This past weekend, I engaged in the three latest events that were part of an awareness campaign I started nearly a decade ago. The weekend consisted of three screenings of The Asperger's Difference, a film in which I was featured along with two other students with Asperger's. This was followed by question and answer sessions. Raising awareness about the autism spectrum disorder with which I am diagnosed is nothing new, as the first time I spoke publicly on the topic was when I was 12, first during a Hayward Institute presentation, then for the then-new administrator for the Oakland School District. About four years later, I was filmed for The Asperger's Difference, which was being produced by a family friend who runs a school for kids on the autism spectrum. That same year I did a presentation at Cal. Then a year ago, the film was finally released, and since then I have participated in multiple screenings. First there was a screening in one of my classes freshman year (and there was a brown bag lunch not long after), then there was one last semester during a Psych seminar, then a Student Union screening not long after that, and finally, this past weekend. Each subsequent screening has been to larger audiences with more and more strangers, so I have been opening up to more and more people, and increasingly with people I don't even know.
One of the unique aspects of Asperger's Syndrome is that as an invisible disability, it is not well understood by the neurotypical community. This has led to many problems for the community, since first of all, without an explanation, those on the spectrum can come across as weird, insensitive, unable to perform certain tasks considered normal, and as having behavioral issues. Then, even with explanations, many neurotypical people will assume Aspies will be able to pick to up on how to behave normally, and be annoyed by quirks. There is often sympathy but not empathy. In some cases there is arrogance, in which someone who works with a person on the spectrum thinks they are an expert, and doesn't realize that no two people on the spectrum are exactly alike. There may even be cases of discrimination based on behaviors, something that has actually happened to a friend of mine. Such lack of understanding can lead to feelings of isolation, which is a shame, especially when the individual has a lot of potential. This has personally been an issue for me over the course of my life, and even today, I continue to have difficulty moving past being acquaintances with other people, among other issues. Therefore, I have made it my goal to continue to keep raising awareness like I have done so many times before.