Fine Print: Living With Asperger’s Syndrome

I didn’t find out that I had Asperger’s Syndrome until I was an adult, a fairly normal occurrence for a female. 

What Causes Asperger’s Syndrome?

Changes in the brain are responsible for many of the symptoms of this disorder. However, doctors have not been able to determine precisely what causes these changes. 

Genetic factors and exposure to environmental toxins, such as chemicals or viruses, have been identified as potential contributors to the development of the disorder. 

Boys are more likely to develop AS than girls.

We learn to emulate others at a young age. Because we simply do not understand what is expected of us in social situations. 

“Females with ASDs often develop ‘coping mechanisms’ that can cover up the intrinsic difficulties they experience. They may mimic their peers, watch from the sidelines, use their intellect to figure out the best ways to remain undetected, and they will study, practice, and learn appropriate approaches to social situations. 

“Sounds easy enough, but in fact these strategies take a lot of work and can more often than not lead to exhaustion, withdrawal, anxiety, selective mutism, and depression. – Dr. Shana Nichols”

– Liane Holliday Willey, Safety Skills for Asperger Women: How to Save a Perfectly Good Female Life 

Me: “Please do not tell me a joke. I wait for a punch line that, for me, never comes.”

If you want to envision a character with Asperger’s, it has been theorized that Spencer Reid, the youngest character on the CBS drama, Criminal Minds, was cast as a character with Asperger’s Syndrome. He is highly intelligent, but his social skills are stunted. 

This from Wikipedia about the Spencer Reid character: 

As is a characteristic of people with Asperger’s syndrome, Reid is socially awkward. He often fixates on things (prompting Morgan and other team members to have to tell him to be quiet), and misses social cues at times (for example, unknowingly changing the subject of a conversation).

Me: “Just because I lack the ability to hug you does not mean that I don’t care about you.” 

Social exchanges for those with Aspergers’ Syndrome are veritable land mines. We never know when we will step on one. 

Thus we are tentative about engaging socially with others. And when we do, we are filled with anxiety. 

People do not realize how important social “cues” are in communication. 

In a school yard. On a college campus. In a job setting.

Me: “Please don’t give up on me because relationships are hard for me.”

When you are a child, it can make you an outcast. You likely will not be picked to be on a school team. You will probably eat lunch alone. And sit reading a book during recess. 

But you will glance up from time to time to watch the other children play so freely, and feel envy.

As an adult, it is hard to function in the working world. The inability to be socially adept keeps one from “climbing up the corporate ladder.”

Me: “Please don’t think I’m being rude because I speak so truthfully.”

Dialogue is a give and take endeavor. If you don’t quite understand what someone means when they’re talking to you, and whether or not they are perhaps being sarcastic, then you are swimming upstream with no idea how to respond.

Asperger’s Syndrome is a neurological condition on the autism spectrum characterized by:
1. Impaired communication skills (verbal and non-verbal)
2. Repetitive behaviors
3. Rigidity of interests
4. Coordination deficits
5. Adherence to rules and routines

Me: “Yes, I am awkward and clumsy. I don’t need to be reminded of this fact.”

Many people who are experts note how “Aspies” often have advanced vocabularies, recognize patterns others do not, and pursue ideas despite evidence to the contrary, because they are not easily swayed by other peoples’ opinions. 

They often have the ability to focus on details. And their inability to see the big picture means they can come up with solutions to problems that others may overlook. 

Me: “Please don’t look horrified or angry when I react to loud sounds or bright lights. Believe me when I say that the last thing I want is to draw attention to myself.

Aspies are often willing to spend long hours in laboratories and in front of computer screens because they do not mind being alone.   

Because of their unusual reactions to stimuli such as light and sound, Aspies see the world differently than most people. 

They are able to comprehend multiple levels of meanings of words. 

Many experts relate that Aspies can make amazingly loyal friends. They are usually free from sexism or racism. They do not manipulate people, but speak out frankly and honestly. 

They are sincere truth-tellers. Which people often consider rudeness. Thus relationships are difficult to maintain. Potential friendships wither on the proverbial vine. 

People simply find it easier to walk away. I guess I can’t blame them.

One of the changes in DSM-5 released in May 2013 eliminated Asperger’s syndrome as a separate diagnosis, and included it under the more generalized autism spectrum disorders. 

ASD is now rated on a scale ranging from severe, through moderate, to mild, based on clinical presentation.

Do you think you might have Asperger’s Syndrome? There are online tests that are quite similar to the tests I eventually took as a patient when getting my diagnosis. 

Below is a link to a test you can take online. Reference: AQ means autism quotient. Reference: My score for the below test was 42.
Aspergers Test Site 



    1. I tried to email you, but you're a no-reply blogger. I think anything 32 or over is considered high. If you google it or go back to the site, you can find out. Mine was 42 on that test.

  1. I have been working with children with ASD for 8 years now. Yours was one of the most enlightening articles I've ever read. Thank you for your honesty.

    1. I write these type posts in the hope I can herd someone else in the right direction. I suffered and blamed myself for far too many years before I figured it out. Before that I was given a plethora of mental health diagnoses. Then once this was figured out, I was told I had none of them.

  2. Lily… your comment describes me to a T! I got a 39 on the test. I've known about Asperger's for awhile… due to several friends whose have children with it. I'm pretty sure a guy I dated for a few years had it too. Thanks Brenda, for giving us more information on it. 🙂

    1. Taking the test and then following up with a psychologist who did the official testing cleared up a lot of things for me about myself. I stopped hating myself, because I realized I wasn't a bad person. I was just different and thought and acted different. Before that, I was very hard on myself. And I allowed others to be hard on me and blamed myself for it.

  3. It's good that you finally have a definitive diagnosis! I would say that those symptoms apply to autism in general though not just to Asbergers. My son didn't fit any one category and has a mild case. I notice the difference in him compared to his older brother though. He's much more introverted and shy. He's a home body and doesn't have a large circle of friends. He does take things literally too. He is now in high school so this is a trying time for us since it's such an important social time for him. It's nice to know that there are people with this diagnosis that live independently and go on to get married and have children. That's encouraging.

    1. High school can be a very tough time. He probably won't "fall in with a bad crowd" though, because we don't tend to follow others. Peer pressure is not the same as it is with typical teenagers.

  4. That is interesting. According to that test I have Aspergers. I always thought I was just an introvert that preferred reading a book over most any social situation. I am very detail oriented. My daughter says I get lost in the details, which is true. I can be social when I have to be, but do not enjoy it at all as it causes me high anxiety. I really only enjoy spending time with my immediate family and my pets. I love my home and garden. I am most comfortable in the environment I create for myself. I can be very blunt, but have learned some tact over the years as I don't like to hurt people's feelings. I never really considered that I might have aspergers before, but I've always thought my father and grandfather had it for sure….

    1. I identify a lot with Lily. According to this test, I scored 30, which is borderline. Like Lily, I am an introvert. On top of it, I'm also a Highly Sensitive Person. So, when I was taking the tests, a lot of the statements reminded me of introverts and/or Highly Sensitive Persons. Maybe a lot of it overlaps. I also find the older I get, the more sensitive I have become to sound and light. I cannot stand when I walk into a store and music is playing (unless it's quiet, soothing music). If I'm with my husband I will ask, "Doesn't that music drive you crazy?" He always says he either doesn't notice it (which astounds me) or that he's able to tune it out. I can't do that. I've actually had to walk out of stores because of the music. Another time we were in a coffee shop and I was trying to read. I couldn't do so because I couldn't block out the conversations around me. Thanks for your post.

  5. Brenda, you have helped me to better understand Asperger's Syndrome. You are different- not less ♥♥

  6. I was thinking of you when I was reading the last series of books I just finished – 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster – it's all about a man who has Aspergers and OCD and how he functions in society. There are two books that come after the first, and they were so interesting I read all three in just a few days! You might want to look them up, I'm sure you would find them intriguing. Great post, Brenda – I love the quote about the fish!

  7. I didn't know you had Asperger's. Thanks for helping me understand it better. (And I love the Albert Einstein fish quote!)

  8. It is a touch thing to have and I know because I have some family members with AS. You are doing well and learning more about your condition. I like that you are sharing it and teaching others.

    1. I just hope it can reach someone who is struggling with what is wrong with them, and they will get a diagnosis so they can stopping beating themselves up about being different.

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