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Articles > Life July, 24, 2012

Autism and Asperger’s – Weird and Unfriendly Ghosts!

Portia Dodds
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Hello everyone! My name is Portia, I’m eighteen years old, I have Asperger’s syndrome, I love to write stories and I’m planning on going to university in September. What was that? Oh, the aspergers thing? It’s a condition that has become increasingly noticed and yet a lot of people don’t know what it is.

Scott Hampson Monocle Ghost

Image by Scott Hampson

One characteristic of people with autism and Asperger’s – or of Aspies as a lot of people call themselves – is that they find it hard to communicate with people. Social skills are very important to humans and yet having this condition means it is very hard for Aspies to make friends. This is what I mean by “weird”. I myself don’t have that many friends. I find it difficult to relate to people, understand what they are talking about and how to engage in their conversations. For an Aspie – especially myself – it is very difficult to relate to people their own age. I prefer to interact with people years younger than myself or years much older than myself. This has lead to teasing and bullying.

Bullying is very common amongst Aspies because of this inability to interact with people. We are often seen as being very strange and self-centred. Maybe that’s the case for some, but isn’t everyone in one way or another? People with Autism and Asperger’s tend to zone in on specific interests and focus completely on that, so they may seem boring to other people because that’s all they talk about.

There is another characteristic of Aspies that people know about, thanks to such films as Rain Man. I myself am not academically clever, and therefore I can’t tell you thousands of amazing things, but I would like to think my creativity is my ‘specialist subject’. As previously mentioned I love to write stories and throughout my (relatively short) life so far I have spent about seventy percent of my time in several imaginary worlds writing. I have a friend with Autism who is an amazing cartoon and film fanatic. He not only watches them but makes them: the animation, the voices, filming…he is brilliant at it. Because I have spent so much time by myself I have been able to memories Friends episodes, fantasy film scripts and facts about television shows, so that is possibly my other ‘specialist subject’.

By being ‘unfriendly’, I mean that we just can’t carry on a conversation. On numerous occasions my conversations with new people run dry very quickly because I simply cannot carry it on. I have two very, very, very close friends who I can talk to just about anything with but even then those conversations stop suddenly because of my lack of communication skills. Being an Aspie and a teenager can make life be very difficult. Going through the years of high school has been very stressful: having to work in groups or pairs and not being able to put your ideas across, interacting in the playground and being left out or the worst of it, talking in a casual conversation about your weekend. Aspies are known to be ‘loners’. Sometimes that is by choice. After years of such anxiety when talking to people, I have just found it easier to be by myself, which is very tough but surprisingly pleasant.

A problem with interacting with people is getting the balance right in what is ‘socially acceptable’. Eye contact is important. The problem is, most Aspies (I have interacted with that is) don’t use any. Another issue is understanding when people are being sarcastic and when they’re not, and what is a joke and what is not. There have been numerous occasions where I have announced something and regretted it because of the shocked faces my classmates are suddenly wearing. I then announce “I’m joking” when really I’m thinking, “You all just said a similar comment?” Life is very complicated for us Aspies!

However, fear ye not, for there is hope. The fact that school is only a short period of time for us means soon enough we’ll be out in the world doing what we want and (hopefully) interacting with people who are (almost!) just like us and living just like the rest of the world – only perhaps slightly quirkier!

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  1. pamela jones

    As a mother of a 13 yr old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome, Portia’s account is incredibly accurate. I love her writing style too: you actually feel as if you’re in the company of someone who understands and accepts you completely, who won’t judge you for being a little bit ‘different’. I hope my son will grow up to be as strong and determined an individual as you!

  2. Ian Jones

    Very interesting topic – I especially agree with you that the importance of learning to overcome the barriers relating to social interaction should not be at the sacrifice of individualism. It is about finding that happy medium that works for you, everyone has different outlets for their emotions and feelings, some through conversation, sports, being creative etc – just because the latter pursuit is often solitary, it doesn’t mean that it is any less valid. In fact, it can be even more enriching.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!

  3. Shelby Stapleton

    Wonderfully informative article – as a teenager who has friends with Aspergers, I feel that this is a topic more people need to know about!