It’s time that I put out another post about Asperger’s Syndrome and why I say I have Aspie traits. It is often said that Aspies don’t have empathy. With this post, I want to try to convince you that is not true using some things I have learned and with some personal examples. That is what this post is about.Read more
I am going to do something with this post that I don’t often do and that is to give you a major portions of an article from Psychology Today magazine about Greta Thunberg. She is one amazing young woman.Read more
I know the title above is rather ambitious for a single blog post, but I do want to give you an idea of how it came about and how some of the statistics might be deceiving. I have been studying this topic for a few weeks now and thought I knew enough to put out a continuous series of posts on the subject, but as my snippet on This N’ That Sunday mentioned I just didn’t know how much I didn’t know. So, I am going to put out bits and pieces of what I have been learning as I go along. After all, a blog is not supposed to be novel length but instead snippet of info.
To the layman, it seems that “Autism” just came on the scene in the late 1980s. Before that is was almost unknown by the general public. In reality, the term itself was coined in 1908 to describe a subset of schizophrenic patients who were especially withdrawn and self-absorbed.
Hans Asperger brought it to the forefront in the field of psychiatry in 1944 when he describes a “milder” form of autism now known as Asperger’s Syndrome. The cases he reported were all boys who were highly intelligent but had trouble with social interactions and sometimes specific obsessive interests.
After World War II there was a lot of psychoanalytic work done on autism where researchers looked solely at the negative impact on life experiences. At that time Autism was not considered biological or genetic. In 1980 “Infantile autism” is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the first time; the condition is also officially separated from childhood schizophrenia.
It was not until 1988 when the movie Rain Man is released which stars Dustin Hoffman as an autistic savant that Autism became widely known to the general public. At that time Asperger’s Syndrome was not included in the DSM category.
Finally, in 2013, The DSM-5 folds all subcategories of the condition into one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer considered a separate condition. I have some strong feelings about that but I will leave them to another post. ASD is defined by two categories: 1) Impaired social communication and/or interaction. 2) Restricted and/or repetitive behaviors.
Some say folding Asperger’s into the DSM category was a mistake since it is significantly different when it comes to life experiences from much of the rest of the autism spectrum. More on that in a near future post.
Footnote: The source for much of this history is from the Parents.com website.
When I got a recent comment from one of my regular viewers I realized it was time for another post about Autism. This one is about senior citizens who are autistic but are generally undiagnosed. A recognized statistics is that there are over a million of us that are autistic in the Baby Boomer generation alone.
Even if those million were suddenly officially diagnosed to be autistic it is very doubtful that any but a small percentage of them would even accept that fact. It is kind of like another area that I am familiar with and that is hearing impairment. Only about one in five seniors who have hearing difficulties seek help. They just insist that all of a sudden everyone started mumbling.
In that same vein, too many in our boomer generation see autism in any form as being a disgraceful thing that is to be locked in the closet, and for the most severe cases that was the general rule for our generation. Sadly, that is a totally misconceived notion that I want to try to put a small dent in with this meager post.
Autism is not a dreaded disease but instead is really just a way that a significant portion of the population see and react to the world. Their perceptions in some ways make them unique and special.
I admit that I am just beginning to learn the intricacies of the autism spectrum so I have a lot to learn. For that reason, I can’t really address the spectrum idea with any degree of knowledge. But, what I have studied is a condition called Asperger Syndrome so I will concentrate on that anomaly for the purposes of this post.
Here is what the Autism Speaks organization says about Aspergers:
Asperger syndrome was generally considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. Affected children and adults have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Motor development may be delayed, leading to clumsiness or uncoordinated motor movements. Compared with those affected by other forms of ASD, however, those with Asperger syndrome do not have significant delays or difficulties in language or cognitive development. Some even demonstrate precocious vocabulary – often in a highly specialized field of interest.
The following behaviors are often associated with Asperger syndrome. However, they are seldom all present in any one individual and vary widely in degree:
• limited or inappropriate social interactions
• “robotic” or repetitive speech
• challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
• tendency to discuss self rather than others
• inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
• lack of eye contact or reciprocal conversation
• obsession with specific, often unusual, topics
• one-sided conversations
• awkward movements and/or mannerisms
Many in the Baby Boomer generation readily admit that they have always had several of the traits of Aspergers. The causes of those characteristics were labeled as just being: shy, timid, introvert. Many say that they have problems with making eye contact or trouble with conversations/small talk that others seem to readily accomplish.
Some, who are much more knowledgeable than I have put together a list of possible undiagnosed Aspies in the celebrity world today.
- James Taylor – Age 70
- Dan Aykroyd – Age 65
- Vladimir Putin – age 65
- Susan Boyle – age 57
- Isaac Asimov – died at age 72
- Daryl Hannah – age 55
- Bill Gates – age 62
- Abraham Lincoln – died at age 56
- Robin Williams – died at age 63
- Bob Dylan – age 76
A good portion of this list is Baby Boomers. I would be proud to be included in this influential list with them. They, because of their Aspie traits are very creative people who speak their minds. Aspergers is not something to be ashamed of but instead just describes some fundamental characteristics of our personalities that make us different from others. If you want to see more details on why these people are either confirmed or likely Aspies click here.
Before I close this topic, I want to delve a little more into the general topic of autism.
From Autism Speaks — Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.
The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.
In the end, what does in matter if seniors deny the possibility that they are Aspies? In most cases, there is likely no harm. But it is also known that these traits become more significant as we age and lose some of our inhibitions so maybe this information in the hands of our caregivers would be valuable.
We Aspies are usually brutally honest and speak our mind. Our allegiance is to the truth, not people’s feelings. Most people learn not to tell the truth all the time. Sometimes white lies need to be said so as not to hurt friends’ feelings. But white lies just seem immoral or at least illogical to many of us Aspies.
Of course, being brutally honest is not the way to make friends at least at a casual level so many of us lack those kinds of friendship growing up. I realize that I sometimes hurt people’s feeling here on RJsCorner by what I post. But usually, that is a secondary thought that only comes until after the post is written. Honesty to me is almost everything. I have come to realize that is one of the things that is making our current times, especially inside the Beltway Loony Bin almost intolerable to me. I just can’t fathom someone being celebrated for telling “alternative facts” that they know are untruthful.
One of those areas where being honest is lacking is in today’s religious establishments. I was asked to leave a Missouri Lutheran congregation because I openly said that I couldn’t accept that the earth is only 6,000 years old just because an old Jewish document written by hundreds, if not thousands of different people dated it with their counting the generations after the Adam and Eve story. That got me in trouble, but perhaps even more so that I just couldn’t make any sense of how current Christian practices changed so drastically from the words of their founder. It makes absolutely no sense to me.
Being honest is considered an asset by most in our society, but not in every circumstance. That is the part we Aspies can’t understand…
I thought as part of the RJsCorner rework I would add a weekly snippet about Asperger’s Traits. I want to emphasize here that I am not an “expert” on this condition but I have apparently lived with it most of my life and I have also done quite a bit of study on the topic over the last few months. Since everyone seems to like numbered lists that will be the format these posts will take. The numbers are only the order of presentation and have nothing to do with priority. Let’s get started.
It hasn’t always been so but Asperger’s is now considered part of the Autism spectrum. I know that those in the professional community like to call Aspie traits as symptoms but I chose not to do that as the word “symptom” is just too negative for me. It indicates a sickness rather than a variation in human characteristics. Aspie traits can generally be labeled either an asset for a liability. I am proud of some of the things I am able to do as a result of being an Aspie but there are other things that seriously get in the way of social interaction.
Aspie Trait #1- We are not all alike. There are dozens of human traits that have been labeled a part of the Aspie Syndrome. I will be covering many of them in this series. No Aspie has all of them. It is also important to know that Aspies don’t have the same degree of any of the traits. Some are debilitated by a trait while others are simply inconvenienced by that same trait. Some have only a few traits while others have more. The Aspie spectrum is broad indeed. 🙂
I can remember my first encounter with the concept of Aspergers. It was a TV show where the character was constantly cursing and had uncontrollable actions. Of course, that is in no way realistic for the vast majority of us Aspies. Many lead pretty “normal” lives but are challenged by one trait or another. Some Aspie traits are assets which actually enhance the life of an Aspie and make them special people. I like to concentrate on the assets but recognize the liabilities as a part of the syndrome as well.
For my weekly bio post I thought I would talk a little about my blogging processes in particular but more generally about my thought processes which due to Aspergers is probably different than yours. Many of the more successful blogs around the Internet are niche blogs, that is they concentrate on one particular topic. Many that I read are of the retirement genre. Their readers pretty much know what they are going to get when they go to their sites. As they say like-minded people like to congregate together, especially during these trying times so they don’t want any surprises and especially disagreements.
When I started RJsCorner in 2008 my intention was to join them and concentrate on how I was coping with my retirement that was then eight years in. But things pretty quickly moved beyond that topic. Simply stated I just couldn’t seem to stay on topic as watched the world spinning outside my door. I admit that I often get something in my brain and it stews there for several days before coming to the surface. My “question everything” attitude simply did not allow me to stick to one topic. Everything means everything after all. So, of course RJsCorner rather quickly evolved into a broader venue.
I have found that it is pretty hard to get a large dedicated audience when you jump all over the map of life’s issues as I do. You are bound to cause hurt feeling when you say things that some of your readers may fundamentally disagree with. Unintentionally hurting other people’s feelings is actually one of the characteristics of Aspergers. Maybe that is why I kind of MUST speak my mind in an unfiltered way to maintain my sanity.
As my “About Page” says I blog about the many things that I am passionate about; things that make me want to leap out of bed each morning to get involved. Empathy is a strong part of my life so talking about how others are treated is one of my major topics here. Traveling and photography have become a centerpiece of my retirement years so I proudly show off those topics as well. That is true especially now that I have finally got my self made micro-RV on the road.
I am a high level thinker on many topics it seems and I hope I talk about at least some issues that you find interesting . Logic is something that is a part of my prime directive so I often post about when things just don’t seem logical and in the political sphere lately many things don’t seem logical.. 🙂
Many of those who read me are bloggers who have many more viewers on their blogs than I do. That makes me a little jealous, but their regular visits here tells me I must be doing something right. I am a blogger’s blog. In the end I blog primarily for myself or so I tell myself that. But your complimentary comments on occasion do stroke my ego. Thanks for that. We all need our egos stroked once in a while…
Here is another post pointing out some of my neurodiverse characteristics associated with Aspergers Syndrome.
If you interrupt me when I am in the middle of something I may smile at you and pretend everything is okay but on the inside I am beginning to boil. Hopefully you will let me return to my task and finish what I was doing.
Stopping in the middle of a task creates a panic in me that is hard to justify. I just need to finish what I am working on or come to a reasonable stopping point.
My working memory is tricky, and I need to do things in a particular way so that I can keep track of all the details. I leave visual cues to help me remember things and use patterns and chapter numbers as bookmarks and signals.
I need time to switch tasks. My brain sometimes gets stuck. I never show my frustration but if you keep probing me things might get tense.
This is another of those “aha” moments I recently had when I discovered I might be an Aspie. When I work on just about anything it seems I am totally absorbed in the task at hand. It simply demands my full attention. I don’t think I panic when someone interrupts me but it does bother me to an unusual degree. After thirty plus years my wife has come to accept that and stays away when she sees me in this mode.
I am not as bad as I was in my bachelor years but I still usually stay on a task until it is completed, that is if it can be completed in one setting. I can remember in my early professional years working on something continuously from a Friday evening until Sunday morning with no sleep and just hand snacks to eat and hardly realize that any time had passed. As a side note that was the time that I discovered that I was meant to be a programmer and not an electrical engineer as I was trained.
Even today I obsessively do certain things in a particular order. The 2 1/2 acre yard is mowed the same way almost every time. It just seems to work better that way. When I wash the daily dishes they must be done in a particular order. The silverware goes in first to soak until just before the pots which are last thing to be done. It just works out better that way. I don’t think this is OCD (but I guess it could be) as some other things I like to do in a different way simply because I am bored always doing it the same every time.
These quirks if you want to call them that are just a small part of who I am. I don’t lament them but I do recognize that they are there. Please don’t interrupt me when I am in the middle of something…..
This is Part 10 of 10 of My Venture Into Asperger’s. This post is primarily about my closing thoughts of what I have learned about myself and the Asperger’s Syndrome in general.
When I discovered that I might be an Aspie I searched the web for info about this condition and found that I share many characteristics with the neurodiverse population. Before I get into personal details about this topic lets look at the idea of neurodiversity from Wikipedia:
Neurodiversity is an approach to learning and disability that suggests that diverse neurological conditions appear as a result of normal variations in the human genome. This portmanteau of neurological and diversity originated in the late 1990s as a challenge to prevailing views of neurological diversity as inherently pathological, instead asserting that neurological differences should be recognized and respected as a social category
I take the phrase to mean that neurological conditions are for the most part just the normal spread of what makes us human. Of course I realize that the severe cases are anything but normal. In past ages those with Aspergers were often called being eccentric or maybe “marching to the beat of a different drummer”. Yes, I had difficulties in my early years that I could not understand but for the most part I developed ways to compensate for many of my shortcomings and just avoided others whenever possible. Don’t we all actually do that to one extent or another?
Do my Asperger’s characteristics need fixing? That is the basic question here and my answer is NO. My unique characteristics which might be related to Aspergers are what makes me who I am. It makes me different from others. Except maybe for my early years I have never felt the desire to be “normal” even if there is such a thing..
In my studies I came across lists of people who are likely Aspies. Since this syndrome was not even defined until the late 1990s most adults today have never have been diagnosed as Aspies. Even since then the thrust of the work in Aspergers has been in the field of childhood amelioration, adults are for the most part outside the current study of this condition. But given the characteristics that are contained in the study it can be deduced who might be catalogued with Asperger:
- Bill Gates
- Abraham Lincoln
- Al Gore
- Bob Dylan
- Mark Twain
- Charles Schulz
- ….. the list goes on and on
I am proud to maybe be included in this list even if it is of my own account. I just don’t think that characteristics that fall outside of what might currently be considered normal is something that needs fixing. Instead it, like racial diversity, is what makes us a valuable mix of people and views of the world. It is what makes each of us unique.
So I will keep in mind my apparent neurodiversity and continue talking about it here at a background level on RJsCorner but I won’t fixate on it as somehow being a central part of my life. It, like my deafness, is simply part of who I am. I do this because I don’t particularly like labels, they are more restraining than facilitating to me.
This is Part 9 of 10 of My Venture Into Asperger’s. This post is primarily about my what should I do with my new found knowledge.
After about two months of studies I am convinced that I exhibit in some degree Asperger’s Syndrome characteristics. That conclusion brings up the question “Now What??” What do I do with this new found information? I am seventy year old today, do I really need any professional pronouncement of its validity?
There is no cure for Aspergers as it is not a disease but instead neurological traits. One of the books I read during this study was from a noted doctor in the field. Of course he said if you think you have Aspergers then you must get a professional diagnosis. Since I question everything I think that opinion might be a little biased. If I were a teenager I might see some wisdom in this recommendation as it would have probably helped me with some coping mechanisms and would have made my life a little easier. But now that I am winding down my time on this earth what would be the benefit? I have come to the conclusion that a professional diagnosis would do me no good except to put a final seal on it and I personally don’t really need that validation.
Early on I talked about the Aspie Quiz I took that pointed me toward a self diagnosis. As shown on the right the professionals say this is simply a screening tool and should not be used as a diagnosis and that is probably true in some, maybe most, cases. I know I have unnecessarily faced some hardships in my life because of some Aspergers traits Some of my social interactions could probably been improved if I had discovered that most other didn’t think the same thing as I did.
Aspergers, at least to me in this stage of my life, is not something I need fixed. It has become part and parcel of my basic personality and true self. So, in some maybe many ways I tend to celebrate these characteristics rather than think they need fixing.
Since I have learned so much about this topic it will likely continue on past this series and probably be a part of what it means to hang out at RJsCorner. More on that in the last post of this series.
This is Part 8 of 10 of My Venture Into Asperger’s. This post is primarily about myths that have grown up around Asperger’s and Autism in general. Since the source is rather long I have edited it somewhat and will for the most part let it stand by itself..
Myth:Asperger’s Syndrome only affects children: Therefore adults can and should grow out of it with time.Many people have a tendency to think that Asperger’s Syndrome only affects children and that adults can and should be capable of growing out of it.
Such thinking has evolved in parallel with the idea that all children with ADHD can be medicated and will eventually grow out of the condition.Similarly, people also presume that adults with Asperger’s Syndrome, should somehow have been cured of it via early intervention therapies and other treatments by the time they reach adulthood.
Such ideas are both erroneous and extremely harmful to adults with Asperger’s Syndrome who struggle daily to attain some small degree of acceptance and understanding for their symptoms.
As it stands, there is no cure for Asperger’s Syndrome because it is neither a disease nor a disorder that people can turn on or off at will or that can be treated and made disappear by the use of medication.
Myth:Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome are attention seeking, cold, aloof, loners, who don’t care about the needs of others.
This is perhaps the most harmful myth of all. It has been said (and sometimes by fairly prominent people within the media) that Asperger’s Syndrome is just an excuse for some people to behave like sociopathic jerks.
This is not true. As with the formerly more well-known form of classic Autism, those with Asperger’s Syndrome do not choose to have this challenging condition.
They are not trying to be deliberately rude by avoiding eye contact, social interactions or loud, unfamiliar environments such as parties or large family gatherings simply as a way of gaining attention.
Part of the problem for those with Asperger syndrome is that personal relationships, including familial relationships, often require them to try and take part in hyper social activities that contain all of the many unwritten rules and social cues, those with Asperger’s Syndrome find so confusing.As a result they will often avoid taking part in such activities.
Yet get a person with Asperger’s Syndrome in a one on one situation, without all of the distractions of a loud or unfamiliar environment, and you will often find that they are very warm, witty and generally caring people. It really is as simple as that….
Another very simple truth is that the vast majority of those with Asperger’s Syndrome desperately want to be liked and accepted by others. They just don’t know how to achieve this because unlike neruo-typicals, those with Asperger’s Syndrome were not born with the same intrinsic toolbox of social understandings and awareness’, that those born without Asperger’s Syndrome take for granted.
Myth: Asperger’s is a dangerous mental illness that makes People more prone to Violence
Asperger’s syndrome is not a mental illness. It is a neurological/developmental disorder. Unlike classic or severe Autism, those with Asperger’s syndrome are often not diagnosed until school age when they’re lack of interaction with peers and the inability to automatically understand social cues begins to mark them out as being in some way different from their peers….
Those with Asperger’s Syndrome are no more prone to violence than the general population. The only crime it appears those diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome are guilty of is that of being somewhat eccentric by exhibiting behaviours that do not fall within the realms of what society considers ‘normal’. Once again these are issues of socialization, not violence.
In conclusion, Asperger’s Syndrome, is considered a “developmental disorder” that a person is born with.
While no one knows exactly what causes Asperger’s Syndrome, what is becoming clear is the fact that the levels of misconception and suspicion that often surrounds adults with Asperger’s Syndrome, make it a tough and lonely disorder to live and deal with on a daily basis for many.
One key way in which we can begin to redress many of the myths and misconceptions that surround the experiences of adults with Asperger’s Syndrome would be to encourage those with the condition to discuss their struggles openly and honestly without all of the leering suspicions that have become so much a part of their daily lives.
For whatever reason I tend to wash my dirty laundry in public here at RJsCorner. That is certainly what I am doing here. But one reason I am doing this is to try to personally understand and get you to understand this condition. I will likely continue to do that even after the 10 posts I have originally dedicated to this topic.
This is Part 7 of 10 of My Venture Into Asperger’s. This post is primarily about the Aspie Quiz.
After studying this condition for a good while I took the Aspie Quiz. The Quiz is a pre-diognostic tool to help determine if you might be autistic. The quiz is a group of 50 questions that are rated on a scale of 1 to 6. The answers to the questions are grouped in various categories including: Talent, Perceptions, Communications, Relationships, and Social skills.
After completing the quiz I was given the results as shown below. It took some time to really determine what this graph says but I have come to the conclusion that I am significantly skewed toward the Neuordiverse/Aspergers side of the spectrum. Particularly in the talent area and to a lesser degree to the other categories. As I was looking over the results it struck me that I have never thought to group these situations together but when I do that trends definitely appear.
The basic results of the quiz are that I have both neurodiverse and neurotypical traits. That is, like my deafness, I am in between two worlds. I am probably described at a highly functioning Aspie. That is, the neurodiverse side of me has not greatly impeded my ability to function in the neurotypical world.
My strongest Aspie category is in the Talent area. Part of those characteristics are:
- I get extremely focused on special interests almost to the exclusion of everything else. When I get involved in some things the world completely disappears. My total focus is on the topic at hand. That proved to be somewhat beneficial in my last career stage in the business world. I was a software tools developer and was able to create apps that would normally have taken 2 to 3 people to accomplish.
- I have an extreme need to catalog information. During my thirty year career I religiously kept a weekly index card of all the things I did. This card stack grew to over 6 inches high before it was moved to a computer when PCs were available.
Perceptions is my second highest neurodiverse category:
- It upset me greatly when someone says they will be there at a particular time and then don’t show up or are even late.
- I dislike it when people walk behind me but I literally hate it when people are tailgating me.
- My eyes have always been sensitive to glare and I am hypersensitive to many smells, particularly the smell of mint; it overwhelms me. My brain doesn’t see anything but the smell.
- I can’t seem to do anything unless I have it down in list form and thoroughly follow it.
- During conversations I guess I often miss when it is my turn to talk. There just doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it. If I don’t barge in when I want, I have to wait until there is a very noticeable pause to know it is my turn. I often just barge in.
There are numerous other areas in day-to-day traits that I don’t seem typical but I will leave those things to another post. Stated simply I often have always had trouble getting my feelings across and communicating with others.
So here I am between two worlds. That seems to be where I have been my entire life. That is not necessarily a bad thing but it has presented many challenges in my life. Much more on these sort of things in future posts….
This is Part 6 of 10 of My Venture Into Asperger’s. As usual I will start out with a personal story and then show how that links into Asperger’s. This post is primarily about my body language.
I have never thought too much about body language. I know I am told that it is a very significant part of communications but I just don’t see how that is? Since I am now deaf and the auditory world no longer exists I no longer can read the tone of a conversation and I know that is a problem. It is like many conversation here in the comments section of RJsCorner; things are misunderstood because of the lack of the non-verbal clues. Since I have been deaf for about 30 years now I do seem to be getting better at reading body language but still struggle with it on a daily basis.
Now on to how this relates to autism and particularly Asperger’s:
Understanding nonverbal communication, which includes body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, is essential for navigating social interactions successfully. So much of what is communicated, especially the emotional content, is conveyed through our bodies and voices, rather than the spoken word. While most of us receive no instruction on how to read nonverbal clues, we recognize the clues that tell us the true meaning of what is being communicated.
However, individuals on the Autism Spectrum may struggle to understand this mysterious language, which leaves them misinterpreting what is actually being communicated. It’s the nonverbal clues that allow a listener to judge whether the speaker is being sincere, is joking or being sarcastic. Without recognizing the true message, the response is often inappropriate.The ability to understand nonverbal communication can be improved through instruction, though when you try to break down what you need to teach, the complexity of the task becomes apparent.
People who have autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with reading even the most overt social cues in context. They have extraordinary difficulty with reading more subtle body language, including messages often conveyed via the eyes. In addition to difficulties with attending to and interpreting information that is embedded in social context, some have great difficulty with attending to and coordinating two sources of sensory input at once. ….
This is Part 5 of 10 of My Venture Into Asperger’s and it is a biggie for me. As usual I will start out with a personal story and then show how that links into Asperger’s. This post is primarily about my struggles with eye contact.
To most people eye contact, that is looking into the eyes of the person you are talking to, is a normal process. To me it is quite painful and it always has been. It is as though I am looking into that person’s soul and that is just someplace I don’t want to go. Whenever I do it it is almost as if I freeze up and stop thinking. I have never understood why I feel this way when so many others don’t.
Even in my early childhood I imagined that something was seriously wrong with me. Why was eye contact so painful? As I got older I managed to have “roving eye contact”. That is I would occasionally glance into someone’s eyes while mostly looking elsewhere . That worked pretty well for many but then there were those who almost glared at me when I did that.
As I was graduating college and ready for the job interviews I knew I had to do something as people would find out I was defective during an interview if I didn’t look them in the eye. Fortunately it didn’t take too many interviews before I landed a job. I almost took the first offer officially given in order to not have to do anymore interviews. Looking back I think the lack of eye contact was also probably one of the reasons I had few second dates.
When I became deaf at the age of forty in some ways it was almost a God’s send. I could now just watch a persons lips and therefore didn’t have to look into their eyes. People would understand that was what I had to do and therefore not expect eye contact. It actually made my life a little easier, at least in that issue…
Now lets see how this relates to Asperger’s:
An Aspie Point of View — Eye contact hurts.. no, not in the painful sense but it’s quite uncomfortable. I always feel that I’m revealing more than I want to with eye contact and that I’m receiving more information than I want to know.
This was my primary “aha” moment in my discovery of Asperger’s. I found out that my pain in making eye contact was not just me but others felt it too. It was soothing in a way to understand it might be a neurological problem shared by others. I wasn’t totally weird after all. This revelation started my journey where I discovered many other personal aspie characteristics.
I like being a unique person and in a way Aspergers helps me be just that. Wouldn’t it be boring if all of us were the same? I am now half way through this planned ten part journey into Aspergers but maybe it will go beyond that point and into a regular weekly post. It is that important to me and I hope you will get some additional insight into this syndrome.
This is Part 4 of 10 of My Venture Into Asperger’s. As usual I will start out with a personal story and then show how that links into my study of this syndrome. This post will among other things be about my struggles with criticism.
As a young boy I had troubles fitting in to the group mode. I always felt like I just didn’t belong. Because I had a low self-esteem in those years I compensated by just being by myself most of the time. I couldn’t understand the behaviors of my peers so I withdrew from them. As I grew older the “I am an Island” mode became a central part of my life. I was that kid who was off in the corner reading books and dreaming about the future instead of playing sports and such. While I didn’t voice my feeling often I sometimes thought critically of others.
One of the major things that has challenged me throughout my life is that I just don’t take criticism well! To avoid it I often studied things so that I was the semi-expert who spoke with knowledge that couldn’t be questioned. I now look back on my life and see where my sensitivity to criticism caused difficulties with interaction with others. As an example, I was pretty much on my own for the first forty years of my life so I was just not used to being criticized. That is until I got married and then I was exposed to criticism in spades. My wife, like many others as I understand, was determined to fix me and I just didn’t think I needed fixing. Her attempts, which I most often take as criticism has been the central kernel of conflict in your marriage. I often have the feeling that “my wife doesn’t think I can even flush a toilet without screwing it up!” Since recognizing my sensitivity to criticism I have worked hard to handle it but with not much actual success.
When I found that my IQ was 134 it didn’t mean anything to me but looking back I guess it caused me to appear arrogant in some of my actions and words. I just thought things through more deeply than others and when I voiced my opinions they evidently came across as I didn’t intend them.
How does this story relate to Asperger’s?
We know that the child with Asperger’s syndrome has difficulty with social integration with his or her peers. If that child also has superior intellectual ability, difficulties in social integration may be compounded. Those children who have exceptionally high IQs may compensate by becoming arrogant and egocentric, and have considerable difficulty acknowledging that they have made a mistake. Such children can be hypersensitive to any suggestion of criticism, yet overly critical of others, including teachers, parents or authority figures. The school or parents may turn to professional help with regard to the attitude and conduct of such children, leading to a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Referral to a behaviour management specialist may be the starting point of the pathway to a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.
Attwood, Tony (2006-09-28). The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome (pp. 20-21). Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Recognizing my Asperger’s traits is helping me to understand how I may unintentionally hurt others with my words.
This is Part 2 of 10 of My Venture Into Asperger’s. In my previous post I reported how I was a late-bloomer in the relationship field. This time I want to talk about feminine and ‘macho’ things.
Even as a young child macho was a very negative trait to me. Simply speaking I hated it. I’m sure the word macho means different things to different people so to the right is the definition that I use. IN my mind macho is almost synonymous with being a bully. There is nothing manly about it. I knew being a boy I was supposed to be macho but the idea of aggressively dominating others with a self-conscious attitude was just not possible for me. It was against every fiber of my being.
Instead I mostly often worried about others and their places in life. Because of the machoism and the fact that I was a frail child, most sports were something I avoided and still avoid seventy years later. Even watching it has not been on my agenda for a very long time.
In fact because of the damage sports does to many I think it has an overall negative effect in this world. I have jokingly come to the belief that no one over the age of 15 should be allowed to play sports. There are far too many kids who spend all their energies trying to become the next Micheal Jorden when in reality doing that often means a wasted life because of the fact that they do it to the exclusion of everything else including academics.
Thinking about others instead of thumping my chest and strutting around feeling superior was what I was. I knew that was considered feminine and that probably alienated me from some possible friends but I just didn’t care. I was not a macho guy and I never would be.
Changing subjects to another area, I was almost forty years old before I married and the courtship was as fast as the marriage was late. Our first date was in December and we were married in April. My wife of thirty years said to a friend after our first date” this is the guy I am going to marry” and indeed she did.
A man with Asperger’s syndrome appears to have a ‘feminine’, rather than ‘macho’ quality – the ideal partner for the modern woman. The man with Asperger’s syndrome is usually a late developer in terms of emotional and relationship maturity, and this could be his first serious relationship, while his same-age peers have had several long-term relationships already….
Attwood, Tony (2006-09-28). The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Being anti-macho and having feminine characteristics was a strong part of my early life and remains so today. I am proud of that fact. But now I also recognize that it may be part of the Asperger’s Syndrome…
Postscript: If you are interested in this ten part series click here.
This is the first of a ten part series about Asperger’s Syndrome. Autism is something that I have never studied or understood to any degree. I have always wondered why I never even heard of it until the last few decades. Did it just pop up or was it just known as something else? This post will start a study into the Asperger’s Syndrome which is officially part of the Autism spectrum. I was recently shocked to learn, at least from a layman’s standpoint, that I have several characteristics that are common to Asperger’s Syndrome.
For this study series I have decided on using a consistent format for my venture into Autism. I will be giving you a personal story about my life and then will relate it to characteristics of Asperger’s. So, here goes…
I was called a “shy” kid as I didn’t relate very well to other kids or even many adults. I seemed to be the most comfortable in a world of my own. Even now, some of my most pleasant memories are of sitting alone on a starry night looking at the sky and dreaming what my life would be like in the future. I was a late bloomer to the teenage years and never really had an official date until my senior prom. Even in college I was just not be comfortable around the opposite sex. I just couldn’t figure out what women were about or what they wanted. I dated some in those years but for the most part lived in my own inner world.
I never understood why I was just not able to form any significant level of friendship even with other guys. Something just didn’t click for me. I was just missing the necessary connections. I always blamed that on not having much parental guidance growing up. My mother left dad, my brother and me, for greener pastures when I was about ten years old. Like most kids of divorce I blamed myself for that happening. My dad was just not much of a communicator.
As I have aged, particularly in the last couple of decades, I now tend to speak my mind on many issues especially those having to due with social justice. I have called myself an empath but just can’t seem to move that to a personal level to any degree.
Then came my first glances at Asperger’s:
Men with Asperger’s syndrome can also be admired for speaking their mind, having a sense of social justice and strong moral convictions. They are often described as having ‘old-world’ values, and being less motivated than other men for physically intimate activities, or for spending time with male friends.
Attwood, Tony (2006-09-28). The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The words above are just a small part of my awakening. The striking similarities between these words and my personal life hit me like a two by four so to speak. I definitely had an “aha” moment that maybe there is a physiological reason I behave how I do? Maybe I am not just totally weird after all.
Much more on that in future posts in this topic.
This post is part of my continuing study of the Autism spectrum and particularly Asperger’s Syndrome.
I am stuck between two worlds in my life. I am a deaf man who lives almost exclusively in the hearing world but neither the hearing world or the deaf world considers me a homeboy. I am seldom around other deaf people so I can’t speak for them but since almost 80% of us deafies are like me in that they went deaf later in life ways maybe I do. One of my goals via this blog and a few other forums, is to help the hearing world understand that most of us who are deaf are really not much different from them.
In regards to Aspergers I am via this post going to give you a glimpse of the last chapter into my study . I have taken a couple of standard tests and discovered that I am about equally spread between the Neurotypical world and the Neurodiverse world. Those two words were new to me so I assume they are to you. Simply put I have rather strong Aspergers’ characterisitcs in some areas but not others. I will be going into that in somewhat detail in future posts.
Its hard being stuck between two worlds but I am used to it. My living with Asperger’s traits didn’t change just because it now has a name. As with my deafness, I have lived with it most of my life. But in some ways just having a name makes the struggle a little easier as I now know I am not alone. At the same time I don’t want that to reduce my feeling of personal responsibility of trying harder to be aware when I hurt people’s feelings or give them a view of me that I don’t have of myself or any of a number of other social behaviors. I need to do better more than ever now that I know I have a problem…. much more on that later.
Before I close out this post I want to make it clear that while I say I have identified personal characteristics that relate to Aspergers I am likely not typical of this overall group. I fully understand that there are many who struggle much more than I do. In my limited studies I have not been able to find how spread out of severity levels are in the Aspergers population. I don’t pretend to know what others with extreme conditions go through in their daily lives. All I can do for this series of posts is to give you my story and hope it relates to others with Aspergers at some level.
Next time I will start giving you some of my real life examples of Aspergers traits. I hope they help you but just as importantly I hope they help me too….