In learning to accept my condition, I’ve taken inspiration from many different and diverse areas. One of the main sources of inspiration for me has been literature.
There are three characters that I keep returning to as I grow towards a greater understanding of what it means to live a good life with autism. I’m pretty sure none of these characters were written with autism in mind – but they still speak to me.
One of the Ankh-Morpork guard in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, Carrot was brought up by a Dwarf family and was surprised – despite his height – to be informed, at a relatively late age, that he was a human. Even when he realises that he is biologically a human, he retains many of the Dwarf customs and considers himself to be a Dwarf. For me, it’s an interesting analogy for being diagnosed with autism later in life.
Carrot can also be very literal and rule-abiding, and has a genuine interest in and liking for people. All of which sounds very familiar.
It’s telling that Carrot only really finds his place amongst a crowd of other ‘misfits’. As a human, he would never be fully accepted in the Dwarf society. But having been brought up as a Dwarf, a purely human society doesn’t particularly appeal to Carrot’s character and beliefs. Again, I find myself identifying quite strongly with this.
Science-fiction was always going to be quite a rich source of material for someone on the autism spectrum. And I’ve been a bit of an Isaac Asimov fan since infant school. Even from that young age, one of my favourite short stories was always Profession.
The premise of this story is that George doesn’t have the right type of mind to receive a formal education and so is sent to something called the ‘House for the Feeble Minded’. What George doesn’t know is that this is actually a second ‘test’ to see whether he has both the innate capacity for original thought and the stamina to pursue it.
Re-reading this post diagnosis, the whole novella seems to be quite analogous to an autistic person trying to live in a neurotypical world.
This character probably needs very little introduction! I find most of Agatha Christie’s books enjoyable; there’s something about the restricted and somewhat characterised personalities in the books, coupled with the logical element of solving the crime that appeals greatly to me. And there are elements of most of the detectives (with the possible exception of Tommy and Tuppence) with which I identify.
Miss Marple, however, turns her mind to analysing and assessing behaviours of the more domestic kind. The main way in which she solves the mysteries is by realising similarities / parallels to other incidents. This is, of course, quite close to the way in which I relate to the world around me.
Miss Marple is also unusual in that she is a character who is very connected and interested in other people, but remains slightly separate. She has many acquaintances but very few close connections. Again, this is something with which I can identify.
The running theme with all these characters, however – and I appreciate that they are all fictional creations – is that they manage to live happy and fulfilling lives, despite their differences.
Which is certainly something I hope and aim for. Not being a fictional creation, however, it’s not simply a matter of writing my own happy ending on a page. But drawing these analogies does give me hope and a sense of the possible. Which is never a bad thing.