Posts tagged ‘Autism’

June 3, 2012

Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism

I have just now spent some time with my family, the first time in a long time where I have spent time with my family, and I must say that I am a bit reminded as to why I became estranged from them in the first place. Having asperger’s syndrome, my relationship to the rest of my family has always been of an unorthodox nature, especially with family gatherings. I can only describe the difference as sitting at the table with another species or creature. The level of communication is not the same as when I hold table with other individuals diagnosed with asperger’s syndrome, and I wonder if it will never be the same.

Asperger’s syndrome can more rightly be described as an enhancement to the logical and rational faculties of a person so diagnosed with it. I certainly have displayed greater intellectual veracity with regards to linguistic communication and other problems, but the difference has resulted in a kind of social disconnect between myself and other individuals who do not have asperger’s syndrome. It could be said that I find them a bit boring or simple. It could also be said that they find me perhaps a little more than arrogant. With regards to this disconnect, the precise nature of what is lost in translation through the attempted communication between individuals with asperger’s syndrome and individuals who might be referred to as “neurotypical” is is difficult to determine.

At the same time, it could be said that individuals so diagnosed seem to have trouble picking up on gesticulatory information presented by neurotypicals. A perfect example of this might be a situation I experienced as a child, where a fellow classmate winked at me. He was attempting to inform me that what he had just said was not true, but that he wanted me to play along so as to mislead another fellow classmate. I, however, not only did not notice his wink until he had blatantly made it obvious that he was winking, but also did not understand why he was winking, and asked him what was wrong with his eye.

Interestingly enough, mild autism spectrum disorders such as asperger’s syndrome do not necesitate a complete lack of comprehension on the part of one diagnosed with such towards gesticulation, or any other idiomatic expression, for that matter. In fact, once a particular gesture or idiom is understood, the individual then often becomes extraordinarily competent in employing such idioms towards effective uses. This can easily be seen in the ability of even young children with asperger’s syndrome to become highly proficient in exercising verbosity, something that might only be able to be understood by the early and necessary requirements of young children to learn language.

Other skills that are not as rigidly imposed on such individuals tend to have an uneven distribution of mastery, but I would not be surprised if the distribution of skills mastered by individuals with asperger’s syndrome was highly correlated with the distribution of skills attempted by such individuals. This type of information, if validated, would paint a stark contrast of asperger’s syndrome in opposition to traditionally held views of the syndrome as a neurological disorder. It could be that individuals with asperger’s syndrome are wired no less competently than other neurotypicals, and that any “disconnect” assumed on the part of such individuals might be owed to the difference in neurological topography of said individuals and neurotypicals. In such a case, the syndrome might be understood not as a neurological disorder, but simply the beginning of a form of speciation within various human populations.

To further support this, the relatively low numbers of individuals with asperger’s syndrome as compared to the general neurotypical population might underscore and reinforce the notion of said individuals having difficulty supporting themselves. This might change, however, with a large increase in the aspergic population. It is certain in my mind that any individual with asperger’s syndrome is perfectly capable of achieving positions of higher power within the society in which they live, and that the main obstacle to such a situation exists in the lack of understanding that neurotypical parents have towards the raising of such a child, as well as the stigma of “mild autism”. Both of these obstacles may be expected to decrease with a general rise in the aspergic population.

As I was saying, I have recently spent time with my family, every one of which may be considered “neurotypical”. But the interesting fact of the situation is that I did not find any difficulty in interacting with them. Indeed, the only complaint that I may have, and perhaps the complaint that caused me to withdraw, was that they were all quite boring.

June 3, 2012

The Difference Between Aspergers and Neurotypical

“Quit complaining. There’s nothing to get.” — Dear ‘Ol Dad.

I recently had a conversation with my father where, to my surprise, something happened that I have been trying to accomplish my entire life. I was understood. Before going much further into elaboration, the situation unfolded in the following manner: My father and I were traveling towards the Crackerbarrel, which is a hybrid restaurant and OldTyme country store that apparently has chains all throughout the south(I will not dwell on my opinion of the Crackerbarrel, though I can assure that it is not high). We were going to the restaurant in order to pick up a wooden rocking chair that we were going to present to my mother for her birthday, which, incidentally, is just four days away from fathers day.

It was during this drive that I stumbled upon an explanation for Aspergers that I feel sums up quite completely my experience with the world: It went thus:

“Dad, do you know what a definition is?” He shoots me a look.

“Well, sure I know what it is. It’s when…the words, when you explain a word’s meaning.”

“And can you explain the meaning of that?” He shoots me another look, then after a pause,

“No, you can’t do that.”

After which, I give this explanation:

“Actually, dad, I can define what that means. I can explain it perfectly and explicitly. meaning is a set of symbols associated with some phenomena in the world, which is shared between two individuals. You, see, that’s the difference between you and me, Dad. With you and the rest of the family, you pick things up without realizing them. All the knowledge is there, underneath the current of the river. But myself, I can’t access that knowledge. I can’t reach down and pick it up. It’s invisible to me, but, but–Once something is made explicitly clear, defined with hard, rigidity, not only to I immediately pick it up, but I become better at it than anybody else. Once I learned to speak, I mastered language. Once I learned to draw, I mastered drawing. One mouse-click, and I take off on the computer like a rocket.”

I pause here, then add:

“The thing is, I don’t do intuition, Dad. When everyone is seated around the table, there’s reams of information, and I don’t pick up on it. So when you are all sitting around, you’re having loads of fun. Me? I’m bored out of my mind, cause everyone is exchanging looks, but not a single soul is talking. I’m not diseased, Dad, and my wires aren’t crossed. The truth is, I’m an entirely different CPU, an entirely different Architecture. And all I want to do is to be able to set up an interface.”

And then it happened. I could understand that my father understood me, and through his reply, he acknowledged me in the best way he could. He didn’t spout off anthologies of Elizabethan poetry, but he didn’t have to. In his own special way, fumbling with the words like a dropped football, I had made the first connection of my life with another human being.

At the root of the Asperger’s mind is the same desire as any other human. Just like neurotypicals, we want community and solidarity with others. But here’s the trick: Solidarity, community is based upon mutual understanding. Normal people have fun with each other because they understand each other. And once I felt that somebody understood me as well, the sharp divide between myself and others became that much less stark.

This does not mean the end of myself as an Aspergic Individual. I am, and probably still will, have to struggle to find myself, to find communication with others. But hey, that’s life.

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