The other day when I took my autistic child into the doctor for a routine checkup, I met a man named Jim who struck up a conversation with me. He was reading a very technical book about airplane mechanics, and was dressed as if his mother picked out his clothes. Jim told me all about his job working as a technician for a medical billing company after completing a medical assistant certification.
The man was very detailed in illustrating his job description. When I tried to redirect the conversation to another subject, he shied away and listened to what I had to say. I asked the man what he was seeing the doctor for and he said that he had Asperger’s.
When I got home, I performed a little bit of research about the condition. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders says that people with the condition have a set of routines and rituals, may speak in a very formal monotone, and may not be able to communicate with proper body language. They also have a difficult time interacting with people and may shy away from social events.
The next time I took my child to the doctor’s office, I ran into Jim again and he told me that when he was a child he found it hard to properly communicate his thoughts. As he grew older, it became easier to express himself and some of the original conditions he was afflicted with lessened. He still visits the doctor regularly in order to keep his condition in control.
As portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man, people with autism often display traits of savantism and the inability to properly socialize with others. Asperger’s does not hinder a person’s ability to function like autism, but instead leaves the person with a slight social awkwardness and lack of empathy towards others. The man I spoke with did not have much interest in what I was speaking about, but didn’t have a problem talking about what he found interesting.
The Mayo Clinic website places Asperger’s in the autism family on the milder side of the spectrum. Instead of being as drastic of a condition as my child living with autism, people with Asperger’s can function proper lives with the proper treatment and medication. A lot of psychologists, health experts, and people with the condition are even arguing that it’s not a hindrance to life at all, just a different way of thinking.
Taking care of my child with autism has taught me some very important things about the various degrees of autism. I never would have known the spectrum was so wide if I had not met Jim.
– guest post