Aspies, or “aspagites” as Sadie McMurrin calls them, sat on 10 chairs facing an audience of mainly neurotypicals. It is impossible to know who in the audience of around 50 was an aspie and who was a neurotypical, but once McMurrin and the aspagites shared their stories, the lines became blurred and it no longer mattered who was a neurotypical and who was an aspie. There were only people.
Truth be told, I did not know where I fell between the land of aspies and neurotypicals, when I first heard the terms casually used, at Friendship, Love and Asperger’s, an event held at 7 p.m. on April 24, in The Red Room, which coincided with my manic mood that evening at Purchase College. Students with Asperger syndrome (aspies/aspagites,) discussed their experiences to help educate people without Asperger syndrome (neurotypicals).
The Autism Speaks website says, ”Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) considered to be on the 'high functioning' end of the spectrum (Autism Spectrum). Affected children and adults have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors."
McMurrin and the other aspies all delivered speeches to the audience of neurotypicals and were met with rounds of applause and laughter. She found out she was an aspie in the eighth grade, but McMurrin decided to officially come out publicly as an aspie at the end of high school.
|The Red Room (room 129) at Purchase College|
The LIU Hudson at Westchester Counseling Honor Society and the Purchase College Supported Education ASD Program came together to make Friendship, Love and Asperger’s a reality.
“What we work on is squashing the stigma with mental health disorders,” said Julie Rundle, a member of the National Counseling Honors Society at LIU Hudson Westchester. “They all have very unique and special qualities and we wanted to let them shine tonight.
Speaking one after another inside The Red Room, which is an off kilter, almost box looking room that is red on the outside but green on the inside, the aspies shared their talents and accomplishments with the neurotypicals.
From my second row seat, I listened as David Cusack, the first aspie to share, talked about the work that he has done with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).
“I have been with NYPIRG for two years and it has been really awesome,” said Cusack. “I have actually liked it so much I am on their board of directors for the next year, which is really cool.”
One of the topics brought up in the Q&A portion of the event was the elimination of the Asperger’s diagnosis from the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
“I feel about it the same way I felt when Pluto got kicked out of the planets. I’m pissed off,” said McMurrin. “Why are we being kicked out of the club? We are still Asperger’s. We still have the same challenges that we have. You’re kicking us out of the DSM club, which is not a very fun club. It is a lot of reading. It is a little depressing, but we were still part of it. You kicked us out. That is mean.”
Asperger Syndrome no longer exists, according to the DSM-5, and those who once would have been diagnosed with the disorder are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. There is only one diagnosis for everyone who falls into this category.
“I guess clumping all of the autism spectrum disorders into one seems really dumb, said Daniel Zuckerman, an aspie and a writer for The Purchase Phoenix. While being sensitive about issues of race, he added that it is like “saying that every black and every Asian person is the same” when they are not.
“Snowflakes come in a variety of sizes, colors, and complex shapes. They are all individually unique in structure,” said Doctor Susan Goldman, an associate professor from LIU Hudson Westchester and a neurotypical. “Similarly, humans come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. We go through our own processes of transformation: complex products of our biology and genetics. Deeply influenced and transformed by our environments: cultural, educational, social, and familial. Unlike snowflakes we thrive in super warm environments. Ones that are understanding and appreciative of our uniquity.”
|The name plate for room 129,|
commonly known as The Red Room
View more from the Fighting Stigma series by clicking on the links below:
Fighting Stigma: A College Student Living With Schizophrenia
Fighting Stigma: A College Student Living In Recovery From A Eating Disorder
Fighting Stigma: A College Student Living With Borderline Personality Disorder
Fighting Stigma: A College Student Living With Schizoaffective Disorder
Fighting Stigma: A College Student Living With Bipolar 1 Disorder