysphoria. There is more to our lives than that. Or there should be.