April 2, 2012

Just wrote an email to a friend to explain Asperger's

Yeah, I just wrote an email to a friend to try to help to explain Asperger's.  It's hard to get someone's attention.  Once you have it, it's hard to break down what it is.  It's not an easy concept to convey.  "What's Asperger's?" I've had some people ask me that and I'm at a loss for words for a moment.

Anyhow, I copied this from Tony Attwood's site 

Children and adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have an intellectual capacity within the normal range, but have a distinct profile of abilities that has been apparent since early childhood. The profile of abilities includes the following characteristics:

A qualitative impairment in social interaction:
* Failure to develop friendships that are appropriate to the child’s developmental level.
* Impaired use of non-verbal behaviour such as eye gaze, facial expression and body language to regulate a social interaction.
* Lack of social and emotional reciprocity and empathy.
* Impaired ability to identify social cues and conventions.

A qualitative impairment in subtle communication skills:
* Fluent speech but difficulties with conversation skills and a tendency to be pedantic, have an unusual prosody and to make a literal interpretation.

Restrictive Interests:
* The development of special interests that is unusual in their intensity and focus.
* Preference for routine and consistency.

The disorder can also include motor clumsiness and problems with handwriting and being hypersensitive to specific auditory and tactile experiences. There can also be problems with organizational and time management skills and explaining thoughts and ideas using speech. The exact prevalence rates have yet to be determined, but research suggests that it may be as common as one in 250. The aetiology is probably due to factors that affect brain development and not due to emotional deprivation or other psychogenic factors.


Okay, now I'll break down where I see it fits with me.

- failure to develop friendships that are appropriate for age.  I always seemed to go for younger kids at school.  I mean, I associated more with them.  They didn't expect me to be on the same level as them, as with age appropriate kids.  I wasn't the same level, emotionally and mentally, as the kids my age.

- my body language has never been exactly normal. I'm too intense, too focused on my thoughts to pay attention to being relaxed and natural.  I do try to tell myself to relax, enjoy, calm down, but find myself getting tensed up. My gaze is often intense.  I don't often meet people's eyes. I tend to look towards mouths.

- impaired ability to identify social cues and conventions.  - many emails between me and this friend in question have pointed out this fact to me.  I don't follow "neuro-typical" rules of social engagement.  I need help navigating on what to do in social networking apps.

- Fluent speech - I had to have speech therapy when I was between the ages of 7 and 14.  Because I couldn't talk smoothly and evenly.  I stuttered a lot and my speech was very stilted.  I couldn't get my thoughts out clearly.  So, kids teased me. And that didn't help.

- The development of special interests. - I was mad about horses.  Everything had to be about horses when I was young.  Begging my parents to buy me a horse to love.  Never got one.  Then it became about music,  Had to have every CD I could get my hands on.  Then it was about baking bread.  I have about 10 cookbooks on making bread.  Do I use any now?  Very few. But damn I can bake some good bread still.  Then the obsession started with WoW.  And that continued for a long time.  And now, it's with news and Twitter and wanting to know everything I can about what's going on in the world.  It's crazy I know, but yes, "The development of special interests that is unusual in their intensity and focus".

- Preference for routine.  I love my routines.  They give me stability, consistency and hope that things will stay the same.  I like predictability.  I can cope with change okay, but prefer stability.

- My handwriting has always been atrocious.  I mean to the point of "what have you scribbled here?" I do shopping lists and Tim can barely read them.  He's gotten used to it, but it sucks, to this day.

- I'm not that sensitive to touch, but clothes have to feel "right".  I hate having anything too tight or constricting.  For instance I cannot stand to wear nylons/tights.  Far too itchy and uncomfortable. for me.

- Explaining thoughts  and ideas using speech.  Yeah, well, I am too concise and go into too much detail.  I'm like a professor, that stays squirreled away in his office, knowing a lot, cramming it in there in the brain. and then can't talk normally to people.  That crazy, bizarre guy who knows a hell of a lot, but can't get his point across in front of the class.  

Tony's Perspective

From my clinical experience I consider that children and adults with Aspergers Syndrome have a different, not defective, way of thinking.

The person usually has a strong desire to seek knowledge, truth and perfection with a different set of priorities than would be expected with other people. There is also a different perception of situations and sensory experiences. The overriding priority may be to solve a problem rather than satisfy the social or emotional needs of others.

The person values being creative rather than co-operative.

The person with Aspergers syndrome may perceive errors that are not apparent to others, giving considerable attention to detail, rather than noticing the “big picture”.

The person is usually renowned for being direct, speaking their mind and being honest and determined and having a strong sense of social justice.

The person may actively seek and enjoy solitude, be a loyal friend and have a distinct sense of humour.

However, the person with Aspergers Syndrome can have difficulty with the management and expression of emotions.

Children and adults with Aspergers syndrome may have levels of anxiety, sadness or anger that indicate a secondary mood disorder. There may also be problems expressing the degree of love and affection expected by others. Fortunately, we now have successful psychological treatment programs to help manage and express emotions.

Yes, well, I'm very direct in my speaking.  I don't mince words and don't play games.  I have trouble with girl's games of "let's not tell the boys what we're up to".  I have trouble hiding my true feelings about things.  I enjoy speaking the truth.  I enjoy knowing a lot about subjects.

As far as noticing things, I'm an excellent proof-reader I've been told.  I noticed grammar and spelling mistakes quite quickly.  They bother me in a way that few others likely imagine.  Just can't stand spelling errors, basically.  I don't go so far as to be a "Grammar Nazi" but I'm sitting there going to myself "why can't they use spell-checker?"

Yes, definitely a priority to solve a problem instead of satisfying the social needs of others.   Definitely a feeling of being creative in my thinking rather than co-operation with others.  I'd rather get out my message to others than sit there and agree with others and "like" everyone else's Facebook posts for instance.  I have my own voice and like to use it.  Despite what convention might say.

I do enjoy solitude, but am an extrovert at the same time.  So I talk a lot about issues that I'm thinking about on virtual paper.  I have the gift of being a fast touch typist so can convey my thoughts quickly and accurately.

Yes, I have trouble with managing emotions.  The bipolar doesn't help with that either.  I feel intense anger, frustration and rage when I wasn't on anti-psychotics.  Not fun to deal with that, at all.

Hope that goes towards explaining my life with Aspergers and bipolar a bit more.



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