What it's Like to Have Aspergers Syndrome: A Story

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What's it like to have aspergers syndrome?

Asperger's syndrome is a high-functioning form of autism. One of the most notable characteristics of aspergers syndrome is a problem with communication. Although people with aspergers speak, and may have a very extensive vocabulary, they have difficulty understanding the subtle nuances of communication. Nonverbal communication can be particularly difficult for some of them; therefore, forming lasting friendships is a huge task.

I am not an expert on aspergers syndrome, but I do have a son who has this syndrome. I've also had students in class with this disability. I have had the opportunity to observe individuals with aspergers syndrome and how they react to others. The following fictional story is based on my observations. I have written this piece of "flash fiction" to help others gain a better understanding of aspergers syndrome and what issues these gifted individuals face. I have attempted to tell this story from an objective point of view, as if I were a person looking at the scene and reporting what happened. My goal is not to make any judgments, but simply provide you with something to think about. Following is the story, "In a Cartoon World."

"In a Cartoon World"

The new kid came to school dressed in camouflage every day.

The girls sat at the back of the classroom and whispered. "Why does he dress like that?"

"Where'd he come from? Who is he?"

The boys just sat, stared, fidgeted.

At breaktime, most the kids would go over off of school grounds and have a smoke.

The new kid wandered about the classrooms or the school grounds alone.

He didn't say much, but he was polite when asked a question and would reply very matter-of-factly.

Sometimes he doodled in class. The teacher would say, "Jack, pay attention."

Without even looking up he would respond, "I am." And he continued doodling.

The teacher figured he wasn't bothering anyone, so she let him doodle.

One day the teacher walked around the classroom and noticed the doodles in Jack's notebook. They were extremely detailed cartoons with intricate lines and beautiful shading.

"Those are beautiful drawings," said the teacher. "You're very talented."

"Thank you," was all he said.

********************

He was quiet, but sometimes he followed people around.

Sometimes, not very often though, he joined a group on the school grounds and appeared to join in the conversation. But after awhile the kids would walk away from him. Jack would follow them for a bit, then wander off by himself again.

*******************

One morning three girls went into the principal's office. "That new kid is weird. He follows us around," said the shortest of the three.

"Yeah, he's creepy. He draws pictures of cartoon characters and guns," said the red head girl.

"He's just plain scary," said the third girl.

"Has he done anything to hurt you?" asked the principal.

"No...but he's just weird," said the redhead girl.

"Well, we're all a little bit weird! That's what makes each of us an individual," said the principal. "If he hasn't done anything to you or said anything bad to you, or threatened you, I don't know why you're here. It's time to go back to class."

The girls got up and left the office.

********************

A couple doors down from the office in the classroom at a desk sits a boy dressed in camouflage doodling. His head is bent as he scrutinizes every line of his drawing. Each line is precise and the shading mirrors shadows perfectly. In his cartoon world, he is in control, and he is safe.

*********************

A person can only guess what it's like to have aspergers syndrome. The important thing to remember is: The world can be a very difficult place for these individuals and we need to accept them and try to understand them because they have much to contribute to our world.

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Comments 28 comments

Old Pete profile image

Old Pete 4 years ago from Brighton UK

Julie - you clearly have an understanding of some of the results of AS. I could relate to much of this story, but it was only after some thought that I realised that it was a closer reflection of my son when he was a teenager.

I am now 76 and it was just over 3 years ago that I was involved with an in depth discussion about the differences between introverts and extroverts. The question was raised about the connection between being an introvert and the relationship with autism. Out of interest I completed an on-line questionnaire which suggested that I had full blown AS. I had never heard of it. To cut a long story short, my son at that time was concerned about their fourth child who had some quite severe autistic tendencies. They had been exploring AS and concluded that this was the closest they had come to finding an explanation. From there on we realised that my son (who fits well with your story) had AS and with hindsight so did my father.

I have very mixed feelings about the way that society and /or the education system in general deals with these situations. You summed up my dilemma when you said, "Early intervention is important". Is AS a disability or a natural phenomena that needs to be encouraged? I am encouraged by the way my granddaughter realises that she is different – she seems to have listened to what has been said – and then chooses for herself.

Personally, when I found out about AS I was very excited. I had always been the odd one out - and now I knew something of the reason why - and how others who may have had AS had contributed to the advances in knowledge and understanding because of their 'blinkered' approach.

With hindsight it would seem that I found the perfect job in 1967 when, even at the age of 30, I was offered a job as a computer programmer – and I've been playing with computers ever since.

But my real obsession (if that is the right word) has been considering, “what is the purpose of life?” I cannot remember ever doubting the existence of God, but I have built up a bit of a reputation for asking the awkward questions to which there are no easy answers. I have come to the conclusion that there is an enormous difference between the Christian RELIGION and the Christian FAITH. I've mentioned this because I have a blog that focuses on this but which also includes some of my own thoughts about the way that I have been influenced by AS – including a reference to the series of articles on Hub Pages written by Earner. My note can be found here - http://roomofgrace.wordpress.com/aspergers-syndrom...

I would just mention that I had previously been contributing to Hub Pages but a number of my posts had subsequently been rejected because they were in part what I had written on my own blog.


lokiloo 5 years ago

Julie I am amzed by the way your descriptions cut to the core of Aspergers. My Aspie son is now 18 and has left school but that was him at school, in camo gear! Your paper on theory of mind is also fantastic: my son's biggest on-going problem is in that overlapping area between rigid thinking and black and white analysis.


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 5 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

That often is the case-- perhaps we can all learn something from children.


shea duane profile image

shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

My son also has Asperger's; most of the children with whom he deals are accepting of his behaviors. It's the adults in our lives who are harsh and heartless.


CMCastro profile image

CMCastro 5 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

Thank you for this story. Working with special needs children, it will definitely be handy to remember the characteristics of Aspergers.


Joann Nellis 6 years ago

great hub. Thanks for sharing. My son also has Aspergers. Sadly many of my son's teacher do not understand that when he is "doodling" or looking in the opposite direction, he is still paying attention. They also do not understand that he can pay attention better if he sits in a bean bag chair as opposed to a straight back chair. Aspergers is so misunderstood. My son has suffered a lot of abuse due to his differences. Most principals do not support the Asperger child, the support the ones who fit the cookies cutter mold. Thankfully at this time we finally have a principal who is great with my son. But he is in High School. Its been a long tough struggle. I so appreciate other parents sharing their stories. Thank you again.


shawna 6 years ago

this is so my son only its blue now, was camouflage clothes, and he lines everything up


Hikikomori 6 years ago

Nice hub.


Limitless profile image

Limitless 6 years ago from South Dakota

Thanks so much for sharing Julie. Information is so powerful and your sharing is so helpful to those who have never been exposed or don't understand. I have a son who has physical disabilities and it is interesting to see how people react to an active 4 year old who can't walk. Once they are willing to ask and learn their reaction and interactions change completely. Thanks for sharing.


Kay Candle profile image

Kay Candle 7 years ago from Naples Florida

I loved your flash fiction on this Julie. I know a few people with Aspbergers personally, in fact I suspect my oldest son, may have a very mild case. My six year old was diagnosed with Autism 3 years ago, and we have quite a challenge at home as you can imagine. Every time I meet someone with Aspbergers though I am so drawn to them and feel a connection with them. I really felt drawn to the young man in your story. I think you did a great job portraying some basic personality traits and social challenges of Aspbergers in so few words! Enjoyed it!


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 7 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

At times we are all a bit "lopsided," and that's all right. Celebrate and make the most of yours gifts, or talents. Everyone has important and special qualities to share with the rest of the world. Thanks for your comment. Julie


bob wierdsma 7 years ago

I was diagnosed with "non-verbal learning disability or aspergers syndrome" a few months ago at the age of 56(!) although I'm still the same person I always was, and considered myself always to be somewhat introverted. I have a fairly narrow range of interests - cartooning, computer graphics, photography, choir, piano/organ, etc. and one pastor at one time thought I might be a bit "lopsided" in my range of interests.


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 7 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

filarecki,

Thank you, I'm glad readers see both perspectives in the story. It's good your friend is learning to understand himself better; understanding will allow him to find more of a sense of peace within himself. I'm sure as friend you will offer him the support and understanding he needs. Julie


filarecki profile image

filarecki 7 years ago from United States

Wonderful story that depicts both sides of a situation. A friend of mine was just diagnosed with mild Asperger's, and he feels that, for the first time in his life, he can understand things that have happened to him all his life, and why he responded as he did in certain situations. He is relieved to finally have a better understanding of himself.


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

Jeanette, Focusing on strengths is so important! I'm glad you found the flash fiction enllightening, and I hope others do too. Thanks so much for compliments and taking time to read this hub. Julie


Jeanette M 8 years ago

Julie, I worked for several years in special needs in a public school system. What I learned through that experience is that we are all different. We all have our strengths and limitations and that it is important never to underestimate ANYONE. The key in education, in my opinion, is to find the strengths and focus on that rather than the limitations. For instance, if a child is a kinetic learner, do what you can to give them the opportunity to solve tasks using a hands on approach. So many children fail to thrive in school because they are expected to conform to the dominant learning styles. Further, socially differences in personality and behavior are hard for people to adjust to especially when they don't understand the underlying reasons for those differences. Your article is enlightning and your flash fiction is a great way to illustrate how Asperger's is experienced and percieved. Nicely done

Jeanette


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

lilfaerie, I think in life you do what you have to do. There are times that are incredibly stressful, but there are good times too. What does not break us, makes us stronger-- I think that holds true with family bonds, too. Thank you for comments. Julie.


lilfaerie profile image

lilfaerie 8 years ago from Hemet, CA

Wow, I admire your commitment. Its hard just to be a mom, but having a child with special needs must put you and your family through tremendous stress, but probably strengthens the family bond at the same time. I don't know, just speculating, but I admire your contributions all the same! Great work!


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

Ripplemaker, Thanks for reading. Share a hug with someone today. Julie


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Oh Julie, it makes me want to go and hug your child.  Thanks for sharing. 


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

flutterbug, I hope more people are learning about it because it seems to be on the increase. Thank you for your response. Julie


flutterbug77 profile image

flutterbug77 8 years ago from USA

Thank you for bringing Asperger's syndrome to light. Not many people, including myself have heard of it. God bless you and your son.


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

cjcs, Thanks for the compliment. Your main paragraph reminds me of the way I think my son thinks -- his mind goes in at least five directions at once, and all the possibilities could be the "right" answer! Thank you for your insightful remarks. Julie


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

gamegirl, you're right-- many people with aspergers syndrome live very normal, productive lives. They, like others with disabilities, learn to compensate. Julie


cjcs profile image

cjcs 8 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

The story sounds a lot like me in kindergarten :-)

While I have never had a formal diagnosis (don't want to know), all the tests I've taken indicate very decided Asperger tendencies, so I've researched it a fair amount. There is definitely a question as to whether it is a problem at all, or simply a side-effect.  E.g. if you have a scale where 1 is "normal" and 5 is an acute example of Aspergers, a lot of science/math/computer types are at about a 3.

If you find your niche, it's not bad at all.  And...if you keep working at it, the social aspects get easier over time (just another problem to solve, after all).  I was once the weird kid that your "cartoon" describes, now I'm the weird adult who seems to be able to talk to just about anyone.  Yeah, never quite able to shake the "weird" adjective, but it's not crazy weird, just slightly-skewed weird. For example, many people's thinking is "inside the box".  Creative types try to "think outside the box".  Me?  I can't help but wonder: does it need to be a box?  Is a container necessary at all?  If it is, then can we use different shapes?  And what about what the box/container/whatever is made of?  Can we make it out of something else? If all of those are options, then how do those options, both separately and in various combinations, effect the result? (Yes, it's very noisy in my head.)

Great flash, btw.  Very illustrative.

CJ

 


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

Ralph, Aspergers syndrome is a form m of autism, and autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning it covers a wide range. Some people with autism have no verbal skills, while others have verbal skills but cannot understand nonverbal communication well. The medical community and the educational sometimes have different criteria for establishing a diagnosis.

Many people exhibit characteristics of autism, yet would not meet criteria for being labeled autistic. It is a peculiar disorder, and there is much more to learn about it. Yet, experts suspect many great people have been autisitc -- Einstein comes to mind. I suspect you're right -- there are many people walking around who exhibit characterisitics of aspergers syndrome. Thank you for your comments. Julie


gamergirl profile image

gamergirl 8 years ago from Antioch, TN

You're right, Ralph. Asperger's is a part of the autistic spectrum, and it has it's own internal "degrees" but overall, individuals with ONLY Asperger's can generally live mostly normal lives. :)

My soon-to-be Husband has a mild case of Asperger's, and living with him is just on this side of interesting.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 8 years ago

Touching story. I've often wondered if Asperger's may not be a matter of degree rather than an either/or, you have it or you don't have it, condition. I know several people who I suspect may have a mild form of Asperger's.

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