The Challenge of ASD and Written Output

02 Feb

Has your son or daughter come home with the following assignment (or some derivation):

Write about your favorite holiday.

If your son or daughter is at all like Nathan, a client I observed at school last week, then you know this story all too well.

You see, when Nathan received this writing prompt in class, he picked up his pencil, jotted down his answer, wrote his name on the page, and put his pencil down. He began to read a book, meander around the classroom, talk to other students as they worked. Then, his teacher asked to see his “essay”. As a former journalism major and someone who is no stranger to the formulaic five-paragraph essay, I had a hunch that Nathan’s answer would be a few words short.

I could almost hear Whitman, Hemmingway, and Faulkner quietly chanting “Dead man walking” as Nathan approached his teacher with his paper. She looked at his paper, then at him, and then said, “That’s it?” “Yes. I wrote about my favorite holiday. My birthday.” “But,” she continued, “what do you like about it?” Nathan cocked his head and said, “Oh, well, that’s easy. My birthday is the same as my Uncle’s. He was born at 1:21AM. I was born at 1:21PM. Twelve hours apart. But, of course, he is much older than me. 43 years and 12 hours to be exact. Every year, my family and my uncle celebrate our birthdays at McDonald’s. He loves a Big Mac, which I can’t stand. The way the lettuce mixes with the special sauce activates my gag reflex. I vomited the first and only time I ever tried that sandwich. That was six years ago. I like the chicken nuggets. I mix ketchup — two packets — with honey mustard — one packet — and dip each nugget three times.” Nathan’s story continued, detailing their dessert routine and the near-fatal peanut allergy year. He talked, without interruption, for close to four minutes.

“Wow,” Mrs. Smith said. “Why didn’t you put that on paper?” Nathan replied, “I can’t.” “Why?” she asked. “I don’t know.” Given Nathan’s almost-five minute monologue, it goes without saying she was a bit confused. To be honest, the difficulties my clients have with writing — whether diagnosed with dysgraphia or not — confound me as well. Ultimately, I think it comes down to how much we all take for granted the intricate, high-order skills involved in the writing process. Even “writer’s block” doesn’t impair the ability to generate, organize, edit, and ultimately put to paper/screen our thoughts.

Given that an academic day is implicitly defined by written/typed output, it makes sense that we consider the reasons why Nathan can (orally) tell us but can’t tell us (in writing). This is a mystery that I work every day to unravel, but here are the roadblocks to writing, as I have discovered:

  • Prompts are too vague and assume students will make the appropriate inferences about what is intended. This is what happened to Nathan.
  • Questions are too specific, activating the part of an Aspie’s brain that has to figure out the exact, perfect answer in order to complete the assignment. Asking an NT student to write about his “favorite” movie is a quick, almost mindless activity in which our NT searches for the game of the moment and jots a few reasons why. Our Aspie, on the other hand, remembers every game, every detail, every experience and weighs these variables equally. Selecting a favorite means a comparison of the pros and cons, which means figuring out what those pros and cons are. The end result: Nothing is written because it is too hard to pick one. Or, often times, there is no favorite at all. Such a critique is not necessary.
  • Prompts are too expansive. There is too much to say and our Aspie simply shuts down.
  • Organizing one’s thoughts is impossible. Too fast to write down, too fast to remember, too fast to logically order. I liken the experience to ALMOST rear-ending the car in front of you and then IMMEDIATELY asking you to write about your favorite vacation.
  • The Who-Cares? Effect rears its head. The WC?E defined the first year of my undergraduate career, but I made it through regurgitating what the professors wanted to hear. But that’s a theory of mind skill — what I know or think they want to hear — and that is founded on the assumption that I wanted a good grade enough to “lie”. Those aren’t skills that come easily to many with ASD. As a result, the assignment goes incomplete or NHI (not-handed-in).
  • The information the assignment attempts to extract isn’t stored in a NT manner. We NTs store facts and figures with emotional content and with a built-in cross-reference system. We reference Halloween with all of our costumes, why we picked those costumes, the meaning of Halloween, that Halloween our neighbor was in a terrible accident, how much candy we typically hand out, what candy we are allergic to, and so on. We emotionally embed and automatically generalize information without trying. When we extract from this system, millions of other thoughts and ideas are triggered. From what my clients have shared, this process is not the same for those with ASD. It appears more isolated and, at best, like dominoes. That is, if they push hard enough on one domino (or idea) they can have some others fall into place. But, it takes the right push.

Snoopy doesn’t offer any additional insight, but he does provide some comic relief and a gentle reminder of the struggles we all share with writing. What are the reasons you have uncovered that make writing so laborious for individuals with ASD?


Posted by on February 2, 2011 in ASD in the Schools


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33 responses to “The Challenge of ASD and Written Output

  1. gbe

    February 2, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    I agree with all of your observations about writing and ASD. I’d add one more that I notice with high school aged clients. Writing in high school almost always means writing about human emotion and/or motivation. Most papers are written for English class, and they’re mostly about works of fiction. So, an already difficult task is made more difficult for the person with ASD.
    I had a client recently who had no trouble writing about Einstein’s scientific work, but the assignment also required that he write about Einstein’s family life. This led to the same result as your client being asked to write about his favorite holiday.
    I have an experiment that I think might increase empathy. This would be to ask students and teachers to write a three page paper about their favorite mathematical equation.

  2. Petri

    February 2, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    Inside comment: for me ideas, concepts, thoughts and emotions flow in a movie-like, but parallel way. Obviosuly, organizing this massive outflow of just about everything takes a while. For me to be able to write conherently and concisely, I either have to a) ponder upon each and every word, whether it’s needed and if so, in what place b) just let it flow out on paper, then rewrite, reorganize, restructure and after a few hours I have this really nice-looking thing; it’s just that I’m exhausted afterwards.

    If I’m supposed to write anything personally important (e.g., a request for my social worker to grant something), the emotional part makes me break down and I just pour out lots, and lots, and lots of words, and I suddenly seem to lack the impulse control to not look like an utter, complete idiot through not sending off those e-mails.

  3. Petri

    February 2, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Oh, and that part about information storage – I liken my memory to a computer’s working memory – that is, “random-access memory”… I have to follow what in the computer world would be called a search path, and those need to be set explicitly, otherwise I tend to forget vital parts or overlook {whatever}.

  4. C. S. Wyatt

    February 3, 2011 at 3:15 AM

    It isn’t often I read a post related directly to my field of research — written language cognition and autism. It is nice to know I am not alone pondering these questions.

    From a personal perspective:

    1. Writing is physically painful and demanding. I have to concentrate so much on the motor skills that I lose track of the ideas, even the words. The curve of a letter becomes all-consuming. By the time I finish a complete sentence, often after repeated erasing and rewriting, I’m exhausted. Typing relieves me of the need to control my fingers with the level of precision required on paper.

    2. My mind races faster than I can write or type. I end thinking so quickly compared to my writing or typing skills that I get frustrated. I have turned to dictation software for much of my computer use and am forever thankful for the technology.

    3. I cannot write about that which doesn’t interest me. That’s simply not going to happen. More than once I have left a page blank or a test booklet empty, unable to respond to a boring or irrelevant prompt. Asking me to write about my favorite sports team or sitcom is absurd. I have no opinion on those matters. I recall an SAT essay I skipped on the reasons I would require all students to take art classes. The prompt wasn’t “if” or “what the benefits might be” but simply why I would require it. I wouldn’t require art. End of essay.

    As a researcher, the data I collected on writing experiences among students with ASDs was disheartening. Most reported that writing teachers made them feel stupid, not wanted, or in some way defective. The interviews revealed a great deal of frustration with writing instruction that doesn’t appreciate how students with ASDs might view topics.

    Students complained that teachers wanted more emotions, less data. The writing disciplines prepare teachers based on constructivism and pragmatism, not the concrete world we might call logical positivism that corresponds to many ASD students’ worldviews. The teacher interviews I conducted were often dismissive of science majors, for example, with writing instructors insisting there was no “truth” — a view I cannot comprehend and neither can many students with ASDs.

    There have been studies of “autistic poets” that helped me consider my own writing patterns. Lexical analysis reveals interesting patterns, as well. This isn’t a serious tool, but I have had students experiment with tools like this online Meyers-Briggs blog analyzer:

    Again, really pleased to see someone ask about written language and autism. Thank you!

    • ravenswingpoetry

      February 3, 2011 at 11:50 AM

      See, I am the exact opposite. I am much better at written communication than oral.

      Being that I am an autistic poet (I have Asperger’s), I’m curious to know about the studies of autistic poets that you cited in your comment. I’m fascinated by the subject of autistic people and the creation of art and am beginning to research this (and around this) subject.


      • C. S. Wyatt

        February 4, 2011 at 12:26 AM

        The articles I have on autism and writing styles I still have on hand are:

        Happé, Francesca G. “The Autobiographical Writings of Three Asperger Syndrome Adults: Problems of Interpretation and Implications for Theory.” Autism and Asperger Syndrome. Ed. Uta Frith. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. 207-42. 0521384486 (hardback)
        052138608X (pbk.)

        Roth, Ilona. “Imagination and the Awareness of Self in Autistic Spectrum Poets.” Autism and Representation. Ed. Mark Osteen. New York: Routledge, 2007. 145-65. 9780415956444 (hardback alk. paper)

        Sorry I don’t have the others handy, but I believe the Roth article has a full bibliography.

        My journals are in poetic forms, so I suppose I’m an “autistic poet.” I was even in an MFA program before opting for Ph.D and research in language cognition and autism. My M.A. is English.

      • jholverstott

        February 4, 2011 at 2:05 AM

        I appreciate very much these references. They are on my list to read.

      • jholverstott

        February 4, 2011 at 2:11 AM

        I can see it go either way, in all honesty. I know kids who can’t tell me how their weekend was, but they can send me an email about it. I also have clients, like Nathan, who’d rather watch paint dry than try to write a thing. It would be a great study.

  5. Laura

    February 3, 2011 at 9:33 AM

    Nathan’s experience echoes my own. I have Asperger’s, and while I was always reading well above grade level, I never knew what the teachers wanted me to say on paper. My first grade teacher told my mother to take me to OTs so they could help my supposed fine motor skills problems (apparently I was holding the pencil ‘wrong’). This caused me writing anxiety later on as I was afraid of writing the wrong thing and having to start over and be behind everyone else.

    I like studying literature, but I often got lousy grades in English classes because I struggled with essay writing. I would usually need a tutor to help me figure out what the teacher wanted me to say and my anxiety often made me procrastinate more on the assignments.

    By high school, writing poetry became easier, but I doubt I could ever write a novel.

    • jholverstott

      February 3, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      Laura, You raise a very interesting point — that OT creates more problems (anxiety) because it does not really “correct” or “treat” the underlying. I liken it to telling someone who has a broken ankle to stand up straight. Although that isn’t really indicative, either, because there is no indication that an improper grasp is a “symptom” or “sign” of the internal writing issues at hand.

    • jholverstott

      February 4, 2011 at 2:18 AM

      Most of my clients HATE studying literature, hate the “English” class for the reasons mentioned. Even if they do “like” it and read very well, they don’t analyze text well. They know they can’t identify “symbols” and motifs.

  6. codeman38

    February 3, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    Related to Petri’s comment… this is why I love being able to use a word processor, and hate writing assignments out by hand. Well, that, and the fact that I have two basic types of handwriting: neat and slow, or fast and sometimes even unreadable by myself.

    When I had to hand-write essays for AP exams, they’d end up with whole paragraphs crossed out and arrows drawn from one paragraph to another because my brain comes up with stuff ‘out of order’– I’ll think of something to add to one paragraph after I’m already several paragraphs further ahead.

    This is also why I prefer typing to speaking, for that matter– my brain jumps from topic to topic, and I have a tendency to lose people in the transitions.

    • Petri

      February 3, 2011 at 10:26 AM

      Also, regarding the “Go!” moments, it does indeed feel like I’m kind-of “birthing” the text, the emotional tension gets my hand to cramp with this excruciating pain, not to belittle anyone’s real birthing experience, but it does make me associate to just that. Not that I biologically ever will be able to make that comparison for myself, but still. So, word processors it has to be.

    • jholverstott

      February 4, 2011 at 2:16 AM

      Word processing does make the editing process so much easier. I wonder how many people still engage in that process, though?

    • ravenswingpoetry

      February 4, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      My handwriting is OK, but can get really sloppy if I have to write fast. Honestly, when I write poetry, the thoughts flow easier and I’m able to access not only the imagery in my brain but my vocabulary better when I compose the poem at the computer versus handwriting it out. Not that I can’t write poems longhand, but you get my point.


  7. Petri

    February 3, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    codeman38 :
    Related to Petri’s comment… this is why I love being able to use a word processor, and hate writing assignments out by hand. Well, that, and the fact that I have two basic types of handwriting: neat and slow, or fast and sometimes even unreadable by myself.

    Dearest deity, I do recognize that all too well… Then again, on truly inspired occasions, I have been known to just have this text in my head, this story or essay, that just Has. To. Come. Out, and it almost “gets itself written”, proofed, in-order and complete – as well as pretty-printed – in one singular Go! But that’s just for really, really important things, at least from my POV.

    When I had to hand-write essays for AP exams, they’d end up with whole paragraphs crossed out and arrows drawn from one paragraph to another because my brain comes up with stuff ‘out of order’– I’ll think of something to add to one paragraph after I’m already several paragraphs further ahead.

    I absolutely love looking at people’s grimaces and faces when they see me reading something out loud for them, from one of my notebooks. The astounded, amazed, almost horrified expressions sometimes, when they see me read text that is diagonal, vertical, horizontal, circled-in, crossed-out and strung together by a web of straight and squiggly lines. Doesn’t everybody rotate their papers 360 degrees while reading? 😉

    • jholverstott

      February 4, 2011 at 2:15 AM

      The information that JUST HAS TO COME OUT is the best. I find that the harder I have to work, the worse my writing is. Or, maybe that is me being lazy.

      • Petri

        February 4, 2011 at 5:47 AM

        True, those moments have been when people have told me I really ought to write a book. Then again, they’re the most unstoppable moments as well – I can’t help but to write it, and there’s no way whatsoever to interrupt me in the process. Not that I like getting distracted when writing anyway, makes me lose track of my mind, but still. And also, the (literally) most painful, as per the hand issue.

        Re: lazy, I was called that for much of my time in elementary and secondary school. It took a while until I realized that it wasn’t that the work was too hard, though – it’s just that, that if I find myself already possessing the skill or knowledge that the excercise is supposed to give me, and I’m not writing it for my own sake or out of a desire to show someone else something (personal interests), then I tend to get “stuck”. No ideas, no thoughts, no nothing. Just a big “meh?”. It took quite a while to un-learn the theme that this was due to laziness on my part, as it reared its ugly head every time things got too repetetive. And even if I somehow managed to force myself through a particular task, it tended to be very lackluster in comparison of what I and everyone else knew I could have produced. Annoying.

  8. Liz Ditz

    February 3, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    I wonder about the age stratification in this — in the younger grades (say 4th grade & below) if the physical, fine motor things that C.S. Wyatt writes about so eloquently don’t get in the way.

    Learning to produce written work that is fluent is a long process. If the early foundations (handwriting) get in the way, the student doesn’t get to build on earlier mastery.

    I love Codeman38’s description of his written work — a bit like mine (I’m neurotypical) if I’m writing things by hand. I’ve learned a bit of skills though, in leaving lots of white space around any unit of thought — to allow the arrows & diagrams & etc.

    I don’t think I would ever have become as fluent as I am with written expression without a word processor.

    • jholverstott

      February 4, 2011 at 2:07 AM

      When I was an undergraduate student, I was preparing to get my doctorate in history. I remember writing my honors thesis. I wrote it by hand. Mind you this was 2002, until my advisor pulled the plug. She watched me write and could just see me get bogged down. It took some time to transition to the word processor, but I can’t imagine anything else now.

  9. C. S. Wyatt

    February 4, 2011 at 12:50 AM

    The comment by Laura is familiar. I am naturally left-handed and was forced to learn to write with my right hand, wich is partially paralyzed. You can imagine the end result. I still try to use my right because I was reprimanded enough times I hate to use the left.

    Having the physical limitation meant I never finished writing in-class on time. And in the 1970s, not one teacher would consider “extra time” for me. I managed, thankfully, but the pain was so excruciating that I would be sick after written exams. Not from nerves, but from pain. That makes writing very unappealing. It becomes a punishment.

    Thankfully, my parents bought me a used Smith Corona typewriter as a child. I used it until junior high school, when I upgraded to a Brother electric. I used typewriters for all written assignments at home.

    BTW: I apologize for the jumbled first sentence in my reply to raven. Notice the structure of my flaw: “The articles I have on autism and writing styles I still have on hand are:” I ended up restarting the thought, even while speaking.

    In the books by Temple Grandin the same problem exists, even with the professional editing she receives. Thoughts start, only to restart in awkward ways. The Happé article discusses this at length as a possible trait of autistic writers. I’ve wondered if I make a greater number or a lesser number of continuity mistakes when I am non-verbal and forced to type slowly and painfully.

    It is fascinating that I’ve met many great editors with ASDs. They’ve memorized every grammar rule in the MLA or Chicago and keep up with AP style for fun. They are fantastic editors, but most tell me they hate writing. I always value a good editor.

    • jholverstott

      February 4, 2011 at 2:04 AM

      Fascinating in regards about starting and restarting. Do you recognize this phenomenon as it occurs and have to correct it?

    • Petri

      February 4, 2011 at 5:54 AM

      Re: “BTW”: Hm. Is that why I have this sense of “cyclical redundancy” when I try to communicate? It could also explain the vacillating back-and-forth between subjects when I write and speak. That’s why I (usually) mull over the stuff I write repeatedly until it’s edited enoguh to be interesting to read. Thanks, you gave me some food for thought.

  10. ravenswingpoetry

    February 4, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    C. S. Wyatt :
    The articles I have on autism and writing styles I still have on hand are:

    C.S. Wyatt, thank you VERY much for the references. I will be adding them to my reading list.

    – Nicole

  11. C. S. Wyatt

    February 5, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    I’m in the process of interviewing with universities for teaching / research posts. If I end up one of the few newly-minted Ph.Ds to land a job, I will be continuing my research focus on the language arts and autism. This discussion has been inspiring for me. If I don’t land a research post, I’ll keep writing.

    Re: start/restart/restart yet again…

    I never notice. I had an educational psychologist compare it to a stutter, but in written form. He told me that he has seen this repeatedly with ASD students. It is a good question to research. Maybe it is because I get wrapped up in the thoughts more than the recording of the thoughts? It’s almost like daydreaming at 78 RPM between sentences. Not very effective for good writing, which is why revision is important for me.

    So sad that students don’t love literature. I’m a huge Jane Austen, Bronte Sisters, Dickens reader. I love Brit Lit, through about WWII. There is less pretention in pre-WWII literature. Modern literary writers seem to want to impress other MFAs instead of communicating clearly to a mass audience. Professors and some teachers might love that, but I don’t see the appeal.

    For my autistic students, I love: “A Reader’s Manifesto” by Myers:

    Tell me the story. Tell me what you want me to learn. Don’t play games.

  12. Keith

    February 5, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    The original post was forwarded to me. As someone who is in mid 40s and has Aspergers, I can relate to that kid’s experience. Your reporting of it was nicely done I look forward now to reading your other posts.

    I enjoyed too the insightful comments. Most, again, spot-on.

    Writing was tough. Still is. In elementary school I wanted nothing more than to fade into the background – to be un-noticed. I feared either disappointing my teacher (“I know you are capable of better work than this.”) or having to pay the price for getting a bad grade. Or both.

    Assignments became quagmires and fraught with peril once I learned my instincts would never lead me to produce an acceptable paper.

    I wondered how my teacher could tell me I was wrong about the honest answer I provided.

    And I’m glad you mentioned how difficult it is for us to “lie” in order to Pass.

    For a kid who would rather have been invisible, this was all difficult stuff to deal with. The best I could do to help my family understand what I was going through was to say, “I hate school. I hate it every day.”

    To boot, I assumed everyone experienced life the same way I did, to one degree or another, but they (others) were just more adept (smarter) at getting along. That particular POV, continued for over 40 years.

    Finally understanding the facts of the matter was only one of the mind bending “truths” I’m afraid I’m still discovering regularly.

    I guess one of my teachers was correct after all. I am (to a large extent) living on another planet.

    Not that I’m complaining.

    My “special ed” (3x per week for reading & math) teacher gifted me (at the end of our last year together) with the key bit of insight that carried me through college graduation with honors.

    “You know” she said, “no teacher will be able help you to learn the way you want to learn or you need to learn. It’s up to you. You have to find your own way in, something about the topic you can get excited about and latch onto that. And the teacher doesn’t need to know.” Or words to that effect. I was in fifth grade.

    Years later when I went back to thank her, I learned she burned-out and quit her special-ed job a year or two after I left that school. She became a second grade teacher. “Just too much paperwork” she told me.

    Now I suspect it might have been more than that.

    Hey, jholverstott. Thanks for being one of the good-people. Keep posting. You must be able to see from the volume of responses (from people who find writing difficult to do) that we appreciate your perspectives and willingness to hammer them out on a keyboard.

    Be well.


    • jholverstott

      February 5, 2011 at 8:45 PM

      Thank for your all of your kind words and thank you for your story, as well. I find that so many special education teachers burn out because of paper work, which is a sad state of the system.

  13. Eve

    February 8, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    This is all great, but can anyone tell me WHAT to do about this? Everyone says “but he can do it when he tries”, which he can, but the process is painful for him anyway. And, for some reason, typing does not work. He can type given text perfectly and fluently, but he cannot type spontaneous text, if you understand what I mean. And all of our attempts at using “Speech Recognition Software” have been laughably hilarious. Speech recognition does not recognize the cadence of an adolescent boy very well, and the training process seems futile and way too long for a kid that also has ADHD. Anyone?

    • jholverstott

      February 8, 2011 at 1:13 AM

      I am assuming your response is based on the idea that scribing is not an option. I think it is. I don’t have literature to prove his statement, but I think that these issues improve, if slightly, over time. So, scribing will slowly replace itself with more writing, but not realistically competency.

      • Eve

        February 8, 2011 at 3:29 AM

        They tell me “he can do it” at school. And, when he is in the mood, he can write a clear paragraph of about 5 sentences. But, on other days asking him to write can create a full fledged aspie-tantrum. I can write for him at home, but I struggle with the degree to which I am helping him. He has no grammatical skills with punctuation, and his spelling is horrible. His spelling is so awful it defeats even spell check. By scribing I fill in the spelling and punctuation. When is that ok, and when is that “too much help”?

  14. Vickie A

    February 8, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    Hello J, I want to thank you so much for you articles here. I have been researching autism and asperger’s quite a bit lately and came across this site from a facebook post of a friend who is supportive of autistic persons. I am a 51 yr. old female and it took alot of re-reading some of the basic lists of symptoms and finding NIMH had finally compiled a list for girls and women after 30 yrs. of study, to start getting a more accurate picture although I have been around some autistic individuals with various degrees of autism. Then I saw an incredible movie about a real woman who worked in the Agricultural industry. I wish I could remember the title of that movie. The movie was able to show an interpretation of how she processed alot of visual info and the emotions of the livestock and what was a comfort to her. ( I have memory recall problems, or I could probably type out the title right now).
    I deal with emotional and mental health as a client and an advocate with a non profit association here in Upstate NY and besides my own questions about myself, I know this information here that you have provided and whatever else we can glean would help us serve the clients with autism, so I keep up the searches.
    I know how difficult it is for me to verbalize, how smart I am, but I also realize I process things differently and have difficulties in areas that other human beings basically whiz right through. Reading some of your articles here has clarified why. It is like looking in the mirror.
    I am also a veteran so I will be trying to set up testing for autism with the VA in Albany soon. I am so grateful and I am in the process of rebuilding my life and will also be working on my own writing in the future. Non-fiction and fiction hopefully. But I see where I am different in the way I am comfortable writing, because of the asperger’s most likely, it explains a lot to me. It’s a big door opening up to me right now and I am so grateful.
    Evidently I slipped through the cracks as a child, oh how I did.
    I have alot of problems verbalizing and am still trying to find my voice, what courage it takes. It’s not very polished, but I want to just be me, the message is what counts.
    But this article you wrote about how an autistic child will write, how they process stuff differently, the memories and what impressions they may have relative to such a subject as what holiday was their happiest, or maybe a favorite summer vacation and all of that, well it is the way I ended up writing a ‘letter’ instead of a list of likes and dislikes last night to a distant friend via email. It frustrates me, and I also know I have failed to maintain my own self discipline but to write just a simple list like that is one of the most difficult things in the world for me. But this explains it to a T. Wow.
    I have more difficulty verbally, and it takes a willing and patient audience and this was an email to a new but very special friend who I knew was very interested in getting to know me in depth, someone who really cares about me, so I wanted to make a good impression,but he is someone who is meticulous, can get his point across so distinctly and probably lecture incredibly well in his fields of interests, well, actually that is exactly how he is. I admire him so much and it is so difficult to express my thoughts that distinctly, so it felt like a big personal risk to write that and then as it meandered along, sort of association type stuff I guess, it was difficult to conclude it and I wonder what he thinks now if he has seen it. Besides the fact that english is a second language so that may make more difficulty…… can I say I am a challenge? *Smile.
    So….. instead of a simple list….. that is exactly what happens when I try to do something that is so simple to most people.
    I want to thank you. I want to get tested and I hope your work here and (if we can get some of those books you have written) help us facilitate classes and work better with autistic clients at our MHA, because your work and insights are fantastic and so indepth. It also runs in my ex husbands family. He also was only recently diagnosed when one of his twin sons was diagnosed and our son from first marriage also showed some texture with food difficulties as a youngster , but I am proud to say is also a graduate of the Naval Academy in 2006 and generally is pretty social.
    If you are ever to be in the Adirondacks in NY state, near Westport ( south of Plattsburgh, east of Lake Placid basically), we would love it if you could stop by or even give us a short lecture if we are holding our classes on a day you would be available at the Essex Co. Mental Health Assoc.

    All of this and having so many of the symptoms as a little girl and as an adult , it clarifies things so much for me and I can weed out some of the blanket diagnosis the MH profession has seen fit to label me with. I also have some of the accompanying disorders from childhood as well but also have acquired others as an adult, a whole other story, but it is alot to learn to manage and I really needed help in the area of asperger’s/autistic symptoms as my self discipline has fallen away after years of being disabled and I thought what were phobias were just the natural aversions going on that people with autism often have. Especially when it comes to paperwork.
    It is just incredible to finally start to knit it together enough so I can present my requests and to keep learning more. I understand things so much better now!
    If I can help others not slip through the cracks, that is also a great goal and partly why I am pursuing this. We are all worth something and we need to know that and find something we can shine in then life begins to fall into place much better. Thank you so much!

    • jholverstott

      February 8, 2011 at 1:19 AM

      Your kind words are much appreciated as is your invitation in the Adirondacks. Without hesitation I will take you up on that if I find myself that way. I love speaking and writing to willing, interested participants. On a different note, your story is a common but helpful one. When I say common, I do NOT mean unimportant. I tell you that to so that you know you are not alone. I’d recommend you check out: Coming Out Asperger’s. It’s a great text.


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