Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

I have Asperger's; I am just like you

Find a mentor, write and be brave, says one man who has Asperger's syndrome.

Story highlights

  • There is no direct connection between autism and violence, man with Asperger's says
  • Kids with autism or Asperger's are sometimes bullied because of their peculiarities
  • Those with Asperger's can have families, be productive members of society

I am not an expert on Asperger's syndrome. But I am an expert on me, and I have Asperger's.

And attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And a bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Having all three disorders together is not unusual, my doctor says.

Like you, I get angry sometimes. And, like you, I would never think of channeling that emotion into violence.

There is no direct connection between violence and autism. None. I don't break things. I don't hit my dogs. I keep a small Tupperware container in the house to catch insects so I can transport them safely outside before my cats or wife see them. I don't disparage hunters, but I could never kill another creature. I just don't have it in me.

Thoughts on Newtown shooting from a man with Asperger's

For the most part, I am just like you, just a bit quirky. All right, a lot quirky.

Gupta: Asperger's not linked to violence

    Just Watched

    Gupta: Asperger's not linked to violence

Gupta: Asperger's not linked to violence 03:45
PLAY VIDEO
Facing college life with autism

    Just Watched

    Facing college life with autism

Facing college life with autism 02:06
PLAY VIDEO
Tips on coping with Asperger's

    Just Watched

    Tips on coping with Asperger's

Tips on coping with Asperger's 05:20
PLAY VIDEO
Asperger's and social skills

    Just Watched

    Asperger's and social skills

Asperger's and social skills 01:24
PLAY VIDEO

I am pedantic. I usually have no expression on my face or in my speech. I cannot look you in the eye. (I've learned to look people in the mouth or nose.) I cannot have a conversation of more than a few words with you, but I can lecture you ad nauseam on U.S. atomic bomb tests, the Cleveland Browns, beagles, Japanese society.

When you speak to me and I look away intently, I am parsing your words and running through scenarios based on your request or statement in an effort to understand you. Please bear with me.

Because I still have a deathly fear of offending someone or talking about something way off-topic, I often hold my hand over my mouth in meetings to keep from speaking. Being called on to speak is sheer terror.

And those are just some of my oddities. Your child/partner/co-worker with Asperger's has some similar peculiarities. That's why kids with Asperger's get bullied.

I was lucky. I didn't get bullied in school because I wasn't diagnosed and therefore not labeled. I wasn't diagnosed until I was 50. And when the doctors asked what course of action I wanted, I said none. I had made it that far, so I'd like to continue working it out on my own.

In fact, until today, most of my co-workers and friends didn't know I had Asperger's. So "Aspies" can grow up to have families and be productive and contributing members of society.

I cannot say this will get you through life, and some of my advice may be wrong for you. But here's what helped me:

Find a "mentor." Targeting someone to pattern my social behavior after changed my life. He was a co-worker and friend who was outgoing, popular and genuinely nice. I mimicked him for years to learn how to approach people and how to act appropriately. I'm not there yet, but I'm not an outcast. I don't think he ever knew. Thanks, Scott.

Become athletic. Yes, I know you're uncoordinated, but you can teach yourself coordination. I spent years throwing a ball against the garage, developing a throwing motion, building the ability to catch a ball and, eventually, hitting that ball. By the fifth grade, I was playing third base in schoolyard pickup games -- and I was no longer picked last. My self-esteem skyrocketed, and the tough kids accepted me.

Write. Take all those thoughts in your head and put them down on paper or a computer screen. Reread them a day, a week, a year later. Show them to someone you trust. I'll bet he or she thinks a lot of the same things. Accept your peculiarities and take advantage of those you can: the ability to focus, above-average intelligence.

Live. Be brave; get out there a bit. Take your obsessive gardening hobby and use it to socialize by checking out a gardening club or volunteer to help spruce up the neighborhood. Learn a bit of self-control, but go ahead and make mistakes. Apologize and have a laugh. "Neurotypical" people can be quite forgiving, given the chance. Bullies are more socially flawed than you are.

If you're a parent of a child with Asperger's, let your child experiment. That's how we all learn. He or she is likely quite intelligent. Let your child know you're pleased when he or she has spoken up to say "Yes, please" or "Thank you" when the situation called for it. We can be quite trying, so please be patient.

Troubling legacy of Sandy Hook may be backlash against kids with autism

      CNN Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.