Asperger’s in the Blood: My Story

I recently took an on-line test for Asperger’s syndrome:  http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html

As you probably know, Asperger’s is a pervasive developmental disorder that is characterized by an inability to understand how to interact socially. Typical features of the syndrome also may include clumsy and uncoordinated motor movements, social impairment with extreme egocentricity, limited interests and unusual preoccupations, repetitive routines or rituals, speech and language peculiarities, and non-verbal communication problems. See: http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=9675

I took the test not because I feel I possess Asperger-like symptoms but because both my father was and my son were/are deeply affected by the condition.

According to the website, 80% of people diagnosed with the syndrome score 32 points or more but I scored just 16, well with within the range of most people. I then did the test as if I were my father [he scored 40] and my son who scored 47.

When my father was alive, we had never heard of Aspreger’s syndrome and put his oddities of character down to the fact that he was born in a small mountain village in Cyprus long ago, he lived through a World War and was exceptionally selfish. Over the years, my brother and I came up with forms of words that seemed to sum him up. I thought he was probably mentally ill and my brother described him to me after he died as a “sociopath”. What was he like, I hear you ask?

He could hear no-one’s voice but his own. There was no one of any significance in his universe but himself. He was entirely lacking in empathy and saw both my brother and myself as physical extensions of him. He pushed both of us into unsuitable careers [the Banking industry and the Stock Exchange] because these were careers he would have liked to have pursued. When my Mother had a small stroke, he was incapable of recognizing it. He had an amazing will. He gave up smoking 60 cigarettes a day just like that but when he decided he had “cured” himself of heart-disease by breathing in lungfuls of mountain air and stopped taking his heart medicines, three weeks later he keeled over and died.

Living in the same household as my father was a strain on all of us. My mother was always saying “don’t upset your father”. She said this because the simplest thing [like disagreeing with him about a newspaper story], would send him off into a towering rage. He would shout at the top of his voice things like “I am surrounded by idiots!” We would all walk on eggshells around him and keep out of his way as much as possible.

He had no friends outside of one or two he made during the War, no interests outside of reading the newspapers and watching the news on the television. He seldom took my mother to a restaurant and didn’t have any interest in music, theater or books. His fixations [that he tried to impose on my brother and I] were money and the stock market.

Unsurprisingly, I left home as soon as I could and returned only occasionally, to spend time with my mother. After we left, the strain was more than she could bear and she died of a heart attack at the age of 62.

Young people of today living with Asperger’s are more aware of themselves as a group than any previous generation. There are many self-help and support groups dedicated to “Aspies” as they call themselves. Although there is no such thing as a “cure” from the syndrome, treatments involving drugs and psycho-social interventions, behavioral modification, social skills training, educational interventions and mood stabilizers, beta blockers, and tricyclic-type antidepressants have been imposed on individuals. Most people with Aspergers however, would suggest there is nothing “wrong” with them and they should be allowed to be themselves…

To an extent they are right, if someone is different do we have the right or duty to try to make them more socially acceptable to the majority? Such was the case with gay people in Europe and the United States until very recently indeed, clinic in countries like India still advertise “cures” for homosexuality.

My son is as they say in PC circles “differently abled”. He obsesses about matters that interest him and talks at you rather than to you. He is confused by verbal jokes and has difficulty understanding what is socially appropriate behaviour. He is though bright and has an amazing memory for certain things. He thinks you could say, in straight lines. If he were minded to, he might make an excellent accountant or computer programmer.

The world of today is generally speaking a more generous place towards people who are different. In the UK at least, multiculturalism feels normal and different versions of the family are to be found on every street.

My hope is that in the UK and similar enlightened environments his difference will not only be accepted but in some way celebrated so that he will not have to resort to the rages my father experienced by being a round peg being hammered into a square hole.

To find out more about Asperger’s Syndrome: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger_syndrome

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About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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8 Responses to Asperger’s in the Blood: My Story

  1. Pingback: Asperger's in the Blood: My Story | Steve Hollier's Blog | About Aspergers Syndrome

  2. Julia Hawkes-Moore says:

    Asbergers runs all through my family, primarily on the male side, although I am mildly aspergic too. For my elder son, it brings an inability to eat ‘normal’ food, although the younger eats relatively normally. It has significant impact on marriage if onlyt one partner is aspergic, or severaly so. Relate retrained all their counsellors to analyse intractable couples, where one of them kept saying ‘She/He just does not understand what I am saying’. Diagnosis provided, the marriages split 50/50, with partners either accepting the benefits, or getting out from the difficulties.

    I’ll go see what my score is in this test:

  3. Hugh says:

    Interesting, if sad, post. I’d never heard of it. A strange one. Your father sounds ghastly. Sorry to hear that you and Julia are affected. But Steve, I really haven’t noticed any of the symptoms in your character or modus operandi. You remain a genial, amusing, cutting edge researcher, raconteur, writer, photographer actor, director and lunatic. If this syndrome is a contributing factor then it’s made the world a richer place. Keep on doing what you do!

    Cheers!

    Hugh, Midori, Annabel

  4. stevehollier says:

    Hugh! Clearly I didn’t explain myself in this one. 16 or 17 points is actually a negative score. You are unlikely to have Asperger’s if you score much less than 32. A score of 16 makes me Mr. Socialibility! Actually Hugh, I’d be interested to know how your score comes out…

  5. Lee says:

    Your father sounds exactly like mine. I’m 49 and recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome but I wouldn’t say my father has it, rather he’s just not a very sociable and isn’t very intelligent.

  6. Julia Hawkes-Moore says:

    After getting a score of 17, out of curiosity, I went back and retested myself as though I was a child again, and scored 33.

    There are clearly ways of helping young people with this problem, and the sooner it is identified the better. Do look into the discussion your post has generated in the Qi forums: and also at the “Test tourself for Asparagus” thread, lol!

    Thanks, Steve!

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