I’ve just sent an email to a psychological assessment group not far from where I live. It’s a small practice, run by three women, and Asperger’s is one of the issues they list as dealing with.
I’ve decided to pursue an official AS diagnosis. This is not so much for my own use, but really for the sake of communicating with others who may (probably) be incredulous that I’m on the autistic spectrum (“But you’re so normal!? ha-ha if only they knew…) I need to be able to talk about this with my family — immediate and extended — so it explains some of the “weirdness” they’ve seen with me over the years.
It’s also for the sake of dealing with healthcare providers who get pissed off at me for not being socially fluid with them and speaking in ways that seem to challenge their authority. I am looking around for a new doctor, and I’m really nervous that they’re going to take my personality the wrong way and have issues with me. I’ve been through that so many times — just last week, in fact, my PCP got pissed off with me (I think) because I questioned her diagnosis and told her I couldn’t take the meds she was going to prescribe.
And law enforcement. And let’s not forget law enforcement. I’ve had a number of run-ins with police officers which could have gone really badly, had they not known who I was. I’m pretty active in town activities, and police officers in surrounding communities know that. I guess I have a good reputation for actively backing law enforcement, even when it’s unpopular (which I do), and word gets around. So, I’ve gotten some slack with local cops when I’ve done stupid things like rolling through stop signs or not realizing I was supposed to pull over right away. I think that’s because they recognize me and know that I don’t pose a threat to them.
But in situations where I’m NOT my protective home area… that’s where there’s problems.
There’s one particular situation I can think of.
Years ago, my wife and I were returning home from visiting her family several states away. I was talking on the phone with my brother-in-law while I was driving (not a good idea, to begin with), and we were having a hilarious conversation. My foot got heavy on the accelerator, and we were also going down a long hill. Before I knew it, there were blue trooper lights in my rear view mirror. We were going pretty fast.
I pulled over, and the police officer took my details. I carry a police fraternity card in the front of my wallet, across from my driver’s license, so when I pull out my license for a police officer, it’s easy to see. I just want them to know I’m friendly – not get any special consideration. I did that, and the cop ran my plates, and then he came back with a citation form that only had his signature on it. There was no infraction listed — all blank.
I had no idea what was happening. I thought he’d made a mistake. In retrospect, he might have been cutting me a break and letting me choose whatever infraction I cared to pay for, but I didn’t want to get in trouble, if I submitted something different from what he submitted.
I jumped out of the car and ran over to him, waving the citation. He looked a little alarmed at my approach, and when I asked him what I was supposed to do with the form, he wouldn’t tell me exactly.
So, maybe he was cutting me a break. But I’ll never know, because after I asked him which infraction he’d pulled me over for, I just checked that one off and sent in the form with my fine.
I’m not sure that telling a police officer I have Asperger’s is going to make that sort of situation any less tricky for me. However, what it might help, is them not feeling threatened, when I make a sudden or unexpected move. And when I run over to someone, it’s not because I’m attacking them. It’s because I am looking for additional information or I need to interact with them for a logical reason.
Also, when I’m stressed (and/or tired) and I’m put on the spot, I can get pretty snarky. I also get really upset really quickly. I was once pulled over about 10:00 at night by one of our town cops for a headlamp that was out. She made some sarcastic crack about it being dark out. Well, no shit, I thought, it’s fucking nighttime. And I started to get short with her and started to argue. This is not helpful. Especially with police officers.
And it’s not just with police officers. Holy smokes, I can think of many, many times I’ve gotten in trouble with authority figures because they said or did something that didn’t make any sense to me, or that really pissed me off, or that wasn’t clear in a way that I could comply with. It would have helped if they’d understood how literal I am, and how short I get with people who seem to be messing with me.
I’m not saying an AS diagnosis is going to fix everything. And it’s certainly not going to be a get-out-of-jail-free card (maybe not-go-to-jail-in-the-first-place?). It’s not a crutch and not an excuse. It’s a way for me to better explain my situation, so that everyone can work more effectively together and not jump to conclusions about me being a threat or a willing criminal. Because I’m not.
And I shouldn’t be treated as though I am.