I first realized that I had Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) at the age of twenty-seven. A multitude of emotions came over me when I was diagnosed. The initial feeling was an overwhelming sense that I was discovering that I had yet another “mental problem” (previously I was given a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder). I later developed strong feelings against AS.
However, those came about as I learned what it has done to me. The most powerful feeling I have against this syndrome is that I feel that it is hindering my ability to become a complete adult.
AS has many effects on a person. First, it affects social skills. People with this condition often have difficulty comprehending non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language. In addition, they frequently do not understand appropriateness. That is, what is expected and not expected in a situation. This is because properness is learned through the observation of non-verbal cues given by people unconsciously. Outside of this, AS affects executive functioning which is the ability to plan and organize effectively.
Before my diagnosis of AS and prior to attending the College Internship Program (CIP), a post-secondary college and career program for young adults with learning differences, my behavior could often be bizarre and unpredictable.
During my college years, I would often snap at groups of other students in the classroom and ask inappropriate questions of the instructor. Furthermore, I would have a tendency to apologize and excuse myself excessively. Later in my life, I was hired as a file clerk. I had a job coach; however, the job only lasted about a month. I lost the job because I would lash out frequently against God when I would become irritated. In addition, I would make improper jokes and comments.
When I first arrived at the College Internship Program, my first experience was to have a roommate. I initially felt that having a roommate would be like having a friend. I learned otherwise. Even though I never interacted much with my first roommate, I learned much.
I learned that friendships are not automatically created simply because two or more people are living together. I learned many other lessons at CIP. I discovered that I should not continue to blame AS for all of my faults. I further developed my ability to understand the perspectives of others and observe nonverbal social cues.
I might not have obtained all the ends to which I have been striving at CIP. However, I can state truthfully that I have improved greatly. I now feel confident that I can obtain and maintain a career as well as an independent life.