Many of you know that I’ve held off on describing what I experienced recently while I was a student in the counseling program at the local university. I believe waiting was a beneficial decision.
Today, I have arrived at a place of closure, over the events that have transpired. I cannot say I am at peace, but I am definitely thinking more clearly and feeling more centered than I have in weeks.
I believe now I have the capacity to share my experience with clarity and without undertones of self-pity and pain. I share primarily to expose the discrimination that can occur towards individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. Please keep in mind I was a successful teacher for many years, earning the highest marks, and that I was never subjected to unjust criticism or unsolicited advice. No one knew I had Aspergers when I was a teacher. Not even me.
Yesterday I met with the Dean of Education, whom I found to be forthright, careful, and kind. She listened patiently as I lamented about my experiences with the professors. I cried for the entirety—a good thirty-minutes. Because of the position she holds at the university, there wasn’t much she could offer in terms of condolence or her opinions.
She did state, in so many words, that the group of professors heading the counseling department at the university tend to have “their views,” but that their views don’t represent everyone, of course.
Their views meaning the family system theory view.
Their views meaning: Asperger’s Syndrome is created and perpetuated by family members’ words, actions, subconscious drives, and by family dynamics. In other words Aspergers is not the result of brain functioning, environment, and/or genetics. And Aspergers is definitely not a different way of looking at the world or high intelligence. Aspergers is a syndrome created by family members.
I can’t see myself striving in an environment where close-minded teachers are compartmentalizing individuals based on their own narrow and biased theories. Where they are desperately lacking in current theories and personal accounts regarding Aspergers. Where they have no interest at all to know how Aspergers manifests itself in individuals. Where I wasn’t once asked: What’s that like?
A place where I was queried by a licensed mental health therapist with a PHD in psychology, my professor: “Are you happy you have pronounced to the world your brain and your son’s brain are broken?”
A place where I was told that I had “likely manifested my own Asperger’s Syndrome in order to be closer to my son.”
A place where I was accused of taking my child to a psychiatrist, “so you (I) can put him on medication and not have to deal with the real issues.” (Not that it matters, but my son isn’t on any medication.)
A place where I received the following email from a professor after I professionally disputed a grade, because I was very aware the professor had not kept accurate records of student work: “Another faculty concern is tone and professionalism when communicating conflict. This is very important when requests are made both here in school and in your future work. You yourself, if you become a counselor, will need to remain calm and non-defensive in dealing with many clients who are upset and dysregulated.”
She prefaced this email with the assumption that since I had told her I had Asperger’s Syndrome that I was open to any of her advice.
There is more I could share, but I think this paints a clear picture.
In leaving the university yesterday, I carried away two of the dean’s statements:
1) Based on everything you have told me I think it is best you don’t continue in the program.
2) It is probably best if you don’t tell professionals you have Aspergers. It’s not the appropriate environment. They aren’t your therapists.
I am left perplexed and unsettled. I am concerned that this faculty will continue educating hundreds of counseling students. I am concerned that the dean is not instigating change.
And I have been turning over and over in my mind why Aspergers is something I was cautioned to hide.
Yes, I understand that by telling my professors I had Aspergers that I was treated differently, some would conjecture harshly. But is the solution for me to remain quiet and in hiding?
Is that what minorities have done in the past to be heard, to be seen, to achieve fairness, equity, and justice?
Is Aspergers such a widely misunderstood condition that I should retreat in shame?
This morning I came across this comment: “My son has just been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. My husband and I both sadly agree that we would rather that our son have diabetes.” (Paraphrased from a comment found on an online chat room.)
How is keeping my Aspergers hidden going to help this ignorance?
Here are more stereotypical views about people with Aspergers:
Mindset of a child
Lack people skills
Only see the world through their narrow point of view
Difficulty expressing emotions
Come across as know-it-alls
Fake their feelings
Poorly equipped to thrive
Here is the truth of Aspergers
The REAL ABC’s Of Asperger’s
These attributes describe some of the wonderful qualities people with Aspergers possess:
A: Apologetic, Admit fault, Avoid superficial conversation, Accepting of quirks
B: Brilliant in chosen field of study
C: Capable, Caring, Complimentary, Creative, Clever problem solvers
D: Detail oriented, Driven, Devoted, Dauntless in Interests, Dependable, Deep Thinkers, Don’t Discriminate, Don’t have hidden agendas, Defend the weak
E: Enthusiastic, Exhibit Exceptional Endurance, Entertaining, Enlightened
F: Fact Finders, Forthright, Forgiving, Free from prejudice, Fruitful
G: Genuine, Good memory for facts and details
H: High-level of Integrity, Honest, Highly Focused
I: Intelligent, Imaginative, Idealists, Ingenious, Instructive
J: Justice seekers, Just
K: Knowledgeable, Kind
L: Loyal, Look for goodness and genuineness in friends, Listen without judgment
M: Memory can be exceptional, Memorable conversationalist
N: Not bullies, Not manipulative, Not deceptive, Not game players, Not inclined to lie and steal
O: Original thinkers, Open to new information, Outstanding, Optimistic despite setbacks
P: Puzzle solvers, Pattern finders, Pragmatic, Philosophical thinkers, Poetic, Passionately Pursue interests
Q: Quick learners, Quick thinkers, Question “truths” and opinions
R: Reliable, Regard others for their personhood, Routine establishers, Rule followers
S: Sincere, Solution finders, Speak their mind, Strength in endeavors, Strong moral code, Sensitive to Sensory Stimuli
T: Talented, Trusting, Think in Pictures, Truth Seekers
U: Unique perspective and outlook
V: Valiant, Vigilant, Advanced Vocabulary
W: Word interest, Witty humor, Wonderful Work ethics
Y: Youthful-outlook, Yearn for truth
Z: Zestful, Zealous
I don’t know about you, but I think the world could do with a few more people like this!
Please share this page if you are inclined. I don’t know what my role is in all of this is, but I know I won’t stand in silence. I know the difference between right and wrong.
In love and peace ~ Sam Craft
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