- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
My Perspective with Asperger's Syndrome: No Assisted Living Required.
A Unique Perspective ~ Some...language is involved
I say this is unique because lets face it. No two people are alike. That means that even someone with a diagnosis of whatever is as different from the last person with the same diagnosis as the rain is from the sun.
In 1996 I recieved the diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome. I was fourteen and after having a little incident which got me kicked out of middle school, I was forced to see a psychologist for two grueling years. Therapist after therapist stuck me with label after label and then I met Dr. McVeigh, who decided that Asperger's was the right term for me.
He and my mother looked at me in anticpation of my reaction the day he "broke the news" as it were.
Now, years after this I hear from parents who say that they were thrilled when their kid was diagnosed. Now they knew what was wrong with their kid and they knew how to work on it. I hear from people with the diagnosis who say they were happy too because now they knew why they were so different from others.
Me...I was floored. How can you feel relief when someone sits there and tells you that everything you are, everything you believe in, the things you love are all because of some disorder that some German guy cranked out while working in a mental institution? It didn't stop there.
I was fully mainstreamed before high school but I still had to go to the resource room in my freshman year and the case worker was a domineering bitch. She had a say in what classes I took. Whenever she made appointments with my mother (who worked nights, by the way and therfore needed to sleep during the day) she wouldn't keep them.
Boy that diagnosis sure helped out with my people skills, didn't it? Too bad everyone else didn't get a diagnosis either because it feels like their people skills were sorely lacking.
One of the main high lights of high school and middle school, however, was that if I was bullied by students it was somehow my fault. And now that I had this label to carry with me where ever I went (whether I wanted it or not) the teachers could just fall back and say, "Well of course it feels like you're being bullied, because you have Asperger's syndrome."
Freshman and Sophomore years, the caseworker, Jean, would try to set me up with "friends". She'd introduce me to other students in her resource room and stare like kids at a petstore watching a snake devour a mouse as she wondered why we didn't get along. You know, because as an Aspie I was so starved for friendship that it didn't occur to her that I might, you know, want to have something in common before she set me up on a playdate.
And of course the one time I made the mistake if introducing her to a friend I had made in middle school, she just gushed over it at the next evaluation meeting.
"Wow. Nathanielle has just come so far. He introduced me to his friend and I thought, wow, he came so far making a friend with my help and-" Yeah. She clearly had a lot of practice patting herself on the back which is why her arm didn't break in the process.
In my junior year I had a fairly decent circle of friends. I was no longer in the resource room so Jean mostly left me alone being too busy holding the leashes of her other students. And without intervention things came naturally. I finally told my guidance counselor that I didn't give a rat's ass what Jean thought, these are the classes I'm taking and that's final.
So, lets fast forward. I'm no longer in high school. I did a year in college and it was the biggest and most expensive mistake I made, but we won't get into that right now. It's important to understand how the first few years of my adult life went. Because after I decided I wasn't going back to college my mother decided she wasn't going to be living in Vermont any longer and I had to move out. Between jobs, however, I was forced to live with my aunt. Once I landed a job at Price Chopper I paid my aunt 100 dollars a month to stay in her trailer while I saved up for a place to live.
Now my aunt was well meaning enough. But she had the tenancy to tell EVERYONE about that I had Asperger's. Just like Jean and everyone else in school, they she saw the label and didn't see anything else.
So she would exaggerate the symptoms. She told my boss and she told a potential landlady when I was looking for a place. It wasn't her business to tell anyone but she felt I was just "in denial". Because of her interference they refused to train me on cash register at Price Chopper and I was stuck pushing a broom for two years.
My life drastically improved the day I moved out of Bennington. I lived in Burlington, away from the influence of people who thought they were helping me. When I got a job I kept my mouth shut about the Asperger's bit and people actually gave me training and responsibilities that I deserved. I got a job at Rite Aid and made supervisor in my first three months, because my bosses saw me and the work, not my diagnosis.
So what am I trying to get at? Well, a number of things.
First off, Aspergers is not Autism. Yes, Hans Asperger worked with autistic children when he "discovered" the syndrome. But while Asperger's has similar features to Autism they are not the same thing.
I'm quite capable of functioning on my own and I was always capable of forming relationships. Basically my personality was too different, I had a developed vocabulary, I had a few eccentric interests and yeah, this made forming friendships difficult. But guess what, that was who I was. Having some diagnosis didn't change that and it never will.
Yes, I have some trouble with anxiety and I like to have a routine to keep things in order. Who doesn't?
All Asperger's really is in the end is a word that describes a series of characteristics. It is not a "disorder" because while my life certainly has disorder, I guarantee you it was not Asperger's that caused it. It is not a mental illness or any other illness.
I don't have a job coach and I don't need one. I spent my life railing against anyone even suggesting the idea of medicating me, or sticking me in an assisted living facility where I'd be told to when to shit and what color.
So I hope this gives you at least a little insight into the mind of someone who does have the diagnosis of Asperger's, but does not like to be treated like someone with a disability. I want to be treated just like you would treat anyone else. This who I am. You can take it or leave it.