I just need to get something straight – and that is the misconception that some people have – in fact, I believe most people have. I see this controversy about “handicapped vs. disability,” etc. And about how people are “less than” due to a trait they have. And yeah, it is a trait. It’s not a handicap. It’s not necessarily a disadvantage. All people see things in different ways. And the example I’m talking about is Asperger’s Syndrome.
Let me clarify; when someone can’t walk, obviously, they have a disadvantage to someone who can. But the truth is, they probably have a different strength in another area. And going back to Asperger’s, that’s what I’d like to write about now, because many people refer to Asperger’s Syndrome as a disability, when it’s not always. Usually, Aspies are high on The Spectrum, and even in intellect. I highly detest any word used to describe a person with the preface “dis” in front of it, such as disadvantaged or disability. Because that reference literally means, “having a negative or reversing force.” Asperger’s is not less than, it’s an “Alterbility.” Whereas D-I-S means C-A-N-‘-T, and that’s a bunch of bullshit that others who don’t understand label us with so they feel better or normal.
The biggest misconception of Asperger’s Syndrome is that the person affected is slow. But the truth is, quite often they’re a lot faster than “normal” people in other areas. Does that mean normal people are disabled in those areas? I don’t think so. Does it make them handicapped? It very well may on a golf course. And that’s exactly what I’m talking about.
I’m frustrated as hell because at my job, I work with some people who consider me to be mentally incapable, which is absolutely absurd. I scored very high on a professionally established IQ test and even higher on an EQ. I did have a couple of friends who beat me on a high school evaluation. My school considered Karina Wren and Carolyn Murdock geniuses, along with Paul Jensen, but that’s another story. Anyway, we were all considered brainy and high achievers.
My life began advanced as I started kindergarten at age four. In third grade, I distinctly remember sitting in the office with my parents, having a discussion with the principal about elevating me forward an additional year. My parents didn’t feel comfortable with the idea because of inadequacy in my social development. I was pretty upset at the fact my parents found me immature, but I have to admit they were probably correct. I found that out later when I took driver’s ed my junior year of high school with a grade younger than me.
I also took college preparatory classes my sophomore year of high school as well. I was the only sophomore in those classes, and it was a little bit of a gap for me. Sure, there are 12-year-old prodigies in college, but that wasn’t me. Socially, I was unprepared. When jokes were being told, I was usually the one who made a faux pas that gathered even more laughter than the joke. But my worst is configuring numbers. My mind tends to locate patterns in numerals before I can figure out solutions to problems. In fact, often times, the bizarre patterns I find help to solve the arithmetic in question. For me, it’s reasoning.
I used to have a razor-sharp memory before the amnesia-thing, which most of you who read my articles know about. And that really scuffed me up. Now I have a trying time in remembering things. The worst part of that is I’ve always had a tendency of striving for perfection in everything I do. When I was young, I used to imitate sounds over and over again until I felt resolve in getting it perfect. It used to drive my mother crazy!
But rather than making a go at something and failing, I am hindered. I simply can’t stand the thought of not being flawless. Doing an “okay” job or a “passing” task has never been acceptable to me. So rather than allowing myself to make mistakes, I get behind by double-checking. Whenever I notice someone staring at me as if I’m crazy for going so slow, I speed up twice as fast to fit in and make tons of errors. It’s a horribly vicious circle of beating myself up for going too slow and then for speeding up and making mistakes.
On the other hand, when it comes to creative solutions, I’m way above the grid on that. Um, I don’t know, but some of the older folks may remember the show McGyver. He could string together a pair of pantyhose and a piece of gum, creating a parachute to save his life in about thirty seconds. That’s sort of like me. I’m extremely good at finding solutions in places others wouldn’t consider. I’m very good at fixing things such as my washing machine, my headlight on my car, and other items people would sooner give a fistful of dollars for a repairman to fix. Sure, I save money. But the important thing is that I’m confident it’s done correctly – I’m a sick pedant who doesn’t stop until I find the right answer. Yes, it drives me insane sometimes, but I’m a writer. I’m supposed to think a bit outside-the-box.
If I ever am to be tested or quizzed, and I hear the words, my brain freaks out. Honestly, there was one time I had a test, and as soon as my name was on the paper, I couldn’t even remember the date. Often times, the questions seem to make sense, and I’m certain of the answer, but when it’s read aloud it sounds nothing like the question I answered. I still know the right answers; I just answered the wrong question. If I’m under pressure of time or needing a particular passing score, I will fail just about every time. When I was in school, I still got A’s, but that was because I had tricks I used to recall the answers using association—only when I knew about the test in advance. I’d study for hours to ensure the best score of my class.
On the other hand, the reason I consider myself an “alternate,” rather than deficient, is my senses are very acute. I can hear things from forever away—even when I try not to. My vision isn’t that good. I wear glasses, so I can’t say that. But my sense of smell could combat an animal’s skill. Between my hearing and my sense of smell, I have huge bonuses in some regard and extreme disadvantages in others.
If someone has body odor, I’m usually the first to pick it up, but don’t want to tell them they stink. So I basically suffer. Getting on elevators or through stairwells, if someone has had a cigarette, even when there’s no physical trace, I can smell them. If you like cigarette odors, “yeah for you.” I don’t. There have been times when the odor is so intense I’ve stepped off the elevator because I’m nauseated.
The same goes for my hearing. It may seem like a bonus, but not when you can hear people talking about you. It sucks. And it tends to inundate me sometimes. I tried explaining it the other day, but I’m unsure if she understood. So here goes; when I’m in a room with more than two people talking at the same time… Wait, let me give an example. It was a rare occasion with the kids and me at a restaurant having a discussion. My kids’ voices blended in at the same volume as the people sitting adjacent as well as the guests arriving at the door clear across the room. It’d be great if I wanted to eavesdrop, but when I’m really tuned into the person speaking to me, trying to hear what they have to say, it doesn’t work so well. Everything is one volume. So in this regard, it’s bad—and extensively, I get migraines that last for days. And on occasion, even bright lights cause considerable discomfort. You probably guessed we don’t go out much.
At night, when the wind blows or it starts raining, I wake up. Snow, not so much; it’s usually fairly quiet. But even someone walking on my carpet makes a cush-cush noise that wakes me up. Even still, I cannot separate noises going off at once. Big cities? No thank you. Malls? Hardly. Even movie theaters are difficult for me because I can hear people talking and even munching their popcorn or slurping their drinks above the audio of the film. It’s frustrating. I feel like I could hear a mouse fart from the other room.
Every Aspie is different, and it’s hereditary. Both of my kids are gifted with it, although my son’s father refuses to accept it. My son’s taken a test enduring two days straight of filling in dots for psychoanalysis to determine his non-emotions and peculiar temperament. In sixth grade, he tested at a 12th grade level in three of the classes and above tenth in the others except for math. He was on the mark there. But that was homeschool where I taught him until junior high. Now he has predominantly D’s in public school. His father has convinced him there’s “nothing wrong” with him. I never said there was. But because of the non-support of his father referring to him as not trying, he’s all but given up. With aspirations to become a scientist, he’s kissed that off.
My daughter has an issue with anything coming in contact with her skin. She cries if she’s asked to fold clothes because she doesn’t like the way the fabric rubs her hands. She recently got over wearing her socks inside out and must have all the tags removed from her clothes because they feel as if they’re cutting her. She insists on wearing the same red zip-up jacket over any shirt she wears on a daily basis and doesn’t like the feel of the hairbrush bristles against her scalp. When it comes to animals, she communicates well.
We all have possessive issues with a comfort item. My son had the same blanket for years until it got lost in a daycare. Now he’s on his second he’s had for about 7 years. I slept with the same teddy bear Timmy, I received in third grade right after the meeting with the principal. It was supposed to soothe me. I slept with Timmy beneath my right shoulder until I was in my mid-twenties. An eye was missing. There were bald spots where fur had fallen out and stitches where I’d sewn him. It was awful, but I was attached like a fur-stuffed appendage. I think someone threw him out when I was moving. But that’s a quality of some Aspies; they frequently bond with inanimate objects.
Another facet of Aspies is they tend to believe objects have feelings. When a gift is received, the Asperger’s recipient may love it beyond reality like a good friend or not want anything to do with it at all. There are objects I’ve received I have not felt akin to possessing. The perfect example is a dining set I purchased used a couple of weeks ago from a site on Facebook. A friend went and picked it up, so I bought it without first “meeting” it. I couldn’t sleep for nearly two nights because of the negative emotions I perceived from the set. I tried to resell it online. When I couldn’t within a couple of days, I finally took it to the dumpster. I coincidentally found another at a yard sale that gave me good vibes. All three of us love it.
Speaking of Facebook, there are several groups centered around nonjudgmental people with Asperger’s. I would totally suggest if you live with Asperger’s or know someone who does, you search out others who will understand. A lot of these groups have a “no harassment” clause you must agree to before joining, but it’s worth it in realizing you’re not the freak everyone who doesn’t get it makes you out to be. And truthfully, I’d rather be an honest perfectionist than a racist, a thief, a liar, or an egotistical failure hiding behind cynically rude remarks about others. Wouldn’t you? Those people can kiss my Aspie!