At last it’s here! The Big Interview.
This month I’m speaking to Cale Irwin a 20 year old with the condition Aspergers. Not only did i enjoy this interview but i learnt a great deal from it’ so thank you Cale.
Hi cale. so you have Aspergers? Is that correct? How old were you when you discovered you had Aspergers? And how old are you know?
I have Asperger’s Syndrome, diagnosed by a psychiatrist in 1997, when i was 8. I was informed about the diagnosis when i started asking about it when I was 17. Since my brother has classic Kanner’s, and autism is genetic, and I know my social skills were awful, it seemed Asperger’s was a possibility. So that’s when i found out about it directly from my parents. im almost 20 now.
Did you ever see yourself as different when growing up? Do you remember what age you were at the time these fellings came about?
I felt different from my peers from the moment I started meeting my peers; the age difference between us was the first factor. Because I was fully conversational at around 14 months, Iwas involved in programs for late toddlers before i’d even learned to walk. By kindergardenthe differences between myself and my peers began to lead to bullying which continued on into my late teens. However, it was not until 14 that I began to understand just how different I was from my peers. I always knew I was smarter ( not in a cocky way, but in a testable IQ way ), and less socially competent. But it wasn’t until then that I realized I perceived the world differently then they did. It was then that i become aware of how they perceived me, as an other, and one who had always been an other and simply hadn’t realized it. I would compare it to when the ugly duckling looked up for the first time and realized he wasn’t with his family, but rather with individuals who bore some similarities but also major differences from himself.
Cale what was school life like for a child with Asperger’s?
I obviously can’t speak for all individuals with AS, but for me, all elementary classes besides my gifted-LD class were hell! I was physically assaulted daily from K-4th, and verbally abused from 3rd on. I knew the material before we learned it in class, but teachers became angry when i sat and read rather then paying attention to their lessons. My gifted-LDclass which was all individuals who would later be diagnosed with Asperger’s or PDD-NOS was the major highlight . I was surrounded with kids who were like me. Offered material that challenged me intellectually, and in a classroom built for kids with sensory sensitivities.
Could you tell me is it true that all children with Aspergers develop special interest?
I think most do! Though i know i didn’t develop my special interest ( which happens to be ASDs ) until I was 15 or so. Before that I sort of bounced around, reading a bit of everything, but never finding anything that stuck. Now I eat, sleep and breathe books on autism, and no one can make me shut up about it.
Do you have any sensory sensitivities or problems with moter tics?
I have both! I can’t be suddenly touched or be around loud noise ( classifying loud as at or above normal television volume ). I can’t filter out background noise so i need conversations to be in a quiet environments. I have proprioceptive difficulties, so I stim almost constantly to gain information about the location of my body in space. I also have prosopagnosia ( face -blindness ), but I’m not sure whether that’s classifiable as a sensory issue in the same way.
Recently I have developed a slew of moter tics, and very recently some vocal ones, which would warrant a TS diagnosis in any country but the US (as DSM says 18 or under onset, but ICD-10 says 21 and under). It would be difficult to say whether the TS is more bothersome because of the activities it prevents me from doing ( I’ve had to change my focus in neuroscience as i can no longer operate needles/scalpels ), or because of the unkind and judgemental remarks i get from others.
So Cale, What’s life like for you now, how are you spending your time, are you happy with where your life is heading?
Life for me know is better then it has ever been . I’ve gained a position in the college which allows me to utilize my devotion to and fascination with autism ( my professors were quite excited to find an Aspie with a special interest in ASDs. Now i can do all their grunt work for them, because it’s far more fascinating to me then to them. ; ) I spend about a quarter of my working hours in class and doing hw, a quarter reading informative materials for fun, a quarter reading informative materials for research purposes, and as of late a quarter with autistic children, one of whom I’m setting up an ABA program for. I tend to get the majority of my social interaction with peers during meals or in the half-hour before sleep, but i do try and schedule a few hours each weekend to associate with friends.
I’mvery happy with where life is heading at this point. Academia was made for Aspies and i’ve certainly found my place within it. I have found a job goal to aim for ( BCBA) which I know will be immensely personally satisfying. And adopting children is certainly in my future, either with or without a partner.
Wow they are some pretty amazing goals! I wish you every luck in succeeding with them. It’s been fantastic speaking with you Cale. Your a person with a strong sense of where his meant to be in life. Your story is one of a young man that never gave up on what he wanted no matter what was but in his path Maybe the years of bullying have made you the strong man you are today. I hope so!
Please come back again some time in the feature with an update on your journey through life, But before you leave would you be so kind to finish by giving us a cool Aspie fact! one you would like to express to the world?
I can’t think of a cool fact off hand ( other then the speculation that both Steve jobs and Bill Gates are Aspies ), but i will offer my favorite Aspie quote: “For success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential.” – Hans Asperger.
I could not agree more:)