Who Are We To Judge Jerry Seinfeld?

Every now and then I get up on a soap box, this is going to be one of those moments.

Last week Jerry Seinfeld disclosed to NBC News Brian Williams, “I think–and on a very drawn out scale–I think I’m on the spectrum. You’re never paying attention to the right things. Basic social engagement is really a struggle. I’m very literal. People talk to me and they use expressions and sometimes I don’t know what they’re saying.”

Some people close to those with Autism, or suffer from Autism themselves, have been upset by his disclosure. Some going so far as to say he is trying to be fashionable.

Here’s what I know.

No one tries to be Autistic. There is nothing en vogue about Autism. It is not the color of the season, it is not the next greatest thing.

Do you know what Autism is?

It is a spectrum. The recent change of the DSM-V, the manual of all psychological illnesses, has reclassified Autism to include Aspergers. No longer is Aspergers a separate entity all on it’s own. It is now all considered part of the Autism rainbow. On one side of this arch is a very debilitating severe neurological disorder. Often times these individuals struggle with basic life skills and will require assistance for most of their lives. They are non-verbal, some are not able to use the restroom of their own accord, some are violent. On the other end of this scale are people like my son, people possibly like Jerry Seinfeld.

My son is an 11 year old child that can tell you anything about history. We have vacationed at places like White Fish Point (where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank), Washington DC (visiting every museum), Chicago Field Museum, and other regional locales that are all related to history. He is fascinated, obsessed with historical things. He also struggles with social norms, does not handle change well, does not make eye contact, has been known to make some noises that are disruptive to others, and has been in four schools in six years. He has Autism. He was diagnosed by a Harvard educated Psychologist. There is no doubt he has it, the gold standard of Autism testing indicated he does. The genetic testing we had run by one of the top children’s geneticist in the world indicates he has abnormalities on chromosomes linked to Autism. But you know what I hear all the time…”He doesn’t look like he has Autism!”

No he doesn’t look like he has Autism if you mean he doesn’t stim, or make non verbal sounds. But he struggles, a lot. He has gone through more in his 11 years of life than most people go through in their entire lives.

Have we not as a country pushed our preconceived notions of what defines a person enough? I have heard adults talk about how a person who is mixed race is deemed not black enough, or white enough. Or a person who is homosexual doesn’t seem homosexual. Just because they do not fit into your judgmental beliefs of what a black, or white, or gay person is does not make them any less of that person.

So Jerry Seinfeld has Autistic tendencies. Can we use this a stepping stone to broaden the conversation to how Autism affects so many people. How there is such a range to the diagnosis. Can we stop fixating on how someone doesn’t fit your prejudiced idea of what Autism is. Because I can tell you, if you look into our windows at certain moments of the day you will see Autism. It may not look like you think it should, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Just ask my 11 year old son. He can tell you, it is very real.

JerrySeinfeld

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  1. My youngest is on the spectrum as well. His passions are science and history. He can remember anything. He is polite to a fault and the only time I have seen him ‘violent’ is when his brothers have pushed him. I have seen him cry 3 times in his life aside from infanthood. The loss of my mother who was an integral part of his daily schedule until he was 11. It hit him at the visitation and when my son broke, we all broke. It was a heart-wrenching moment for us all. Because he simply is not that kind of an emotional person. The other 2 times when something has weighed heavy on his mind about what he feels are unfair things and he cannot take it anymore. I get all the time, He doesn’t LOOK Autistic. Ok so he is in the 8th grade and while all the kids his age were going to dances he wasn’t interested. This was the first dance he attended 2 weeks ago. He is soft spoken, polite, always helping, staying busy. Has probably watched every science video on Youtube, loves learning how things work and when tested was told they could move him into the 11th grade with ease because he is beyond what he is being taught. He refused, because he does have the self awareness on that level to know socially he is not there yet, and why open himself up to the torment. He sticks with the kids he has known his whole life, who are his defenders and will fight you over him, and have repeatedly. He is blessed.. we are blessed… but that doesn’t change who and what he is.. it saddens me to find people attach expectations on disorders…. just wrong.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment Southern Angel. I find it very frustrating when people say my son doesn’t look autistic. I’m sorry you have experienced the same ignorance.

  2. Thank you for saying this! One of my son’s friends is non-verbal and it drives me crazy how people see him and judge him without even stepping foot in his orbit. When Seinfeld said what he did it made sense. Just like your son, many autistic people are high functioning. I can imagine how his humor could have been his science. Walk a mile people. Walk a mile.

    • People only want to highlight worst case scenarios. The one upmanship is ridiculous in this world. And I can so see how his ability to analyze people and make statements about things that seem so obvious to us we don’t even notice it would be his ‘science’.

  3. Jamie says:

    Great piece, I agree with you entirely. As someone who is also on the mild end of the spectrum its often difficult for me to explain to people that “I meant what I said as a joke and, yes I know my facial expression was deadpan, it’s an autism thing”
    “You’re never autistic, don’t be stupid you’re just a miserable git”

    • I am always flabbergasted when I hear people say things like that! Should there be a flashing neon sign pointing at you saying AUTISM! People just expect Autism to mean debilitating hand flapping person. Anyone else is just part of the ‘over diagnosed’ world. I’m sorry you have to deal with it too.