Life on the Autistic Spectrum
Living with Asperger's Syndrome
My name is Duncan Ainsworth, I'm 29, and I have Asperger's Syndrome.
I was first diagnosed with Asperger's as a teenager, as my parents particularly felt that a Dyspraxia diagnosis, didn't quite cover all of my unusual quirks and my lack of social skills.
Growing up was hard. I struggled with social cues and situations a lot, so making friends was hard. In school, Special Educational Needs Support, as they used to be called (I don't know if they've changed this or not), was effectively just stick him in extra English classes and handwriting workshops with the Dyslexic children. Effectively meaning there was none for Autistic children like me. People often say they would love to revisit their secondary school years to the point of it being cliche, but it's a no thanks from me. I think university is probably closest to some of the best years of my life, and even then they were a struggle.
Social situations are still a struggle for me, any large groups of people make me nervous, loud music and conversations, as well as lots of conversations going on all at once can cause what I call sensory overload when my brain gets a bit scrambled and I get prone to panic attacks. Bright lights can also cause issues as I find them distracting and disorientating. In small groups and quiet places, things aren't too bad and I can manage them. Spending time on my own helps me a lot as I can recover from socialising, which is mentally and physically exhausting. I find getting my words out difficult as well, like there's a disconnect between my brain and my mouth, sometimes I stammer and stutter. A lot of the time what I'm thinking doesn't line up with what I actually say, or I struggle to find the right words to say for even the most simple things, which is one of the more frustrating things for me
I get intensely interested in things, not just highly interested, but borderline obsessed, or hardly at all, there's very little in between. If anyone had a brief look over my Instagram, they would think I was a business Instagram for a chilli farm, rather than a personal account. I'm constantly, what I call, "falling down the rabbit hole" on youtube. I'll find a subject I'm interested in and follow almost random suggested videos, until hours later I'm on a completely different topic to what I started with.
I find time alone allows me to "recharge" from stressful situations, like social situations and I almost prefer it. That's not to say I completely dislike socialising, just up to a certain point. That's part of the reason why I love video games, there is a small amount of socialising without the sensory overload of pubs and clubs. Video games is another one of my intense interests, I love gaming for so many different reasons, I could write all sorts of things about how video games have helped, with both my Asperger's and my Depression, as I can control the socialising aspect of gaming to suit how I feel. I find that lots of different noises all at once, combined with differing lights, and to a lesser extent smells, in a crowded place can be quite distressing, as it can be very overwhelming, particularly if I'm tired.
Dating pretty much doesn't happen for me, I've been on one or two dates if you could even call them that, I just don't have the self-confidence that is required to even start the process of dating, plus I'm terrible at social cues and hints about how things are going that I miss most of them, and just generally have no luck with it at all.
If you know of anyone on Autistic Spectrum, my one piece of advice for how to help them is to be patient with them. Things that most people take for granted can be a real struggle for Autistic people, it sounds cliche, but it is true, particularly when it comes to communicating with other people. Don't forget about us either, we might struggle in social situations, but there will be times where we want to be included, even if we struggle to communicate when, and in what capacity.