My name is Greg, and I am autistic. When I hear people talk about autism, I often get the impression that they do not have a clue what it is. Often I get the impression that the first thing that comes to their mind is mental retardation, Down syndrome, or any other number of disabilities.

The specific type of autism I have is called Asperger's.

I once told someone that I was on the autism spectrum at a place where I worked, and her first question was whether I was going to come in and shoot the place up. I found the question strange, but I was not offended by it (I really hate political correctness and this idiotic trend of being offended by everything). The coworker had a legitimate question, and meant no offense, and I saw this as a teaching moment.

I gathered from her that there was an autistic person who decided to go into a school and shoot people. I found this unfortunate, because the shooter happened to be autistic. People on the spectrum are no more prone to violence than normal/neurotypical individuals. If anything, I'd suspect that an autistic person is less likely to become violent, but this is speculation on my part.

So what is autism? And what is Asperger's?

A complete explanation is beyond the scope of one blog post, but in a nutshell people on the spectrum think differently from others. So are we retarded? No, exactly the opposite. Isaac Newton is thought to have had Asperger's. Albert Einstein probably had Asperger’s as well, or something similar.

Temple Grandin, who has been named one of the top 100 most important people in the World, is also autistic.

Autistic people usually have brilliant minds, but their minds operate in ways that are different from normal people. As someone with Asperger's, I am very good at science and math. People with Asperger's usually also have one area of interest where they hyper-focus and excel. Mine is the topic of Creation vs Evolution, and also genetics. Other people with Asperger's each have their own area of focus where they excel.

Now, here's how all of this relates to Star Trek. My favorite Star Trek series is Voyager. My favorite character is Seven of Nine, the human who was assimilated by the Borg Collective at the age of 6, and liberated by the Voyager crew at the age of 24. Like an autistic person, Seven has a hard time fitting in with other humans who are a part of the crew, and also like an autistic person, Seven has a mind that is brilliant - able to see patterns, and come to solutions that others would not begin to dream of.

Unfortunately Seven also has a tendency to isolate herself. As with any human being, Seven needs human interaction, but dismisses it as irrelevant and inefficient. At first, this may represent a genuine lack of interest, but Seven was a part of the Borg Collective, and as it was revealed in later episodes, her need for human interaction is even greater than that of most humans.

I do not know if most autistic people need more human interaction than others (I know I personally do), but because of the difficulty interacting with other people, there can be a tendency to withdraw from others, and fail to make the deeply-deeply needed human connections.

Seven is not the only character in Star Trek to exhibit characteristics similar to the experiences of people with autism/Asperger’s, many other characters, such as the android known as Data often remind me of people with autism as well. But for me personally, Seven is the character that I personally relate to most in the franchise. Despite her objections to the contrary, when we read between the lines it is clear that Seven is someone who wants to be accepted and loved by others.

 

I wish I had some deep closing thoughts to leave for the reader in this less-than-eloquent piece, but I don’t. The best I can say is that we aren’t mental defectives, and if the majority of people in the world were autistic, what we see as “normal” in our world would be considered a disability. Please understand that this last point isn’t a cute PC fortune cookie idea – people with autism may have a “disability” in that they have trouble relating to others, but each of us is also capable of so much, and most of us want to share our gifts with the world. And if you are on the spectrum, as scary as it might be sometimes, try to make friends, try to reach out beyond yourself, find the right people. And if you are what we often call “normal” please be patient with us, and understand that if I want to be your friend, it’s because I genuinely cherish and value you, even if I am not always good at keeping up with social situations in the same way that you are.



Oh, and by the way, if you are interested, I am preparing a Star Trek Voyager series of short stories as we speak. This fan fiction trilogy will be released in the near future, but I don't have a time or date at this time.

So now, when you hear the term "autism" or "Asperger's", you will know what to picture.






Author's Note: While writing this article, I am aware that the PC Police would expect me to use terms like "person with autism" instead of "autistic person" - as if this makes any difference, and "developmental disabilities" instead of "mental retardation". Please note that I mean no disrespect. But while writing I realized that this article would become impossibly complicated if I were to subject myself to these bizarre expectations of Political Correctness. I value respect for others, but I won’t sacrifice the need for clear communication on the altar of a 21st Century superstition.