I believe that my father, sister and nephew all are affected by Asperger’s Syndrome. My nephew (my sister’s child) was diagnosed with Asperger’s about a year ago. I learned about Asperger’s Syndrome several years ago while researching a paper on autism for a school project. When I saw an article about Asperger’s, I couldn’t believe it – I thought, “Oh my God, it’s my family!”
My father was a professor of logic, now retired. He has always been extremely socially inept and unable to read “cues.” He relies on my mother to tell him how to dress, act, take care of himself. He has numerous peculiar “special interests,” including collecting flags (not the actual flags, but pictures of flags and facts about them), national anthems and military uniforms (again, not the uniforms themselves, but pictures and facts). He is extremely pedantic and boring and tends to “communicate” (if you want to call it that) by following another person around and lecturing on and on, without letting the other person really participate in the conversation, seemingly not able to comprehend that the other person has no interest in the topic. He is a kind man – not a mean bone in his body – but he’s totally oblivious to the needs of others. I could go on, and I’d be happy to provide more information if necessary, but I think that’s probably sufficient.
My sister is, I believe, affected even more profoundly by AS. She’s two years older than I am, and was actually diagnosed as “mildly autistic” when she was about 5 years old. Her school had sent her for an evaluation because her behavior was odd. However, she was never told about the diagnosis (which is my mother’s style), although I was told about it as an adult. My sister, though she’s very bright, seems to have no insight whatsoever into the fact that her mannerisms and perspective are unusual or uncomfortable to others. Her son received a diagnosis of AS and she doesn’t seem to be able to put this fact together with her own behavior. It is very hard for me to see her struggle ineffectively with her son’s issues. She is so sensitive that I don’t feel that I can bring up her own diagnosis with her.
I guess that I’m mostly looking for some support and understanding about growing up in a household where AS traits were not only considered “normal,” but often actually desirable. The family lore was that “this is how really smart people act,” so that not exhibiting AS traits meant that I wasn’t as “smart” as they were. (Yes, my father and sister did test higher on IQ tests, SATs, etc. than I did – and my sister does not let me forget it to this day.) On one hand, I began to realize (especially witnessing the teasing of my sister at school) that they were different, but on the other hand, I felt that I was inferior to them. Also, my mother, though not affected with AS, is quite simplistic when it comes to understanding emotional issues of any kind. I always felt that it was not ok to have feelings, let alone express them or get my emotional needs met. To this day, I feel that it’s my job to “walk on eggshells” around my family – to figure out what’s ok to talk about, not get them upset, etc. I do not look to them for support – I believe that they all try their best, but just can’t give it. I’d like to talk to others who may have faced a similar family dynamic growing up. I am struggling with recurrent depressions as an adult, find that I have a very hard time acknowledging my own feelings and needs, and would like to hear if others in my situation face similar issues.