The Good Points of Having Asperger's Syndrome
The bright sides to this autism spectrum disorder
For the past few years, I've been writing articles about my struggles with Asperger's Syndrome, then high-functioning form of autism that affects social interaction in ways that are oftentimes not too positive.
I've written about being thought of by many as a bit odd at best and an annoying and insensitive dork who doesn't realize it at worst, consequently being shunned and tormented by bullies during my formative years. I have also detailed in my writings how AS has deprived me of the ability to keep a job for any significant length of time, due to my inability to work well with those who I perceive as believing they are better human beings than me, as well as being unable to cooperate with most authority figures in the workplace, my brain seeing them as totalitarian oppressors.
Being an "aspie" has been a struggle for the over forty years that I've had this social disability, milestones such as being married with 2.5 kids in suburbia with a fulfilling and lucrative career seemingly being too difficult for me to attain, while at the same time most of my peers were achieving that "American Dream" with relative ease.
Surprisingly, however, it is not my intention to write another "poor me" tome about the agonies of my condition; there are enough of those online, and I am currently working on a book that describes in detail how I've struggled - and in numerous ways continue to struggle - with being an aspie over the course of my life.
Recently I was told that believe it or not, there are some benefits that I have had in having AS, and that I ought to write about it.
Asperger's manifests itself in various ways with various people; I don't personally know how it has enhanced other people's lives, but after thinking about it a bit, I do know how AS has benefited me.
Let's count the ways...
First, at the risk of sounding conceded, being an aspie has led me to being academically ahead of many of my schoolmates from an early age. I was reading at two years old, tested at an 11th grade level for grammar and reading comprehension at eleven years old, and was put in gifted classes through much of my K-12 years. In short, I was one of those smart kids, school being easy for me in elementary and junior high, getting more than my fair share of A's.
Secondly, when I was little I had a total fixation with maps and globes, which is a common Asperger's trait. Because of that, I could tell you how to get somewhere in whichever city I lived during my early scholastic days. I can recall tracing street maps off of atlases and the back of telephone books, much like a little girl would play with her Easy Bake Oven, staring at them for hours and memorizing the streets.
I'm sure this aspie obsession of mine would have come in handy if my family and I got lost while traveling somewhere.
During my youth and adolescence, different people and classmates have told me that I had an incredible memory for facts and events. Indeed, even today I would periodically find myself remembering things that happened 30 and 35 years before without any provocation. It would be as if it happened yesterday, or at least a few days ago, for no reason at all.
Since I discovered that superior rote memory is another aspie trait, I understood where my uncanny ability in that area came from.
Creativity was (and is) yet another Asperger's trait that I had, in that it was easier for me to imagine things and come up with stories and ideas about things than the average neurotypical kid. I remember coming up with funny tales as a child and drawing amusement parks and baseball stadiums at ages 11 and 12; I particularly recall making a ballpark out of red Lego blocks one time, using it as a toy for a while.
Lastly, throughout my life there have been different topics that have held my fascination to the point of me being obsessed with whatever it was I was into...
In grade school it was the Peanuts comic strip and characters, Robin Hood, and baseball, which continued to be a fixation of mine through my adolescent and young adult years. Later on in life I became obsessed with subjects such as college football (especially my alma mater's team), Las Vegas, and I've been getting into English Premier League soccer - football in their terms - as of late, reading everything I could and visiting websites about those things, the benefit being that I became an expert of sorts with those subjects.
Of course, this aspie trait was part of me being considered a bright kid (if not a little strange) who was further along that quite a few others in my age group as far as cognitive learning.
I will say one thing for all of these benefits that have come from my aspieness; for better of for worse, they have certainly contributed to the kind of person I am now.
And I suppose that has to count for something.
I do appreciate being considered a unique individual by a lot of folks I know as a result of all of this; that's certainly what I consider myself, which I have to say is a hell of a lot better that being thought of as boring.
It's my hope that having Asperger's will continue to provide benefits for me in the ways that I have described.