|This was first posted in a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater class discussion board for SPECED 205: Psychology of the Exceptional Child at 4:12 am, 7 August 2012. I wrote it in its entirety, and the only way that this differs from the original (starting after the break) is in the spelling of the word "receive". You would think that someone who once finished 4th in the state spelling bee wouldn't always make that mistake.
Also, the bullets were indented in the original post.
I was first diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in the eighth grade (2003). The school psychologist tried to have me diagnosed as early as 1996, but my dad didn't want me "labeled".
It was probably the only thing involving me that he ever got right.
Over the next 5 years, the help that I received for many homework assignments and exams (including the essay portions of the AP US History exam and the ACT) basically amounted to my adviser doing the work for me. The social difficulty that I had experienced in middle school mostly disappeared as I matured emotionally at the same rate as my peers, and the "fixation" that is the hallmark of the autism spectrum went with it.
By the time I enlisted in the Navy, I was by all accounts a normal 19-year-old person who happened to be an excellent test-taker. Unfortunately, my 99 ASVAB score caused me to be pushed into the Nuclear Power program, which condenses a Master's degree program into 16 months. I was overwhelmed by the course load and tried to use the Asperger's label to get me into a different program. That label resulted in a general discharge from the Navy on the grounds of "fraudulent enlistment".
The Asperger's label is also the reason that I applied to UW-Whitewater after my separation. My mom had heard about the CSD program here, and that ended up being the reason I enrolled at UWW even though I had been accepted at UW-Madison (a much better school by all accounts) and Minnesota-Duluth (similar cost, 4 hours closer to home). I was denied services by CSD, and have spent the last two years trying to raise my grades enough to transfer.
My mother and grandmother try to push me toward majors in math and technology, not because they're solid growth industries, but because "That's what people with Asperger's are good at".
Labels stick to people, even when they no longer apply to them.
• The stereotypical Aspie (which is what many people with the disorder call themselves) doesn't step outside of their "comfort zone". I have, on several occasions, driven halfway across the country alone just to prove that I can.
• The stereotypical Aspie can't read the social situation at all, and usually can't tell when they're boring the hell out of people with their ramblings about their fixation. Not having a fixation, I don't ramble about it (unless you count this, which has turned into a decent-sized essay).
• The stereotypical Aspie is a "loner", unwilling or unable to work with others to accomplish a goal. I do work better alone at times, but I realize that some tasks need the help of others to accomplish. I have worked at camps for the last three summers now (which, in itself, is something that an Aspie usually can't do), and nearly everything I've done there would've been impossible to do alone.
I'm a sophomore now, while many of the people from my high school class have graduated from college. This has nothing to do with my ability, and (apart from the Real Life situation that caused me to fail this course) everything to do with my label.
I believe that high-functioning people should not receive a "learning disability" label at all, just as they didn't receive one until 1994. If the DSM-IV criteria had been in place before then, we may have never heard of Steve Wozniak, Mark Zuckerberg, or William Henry Gates III.
Labels limit people. They place a ceiling on what a person can achieve, as if the person being labeled is somehow capable of less than the "normal" ones. Many times, this is the case. However, I completely reject the notion that a learning disability is always a lifelong condition. After all, many disorders of the body can be cured with enough time and training. Why can't this be the same with those of the mind?