Adults with Aspergers and Social Techniques: Learning Personal Space

Q&A with Ken Kellam

Q: Could you go into detail on other types of relationships (friends, co-workers, acquaintances, etc.) that you have had? Do you have a specific example of a misstep? Or situation that you were able to handle because of something you had been taught?

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A: Years ago, I was asked to help lead songs for a college-age Bible study (I was 30). Eventually, some of the women in the group went to the leader and told him they were uncomfortable with the way I looked at them. I was asked not to come back. I was in complete shock, and kept trying to figure out where I went wrong.

Aspergers and Non-Verbal Cues: Making Relationships

People on the spectrum struggle to understand the meaning of non-verbal social cues. Unfortunately, this can be very hazardous when it comes to inter-personal relationships, especially those of a romantic nature.

aspie non-verbal social cues

I used to think I had a chance at a relationship with someone as long as they didn’t flat-out reject me. What I failed to understand was the non-verbal cues, i.e. not returning phone calls, not being receptive to conversation. But while these things may not come easy to the Aspie, they can certainly be taught.

College Students with Aspergers Give Their Experienced Advice: Part 3

Continuing our occasional theme of listening to the advice of college students who have “been there and done that,” please join me in listening to recommendations provided by four graduates of Marshall University.

College Students

Bradley, Nathan, Stephen, and Brian, each 2013 graduates of the university, responded to questions about personal goals, their experience with support programs, what they liked about campus, etc. But it is the final question I’d like to focus on for this essay.

What advice would you give the freshman “you,” if you could talk with your younger self prior to entering college?

Child with Asperger’s? Insight from someone who knows

Samuel Allen insightSo you’ve just found out that your child has Asperger’s Syndrome/High-Functioning Autism. What’s the next step? As an 18-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome, I can provide some insight:

People with Asperger’s seem to lean towards wanting space from others, and in some cases, family members as well.

If an Aspie is feeling unnerved by loud noises in the house, give them space and let their room be their sanctuary; it’s their quiet zone.

It has calmed me down in the past, so it should work for other Aspies as well. I’m mindful not to keep music and TV in other rooms too loud.

The Positive Side of Asperger’s

When I was young, teachers (and peers) realized I could do math in my head. In third grade, I got my multiplication tables down before anyone else. When I started a new school in eighth grade, my classmates discovered I could multiply two digit numbers times other two digit numbers in my head. My senior year of high school, I entered a “number sense” competition and placed 2nd out of 15. Right before I started college, I tested out of math and hence, never had to take it after high school.

Years later, I tracked down via email an old co-worker who had a successful career in advertising. He wrote back and told me he had recently been sitting in a business meeting with facts and figures flying around and thought about how nice it would be to have my math ability. To this day, if my parents or brother have a mathematical dilemma, I’m the “go-to” guy.

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.

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.

Middle School, High School, and College Through the Eyes of a Young Autistic

Middle school. The darkest and most hideous, oppressive years a human can fathom. When the hormones are just ripe enough to make you want to take on the whole world, but maturity has not yet developed enough to realize there are things such as consequences. But me, I did not get into any real trouble, instead I became profoundly confused and unhappy. These are years that are difficult to handle under even the best of circumstances. On top of this, my family moved from the Northeast to the Southwest just as I was about to start middle school. To take a young child from one environment and to suddenly thrust them into new ones is very distressing and painful.

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For the Autistic it can be hell. Somehow I managed to survive it all, and to escape being beat up by the other kids. One thing I didn’t escape? Humiliation. I had a tendency to laugh uncontrollably at the things I thought were funny at the time. I had always been led to believe that laughing at someone’s joke was the best genuine way to prove that you understood it, and that you admired their sense of wit. But somehow, laughing at everyone’s joke meant I was weird. Wanting to learn was weird. Humming music that I liked was weird. Reading books that I wasn’t required to because of a class was weird. My hair was weird.

Seriously. Other than my hair, someone explain to me what’s weird about any of that.

A Letter to My Daughter: Having a Sibling with ASD

There are so many moments in life that are filled with such amazing joy, and there are those that cause worry in the back of your mind. The kind that keeps you up at night and causes a pain deeper than you knew pain could go. While both of my children are my world, this is a letter to my 4-year-old daughter about her life, and how having a sibling with ASD affects her:

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Grace,

I see the look on your face when the day has stopped once again to tend to the same thing. The confusion I know you feel about the differences between yourself and your brother are very much real.