Aspergers

Since mentioning in past posts that I had Asperger Syndrome, I have received many private messages on this topic….and requests to explain how it affects me – and what strategies I employed to develop coping skills.  So, every now and then, I will write a bit about my experiences in this area.

 However, before I start, some qualifications are in order…

I am not a physician, and the closest I ever came to being a therapist was an after-school job in a gift shop down the hall from the hotel bar with a pianist so loud, the bartender could not hear ‘life stories’ over the music – so I had to fill in!  Whatever I post about Aspergers are my personal experiences, observations and ideas – and are not to be mistaken for an expert opinion or the prevailing medical opinion -or, in fact, any respected opinion on this topic whatsoever.  These are just my musings!

Yet, I hope that it might offer an insight into how at least one ‘Aspergers’ brain processes the surrounding world, and help to relieve the frustration that people often experience when dealing with an ‘Aspergers’ child or colleague.  And it CAN be challenging!!!

Perhaps I am completely off on this, but it seems to me that what we call ‘Asperger Syndrome’ is actually several very different conditions.  They may present similarly, but have underlying causes…and if you read my rants, you know how I abhor it when people confuse symptoms with causes!  I can only address my particular variety.  ;0)

Aspergers has been described in many ways, given many nicknames:  the absentminded professor syndrome, the Silicone Valley syndrome, the uber-geek/nerd syndrome…there are more labels.  When I was in high school, I watched the original Star Trek series in order to figure out why some of my classmates kept addressing me as Ms. Spock…  Yet lately (and perhaps due to the success of people like Bill Gates – I don’t know if he has Aspergers, but he does have the appearance of a ‘nerd’, just as many ‘Aspies’ do), there has been a literary (well, as close as TV comes) explosion of characters who undeniably portray different manifestations of the Asperger syndrome – outside of the ‘Trekkies’.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive, rather, it is meant to demonstrate the very different ways (and severity – it is much more like a continuum than an on/off thingy) that Aspergers people behave  (or, at least, ones that we, Aspies, consider to be ‘our ways’):

Dr. Gregory House

Mr. Monk

Just about everyone (excepting Penny) on ‘The Big Bang Theory’

Dr. Spence Reid from ‘Criminal Minds’

Chuck Bartowski

 …and that does not even account for Mr. Bean!

So, if this topic is of interest to you, drop in every now and then – more on Aspergers is going to trickle in!

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10 Responses to “Aspergers”

  1. rima Says:

    Hi xanthippa, I am fascinated by this syndrome. I have just discovered my husband might have a combination of this and dyslexia. He has been too ashamed to tell me about it, I suspect because his whole life people has been telling him that he is stupid or something similar. I know it’s not true, he is very good with machines, he has skills in other areas as well, but when it comes to learning a new language and reading, he just cannot seem to grasp anything, which is frustrating for someone his age.
    Any tips or tricks as to how i can help him? I have bought various books on dyslexia, and phonetics. It’s not in our language, all in english, but i am trying my best to help him with it.
    thanks a lot!

    ps: i’m a trekkie too! and i love watching the big bang theory, hilarious!

    • loupgarou73 Says:

      If your husband struggles with language, the only way to get through it is to practice all the time. I have Aspergers syndrome with savant-like abilities in language, yet I also have dyslexia (go figure!). It involves many different neural pathways so if one is a bit crossed it can make things very difficult.

      I could do math and read from the age of 3. But then spelling and math went out the window when I hit about 9. For years, I was told that I was a “little professor” but stupid as well. I was only good in very narrow fields of focus. When I got older and went to Uni to do my science degree, I knew I had to do maths, so I worked my butt off and ended up with 98% average marks in algebra and calculus. I just have to keep revisiting my basic maths rules. But ask me to add up in my head or something and I am hopeless because I get numbers around the wrong way.

      It could be that same for language with your husband. He just has to find a way of learning that is best for him.

      I wish you guys the best and take care,

      Loup

      Xan says:

      Thank you, Loup!

      We are doing quite well.

      My husband is an engineer and very successful in his field. He has dyslexia and APD, better known as ‘hearing dyslexia’. However, over the years, he has developed coping skills that he uses to help him overcome the things that are tougher for him than for other people.

      As for me – I tend to be rather gifted at languages myself. When I was about 17, a friend’s cousin was visiting from Italy. My friend was not disciplined enough to fully translate everything for her. Even though I had NEVER learned any Italian before, after about 2 days of hanging out with her, I could use what I had picked out from her and from other European languages (no Spanish or Portuguese, minimal French) to act as her interpreter…

      Similar with Calculus: 1st year Calculus in University (equivalent to US college) was hell – I had to take it twice not to bring my average down…. By the time I was taking 3rd year+ ‘advanced’ (and much more abstract) Calculus, I found it intuitive, easy and simple. I could not understand why people who had aced the 1st and 2nd year Calculus – who had found it WAY easier than I had – would be struggling with such easy, obvious and ‘common sense’ things like we were taking then…

      Yes, I have trouble with some ‘basic’ math (mostly because I don’t remember the stupid terms by which the teachers/profs refer to concepts) and have to do calculations of ‘multiplication tables’ because memorizing them is ‘beyond me’ – but when a prof gave a few of us (extracurricular) some lectures in abstract geometry (like, phd-level abstract geometry stuff – while we were undergrads and I was not even in Math, studying Physics instead), I could answer all his questions without thinking because it was ‘so obvious’ that I could not understand why this would even NEED to be taught, much less why it would be considered doctorate-level mathematics….

      I suspect this is the nature of us, Aspies: we often find things that others think easy to be difficult, while things others find difficult are easy or obvious for us.

      I recall that a few years ago, I was tutoring a friend’s daughter who was afraid she would not pass her grade 9 Math. She was going into the exam with a 45% average. The final exam (which I was tutoring her for) was worth 50% of the final mark. I went over the full year’s worth of math with her in 3 sessions of about 2 hours each. Her final mark was 68%…. Everything I wet over with her, whatever the teacher said simply confused her and made her doubt what she thought was ‘the obvious answer’. I assured her she was right, showed her which bits the teachers were permitted to give her marks for on an exam (and therefore, which lines – though redundant – she had to write down on the exam paper as ‘steps’ in her solution), and she aced the final…. I did this also with her science grades (though, the mark improvement was not AS dramatic, she went from ‘nearly failing’ to getting an A+ on her final exam. Then we repeated this in grade 10 (Math and Science) and grade 11 Math.

      I am NOT a brilliant tutor. However, I DO understand how to make Aspies understand school material and write answers on tests which our educational system will actually accept… I learned this from my own experience – and again from helping my kids survive the educational system.

      We ARE different: each in an individual way, but according to an underlying pattern.

      And, Asperegers IS a dominant gene: I know many families with 2 non-Aspie parents who have at least one Aspie kid, yet I do not know a single 2-Aspie parent family where each and every kid does not have Aspergers to some degree!

      Therefore, it is essential that educators be educated about us: there will be more and more of us. And, in 5-8 generations, I suspect that Aspies will make up at least 30-50% of the kids in school.

      It’s about time the world came to recognize us for what we are and adjusted to us, instead of treating us like freaks!

  2. xanthippa Says:

    Fima,
    thank you for your comment.

    I will answer some of your questions in my next post – it is a little ‘longish’! ;o)

  3. Catana Says:

    Monk is a serious case of OCD, so I’m not sure whether there are also aspie traits there. The main person in Bones is certainly an aspie. Another one is niggling at the back of my mind–one that’s not too obvious–maybe I’ll think of it eventually.

  4. xanthippa Says:

    OCD is often co-occurring with Aspergeres…

    In addition, there are several signinficant non-OCD traits that Monk exhibits. I am not a professional in this field, so this is just my personal, untrained opinion…

    But when you observe how Mr. Monk is unaware that he is doing EXACTLY the behaviour he criticized others for, how he is unable to read body language and facial expressions (and thus remains in the dark as to how his behaviour affects others), the way he ‘replays’ memories as if these were videos….how he can notice details and fit these into a larger, underlying pattern, how ‘full engagement’ in fulfilling a task can cause him to overcome his phobias – these are all qualities/traits (it’s a gift, and it’s a curse – depending which side of the divide you are looking at it from and the time of observation). And they are also traits associated with Aspergers…

    By the way: I LOVE your graphic!

  5. Chris Says:

    My mother thinks I may have Aspergers, and she has had me read several books about it. I feel like several of those books were novels with me as the main character.

  6. lastcrazyhorn Says:

    A really good book to read is Dr. Tony Attwood’s “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome.”

    Also, Asperger’s Syndrome isn’t a doom dx. For example, Carol Gray and Dr. Attwood put together this document called “The Discovery of ‘Aspie’ Criteria.” – http://www.thegraycenter.org/sectionsdetails.cfm?id=38

    Really good.

  7. xanthippa Says:

    Thank you, I will look for the book!

    And I DO agree with you: Aspergers is NOT a doom dx. The way I see it (if I may quote Mr. Monk): It’s a gift, and it’s a curse!

    Being the way I am, I am quite happy. Sure, I’d love to improve things – and work to do so – but I would not like to fundamentally alter who I AM: removing my Aspie nature would do so.

    I think that yes, Aspies develop different skills, and ‘overall’ skills, at a different rate from the general population. That is why things commonly taught to little kids are not ‘grasped’ by Aspies…and if they are never re-visited, these skills may never end up being acquired!

    In other words, ‘neurotypical’ kids would be just as lost if they were thrown into a social and educational system which based its expectations and developmental milestones on Aspie kids…. They would never learn social skills, because these would not be taught them at an age at which their brain can process them. They would have trouble with many school subjects, because curricula would be ordered quite differently. Teaching methods would be very different. Test systems would be oral for much of gradeschool – written tests would not even be started until grades 7/8… And gym classes would focus on chess, and other ‘proper’ sports! Gym would CERTAINLY not involve irrational group sports, like soccer, basketball, and so-on. Calculating the trajectory of a projectile might be more valued than actually catching that ball…

    My goal in writing about my personal experiences with Aspergers (and I was ‘pushed’ by a few teachers and a high-school principal acquaintances of mine) is to show how differently I (and my kids/friends) perceived things, how differenly we processed them – and how to develop ‘coping skills’ in order to live in at least partial ‘harmony’ with the age-appropriate expectations of kids in our society. Not because we need to cope with Aspergers – rather, because we need to interact and at least partially fit in to a world on non-Aspies.

    After all, if a kid – who is not dumb at all, just learns differently and at different rates – keeps being frustrated in ‘everything’ – school and social relationships, it is possible this person will ‘shut down’ and stop trying….that did happen to me for a few years. I would NOT wish it on my worst enemy…

    But, many Aspies can use the ‘Aspie uniqueness’ to achieve things other people would find difficult – seemingly effortlessly! Yet, they just have to get to that ‘higher’ point where they CAN start doing it – and still be ‘undamaged’ … that is, WILLING TO TRY! Having the confidence to try! Not getting there already convinced by ‘everyone’ – parents, teachers, peers – that they are a spaz and an idiot and a weirdo who can’t possibly succeed at anything…

    Let me give you an example. I was successful in my professional field. When I had my kids, I took time off to raise them. As they were getting older, the headhunters started calling, with 6-figure jobs they tried to entice me to (Hi-tech world, C-level positions). But, I know I am obsessive, and I could not commit to a job where I would be this very involved….not yet, anyway! Not really listening and misunderstanding the situation, my dad – honestly and ardently trying to be helpful to me – came over with a brochure showing a basic accounting course. Why? He thought that if I took that course, then perhaps somebody would hire me… And he was very encouraging, trying to explain he believed in me, and I might be able to handle basic accounting skills….it was not beyond me…I should try!

    Encouragement like this can be deadly to one’s self-perception!

    Which is why I am hoping to break this cycle….show people the tools I used, and tools which helped my kids, to break out of this (perhaps too late for those who knew me as a child…) image, because I do think that the very things that hinder Aspies when they are expected to fit it with other kids, are the very things that CAN help them rise above the crowd!

  8. clairelouise82 Says:

    Thanks so much for this post. really enjoyed reading it. I love the fact that its coming from someone with Aspergers so you tell it how it is. My son is 8 years old with Aspergers. i have started a blog A boy with Aspergers (AD a mothers view) http://aspergersinfo.wordpress.com I would love it if you could take a look and tell me what you think. Im no expert. Im sharing all that i have come to know about Aspergers with other parents and it would be fantastic to her your views. Once more thanks for the blog. love it.x

  9. Denis Mammucari Says:

    I just came here and had to take a few moments to say appreciate it for the excellent skating tips and hints!


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