The ‘Asperger’ Controversy

Recently I spoke to a man named Quinn (also known as Autistimatic on YouTube and Twitter) regarding our various experiences as people on the autism spectrum. He shared some valuable insights and during our discussion we touched upon the current debate among the autistic community over the usage of the term ‘Aspergers’ and whether it is currently acceptable to use the word to describe individuals with an autism spectrum condition.

The debate in question began when recent evidence came to light identifying Hans Asperger, the man responsible for a great deal of what we know about Aspergers today and the man after whom the condition is named, as a Nazi sympathiser. Furthermore, Aspergers has now been removed from the Fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-5), with the diagnosing of Aspergers being discouraged by a number of professional practitioners.

I must admit that I am stubborn to give up the word. Aspergers is what I was diagnosed with and is, for better or worse, the word I have identified myself with for the past sixteen years (I was diagnosed when I was around age seven.) I do not believe in this case that a label is in and of itself harmful; rather we should be focusing on what the label means as opposed to the actual label itself.

Let me explain further. Society is now largely aware of the term Aspergers and possesses a reasonable amount of understanding in regards to what it is. I disclosed my Aspergers when being interviewed for my current job and my employers not only knew what is was but possessed an understanding of how to help me work at my optimum level. The word ‘autism’ from my personal experience has, in comparison with the use of the term ‘Aspergers’ elicited a wider range of responses from the non-autistic members of general public, many of whom are still misinformed and many of whom, alas, still associate autism with the classic ‘Rain Man’ cliche.

As a YouTuber I find myself in a dilemna. I intend to keep using the term Aspergers to describe myself and others for the foreseeable future, as many of my viewers identify with the term much as I do myself. I also have viewers who identify as solely autistic, viewers who use both of the aforementioned terms to describe themselves, and those who are undiagnosed but who suspect that they have the condition. All are welcome on my channel including Neurotypical (non-autistic) people, some of whom may be watching to educate themselves or because they have people in their lives who are affected by the condition.

Whilst I worry that using the term Aspergers may be a turn-off for some viewers, I take consolation in the fact that many successful and well-informed YouTubers (such as The Aspie World) continue to use the term.


An Important Message

Something occurred to me very recently, dear readers and YouTube viewers, that I felt was important to share both here (my blog) and on my YouTube channel.

Although I try to make it clear in every video and blog piece that I publish, all opinions expressed by me on the subject of Autism and Aspergers are just that: opinions, based on my experiences.

I cannot claim to speak from the perspective of a non-verbal low-functioning Autistic person who requires assistance in every aspect of their life. I have no idea, even as somebody on the spectrum, of what difficulties such a life might entail. Can I act as an ambassador for other Autistics and help to raise awareness of the condition by any means that are available to me


And I will always  continue to do so.

Inspirational Autistics I Have Known: Part III

In this series of posts, I will be writing tributes to a number of autistic people I have known throughout my life who have inspired me in some way.

The individual I’m writing about for this piece is one of the few women on the spectrum I have had the privilege of meeting: a very intelligent and inspiring lady.

We’ll call her Ellen. One of the hobbies I enjoy in my spare time includes communal camping which is how I met Ellen about four years ago. At that time Ellen had joined the group mainly because her partner was also a member.

To begin with, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Ellen. My ability to recognize Aspergers is not as fine-tuned when it comes to females seeing as there are, on average, far more (known) cases of males being on the spectrum than females. As I previously stated, I have met maybe two to three diagnosed autistics in my life (thus far) who were female.

Nonetheless, once I put two and two together it became quite clear that Ellen was indeed autistic. Not knowing whether it was a subject she wanted to talk about, I kept quiet about Aspergers and never raised the topic with her until many years later, although I knew for certain (from what others had told me) that she was affected by the condition.

I slowly learned that Ellen had a number of special interests, one of which (her interest in the music of the band RUSH) I also shared.

It’s always taken me a long time to get know people, and consequently, it is only recently since I have started writing and speaking about Aspergers, that Ellen and I began to talk about our experiences. She was very excited to hear about the book I am planning and I hope that some of her insights will eventually feature within its pages.

Unfortunately, Ellen’s difference in the way she socializes has led to public confrontations in the past. Sometimes her words have caused offence where none was intended, due simply to her not picking up on another person’s tone of voice or conversational intent. In many cases, this greatly upset Ellen, who did not understand what she had done wrong and was not sure how to remedy matters. It is a fact that our lack of social skills as autistics can lead us towards the path of unforeseen and often unnecessary conflicts.

Since these events, Ellen and I have spoken about our shared experiences and she is in full support of what I do in regards to Autism Awareness. I will be showing her my book about Aspergers upon completion before it goes on general sale.








Inspirational Autistics I Have Known: Part II

In this series of posts I will be writing tributes to a number of autistic people I have known throughout my life who have inspired me in some way.

A neighbour of mine sometimes hosts parties in his back garden. They are memorable affairs, partly because of the excellent firework displays he includes at the end of the evening. On this occasion, about thirteen or fourteen years ago, there was man at one of these parties who I had never met before-and have never met since.

I don’t remember whether he was attending with friends or family. I would have placed him somewhere in his thirties. He was a tall man with red hair and a red beard, but the most striking thing about him was what he’d brought with him: a replica of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from the film Return of the Jedi.

It was actually a very appropriate addition to the light show. This was not some cheap toy: it was an exact copy of the weapon in the film, the hilt reproduced beautifully and the blade made from fiberglass. It made screen-accurate sounds when ignited, producing a low hum and a green glow that lit up the darkness around us.

Okay-I won’t geek out any further, I promise. The man’s name was Ridwond. A very unusual name, I thought, certainly more befitting of a space-wizard than a resident of Planet Earth. He was quietly-spoken and a little awkward, but the two of us soon started talking Star Wars, at which point I saw a different side of his personality.

It’s amazing how we autistics come out of our shells when somebody engages us in a conversation that interests us. It’s worth noting that there was something about Ridwond: he drew people to him and he made them laugh, with him and not at  him: he was a great example of how difference can be a positive trait to possess.

I later discovered (from my father who had met him before) that Ridwond lived only a few minutes from my primary school and had Aspergers. The second of those two facts did not surprise me even as a child: he was (and is) one of the most interesting adults I have ever met.





Autistics I Have Known: Part I

In this series of posts, I will be writing tributes to a number of autistic people I have known throughout my life who have inspired me in some way.

The first of these will be dedicated to one of my great friends growing up, with whom I spent a large amount of my time during primary school.

At the time neither of us knew that he was autistic. Looking back, though, it does make sense. I myself was already diagnosed at or around the time we met. I had gone through the first year of primary school being relatively lonely (not that I minded too much at that age), and it felt good to find a friend with whom I had so much in common.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll call him Matt. Matt arrived at my school during the second year and like me he seemed to have trouble making friends. Personality-wise we sometimes clashed-at that age we were both stubborn and we liked our own way-but our shared interests drew us together and kept us together.

I had recently discovered a story that was to change my life: namely The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. The film adaptations of the book were being released around the time that the book was read to me (by my father), so it was little wonder that I soon became interested in a world of elves, hobbits and Orcs. I soon shared my newfound love of this story with everybody I knew, including Matt, who quickly found himself becoming as much of a fan as I was. From then on, our games in the playground were almost exclusively ring-themed.

It didn’t seem strange to us then that we should delve into our games with such attention to detail and enthusiasm: nor did we seem to notice (or care) that the people who joined our games briefly soon moved on to pursue other interests and play other games.

Of course, it is now clear to me that the two of us were experiencing what is known as a ‘special interest’ among the autism and Aspergers communities. It was nonetheless a key part of our relationship and I have found that shared interests over the years have been a good starting point in conversation leading to numerous friendships with both autistics and non-autistics.

Growing up, both Matt and I struggled to make friends (although he seems to have become far more socially confident as a young adult) and I was truly devastated when he moved schools a couple of years later. When we talked online a year or so ago Matt revealed to me that he had recently been diagnosed with autism (in his early twenties) which certainly surprised me at the time, but less so after I considered things more deeply.



How do you pursue excellence? The Importance of Discipline

This is a question that I often ask myself. The answer isn’t easily definable because in order to pursue excellence you must first work on yourself and your attitudes regarding life and success. In other words, you must learn to be the best version of yourself.

Arguably the key to achieving this, as I am discovering, is that you must develop a strong sense of self-discipline. Disciplined people work more efficiently because they set themselves goals which are often challenging, goals which require focus and do not allow time for distraction.

I believe that motivation can be enhanced by hard work, and that it is not an inborn trait to possess or lack motivation. Once again, it all comes down to discipline. It is immensely difficult to achieve any kind of long-term goal if you are not sanctioning yourself for idleness along the way, but you must also learn how and when to reward yourself.

Human beings are just like any other animal in the respect that our brains work in reward-based pathways. Think of a dog when he learns a new trick. He understands (because his owner makes it clear) that if he is obedient and learns the trick, he will be rewarded both with praise and also possibly with food. Humans are no different-so set yourself a task and reward yourself upon completion, but only reward yourself if you complete the task (and complete it well).

You will take a different attitude to your work if you decide to do this. I’m talking largely about completing your own tasks, and not about working for others. Know how to reward yourself and when, and know how to tier your rewards. What kind of reward do you deserve based on the work that you have done? Is it something as simple as a cup of coffee, or is it that new game you wanted to buy? Is it an extra hour in bed, or is it a drink at the pub with some friends?

Reward yourself accordingly, but do not become complacent. As humans we often allow ourselves to slack after one success upon receiving our rewards, and therefore we do not continue to repeat our successes and our work gradually becomes sloppier as the discipline is forgotten. So it is also important to find new ways to discipline yourself when the old techniques start to fail, in order to keep yourself working at your best and reaching new levels of achievement.

One last tip before I go: wake up early. The earlier you are awake, the more work you will get done. You will start the day with a sense of achievement which will accompany you throughout the day. By the time most other people wake up, you will have already achieved a huge amount and will be ahead of the game. Starting earlier also means that you can finish earlier if you so wish, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Keep going, and have a great day!