What the Fuck’s Wrong With You? Part Four: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
So I finally had a diagnosis, and most of the accommodations I needed. I mean, what I really needed was a completely different environment which wasn’t perpetually overstimulating, a different curriculum that wasn’t devoted so heavily to rote learning and busy work, and a more empathetic society that would have strongly discouraged the bullying I experienced approximately thirty times every school day.
But hey, I got to use a calculator in math, so how cool is that?
In grade seven my temper did not improve. I was prone to regular outbursts in which I verbally attacked everyone I cared about, and also a lot of people I didn’t care about. I was moody, sullen, and anxious bordering on paranoid. I was also in love with one of my best friends, which made everything that much more complicated. I spent the year bouncing wildly between emotional extremes.
My friends had very different reactions to the news that I had a disability.
My friend Clyde didn’t understand N.L.D. no matter how many times I explained it to him. But he accepted it without question, and offered his unconditional support.
My friend Audrey did not believe I was disabled. She thought I was just lazy, and that a modicum of effort would solve all my problems. This was not due to callousness on her part. In retrospect I see that both her father and brother probably had Asperger’s, and so a lot of my behaviour would have seemed normal to Audrey.
My friend Kelly- who I was in love with- outwardly sided with Audrey in her conviction that I wasn’t disabled. But Kelly saw more of my highs and lows and dysfunctionality than anyone else, and it’s quite possible she believed there was something going on other than a lack of effort.
In grade eight, my mood settled down. I decided that maybe being an asshole wasn’t a good lifestyle choice.
Behind the scenes, there was some discussion about the extent of my retardedness. Apparently in high school, you can’t have an educational assistant if you have a learning disability. We live in a cruel and arbitrary world, and that’s just how it is. Only kids with developmental disabilities get E.A. support.
The psychologist who had sometimes visited me with the leopard print woman had taken a liking to me, and decided that I deserved E.A. support in high school.
In a meeting with my parents and teachers, he explained his thinking.
“You know, in my visits with David it occurs to me that he shows many symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome.”
“What’s that?” my dad asked.
“A mild form of autism. A developmental disability. If he were diagnosed with Asperger’s, he would be eligible for E.A. support in high school.”
“He’s not autistic. They don’t talk,” my mom said.
“Oh, only some people with autism don’t talk,” said the psychologist. “People with Asperger’s are mostly known for being smart and eccentric.”
Everyone in the room hmmed thoughtfully.
About a month later, a funny little man from the board office came to see me.
My parents had told me in passing that they’d been thinking about diagnosing me with Asperger’s.
“I already have one disability. I don’t need another,” I said.
My mom had found some interesting websites about Asperger’s and suggested I read them. I didn’t.
So when the funny little man showed up, I had no idea what was going on. In the past, I’d known something about whatever it was they were trying to diagnose me with, and so I usually crafted my responses to make it seem like I had or didn’t have a particular disability. Depending on what I wanted them to think.
Since I had no knowledge of Asperger’s at all, I had to answer the man’s questions honestly.
We kicked the vice-principal out of her tiny office and he sat behind her desk, and I sat across from him, and we talked. The man was disconcerting in a way I couldn’t quite pin down. His mannerisms made me uneasy in a way I couldn’t articulate.
In retrospect, I see that he was probably Aspie.
Our meeting lasted an hour or so, and he left, and I returned to class.
The funny little man scored the results of his test and reported to the head psychologist, who had to sign off on the results to make them official.
“He doesn’t have Asperger’s,” the funny little man said. “He has PDD-NOS.”
PDD-NOS is what they give you when they don’t know what you have. It’s a sloppy kind of no-man’s-land of a disability, resulting in limited accommodations and no E.A. support.
“I disagree,” the head psychologist said. “Check your results again.”
The funny little man checked again, and decided that I had Asperger’s.
Now, I definitely have Asperger’s, but to this day I don’t know if anyone believed I did when I was given the diagnosis. It might have just been a chess move.
And it worked.
When I went to high school in the fall I got E.A. support, and maintained it until I graduated. As a result of that, I became an honour student.
In high school I was fully confident that now we knew the entire story: I had N.L.D. and Asperger’s Syndrome. I was simultaneously gifted and retarded.
The intermittent panic attacks I had, accompanied by intense, disturbing, endlessly cycling thoughts and images, and overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame were definitely not an indication that something might have been missed.