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Wed Feb 1, 2012, 01:09 PM

I Had Asperger Syndrome. Briefly.

FOR a brief, heady period in the history of autism spectrum diagnosis, in the late ’90s, I had Asperger syndrome.

There’s an educational video from that time, called “Understanding Asperger’s,” in which I appear. I am the affected 20-year-old in the wannabe-hipster vintage polo shirt talking about how keen his understanding of literature is and how misunderstood he was in fifth grade. The film was a research project directed by my mother, a psychology professor and Asperger specialist, and another expert in her department. It presents me as a young man living a full, meaningful life, despite his mental abnormality.

“Understanding Asperger’s” was no act of fraud. Both my mother and her colleague believed I met the diagnostic criteria laid out in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. The manual, still the authoritative text for American therapists, hospitals and insurers, listed the symptoms exhibited by people with Asperger disorder, and, when I was 17, I was judged to fit the bill.

I exhibited a “qualified impairment in social interaction,” specifically “failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level” (I had few friends) and a “lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people” (I spent a lot of time by myself in my room reading novels and listening to music, and when I did hang out with other kids I often tried to speak like an E. M. Forster narrator, annoying them). I exhibited an “encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus” (I memorized poems and spent a lot of time playing the guitar and writing terrible poems and novels).

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/opinion/i-had-asperger-syndrome-briefly.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=thab1

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply I Had Asperger Syndrome. Briefly. (Original post)
groovedaddy Feb 2012 OP
SheilaT Feb 2012 #1
KamaAina Feb 2012 #2
groovedaddy Feb 2012 #4
hedgehog Feb 2012 #3
TrogL Feb 2012 #5
hedgehog Feb 2012 #6
SheilaT Aug 2012 #11
mzteris Apr 2012 #7
Diclotican Aug 2012 #10
mzteris Aug 2012 #12
Diclotican Aug 2012 #13
mandey7 May 2012 #8
Diclotican Aug 2012 #9
AverageJoe90 Nov 2012 #20
Diclotican Nov 2012 #21
AverageJoe90 Sep 2012 #14
mandey7 Oct 2012 #15
AverageJoe90 Oct 2012 #16
mandey7 Nov 2012 #18
AverageJoe90 Nov 2012 #19
SheilaT Nov 2012 #17

Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Thu Feb 2, 2012, 02:10 AM

1. I read the article, and

 

just the description of that young man did not sound at all like Asperger's, but rather a somewhat introverted young person.

I have a son who does have Asperger's, and there is a profound difference between my son and the description of the young man in the article.

I also got partway through all the comments, and someone pointed out that brutal honesty is another hallmark of Asperger's. Boy, let me tell you that those people have no idea of the "little white lie" or just saying something polite rather than saying, "yes, that dress does make you look fat."

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Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Thu Feb 2, 2012, 03:00 PM

2. The Times had ANOTHER "Asperger's is fake" op-ed piece that same day!

 

Who's editing the Paper of Record(TM) these days, Michael Savage?!

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/opinion/aspergers-history-of-over-diagnosis.html

Eventually, biological markers, now in the beginning stages of development, will help in separating autism-spectrum disorders from social disabilities. For example, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have recently developed three-dimensional brain scans that look at brain wiring. In preliminary studies people with autism-spectrum disorders appear to have too much wiring and disorganized wiring in areas involved with language acquisition.

Nevertheless, children and adults with significant interpersonal deficits are being lumped together with children and adults with language acquisition problems. Currently, with the loosening of the diagnosis of Asperger, children and adults who are shy and timid, who have quirky interests like train schedules and baseball statistics, and who have trouble relating to their peers — but who have no language-acquisition problems — are placed on the autism spectrum....

The downside to this diagnosis lies in evidence that children with social disabilities, diagnosed now with an autism-spectrum disorder like Asperger, have lower self-esteem and poorer social development when inappropriately placed in school environments with truly autistic children. In addition, many of us clinicians have seen young adults denied job opportunities, for example in the Peace Corps, when inappropriately given a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome instead of a social disability. George Orwell might never have been able to write his brilliant essay about the shooting of an elephant if Asperger syndrome had been part of his permanent medical record.


So we should hide our diagnoses because NTs might discriminate against us??!!

And, "too much" brain wiring? Sounds to me like the NT equivalent of a middle-aged guy with a flashy sports car, shirt open to his navel, and cheap toupee trying to compensate for his small winkie.

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Response to KamaAina (Reply #2)

Mon Feb 6, 2012, 08:59 AM

4. I didn't get at all that this piece was saying "Asperger's is fake." It's more pointing to

the difficulty of rendering an accurate diagnosis. The pros readily admit to this, with the exception of those who are more than willing to jump to a conclusion. I've had people close to me in treatment in the mental health system and also those who work in the system. My concern is how much influence "big pharma" has over the writing of the DSM. Meds do have a place but I firmly believe they are over-used or used inappropriately.

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Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Fri Feb 3, 2012, 07:27 PM

3. I wonder if a lot of people with Asperger's syndrome

are smart enough to figure out how to pass for NT. I know I still have some traits, but I also know they were much worse when I was a kid. Of course, I may be confusing symptoms of shyness and/or introversion. On the other hand, the Asperger's spectrum may be wider than thought. Someone who is functional will not come to the attention of scientists.

Another possibility is that the world is not split between those with autism and those who are NT. There may be other flavors of people who are not NT.

On edit - it's always good to read the link first! I think the one article was saying the same thing I've been speculating on!

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Response to hedgehog (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 23, 2012, 03:08 PM

5. It's difficult to fake being a NT.

While there's some question as to whether I'm full-blown Asperger's there's definitely "a deficit of some sort".

Every report card, psych evaluation, job performance evaluation and whispered comment behind my back comes back exactly the same:


  • needs to smile more
  • needs to socialize better, be more friendly
  • please work on basic grooming
  • try to contribute more to the conversation instead of dropping bombshells (a fully-worked out conclusion)
  • when approaching your favourite obsession, please let somebody else get a word in edgewise
  • please avoid allowing yourself to get distracted by your obsessions


I did have one amazing boss who identified the problem and tried to make a difference. He sat me down and painstakingly taught me the "elevator dance", the "watercooler conversation", the "sports story", the "weather chat" (vs. the 5-min forecast/lecture) and other social scripts to help me get through the day. He tried the "smile more" thing, but eventually told me to knock it off before I hurt myself.

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Response to TrogL (Reply #5)

Thu Feb 23, 2012, 05:47 PM

6. As a kid, I had to learn to do the last four items.

One area that confuses me is the definition of Asperger's spectrum people as lacking empathy. Kind of ironic, since I would venture to say that the most famous autistic in the US today is Temple Grandin!

I still have no interest in sports whatsoever!

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Response to TrogL (Reply #5)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 09:39 PM

11. What a wonderful boss to help you out like that.

 

I know that long before my son got the Asperger's diagnosis, I would often coach him in how to behave or what to say in various circumstances.

I have suggested to him that if he simply think of all of us NTs as being very high maintenance people, which we are from the perspective of an Aspie, then maybe we will be easier to take.

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Response to hedgehog (Reply #3)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 11:42 AM

7. absolutely.

Besides, I'm of the opinion that there is no "line in the sand" one must cross in order to be aspie. It's not only a spectrum but there are traits where you may be "above the line" or "below the line" (or on the line) in any particular trait or characteristic. Thus making it even more difficult to diagnosis and/or recognize.

You can be on "the cusp" for the most part, with only a few that dip well below that line. Or slightly below in some and well above in others. You may, then, be able to intellectually figure that part out and account for it - as in modify or hide behaviour. Or the non-aspie traits simply hide the aspie ones and people think you're just little "odd" about somethings or on occasion.

That's my opinion - and my observations - anyway. One of those "anecdotal" type things that no one would accept as gospel. However, it may help someone somewhere, so I thought I'd share.

Just remember - YMMV. Everyone IS different.

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Response to mzteris (Reply #7)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 07:48 PM

10. mzteris

mzteris

I think many with asbergers - specially the many who is borderline, is one of the best actors who is out there.. Mostly because they have to be on a tight line, between their issues, and what is excepted of them from the socitity... And that is Not a easy line to be on, the tight line between "normality" and the opposite who is a part of you...

My brother, who have aspberger is sometimes like a "child in a grown mans body".. It all depend if he have a good day or not - but he can if he need, be as good as everyone else, and make decisions what to do, who is maybe better than most "normal" can do.. I can tell a story from some years ago.. My brother had visited our mother, who is living in the north of Sweden, I was working so I was not able to be with him then.. He managed to do the trip up to our mom, visited them, and was able to fly back to Arlanda (outside Stockholm the capital in Sweden) Then a Fu** from SAS he was sent to a gate, who was not the gate he was supposed to be at - and he was on his good way to Turkey when he was asked if he should travel to Turkey - he should have been on his way to Oslo, Fornebu (this was before Fornebu was closed down and all traffic going to Gardermoen on the outhits of Oslo) He managed to get to a rep from SAS, and was put on the next available aircraft back to Oslo. He then managed to get a free taxi to Oslo, and the main railroad station (courtesy of SAS, who also apologizes for the misunderstanding).. There he managed to get a free ride with the train - because a breakdown of the train, he was put on a freight train, and was chatting with the train driver all the way up to where he should off (and the train driver and he had a great time as my brother is a smart man with a lot of his mind, he just have to control it sometimes) and given a free taxi (courtesy of NSB, who for one way or another believing it to be the best idea) and he was coming home, without any problem at all.. And, he haven't being paying a dime for the whole affair.....

So never underestimate a person with Asberger - they might look goofy, and sometimes act goofy - but if they need to be, they often is as smart as any "normal" out there... Sometimes I suspect my brother to be little goofy on purpuse - sometimes it is good to let other do most of the job, instead of doing it yourself....

Diclotican

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Response to Diclotican (Reply #10)

Tue Aug 14, 2012, 07:11 PM

12. Great story about your brother.

Sounds like a pretty smart guy. Self-reliant and clever.

I'm of the opinion that most aspies are SMARTER than any "normal" (or most NT's at any rate).

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Response to mzteris (Reply #12)

Tue Aug 14, 2012, 09:19 PM

13. mzteris

mzteris

He know how to get around - if he must do it... But I think he like to not have to do things - it is far more easy to let others do it, than to do it yourself...

I don't know to many who have Asbergers, just my brother - but he is no stupid - rather a smart man, who know a lot of things.. He have just problems expressing it, or to communicate it to others in a way who is "grown up"...

My sister call him dumb, because he often goof around when she is around.. And he often do that, when he is not secure with the ones he is around. But I know better - I know him to be a find man, who is smarter than 10 others in the room.. But who have a handicap who often is a disadvantage when he have to interact with others. We have had some great times just me and he, when we are out driving - making jokes just me and he understand - he have a habit on making jokes who is dry as a desert when he is in the "zone" to do it, Great ones, but dry... - and we also have the habit on making up some rather fancy stories now and then..

I know him to be a smart, intelligent man who, if it was not for his disadvantages, would had been in a whole different league than he is today.. But he have mastered one thing, that I have never been able to do - wood carvings, he make some amazing wood carvings, right from his own mind - and they is absolutely amassing to look at, when he is finished... He have even got "exported" it to workshops in Canada - in Japan and even some in Australia..


Diclotican

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Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Thu May 10, 2012, 09:25 PM

8. Diagnosing Asperger Syndrome

I have have a nephew who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Diagnosing it shouldn't be so hard. A big clue is if the person suspected has no friends and usually ends up being an outcast for having inappropriate responses to things though genuinely trying to fit in. It's an 'obvious' disconnect. It's a really sad disability because it's not apparent enough 'at first' to get the sympathy and understanding it deserves, but it can cause the person that has it to never understand what they have done or said wrong and become very distressed around people leading social anxiety, depression, and sometimes suicide. From what i've learned through my nephew, there is no current medication that treats it.

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Response to mandey7 (Reply #8)

Sun Aug 12, 2012, 07:31 PM

9. mandey7

mandey7

No current medication can treat asberger syndrome - but you, and many others can do much to minimal the effect of the aspeberger, if you just try to treat your nephew as normal as you can.. I have a brother who do have asberger, but thanks to our foster parents effort, to try to treat him as normal as they could.. He is today a person who might have asberger, and sometimes act weird, specially around people he do not know well, today is as "normal" as it is possible to be, with his problems and challenges... He might be my "weird little brother", but he is also my closest friend, and maybe also the person I am closest to when everything comes... And he is maybe also the only family member I do have who care for me too...

Hm, I think I wil invite him over one of the days

Diclotican

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Response to Diclotican (Reply #9)

Sun Nov 4, 2012, 05:34 PM

20. Not one myself, but I think my youngest brother may have it.

 

I'm not sure. Both me and my middle brother are NTs(though with Attention Deficit Disorder, though I was unfortunately misdiagnosed.), though.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #20)

Sun Nov 4, 2012, 07:41 PM

21. AverageJoe90

AverageJoe90

My brother have Asperger, myself have AD/DD... And I sometimes wonder if I'm not a borderline asberger myself... AD/DD and Asbergers is in the same family of sorts... And many times when one have it, close family, like a brother also can have it, in one way or another... Both of us little "nerdy" of us, getting "hooked up" on things for shorter or longer time....

Diclotican

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Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Fri Sep 7, 2012, 05:46 AM

14. I suffered a misdiagnosis myself......

 

Last edited Sun Nov 4, 2012, 05:40 PM - Edit history (1)

Only it was never corrected. And then I had to go thru these SpEd 'Social Skills' classes, and I was often not allowed to associate with the other regular (neuro-typical) kids, and this happened all throughout elementary and middle school.....it affected me pretty badly, and I couldn't recover from it before my senior year of high school ended.

(Unfortunately, my parents still think I have Asperger's to this very day. And all efforts to try to prove otherwise have been in vain because they just won't listen. Did I mention that they're both Republicans, btw?)

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #14)

Wed Oct 31, 2012, 08:54 PM

15. Mandey7 RE: to AverageJoe90

Last edited Sun Nov 4, 2012, 04:32 PM - Edit history (1)

Only it was never corrected. And then I had to go thru these SpEd 'Social Skills' classes, and I was often not allowed to associate with the other regular kids, and this happened all throughout elementary and middle school.....it affected me pretty badly, and I couldn't recover from it before my senior year of high school ended.


I think classes like that are great and needed more than ever. I wish that there was more focus in rural areas also. We need a system that streamlines these 'social skills' training programs across state lines. I think it would be so nice if the government would fund the creation of a targeted learning program for social skills lessons customized for kids with Aspergers. Something like that should be a part of their school day. There also needs to be more workshops like this available for adults and offered free of charge by county. This could really speed up these kids ability to have a normal and happier life.

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Response to mandey7 (Reply #15)

Wed Oct 31, 2012, 09:22 PM

16. Hi Mandey, I'm sure they work fine when done right, and with the right kids.....

 

Last edited Sun Nov 4, 2012, 05:35 PM - Edit history (2)

But it didn't work so well for me(because I never had Asperger's in the first place). But having grown in Texas I may have just been unlucky, I suppose.

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Response to AverageJoe90 (Reply #16)

Sun Nov 4, 2012, 04:54 PM

18. mandey7 to AverageJoe90

From what I have learned, it cannot be cured. Those living with it have to learn to consciously recognize and learn eye contact and social norms that are appropriate. These are things that people without Aspergers are automatically reading without effort. That's why I think if everyone in the country or even western world gets together they can come up with an "agreed upon standard" for social norms to teach that kids with Aspergers are known to lack. Because right now the differences can create a lot of confusion in someone trying to learn these and also a lot of depression and sometimes suicide as teens and adults. Of course even after learning these things life with strangers is not automatically ever going to be easy. Eye contact timing etc- the appropriate replies and gestures, facial expressions and body language- all require training and effort and stress. I would love to see a software program that could do this with the help of web-cam and microphone for facial and vocal training. It does seem that more and more are being diagnosed with Aspergers or mild forms of autism so hopefully something like this will be created soon. I think that whoever comes up with something like this and gets gets the government contract to sell in schools etc is going to be very wealthy, especially if the results are good.

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Response to mandey7 (Reply #18)

Sun Nov 4, 2012, 05:28 PM

19. Just keep in mind that I don't have the disorder myself......

 

In case you may have misunderstood me.

I do have ADD, though. And possibly a moderately noticeable case of it, too.

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Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Thu Nov 1, 2012, 01:42 AM

17. I have a grown son with Asperger's. I've mentioned

 

him many times, both in this forum and in other places on DU.

I, as his proud mom, think he is one of the most wonderful people on the planet (his brother is another of the most wonderful persons on the planet, but brother is uber-normal). He will be thirty towards the end of December, so because Asperger's didn't enter the DSM until 1994, it was not until my son was 18 and half way through his senior year of high school that we figured out he had Asperger's, that there was a name to the way he was different from others.

I am very glad that he was diagnosed so late. For him, at least, there were huge advantages to not being labelled. Sometimes it was hugely frustrating, and I could not figure out why I had to keep on helping him with things that his age-mates didn't need help with. Why I had to coach him constantly about normal social interactions. Why he was ostracized in the lunch room at his public school. We had the enormous good fortune to be able to send him to a secular private school starting in seventh grade, and because of the smaller classes, and because at this school academics were valued, he fit in. He finally had friends, and he started doing things like Science Bowl (including, I must brag, going to National Science Bowl in 11th and 12th grade).


But still, he was different in a profound way. His teachers struggled to keep him on track. As late as spring of his senior year of high school I'd be at his school, and one of his teachers would stop me to say, "I hate to have to tell you, but your son has not handed in any homework for six weeks, and if he doesn't turn it in to me, he'll get a really bad grade this marking period."

I shudder to think what it would have been like had he attended the public school. And I must hasten to say that our public schools were -- are -- very good, but the class sizes are much larger, the schools themselves much larger, and he would have gotten lost in the crowd. I am grateful beyond words that we could send him to the private school.

Which brings me to the point that our public schools absolutely need to be funded to have the kind of small class sizes, the kind of individual attention that my kid got in his private school. It's not just the students with disabilities of some kind, but all kids, who would benefit enormously if we had the kind of schools that all kids deserve.

Because of my wonderful son, I have a deep appreciation of differences I would otherwise never have had.

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