Before you flip out because I called your kid a geek, you should know that the word geek doesn’t mean what it used to. When we were kids, if someone called you a geek it meant they thought you were a lame-o, weird, irrelevant, loser who wasn’t fit to live on the same planet with more socially adept and popular people like them. It was a delineator. Normal people here, you pathetic freakazoids over there, and don’t even think about talking to us because, ewwww. Isn’t adolescence fun?
But times have changed. While we haven’t managed to completely get rid of kids who live to torment others, we have carved out more territory for our side. Attitudes are changing because now geek, and all it entails, is cool. It’s not geek anymore, now it’s Geek – with a capital G.
Before we go too much further, let’s look at the definition of the word geek, ala Google’s dictionary:
- An unfashionable or socially inept person
- A person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest; for example: a computer geek
- A carnival performer who does wild or disgusting act
Now, I’m going to make a wild guess that your kid probably isn’t a carnival performer, which is just as well because that definition of the word geek hasn’t been used much in the last fifty years. Typically when we’re talking geek we’re using the first and/or second definitions. I’m betting that your child/student fits both those definitions to a tee, otherwise why would you be reading a blog about Asperger’s? Socially inept with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest – add sensory issues and you’ve got yourself a diagnosis. You’ve just crossed the line into Aspie-land
So, does that mean people with Aspeger’s are Geeks? Yes. Does that mean that all Geeks have Asperger’s? No. If you’ve got an undying love for anything to do with lighthouse lenses but have great social skills, you’re still a Geek but you don’t have Asperger’s. To have Asperger’s you have to have some social impairments, for instance, knowing everything there is to know about lighthouse lenses except that you shouldn’t talk about them incessantly to your co-workers. That’s where you cross the line from “social and interesting” to “socially interesting.”
Why is whether your child is a Geek or not important? Because right now our society says being a Geek is a great thing. In the olden days when you were in high school, Geeks were in charge of the audio/visual equipment, but who cared? If you didn’t need to run a movie projector they were useless. But these days everyone wants the fastest computer, the latest video game, most awesome photo editing software, more feature-packed phones, etc. And who delivers all that? Geeks. And who makes money by inventing all these new things folks must have? Geeks. All of a sudden, being smart came back into style.
Being a Geek is one of your child’s assets. It can provide connection to a social group, employment, self-esteem and a refuge for your child. Also, it’s a part of him. We need to accept the Geek in him and embrace it, so he will too; because ultimately it’s not whether we or the rest of society thinks he’s cool – he has to be happy with who he is and make his strengths work for him, whatever they are.
I’m going to talking a lot about Geek in the next few blog posts. From its culture (“Geekitude” – the noun, not the organization; “Geek cred” – like “street cred”; Steampunk and other universes), to its uses (finding your Geekverse – how to find friends with similar interests; turning passions into employment; using Star Wars to teach your child to write), to fun stuff (how to build a trebuchet, the best place to buy modifiable top hats, and why comic book protectors are so important.) We’re going to cover a lot of ground – not just because Geek is fun, but to investigate how someone with Asperger’s can make their inner Geek work for them.
So here’s your homework. First, if you haven’t already subscribed to this blog, consider it so you can keep up with the discussion. Second, comment on my posts – your opinion gives us all a more broad understanding of whatever we’re discussing. Third, do an internet search on your child’s interest and the word geek. For instance “Star Wars geek”, “football geek”, “light bulb geek”, etc. Does anything interesting come up? Did you find any social groups relating to his interest? How about future employment ideas or fun activities? Write a comment and let us know what you found and what you think of it.
For extra credit – prove to yourself that your kid isn’t alone in his special interests. Do a search on his interest plus the word tattoo. See, there are a lot of folks out there who are just as interested in the same things he is. Not that I’m suggesting your child gets a picture of Pikachu inked on his forehead, but you’ve got to admit it would be a great way to find other folks who think like he does. Just kidding.