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Aspergers Teens: Clueless Geeks?

Aspergers Teen Shares His Story


Hi. My name is Shawn. I’m a teenager with Aspergers. Here’s my story…

First of all, unlike autistic people, I did not have trouble learning to speak. However, I do have mild hyperlexia, which basically means a large vocabulary. Moreover, it is common for autistics and aspies to have some trouble lying, recognizing lies, and interpreting metaphors. The result is that most Aspergers teens are seen as literal and humorless.

Like many Aspergers teens, my voice can sometimes sound monotonous and emotionless. Similarly, Aspergers teens are known for giving soliloquies about their favorite subjects, or perseverations, not always realizing how much they are boring the individuals they are speaking to.

Aspergers teens sometimes also miss facial expressions, body gestures, and implications. While I can often pick up on someone's emotional state from a quick glance at their face (and it has to be quick because, like most Aspergers teens, I have trouble looking individuals in the eye), I can often completely miss things or misinterpret them. Likewise, my facial expression is usually plain or uncontrolled.

Aspergers teens tend to take an obsessive interest in detailed things. It is typical for an aspie to take an all-encompassing interest in something for a few months and later become interested in something else after having already learned enough about the first subject. In other words, we aspies have "weird," nerdy interests and hobbies.

This is a chicken-and-egg problem, of course. Do we aspies take up these perseverations because we are unable to occupy ourselves with more neurotypical (NT) (that is, something relating to nonautistics) socializing, or do our perseverations prevent us from socializing? Maybe it's a little bit of both.

Nevertheless, perseveration for me has meant spending my early teenage years learning how to program and becoming especially adept at using Windows. A little later it meant focusing on perfecting my French accent and reading French newspapers like Le Monde. Because of my perseverations, I have a more thorough understanding of history, politics, language, computers, psychology, geography, and numerous other subjects than the average person. In contrast, I have a deficit of knowledge about today's pop stars, actors, and social gossip. This sometimes makes it hard for individuals to have interesting conversations with me.

It is not uncommon for me to hear high-frequency noises that go unnoticed by most individuals. I can sometimes hear the buzzing of the lights, TV, and other things, especially if I'm trying to fall asleep or it's quiet. A similar thing is I dislike the feel of cotton balls, although I've heard some NTs complain about this too.

Another thing is I frequently mishear individuals and sometimes don't hear them at all. If you say, "I went to the park today," I might hear, "I went tooth per day," or some other nonsense; and so I often have to ask, "Huh?" or "What?"

Sometimes I don't notice things right in front of my face. I have more than once accidentally skipped problems on a test because the question was too close to the directions, which I probably didn't read (did I mention Aspergers teens are sometimes too honest?). Especially in mathematics, I have been known to make absent-minded mistakes by doing things like 6 * 5 = 35. This would disqualify me from being an engineer or surgeon, I think.

For a person with Asperger's (an aspie), friendships, social banter, and romantic relationships can be difficult channels to navigate. Aspergers teens have more than their share of difficulties making friends and finding a loving mate. Part of it is our perseverative interests, another part must be our tendency towards literal interpretations, and a third must be our tendency to be rigid and conservative--unfun. Many of us long for better social acceptance or at least friends to keep our lives interesting, but sometimes this seems beyond our grasp.

Many Aspergers teens show signs of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, especially the inattentive type. In fact, many Aspergers teens are misdiagnosed as having ADD.

There also seems to be a relationship between autistic spectrum disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). While Aspergers teens do have perseverative (obsessive) interests, a significant portion develops actual OCD. Aspergers children with OCD may or may not show the typical symptoms of OCD, like compulsive hand washing.

Various anxiety disorders and anxious personality disorders other than OCD, especially social phobia and avoidant personality disorder, may also develop, as the autistic life can be stressful.

Depression is also not uncommon among Aspergers teens. My own life has too often been filled with this mood. I was first and most depressed in 8th and 9th grades when my life seemed to have reached a low point. I had recently changed from a Catholic elementary school to the public school system, and adjustment was harsh. The only emotions I knew were anger and frustration. I could only see the worst of intentions in others towards me, and I became the more socially secluded than I'd ever been before. My recover from this strong depression included becoming an atheist, changing my attitude towards life, and becoming more accepting. I still become depressed sometimes but not nearly as badly as back then.

The aspie sense of humor is somewhat different from most individual's sense of humor. I am especially good at making odd connections about social happenings and use highly sarcastic humor to criticize actions like the invasion of Iraq. My disconnection from society along with my attempts to better understand society are a gold mine containing the nuggets of social injustices and inequalities, hypocrisies, and self-aggrandizement.

I vent my unattainable need for excitement and companionship through art. I can sketch disturbing images of distorted faces and forms as well as near photorealistic pictures--if I'm looking at the object or a photograph of that object. Writing, especially humorous writing is another thing that allows me to assuage my unfulfillment.

I have written--even perseverated on--this article in the sincere hope that someone might better understand aspies and not write us off as clueless geeks. We aspies only want what everyone else wants: happiness.

My Aspergers Child: How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children and Teens

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

My granddaughter is having such a terrible time staying in school. After 17 years she was finally diagnosed with aspergers. Before that, she was diagnosed with odd, adhd, bipolar. We have always known in our hearts there was something else they were missing. Lately, she is coming home physically sick from school, or some mornings, she will not want to get out of bed. Her ped. prescribed prozac, but nothing seems to work. When they thought she had bipolar they experimented with all kinds of mind altering drugs, that did nothing but change her weight, and her alertness. Can anyone have any answers for me. We are planning a pet meeting at her school soon, and I'm not sure if that will help either. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your article. I'm currently struggling with whether to talk to a doctor about possible diagnosis with Aspergers.
Reading articles like this both saddens and heartens me. I find real connection to what you have said about yourself, while feeling somewhat sad and disheartened about the road ahead.
Regardless, having access to articles like this can only help.
I have navigated the first 33 years of my life as me, why should the knowledge now bring any sadness?
Anyway, thanks!

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Anonymous said...

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Carrie said...

Hi. My 15 year old son has aspergers, and I just wanted to thank you for this well written article! Aspies are awesome kids, but they are different, and it's so nice to get a chance to see things from an insiders viewpoint. Thank you!

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Mom With Bipolar said...

Thank you, Shawn, for sharing this article. It is excellently written. You have much in common with my Aspie teen. He is thirteen. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I am looking for HELP for my son, who has been diagnosed with aspergers along with the anxiety, social anxiety/phobias, and whatever else can be thrown into the mix.
Our son is a 14 year old turning 15 this month and has not been in school for the past two years (7th & 8th grade) with his 6th grade year full of numerous absences. He started out with not waking up for school every morning and then it was the so called illnesses that he would complain about all the time. He has been homebound with a tutor for 7th and 8th grade and had done very well with high academics but does have the tendency for procrastination on homework assignments.
He has isolated himself from all peers except on video gaming, since he has entered middle school. Now we are facing High School, where it will be in a new district and a new Child Study Team. They basically want to try to have our son attend school with a new IEP in place whcih we know is not going to happen as we can just barely get him to go out to do anything that involves being around kids his own age. He is obstinate when it comes to his own hygiene, like brushing teeth, or getting a haircut My son is under the care of a psychologist who we see occasionally. Unfortunately none of our many visits have impacted any positve changes. This is probably our fouth therapist as we seem to move around looking for that miracle maker. My son is also under the care of a Psychiatrist and has been put on Abilify 1mg. very small dose for the past six months, but I see no difference in his thoughts, in fact I see hyperfocusing and more pacing around late at night and insomnia, which he has dealt with for years now. There is more to this story than what I have put forth, but I hope that you get the jist of my situation. We are struggling as to what to do. We have been told by one therapist that our son will not change his ways unless we do something drastic like send him away to some residental placement in some other state. I find that this kind of treatment to be discouraging.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the excellent posts

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

Click here to read the full article…

Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes. The hardest part is you feel like you’ll never actually get to know your child and how he/she views the world.

Click here to read the full article...

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