A couple of days ago, someone I know was recounting an amusing story about a practical joke they once played on a new guy at work. At break time, they sat around a table in the canteen and arranged condiments, mats etc. in a random pattern on the table, then when he joined them, they started moving them in turn, in the style of a chess-like game, making up names for them as they went. Apparently, he was so keen to be part of the gang at his new workplace that within a few minutes, he was telling them the “rules” of this game that didn’t exist, using the words they had been making up on the spot. It’s a great anecdote, but later that night it was on my mind and I couldn’t quite work out why.
Then it hit me. THAT’S WHAT MY LIFE IS LIKE. In fact that’s probably what life is like for anyone who has an autism spectrum condition and is faced with the daily challenge of seeing and experiencing the world differently to most people. It’s a frequently asked question in any information you read about autism – what is it like to have an autism spectrum disorder? It’s something people who are in that situation often get asked. And, of course, it is impossible to give an answer to. The people concerned do not know anything else, and their condition can make it hard for them to empathise with how other people see the world. Meanwhile, the others (we call them neurotypicals or NTs) can only ever get a limited understanding from descriptions provided. But for me, here it was, out of the blue.
Of course, there are many aspects to conditions on the autism spectrum, and each individual experiences life in different ways. But if you want to get the basic idea, a simple answer to the question “What is it like to have Asperger Syndrome?”, then here it is. It is like sitting around a table where everyone is playing a game you don’t know the rules to, using words you don’t understand and you just want to join in.