You’re not allowed to say “handicapped,” “disabled,” or downright “weird.”
You’ve got to say, they’re “on the spectrum.”
You know: the “A” word.
Yep, my brother has “Asperger’s syndrome.”
Yeah, you know, autism!

It’s really trendy right now:
If it’s not Rain Man, it’s The Accountant or
that Curious Incident with a Dog.
I hate all that romanticised, clichéd, stereotypical BS,
Like we all have to believe that autism is okay, ‘cos it makes you brilliant somehow.

Like anyone else, you can be of just average intelligence.
Like anyone else, you have your hurdles to jump in life.
Actually, you have a few more hurdles…

Stop. Rewind.

That’s why it’s a “spectrum.”
It means that,
Everyone is on a different place on that spectrum.
But I’m not gonna lie,
What makes someone with Asperger’s different
Can also make them pretty damn difficult.
But each person on that spectrum is—unique.

They share some “typical” behaviours,
Just like small, white, educated Hispanic-Anglos might share some similarities.
My brother talks like a running river,
It’s never-ending.
His cousin is silent as a rugged rock.
They are both on the spectrum.
My stepmother likes to think my father was on the spectrum.
I haven’t had the heart to tell her that he was really just a cheating, lying sod.

Stop. Fast-forward.

Now, my mother, she’s on a totally different part of that spectrum.
She’s got PDA.


Bet you don’t know what that is?
This one’s much harder to romanticise, so no movies or plays about it out there.
It’s—Pathological Demand Avoidance.
That means, Pretty Damned Awful some days.

It’s an overwhelming need to control everything and everyone around you—
You don’t tolerate anything that isn’t your way and that demands too much from you.
Pathological Demand Avoidance.

Behaviours include, but are not limited to:
Aggression, psychosis, living in a fantasy world more real than the one out there, obsessive behaviour about people, no real empathy or compassion, and people exist to serve you.

Stop. Rewind.

Now, imagine that is your parent.

It’s really hard to feel any compassion when your childhood was so bad that
Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the rest of your life will ever feel that bad.
But hey, that’s good, right?
The only way is up!
Imagine knowing by the age of five that nothing your mother says is reliable—
It’s either a lie or it simply doesn’t make sense: reality changes every five minutes.
Imagine her mood changes several times a day.
She has tantrums that make a terrible two-year-old look cooperative.
But she knows how to be mean like an adult.
No real care, some real neglect and abuse, but yet a need to control your every thought.


John Lennon wasn’t really thinking about all that, was he?

Stop. Rewind some more.

Back to Asperger’s.
If it feels complicated, that’s ‘cos life is.

Did you know it’s really hard to be an Aspie?
The worst thing is, someone put you on this planet people-blind
And then didn’t give you a manual on “How People Work.”
There are all these social rules and nonverbal signals that make no sense to you.

My brother asks me all the time: why did they do that? Why did they say that?
He’s looking for rules, so the world will feel safer to him.
But he can’t ask me—how are you?—and listen to the answer.
People get put off by his expressionless face and flat voice.
He has really noticeable physical ticks that people pretend not to see.
So, being “people blind,” does that make other people blind too?

He spends a lot of time hiding from the world.
He tells me that he has overcome his Asperger’s,
But he always has lukewarm pizza on Fridays, and always on the same plate.
If I call two minutes past my calling time,
He asks me why I’m late.

The world has made him understand that he has to beat his condition.
Write a book, be a new, better you.
Not so complicated, not so strange, please.

He tried to kill himself.


Since his biggest influence was Japanese Yakuza computer games,
It didn’t go so well.
Kitchen knives aren’t meant to be used for committing hari-kari.
He’ll always have a 25-cm scar in his abdomen.

In the last three years, he’s lost his eyebrows and most of his bodily hair.
It’s a nervous condition, caused by crippling and constant anxiety.
Sometimes, I get really impatient with him,
‘Cos he does so much lying to himself and hiding from the world.
But he knows he can’t compete in our competitive world and, in a way,
He’s given up.

Those romanticised films out there,
They don’t show the messy things of life.
There is often yet another documentary about an Aspie who succeeded,
With the love and support of their family, and against all odds.

But what if your mother has more problems than you do and
She’s your main carer?
What if you’re really lost and it takes all your energy,
To pretend you’re not.

I often want to challenge others on their need to romanticise all this,
To turn it into a sweet movie or an uplifting documentary.
Sometimes, it just isn’t that pretty, or that easy.
It’s the way it is, it’s life, with all its cluttered corners and cruel cliff-edges.

Stop. Rewind.

Most people pretend the spectrum is on another planet.
But if you actually sit and read some scientific literature about this,
They tell you we’re all on that spectrum.

Autism is an extreme end of that spectrum, some forms more or less extreme than others.

Asperger’s is pure autism, a social and emotional dysfunction, but without other complications,
Like learning disabilities.

So don’t get too comfy in that high tower of yours.
What did you say or do today that was a little obsessive?
What did someone else do or say today that you couldn’t quite understand?
Did you fail to tell someone how you feel today?
Are you not quite sure why you’re anxious today?


Where are you really on that spectrum?