This weekend so many people asked me, What is Asperger’s? How can I tell if my son has it?
My book, “Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen” took a 1st place Journey award, and prompted a lot of questions about the syndrome.
People with Asperger’s find it difficult to read body language, voice intonation, and facial expression. This creates difficulty communicating and interacting with other people.
Asperger’s doesn’t always affect individuals to the same degree, or in exactly the same manner, which is why it is said to be on the “autism spectrum”. That is, it is a highly functional and variable condition that alters how we relate to others, understand our community, and express ourselves.
Sometimes we feel hopelessly lost in a conversation. We cannot always determine what is sincere and what is merely light-hearted social bantering. Sometimes this is so isolating that we withdraw. We do not understand what is being said or in what context and therefore we pretend to be disinterested.
This makes us very bad at small talk, which is society’s established method of feeling each other out before going into deeper conversations. Small talk is a protective device that helps people locate each other in their social setting and their community, whether it’s school or work or something recreational.
People with Asperger’s tend to want to talk at a deeper level. They have trouble understanding this is not appropriate much of the time.
We may not be able to tell when to join or start a conversation, or when the conversation is over. We may talk over the other person and generally interrupt at lot. A great website to look at for assistance is the UK’s National Autistic Society website at: http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/autism-and-asperger-syndrome-an-introduction/what-is-asperger-syndrome.aspx.
I love this video about Asperger’s traits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7lQa3q_OAk&feature=related . It seems to me to be thoughtfully put together. But I am tired of hearing that Aspie’s have no empathy, and imaginary worlds are beyond us.
In my book, Unforgiving, Memoir of An Asperger Teen, soon to be out on Amazon, I talk about the part imagination played in helping me through my childhood.
And why, if imagination is not our strong suit, are so many inventors, film makers, and landmark thinkers such as Isaac Newton, included (often posthumously) in the syndrome? These are obviously people with foresight and the ability to envision possibilities that are beyond others’ comprehension.
Difficulty with writing imaginatively? Thinking? I highly doubt it. It is precisely the ability to see beyond their current limitations that made these people famous!
So what? you may say. These people were not diagnosed, they are just presumed by some people to have Aspergers’ or Autistic tendencies.
Well then let me give you the example of my grandson, who was diagnosed at an early age as being in the autism spectrum, and who, before he had graduated highschool, had written an entire book length story based in a science fiction fantasy world that he created.
As for empathy–It isn’t that we don’t experience empathy–it’s that our voices, faces and body language don’t show it. We have what is called “flat affect”. This makes us seem to have no response to events. We also have little or no tonal expression (unless we’re in panic mode and often, even then!).
Thus, it’s very difficult for people to grasp when we’re feeling anything. Sometimes we might be totally panicking inside, or absolutely happy about a suggestion someone has made, but we don’t express this well.
I remember watching a woman exclaim expressively and happily about a suggestion her husband had made. Asperger me, I thought her very melodramatic. Seriously, I thought that sort of facial and tonal response belonged only on the stage!
Undoubtedly some people who do not feel empathy and/or have trouble with imaginative thinking are in the Autism Spectrum. Just as others who lack empathy and imagination, are not in the spectrum.