Someone, somewhere out there, is wishing that he/she did not have Asperger’s Syndrome. Whoever you are, or if there is more than one of you, I hope you read some or all of the posts with this subject line to know that you are not alone. I’m sure many of us who have Asperger’s, if not all of us, have, at one point or another, wished we didn’t have Asperger’s Syndrome.
Growing up on the autism spectrum is certainly not easy, and I find myself wondering if you are a teenager. Being a teenager is hard enough as it is without a disability whose most obvious attribute is “difficulty with social skills” to make it harder. If I’d known I had AS when I was a teen, I’d probably have wished like crazy that I didn’t have it. I didn’t want to have anything to make me different, and I was most definitely different.
Today, however, as an adult, I can appreciate my differences. I think differently, and in my opinion that’s a good thing. I can look at situations in a way that non-Aspies can’t. I can solve puzzles that have my non-Aspie friends shaking their heads. I can make friends with almost any animal I meet, even the ones that other people say “He doesn’t like anyone!”
I have hypersensitive hearing, and while sometimes that can make me crazy, at other times it is very, very useful. I can find my cats by listening to them purr. When I do my transcription job, I can hear audio that my co-workers can’t hear. All of my co-workers, even my supervisor, will ask me to listen to things that they can’t hear. When I was waiting for eye surgery to fix my vision problems, I was able to use my hearing to make sure a car wasn’t coming to run me over when I crossed the street, or to find my black cat in the dark by calling her and listening to her meow at me.
I get along amazingly well with children. Even though I have always had a bit of a problem with the concept of “play,” children still approach me and ask me to play with them. People at my church will hand me their babies and say, “Here, hold my baby while I run to the ladies’ room,” or say to their toddler grandchild, “Go sit with Purple Aspie while Grandma goes and gets a cup of tea.” Children seem especially attracted to my purple clothing. I have bonded with many purple-wearing children.
When it comes to absorbing information, we Aspies are very good at it, especially if the subject is one of our special interests. Many people ask me for advice about their cats because they know that cats are one of my special interests. It’s not just my special interests, though; if I want to know about a subject, I get to know that subject inside and out. Ask me a question about something, and if I don’t know the answer now, I will know the answer tomorrow — along with a massive amount of additional information that you didn’t ask me about. In school I was always very good at writing research papers. I can beat almost anyone at a trivia contest, unless the subject is sports. Something I hear quite often is, “How did you know that?” to which my answer will probably be, “Doesn’t everybody?”
Our attention to detail makes us very good at spotting defects and differences. If you’ve ever seen those little pictures that ask you to “spot the differences,” as an Aspie you can probably spot those differences very quickly. If something isn’t working, get an Aspie to look at it; they’ll find what’s wrong with it even if it takes them all night, because Aspies are also very, very focused and dedicated. When I’m working on something, I will work until it is finished. Sometimes I have a problem starting something, but once I’ve started, I’m bound and determined to finish it.
While we Aspies may find it difficult to make friends, we can be very good friends. We don’t expect people to read our minds and guess whether or not something is bothering us. We don’t hide the truth; indeed, we can be brutally honest. If you want an honest opinion on your outfit or your hairstyle, ask an Aspie. We seldom judge people for gender, sexual orientation, religion (or lack of same) or skin colour. I honestly don’t care if you’re male, female, gay, straight, Christian, Atheist, red, green or purple. Okay, I might like you better if you’re purple. As long as you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you in return.
Dear “I Wish I Didn’t Have Asperger’s,” do you know any other Aspies? There are many of us out here. If you can’t find any of us in person, look for us in cyberspace. There are many, many autism & Asperger communities online. Go on Twitter and look for the hashtag #asperger. Learn how to be an autism self-advocate at autisticselfadvocacy.org. Join the discussion boards at wrongplanet.net. Go to http://www.inlv.demon.nl/ and sign up for one or more of their Asperger e-mail lists.
Most of all, I want you to know that you are not alone. It can be hard to have Asperger’s, but it does get better. Please reach out and find some of your fellow Aspies. We want to help.