A Fantastic Voyage Into An Aspergian Brain

Puzzle

I may not be your typical person with Asperger’s, but what is a typical person with Asperger’s anyway? I doubt that there is such a thing, but there are traits that make me different than a person who is neurotypical. By neurotypical I mean someone not on the Autism Spectrum. First off let me get something straight, I’m not crazy or unintelligent, but I do think differently than most of the people reading this. While trying to get some validation of my Asperger’s, I once had a psychiatrist at a Veterans Administration clinic tell me that I had “Bill Gates kind of Asperger’s traits,” so I guess I’m in interesting company.

So how do I think differently than other people? Let me give you an example. From my observation of others I’ve determined that I can usually solve complex real life problems faster than most people. At least problems that are within my skill set. However, explaining how I came to a solution starting from Point A through the conclusion at point Z can be challenging. The daunting part of the task is verbally explaining how I came to that conclusion.

My wife sometime gets impatient with me when I’m trying to explain my process of reasoning to her. I need to slow down my speech in order to verbally explain my process. She by nature wants me to speed up my explanation, but if I did my explanation would make no sense at all and I would appear to sound like a rambling lunatic; here’s why. I really need a little sign on a stick I can hold up that reads “Processing, please wait. Your question is important to me and will be answered after translation.”

When I see a situation, a problem, or an issue in my mind I think about the whole thing in a picture. But in order to explain or execute the solution it must be done in a linear way starting at the first step and following each step to the solution. It’s easy enough to write down these steps, because modern word processing allows for moving words around in order to put them in the order that they need to be performed. When I speak I can’t move my words around to put things into the correct order, so this all has to be done in my head before it comes out of my mouth. In order for a many people to understand what I’m talking about, I must run it through a filter that organizes my thoughts in a linear way so it comes out of my mouth in coherent speech. Sometimes that makes me sound slow, or makes it appear that I’m ignoring what you said as I’m translating my response.

Over the years I have learned to compensate for many things, I use behaviors that I’ve developed in order to seem normal in a world that is different from myself. For instance, I feel more comfortable not looking you in the eyes when I’m talking, but I do it anyway because it’s what’s expected in non-rude communications between people. This may seem very odd but I would much rather ignore people who aren’t talking about something that interests me, and I suppose I still do sometimes if I can get away with it. I need to resist the urge to steer the conversation to something that is interesting to me. Luckily for me I enjoy talking with others, and especially like to help people solve problems. I just need to run social situations I’m presented with through a filter that allows me to react to them in the socially acceptable way. It’s taken a lifetime of trial and error in order to understand the nuances of living in an alien world, constantly tweaking the filters by adding defined rules of conduct and behavior with dealing with other people.

Before I understood that I was a person with Asperger’s I spent most of my life with an impression of myself as being an unrecognized genius and a total failure at the same time. I couldn’t understand how I was sometimes viewed as the most useful tool in the box, and other times I was totally misunderstood. In my life I’ve been my own worst critic, beating myself up for not being able to be more normal. I’ve attributed some of my characteristics to things that have happened in my life instead of Asperger’s.

It really wasn’t until my youngest son was diagnosed with Autism and my wife was in Graduate school in a Special Education program that I finally had the light bulb above my head turn on. I owe a large debt of gratitude to my wife for having her ask me to proof read her papers for school, which led to me reading books that allowed me to have a breakthrough of realization of who I am. I now feel much more comfortable in my own skin, and have been able to give myself a break now and then. Having answers that explain why I felt like I belonged on Misfit Island, or frustrated that others couldn’t see the solution to a problem that was staring them right in the face.

My hope is that many of you reading this will be inspired to understand more about Asperger’s and Autism. Here are some titles I would suggest:

Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robinson

Pretending to Be Normal: Living With Asperger’s Syndrome by Liane Holliday Willey

Anything by Temple Grandin

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About the Author:

I would describe myself as a father first, and married to a wonderfully supportive spouse that works her butt off for the family. I'm also a writer, techno nerd, and humorist. I always have more things to do than I have time to do them, and have many interests. View My Profile

As far as my writing goes I consider myself an observer of human nature, and a lifelong writing student.

10 Comments on "A Fantastic Voyage Into An Aspergian Brain"

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  1. avatar Dani Heart says:

    Oh Dan I need that sign too. I see life in pictures. One of the girls that lives with us messes with me all the time because it entertains her greatly. I quite literally visualize everything people say… so she will say certain things to gross me out or make my head go sideways.. cause it makes her laugh. Sometimes it makes me laugh too, but other times in other situations it can suck. The looking in the eye thing is particularly hard in interview situations for me. I loved the movie Temple Grandin. So relatable. I am going to check out those other books you mentioned. :) It is so cool of you to share this. I am sure there are many out there somewhere on the spectrum that might benefit from raised awareness. Awesome post.

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    • Thanks Dani, I started writing this about a week ago, and thought about it throughout the week. It gave me time to gather some of the concepts together so I could write about them.
      John Elder Robinson’s book really hit home when I read it. I liked the book Pretending To Be Normal also, but I could relate to less of her challenges. I can definitely relate to the words “Pretending to be normal.”
      So much emphasis is put on children on the spectrum -and rightly so- right now that people seem to forget that those children grow up, and have to deal with the world as adults. And there are those of us out there who didn’t have any kind of help as kids because nobody knew back then.
      I hope this article helps at least a few people raise awareness, and maybe stokes the interest in others to learn more.

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  2. avatar Axe says:

    Looking good Dan!
    To see ones self clearly is a great gift :)

    …Axe
    and on a movie front the new Evil Dead was really good!

    …groovey!

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    • Hey hey, Mr. Axe Demento.

      To see ones self clearly is a noble goal. I’ve spent most of my life not knowing why I had trouble remembering names, or why I preferred not stepping on cracks. I’ve always liked lifting my toes over cracks in the road while I’m driving. Kind of weird eh?

      I’ve always found it interesting to know how the outside sees me. It’s helpful to have an outside view of yourself. I’ve spent the majority of my life with Befuddled as my middle name.

      Axe, you should check out Katy Kern’s review on the new Evil Dead. She’s our resident movie reviewer, and of course head and shoulders above the rest. :)

      http://tiredofpreviews.com/movie/evil-dead-2013/

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  3. I am always fascinated with people who a different way of seeing the colors of life. You have a beautiful mind Dan :)

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    • Thanks Baxter,

      What a fascinating thing each of us gets to do, traveling on the journey we call our lives. Learning about ourselves and the world around us; the colors of life are many, and wonderful to explore. :)

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  4. avatar TJ Lubrano says:

    Ahooooooy Dan! It’s been a while huh? :) I loved this voyage! I can recall another piece by you where you mentioned Asperger’s. I find it so interesting and a lot feels familiar to me. Like Dani, I see things in pictures and when I’m chatting to people I am always observing my surroundings. I’m not trying to be rude though as I am listening to whatever is being said, but I’m always registering what’s happening around me. Not sure why, but I’ve always done this. Sometimes I tend to drift away with my thoughts though hehe. Very often when I read or see things there is this click and I know exactly what is being said or what has to happen, but the explaining part is quite difficult for me. I’m definitely interested in reading more about this and I do think your article will help others as well.

    You’re awesome and I am very happy for you that you have a better understanding about yourself. I can imagine that it felt as a relief that you could give it a name and that things from the past made sense? As long as you don’t forget that you are also Cap’n Dan the Cuppycake…hehe.

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    • Yo Ho TJ! Thank you so much for sharing and the kind words. :)

      I was actually at a benefit last night for my son’s wonderful school Bridgeway House. Bridgeway house supports children and families affected by autism and has been a wonderful experience for my son.

      The Autism spectrum is a bit baffling to me as to how it affects people in different ways. But at the same time you can see a familiarity running through people affected. Most people that would meet me would see nothing out of the ordinary until they got to know me better. I do a pretty good job of compensating to fit in, but it takes a concentrated effort on my part.

      The thing that is still a big puzzle to me is why? Why are these traits in myself and other, and where did they come from? There has been some interesting research about genetics and our modern culture. Here is a good one:
      http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111102/full/479025a.html

      TJ, check out some of the authors that I put at the bottom of the article. I think you may find pretending to be Normal an interesting read. Although I have not found other authors to have exactly the same experience as myself, it has helped me immensely by hearing from others that have similar traits.

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      • avatar TJ Lubrano says:

        You’re most welcome! :)

        Ah I am glad that the benefit was such a success! Do you have a lot of those there?

        I’ll definitely check-out your link and the books. The why part is always interesting huh? Does it drain a lot of energy when you have to concentrate so much? Or have you gotten used to it over time? The human brain is still a mystery on sooo many levels. I saw a tiny bit of a documentary yesterday about Henry Molaison, the man without a memory. That was so interesting to see as well. I don’t think that we will ever fully grasp the ability of our brainsssss. :)

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        • The benefit is a yearly event. It helps provide scholarships for children and for other things for the school. The school has been a lifeline for my son who was having a tremendous amount of difficulty in public school.

          I don’t think I use any more energy having to concentrate on translating my speech but I guess I wouldn’t know would I :) It’s just one of my Super Powers :D

          Yes, the brain is a funny place, they must be running on magic I tell you!

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