5 Dangerous Myths About High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

So going off of my last post, I finally decided to post my reactions to some of the most common myths about those with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism in general. I’m appalled by how widely believed these myths are, and I’m hoping to shed some light on the truth, coming from the perspective of an Aspie/Autistic woman. 🙂

Myth #1: Those with autism or Asperger’s react the same way to all sensory input, including tastes, textures, sounds, etc.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked with people who believe this myth. Quite a few people have heard that those on the autism spectrum have some sensory processing issues, but they wrongly assume that this means that ALL sensory input causes us issues. The truth is that it depends on each individual person. Most people on the spectrum don’t have an issue with all input, but rather specific sounds, tastes, textures, etc. This is the same for me. I only have issues with a few tastes, such as onions and raw tomatoes. When it comes to textures, the only ones that bother me are really rough or scratchy textures, but everything else is perfectly fine with me. In regards to sounds, humming, loud unexpected noises, scratching, and scraping bug me. I do not freak out at every sound, taste, or texture that I encounter. However, if I’m bombarded with lots of different sensory inputs in a short amount of time, I can get extremely stressed out, but this is common among most who are on the spectrum. You should also keep in mind that we experience most sensory input stronger than those who aren’t on the spectrum, but we do not hate all of it and actually quite enjoy some tastes, textures, and sounds.

Myth #2: Those on the autism spectrum hate people and have no desire to interact or form relationships.

This is probably one of the most damaging myths that I’ve encountered. I know that for me, as well as most all of the others on the spectrum that I’ve talked to, we desire friendships and relationships, but just lack the social skills and understanding to properly form them. I would love nothing more than to have quite a few friends and acquaintances, but I often try to stay away from people (not because I don’t like people), because I have trouble with nonverbal communication, understanding humor, deciding what is appropriate to say, etc. These kinds of issues can create difficulties in cultivating relationships. So please don’t think that we don’t want friendships, we do but it is a painful process for us.

Myth #3: Those on the spectrum have no emotions whatsoever. 

This is another incredibly dangerous myth. I encounter a lot of people who think that autism means that you can’t feel anything, and are pretty much an emotionless robot. This is definitely not true! We often experience emotions that are more intense than those experienced by people not on the spectrum, but we often just have difficulties expressing these emotions. I know that for me, I can be extremely excited or upset or happy or sad but to those who see me I look stoic. It’s difficult for us to properly express emotions. We don’t always know how we should display these emotions to others through our body language, or if it is the proper time to display such emotions, etc. We are most certainly not emotionless robots!!!

Myth #4: Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism is just an excuse for individuals to be lazy and not try socially, or get away with being rude.

Yes, people actually believe this myth. I find it appalling. I really do. It’s disturbing that people trivialize my trials and social issues by labeling me as lazy and rude. It’s horrible. Unless you are on the spectrum, you have NO idea what a challenge being autistic is day in and day out. It’s difficult and stressful and emotionally draining. Yes, I try to work to improve my social skills. No, it’s not easy. I’m trying to learn despite having a brain that isn’t wired in the way that everyone else’s is. It’s a battle every day to adapt and learn what everyone else already knows instinctively. Mistakes that I make in the social realm linger with me for years and I feel anguish every time I screw up. So no, I’m not lazy or rude. I just have a brain that is different than yours and makes it difficult to understand proper social interaction.

Myth #5: Those who have High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s can’t amount to anything and are stupid.

Another appalling myth. I know several people on the spectrum who are geniuses and more intelligent than most people who aren’t on the spectrum. I myself am an aspiring forensic scientist. Most of us on the spectrum have a special interest which we obsessively learn about. Mine happens to be forensic science. A lot of us also have an intelligence that is above average. A lot of us can make excellent experts in the area of our special interest. Yes, we are capable of holding down jobs if given the proper help and if those around us take the time to understand us. We aren’t useless, or stupid, not at all. Never let that thought cross your mind!

 

 

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Faith, Hope, and Love

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post, I’ve been knee deep in exams and papers.

I thought that I would include three topics in this post. First, how crucial it is for those who fall on the Autism spectrum to have continual faith in ourselves. Second, how we must have hope for our future and the future of Autism awareness. Finally, I’m going to talk about how important it is to show love to those that fall on the spectrum.

I know it can be hard, as someone who falls on the Autism spectrum, to have faith in yourself and believe that you can do amazing things. I’ve struggled immensely with that. There are times where I’ve let myself believe that because of my disability I cannot accomplish what I want in life. I hope to be a scientist one day and I’ve encountered people that have told me to give up on that dream because of my AS, but I refuse to do that. The only way you can make it through life’s challenges if you fall on the spectrum is by having faith in yourself. You are special. You can do whatever you set your mind to. Don’t let someone else tell you that you can’t make your dream come true because you fall on the spectrum. It may take a lot more work to achieve (I’ve definitely found this out), but I promise that you can do it if you believe in yourself.

Hope is another important thing. We need to have hope for the future, hope that one day people will truly understand what living on the spectrum is like. I know how discouraging it is that the world hasn’t quite accepted us and how we are, but eventually they will get there. There is a huge emphasis put on awareness for several disabilities, autism being one of the largest, nowadays but that doesn’t mean that everyone understands it. I’ve met several people who don’t understand how varied the spectrum is and expect me to be the same as someone who falls on the other end of the spectrum. We all share a common heart, but our sensitivities and dreams and routines are all unique. I did see an encouraging video the other day. It was at a celebrity event for autism awareness, and an 11-year-old girl got to do a duet with her idol, Katy Perry. It was an incredibly moving video, and shows that some people are beginning to see the magic that is inside of us. If you would like to see that video, you can find it at:

http://mashable.com/2012/10/19/katy-perry-firework-autism-jodi-dipiazza/#:eyJzIjoiZiIsImkiOiJfa2k4amRsZXBwa2xrb2N5aSJ9

Finally, I just want to emphasize how important it is to show love to those of us who fall on the spectrum. We deserve to be cared about just as much as anyone else. Unfortunately we are often snubbed or treated like we are aliens on this planet. If you could see just how big our hearts are, you would think differently of us. Please, if you know anyone who falls on the spectrum, tell them how much they mean to you and how much you care. It will make a world of a difference, believe me.

~Meghan

The Most Misunderstood Challenge in My LIfe

I decided to write about an issue that I’ve been having since I started college, that those around often dismiss or laugh away. I definitely fit the stereotype of the super intelligent nerd, so when I discovered in college that classes aren’t as easy for me as I expected and that I may need to develop some new strategies to handle them, everyone around me looked at me with disbelief.

I have to admit that at first I also experienced some disbelief. I’m intelligent, always did well in school, so why would I suddenly have problems in college? I had went from being able to do homework with such ease to spending increasing amounts of time studying and trying to comprehend what I was learning. Had I not been as intelligent as I was growing up? Did I somehow lose my intelligence as the years passed by?

After some thinking I realized that I didn’t have problems in high school because it is formatted in an incredibly different way that college. In high school the activities often required the memorization of certain facts and formulas and the regurgitation of those items on exams. My brain can handle memorization in most cases pretty easily. When I was younger I was able to easily memorize the spelling of words upon words while participating in spelling bees. I could remember complicated routes to places that I had only been to once. College, on the other hand, has a completely different format. Assignments are more intricate and require a lengthy thought process. It’s not just simple memorizing and spewing anymore. 

I’ve come to terms with the fact that the way that my brain is wired up is going to make things different for me in college. I can’t do assignments and exams the same way that my peers do. I have to find different environments to take my exams in so I can focus, and I have to find studying strategies that work around how my brain functions.

I am by no means stupid. The material I’m learning is in my brain. It just takes a different way to get the material out of my brain as compared to other students. Just because I do things differently doesn’t make me useless or stupid.

Love: Impossible for an Aspie to Find?

So I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how Asperger’s has affected my life romantically. Yeah, this is going to be quite the post. I decided to go ahead and address it since it has been a popular request, and I want to inform you guys about what you want to know.

Dating and handling relationships is hard enough for a NT,  it’s close to impossible for an Aspie. A successful relationship demands a lot of expertise in the areas of understanding your partners feelings, knowing  what to say to cheer them up, being knowledgeable about social norms, and many more…

As for me I have only been in one real relationship, and that lasted about 6 months. It was an absolute disaster. Such a mess, I wish I could erase it from my mind but I can’t. This happened during my senior year of high school. Prior to that I had received pretty much no attention from guys. They weren’t really interested in me because I didn’t fit in. My college years haven’t been much better. I did have a guy that I really cared about who really seemed interested, but he recently decided that me being an Aspie is too much for him to handle.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that most people aren’t ready to accept the prospect of dating someone who was made different them, especially when you’re around the age that I am. I think that the people my age unfairly judge us Aspies and assume that we are high maintenance and not worth dating.  It’s incredibly frustrating and I’m tired of being treated like that.

It’s not easy for an Aspie to find someone who cares about them, but I implore you to think twice before you consider us not worth dating or you just push us aside because you think we have less worth than NTs. Please help me stop this trend and be a bit more considerate towards us.

~Meghan

The Truth About What High Functioning Autism is Like

I thought I would dedicate my next post to the misconceptions behind High Functioning Autism (HFA), and also explain what it’s really like to be a person with HFA.

I would like to start out by addressing the misconceptions surrounding HFA. It is often though that since the word ‘autism’ is in HFA, that we are exactly the same as everyone else on the spectrum. Yes, autism does link all of us that fall on the autism spectrum, but each individual form of autism has it’s own unique characteristics. When people hear that I have AS they automatically assume that I have the characteristics of other autistic people that they have seen or interacted with. Not true. I am not the same as any other person on the spectrum. I’m even unique compared to every other person with AS. I may have a brain that is put together in a different way than Neuro-Typicals (people who are not on the spectrum) just like every autistic person, but I am still my own person. I frequently run into people who think that I, along with other ASDs, are stupid and incapable of anything product. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. All of us, even if we are lower functioning, have amazing gifts that go beyond what normal people can do. I saw a video a while back of a girl who would be considered on the lower functioning end of the ASD. Like most lower functioning autistics, she was unable to communicate. Through the help of her parents, she was able to learn how to type to communicate. The words that she wrote amazed everyone. She was incredibly articulate, more so than a NT girl of the same age. With those who have HFA, they are often incredibly gifted in some amazing areas. I have been given a gift in all areas of science. I know others who are gifted in the areas of math, chemistry, history, and many others. It just goes to show that we are much more capable and intelligent than you think. Never let it cross your mind that someone with autism is “stupid” or “retarded”. We have so much intelligence within us, it’s just often hard for us to communicate just how smart we are.

Now that I’ve covered some misconceptions, I would like to give you an account on what it’s like to have AS. In social situations, I often feel like an alien. Or like I’m invisible. If anyone happens to notice me, which isn’t very often, I feel very out of place and like I don’t belong. When I am talking to people I often say the wrong thing without realizing it. I offend a lot of people that way. I would much rather stay in a corner or lock myself in my room to avoid people. It’s usually easier that way so I don’t embarrass myself. When I am around around other people I tend to talk excessively about science, which is something that most people don’t care to hear about. My brain feels like it is on overdrive 24/7. My mind is always shifting from one thought to another. A majority of my thoughts revolve around science. For example, I will be walking around my college campus and my mind will go from thinking about how a sidewalk that goes in a certain direction forms a great right triangle with the one I’m walking on, to thinking about the chemical composition of our lake, to thinking about how the stars will be aligned that night. This is how my brain works all day, every day. It’s kind of crazy and most NTs don’t really understand it. I’m in Analytical Chemistry this semester, and for those of you that don’t know that is a pretty difficult class. I often understand the material, but with the way my brain is set up it is so difficult to get the information from my brain to the paper. It often feels like it’s impossible to convey what I’m thinking. Thankfully my professor is incredibly understanding and he is very helpful in helping me to convey what’s in my mind. I also tend to obsess over stuff very easily. Once I find something that I like it will often become an obsession of mine for a while, which is a fault with my brain. I also have a lot of sensitivities to sounds, such as humming, whistling, scraping sounds, and many others. It’s very hard for a NT to understand these sensitivities. They usually tell me to just suck it up and get over it. What they don’t understand is that due to the way my brain is set up these sounds seems like they are about 10x louder than they really are, and because they send me into sensory overload they can effectively shut down my thought process and prevent me from thinking properly, doing homework, focusing, etc.

I hope that this description has helped you to understand AS a bit better. If you have any questions about AS feel free to ask me. Most importantly, never judge a person with ASD without getting to know them first. They will surprise you. Have a good day!

~Meghan

Aspergers: Blessing or a Curse?

I have to admit, one of the scariest moments in my life was hearing those two words: “Aspergers Syndrome”. I was familiar with what it was, but I was in denial. Members of my immediate family were the first to suggest that I may have AS. Why did they think that I had AS? I have a close friend with AS, and eventually my family began to realize that I was a lot like my friend. My mom researched it, and the more she found out about it, the more she was convinced that it explained everything about me.

How could such fear come out of two little words? I knew the stigma behind any autism spectrum disorder, whether high-functioning or low-functioning. I worried about what the people I knew would think if I was diagnosed. Most of all, I was terrified that I would not be able to cope in my own mind with knowing that I was a part of the spectrum.

I guess I should probably give you some more detailed background info on my upbringing, so it makes sense why my family thought AS was so plausible. I was always the odd one out growing up. In elementary school I didn’t fit in at all. I liked to spend all of my time reading science books, while all of the other kids were always playing outside or making up new games. I didn’t make any true friends during that time in my life. I tried to avoid the other kids as much as possible. I knew that if I did interact with them they would begin to call me names and push me around, although that still happened even if I ignored the other children. In middle school not too much changed. I still didn’t have friends. I still kept to myself. I still was absolutely obsessed with science.  I got bullied more frequently, to the point where I was seriously struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts at that time. I didn’t want to look at people, and when people would happen to start a conversation with me I would frequently avoid eye contact. My mother would always wonder why I wouldn’t look at her when she would talk to me. By the time I reached high school I had given up on friends. I did happen to make a few close friends during high school, by the grace of God. I spent most of my time reading, playing video games, and doing more in depth research to the science I loved.

Several of those things from my childhood point to AS, but my parents had not heard of it so they just assumed that I was too smart for my own good. When they did find out about AS they encouraged me to go ask my psychologist at college about it, and I did. From that point on I was officially an Aspie.

For almost a year after my diagnosis I view myself as useless, stupid, and worthless because of my AS. I was terribly embarrassed to have it, and I did everything that I could to prevent people from finding out that I did.  I viewed it as a curse because it caused me so many problems in my life. I couldn’t talk to people, I couldn’t fit in, I couldn’t even PRETEND to be normal because of it. I didn’t think that anything good could come from the AS. I kept it to myself and locked myself in my single dorm room for pretty much the entire semester.

My feelings about my AS have changed in the past few months. I’ve realized that although I have it, that doesn’t mean I deserve the cruel treatment that I’ve gotten over the years. I deserve friendship, love, and self-esteem just like everyone else. I’ve tried to learn ways that I can manage some of my manifestations of AS, and it has been somewhat successful. I have managed to even make a few friends in the process. More importantly, I’ve seen that the way that my brain is constructed due to AS is much more of a blessing than a curse. It gives me a unique insight. It gives me my intelligence. It gives me my passion for science. I never thought that I would get to the point where I would view AS as a positive thing, but I’ve finally reached that point. AS makes me who I am. It is an integral part of me. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  I have finally seen my AS as a true blessing.

If any of you have been diagnosed with AS and are struggling, I would like to encourage you to keep going no matter how hard it is. Believe me, I understand how difficult it can get. But never give up. I’ve made it through 20 years with having AS, and I’m sure that you can too. AS is not a defect, it does not make you less of a person. It makes you a unique and beautifully gifted person.

I hope all of you enjoyed this post.

~Meghan

A Blurb About Me

Hey guys! My name is Meghan. I thought I use my first post to tell you guys a little about me.

I’m 20 years old and currently studying to be a forensic scientist. I love everything that has to do with science, from astronomy, to chemistry, to biology. I’ve pretty much been a science nerd since I can remember. As a little kid I loved to spend my time learning about bugs and coming up with crazy experiments to perform. I guess it would make sense that I would pick forensic science, given that I have an incredibly huge fascination (or more accurately, obsession) with biology and chemistry.

I’ve been a Christian pretty much as long as I remember, but I only recently came to understand what being a Christian really means. Growing up I was around a lot of legalistic Christians who drilled it into my head that Christianity is simple an incredibly long list of rules, and that if you didn’t follow them you were doomed. Through God’s hand in my life and the discovery of my current church, I have learned  that Christianity is really about God’s love for us and having a relationship with Him.

I was diagnosed with Asperger’s about a year ago, during my first semester of my freshman year at college. For those of you who aren’t aware, Asperger’s is a high functioning form of autism that is characterized by trouble with social interaction. There are parts to AS that are not social related. For example, I have sensitivities to a variety of sounds, I struggle with anxiety and depression, and several other things. I wish I had known earlier, but the diagnosis did provide me with answers as to why I’m different than everyone else around me. Since the diagnosis I’ve dedicated a lot of my time to researching AS and trying to learn why I am the way I am.

I’m hoping to use this blog to reach out to other people and provide some insight and comfort to them. I want others who have been through similar experiences as me to not be afraid or ashamed. I want everyone to know that they are special in their own way. If I can help at least one person through their struggles, this would all be worth it. I hope you all have a great day!

~Meghan