Sunday, 7 October 2012

The closet door

In Denmark, people with Aspergers are mostly regarded as having a disability. Child care professionals, lots of parents, and journalists talk and write about it that way. Seeing the difference as a mere difference, which may even be turned into a strength, is not a common way to percieve Aspergers. And autism and other diagnoses as well.

Once, I met a boy of about 11 whose parents had him diagnosed with Aspergers. He described himself as disabled. We had some function at our house and I took refuge in the kitchen (as I always do when I can get away with it). This boy came and asked if he could help. I asked him to chop vegetables or something and the two of us talked. He said that he wasn't very good at being around large crowds (such as the one gathering in our house that day), because he was disabled. While we worked together, we talked about cooking, food, recipes, and his school. When there was no more to be done in the kitchen, I found him a remote room and a computer, and he and a few other boys played some online games.

This boy came across as nice, friendly, skilled (at least much better at cooking than his peers), and I was left with a very positive impression of him. And still, his parents, obviously not meaning to do any harm, had been so focused on the diagnosis, that the boy introduces himself as being disabled.

When child care professionals are eager to put a diagnosis on the childen in Danish schools and nursery schools, I am afraid that their motivation is mainly to be allocated more ressources, because a child with a diagnosis is entitled to additional support. We know very little of the consequences for the child later in life, what will happen when they, as the boy in my kitchen, introduce themselves as disabled? Can they get a job? A partner? Children?

A young man with Aspergers wrote a letter to the newspaper, describing the difficulties he encountered in getting a job, because he's got the diagnosis.

So parents and child care professionals make a child come out of the Aspie-closet, which only results in a stamp on his forehead. And for reasons that mainly relate to the needs of parents and teachers, that child has to carry the stamp with him for the rest of his life. Thus while the closet door opens, many other doors close.

I am a bit scared on my on behalf. But only a bit. I know I can adjust, I did it my entire life. And also, I already have a partner, children, a job. But on behalf of my youngest son: I am certain that the diagnosis will do him more harm than good. Not because of him, not because of the Aspergers. But because of the Danish manner of seeing needs instead of opportunities. Let's just close that closet door.

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