Day Without an Aspie – February 18, 2011
Hans Asperger was born on February 18, 1906. He is the man credited with being the first to identify Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). His birthday has been declared International Asperger’s Day and is observed by various autism-related organizations
Asperger’s Syndrome presents as a form of High-Functioning Autism. People with this syndrome (known to each other as “Aspies”) display the following classical affects:
1. Apparent Lack of Empathy – The Aspie may seem to be unable to relate to the feelings of others, or may appear to mis-identify other people’s emotional state. This presents a paradox when compared to the Aspie tendency towards above-average intelligence. The statement, “For someone so smart, you sure are stupid” is the type of comment that is often directed at Aspies.
2. Limited Ability to Form Friendships – This may be due to to several factors, not the least of which is that Aspies may seem too “different” (e.g., “weird”) to non-Aspies. Aspies are thus often the victims of bullying, which contributes to their further withdrawal from peer groups and family activities.
3. One-Sided Conversations – Aspies seem able to easily dominate a conversation, and thus may come across as “boorish” or arrogant. Aspies seem to often present a series of concise and to-the-point statements that explain simple concepts in very precise detail, and from multiple points of view.
4. Intense absorption in a special interest – Even when engaged in other activities, an Aspie may seem disproportionately preoccupied with subjects or topics that would only be a hobby to others. It is one thing to collect coins, while it is quite another to collect seemingly endless piles of 1961 American dimes.
5. Clumsy movements – Physical coordination seems to develop more slowly in Aspies than in non-Aspies. This also contributes to the Aspie’s inability to socialize, as they are often picked last for organized team sports as children.
Because these characteristics are minimized in “neurotypicals”, many organizations have been formed with the stated purpose of finding a “cure” for Asperger’s Syndrome. In return, many Aspies feel threatened by these “Curebie” organizations, since they seem to be trying to justify chemically altering the neuro-chemistry of Aspies in order to force conformity to a neurotypical ideal. This would effectively erase the Aspie’s personality and replace it with one that is more convenient for neurotypicals to deal with.
“Curebies” want nothing more than to force Aspies to conform to their Orwellian “Right-Think” ideals. They also advocate pre-natal testing for Asperger’s Syndrome so as to eliminate the inconvenience of having to raise a child who is unpopular or just plain “weird”.
To bring attention to this conflict of views, to present the significance of Aspies in our society, and to commemorate the life of Hans Asperger, I propose that Aspies everywhere – and others who are supportive of Aspies – set aside February 18, 2011 as a Day Without an Aspie.
On that day, I intend to stay at home and contribute nothing to the economy. This is my small way of showing people what the world would be like without Aspies in the workplace. My hope is that eventually, this and similar actions will show the world just how many of us there are, and just how much of a contribution we make to society and to the economy. To this end, I’ve also planned to communicate this event to the local news outlets – radio and TV stations – beginning about a week after New Year’s Day, with reminders every week until the actual day of the event.
And when I say “contribute nothing to the economy”, I mean no purchases of any kind – no gas for the car, no eating out, no movies, no groceries – nothing. I’ve also reserved that day as a personal day off from work. I may just spend the day either at the library or watching TV. Maybe I’ll do some yard work, bake some bread, or paint the bathroom.
Please consider taking similar actions. Call your local news outlets and ask them for details on “Day Without an Aspie (“DWaA”). Maybe you could even provide a few details of your own. The point is not so much as to “go on strike” as it is to get the media interested, and through their interest, maybe more non-Aspies will learn that we’re people too!
Let me make this clear: DWaA is not a holiday – at least, not in the sense that Americans would view it. It’s more of an anti-holiday, because there are no parades, no gift exchanges, no “Aspie-Day” sales (i.e., “50% off our entire line of sheet-and-pillow sets!“), and no all-day sporting events. People in the U.K. could take a “Holiday” on that Friday, though, but that’s an issue of semantics.
The plan for DWaA is for Aspies (and those who support them) to not contribute to their local economy for one entire day, and to bring media attention to the absence of people in stores and workplaces. Thus, if you must work that day (Friday, February 18, 2011), then simply purchase as little as possible on that day.
Q: Are’nt you promoting DWaA just to attract attention for yourself?
A: No. This is not about me. DWaA is about drawing attention to the idea that “Aspies Are People Too” and that we contribute to the economy and society in general. To this end, I’m promoting DwaA anonymously, and relying on others to do the same. Also, I’m releasing this article into the Public Domain, provided that it is copied and posted in it’s entirety, and that it is not amended or altered in any way.
Q: Is tDWaA a protest?
A: Not in the popular sense. We can not gain popular support with name-calling, noisy protests, obstructing traffic, and committing destructive acts. We need to present an image to the public that we are reasonable, peaceful people who can make decisions for ourselves and act on those decisions without meltdowns or lack of reason. If it helps, consider DWaA to be a general boycott of commercialism and exploitation. If that doesn’t inspire you to inaction, then I don’t know what will.
Q: Shouldn’t DWaA be commercialized?
A: No. The focus of this non-event is on “What would business and commerce be like without Aspies?” DWaA thus becomes ineffective if it encourages buying and selling. Thus, no commemorative tchochkes for sale, and no fund-raising. If anyone approaches you to collect funds for DWaA, then they are doing so fraudulently. Even a parade or public demonstration would attract crowds, who would then go into the nearest store or restaurant to buy something, thus defeating the whole purpose of DWaA.
Q: Couldn’t DWaA be done on a grander scale?
A: Possibly, but then the message gets lost in the complexities of organizing and staging a series of grand events. Let’s keep DWaA simple: (1) Buy or sell nothing on February 18, 2011; (2) Let your local media outlets know what’s going on; and (3) Get your friends and family involved, too.
Q: Why not have a celebration?
A: We have no cause to celebrate until Aspies are accepted as normal human beings in a neuro-diverse society. This is our goal. Only this, and nothing more.
About the Author
The author of this article and blog frequently posts on the Aspies For Freedom (www.AspiesForFreedom.com) and the James Randi Educational Foundation (www.Randi.org) websites under the pseudonym of “Fnord”. The author wishes to express his gratitude to AFF and JREF for the freedom to express ideas and the opportunity to develop social skills through their online communities. The author also wishes to remain anonymous.