College by Way of Small Steps

Going to college with Asperger’s Syndrome may seem like an insurmountable obstacle, but believe me when I say that it really isn’t that difficult.

Sam-Allen

You don’t need to immediately hop right into a prestigious Ivy League college and shell out a fortune just as you’re starting your college life. Starting off college is easily achievable by finding a community college in your local area.

Coming to a Positive Outlook on your Asperger’s Diagnosis

Reader Responses and Questions with Ken Kellam

The following is a group of fantastic reader responses and questions related to Ken Kellam’s recent blog titled, “If There Were a Cure for Asperger’s”.

At Aspergers101 we strive to encourage an open conversation among the community. Here is a look at what people have been saying about Ken’s blog, along with a response to one of our readers from Ken.

“I love what you have so perfectly expressed! Our biggest challenges are living among members of a society made up of people who are afraid of differences that they don’t understand, making us another marginalized culture. It’s time to educate!”

-Nanci

 

“If Aspergers was ‘cured’ I would be deprived of some of the most wonderful, creative and passionate patients and friends that I am blessed to be connected with. My life would be duller, less fulfilled and less inspired by the courage and resilience individuals on the autism spectrum have shown me.

Want to be wowed?

Want to be inspired?

Want to love what you do?

Work to reduce social discrimination against individuals on the spectrum and consider their gifts. Want to explode the myth that individuals on the spectrum cannot empathize, love, be compassionate, parent well, love well, contribute to the quality of our lives? Meet someone on the spectrum! It’s called a spectrum because we’re all on it, no right or wrong, just differences to be celebrated, peace (and who really cares about that).”

-Bob

 

“I like your blog and agree with all you say – but how long has it taken you to arrive at your positive feelings about having Asperger’s? I’ve worked with many kids who suffer badly at school, particularly as they become adolescents, and find it really hard to cope with some of the social challenges of trying to be one of a group and relate to their peers. I will try to use what you say to encourage them but I don’t think we should minimize the problems either. The neuro-typical world can be an uncomfortable place.”

-Freja

Three Necessities for the High Functioning Autistic to Combat Depression

An Asperger's Bill of Rights

If you are a High Functioning Autistic (HFA), the odds are troublingly high that you also suffer from some form of depression. As someone who suffers from depression myself, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how to find happiness when you struggle with the burdens of having an autistic brain. One possibility for the prevalence of depression in autistic brains is that HFAs, for reasons distinct to their neurological condition, are innately more likely to feel depressed.

My sense, though, is that we tend to be depressed because life is difficult for us in ways that are somewhat different from the experiences of the Neurologically Typical (a satirical term for non-HFAs). As such, any discussion of why HFAs tend to be depressed must be approached as a social justice issue, with a clear statement of ethical axioms that, if followed, would help HFAs and non-HFAs alike.

Feeling With Heightened Senses

An Aspergers Perspective on Living With Sensory Integration Issues.

Generous.1Some of the greatest struggles I had before I went to treatment at 11 are sensory integration problems. My sensitivities to food, certain fabrics in clothes, and the feel of water on my skin created a huge struggle to be a fully functional human being. Growing up, I would throw tantrums whenever I would shower (gross right?), and I think at one point I went 3 months without a shower because whenever I did, it heightened my sensitivity to stimuli, and all inferno would break loose. I would scream for hours.

I would barely eat anything and what I did eat, I would eat over and over and over again. I loved mashed potatoes and yogurt for a time, and I think my mom let me eat it for breakfast when I was little. She was just grateful I would eat something so I didn’t starve to death.

Having sensory integration issues can set an autistic kid up for social failure. In my case, my hair was greasy and my outfits didn’t match, which can set them up for bullying. I would seem rude whenever I go to my friend’s house for dinner and don’t eat anything they give me.

A word to parents

For anyone who doesn’t understand a child with Autism, they may assume behavior associated with Sensory integration issues are due to bad parenting. That’s a bunch of bologna sandwiches. I believe any parent who is actively trying to help their child overcome the adverse symptoms of Autism is doing the best that they are capable of.

If There Were a Cure For Asperger’s Syndrome

Many diseases during our lifetime have been, if not eradicated completely, at least greatly minimized. These include smallpox and polio, among others. But will there ever be a cure for Asperger Syndrome? For that matter, does there need to be?

school icons on the blackboardRemember that A.S. isn’t a defect so much as a difference: That is, the Aspy brain is wired somewhat differently than that of the so-called “neurotypical.” While those differences do cause problems in a neuro-typical world at times, they can also be very beneficial if channeled and directed properly. For example, Einstein probably had A.S., but in spite of, or perhaps because of that, he went on to fill his resume with accomplishments that would give anyone cause for envy. Would you say he needs to be “cured”?

Asperger’s, “The Twilight Zone,” and The Perception of Beauty

Societal definitions of "normal" and "beautiful"

Remember Ellie Mae on “The Beverly Hillbillies?” She was portrayed by Donna Douglas, in her day considered one of the most beautiful women on television. But she also once played a character who wasn’t so beautiful.

In an episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled, “Eye of the Beholder,” Douglas portrayed a woman who was so ugly, she underwent an operation to make her less so. The suspense was built up by the fact that we never saw her face until the bandages around them were removed. When they were removed, they revealed her to be the strikingly beautiful woman she was, but the doctor recoiled in horror and said, “No change, no change at all.”

At that point, we saw the faces of the doctors and nurses around her, which were all distorted and misshapen in grotesque fashion. In the end, she’s sent to live in a colony with similarly “ugly” people, and accompanied by a handsome male escort. She asks him, “Why are some of us born so ugly?”

Obviously, her character was not inherently ugly, but she was simply born in the wrong world. That’s a dilemma similar to that which the Aspie faces.

Societal Pressures and the Mask of Fitting In

autalkz_ii___008___masks_by_mdchan-d9gsyc6

This comic actually touches upon two things (though, I hadn’t intended to do that). My main point is the “mask” we put up, and then I realized that it also lightly touches upon taking things/expressions literally.

On the shorter note, people on the spectrum have difficulties distinguishing between normal tones and sarcasm. There’s also trouble understanding expressions (like “two birds with one stone”), allegories, and metaphors. When I first heard the expression “apple of my eye”, I pictured someone’s eyes reflecting apples, for example.

When I had to read stories in high school on allegory and symbolism, it all went over my head. “Watership Down” is one of my favorite novels, but I still don’t pick up on the symbolism which is apparently in the novel. I’ll explain all that in further detail when I do a comic which actually delves more into the subject. The main subject I was trying to explain with this comic is autism vs society.

My Battle Plan for Communication

For much of my life, I have had a hard time understanding not only the non-verbal communication of others, but how my own non-verbal communication affected others. Sometimes, if I was irritated at someone, I would simply keep my mouth shut, the rationale being “They can’t hold me accountable for something I didn’t say.”

What I failed to realize was that sometimes silence speaks louder than anything you could say, or that you could say one thing, but your facial expressions, actions, and certainly body language tell the real story.

Asperger’s: Disease, or Difference?

Not too long ago, I was talking to a friend from high school and said, “I know everyone thought I was weird back in school.” He replied, “Ken, I never thought you were weird. I think we all knew you were different. We just didn’t know why.”

That sums up the “Aspie” in a nutshell. Everyone knows he’s different, including him. But they don’t know why. He may be seen as slow, undisciplined, maybe even retarded. The reality is, his brain is simply wired differently than that of most people. Because of this, he may struggle with things others take for granted, and may take longer than others to learn some things. However, this also means he can probably do things others couldn’t do to save their lives.

A classic example of this would be Temple Grandin. While watching “The Temple Grandin Story,” it occurred to me why her differences were both a blessing and a curse: Because nobody had a brain that worked like hers, nobody else could understand her, and so oftentimes, she was dismissed as an eccentric or kook. But by the same token, because no one’s brain worked like hers, nobody could do the things she did. Similarly, I struggled with a lot of things that came easy to my classmates in school. But I could also do things they could never do, such as figuring math problems in my head.