Alex Lowery speaks about autism

What living with Asperger’s has taught me by Paul Simpson

Written on 14th Dec 2016 by Alex Lowery

Today we have a guest article by Paul Simpson. Paul is 27-years old and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 6. He is looking to educate with his experiences and bring people together with common interests and goals. You can view his site here. This article is about what living with Asperger’s has taught him. He makes some very good points in the article. Feel free to read! You can view the same article on his site here. Enjoy!

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What is Asperger’s? Asperger’s syndrome is a condition or an Autism Spectrum Disorder that is considered high functioning. Those affected can struggle with social interaction and are considered to have a small and specific set of interests, a high level of anxiety can also be related to Asperger’s.

 

Above is a very typical description of Asperger’s, but there is so much more to it as I learned throughout life and still continue to learn today. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at 6 years old and was told by my mother about my diagnosis at 16 years of age.

In 1999 I was sent to a boarding school for children with special needs, back then I couldn’t understand why but I quickly adjusted to the lifestyle I would need to be used to for the following 6 years. My time at school developed me greatly, taught me to become self-reliant and open-minded as I lived with many different people from all walks of life.

However, I was aware that I was significantly different as in my early teens I noticed that the way I interacted was different, the way a viewed the world seemed to be from an entirely different perspective and I struggled to understand facial expressions and body language.

Once I was informed about my condition the pieces began to fit together and I suddenly understood why I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb.

However, when I first found out about having Asperger’s the initial reaction in my mind wasn’t a positive one, I was terrible at making friends, terrible at fitting in and was deathly afraid of being alone. Once I had found out about this I felt my chances of functioning well in society were all but gone.

I was young and naive at the time, I didn’t understand autism and I was afraid of what I didn’t understand. Fortunately, like every single one of us I have the ability to grow, learn and educate myself to understand the unknowns.

I started off with learning about Asperger’s, this understanding then lead to me putting strategies in place to help me adapt to society. I worked in retail for 5 years giving me the opportunity to socialise with many different customers in a variety of different circumstances from relaxed and productive to stressful and hectic. This played a huge part in me managing stress, learning to communicate and understand expressions.

The most important thing for me to learn, however, was being proud of who I am and to not be afraid to be myself. The more I understood about myself the more I began to respect myself, this enabled me to comfortably socialise without feeling like I had to mask my true self.

This understanding has had a knock on effect as I began to work for charities and use my understanding to help those in a similar position whether that be people on the spectrum or people who are not.

Not understanding something, to begin with, is nothing to be ashamed of, I wasn’t under the impression that having Aspergers was a bad thing, I was simply afraid of the impact I felt it could have had on my life at the time. This was nothing but a fear of the unknown, a lack of understanding that could be remedied by learning about my condition.

And fortunately learning about myself has made me become a much stronger person, proud of who I am. I have taught myself not to ‘fit in’ but to find ways to communicate and function in society, that work for me. I have developed self-respect and I am proud to be different.

So what is Asperger’s? It’s a different way of seeing the world, it’s the ability for me to approach tasks in new and creative ways.

What has having Asperger’s taught me? self-respect, understanding, to be proud of my differences.

If there is something I don’t understand I don’t panic, I enlighten myself. I make sure people can be themselves around me as much as possible, I learn to understand them.

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Organisations Alex has worked with

  • Autism Cymru
  • Chester University
  • Glyndwr University
  • National Autistic Society
  • St John's Ambulance
  • Welsh Government

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