Asperger’s Syndrome: There are some things I can’t do…

When I was a child, my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be. And I wasn’t clever enough to say I wanted to be a tall black man. Or a Sherman tank. And my parents didn’t know I had Asperger’s Syndrome— I wasn’t even diagnosed until after my father’s death.

Aspies tend to be intelligent people. Sometimes we can harness the power of our Special Interests to acquire knowledge and skills that would be highly valuable in the workplace. Yet 80% of people with Asperger’s Syndrome are unemployed.

Sometimes they lose jobs or can’t get hired because of things that wouldn’t apply to me. I could make it through a job interview without having a ‘meltdown’ or behaving in wildly unacceptable ways. But I don’t make eye contact correctly and so people probably think of me as shifty and probably dishonest. Once hired I would have difficulty with some tasks, such as answering phones— I just can’t manage phone conversations with strangers. And I’m not an organized person— People with Asperger’s usually have executive function deficit, which is kind of like having AD/HD as well.

Another thing I can’t do is have friends. I had one best friend in 1st and 2nd grade, and then my family moved out of state. Every friend I had in school and college was a person who would not have considered me a friend but an acquaintance. In the years after college, I had not one friend and the only people who spoke to me were my parents. When I got online, after a few years I discovered a few people I consider friends. At least they sometimes comment on my Facebook posts.

It’s just that I don’t know what to do to signal to people that I want to be their friend. Oh, I’ve had people give me advice (or orders) as to what I had to do to have friends. But all this advice might as well have been given in Chinese. People might say, just be friendly, talk to people. But how do you do that when you are not able to gauge which ‘friendly’ actions are just the right degree of friendly? Wrong actions might make you seem disinterested in friendship, or, worse, creepy and intrusive.

And the worst thing is that sometimes it seems the world around me wants me to spend less time on the things I can do that give me happiness and spend all my time working on somehow developing the skills I don’t have and have not yet been able to learn and perhaps cannot learn. It’s as if they want me to stop being an Aspie, and to become normal at the sound of the magical incantation ‘Behave yourself!’ Moreover, when it comes to family members, they don’t want me to become just ANY normal person. They have a specific person in mind. She’s thinner than me, dresses in pant suits in pastel colors, goes to social occasions chosen by family members willingly, and says all the right things, never mentioning anything a family member would need to correct in mid-sentence. Never being interesting, just obedient. I call this false person ‘Suzette.’ She is not like me. She couldn’t assist a ewe in giving birth to a lamb in the middle of the night with a dying flashlight. She wouldn’t be caught dead in some farmer’s field, inspecting the ‘important parts’ of a breeding ram she was considering buying. I really don’t like Suzette much.

But I do like ME. Sometimes, anyway. And I guess I’m going to keep doing the things I do, like blogging and writing, until I’m too old and feeble to do anything and the government either puts me in a shoddy nursing home or gives me a poison shot. And even in my extreme old age I hope I shall be able to scream an angry haiku and pee on them.

Poem of the Day

still life with autism spectrum disorder

and then there is the
social problem of those
who have selfishly failed
to grow wings

and then they ask
for doors
and stairs
on the ground floor
which they do not in fact need.

all that they need
to grow wings.

Nissa Annakindt, (c) 2011
Included in my poetry chapbook ‘surly petunia.’
Amazon (99 cents):
Smashwords (free):

This expresses the frustration of a person with a ‘invisible’ disability in the situation where the authority figures expect him to do the impossible (‘grow wings’) in order to be allowed to ‘fit in.’

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6 thoughts on “Asperger’s Syndrome: There are some things I can’t do…

  1. As I said on Facebook last night – write for yourself. Put it out for the world.

    You might be a key part of someone learning a better way to deal with their life. Someone twenty years from now may read this on and go… “Yeah. That’s it. That’s me…” and not feel so alone.

    Your words feel ephemeral to you – but on the internet they’ll be around a long, long time. Howling against the wind will carry the sound in odd directions, and may end up shoring someone’s emotional foundations at a time they need it most.

    But you will most likely never know that it happened. You are casting your bread upon the waters. The current takes it where it will, in its own time. Sometimes satisfaction must be gained from the attempt – whether or not the results are ever known.

  2. Emily Dickinson never knew what impact her poetry would have. After a few scathing reviews, she left behind the world of publication and merely wrote for herself. As Jerry said that is a good way to approach our writing. On my wall, I have the quotation from Hemingway:“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

    All any of us can do is the best we can with what resources are at hand. Most of the people you pass on the street are lonelier than they look. If you like you, you are way ahead of many in this world. May the journey be happier for you.

  3. Very well said. My son is Aspie, but he’s the very rare strange social type of Aspie who has tons of friends and does well with job interviews, etc. But, he also gets asked if he’s on drugs when he gets stopped by cops because he gets over excited.

  4. You definitely have a voice and are a writer. As others have said, write for yourself and put it out there without expectations. You have no way of knowing how another person will react but when you write personally of your experiences with Aspergers ther will be others facing the same battles or who have friends and family that do. Your words could make a powerful difference in their life and you might never know it.

    I worked with the mother of someone who had Aspbergers years ago. He got a lot more help in the school system than you did and last I heard had a job working with cars that he enjoyed. But social situations were, and I Imagine still are, difficult for him. As you,said he just didn’t understand the cues and nonverbal signals others gave off.

    You still sound way more intersting and fun than Suzette. Wishing you the best in life.

  5. It’s a fantastic achievement to be able to write “I like ME.” And not just because you’re an Aspie, but because we all have problems with the expectations of others and the way we were raised and often feel not good enough. Appreciate what you do well and enjoy it, and if being social is hard, you don’t have to do it. Have a good weekend!

  6. We write for the joy of it, and shouldn’t do things just for the acceptance of others. But it sounds like you have a very healthy attitude. My son’s an Aspie too, and has trouble holding jobs for more than a month or two. The others don’t always understand his ‘off’ reactions to things and don’t have the patience to reexplain things when he doesn’t understand right away. But he’s managed to start a nice internet business (no direct dealing with people face to face) and doesn’t let others bring him down. He’s learning to do what he likes and ignore the negative words. I hope he sticks with this attitude and can say ‘I like ME’ in a few years as you do.

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