The ultimate real-life superhero in this story is my son. Well, ok, I’m his mum so I would say that. But, read on, and I’m sure that you will come to agree with me once I have introduced you to the first three of his superpowers.
Having been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome in 2005 when he was eight, the battles he has been and still is facing on a daily basis are monumental; he has to climb mountains where the rest of us take a quick and simple hurdle jump.
If you are not familiar with the condition, take a quick diversion now to the magical world of the National Autistics Society https://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is.aspx
Ready? Fasten your seatbelts! You are in for an amazing super-powered ride:
Super Power No. 1: The Secret Battle with the “Silent” Language
Our superhero cannot read body language. The “silent” language all of us can interpret and use with ease is a true enigma for him.
Imagine yourself in a situation where you are talking to somebody without having any kind of indication of how he/she feels about the conversation. Is he/she bored, frustrated, impatient, in agreement or disagreement with what you are saying?
Would you be happy to continue the conversation on these terms? I guess not. You would quickly come to feel very uncomfortable, make your excuses and run…
Now, picture this to be the case with every single conversation you have ever had and will have in the future.
But, our superhero has his magical powers to hand. He zooms in on painstakingly rehearsed signs and draws on his “silent language vocabulary” lessons like we would with a foreign language we are by no means fluent in.
At the same time, he manages to listen and respond to what is actually said and tries to mimic his own version of body language so that the other person would not be tempted to make his/her excuses and run.
Considering that he needs to do this every time he comes into contact with another person, I think we must acknowledge that our superhero must be pretty exhausted by the end of the day.
Super Power No. 2: The Eternal Battle with Obscurity
Our warrior is inclined to take almost everything that is said to him literally and has a tendency to find a thousand ways of interpreting instructions if they offer the slightest ambiguity. We all know what the latter feels like when we are trying to piece together the furniture we purchased from Ikea. Now, imagine feeling like this with about 80% of both written and verbal instructions floating about in our world.
Visualise yourself bending down and actually pulling your socks up when being told to do so and then getting the “weird” looks for what you felt was, at last, a very clear instruction.
Unlimited Kryptonite reserves are needed to enable our superhero to set out on each quest for clarification until there is no longer any doubt about the meaning of the task at hand.
He is facing this battle 24/7, 365 days a year; a herculean effort.
Super Power No. 3: The Slippery Slope of Small Talk & Other Meaningless Rituals
This is one of the most ferocious obstacles our champion has to face. Therefore, superpower No. 3 requires nerves of steel and an extraordinary dose of true grit. His success in this will determine his status as the lonesome warrior or the hero amongst friends.
Small talk and other meaningless rituals are essential ingredients of social interaction – the most complex and unpredictable adversary for our hero.
Talking about the weather, telling somebody that their haircut or new dress is beautiful when it absolutely does not suit them and promising to get together soon when there is actually no desire to do so.
Come on, admit it! We have all done it – to get over uncomfortable silences, to be kind rather than cruel, etc, etc – and all in the name of wanting to be liked, of remaining popular with our peers. It is an unwritten rule to do so in our society. Little white lies are totally acceptable and par for the course.
Now, our superhero does not see any logic in telling one another lies or boring facts in order to be liked.
Actually, makes sense doesn’t it?
So, he has to battle against his natural instinct of coming straight to the point (without talking about the clouds in the sky first) and always telling the truth, even if it hurts (“That new dress makes you look like you are wearing a sack of potatoes”).
Equally, he would not be offended in the slightest if people would treat him just so, in fact, he would appreciate it, as he can then be himself and leave the superhero cloak at home.
Sadly, he rarely comes across such straightforward honesty and has to join the general melee of dishing out untruths and meaningless rituals.
Have you ever watched the movie “Liar, Liar” (1997)? Jim Carrey portrays a lawyer who cannot lie for 24 hours due to a mysterious spell. His perfect life quickly unravels during this honesty spell. Being truthful and straightforward does not go down well in our society.
As soon as our superhero comes into contact with his peers, he has to slip into a skin that feels terribly uncomfortable to avoid being cast aside as a weirdo and a persona non grata.
How would you feel if you had to eternally play a role you loathed?
Now, would you agree with me that my son is the ultimate real-life superhero?
Considering that about 1% of the world’s population is on the autistic spectrum, there are 75 million others just like him out there; superheroes who battle on through all the obstacles and confusion around them every minute of their days.
If you look around you carefully, you may have the fortune of meeting one of them.
Now, wouldn’t that be a privilege?
There are of course many more super powers within autistic children and adults.
Do you have any thoughts on this topic? Please share them with me and comment below 🙂
Caren is a qualified and experienced digital copy & content writer with both a corporate and small business owner background. She runs KreativeInc Agency, a web design, development and content creation agency with her autistic son Callum Gamble.
She specialises in creating Inbound Marketing content for business websites and blogs. Using her expert knowledge, skills and personal experience in business development, personal improvement and autism, she crafts content that makes people take action. Her work is found in retail publications, professional websites, on her writer’s platform StoryBlog and more.
She is also an active advocate of neurodiversity in the workplace and co-founder of the NeuroPool network, neuropool.co.uk. Here, she is organising free educational workshops for employers on how to utilise the extraordinary talent found in people with autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia within their business.
When she isn’t typing away on her keyboard or spreading her mission, you can see her having her nose buried in a book or hiking up and down the steep hills of the Yorkshire countryside with her husband, son and daughter.
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