The American Psychiatric Association has just announced that Asperger’s Syndrome will be dropped from the manual used by psychiatrists to diagnose patients with medical disorders.
Asperger’s and other similar disorders will now be lumped under the label ‘autism spectrum disorder.’ Patients and their friends and families are worried that the removal of the term from official usage could further exacerbate the impact of the disorder for some sufferers.
But what does it mean to be living with Asperger’s syndrome? What does it feel like to fall on the autism spectrum? This beautiful post will help you understand the world from a different point of view.
Imagine for a moment a person who has grown up in a family where they only ever had pet dogs. Their friends and neighbours had pet dogs… all different breeds, colours and temperaments, but still, fundamentally…. dogs. They all went to the dog park together every afternoon and always had a raucously good time. They had never, ever, ever seen a cat. Not once.
Then one day they stumble upon an adorable looking creature that is cute, furry, has a black wet nose, four paws and whiskers and for all intents and purposes, looks exactly like the type of friendly, willing to please dog they had known and loved all their lives. Its tail is waving to and fro in what is perceived to be a welcoming gesture so they go over, ruffle up its soft fur and attempt to roll it over to scratch its belly, anticipating their affectionate gesture will be delightfully received. Only it’s not a dog, it’s a cat, and their interaction is interpreted very differently. Lets just say, fur will fly… and it will fly furiously.
Welcome to the world of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. A solitary cat, surviving in a room full of boisterous dogs. Its every move being analysed, interpreted and modified based on the framework of rules, behavioural patterns and ingrained habits of the canine species. And as a result, being disastrously misunderstood.
Dogs wag their tails as a sign of happiness and anticipation of social interaction. Cats swish their tails as a warning to back off and give them much needed space. Dogs always welcome affection in whatever way it is offered to them. Cats will also offer heartfelt affection but it needs to on their terms, at a time that suits them. Sometimes they just need to be left alone. Dogs depend on your approval for their emotional wellbeing. Cats depend on certain things being in place in a routine that they can depend on, and will then reward your reliability with their unwavering friendship.
Dogs are inherently social. They are pack animals with deeply entrenched hierarchical rules of canine society and as a result are desperately eager to please, and occasionally challenge, the pack leader. As puppies, they will romp and play delightedly with their litter mates until they fall into an exhausted, but happy heap on top of each other at the end of the day. They rarely turn down an offer of affection and will warmly greet their family with furry hugs and sloppy kisses when they get home.