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February 2011



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‘Music is my passion/obsession/vice. I find solace in the words of Morrissey’.

Yousif Nur

guardian.co.uk Sunday 16 January 2011 12.00 GMT

Those, like me, who have Asperger’s syndrome may struggle with daily interactions – but we find solace in our passions

At a very early age I knew I was somehow different from the others. An unexplainable difference in behaviour, idiosyncrasies and just having bags more energy than other toddlers. Couple that with numerous trips to different psychiatrists asking why I had frequent tantrums and crying fits, and was very antisocial with other schoolkids. Something was mostly definitely wrong with me. My parents were unnerved by it. It was not so much that I had a problem with myself but, rather, a question mark tattooed on my forehead. I was lost in a limbo of myself. And so it went on for a number of years.

Then an epiphany. It was around 14 or 15 that I read about the symptoms of an autism-related condition called Asperger’s syndrome – and suddenly I understood. It affects about one in 300 people (mostly but not exclusively male) in the UK, according to the NHS. Some of the traits include difficulty in maintaining eye contact, unusual patterns of speech in conversation, an inability to interact with other people and often failing to read body language. There’s no “cure”, but training to cope with the outside world is required. Finally, I had some clarity on just why I felt as though I lived in a bubble throughout my adolescence. Now it made sense why I needed the extra learning support, being often taken out of lessons and into one-on-one tutoring.

But I was also at a crossroads. Should I accept my condition, though relatively untreatable and incurable? Or should I spend the rest of my teens and most of my adult life locked away in isolation listening ad nauseam to The Smiths’ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now? Well, I did a little of both … OK, maybe most of the latter.

Then there’s the small matter of rules of engagement with the opposite sex. Confidence is a stumbling block that for many, including myself, is an obstacle that is often too difficult to jump over. Of course, most teenagers go through a stage like that, but for me it was abnormally intense. I recall an incident as a 17-year-old at a bus stop with a friend, being checked out by a couple of girls, to which they turned a corner and said audibly “I don’t like his face”. Most people would get over that pretty quickly, but I don’t think I left my room for four days straight, save for showers. My confidence had been shot.

This isn’t to say that we’re completely incapable of being intimately involved or being in relationships. Though admittedly, it’s more difficult for us than most. Our social interaction skills aren’t perhaps as strong as anyone else’s, though that’s not to say that we’re cripplingly uncaring, po-faced or even indifferent, but to put it simply, it’s the thought of intimacy and sharing that intimidates. In contrast, as far as love goes, many of those diagnosed can go on to have happy and sustainable relationships.

There has been talk among researchers that Asperger’s syndrome, in terms medical approaches, can perhaps be seen as a different cognitive style rather than as a disability – much in the same way that homosexuality was once regarded as an illness but then demedicalised. Personally I’m a little dubious. Homosexuality is widely accepted tacitly and people are much more accepting of it than Asperger’s, because they have so little experience or knowledge of the latter.

Read in Full: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/16/aspergers-syndrome-living-social

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