Asperger’s, Autism and Judgement

The one thing I have learned whilst on this journey of Asperger’s Syndrome, is that people who judge others really bug me!

Many of you who have been reading this blog, or are members of our  Davids Gift Facebook fan page, know that I have been following, with great interest, a young man called James Durbin. This morning I read that James has reached the top 10 in the latest season of American Idol. What an amazing achievement.

James, is a young 21 year old man who is diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Tourettes.  He is also in a relationship and has a baby.  Life has been tough for James; when he was 9 years old his dad died from a drug overdose; he found school really difficult and although a talented singer he and his girlfriend have been struggling financially to make ends meet.

So while his whole life he has had to deal with the judgments of others, now, while he seems to be gaining a great deal of momentum in the competition, he is also facing another challenge, from those who are questioning if he is using the Autism diagnosis to gain sympathy or worse still – that he doesn’t have Asperger’s at all!

James has become, for many children on the ASD journey, a bit of a hero.  He is not only creating awareness about Asperger’s and Tourettes Syndrome, but he is also proving that people who have been diagnosed can develop, over time, strategies to help them cope in the neurotypical world.

Music is obviously James’ obsession, and whilst I am only reading between the lines, it is pretty obvious that while James is performing it’s as if all of the eccentricities of his Autism go away.  In fact he said in an interview “Even though I have Asperger’s and  Tourettes… they don’t have me, while I am singing everything just goes away.”  By ‘everything’ I am pretty sure he means he stops trying to be neurotypical and just sings from his heart.

Now, because he is able to appear as if he is neurotypical, doing what he absolutely loves to do, the knives are out.  The Blogsphere is full of those who are questioning his diagnosis. Many comments are quite nasty.  I read one last night that was venomous, calling him a fraud and accusing him of lying about his diagnosis to gain sympathy votes.

James Durbin’s story is important for parents of children who have been diagnosed with Autism. For parents who are just beginning this journey and are in total overwhelm and grief.  The lessons are simple

1.  If you focus, with buckets of unconditional love and patience, to help your child explore their obsessions often they will use that interest to create a career, or perhaps become extraordinary enough to change the world!

2. When you help your child develop neurotypical strategies and coping skills, by the time they are into their late teens and early 20’s many of these young people find relationships, careers and friends just like anybody else.

When our son was first diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome I was thrown into a world I knew nothing about.  I grieved, I was in pain, I struggled to find solutions and quite honestly I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel… anywhere!

Now he is 25, a University Graduate, and if he never told anybody he had ASD no-one, outside our family would know. In fact,  if somebody had told me 10 years ago that this would be where we are now… I would never have believed them.  But he still has Asperger’s, he still finds interacting in social situations sometimes difficult and overwhelming.  He still has obsessions – its just that he has, through years of love, patience and understanding learned how to manage many of those ASD traits so that he can,and does, interact well in the neurotypical world.

I really feel for James.  He has obviously had to deal with judgments and lack of understanding all of his life and now as he is starting to perhaps live the dream, the knives are out.

Last night, I lay awake for most of the night thinking about James and my son and how their journey’s are similar, and I remembered something my mother once told me  – “When people judge others – it really says more about the person who is doing the judging.”  What other people think of you is none of YOUR business.

Its interesting isn’t it.  While James is doing his thing – singing and performing and just getting better at it – many people are sitting at their computers with nothing better to do than to criticize and judge him.

And therein lies the lesson for us all!  How are you coping with the judgments of others? Do you have any tips for other parents to help them deal with judgments?

You can find the latest clip from James on You Tube.  And just a suggestion if you don’t like heavy rock and roll with a great deal of ….um shall we say, high pitched notes … I suggest you turn down the sound 🙂

Sally Thibault , Speaker & Author

Aspergers Parenting Specialist

9 Responses to “Asperger’s, Autism and Judgement”

  1. Hey, thanks for this post. I find myself wanting to defend Durbin all over the internet, probably because of how I connect him to my feelings for my own children. (Both young, both diagnosed pdd nos.) I like that people like him help bring awareness that ASD is not a death sentence. When I first found out I was a MESS, because I knew nothing about autism except the media message that it was some sort of child-soul-stealing boogeyman. The more positive media exposure, the better.

    4:17 am on March 8th, 2011
  2. I love james and any one who doubts his asd is not seeing what i do. My son is only 3.5 but i see the asd if james face in his expressions just the same as my sons. it’s the expressions he uses when trying to cope with the world. i only wish i could vote here from australia.

    10:44 am on March 8th, 2011
  3. Thank you for this post Sally. It is a great reminder to us all to continue loving and supporting our children.

    I choose to believe that some people’s cynicism comes from a “well-meaning” place, but there is no doubt that people can use the anonymity of the internet to share hatred and judgmental abuse. You see it everywhere.

    I try to remember that if you destroy, you will be destroyed and that if you nurture, you will be nurtured. I don’t give the negativity back, but let it pass by like a slip stream! Nxo

    11:19 am on March 8th, 2011
  4. Beautiful post Nicola! And you are so right. Reciprocity works in wonderful ways.

    11:44 am on March 8th, 2011
  5. I agree with you April, every time I hear James sing I can sense that he just goes to this other place. I can just sense that he has used his music to help him deal with life.

    11:46 am on March 8th, 2011
  6. Yes, the cynics….made the diagnosis rollercoaster even harder. I try not to let it upset me, and keep reminding myself that they don’t understand ASDs and they don’t understand my son (which also hurts, when its family). People who do, can see he’s out of a textbook. Sue Larkey ( has a great saying that “to know a kid with an ASD, is to know A kid with an ASD”. I remind myself that it’s not surprising that people who haven’t taken the time to understand, dismiss it because he doesn’t fit their “Rainman” stereotype. The materials of people like Sue Larkey, Tony Attwood, and other authors are what help me to be the best support I can be for my gorgeous boy. Thanks Sally for the heartwarming posts on James Durbin.

    2:04 pm on March 8th, 2011
  7. Thank you for your response Leonie. What a perfect quote! Each of these incredible children are a unique in their own personalities, just like every body else. They do not fit into a stereotype at all and the challenge for all of us is to understand their strengths and help them come to terms with their challenges… just like everybody else.

    2:26 pm on March 8th, 2011
  8. I agree with all your comments. I have a 9 year old son who loves music & dance. I have just shown him the clip which he loved and his reply at the end was ” he has apergers and can do that”. My reply was, yes you can do anything if you put your mind to it. Thx Sally for showing this. JC

    Janell Cowell
    12:33 pm on March 21st, 2011
  9. Hi Janell, That’s fantastic. I think James is a great role model.

    2:19 pm on March 21st, 2011

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