Technically, the term “Asperger’s syndrome” is no longer officially used in diagnostic manuals like the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), but it is still commonly used to describe a specific profile of autism. My diagnosis was confirmed a while back after a daylong battery of tests. I went to get tested because I knew whatever was wrong with me was affecting my work, my marriage and my social interactions. In other words, my entire life.
For example, I was posting blogs that I felt contained very similar material as other writers yet the response I got was muted compared to others. I wanted to figure out what the difference was.
Asperger’s syndrome, also known as Asperger’s disorder or simply Asperger’s, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that falls within the autism spectrum. It is named after Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, who first described the condition in 1944.
Individuals with Asperger’s typically have average or above-average intelligence and do not exhibit significant delays in language development. In fact, I’ve made my living as a writer for over three decades which is very rare.
However, they often struggle with social interactions, understanding nonverbal cues, and empathizing with others. This has crippled my career as my networking skills are almost nonexistent.
They may also exhibit restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. This, actually, is a benefit for a writer. I work pretty much every day. I have no problem sitting down at the computer being self-employed and working.
Some common traits associated with Asperger’s syndrome include:
1. Difficulty with social communication: This may include challenges in understanding social cues, body language, facial expressions, and maintaining eye contact. When I was in the Army I had a battalion commander tell me after a staff meeting (I was his S-3) that I was going to get in trouble for the faces I made during meetings — ie when someone said something I thought was stupid, it was evident on my face what I thought. I really wasn’t aware I was doing that.
2. Difficulty with social relationships: Individuals with Asperger’s may have trouble making friends, understanding social norms, or empathizing with others. This has plagued me my entire life.
3. Repetitive behaviors and routines: They may engage in repetitive behaviors or have very specific routines and rituals that they follow, becoming distressed if these routines are disrupted. This is helpful with work, but a problem in my marriage in that I have a hard time being spontaneous and breaking my routine.
4. Narrow and intense interests: People with Asperger’s often have highly focused interests in specific subjects, which they may pursue with great enthusiasm and expertise. Once more, an asset in some ways. My survival books and focus on disasters and how to mitigate them has led to a number of publications.
5. Sensory sensitivities: They may be sensitive to certain sensory inputs, such as bright lights, loud noises, or certain textures. When I sleep, I need my eyes covered. I used to need earplugs but white noise suffices now. Loud or repetitive noises bother me. I notice almost everything which can be a problem when trying to focus on another person in conversation.
Awareness of the problem is the first step in dealing with it. I’ll do further posts to go into more detail and describe my coping mechanisms. I think this affects a lot of people who haven’t been diagnosed but feel one step removed from the mainstream of society.
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