By Ginger Taylor
More than a week ago I wrote a little piece on my blog announcing to the world that I was tired of people redefining autism to suit their own agenda, and then applying their definition to themselves and the rest of the world.
Then Jerry Seinfeld had to go and give me the most egregious example possible of said phenomenon. Jerry, whose social and communication skills have made him an almost billionaire, has decided he has autism.
In my blog piece, I remind the reader that autism is a DSM disorder defined and diagnosed according BEHAVIORS. Those behaviors are impaired communication, impaired socialization and stereotyped behaviors. If someone has those behaviors, then they are diagnoseable with an autism spectrum disorder; if not, then they are not diagnosable with an ASD. Pretty simple.
But people have taken the autism label and redefined it to include any number of emotional states, spiritual expressions, physical phenomena, experiential descriptions, identity issues and lots of other things that may or may not be present in some people with an autism diagnosis. They call that “autism” and then demand that the world now define autism in their terms.
Just days after my little rant reminding people that autism is, by definition, a social/communication/behavioral impairment and dysfunction... which means that it gets in the way of functioning... which means it makes it difficult for people to operate functionally in our society... which means that things like success in gainful employment and working relationships are very difficult to come by... Jerry Seinfeld has announced to the world that he fits that bill.
Except he is the opposite of that.
Jerry's communication and social skills have made him THE wealthiest actor in the world. He is worth $820 million dollars. He is arguably the world's most famous living comedian. And yet Jerry Seinfeld now claims he has autism.
Mind you, he has not actually been diagnosed with it by any of the one thousand willing and qualified medical and psychiatric professionals within one square mile of wherever he happens to be standing right now, but he thinks that he is on the autism spectrum because:
"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," he said. "But I don't see it as dysfunctional, I just think of it as an alternate mindset."
And you can watch Jerry struggle with basic social engagement and making friends on his new show where he socially engages his many friends, who happen to be the most famous, popular and clever people in the world, on his new show, “I Can't Look You In The Eye or Answer Wh Questions Without Prompting.” No... that's not it. It's called “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” A follow-up to the most famous comedy show of the late 20th century in which Jerry spent many years making witty banter that was frequently entered into the English lexicon. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
That reminds me... do you remember that hilarious episode where Jerry walked around his apartment on his tiptoes while flapping, wiped his poop on the wall, got lost for three days in Manhattan, was tortured by bullies and then had a seizure? Me neither.
Because again, Jerry apparently has the kind of autism that is not dysfunctional, even though autism by definition is dysfunctional. He has a non-impairing impairment. Because autism, it’s just a different way of being– even though, again, by definition, being listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental DISORDERS means that it is a disorder... which means that it is disordering, dysfunctional and impairing.
Jerry, if what you have is not dysfunctional, then it is not autism. You need to come up with a new name for whatever it is you think you have.
Because THIS is actual autism. Here are a few Facebook posts from my fellow autism moms as of late:
“Thank you so very much to all who have prayed so earnestly for Brandon (age 18, non-verbal, wears diapers) during this period of bad seizures. Had Grand Mal’s Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Tuesday he was awake but in bed. He at least started drinking a bit and eating. Today, Wednesday, he was up, albeit still a bit weak, but ate and is on his way for half day of school at least. Thank you all for praying him through this.”
“WORST phone call to receive from school! ’Allison, CJ's gone missing, calling the police station now. what should I say about the device?’ (FYI they know he's got a tracking device). Thank God he's on project lifesaver because I knew it was only a quick matter of time before we would find him. They only waited 5 minutes before calling me, they alerted the entire middle school and attached elementary by PA, were about to lock down the building when they found him in the girls bathroom in the elementary side. Exemplary behavior by everyone at the school! They did exactly what was needed to be done and alerted me right away. Poor Olivia heard it over the PA and was really worried until he was found. I just left the school and thanked all of them for their swift actions!!!!”
“For more than 6 years, the only way Graison could communicate that he was hungry was to cry. Crying usually means 1 of 3 things: he’s hungry, he’s tired, or he doesn’t feel well. For 6 years, like you do with an infant, you try to determine the reason for the cry. Well, not today folks!! Graison just walked up & said “Hungry” then pointed to his belly, and said “Hungry” again. For the 1st time EVER, I didn’t have to guess. He just came up and told me!”
Autism is an actual DISORDER that makes the lives of people with it and those who love them very, very difficult.
Thanks, Jerry, for minimizing my son's disorder to the lowest possible level so that people don't take his special needs seriously. I kinda think that it is pretty unlikely that I will ever see a photo taken of him at an exclusive party, with his beautiful wife, and his friend Steven Spielberg while wacky pal George Clooney photobombs in the background. At age 12 his only friend is his older brother.
You might as well say, as you are leading the pack toward the finish line of the New York Marathon, "Well, I have weak calves, so I think I am, in the broadest sense, a paraplegic – but I don't see it as a dysfunction."
To which guys in wheelchairs might appropriately respond, "Screw you, Jerry."
If readers would like to donate to the fund set up so that Jerry can get a full-time aide and the services he needs to be successful in life, go to http://www.gofundme.com/screwyoujerry.