A lot of people only see the bad sides of Asperger’s. What they don’t see is that it can have its perks, too. My entire career as an author—which is a very fun one!—is entirely dependent on this condition.
Yes, there are certain things that I am unable to do—say, eating without making a mess, or making eye contact with perfectly nice people. And there are times when the crushing intensity of mental looping, OCD and other mental episodes makes me barely able to function.
But as far as spewing forth words, pictures and origami about Star Wars and middle school disasters goes … that, I can do. In fact, it’s hard to stop.
And, very luckily for me, it turns out that that is indeed a career.
As you may know, at school visits and signings, I tell kids that Asperger’s is my superpower. It’s a much easier way to explain all this ability/disability/syndrome stuff. And it’s a positive thing to remember when you’re dealing with all the Kryptonite in this bizarro world.
Asperger’s is a really strange thing … and, really, I’m not sure I believe it’s a thing. But it’s a useful term to describe being somewhere way down the spectrum/multiverse from neurotypical. It’s really funny the way all of that non-neurotypical, “Aspie” stuff has built upon itself to get me here.
At the center of a lot of it is word flow. The word flow never stops. That’s my number one Asperger’s trait. As Temple Grandin might explain it, there are way too many wires running from the word department to the mouth department. So the words are usually either coming out of mouth and driving everybody to desperation, or flooding my brain and driving me to desperation.
My school days were tumultuous: running my mouth + bad social skills = awkward situations. Awkward situations * bad social skills = humiliations, meltdowns, or both.
It was far better to occupy myself with, say, folding some origami or doodling or watching Star Wars.
It took a while, but eventually I hit on a way to put all of that together: I direct the word flow into a computer and write books about kids who fold/draw/watch Star Wars and have awkward situations/humiliations/meltdowns. (And, since it’s fiction, they also have TRIUMPHANT VICTORIES on a regular basis!)
Luckily, a lot of kids liked the books that came out of all that. And that has not only been a great job, but it’s led to other things, like writing a novelization of Return of the Jedi.
I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t have Asperger’s, but I wouldn’t be doing this. I couldn’t be doing this.
And I love what I’m doing. It’s the best job ever and I’m glad I’m able to do it!
Tom wrote this article for Autism on the Page and generously agreed to have it crossposted between Disability in Kidlit and The Guardian, where it was published earlier this morning.