I insist, and not just for reasons of self-defense, that I'm not autistic. There is a similar condition, called Asperger's syndrome, that I'm less sure about. One test for it is saying yes to all of the following questions:
There is at present a major increase in diagnosed autism and Asperger's, and there is some question how much is caused by better diagnosis. (Asperger's was virtually unknown in America until fairly recently.) I have a tentative theory, based of course on my own case. (Freud had unresolved family issues, Jung had a spiritual crisis, Adler was fascinated by power, etc.)
Hypothesize that there are by nature/genes Intros and Extras. Extras thrive in society, particularly animal and primitive societies. (Societies can progress by giving smart introverts a safe space in which to create science and art, he said self-servingly.) Therefore, kids have been expected to become Extra, which means dragging at least some of the Intros kicking and screaming into the Koinos Kosmos. (Or as a John Brunner character put it, "Make his internal world less tolerable than the real world.") Most came out, though perhaps with scars. A shrink sometimes referred to as Benno Brutalheim, who believed that autism was All Mommy's Fault, reported good results with such methods. (One of the many excellent things about Jerome Kagan is that he uses as a Horrible Example, no further explanation required, the theory of the "Refrigerator Mother.")
Perhaps these learned to alienate and dissociate from their bodies and the outside world, to do maintenance and chores robotically. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I envy these people something fierce. I wish I had an inflexible, repetitive way of doing such tasks as brushing my teeth, so they would get done well without my conscious presence.
I suppose, however, that they paid a price, trapped in rigid character armor, and I would not be surprised if the connection of this with cancer is one of the areas in which Wilhelm Reich is not entirely mistaken. (Thus explaining why one particular life-hating, body-hating person with carcinogenic habits—some cured, some being recovered from, some remaining—has not yet been diagnosed with the thing that lives in the back of all our minds.) But perhaps good parents give their introverted children character Kevlar.
Even Bettelheim didn't claim to cure all his patients. A few barricaded themselves inside so firmly that psychiatry gave up hope for a cure and tagged them with the AUTISTIC label. Permissive parents, such as mine, hated the thought of reality enforcement. They offered the Real World, which the Extras eagerly accepted, and tried to bargain with those who wanted to stay inside. One possible cause of some cases is that firmness was needed, and a process was set up whereby half-hearted reality enforcement led to the kid being rewarded for staying inside in ways that made the parents feel bad about attempting to enforce reality, thus winding up in an autistic behavior pattern.
Others were "spoiled," which is to say they managed to keep far enough inside that they did not have to develop an adequate mechanism for automating and dissociating from necessary tasks, instead always hoping to be able to get out of them. I think this requires overprotective parents and a child with enough innate symbol-manipulating ability to play the game well.
It also requires money. Tim Leary's eight-circuit theory says that the First Circuit is approach/avoidance vis-ŕ-vis the real world. The things that calm the First Circuit include mother's milk, opiates, and money. That works for me. Money is a way of keeping me safe from That Shit Out There, and when I feared that was seriously threatened, I committed a betrayal of trust worse than hiding my opiate addiction (now, I am relieved to say, materially compensated for and forgiven; I will be very careful not to get into a situation where I can do that again).
One other Aspie thing: I am a Pi Person (ref: Alfred Bester, "The Pi Man"). I assume that my assignment in this life is to make patterns, some of which I am conscious of, and I am happy with that assignment, much more so than I am with the general one of being an animal in an environment.
(Spider Robinson says we all volunteered for this life, but I've never felt that way. I see myself as a draftee, thrust into a situation where the other side—and sometimes my commanding officers—are frequently trying to get me killed for reasons that make no sense to me. I'm descended from the culture that created the Good Soldier Švejk.)
As long I can remember, I have liked to make lists and charts. In elementary school, I would do lists of favorite players and make primitive efforts to compile statistics.
As a Pi Person, I am the ultimate Discordian heretic: I believe that I am in a game between order and chaos, and I am on order's side. (Or at least, I love order more than chaos; I certainly don't believe it can "win," any more than that light can obliterate darkness.)