Today is the first day of Autism Awareness Month. I never knew this before. To me, the only thing important about April was April Fools Day. It now means something very important and close to my heart. I didn’t grow up knowing people with Autism, nor did I know what Autism really was. Now in my early 30’s I know about Autism, and how it comes in many varieties. Autism is considered to be a syndrome underneath a spectrum umbrella. Under this umbrella you have severe autistic people who can’t communicate and find everyday tasks to be extremely difficult without help, and then you have the people who fall underneath the other end of the spectrum and have High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. These people lay unnoticed in the public eye in regards to disability but find life very difficult in certain aspects because they are DIFFERENT. The issues aren’t easily seen because they are neurological. This is why people who do NOT fall under these categories are considered “NORMAL” or “Neuro- TYPICALS”, because the people who have Autism Spectrum Disorders are considered NON-NEURO-TYPICAL or “not normal”.
Lots of people are now more aware of Autism and Autism Education, but Asperger’s Syndrome is still considered to be unknown within the realm of awareness and education. I’ve researched and found that there are many books and experts within this subject field, but the fact remains that it’s still an untouched subject. As an education student myself, I’ve been taught to be aware of differences and to accommodate for students needs, but that’s it. I haven’t been explained the details needed in order to fully accommodate students of this kind. I believe that partly it is because a) it is assumed that a student that requires more help than the average student would be placed in a special class anyway; and b) because there isn’t enough information out there about Asperger’s Syndrome and how to interact with someone with it.
Last year, I learned that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. This came as a complete shock to me as I never was given an inkling as to having anything like it before. I knew I was different. I knew I was an acquired taste, but never thought it went deeper than intellect and taste. I grew up not knowing what Autism was, and later only learned that people who suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome had a hard time understanding facial expressions and appeared cold because they couldn’t reflect their emotions. I now know that these assumptions are extreme and in most cases, wrong. I had thought to myself, this doesn’t apply to me. I’ve performed in front of hundreds of people. I’ve sung, acted. I’ve had relationships, I can smile, laugh, cry, appear sad, worried; and I know what all those emotions look like. This does not apply to me. And then I began to research. I discovered that Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t just mean that. As all syndromes/disorders underneath the Autism Spectrum, there’s a spectrum of traits that fall under Asperger’s. But not only that, there’s almost a completely different set of traits that falls under the category for females with the syndrome. The more I researched, the more I resigned to the idea of having Asperger’s Syndrome. Soon, I felt relief from having the answer to all of my life’s problems. That’s why I do that. That’s why people react that way towards what I did or do. Now it makes sense. And in a way, instead of feeling like I was given a sentence, I felt I was saved. I was saved from living a life in the unknown. Not understanding why things didn’t work out the way I thought they should, or why people didn’t react to me the way I’d like them to. Now understanding and knowing what I do and how I naturally react to things and circumstances, I am able to make efforts in changing or accepting the outcomes.
My diagnosis has become my saviour. Almost a year later, I still meet people who are unwilling to accept my diagnosis. I understand, and don’t argue. I know that it was important for me to know, as it has helped me move forward positively in life, school, and relationships. I believe that I have now fully accepted and come to terms with it. This is why I’ve chosen to publicly come out with it. I have Asperger’s Syndrome. So for this month onwards, I don’t require Autism awareness from you, I’d be happy with Autism acceptance. Accept me for who I am, despite my Aspie differences.
For more information about Asperger’s Syndrome, please visit these links:
This is one of the tests a doctor would use in diagnosing someone with Asperger’s Syndrome. Take the test online yourself.
(If you and a close friend/relative of yours takes the test (about you) and rates a 65 or higher, then it is a good indicator for a diagnosis.)
For more information, please visit my video playlist.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Children with Asperger’s syndrome have the following characteristics:
- Delayed social maturity and social reasoning.
- Difficulty making friends and often teased by other children.
- Difficulty with the communication and control of emotions.
- Unusual language abilities that include advanced vocabulary and syntax but delayed conversation skills, unusual prosody and a tendency to be pedantic.
- A fascination with a topic that is unusual in intensity or focus.
- An unusual profile of learning abilities.
- A need for assistance with some self-help and organizational skills.
- Clumsiness in terms of gait and coordination.
- Sensitivity to specific sounds, aromas, textures or touch.
Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome
Theory of Mind
- Effects of impaired Theory of Mind abilities in daily life
- Difficulties reading the messages in someone’s eyes.
- A tendency to make a literal interpretation of what someone says.
- A tendency to be considered disrespectful and rude.
- Remarkable honesty.
- Delay in the development of the art of persuasion, compromise and conflict resolution.
- A different form of introspection and self-consciousness.
- Problems knowing when something may cause embarrassment.
- A longer time to process social information, due to using intelligence rather than intuition.
- Physical and emotional exhaustion from socializing.
The Understanding and Expression of Emotions
- The emotional maturity of children with Asperger’s syndrome is usually at least three years behind that of their peers.
- There can be a limited vocabulary to describe emotions and a lack of subtlety and variety in emotional expression.
- There is an association between Asperger’s syndrome and the development of an additional or secondary mood disorder, including depression, anxiety disorder, and problems with anger management and the communication of love and affection.
- People with Asperger’s syndrome appear vulnerable to feeling depressed, with about one in three children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome having a clinical depression.
- We do not know how common anger management problems are with children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome, but we do know that when problems with the expression of anger occur, the person with Asperger’s syndrome and family members are very keen to reduce the frequency, intensity and consequences of anger.
- A person with Asperger’s syndrome may enjoy a very brief and low intensity expression of affection, and become confused or overwhelmed when greater levels of expression are experienced or expected.
- The emotion management for children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome can be conceptualized as a problem with ‘energy management’, namely, an excessive amount of emotional energy and difficulty controlling and releasing the energy constructively.
- One of the distinguishing characteristics between a hobby and a special interest that is of clinical significance is an abnormality in the intensity or focus of the interest.
- Unusual or special interests can develop as early as age two to three years and may commence with a preoccupation with parts of objects such as spinning the wheels of toy cars, or manipulating electrical switches.
- The next stage may be a fixation on something neither human nor toy, or a fascination with a specific category of objects and the acquisition of as many examples as possible.
- A subsequent stage can be the collection of facts and figures about a specific topic.
- Much of the knowledge associated with the interest is self-directed and self-taught.
- In the pre-teenage and teenage years the interests can evolve to include electronics and computers, fantasy literature, science fiction and sometimes a fascination with a particular person.
- There appear to be two main categories of interest: collections, and the acquisition of knowledge on a specific topic or concept.
- Some girls with Asperger’s syndrome can develop a special interest in fiction rather than facts.
- Sometimes the special interest is animals but can be to such an intensity that the child acts being the animal.
- The special interest has several functions:
- To overcome anxiety.
- To provide pleasure.
- To provide relaxation.
- To ensure greater predictability and certainty in life.
- To help understand the physical world.
- To create an alternative world.
- To create a sense of identity.
- To facilitate conversation and indicate intellectual ability.
- The interest can be a source of enjoyment, knowledge, self-identity and self-esteem that can be constructively used by parents, teachers and therapists.
- When one considers the attributes associated with the special interests, it is important to consider not only the benefits to the person with Asperger’s syndrome, but also the benefits to society.
- Some young children with Asperger’s syndrome start school with academic abilities above their grade level.
- There seem to be more children with Asperger’s syndrome than one might expect at the extremes of cognitive ability.
- Profile of learning abilities at school
- At school, teachers soon recognize that the child has a distinctive learning style, being talented in understanding the logical and physical world, noticing details and remembering and arranging facts in a systematic fashion.
- Children with Asperger’s syndrome can be easily distracted, especially in the classroom. When problem solving, they appear to have a ‘one-track mind’ and a fear of failure.
- As the child progresses through the school grades, teachers identify problems with organizational abilities, especially with regard to homework assignments and essays.
- If the child with Asperger’s syndrome is not successful socially at school, then academic success becomes more important as the primary motivation to attend school and for the development of self-esteem.
Movement and Coordination
- There is an impression of clumsiness in at least 60 per cent of children with Asperger’s syndrome, but several studies using specialized assessment procedures have indicated that specific expressions of movement disturbance occur in almost all children with Asperger’s syndrome.
- When walking or running, the child’s coordination can be immature, and adults with Asperger’s syndrome may have a strange, sometimes idiosyncratic gait that lacks fluency and efficiency.
- Some children with Asperger’s syndrome can be immature in the development of the ability to catch, throw and kick a ball.
- Poorly planned movement and slower mental preparation time may be a more precise description than simply being clumsy.
- Teachers and parents can become quite concerned about difficulties with handwriting.
- The movement disturbance does not appear to affect some sporting activities such as swimming, using the trampoline, playing golf and horse riding.
- Some adults with Asperger’s syndrome consider their sensory sensitivity has a greater impact on their daily lives than problems with making friends, managing emotions and finding appropriate employment.
- The most common sensitivity is to very specific sounds but there can also be sensitivity to tactile experiences, light intensity, the taste and texture of food and specific aromas. There can be an under or over reaction to the experience of pain and discomfort, and the sense of balance, movement perception and body orientation can be unusual.
- The child with sensory sensitivity becomes hypervigilant, tense and distractible in sensory stimulating environments such as the classroom, unsure when the next painful sensory experience will occur.
- We know that the signs are more conspicuous in early childhood and gradually diminish during adolescence, but can remain a lifelong characteristic for some adults with Asperger’s syndrome.