This is a personal account of living with Asperger syndrome.
Please note that it is a personal view and does not necessarily represent the views of Research Autism.
My name is PJ and I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in July 1999. Since around Christmas 2002 I have been actively involved in various writing and speaking projects on the subject. I had an autobiography published in April 2007, called "Reflections: Me and Planet Weirdo", and is published by Chipmunka. I also take part in research and have been awarded with a Postgraduate Certificate in Asperger Syndrome in 2004. My main interests/ambitions at the moment are languages and the autistic spectrum and would like to have a career pursuing them. I also have interests in films, music and tai chi.
Initially, the diagnosis was a shock to the system. I was asking all the "what if" questions, like what if I had found out earlier. I guess that the answer would be my life almost certainly being very different. Now I tend to feel that the diagnosis turned my life the right way up. It certainly answered many questions.
In the research I have seen, it has so often been non-autistic people having a look at how autism works, but there seems to be nothing about the autistic viewpoint. The closest there is are the numerous autobiographical accounts. I also feel there is a distinct lack of understanding of the subject in many areas. I am probably biased in stating that the only way to truly understand is through having a diagnosis. On the other hand, there are many people who do understand in an objective way.
There are many things I find frustrating such as the so-called "social conventions". Particularly, who sets the rules about them? After all, who is to say what is normal and what is different? These are subjective thoughts both at the individual and group levels. Similarly, by whose standards do we measure challenging behaviour? Is getting completely drunk on a Friday or Saturday night and being ill on the pavement not challenging behaviour? My question is what if social conventions were taken from our point of view? A problem with the apparent social conventions is that I have sometimes felt anxious about being lonely. I think that, upon reflection, is that I am reacting to social expectancies about having friends, which is not necessarily being normal. In many ways I am quite content being by myself much of the time.
I feel very passionately that the support strategies should be bespoke, practical and appropriate, realistic and positive wherever possible. This should not just be for the individual with a diagnosis, but families, work colleagues and anyone involved in our environment, such as work and college.
Some of the areas I would like to see some research on is: the autistic viewpoint, improving understanding and improving quality of life. I would particularly like to undertake research on chaos theory because I feel the autistic spectrum seems to be a naturally structured way of life with a lot of strange, manic and chaotic behaviour around us. In terms of jobs, we face many hazards in getting them. To start of with, many job advertisements state that they want teamwork, communication and flexibility. Such hazards are stated in some form in the various diagnostic criteria. Interviews can be quite challenging at the best of times. In some ways, I would like to see more of what the Armed Forces do for their selection process but for those on the autistic spectrum. This is where they invite candidates along and see what they can actually do over a two or three day period. In a way, if the job and individual match, I argue that areas that are difficult can be brought in and developed, maybe through training, at a later stage.
More information on "Reflections: Me and Planet Weirdo" on the Chipmunkpublishing website