Where are you on the Autism Disorder Spectrum?

On 6 December I bought a book at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) for my 15-hour flight to Arlanda International Airport (ARN) in Stockholm:

bbornonbluedayI devoured Born On a Blue Day quickly. I recommend it unreservedly.

The author is a 27-year-old man with Asperger Syndrome (AS) an anomalous neurological condition within the autism disorder spectrum, “characterized by difficulties in social interaction and by restricted and stereotyped interests and activities. AS is distinguished from the other Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in having no general delay in language or cognitive development” (from an authoritative source found on the Internet).

Further information on the book can be seen underneath the link to the book, above.

I want to talk here about how I saw some parallels in the social and other development of the author and me, and how it leads me to speculate that perhaps we all are somewhere on the spectrum between incomplete and imperfect, and full and perfect, neurological development.

Artemis Pavellas, pregnant with Ron Pavellas, San Francisco, 1936

I have been interested in the brain, my brain, since around age seven when I felt I had a mission to “perfect the self.” Memory is a slippery thing, so I will hedge a bit to say I certainly had this very phrase as an imperative when around 12. This mission faded away, gradually, to disappear somewhere in my 30s or 40s.

I now expand upon my own perceived development in response to certain items the author recites in his own circumstances.

From the beginning, I was very good in math and puzzles, but began to lose interest in such pursuits when in my late 20s. I was a “serious” baby and child, according to my mother; she was concerned about it but I was allowed to be myself. As she later told me, Mom wondered what was “going on inside of my little head”. I didn’t talk about what she felt was surely going on in there.

My Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) “type” is INTJ, described, in part, as “very analytical … more comfortable working alone than with other people, and not usually as sociable as others … tend(s) to be very pragmatic and logical …, often with an individualistic bent and a low tolerance for spin or rampant emotionalism….”

So I naturally have as my favorite Star Trek characters, Messrs. Spock & Data.

Mr. Spock /// Mr. Data

Another one of my characteristics, similar to one of Tammet’s, is that of disliking being interrupted while developing and expressing a thought. I very often hesitate to begin what I think is an interesting, possibly useful, exposition knowing I will, in 99% of cases, be interrupted. There are few (what I call) polite conversations anymore, where a person can speak until done, then give over to others. There seems just not enough time.

While not extremely obsessive, I am a neatnik and find the disorder of others quite irritating to the point of sometimes leaving the scene. My own apparent disorder in things around my home office, for instance, is organized in my way. Shared spaces in my home are usually orderly or I make them so.

Perhaps the most interesting, to me at least, is this shared characteristic: I need people to “make sense.” As an INTJ, “… this sometimes results in a peculiar naiveté,… expecting inexhaustible reasonability and directness” in a relationship.

But enough about me. How about you?

This book has many other wonderful attributes. Among them is that it is cleanly and clearly written. It makes sense. It has at least two love stories: between the author and his family, especially his parents; and, between him and his life partner (he is homosexual).

Above all, the author’s story is a lesson on how any of us, with our quirks, peculiarities and possible deficiencies compared to the norm, are valuable as humans. All we need is love to bring it all out.