Hello again everyone! It's been a while since I've written, so I think I'll begin this new entry with a bit of an anecdote:
A few days ago I was spending time with a few friends, and a guy who has an unwanted crush on one of my friends comes in and starts chatting it up with her - he sits next to her and earnestly starts telling her about his favorite television show... she's not interested at all. My other friend and I are able to recognize that he is making her uncomfortable - her body is caved in a little bit and her facial expression seems polite, but unresponsive: certainly uncomfortable.
At that moment, my friend and I are figuring out how to spare our friend who is mercilessly being hit on, so I decide to distract this guy: he's good with computers, so I ask him to help me with a diagram in Microsoft Excel that I had been making for one of my classes, but unfortunately, I was having trouble with turning the statistics into a chart. Excited, he immediately comes over, grabs my laptop, and shows me how it works. My other two friends leave the room, and after he helps me, I end the conversation gracefully: "I think I left my flash drive in my room; I'd better go save this..." He went back to his room, and it ended fine.
When I got back upstairs my friend hugged me and thanked me for sparing her of such an awkward moment. At this time, I was in shock: how could I have smoothed over something so well? I'm usually the awkward one!
The only thing I can attribute this experience to is years and years of mess-ups. Because of my Asperger's, I've had to pay close attention to what is and isn't awkward: not to mention anything about unwanted subjects in casual conversation, appropriate body language, etc. It's quite grueling to have to think about everything that you're going to say in order to avoid making a fool out of yourself! Fortunately, it will all pay off in the long run.
It's about time, too. Middle school and high school were brutal (I recieved an unusually high amount of bullying, and that victimized, condescending reputation sort of stuck), but that's where I gained enough experience to appear approachable. College really provided the most amount of growth, for my approachability allowed me to socialize more, and learn more than I ever had before. I'm still nowhere near appearing normal, but with enough hard work I think I'll be able to survive.
What I'm trying to say is (and I'm no professional or anything), it's important for people with Asperger's, HFA or any similar conditions to put themselves out there socially, no matter how uncomfortable they may feel. Pay attention to how other people do things: saying hi, small talk, and seeing how people relate to others using pop culture or past experiences are just a few examples. It even may help if you disclose your condition to a close friend, and encourage him/her to let you know of any strange tendencies you have, or if you say anything disconcerting - this will serve as as extra observation, so you can work on things you wouldn't typically be aware of.
Through the years, I've come across a stunning realization that with experience and intense concentration, social skills can be learned. It's definitely possible: don't give up! We may never be perfectly normal, but being aware of our social tendencies will certainly help us build self-esteem and relationships in the long run. Certainly worth the wait.
Notice the condescending tone they're using? "AS is part of a spectrum of autistic disorders and is a lifelong developmental disability."
No, no, NO! It's only a disorder in that it deviates from the norm, and it certainly isn't a disability!
I decided to create this blog after hearing about the skewed perspective that is associated with the reputation of Asperger's Syndrome and other Autism Spectrum Syndromes. No, because I have this condition (notice the absence of the word disorder here? Well, you should!), it doesn't make me retarded, or mentally challenged in any way. On the contrary, most people with Asperger's have an above average IQ. We know a lot about the certain specific interests we have, we are enthusiastic learners, wonderful students who happen to perceive social interactions differently than the average, or "neurotypical" individual.
Believe me, I've heard it all. During grade school I was fired at with every insult in existence and deemed a "freak". Many people experiencing AS have also dealt with this, and as a student who started school in the early '90s, AS was still being examined. In recent years, the number of children being diagnosed with Autism have increased by 119%; people are still learning about Autism and Asperger's alike, which is exciting to witness. Though existence can seem mundane, it's exciting to be a part of a new generation; our generation will be one to help map out the future for many others.
Coming from the first generation of young-adults who were diagnosed as children, I'm interested to see how AS manifests itself in us as the years continue. I was diagnosed at 5 years old and was treated for years afterwards. The fact that I was finally told of my diagnosis at age 14 forced me to become more aware of typical social behavior - I honestly learned the most through trial-and-error and through personal experience, by thinking, "this statement didn't get a positive response; I shouldn't say anything like it in the future." or "by using eye contact in this way I seem dishonest; I want people to see that I'm an honest individual, so I'll never do that again." Therapy and social groups did help as well. I know the constant treatment was a benefit for me, though I'm still strange in many ways.
Now, at 19, I've gotten to the point where one of my doctors says I can fake being neurotypical to the point where I wouldn't receive a diagnosis anymore. I don't agree with this, for my AS is still there - I'm still socially awkward, though not as much as if I hadn't pushed myself to communicate in so-called "normal" ways, and I can't handle stress very well, but I can control my symptoms and meltdowns better. I'm also decently dressed and I appear pretty normal, which, though it unfortunately clarifies the importance of image in our society, I've come to find that it really helps people take me seriously. I still struggle with social mess-ups, but now I'm able to recognize where I've messed up and how to prevent myself from making those mistakes in the future. It's a constant learning process, and though I still have a while to go, I've made a great deal of progress which I am pleased with.
I may be criticized for this, but I believe that those with AS should embrace their uniqueness, while learning to communicate so that they can support themselves in the long run and not feel destroyed by social norms. There are ways to find suitable professions that work with our sensitivities, that maximize our talents and allow us to appreciate who we really are, quirks and all.
This is my first time doing this sort of blog, so I encourage feedback in any way, shape or form. In fact, I'd love it if you gave me feedback!