Tom Leatherland is a member of ACCT and has written this to be read out in assembly…he is 12 and has just been diagnosed.
Asperger’s is a form of autism.
I have Asperger’s (pronounced As-per-ger – like burger) Syndrome. Lots of people call it Asperger’s (As-per-jer) and I find this annoying because it is not correct and that is part of what having Asperger’s makes me like. I don’t mind being called an Aspie or you can say I have AS – this is because I am pedantic and I like things to be correct. I am obsessive about various things but my obsessions change – I get bored with something and move onto something else which I want to do all the time until I am bored again. I am extremely unsocial because I prefer my own company to others. I have trouble reading facial expressions and voice tones and so often misinterpret what people mean or how they feel. Having AS is sometimes annoying as, because I take language literally, I am left feeling clueless when everyone else seems to understand what has been said or what is going on. I have extremes of emotions with nothing in between. I feel REALLY happy (when obsessing – either engaging with my obsession, talking about it or thinking about it), or REALLY sad (when I am restricted from my obsession, have something obsession related taken away from me, or am put in a situation that causes sensory overload) or REALLY bored. I am bored when I do not have access to my current obsession, and when I am bored I cannot enjoy anything else and instead stay in a sort of limbo until I am able to return to my obsession. When I am engaged in something that is intriguing or interesting but isn’t obsession related I do not feel anything – I think other people (without AS) feel a wider range of emotions than I do.
Sensory overload is something that a lot of autistic people struggle with. It is what happens when there is too much of something which affects my senses. It causes me to become extremely agitated and stressed, really sad and stops me from being able to concentrate, focus or think. I am most often overloaded by noise and touch – a prime example would be how I feel in a large place that is packed with people. The noise would be too loud and I wouldn’t be able to cope with the people bumping into me and surrounding me. It makes me want to curl up into a ball and escape from the experience. Another example of touch overload is how I feel when I am wearing scratchy, itchy clothes – they make me want to scream!
Whilst there are a lot of things about Asperger’s which make me struggle, there is always some way to overcome these and a way to help how I feel. There are also a lot of good things about my Asperger’s, one example is that my obsessions make me go to great lengths to make sure what I do is ‘perfect’ and therefore what I produce is usually of a very high standard because I cannot allow myself to spend any less time than is needed to achieve what, in my mind, is perfection. Because of the way my brain works I am logical and analytical which makes me able to calculate things and work things out.
Without my Asperger’s I would not be me as all I have learnt and experienced and my personality has been defined by my Aspergers – I am autistic, I have AS, it is who I am and I cannot know what I would be like without it.