am an adult living with Autism
Autism can be thought of as a spectrum, ranging from a mild subtly at one end to full the other; from mild dyslexia to full autism.
Different parts of the spectrum hold unique qualities and yet those further along the scale also hold some of the qualities of those from the earlier milder areas of the spectrum as well; these qualities may also vary in depth or strength; all of these conditions, from very mild dyslexia to full autism are a part of what is known as The Autistic Spectrum.
which means, either ...
Aspergers Syndrome is a condition comprised of various factors; the combination of which emotionally, psychologically and socially blights those unfortunate enough to have it …
I am an adult who perceives the world through the lens of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder …
I am an adult who perceives the world through the lens of an Autistic Spectrum Perception …
Aspergers Syndrome is a rare gift indeed. It means that the orientation of my experience is filtered though a lens that is different to those one might describe as 'neuro-typical'.
Like the Fool in mythology, I tend to miss what others see – and see what others miss. My logic tends to organise itself in a right-brain manner, meaning that I am very imaginative, impressionable and highly sensitive to atmospheres, emotions and imagery. I also have a sensitive central nervous system which means that I find it difficult to ignore external stimuli: noise, bright lights, people or objects moving, smells, clothing and even my own body weight and mass (in the physics sense) constantly alert my attention; like having someone constantly poke you with their index finger.
I hear the exact sequence of words in the sentences people choose to say and often find myself confused and bewildered by neuro-typicals who participate in sloppy language and untidy, disorganised thinking. Led into a state of confusion, I then ask questions in order to seek clarity and I am often met with a frown of tired disapproval because 'I' am being hard work.
The beauty in all this muddlement is that my bright intellect is in constant need of high level stimulation. This produces a thirst for knowledge and an escape route from the bewilderment of life through my imagination, producing an aptitude for creativity which is always switched to 'on'.
The isolation and withdrawal from life's brutish linguistic and sensory assaults, lends itself to the creation of the creative space. 'Even Merlin had his cave', and through my life I've taught myself to play guitar by ear, write poetry, songs, hypnotherapy scripts, meditations, pagan ritual, books, training course manuscripts, corporate training courses, masters degree papers, graphic design, T-shirts, birthday cards and the design of my web site …
And, just to be a little more Aspergers for a moment, I've also taught myself to maintain eye contact when talking to someone, to create routines of good manners so that social skill are automated and to greet people with a smile and head tilted slightly to the left to convey that I am interested and listening …
I've also learned to 'mark out' in my inner vision, the places in a person's communication where they loose the thread or break off a sentence before completion and start another track and to maintain a memory of these so I can politely wait until they have finished scattering my attention all over the place before I can patiently ask them to return to each point to complete the sentence/train of thought. Incomplete sentences drive
I am lucky enough to be an untypical adult, classified as a person with Aspergers Syndrome; by psychologists and social contemporaries …
I am lucky enough to be an untypical adult, classified as a person with 4 planets in Pisces on the 3rd House, a 4th House Sun and both Moon and Saturn Square Neptune while having both Mercury and Mars in Pisces and in aspect with Neptune; by astrologers …
All of which means: the same thing.
The above 6 ways of describing my orientation with perception and, therefore, reality, are derived from different models of understanding. To some, Aspergers is like a curse and to others it is an advantage. For some it means they are marginalised and 'odd', and for others it means they are thankfully different, unique and members of an elite club, graced by Andy Warhol, Einstein, Isaac Newton and a host of others (you'll find loads of web sites detailing such lists). The advantage of knowing such lists is that it enables the Aspergers person to give themselves permission to elevate their identity and self- image from that of unfortunate victim of circumstance to that of advantaged intellectual pioneer.
Finding solace in creative endeavours isn't just the hallmark of a depressive who needs to retreat from life; it is the initial step that must be taken for the evolution of the progress of mankind. If no one thought outside of the box, no one would have thought of making an artificial cave from wood or stone. If everyone continued to think along the same continuum, fire would not have been mastered, the banging of shells would not have become Beethoven or Led Zeppelin and you would not be able to read these words, re-created here for you by an electronic computer medium; designed and refined by out of the box thinkers working in small boxes called 'rooms'.
Autism remains a mystery to the medical profession, though recent technological advances in neuroscience are beginning to shed some light on the brain functioning of the autistic spectrum conditions. For further information, I would recommend, 'The Neuroscience of Human Relations' by Cozolino, 'An Anthropologist from Mars', by Sacks, 'Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self', and, 'Affect Dysregulation and the Disorders of the Self' by Schore.
Although I have lived within the autistic spectrum for the whole of my life, it was not recognised until I was 40 (meaning, I spent the first 40 years of my life being thought of as awkward and being misunderstood). Getting my diagnosis was a fantastic moment for me. No longer was an awkward pedant who didn't fit anywhere but I could suddenly say a word, 'Aspergers', and be understood – or at least, point people towards a large body of information so they can go on to understand me. For me, this was great ! – and, there was more to follow: In 2009, while at the University of the West of England, it came to light that I have three autistic conditions:
Dyslexia: most commonly known and understood, possibly because large numbers of the population have very mild hints of this mild end of the spectrum. Ordinarily, experienced as a difficulty with either letters or numbers, it is often accompanied with a high intellect and sensitive and restless central nervous system.
Aspergers Syndrome: an A-social condition which commonly induces a high intellectual capacity along with an emotional bewilderment and untypical social and relational perception. It may help to think of archetypal figures such as 'Spok' from star trek, or a mad professor who knows a great deal about his topic but cannot find the glasses on his head and has odd socks on. It is now thought that Einstein, Newton and Andy Warhol were Aspergers.
There is a sensitive central nervous system which is easily overwhelmed by sensory phenomena; sounds, smells, touch, textures of clothing, the strength of light ... can all be relentlessly uncomfortable.
Imagine that all the while a main ceiling light is switched on in your living room, someone is standing behind you, tapping your neck with a pencil – all the time ... or, imagine that the sound of aggression, whether directed at you or not, is not just heard, but is felt like a sharp physical punch ... or, imagine that the weight of clothing constantly taps at your attention.
When I walk into an unfamiliar large shop, like a supermarket or shopping arcade, I am often swamped with the movements, lights, colours, sounds and smells which seem to rush at me like a sensory wave. It can seem a bit disconcerting at times and I often react by becoming a little withdrawn. After a while, my system seems to acclimatise and a sense of balance is restored (unless the environment is very busy, noise, or bright, in which case it can become overwhelming to the point of needing to remove myself from the environment).
In spectral terms, Aspergers Syndrome may be thought of as a very very strong dyslexia: Dyslexia + + ...
And Dyspraxia: a motor-coordination problem. My brain is wired in such a way that my hand, and feet, sometimes move involuntarily, or land wide of an intended mark. For example:
I often peel my thumb instead of the potato I am holding ...
My guitar playing may be creative and interesting, but it is also rather clunky. I play blues and rock guitar because they require a little less precision than classical guitar and if I am recording a song I am often in a great deal of pain before the song ends – it can take an incredible amount of time to do a simple take. Likewise, it takes me a very long time to chop the veg for dinner or to write a reply to an email ...
The feet and general spatial awareness are a problem bordering on inconvenient. I sometimes trip over nothing and crash to the floor with an inelegant surprise – I got a stick to walk with in 20098, and this has helped tremendously. I often bump into doorframes, rather than go smoothly though the gap (my feet tend to follow my eye and if I am looking at the door frame in order to judge its distance, instead of passing by it I find I walk into it – even though I do not want to). I have almost caused a dozen heart attacks in glassware and gift shops and now only visit such places feeling a very strong sense of being self-conscious. I am also slightly echo-praxic, meaning that I involuntarily copy other's movements. If I am at a gig and someone looks up to the lighting rig, I take my eye off the band and look upwards as well – which is very irritating because I lose the moment I was enraptured in (which is why I like to be at the front, so I can become lost inside the performance and not be jolted out if it). Embarrassingly, I also find myself following 'the car in front', turning wherever they turn, even if I want to go in a different direction ...
I wouldn't change being Aspergers for the world.
It certainly isn't a disease; a disease may be defined as a condition with consistent symptoms caused by an infection.
Aspergers is a syndrome; a varied collection of traits from which different individuals have salient combinations. The (British) Autistic Society calls viewing the world from a mainly right-brain perspective; an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. I strongly disagree: I think it would be more accurate to call it an Autistic Spectrum Perception.
One can only describe a character trait as one of many potential expressions from a rainbow of human possibilities. If there were such a thing as a standard off-the-shelf 'normal' human then yes, anyone outside of that norm could be considered disordered. However, because human beings are not machines, the concepts of 'normalising' is misplaced and, therefore, while an individual may be disadvantaged in certain areas of life, to say one is disordered is, in my opinion, unacceptable.
Labels are important - they help people to understand things and relate with the world appropriately. For example,
'Safe car' - is a label ... 'Death trap' - is a label.
We must know the difference. ...
'Pedant' - is a label ... 'Aspergers' - is a label.
If you are able to discern the difference between these two distinctly different orientations in consciousness and correctly identify which one applies to me, then you will be able to respond to me with appropriate sensitivity - or, if not, and you respond to me as if I am an awkward pedant, I will feel bullied, alienated and misunderstood.
The label 'Aspergers' allows non-Aspergers people to step out of the lens of their judgments and view me from a different perspective. Unfortunately, our present society does not seem to have kindness and gentleness at its core - and that is possibly due to the neuro-typicals who run everything from the government to the media and entertainment industry ...
For me, being an adult with an autism hat-trick, is like a wonderful gift. I may miss what others see, but I see what others miss; and while my right brain opens into wonderful creativity, it also has a heightened sensitivity for another's experience and people comment that my astrology readings have an insight into their inner world and psyche which is profound and deeply moving.
Living with a Beautiful Mind - The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Pedantry ... a possibly somewhat rude example of the difference between Aspergers logic and Neuro-typical pedantry
So, how did it come about ?
And how did I turn an apparent disadvantage into something which has enabled life to blossom ?
An esoteric astrologer might say that it is a synchronous correlation between the moment of entering life and the map reflected in the cosmos at birth; I chose the moment and this pathway in order for my soul to learn specific lessons.
A reincarnationist might say that the sum total of all I have experienced, learned and developed in past lives has led me to the position of 'the mad professor', with all its associated virtues, faults, strengths and weaknesses.
I was born after only 8 months in the womb: a neuroscientist might say that this inhibited the growth of the cortex in some fashion and the developing neuron pathways were directed into an autistic matrix.
A psychotherapist would have lots of things to say regarding my early development, but to understand this in context, we first need a very brief biography …
For a more detailed account of my life and how I've found managing being aspergers, please click here. This takes you to a page that has a pdf file called, 'David Rowan - a brief biography from an aspergers point of view'. It is a very personal account is available for subscribers to this site. If you are not yet a subscriber and would like to read it, click on the link and follow the instructions. Many thanks, David.