I'm not even going to attempt to offer more factual information than the two excellent writeups here. ModernAngel
offers a decent summary for those who want soundbite-level information, and BlueDragon
fills in the details.
No, this is going to be my first attempt at a subjective node.
I have something of a vested interest in this topic, for two reasons. One is that I have a younger brother who is fully autistic
. He was lucky enough to be caught around the age of two, and have his treatment
begin then. Various therapeutic techniques have been tried, as there is no current, realistic hope of a cure. He is lucky enough to have two loving parents who, despite being divorced, spend a lot of time and effort to see that he grows up as normal
This isn't about him, though.
It's about me.
All the theoretical knowledge
in the world, even coupled with experience
dealing with PDD
-spectrum disorders, will not make it so that you can truly understand what is going on inside the poor unfortunates' heads. I have begun to understand, to a degree, because I have no choice but to do so. Before anyone jumps me on this claim, I ask that you calmly finish reading what I have to say.
For starters, I have Asperger's Syndrome
There. It's been said.
I've spent several years trying to understand other people and their worldviews, only to have it hammered home repeatedly that I really am abnormal. Repeated discussion, at length, with friends, family, co-workers, associates, and even classmates has revealed to me that, though I am considered extremely high-functioning
, by the general diagnostic criteria of the PDD
-spectrum, I am also far from the average.
Unlike many of my fellow PDD
sufferers, though, I wasn't informed of my condition until a few months before I turned 18. When it was explained to me, and the symptoms and indications were carefully delineated, a pattern emerged. My whole life had been a horrible struggle with a disease that was subtle enough that I passed for normal in most peoples' eyes. Granted, it was at one extreme of the "normal" scale, but it was close enough to be overlooked by layman and mental health professional alike.
I take a look at the list of symptoms that BlueDragon
provides, and it disturbs me, as much as it did when I first was exposed to the idea of having a PDD
, to see how many of them apply to me. I won't waste your time listing them here, but any interested parties can /msg me for further details.
My childhood was characterized by a profound alienation from others. I had few friends, spent more time in the solace of books and learning than I did on the rough-and-tumble pursuits of my peers. I was the shy, soft-spoken, bespectacled nerd who could answer nearly anything the teacher asked, and frequently worked above the appropriate grade level. I am one of two people in my city to have tested high enough to enter the public school's gifted program in first grade (this number may have increased slightly in the last 5 years, which is when I stopped keeping track of it). All throughout my elementary school career, I aced nearly anything put in front of me, though I was constantly taken advantage of or abused by the people around me. Little did I know, I was fighting a battle that I had been ill-equipped to face.
Middle school and highschool were a nightmare. Freed of the rigid structure of the elementary classroom, I floundered and began to slowly slide down into the realms of Cs, Ds, and Fs. It wasn't until my freshman year of highschool that I actually failed a class, though.
Interestingly enough, it was during this time period that my parents began to lose hope of ever figuring out was "wrong" with me. Upon the advice of my school counselor, they began to treat me as if all of these things were directly and inextricably my fault. Apparently the memories of taking me to a therapist for depression at the age of eight had begun to fade from their minds...
I waded through highschool, as best I could, with the only aid being a band of friends that had assembled in answer to the social pressures of adolescence, and the sweet, sweet crutch of antidepressants. It is during the three years prior to my diagnoses that a new version of my...I'm not sure exactly how to describe this idea (a concept I will address later)...psyche, for lack of a better word, began to emerge. Rather than rolling over to verbal abuse, I learned to dish it back. I went out for the football team and successfully made into a starting position, though my social ineptness lead to much ridicule from my teammates. I also discovered a love for drama, and began delving into the world of being other people.
A knee injury, a forced trip with the Colorado Outward Bound School
, and a transfer later, I returned to my true calling, and the thing that kept them from diagnosing me the longest: writing. I enrolled in a special arts program at another highschool, and, for the first time in my life, got to present myself exactly as I wished to, without someone following me and carrying stories of my past.
It was a fantastic success and a crushing failure, all at once. Though I met my fiancé there, I also was out of the program in a year, due to personality clashes with the very teacher who had fought to get me in. I moved on to write for the school newspaper and dabble in the art
departments, once again exhibiting non-typical behavior for someone afflicted with PDD
My life since graduating is largely immaterial to this story, though I'll be glad to elaborate if asked.
What should have stuck out to anyone who knows about these sorts of disorders are three specific things: willing attempts at socialization, demonstration of self-driven creativity, and a stable relationship. None of these things are terribly common in PDD
sufferers, and yet I displayed them all. Most amazingly, I've been told, is my command of the written word. While not masterful, by any means, I am much more effective in this medium than I ever am verbally.
I have a theory regarding this phenomenon, and it goes something like this:
Most of the social and linguistic inhibition in Asperger's
is related to nonverbal cues, and certain ambiguous verbal characteristics like tone, inflection, and rhythm. For those of us who are wired this way, verbal communication requires either intense intellectual effort (as we translate the cues that most respond to instinctually), or a very patient audience. The written format, however, requires a precision and descriptiveness that can be readily understood, through contemplation and careful revision (in the case of expressing ideas) or research (in the case of understanding the expression of others).
It seems, then, only natural that my intellect find a way out through the written word, when the spoken word becomes so difficult to deal with.
The best analogy I've been able to devise for this process uses the idea of a phrase book for a foreign language. When communicating verbally, I feel as if I am carefully assembling blocks from a self-made translation guide, hoping to convey my meaning without stumbling or sounding too foolish. When writing, however, I can conveniently look up anything I am uncertain of, and even include the definition I'm using without seeming too odd. Most people, aside from philosophers, don't seem to have the time or inclination to duplicate this meticulousness in spoken dialogues.
I think I've rambled enough on the subject enough for now. However, I'd be glad to expand further, if it's desired that I do so.
Edit: My earlier attempt to edit out spelling mistakes apparantly failed, so here it is, run through a spell-checker as it originally should have been.