Thoughts and illustrations on living on the autism spectrum.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dude, I'm An Aspie!

Thoughts and illustrations on living with Asperger’s syndrome

My name is Matt and I have Asperger’s syndrome. What’s that mean, you ask? Well, you’re in luck, cause I’ve made this helpful guide!
Asperger’s is part of the autism spectrum. It has many characteristics, but generally we have difficulty knowing what someone is thinking, explaining our thoughts verbally, and interacting socially with our peers. It is sometimes described as having “a dash of autism.”

Asperger’s is not a disease, it is a genetic variation and a neurological condition. Though I’ve just recently discovered I have it, I always have and always will. Some say it is a gift, and even vital to human evolution.

 Asperger’s is sometimes called Wrong Planet syndrome. This is because we feel like we come from a different culture and have a different way of perceiving the world – (Tony Attwood)  

 Once I learned what Asperger’s is, I knew it described me. It answered a lot of questions and explained why I am the way I am. So it was kind of good news! Like finding a box I fit in.
Now for some myths and facts: First, I will not look you in the eye for long periods or when I’m talking to you. This is not to be rude. It’s because it is the only way I can concentrate on what you’re saying.

 In social situations, I don’t process information as fast as you. Facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice all convey subtle information to our brain. The more people who are present, the more info there is to process.
Likewise, I don’t like crowds and noisy places. This is too much information to take in and causes sensory overload.

  Sometimes we have super-senses. This makes us easily distractible to background noise, a sudden loud noise, or unpleasant odors.
If I run into you somewhere I don’t expect to, I probably won’t recognize you right away. This is called faceblindness. Even though I know what you look like, my mental picture of you is strongly tied to context, your voice, and how other people interact with you.

Sometimes I interpret things literally, or I can’t tell when you’re being sarcastic. This is a neurological delay in reading your tone of voice.

   For neurotypical people (that’s you), socializing with others relieves your stress or makes you feel energized. We Aspies are the opposite way. Conversation can wear us out, and we often need alone time to “recharge our batteries.”
  We usually have special topics or hobbies that we like to pursue with intense concentration and on our own. Examples include trains, foreign cultures, and washing machines.

 Are there advantages to being an Aspie? Yes! We are honest, detail-oriented, good listeners, and have a unique view of things. Often, we achieve high levels of success in our special interest area.
So that is a glimpse into my world. I hope it has helped you better understand me and others like me. We are all different, and with all differences, knowledge brings understanding. If we understand each other, then there won't be any need for a right planet or a wrong planet. Smile