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Jerry Seinfeld Drops a Junior Mint into Autism Community

Seinfeld(Note to review the CDC diagnostic criteria for autism, visit - CDC.gov.)

By Kim Stagliano

A fews days ago I began Tweeting Jerry Seinfeld like a madwoman about his interview with Brian Wiliiams of NBC. He told Williams, "I think on a very drawn out scale, I'm on the Spectrum." (Insert Kramer double take here.)

You know what, Jerry? I think on a very drawn out scale, I'm a 19 year old SuperModel. Oh wait, I'm not. I'm a 50 year old mother of three daughters with autism. Actual autism.

  • Earlier this month I visited "Dayhab" programs for my 19 year old.

  • I haven't slept a full night in 9 months courtesy of my 18 year old who is convinced the house alarm is going to go off in the middle of the night and wakes 2, 3, 4, 5 times in a tizzy. By tizzy I mean screaming fit.

  • I'm waiting for test results for my 14 year old to hopefully (fat chance) tell me what is going on inside her body, everything is a guess. She does not speak.


So when I heard that Senfield, whom I adore as a comic, blithely said he thought he was on the Spectrum, I became angrier than The Soup Nazi. Sure, he probably meant Asperger's Syndrome and not full autism. I get that. Many people use the terms interchangeably - which is incorrect - but I understand how it happens when you are outside of the autism community.  But Asperger's is (or was, since DSM-V has muddied the waters with the merging of AS and ASD) is also a diagnosis that is fraught with challenges of a different sort. Not better, not worse, but different. 

Let me give you one idea of what it's like to have Asperger's Syndrome, or autism for that matter. 



THAT.



Not knowing you are breaking the social rules as people around you look on with - well sometimes disdain, sometimes impatience, sometimes outright scorn. It's not so funny.

When celebs like Seinfeld "come out" in some fashion, or when TV shows have funny quirky characters and claim "this is autism" (yes you, Big Bang Theory) it makes my daughters' lives harder. Why? Because the message is "See? Autism Spectrum Disorder isn't so bad. It's kind of cool actually!"

Are people with autism and Asperger's often cool and quirky and funny and wonderful? Heck yes.  That doesn't mean the diagnosis is something to be worn like a badge of honor, even if the person is able channel the traits into a good life. And I wish a good life for every person on the Spectrum.  Surmounting the challenges?  That's where the badge of honor works for me.

Jerry's iconic TV show first aired 25 years ago, when the autism rate was just starting in increase from 1 in 2500. Today, the rate is 1 in 68. I just don't think Jerry Seinfeld is "Autismworthy."


House of Cards 200 pixelsKim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism. Her new novel,  House of Cards; A All I Can Handle 50 pixel Kat Cavicchio romantic suspense is available from Amazon in all e-formats now. Her memoir, All I Can Handle I'm No Mother Teresa is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book.

Comments

@true

Yes, BIll Gates looks much older than his years. Of course it may be more to do with his schedule but he does not look healthy.

   true

Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates definitely seems vaccine injured...not surprised.

Roger Kulp

For me,the labels in the DSM never fit,and my picture never made any sense until I got my three medical diagnoses,and put all the pieces together.I have or had all of the features of mitochondrial autism,as laid out by Marvin Natowicz in 1999
http://phxautism.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/15.-Metabolic_Geneticist.pdf
But on top of that,I was very low functioning in what is called conceptual and practical skills.So much so,I was classified as having selective intellectual disability,as described here.
http://www.thearc.org/page.aspx?pid=2448
This would be where the low functioning part from the cerebral folate deficiency comes in.

The DSM-IV did a horrible job when it came to trying to describe autism where there are underlying medical problems contributing to the autism,so for those who are medically complex,throwing all autism together,and creating the new classification of Social Anxiety Disorder,can be seen as the first steps in the right direction.Not perfect,just a pretty good fresh start on the road to sorting the whole mess out.Autism has always been poorly classified,with too few things factored into the diagnosis.

Cherry Sperlin Misra

This Seinfeld Episode has many lessons for people in the autism community. The powers above us have done a very good job of projecting autism as something positive and we have not been able to educate the public as to what autism actually entails.
When you get into the realm of high functioning Aspergians like John Elder Robison, you have to deal with the concept that each person has of their "self". People in that category, bravely try to accept their "self" as they know it, having been told that that is how they were born. Even if they get the bad news that they were originally meant to be someone else, and that was snatched away from them by autism, they are likely to reject that idea. The sense of self is so hard to deviate from.
But I imagine these people, one day , when they are over 50 perhaps, sitting thoughtfully all alone in a beautiful meadow, thinking -" I've done pretty well. Ive been lucky. Im proud of my achievements, but yes, It would have been nice not to have people scold me and make me feel defective as a child. It would have been nice to not laugh when some child fell down and was hurt, and everyone looked daggers at me. It would have been nice to be a leader or at least an equal in a gang of 4-5 neighbour boys. It would have been nice to have real friends and go on sleep-overs. It would have been nice to be one of those two big strong teenagers, striding into the tennis court, chatting and laughing, swinging their racket."
Friends, when does the pain of autism ever end?
I think it is difficult for many people to feel emphathy with people whose suffering they do not perceive and it is difficult to spend your time feeling sorry for someone whom you think was just genetically unlucky . These are realities that we have to deal with.

Benedetta

Except those with PDD-NOS many times goes right ahead and learns to talk - eventually.

Is this right?

IT was for my son.

Benedetta

Asperger - classical autism

Soon the PDD-NOS will be all gone -- the middle population is just going to go poof.

My son was PDD-NOS in grade school -- I went to one of the reall good, super, duper, child development places to see what I needed to know further -- thinking seizures and they tell me he has tourettes.

So in middle school -- he still had PDD-NOS but we moved to Michigan and a new school system and he is then by magic one of those aspergers guys -- that I always dreamed of having. When they told me that he had aspgergers I thought VEGAS here we come.

Except I was helping in math and I knew better -- I just still knew with all the changing of the dignosis - never mentioning the tourettes - that no one was addressing the seizures.

A parent's reaction -- when a neurologist tells that mother that yes, we noticed finally- this time there was seizures -- her reaction should not be a big sigh of relief -- and a smile -- from spreading across my face that I could not stop. Oh, God - to be reduced to that reaction.

I would imagine that mine does now have aspergers since it seems the only difference in PDD-NOS and aspgergers would be - if they are talking or not. Is there another difference between the two??? I don't think so --

Roger Kulp

Bob,we definitely need more people diagnosed with Aspergers or high functioning autism speaking out against statements like this,and against neurodiversity as a whole.As it is,we are led to believe everybody at the higher functioning end of the spectrum believes ASD is something to celebrate.

billie joe

I hope you have asked to interview him, Kim.

Bob

I get what you're saying. But it's a fact that DSM-V merged autism and Asperger's. This is not to say that Jerry Seinfeld has either. But if you keep separating the two, that makes it harder for those of us who actually have autism (in the old-fashioned Asperger's sense) get the help we need. Please don't keep separating two disorders that aren't officially recognized as being distinct. You are doing some of us a huge disservice.

Carolyn Couglin

COMIC ALERT: Kim's book, "House of Cards" is so funny that my husband stole my iphone (which has kindle on it) after I let him read the first few pages and wouldn't give it back until he was done! It's REALLY good and REALLY funny. Kim, I wish you would publish it in paperback (try createspace.com for Amazon-it's free until you buy one---in all your spare time you don't thave!) because I would get a few and start leaving them around in waiting rooms for people to read. And giving them as gifts to gently educate people who just don't get it. . .

It's such an awesome way to truly understand what autism means to a family but the humor is amazing and the story is so great, I want to see more about her! People who have never heard of crapisode will never see Autism as Jerry Seinfeld again. . .

Anyhow it was so fun to see you quoted in Washington Post. . . I do think Jerry has some asperger traits, but I also see why it is SO inappropriate--it's like joking that you have Alzheimers when you lose your keys. Not funny if you have a relative with alzheimers.

A-hole, Anosognosia or ASD?

I have no idea if Seinfeld is on psych meds but know from the time I spent in LA that many, many people in the entertainment industry spend years on antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs due to the pressures of that arena. Psychopharm expert Peter Breggin warned 20 years ago that these meds could cause certain symptoms that overlap with autism, like social withdrawal, memory issues, OCD, repetitive and literal thinking, rage and irritability and on and on unto full blown dementia. Seinfeld didn't look ASD to me from that clip but the kind of la-dee-dah manner in which he labeled himself gave me flashbacks to how people I knew who were in the early stages of drug injury would sort of "proselytize" their labels. I have only ever seen those with acquired damage or who were claiming the labels like the equivalent of a handicap parking space for their self-centered personalities pronounce this stuff in that sing-songy manner. I've never seen anyone with a life-long disability do the same. The sing-songy thing seems to be some kind of indicator that the label is preferred to another less palatable interpretation-- like drug damage or the fact that maybe they're just an asshole.

As far as happy pill injury, I've seen it happen a few times up close and personal. And I heard how the prescribing doctor expediently misconstrued textbook drug side effects with emerging "underlying disorders" and how the patient-- who feared losing their "fix"-- would go along with more and more serious labels just to keep the drug scrips coming and because the meds damage the parts of the brain which would otherwise enable them to form perspective on the effects the meds are having-- something called "drug spellbinding." I watched several people's personalities radically change, but they ended up accepting that they were "bipolar" or schizoid or even "on the spectrum." The patient could turn to the endless stream of drug-marketing promos in Time Mag which illicitly label dead celebs with these conditions ("Jefferson was bipolar," etc.) to assuage themselves that famous people had the same thing. They grow deaf to historical contradictions or the fact that rates of these conditions have exploded in the industrial age.

At the end of the day, being on the "champagne end" of the ASD spectrum and pretending it's the "Einstein diagnosis" might sound better than drug-induced brain damage and larval dementia. It serves the shrink who doesn't have to report side effects or face malpractice suits. It serves the drug companies by covering up adverse events as well as ramping up the numbers of people with serious disorders as well as drug profits from lifelong customers-- and the patient can continue to feed the monkey.

Again, is that true of Seinfeld? I don't know. He might be in the early stages of Alzheimer's as well and the ASD label helps him pretend that's not the case. Or he might be having relationship trouble due to workaholism and the fact that he's been surrounded by yes men and ADs who will sort his M&Ms by color-- and the label was a way of saying, "I'm not going to change for you. When you talk, I'm just thinking about work. This is just me and if you don't accept being second string, you're discriminating..." But whatever the case is, he ain't on the spectrum.

Stagmom

Hi,Jonathan. I am not sure how John Robison has described himself. He certainly has official diagnosed Asperger's and when I first met him many years ago, I can promise you he was seriously noticeabley Aspergian. He might say he does not feel disabled. And certainly he has created a solid career - several actually - but not without sacrifice and struggle - as he writes about in his books.

KIM

Jonathan

Interesting you don't make the same statements about your pal John Elder Robison who has stated he is on the spectrum even though he has stated he has no disability of any kind. Wonder why he gets a pass and Seinfeld doesn't.

Will's mom

I checked the CDC definition of autism. it still does not reflect everything my son suffers from. Then I checked the CDC definition of a stroke. In says:

"If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T.1 and do the following simple test:

F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T—Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately." (http://www.cdc.gov/stroke/signs_symptoms.htm)

My son cannot smile on demand. My son cannot raise both arms on demand. My son cannot speak or say anything intelligible on demand. Should I call 9-1-1? Then I will have to be calling 9-1-1 24/7/365. Why then the CDC or our doctors don't sound an alarm!!! Why are they covering themselves up with that "handicapped" definition of autism on their site??? Why everything else in this country of more importance than trying to help our children? I think it is high time to change this, to change the definitions, the attitudes, the priorities, the treatments, etc. Maybe then, Jerry Seinfeld will be ashamed of what he's done. Until then, he and alike won't understand why we are so mad at him, since everywhere on the web and in CDC publications autism is "just" a social behavior disorder...

Kristine

My own son is more moderate-severely affected by autism so I can understand the outrage from our end of the spectrum. What I don't understand is why those with HFA or Aspergers are not equally outraged with Jerry's proclamation. I have many friends who have kids with HFA and this is no walk in the park, it is a serious disability in need of treatment, services and yes acceptance. Jerry says autism is not a dysfunction, but an "alternate mindset" what do those with HFA think about that? If they agree then I guess they don't need IEP services or medical treatments like therapy. They don''t need transitional services or adult services then- because they don't have limitations, they are merely socially awkward and different. That is what Jerry Seinfeld has done to bring awareness. I don't know why anyone would think this is a positive.

Roger Kulp

The Seinfeld-Descartes Nautism Diagnostis Tool: "I think I am Autistic therefore I am Autistic"


http://autisminnb.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-seinfeld-descartes-autism.html

aspiesmom

Reminds me when my son was head-banging by himself in the High School patio to someone's boombox, and the next day I was called in by the Assistant Principal, lol. He asked me if something was bothering my son? I said no, everything is great, my son was dancing his heart out!

aspiesmom

Lol, Kim, you make me snort laugh in the morning, you are way more on the comedy spectrum than Jerry Seinfeld! You definitely have a humor mindset. I can see you on Comedy Central on a very drawn out lucrative contract ;)

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