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.


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