An Awakening, A Story About Asperger’s
[media-credit id=7 align="aligncenter" width="300"][/media-credit]My wife knew before I did, she is in her second year of grad school working on a Special Education degree with an emphasis on autism. She would give me hints that behaviors that I had were behaviors that were on the Autism spectrum. I thought some of what she said made sense because our youngest son is a high functioning person with autism, but it really didn’t sink in. I didn’t really think much of it at all, and then one day it hit me. I might have Asperger’s Syndrome.
I’ve always known that I was different from other people. I could come up with processes that were pure genius and I knew it. Twenty years ago that very skill helped me to quickly become the Repair Manager of Supra Corporation in Albany Oregon. A company that manufactured computer modems and peripherals. I liked the people who worked for me, I had hired most of them, and they liked me even though I could be brutally honest at times. I worked well with my boss Tom Perry, and life was good. I had turned Supra’s Repair Department into a world class warranty repair depot with a fast turnaround time and high levels of customer satisfaction. I had systems in place to catch intermittent products, I had systems in place to catch just about any problem. I loved my job, then one day things changed.
Supra had been purchased by Diamond Multimedia a California Bay Area company that manufactured video cards. The new company went about forcing their processes onto us. I was told by upper management that “There is no room for artists in our organization,” so in other words there was no room for someone who was able to creatively solve problems. “Their way or the highway” was Diamond’s rule of thumb. Even with this mindset in place I was able to creatively use their system to keep our department a very efficient machine that quickly took care of returned products, and satisfied our customers. I remember trading places with my counterpart from San Jose for a week, and I remember how his department had returns stacked to the ceiling unprocessed, and how in San Jose following the bureaucracy was the first priority. I wasn’t very good at the politics that were needed to buck up and mindlessly follow stupid orders. I had been fed up with mindless stupid orders from my stint in the military, and didn’t have a lot of tolerance for it. I had a tendency to voice my opinions about the stupidity of blindly following inefficient mandates. So I was quickly branded a rebel, and I didn’t last long after the takeover.
After some searching, I landed a job at a small barcode scanner manufacturer named Percon in another town, and before you knew it I was in charge of their Repair Department. Again I developed processes that gave them a one day turn around and that ensured quality of repaired customer product. I had a knack for troubleshooting and some of the technicians that worked for me couldn’t understand how I could so quickly repair some of the problems that had them stumped. I don’t know if I could fully explain it myself but I’ve always been able to quickly troubleshoot problems. My boss thought I was great, I was going places. Then they sold the company to a larger barcode scanner manufacturer, and I found myself not even allowed to work in repair. I watched my elegant processes get cast aside for their own time and money wasting ways of doing things, and my one day turn around turned into two weeks. I spent the next couple of years lying low re-writing assembly line processes and that kept their production lines running smoothly. I lasted eight years and really didn’t have any real issues until I transferred into an outsource procurement department. Again I was in an “our way or the highway” situation were my creative thinking wasn’t appreciated, and it didn’t take long for me to be irritating my autocratic boss.
It had always confused me. Half of the people I worked for thought I was fantastic, the VP of Operations at Percon called me a pocket knife, his version of a real renaissance man. My Manager at Supra thought I was his savior. The other half thought I was an irritating employee that they wanted to get rid of. I knew that I was always better appreciated in smaller companies that needed me to solve their problems, but I never knew why I had a hard time towing the company line in larger companies. It started making more sense just recently while I was reading a book entitled “Look me in the eye, my life with Asperger’s” by John Elder Robinson that it started making sense. I’m an Aspergian I just hadn’t realize it.
I’m not going to attempt to explain exactly what it means to be an Aspergian because it would take too long, but it does means I’m wired a bit differently than most people. What it means to me is that I now have some explanation as to why I am who I am. Why I have a tendency to talk over people in conversations not knowing when it‘s my turn to talk. Why I can look at a problem as a whole and come up with quick and efficient solutions in my head. Why I can sit there stone faced when you tell me a joke, I may think it’s funny but I may not show it. Why I may forget your name even if I’ve known you half of my life. Why I may not answer you right away when you’ve asked me a question. (I had to learn to tell people I’m thinking the question over). Why I want to be fidgety if I sit in one place too long. Why I have to concentrate on looking at you while you talk, because it would be more comfortable not to. The list goes on.
It’s going to be an interesting road ahead with this new found information about myself. In a way it’s a relief, but it also pisses me off, why didn’t I know about this before? Ultimately I need to use this knowledge to better myself. At least I know were I’m coming from now, and maybe one day I’ll even figure out how to know when it’s my turn to talk.
Tags: Asperger's, Autism., Dan LaFollette