If you didn’t know, my youngest brother has Asperger’s Syndrome. We have been aware of his many issues for years but he wasn’t diagnosed until recently. Having lived at home for almost two months now, and being home all the time, I will be honest in saying that it is very difficult living with someone with AS.
My brother is very talkative, like every else in my family. However, unlike most people, he cannot carry on a conversation and when he does it is only for a short period of time. Often he will break into a conversation with whatever was on his mind at the precise moment in time, and 90% of the time it has nothing to do with what we are talking about. Or worse, he will make up a story in order to try and add to your conversation. Normal people would call this lying. However, with my brother, he manages to convince himself that it is true and then he will fight you vehemently about it too.
I feel like whenever we are out in public I am doing damage control. Or at least control. I am always making sure that he isn’t talking about something that no one has any idea what he is talking about, or telling one of his many “stories” (aka lies), or annoying someone, or being rude. Aspergians (a word coined by John Elder Robson who wrote Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers) typically are rude. To them, they are just telling the truth and pointing out the obvious. The truth is, most of us learn pretty early on that there are certain things in certain situations that you just don’t say to someone. However, James being the good Aspergian he is will be quick to point out if you are fat, or have a giant wart on your face, or if a girl is pretty.
Yes, at 16 he is not afraid to pursue the girls but they are definitely not interested in him. Now, he can be a typical teenage boy. You know the guys that haven’t learned that a shower is sometimes needed every day and you can’t wear the same shirt three days in a row. However, in some respects, my brother still acts like he is 11. His one and only interest are video games. Now, I know there are many people out there who love and are addicted to video games, but not like this. It’s an obsession. It’s all he can talk about. It’s all he can do. It is typical of Aspergians to take something that they like to do and really push it to the extreme. It’s frustrating though. You seriously cannot have a conversation with the boy without him mentioning a video game. All the history he seems to remember is from his video games. If he disappears while he is supposed to be doing his homework, you can bet your bottom he is sitting in front of the television playing video games.
Of course, it would be great if he had friends who also liked video games or friends period. The thing that is hardest about the whole Asperger’s thing is seeing the sadness that he carries around with him because no one likes him. He doesn’t pick up on social cues. Bottom line. He doesn’t notice when he is annoying you. He only likes to talk about things that he likes, otherwise, he will just walk away. He doesn’t like change or spontaneity, and most importantly he comes across as weird. He’s a 12-year-old in a 6-foot tall 16-year-olds body. People don’t understand him and are often rude. Other kids his age are beginning to have jobs, hang out, go to concerts, have girlfriends, etc. He doesn’t care about that stuff. I doubt if he could hold down a job. He gets sidetracked within minutes. Other people treat him badly, and even on his best behavior on his best day people have been outright mean to him. I remember when he was about 10, he sat on the couch with me and cried because he didn’t have any friends. When I asked him why, he said, “I don’t know. Everyone thinks I’m weird. I don’t feel weird. Why doesn’t anyone like me?”
The truth is, he is a nice kid. Frustrating sometimes, with some issues, but nice. He would be a fun person to play video games with if that is your thing or talk about World War 2 (so he does have one other interest) and he can hold a conversation about movies although he does get really excited about them sometimes this may be more of a family trait.
Why am I saying all this? I see the way that people treat my brother. I know that there are other people out there who may have this disorder or something similar. Most people aren’t going to announce that they have a form of Autism. It’s not like it comes up in polite conversation. So the next time you meet someone who seems a little off, or extremely passionate about one thing, doesn’t look you in the eye, or seems to fit the above definition, consider this: We, the normal people, do not have this disorder, therefore we don’t have any excuse to be rude to people. And instead of ignoring or writing off the people we consider strange, perhaps we need to look deeper and try to find something that we like about them rather than something we don’t like.
Some interesting articles and blogs by Aspergians if you are interested:
Do you know anyone who just talks about themselves?