an introductions of sorts . . .
When I was in elementary school, my younger sister used to watch Sesame Street. At 7 or 8, I felt too grown-up for a show about talking puppets but I secretly loved the “one of these things doesn’t belong here” game.
Once on each show, someone would sing:
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
If you’ve never seen it, here’s an example:
The object of the game was to decide which one of the four items didn’t belong to the group. It was usually an obvious difference–like three birds and a starfish–something simple enough for a preschooler to solve, but it still fascinated me.
I enjoyed thinking about why things were alike or different. I loved grouping and organizing. I spent a lot of time after the game ended trying to figure out if there was a way that all four things were “kind of the same” or why a completely different “one of these things” didn’t belong.
I didn’t know it at the time, but my effort to make sense of things by grouping and sorting them was a classic symptom of Asperger’s Syndrome. There were other signs–obvious ones, like the fact that I was shy to the point of selective muteness at times, and subtle ones, like my poor handwriting.
But I grew up in a time before Asperger’s Syndrome was routinely diagnosed in young children, before parents and teachers knew the signs. Like a lot of adults my age with AS, I made it well into adulthood before realizing that I wasn’t just shy or weird or geeky. That I wasn’t going to outgrow my quirks and wake one day to suddenly find I was “normal.”
When I discovered earlier this year that I’m an aspie, it was a huge relief. I finally understood why I’ve spent so much of my life feeling like an outsider, looking in on the human race and wondering why I seem to be the only one who doesn’t understand the rules.
I realized that I’m not weird or immature or socially awkward. Okay, I am all of those at times, but I can finally let go of the vague hope that I’ll grow out of my strangeness and start down the road to accepting that I am:
- Middle aged
Think one of those things doesn’t belong there? A lot of people seem to. Most of the literature about AS is based on studies of males. There are some fantastic resources for women (which will be a post in itself) but if you’re a late-diagnosed, self-diagnosed or suspected aspie woman the landscape of the autism community can look a little lonely.
There are hundreds of resources for mothers of aspies, but few for aspie mothers. Mentions of aspie tech wizards and entrepreneurs abound but you’ll be hard pressed to find a woman among them. Even most of the literature about kids with AS refers to boys.
So, not for the first time in my life, I’ve looked around and not finding exactly the thing I was looking for, I’ve decided to make something of my own.
Three of These Things Are Kind of the Same
There are alternative lyrics to the Sesame Street song: Three of these things belong here, three of these things are kind of the same.
If you’ve done some reading about AS, you’ve probably come across the statement, “If you’ve met one person with Asperger’s, you’ve met one person with Asperger’s.” Because Asperger’s Syndrome is a cluster of symptoms and because we each experience those symptoms to varying degrees, each of us tends to have a unique experience of AS.
But what we have in common is that our brains perceive the world in ways that are very different from neurotypical people’s brains. That makes us “kind of the same” when it comes to other people with AS and “not like the others” in comparison to typical people.
Because I’m one person with Asperger’s Syndrome, I can only tell my story here. I know from the reading I’ve done that my story is different from others in many ways. I know that I’ve been graced with good people in my life who have smoothed the way for me, put up with me and loved me, even when I made those things very difficult for them to do. I know that I’m at the higher end of the autism spectrum and have learned to compensate for some of my deficits. I know that other people with AS have learned to compensate for different things and so their lives look very different from mine.
We each have our own set of strengths and weaknesses, some a result of AS and some created by our life experiences and personalities.
I’m not here to tell you what it means to have AS, just what it means to me.
With that in mind, I hope that this will become not just a place to share my experiences as a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, but a place for other female aspies and the people in their lives to share their experiences with me.
I hope this will be one more way in which we can celebrate the fact that we’re “not like the others” and better understand how we’re “kind of the same.”