What is good about knowing Asperger’s Syndrome

Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger SyndromeAspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome by Rudy Simone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ★★★★

Thoughts inspired by the book ‘Aspergirls’

Recently I read ‘Aspergirls‘ by Rudy Simone. None of the topics in the book were new to me, but I liked the coherence, overview and memoir/research interview/self-help format, and it left a strong impression.

 
Comfort zone addiction

I like that Simone both advocates self-acceptance and the need to leave one’s comfort zone (in small, gradual steps) to conquer the life zones that are usually* vital for a fulfilling life, ‘aspergirl’ or not. These include having friends, a partner, and a proper income.

It is easy to see that my comfort zone is at home. I feel good here (mostly); I feel safe, I am familiar with everything. I have fun with my husband and the dogs, daily routines, my laptop and Internet connection, our yard, wilderness nearby, and other things that allow me to stay engaged in meaningful pursuits. I have all I need.

However, the consequences of staying in the comfort zone and neglecting the need to perform to society’s expectations are unbearable. My unemployment (or patchy projects) undermines the material fundament for our lives and causes daily strain & stress, fear of bills, fear of accidents, and failure to meet others and our own expectations and desires. Financial strain is a constant threat, worry & obstacle to carrying things out.

Worst of all: my husband is forced to push aside his priorities to work more to pay (almost) all our bills. That is unfair. It is not that I want it to be this way. It is just so damn hard to get, maintain and thrive in a job and I am extremely prone to loosing my time in fascination and communication with no relevance to earning a living**.

 
Dystopia

Most ‘aspergirls’ prefer to stay at home most of the time and have few or no friends. About 85% of persons with Asperger’s Syndrome are unemployed or underemployed (employed below their qualifications)***.

Simone envisions a gloomy old age for ‘Aspergirls’ who can’t bridge their deficiencies well enough to secure those vital few relationships, proper self-care and financial security. Poverty, poor health and loneliness equals powerlessness.

Take good care of your health starting now because you will only get more vulnerable as you get older. […]

Do avoid the tendency to become a total recluse. […]

Start looking at ways to dramatically increase your income if you haven’t already. You’ll want and need a specific sort of environment with control over it as you get older.

‘Aspergirls’ by Rudy Simone [p. 210]

 

 
(Simone’s book has a positive tone overall, I focus on the dystopic vision here because it reminds me to keep trying to improve).

 
The lens

Simone describes her Asperger diagnosis as a ‘new lens to look through’ in which she reviewed her life and could finally make sense of her difficulties.

I can relate to that, but I’ll add a personal note here: I don’t declare to ‘have’ Asperger’s Syndrome as such / clinically, and this post is no discussion of that question (I just say this to prevent assumptions).

What is valuable for me about knowing Asperger’s Syndrome is its categories for certain sets of traits, sensitivities & tendencies, and its power to explain a ‘gravity’ towards isolation, off everybody else’s planet so to say.

Its ‘lens’ helps to observe & analyse the odd interactions between people that is defined as normal social behaviour.

It gives a sense of relief, because there is order. There is a system to categorise things into; and amazingly, all together the messy life pieces form a picture that is logical, coherent and meaningful (albeit problematic).

And despair. Unsettling memory fragments from my strange, alienated youth promenaded through my head while I read ‘Aspergirls’****. I think of ways the pressure could have been lessened, major break-downs prevented, their aftermaths turned around, and years of dysfunction avoided (maybe) if I’d been in a calm, stable, disciplined small group environment without all the noise, confusion and social stress.

Given the way it was, I think my deroute was inevitable. Like an invisible gravity leading into a black hole; an automatic programme ensuring that any sequence of events led to the same hopeless outcome.

I suppose every life makes its own meaning in some strange way precisely the way it is, that there is no real waste of time. At least it makes me feel better to think that way.

 
To summarise: how researching Asperger’s Syndrome has helped me

I have searched information about Asperger’s Syndrome over the course of 1-2 years, mostly online through articles, forums, blogs and YouTube videos e.t.c. The insights I gained have helped me to:

Name and connect areas of difficulty and address the ones I can change systematically, while not beating myself up about inevitable failures (e.g. family dinners, parties, chatty people).

Acknowledge my strengths and see them as a fair trade off. Stop feeling guilty about spending so much time on my computer but also realising that there is a price to pay for prioritising alone-time over people, and if it gets too expensive then I may loose those who are essential to me… it is a delicate balance.

Make sense of my youth’s dysfunction. It is a long story, but the important part is that I have forgiven myself for failing so miserably at being young. I also forgive (largely) all those who ignored me, cut me off and considered me generally irrelevant, because that’s how the social world works and keeps itself relatively unburdened.

Study ‘normality’ objectively and systematically rather than in panic. To view group dynamics, social behavioural rules, non-verbal communication, sensory perception differences and society’s social expectations through a pragmatic lens that allows me to learn to know what to do rather than worry that I should have known it by default.

 
Ps. Thanks to ‘Aspergirl Maybe‘ for inspiring to read the book.

 

 
 
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*Except for genuinely 100% solitaire persons.

**That is of course no valid excuse…

***The number vary depending who you ask, but it is always very high

****The reference to my youth may be a bit confusing since I haven’t actually written down my history on the blog.

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5 thoughts on “What is good about knowing Asperger’s Syndrome

  1. A Quiet Week

    Good for you!

    I liked this:

    “What is valuable for me about knowing Asperger’s Syndrome is its categories for certain sets of traits, sensitivities & tendencies, and its power to explain a ‘gravity’ towards isolation, off everybody else’s planet so to say. ”

    Reading her book prompted me to seek diagnosis. I absolutely feel relief at understanding my own tendencies.

    I have a friend, a hubby, but no job. For now, this is okay, but I dread the thought of needing to work for a living. Every ounce of my being goes into maintaining the household and taking care of my son and family.

    Blogging is my only release and connection with the outside world aside from the usual scripted conversations with the neighbors. And actually, it is good enough for me. But I worry about going back to work.

    For now, my strategy is to maintain my life. As my son grows older, I intend to look toward graphic design as a career. It is a dream for me to work as an artist, but I lack consistancy in everything I do. Well, aside from the family thing.

    I am glad you enjoyed the book and found useful information. A diagnosis is helpful, but understanding your personality and its traits is even more essential. Once you identify those strenths and weaknesses, you can build a plan.

    Lori

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    1. Mados

      It is a full time job to maintain your household and take care of your son and family!

      And you seem to pursue it with great zeal and passion, which is very admirable. It also fulfils your need for social interaction and challenges and it looks to me like your household does’t need 2 incomes, so I don’t see any reason why it would be not be perfectly fine that way.

      Few men are actually lucky to have a wife who is happy to stay home and look after the family, and even do it with great attention.

      In my case, it is a bit different because I don’t have a kid and: I am unfortunately doing a crap job as a housekeeper. I pretty much overlook most things that need to be done in the house, and I don’t like to cook… I do like to combine the taste, colours and consistencies of ingredients, but I suck at the multitasking aspect of cooking: to keep an eye on food that is cooking while doing something else in the meanwhile, make salad, put plates on the table, remember to stir some other food e.t.c. I find it draining to try to keep an eye on all these little separate tasks at once and tend to stuff it up because I forget to keep an eye on something or loose patience and start doing other things. I also often feel annoyed eating it afterwards; feeling that all the food hassle has already taken way too much time, and sitting and eating it is just another time waster.

      My husband is actually the primary chef of our house, I mostly just supply the inputs he asks for: cut veggies, spice meat, put plates on the table e.t.c. And I also usually wash up afterwards…

      If he doesn’t prompt about dinner, then it doesn’t happen at all. When he is away (travels overseas) my meals are mostly patchy, random and somewhat raw; I get hungry, I find something edible: done.

      He also does most (almost all) the supermarket shopping because I dread it (relentless beeping from cash registers + visually overwhelming). I try to compensate for his efforts of course by helping out in other ways.

      Even if I was a decent house wife, we also can’t live on his income alone, so that is not even a question. We struggle with basic bills every month. So that’s my background for all the ‘ought to make an income’ pressure… it is not that I think everybody should have a job outside their home. If they are good (or even just decent) at looking after their home, then that is their job. Raising a kid is an extremely important job.

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    2. Mados

      I lack consistancy in everything I do. Well, aside from the family thing.

      ‘The family thing’ is an extremely essential responsibility, but you are also very consistent with the style and high quality of your writing & collages on your blog.

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  2. enyaji

    I read this book the other week too as my Boss had recently given it too me for my opinions. A lot of the clients I see (females) who have tried to read this book have said that a lot of the content they don’t really relate to. I found the chapters about discussing going through puberty etc where really good advice for parents and also gave a good insight into how a girl with Asperger’s may react to puberty when it comes. Overall I thought the book was pretty well written and was really insightful but I think due to me not having Asperger’s, it’s hard to tell if this book should actually be recommended to other girls newly diagnosed with Asperger’s, what do you think?

    The one criticism of the book would be that it claims that Asperger’s is a “mild form of Autism”, speaking as a professional I don’t really like that assumption. With quite a few of my clients, their symptoms and social anxiety are anything but mild. Maybe you don’t agree with me, but I feel it’s this assumption that sometimes stops governments, GPS and social services for providing the same level of support they would give someone with a diagnosis of ASD.

    Brilliant book review!

    -Enyaji

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    1. Mados

      Thank you:-) and thanks for asking for my opinion.

      Yes, I think it is a good book to recommend to girls newly diagnosed with Asperger’s. I found it very easy to read with an orderly, consistent structure and relevant use of both the author’s own life experiences and examples from the research interviews. It goes through all the major aspects of life that tend to be affected by the condition. Personally I could relate to almost all of them.

      I also think it is important to remind, when recommending the book, that it is Simone’s personal perspective as a non-professional.

      I think a thing to keep in mind self-report sources about Asperger’s is that people with milder forms of autism can’t tell where the boundaries for their condition are on the spectrum, so it can be tricky to define what is autism and what is just typical human issues or co-occuring conditions. There are always plenty of greyzones, but people need life to be black and white, so they may label everything as ‘Autistic’ when that’s where their identity is anchored.

      I don’t think that is a major issue with Simone’s book, but it shouldn’t be recommended as ‘This Is How Asperger’s Looks in Females’ but more like: ‘this is how the condition presents in some women with asperger’s, and maybe you will find some of the aspects relevant.

      Simone’s version of Asperger’s appears fairly mild, both when reading her insights and when observing her on e.g. YouTube. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t caused significant problems for her, and it also doesn’t mean Asperger’s is a “mild” condition at all in general. However, I have worked with low functioning autistic kids in an institution, and I can understand why parents and others who experience such kids would consider Asperger’s to be an extremely mild kind of autism.

      I hope that answered your questions.

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