Autism Spectrum Disorder a Personal Account
Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children
My nephew PJ was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when he was 7 years old. With the help of his family when he was young and health professionals he was able to get through his school years and attended University. He enjoys a full interesting life. But it was not always like that.
For the first seven years of his life he was suffering untold misery and desperation. Our family were completley mystified and looking for answers as to why he could not cope. He wanted to kill himself many times but was not able. He would beg his parents to do it for him. The doctors told us he was fine and there was nothing wrong with him. We wanted to help him but could not get any answers.
My Son Needs Help
The day came one morning when his mum was having another battle to get him to go to school. She saw the sheer terror in his eyes as he begged her to let him stay. As a mother she knew she had to protect him and promised PJ that he would never have to go to school again unless he wanted to.
She vowed that day to fight the system and insisted that the doctor referred him to a children's psychiatrist. A few months later he was diagnosed with Autism. They said he was one of the most extreme cases they had seen. In 1999 in this country it usually took over a year to get an appointment with a child psychiatrist.
PJ did go back to school because he loves learning. He was able to cope better when he knew what triggers to avoid and the schools provided extra support. He did not attend school on a Wednesday because he needed that day off to cope with the mental and physical challenges he faced. He could just about manage those two days knowing he had that time to relax at home. He was then able to go through it again for the last two days of the week.
PJ has kindly agreed to share his feelings as he was growing up, before and after his diagnosis of Autism. He wrote a school project as a teenager about his life, so you will hear from him as a 15 year old first. He then talks as an adult and how he is doing now. This is his story in his own words below.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
My name is PJ. I am 15 years old. I have Aspergers Syndrome. My story so far is outlined below in a Project I wrote for school.
My Experience of Life with Aspergers
I was very aware of the problems in the world from the age of five and it was much too difficult for me to tolerate at such a young age. A child so young should be in a state of ignorant bliss until they are emotionally developed enough to know about things like death, murder, war, slavery, racism and rape.
Stressed Out All the Time
My Parents knew there was something wrong with me as I was completely stressed out. I could not go to school or wear shoes or certain clothes. I was having complete meltdowns at home and was in a terrible state all the time. My mother tells me the last straw for her came when I was having a complete meltdown about going to school one morning.
I Wanted to Die
She saw the absolute desperation and hopelessness in my eyes as I begged her not to send me. She realized that I came first and she as my mother was there to protect me and not go by the rules and make sure I attended school.
Child Psychologist and Diagnosis
My mother took me to our doctor who made an appointment with a child psychologist in the Mater hospital here in Dublin Ireland.
No Way Out
I could see no way out of the life I had. My mother tells me I was constantly telling her and the rest of the family that no one could help me and I would be feeling like this for ever. One day I went into my mother and begged her to kill me with a knife. I told her I had tried a few times myself but couldn’t do it. We both cried more tears of helplessness that day.
I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome on the first visit with the child psychologist as my symptoms were very evident. I was seven years old. The doctor wrote a prescription for Prozac to help with my bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts. Today at fifteen years old I have control of some of my traits and now most people who are not aware of my condition would just see me as a bit eccentric.
Coping with School
School was still a terrible problem for me. I was still stressed every time I went to school but at least my parents made the teachers aware of Aspergers Syndrome and the reason I behaved in certain ways in class. Gradually the tablets and the understanding of the condition helped me and my family cope.
I Found Sanctuary in my Books
I didn't care much for fiction but fact and science fascinated me to no end. I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge that aroused my senses and consumed my mind. I wasn't very sociable and in fact I had no friends at all; I didn't even know what a friend was. But that didn't matter as I moved on to bigger and better things. When I came home from school I would head straight to my room to read.
I Read Einstein, Newton and All I Could Find
By the age of eight my search for knowledge became more refined. Physics was my calling in life. I read Einstein, Newton and anything I could find. My interests turned to astronomy and I joined the Irish Astronomers Association. Once a month we would go up to the Phoenix Park in Dublin where many large telescopes were set up and we stayed there, looking at the stars for nearly two hours.
As time went by, my interest in astronomy dwindled as I entered a darker period of my life. Many failed suicide attempts and fits of depression marked a premature end to my sad excuse for a childhood.
At the age of nine I made my first friend. She was a girl much like myself called Caoimhe. She was an outcast as I was; ostracized by the ‘normal’ children in my school. She didn't care how strange I was and she was a comforting companion to help me out of my downward spiral. I went to her tenth birthday party after she invited me as she was my only friend and she lived very close by.
On my way walking back from the party I ran into a small boy a few years younger then me. He was being bullied by two children who though older than him were still younger then me. I chased them away and me and the boy, whom I later found out was named Mark, struck up a friendship that lasts to this day. Though he has moved further away than I can walk to I still see him twice a week. We are great friends and I saw him nearly every day till he moved.
Attending Secondary School
I entered secondary school and I found out how much trouble Aspergers Syndrome can be in higher levels of education. It was very hard and stressful at first but I adapted and made a small, tightly knit group of friends. I did what I could to cope and in time the Junior Cert came around.
It was a very stressful time but due to the great amount of support from my parents and the staff in the resource room in my school, “G4”, I got through it with great results and nobody was killed, ha ha ha.
It has allowed me to explore many different subjects and examine my abilities. I will be going into fifth year soon and I have chosen to do all three science subjects of Physics, Biology and Chemistry, as these are subjects I enjoy and excel in.
This is where my story ends for now but it continues as we speak. My story may not be a happy one but I wouldn't change it for the world as it has made me the man I am today and I believe it is worth it. In this situation, the end justifies the means.
Aspergers Syndrome Characteristics
The basic view is that someone with AS will usually have most of the following traits:
(1) Have a hard time grasping the concept of non-verbal or semi-verbal communication (ie body language, sarcasm, subtext and taking things literally that are meant as figure of speech)
(2) Fail to develop relationships with people in their own age group.
(3) Will have a hard time expressing emotions or understanding the feelings of others.
(4) Have a very intense interest in one or more topics. (usually very specific fields)
(5) Stick to some very strict routines or rituals (ie. always brushing their teeth for exactly 4 minutes, exactly 10 minutes before going to bed at exactly the same time every night)
(6) Subconscious repetitive movements.
(7) Impaired social interaction.
(8) No significant delay in the development of other areas (ie. language)
These can cause problems in every day life, for example; when I was 5 years old, someone phoned my house, I answered the phone and the person asked if my mother was there. I said “yes she is”, and then hung up the phone.
You may be laughing at that right now as it is funny however the harsh truth is that some of these problems can be somewhat depressing. Like how, due to trait #2, I didn’t have a friend my own age until I was 13 years old.
Aspergers Syndrome Isn’t All Bad
Han Asperger had a very positive view of Aspergers Syndrome. In 1979 he said that for a career in Science and Art, “a dash of autism is essential," for success. The necessary ingredients may be an ability to turn away from the everyday world, from the simply practical, an ability to re-think a subject with originality so as to create in new untrodden ways, with all abilities channeled into the one specialty.”
Many Famous and Successful People
For example, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Mozart, George Orwell, Bill Gates and Satoshi Tajiri; the creator of PokeMôn. These have all be successful in fields where both logical and abstract thinking are required and the first three have made breakthroughs in science that are still some of the most influential of all time. This implies that many of the biggest advancements in human history were created due to the abstract reasoning of those with Aspergers traits.
10 Early Signs of Autism
Aristotle The Father of Science
Aristotle, the father of science, is believed to have had Autism. During his time in history most scientific questions would have answered with ‘the Gods did it’. It was his burning desire to find a deeper meaning and pattern as to why the world behaves as it does that drove him to invent the scientific method and change how we view the world forever. Because of this breakthrough it could be said that the entire human race as we know it came about due to the traits of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
That was part of a School Project I did when I was fifteen years old. Many people read it and were so interested in it that they asked for copies. My resource teacher also asked me to make a copy for every teacher in the school. Including family, friends and my psychologist who wanted copies there will be well over fifty made.
I started this project as a learning experience and it has turned into a relatively widely published medical article. I hope that reading this will help other kids in my school with Aspergers Syndrome to be understood better and be much more accepted.
Hello this is PJ again: My Story Continues
Discovering something new every day. I am writing this now, two years on as I am halfway through my Leaving Certificate exams. (High School Diploma). I am doing very well thanks to the help of the amazing teachers in my school who are always willing to go out of their way to do that little bit extra.
In the past two years I have opened up and have began to trust people more, gaining many new and interesting friends on the way. I now express myself and my own unusual way of thinking and acting without holding back
I wore surgical scrubs and a stethoscope into my biology exam because I thought it would put everyone in a good mood; which it did, even the teachers laughed and gave compliments. I try to do at least one unusual thing every day to make the world more interesting and I never have to look far.
Off to College
After my exams I'll be going to college to study computer science which is my passion now. I haven’t talked to Caoimhe in a long while since she moved away which makes me sad but the last I saw of her she was happy so I'm optimistic. I still talk to Mark through email, though I don't see him as often as I used to, maybe every two months.
Every day I'm discovering something new and interesting which changes me a little so who knows what I'll be like in a year or two. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that still no one will get killed. Hahaha!
PJ now attends Dublin City University and has just completed his first year of a four year Degree in Computer Science Applications. He loves it!
PJ is now in his second year of University and is still enjoying his life!
PJ has completed his time at university. He has a small circle of friends who spend time together. He enjoys his adult life.
Signs of Autism in a 3 year old
Living with Aspergers Syndrome
My nephew PJ has explained his thoughts and experiences up to this point of his life living with Aspergers Syndrome. As he says it is not all bad now. He has hope and enthusiasm for his future. He did have a terrible few years in his early life where neither his parents or himself knew what was happening to him and why he felt the way he did.
Thankfully he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of seven and received the medical help he needed. He also received the support of his parents as they finally knew what was wrong with him and how they could help their son
Family Support for Children with Autism
I believe it is very important for the sanity and physical well being of the small child with ASD to have the support and love of their parents. If the Autistic child is allowed to be different and accepted as such, then he or she will be able to grow up with confidence in their abilities and future. They will accept they are different than the majority of people in this world and will like PJ and myself be glad of this difference and embrace it.
Autism Spectrum Disorder - ASD
There are more and more children being diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome nowadays. This is good because it means they can get help a lot sooner. I was only diagnosed a few years ago in my late 50's.
Here in Ireland and some other countries the medical profession has started to diagnose Aspergers as the 'Higher End of Autism Spectrum Disorder' rather than calling it Aspergers.