A Is for ... ?

Earlier today Randolph wrote a thread on Twitter outlining some of the traits that make him the person he is. A lot of what he says in the thread I can relate to, given that we are both autistic, though to a different degree. Like Randolph, I cannot stand crowds for extended periods of time. Unfettered noise puts me on edge. People I don't know are not allowed to touch me. And, while I may not (consciously) stim, he and I both have a great appreciation for fast software and powerful databases.

Randolph Being Real

I've met a lot of people over the years who view autism as a problem. While it can certainly affect how someone lives their life, many people on the scale are incredibly creative and resourceful. Randolph says he can spend an inordinate amount of time on solving problems correctly or mundane tasks and I fail to find fault with this particular trait.

Mundane Power

While many people may not enjoy fixing corrupted databases, alphabetizing CD collections, or making sure that all of the pens in the box1 are functional every few weeks, these tasks can bring a great feeling of accomplishment. At the end of the day we can look back and say "Yes, I completed this thing!" and feel happy about it, no matter how silly. Heck, this is how I feel every time I clean the house or wash the dishes. I can look and see that something trivially important is done, and that it's done the way I want it to be.

Silly? Perhaps. But sometimes it's this sort of silliness that can save others a great deal of hassle.

Applying Autism

This joy of doing things correctly can be a great benefit to people who otherwise wouldn't identify a problem exists or couldn't care less about an issue. In the corporate world, there are lots of opportunities for someone who is very effective at auditing, verifying, or otherwise poking holes in processes that many people do a thousand times a week without ever once questioning. It's because of this terrible habit that I was able to move out of the classroom and into a development role at the day job, and it's because of this terrible habit that I've often fought with people about what sort of data is not allowed in "my" database. Many people will look for the easy way out, whereas an autistic person would stand back and say "Wait a minute, if we go through the pain now, we can reap great rewards later."

The same thing can be seen in the entertainment industry time and again. Music, movies, animation, dance, and just about any creative outlet has a core group of people who are so single-mindedly focused on their passion that all of the neurotypical people they work with can do what they do, but do it better. This isn't to say that "normal" people are nothing without autistic people to support them, of course. Such a sweeping statement would be stupid. The pattern we can see, though, is that when groups of people with different neuro processes get together, wonderful things are possible.

Randolph isn't ashamed of his autism, and I'm not ashamed of mine. We are who we are. We're (mostly) comfortable with ourselves, too. At the end of the day, this is the most important thing. So long as we're happy with who we are, and so long as we're able to use our abilities in useful ways, the people around us will benefit. This goes for anybody else, too. We can all take our unique skills, our unique perspectives, and our unique talents and put them to use to make something better … even if it's just for the people immediately around us.

  1. I buy boxes of pens, as I go through them so often. Each box contains 20 pens, and I buy both black and blue every six months, red every year. It's almost time to replenish the stock at home …