I believe that the first order of business on this blog should be to clarify what is meant by “Aspergers.” What exactly do I mean when I say Aspergers Syndrome?
Well, I think it’s important to understand, first and foremost, that this disorder affects everyone in different ways. As I mentioned in my introductory post, the experiences of people with Aspergers greatly vary: not everyone with Aspergers acts in a uniform manner, and they certainly don’t all think in one way. There is a large number of ways in which it can develop inside people, and it not possible to make any judgments of someone’s Aspergers without getting to know them first.
However, much like with any disorder or common identity, there are ways in which we can summarize its effect on the human brain and on typical behavioral patterns. According to WebMD, Aspergers Syndrome can best be described as a pervasive development disorder (PDD), a “group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination.” (See http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/mental-health-aspergers-syndrome)
In addition, it is often identified as a high functioning form of autism, although it may not share a lot of the same limitations on cognitive development or learning. In fact, it is widely shown that people with Aspergers usually function quite well in those areas as opposed to those with autism, sometimes even better than “neurotypical” people. The noted similarity between these two disorders lies, rather, in how they usually affect interpersonal behavior.
There are six main symptoms that are regularly associated with Aspergers Syndrome, each of which can be tied to me in some way.
1) Weak social skills: Among the most widespread symptoms of Aspergers involves serious limitations with social skills. To put it simply, we Aspies will often find it quite challenging to engage successfully in a social setting without seeming awkward or feeling uncomfortable. As far as I can remember, making friends and spending time with other people was hardly ever a simple, straight-forward task. A good chunk of my life has been spent alone because I felt uneasy trying to socialize with others, embracing the moments I enjoyed with friends and family.
2) Compulsive, repetitive behavior: Something else that is widely noted in people with Aspergers is habitually performing these eccentric activities, often in a similar vein to autism. In most cases, this means doing something with our bodies such as fidgeting our fingers, kicking our feet, rubbing our faces, biting our nails, pulling our hair, and making noises with our mouths. For example, I used to pull my hair so often that visible holes formed on my head, so my parents eventually had no choice but to shave it really short (I ended up keeping that haircut to this day).
3) Unusual habits: Some of the day to day activities that Aspies choose to engage themselves in can sometimes seem a little odd or bizarre in the eyes of strangers. Aside from the compulsive behaviors that I just discussed, people with Aspergers tend to have these “abnormal” routines in their schedule, or just have an unusual way of doing certain things. One instance that I can remember from my life is how I used to eat things like broccoli and left-over dinner for breakfast. To this day, I still refuse to eat most normal breakfast foods such as eggs and pancakes.
4) Focused, singular interests: While most people tend to hold several interests at once, those of us with Aspergers prefer to keep our focus narrowed on one or two things. For some reason, we can only remain interested in a certain subject at one time, while much everything else is deemed irrelevant to us. My parents would constantly tell me all throughout my childhood that I was “stuck on an idea,” talking incessantly about one particular subject. This made socialization further problematic because I would generally talk to other kids about things that they weren’t at all interested in, but I was obsessed with.
5) Communication troubles: There are a couple of ways in which Aspergers can make verbal interaction somewhat problematic. For one thing, it is often really difficult for us to make good eye-contact with the people we are speaking with. Especially as children, we will often involuntarily drift away in the middle of a conversation and focus our eyes on things around us. If there’s one thing that people would often get frustrated at me over, it’s the fact that I wouldn’t keep looking them in the eye.
6) Skills and talents: Believe it or not, there is something immensely positive that’s frequently associated with having Aspergers. It turns out that people with the disorder tend to show remarkable talent in certain fields, often possessing skills that can exceed the work of “neurotypicals.” This can include fields such as mathematics, music, computer science, writing, acting, or even economics. I am frequently told by my professors at college that I do exceptionally well at composing papers. Meanwhile, you would be pretty surprised just how many of our greatest talents in the world had some form of Aspergers or autism- Danny Beath, Susan Boyle, Vernon L. Smith, Donna Williams, Stanley Kubrick, and Albert Einstein, to mention a few.
Does anyone care to share any similar details about Aspergers?