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Asperger's Huh? A Unique look at Asperger's Disorder



Rosina G. Schnurr, Ph.D., F.A.C1.P. is a clinical psychologist who has worked with
chidren for over twenty years Her experienc as well as her positive and sensitive style reflect her caring concern for these special children.
John Strachan is a cartoonist and illustrator who has published works in a variety of
media. He lives and works in Ottawa with his wife and two children.

This book is dedicated to all my special young friends who have Asperger's Disorder


Asperger's,  Huh?

The Mystery
Another  Doctor
The Funny Thing About Friends
Social Sillies
The Weather Weebie
Sports and Klutzes
Am I Smart or What?
Anxiety Busters
Little Things, Big Things
You and Who Else?
So What's Important?
Asperger's, Huh?


The Mystery

Something was wrong. Again.

My mom was crying. Again.

My dad was talking about seeing another doctor. Again.

I knew they were talking about me. Again.

I just don't get it.., again.

We had just come home from a restaurant. It was supposed to be
a celebration. My dad got this new job. My dad is an important person.
I don't really know what he does but sometimes I see him on
television. Anyway, a whole lot of people were there; mostly friends of
my mom and dad and some of the people that my dad works with. I
was the only kid. I do have a younger brother but my parents made him
stay with a sitter. I'm almost 11 so I got to go.

The meal was okay. It took forever. Then my mom whispered to
me that there were going to be “toasts”. I thought we were going to
have breakfast. I told her that I wasn't hungry. It turns out that a “toast"
is when someone gets up with their wine glass and says something
about my dad and then everyone touches glasses with each other and
then drinks. Some "toast". Well, this went on for awhile and I was
getting really bored. Then it hit me! I could make a toast, too!

I stood up and talked about how my dad doesn’t spend enough
time with me. Then I started talking about the weather. My mom made
me sit down. My dad made a joke about the weather that I didn’t
understand but some people laughed. We went home pretty soon after
that.
 
 

Another Doctor

Well, here I am in ANOTHER doctor’s office. I don't know how
many different doctors I've seen. I didn't want to come. I even tried to
throw a tantrum but my dad wasn't in a mood to fool around. My mom
says that the doctor isn't going to give me needles or anything. He, who
turned out to be a she, was just going to talk to me. I've heard about
those psycho doctors. You go to see them when you're crazy. I'm not
crazy. At least I don't think so.

Anyway, this lady doctor is okay. She didn't make me stand on
one foot or wiggle my fingers or do anything dumb. All she did was
ask me some questions, mainly about school and friends and stuff. I
lied about having friends and told her that I didn’t  really care about
having friends. And she actually listened to me talk. I know I talk too
much and people don't want to listen, but she did. Then she made
another appointment with my parents. I don't have to come for the next
appointment. I guess that means that I'm not crazy after all.

So what was different? I guess I still had my “huh?" expression
on my face because the doctor just kept smiling and talking. Many
things were different, she said, but the most important one, because it
made a lot of children unhappy, was that children with Asperger’s
Disorder have a lot of difficulty making friends and having fun with
other children. Also, they get upset easily about things that bother
them. I knew that was like me but I never knew it had a had name. My
mom got up and hugged me. My dad had this sort of sad smile on his
face. He put his hand on my shoulder and thanked the doctor a lot.

The Funny Thing About Friends

When we got home, my mom talked to me about "social" things
like making friends. She said that it is because with Asperger’s, you
have trouble understanding emotions and feelings. That means
understanding what other children mean when they say certain things
and what other children mean when they do certain things. It also
means that other children do not understand what you say and do
sometimes.

I know I really want to have friends but it never seems to work
out. Most times I don't care because it is more fun to spend time by
myself doing my "own thing", like drawing pictures of weather maps.
My parents say I cannot spend all my time doing this even if I like it a
lot.

Sometimes other children are not kind. They  play tricks on
children who have Asperger’s Disorder because they know that they can
fool us. My mom knows a little girl who was riding a school bus. She
got off at the wrong bus stop because the other children on the bus told
her it was her stop. She felt pretty awful when the bus pulled away and
she saw the other children laughing. She felt especially awful because
she did not know where she was. She had to walk and walk until some
nice adult helped her.

The main problem playing with other children is that they are not
interested in playing what you like and you don't want to play anything
else. Also, when I play, I like to always play in the same way every
time. Other children want to play things their way. This upsets me and
I usually get angry at them or just leave and play my own way.

 My mom says it has to do with "flexibility".  That means
being able to change from one thing to another without getting upset. A
lot of times that is hard for me because I like to do things in a
particular way --like when I take my bike to the park, I always go the
same route. Also it is hard for me because I really, really am interested
in only a few things and I want others to listen to me and to be
interested in my things all the time.

By being flexible, my mom means that I can’t do "my things" all
the time; that I have to change to doing other things or doing things in
different ways. I am getting better at this but I still don't feel very
comfortable being "flexible". At least now I don’t have tantrums about
it. I only did that when I was a little kid.

Social Sillies

My mom also talks a lot about social skills. I call them “social
sillies”. That's about how much sense they make to me. What my mom
means is that you have to behave in certain ways with other people.

First, you must be polite. When you meet people, you must look them
in the eye and smile and say “hello" or “how do you do" or shake their
hand or something like that. It’s called a "greeting". It was hard for me
to look at people but my parents made me do it over and over and over.
Now it is not so bad. I've discovered that people really like it when you
smile. I don't know why but they do.

And, of course, you can't be "aggressive”: No hitting, pushing,
shoving and all that bad stuff. When I was in grade one, I used to like
to swing at school during recess. If there was someone else on the
swing, I would just push them off so that I could swing. My teacher
said I was "aggressive". My parents told me I had to "share" the swing.
But I couldn't. Then my dad put up a swing in our back yard and that
was the only place that I was allowed to swing. I don't care so much
about swinging anymore.

Along with being polite, you have to have good  “hygiene". That
means, you have to remember to brush your teeth, comb your hair and
wash a lot. You also can’t wear the same clothes  every day. My mom helps
me with this. She picks my clothes and makes me follow a list in the
bathroom so that I don't forget to do all the necessary things. When I was
little, she used to have a picture of the toilet on the list. Now she doesn't
have to remind me of those stupid things.

In order to be sociable, you can't stay in your room all day. My
parents try to get me to call a friend to play but I make up excuses.
Sometimes, they telephone friends for me. Then I have to play with
them.

If you have any little habits like blinking your eyes or rubbing
your nose, try not to do them in public. I have to stop yourself from
making little noises in my throat whenever I'm around people. My
mom calls it grunting but it is just a habit that feels good and is hard to
stop. She says that I can grunt all I want in my room. Sometimes I do.
You also have to watch what you say. Of course you can't say
bad words, at least not out loud. My parents don't say anything if I
mumble to myself or say some in my head.

There are lots of things about talking that you have to remember.
First, don't talk too much, especially if it is all about one thing. My mom
says that I can only say four things about the weather and I can't ask any
questions. I may make a statement about the weather being cold, rainy or
windy. I can't talk about cold fronts or temperatures or anything like that.
Asking questions can get you into lots of trouble, especially
asking “personal” questions, and especially asking strangers "personal"
questions. When I was little and I was at a shopping mall with my
mom, I saw a man without hair on top of his head I had never seen that
before. So I asked the man to take off his head so that I could look at it.
I couldn't see it way up there. My mom and the man laughed but later
my mom told me that the man couldn’t take his head off. I didn't
understand that because the head of my teddy bear comes off. When I
discovered that I couldn't take off my head or mom’s head, I
understood why they were laughing.

Anyway, most of the time is a lot
safer to just make simple statements and not ask questions.
Another big "no no" are jokes. Don't even try to tell them. Other
kids will just laugh at you. Somehow, I never get it right. I can't seem
to get my voice to go up and down at the right times. And then I always
mess up the punch line. Sometimes I can’t stop myself from laughing
before I get to the punch line and then all the kids end up laughing at
me. When I do get to the end of the joke, nobody thinks it’s funny.

Well, there they are--   the social sillies. A real pain at times, but
necessary.

The Weather Weebie

I want to tell you about one of my interests. I like it so much that
I have a hard time when I try to stop thinking about it and talking about
it.

It is the weather. I know that everyone talks about the weather but
not like me. I am really, really, REALLY interested in the weather.
My dad got me some information from the weather office and it
was neat. There were maps and all sorts of numbers. The first thing I do
in the morning when I wake up is turn on my radio and listen to the
forecast. I have to set my alarm for five minutes after seven because the
weather is announced at about ten minutes after seven. Once I  missed
it and once it did not come on until twenty-two minutes after seven.
When it is not on time, it upsets me but I am learning to be patient and
wait. My mom says that if I miss it, I can always ask her or my dad.

I also must learn not to talk about the weather all the time. In
other words, I have to be "flexible". Then maybe the other kids won't
call me the "Weather Weebie”. At first I though it was a good name.
But then they started making jokes about the weather that I didn't
understand. That didn't feel very good. Once at school, they told me it
was raining when it was supposed to be sunny so I rushed to the
window to look and then the whole class laughed. I also hide my
umbrella now so that the bigger boys can’t take it and play catch with
it over my head. My mom got me an umbrella that folds up really
small. It's easy to hide.

Sports and Klutz

There are other things about Asperger’s Disorder that are
important to know--like about sports. Sometimes children with Asperger’s
are not very good at sports. Other children call you “klutzy". That means
that you don't run very well or very fast and sometimes you fall or drop
things.

My parents say that they don't expect me to be like my brother
who is good at sports. They say that being good at sports for him is like
my being good at reading weather maps. My brother can't tell a cold
front from a warm front and besides, he isn't even interested. Sometimes he
goes out of the house without wearing his jacket or hat even though
I’ve told him it's going to be cold. My parents make him wear proper
clothes. He doesn't like that.

The other problem with sports is "teams". When you have
Asperger’s, you can get lost on a team There are so many rules and
things change so quickly that it's hard to know what to do and when to
do it. Then your teammates get annoyed with you, too, because you
weren’t in the right place at the right time or you did something that you
weren't supposed to do.

I once played on a softball team. I wasn't very good at catching
the ball or running, so the coach put me out in the field. He told me
that if any balls came my way, I was to throw them to the pitcher. But
when I did that, the team got upset because I was really supposed to
throw the ball to first base to get the other team's player out. The coach
explained that if it was easy to throw the ball to first base and a runner
is coming to first base, then I should throw it there rather than to the
catcher.

So the next time I picked up the ball, which fell just behind
second, I threw it to first base. The team got upset again because,
apparently, I was supposed to throw it to second base to get out the
other team's player there before throwing it to first base or to the
pitcher. Besides, I didn't throw it very well and the other team ended up
scoring a run.

I was getting really confused and feeling terrible. I didn't
understand why the other kids were so upset. The coach seemed mad,
too. I was glad when my parents said that I didn’t have to play a team
sport anymore. Now I go swimming and I even have my very own
instructor. At first I didn't like getting into the water but now it's okay.
Soon I hope to learn how to swim.
 
 

Am I Smart or What?

I have to go to school like any other kid. I like school but I wish
all the other children weren't there. They bother me. My teacher is nice
though. I like her. My parents explained "Asperger's" to her. She
knows how much I like the weather. She also knows that I talk a lot. It's
okay because we have a deal. Whenever am talking too much, she lets
me know by pulling on her ear if she is at the front of the room or
tapping on my shoulder if she is close to me.

My teacher even tells me that I am smart. Some kids call me
"dumb" and "stupid" and "weird". I heard her talking to another teacher
once who thought that I was "odd". She explained that I was not odd
but just a little "different" from other children. That was when I knew
that she was my friend.

The thing about school is that some parts are really easy and
other parts are hard. I remember when I was in kindergarten and I
could read. Everyone told me how intelligent I was. But I felt really
dumb when I had to tie my shoe laces. I still can't tie them. It frustrates
me so much that my mom and dad had to get me shoes that close with
Velcro.

That's okay because my mom says that there is always a way
around things. What she means is that when I have trouble with
something, it is always possible to do the same thing another way so
that I won't get so upset. She calls it being "adaptable". It really means
that if I CANNOT change, then the things around me CAN change.
But I have to try really hard to change first.

Recess isn't too much fun. Nobody wants to play with me. I sort
of hang around the other kids and pretend to be having fun. When I
was a little kid and I really really liked bugs, I used to play "bug" at
recess. I would get down on the ground and crawl around. No one
wanted to play with me. My teacher told me that ii was not
“appropriate" to pretend to be a bug. She gave me some paper and said
that it was "appropriate” for me to draw pictures of bugs crawling
around. The other kids thought my pictures of bugs were pretty neat
and the science teacher told me that I was very clever about bugs.
The tricky part is knowing what is appropriate and what is not
appropriate. My teacher is really good about that. She never gets mad
at me but she will tell me if she sees me doing something
"inappropriate". Anyway, the best thing about recess is when the bell
rings to go back into the school.

I have a good memory. All the teachers think I’m "amazing".
That makes me feel good. I can remember things like big words and
long sentences. It's strange that I can read more and faster than anyone
in my class but when the teacher asks me questions about what I have
read, I don't get the answers right. I can repeat the words but she wants
me to explain them and that's hard to do. That's why I go to see a
special resource teacher on Mondays and Thursdays of every week.
She is a nice lady and I try to work hard for her.
 
 

Anxiety Busters

Whew! What a day. I'm beginning to feel better now that I'm
doing my "anxiety busters". They help me get rid of things like bad
days. Today was awful. I missed the weather report because some
dummy was going on and on about the stock market, whatever that is.
Then I was late for breakfast and couldn't watch the TV weather. When
I went to go out the door, I couldn't find my umbrella and I could not
get on the school bus without it. My dad was upset but he drove me to
school.

Even with a ride, I was still late and had to go to the principle’s
office by myself because my dad wasn't able to stay with me. I was
scared and confused. My anxiety was getting worse and worse. I was
feeling really tense. Then I got sent back to my class and the other kids had
already started so I didn't know what to do and I just couldn't handle that. I
started to cry. The other kids looked at me like I was a silly baby. The
teacher talked to me though, and that made me feel better.

Then it was recess time and a new student teacher thought we should
all play "cooperative games”. I got it all wrong and she said I wasn't
cooperating. That's not true. I really was trying hard to do what she said.
My mom had to come and get me at lunch time.

Now I'm at home and doing my “anxiety busters”. They are exercises
that you do to get rid of things like bad days. I have a book with pictures
showing exactly how to do each one What you do are “starts and stops"
(that's what I call them). You  “start" by squeezing up some part of your
body really hard and then you count to five and then you "stop". The
part of your body that was squeezed up then relaxes and you feel better.
You do it all over your body. I follow the pictures in the book and count
exactly to five each time.

The next thing I'm going to do is look for my umbrella. My
Granny is here with me and she is good at finding things. I am going to
put my umbrella in my bed so it will be there for tomorrow morning.
Granny even said she would make me chocolate chip cookies and I
could eat them while I watch the weather channel. I really like my
Granny.
 
 

Little Things, Big Things

Another thing to know about Asperger's Disorder is that
sometimes little things bother you a lot. Like when you put something
in one place, where it should be, and then someone moves it. I used to
play with lego blocks a lot when I was a little kid. I always arranged
them in the same pattern and then my little brother would come along
and mess them up. I would get so upset that I would whack him and
then I would really get into trouble. My parents took away my lego
blocks. Mom said that if I could not change, then the environment
needed to change. I didn’t understand that for a long time but I do now
My mom was making me be 'adaptable'.

Sometimes big things bother you, like noises. I still do not like
the sound of the vacuum cleaner. When I was little, I used to scream
until mom turned it off. The sound was just too much. My mom solved
the problem though. She bought me earphones and now I listen to
music while she vacuums.

Speaking of noises, I can make the sound of the microwave
beeps. Sometimes I try to fool my mom. Usually she just laughs. She
only gets annoyed when I keep doing it over and over. It feels good to
make noises and sometimes it is hard to stop making them.

Another 'little' thing that can turn into a 'big' thing happens
when you try to fix something to make it right. My dad and I went to
the hardware store to get a light bulb and when we passed the nails,
they were all messed up. They should have been in their right boxes.
My dad said "don't worry about it" and "forget it". But I knew the nails
should be in their right boxes so I found the store manager and told
him to fix it.  --That's how a little thing like a nail can turn into a big
thing like my dad getting upset and the store manager getting upset and
then we didn't even get the light bulb and that made my mom upset. I
still don't understand why it was such a big deal. Anyway, my dad calls
me the "Great Corrector" and sometimes the "Police Patrol". What I do
know is that when my dad says to "forget" something, I try to hurry
past or not to look so that it won't bother me and then I won't get into
trouble.

You and Who Else?

If you have Asperger's Disorder, you are not the only person in
the world. Other children may have Asperger's, too. You won't know it
when you meet them because it does not show like a cast on a broken
arm. Also, boys are more likely than girls to have it. I don't know if that
makes us more special or not.

I know another boy who comes to play with me while our moms
talk. They met at a "support group". That's a bunch of people who talk to
each other and try to help each other. My mom hasn't been crying so
much since she started going there. Anyway, Michael is a chess freak.
He even plays chess with himself. He doesn't talk as much as me. It is
like he is thinking all the time. I draw maps while he plays chess. Our
moms say this isn't really playing together but at least we don't fight.

Another reason that you are not alone is that you might have a
relative who has Asperger's, too. I remember that the doctor said that
sometimes you can find male relatives in your family who are like you.
In my family, my Uncle Lewis, who is my dad's brother, is a lot like
me. He talks a lot, mainly about his work. He became an engineer
because he always liked wires and things You should see his collection
of wires. Now, THAT'S weird.


So What's Important?

The most important thing to remember when you have
Asperger's Disorder is that you are a good and okay person. You just see
the world a little differently. Sometimes you don't understand things
and sometimes you misunderstand things. Also, you likely have some
habits that bug other people.

But none of this is your fault and it is not a reason for others to
laugh at you or dislike you. Unless, of course, you are nasty to them.
What you have to remember is that they probably don't even know
about Asperger 's. My advice is don't try to explain it to them. You'll
probably get it all mixed up and then they still won't understand but
they'll think that you're really weird. If you really want someone to
know about Asperger's, ask one of your parents or a teacher to help
explain it.

Another thing that is really important is that you have some
people that you can trust to explain things to you. 'Trust' means that
they will always tell you the truth and help you. When you feel upset
and you don't know why, talk to your mom or dad or a teacher. They
can help you to understand better about "feelings" and can help you
find ways to make a situation much better.

And, remember to be FAAT! Or at least try to be.

Flexible - Try to change

Adaptable - if you can't change, try to change what is around you

Appropriate - The right thing at the right time

Trust someone - Mom, Dad, Teacher
 
 

Asperger's Huh?

Yes, I think I have Asperger's figured out. Now I don't go "huh?'
so much. It's really very simple Asperger's is just like having only a
FEW pieces of a puzzle and trying to put it together right. You need to
have ALL the pieces and sometimes you need help you put them
together right.
 


for a copy of "Asperger's Huh?", send $18 to:
Anisor Publishing
PO Box 46130
2339 Ogilvie Rd
Gloucester, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9M7
613-741-1115

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