Monthly Archives: March 2012

Building a wheelchair ramp to your heart…

Liane Holliday Willey, author of Pretending to Be Normal, wrote, “My deep, dark fear, the one that makes my bones scream, is that there are AS people in search of friendships who will never find any, no matter what they do, solely because of their AS. … I know the reality that will wound them as they stumble forward, deeply lonely, and ever more estranged from others.”

After learning that I have Asperger’s syndrome, I set about learning what my weaknesses are and how to overcome them. I developed many tools and skills that have actually helped me in socializing with others. Still, I went back to my psychologist in discouragement and told him that, no matter what tools I have or skills I learn, I still can’t overcome the disconnection from others that comes with Asperger’s. If a person is unable to walk, a wheelchair might help that person get around better, but it won’t help him actually walk. To help such a person such a person access a building, a ramp is often needed.

I’ve had several conversations with friends over the last several months on what I need from them to help me fully enjoy the relationship. In the end, it seemed what we came up with are things that would benefit all relationships. I’d like to share some of them with you…

1. I need my friends to help me understand the rules.
Relationships have rules, and just like any other aspect of socializing, the rules are fluid, contextual, and usually communicated non-verbally. This puts me in the position of having to hit a moving target while blind-folded, as the criteria for Asperger’s syndrome include, “marked impairment in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors … to regulate social interaction.” (DSM IV) I have a default set of rules that are designed to keep me out of trouble, but unfortunately, they also keep me at a distance. Here’s a great example: I like hugs, and I will happily hug virtually anyone. However, since not all people like hugs, a hug is not always the best thing for a relationship. My default rule is that I will not touch anyone without permission. Some friends have told me they dislike hugs, so I will never hug them. Others have told me that I should hug them whenever I see them. Still others will ask me for hugs or warn me when they are about to hug me. I’m ok with all of this. The important part is that those friends who have discussed this with me have helped me be more comfortable in the relationship by making the rules clear to me.

2. I need my friends to help me understand how they feel about me.
People are generally quite verbal when expressing negative emotions. I usually don’t have any difficulty knowing when someone has a problem with me. Sadly, positive emotions are expressed in more subtle ways. Think about the ways you know that your friends love you. Most of it is non-verbal. I need more overt expressions. As my wife puts it, I “need people to love out loud.” Try hugging me, spending time with me talking about something I’m into, or just tell me.

3. I need my friends to help me understand how to respond to their feelings in a way that builds the relationship.
I can usually identify when a person is sad or upset, but I have a tough time figuring out what to do. When it’s someone I care about, this will usually cause me to panic. It helps me greatly if you can tell me what you need. I will happily listen for hours, or give you a hug. I just need to know.

4. I need my friends to believe me when I say I can’t do something.
It may be possible for me to do whatever it is, but not at that moment, or not in any way that I can see. If I say I can’t, let’s back away from it. Maybe we can take another look and find a way for me to do it. If not, please don’t hold it against me.

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Filed under About Asperger's Syndrome

A confession and a challenge to my fellow Christians…

I have a confession to make. I haven’t written anything here in quite a while, but not because of a lack of ideas. It’s because I’ve been struggling with some of the same junk I’ve struggled with my entire life. Like most aspies, I’m well aware that I’m different from most other people. Even if I were unable to observe for myself that there are differences, people often point them out to me. I have often thought that I simply do not fit anywhere, and because I do not fit, there is no place for me. Because there is no place for me, I should not exist. I have been thinking up ways to end my existence since before I was a teenager.

I have been wrong.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-20, the Bible tells me:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

It is true that I do not function like most of the people around me, but neither does the nose function like any other body part. The conclusion that I do not fit does not follow from the premise that I function differently. I confess that I was wrong to walk away from the body as a young man, but I realized that and I am back. However, I know that I’m not the only one that left because of feeling different.  Many have even been asked to change or leave. Continuing in 1 Corinthians 12, we read:

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

My challenge to my fellow Christians is this: Reach out and reconnect with our missing parts. Help them find that place where they honor God by functioning as they were made. Recognize that, if they don’t seem to fit, you may be the part needing adjustment. I invite you to learn more at http://www.keyministry.org/.

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Filed under Church, Disability, Encouragement