Adapting to Asperger's

I am a young professional in my mid 20's. Recently I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. In this blog I will bring you with me on my journey to learn what my Asperger's means to me, how it affects those around me and what things can be done by myself and/or others to overcome some of the challenges it brings, in the work place and at home.

Back to Work

I have been back in work about a month now and I’m finding it harder than I expected.

I was off work for some time with depression and so I’m not sure whether I am finding work harder because I’m out of practise or whether it is harder since my diagnosis.

I have been reading Donna William’s fantastic autobiography’s, Nobody Nowhere and Somebody Somewhere.

I have found them hard to read in places, mainly when she describes things that strike a chord with me, it has also made me feel incredibly lucky to have grown up in a loving family where I was considered normal and was encouraged to be myself.

Without my amazing family I may have been diagnosed earlier, however, like Donna, I may have been misdiagnosed or just written off.

Until 4 months ago I was worried I may be psychotic.

Getting diagnosed with Asperger’s has saved me. It has explained so much of  my life experiences, and given me the courage to be me in this big scary world.  

Letting the world see the real me isnt easy.  

I feel very much like I am building myself up again from ground level, in work and at home. Using the information I have found out about Asperger’s to try and relearn my job in such a way that I can cope better than I did before. Trying to re-structure my life at home so that I don’t overwhelm myself  but can also enjoy a full and rewarding social life.

I often wonder how others have been affected by their diagnosis. We may all be autistic but we are all also individuals. Our diagnosis does not describe  us, it only shows where we may differ.

I would love to hear about any of your experiences in my comments section.

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I would never have guessed….the values of super powers

Something I have found really eye-opening since my diagnosis with Asperger’s is other people’s reactions to it.

A phrase I hear a lot is ‘I would never have guessed if you hadn’t told me’, along with other less kind variations.

My Grandfather refuses to believe my diagnosis and was actually angry that anyone would dare to diagnose his granddaughter as Autistic.

Sometimes the disbelief from other people upsets me, it makes me feel like they are accusing me of lying, other times I feel like saying, Thankyou, the hard work is clearly paying off.

Someone posted a link to this video on one of forums and it really struck a cord with me.

I have spent years struggling to fit in without knowing why. I came up with loads of different reasons. I self-diagnosed with many different things to the point of neurosis. I never guessed I might be Autistic. 

Since my diagnosis my aspie traits are obvious to me, particularly on a bad day, but most people wouldn’t guess, it’s not the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind.

There is a stigma and an image attached to Asperger’s.

The stigma is why my grandfather refuses to accept my diagnosis, especially since I don’t fit the stereotype.

The image people have described to me is of a socially awkward person with limited intelligence and knowledge except in particular interests, someone who will scream and hit at people who touch them, someone that cannot cope in the modern world let alone hold down a career and a life of their own. This image has come from books and TV.

This image doesn’t fit most people on the spectrum.  

On a good day I pass as ‘normal’ or at least not abnormal enough to justify notice.

On a bad day people find me grumpy, awkward, uncompromising. They assume I am deliberately being awkward because they can’t see anything to tell them otherwise, I don’t fit the image required for them to see I am struggling with my Autistic traits.  

The funniest bit for me is I now see autistic traits everywhere; every person I meet who is a bit OCD, who doesn’t cope well if they don’t know exactly what’s going on, who like to have the rules laid out clearly before they do anything, who quietly makes their way to the edge of the group when things get too noisy, anyone who doesn’t seem to quite get the social rules.

A colleague the other day used the ‘I would never of guessed’ phrase at me.

After chatting for a bit he said something that made my day. He compared my Aspie traits to ‘special powers’ and said it was ‘like X-men but in real life’.

It was nice to have someone see past the stigma and see the benefits the Aspie mind can bring. It made me decide that I’m going to stop trying to suppress and apologising for my Aspie traits, instead I’m going to do my best to see the positives they bring and use them to help me forward in life.

Now I just need to make up a suitable ‘X-men’ name….

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The Emotional Aspect

One of the best things I have done since being diagnosed is that I have joined some Autism support groups on Facebook and through them I am starting to feel more normal.

Hearing more and more people talking about the same things I have experienced is making me slowly feel more sane.

One example is emotions.

I am very empathic and emotional. I tend to associate other peoples emotions to myself even when I know it is illogical, and other emotions strongly affect my emotions.

I like the people around me to be happy, it makes me happy. If the people around me are angry it feels like they are angry at me, if they are sad it feels like I have upset them. It is really overwhealming and difficult to deal with but then on the flip side, when everyone around me is happy it feels like the sun is shining and everything is right with the world.

The stereotype of someone with Aspergers is someone who lacks empathy, someone who cannot understand, even maybe does not really feel, emotions.

Researchers have started listening more to people on the spectrum and the research that is now coming out reads very differently.

Recent research suggests that people on the Autistic spectrum feel emotions more strongly, both their own and others.
This can result in various different reactions. Some people will deliberately shut off from all emotion to protect themselves, others may be extremely emotional and struggle with burn out.

I personally seem to do a bit of both although I dont seem to have any of control over which one at which time. I can be as cool as a cucumber, (my Ice queen moments) and feel completely detached and numb about situations, looking at them from the outside like a science experiment. Or I can be sat right at the epicentre being bombarded with emotions and eventually crack up and need to hide.

It understandable why for years I questioned my sanity. It is a relief to understand it more. Now I just need to try and learn ways to manage it a bit better.

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Getting the Balance right

This is something I am particularly struggling with at the moment.

One of the many blogs I have been reading says to take everything you dont like about yourself and attribute it to the Asperger’s.

As much as I love this concept and it was helpful when I was first diagnosed and feeling very low, unfortunately it is a bit too simplistic. I can’t blame my Asperger’s for everything. I still have to take responsibility for my own actions.

In my search to learn more about Asperger’s and about myself I have joined several online forums. Some I found to be fantastic, some were not my cup of tea. People varied as they do but I did notice on some of the less moderated forums quite alot of people who did seem to be taking the concept of blaming the Autism a bit too far, in my opinion.

Since my diagnosis I have been noticing more of my aspie tendencies/personality traits some of which I actually feel aren’t very nice and I have felt the need to apologise for them. One of my friends got sick of this and gave me a talking to. She said that I didnt need to keep apologising for being me, the diagnosis didnt change who I was and they liked me just as much as a friend before I was diagnosed. What I worried might be felt to be mean she pointed out is the sharp wit used within our friendship group.

All this made made me think, where do I stop? When is it ok to presume the Asperger’s is taking effect and when is it not?

When I started this blog one of my aims was to try and work out where I end and the Asperger’s begins but the more I look the more it seems to blur. I’m sure the fact I am on the Autistic spectrum has some effect, good or bad, on most situations I find myself in but I am also very aware that we are all very different personalities and even if I was not on the spectrum I could very well have lived an almost identical life.

Just trying to find a way to decipher it all into something that will make life just that little bit easier. Just trying to get the balance right.

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To Multitask or not to Multitask?

This appears to be a heated debate in the Asperger’s community, I can only give my point of view.

An information leaflet I found online about Asperger’s in the workplace at


”People with Asperger’s Syndrome often have difficulty changing from task to task, multitasking, difficulty with learning new tasks and transferring skills from one situation to another.”

I have never believed I have a problem with multitasking, I’m a woman, all women can multitask, right? I mean people have seen me filling giant kettles from the boiler, heating milk in the microwave and making toast, all while keeping an eye on small children. That’s multitasking isn’t it? So surely that means I can multitask?

It appears that the answer for me is yes and no.

I can successfully multitask on practical things (see above) but on thinking things I go to pot.

When I try to concentrate on more than one thing at once (e.g. try and send an email, design a poster on a separate topic and look up information for that poster), I start to make mistakes, even when they are similar things (e.g. writing cards to several people at the same time – Christmas Cards are an interesting challenge). 

I have always been aware of these issues but I always assumed they were due to rushing or being stressed. I would try to keep calm and slow down but the mistakes would still happen.

Since my diagnosis I have been alot less stressed and I have had less issues with rushing, yet there have still been stupid little mistakes and they have all been when I have been trying to multitask on thinking tasks, which makes me wonder whether these are the multitasking issues that keep being mentioned when I am reading about Asperger’s.

If so, then for me it would appear juggling kitchenware whilst monitoring children and/or animals is fine but doing more than one thing at a time that needs me to remember anything is no go.

Maybe it would be better for me to try giving up multi-tasking all together?

Hmmmm….. Anyone willing to sponsor me? 


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The Hidden Disorder

I was asked yesterday by someone did I ever see myself as having a social problem while I was growing up. Did I ever guess I might be on the Autistic Spectrum?

Interestingly, despite when I was told I may be on the spectrum it making perfect sense, the answer was, No.

I knew I didn’t quite fit in.

As a child I rationalised that my bullying problems were because I was a bit of a geek and mentally alot older than my peers. I got on ok with adults and small children and this to me proved my hypothesis. I actually believed this  until a couple of years before my diagnosis when my peers started to overtake me in terms of maturity.

I was very aware from quite young that I was particularly fond of routine. I mainly remember this from early on in high school where I had a very strict morning routine for myself and if I woke up late or was forced to miss any part of it it would mess up my whole day. At first I was thought this was normal, once I realised it wasn’t I reasoned that I had mild OCD and started trying to train myself out of it. In hindsight my OCD tendency’s were not mild at all and were very clearly Autistic in nature. It has taken me over 10 years of hard work to reduce them to a level that makes me appear organised and a little up tight rather than OCD.

I had difficulties with my mood from mid high school onwards and attributed some of my friendship difficulties to this. I could vary from being extremely hyper and bouncy, the life and soul of the party to being very isolative, hiding away from people. I blamed this on my hormones and childhood trauma (bullying). I figured I had confidence issues and possibly some manic depression. This may be a half and half. I probably did have depression and confidence issues, although they probably arose from the social difficulties that I wasn’t really aware of. I couldn’t understand why people picked me up and dropped me like a hotcake. I also quite possibly tried too hard at times and gave myself social exhaustion.

People ask me does knowing help.

For me it does.

I now feel able to ask for help. Before it felt stupid as a grown, intelligent women to be asking people to explain things more clearly or help calm me down, now I can accept the times when I can’t manage it alone and swallow my pride.

 Did you suspect you may be on the Autism spectrum before you got your diagnosis? If not, were you aware of any of your traits? Did you put them down to anything else? Has recieving a diagnosis helped?

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What should I wear?

This is somthing I have always presumed was just a typical girls issue however I do have a history of getting it very wrong and having done some reading around it appears it can be quite an issue for anyone with Asperger’s.

The following quote comes from a book I found online that I have printed a copy of to carry in my handbag. It is written the way my brain works, in bullet points, and so I find it very easy to read and use. Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome by Marc Segar.


” Dress sense
 – What clothes you wear gives off a message about you.
 – If you wear bright clashing coloured clothes, perhaps intending to look confident,many people are likely to lose interest in you.
 – If you wear cowboy boots, ripped jeans, heavy metal tee shirts and a studded leather jacket people might either be too scared to come near you or will expect to be able to talk to you about heavy metal music systems, life on the streets and various different night clubs. It is a a very difficult image to pull off.
 – If you dress in natural colours such as blue, grey, dark-green, black or white which people cannot laugh at but still look trendy people will judge you on how you come across rather than what you are wearing which is likely to be what you need.”

This is incredibly true.

I think I was probably in my mid teens when I finally realised that people judge you by appearance.

I was lucky in that I fell into the ‘alternative’ crowd where no-one really minded my odd clothing choices (apart from my sisters who were often mortified!).

I was also lucky that I have a natural tendency to mimic even if it is often without understanding and so my transition into work world clothing didn’t go too badly if a little on the edge of appropriate at times.

These days I have a very supportive partner who puts up with the daily fashion parade as we try and put together something suitable for me to wear to work.

I keep debating following the advice of Liane Holliday Willey, in her book Safety skills for Asper Women: How to Save a Perfectly Good female Life, and getting myself a work wardrobe of white, black and fawn skirts, trousers and shirts, but I like colours and variation too much, even if it would make my mornings much quicker.

Has anyone else come up with any tricks for a fail safe but fun wardrobe? Is minimilism and neutral colours really the only safe way forward for me? Or is my partner going to spend his life attempting to play fashion guru?

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The Beginning

The first time I ever came across Autism as a concept was at primary school age. I was out with my family at a museum and there was a teenage boy who I remember being great fun. We ran around looking at all the exhibits with enthusiasm until our parent caught us up. His mum took him away and my mum told me off for getting him in trouble. She told me that he was Autistic and so didn’t know he was being bad but that I should know better than to run off with teenage boys.

The second time I came across the concept was once I had moved up to high school, watching Grange Hill on the TV where they had a character with Asperger’s for a while. He was very clearly different from the other kids; very intelligent but completely clueless and gullible. He would do anything anyone told him without question which would have got him into alot of trouble but everyone knew he had Asperger’s so it was ok.

I sometimes wish life was like childrens television.

When you first meet me I do not fit the stereotype of a person with Asperger’s and so when I got my diagnosis I recieved a very mixed response. A lot people were very cynical, it’s apparently ‘fashionable’ to be on the Autistic spectrum at the moment, but those who know me best could see the diagnosis fit, they have seen me with my walls down.

When I first got my diagnosis my main reaction was relief. It was my cure all, my answer to everything that had ever gone wrong with my life, my sign that everything was going to get better. Then as the diagnosis sunk in I began to realise I had alot to learn. That as much as I would like life to be like TV, where I could wave my diagnosis at everyone and they would forgive all my flaws, it isn’t.

So my journey begins; learning where I stop and the Asperger’s starts, which of my many flaws, and skills, are related to my Asperger’s and how I can overcome, or use, them to make my life easier.

Anyone who is interested in learning with me is welcome and any advise from those who have walked this path before me will be gratefully recieved.

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