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She Wants Him, Not His Kids & ‘Weirdness’ Is No Excuse To Be Mean

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DEAR CAT: I have been with my boyfriend (fiancé for all intents and purposes) for two years. He has two children, both under ten years old, with a woman he dated years ago. The kids have always lived with the mother but now she is having serious health problems and wants him to take custody. Her problems are not life threatening so it’s not like the kids would be orphans or anything. I think she’s doesn’t want the responsibility of them anymore and wants to make our relationship harder. He has decided to take them and I don’t know what to do. I wanted us to have children someday and I am not crazy about his kids. I don’t really like their mother either but that’s not the point. My mother warned me not to get involved with him by saying, “don’t raise another woman’s children,” but it wasn’t an issue because the kids weren’t with us. Now I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to be a mother to his kids but I love him and cannot imagine my life with anyone else. Any advice? — ‘STEPMOTHER’ ISN’T FOR ME

DEAR STEPMOTHER: You have two choices. Accept his children lovingly into your life, or leave and don’t look back. Blame the mother all you want for trying to ruin your relationship but remember they are his children as well, and his primary obligation is to parent them. You knew from day one that he was a father and if you chose to deny that fact because it didn’t suit your relationship fantasy, that’s on you. Remember, just because he already has kids doesn’t mean he can’t have children with you. But if you marry him you’ll still be a stepmother. And you made it clear….Cat’s Call: That’s not for you.

DEAR CAT: I have a soft spot in my heart for misfits and social outcasts since I used to be one. I work with a very talented software developer whom I have befriended. He is very nice and I’m sure he is harmless but he clearly has some kind of mental condition like Asperger’s that causes him to take conversations to odd places and stare when it is not appropriate. Some ladies that I work with have commented on his behavior and have mischaracterized it as romantic attraction. They’ve made a hobby of making fun of him behind his back, which bugs me to no end. I want to tell them that he probably doesn’t want to do anything other than converse with them and they’d better get used to people like him if they want to continue to work in technology. I also want to tell him that it makes people uncomfortable when he stares at them so he’ll have an easier time here in the future. Update: I confronted the ladies in a very matter-of-fact manner. One of them said, “it turns out that he does, in fact, have Asperger’s, which is why he stares.” The girl who made fun of him the most looked mortified and we all agreed to be nicer to him. I know the problem has technically been “resolved” but I would still like to see it in print as I’m sure others could benefit from reading about what is an increasingly common condition. — ADVOCATE FOR THE WEIRD

DEAR ADVOCATE: I looked into Asperger’s Syndrome before tackling your question because I knew almost nothing about it. I must admit, even after researching it heavily the exact presentation of the condition still eludes me, i.e. would I recognize it ‘in person?’ The mental health community seems split on whether the condition truly exists on its own, or falls on the autism spectrum. Even so, this question comes down to two things – 1) making fun of people is juvenile and gratuitously mean, and 2) if you suffer from such a condition, get help. Your coworkers should be more professional and he should seek professional help to try to curb behaviors that make others uncomfortable. One last thing, just because you befriend someone doesn’t automatically make that person “harmless.” Cat’s Call: I’m happy the situation seems to be resolved.

What’s YOUR call? Share it below! Submit questions to: questions@catscall.com or click here!.

  1. To STEPMOTHER:

    Two phrases jumped out at me: “she is having serious health problems” and “wants to make our relationship harder.” Oh yeah, that’s just what she’s thinking about. Not medical bills, treatments, or recovery time — no, she’s just thinking about you and how to make your life more inconvenient. It’s really all about you, isn’t it?

    Cat’s right. Your ideal relationship is a fantasy, and the reality of this man is that he is a father. His children are eternally his, and he will always be a cornerstone in their lives. Even if he doesn’t have custody, he will be there through all the major and minor events in their lives, and those events do not cease when his kids become adults.

    He’s a package deal. You can’t have him without them.

    — Michelle, Verona    01/24/12    Reply

    1. I totally agree with everything Michelle says. You’re kidding yourself if you think this is going to work out happily ever after. You’ve been ignoring the reality of his children for two years, and since he’s apparently not a total jerk, he’s taking custody of them so his ex can focus on getting healthy. I’m afraid you’re just not going to be his main priority, and if that’s what you want out of a relationship, you need to find a new one.

      Not to mention that there’s no way his kids can’t already tell how you feel about them, and I bet their dad has an inkling too, which is why you’re not officially his fiancee yet. You need to either come around to the idea that these kids need people who genuinely care about them and start to work on being one of those people, or you just need to break it off and look for your fantasy somewhere else.

      — Megan, Point Breeze    01/24/12    Reply

  2. @STEPMOTHER’ ISN’T FOR ME,

    “He has decided to take them and I don’t know what to do.”

    - How about talking to your fiance about this matter? In the past 2 years since you started dating him, have you ever told him how you felt about being a stepmom?

    If not, the writing is on the wali, or as in your case, the writing is in on this blog . . .

    Being a stepmother isn’t for you unless . . .

    you have a genuine change of heart.

    — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/24/12    Reply

  3. Question #2— I have heard of this condition a little bit recently, like ADD and other things that people start talking about, then suddenly everyone seems to have it. First I have to applaud Cat for answering this topic with responsibility and professionalism. It is very nice to see an advice expert write “I don’t know, let me learn about it before taking a stance on it.” My favorite line is “just because you befriend someone doesn’t automatically make that person “harmless.” When someone is very weird or a social outcast there is usually a good reason for it. Nothing against that person, just saying there is always an explanation why. If this man has Aspergers it is his responsibility to treat it, if that is possible. If not then it’s not the entire office’s burden to feel uncomfortable all the time. I don’t want someone staring at me all day and I shouldn’t have to “get used to it.” I feel for him but we all have to behave accordingly at work.

    — Joanne, Oakmont    01/24/12    Reply

    1. Agreed. The question writer’s opinion of “harmless” is irrelevant. Jerry Sandusky’s friends said he is harmless too. I’m not saying the guy is harmFUL just that you don’t know what someone does, or wants to do. When a person doesn’t talk or communicate in a ‘normal’ manner other people are going to get uncomfortable because they can’t read the signals coming off them. I know someone with Asperger’s and it’s not a big deal but he doesn’t staaaare at women around him. He more fixates on what he’s doing and kind of mutes out the world around him. That would be fine for a programmer I suppose, not so much in a team environment.

      — Carl    01/24/12    Reply

    2. I must comment to you and to CAT – I have a child with autism and I am offended by some of your comments. By the time someone on the spectrum is an adult and has a diagnosis: – they are aware of their problem, they have been told over and over what their issues are – they probably have received assistance and therapy since childhood – they are trying to curb behaviors that are monumental to over come every waking moment of their life

      Suggesting that he get help to change – if he has a job, if he succeeded at school, he probably already has had thousands of hours of therapy. ( Which BTW he stops getting monetary assistance for when he turned 21.) Why do we alter the entire world inside and out for people with physical handicaps (curbs, elevator, hand rails, sign language interpreters etc) but we cannot accept the differences of people on the spectrum? Why do we want THEM to change? Yea, the staring is uncomfortable. He is trying to socialize. He is probably staring at the guys too. The fact that this man has a job is a major accomplishment for him – you need to understand what a terrific thing this is! Why not have a mentor or he and his supervisor can come with a code word that signals ‘eyes somewhere else’.

      Finally, assuming that someone is odd does NOT make them comparable to someone like Jerry Sandusky!!!!!!! That is very offensive!

      You must understand that his life is 10X harder than yours. The fact that people are rejecting him and talking about him in a professional setting is just the start of his hardships. He probably gets harassed on the bus, in stores, everywhere he goes. Imagine if all this was happening to you.
      Sorry for the rambling, but the ignorance and discrimination is upsetting.

      — Lee    01/24/12    Reply

      1. Lee I don’t think you are being fair here. I see how this is a sensitive subject for you personally but I’m sorry, the kind of workplace mentoring you’re talking about here is borderline ridiculous. “a mentor or supervisor can come with a code word that signals ‘eyes somewhere else’” This is a grown man not a child. Your suggestion would require companies to train managers to be mental health professionals that ‘watch’ a person 24/7! That is very different than installing hand rails or slanting a curb. There’s no way you can be advocating someone not getting continued help when they are an educated working member of society who makes many people in their workplace uncomfortable. That is just not reasonable. There is nothing wrong with Cat’s suggestion that this man get help, which does not imply he hasn’t gotten it earlier in his life. He might need help forever and so what? You may say his life is harder than anyone else’s but that is extremely narrow minded. Continued therapy, probably forever, is appropriate here.

        — Matt from pgh    01/24/12    Reply

        1. You are assuming that he doesn’t still get help. Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t but realize that insurance does not pay for therapy for autism spectrum disorders. A little assistance at work is not unreasonable and it would not be 24/7 ( are you at work 24/7?). This is all about tolerance and diversity and having an understanding that someone is different than the typical person. A brain difference that is insurmountable. Having a code word or hand signal for bringing someone back to task or stopping a behavior (staring) is a common method to help autistics, children and adults, get back on track. It’s not babysitting. A friend in the office can do it when they notice staring. It’s not that hard. Maybe the workplace can offer a presentation on ASD to give the employees information that they need so they don’t think this guy is creepy. And usually any good local behavioral health agency in the area would do it for free. Education is what seems to be needed. You might ask “Why is that my problem why should I be educated!?” Because people on the spectrum are everywhere – they go to school with your kids, they ride the bus with you, they try to hold down jobs, they are a part of our society and they need to live and survive and enjoy life as much as a typical person gets to. They need a little help getting through their day and as humans we should have a little sympathy and understanding.

          — Lee    01/25/12    Reply

          1. …and I ‘m not saying he shouldn’t get help.. If he can, and it’s hard for adults to get help, more power to him. But any help he would get in therapy, and it would include behavior modification, doesn’t amount to anything if there is no application in the real world. If he doesn’t do it, with assistance, in the real world, then he will probably not retain what he is being taught (discussed in therapy). Real world experience is what helps them to learn.

            — Lee    01/25/12    Reply

        2. Hi, I was the one who submitted the question.

          I think that the answer to the problem is painfully simple. Recognize that the person with the “disability,” is different and don’t take it personally if he does something that makes you a little uncomfortable. This particular fella just stares straight ahead at the natural point when conversations tend to end. He is not ogling anyone or making racy jokes. In fact, his conduct is much less offensive than the behavior that I have seen from some men in my office who are issued a pass because they are more attractive and charismatic.

          — Advocate    01/25/12    Reply

      2. Good post Lee. In fact one of the things that I said to the girl who was making fun was. “Whatever he wants to do to you he must want to do to me too, but I suspect that it is nothing.”

        Not only does he have a job but he is very good at it. I don’t know much about the disorder but I have heard that people on the spectrum excel at jobs that require single-minded focus and software development certainly fits into that category.

        — Advocate    01/25/12    Reply

        1. @ Advocate,

          ‘I think that the answer to the problem is painfully simple. Recognize that the person with the “disability,”’

          If using “person with the disability” is related to my previous comment then I must say it feels good to reach at least one person. :)

          — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/25/12    Reply

        2. Thanks Advocate. It is good to hear that he is doing well in his job. It’s great that you recognize that your friend has a little trouble with social cues – not knowing how to end a conversation is one of them. Staring becomes a consequence of that.

          It lightens my heart a bit to know that there are some people out there who are willing to understand others difficulties and differences and not get worked up and assume someone is ‘creepy’. Thank you.

          — Lee    01/25/12    Reply

  4. To Stepmother

    Be very very careful with this situation. I used to date a girl who did not see her father until he was on his deathbed because her mother and his wife did not get along. It was terribly painful for her and it affected her well into her adult life.

    I am by no means suggesting that you would let the same thing happen, but just be aware that if you do marry this man you cannot stand in the way of his relationship with his children. Cat is absolutely right that his children have to come first.

    Good luck!

    — a friendly person    01/24/12    Reply

  5. not a step-mom,

    Michelle summed it up perfectly.

    Personally, if I dated a guy who had kids – but took no responsibility, I’d dump him in a minute.

    Do you really want to spend your life with an irresponsible jerk?

    So, Cat is totally right. You don’t want any part of his kids – find a guy with no kids.
    run. – for their sake.

    — s.    01/24/12    Reply

    1. To “S.”………“You don’t want any part of his kids – find a guy with no kids.” Well put! Cat’s right, STEPMOTHER has been living in a fantasy. She says the mother’s problems are not life threatening but there are no guarantees of health in this lifetime. She should go but she’ll probably stick around and plant a rift between the kids and their mom. Hope dad prevents that!

      — Sammy, Pgh    01/30/12    Reply

  6. To Stepmother:

    Lots of unknowns here. Option 3 is to not get married until the kids are adults, BUT then you still need to know what his priorities are, as there are plenty of opportunities for differences in opinion. I know marriages that have failed because of this. One couple would have been fine except the college age son ran up his credit cards and didn’t have a job once he finally finished. The high school kid barely graduated. The one in the middle trashed the bathroom. The father was indulgent but the step-mom had rules for her own kids and wrongly assumed he would too. If you are willing to wait and get married later, you need to work all this out in advance so you know what you are getting into. If he really is the person you want to spend your life with, find out if there is a way to make it work over the long term, rather than throwing it all away. Fact is, probably part of the reason you love him is that he IS responsible and trustworthy, and not the type to turn his back on his own kids.

    — PB from NY    01/24/12    Reply

  7. Aspergers is simply a grouping of disabled people on the autistism spectrum. Generally, they can still function in society and they can generally hold jobs— even high function jobs. Quite often they are highly intelligent but have social limitations. My friend’s son is extremely intelligent but cannot tolerate loud noise, and has some attention deficit and speach issues. He does not socialize well— with either adults or with kids that are his age (3rd grade). However, he plays really well with his younger sister and her friends (first grade). There has to be a distinction between someone who is obviously handicapped and someone who is creepy. Somehow because people are not familiar with this disease and because individuals with Aspergers are generally high functioning autistics, in this discussion line they have been linked to “creepy” people. Part of that is because no one seems to know what Aspergers is. However, anyone with a disabled child would be very offended by this discussion because they struggle daily to help their children cope with their problems. Normal and Creepy is different than different due to a disability. However, anyone who met a disabled person with Aspergers would be able to see that the person has a disability. That isn’t being communicated in this line of discussion because most people are not familiar with Aspergers and do not know it is a new identifier for individuals with a mild form of autism.

    — Christina Pittsburgh    01/25/12    Reply

    1. @ Christina,

      Your choice of words doesn’t match the tone in your comment, yet it may be because you are unaware that your choice of words is offensive to people with disabilities.

      “… a grouping of disabled people…”
      “… someone who is obviously handicapped…”
      “… anyone with a disabled child…”
      “… who met a disabled person…”

      I have worked with people who have disabilities and those people find it very offensive to be labeld disabled. They are not disabled. Disabled would be like a car disabled on the side of a highway – not functioning.

      A person is not disabled, but has a disability. We say, a person who has a disability.

      And to use the word handicap to describe a person with a disabilty… that is so out of date and offensive, I will just say, wow, that you would use that term.

      — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/25/12    Reply

  8. I have been studying Asperger’s for 20 years – my son has it. I have interacted with many families and people with Asperger’s. I started a support group in my community ten years ago, and I have read many books over the years. Please allow me to give you all some information. Joanne and Carl please read this. Lee is completely correct, and yes indeedy there are some hurtful things posted here.

    Some folks seem to think that it is this young man’s responsibility to “get treated” or “fixed.” AS is not a disease and therefore is not something you cure. It is a different way of experiencing things and a different way of looking at things. Researchers are starting to learn about the differences in the brain between aspies and neurotypicals. Most aspies get or have gotten therapy of some sort, often for their entire childhood, and they work very hard at functioning in society to the best of their ability. There is an organization of adult aspies that promotes the idea that they do not want to be CURED, but accepted for who they are. They make a valid point.

    The powers-that-be are arguing about whether AS belongs within the autism category or what. Those of us living with AS don’t have time to fuss about that, but I hope they don’t end up denying services to those who need them.

    This fellow made people uncomfortable at work because he was not following the rules of social interaction. Social interaction is a key deficit area for aspies. He has probably worked very hard on understanding and participating in social interaction. This does not make him any more of a threat to you than anyone else. It is okay to tell him – gently, privately but honestly – that he seems to be staring a lot and it makes you uncomfortable. Remember not to talk down to him because he probably has a higher IQ than you do. The irony is, most aspies avoid eye contact big time. He may have worked hard to force himself to look at you. He may think he is doing a good job of it.

    Regarding the term disabled/disability, Asperger’s and autism are classified as such, and we have had to go along with that term in order to receive services over the years. There is not doubt that my son has a handicap that makes his life ten times more difficult, but he hates being categorized as such and he has a point. What aspies really are is simply different (and quite fascinating, actually). What is really needed is for more people to become aware of Asperger’s and therefore increase understanding and hopefully acceptance. I recommend these folks dip into the internet and learn something about Asperger’s. When a visually impaired worker joined my company, I took a few minutes to visit an official website to learn some basics about what to do or not to do (don’t pet the seeing-eye dog!). It wasn’t hard. Go get yourself a clue.

    Whether someone has a disability or not, it is good to become aware that people are different and we may not know what is going on with other folks. It is okay to be different. The sooner everyone gets that, the better. It is not, however, okay to be juvenile and mean.

    Let me say that each aspie I know is a fascinating and wonderful person, worthy of respect and admiration. It is quite sad when people are unable to see that beyond the differences.

    — Nancy in Pittsburgh    01/25/12    Reply

    1. Nancy, I had to cringe reading your comments wherein you attempt to educate others on this forum. Your use of the term “aspies” is disgusting, discriminatory, and so cute it made me nauseous. Would you condone calling retarded people “tards?” My wife and I talked about this article for an hour and kept coming back to the same point: education on both sides is necessary and nobody here who has commented is at fault. I’ve had two family members with autism (both mild) and when I think of how my sister would respond to your term “aspies”, she’d jump through her computer in anger. “Aspies” makes these people sound like pets! Shame on you.

      — David, Pitsburgh    01/26/12    Reply

      1. I agree that word is terrible. Aspies sounds non-human or something. If she had a retarded son and people called him ‘tard’ she would be enraged.

        — Chance, USA    01/26/12    Reply

        1. So David and Chance, you think a semantics issue was the thing worth responding to in my post? How you could read my post and think that I do not have respect for people with Asperger’s Syndrome is beyond me. Your comments are negative, hurtful, unnecessary and just plain wrong.

          I assure you that the term “aspie” is in common usage by the Asperger’s Community worldwide. There is nothing “disgusting, discriminatory or cute” about it.

          You will find the term aspie all over the website of the world’s foremost authority on autism spectrum disorders, Doctor and Professor Tony Attwood – go to tonyattwood.com and do a search. One of Dr. Attwood’s publications is entitled “Tony Attwood Archived Papers: The Discovery of “Aspie” Criteria.” I have personally attended a seminar where one of Dr. Attwood’s presentations had the term “aspie” in the title.

          Here is an excerpt from a recent Dr. Attwood post, where you can see that the term “aspie” is used five times in this post alone (NT is an abbreviation for neuro-typical):

          Now Posted – “Ask Dr. Tony” – December 2011 Lots of great discussion around your questions. Here are the topics within the 4 video Segments: In the First segment, Dr. Tony addresses: * Is there a bias against successful Aspies? * Should suspecting adults seek diagnosis? * Do older Aspies adjust to an NT world? * Dr. T’s thoughts on diagnosis at any age. In the Second segment: * Can NT kids learn Aspie behavior from an Aspie parent? * Is there a link between Munchhausen Syndrome and ASD? * How do Aspies and NTs differ in dealing with grief?

          Liane Holliday Willey, author of “Pretending to be Normal” and other publications, popular speaker and aspie, named her website aspie.com. She lists this definition: “Aspie. n. a person with Asperger Syndrome. Asperger syndrome (AS) is a neuro-biological communication disorder affecting key aspects of social awareness and interaction, language usage and sensory integration.” One of her keynote speeches is entitled: “Keeping Aspies Safe in an Unsafe World.”

          There is a support group named ASPIE of Houston, Texas: “ASPIE is a non-profit parent and professional support group serving the Greater Houston area that was created to provide information sharing and support to the many families and professionals who live and work with individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome.

          There is a self-named aspie group: “Friend Finder – Online Group for Aspie Teens and Tweens.”

          I can only assume, David and Chance, that you are experiencing an emotional reaction to the term based upon something in your own head. If you, your sister, or the horse you rode in on have a personal issue with the term, I suggest you take it up with the Asperger’s community instead of me.

          — Nancy in Pittsburgh    01/26/12    Reply

          1. Just because a world authority uses a word does not make it ok. That word Aspie IS disgusting and cute, commenter David was correct. It is exactly like calling a retarded person “tard” and no Lebron retarded has not become learning disabled. If anything is it mentally disabled. Nancy would you call clinically depressed people “saddies or deppies?” If the world’s authorities cannot take the time to refer to a condition by its proper name they shouldn’t write about it. Don’t you take issue with me about semantics—-words hurt, as someone with “a higher IQ than me” would know. If people with Asperger’s are that smart which they might be, they should give every one of you “experts” a medical dictionary and demand you speak of them in a respectful manner not reduce their “different way of experiencing things” to a cute little name.

            — Chance, USA    01/26/12    Reply

            1. Nancy, if you read Cat’s Call regularly you probably know I don’t comment here very often (this section is for readers to give their ‘calls’) but I did want to comment on the term “Aspies” since your mention of it has caused a small battle here. As I wrote in the column, I had to look into this condition and in my research of Asperger’s Syndrome I did not come across the term “Aspie.” I trust that your reference is accurate, and that within the Asperger’s community it is a widely accepted term of reference, but I find myself agreeing with “David” and “Chance” because the term “Aspie” also rubbed me the wrong way. It does sound a bit cutesy and rather lacking in dignity, particularly for adults. I am not in the mental health field and I feel greatly for anyone living with such a condition, especially for their parents. I’m sure no insult is intended when it is used but the term “Aspie” still resonates in a somewhat off-putting way. Would it hurt to try and convince those in the Asperger’s community to heed the likes of Chance’s and David’s opinions? In essence, wouldn’t it be most respectful to refer to people with Asperger’s simply as “people with Asperger’s?”

              — Cat    01/26/12    Reply

              1. Cat you’re all that and a bag of smartchips. I always read, never comment. My advice calls wouldn’t go over well. Anyone can tell it like it is, you tell it like it should be.

                — MikePitt    01/26/12    Reply

              2. Thank you Cat. “Rather lacking in dignity” is the whole point.

                — Chance, USA    01/26/12    Reply

              3. Didn’t anyone read the first line of Nancy’s original post? She has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome, and she is using a term that is in common use in that community. The comments made by other readers, who obviously were only reading the parts that they wanted to in Nancy’s post, are totally out of line. We should have total empathy with any parent who has had to cope with this or other comparable situations. I think it is unreasonable to expect someone who is dealing with this every day of their life to try to change terminology that is in common usage. Here’s a reference to the source of the term – coined by someone who has the syndrome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liane_Holliday_Willey

                — PB from NY    01/27/12    Reply

                1. Thanks, PB. I don’t think anyone saw my reference to Lianne Willey and her site, aspie.com, either.

                  — Nancy in Pittsburgh    01/27/12    Reply

            2. @Chance,

              “… and no Lebron retarded has not become learning disabled. If anything is it mentally disabled.”

              First off, you mist the gist of my comment. I keep readint on here “tard” well, that may be offensive, but “retard” is even more offensive and used more often. “Tard” ususally comes with a preface, like “fuk-tard.”

              As for the word “retarded” the example I gave is used – learning disabled – but is not a sole alternative for the term “retarded.” Maybe with that I should have been more clear.

              Go ahead and Google it. Learning disabled along with other alternatives will appear.

              Now go and sin no more. ;)

              — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/27/12    Reply

              1. I am somewhat familiar with Aspergers because a good friend at work has a son with it. I never heard him use the title Aspie but we don’t talk about his son frequently. I probably would think “Aspergers” if I heard that term but I sense it is used within that field more than outside it. I don’t have feelings one way or the other about it until you really think about it and read all the opinions, then it is odd. Unnecessary mostly. To get away from the battle on here I would like to comment on the first question. STEPMOTHER should have been prepared for this news. The father didn’t have custody before now but children are yours forever. Cat rightly called her view of the relationship a fantasy because he is always a father. He is father first, fiancé second. She perhaps does not believe the mother’s medical problems are real enough to give over custody but that doesn’t matter. He was, is and will always be their dad. STEPMOTHER has relied on the mother’s custody all this time but as soon as he has to become “dad” like now, she blames the mother. That is a sour beginning to a marriage.

                — John, NV    01/27/12    Reply

            3. Jesus Christ! How does a mere mortal cope with the verbal calculus that one must do to stay PC?

              I would think that anyone who takes the time to say “learning disabled,” or “someone with a learning disability,” or “mentally disabled (more offensive if you ask me),” is taking the proper precautions to ensure that the person that they are referring to will not get offended.

              And the dictionary definition of someone with depression is “depressive.” I have struggled with that one myself but if someone called me a “deppie,” or a “dep,” in good faith I think I would let it slide.

              Depressive
              noun
              3. a person suffering from a depressive illness.

              — Advocate    01/27/12    Reply

              1. Advocate, you make a very good point here. For my part, I do not consider myself overly PC in any way but I do believe in respectful references, if you will. If a person with a medical condition wants to call himself or herself by a certain name or term, so be it. When others lump you in with a group and blanket-assign you a name that is merely a derivative of your condition’s actual name, things get sticky because terms spread and soon enough everyone uses them. And that can change the public’s understanding and appreciation of the condition itself. I guess to me the term “aspie” is akin to “alki” for an alcoholic. People with leprosy aren’t referred to as lepers anymore because “leper” connotes a social outcast or worse. What can you do, it’s a slippery slope. I wouldn’t presume to take a position on this “Aspie” issue one way or another, I just think it’s most respectful – and educational to those unfamiliar with it – to refer to a condition by its proper medical name.

                — Cat    01/27/12    Reply

                1. I understand where you are coming from Cat. I took a course on intercultural communication in college and towards the end of the course my instructor summed it up by saying “usually the most important thing in any exchange is that the person on the other end understands that you are making an effort to make them feel comfortable.”

                  In conversation I would probably refer to the disorder in question by it’s full name…even if I get that name wrong so that the person on the other end at least understands that I am trying my best. On the other hand, however, I would not hold it against a doctor, giving a speech at a symposium for instance, shortening “people who suffer from xxx,” so that he doesn’t have to say it two dozen times.

                  That’s it for me. I am getting off my soapbox now. Thanks :-)

                  — Advocate    01/27/12    Reply

            4. Chance, the people with Asperger’s you suggest should “demand we speak of them in a respectful manner” are the people who came up with the term aspies!

              Regarding the IQ comments, it is a known fact that statistically aspies have average to high IQ’s. Examples of well-known people in history who either had or are suspected to have had AS include Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Isaac Newton, Glenn Gould, Lewis Carroll and Bill Gates. Historians have written books on this topic.

              Here is a link to a wikipedia listing for a group called “Aspies For Freedom” (AFF).
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspies_For_Freedom
              Again, they are actual people with Asperger’s Syndrome who chose their own name. And, again, the more you look, the more you will find references to the name. Every blog and discussion group that I have seen, created by and for aspies, uses the term.

              — Nancy in Pittsburgh    01/27/12    Reply

      2. I wonder if “Aspie,” is just used for efficient communication. It is cumbersome to have to work “person suffering from Asperger’s syndrome,” or even “person with Asperger’s,” into a sentence. I must admit, however, that it did seem kind of cutesie when I read it but I don’t know if it is the word itself or not. Nearly any disorder or condition that I can think of can be used as an adjective (I don’t even know if that is grammatically correct so have mercy on me).

        Depression – Depressive*
        Down’s Syndrome – Down’s – “a down’s patient.”
        Schizophrenia – Schizophrenic
        Paraplegia – Paraplegic
        Bulimia – Bulimic
        Anorexia – Anorexic

        In fact, I did a little research and it turns out that the woman who coined the term suffered from Asperger’s herself, or was an Aspie if you will – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liane_Holliday_Willey

        The word just sounds cute because it has an “s,” in the middle and an “ie,” at the end. There should be a word to denote a person who suffers from Asperger’s though if people decide to agree on one that is not offensive.

        *I have struggled with this one myself and I wouldn’t be offended if someone called me a depressive. It’s in the dictionary.

        — Advocate    01/27/12    Reply

  9. I guess I’m missing the big point here. I feel bad for anyone with a disability but this guy doesn’t sound all that bad off. One person here said his iq is probably very high and he is obviously quite talented at his job. I cannot support making fun of anyone for almost any reason but where is the big situation here? Right now tens of thousands of people are out of work and suffering and we’re supposed to feel bad for one man because he’s just a little weird, I don’t get it. I would tell someone “please stop staring at me” and that should take care of it. If he really can’t control it he should work in a more private setting, problem solved! I don’t know what it means to “take conversations to odd places” but whatever, it can’t be that odd or he wouldn’t be employed there. Everyone needs to chill. Cat’s answer seemed sensible to me without alot of drama.

    — R.J.    01/26/12    Reply

  10. I believe the term “retard” is now considered a derogatory term and is in the same vein as ‘tard.

    “Retarded” has been acceptable, but even that is being phased out and the phrase “learning disabled” is now the new norm.

    — LeBron from Pittsburgh    01/26/12    Reply

  11. I still can’t believe use of the term “aspie” is what people are deeming important enough to comment upon, given all the information I posted.

    I am a regular reader, Cat, and I do know that you don’t comment often. I appreciate your focus on keeping everyone happy, but I think you are missing the bigger picture here.

    Thanks to the two other posters who listed Lianne Willey’s website. Did anyone notice the other references I listed of actual people with Asperger’s? These were just a few examples; there are many others I didn’t take the time to list for you.

    The term has been in common use within the community WORLDWIDE for at least 20 years. This is a VERY LARGE community of people made up of professionals, people with Asperger’s, family, etc. – a group that is growing by leaps and bounds. A word was certainly needed for less cumbersome communication, which is why the word caught on. The idea that I should try to get these tens of thousands of people all over the world to change the term is ludicrous. There are far more important things that those of us who try to advocate for understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome can direct our time and energy toward – more things than any of us can do, as it is. A typical AS parent juggles therapy management, school and related issues, medical issues, family challenges and the mountains of paperwork required with regular life and job. Most folks try to also do some sort of advocacy, be it political action to change health insurance regulations or school requirements, or participation in the AS community for mutual support and education. You would not believe how much time we put in, and too much of it is wasted in unnecessary battles with folks who don’t understand or don’t want to understand, from teachers and special ed administrators to people in grocery stores.

    It is ironic that the core idea here was to create understanding and tolerance toward aspies and their struggles, and the biggest response has been to focus on the feelings of some posters toward a term SELF-CHOSEN BY AN ASPIE AND ADOPTED BY THE ASPERGER’S COMMUNITY a long time ago. I know several aspies who would point to such a response as supporting their case that neurotypicals and their emotions are illogical and impossible!

    If you want to talk feelings, let me say that reading the original letter where adults made fun of this young man behind his back was painful and sickening. Knowing that other kids in school do and have done this to your son is painful enough, and one would think it wouldn’t happen in the adult world. If you can’t relate to this, and you are a parent, imagine that someone is abusing your child when you are not present, and you can’t do anything to stop or prevent it. Then you get to live with that. The good news in the letter is that somebody spoke up and the ladies changed their behavior with a little understanding. I hope they get to know the young man and appreciate him for who he is.

    — Nancy in Pittsburgh    01/27/12    Reply

    1. Nancy, you are absolutely correct, there are certainly far more important things to which you and the AS community can direct your time and energies. I did not and would not suggest that reconsidering the term “Aspie” should be a priority on anyone’s agenda. In regard to advocacy, as I wrote above, I simply believe it is most respectful – and educational to those unfamiliar with it – to refer to a condition by its proper medical name. Thanks for reading and offering much helpful information.

      — Cat    01/27/12    Reply

  12. Cat, your comments were thoughtful and very helpful, you don’t need to defend yourself to Nancy. Nancy, this is NOT a complicated matter and people have a right to their opinions. Most of the world has no idea what Asperger’s Syndrome is. Then they try to learn about it and you’re all over them like a cheap suit (uncomfortable and scratchy!). Parents like you like to say others don’t know how hard it is for you but I too have children and you don’t know what travails they or I or my husband deal with. I know what it is to have children with severe health problems, consider youself lucky if you have a physically healthy child. I am sure you are an active advocate and deserve credit for that but the fact remains people without Asperger’s are allowed to try to understand it. If we see something that seems wrong we can’t talk about it because one person says semantics aren’t important? Words are extremely important in these matters.

    Imagine yourself in a conversation with someone who’s never heard of Asperger’s (as most people have not) and you say, “he’s an Aspie,” that person would have no idea what you’re talking about. If you said, “he has Asperger’s Syndrome,” they would immediately know it is a medical or health condition. You say you really care about making the world learn about Asperger’s Syndrome then for goodness sakes call it that! I still agree, so does my husband, that the word aspie is just plain silly and seems derogatory. What about A.S.? Same number of syllables and does not sound like a toy dog breed. Cat was correct that it is like calling an alcoholic an alki.

    — David's Wife, Pittsburgh    01/27/12    Reply

    1. Dear David’s Wife,

      Please re-read my original post. I did not jump all over anyone, but merely gave information in the interest of education, including the full name of Asperger’s Syndrome. Perhaps the way the posts are listed, they might appear in a different order. My subsequent posts were responses to people who criticized my use of the term aspie. I never criticized anyone for disliking the term; I only defended their criticism of me for using it and explained why I am not in a position to change it. People are indeed entitled to their opinions, and it’s past time for everyone to realize they have been criticizing me for my opinion that the term aspie is fine.

      Those of us in the Asperger’s community do indeed use AS as a short term for Asperger’s Syndrome, as you might notice from my posts. However, it’s an abbreviation for the syndrome, not a person with the syndrome. People adopted aspie as a term for a person with AS.

      The only reason I pointed out some of the challenges of raising a special needs child was because it was suggested that I should try to change the AS community’s use of the term aspie. My response was to point out how many other things are a higher priority for those of us with aspies. I was not complaining, and I do respect that all parents have many challenges. I do consider myself lucky, as you suggest, for both of my children, and you are right that none of us know what other parents deal with. But your assumption that I have a physically healthy child is not correct, and I do know much about having a child with severe health problems. I still count myself very lucky indeed. So you criticized me for making an assumption (one I did not make) and then made the same assumption about me!

      I have been unable to resist defending myself from these criticisms that confound me; I am tired, so I will resist from now on. I hope anyone who takes an interest in the subject of Asperger’s Syndrome will read the posts in order and do some online research and learn about it. And I hope everyone who posts comments on the web will consider whether their comments are helpful or hurtful.

      — Nancy in Pittsburgh    01/30/12    Reply

      1. To me, it is obvious that Nancy is not only raising a child with AS but is also very involved within the AS community. It appears she has extensive research on the subject through books and articles she quoted as well as seminar titles she has attended. I applaud Nancy for taking an active role in learning more about raising a child with AS and speaking up as an advocate for those who are diagnosed. She faced criticism on this site for what is in my opinion an extremely minor point in her long response. Although I know people with AS and have an average amount of knowledge on the subject, in no way can I assume I understand what it would be like to be in her shoes. As a mom of two healthy babies, I have NO idea what struggles Nancy and her family face on a day to day basis. Thus in this particlular situation, I would never point a finger at her and say “the name you are calling your own child offends me”. It is not like she is an uneducated woman trying to be flippant about her child, but more like a active participant in a community who identifies by an name. Those of us outside the community probably haven’t been paying close enough attention to notice. Far be it from me to challenge her on this. In my opinion, Nancy, you do not have to defend yourself. You have enough of your plate without having to tiptoe around afraid you may offend one of us.

        — SW-Pittsburgh    01/30/12    Reply

        1. Thank you so much, SW. You have summed up the situation exactly, and I am grateful that you shared your insight. : ) An excellent closing!

          — Nancy in Pittsburgh    01/31/12    Reply

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