If we go down the route that I am, as people expect, autistic then it is not all bad. Not all social anxiety and freaking out in multi-national supermarket chains. They are some aspects of this that are actually positives. Musician and man whose hair is far too dark for his age Gary Numan calls some of his Asperger’s traits “gifts”. He cites the ability to focus on something as a key one. The fact that he feels things differently allows him to be clear headed when others may not be. And these are some things that I recognise in myself.
For starters, the ability to focus. If needs be I can focus on something for a long time. Be it reading or writing or even gardening. This came into good use at university, where I would write a five thousand word essay in a day. The quality would not be the greatest and I would not proofread due to not having time but the fact that I could do it and not be distracted was beneficial for me. It is particularly useful when lesson planning as I can shut off most distractions and work. If I am interested in something then I be driven and can do tasks quite well.
Secondly, I don’t mind being on my own. In fact, more often than not, I prefer it. I can work on my own and I can spend large amounts of time just by myself. Some people cannot stand their own company and need that social interaction. I don’t. If I can see my wife and child then I am ok. I recently worked as a delivery driver which meant shifts of nine plus hours in a van, on my own. And I was fine. I no longer work at this job due to a difference of opinion. They thought that, as a van driver, I shouldn’t crash into other cars all the time. I, seemingly, thought differently. The ability to not need others and to not need conversation or human contact is, during a pandemic, a positive.
Thirdly, because I do not recognise or understand my own emotional state means that, in a crisis, I am calm and methodical. Sadly over the last few years I have had to call the emergency services a fair bit due to my beloved’s health and unfortunate circumstances. Each time I can separate the job in hand from the emotion. I can say: right I need to do this and then this. It is afterwards, once the dust starts to settle that the crash comes and I need someone to tell me what to do. The emotional ignorance allows me to progress when others break down. It has to be said that this emotional ignorance has considerable downsides as well. But, in some cases, it can be useful. Not recognising when people are being upset or when they are joking or being serious, isn’t always great either.
I am not a genius and I would doubt that my IQ is anything special. I would imagine it is around average, if not in the upper side of average. I know that I have some intelligence and I know that I can learn things quickly. I am adaptable and can think on my feet. All of these may or may not be “gifts” but they are definitely things that have stood me in good stead over the years. I have been described as intelligent and scatty. As one of the cleverest people some folks have met and the single most clueless, I am a dichotomy. I am at once sensible and equally lacking in most common sense. All of these maybe gifts.
If I am ever to accept this definition of myself. If I am what some people believe me to be then acceptance will come quicker if I can focus on the good and then benefits of not being “like everyone else”. As John Murray sang in his song Little Coloured Balloons “It is not what I am, it is what I do”. I might have autism but it is not what defines me.