In 2005, at 38 years old, I was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is a condition on the autistic spectrum now reclassified as being an Autism Spectrum Disorder (A.S.D).
Some people with Asperger’s refer to themselves as an Aspergian (or Aspie for short).
Being on the spectrum means that my brain is wired differently to a Neuro-Typical (NT) person. (A Neuro-Typical is a person whose brain is wired in a way that the medical world considers to be ‘normal’ or typical [most people]).
Aspergians brains tend to function better with logic, ability to acquire and store a large knowledge of things that interest them and in observing things in finer detail. Also typical are making decisions without emotional clouding or peer/social pressure, and being comfortable alone for extended periods of time.
Aspies are disproportionately (not all) intellectually gifted but are generally considered to have a higher intellectual capacity than NT’s. But we often face barriers in the education system as it does not cater to the way we need to learn.
I highlight these strengths first as Asperger’s is often portrayed as something ‘wrong’ with people. Asperger’s is mostly a ‘different’ way of understanding and perceiving things because the brain wiring atypically. It can be a problem though, mostly because the world caters to the typical brained person.
However, there are areas we might find difficult or challenging, even if not part of the environment or peoples’ attitudes to us.
The parts of the brain that control social interactions tend to be less developed, or a-typically developed. This means Aspergians often have difficulties with social interaction and social imagination in the ‘typical’ way.
This can be learnt manually, as it has with me. I am a reasonably social person and as an intelligent adult, I have taught myself manually lots of the social rules and cues.
I most likely store the manually learnt information, in the manual parts the brain.
This sometimes deliberate, attempt to learn social rules and behaviour, matched with my logic and ability not to cloud my judgment with emotion, has meant I can often work things out even better than neurotypicals. It empowers me to deal with the trials of life better than most or at least not get so emotional about them.
However, frustration is an emotion I may feel more deeply.
Although my A.S. traits were more pronounced when I was a child than they are these days my sensory issues are vastly worse now as an adult. I put this down to the fact that the environment is so much noisier.
When I say ‘nosier’ I don’t’ only mean audibly but visually and smell-wise too.
Coffee is being drunk all around now. This wasn’t the case in my childhood. Now my nervous-system has to tackle animation on the internet, screens in underground stations and in the street. Mobile phones and other gadgets buzzing, bleeping and flashing are also painful. Sirens are louder, public transport has loud P.A. pollution.
All this is very disabling.
Being an adult demands conformity with various behaviours and commitments. I find this highly stressful too, even without the disrespect my reactions to the stimuli bring me! The disrespect amplifies the stress, which amplifies the sensory impact, which amplifies the stress, which…!
Living the life of an adult – dealing with office politics, trying to fit in socially, being measured socially, the expectations of compliance with certain socially expected ideologies and developmental ‘norms’, is stressful.
I didn’t have to deal with all that as a child. I was left to my own space, uninterrupted much of the time. Two of my schools were in a country setting – one with only about 5 pupils in the class.
Puppeting Bearsac used to help me override the sensory issues. I didn’t need to use him to communicate through, as many people assumed. I guess it seems odd seeing an adult making a teddy bear talk. People tend to need to make sense of what they find odd or don’t understand.
Sometimes our own barriers can get in the way of us developing a broad sense of ourselves.
Sometimes the ‘well-meaning’ intentions of others can be barriers -But perhaps that should be a blog rather than making this page any longer than it is already! Sensory issues
I have sensory overload issues and am oversensitive to some sounds, smells, tactile and some visual stimuli. I find multitasking challenging if using more than one sense when concentrating or stressed. This can be typical for lots of people on the autistic spectrum.
I do consider my sensory overloads to be impairments but not all my AS traits I have, some traits I see as strengths or purely differences.
There can be challenges of having mild Asperger’s or of having developed social skills.
‘Having’ Asperger’s ’mildly’ or being high-functioning can create challenges itself. People do not realise why you appear as weird, naive, self-absorbed, rude, indifferent, unfriendly, overfriendly to them. They miss out on the signs that you might have Asperger’s as you appear very intelligent and the bit they find weird does not match up to that in their minds.
If Asperger’s is more obvious then people can understand and maybe make allowances for your seemly odd ways and maybe do not take offence so easily.
People are reasonably good once I have explained to them about Asperger’s. If I have not said anything, then it is easy for people to be offended by me. If people don’t know I have Asperger’s then it can be scary, for them to see me when I react to sensory overload or being overcrowded.
When I still had Bearsac’s I used to sniff at his fur. Otherwise, I might put my hands over my ears and la la la la la. Or I might shout ‘shut up’ to inanimate objects that are making a noise. I might lose coordination of thought, speech or movement or simply withdraw.
Therefore I find it makes sense, for their sake, to tell people. There are still a lot of ignorant people (by attitude) though and I often wonder if their attitude is hiding a denial that they suspect they might be on the spectrum too or, at least, a denial of something they feel insecure about in themselves!
Aspergians often have repetitive behaviour or an unusual hobby or interest, to which they devote a lot of time and may extend into a career. The medical world and some of society sometimes call these interests ‘obsessions’. Bearsac was one such hobby and is one I made up and have never tired of, even though he is no longer with me.
Some of the repetitive behaviour with Bearsac may well be a small part of my Asperger’s, and sniffing at him and kissing him calms me down and grounds me. But what is more a part of Asperger’s is the fact that I don’t worry or care what people think about me and the way I come across with Bearsac (unless it is of detrimental consequence to my reputation). I can do what I enjoy because I enjoy it and don’t care that some people think it odd.
The part of the brain that worries about what other people think doesn’t always work in the same way with people with Asperger’s as it does with NTs. NTs appear to be more concerned with what other people think than for their need for self-expression.
I used to think other people don’t think, I know now, they do. However, I still feel people don’t think as much as I do, well, at least I think NTs don’t think as much as I do!
For me to translate my unworded thoughts into words, to communicate them, can sometimes be very hard for me, and I often get misunderstood as I haven’t translated my thoughts into speech successfully.
The processing between my fast mind and spoken communication gets muddled up or is too slow a process to translate effectively, partly, I feel, because I have a weakness with immediate and short-term memory. Adults even bullied by children.
Being perceived as ‘different’ in a way NTs having difficulty accepting, Aspies tend to get bullied or left out more than NTs at school, work and in society in general. This continues into adulthood, often even with adults being bullied by children and teenagers.
When this happens (as it has with me including when I have had stones thrown at me) and we go to the police or report it to other relevant authorities it is often not taken seriously or as a crime. They see it as simple peer bullying, which they don’t recognise as a crime like they would if done unto neurotypical adults.
Adults are not the peers of children and teenagers even if we do have a ‘typical’ developmental delay (as is said with Autism/Asperger’s). But this is how adults on the Autistic spectrum are often seen and treated.
Some people very surprised to hear that there are adults with Asperger’s Syndrome, even more so, that there are females with any level of Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
A lot of people tell me I must be mentally ill. Asperger’s is not a mental Illness, even if it is included within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – There is nowhere else to put it; so I guess it gets put in there!
When I was diagnosed with Asperger’s the diagnostic team agreed that I had no mental health or psychological issues after asking questions aimed at assessing if someone has mental health issues as a matter of routine. Yes, Bearsac did speak to them.
To the people that attempt to dis me in this way (rather feebly I might add) I like to say I have been certified sane, how about you?!
Being less ‘naturally’ socially adept in a way that typical society considers “normal” has been a barrier in my past. Though even though I have developed strong social skills by choice it can still give me some difficulties now.
However, I feel society still needs to evolve its view of diversity to a more positive consensus, to push back the barriers it erects for people that have neurologically different brains.
These barriers are perpetuated by the medical world by their view of Asperger’s as being a ‘disorder’ and something a person needs to be mended of or cured of.
Many Aspies dislike terms like ‘disorder’, as used by the medical world. Aspies see their brains as different and not disordered. The see this and other terms as barriers.
Also seen as barriers are portrayals generated by the negatively informing media to a majority society of NTs that have difficulty thinking for themselves outside the social constraints of our society at its current level of evolution.
I feel now that my realisation that I’m an Aspie has given me a skeleton key to many doors of opportunity; I just need to find time to open them all and release and explore the potential I was unaware I possessed!
I wrote a book about my travels with Bearsac. It has a secondary theme of Asperger’s Syndrome. The Authors ceased trading and the book went out of print but I am revising it and will relaunch it as an eBook. If you would like to be put on a mailing list for this book then please email me putting TWMTB book list in the subject bar.