(What is Aspergers Anyway?)
By: Nani Xue
Have you ever opened a puzzle, dumped the pieces out on a table and just sat staring at it, wishing the puzzle would put itself together? Unfortunately, this is not how life’s puzzles work. We have to interact with the pieces and bring the puzzle to life with a lot of care, consideration and sometimes hair-pulling. Occasionally we even have to call in family and friends to help us with our puzzle, but the end result is usually more than worth it!
Asperger’s Syndrome (or Disorder) is one of the many pieces of the Autism Spectrum puzzle, yet when people hear the word “Autism,” because they do not know any better, they tend to think of Rain Man. Well, that was a severe “full” Autism case, not EVERY case. The Autism Spectrum is referred to as such because there are a wide array of “colors” – qualities, quantities and numbers that go into sorting out the specific symptoms, allowing an effective diagnosis so that the right level of help can be given.
There is a reason the Autism ribbon is composed of different colored puzzle pieces and to try to help you understand them all could take a lifetime. A good starting point is to focus on Asperger’s, about which we tend to hear a great deal of late. Asperger’s has only been recognized since the early 1980’s – so, in the grand scheme of life, it is relatively new.
Asperger’s is a disorder typically characterized by social differences and difficulties, struggles with communication, as well as behavior repetition patterns to an almost obsessive degree. Children and adults with Asperger’s tend to outwardly lack empathy toward peers while leaning toward being clumsy and awkward; to name just a few of the jigsaw pieces in the larger puzzle of Asperger’s. Patients can demonstrate many other developmental differences such as “ranking” high on the ADHD scale or displaying sociopathic tendencies. The list could go on and on yet each case is different and how this condition touches each individual is as unique as a puzzle piece.
As people with Asperger’s age, they learn to adapt which society often looks upon as “getting better.” This is not a disease, however, that can be cured or even easily diagnosed. Instead, it is something that must be worked with, by the patient and those around him or her. Those who support and take care of those with Asperger’s need a great deal of patience and understanding coupled with the desire and ability to learn – for a lifetime. The sum and the whole are all very complex entities. In reality, throughout your life you have probably known someone touched by ASD and not even realized it because they have adapted and learned to mirror what society deems “normal” behaviors.
The brain of someone with Asperger’s is wired very differently from the rest of us and while this creates great difficulties throughout life, these individuals typically demonstrate a skill or ability at which they excel beyond reason – an area, strength or brilliance greater than that of an average human.
The one thing you will find more than anything else with those who have Asperger’s, is their need to fit in and be accepted as the same as the rest of us! Interestingly enough, it’s their differences that make them stronger than even they are aware. What we must all avoid, is trying to place these unique individuals into a box, or force a relation and generalization such as, “well he looks like anyone else, he doesn’t look sick.” This is something you would not want to hear right?
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from some of the Asperger’s associations and groups to which I belong, “sometimes the things we can’t change, change us.”
Just think about it, when the pieces are laid out before you, the puzzle can be beautiful even if not whole.