For the past four summers, I have volunteered for one week at a camp that caters to people who have special needs.
I've made lifelong friends and entered a community of profound love and understanding.
At this camp, I have assisted people at all levels of needs.
My first year, I helped a man whose birth left him with a missing eye and a damaged leg. My second summer, I hung out with a 16-year-old boy who has Down's syndrome, which meant he was a 16-year-old boy who had no filter, which meant I had to limit his time with the ladies.
Third, I accompanied a man who suffered from Down's syndrome more severely, and occasionally had trouble speaking and walking. Last year, I befriended one of the last people to ever have polio, and he needed help with just about everything.
I love each of these men dearly, and I have spent some of the most emotionally raw moments of my life by their sides. This camp has not only given me some of the best weeks of my life, but also taught me about the finer points of mental disabilities.
First off, mental disorders aren't "real." The symptoms exist and have very real consequences in people's lives, but terms like "autism" and "Down's syndrome" are catchall terms for a collection of these symptoms.
Sometimes, people who have special needs do not exhibit all of the symptoms of their "disorders." So, mental disorders do not possess a have-it-or-not type of characteristic. Instead, people exhibit these symptoms on a spectrum.
At one end of the spectrum, they need assistance with just about every aspect of their daily lives. At the other, they participate in society, just like everyone else does.
Many of the people I met at the camp had jobs, went to school or attended programs. They told jokes, listened to pop music, followed sports, etc.
A person who has special needs is just that — a person. His or her physical or mental capacities do not change the reality that, by and large, he or she is just like everyone else.
This brings me to Putin.
A 2008 report just surfaced, which theoretically diagnosed Russia's dictator-president with Asperger's, a form of autism that is low on the spectrum.
The study aims to prove this hypothesis with observations that Putin is "defensive in large social settings." He is said to be more comfortable in private, one-on-one sessions when making big decisions and uses extreme control as a means for compensation.
These behaviors could very well be due to a hidden case of Asperger's, but they could also be due to Putin's occupation as the oppressive ruler of a massive country that has boatloads of problems.
He might be "defensive in large social settings" because he knows the entire world is waiting for him to slip. He might also be more comfortable making big decisions privately because he doesn't want everyone to know what he will do next. He might rule with "extreme control" because it is the only way he is able to stay in power.
Our observations are pure speculation because we've obviously never been able to give Putin an all-encompassing diagnostic look-over.
The report has similar credibility as Buzzfeed and "Holy Taco" diagnosing Kanye with Asperger's. Under these criteria, as New York Magazine points out, we are all probably somewhere on the autism spectrum.
But, as I said earlier, autism is just a term we coined to classify a set of symptoms. It is not an objective reality.
For example, humans define time, but if we didn't, time would still have consequences.
We should not look at Vladimir Putin through the lens of autism until we are absolutely sure he is, like, really autistic. If he just exhibits some of the minor symptoms, he likely is not on the spectrum.
Except, he isn't just like anyone else! He rules Russia!
Considering his position, if he behaved "normally," it would be probably more ridiculous than how he currently acts. His behavior may not be the symptoms of a disorder, it might just be his personality.
Classification is dangerous because once a label is applied, it is difficult to remove. As we saw in "Shutter Island," completely normal behavior can be seen as the actions of a deranged lunatic if they are viewed from the correct angle.
Putin is among the most powerful people in world. If we put this frame around him, we could miss the importance of his actions by focusing on something that even if true, is entirely inconsequential.
Plus, we can never diagnose anyone — even world leaders — with any mental disorder from a distance.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Elite Daily.