Sunday, May 16, 2010


I’m home alone this weekend, as Mrs C is attending a counselling
conference with view to getting her CPD (continuing professional
development) … ie Brownie points, and to listen to one of the
main speakers, Maxine Aston, who is a leading authority on
Asperger’s Syndrome. This is a hot topic in the counselling world
and also in women’s magazines … how to cope with living with
someone with Asperger’s.

We know of three people with Asperger’s (including a father and
daughter), and Mrs C has come across a few people with it in the
course of her counselling work. Someone with this condition
interprets everything in a very literal and logical manner, but
can’t make out hidden meanings in what’s being said. He/she can’t
relate to another person on an emotional level very well. However
he/she can learn what to do as regards appropriate talk and
behaviour, when shown what to do.

So if his partner says at bedtime: “Oh I’ve got a bad headache!”,
Mr A would probably get some aspirin or paracetamol, without
realising this is a coded message saying: “I don’t fancy having
sex tonight, darling”. Another example (this is a real-life one),
was when a teacher asked the children to sit down for a story.
Miss A sat down on the classroom floor where she was, whereas the
other children went over the teacher and sat down next to her.

There is lots more info about Asperger’s on the National Autistic
Society website. As regards diagnosing it, this does require a
lengthy expert assessment … professionals go through a long
checklist of possible features of this condition, and if you’ve
got at least 15 characteristics then you’re likely to have it.

When I read or hear conversations about Asperger’s, I sometimes
think I’ve got a few features of this condition, but then I think
this is just typical blokish behaviour. As a child I was painfully
shy and lacking in self confidence, and still am to some extent,
especially when in a large group of complete strangers.

However, I’ve learnt some of the social graces about how to get
chatting with people (well I had to, with working as a GP most
of my working life), and with attending personal development
courses (in transactional analysis and the like), and reading
books on the subject. I can recommend books written by the
therapist Dorothy Rowe (eg The Successful Self). Over the years,
I’ve learnt a lot about body language, and can usually spot when
someone is depressed at a glance (for example). I could go on
about flirting techniques, which I’m not very good at ...
… just as well!

By the way, I'm not used to cooking for myself, on the rare
occasion that Mrs C is away. I can't be bothered even to cook a
jacket potato and veg, which are dead easy to do ... I tend to
snack on "something"-on-toast, or on bread, or perhaps on pasta.
I tend not to watch the telly in the evenings either ... I'd
rather be doing something on the computer, or catching up on
the weekend newspaper, or reading a photography magazine.

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with one of my friends for coffee
in Costas, for a change. He's very busy with marking final year
University dissertations, one of which takes him an hour to read
through and mark. It's been an annual chore for him, but then it's
what he's paid to do. He's retiring from work this summer, which
will be a mixed blessing for him. On the plus side, he'll have
more time to travel (which he loves doing), but on the other
hand he says he'll miss the social contact with other members of
staff and the students ... that's the main thing I missed when
I retired too.

Now I'm starting to ramble on ... I've just found a brilliant post
entitled "Life is beautiful" written by Jeffrey Zeldman, (many
thanks to Cliff for finding this). Life is wonderful.


Blogger Mrs Rine said...

We were recently at a friend's house with a group of other people. One set had taken their two children with them. I said to the elder brother "Have you brought your brother with you?", idle chat I thought. He went on and on about how of course he was there etc etc. I began to find him tiresome and snapped, "it was just a comment" and moved on. Later in the evening I found that he had been diagnosed with Asperger's and, on subsequently looking it, felt terrible for being so off hand with him. We don't get out much - probably why!!

10:17 AM  
Blogger jo(e) said...

I had a student with Asperger's, and I learned a lot from dealing with him. I think we all can have a little of that in ourselves at times. You don't realize how many "secret codes" are in our everyday language until you are talking to someone who doesn't get the codes.

12:55 PM  
Blogger justin said...

Mrs R and Jo(e): many thanks to you both for dropping in. I think it's a fascinating subject, though it's obviously very difficult to live with someone with this condition.

I've been thinking about how a person with Asperger's would appreciate what love is. But then you could ask: "well what is love all about, anyway?"

10:24 PM  
Blogger Kimber said...

I'm reading the second book (called "Wake")in a brilliant new trilogy by a Canadian sci-fi writer Robert J. Sawyer. It features a father who has Asperger's. He is considered a genius in his field (physics) but his teenaged daughter has trouble relating to him...and then she learns from her mother that he has Asperger's and everything makes more sense. It's a really interesting representation of the condition.

5:05 PM  
Blogger justin said...

Thanks for your comment, Kimber.
I've just had a quick look at reviews of this on Amazon ... the main themes seem bizarre to me, but then I suppose you have to suspend reality to enjoy Sci-Fi.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Betsy said...

One of my friend's sons has Aspergers. Not as severe as my boys' autism, but still in the same family of disabilities with similar characteristics. Interesting post and stories you have here on it.

I'm looking for a peony blossom! Did you get a picture?

7:44 PM  

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