What Is Having Asperger Syndrome Like?

Someone asked me what was it like having Asperger’s. I didn’t mind the question. Quite the contrary! I welcomed the question or any question related to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  That’s one reason I write about living on the Spectrum. I can’t speak for my fellow ASD travelers since each one of us on the Spectrum is unique. I can describe my own life on the Spectrum, but don’t ask me to explain it.  Those who don’t have ASD can’t understand it and those of us who do can’t explain it.

PLEASE ….

My anxiety goes up a notch or two when I am given the “PLEASE go get the…, find the…, bring me …, it’s in the…next to the…on the right…”.   The longer the instruction string, the least likely the instructor will get positive results from me.

I was helping a friend the other day with an outdoor project and she gave me a few of those type requests in one sitting. The pressure to find what she wanted in record speed put me on panic alert. I did find them but not with record speed and not without my friend repeating or rephrasing the directions. If I were quick on my feet, I would have asked, “Am I getting warmer?” meaning am I getting closer or further from the target of the safari hunt. The items were within a short, I do mean SHORT, distance from me. EMBARRASSING! If there had been a hole, I would have climbed in it until my friend talked me out of it.

BED NECESSITIES

Sleeping with five pillows instead of one. A miserable night if I was reduced to sleeping with the standard number of 1 or even 2. It is just one of my long held rituals to be surrounded by pillows at bedtime. I call it, for lack of a better explanation, my comfort food at bedtime.

DIET ROUTINE – WRITTEN IN STONE

My list of what I eat on a regular basis could be counted on two hands. Most of those items are high in starches. Thus, I am a big fan of bread, bagels, dry cereals, crackers, chips, and popcorn. No salt shaker but what I eat has plenty in it. When I eat my meals is beyond my understanding but I stick to my peculiar eating routine like SUPER glue.

GOOGLE IMAGES WITHOUT WORDS

I am in a conversation and have the floor.  I am telling a story and come to a point where for the life of me I can’t think of the name of the image in my head.  I describe it in a haphazard way where I stutter all over myself. This is the part that frustrates me. A few minutes later, my brain pops the word up. Granted, this surely happens to most people, but in my life on the spectrum, it is the “norm” instead of the exception.

OH CLUMSY ME!

If there is something to trip over, stumble on, tumble over, then one of my toes, feet, or knees will find it. I don’t take daily inventory, but I don’t think I’ve lived a day that I didn’t have a bruise on my person. I’ll only remember how I got a bruise if it hurt so much that I saw lights flashing. It is frustrating to no end when I bump, fall, and trip but I try to take ’em as they come and keep going with bruises galore.

NOT SO FINE ON MOTOR!

Fine motor skills have to do with the small stuff when it comes to movement. This is why my handwriting bears a strong resemblance to chicken scratch. It is why picking up objects between my thumb and finger is no small feat. Such as putting on or off pierced earrings. As hard as I try to hang on to the earring or “back”, it happens without fail of one dropping. The earring is easier to find than the “back” to it. The backs are so small and blend in into the floor that finding one is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

I have come so close at times to give up earrings entirely and forget about my two tiny ear holes.  I give in against my better judgment and buy a pack of cheap earrings at the dollar store just to replace the missing “backs”.

WHY DID I SAY ALL THAT?

I meet a total stranger who gives me an inch. I’ll tell the stranger way more than I want to about myself. It was as if I had provided a total perfect stranger a chapter or two of my audiobook autobiography.  Shortly thereafter, I’m kicking myself as to what in the world was I thinking telling a stranger my life story.

 

Those are just some examples of what it is like to have Asperger’s Syndrome.  Sometimes I have a no-meltdown kind of day.  Other times my autism slaps me in the face and lets me know it’s around and is here to stay.

 

 

 

 

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Motor Deficit

When I discovered I had Asperger’s, I got a lot of answers to the “Why” questions.    Such as why I had more than my fair share of childhood bruises and skinned up knees.  A common autism trait is a lack of motor skills.

I learned in my research that there are gross and fine motor skills.  I come up short on both.  Gross has to do with movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts and movements.  Actions such as such as running, crawling, swimming, etc.  I don’t know about crawling or when I learned to walk since I was way too young to remember and my Mom doesn’t remember either.  As for running, the P.E. coach could usually count on me to finish last.  I remember taking swimming lessons and I was not at the head of the class.  I did learn to swim but it took me longer.

Motor skills come in handy behind the wheel.  My learning to drive probably gave my Mom some of the gray hairs on her head before I finally got my driver’s license at 18.  My Dad wasn’t involved much since he lacked what I lack too:  patience.  I do remember him being in the car with me on my first time behind the wheel.  It was on a country road several miles safely away from the highway.  I was going so slow that the cows just watched and our dog didn’t bother chasing us.

Fine motor skills have to do with smaller movements that occur in the wrists, hands, fingers, and the feet and toes. They participate in smaller actions such as picking up objects between the thumb and finger, writing carefully, and even blinking.  In my elementary school years, I wore loafers with no strings attached to avoid tying my shoes.  I learned to tie my shoes before I learned how to master another challenge of blowing my nose.  My handwriting still reminds me of my doctor’s.  As for blinking, I don’t think about it until I am at the eye doctor when she tells me NOT to blink.  Then, I’ll commence to blinking like crazy.

Just recently while subbing for a special education class, I took a couple of the boys to lunch.  One of them asked me to peel his banana.  Bananas are on my “never eat” list and so I have limited experience of peeling them.  I could not crack that thing open with my fingers.  Believe me I tried!  One of the other boys volunteered and cracked it right open.  He had a certain kind of trick using one of his thumbs.  An 8-year-old teaching a 58-year-old how to peel a banana.  It’s a good thing I don’t have a deficit of a sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compensation

While subbing for an elementary school’s P.E. coach’s sidekick, I was on the sidelines of watching students roller skate on the gym floor.  The coach had his own pair of skates on as well as one of the teachers.  Me?  I was on the sidelines sitting on a stack of gym mats with some additional mat padding on the wall behind me.  I wanted to have a soft landing if one of the skaters lost control and landed on me.

I don’t remember putting on a pair of skates when I was little.  I think I must have tried it at least once and at some point decided my being a roller skater was only going to happen in my dreams.   One of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traits is a struggle with motor skills.  Motor skills do come in handy in keeping a skater on their feet rather than landing on their rump.  I do remember trying ice skating once in my teen years on one of those rare times  I was on a date.  The sweet guy could skate well since he was repeatedly able to get me up off the floor without falling himself.

My diagnosis of Asperger’s changed my life.  It has filled in the reason of why I did whatever, why I felt whatever, and why I couldn’t do whatever.  Roller skating is just one thing on my list of “don’t do’s” that I suspect ASD is the culprit.  There is another list of things I can do but were harder for me as a child to learn such as tying my shoes, blowing my nose. or unlocking a combination school locker.

A common struggle on the Autism Spectrum is with social interaction.  Some days I do fine interacting with my fellow man; whereas, other days I get frustrated and wish I had the wings of a dove so I could fly away to a deserted island (with nice living accommodations, of course).   I have no doubt that my never-married status is tied to ASD.  There are plenty of people living on the spectrum who have married and some have done well and some haven’t.  Just as those who don’t have ASD.  But dating was awkward at best for me.  I’m not ruling out marriage because I shouldn’t say never, but I’m not looking for a gentleman caller.

I missed some experiences that my peers have had such as roller skating or walking down the aisle or getting a valentine card from one’s grandchild.  But ASD has given me compensation as it has others with ASD.  A special talent of my own – writing.   It’s something I don’t have to struggle with doing as I do with social interaction or any activity heavy on motor skills.

I don’t aim to be a Shakespeare or a Dickinson.  Just write from my heart.  It is a treasured gift that I don’t believe I’d have if I didn’t have my constant companion (ASD).  If there was some magic bottle that could take ASD away, I don’t think I’d take it.  Not if I had to give up my compensation.