Friday, February 12, 2016
Michele Happe MA
February 12 2016
I have coached a number of people with Aspergers as well as a few parents with Aspergers kids. When I approach a new issue in my practice I do a lot of research and learn from my clients. When I had my radio show I did a long segment on Aspergers and autism as part of my research. After the show a number of people approached me telling me that they took the test I provided and sure enough, they were on the spectrum. I took the test and I was not even though I identified with a number of characteristics such a social uncomfortability and anxiety, hypersensitivity to certain types of stimulation and others.
Then I started thinking about my dad. He was a strange and interesting dude . He was a materials engineer who worked at Jet Propulsion Lab where he had experiments on the voyager spacecraft. His gig was manufacturing glass in zero gravity. He was also an inventor and a musician. He was super smart but spacey and neglectful as a father. He was also lascivious and pervy. I figured out after the fact that my dad was Aspie. One of his favorite stories was how when he was 12 he got in trouble with his mom at the dinner table and she threw one of those large carving forks at him. It embedded shallowly in his stomach and he refused to remove it, walking around all afternoon with a fork hanging out of his soft, obese belly. THAT was my dad! He was a very strange dude, a true eccentric. I believe he was on the spectrum.
Just to be clear let me include a list of characteristics for Aspergers:
"Obviously, not all highly intelligent adults have Asperger. With no or few features from the list one does not have the condition. Even with a high score, one should realize a diagnosis can not be made on this basis, but requires interviews and observation in person next to psychological testing. Although GAIA was originally conceived to detect Aspergoid features, it may actually be measuring a more general disposition for psychiatric disorders without in itself being able to point to one specific disorder.
Write complaint letters to authorities, professionals, companies etc.
Read full manual before taking equipment into use
Severely bullied at school
Little or no facial expression
Not well able to read another's facial expression
Flat or monotonous voice
Rigid day or week schedule (repetitive patterns)
Strong interest in arcane subjects (either scientific, occult or trivial)
Lack sensitivity to nonverbal cues and social codes
Employed below ability level
Poor work record
Never had a steady job
Educated below ability level
Never had an amorous relationship
Read reference works from A to Z
"Talk too much"
"Talk too little"
Low "social skills"
Little eye contact
One-sided eating habits
Capable of sustained rigorous hard work
Not taken seriously or misunderstood in face-to-face situations
Neurotic habits or tics
Diagnosed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Diagnosed any Personality Disorder
Peculiar or (for males) too high-pitched voice
Highly sensitive to criticism
Lack "common sense"
Bitten by dogs
A-rhythmic speech or abnormal speech rhythm
Teased by children in adulthood
Clumsy or exaggerated gestures when talking
Unrightfully punished at school
Longing for death or suicidal thoughts
Eating disorder (like anorexia)
Depression or on anti-depressant
Attached to animals or things rather than humans
Stilted and overformal in social interaction
Oversensitive to particular sounds"
So this is a very exhaustive list that is meant as a test to see if you have Aspergers. One funny note: My dad was famous for writing complaint letters. He actually got toothpicks on one of the airlines by exhaustively writing letters. He would also write letters to Chinese Restaurants complaining about the fact that they didn't serve coffee...he was not so successful there.
So I guess I am a child of an Aspie or Aspie ish. As I like to say. I don't qualify but I do identify. I think if you asked people who know me you would hear that I am unusual, or unique...not quite eccentric but close. I have arranged my life so that I can be comfortable. I work at home. I need lots of alone time even though I love people...in very small doses. This includes my husband who is also Aspie ish. His dad qualifies and one of his brothers is most probably on the spectrum. I hate parties unless I have a specific job like cutting carrots or if I can hide in a corner and have a deep philosophical conversation with someone one on one.
I like who I am. Aspie ish works for me. As a friend who qualifies said to me..."I wear it as a badge of honor". I was disappointed and remain so when the distinction Aspergers was subsumed into the Autism Spectrum Disorder classification. I don't see Aspergers as a disorder at all. We do have our challenges but we are a sweet eccentric tribe as far as I can tell. We generally are verbally gifted and can cruise around in the world with only lifting a few eyebrows occasionally. As an Aspie ish person, I have a deep understanding and compassion for those who are in the tribe as I was raised by one. I get it even though I don't qualify as "one". I want to be a member of the tribe as a supporter who is fortunate to have many of the "qualities" that high functioning Aspies share. Call me a groupie if you want.
I love working with Aspies. It is fun to coach someone on how to be a bit more social, how to network and set priorities. I enjoy empathizing and cheering them on toward self acceptance and ultimately self approval. I advocate setting up a life that may not look the way other people's lives look but it is a life that works well. I also believe this about relationships. We must tailor our relationships to fit our personality and our proclivities. This means that we need to quit comparing ourselves to "typicals". Aspies are only typical to our own tribe which in my view includes Aspie ish types like me.
My hope is that this little blog will touch others who might identify as Aspie or Aspie ish. I also hope that whoever you unidentified tribal members are you might do a little work on honoring yourself as being a member of a very special tribe of people who are collectively responsible on many levels for making the world a better place. It is the geeks and scientific types who are such contributors due to their exhaustive energy and brilliance. Many of them are in our tribe. I believe it is a tribe to be celebrated.
Until then, be well.