When I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, my parents explained to me that I had a mild form of autism, and my brain was made just a little differently to everyone else’s. On hearing this, my mind was filled with a burning question. I pondered. I mused. And then I thought I would bite the bullet and ask outright…”can I have a piece of cheese?”
Throughout primary school, I was dimly aware that I was different to everyone else. I spent most of my time alone. I had obsessive interests. Despite some negative experiences with other kids, my head was in the clouds and initially, my diagnosis didn’t change that.
Secondary school was a different world altogether. Suddenly children were less accepting and more interested in jostling for the top of the social hierarchy than looking out for a kid whose favourite conversation starter was cat breeds. Teachers were less understanding. I had a timetable and – worse – lesson locations to memorise. I made friends, then had no idea what to do when things went pear shaped. In short, I was vulnerable, and all too aware of it.
So from then on, I learned to hate the fact that I was different. I fought hard to form friendships, and often failed. As a result, I was afraid to talk about it to anyone because I knew I didn’t communicate well and was scared of being judged. I even compared telling people about my Asperger’s with talking about periods to a boy! And because they didn’t understand why I was different, people found me weird, stupid, or – and I quote – “boring”. Sound familiar? If I could reach out to everyone still stuck in this vicious circle, I would.
A few years on – the dreaded GCSE era – and things slowly changed. I got invited to a Christian youth event, and had one guy, now a good friend, take me aside and explain how having Asperger’s affected him, and that it was ok to have it. I wasn’t ready to open up to just anyone, but held on to that nonetheless. Several months later, something similar happened after church, when someone empathised with my difficulty with socialising, because she had Asperger’s. I began to talk about my own struggles, and from that day, I was able to explain to people about AS whenever the subject of social struggles came up in conversation. Six years later, and I’ve been wondering how people can’t bring themselves to talk about AS. Before remembering.
How do you tell people? Depends on the situation. If you are struggling in a social situation, just say: I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which makes it hard to read people/understand instructions/deal with change, blah blah blah. Want to explain what AS is? It is a condition that means a brain has more trouble reading people and understanding social interaction. Social dyslexia, if you like. And don’t feel pressured to tell or not tell. Just live your life and explain your condition when the need arises. Might seem hard, but hopefully it will become nothing more than another part of yourself that people discover.
That said, I still have AS based struggles, among other things, but hey, that’s what baby steps are all about (metaphorically). My message to those of you in the Asperger closet? There are people who understand, and people who don’t but are willing to try. You might be walking a different path, but sometimes that is the only way to educate the world. And the only way to go ahead with that is to start.
Me being a
complete introvert and undiagnosed Aspie social butterfly at Kindergarten in Taiwan.