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How I Discovered My Asperger’s

I’ve known that I was different since before elementary school. While all the other kids scampered around the playground, crunching cheerfully through the gravel, I smuggled battered copies of Roald Dahl’s Matilda outside to read on the cold concrete steps. As I watched the other children racing around the playground like whirlwinds on a sugar rush, I felt that there was either something wrong with me or with the rest of the world. I didn’t need people the way everyone else did. If no one wanted to play with me, it wasn’t any big deal; but if any other child found him or herself left out of a game with no herd to belong to, he or she would wander aimlessly around the monkey bars, gazing with wide, hopeful eyes at the groups of children who so callously ignored them. I decided to stick with my books; at least they couldn’t decide I was unworthy of their company.

By eighth grade, my parents had reached the ends of their tethers. I failed spectacularly in almost all of my classes because I refused to do homework assignments I felt were pointless or stupid. At one point, I shrieked, raucous as an injured cat, “Come on—who really needs to know the names of all the countries in Africa?!” I also had no friends and no social life. During a typical school day, I showed up, handed in whatever homework I’d bothered to complete, ate lunch alone with a book and headed straight back home to do it all over again. For some reason, my parents thought that my antisocial behavior and bad grades were their fault, so my mother decided to set up an appointment with a psychologist. The thought that my own mother felt that I wasn’t normal, that I needed to see a psychologist, made my blood turn into liquid nitrogen. I did not want to see a shrink, and expressed this desire dozens of times at the top of my lungs. I suspect a herd of stampeding elephants would have had trouble drowning me out.

After several days of vehement protests, my parents finally dragged me to the psychologist. After waiting for almost half an hour in the claustrophobic waiting room, the shrink, Dr. Solomon, finally called me into his office, a room a quarter of the size of a standard classroom. Multicolored toddler toys lay in an untidy heap next to the door. After asking me several basic questions about school and my opinions about life in general, he called my parents into the room.

“Well,” he said, “based on what I’ve heard from your daughter and her school’s guidance counselor, I believe that Katherine has Asperger’s syndrome.” He went on to explain that Asperger’s is a form of high-functioning autism, characterized by difficulties in social interaction and restricted and stereotyped interests and activities. He also recommended several books and websites for more information.

As my parents drove me home, my mind was a blank, gray fog. The moment we arrived home, I raced to the computer and looked up Asperger’s syndrome on Wikipedia. The more I read, the more it all made sense. This was the missing piece, the reason I had felt different from the rest of the world for as long as I could remember. Now that I knew this about myself, my life could not help but improve.

—name withheld, now age 19

 

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