Today I want to talk about Asperger’s and Dyspraxia. As a Dyspraxic Aspie myself, this post is based a little less on the fact sheets people like to google, and a little more on my actual experiences.
When I was a child my mum queried the doctor over several Dyspraxic symptoms I had, and at that time the thought was that females absolutely could not have Autism, Asperger’s or Dyspraxia (all classed separately at that time) I was dismissed immediately because I was lacking the Y chromosome they were so obsessed about linking to just about everything.
But the fact of the matter is that I am Dyspraxic, and – as I have more recently come to realise – an Aspie too – in fact I have more Aspie symptoms than Dyspraxia symptoms.
Here are not all, but just a few examples of things that I do every single day. Lets make this a little more obvious and say Purple is MORE Dyspraxic, Pink is MORE Aspie and Blue falls dead centre-ish between the two.
- I fall/trip all the time.
- I break pretty much everything, (Difficult to deal with especially when I bash or bend books and as books need to be a specific way for me to be in my happy place, a bashed/bent/ripped book really, REALLY upsets me)
- I have terrible grip issues, usually gripping too hard. The harder I try the harder I grip but it can swing the other way from time to time.
- I am semi-ambidextrous.
- I write with my right hand but do most other things left handed.
- I hold my cutlery the wrong way round because I just can’t cut with my right hand and stabbing with a fork in my left hand just doesn’t work. Even to the point that if I was cutting a loaf I would use my left hand.
- I have to eat my food in a specific order and this is wholy dependant on what I am eating. Usually Green veg> Potatoes> Meat. Or if it’s something like a chippy it again depends. A sausage supper would be meat then chips. a nugget supper would be chips then nuggets, pie an chips would be veg then chips then pie. I don’t know why I just know I have to.
- My eyes loose focus and I have to concentrate really hard to bring them back into focus.
- I drop things A LOT.
- I walk into pretty much everything; tables, doors door frames, toys, children, adults, dogs, fences, trees – you name it, I will try and avoid it and still get a bruise from hitting it.
- I cannot keep a house to save myself (Hellish, because as an Aspie I like things just so, but I can’t figure out how to make them that way. I know that sounds mad but it’s the truth)
- I struggle with forward planning (Again hellish, because as an Aspie I HATE not being organised and this causes no end of stress in my life)
- I struggle with speech especially when stressed (this can take the form of stuttering or mutism and is one of the bigger overlaps between Dyspraxia and Asperger’s)
- I have a ridiculously bad short term memory and exceptional long term memory. For example: I remember being in the door bouncer, I remember being in the baby walker and the little rocking horse chair. I remember learning to walk, I remember standing in the back of my dad’s minibus holding onto the seats as he did 3 point turns in the street, and mum was standing at the gate – I was 2 at the very most. I remember the day my little brother was born (I was 2.5) in fact I remember the night before, though that memory is more vague. The clearest memory of that event was walking through the corridors of Bangour Hospital with the downlighters along the walls above random hospital beds, and the terracotta tiles that seemed to glow green in the poor light and of course the scariest bit of all; the big semi-see-through plastic doors. Frightened the life out of me. In fact the dream sequence in my first book where Morag is going down into the white building the corridor is based on Bangour and Rookscragg in book 2 is also based on Bangour. Anyway… I digress. I remember things.
- I’m hyper-sensitive to touch, taste, smell and sound. My first reaction to an unexpected physical contact is to lash out. Get off me, don’t touch me, keep out of my space. I need my space. I have been working really hard on this especially now I have kids because they are ALWAYS in my space, though I suppose it helps that they are an extension of me so I mind their presence far less than anyone else’s.
- I am sensitive to strong tastes, particularly spices. Also textures of food & such. I HATE foaming toothpaste, or toothpaste in general. It makes me gag. So does mouthwash, I also feel like it burns my mouth, and not just nippy.
- I am bothered by smells other people don’t notice. For example, if my mum stood at the door with the door open to smoke beneath my room, most people wouldn’t smell the smoke as it would generally be blown away outdoors. I on the other hand smell it so strongly I feel as though I can’t breathe, it burns my nose and my throat and makes my eyes run. There are countless examples like this.
- Loud sounds especially unexpected and high-pitched sounds are painful and I usually have to wear noise cancelling headphones at home when the kids are being hyper and squeaky or if they are playing and watching a tablet and hubby is watching the tv and playing a game. All the noises mesh together and I can’t stand it.
- I hyper-focus on things. Little details that stick in my mind and I can’t ignore them. Some are particularly pleasing to me (don’t ask why, I don’t know) and I enjoy seeing them every time they occur. Here’s just some of hundreds of examples:The way my mum would eat rolls upside down on Sunday, also the way she could take a little bit of each thing on her plate for one mouthful – that always fascinated me, probably because it’s something I just can’t even force myself to do. The sound the wooden spoon made on the pot when Gran sautéed mushrooms in butter (similar noise for making cheese sauce 🙂 ) The sound of an old fashioned belt buckle being clipped together. The feel of smooth warm metal when your hands are cold. The way my lecturer holds paper with the pads of his fingers and palm of his hand. The smell of tomatoes in a greenhouse. The soft feeling of the rubber seal inside my fountain pen lid clicking into place. The ever so slightly raised design on the barrel of the same pen when I run my fingers over it. The feeling of fingertips just barely touching my skin (one of my self-soothing methods is running my fingertips up and down my hands or arms) The list of things is pretty long actually, I’ve listedonly a tiny number of them here… ONWARD!
- I HATE things around my neck, I HATE labels being scratchy, I HATE t-shirts that slide back because of poor design, they feel like they are strangling me.
- I can be a touch hyper-active (a touch being an understatement)
- I am extremely loud and oblivious to the fact
- I am at times too quiet and oblivious to the fact
- I don’t know when to start or stop talking, I just talk and hope for the best.
- I am terrible at spelling and have difficulties similar to Dyslexia where I don’t recognise words as they should be spelt and also I can read words in completely the wrong order. I’m not really sure if this is a crossover symptom or whether it is to do with the muscle tone in my eyes not being up to the job and causing confusion, either way I suppose each of the disorders has an effect on the ability to read and the comprehension of language. That’s why I don’t read many books, though I am a prolific writer and I find reading my own books easy because of the way I write. People that say “to be a good writer you must read more than you write” are utterly incorrect. Anyway… Again I digress…
- I loose track of my train of thought very easily and branch off without realising it, then often I can’t remember where I started or even why. This is also linked to Selective mutism as at times when I loose my point I draw a complete blank and can’t continue at all.
- Things get too much for me, usually too loud, too bright or when the kids are jumping on me a lot plus the noise and I end up having to remove myself from the situation to calm down. Often it starts as a headache which I can ignore, though if I do it develops into a migraine that can last 3 – 5 days. Often I end up putting myself in time out, maybe 2-3 times a day. It could be for as little as 5 mins or at times I have (when it was safe to do so) separated myself for 30 mins or more. I need that emptiness and quiet to bring myself back down and let the anxiety settle, and when I don’t get it I struggle. Thankfully this is as severe as meltdowns get for me, I’ve heard of people struggling with far more severe meltdowns and I’m grateful that I can manage them the way I do.
- I have no idea how to act in social situations – well that’s not entirely true. I have learned over several years how to act in social situations but really, I’m just a copycat.
I’m going to stop there I think. I could go on listing things but I’d be at it all day.
The thing is, sometimes I feel that Dyspraxia masks Aspie symptoms and Asperger’s masks Dyspraxia symptoms, at times enough to trick professionals into discounting the person of having either DCD (The other name for Dyspraxia) or Asperger’s. Dyspraxics are thought to have no artistic talent, and yet Aspies can be wildly artistic in many different mediums (as I am – Photography, Music, Writing and Design – All of these are art forms)
Aspies are notoriously meticulous with planning and their surroundings and this is something that causes me untold amounts of stress. I get uptight and anxious when my environment is messy and yet I cannot figure out how to fix the situation. I know people would think me mad and say… well, tidy then. I cannot get my head around the how. I have no idea where to start and what to do once I have started. Don’t get me wrong, at some point the anxiety fairy takes over and I do a 24hr blitz of the house, organise everything, fix everything so it’s just so… but I can’t keep it that way and the cycle repeats. This is classic one disorder masking another.
Issues with muscle tone are masked by obsessive drive for perfection. I can perform delicate actions because I spend hours upon hours practicing, often ruining whole pieces of art or other delicate craft with one sudden and clumsy movement that I have been unable to catch and I have to start all over again for the billionth time. And that ability to descend into obsession, to use that as a drive to push the boundaries of my control of my own body is completely due to Asperger’s. I have done this with Swimming, Guitar, Drawing, Writing, Horse riding, even posture. I have horrendous natural posture. The reason I sit straight and walk tall with toes pointed to the front instead of out like a duck is because of constant mental effort.
I have to say that if I was given the choice of being just like everyone else or continuing as I am, with all the crap that inevitably has, does and will go with it, I wouldn’t chose to be normal. There are so many things I can do that I can only do because of the way my noggin’s wired and I see them as far more of a help than a hindrance. Particularly when it comes to writing my books and to Graphic Design.
Anyways luvvies my kids are wild and my head’s burstin’ so I’ll say
Cheerie-bye the noo!