I was always different, and my parents always sort of knew that, but they didn't have the diagnosis, so what they did was try to find out what was going on with me. And at least initially, they thought I merely had ADHD or something similar. But when I was nine, I actually did get the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome. And that was when I found out about autism.
When I was a teenager, I really wanted to find other people like me; I had a hard time finding friends in middle school, and [had] a lot of [Asperger's] traits. I was obsessive. I was a prolific contributor to Wikipedia; I edited more than 10,000 articles. I was also an official developer for the Gentoo Linux project. Needless to say, that isn't typical behavior for a teenager.
I started Wrong Planet in 2004 with my friend Dan Grover because I wanted to find other people like me who were on the autism spectrum. I didn't know anyone else with autism until I went on the Internet, but it was hard to find anyone with the same interests.
My first computer was a Mac Plus that the school just gave to me for free because they thought it didn't work. But I figured out how to turn it on reliably--you just had to kick it.
Alex Plank asked me to share with you the first column that Nanna Juul Lanng has written for Wrong Planet. Nanna is a young autistic woman from Denmark with some very interesting things to say:
As most people believe, I am also confident that people on the spectrum of autism have “always” been around. As the majority of you also know we're wired a little differently than the average man/woman. Unlike them, we are not born with all of the social skills that society has come to expect from us all. Most of us have a social drive; we crave attention just like anyone else, we want to be accepted, to be approved of and loved, but not always in the same amount and quite often not in the same way as them. Also some of us only crave that second word: acceptance, and then ask for nothing more than to be left in peace. This is not an article for the latter.
In order to do well in the world and in society, if that is what we wish to do, we attempt to adapt, we do our best to crack the code that no one seems to speak of but everybody knows, often with limited results. I was diagnosed two years ago, when I had just turned 19, and it thrilled me to know, that I was not alone in this struggle, even more-so to find people with ASD who'd done a lot better than I. But I also met a lot of people on the spectrum, afterwards, some even younger than me, who had already grown bitter from the constant battles and all the defeats in this social human world. I am not saying, that I can “fix” anyone, I can't. If I had such an ability, I would have “fixed” myself long ago (I need better word for that) , and you'd see me hanging out at trendy clubs talking to very interesting and important people, luring them all in with my amazing skills. I'd be out catching great friends, like Ash catches pokemons... Which I'm not. However I have improved a lot, I can make friends, I can attract people, I am now able to benefit from social interaction, I can get people to listen most of the time, and if you're interested, I would like to share those techniques and tips which have worked for me.
If the only food that you can eat is white
And it hurts to go outside into the light
You're on the wrong planet
And every minute's strange
But on the inside everything's okay
And you don't have to change.
When they tell you that there can't be any pain
But it's so intense it's driving you insane
Cause weird things hurt you
And no one understands
And all there is for comfort is our screechy awful voices
And our pinching filthy hands.
Please don't let them tell you that you don't exist or shouldn't
Don't be defined by those who do not understand and couldn't
Ideas so wrong they burn you you from a thousand miles away
And they act like you're the crazy one and don't care what you say
When you start to feel the distance is too wide
Between your heart and the world that beats outside
We'll gaze into the galaxies
And wonder if it's true
That somewhere there's a world where they're the problem
And God looks just like me and just like you.
I wrote this song a year and a half ago, inspired by the idea of Aspergers being "Wrong Planet" syndrome and the name of Alex Plank's essential site. I'll sing it for you sometime. For now, here are the words.
Arman Khodaei interviewed Alex Plank in his latest podcast on Blog Talk Radio. Arman is an author and counselor who runs a prolific YouTube channel. Alex is the founder of Wrong Planet and the creator of Autism Talk TV.
If you've learned a little bit about Aspergers and autism, and you still think you might have it, then you should join an online community so that you can interact with people on the spectrum. The one I recommend most strongly is Wrong Planet, founded by Alex Plank. You may remember Alex from his Autism Reality documentary. Although it can be intimidating, the Wrong Planet community is diverse and good-hearted.