If you’re part of the Autism community, Jerry Seinfeld’s admission that he feels he has Autism Spectrum Disorder probably isn’t new news to you. I didn’t feel I had much to write on the topic, but then my husband and I started talking about it, and gee, a plethora of opinions and thoughts came funneling out. Yeah, that’s what happens when Justin and I actually have a moment of peace to talk without peeping ears.
If you haven’t heard, Jerry Seinfeld told Brian Williams and the world, “I think, on a very drawn-out scale, I think I’m on the spectrum.” Why does he think he’s on the Autism Spectrum? He says, “Basic social engagement is really a struggle. I’m very literal, when people talk to me and they use expressions, sometimes I don’t know what they’re saying.”
What does Seinfeld’s announcement that he’s Autistic mean to the world, to the Autistic community, to Autistic parents? A Washington Post article says some Autism parent feel Seinfeld’s disclosure is a slap in the face. When parents are facing Autistic behaviors that are far more difficult to live with than Seinfeld’s, they feel he’s belittling the condition.
Here are my feelings.
- A person has the right to think and feel whatever they want about themselves. Let’s get that out of the way first. If he feels he has Autism, that’s his right. However, I still have some other opinions on the matter.
- When you are a celebrity, responsibility comes with your position. I would like to think I’m not one to hold celebrities, pastors, or people in influential positions in high regard, but to a certain extent, I do. They have a responsibility to the world that holds higher standards than the rest of us, non-celebrity types. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Their voice is heard farther and wider, they have a following of people who look up to them, and even respect them and their opinions. When a celebrity does something or is dealing with an issue, people follow, people talk, and people try to find answers.
When Robyn Williams committed suicide, social media was (and still is) running rampant with information on depression and mental disorders, encouraging friends and family to understand the condition and to support others who are struggling. It was everywhere.
When Ray Rice abused his girlfriend, social media was again laced with conversations about domestic abuse. Answers to questions on why women stay with men who abuse, why abuse happens, and how to identify when it is.
These are only two recent situations where something involving a celebrity influenced citizens to discuss issues.
So, when Seinfeld mentions he has Autism, if even on a drawn out scale, it makes the world take notice. They ask questions and associate Autism with this one guy, who is a very successful comedian, actor, and now producer. He’s famous and he’s done really well, so now the world assumes every Autistic person should be able to attain such stature, or at least they should be able to function as society expects.
- The Autism community already has too many name droppings to overcome. I can hear all of them yelling, “That’s not me!” More often than not, those who are mentioned in tandem with the word Autism aren’t people like Rain Man, it’s Einstein, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. The Autistic community already has to fight these labels when someone learns they have Autism, “Oh yeah, Steve Jobs was Autistic right?” or “What special thing can your child do?” like he’s a savant, a genius. Now we’ve added Jerry Seinfeld to the list of names, and a whole other conglomeration of abilities my child should have.
- There is a far greater list that comprises what a person with Autism is like than what Seinfeld mentioned. He listed three things that make him feel he’s Autistic, and those are; difficulty with social engagement, he’s literal, and he doesn’t understand expressions sometimes. The list that would constitute a diagnosis of Autism is far greater, and much more complex:
– Sensory Processing issues ranks quite high with most who have Autism.
– Stimming (flapping hands or playing with an item continuously)
– Inability to understand jokes and euphemisms.
– Routines are essential, and when disrupted cause high anxiety.
These are classic signs that a person has Autism, yet Seinfeld didn’t mention any of them.
- If people were in tune with themselves, many would find that they have a tendency that is listed on the Autism Spectrum. Those who are set in a routine, going to the grocery store on the same day every week, cleaning their house in the same order each time. Those who have difficulty making eye contact while talking to someone. Do I look at both eyes at the same time? Or one eye and alternate? Do I look at their nose as to see both at once? Those who have sensory issues, cut tags out of clothes, like a specific brand of sheets.
Can’t many of you relate in some way? I have many Autistic traits, but I’m really not sure that I’d label myself as Autistic.
Jerry Seinfeld may feel he’s has Autism, and Autism does have a very wide spectrum, that’s why it’s called Autism Spectrum Disorder, but I’m not sure it was the best idea to tell the world. Maybe he simply had an open and honest conversation with Brian Williams that happened to be aired to the populace. In the end, it was shared with millions. It might affect how some people view my son, who doesn’t talk, doesn’t play with toys or kids, stims, and thrives only on routine, and this makes me sad. People will form expectations of my son. But this happens whether Jerry Seinfeld shares his personal diagnosis or not.
So, we keep on sharing the positives of Autism, and the realism of Autism.
What you don’t see in this picture:
Jeremiah may have given the boy who’s in the picture a sideways glance, but there was no interaction.
His sister had to strongly encourage him to go down the slide with her.
He’s almost always doodling on this Christmas tree.
He can’t talk.
He flaps his hands and makes odd movements that make people stare.
I’m usually try to be positive about Autism, but these are truths. The truths of our life, and of thousands of people who have a child with Autism. I don’t dwell on what Jeremiah can’t do, because that doesn’t help anyone, I’ve watched the spiral in myself and others. I wanted to share these truths because this is more the reality of Autism, versus the one Seinfeld is portraying.
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