Monday, April 14, 2014

Team Aspie

My son was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.   I always knew my son was a unique, eccentric, and quirky little guy.  Apparently, having those traits can get you a disorder classification.  (See how flippant that previous sentence was?  That’s a symptom…more on that later. )  Well to everyone’s surprise except mine, he is just like his dad.  I too have Asperger’s.

Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism named after the Austrian doctor Hans Asperger, who defined the disorder in 1944.  Asperger’s symptoms vary but the common ones are as follows:  lack of social skills, difficulty communicating, eccentric behaviors, and limited but obsessed interests.  Of course, only those without Asperger’s see these symptoms.  For us, this is normal behavior and you’re the one who is codependent, touchy, boring, and scattered.

As a child (who am I kidding, even as an adult), I preferred to be alone.  Of course there were seasons where I played with other kids, but aspies prefer solo missions.  We find that groups slow us down, or even more tragic, speed us up.  Very few things in life irritate us more than being rushed.  There is absolutely no excuse for an aspie to move quickly.  Even if a neurotypical (that’s you), finds us idle in a burning building, we’re not idle.  We could be thinking about how to fight the fire, as running may be third on our list.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  2 Timothy 3:16

Nothing has managed my Asperger’s more than my relationship with Christ.  God’s truth is timeless.  It is powerful enough to overcome generations, cultures, personalities, and disorders.   One of the reasons it is difficult for an aspie to communicate is that aspies have a hard time showing empathy.  They also have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations.  This isn't because aspies are more self-centered or less considerate.  It is because aspies toggle between being socially nearsighted or farsighted.  They don’t have a good blend.  This is not an excuse, but an explanation.  People with AS have a hard time noticing anything outside of what they are already focused on.  It's as if our minds have a tilt shift lens.  

If our focus is on something far away, we will trip over a couch as we make our way to that object.  If our focus is on something close, we are blind to the person awkwardly waiting for us to acknowledge them.  How do I meet this challenge?  I play offense.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:10

If I don’t intentionally decide to prefer others, prior to walking into a crowd or meeting, I will easily get distracted, as I auto-switch between focuses.  I have to make a decision to honor and focus on others.  If I do, I will likely be the life of the party.  Conversely, if I am in my solitary default state, throwing me into a social situation will bring about one of two outcomes:  I will put everyone in queue as I continue my current action, or feelings of obligation will cause me to pause what I am doing and I will rush through social pleasantries.  Both of which leads to me to be, awkward at best, or offensive at worst.

Aspies may struggle with nonverbal communication such as eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures, but what we lack in body language, we over compensate with our unfiltered words, straight from the tap.  For example, a person with AS may engage in a one-sided speech about a topic that only he is familiar with.  Even worse, your signals that you have no idea what they are talking about go unnoticed as they transition into verbose mode.  People with AS tend to be loud and partisan in their speech.  My wife has expressed concern and frustration over the years for having to field questions for me.  Our friends would rather ask her a question than ask me.  And if it was something only I could answer, they would ask her to ask me.  Just as my etiquette needs to be intentional, so does my silence.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.  Proverbs 17:28

But even that can backfire.  Guess how many times I have been accused of being unkind because I was silent?  Aspies don’t bounce ideas, and we don’t play verbal tennis.  We prefer verbal dodge ball.  My constitution gives me the right to remain silent.  My Bible gives me the responsibility.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalms 139:14

Before you get the idea that having Asperger’s is a joke and a curse, let’s discuss the positives.  My God made me this way for a reason.  Did you know my syndrome won’t let me quit what I’m focused on?  It is true that at times, I will almost crash my car looking for a McDonald’s fry that fell under the seat.  It is also true that my family will wait 15 minutes in the car while I hunt down a fly I spotted while grabbing my keys.  Aspies are committed people.  When I read the Bible, I find what God wants me to focus on.  And if I find it, it will be my mission till completion.  Once an aspie is on mission, he cannot be distracted.  Once we believe in something, we will fight to the death for it.  But that belief doesn't come easy.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.  1 Corinthians 15:58

In general, aspies are born skeptics.  We don’t just believe anything.  That is why we have a hard time with religion, tradition, and authority.  However, once I had an experience with God, everything changed.  An aspie is not impressed with history and testimony.  Aspies have to experience it for themselves.  This is why aspies are rough to speak with.  They don’t have opinions, they have conclusions.  If I am not convinced about a subject, it’s not a subject I am interested in discussing.

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"  Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  John 20:29

I may be a doubting Thomas, but now that I’ve experienced the Lord, nothing will ever change my mind.  My son also has a heart for God.  Jesus is in both of our lives.  And I know that will always be the case, because aspie hearts are impregnable fortresses.

1 comment:

Autumn said...

True. These are all things I love about my little Aspie. I love his honesty and passion for his interests. Monologuing can be tough to listen to, especially when it happens mid-sentence in something I'm saying that has nothing to do with it, but at least he has that passion. I wouldn't trade him for anything!