Bryanna Michelle Akins
Period 6 – Health class
Teacher: Mrs. Bennett
October 4, 2011
What is Wrong with Me: an Essay on Asperger’s Syndrome
It was about a year or so ago…I was up at my grandma’s former apartment in Arcata, California, and my mom called me about a few things: 1) I was going to a whole new school to get a fresh start, 2) She was checking up on me to see how I was doing because I was going up there every summer for a few years until she moved down to Huntington Beach with my aunt Melissa, and 3) She told me to look up a mental disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome. After I questioned what this was, she gave me a list of symptoms and signs associated with AS, and, all of a sudden, it clicked!
I had all those symptoms, almost all of them. I thought about it; when I looked at website after website after website of this, I burst into tears and think to myself “Oh, so this is what’s wrong with me…” Asperger’s Syndrome has affected me, my childhood, my social life, and how I view myself as an overall individual, and yet, to this day, only a tiny handful of my friends and teachers knew what this disorder was, or at least had a clue of what it was. In this essay, I will tell you a lot more about AS and how it affects people, like myself.
The one thing that really got my attention when I first heard of this mental disorder were the signs and symptoms that went along with AS. People with AS find it very hard to change their daily routine, making them appear as inflexible and rigid in nature. Repeating body movements and behavior patterns means that Asperger individuals like to do the same thing, over and over again, without getting bored. Some Asperger people don’t use their imagination a lot and they may not socially play with their peers. For example, a young kindergartner with AS may prefer to play alone, or isolated, from the other kids, playing with their friends. Some of the most prominent symptoms of AS include the inability to make and keep friends, lack of social skills, and lack of eye contact.
I have lost a lot of friends over the years, especially when I moved to Santiago High School, and sometimes I don’t know how to react to a new situation, so my first approach to a new event may startle, frighten, or anger someone I know. The reason why I don’t like to look at people is they stare at me too much and it makes me more likely to stutter, or repeat certain sounds, mostly vowels (a, e, i, o, and u), which is another AS symptom. Sometimes I don’t look at someone because I feel like they are judging me and assuming who I am as a person. Some other signs include not being able to maintain a conversation, limited interests, inability to pick up social cues, lack of “common sense,” and odd/eccentric behavior. People who have AS may not seem to have it at first glance, but when you interact with them, that’s when you can usually tell that they are different from other people.
I suppose you are wondering where this disorder came from or how it was discovered? Actually, it was named after a man named Hans Asperger. In Austria, he found a unique group of children that possessed normal or above-average intelligence, but they had very poorly-developed social skills, such as relating to people. Asperger’s Syndrome is actually a disorder associated with Autism. AS is a mild form of this other mental disorder. It was a Level Two Autism, in other words. Even though Hans identified AS in the 1940’s, it wasn’t officially defined and recognized until 1994 and added to the DSM-IV (the Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). This Asperger’s Syndrome is often confused with schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome, Tourette’s syndrome’s most famous sign is numerous muscular twitches and tics or spontaneous vocal grunts and obscene speech. In one episode of South Park (a rated R tv series, in my opinion), a fourth grader said the s-word and f-word at inappropriate times, along with a few twitches here and there. An adult with TS also did this.
Asperger’s Syndrome affects more boys than girls; in 1966, AS affected 4 or 5 infants out of every 10,000 born, but, in 2003, it increased to 14-39 per 10,000. AS runs in families with histories of depression and bi-polar disorder. Hans Asperger’s group of kids revealed that they all had fathers with Asperger’s symptoms. Also, half of his group had history of oxygen deprivation (not getting enough oxygen) during pregnancy and birth, which might suggest that babies with AS may have brain tissue damage before or while their mother was giving birth. Most psychologists and therapists wait a little longer to diagnose someone, so that they can get an idea of what their behavior is and how they interacted with their friends and family. Therefore, they can correctly identify what symptoms of AS they have before making assumptions and incorrectly diagnosing someone’s child. But fortunately, people with AS have a much better life as they mature and become responsible adults (at least that’s what I’ve read in the many books about my disorder at the library)…
Treating Asperger’s Syndrome takes patience and a lot of therapy sessions. Sadly, it can’t be cured or get rid of like a cold or flu can. But, for some people like me, they can go to a therapist and cope with their symptoms, improve their social skills, and learn how to deal with problems they may have at school, at home, or anywhere they might have a problem. For AS people with speech problems, they can go to a speech therapist and work on their speech imperfections. Some people are given prescription drugs, or psychostimulants, to calm down people that are hyperactive and fidgety. Some drugs can treat anger and depression in AS people, lower their rituals and make them more flexible, and some treat those with anxiety. With a lot of work and therapy, people with Asperger’s syndrome can live their life like their peers do and not worry about people, judging them.
I have gone to speech classes since first grade and I was always really nervous and shy as a kid because people always teased me. I couldn’t even say hello to some people because they would run away from me or say something mean to me. I would come home almost every day, crying about what happened in school. In fifth grade, I almost missed the bus and when I got on the bus, everyone was chanting, “Leave her! Leave her! Leave her!” My speech improved when I went to a brand-new high school because I would be able to make a good first impression on people and make a bunch of friends. I started going to a therapist a few months ago, and my therapist, Yisun (ee-SUN), has helped me to improve my social skills and deal with my problems. Now that I am in eleventh grade, everyone around me is focused on their work and not teasing me and it just takes a whole bunch of weight off my shoulders. I’m glad this year got off to a great start. But I still can’t be myself around my peers because my friends still think I am abnormal. Another person that has also helped me with accepting myself for who I am is a friend of mine named Bryan Palomino. He respects me and treats me like a person and not some sort of a parasite you want to get rid of ASAP. He listens to me, he likes me, he thinks I am a good friend, and I fell in love with his laidback, down-to-earth, respectful personality and his kindheartedness. I like him…A LOT. I would actually go so far as to say that I LOVE HIM…as a close friend, of course. He is a unique friend to me because 1) I can be myself when I am around him, and 2) He is the ONLY ONE that I have EVER told my secret (I have Asperger’s Syndrome). I explained to him what the symptoms were, what it was, and did he notice them when I am around him. He figured that was why I acted the way I did. We are still friends to this day, and I hope, with all my heart, that we can make this relationship go somewhere…
In conclusion, Asperger’s syndrome is an autistic disorder that affects more boys than girls and it can interfere with their everyday lives. With the inability to make and keep friends, lack of empathy, lack of eye contact, and difficulty in changing their routine, people with AS are just unique individuals that don’t know how to socialize with their peers that well. But, on the bright side, “An Asperger child may be very open to all people, regardless of age, or size, or species, and he may choose friends others wouldn’t have thought he would like…/…and he feels as if he belongs on a different planet… (pages 49-62).” I have a normal life , I have normal problems, and I am just like everyone else, I just have a hard time, getting along with my friends. But speech therapy and counseling have changed my life, and for the better. There are just a few things that people with AS need: “He needs love and encouragement, the occasional bit of advice, space to be himself, and then everyone can sit back and enjoy the unique individual he becomes (pages 62-65).” In the end, I will COME OUT ON TOP!!!