It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a symptom of Aspergers and traits of normal behavior, but not always. In surveying the events of my own life, I can clearly see evidence of my Aspergers as early as Kindergarten.
I started Kindergarten in 1966. Back then, Kindergarten was the time when kids learned the basics. It’s funny to me that now, schools require students to know the basics before entering Kindergarten. I distinctly remember having to recite my home address and phone number. It was expected of every kid to know this information. The teacher would group about 6 kids at a time, and would check to see if each kid knew their home information. When it came time for the teach to ask me for my address and phone number, all the other kids would look at me, I would become extremely shy and wouldn’t say a thing, I would only shrug my shoulders. This happened several times. The thing is, I knew this stuff, had known this stuff long before I started Kindergarten. The anxiety I was feeling from all the attention caused me to clam up. Actually, that was a favorite saying of my mother’s, when people would ask about me. People would inquire “is he all right?” or “he seems awfully quiet”, my mother would respond with “oh, he’s as happy as a clam”. She made it seem as if my quietness was a sign of contentment. Nothing was further from the truth.
The verbal and other communication difficulties I had, which are associated with Asperger’s, began to make themselves more obvious as soon as reading was assigned at school. Again, back in the 60s no one knew that such things were a sign of a developmental problem. I was doing adequately well in other school subjects, so no one thought me to be one of the “slow” kids. I was a slow reader, but not so slow that people associated me with Autism. Back then, Autistic kids were thought to never speak, to never read. The most obvious sign of my language problems was in the 4th grade. The teacher would give the class dictation. She would read aloud a sentence, and the students were to right it down. After every sentence the teacher would stop until everyone in the class had caught up. With each exercise, the entire class would be finished with the sentence, and I’d only be a quarter the way through it. The class would then have to wait until I had finished the sentence, every kid turned to look at me disparagingly. It only made my anxiety worse, and slowed me down even more.
As a little kid, socializing with other little kids wasn’t much of a problem, at least at first. But we I grew older the other kids started noticing a difference in my behavior, noticed I had some deficiencies, lacks certain social skills. This began the teasing bullying that became a part of my every day school life. In Junior High, classes were scheduled differently, so I didn’t have as much contact with kids I had grown up with, so there was less opportunity for teasing. This was also the time I started withdrawing from social activities. It meant that I would spend most of my time alone, but it would save me from the trouble that came from other kids. I was becoming more and more socially isolated.
I was also experiencing depression at an early age. I started contemplating suicide in Junior High. Though I scored high in state aptitude tests (in the top 10 percent) I was not doing well in my classes. Once I was called to the counselors office, who tried to inspire me to do better, so he accused me of being lazy, etc. This had the effect of making my depression worse, not better, and my grades suffered even more. I made my first attempt at running away from home in the 8th grade, but after talking to someone, I went back home the same day, and my parents didn’t know I had gone.
Part 4 by tomorrow hopefully