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An Aspie in the Dark Ages



I was a child in thd late 30's and 40's. In those days neurological dysfunctions were not understood particularly well and there was a general intolerance to and for people who were "peculiar" and "touched in the head". Prior to 1950 there were no psychotgropic drugs to manage various neurological dysfunctions such as bi-polar disorder, schizhophrenia, severe depression (melancholia).

Aspberger's was not even identified until 1944 by Doc Aspberger in Austria and did not enter mainstream classification of behavioral and neurological dysfunctions unti the 1980's. Here is an article on the subject:


Well anyway. Here I am, this kid growing up in an era when "strange' children were locked up in attics, electroshock therapy and lobotomy was all the fashion and there were insane asylums, not terribly advanced over St. Mary's of Bethlehem (Bedlam).

My condition did not render me non-functional but it did make me somewhat "strange". I had an adult vocabulary by the age of 10, some very non-typical interests for an American kid (calculus and group theory?. That's weird). And I loved collecting facts. Any facts. I had a head full of crap that I like to talk about and that hardly anyone else wanted to hear.

My peers sensed a difference. They called me "genius" (not intended as a complement), "nutso", "big-brain" and such like. Like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer I did not get invited to play in many Reindeer Games. As a result the only athletics I could participate in were individual activities such as running, high jumping and other track and field stuff. My peers, in addition to mocking me also enjoyed beating me up so I learned how to fight well and dirty at an early age. After breaking a few wrists and ribs, my antagonists stopped beating me up.

I had some trouble relating to teachers. What could my geometry teacher Miss Talmidge do, when I brought up non-Euclidean geometry in class? And my algebra teacher in 8-th grade when I mentioned non-commutative algebras and linear vector spaces? Fortunately in highschol I had three teachers who were PhD's and ended teaching highschool primarily because of the Depression. I was able to relate to them and they helped me out a great deal.

Let's see. I highschool I had exactly one date and that was a fix-up with a young lady whose face would not only stop a clock but also cause it to run backward. Oh well, no sweet puppy love for me. So it goes.

Ah yes. I soon caught on that I was a non-standard issue. Think of me as a member of the choir who could not sing on key. I realized that I had to find a way to adapt socially just to avoid troublesome conflict to I approached the problem as a person who found himself a strange in a strange land. First learn the habits, customs and language of the natives. So by a conscious effort I forumulated a set of rules to regulate my behavior that put me less at odds with my peers. In a word, I learned to pass for normal or I tried to. I did not fully succeed until my 30's when I could comfortably assume the appearance and behavior of an N.T. (neuro typicall). Now I am in my seventies and like that character played by Jeff Bridges in -Starman- I have become a planet earth person, as far as externals go.

Now you might think it non courageous for me to adapt to the N.T. hoi poloi, but think about it. At least 80 percent of the people I have to live with, deal with, relate to are N.T.s. Since I am the odd one, the burden of adaptation is on me. But in my heart and the private places within I am the rule-based organic android I always was. I just do not let it out often, because it causes too much trouble. Even my dear wife of nearly 52 years (its just gotta be love) sometimes loses patience with my literal nature. My main deficiency is that I do not always get hits and non-verbal cues and clues. Fortunately my wife who is not only my Friend, but my Keeper ass well, gives me the scoop and prevents me from making a complete ass of myself.

So, Kit, if you are listening, don't worry overmuch about your son. If he is a smart lad, he will eventually work out a rule based coping strategy. I am sure his intellect is first rate and intact. He will just have to learn how to use it as a Swiss Army Tool. He should be o.k.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob, I didn't realize you had started a blog until searching OL for your writings containing notes on Asperger and Autism. This is a good story. Brant, you may have missed this too.  Makes for a good read.

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