Frontline Initiative Autism Spectrum Disorder

Aspire or NT? The pros and cons of acting neurotypical

This excerpt was adapted from a column on the Wrong Planet website — an online community for people with ASD. The full article can be found at .

Maja is a 25-year-old singer/songwriter from Denmark. As a teenager, Maja received a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. This is her story.

I’ll keep my story somewhat short. Like many other Aspies, I’ve known since very early childhood that I was not like the other kids. I‘ve felt different, weird, and it truly does feel like being on the wrong planet. Everyone else expected me to behave as them. For me, that was impossible. I’m fairly sure that any Aspie knows what it’s like.

I think I first realized this when I was three- or four-years-old. I never went to special schools or had any help. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16. So, not only did others expect me to act ‘normal’, I expected it of myself. It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 that I realized that I would have to really work for it if I was going to achieve it. Also, it wasn’t until then that I started wanting to be a part of society, after years of being bullied by classmates and teachers. So I worked at it. I observed and tried to repeat what the others did. I failed miserably.

When I was 17 or so, I was invited to play a role-playing game, which has since become much more focused on character play than anything else. And that is where I really learned something.

I see it as speaking two languages. To use a metaphor, I speak Danish and English. Danish is my native language, it’s the language I grew up speaking. Danish is good to be able to speak, because even though it’s a small country, it’s where I live. The relatively small number of Danishspeaking people mostly prefer to speak Danish. And many of them don’t know English very well.

But many people in the world speak English, and most of them don’t know how to speak a word of Danish. However, because I speak English so well, I’m able to share ideas with other people who speak English and befriend them. I’m able to translate Danish for them, and even – with those who are willing – am able to teach them a bit of Danish.

It’s exactly the same with the languages ‘NT’ and ‘Aspie’*. There are many Aspies in the world, but most people are NTs. What I want to do with my life is reach out to the NTs and teach them to speak a bit of ‘Aspie’.

Maja Toudal started writing songs when she was nine and released her debut album, Live, Acoustic & Stripped less than a year ago. She has also released quite a few singles, available on her YouTube channel.

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) specialize in providing excellent support to individuals with disabilities through living out the NADSP Code of Ethics. Supporting individuals with ASD (and any other I/DD) also includes encouraging self-advocates to share their stories and perspectives. How might you help the individuals you support express themselves? Is it through writing? Through music or art? Could you help the individuals you support share their stories through movement or puppetry? Like Maja, everyone has a story to tell.

*FI Editorial Note: People with Asperger’s sometimes refer to themselves as an ‘Aspie’. This is generally considered to be an acceptable and positive term among people with Asperger’s. Individuals with ASD also sometimes refer to people without ASD as ‘neurotypicals’ or ‘NTs’, which is another term commonly used and accepted throughout the ASD community.