The original post I was going to produce today is no more, as the motivation for producing was resolved. In its place is going to be something a bit more manageable, a bit more approachable, and perhaps more beneficial to my audience.
Back when I began writing on Eyes Through the Glass, it was at the behest of my ex-girlfriend that I was dating at the time. She spoke to my ability to articulate what it was like to live with Asperger’s Syndrome.
The reason that I migrated from Eyes Through the Glass and shut it down was because, as it turns out, there was only so much I could directly say about Asperger’s. Eventually, the blog lost its focus and because it had devolved so far beyond its original purpose it had to be shut down. Admittedly, I was in a darker place at that time.
But, what has become clear to me is that the work that I originally began on Eyes Through the Glass still needs to be done. At the request of one of my friends who wanted to know more, I decided to offer a little bit of what it’s like.
Asperger’s Syndrome is a term carried over from the days before the DSM V. Its namesake comes from Dr. Hans Asperger, who conducted studies on children he dubbed “little professors”. Since that time, the term “Asperger’s Syndrome” has been in use to describe a milder case of autism. It has since been rolled into what is now known as “autism spectrum disorder”.
The Stranger in a Strange Land
The Wikipedia article on the subject gives the most concise overview:
- Deficits in social communication and social interaction
- Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.
But, obviously, we have to take those bullet points and expand them into something that makes more sense. Let’s start with the first bullet point: “Deficits in social communication and social interaction.”
What this looked like for me was when I was talking to someone, I would speak in miniature lectures. The mode of casual conversation, which this method proved inappropriate for, took me time to get used to.
If there’s one thing that I’ve come to understand, it’s that the structure and order of writing are so ingrained into how I write that I do it without conscious recollection.
Speaking in casual conversation often feels like the meatspace equivalent of taking my blog posts and cutting them down to Twitter levels. I had to train myself to limit myself to two simple sentences and then ask a question. This is, of course, the upper limit for me.
Since I have been doing it for so long, it has become something of second nature to me. I have forgotten of the time in which I did not have this in place. Unlike many people with Asperger’s, I had intense eye contact that came across as intimidating.
The second bullet point to address was the narrow, intense interests. Often, many people on the spectrum take up a very specific interest. For me, it was originally anime, manga, video games. Basically, it was all of the stereotypical nerd activities. But things shifted, ever so slightly, when I switched over to journalism. I would say that my status as a hardcore nerd is indisputable, but I have also managed to temper it. Though, perhaps Dungeons & Dragons serves as my current form of special interest.
I do also remember as a child going to the B and O railroad museum, having books about trains, and even taking pictures on one of the old engines.
The problem I have with these two bullet points is that it fails to adequately capture the day to day experience. Though perhaps I can fill in the gaps myself.
One of the issues I have is sensory processing, I am very particular with the process of sound. Repetitive speech, in certain pitches, becomes physically distressing. As a result, I carry my iPhone with me at all times, which slips under most people’s radars as pretty much everyone has one of those now. I have a soundtrack to pretty much everything I do, and I am constantly changing it to reflect how I feel and what is happening.
There is a concept that one develops in childhood called “theory of mind”. It’s the notion that other people have their own thought process and henceforth think differently than you. While it comes intuitively for someone who doesn’t have Asperger’s (commonly referred to as “neurotypical”), it took some learning from me. I often have to remind myself “Well, sure but they’re not you. They don’t think the same way that you do.”
Not the End
As I write this, I realize that there is more information than a single article could possibly contain. However, for now, I will leave the reader to digest what I have put in front of them. Perhaps if we figure out what life on the spectrum is like, we can start trying to make the lives of people who know who are on the spectrum just a little bit better.