Pretending to be Normal

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Unlike Planet Aspergers, Planet Earth is a place of with limited food, water, land, time and other resources. Such scarcity means that whenever we make one choice, we give up on the countless other possible choices. In addition, we cannot reverse our choices to correct our mistakes or to avoid their consequences.

To cope with limitations, Earthlings evolved an instinct for "fairness" that they use to judge each other. Those who help them personally, or appear to contribute much to society, are viewed favorably. Those who don't do either are often seen as parasites taking advantage of the hard work of other people.

Autistics who insist that non-autistics accept their lifestyles without judgment or requirement do not understand that they cost other people effort, time and resources by simply being who they are. If they need respect, freedom and rights, then earn these rather than demand these from others. In other words:

  • Make use of their knowledge, skills and personality to win respect for their condition and the freedom to live their lifestyle
  • Become aware of how they are costing other people and seek to eliminate (or at least reduce) this cost

Unfortunately, the instinct for fairness is often misunderstood as the instinct for conformity. I believe that while conformity is often a key factor in human relationships, fairness is even more fundamental and has longer lasting effects. In other words, autistics do not need to (pretend to) be normal in order for other people to accept them. To a large extent, autistics can obtain the right to break social norms by providing help and support to other people. However, since it is expensive to create such social credits, wise autistics will:

  • Break social norms only when absolutely necessary
  • Avoid breaking norms that incur high social cost
  • Always maintain a significant social surplus in case of emergency use


However, I believe that non-autistics should also respect the autistic lifestyle so that everyone can work in harmony together. When I look at the education advocated for autistics (e.g. social inclusion with peers of the same age), it becomes apparent that many non-autistics do not fully understand the culture of autism and unintentionally impose their own ideas and ideals on autistics.

  • Why should autistics be compared with others on their weakest points (e.g. social skills) instead of their stronger points (e.g. technical skills)?

Is it not better to learn something potentially rare and highly valued instead of something commonly taken for granted? Is it not better to learn something that the autistic can make a great career out of instead of unintended comedy?

  • Why should independent living be considered highly important, when we know very well that maids are available for hire and NeuroTypicals often dine out?

Isn't it better to focus on learning how to earn money to pay for domestic help and restaurant set meals?

  • Why do schools emphasize on improving social skills to make friends? Is assertiveness training so important and effective in warding off bullies?

Isn't it better to develop autistics into useful assets to their classmates so that they gain respect and protection? Isn't it better to help autistics formulate strategies of "social utility" (being useful to other people in a social context) instead pretending to be normal with memorized social scripts?

  • Why do many consider getting a job so important, when autistics find working with colleagues a hassle and are helpless with office politics? Why make them a cog in the corporate wheel when we know that they often have very strong opinions of how to do things and following illogical bureaucratic rules is the last thing that they want to do?

Isn't it better if we help them start a small company so that they can offer their skills on a freelance or part-time basis to other people? Isn't it better to teach them how to earn passive income, such as through licensing their intellectual property?

  • Why should parents take for granted that they must spend their hard-earned salaries to make their children normal, without any expectations of recovering this cost?

In my view, therapies should be coaching and training sessions. Expenditures should be profitable investments. Interventions should be long-term career planning. And therapists should not be treating problem children, but developing potential geniuses. And there should not be hope, but faith, that these children will live meaningful lives of service.

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Ignoring their own lofty goals of "realizing the full potential of each child", our educational systems are more like mass production lines for producing work labor to realize "the economic value of future working adults". Thus, in our schools, children are taught to be normal rather than to be extraordinary. But it is being extraordinary that they can contribute to our society. And this is even more true for those who have special needs.

I have had these struggles with my schools and some people around me. They want me to be a normal cog in our abnormal society. When I started doing my autism work, these voices only grew stronger and angrier.

  • Do you know that you are making your mother worried?
  • Why are you doing those useless charity work overseas when you can make a good living working in Singapore?
  • What would you do when I die? How would you take care of yourself!?
  • Get a job now or you will have no future after age 28!
  • Oh? He is merely an unemployed adult autistic.

The last straw came when I received an ultimatum to choose between my family and autism work. So here I am, joining the corporate rat race full-time in Singapore.

Committing to such an extreme life change made me rethink my strategies. Many autistics have shared about the pain and suffering of pretending to be normal. I had my share of these as well, but now that my social skills and instincts have developed considerably, I have a choice.

People can no longer tell that I have autism unless they know my past history; not even autism professionals. When I share about autism, many were surprised that I have ever been autistic. As long as I don't mention my work and people don't research me on the Internet, they can't tell. So shall I just fit in and pretend to be normal?

Why do so? Because I don't like autism to be the centerpiece of my life. Rather than be known as a "recovered autistic", I will be known as an inspirational writer, successful social entrepreneur and innovative inventor who has changed the world. There is more to the future of an autistic than self-advocacy, independent living and gainful employment.


Hierarchy of Achievements

Mainstream Ideas My Ideas
  1. Marriage
  2. Independent Living
  3. Gainful Employment
  4. Autism Advocacy
  5. Academic Success
  6. Able to fit in
  1. Accepting Humanity
  2. Financial Independence
  3. Purpose Driven Life
  4. World Peace
  5. Service to Humanity (with New Solutions & Paradigms)
  6. Enjoying Social Life

I have demonstrated that we can become a computer expert by self-learning. There is no need to rely on academic instruction.

I have demonstrated that I can create an impact in autism research even if I have no formal qualifications in this area, and do not intend to obtain one.

I have demonstrated that there is more than one way to grow, more than one dimension within a person and more than one definition of success.

I have demonstrated that we can keep what others call weaknesses and make these our strengths. That we do not have to choose only between conformity and rebellion, between material success and personal meaning etc. That we do not have to choose to believe only one truth out of the countless possible truths. That we are more than who we think we are.

And I have a dream...

I have a dream that one day, we no longer speak about autism as a curse but as a blessing, because we would have found how to make autism a blessing.

I have a dream that one day, there shall be no special needs schools, because our educational systems finally recognize that all students have special needs.

I have a dream that one day, we can erase all anti-discrimination laws from our legislatures, because they are no longer necessary.

I have a dream that one day, we will not prize material or academic success, but our own meaningful service to Humanity.

I have a dream that one day, all fences separating Humanity from each other shall come tumbling down, that all national boundaries shall be erased forever and ever.

I have a dream that all people lose their jobs, that we no longer have to trade our labor for money. Humanity shall share its advanced technology freely, automating our survival needs and erasing the differences between the poor and rich.

I have a dream that all people shall be full of the hidden knowledge of the world, that they shall be captains of their own path Home without relying on books and external organizations.

And I have a dream that one day, we will not need to pretend to be normal, not because we are proud of our backgrounds or heritage, but because we are one people, one world, one Humanity.


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