Sunday 04 Dec 2016

Inside Looking Out
AJ Robinson

Recently, I've seen and heard quite a bit about autism. More specifically, I notice the attention paid to particular form of autism known as Asperger's Syndrome. There was a movie, "Adam," about a young man with the Syndrome.

Asperger's is believed a type of "high functioning" (HFA) autism. HFA means that although autistic characteristics are evident, the person, usually a child, can speak, write, do math and so forth. Someone who is non-HFA is withdrawn, doesn't talk much or do well on standard diagnostic tests.

The reason for me paying attention to this level of interest is easy: I have it. I didn't know this for the longest time. My wife suspected, way back when we were dating that I was different.

When the movie, "Adam," came out, we went to see it and took our daughter. Now, I was nowhere near as bad as was "Adam." The moviemakers embellished the character for the purpose of entertainment.

Still, my wife did, every once in a while, lean over to our daughter and say, "That was just like your dad." Yeah, back when I was on my own, I would buy seven identical TV dinners. I ate the same thing for lunch every day and so on.

In seeing all the interest in the subject, I got to thinking I should write about it. After all, all these therapists and scientists talking about it is one thing, but hearing about the subject from someone who has it? I sat down and started to think about what it means to have Asperger's Syndrome. I broke it down into three distinct areas.

First, there's intelligence. Not to be boastful, but I am highly intelligent, bordering on genius-level. In school, I was a straight-A student, honour roll, National Honor Society and I was able to absorb new knowledge. This made studying easy, which was a real plus, and gave me the confidence to pursue engineering, writing and other endeavors.

Next, there are interests and these vary, widely. As a kid, I loved dinosaurs. I would beg my parents to take me to the Boston Museum of Science to see the fossils. It wasn't long before I know all the dinosaurs, the ages they lived in and so on. Over time, my interests shifted and sometimes, looking back, they were rather eclectic, shall I say. I loved the TV show "M*A*S*H," the comic strip "Doonesbury," giving blood, and, though this may seem, children.

The latter has caused some difficulties. I've always had a love if children, watching them at play, seeing the joy in their faces at some new discovery or a special gift, or making them laugh at a game or telling them a story. All this makes me smile. For me, it is totally innocent; even the very thought of anything else would never enter my head. Yet, at the same time, because of Asperger's, it doesn't occur to me to think anyone else would have a problem with it.

There was a time when that was all right. These days, what with concern about predators and sexual abuse, just looking at a child can get you in trouble. Over time, with the help of my wife, I learned I must not stare at small children.

This leads me to the third item: ineptitude, which factors in the previously mentioned subject. People with Asperger's have trouble engaging with others, socially. I'm rarely ever aware of this, but I've trained myself, again, over time and with the help of my wife, to monitor, constantly, what I say and do; what those around me say and do. If I don't, I can ramble on for literally hours, chattering away and oblivious to the fact that the other person is bored, uninterested, wants to chime in or maybe just wants to leave. I don't see the cues. Similarly, someone, typically a female, could be trying to get my attention, and I will miss it completely. If you've ever seen the movie "Big," think of the Tom Hanks character when the Elizabeth Perkins character was trying to entice him for sex.

This third feature, when blended with the other two, means that I'm pretty much a complete and total geek. In high school, I was top of the class, but an outcast. Capable of speaking on multiple subjects, but unable to hold a normal conversation.

It's so easy for someone - an expert - to talk or write a book on a subject that they've studied. Yet, when you're living with it, when you're on the inside looking out, it's another matter altogether.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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