It’s been a while since I featured any guest post so, when I came across Philip Walterhouse, a 25 year old guy who blogs about his life with Aspergers Syndrome to which he received a diagnosis of at the age of 16, I just had to ask him to guest post and to my delight he agreed.
While growing up, I had no idea that I might have Aspergers. It wasn’t until recently that I began suspecting it.
When I was sixteen years old, I was put in a position in which I had to take a participating role in my life. It was this experience that made me realize that I could change. I went from not caring about anything to wanting to know everything about life. This was the moment I began to access the strengths of the Aspergers learning style. There are three characteristics of being an Aspie that I love. The first one is the strong motivation to learn everything about a special interest. The second is the ability to connect many different concepts. The third is the inability to learn common sense naturally.
A person with Aspergers tends to focus on one interest while excluding everything else. This can be a problem, but it also allows us to learn concepts and ideas very thoroughly and extensively. The second characteristic is being good at connecting ideas. I usually read about ten books at a time, reading small sections from each book during any given day. The books are generally all non-fiction involving my special interests like science, philosophy or
religion. I think about what I read all day and sometimes I incorporate it into my conversations. My mind begins to connect thoughts and conclusions from various books and conversations, ultimately converging into one thought pattern.
The third characteristics of Asperger’s is the inability to learn social common sense intuitively. People usually think of this as something that is “broken”, something negative. But the bi-product of this has become one of my greatest strengths. Aspies have to break down social processes, then memorize and practice each step, something
which is intuitive to most people. One of my special interests was social interaction. I didn’t like being around people for too long, but learning how to interact had a solitary aspect to it. Learning how beliefs and values influenced social interactions was fascinating to me. I explored everything from math to science to philosophy to art to religion, in the context of how it affected my social interactions. During college, I explored every subject I could get my hands on and
as I learned it, I always asked myself how this influenced behaviour. This curiosity carried over to university where I began to look at the social interactions that lead to oppression. This was where I went through the second biggest change of my life. It involved a child with Autism, the book Becoming an Ally by Anne Bishop and the HBO show
At the time I was a child and youth worker, working with a 10 year old boy with Autism. When I started with him, he had no behavioural program and no goals. It wasn’t long before I was constantly thinking of goals, and trying to understand and change our ways of interacting with one another. While working with this child, I was reading the book Becoming An Ally, learning about the type of power that can lead to an oppressive environment. I was also watching the HBO show The Wire. It wasn’t until a month into these three activities that I made the connection between them. The show was acting out how oppression happens politically when people fight for power over each other. The book was explaining how fighting for power worked at a personal level and how it was connected to political struggles. I was practising how to avoid a power struggle at a personal level when responding to the aggressive behaviours of the autistic child. This scenario of connecting ideas and applying them to my interactions was essential for me to understand the bigger picture and learn how to interact in that picture. I would observe something that would seem insignificant at the time but then realize how it fit into the puzzle of human interactions. After analyzing so many pieces, I began to see how everything worked as unit. In the scenario of the child with autism, I began to connect the similarities of how we responded to our power struggle, to how people respond generally to being marginalized. I began to see my work as creating an environment where we were learning to behave in a way that did not marginalize or oppress. It was precisely what my Aspergers enabled me to do that most people viewed as the characteristics that I was the strongest in. Whatever felt disabling about Aspergers was outweighed by what it enabled me to do. This is why I would never trade the Aspie learning style for any other learning style. It has helped me see the significance in how we communicate. It has helped me access the small details of human behaviour that others don’t notice which has led me to a very holistic understanding of who we are.
To read more articles by Philip, visit his blog ‘The blog of Philip Walterhouse’ by clicking HERE
Reference & Related Articles can be found below
- Aspergers: A holistic perspective (walterhouse.wordpress.com)
- Aspie Atheist, Neurotypical, Exceptionality – A guide (walterhouse.wordpress.com)
- Aspergers: The Best Thing to Ever Happen to Me (walterhouse.wordpress.com)
- Children In Need brings about some autism awareness (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)
- Preparing my child with Aspergers for our family festive break (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)