Thursday, October 22, 2009

Origin of Aspie, and in the Media.

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Aspies and Auties are terms used to describe those with Asperger’s syndrome and autism, respectively. On her New York magazine blog about television, Surf, Emily Nussbaum described a recent thematic trend – “Asperger’s everywhere”:
As far as I can tell, it started with the character of Chloe on 24, but then there was that model on America’s Next Top Model, there’s a contestant with Asperger’s on the Amazing Race, and of course, there’s the magnificent Sheldon on the wonderful Big Bang Theory (which I’m so happy has been getting attention lately).

Later, Nussbaum wrote:
Following up on my Asperger’s post from last week, I’ve noticed two more examples: Brennan and Zach on Bones and the quirky youngest kid on The Middle (who doesn’t have Asperger’s, but seems to be potentially on the spectrum). While Googling to confirm that the writers do indeed intend Brennan to be mildly Aspie, I came across Aspies on TV, an interesting blog by Sarah Abrahamson. Abrahamson notes that Aspies are natural comic foils, given that “much of comedy is based on social interaction and the errors in interaction.”

The author Liane Holliday Willey claims to have coinedAspie” in her 1999 book “Pretending to be Normal”; she later explained:
I intended for it to connotate images of kind and caring individuals who live lives wrapped in different colors and fluffed with different stuffings.
Although some of those with Asperger’s use the term to refer to themselves, the UK National Autistic Society cautions journalists against referring to someone as “an aspie.”

The word “autie” is similarly used by those with autism. Urban Dictionary credits the term’s prominence to the autistic Australian author and artist Donna Williams, who calls herself the “Artie Autie.”

Intriguingly, writing in The Times in August, Neil Amdur also noted a spate of end-of-summer movies featuring Asperger’s:

The three new movies would seem to have little in common: a romantic comedy about Upper West Side singles, a biopic about a noted animal science professor, and an animated film about an extended pen-pal relationship.

But all three revolve around Asperger’s syndrome, the complex and mysterious neurological disorder linked to autism. Their nearly simultaneous appearance — two open this summer, and the third is planned for next year — underscores how much Asperger’s and high-functioning autism have expanded in the public consciousness since Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of an autistic savant in “Rain Man” 21 years ago.

Co-vocabularists with personal experience of Asperger’s or autism are invited to comment on whether they consider these terms empowering or discourteous.

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