The following blog is reposted with permission of its author Yuval Levental. It was originally published in the Autism Daily Newscast (http://bit.ly/1F8Z3uP) as well as in the WrongPlanet.net. Yuval has been a contributor to our blog (http://bit.ly/1F8Z3uP)and has corresponded with me for the last couple of years. I am very proud of him. He is very bright and perceptive. At present he is pursuing a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. In a previous blog he described the reason for his way of thinking as follows:
For many years, I was a major neurodiversity advocate. I believed the old myths that Albert Einstein and Bill Gates were very similar to me, and that I would become one of them in the future. This was because I never got along well with people and wanted badly to make up for my social deficiencies.
However, as my life changed, it seemed that I was actually lacking many characteristics that they had. Contrary to popular belief, they actually did very well in school, but took alternative routes of their own willingness. Additionally, Einstein was active not in just physics, but in politics, social circles, and loved to play the violin. He had a strong work ethic and attention span up to his death, once saying, “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.” Bill Gates was very excellent in marketing Microsoft to the masses. Eventually, my own life fell downwards to the point where I decided to search for treatment. This essay is divided into three parts: my life, my experience with neurodiversity, and my search for treatment. Finally, I would say that in some aspects, my condition isn’t that bad at all, and that I have it much better than many. I can certifiably attest though that I am profoundly impaired in attentiveness, organization, and socializing.
According to direct (actual, not estimated) measurements from Quantcast, WrongPlanet, which claims to be the largest forum online for people with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome and their relatives, has hit an all-time low count of A pageview doesn’t represent a unique user, but rather an instance where an onine user visits a website, so a single user can have several pageviews. This is despite the fact that WrongPlanet’s membership has dramatically increased from 2008 to 2012. Additionally, from the same statistics on a different tab, the unique visitor count has also declined by 50%. This is most likely because more and more users are feeling alienated from the site and its goals, and do not feel represented.
At one time, WrongPlanet’s footer stated that “Asperger’s is not a disease” (https://web.archive.org/web/20120715015511/http://www.wrongplanet.net/ accessed April 26, 2015). Many members presumably joined the website on that basis; however, there is no proof that Asperger’s is always or even beneficial. The statement has since been removed. Additionally, the left-hand sidebar at the top on the archive page showed statistics concerning the total user count and daily user growth; that sidebar has also been removed.
One subforum on WrongPlanet is The Haven, which is supposed to offer advice to members struggling with personal issues. Many members there report feeling hopeless, lost, or even suicidal. However, it is rarely suggested on there that neurodiversity might be problematic.
The biggest problem is that only a small recurring group of people with Asperger’s gets presented on the front page (https://web.archive.org/web/20130716180821/http://www.wrongplanet.net/ accessed April 26., 2015). This group includes Alex Plank, who is WrongPlanet’s founder, John Robison, the designer of several famous guitars and owner of a renowned auto shop, and Jack Robison, John Robison’s son.
The frontpage group is generally in favor of neurodiversity, and the vast majority have achieved professional success. They do not represent many other autistics that struggle with basic needs, have no professional success, and/or would like a cure. In fact, a thread called “The unpopular WP members club” , which started in 2012, claims that WrongPlanet has become a popularity contest like everywhere else. It spans over 300 pages with more than 4,600 posts and is still active today.
WrongPlanet also once ran a web series called Autism Talk TV . The series featured Alex Plank, Jack Robison, and Kristen Lindsmith, Jack’s girlfriend. Again, only a limited number of autistics were featured. The series was partially funded by Autism Speaks, which many WrongPlanet members considered to be controversial. There hasn’t been an update in two years, and the WrongPlanet Youtube channel hasn’t been updated in over a year.
Because there is scant evidence that Autism/Asperger’s leads to special talents, many less-functioning members have abandoned the site in frustration, and the higher-functioning members have lost interest over time, as it doesn’t affect their lives much.