As I have mentioned, my eldest son, Hammer, has Asperger's Syndrome, which is an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Hammer hates the words 'syndrome' and 'disorder' because he strongly feels that although he is different, it isn't something 'bad' or something that has to be 'cured'.
Last year, Hammer did a talk for his Boy Scout Troop. I am reprinting it here for you.
I will also be printing some other articles, and writing some more essays with regard to Autism this month.
Here is the reprint of Hammer's Talk for Autism Awareness Month
(sorry, double spaced)
April is Autism Awareness Month. Mr. Trapp has asked me to speak tonight because I have a form of high functioning autism called Asperger’s Syndrome.
There are many different degrees of autism. Think of the spectrum of colors. At the far left you have yellow, and that would be like Asperger’s and other high functioning forms, and all the way on the right you have the deepest darkest purples, and that would be like Kanner’s Autism, so severe that you cannot speak, communicate or be touched.
Autistics have their own way of thinking. They are often misjudged by those of you who are neuro-typical, we don’t say ‘normal’ because everyone has their own ‘normal’. Neuro-typical is how all of you without autism think.
Autistics think differently which does not mean it is inferior. And, thinking differently is not the same as thinking different things. It means that our brains are wired to process and react to information and stimulation around us in a very unique way. The best thing that you can do is remember that anyone with autism is not being different to be ‘difficult’, it is just how we are.
Autistics and Aspies, like me, get overloaded by things that other people hardly notice, and each of us has our own set of sensitivities. In order to cope with overload we have to allow for ‘down time’ and time to ‘decompress’.
For example, I have some sensitivities. Sometimes noise can really be painful and difficult for me to handle. I often will use soft ear plugs that dull the noise and help me cope.
I also have a problem with bright lights. Sometimes I have problems with tactile things too. I can be bumped gently and have it feel like I was tackled. Other times, I can bang a part of me and not even notice.
My pain scale is all messed up, too. I have a hard time recognizing internal body pain, like stomach aches, and ear infections, until they are super bad. I broke my nose once, and when the doctor snapped the bone back into place with a metal rod, I never stopped talking to him about Star Wars. He was amazed because most grown up people, men and women scream, and some even pass out!
I also have something called dysgraphia which makes it painful to hold pens and pencils for a long time. I do a lot of my school work orally because of that. I also like computers better, buteven that can be stressful after a while.
I am also particular about my foods. I don’t like the different things on my plates to touch. I am pretty lucky though, some kids and adult Autistics only eat white foods, like Larry on the show Numbers, or only eat 2 or 3 things ever for their whole lives!
One of the most difficult situations for Aspies and Autistics are social occasions. Groucho Marx once said, “I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it.” This illustrates how many of us feel. I love being with people, but it can be really hard when they don’t get me. I am pretty sensitive and can easily have my feelings hurt. Once people understand where I am coming from, then we usually get along fine! Chit chat can be tough, but if you come to me and ask me about things I like, we can really have a great conversation!
Autistics and Aspies often have tics or do repetitive things called, ‘stimming’. It isn’t meant to be annoying to everyone around us, but sometimes it may seem that way. Some kids and adults may rock, flap, tap, sway, pace, hum, make weird sounds, stare at walls, etc. These behaviors are calming for us as we are being bombarded by all the things that you neuro-typical people never even notice.
You may have noticed my tics. Sometimes I will make a strange noise, or rub my face. No big deal. Just ignore it!
Many Aspies, like myself, and other high functioning Autistics are very smart, but not all of us. Usually, our smarts or genius is in one or two specific areas, and we struggle with others. However, all of us here on the Autistic Spectrum are exploring alternate realities with our different thinking and brain functions.
This can lead to great creativity and inventiveness. Many studies now believe that Albert Einstein had Asperger’s Syndrome. He certainly did look at the world of physics in a different way in his time, no one can debate that fact.
Other famous people who have admitted to being on the Autistic Spectrum, or who are now thought to have been after researching their lives using the definitions of Autism, are Bill Gates, Marie Curie, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Orson Welles, Mozart, Carl Sagun, and there are more.
There are a lot of great books out there to read about Asperger’s and Autism. My mom has a bunch and she is always willing to loan them out. Some are made especially for kids, and some for adults. Just ask me about them.
Well, I hope this was interesting for all of you. I will take any questions you might want to ask me now. First though, I am going to ask my brother, Fuzzy, to come up and help me. You see, I will answer you from my point of view, but Fuzzy may have more to add, since he is my neuro-typical brother living with me and Asperger's each day.
That was the speech for last year. We will be writing a new one together for this year. I will share it, of course.