Prison Pete

Friday, February 29, 2008
  Asperger's Syndrome.
Something new at last!

It is another Friday here at the old homestead. Over the last few months I would plan to use the weekend to create, proof and print some great blog posts. I would then allow anything else to distract me from that goal. On Friday I would not worry about getting started because I had Saturday and Sunday. Saturday would arrive and I would feel secure in not starting since there was still Sunday. Sunday would come and I would assure myself that I had all day so no point in starting too early.

Those of you who are still bothering to check in and see what is new (not much lately, huh?), know first hand that I am great at putting off what needs to be done. What ends up happening is tasks remain among the undone. I suppose that is a better place than the undead, but it certainly leaves little to entertain those of you in the free world.

This week I received an order of books from Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller. I had put together an order of six books and sent the order to Mom and Dad who graciously provided the required funds. At least I provided a stamped and addressed envelope to mail the order. The order was for four music books, one book on music theory, and Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison. It is a memoir. The author discovers at the age of forty that he has Asperger's Disorder. For all the pertinent official words on the disorder you can look it up in the bible of psychological disorders, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, under number 299.80.

Late breaking news: as I was retyping this I asked one of the inmates who is taking a basic psychology college class to look at his textbook. I looked up Asperger's in the index and found the following:

"Asperger's syndrome (a type of autism typically associated with normal levels of IQ) and high-functioning autism (a kind of autism in which individuals are able to function close to or above normal levels in society)." King, Laura (2008). The Science of Psychology: An Appreciative View. New York, McGraw-Hill.

The point is not that Mr. Robison has this disorder. I either have this disorder, (although based on the above paragraph maybe I qualify for the latter description) or deserve an Academy Award for best portrayal of the traits that define Asperger's Disorder without having it. The reason for deserving this award is that not only have I spent the last fifty plus years portraying the disorder which did not even officially exist fifty years ago, but up until Wednesday, February 20, 2008, I did not know what the traits were for the disorder. Damn, I am good.

Among the traits that people with Asperger's display is the great people pleasing and friend winning skill of saying things that simply pop into their minds. These verbalized thoughts probably have nothing to do with the subject at hand. If you say something that is related to the topic being discussed, a replay of the statement would show that it was a very stupid thing to say. The statement made under the latter premise lives on in the mind forever. Yet another painful memory of the scorn and ridicule one has received from one's peers.

Way back when I was a wee little lad, about the fourth or fifth grade, our church was sponsoring a coeducational sex education class. As an aside, this was quite a radical idea for the town we lived in at the time. A few years later when some "health education" textbooks were purchased for use in the local public school, the two or three chapters that dealt with sex education were ripped out of the books before they were handed out to the students. And this was the 1960s.

While discussing the monthly cycle a woman has, the leader told how things like sanitary napkins are usually available in the bathrooms in case they are needed. Without missing a beat I shouted out, "I never have seen them." Everybody broke out laughing. And yes they were certainly laughing at me not with me. The point is the lecturer did not specify public women's bathroom. She only said public bathroom (at least that is how I choose to remember it).

With Asperger's you tend to see words as pictures. The brain hears restroom, pictures all the things in a restroom, and the mind does not see any previously unidentified machines that would have been used for dispensing sanitary napkins. It would have made a great joke to have a boy say he has never seen them I have to be honest; I was not at all trying to make a joke. I was responding to what I thought might be bogus information.

I use the word "machine" because that is yet another trait. People with Asperger's tend to love machines of all kinds. They love to take them apart and see how they work. Check in with my mom, and find out about all the machines she would find in pieces around the house. Eventually I was able to put them back together in better than new condition but one is always remembered for his failures not his successes.

One of the reasons for love of machines mentioned in the book is the ability to master them; something one with Asperger's might find difficult to do in peer relationships. Machines do not laugh at you. They do not ridicule you. Okay, once in a while they may pull a trick or two on you at first. A squirt of fluid from a loose fitting, maybe a little jolt from a circuit you thought was safe to work on. Since my brain works in "picture mode" it is easy to see how the machines work. Trying to figure out how my peers worked was never an easy task.

This discussion should be recognized as just the start of things. I am not sure where this journey will end up, but I have decided to let you all in on the journey, as opposed to just giving the final report. To be honest what little I have read so far leads me to believe that there will never be a final report. This will just give me yet another tool to what makes me tick, and how I relate to the world around me.

Does it matter in the long run if I fit some label in the psych book of disorders? Does having an official label scare me? Yes, I think so. I do not want to look for an excuse, but have to admit, reading about others who have had some of the same difficulties in life I have is helpful. I know I am not alone.

At the same time, just getting that new info I quoted above from the textbook, I found my self saying, wait a minute, I have a higher than normal IQ. Already the internal fight begins to only want the good parts, not the bad parts. And if indeed Asperger's is applicable to only those with normal IQ's it still does not diminish the power of knowing that others have had some of the same difficulties as I.
PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETE! I check here a couple times a week and am glad you are posting again! w00t!
Finally, a new post!
Just discovered your blog - love it! I have Asperger Syndrome, and it sure does sound like you do too. You can be highly intelligent with Asperger's - in fact, most Aspies are, in some way. I was skilled at Math and Spelling, but failed at Reading & Comprehension.

Getting a diagnosis as an adult is hard, but worth it - all the extreme awkwardness of your youth can suddenly makes sense! My personal fave was being absolutely convinced that "cold beer stores" were advertising their air conditioning, not their refrigerated alcohol ("cold" beer store, not "cold beer" store, doh). Ha. Ha.
Wow, it's been a long time since your last post, hope you start posting again and hope nothing bad has happened.
"I either have this disorder, (although based on the above paragraph maybe I qualify for the latter description) or deserve an Academy Award for best portrayal of the traits that define Asperger's Disorder without having it."

I loved this part. You can share the Asperger's Oscar bench with my mother. And father too, who will be sitting nearby on the Denial couch, (which has been around a bit longer, but he doesn't watch many movies or read books. "Awww, she's so quirky!" <---his words.)
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