My name is Pam. I am a friend, Occupational Therapist, and a Licensed Brain Gym Instructor. I get to be many things. But most important is that I am also a MOM. I have 2 boys who have extremely different identities. My youngest (now 17) has a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. We have traveled many paths along a winding journey. My oldest (who just turned 21) is a strong willed individual who hopes to change the world. I hope he does. My hope with this blog is to provide others a way to move forward, learn from others and share knowledge that will help us all.
For all of the students that I work with, I am hoping the blog is a way to share what we are working on at school. Most days it doesn’t seem like there is enough time to write notes to parents that are as meaningful as I would like. By using the blog, I feel I will have time to step back from the hectic pace of the day and put my thoughts together in a more meaningful dialogue.
I would like to share a story that my youngest wrote. He has written many short essays that I hope to share along our journey together. I think this is a great starting point for all of us. Let’s start our journey.
Living with Asperger’s Syndrome
Living with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is, to use a cliché, a blessing and a curse. As someone with a clinical diagnosis of AS, I can say this from my own personal experience of living with this “disorder”: The trials and tribulations involved in the life of a person such as me are many and numerous, and as many as possible shall be documented here.
First of all, there are many sensory needs and loathing I feel as a result of AS. Bright light, clamorous sound, and kinesthetic occurrences of extreme temperature would all seem to be magnified to the nth degree, and this magnification of sensory input would overload my brain. I would get nervous and anxious, I could not concentrate, and all of these reactions would further cause agitation. This agitation could be expressed in a variety of mannerism, many of them unpleasant. Among these mannerisms were screaming and other incoherent vocal projections, the flinging of miscellaneous items, and a mental removal of myself from the situation at hand, either voluntarily or impulsively. While the other mannerisms are easily understood, the mental removal requires further explanation. In circumstances of extreme sensory overload, I would often curl up into an upright fetal position, an attempt to close my mind off to, and ignore, as many stimuli as possible. Not only were the annoying and aggravating sensory aggressors blocked out, but the mundane and unobtrusive sensory happenings would also be ignored. Whenever anyone or anything would attempt to gain my attention while I was in this state, I would recede deeper into the solitude of my mind. This became such a calm and soothing thing for me to do that it became quite a reactionary occurrence to what sometimes would be an extremely manageable sensory occurrence. After much deliberation and practice, as well as a small amount of medication, I was able to stop removing myself from reality, as well as being able to stop my other reactions to extreme sensory situations. I am now able to withstand brutal sensory situations ranging from fireworks shows to high school cafeterias.
As well as being extremely sensitive to happenings of the sensory nature, I also seemed to be almost completely unable to understand happenings of the social nature. I was never quite sure why my peers acted the way they did. Most actions that they performed seemed extraordinarily superfluous. It was always surprising to discover that many of these seemingly unneeded actions were actually considered to be crucial in the relationships between people. Whenever I would inquire as to why these seemingly wasteful actions were being performed, I never received an actual answer. I was either completely ignored, given peculiar looks, or I was told that it was just “what you did”. I could not understand why it was done, so I just choose not to perform these actions, and was quickly shunned from society. Just because I did not want to engage in petty small-talk concerning mundane subjects like recent celebrity happenings, or because I wished to read instead of goofing off, I was considered strange and odd. I, on the other hand, considered the other people to be odd because they wished to partake in these meaningless activities. After many long discussions with professionals on the matter, I discovered that partaking in these useless activities was a way of showing the group that you wished to join, and therefore have a chance of creating friendship. Now, still felt odd at participating in these activities, but I had only one real friend, and however much I tried to tell myself otherwise, deep inside, I was lonely. So, I began to partake in these rituals. Sadly it did not work out. That is, until I entered high school, where I found a group of kids who were interested in a large portion of the same kinds of things I was, and I found a group of friends. The best part was, and still is, our “petty small-talk” concerned many an important topic, from philosophical quandaries to political debacles, and therefore did not seem “petty” at all. As I became more and more comfortable with these people, we began to recede into more trivial subjects, and so I became more and more “normal”, at least among my group of friends. Of course, I still have trouble with certain social niceties, but I am making progress, even though there are a few things about me that are considered socially odd that I will not give up.
One of the things considered most odd socially about me is my extreme love of reading. While most people my age concern themselves with sports or members of the opposite sex, I find it most enjoyable to absorb myself into a story. I consider this to be one of the best uses of my time. Apart from the act of reading being an extremely pleasing act for me, I am also doing another of my favorite activities, learning. This is because I am not reading the run-of-the-mill teen lit that is what most of my peers read if they ever pick up a book. I am reading true literature, from authors like Frank Herbert, Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Dan Brown. These authors, among others, have deep undercurrents of philosophy and history permeating their works, as well as terrific styles of writing. These attributes combine to create works of art, which not only provide enjoyment within the actual story, but also in the meanings and undertones of the novels. Most of my peers to not see the beauty, but I do, and I therefore cannot conform to society in this instance.
Now, it may appear that I am going off on a tangent, and that is correct. This is another example of something that I have had to deal with concerning AS. My mind is constantly fluctuating from one idea to the next; focusing on a single idea every once in a while if that idea seems important or interesting. This can become extremely annoying, especially during school. Many times, during an extremely boring lecture my mind will begin to wander, and I will have to fight to return my attention to the teacher. I know this is not something stand happens to people with AS, but it is an occurrence that is even harder to deal with, because my mind wanders anyway, sometimes even during interesting classes. Even while writing this, something I find enjoyable, my mind is wandering. I am thinking about Aristotle, Descartes, my dog, and if I have any homework to do, I have three separate songs stuck in my head, and I cannot stop thinking about the musical my school is preparing to put on. Having this many things running through my head is always annoying, but can also be gratifying. Just to know that I have the capability to have that much information running through my brain is exhilarating. I guess that is just another of my quirks.