This is ‘our’ experience of Asperger’s Syndrome; since AS is known as a ‘pick and mix’ syndrome, other parents will have different problems and different solutions.
C failed his hearing test when he was a baby. After years of visits to hearing specialists and nothing being done, we were eventually informed that there was nothing wrong with C’s hearing; he just chose not to hear. This was because he was in his own little world. He was diagnosed at around the age of 9 with Asperger’s Syndrome, a ‘generally’ mild form of autism usually associated with an above average IQ.
We had lived for all that time believing something was wrong with his hearing, but that was all. We put the trouble he was in at school down to his being unable to hear things. It was only after an Educational Psychologist (there are some good ones) made the diagnosis that all the little traits which we had accepted as being C, also made up a Syndrome!
What sort of traits were they? He was obsessive…if he played with anything, it was that toy to the exclusion of all others. This obsession may only have lasted a couple of days, it may have lasted several weeks, but each time it was only the one thing. From around the age of 5 or 6, it was
videos. He would watch the same video over and over and over again.
When he played with toys, everything was always in a pattern…generally a straight line pattern – a square, a rectangle, a straight line. He did not like curves and positively hated disorder. (That did not stretch to keeping his bedroom tidy though).
If his routine was disrupted, he would have terrible temper tantrums. It was necessary to prewarn him of everything and prepare him. This meant even to warning him that in ten minutes he would be going to bed; he needed to adjust from what he was currently doing to what he would be doing.
He is a great one for rules. He doesn’t always follow them, but generally speaking, once he accepts why a rule is in place, he sticks to it and becomes very irate if others don’t. When we are out and about, the number of times he wants to report someone to the police for breaking the rules…generally drivers…is phenomenal. I would be very wary of anyone with AS becoming a policeman…you certainly won’t get off with a warning! 🙂
The biggest problem we had was how he interacted with other children in school, or didn’t. All the other things we accepted as part of him. It was only when he had problems with other children that we felt we had a problem. C’s AS is very mild, but even he has problems gauging people and
their feelings and reactions.
He will not be able to see that he is boring another child to death…and will not let them go when he feels he has a captive audience. He will not play nicely with other children…they break a rule and he feels mortally wounded.
He constantly thinks that ‘they are out to get him’ (this final feeling I now think may have been more to do with the bullying which he suffered, although other AS children report the same thing so I don’t know). For example, his school was all open plan classrooms. He was always sat with the teacher and therefore was at the front. He would see a child in the next classroom facing towards him (actually listening to his own teacher) and he truly believed that this child would be planning to attack him.
This lack of empathy can sometimes cause all sorts of problems. If someone hurts themselves, he will laugh. He has not realised that the other person is upset. If he sees someone cry, he has now ‘learnt’ that this means they are
unhappy. However, because it is a learned response, he finds it a difficult thing to translate to a different situation. For example, if he cannot find something in a bookshop, he has learnt that you can go and ask an
assistant. He has also learnt now that you can do that in a supermarket. But that does not mean he could ask in a clothes store. We have now taught him that wherever you are, if you have a problem, look for a person in authority
and ask for help. (This did not work in the school though…I never realised how few teachers actually want to help children).
Many AS children do not have any sense of humour; those that do tend to have a very ‘slap stick style’ sense of humour. For most, plays on words are very difficult for them to cope with. C certainly can never tell whether something is true, humour or sarcasm.
AS often means that children also have short term memory problems. If you gave C a list of three things to do, he could ‘probably’ do them. Give him four and he will forget at least two of them. Even now, he cannot get the days of the week in the right order and cannot remember the months of the year or the seasons in order.
If you think that a lot of this sounds familiar, then it may be useful for you to go to aspennj and complete the questionnaire there. This questionnaire was put together by Tony Attwood, a leading expert on Asperger’s Syndrome. I have read a couple of his books, and in my opinion he is spot on with regard to my son.
I mentioned earlier that AS is a ‘pick and mix’ syndrome. This means that the AS never really comes alone. There is nearly always something else as well. In C’s case it is dyslexia. I help run a support group for parents of children with AS and the other problems which frequently occur are dyspraxia, ADD, ADHD and Tourette’s Syndrome.
Having detailed all the problems we have had with our son, I must assure you that it is not all doom, gloom and despondency by a long way. The peculiarities of C’s brain and others who have AS generally give them a lot of strengths as well. Many, many of them are very skilled at the sciences, or maths…generally the very logical subjects where there are rules to follow. Music is another field where Aspies are widely represented, the other art
type subjects are less well represented. This is believed to be as a result of the high IQ and the obsessive, logical natures they have. Whilst in
schools, the children are pushed to have a very wide knowledge of all
things, in a work environment of their choice, an ‘Aspie’ can specialise in his/her obsession. Further, we have had so few problems since we began home educating C that people seeing him now tend to disbelieve that he has any problems at all. We can concentrate on his strengths and skills and help him by giving him coping mechanisms where he has weaknesses. For example, he always has a diary around him and has learnt that he can use this to work out days of the week, or months of the year.
There are many very famous, very successful people who either had, or are believed to have had, Asperger’s Syndrome. Bill Gates, the Microsoft computer billionaire is supposed to have AS. Einstein was believed to have AS. For some others look at Famous Aspergers Syndrome People